Questions and Answers with Career Expert Peter Vogt
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Peter Vogt is Campus Career Coach for the Campus Community of Monster.com.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Can you give a short overview of the topic of your master’s thesis — common career-related beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Probably the three most common beliefs/assumptions/perceptions are that 1) There are “no” jobs in ——– or I’ll “never” get a job in ——– , 2) I’ll “never make enough [or any] money” doing ——- for a living, and 3) Other people may be able to do ——– , but not me.
The first belief is often tied to something students have “heard” from people in their lives — typically parents and friends. Example: Jon’s roommate tells Jon that “there are no jobs in art” or “you’ll never get a job in art.” Much more often than not, Jon will take this as gospel truth (or near gospel truth) and will immediately start thinking about pursuing something else — which, to me, is a shame. I don’t think one should be “Pollyanna-ish” and simply pursue whatever they think about and hope for the best. I’m not TOTALLY convinced of the validity of the idea, “If you can dream it, you can do it” (though I think it’s true MUCH more often than not, especially if a person is determined). But I also don’t think one should rule something out based on what is quite likely misguided, or even false, information. Most people will ask more and better questions when deciding on a car to buy than they will when deciding on a career to pursue.
Similarly, the second belief is often tied to something a student has “heard.” It’s flawed for the same reasons as I’ve mentioned above. Plus, in most cases, when I ask students what “enough” money is, they have no idea. So how can you know you won’t make “enough” money in a career if you don’t know what “enough” is?!
The third belief is a bit more personal/internal. It deals with the student’s self-esteem, and what career theorist Donald Super refers to as “self-concept.” Many students see themselves as “average” at best, and they view people who’ve “succeeded” as somehow “better” than they are or even, in some cases, “superhuman.” It boils down to the student asking himself/herself, “How could I ever do something like that?” Whereas I might ask him/her, “Why NOT you?” I think there’s a sense among many students that “the rest of the world knows more than I do and/or is better than me” when, in fact, students have many and multifaceted talents and gifts to offer the world. Often they just need a little nudge, or “permission,” to go ahead and do just that. Once they do, momentum builds for them and, in many cases, they take off and fly (metaphorically speaking). Students can do much more than they think they can, and they have much more to offer the world than they might believe. For me, that’s the most important thing to help them understand — and believe.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What are some of the best tools college students can use to make career decisions? What are some ways you advise those who have no idea “what they want to be when they grow up?”|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| There are many “underutilized” tools that students can use to help them with their career decisions and figure out “what they want to be when they grow up.”
For starters, I always encourage students to work with a career counselor at their school. There are SO MANY good reasons for doing this. Among them: 1) These folks are trained counselors who know the school and its majors/programs, as well as employers and the world of work, VERY well. 2) Counselors can generally help students identify career opportunities they’d never considered (or even heard of!), and help them learn all about themselves as well (e.g., self-assessment of interests, skills, values, personality). 3) A counselor’s salary is paid in great part by students’ tuition dollars, so they really ought not let their salary contributions go to waste!
I’m also big on encouraging students to use another VERY underutilized strategy: informational interviewing. It’s interesting because many students view informational interviewing/networking as bothering people or, worse, “sucking up” to them. One student I spoke to referred to it as “cheesy,” and said she and her friends did it only as “a last resort.” In the reality of the world of work, of course, networking and informational interviewing go on constantly, and MOST jobs are “advertised” and landed through these informal channels. So I always encourage students to identify and talk to (if only by phone/e-mail) people who are working in careers that seem interesting. It can only lead to good things, like career information, internship and co-op opportunities sometimes, and, occasionally, job leads.
Finally, I think it’s important that I play “devil’s advocate” with students who say they have “no idea what I want to be when I grow up.” Through my counseling experiences and master’s thesis research, I’ve found that MANY students who say something like this DO indeed have SOME ideas. Often, they’ve ruled out these ideas as “stupid,” “dumb,” “unrealistic,” or “crazy.” (Or, in many cases, others in their lives — parents, friends, teachers — have told them as much.) The other day a student wrote to me saying she was stuck in a crummy job, the second one she’d had in the year following her graduation. She was finally able to “admit” that what she really wants to do is become a professional lifeguard or a wedding coordinator. Her friends and family basically laughed at her, whereas I advised her to go ahead and explore these possibilities — because after all, SOMEONE (more than one!) in the world is pursuing these careers! The bottom line is that students often prematurely “rule out” careers based on information whose validity and sources they haven’t carefully evaluated. Something as simple as “my roommate said so” can often be enough to push a student away from a major or career of interest. To me, that’s a shame. I strongly believe that we have MANY people in the world today who were similarly discouraged — and for what? It really is a tragedy.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What is the most important piece of advice you feel you could offer today’s job-seeker in YOUR area of expertise? What’s the biggest mistake job-seekers make that your advice could correct?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| My most important advice is this: When you’re either deciding on a major/career or pursuing a job of some sort, you’re going to “hear” a lot of things from a lot of different people. You simply MUST 1) Think about and evaluate your SOURCES of information, and 2) Think about and evaluate the INFORMATION ITSELF.
