These tips have been gathered from individual interviews with career, college, and job experts, part of our Q&A with Career Experts series.
Don’t forget that getting a job doesn’t finish the job-search process; it is just a rest stop along the journey, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “I have had clients find a job only to have the company sold within months, and they were back on the job market again,” Chopra points out. “The job market morphs with such rapidity these days that you really shouldn’t expect to work at any company for more than a few years. One client commented that he had always been too busy to talk to headhunters who called or to attend industry meetings. After struggling through a lengthy job search, and painstakingly building a network, this client concluded that he would never again ignore networking opportunities, even when he was working. That’s the attitude we all need to have, because we never know when we’ll be back on the job market.”
Dan Rosenfield, publisher of Web sites and a newsletter on college and grad school, cautions that students shouldn’t “reduce their options by considering only colleges relatively close to their homes and/or institutions whose names are familiar to them.” In the Q&A interview Rosenfield did with Quintessential Careers, he said, “Most students (85 percent) attend colleges within a three-hour drive of their homes, failing to even consider potentially good choices farther away. Similarly, many parents and students assume that colleges whose names they do not immediately recognize offer less prestige and/or educational programs of lower quality than schools whose names they have heard more often.”
One of the biggest myths about job-hunting “is that success is related to how many resumes you send out,” observed Phil Hey, professor of English and writing at Briar Cliff College, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “To me, this notion is a little like sending a written marriage proposal to every opposite-sex name in the phone book. By contrast, every application should be prepared by careful research, and every application should be tailored and targeted to a specific employer.”
For the job seeker who would like to change careers or reach for the next level in his/her career, this is an excellent time to make a move, advised professional resume writer Beverly Harvey in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “There are numerous unfilled positions in every industry because not enough qualified employees are available. Currently, employers are willing to train a candidate who shows promise. In economic downturns, companies can’t afford to make a hiring mistake, so it’s much more difficult to make career changes. This is an excellent time to be positioning yourself for future career moves. For example, if the company you’re currently working for has openings in an area that interests you, ask about transferring within the company – right now they can’t afford to lose you and are more reciprocal to your requests. Be sure to prepare a resume showing how your skills will transfer to that type of position. This resume preparation may require some investigative work on your part. See if you can get a job description for the position from the personnel office. Then tailor your resume to the job description. If vacancies exist in the department you currently work in, you may want to assume additional responsibilities and learn all you can about several positions. Assuming responsibly shows leadership, which is always a valuable quality. When the pendulum swings, the most valuable employees are the ones who will hang onto their jobs.”
Don’t let your fear of not making enough money deter you from making a career change, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “The fear that they won’t be able to make the same amount of money is a major deterrent for most clients,” Chopra notes. “That concern often shuts down the whole exploration process. I ask that clients set aside the issue of how much money they can make until later in the process, when they have a better sense of what they might like to do.”
Students tend to overestimate the importance of co-curricular activities in the college admissions process, observed Dan Rosenfield, publisher of Web sites and a newsletter on college and grad school, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “While activities can be a ‘tip factor,’ particularly with colleges who must select a small number of students from a large applicant pool, program rigor, grades, and SAT scores are, by far, the most important criteria colleges consider in evaluating applicants, as they most accurately predict success in college.”
Avoid small, stupid mistakes on application letters and resumes, advised Phil Hey, professor of English and writing at Briar Cliff College, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “People have no idea how visible and powerful such mistakes can be, but often one mistake will take a candidate out of the running. Over-relying on spell checkers is a common source of such errors. Candidates have to learn to use their own skills, and they should have several good proofreaders as friends.”
The biggest mistake job-seekers make when they decide to change jobs is to just read the classified ads and apply for anything that sounds remotely interesting or within their capabilities, cautioned professional resume writer Beverly Harvey in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Many people just apply for and accept a position that will pay their bills and provide them with some benefits. Every three to five years they repeat the process and before they know it, they’re 40 or 50 years old and find themselves saying, ‘I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.’ This is why planning your career is crucial. YOU plan your career so YOU end up where YOU want to be, doing what YOU want to do. You may alter career plans as you progress through life, but without some sort of plan you’ll just drift along like a ship without a rudder. Opportunities present themselves to people with plans and goals.”
Family concerns need not derail your plans to change jobs or careers, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Concern for family is a common theme among career-changers,” Chopra observes. “They are afraid that they are being selfish by seeking out a career that is more satisfying. In reality, doing something that you love and find energizing is the most amazing gift that you can give to your children and spouse.”
