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How can you overcome being terminated from a job?

youre-fired-211Darryl from Bismarck State College asked:

How can you overcome being terminated from a job and having been out of your desired field for more than a decade? I really thought that going back to school would make me more desirable to prospective employers, but so far, I have not had any luck.

Hi Kyle

Challenging questions, indeed, but not necessarily related! Let’s look at them individually

I’ve been fired. How do I start over?

Getting fired is never a pleasant experience.  When it happens, you have to be honest with yourself about how and why it happened.  What, if anything, could you have done differently to avoid the termination? What did you learn from the experience?  How are you a stronger, wiser, more mature person for having gone through that experience?

Are you familiar with the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief?  They were written to address dealing with the loss you experience when you lose a loved one, but apply equally well to the loss of a job:

  1. Denial & Isolation: You really did lose your job and you may need some time alone to process that loss, but disbelief and avoidance must eventually give way to forward progress. It happened. You cannot change that. If you want to move forward, you have to take steps in a forward direction
  2. Anger: Perhaps you are angry with yourself, with your former boss, with a former co-worker or former client. It is natural to feel angry . . . for a while. Let the anger subside. Forgive yourself and/or forgive others who may have been involved. Regardless of the circumstances, whether your termination was warranted (in your eyes) or not, you have to let go of the anger to move on into the next chapter of your career.
  3. Bargaining: If only you had handled things differently. If only you hadn’t . . . . If only you had . . . . No amount of bargaining with yourself or with your situation is going to undo your termination. It’s natural to try to bargain; it’s necessary to move beyond the bargaining.
  4. Depression: Losing your job stinks. There is no getting around it.  It is not an occasion for laughter and smiles. Allow yourself to grieve. Learn from you grief and from the experience. Don’t become swallowed up by grief. Yes, this is much easier said than done!
  5. Acceptance: Move on. Process what you learned from the experience to that you can move forward positively. Answer these questions: What did you learn from the experience? What can I do to avoid similar experiences in the future? How am I a better person/employee for having had the experience? How have I grown and matured? Accept what happened for what it was. Don’t let it define you or your future.

However you choose to process the grief of being terminated, you need to do so in a way that will allow you to move forward and share the story – from your perspective – with prospective employers.  You cannot avoid that conversation.

Eventually, every potential employer will find out if you have been terminated from a previous job and if you are eligible for rehire by that company.  In my opinion, it is better that they hear that news from you than from your previous employer.

Certainly, do not start any job interview with the disclosure that you were fired from a previous job.  By the same token, don’t let potential employer learn this news first when they call your previous employer to verify your employment.

You can control when and how that information is disclosed.  Don’t give up that control.

How you tell the story of your termination is very important.  You cannot portray yourself as the helpless victim.  Resist all urges and opportunities to speak negatively about your previous employer.  Don’t take that bait!

Briefly state what occurred to cause your termination, and move immediately on to examples of what you have been doing since your termination to make sure nothing like it ever happens again..

This kind of approach will show maturity, humility, a commitment to self-improvement, honesty and character.

You can’t avoid the questions you hope they won’t ask.  They will ask those questions, and how you respond will reveal your true character.  Show them your character is strong!

I’ve been out of my desired field for more than a decade. How do I get back in?

Most professions change and evolve over time, so the field you were in 10 years ago is very likely different today. have you skills evolved to stay current with those needed in your desired field?

We live in a “what you you done for me lately, what can you do for me now?” world, so qualifications that date back more than a decade are usually not viewed positively.  Regardless of the field, in order to be considered for employment, you need to offer skills, training and/or expertise that employers need.  Employers will ask (and ask rightfully, I might add) :”If this is what you really want to be doing, how come you haven’t been doing anything to nurture your skills or experience?”  It’s a valid question. You must be ready to answer it.

