The Campus Career Coach

Does my resume need an Objective statement?

One of the most viewed blogs on TheCampusCareerCoach.com and one of the most often asked questions!

The Campus Career Coach

Jennifer from the University of Houston – Downtown asked:

I often see articles on the web that offer employment tips. The majority of these tips make sense and are often repeated in other articles. One tip, however, has me confused: Should my resume have an Objective statement?

Some of the articles from career experts say that putting the “Objective'” on your resume is useless and a cliche and that most employers don’t even read them.

A lot of resume sites, however,  still suggest or even require an objective on resumes.

So what’s up with “Objectives”?

Hi Jennifer –

This is one of my favorite questions.  Why?  Because there are so many different opinions on the topic of Objectives.

First – please know that there is not one absolute and always correct answer to your question.  The right answer for you depends on your circumstances.  Don’t worry – I’ll explain…

View original post 735 more words

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I love my job as an architect! (David Schultz)

David Schultz, AIA, NCARB, LEED is the principal architect at David F. Schultz Associates Ltd. in Barrington, IL.  David F. Schultz Associates was founded in 1986 and specializes in the design of churches, preschools, parochial schools and other facilities for church-based ministries. David’s firm has designed more than 372 facilities over the past 26 years.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be an architect.  I constantly played with blocks, made huge towns out of them that would wind throughout our house.  I built tree houses in my backyard. Some kids got into trouble for chewing gum or passing notes during class – I got into trouble for sketching buildings in my notebooks when I should have been paying attention to the teacher. I still have a notebook of “gravity-defying” buildings I designed in 4th and 5th grade.

I’m grateful my parents encouraged my interest in architecture. They had hoped I would become a Pastor, but they never pushed that on me– to the contrary, they encouraged my interest in architecture. In fact, throughout high school my standing request for a Christmas present was subscriptions to the two major architectural publications, and my parents honored that request every year.  My dad was also very interested in buildings, so he and I would explore buildings together when we took family vacations.

Ever since I was a kid, I have always been intrigued by buildings.  I love to explore them, and I love to design them.  On some level, I have always been architect.

At the time I went to college (in the mid-1970s), I was told that just under one third of the licensed architects in the country were graduates of the University of Illinois.  Those numbers have changed dramatically since then, as more and more universities started offering architecture degrees, but when I went to school, Illinois was one of the primary places that did.  My dad is a Michigan alum, so I know he was disappointed I didn’t go to Michigan.  At least I stayed stay in the Big Ten!

What is unique about going to college for Architecture?  What should a prospective student expect?

Know what you are getting yourself into! Architecture is a grueling college curriculum.  I had 20 hours per week of required design lab each semester for which I only got 3 academic credits.  It’s not that the curriculum is that much more difficult than, say, accounting; it is just very time intensive, and that rigor weeds out who really wants to be an architect and who does not.

My freshman class started with over 320 architecture students – we graduated 87.  I think that kind of attrition is not something most students expect.  This weeding out process was intended to prepare us for the real world.  Clients are very demanding, and if you are going to be a successful architect, you had better be prepared to deliver results on time and design buildings that won’t fall down.

That’s pretty much the first rule of architecture:  Build things that won’t fall down.

What is the job market today for architects?

There are more options available today, but the job market is just as tough now as it was when I got out of school in the late-1970s.  Back then the economy was really bad as a result of the oil embargo.  I got a job out of school because I knew a guy who knew a guy. The guy I knew liked me a lot and helped me get my foot in the door with the guy he knew who happened to need people to do some drafting.

Of course, I walked in on my first day thinking I was God’s gift to architecture. Within 10 minutes I realized I wasn’t and that my education in the real world was just starting. I was really fortunate; many of my fellow graduates were not as lucky to get jobs.

The job market is similar today.  Given the current economic conditions, particularly here in Illinois, very few firms are hiring at any significant levels.  It’s tough right now.  But as I said, there are a lot more options for new graduates today; particularly for those folks with computer and construction industry skills.  New graduates with current technology skills are needed; particularly in larger firms.

The entry-level architects who have internship experience under their belt have a great advantage over those who don’t.

What courses did you take in college that didn’t seem to make sense at the time but have proven valuable?

Let’s see – I took 3 hours of microbiology and 3 hours of astronomy, and I haven’t used any of it.

