Monday, January 31, 2011

Preparing to Transition Careers

Chances are you will eventually have to transition careers some time in your lifetime. Career transitions can be categorized three ways:

  • A new occupation in a new field
  • A new occupation in the same field
  • The same occupation within a new field

Career transitions can be voluntary or necessary, but either way, you’ll benefit by giving them careful thought and preparation.

Identify Your Reasons

Consider why you’re changing careers. Are you basing your reasons on temporary circumstances or issues that could be solved? For example, did you give yourself ample time to adjust to working for a new, difficult manager? If you are no longer feeling challenged have you requested more complex projects?

Know Yourself

Assess your interests, values, skills, and personality traits to target a suitable occupation. Tap into the extensive self-assessment tools/tests available to assist you, many of which are free.

Do Your Homework

Take the time to thoroughly research occupations, industries, and companies of interest. Read career and industry overviews, job profiles and postings, and growth projections. Talk to people who have experience. The more homework you do, the better informed your decisions will be.

Formulate a Plan

Develop a clear transition plan by factoring in your current life situation and any financial, educational, and timing considerations. Think about small steps you can take toward your career transition, such as enrolling in a class or volunteering in a field of interest.

Gain Experience

Any experience you develop in your targeted career will be extremely valuable, whether it be volunteering, interning, working part time, freelancing, or temping. In addition to gaining experience, you will acquire insight and, hopefully, develop professional contacts.

Career transitions require patience and time and may be humbling; however, with the right planning, you can make a smooth and satisfying transition.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Get a Handle on Procrastination

Procrastination—putting off a timely activity until later—is something many of us are guilty of. Procrastination is often a common response to being overwhelmed, unsure of where to start, and afraid of failing—feelings many job seekers experience. It is no surprise that procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles in the job-search process, during which, prolonged procrastination can be both financially and emotionally detrimental. Following are just a few of the many tips available for overcoming procrastination. So, don’t procrastinate; put these tips into action now.

Build a Support Structure

First, recognize and acknowledge you have an issue with procrastination. Consider asking a friend to help you stay accountable for moving forward in your job search. Make a plan to regularly report job search progress, ask for advice, and brainstorm ideas. Also consider joining a job-seeker support group for forming mutually supportive relationships that foster the job search process.

Plan and Organize

A job search requires planning and organization. Create a list of tasks, prioritize them, and schedule them. Break larger tasks down into several smaller, manageable action steps. Your task list may be long and job searches take time, so don’t get overwhelmed. Instead, focus on the progress you make each week. Find ways to be satisfied with small wins, like making a new professional contact, receiving positive resume feedback, or having a useful conversation with someone in the industry.

Minimize Distractions

Identify distractions that become excuses for procrastination. Try to minimize or eliminate these distractions when you’re busy with job-search tasks. For example, if job searching from home has you finding a dozen other chores to do, take your job search offsite. Try the library or some other quiet spot. If you regularly surf the Internet aimlessly for hours, vow that you won’t use the Internet except to access websites that aide your job search. Then, hold yourself accountable.

Where the Jobs Are

Time Magazine recently devoted an issue to "Where the Jobs Are: The Right Spots in the Recovery." There are many articles of interest and it's well-worth taking a look at it.

You can also find a list with information about the top 10 jobs for a recession and afterward:

1. Accountant
2. Entrepreneur
3. Police Officer
4. Network and Computer Systems
5. Nurse
6. Nutritionist
7. Physical Therapist
8. Teacher
9. Mathematician
10. Government Manager

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It’s Not All About You in the Job Search

You are marketing yourself and your skills in the job search process. It is easy to get caught up into thinking the process is all about you. However, to be successful in your search you must take the focus off yourself and refocus on your targeted employer and how you can help them. When this shift in focus is well-executed you will instantly set yourself apart from the crowd of fellow job seekers.

Differentiate Your Features and Benefits: A feature is a characteristic or property of an object or product. In job search terms, your features are your skills. A benefit is the way in which a feature can be important or advantageous to the person who uses the feature.

In the marketing process – which is what you are doing as a job seeker – features are important, but benefits are what seal the deal. Instead of offering a laundry list of your features, or skills, present the benefits you offer an employer. Instead of saying you have “excellent customer service skills” tell your potential employer that your personable communication skills and timely follow-up will result in increased repeat and referral customers.

Define the Employer’s Needs: Presenting a benefit that is not important to your customer, or potential employer, is almost as ineffective as not presenting benefits. Most employers hire because they have a problem to solve or a need to fill. Before you send the resume and go to an interview, do your research on the company and find out their motivation for hiring. Discover their need or problem and demonstrate how you can help them solve it and you will make their hiring decision easy.