You also need to be where jobs in your field are located.  People who want to work in entertainment usually move to Los Angeles or New York because that is where the jobs are.  People who want to work in oil and gas often move to Texas or Alaska because that is where those jobs are.  Silicon Valley is a mecca for entrepreneurs and and software developers, rural Nebraska is not.  Employment availability is not universal across all fields in all locations.  You need to be where the jobs are.  Sometimes that means relocating for work or changing the focus of your job search.

Some times you have to be willing to start at the very bottom and work your way back up to where you think you should be. Employer will pay the “going market rate” for the skills and experience they need.  They won’t pay based upon what you need to make ends meet or what you believe you should be paid.  It’s not personal, it’s business.

I thought more education would make me more desirable to employers.  That hasn’t happened.  What do I do now?

More education will not necessarily make you more desirable to employers unless that education is in a field of great employer demand. Simply earning a degree – any degree – will not cause employers to seek you out unless you possess the degree, skills and experience they need.

Yes, in general terms, people with college degrees experience more professional success and earn more money than do people without college degrees; but that is a generalization.  All Master’s degrees are not created equal.  All Bachelor’s degrees are not created  equal.  Don’t treat them as if they are.

Get some coaching!

I recommend you sit down with a career coach at your university.  A career coach can help you articulate your personal, professional and educational goals and identify where they complement each other and where they conflict with each other. They can get to know you and the specifics of your situation and offer targeted advice and assistance.

When people want to get into better physical condition, they will often work with an athletic trainer; someone who knows a lot about physical fitness and exercise. Someone who can teach them how to be successful.

Career coaches can do the same thing for people who want to better “career conditions.”

Just like athletic trainers, career coaches can’t do the work for you, they can only help you do the work yourself, show you a pathway to success, and offer encouragement along the way.  You get to do the hard part.

Good luck!



Be a selective job seeker, not a picky job seeker

picky_eaterA colleague from a very large state university recently contacted me with a hard question.  An alum struggling to find a job called him from a job fair.  He was frustrated and seeking advice.

 My colleague asked:  Why do you think you haven’t found a job yet?

The alum’s answer after a long pause: I’ve been limiting myself to automotive companies because that’s what I’m really interested in. 

This exchange reminded me of many conversations I have had over the years with students.  

Conversations like the following:

Matt: “Did you apply for this job?This exchange reminded me of many conversations I have had over the years with students.  Conversations like the following:

Student:  “No, I don’t know if I want to work in that city, so I didn’t apply.”

Matt: “ What about that job?”
 “No, I don’t think I want to work for that company, so I didn’t apply”

Matt: “Okay, so how about this job?”
Student: “Yeah, I didn’t apply for that one either. They’re not in my industry.”

Matt: “So what kinds of jobs and careers are you looking for?  What is ‘your industry’?”
Student: “I don’t know; something I’ll like; something in my major.”

Matt: “How do you know you won’t like the jobs we’ve been talking about? How do you know they’re not right for someone in your major?”
Student: “I don’t know; they’re not what I’m looking for.”

Matt: “How do you know they’re not what your looking for if you don’t know what the jobs involve and you don’t know what you are looking for?”
Student:   “Look, I can’t describe what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.  So, I have one more question.

Matt:  “Okay, what’s your question?
Student: “Why is it so hard to find a job?  Nobody seems to be hiring.”

Don’t you just love circular logic like this? I do.  It brings a real  level of  certainty to the process. In this case,  it guarantees you just one thing:

“You will not get jobs for which you do not apply – 100% of the time.

How do you like those odds?

Listen, I want students to be selective when considering their career options. I don’t want student randomly applying for jobs just because a job is available and they need a job.  But there is a huge gray area between “perfect fit” jobs  and “not a chance” jobs that far too many job seekers neglect.  And worse yet, many job seekers don’t even take the time to define or describe they types of positions they are seeking, yet are perfectly happy to reject opportunities outright as “not for them” without any reasonable explanation.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Potter, when asked to characterize pornography in a 1964 opinion (Jacobellis v Ohio),  had difficulty defining it, but said:

“I’ll know it when I see it.”

Is that your approach in your job search?  If so, I’ll bet you’re pretty frustrated.