However my math classes, particularly, calculus and advanced calculus, have been invaluable, even though at the time I didn’t want to take them because they were hard. They really help me understand how things work and understand things from a structural engineer’s perspective.  I’m a design guy and being able to understand things from the structural engineer’s perspective is critically important.  So, definitely my math classes.

Also, general history and the humanities.  I took classes in Greek and Mesopotamian Literature and Mythology.  I really enjoyed these classes, but didn’t think they would be that valuable.  More recently I have become an avid student of American history.  Architecture and history go hand in hand, and a lot of modern architecture has its roots in the structures of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia.

So, along with math – history and the humanities!

Is a graduate degree required to become an architect?

There is a lot of confusion around that question. When I was in school, you could get a 4-year degree, and with three years of experience you could get licensed. Now, you have to get a 5-year professional degree, and a 6-year degree is considered a graduate degree.  You are going to have trouble getting licensed in some states if you don’t have a graduate degree, so a graduate degree is almost a given – you have to have it if you are going to pursue the career.

It is required to get an NCARB Certificate in order to be licensed in multiple states, and to maintain your license you have to do annual professional development

Tell me about your career path

I started my career doing drafting for a tiny firm in the suburbs.  It certainly wasn’t glamorous, but the guy I worked for really taught me how a building comes together.  I learned a lot, but it wasn’t fancy.

My long term goal was to design churches, and the premiere architectural firm doing that kind of work was in Rockford, Illinois (another suburb of Chicago); but they weren’t hiring.

I remember going into my office to announce that my wife and I were expecting our first child.  My announcement was greeted with a lay-off notice!  Not the response I was expecting, of course, but a major project had just been completed, and they didn’t have any work. As a result, all of us got laid off.

I must have reached out to 80 firms throughout the Chicago-land area via phone, postal mail or foot, including that firm I really wanted to work for.  As it turned out, they were looking to open a small Chicago office with two people, and they were interested in me and one of my classmates from Illinois to be that two-person team.  That is when my career really took off.  I had a design job with an architectural firm specializing in churches, I was working with a former classmate, and I was making enough money to support my wife and growing family.  It was a real blessing.

After establishing my reputation with that firm, I decided to strike out on my own and in 1986 started my own company.  26 years and 372 projects later, here I am!  And, I still love it.

What don’t you love about your job?

Government mandated paperwork!  I spend so much time filling out government forms and paying fees and taxes I never used to have to.  It is getting harder and harder to be a small business person.

Here’s an example: The building code used nationally used to be about 180 pages long. Nowadays, the building code fills 12 volumes, 300 pages each, and some parts of the code contradict others.  The whole code review process has become really cumbersome.

Dealing with late payments is not much fun either.  They are rare, but they happen occasionally and when they do, the client meetings are usually uncomfortable.  This is stuff they don’t teach you in architecture school.

What advice do you have for students considering an architecture degree?

Work really hard in school – particularly in the area of design –  and get a mentor.  Your mentor will fill in the gaps in your education for you.

Find an architect you admire and ask them to be your mentor.  Trust me, they like mentoring.  I regularly mentor students at Judson University and I love seeing their passion and creativity.  Mentoring gives me great hope for our future!

If you really love architecture – pursue it.  If you don’t have that passion for architecture, the program will weed you out!

If you knew then what you know now . . .

I wouldn’t change anything.

Recognize that you don’t know everything and that you will be learning as you go.  You will make mistakes.

There are times you will be right, but that won’t matter. What matters more is doing the right thing by your clients.

In Illinois, there is lawsuit every two years for every licensed architect.  With myself and two other licensed architects on staff in my firm, I should be facing a lawsuit every year.

I am proud to say that in 26 years – I have never been sued; I’ve never had to set foot in a courtroom!

I recall a meeting with a prospective client who asked “Have you ever had anything go wrong on a project?”  I had to laugh as I suggested an alternative question to her: “How do you handle the inevitable problems that come up during a project?”

Know this – you will encounter problems during your career, everyone does. How you handle the problems (and opportunities) you face will reveal your character and define your career and reputation.

A guide to forging a career as a solicitor

UK-based guest blogger Sam Gatt shares his thought on pursuing a career in law as a solicitor (in U.S. terms …  a lawyer!)

law courtsIf you are based in the United Kingdom, and becoming an astronaut is something that is a little too “out of this world” for you, then you might want to come back down to Earth and consider a career as a solicitor instead.