Present the Benefits You Can Offer: Never ask about salary, benefits packages, or vacation time in an interview – these are the benefits you will receive. Instead, write every line of your resume and answer every interview question in terms of how your skills – or features – can benefit your potential employer. By taking the focus off yourself and demonstrating how you can be of assistance to the organization or meet its individual needs, you will stand out as the candidate that brings the biggest return on investment.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Keep Layoffs at Bay

During market downturns, job security becomes a concern for many. While you have no guarantees of keeping your job during tough economic times, some work practices may help you to avoid layoffs. Try focusing on work traits and practices that employers value, like the following:

Be the “Go To” Expert

There is definite value in having expertise in a functional area within the organization and being the “go to” person for this expertise. Besides possessing the know-how, being reliable and easy to work with can make you uniquely valuable to the organization. Think about ways to increase your knowledge, skills, and reliability within a particular area.

Build Solid Work Relationships

Build good, strong work relationships across the organization and with clients and vendors as well. When teamed with expertise, solid work relationships can be key to keeping your job during a downsizing.

Help Your Manager Achieve Goals

Be aware of your manager’s job responsibilities and goals. In what ways can you help them achieve those goals, minimize challenges, or reduce his/her workload? Be the person on your manager’s team who offers help, consistently delivers quality work, and is dependable.

Be a Team Player

Work well with others and demonstrate a positive attitude. It is important that you are viewed as a team player, not only by your manager, but by others throughout the organization.

Positively Impact the Bottom Line

When it comes time to eliminate staff, management often considers how much each employee contributes to the bottom line. No matter what job you have, you can find ways to help save money or increase business. For example, take initiative to fine tune a process for identifying new customers or reduce spending by negotiating better vendor prices.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Impression Finesse

You have heard the phrase “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” right? It is doubly true when it comes to interviewing. That brief time you have in front of an interviewer (or interviewers) can make or break you. It is, therefore, in your interest to plan on locking up the job the first time. Here’s how.
  • Look the part: Just as it is wise to play two shots ahead in pool, it is equally prudent to dress two positions higher than the one for which you are applying. That generally means wearing a suit for both men and women. Be clean and well groomed, from the hair on your head to your toenails. Your confident smile and your well-executed handshake will also exude “it’s a mistake not to hire me.”
  • Know the part: So now that you look good; you must be halfway there, right? Wrong. Next you need to do your research. Know the ins and outs of the company to which you are applying. Study its history, business practices, press releases, market position, and competitors. And you had better know that position description backward and forward.
  • Be the part: You look good and you sound good: now, tie it together. Take your experience and demonstrate how you can solve problems and make strong contribution to the organization. Leave no question in their mind that they would be worse off without you.

Treat your interview with the same reverence as you would studying for a critical final and success will be yours!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Creating a Career Advisory Board

For-profit companies, non-profit groups, and professional associations have advisory boards. So why can’t an individual have a career advisory board? You can if you take the initiative and form one.


A career advisory board is typically made up of three-to-five people who provide career guidance. They help you brainstorm and share ideas, solve problems, answer questions, provide connections, and motivate you to keep working toward your goals.

Have a Plan and Goals

You need a career plan and goals in place so those you request as your advisers understand the direction in which you’re headed. As your career evolves, advisers can help you shape or redefine your goals.

Create a Diverse Advisory Board

When creating your career advisory board, invite those in your professional life whom you trust and mutually respect. These should be honest and candid people who are familiar with your work, working style, professional strengths, and challenges. Choose individuals with expertise in areas relevant to your career plan. Every member of the group does not have to be from the same career you are targeting. Your advisers should have varied perspectives, experiences, and skills; some may be more analytical and others more creative. If, for example, your career path requires strong verbal skills, choose a member or two who have proficiency in this area.

Express Gratitude

A career advisory board can help you grow professionally and personally. And with computers and Internet access, advisory board membership is not limited by geography. Recruiting multiple advisers helps you avoid asking too much of any one individual, but be sure to frequently express your gratitude to each adviser. Also, if possible, identify ways in which you might return the favor.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Career Exploration or Learning Vacation

If you’ve spent time thinking about a dream career and wished for a way to give it a risk-free test run, you may want to target your vacation to explore a career or interest.

What to Expect from a Vocation Vacation

Vacations focused on exploring a specific career are commonly called “vocation vacations.” People pay for these short-term work experiences to gain a hands-on opportunity trying out a career.