Don’t use the “Justice Potter approach” in your job search! It might be a good way to characterize your definition of pornography, bgut it’s a lousy strategy for a job search.

If you don’t have some idea what you are looking for, chances are it (and many other really good opportunities) will pass you by.  Don’t arbitrarily apply for every job out there, but don’t arbitrarily reject potential opportunities unless you can legitimately defend your rationale for not applying.

Finding a job is hard – identifying a career path is even more difficult – don’t make the process that much more (and unnecessarily) challenging by being picky.

It’s good to be selective in your search for a job.  Being selective means you are evaluating your options and pursuing those most suitable to you and your goals.

It’s bad to be picky in your search for a job.  Being picky means you are not willing to invest the time necessary to be selective.

So, are you picky or just selective; are you looking for opportunities or excuses (and be honest when you answer that question!)

Good luck



What can I do with my major?

Crossroads1I get a lot of “Ask the Coach” questions asking essentially the same thing:

What can I do with my major? 

This can be very easy or very difficult to answer, depending upon your major.

If you are majoring in accounting, chemical engineering, social work, architecture, or any other field that tracks directly toward a specific professional, you have at least one possible answer to that question.

If you are majoring in a foreign language, any of the liberal arts, or many of the natural sciences and social sciences, you have a wide variety of possible answers.

If you in your senior year and have just discovered that you do not want to work in the area of your undergraduate major, you have a lot of options to consider, and you are probably a bit frustrated and scared.

What should you do?  Here are a few things to consider.

Many people with college degrees work in fields NOT directly related to there undergraduate major

Not working in a field related to your major is NORMAL.  It certainly is easier to look for work when you are an accounting major looking for a job in accounting, but that doesn’t make it better.  Take a look at the new Education section on LinkedIn.  (If you’re looking for work and your are not on LinkedIn . . .  what are you waiting for?)  Search your school’s alumni by major and you will see that you have a lot of options. For example, I went to the State University of New York at Oswego and studied communication.  Look at the “Where they work” and “What they do” columns below.

Surprised by the variety?  You shouldn’t be. If you limit your search to those opportunities that are directly related to your major, you are really limiting your options.


You major does not define you

You are not an English major,  you are a student who happens to be studying English.

You might call it semantics.  I call it a big distinction.

Defining yourself by your major is self-defeating. It says “I can only do things that people similarly educated do.” It tells potential employers that the only thing they need to know about you to consider you for a job is your major; nothing else matters.

I don’t mind saying . . .  THAT”S CRAZY!

What you offer potential employers is the grand collection of education, skills, experience, qualities, characteristics, gifts, talents and passions that make you who you are.  And, you are a lot more than just a major.

But there is a catch . . . .  (there’s always a catch) . . .  .

You have to help employers understand what you offer and what you want

Even when you are majoring in a clearly definable professional field (e.g., architecture), you still have to help employers understand who you are, what you are looking for in a job, what you offer in qualifications, why you want to work for their company, and why you want to work in their industry.

If you can’t explain who you are, what you want and what you offer to employers, how do you expect them to figure you out?

Answer:  They won’t!

You must be curious, ask questions and explore your options

If you are going to ask the question – what can I do with this major? – you had better be ready to look for answers.  If you want to consider your options, you have to be willing to explore those options.  Be curious!  Let your knowledge of yourself, your interests and your talents guide your exploration.

If you are really into sports, what industries, business, non-profits, etc. focus on sports.  Not everyone who works in sports in an athlete. Where might you fit in?

Likewise with arts & entertainment:  Not everyone who works in the arts is an actor, sculptor, artist or musician.  What roles exist in arts and entertainment that allow the artists to create? Again, where might you fit in.

If you haven’t explored your career options, you are in no position to complain you don’t have any career options.

You must be realistic

Understand this – you will not live in a big house, drive an expensive car and vacation in exotic locations on a school teacher’s salary, unless you marry well, win the lottery or have a trust fund.

No matter how badly you would like to be a teacher and earn a six-figure income, those two concepts are largely incompatible.