Commenting on the extent to which students should incorporate career planning into their decision about what college to attend, Dan Rosenfield, publisher of Web sites and a newsletter on college and grad school, said in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers, “Students are well served by choosing an undergraduate institution with a counseling center offering a comprehensive range of career and graduate school counseling services. Because many students enter college without a clear career choice, and many others change their career goals several times during their undergraduate years, it is critical they have access to professionals who can advise them on course and program selection as they relate to job and graduate school preparation. When selecting a college, students should be mindful of the fact that their interests and career goals are subject to change and consider most seriously institutions with a variety of strong programs. Students should be very cautious about choosing a specialty institution unless they are absolutely certain of their career goals.”
If you’d like to switch careers, but the notion of starting over overwhelms you, calm your fears, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers.”For people in mid-career, going back to zero can be a terrifying thought,” Chopra notes.”In reality, you don’t start over. You carry the skills and abilities learned in your present job into a new field. Clients often find that their unique combination of skills makes them more attractive to potential employers.”
In choosing a grad school, “the interests and experience of individual faculty should be a student’s primary consideration,” advised Dan Rosenfield, publisher of Web sites and a newsletter on college and grad school, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “Typically, graduate school students work far more closely with faculty, especially in research-oriented programs, than they do at the undergraduate level,” Rosenfield notes. “Obviously, overall academic quality is also of primary importance, as are reputation, the availability of a strong job-placement program, and the existence of a strong alumni network within the profession for which a student wishes to prepare.”
Good writing skills are a strong way to support your career success, advised Phil Hey, professor of English and writing at Briar Cliff College, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. For example:
(a) “Your bosses will know that you represent the company well in public view.
(b) Good writing physically represents good thinking, planning and organization.
(c) A good letter or report can b come a model for other employees to follow.
(d) A good report is one of the best and commonest ways to be r cognized from above.”
If you are contemplating a career change, find someone else who has made a career change and talk to them about your fears and hopes, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers.”Having been through it, they will be able to share their experiences, and you won’t feel so lonely as you start out on a new career path.”
Writing skills are not only important but essential to career advancement, advised Phil Hey, professor of English and writing at Briar Cliff College, in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “Poor writing skills can:
a) keep you from being considered for an interview;
b) get you sent back even to high school to acquire the competency you should have had at hire;
c) lose the trust and confidence of customers, co-workers and bosses;
d) cost the company money to straighten out misunderstandings; and
e) keep you from succeeding, apparently without reason, when your superiors don’t want your writing to represent the company.”
“The Nine Lives Exercise” is a terrific way for career-changers to figure out what career they want to transition to, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Imagine that you have been given nine lives,” Chopra says. “In each life, you will have a different career of your choosing. You will make all the money you require, regardless of the career you choose. You will have the skills and talents required for each career. And each of your careers will be equally prestigious in the eyes of your colleagues, family and friends. Now, list your nine careers. Make them as outrageous as you like, provided that you would enjoy the job. Once you have the list of nine careers, write down any themes that you see among the various careers you have chosen. Get a friend to do the same thing. A theme must be shared by at least two of your careers, but does not have to be common to all of them. Now, look at those themes. Are they present in your current work? If not, how will you incorporate some of those themes into your new career?”
Plan your career, advised professional resume writer Beverly Harvey in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Establish and write down short-term and long-term career goals – where do you want to be in one year, two years, three years, four years, five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years,” Harvey exhorts. “Talk to people in those types of careers, and find out what you would have to do to accomplish your goals. Write down each step you need to take to reach your goal and how long you estimate it will take you to reach each step. A goal without a date is only a dream, so be sure to decide when you will reach your goal. Find a mentor who can help you achieve your goals. Your mentor should be someone who is successful and already achieved the goals you’ve set for yourself. Be sure to review and rewrite your goals frequently, and keep a journal of your successes. Continually refine your goals and include more and more details as your goal becomes clearer and clearer.”
The “read first” exercise is a good way to help identify a career path, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Pay attention to what you read for pleasure. What sections of the newspaper do you reach for first? Which articles do you read all the way through? What types of books appeal to you? What you read first may be a clue to some things that really interest you.”
Have a government job and thinking of ditching it for the private sector? Heed this advice from career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “One concrete piece of advice I can give to people wanting to leave the government is to dump your government resume and start from scratch. The government’s requirements for resumes are so extensive and nit-picky that they are almost impossible to work with. List your content knowledge and your top skills. Work those into a resume. Highlight your four or five key accomplishments for your most recent 10 years’ worth of jobs. Describe your government job in broad terms: ‘Responsible for monitoring environmental permits for eight Western states.’ Build the resume up from those essentials, rather than trying to edit it down from the unwieldy things the government demands.”
Read more tips from our Quintessential Career Experts series in Career Expert Quick and Quintessential Career & Job Tips — #3.
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