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 (11/05/04):
- Helping a high school junior find a career focus
- Job-hunting tips for teenager seeking part-time work
- Managing a career planning retreat and career change
- Narrowing career choices within the fashion industry
|Q:||Jeffrey writes: My son is a junior in high school with a 3.8 GPA but he can’t define what he wants to do in life. His mother and I have been telling him to pick something even if it is wrong. This will at least give him some focus and direction so that we may line up potential colleges. What do you recommend?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I totally agree with you that having an idea of potential future career plans helps in many ways including finding colleges that have strong programs in that field. The problem unfortunately is that many people struggle over the course of their lives in trying to find their ideal careers — so the likelihood of a 16-year-old doing so is small. Many college students go through multiple majors before settling on one.
I going to suggest some exercises for your son to take that may help him begin to identify one or more career paths but unless something clearly emerges from the process the best suggestion I have would be to narrow the choices on some of the other major criteria students use such as entrance requirements size location costs (and financial assistance) type (public/private) reputation/ranking degrees offered and accreditation.
So where should your son start in trying to identify possible careers and majors? The keys are self-assessment and research. The first step is identifying favorite courses and activities — then looking for common elements among them. He should also examine his strengths and weaknesses focusing more on his strengths. Because some people have a hard time with introspective activities one or more self-assessment tests can help him discover more things about himself — and some tests even suggest potential careers based on the results.
The second phase is research. First researching careers that match his interests and strengths and then talking with people in those careers to discover more about the career paths and how they got there (including colleges majors degrees). He should even consider hands-on research such as job shadowing and volunteering. Finally he should research colleges and universities that offer majors/degrees for his potential careers.
And for the latest on trends and issues with college admissions go to the Answers to Common College Admissions Questions published on Quintessential Careers.
|Q:|| Sarah writes: Hello this is Sarah. Recently I had to quit my job at a local food store and I really need a new job. I was at that job for six months. Before that I worked at a sandwich shop from Aug. 2002 to July 2003. It’s really hard to find a job especially since I’m 17. I’ve applied to about twenty places. Any ideas?
Thank you for your time.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I know you are looking for work more out of financial necessity than for the experience but let me first state how important it is for teens to gain work experience while still in high school — as long as you can maintain your grades. Working part-time gives you valuable insights into how business works the role of employees and supervisors and possible careers to follow — or avoid.
That said it’s going to take a lot of work for you to find a new job. I think your previous experience will be one of your biggest assets especially if you are looking for another job dealing with customers.
The problem is that many part-time jobs are being filled with adults’ people taking a survival job while waiting for a new job in their profession others taking a second job to help make ends meet and also older (mature) folks who need or want to work after retirement. And many businesses feel more comfortable adults — they have more experience the perception of more dependability and often more flexibility in scheduling.
So you are going to have a plan. You’ll need to have a resume develop a list of prospective employers (use your family and friends to see if you have any inside connections at those employers) submit applications to all the employers and then follow-up those applications.
Probably the biggest mistake I see with younger job-seekers is the belief that once you have submitted your application you can sit back and wait for the phone to start ringing. It is just not going to happen. You must be proactive in contacting each employer and showing your continued interest in working for them. Fight for those job interviews.
For more job-hunting resources for teens go to this section of Quintessential Careers: Job and Career Resources for Teenagers.
|Q:||Anonymous writes: I worked as a police officer for 17 years then resigned to become a deputy in a county jail facility. Needless to say it didn’t work out; that was approximately 1 year ago. After having many interviews and an attempt at a career change it all seems in vain. Will I ever get a position that meets my specifications? What move should I make next?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I think the most important thing you need to do is find a day or couple of days for a career retreat. What are your specifications? What do you want to do with the rest of your working life? Are you burnt out with law enforcement? What career are you now trying to change into — and what have you been doing to help facilitate that change? So many questions — that’s why you need to take some time away and do some career planning.
Your goal for this career planning retreat should be to finalize your choice(s) for your next career with specific steps for how you are going to achieve the change.
If you are still searching for your next career you need to take time for self-reflection and research. You need to really evaluate what you like to do — at work at home in all your activities. You should also examine your accomplishments and transferable skills. Once you have gathered all this data on yourself the next step is researching career paths that match your interests and strengths.
Once you have an idea of your next career move you should shift your efforts to developing a plan that gets you there. Will you need more education or training? Will you need experience in the new field and if so how will you get it? Does anyone in your network know people working in the field? How will you grow your network to include people in the new career field?
Finally you’ll need to implement your plan. Be prepared for some bumps in the road. Career change often takes time but with proper research and planning it should be a little easier for you.
|Q:||Christine writes: I am interested in a career in fashion design fashion merchandising and fashion journalism. I know I can take courses in fashion design and merchandising at community colleges but I didn’t see any courses in fashion journalism. Would I just need to take a regular journalism course and also the courses I need to take to do fashion design and merchandising to be able to do all three?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I think it’s great that you have discovered your passion in fashion. Obviously you envision yourself doing something in fashion whether it’s creating it marketing it or reporting on it.
That said I think the skills you need to do those three careers are all quite different and while it makes sense to take classes in all three areas to absorb as much about the fashion industry as possible its probably better to try and narrow down your choices. Besides learning more about the industry the classes might help clarify which specific path you want to follow.
I also suggest you work with a counselor and people in your network to attempt to shadow one or more professionals in each of the career fields. See what a day in the life is really like. If job shadowing is not possible you can at least conduct a number of informational interviews with people working in these careers. By doing one or both of these activities you’ll be able to ask people working in a job you might aspire to how they got to where they are today — and that should help you with your educational and career planning.
Assuming you are in school you should also consider one or more internships in fashion marketing or journalism to help you narrow your career choices. And work with a counselor to help narrow your choices — and find the best career path for you.
A pretty cool resource for folks interested in fashion careers is this section from About.com: Job Descriptions of Cool Fashion Careers.