As you explore your career options, be realistic.  Look at jobs and career paths that are compatible with your needs and lifestyle expectations. Not doing so will be very frustrating for you and everyone who might offer you job or be willing to help you look for a job.

You should seek help

Why try to answer the What can I do with my major? question on your own?

Chances are, your college has people and resources that can help.

For example, the California State University Chico Career Center has an excellent  What can I do with my major? page and career center advisors who can help you navigate your options.  Likewise, St. Norbert College’s Career Services office has a  What can I do with a major/minor in . . . ? page on their website, and helpful career center staff.

Get help!  And, start with the career center on your college campus.

What can you do with your major? What can’t you do with your major? You’re not going to become a brain surgeon by studying sociology, but if you really explore your options, you will find they are many, but the answers don’t always come easy.

Good Luck,


What do employers love and hate to see from candidates?

Job-InterviewMelissa from Lindenwood University asked:

I’ve seen numerous job search websites that offer advice like “employers love this…” or “employers hate it when you…” but employers are people too, and all people have individual personalities. Some may prefer traditional cover letters, others might want shorter and more casual e-mails. One hiring manager might appreciate a career summary at the top of a resume, another might feel that it wastes space. Is it appropriate to contact the office before applying and ask about these preferences? Or would that be seen as trying too hard to get on somebody’s good side?

Hi Melissa –

This is a fun question to answer.  Far too often, people offer advice on this topic that is really bad.  It’s not intentionally bad.  It’s just offered in ways that come across as universal.  The only thing I can tell you for certain is that . . .

No two employers are completely alike

You are correct!  Employers are people, too; so you should not approach them all the same way.

What one employer might love to hear, another might abhor!  Craft your resume in manner that markets you most effectively to the kinds of employment you are seeking, not to address the whims and preferences of an individual recruiter.  Your goal should not be to “get on someone’s good side.” Rather, it should be to present your relevant qualifications as professionally and effectively as you can.

When you are looking for a job, two things have to happen for you get a job:  An employer has to make you an offer, and you have to accept.

Just because someone offers you a job does not mean you have to accept it.  Just as the employer is evaluating you as a potential employee, you should be evaluating that employer to determine whether or not you want to accept a job if one is offered.

Be consistent in the way you present yourself to employers and in the way you assess employment opportunities, and you will have a much better chance of landing a job that suits you well.

Now back to your specific question:  I have conducted a lot of interviews, observed a lot of interviews, and met with a lot of recruiters.  Based on that experience, here is my general advice regarding what employers love and hate to see in candidates.  I think the following observations hold up well, regardless of the employer.

Employers love authenticity

Be who you are, not who you think the employer want you to be. Seriously, if you change your behavior and your responses to “tell them what they want to hear” just to get the job, who are they considering for employment? You or your interview “alter ego.”?

By the way, most savvy employers can see through BS answers and nervous posturing.  Be cognizant of your surroundings, be professional, and be authentic.  Employers love it when candidates are authentic.  When you are authentic, they know who they are talking to.

Employers love confidence

Be confident in what you offer, just not overconfident. Don’t be ashamed of what you have accomplished. It is possible to be proud, humble, and confident all the same time.  Your confidence show the employer that you are not easily rattled; that you can hold up under pressure.

Employers love candidates that don’t waste their time

Make good use of the time you and the interviewer are investing in your interview.  Don’t waste your time and don’t waste theirs.  Show up on time. Dress appropriately for the interview. Don’t ramble when answering questions. Don’t overstay your welcome.  Don’t make them wait to hear back – return calls and emails promptly.

Employers love candidates that are prepared

Do your homework.  Do as much research as possible before applying for (and interviewing for) a job. Be ready to tell the employer why you want the job, why you are a good candidate for the job, why you’re interested in working for their company, and why you’re interested in working in their industry.  Be ready to tell your story, and be ready with questions so you can learn their story.  Follow the Boy Scout Rule:  Always be prepared!

