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 (09/26/03):
- Helping a high school junior identify a list of potential colleges
- Changing careers but first need to narrow choices
- Getting no call-backs from prospective employers
- Tracking down lost dates of past employment history
|Q:||Tabitha writes: I read about you in the magazine “Private Colleges and Universities” that I received in the mail. I am a junior in high school at the moment and I am totally lost when it comes to figuring out what colleges I want to apply to. How do I start? I’m getting a lot of pressure to develop a list and I am totally clueless!|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I think the next college article I write has to focus on the junior year perhaps the most critical year in high school — at least in terms of implications for your future. It’s during the junior year that you’re often taking the tough courseload prepping for the SATs thinking about careers and deciding about attending college — while also developing an initial list of colleges that interest you.
The good news? You have a year to really contemplate some of the issues I’ll discuss here. The college admissions process begins in earnest for you about this time next year.
So here you are with hundreds and hundreds of college possibilities out there. How can you narrow the list? One of the best resources is your high school’s guidance counselor. I know that in some public high schools these folks are way overworked and have way too many advisees to know each one — thus it is your job to make sure your guidance counselor knows who you are and what your interests are. Later it will be important that he/she knows which of your college choices are your favorites in case one of the colleges calls to inquire about you.
But don’t stop there. Talk with your family friends and neighbors. Find out where adults you respect went to college. Go to the library and start looking through the various college guide books such as The Fiske Guide to Colleges. (Find more books in our Teen College Books.) Next go online to one (or more) of the many college-choice Websites such as AnyCollege.net and search for college by programs type size and location’or just browse through the lists. (Find more college-related sites in our College Planning Resources for Teens.) Finally watch for college fairs and visits from colleges at your high school — and attend as many of those as you need.
At this stage in the game don’t rule out any college based on cost. Many private colleges (such as my own Stetson University) have a high cost but counter those costs with attractive scholarships and aid packages to attract the better students. The ideal scenario would be to have a list of 20 or so by the end of the year … then narrow it down some more and visit that smaller list over the spring and summer.
Need more specifics about the process? Read my article Choosing a College that’s Right for You published on Quintessential Careers.
You can also find more tips and suggestions in my College Admissions Do’s and Don’ts published on Quintessential Careers.
Finally be sure to check out our latest work related to college admissions: Answers to Common College Admissions Questions.
|Q:||Virginia writes: I am looking to change careers from the clerical and retail fields into working full time with animals people or plants/flowers as my career counselor has advised. I don’t know where to begin — any advice?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I think you are on the right track in identifying a new career field that you want to change into — one based on your interests and abilities — but I think you need to take a two-prong approach to make a successful transition from your old career to the new one.
First I believe you need to further narrow your new field — working with animals people or plants how? For example you could easily stay in retail and seek employment with a florist — working with flowers. In order to be successful you must narrow your focus — through research. Start investigating the types of jobs that interest you. Once you’ve identified several jobs conduct more research to determine the education/training and skills needed for those jobs and make a determination about whether you have the necessary qualifications.
Second at the same time as you are researching jobs investigate volunteering options that will allow you to gain experience in your new career — while also conducting more research. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter or nursing home — or any other organization that counts on volunteers. Your local United Way may be a good place to start.
And some online resources that can help you with the process include the Job and Career Resources for Career Changers and Volunteering and Nonprofit Career Resources sections of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:|| Rodney writes: For nearly two months now I have been vainly trying to acquire an entry level clerical position but to no avail. I’ve sent out 15+ resumes complete with cover letter and all to entry-level job postings and I’ve gotten NO CALLBACKS WHATSOEVER (except for one form letter telling me that “my skills are not the best match for their company”).
What am I doing wrong? I have plenty of relevant computer skills and a good starting amount of experience thanks to a temp service I’ve been working with and I’ve got references and all sorts of other wonderful things to back me up but I can’t even score an interview!
Please I need some guidance and I don’t know where else to look. I’ve been driven almost to tears because of this frustrating situation.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I know that you — and the thousands of others following your same strategy — think you are trying hard to find a new job but you are simply not doing enough especially in today’s job market.
First are you only applying to job postings? If you’re looking for a clerical position there is certainly no limit to the number and types of companies that need that kind of help. So your first step is to expand the number of potential employers you are contacting. Do the proper research: find the companies call to get the hiring manager for clerical positions and then send a targeted cover letter and resume to each hiring manager.
But before you send out those cover letters and resumes please make sure that you are following the proper guidelines. Your cover letter should be about 4-5 short paragraphs with the first paragraph saying exactly why you are writing — and why you are an ideal candidate for the position. End the letter with a promise to call and follow-up. Your resume should be 1-2 pages depending on your experience and it should focus on your key accomplishments skills and education. Do not list duties on your resume. On both your cover letter and resume avoid any kind of typos and misspellings.
Second – and this step is CRITICAL — you MUST follow-up ALL job leads. You cannot expect an employer to contact you. I would even advise getting on the phone right now and contacting all the employers you have already sent applications to and ask about the positions. Calling an employer to inquire about a position is never a bad thing — unless you are unprofessional or unless you start calling every hour. Following-up with an employer shows you have a strong interest in working for the company. And amazingly many job-seekers think its best to wait by the phone for the employer … so get the edge over the others by calling each employer.
And while we’re on the subject of job-search strategies ‘ once you do start going on interviews make sure you send each person you interview with a thank you note as quickly as possible — and then follow-up those thank-you notes with another phone call.
|Q:||Melissa writes: Hi! I am trying to get my own employment history through the last ten years. I need to be exact with dates/months etc. I have a general idea of the months which I started and stopped but not the specific dates. How do I find this information so I can report it correctly on a new application?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Don’t you have this information on your resume? Do you keep copies of old job applications? And more importantly why do you need the exact start and stop dates? Normally employers simply want month and year.
If you simply must have the exact dates of your employment my best suggestion would be to contact the human resources departments of your previous employers and request the information from them.
And to avoid this problem in the future keep an employment diary of all your important information – dates of employment names of supervisors key contact information for references a list of your accomplishments and honors etc. And if you don’t have a resume now is the time to develop one.