Certain companies specialize in vocation vacations, which range in cost from $500 to $2000 for a two-to-three day experience. Don’t expect to find your run-of-the-mill, everyday career using this method; for example, some people have taken vocation vacations to experience roles as wine makers, chefs, innkeepers, dog trainers, and sports announcers.

Participants are paired with professionals/mentors in the career they’re exploring. Mentors work alongside the mentees, assigning tasks, answering questions, and providing guidance. These vacations don’t provide the skills, experience, and education required to land a job. However, they do deliver career snapshots and hands-on experiences that may help you decide whether to formally pursue a particular career. At the very least, a vocation vacation is exciting and fun, and for many this is the goal.

Vacations Geared toward Learning

Some vacations are designed to promote learning within a particular area of interest. Learning vacations may tie into a person’s career interests, but are intended more to foster a personal interest, hobby, or passion. For example, you might pursue studying abroad, second-language courses, culinary or travel programs, photography tours, or writing workshops. Some programs may result in a certificate of completion; however, all promote growth and fun.

A learning vacation demonstrates your willingness to learn new things and can sometimes be promoted on your resume or in an interview. Fees and time commitments for learning vacations vary significantly, so it is best to tap into online and offline resources to narrow your interests and find one that fits.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Retirement is a Four-letter Word in the Military Transition Job Search

You are proud of the fact that you served your country for 20 or more years, as well you should be. However, this is not something that you should broadcast when making the transition from your military career. The negative effects of using the word “retired” in your job search can be detrimental to the success of your transition.

The “retirement” stigma.When we hear the word retired, many images come forth. They bring to mind that the person is done with their career, that they are ready to play golf, or travel the country in a motor home. They indicate that the person is “retirement age” – even though many military retirees are only in their forties. This perception may cause involuntary age discrimination. Age discrimination can be based on fear of the candidate’s lack of energy, unwillingness to learn new skills and technology, or that they are so advanced in their career that they may demand a higher salary.

A perceived lack of flexibility.There may be a perceived lack of flexibility for military retiree. If an employer hears that the service member has only known military life, they may doubt their ability to make a smooth transition. You must demonstrate that you are embracing the civilian work environment and prove your adaptability. In addition to avoiding the word “retired”, this can be achieved by translating your military skills to civilian language, avoiding acronyms and military terms, and transitioning to the civilian method of stating dates and time.

Salary negotiation considerations.Another consideration is the fact that when you retire from the military, you receive a pension. If an employer knows that you are already receiving a healthy pension check, they may be more likely to offer you a lower salary. Don’t bring up the fact that you are retiring, and this will not become an issue in the salary negotiation process.

Don’t subject yourself to these red flags and stigmas. Instead of calling yourself retired from the military, mention that you enjoyed a successful career in your particular branch of the military.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Highlights of Recently Published, Popular Career Books

A multitude of career and job-search books are available through your public library and/or local and online bookstores. Following are a few recently released and/or updated books that are generating buzz.

“What Color is Your Parachute” by Dick Bolles

Bolles and his book have been forces in the career development field for over 35 years. This 2011 edition promises to deliver practical advice applicable to the evolving job market. Designed to help you identify your interests, values, strengths, and ultimately, your true career passion, Bolles covers the job-search process extensively. A sampling of topics includes organizing and managing your job search, where the jobs are, resumes and contacts, interviewing, starting your own business, and even targeted content based on age. The book also includes plenty of worksheets and exercises.

“Shift: How to Reinvent Your Business, Your Career, and Your Personal Brand” by Peter Arnell

Brand and marketing guru Peter Arnell uses his book to advise you on how to leverage brand tactics used by some of the world’s most successful companies to reinvent yourself both professionally and personally. The book’s content is intended to help you re-think your actions in finding and maintaining a fulfilling career and achieving significant personal goals. Arnell discusses the importance of eliminating barriers to change and concentrating on the “what ifs.” He also challenges the concept of separating personal and professional lives.

“Taking Charge of Your Career Direction” by Robert D. Lock

Lock’s fourth edition focuses on making informed and wise career decisions. He presents the importance of identifying motives and needs, setting career goals, recognizing occupational trends, and developing prospects and portfolios. The book includes several exercises to help you identify your values, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

“ME 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future” by Dan Schawbel

In this book, personal branding expert Dan Schawbel teaches job seekers and professionals how to use the power of online media to manage successful careers in a competitive, global market. He breaks down his 4-step process into identifying, creating, communicating, and sustaining your personal brand. His book also includes several case studies of how people have used social media to build a successful personal brand.