Dr. Randall Hansen is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home page of The Career Doctor.
If you have any career- or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column marks the 75th column compiled and written by Dr. Hansen…and also marks the third anniversary of the Career Doctor column!
In This Issue (03/29/02):
- Looking for career aptitude tests to help with career choice
- Dealing with the issue of having no practical experience
- Writing a thank you letter after a second round of interviews
- Responding to questions about bad job experiences
|Q:||Darlene writes: I need your help. I’ve surfed the net looking for a site where I can go to for a free career aptitude test and there is no luck for me. I’m a student in college about to finish for an AA degree in Social Work. The problem is I really don’t know if I love what I’m studying. I need a site where I can research on careers and how much they pay and what the demand is for them. Can you please guide me into finding a career? Thank You.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I’m going to provide you with a link to a section of Quintessential Careers that lists several of the best (free and fee-based) career assessment tests but before I do please let me add a warning. Only you can really decide what you want to do with your life; no test is going to provide the answer for you. Yes there are tests that say that people with these certain interests and aptitudes fit this certain career but that doesn’t mean that the test result is right for you.
So my advice is this: before you even think about taking one of these tests sit down in a quiet place and contemplate who you are what your likes and dislikes are what kinds of experiences or courses get you fired up and what you are passionate about. Why did you originally choose social work as a major? What kinds of jobs do you see yourself having in the future? Do you plan to get education beyond the associate’s level?
Then and only then should you take one or more of these assessment tests. Go to the career assessments section of Quintessential Careers.
Finally go to the career exploration section of Quintessential Careers where you can find numerous resources to help you explore career opportunities including one of the best sources the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Q:|| “Discouraged” writes: I recently graduated from graphic design school; this was to be my new career! But I’m having difficulty finding a job. It seems everyone I apply with wants practical experience. Well my question is: How do I get the much needed experience unless someone will hire me?
Help! I’ve exhausted every source of income to complete my studies now I must find work even if it’s out of my chosen field.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I’m sorry you’re having such troubles finding employment. Of course with the economy where it has been you are certainly not alone in your troubles. The good news overall is that the economy appears to be picking up steam and there are strong reports of businesses again hiring new workers.
In your case before you give up and take a job outside your field I would suggest a couple of possibilities.
First get on the phone to your graphic design school and demand help with placement. More and more all higher education and trade schools are realizing that they are being held accountable for the placement record of their graduates. So call the placement office and demand some help in finding a job. They won’t be able to hand a job offer to you but they should be able to counsel you in methods to improve your job-search.
Second I would have a career professional evaluate your entire job-search plan. Are you not even bothering to apply to job openings or write direct mail campaigns because you fear — or assume — that all employers want practical experience? Didn’t you complete projects apprenticeships or other types of experience while in design school? Don’t discount work completed while in school. How is your resume? Your cover letter? Are you networking and being proactive or are you simply responding to jobs ads and being reactive? I strongly recommend you read this article: Ten Questions to Ask Yourself if You Still Haven’t Found a Job.
Third I suggest that you consider looking into temping — as a graphic designer. Contact the temp agencies near where you live and see if any of them place graphic artists. If so apply to them immediately! Be sure to check out these temping resources.
Fourth I would look into posting your credentials and putting in bids at one or more of the freelancing job sites. Like temping freelancing may not be a permanent solution for you but if you truly have no practical experience freelancing may be the way to bulk up your resume. Go to this section of Quintessential Careers: Jobs for Consultants Freelancers and Gurus.
|Q:||Windee writes: Do you have any pointers for a “thank you” letter for a second interview? Should I follow the standards for a first interview “thank you” letter?’|
|A:||The Career Doctor responds: First I must offer kudos to you for being so astute to know the value of thank you letters. It’s amazing what a little common courtesy can do to boost your job search. For those of you who have not learned the secret please read carefully: you really must send thank you notes or letters to every person you interview with at a prospective employer. Get business cards (or some other method for getting the correct spelling of names and correct titles) and send thank you letters as soon as possible after the interviews. I typically favor more formal thank you letters — rather than notes — for first interviews. After second interviews however where there is obviously good rapport and interest by both parties I would suggest writing a more informal thank you note on nice note card paper (rather than standard business paper) in your own handwriting (rather than PC-produced). A handwritten thank you note — beyond any content — sends a message of connection and fit. For more information about thank you letters and notes go to this article on Quintessential Careers: FAQs About Thank You Letters. Follow this link to find some excellent sample thank-you letters.|
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: I have a question about job references. I have had bad reports from two previous employers and want to know how to combat that in job interviews. I have always heard it said that you should never badmouth a former employer and that you should always give two weeks notice. However I don’t plan on lying about why I left a certain job and hate fudging over the facts. I don’t want to blame a certain employer but I want the interviewer to clearly realize why I left the company. And I don’t see how companies especially these days can expect the ‘courtesy’ of two week notice when they can lay people off at will. In my own case I was laid off with TWO days notice.
Your comments are appreciated.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: No matter how strongly you feel about it please do NOT rationalize justify or bad mouth any poor decisions made by your previous employers. Doing so will immediately label you as disgruntled in the eyes of your interviewer — and you might as well stop the interview because for all practical purposes it ended with your comments.
You might dislike not be completely honest about your feelings about a previous supervisor or employer but in reality no one really cares how you feel. You’re in a job interview — it’s a chance to sell yourself to the employer not complain about previous experiences. Leave the baggage at home when you go to interviews.
It really sounds as though you have a chip on your shoulder so beyond not talking about previous bad experiences I would suggest you try and block them from your memory during job interviews. Attitude is a crucial element – and you need to project a positive one in interviews.
Are these things fair to us as job-seekers? Of course not but in job interviews the employer has the upper hand.
As for references do you know for sure your former employers are giving you bad references? More to the point who are you listing as references on your reference page? If you are concerned what former supervisors might say about you ask colleagues and former coworkers a mentor and other people in your network to be a reference.
Finally if you are truly concerned (or just plain curious) about what those former supervisors are saying about you hire one of the reference-checking services (such as MyReferences.com) and find out. You can find links to all the major services in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job References & Portfolio Services.