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 (07/18/03):
- Deciding when it’s best to follow-up with employer
- Increasing chances of career change success
- Finding ideal job after years of varied work experience
- Overcoming white collar conviction in job-search
|Q:|| Rob writes: I’ve found your website to be an incredibly helpful resource. I’m a systems administrator laid off — and still searching to find a job a year later.
Your site repeatedly urges job seekers to call companies and ask for interviews and to make commitments to do so in cover letters. Does this advice still apply in today’s technical job market?
Aside from the large number of ads which clearly state “no calls” I’m finding that most employers in my profession make it difficult or impossible to ascertain contact information. Some companies don’t even list a phone number or address on their web site meaning that more serious detective work is needed to make contact. When one does make the call the response seems to always be a variation on “don’t call us we’ll call you.”
If you could address this situation on your site I think it’d be most helpful to job-seekers in my position. Thanks for your attention and the wonderful web site.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: The bottom line is this: yes technology and the current job market make it even easier for employers to toss all etiquette aside. Employers do not even need to bother to acknowledge job-seekers. The better companies of course still do…but their numbers are small.
When we say it’s important to follow-up we mean to follow-up. Employers often say “no phone calls” because they don’t want hundreds/thousands of people calling them to apply for the job. That wording does not mean however that a week or so after you have applied that you cannot follow-up to be sure they have received your application. “No calls” is only for the initial contact not follow-up.
Of course the best solution is to have a network contact within the company who can feed you information and help make your case for an interview…and that’s more and more where job-seeking has to go. Building contacts through professional organizations to provide you with more information about potential openings as well as more company information and inside details that can improve your chances for getting an interview and job offer.
You still need to be politely aggressive in this job market. You need to find a way to break through barriers and make yourself known above the simple database searches of keywords that many companies are indeed using — especially technology companies.
Fearing being too aggressive or seen as impolite and not following up ALL your job leads is simply bad job-hunting.
We also have a new article on Quintessential Careers 10 Reality Checks of Job-Hunting…and follow-up actually is so important it is two of the ten!
|Q:||Layne writes: I’m coming up to my 55th birthday and thinking about changing careers. What kinds of things should I do as an older job seeker to increase my chances of success?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Well the first thing you need to decide is your new career. Because baby boomers are expected to transform the image of older workers and retirement age you also need to give some thought as to how long you see yourself in this new career — 10 years 20 years?
So assuming you have given some thought to your career change you first need to transform your experience skills and accomplishments to fit your new career field. If you have absolutely no experience in your new career field now is the time to freelance volunteer or temp — to gain valuable experience in your new career. It’s also time to transform your old resume and revamp it to best fit your new career. You may need to build your resume around key skills clusters that are in demand in your new career — what we refer to as transferable skills. You’ll also want to begin networking in your new career by joining one or more professional associations — and getting actively involved.
Once you’re ready to start interviewing for fulltime jobs in your new career the most important thing to remember – that many older workers are accused of doing — is not to sound rigid or unapproachable. Many older workers often portray a ‘this is how it’s always been done and I know more than you because I’m twice your age.’ As you might guess that kind of attitude doesn’t really go over well. Be positive – and showcase your creativity and flexibility.
You can find lots of other great tips strategies and advice for older workers in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job and Career Resources for Mature and Older Job-Seekers.
|Q:||Will writes: I have a whole lot of experience but not a tremendous amount of in any one area. How could I narrow down my choices so I know what kind of job to pursue? Also what would be the best way to lay out my resume?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: There’s good news and bad news here. As employers continue to downsize and have employees multitask by combining job functions there is certainly a need for job-seekers who have multiple talents and abilities. On the other hand job-seekers without a specific focus will rarely ever get a second look from employers.
So as you mention your task is to find a way to parlay your years of varied job experiences into some cohesive strategy that plays itself out on your resume. You don’t want to be seen as someone who does not know what you want to do or one who gets easily bored.
What is it you want to do next? If you truly have no clue take the time to conduct some self-assessment. First spend some time reviewing all your experiences (work hobby etc.) and make two lists – one with activities you enjoy and one with activities you never want to do again. You could also consider taking one or more assessment tests many of which you can find online.
Once you have a better picture of your likes and interests the next step is researching careers that closely match your profile. Take the time to do this important career exploration. There are a lot of online and print resources that can help you in this process. My favorite is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Once you’ve identified a career path (or paths) the next step is finding employers in that field – and developing a strategy for breaking into it. In any job market but especially in this job market your key to success is building a new network for your new career. Find and join professional organizations in your new career field use alumni networks to find people in your new career field.
Use the Career Exploration Resources section of Quintessential Careers to help you.
And learn more about networking in the The Art of Networking section of Quintessential Careers.
And all sorts of great resume-writing tools can be found in the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:||Anonymous writes: Here is the situation. I’m a former police officer who was recently (wrongly) convicted of a white collar crime. (I’m still pissed about that.) Anyway I have a two year degree in business and have had about 3 years of previous restaurant management experience before becoming an officer and about 3 years in the radio industry. First question how do I answer this question on an application and secondly I really don’t know which way I can turn career wise from this point.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Well of course you don’t need to broadcast that you have a record; however if asked you not only need to come clean but you need to adjust your attitude. What’s the punch line to the joke — something like 80 percent of people incarcerated in prison are innocent (or so they say). Employers are often willing to work with someone who appears to have learned from a past mistake but are very leery of job-seekers who seem to have learned nothing from the experience. And even if you are one of the few innocent people convicted unjustly no employer wants to hear it.
Once you’re ready to face the issue discover the lesson you learned so that you can have a positive spin on the conviction if and when it arises during the job application/interview process. Just remember to not raise the issue unless asked about it. But never lie about it smooth it over or argue the conviction.
As for your career and where you go’that’s the next thing you need to figure out. You obviously have a lot of valuable skills and experience and should be able to package that nicely in a resume once you determine your career direction. Follow the strategies for researching careers that I mentioned in my previous answer.