Employers hate stock answers

Leave the stock, rehearsed answers at home.  Most recruiters have heard them all before.  No one learns anything from a stock answer. Offering up a stock response is never “telling them what they want to hear.”    Stock responses are usually express passes to the front of the “thanks but no thanks” line.

Employers hate kiss-ups

Don’t pander – you’re better than that (or at least you should be!).  Recruiters know their companies are not perfect and that the job they have to offer is not perfect.    If you are a kiss up in the interview, you are telling them you will be a kiss up on the job.  Do you like working with kiss ups?  I don’t.

One caveat: If you want a job that requires you to be a kiss up, go for it! When you get that job, just remind yourself that it is the job you wanted.  Be careful what you wish for.

Employers hate arrogance

If overconfidence is bad, arrogance is outright laughable; and they will laugh about you after the interview if you come across as arrogant.  If you honestly feel a job or company is “beneath you.” why did you apply, let along accept the interview? Get over yourself; drop the  attitude.  Arrogance is rude, bad form, and just distasteful. In most cases, arrogance will NOT get you the job.

Still uncertain?  Follow the advice of Dr. Seuss:

When interviewing for a job, be the best You you can be!

Good Luck,


An Open Letter to College Students and Your Parents! (2013)

long journey

Labor Day is past. Summer is over.

Freshmen are nervous as they experience firsthand just how different life as a college student is from their life in high school.

Seniors are beginning to contemplate life after college.

Most sophomores and juniors are just glad they are not freshmen or seniors!

Parents of seniors are wondering what their blossoming adults are going to do when they graduate, whether or not they are going to be able to get a job, and when they are going to start paying their own bills.

Please don’t ask to move back into my house,  they think quietly to themselves.

What about those seniors?  Surely, with all the money they have invested in their education, these soon-to-be graduates should be able to get jobs, right?  That’s the next logical step, isn’t it?  The university is providing the education; it should also provide a direct path to that first job out of college, right?  And that job had better pay enough (regardless of the field) so that they can afford their current lifestyle!  That’s the way it should work, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, unless you pursuing a degree that directly tracks into a talent-starved field (engineering, accounting, and many of the other Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) related majors) that’s not usually the way it will work for most students.

Finding a job – particularly a job you will like and that will match your skills and interests – is a process.  Like any process (for example, training for a marathon), it requires planning, personal accountability, discipline and focus.

It takes a lot more than “want to” to get a job after college.  It takes planning and action.

It’s easy to say “I want a good job when I graduate.”  It’s hard to define what that means to you. And it takes planning and action to get that job.

Your career services office can’t get you a job, but they can help you get a job.

With the new academic year underway, I want to take an opportunity to share with new and returning college students (and your parents) the following quick summary of what your college career services office can do, can’t do, will do, and won’t do to assist students in making the transition from the college to career.

What Career Services Can and Cannot Do For You

Career Services staff can market their services to students and encourage them to take advantage of the career services available, but they cannot force students to use career services.

You’ve heard the old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Well, most college career services offices provide a broad range of career services, but they cannot force students to use these services.  They offer services that are relevant to students at all stages of their education, so career services is relevant to all students.  Your college career advisers are ready to help you. All you have to do is ask!

Career Services staff can help students explore and evaluate their career and employment options, but they cannot place students into specific jobs.

It sure would be nice (and would certainly be easy) if students could walk into their college’s career services office just before graduation and choose a job from a variety of opportunities prepared exclusively for them.  Unfortunately, getting a job is not like ordering dinner or shopping for a new outfit.

By law, career services staff cannot select candidates or make hiring decisions on behalf of employers; employers have to make these hiring decisions themselves, and that means students have to be prepared to apply for jobs and present their qualifications in interviews.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want someone else choosing a job for me; I would want to be a part of that process.  Students, get involved in the process – it’s your life, after all!

Career Services staff can build recruiting relationships with employers, but they cannot force employers to come to their campuses or recruit for the types of jobs students want.

