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 (08/01/03):
- Coming to terms with job loss and career possibilities
- Writing a letter to boss justifying a raise in salary
- Tracking down the contact information of hiring managers
- Finding part-time work requires full-time job-hunting
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: I am 33 years old and I have no idea of what to do with my life in terms of a career.
I have had one long-term job and was fired. The company had to downsize and my position was gone.
I have had to move back home. I am currently enrolled in school earning a Masters in Library Science.
I am not that enthused about being a librarian. How do I figure out what to do?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: If you don’t want to drift through your life — or least another 10 or 15 years of it until your next downsizing – you must immediately take a personal retreat and discover who you really are what you like doing what excites and motivates you and where you want to go in terms or a job and career.
I don’t know what kind of work you were doing before you were downsized but I can guess it wasn’t something that inspired you. My sense is that you are still in a bit of a shock over the downsizing and this master’s program was just something convenient or available something to fill your time while you continued to wait and see what was going to happen.
You need to break the cycle by taking a break. Find a weekend — at least to start — where you can learn about yourself. Take time reflect on the types of activities that motivate and excite you; think about activities (work hobby volunteering) that you love doing and ones that you never want to do again. Once you have this list — and hopefully a better understanding of yourself — then you should consider one or more self-assessment tests; there are any number online but there are also plenty of career assessment books.
Once you have a better sense of who you are and what interests you your next step is researching careers that fit you. For example with me it’s activities that empower people to better their lives — so things such as this column my Website teaching and consulting all excite me and keep me energized. You need to find that niche for yourself. There are lots of career exploration resources — books online sources college career professionals and career coaches and counselors.
Once you’ve identified some career options the final step is organizing a career plan to achieve your goal – identifying employers writing dynamic cover letters and targeted resumes interviewing well and following-up when necessary.
Some resources on Quintessential Careers that can help you with your quest:
|Q:||Wendy writes: I have to write a letter asking for a raise. This is our company policy. I have been trying to find some examples because no one I have talked to has ever had to write a letter for a raise. I was wondering if you knew of any books or journals containing any examples of such letters.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I think it’s great you have to write a letter because by doing so it will force you to document all your accomplishments — which should not only help you with the raise but will help you with updating your resume when it’s time to start job-hunting. More and more you need to think of raise meetings in the same vein as salary negotiation; thus the more ammunition you have the more likely you’ll get the raise you wish.
You have two strategies for writing what basically boils down to a salary increase proposal. If you have an annual goal-setting or MBO (management-by-objective) meeting then your raise letter should be written in two columns with the first column stating each task/objective/goal and the second column highlighting your accomplishments/achievements. You could use the same format with your job responsibilities in one column and your job accomplishments in the other but if you don’t have a set of annual objectives I would favor an opening paragraph that summarizes your accomplishments to the department/company and then a detailed bulleted list of those accomplishments.
Don’t ever include personal reasons for a raise — always keep the focus on your importance to the department/company and your key accomplishments. And keep it professional at all times.
And for you folks not as lucky as Wendy who are working at companies that are giving little or no raises for the foreseeable future don’t forget that while a raise might be out of the question you may be able to negotiate a better benefits package or other perks (such as more vacation time flexible working hours more telecommuting etc.) in lieu of a raise.
Another good source for you to review is this useful tool published on Quintessential Careers: Job-Seeker Accomplishments Worksheet.
Finally check out this sample letter requesting a raise.
|Q:|| Adrianne writes: I am in the preliminary stages of a job search and I found your article on researching a company to be very useful.
I also understand that cover letters should be specific. But to avoid writing "dear sir/madam" I wonder what one can do if the company’s human resources department does not want to divulge the name of who is assessing the applicants?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: The bad news is that technology trends make it even harder for job-seekers to track down the names of hiring managers. The good news is that when you do you will certainly have an edge over other job-seekers.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from job-seekers is the ever-increasing difficulty in reaching or following-up with a hiring manager.
So what’s the best way around HR folks screening assistants voicemail or vague email addresses? Having someone inside the company who can get you the information – this is the real power of networking.
A lot of job-seekers have a misconception that networking is all about asking people for jobs — and it’s not. Networking is about sharing information — about people companies and yes job leads. A strong network will provide you with plenty of information and resources to help your job-search. And having this information will give you the inside edge in the job-hunt.
Another misconception about networking is that you are using people but the whole idea behind networking is one of reciprocation; someone helps you now and you’ll help that person in the future. So get your network out there helping you!
And if you must use a salutation I prefer ‘dear hiring manager’ or ‘dear hiring manager for [fill-in-the-blank] position.
|Q:||Marlene writes: I will be earning a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling in December. I have a disability that renders me unable to work full-time. I have sent out a couple of resumes but have not been contacted. How do I explain to the potential employers that just because I will be working part-time does not mean I am not serious about the job. My first job I worked for 4 years. My second job I worked for 10 years. I am on my 3rd job now for almost 5 years. Thank you in advance for your help.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I know the beginning of my answer is going to sound a little flip but job-hunting is a full-time occupation — regardless of whether you are seeking full-time or part-time employment. In fact it may be harder to find jobs that do not fit the normal 9-5 routine.
You say that because you can only work part-time that employers should not question your desire or interest in a job but your actions say otherwise. I use two metaphors when describing job-hunting. First you can think of it as you might dating; you need to continually pursue (and woo) prospective employers to get their attention and interest. Second think of it as a marketing and selling experience where you need to track down prospective employers and sell them on your unique mix of skills experience and accomplishments.
Whatever way you want to look at it you are not doing your job. You cannot simply send off a few resumes and expect employers to be pounding down your door – especially in this job market! You need to be aggressively (but professionally) following up every resume every job lead with a phone call or email. You need to continue to show your interest enthusiasm and fit for the job until the employer either calls you for the interview or asks you to stop.
I would also recommend using your graduate school’s network of alumni as well as the career professionals in its career services office. You should also check with your professional association (such as the American Mental Health Counselors Association) for networking and job possibilities. The more sources you have the more job leads you can pursue.
You might also want to read this article published on Quintessential Careers: 10 Reality Checks of Job-Hunting: Overcoming Common Job-Search Mistakes.