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 email@example.com.
In This Issue (08/16/02):
- Contemplating a career as a social worker
- Committing “career suicide” by taking new job?
- Striving to become a magazine or newspaper editor
- Supplying a writing sample with job applications
|Q:||Amanda writes: I am having some problems deciding on what I want to major in for college. I’ve taken a year and a half of general courses so far. I know that I am great with people and would like to help people throughout my life. My plan was to get a master’s in social work but I have been told that social work can be hard to find a good job. I want something that deals with people where I’ll earn pretty decent money and won’t be in school for the next 6-7 years. Do you have any suggestions?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You’ve already taken a big step — taking the time to discover your strengths and interests. Now is the time to do a bit more career research as you fine-tune a major and think about gaining work experience.
Social work is most certainly a career path for people interested in helping others improve their lives. And it is most certainly a growth career with many states reporting shortages of qualified social service professionals. You’re not going to get rich working in the social work field but you can make a decent living. Many social workers see their profession as a calling.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook employment of social workers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through at least 2010. Furthermore the Handbook reports that median annual earnings of child family and school social workers were $31470 in 2000. Read more.
And while you can get a job in social work with a bachelor’s degree (usually in social work sociology psychology or other related majors) a master’s in social work is required for many of the better positions — and is certainly needed for career advancement.
I suggest you talk with your professors and the professionals in your career services office. I also suggest you consider getting some social work experience as soon as you can most likely through volunteering or an internship. You should also consider conducting several informational interviews with social work professionals.
Some online resources that can help you better understand a career in social work — as well as find job listings and salary information:
Finally remember you still have plenty of time in choosing a major so take your time and consider all your options. For more help with choosing a major consider reading my article Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
|Q:||Laura writes: Would it be “career suicide” to take a position within HR at another company which is not for profit — and the pay is $12K less than my current salary? The position that I currently have may be in jeopardy due to a merger and I would rather be employed than unemployed. What other factors do I need to consider?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: The ideal scenario of course is that your career path shows an ever-increasing progression through your field and your salary history shows an upward sloping line of ever-increasing compensation. How many job-seekers actually have this ideal scenario? Fewer and fewer. As more and more job-seekers change careers and/or change life/career priorities career and salary paths continue to bend and break.
In your case however you are not talking about changing careers or taking your career in a new direction. You are simply feeling a bit panicked and want to make a move before your current company does so for you. You need to take a step back and evaluate this job offer objectively — as if there was no hint of change in your current position. Would you really take what I’m guessing is a lateral job move for a significant pay cut? I’m guessing your answer would be a very loud ‘no’ — unless you were very passionate about the nonprofit’s cause and wanted to support it regardless of personal sacrifices.
Now I totally understand your feelings of vulnerability and concern. It’s an anxious time within your current company and there is probably quite a bit of office gossip and rumors.
Instead of taking the first offer that comes your way why not invest your energies and emotions into a full-force job-search? Develop a plan. Get in touch with your network of contacts. Stay positive and look for new opportunities and growth.
|Q:||May writes: Firstly I’d like to thank you on such a beneficial service I’m sure it has been very useful to college students/graduates like myself. Secondly I have a careers question I’d like to ask you.. I am very interested in becoming a newspaper or magazine editor. What kind of qualifications would I need? And would I have to major/minor in a certain subject in college in order to qualify? How competitive is it? Would I be able to take on this job while I am still in college? (I am currently a sophomore studying Business Administration– Marketing and Management). I would really appreciate it if you can provide me with some information on how I might go about taking this career path. Thank you for your time and help and I look forward to hearing from you.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: One of the keys to being a successful journalist is having a passion and interest for a particular subject; another key is possessing the ability to clearly communicate ideas and information.
Newspaper and magazine editors begin their careers as journalists and writers so if you are interested in this field you need to start as a reporter or writer. You can start while in college by joining the staff of your school’s campus newspaper. You could also seek out part-time positions with media outlets as well as focus your energies on finding one or more journalism internships.
While you do not need to be a journalism major to have a career in the field it certainly is important to have a background (and strength) in communications and writing. Some journalists are hired because they are not only good writers but have expertise in a certain subject area.
Print journalism is a tough field to enter. Most job-seekers fresh out of college — unless they graduate with a lot of experience – have to start in entry-level positions on the staffs of small newspapers or magazines. Once you’ve built a reputation (and a solid collection of clips) you can move to larger media organizations and/or up the career ladder.
If your college has a journalism school or program go talk to one or more of the professors and seek their advice and suggestions for achieving your goal. You could also consider going to your college’s career services office and conducting several informational interviews with current journalists and editors. Learn more in the Quintessential Careers Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
You can get further information by using these career and job resources:
|Q:|| Nancy writes: What should I do when an employer job posting or classified advertisement asks for a brief writing sample to be included with my resume and cover letter?
Are they requesting a sample of my handwriting an original composition or a combination of both?
Thank you for your help.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Writing samples are usually requested for jobs that require that job-seekers have the ability to express themselves in writing. However research studies continue to show that employers place a high value on employees who can communicate well regardless of the position. At the same time employers continue to comment about the weak communications abilities of entry-level job-seekers and new college grads.
Employers who request writing samples want to judge the quality of your writing abilities and thus seek any kind of samples that showcase your skills and abilities such as papers reports articles and the like. The employer will then use the writing samples to weed out unacceptable candidates and narrow the field.
My best advice to you is that if you have any questions about what the employer is specifically requesting simply contact the hiring manager and ask for more details. By contacting the hiring manager you can make a good first impression while being sure you are submitting the type of material the employer seeks.
Finally a great way to keep all your writing samples and job-search correspondence and other materials in one convenient place is to develop a job-search portfolio. Not only is it convenient — because all your material is in one location — but it is also impressive to employers. Read more in my article Your Job Skills Portfolio: Gaining an Edge in Job-Hunting.