For example, let’s say you want to be a psychology major because you’ve really enjoyed a few psych classes you’ve taken. You’ll almost certainly start “hearing” things from people in your life, all with variations on the theme, “What in the world will you DO with a psychology degree?” (Parents can be particularly “good” at this question, but friends, roommates, etc., can also chime in.) What to do? Well, first think about and evaluate your sources of information. How good of a source, really and truly, is your mother, for example? What does your roommate know about potential psychology careers that you don’t know? In many cases, the people who ask the “what will you DO with that?” question, while well meaning, don’t really know any more than you do about potential careers in the field in question.
Thus, you also have to think about and evaluate the information you’ve received in and of itself. If your roommate knows no more than you do about psychology careers, is his assessment that “you’ll never get a job with a psychology degree” really the “gospel truth”? There are very likely MUCH better sources of information — e.g., a career counselor, some psychologists, some psychological professional organizations, and so on.
As a college student, you hear all about the notion of “critical thinking.” If you were to boil down an entire college education into one “outcome,” in my opinion that outcome should be that you learn to become a critical thinker. And there is perhaps no better place to apply your critical thinking skills than to your own career exploration and decision making.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||. What types of question do you get most often, particularly in your work for monster.com as Campus Career Coach?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| There are several areas that seem to come up again and again. One is the seemingly timeless question, “What can I do with a major in ——– ?” This one is especially popular among liberal arts majors — e.g., English, psychology, sociology, philosophy — but it certainly isn’t confined to this group. I think there’s a perception among many students that certain majors lead to certain, specific career paths. Of course, that’s somewhat true in many cases — accounting majors, for example, tend to become … accountants. But in many cases, particularly when you’re talking about liberal arts majors, there are MANY different ways a student can apply a degree toward a career choice.
Another frequently asked question I see is something to the effect of, “Why am I having no luck in my job search?” Often, the student who asks this type of question has been relying pretty heavily on “passive” strategies like using the Internet, checking the newspaper classifieds, etc., instead of investing time and effort into the often more productive tasks of networking and informational interviewing. So I spend a lot of time encouraging students to “diversify” their job-hunting strategy — to use the Internet, the classifieds, etc., IN ADDITION TO (and not INSTEAD OF) more active strategies like networking and informational interviewing.
Finally, I see a fair number of questions from students who are feeling, for lack of a better term, “lost.” Some are first-year students, some are seniors or recent grads, but they all seem to share a feeling of “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” Often, they believe they’re the ONLY students feeling this way (which, of course, they’re not) and they feel very down on themselves and the whole career-development/job-search process. I try to respond as any “in-person” counselor would by validating their feelings, encouraging them, and offering them some tangible ideas for action on their own behalf.
Whatever the situation, I try very hard to “humanize” the experience of using the Internet — and, specifically, Monster.com — for career advice!
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Do you see today’s job-seekers (especially at the college grad/entry level) becoming too complacent about job-seeking because of the robust economy? How can job-seekers make the most of the strong economy and be prepared for when the current boom subsides?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||Actually, I don’t see that at all. Most students and new grads continue to believe that getting a job, even in today’s economy, is going to take some work and effort. I do think, though, that most students — whenever they graduate, and no matter what the economy — tend to underestimate the job search and what it’s all about. They only learn later, on the job, how important networking and “people connections” are. As Richard Bolles writes in What Color is Your Parachute? there is a tendency on the part of many job seekers (including new college grads) to rely on the “tried-and-true” job-hunting approaches like newspaper classifieds and, now, the Internet. But as any employer will tell you, employers would MUCH rather hire someone they know themselves or who has been referred/recommended by someone they know and trust. It’s that simple. That’s why, while the classifieds, the Internet, and similar resources are good and useful tools, networking and informational interviewing simply MUST continue to be a big part of the job search. That’s the aspect I think many of today’s students really don’t understand — especially since they’re so used to using the Internet and other technology to get things done.|
Peter Vogt, the “Campus Career Coach” for the Campus Community of Monster.com, has counseled hundreds of college students from diverse backgrounds, helping them with a wide range of career planning concerns. As president of Career Planning Resources in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Peter now devotes much of his time to writing and speaking about college students and their career development. His articles have appeared in such print and electronic publications as National Business Employment Weekly, Managing Your Career, college.wsj.com (the college-oriented careers web site of The Wall Street Journal), and Career Magazine, and he has given presentations about college student career issues at national conferences and college career events. He is also the founder and producer of The Career Services Kiva, a comprehensive news and information Website for college and university career-services professionals. Reach Peter at email@example.com.
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