Employers recruit on college campuses when they need to. If an employer can generate a sufficient number of qualified candidates for their job opportunities without physically coming to campus, they usually won’t come to campus. And, employers that do recruit on college campuses do not typically go to all college campuses, recruit to fill all types of positions, or recruit across all majors.

“Bulk employers”  – big national and multinational companies that need large volumes of candidates to fill large volumes of target vacancies – are the bread and butter of on-campus recruiting.

Lastly, on-campus interviewing is not the only tool employers use to recruit entry-level talent from colleges and universities.  As a job seeker, your job is to understand the hiring dynamics of the industries you wish to enter and adjust your job search strategies to those dynamics. Your career advisor can help you do this!

Career Services staff can help students identify and pursue jobs that match their skills and interests, but they cannot do so if students can’t (or won’t) identify their skills and interests.

This is the toughest part!  In order to find a job you will like and that will match your skills, experience and other qualifications, you have to spend some time identifying and articulating your likes and dislikes and your skills and interests.

If you can’t describe your likes and dislikes or identify your skills and interests, how will you be able to know when you find a job that is compatible with them?  By the way – this usually isn’t an easy process, and it does take time, so don’t wait until the end of your last semester to get started.

What Career Services Will and Won’t Do

Career Services staff will advise and assist students in planning and crafting effective resumes and critique drafts of resumes, but will not write resumes for students.

Sorry, they can’t do this work for you.  Most career service offices have resume writing resources, resume samples  and advising services available, but you really should prepare your resume yourself.  All resume formats are not created equal, so don’t just download and use the first resume template you can find. What might make sense for an engineering student probably doesn’t make sense for an advertising student.  There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume. Your resume is a marketing document. Treat it like one!

BTW- Regarding that “$39.99 Resume Writing Service” you found online . . .  you get what you pay for!

Don’t waste your money.  You can find good resume writing assistance online, but it won’t come cheap.

Career Services staff will help students understand and evaluate the pros and cons of different job opportunities, but they will not tell students which job offers to accept or reject.

Want help understanding the various advantages and disadvantages of different job opportunities? Want to know what questions to ask?  Want an unbiased perspective of your options?  Ask your career adviser.  Your career adviser doesn’t have a vested interest in which option you select. She just want you to make sound and informed career decisions; good decisions for you!

Career Services staff will contact employers on behalf of all students, but we will not contact employers on behalf of individual students exclusively.

Sorry, your career adviser is not your personal job search agent.  Career advisers won’t contact employers with your resume trying to convince them that you are a great candidate worthy of consideration.  They work on behalf of all students at your institution. They do a lot of employer relationship building in order to make employers aware of the recruiting services they offer and the talents and qualifications their students possess.  They reach out to a lot of employers, and a lot of employers use their recruiting services, but you have to apply for jobs, and you have to close the deal.

Career Services staff will help students evaluate whether or not graduate school makes sense as a next career step, but will not tell students whether or not they should go to graduate school.

“The job market still stinks, I think I’ll go to grad school to wait out the economy” is a lousy reason for going to graduate school, particularly if it is your only reason.

The grad school decision is an important one, and one you should not take lightly.  What do you want to study and why?  Where are the best programs of study in that field?  How will the graduate degree make you more marketable to employers?  What types of employers will find you more valuable with a graduate degree?   These are all really important questions.  Your career adviser can help you answer them.

A graduate degree, in and of itself, is not going to make you more desirable to employers.  It will not necessarily mean that you will earn more than someone with just a bachelor’s degree.

The decision to go to graduate school is a big one; career advisers can help you make a good decision because, again, they don’t have a vested interest in whether or not you go to graduate school.  They just want you to make good decisions; informed and sound decisions that makes sense for you.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff.

The start of a new school year is full of excitement, energy, uncertainty and hope!  There is no place on earth as vibrant as a college campus at the start of the fall semester – everything feels possible; almost everything is possible.

Turning those possibilities into reality takes a lot of work, perseverance and intent.  It doesn’t just happen.  (Okay, sometimes it does, but people sometimes win the lottery, too!)

