Questions and Answers with Career Expert Nancy Collamer
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.
Nancy Collamer is a career consultant and founder of Jobsandmoms.com.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||You offer extensive advice on your Website about how moms can remain marketable and how they can market themselves when returning to the workplace. If you had to boil down all that advice to just a few sentences, what are the most important nuggets returning moms (and dads) need to know about this process?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| I would advise them to do three things:
1. Plan for success: By taking courses, improving your skills through challenging volunteer assignments or building your marketability through a portfolio of project work, your odds of a successful re-entry job search are strong.
2. Know your value: The way you position yourself in the marketplace will be critical to the way you are perceived and compensated. Aim for jobs that are a suitable fit for your skills and background. Being able to negotiate from a position of value, instead of from a place of need, will help you land the best job possible.
3. Trust your strengths: If you believe in yourself and can articulate your strengths, that confidence will serve you very well during this process. Apply for jobs that you believe you can do, prepare a convincing presentation and then go after those jobs with confidence and conviction.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What inspired you initially to “help hundreds of women over the past 10 years to create more fulfilling and family-friendly career paths?”|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||Twenty years ago, as a new mom living in the suburbs, I was continually meeting moms who had left very impressive careers in order to stay home with their children. In speaking with these women, it became clear that many of them would like to work, but they didn’t think there were flexible options available to them. So, when I returned to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in career development, I decided to focus on this population. Over the past 15 years, I’ve seen lots of promising changes in the world of flexible work and work-at-home possibilities. The options for meaningful flexible work today are definitely far greater than they were when I started, but hopefully, not nearly as plentiful as they will be in the future.|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Thinking “outside the box,” what’s the best way for someone who just has no clue of the type of job/career he/she wants — perhaps a new grad or a career changer — to figure out what career will give him/her the greatest happiness?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| I was in college earning my master’s in career development, I was required to take a full-semester course on career assessments. Following graduate school, I pursued additional training to become certified in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the MBTI Step II. But in spite of this investment in my assessment education, I typically use assessments quite sparingly when working with my clients.
While I think assessments can be quite enlightening for people who have limited work experience or who are looking for general career direction, my clients seem to experience more success when we use a wide variety of assessment techniques beyond the basic tests. Let me share with you four activities I recommend to clients who are searching for new career directions:
1. Make a list what you love to do and do best: All of us have a multitude of abilities. But, simply knowing what you are capable of doing isn’t enough. The key to finding lasting career satisfaction is to not only know what you do well — but to know what you enjoy doing and do well. Once you have a better understanding of your motivating skills and interests, it will be much easier to assess the “fit” of potential careers and entrepreneurial opportunities.
2. Peruse the college catalogs: Even if you have no intention of returning to school, it’s amazing what you can discover about your interests and options by reading through a variety of college catalogs. You’ll learn about emerging growth industries and uncover new paths for career opportunities within your industry or area of expertise.
3. Invest in adult education: Consider enrolling in a continuing-education class at your local community college or high school. This is an inexpensive, low-risk way to test out your interest in a new endeavor. While taking the class, talk with your teacher and other students to find out their thoughts on employment options, degree programs, and growth opportunities within that industry. Then, if after taking a few non-credit classes you decide you’re ready to get the needed credentials for success, investigate the possibility of enrolling in a degree or certificate program at an accredited college or online program. Most programs offer weekend or evening classes to accommodate older students.
4. Volunteer: Offering your services on a volunteer basis is a great way to test out your skills in a new line of work. For example, if you want to learn more about finance, you could volunteer as the treasurer for a fund-raising event at your church or synagogue. Or, you could sign-up to help prepare the budget for your favorite local non-profit agency. A good volunteer job can be time consuming, but it’s a great way to test out your interest in a potential career.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||We frequently hear from mature job-seekers — in their 50s and beyond, but often even in their 40s — who are having a particularly difficult time finding a job. Is age discrimination a reality, and if so, what can the mature job-seeker do to overcome this discrimination?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| In my work with comeback moms, I often hear women express concern that employers will view them as outdated and having “lost their edge.” In truth, these moms (and older workers) underestimate their value in their marketplace. They offer maturity, a strong work ethic and an impressive array of multi-tasking skills to potential employers — the very same skills that companies lament are missing in younger employees.
It is also true that some employers discriminate against older workers and moms.
But you know what? Lots of people face both tactical and prejudicial issues when looking for jobs. The job search is difficult for new graduates who have limited work experience and are unfairly labeled as “slackers.” It’s a challenge for people who have been laid off. Interviewers discriminate against people who are overweight, have a stutter, or belong to the “wrong” religion, race, or gender.
So in terms of being “picked on,” older workers and comeback moms are not alone. It is up to each individual to convince the employer that he/she is qualified for the job, in spite of this perceived “handicap.”
Many of the obstacles older candidates face in getting a job really have nothing to do with their age, but instead are triggered by common job-search blunders. If you come across as being nervous, uncertain about your goals, or apologetic about your age, your odds of getting hired are slim. Like any job candidate in any interview, it is up to you to present a relaxed and confident image. If your image needs polishing or your skills need updating, you’ll need to take action to remedy those problems. It takes work, but if you are well prepared for the interview and handle yourself as the professional you are, many employers will find you to be a compelling candidate.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the best way to uncover job leads? What’s the best combination of methods and what percentage of a job-seeker’s time should be spent on each? And what’s the best way to identify the hiring managers to contact?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Looking for a job requires that you work both hard and smart. Hard, meaning that you should plan on logging 15 to 20 hours a week (or as close to that as time permits) on your job search, and smart, meaning that you concentrate your efforts on activities that have the highest likelihood of leading to interviews and offers. So, what are some of the best ways to be really, really smart in your job search?
Lastly, never assume a deal is a deal until an offer is finalized. All too many job-seekers learn this lesson the hard way. No matter how promising a situation seems to be, you cannot afford to relax your efforts until a deal is signed, sealed and delivered.
Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a career consultant and founder of Jobsandmoms.com, based in Old Greenwich, CT. Through her telephone consulting practice and her website, Nancy helps high-achieving professional women find better ways to blend work and family. Her clientele includes both full-time working women and stay-at-home sequencing moms who are interested in creating flexible careers and entrepreneurial options. Jobsandmoms.com is one of the most popular Websites for working mothers and was recently named by Weddles.com as one of their Top 350 Employment Websites.
Nancy’s newest product is The Back-to-Work Toolkit: A Guide for Comeback Moms, an online workshop and guide tailored to the needs of professional-level stay-at-home moms. The toolkit is a “what-to-do” and “how-to-do-it” guide to every aspect of the re-entry process — from how to handle the gap on the resume — to resources for flexible/entrepreneurial work — to negotiating a winning salary. For complete details on this one-of-a-kind product, go to Jobsandmoms.com.
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