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.
In This Issue (07/05/02):
- Overcoming obstacles to re-establish job-search network
- Rebuilding career two years after being fired from job
- Wearing ethnic hair fashions to job interviews
- Deciding on pros and cons of taking a survival job
|Q:||Carol writes: From 1985 to now I have essentially been doing very little part-time freelance consulting. The problem is I recently moved to a new town and I have NO network even where I used to work. Should I try (at the age of 50) to get work as an entry-level consultant full time or as a part-time person at a middle level? I haven’t even stayed in contact with any of my old “professional” bosses from the 70s and 80s so I hardly have references. There are not a lot of consulting firms in this neck of the woods should I try to change fields?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You have quite a number of obstacles to overcome in your job-search and while it may take quite a bit of work for you to achieve your goal I do believe you can do it.
Let’s first start with your career direction. You need to decide if you want to stay in consulting. I don’t know why you done so little of it over the last 17 years but it certainly does not sound much like a passion or calling. Spend some quiet time deciding the types of things you really enjoy doing and those activities you dislike. See if there is a match with consulting. If not you’re going to need to spend even more time examining other career options.
The second thing you need to do is examine your skills set. No company is going to be interested in hiring you if your skills are not current. You need to take a hard look at what you can offer an employer. What else have you been doing these past 17 years? Can you apply any of those activities to consulting (or other areas)? You may need to consider getting further education to sharpen your skills and make your education the focal point of your job-search.
The third thing you need to do is rebuild your network of contacts. Since you have basically lost all your former contacts you really need to jumpstart this process. I would certainly try re-establishing contact with key mentors/supervisors from your previous positions but most of your focus should be on building new contacts. You can build your network in multiple ways – in your community in your profession in your school (through alums or if you go back for more education) and online. In your case given your circumstances I would also strongly recommend joining or starting a networking job club. Besides building a network the members of the club also serve as a support group to push you to succeed in your job search.
Want to learn more about job clubs? Please read the latest article on the Quintessential Careers site: For Networking and Support Join or Start a Job Club. And if you need more help with the whole concept of networking please review all the resources in this section of Quintessential Careers: The Art of Networking.
|Q:|| Ann writes: After many years of working at jobs I didn’t like and/or had no growth potential I went back to college and completed my B.A. in Sociology at Stetson University in 1997.
In September of 1999 I became employed as a Child Protective Investigator. In May of 2000 I was terminated from my job. I was told I had failed the mandatory performance assessment test and would no longer be able to perform the job.
Since May of 2000 I have applied for many jobs in the same field. I loved my job and want to work with children in some helpful capacity. However as soon as any potential employer hears that I was fired from DCF the interview is terminated.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I so wish you had written to me two years ago but we can’t go back and change history. I have many questions for you: What have you been doing these past two years? What has been your job-search strategy? What types of jobs interest you? How many job interviews have you been on? How do these employers discover you were fired? How do you explain this gap in your work experience?
Simply put you’ve got to rebuild your career. There are no quick fixes but I can give you some pointers to get you started in the right direction.
First you need to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem. I recommend finding a mentor within your profession possibly a former colleague or even a former professor from Stetson.
Second you need to develop a job-search plan. There are numerous opportunities — in both the public and private sectors — for case workers and investigators who have a desire to help children in need. There are also numerous other career opportunities for job-seekers who want to work with children such as teaching guidance counseling. You need to investigate all your opportunities.
Third you need to have something to say for what you’ve been doing these past two years. I hope you’ve been volunteering taking classes or somehow staying active. If not I suggest you immediately start doing one or more of these activities.
Fourth you need to come to some level of acceptance about getting fired and move on. Why are you saying anything negative in job interviews? A job interview is the chance for you to sell the employer on all your wonderful attributes. Never offer anything negative in job interviews. I strongly suggest you read my article Getting Fired: An Opportunity for Change and Growth.
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: I am an Afro-America woman and have always permed my “nappy” hair straight ponytail or curled and worn that look to the office. It is too hot and takes too long to style and does not last long.
What is your view on black women wearing braids twists Jamaican locks or other ethnic hair fashions to an interview and/or on the job in a corporate environment (suit & tie). Honesty how will she be perceived and if interviewing will she get the job if she’s the best candidate?
I realize that this is a highly controversial and sensitive topic and your reply may shock your readers but this issue needs to be addressed for the new decade and for the financial stability of our black race.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I’m going to come at this answer from a couple of different ways with the hope of not exposing myself as a typical white male.
First approach. As you mention perceptions are so important in interviewing and on the job. People make judgments all the time simply based on your appearance. Is it fair? Of course not. Is it reality? You bet. My sense is that hairstyle on women needs to be professional – brushed neatly for shorter styles and pulled back (and kept away from the face) for longer styles. Longer hair that has braids twists locks or beads is acceptable if the style is conservative and professional.
Second approach. There is something to be said for the importance of job-seekers feeling comfortable in job interviews and in the workplace. Pretending to be something you are not might get you the job offer with an organization with a conservative corporate culture but would you really like to work for such an organization? One of your goals in job-searching is finding an organization that has a corporate culture that feels right to you.
Third approach. I sense a bit of something – perhaps laziness (‘too hot and takes too long’) or rebellion (‘highly controversial and sensitive topic’) — that is driving you to challenge the norms of job interviewing behavior. Job-seekers who wear nose rings or excessive ear or body piercings have the same attitude — why should they be frowned upon by prospective employers just because of their self-expression. And the answer is always the same: because the job interview is a chance for both the employer and job-seeker to showcase the potential fit by making strong positive impressions — not by making controversial statements.
Read more advice in my article When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success.
|Q:||Kristy writes: What is your advice/opinion on taking a “survival” job? — one that will help pay bills but doesn’t further your career or personal goals.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Unfortunately I do not have a definitive answer for you. Obviously if you are on the brink of losing your car house or apartment or not being able to pay your bills then the decision is really already made for you — take the survival job while still searching for one in your career field. Just remember to carve out enough time in your day to continue your job-search in earnest.
How will employers view your survival job? In one of two ways with the majority seeing it as a positive.
Employers don’t like to see employment gaps on resumes. By taking a survival job you maintain employment. And don’t immediately assume that a survival job can’t add to your base of skills needed for your career. For example if you are a marketer by trade but you are forced to take a cashier shift at the 7-11 to pay the bills there are many invaluable customer relation vendor management and sales skills you can cultivate. And you can try and bury the survival job on your resume by switching from a chronological format to a functional format. A functional resume focuses on key skills clusters. Read more about functional resumes.
Other employers however are going to question your choice. Taking a survival job raises the questions of whether you are suffering from career burnout and other issues to why you were not able to find employment in your field. To alleviate some of these concerns consider staying active in your professional organization while employed in your survival job and consider doing some volunteer work (in your area of expertise) for a local non-profit organization. You might also consider accepting some free-lancing opportunities and investigating some career-enhancement courses at a local college (or via distance learning).
In the end as with much of job-hunting it really comes down to how well you can sell the job in your cover letter on your resume and in the job interview. If you master positioning this experience as one that enhances (or at least does not take away from) your career you should be able to find another job in your field.