When it comes to exploring and pursuing your career options, connect with your College Career Services office.

Good Luck!

Matt Berndt
The Campus Career Coach

A Final Note:

I first wrote this blog post in August 2010 and have been updating and re-posting annually at the start of the  fall semester ever since.  The concepts and advice are timeless.  The need for students to be actively engaged in their own career planning and management is greater now than ever before.  And, the responsibility of colleges and universities to provide students both an education and career preparation is cannot be ignored. 

If your college doesn’t have a career services office that provides the support and assistance outlined in this blog, share it with your school’s president and ask why?

Top 10 things hiring managers look for in candidates

Top 10 winnerI recently attended the annual conference of the Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers in Chicago. One of the general sessions featured a panel discussion with members of The Career Advisory Board. As part of this panel, CAB member Kristin Leary, Vice President of Global Talent  at Quintiles, presented the top 10 things hiring managers look for in candidates, gleaned from the Career Advisory Board’s Job Preparedness Indicator Report.

Here is that top 10 list (with my parenthetical commentary).

Top 10 things hiring managers look for in candidates

  1. Positive Attitude (focus on the opportunities in your life, not the obstacles)
  2. Strong Work Ethic (show up, work hard, set higher standards for yourself than your boss sets for you)
  3. Excellent Communication Skills (talk and write write well; not just in social media shorthand)
  4. Interpersonal Skills (look up from your iPhone and look at people when you talk to them)
  5. Self Motivation (motivating you is more your job than it is your boss’s)
  6. Collaboration Skills (can you work and play well with other and be productive?)
  7. Business Acumen/Skills (successful means that you understand expenses cannot exceed income)
  8. Intellectual Curiosity (employers want lifelong learners – be one!)
  9. Local & Global Perspective (there are people who live, think and act differently than you; respect those differences)
  10. Passion (if you’re not doing something you care about, find something else to do)

The one thing missing from this list, of course, is the most important:  Employer want you to have the skills needed to do the jobs they need to fill.   Everything on this top 10 list is very important IN ADDITION to education, skills and experience, NOT INSTEAD OF of education, skills and experience.

Develop and nurture all aspects of you qualifications and you will be successful.

How can I have a luxurious lifestyle and not give up my personal life to my job?

luxuryJoseph from the University of North Florida asked:

I am majoring in International Business and French, and I am just beginning to explore careers. I know  there is a lot of options, and I just want to get as many answers as I can as to which careers will  best suit someone like me.  

I want to travel. I don’t want to be stuck in one place, but I also don’t want to actually move my things. I want a job with opportunity to move up and one that pays a lot. I want a job that will allow me to have a luxurious lifestyle without having to give up my personal life. What do you suggest?

Hello Joseph –

Big question!  In essence, you are asking:  How can you do what you want, get paid a lot of money and not make any sacrifices?

My answer:  Win the lottery, marry well, or get someone to set you up with a trust fund!

I know that answer might sound a bit harsh, but every career decision (every life decision, for that matter) involves some amount of compromise and sacrifice.

You need to determine (for you!) what compromises and sacrifices you are willing to make in your career in order to have a life that is personally and professionally rewarding.

Expensive taste requires a large income – Happiness does not

I’m not being critical here, I am just making a simple observation:  If you want to be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle, you will have to focus your job search on jobs and career paths that pay well.

You are not going to be an international aide workers and make a six- or seven-figure income!  Typically, people do not make a lot of money without a lot of hard work and sacrifice in well paying fields.

People who want to show up, put in their 8 hours of work each day with little or no pressure, and then go home are not usually going to make the big bucks!

If you want to be wealthy, you have to ask yourself – how badly do you want it?  What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to become wealthy.

I know a lot of very wealthy people who are very happy and many who are miserable. I also know a lot of very happy people (and miserable ones, too!) that do not make a lot of money.  The happy and satisfied people are the ones who have made conscious decisions about what is most important to them personally and then based their career decisions around honoring and upholding those decisions.

