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: email@example.com. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
Note: Readers can find other columns from this year in Current Year Archives of The Career Doctor Q&A.
In This Issue (06/04/04):
- Rising above low-wage no-benefits jobs
- Job-hunting with MBA but no business experience
- Determining career paths with sociology degree
- Deciding on best graduate program to attend
|Q:||Kellie writes: In your opinion in what ways are low education related to low paying jobs? If someone is stuck in a low-paying job with no benefits and little chance of promotion what can she do?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Over the last couple of months I have read a couple of books about low-wage jobs and underpaid workers and the information about the reality of low-wage workers is sobering. For a first-hand account about trying to survive on these minimum-wage jobs read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. And for a detailed review of all the statistics and research on the subject read Beth Shulman’s Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families.
It’s a bit staggering to consider — that one in four workers in the U.S. labor in a low-wage job. Low-wage jobs are ones that pay under $9 an hour and produce an annual income — if they are full-time — of about $18800 the poverty level for a family of four in 2004. And the reality is that many of these jobs are not full-time because employers can cut costs by offering little or no benefits to part-time employees.
Here’s just a small sample of low-wage jobs: retail clerks and cashiers fast food workers wait staff child-care workers and education assistants nurses aides security guards hotel maids janitors agricultural workers and many more’
Yes education could help these low-wage workers as more than half of them have a high school diploma at best — and about a quarter never finished high school. But education and training are just a small part of the solution. These job-seekers need career coaching to develop the skills needed to move beyond these dead-end jobs. I recommend going to the local Career One-Stop Center in your area to meet with a professional counselor. I think learning the value of transferable skills and networking is essential.
There are a growing number of employers that have programs designed to assist low-wage workers — from providing benefits (such as emergency loans healthcare etc.) to training programs — and you need to identify these employers and attempt to land a job with one of them.
Get all the details including statistics and resources in this section of Quintessential Careers: Low Wage Jobs: Tools Statistics Resources.
|Q:||Kristin writes: After teaching in public schools full time for five years I have completed my MBA and am ready to change fields. Unfortunately I am finding that the business world does not value former teachers. It seems that the fact that I have received an MBA doesn’t really catch employers’ eyes since I do not have any work experience in business. Do you have any suggestions as to what types of companies I should target when searching for a job or how I might word my cover letter and resume to better attract the attention of potential employers?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I am so sorry to hear of your situation but unfortunately with the vast number of MBA programs around the country yours is not that uncommon a problem. As educators we have focused so much on getting our undergrads to gain work experience through internships that many forget that MBA candidates often need to gain business experience as well.
I had a client a few years ago who had NO work experience. She was a music major as an undergrad and went straight into an MBA program. Near graduation she was losing job opportunities to students who were only earning bachelor’s degrees in business — because these undergrads had several internships and could be hired at a lower salary.
The key for you is that you DO have experience’ maybe not in running a company or managing a brand but five years of teaching does give you solid experience. And part of the problem may be that you are downgrading this experience. You also don’t tell me what you want to do with your MBA and that lack of focus could be another of your problems.
So first decide what you want to do with your MBA. An obvious choice for a former teacher is to go into human resources into some sort of corporate training position but perhaps you are looking for something completely different than teaching. You first must sit down and determine a career goal. Once you completed this task you can start looking for prospective employers.
The combination of your years of teaching and your MBA should really provide you with some rich skills to put on your resume and cover letter. From teaching identify all those transferable skills that you mastered that apply to the corporate world — things such as time management communications leadership etc. Then examine all the projects and cases you completed for your MBA and pull out relevant skills from them — financial analyses problem-solving strategic analysis communications etc.
Finally of course you are going to need to use your network to get interview opportunities. Networking works for all job-seekers but it is especially important for career-changers.
Get all the tools you need in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job & Career Resources for Career Changers.
|Q:||Nicole writes: I am twenty-one years old and I am going to enter the workforce in about a year. I am completely stressing out about my future as well as my major. I received my AA in communication studies. Communications is what I intended to major in for my bachelor’s but instead chose sociology. The reason why I am so concerned is because many people have told me that there is virtually nothing you can do with a degree in sociology. I am not sure as of yet what I would like to do but my interests sway toward marketing advertising or public relations. My question for you is if it is possible for me to still have the opportunity to get into these fields with a sociology degree? I plan on interning at a public relations firm this year.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Please repeat this mantra: ‘I control my fate. The degree is the most important thing not the major. Experience is critical. I control my fate.’
Employers of college graduates want two things: the degree (sometimes with GPA minimum) and work experience (ideally in your chosen field). And it sounds as though a year from now you will have both.
You are leaning toward some element of marketing communications — and you say you plan on doing a public relations internship this year. Good’ but you can do more. Are you interning this summer? If not find another one. The more internships the better. If you are doing the PR one next year consider one that involves advertising to get a taste for that. Even though it is late to be looking for a summer internship there are still plenty that can be found. I just had a student land a fantastic marketing internship with a science center where he will work with the marketing director to help with advertising PR and marketing strategy.
But let’s also not totally trash a sociology degree. There are lots of job opportunities for sociology majors (especially ones with work experience) such as: social worker research assistant foster care worker teacher consumer advocate case worker data analyst and many others. The skills you gain from this degree can certainly also help you in marketing jobs such as public relations sales advertising and marketing analyst.
I recommend you meet with a career professional from your school’s career office and set some career goals and strategies. Talk with some of your sociology professors — and perhaps with a communications or marketing professor. Conduct research online. Talk with your network of contacts. You have a year to make a plan for exactly what you want to do when you graduate which is plenty of time to succeed.
Use the Career Exploration Tools and Resources section of Quintessential Careers to learn more about various career paths.
|Q:||Edward writes: I applied to three MBA programs Thunderbird University of Rochester and Columbia University. Although Columbia is my first choice I am not quite sure whether I should go to Thunderbird or Rochester if I get a negative answer from Columbia. How do I know which of these programs is the best for me?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Three great schools. You must be an excellent student. I assume that long before you applied to these three graduate programs that you conducted research to determine that these are the three best for accomplishing your career goals. If that assumption is correct then I can give you a list of criteria but more than likely your choice will come down to a gut decision — which of the remaining two fit you best?
If you want to be logical about your decision here are some criteria to consider — in alphabetical order:
Read more about these criteria — and others — in this article published on Quintessential Careers: Criteria for Choosing a Graduate Program. And for more general advice about graduate school review this article: Considering Graduate School? Answer These Five Questions Before You Decide.