Questions and Answers with Career Expert E. Chandlee Bryan
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.
E. Chandlee Bryan is the founder of Careers In Context.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||To what extent should career choice enter into a high-school student’s decision of where to go to college?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| I’ve worked in career-services offices ranging from the small liberal-arts college to the Ivy League and have worked in rural and urban environments. In the process, I’ve come to believe that career choice should play a role in the college decision-making process, but it should never be viewed as the only determining factor in selecting the school that’s right for you and your family. Here are three recommendations based on my experience:
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Is it OK for a high-school student to enter college with absolutely no idea of what major and career to pursue? How soon into college should a student make these decisions, and what are the best ways to do so?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| You don’t need to know what you will major in or decide on a career path prior to enrolling in college, but you should have a general idea of what type of work you want to do; i.e., if you are considering engineering, you should not go to a liberal arts school–unless you’re planning to go to a school that offers a combined degree program with another institution in engineering.
Given that a majority of colleges require major declaration during sophomore year and given that the recruiting process for full-time positions often begins with junior-year internships, identify your major and first-internship career interests no later than the spring of your sophomore year.
To explore your interests and knock out general degree requirements, take a range of classes your first year in college and visit your career-services office for information on available internship programs and self-assessments. Ask faculty, staff, alumni, and upperclass students questions designed to help you gather information on what previous students with your interests have done, and take heart; In many fields, you don’t have to choose a major that is directly related to the work you hope to do – you just need to ensure that you gain internship experience and skills relevant to the job.
Above all, have fun — and remember that, even in a tight economy, you can and will find work. I graduated during a recession, and recently caught up with my peers. I talked to a VP of marketing for Google, a biotech executive in Memphis, and a carbon trader in New York. Each of the three had something in common — that they worked in a position that did not exist when they graduated, and which they could not have imagined. If estimates hold steady, 40 percent of today’s high-school seniors will also work in positions that don’t exist now. Bottom line: Pursue your interests and keep a careful eye on trends to see what’s next so you can take advantage of the next big thing that fascinates you!
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What do you feel is the most exciting or hopeful trend in job-hunting?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Despite the frequent comparisons of today’s economy with that of the Great Depression, I’m encouraged by the strong number of employers with internship programs. Formal internship programs are like Facebook; given that everyone talks about them, it’s easy to think they’ve been around forever (Facebook was founded in 2004). But if you look at internships from a historical perspective, their widespread use has come into play only in the past dozen years. In 1997, the Census Bureau surveyed employers and found that just above 20 percent of respondents had internship programs. In 2008, the National Association of Colleges and Employers released survey results that nearly 90 percent of private companies utilize internship programs to recruit future full-time employees. Bottom line: A fundamental shift has occurred in how employers train new hires and look at their own hiring pipeline.
The increase in internships is a hopeful trend for two reasons. First, if you intern at an organization where you can potentially work later, you have the opportunity to take an extended test drive of both the climate and type of work you would be doing full-time. Secondly, surveying the internship market can give you a sense of what skills and job functions are needed in the market — as internships are frequently designed to help organizations equip talent with skills and expertise that they can apply in the future. Developing a skill or area of expertise in an internship is a great way to position yourself for long-term career success. It is always easier to stay employed if you can develop both an area of functional expertise (i.e., marketing, financial analysis, manufacturing) and also a knowledge of real-world,
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What do you feel is the most disturbing trend in job-hunting today?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Spending too much time online in lieu of face time. Many people start their search by applying online for positions — a recent Kelton/RiseSmart survey found that the average job-seeker spends more than 50 hours a month on the Internet.
Applying for jobs online is almost always a “numbers game” in which employers receive many applications but communicate little information with regard to the accuracy of position listings or hiring timeline. As employers sift through applications, the initial goal is to screen out the majority of applicants; in many hiring processes, only a handful of applications make it to the interview stage.
To improve your odds, go off-line and talk to individuals who are already working in your intended field. Get a sense of what’s needed, position your skills and experience to increase your “relevance factor,” network with potential decision makers or individuals who can help you make connections, and then apply online following these two additional steps:
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the one job-hunting secret you share with clients and students but that may not be widely known?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Keep it simple. You can stand out in a job search if you show that you understand the needs of your prospective employer and articulate how you can help an organization achieve its objectives. If you’ve conducted informational interviews with people who work in similar roles at competitor organizations, you can often discover a common source of frustration related to a specific job function or type of work. If you can offer or obtain these skills, demonstrate that in your application.
One example: Architecture firms frequently are in tremendous need of candidates with project-management, budgeting, and cost-accounting experience: the “design” process doesn’t work without a strong understanding of what a project will cost and how long it will take. If you are a candidate in this field and can demonstrate that you offer both design skills and business-related experience, you will greatly strengthen your chances of getting the offer you want.
E. Chandlee Bryan is a certified professional resume writer and career counselor at Careers in Context. Chandlee specializes in providing services and career advisement to emerging professionals; she has worked in Career Services office at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, and served as director of career Services at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. She has also worked “on the other side of the desk” as a recruiter.
Check out all our interview with career experts in Quintessential Answers: Q&A’s with Career & College Experts.
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