A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert 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 of The Career Doctor.
If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
In This Issue (04/25/03):
- Struggling recent college grad looking for work
- Accepting one job offer while waiting for better offer
- Relating careers to various college degrees
- Dealing with too many years of experience on resume
|Q:||William writes: I have recently graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and am having trouble finding any form of work. Every place I turn the employers seek years of experience. I have tried most sites on the Net gone to company web pages gone to agencies to help — but no luck. I am trying everything I can; I even can’t get work at low level places (grocery stores fast food) because I am now too educated. So please give me some help and guidance.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I have a two-part answer; one part is to give you some advice the other part is to help other college students not fall into the same dilemma you now face.
You’ve first got to change your attitude. I know you feel discouraged but I truly believe in the power of positive thinking; besides employers can often sense desperation. Once you have a more positive outlook you need to refocus your job-hunting energies. Where is your network of contacts? You need to use your family friends alumni past bosses and co-workers — everyone you know to help you develop solid job leads. Where is your college’s career services office? Go back and work with them to help you build a solid plan. Where are your former professors? Go talk with the two or three that you are closest to and see if they can give you some help. You cannot rely on job ads to find a job.
You might also consider informational interviews — as a way to get your foot in the door — by contacting some of those employers with job openings that seek more advanced job-seekers. Acknowledge that you are not qualified for the position they are advertising but ask to have a meeting to learn more about the profession the industry the company’and you’ll be surprised at the doors that may open for you.
Finally while you’re job-hunting investigate whether these are some volunteer or freelance projects you could be doing to gain some experience. And make sure to include any projects you completed in college on your resume.
Now my advice to current college students. Learn from this job-seeker’s mistake. Employers are now demanding that all college graduates have relevant experience. You MUST find the time in those four (or so) years of college to work part-time do one or more internships and/or participate in volunteering. Even those ‘entry-level’ positions usually require work experience and there is simply no excuse for not gaining meaningful experience during those four years of college.
Read what recent college grads have to say in the Real World section of Quintessential Careers.
For college grads:
For current college students:
|Q:|| Ginny writes: I graduated from graduate school 9 months ago and have been looking for a good career supporting job since that time. I interviewed with Company A last week and it went very well. This is my first choice for employment and I am almost certain that I will be offered a position. I will find out in 2 weeks. If they do offer me a position it will be conditional based upon passing a security clearance (which shouldn’t be a problem) but will take a minimum of 6 months.
Three days after my interview with Company A I was offered a position at Company B to start immediately. This isn’t my top choice of job for my career but it is with a good stable company with good benefits and salary.
My dilemma is this: Do I accept company B’s offer and then resign if Company A’s offer comes through in 6 months? Personally I believe this to be ethically reprehensible. But Company A’s offer isn’t in stone and I don’t want to be left unemployed for potentially another year.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: My mother taught me to believe that the bird in the hand is worth two in the bushes’ meaning that the job offer in hand is a lot more valuable than one that may come down the road some time – especially one sixth months away. So if I had no further information I would accept the offer from Company B.
That said of course I think you have some alternatives. I would inform my contact at Company A that I had another job offer and while I preferred to work for Company A I could not afford to wait six months for a job offer. Perhaps there is room for a compromise such as conditional employment pending the final background screening. If Company A is not willing to work with you on a compromise I would accept Company B’s offer and see what happens. In six month you might find you really enjoy the work at Company B. And if Company A does decide to hire you conditionally be sure to politely decline the offer from Company B so as not to burn any bridges there.
Learn more about negotiation job offers in the Salary Negotiation Tools section of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:||Jim writes: Can you tell me of an online resource that would tell me what careers would relate to a specific type of degree. I have a degree and cannot find what job can relate to it.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You need to totally change your focus. Except for very technical subject areas — or advanced degrees — your college major is not nearly as important as the degree itself. Employers want job-seekers with college degrees and work experience’ everything else beyond that point it gravy.
So rather than focusing on what types of jobs are available to people with your degree — and there are Websites that provide that information — a better exercise for you is to discover what truly interests you and excites you. Once you discover these things you can then match jobs that utilize those skills and interests.
Take the time to examine all your courses class projects and work experience. Think about the times you were most excited most energized most satisfied. Make a list. Also think about the stuff you never want to do again – activities you found boring or uninspiring. Make a list of those too.
Once you’re done with your lists start investigating jobs and career paths that utilize the stuff you like to do while minimizing the stuff you don’t ever want to do. Once you’ve discovered the types of jobs that best fit you your next step is identifying employers that are hiring for those jobs.
Don’t ever feel limited to search for jobs that fit your major in college. However if you really want to see some examples you can go to one of the many ‘what can I do with a major in” sites such as this one from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
You can find other good resources in this section of Quintessential Careers: Career Exploration Resources.
|Q:||Ben writes: Dr. Hansen you indicated in your Quintessential Careers section on do’s and don’t on resume writing that job-seekers shouldn’t list too much experience on your resume. My resume has over eighteen years of experience. Do I eliminate earlier job’s or in my summary state "with over 15 years of experience or with 15 years of experience?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: There are a couple of important things to remember when writing or editing your resume.
First always remember that your resume is a sales tool. Yes it is a document of facts but you must always position your experience and skills as perfect for whatever job you are seeking. A sales tool means you only use the best information to convince the employer to call you for an interview.
Second your resume must have a sharp focus. Employers want to hire experienced problem-solvers leaders managers etc. You need to be sure your resume is sending a clear message about who you are and what you can do for the employer.
Third a resume should not overwhelm the reader. At a certain point usually 12-15 years more experience doesn’t make you look qualified it makes you look over-qualified or simply old. For older job-seekers — yes you baby-boomers — now is the time to start dropping off some of your early work experiences. Never keep more than 15 years of experience on your resume. And while you’re at it drop the dates off your college degree(s) as well. No sense giving away your age. Avoid quantifying years here — instead use verbiage such as ‘seasoned professional.’
Other useful information to think about when working on your resumes:
Get lots more information advice and suggestions about resumes in this section of Quintessential Careers: Resume and CV Resources.
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