Questions and Answers with Career Expert Amy E. Ertel
Please note: On a somewhat infrequent basis, Quintessential Careers asks noted career experts five questions related to their expertise and publishes the interview in the current issue of QuintZine, our career e-newsletter. Those interviews are archived here for your convenience.
Amy E. Ertel is a career counselor in the Career Development Office at Tulane Law School, New Orleans. She is also a private career consultant and a National Certified Counselor with a Master of Education degree in counseling.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What challenges do women still face in the workforce? Do you still see discrimination against women and obstacles that men don’t face? Are women still bumping up against the Glass Ceiling? Have you seen improvements for women, or are we going backwards?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| I think the workforce is becoming more and more “female friendly.” Although women still unfortunately face problems in the workforce that men do not, the situation is improving. Many employers are quite sensitive to women’s needs and are developing policies and practices that make being a woman and working much easier than ever before. In my experience, the most troublesome spot for woman at this time regards motherhood. Many women still experience skepticism during their job search from employers concerned that they will have problems balancing their work with the obligations of motherhood and family. That’s why I think it is important for women to know their rights regarding employment. For example, under the law, an employer cannot ask a woman whether or when she is planning to have a family.
Another growing phenomenon is women who decide to open up their own businesses. By creating their own working hours and business practices, women can be employed while also handling other obligations such as taking care of children, a household, or aging parents and family members.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What special techniques and strategies do you pass on to your female clients/students to help them cope with the challenges women face in getting ahead?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| My advice is simple. Your career is an important part of your life. But equally as important is your personal life. Your friends, significant other, family, colleagues, or a combination of them all are your support system. They are essential in helping you effectively coping with the trials and tribulations of both your working and personal life. I have found that scheduling a regular time to get together with my friends has greatly improved my overall happiness. Whether it’s the huge project that I completed an hour or so before that needs to be celebrated over a martini or a much needed venting-of-frustration session about my boyfriend’s weird pet peeves during dinner at a sushi bar, my “friend nights,” as I call them, are unbelievably refreshing. No matter what you do or how you do it, find a way to connect with your support system.
Another important person that deserves mentioning here is your mentor. You need only ask a professional who has had a mentor about the wealth of learning experiences working with a mentor can bring to professional life. This is the person who tells you honestly what suit looks best on you before your next big job interview. Your mentor gives you advice about how to handle that personality conflict at work that has now become a huge problem. If you do not have someone that you can call a mentor, find someone. A mentor can be a colleague, a former or current professor or supervisor — basically anyone whom you feel comfortable talking with on a professional level. Many successful women I know have mentors throughout their lives. Their mentors provide a constant source of support and encouragement to them in their professional endeavors.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the one job-hunting secret you share with clients/students but that may not be widely known?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Although I do not think this is a secret, I think it’s a variable that is often overlooked. When sending out a cover letter and resume, it is always best to send it to a specific person even though the ad might not identify a person. By sending a cover letter and resume out to a specific person, you are increasing the likelihood that it will be put in the right person’s hands and handled appropriately. If an ad does not indicate a specific person, the best thing to do is call the place of business and ask the secretary who the cover letter and resume should be sent to and the means by which they would prefer the documents to be sent. Find out if the employer would prefer it faxed, mailed, or emailed. Always follow-up in a reasonable period of time to make sure that the information is in the right hands and clarify the employer has received all of the essential documents. This basic step helps the job search run smoothly.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest “reality check” your clients/students face once they successfully make it into the workplace? What surprises them most?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||I think the biggest surprise that new professionals experience is in the realm of “workplace culture.” Many people like their job. The parts of the job that many people do not like are the cultural variables they have to contend with in daily working life. Good offices are able to work as a team. That can be difficult because teamwork is often a product of how well individual personalities complement one another. If personalities clash, problems with efficiency and the overall comfort of the office will begin to occur. It is this variable that I think job searchers need to pay very close attention to during job interviews. How well do the colleagues relate to one another? What is the office environment like? Is there laughing and joking in the halls? Is it super-quiet with all the doors to the offices closed? Could you see yourself working with the professionals that you met during your interview? The answers to these types of questions all point in the direction of office culture. [Editor’s note: See our article, Uncovering a Company’s Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers.]|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Thinking “outside the box,” what’s the best way for job-seekers to figure out what career will give them the greatest happiness?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| I personally do not think there is one end-all, be-all, job out there for any of us. Our happiness with our career has much to do with our happiness with our life in general. Life ebbs and flows. Things will be great and not so great from time to time. The same applies to our career. What is a great job while in your 20s might not be so great in your 40s and 50s. You only need look at your own past for signs of this occurrence. Remember what your interests were during your high-school years? Are you interested in the same things now? I’m not. Would you date the same kinds of people you dated in the past? Another big “no” from me. Career aspirations and goals change with time just as other things do.
Remember what is important to you. It is very important to me to come away feeling as though I have helped someone and that I have accomplished something worthwhile, even if in small intervals, each day. Thankfully, I have a job that allows me to do so. My challenge to you would be to assess your current situation to see if it is fulfilling what is important to you. If it is not, what changes are needed to make it better?
Amy E. Ertel, M.Ed., NCC, is a career counselor in the Career Development Office at Tulane Law School, New Orleans.
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Contact Amy Ertel, Career Consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504-908-5938. As a National Certified Counselor with a M.Ed. in Counseling and experience in the areas of career and professional development, I can provide you with direction and guidance in your professional pursuits. Put your professional life in gear!!!!!!!!! Contact me today.
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