There is a great book on this topic – The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.  For a taste of its contents, check out Shawn’s TEDTalk on The Happy Secret of Better Work

Competing priorities make decision-making difficult

In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

Really understanding the difference between wants and needs is very important to your career exploration.  You will very likely need to make a minimum amount of money to make ends meet and fulfill your responsibilities and meet your commitments.   You will probably want to make a lot more than that.  The question becomes – how much more?

Be honest with yourself about your wants and needs, and use this information to guide your career decision-making.

If being able to travel a lot is a priority, “not having to move your things” may not be realistic.

If being able to afford a luxurious life style is a priority, “not giving up some of your personal life” may not be realistic.

In both instances, these are competing priorities.

If you truly understand and are honest about your priorities, you will be able to accept the sacrifices you will need to make.

Use what you know about yourself to guide your career exploration

Finally, I am getting to the part about what careers you should consider, right! 🙂

Joseph, your majors are international business and French.  In addition to completing your coursework, you should do something every semester to explore your career options;  Internships, information gathering interviews, involvement in student organizations, study/intern abroad programs, for example.

You should read the Wall Street Journal daily, so that you will understand what is going on in business around the world.  If you want to work in the international business community, you should be paying attention to what is going on in the international business community.

You may end up working in investment banking, import/export, hospitality and travel, international business, foreign service/diplomacy, research, international relations,  . . . I could go on.  Since I don’t  know you personally, I cannot suggest career paths that might uniquely suit you.

So, talk to the career advisors on your campus.  Talk to faculty in your international business and French programs.  Seek their advice and guidance.  Talk to the study abroad counselors at your university.  They may be able to recommend some international programs for you to consider.

Connect the Dots

You will find success – that is, you will find what you are seeking – when you work to connect the dots between what you are doing in your classes and what you are doing outside your classes.  Do this, seeking advice along the way, and you will discover the career paths that best suit your skills, interests, priorities and goals.

Happy hunting!


Can’t find a job? Why not just go to grad school?

gradschooltshirt (1)“The economy is bad, I guess I’ll go to graduate school.” 

Have you said this or heard someone say this recently?  I’ll bet you have.

I have heard this statement countless times from students facing the completion of their undergraduate degrees.

They don’t know what they want to do when they graduate, they hear news reports about high unemployment rates, and they figure that a graduate degree will allow them to wait out the recession, buy them more time to make up their minds and make them more marketable.

Ready for the cold, hard slap of reality:

A graduate degree  by itself – will not make you more employable. 

It will not –  by definition – allow you to demand greater compensation than candidates who only have undergraduate degrees. It will not guarantee you a job or necessarily make finding a job easier.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of graduate education.  I have a graduate degree, and I really enjoy working with graduate students. But, if you are considering graduate school, do so as a consumer.  Make an informed decision about what you want to study (and why), where you should go, and what you are going to do when you finish.

Considering graduate school?  Ask yourself the following questions and see if you like your answers:

Why do I want to go to graduate school?
What field do I plan to study?
What degree will I pursue?

Why this field and why this degree?
Where are the best graduate programs in this field?
How much money and time am I going to have to invest to get this degree?
What is the demand for professionals in this field with this degree?
How competitive is the job market in this field?

Where do professionals with this degree find employment?
What I can reasonably expect to earn?

And finally, after you have considered all of the questions above:

Given what I know now about degree programs and employment prospects, am I ready and willing to commit the next 2-5 years  to a graduate degree program?

Graduate school can be a great career step, but it is not a step you should take blindfolded or wearing rose-colored glasses.

If you are considering graduate school, you owe it to yourself to factor into your decision-making what you are going to do when you finish.

Otherwise, you stand a good chance of ending up over-educated, under-employed (in your opinion, at least), and regretting the original decision you made.


Are you in “your element”?

Sir Ken Robinson is a brilliant man with some wise advice about identifying and pursuing your passion:

The Happy Secret to Better Work

IMHO – perhaps one of the most important TED Talks you will ever watch.  Oh so simple, but oh so complex!