Whilst these two occupations are seemingly as different as can be, they actually have a number of similarities.

For example, you have to do years of training and pass many exams to be fully qualified in both jobs, and both of these jobs are quite high-level and are aimed at people who are willing to put the time and the work in to achieve a successful end result.

You probably won’t ever get the chance to fly into space if you become a solicitor (well, not unless you’re aboard a Virgin Galactic flight perhaps), but you will certainly have the skill and experience to help people get justice through the legal system! Here is a guide to forging a career as a solicitor.

Why become a solicitor?

OK, so you might have an interest in the legal system but you might be wondering why you should consider becoming a solicitor. Here are a few reasons:

  • Earning potential – whilst it is true that the starting salary of a trainee solicitor can be anything from minimum wage to around £16k a year, fully-qualified solicitors can expect to earn between £25,000 and £70,000 a year working for firms such as Poole Solicitors, whilst partners in law firms could earn a minimum of £100,000 a year;
  • Impressive job title – you can be proud of the fact that you have a prestigious job title, and people will hold you in high regard as you work in such a professional industry;
  • You get to help people – millions of people around the world need the assistance of solicitors to help them fight any legal problems through the courts, and you will be the person that can help many people by helping them fight their cases on their behalf;
  • You get to use your brain – some jobs like data entry clerks are really boring and monotonous as you would often have to type the same sorts of things into a computer on a daily basis. Solicitors, on the other have, are often involved in interesting and diverse cases which requires them to use their intellect in order to seek out the truth.

How do I become a solicitor?

In the United Kingdom, there are three paths that you can take to become a solicitor. The first involves completing a law degree and then a Legal Practice Course and the second involves completing a non-law degree and taking a law diploma

The third involves becoming a member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives – although you have to be working in the legal profession in order to be considered.

For those considering the law degree path, you will need to have a foundation course such as criminal and contract law, or property law as part of your degree.

You will also need to have five GCSEs between grades A and C, and three A-levels. The Law Society website will provide further information on the specifics of each path.

Moving to the UK from the United States?

For those of you considering a move to the UK from the USA, and you are already a successful lawyer in the state you currently reside in, it might be worth your while speaking with The Law Society in the UK to determine what is involved in getting a job as a solicitor in Britain.

Are Cosmetic Surgery Careers Really A Good Idea?

Cosmetic Surgery

UK-based guest blogger Sam Gatt shares the following advice:

There appears to be a huge influx of talent in the cosmetic surgery industry at the moment, and this is mainly due to the high levels of pay and mostly simply procedures involved. Over the last couple of years, shocking quantities of science and medical graduates have turned to this form of body modification when deciding on the best way to progress their education and career. Still, with so many people getting involved in the industry, could there come a time when it’s impossible to make a good wage from this endeavour?

I mean; the same thing happened with hairdressers a few years ago when colleges around the world started training thousands of students in the role. Unfortunately, this created the situation we face today, where the high streets of our hometowns are filled with hairdressing and beauty businesses unable to make a decent profit because of the sheer amount of competition. Presuming this could happen to body modification specialists, it begs the question; are cosmetic surgery careers really a good idea?

So, over the next few paragraphs, I’ll attempt to reach a conclusion by looking at all the pros and cons of working in this field today.

The Pros Of A Career In Cosmetic Surgery

  • The PayCosmetic surgeons  can earn up to and including half a million each and every year. Although the competition is becoming stiff, this amount looks unlikely to drop to unfeasible levels anytime soon.
  • Job Satisfaction – In instances where you’re performing plastic surgery on someone who’s experienced serious burns or an accident of some kind, you’ll get immense job satisfaction at the end of the day knowing that you are responsible for making that person feel a little more normal.
  • Innovation – Once you’re qualified at a cosmetic surgeon, you’ll be free to create and test your own unique techniques. If you manage to come up with something truly innovative and useful, you could even revolutionise certain parts of the industry.

The Cons Of A Career In Cosmetic Surgery

  • Lengthy Education – Unfortunately, anyone wishing to become a registered cosmetic surgeon will have to undertake a minimum of four to five years training at university, and this can put some people off the idea. However, in a recent survey, only 4% of registered professionals regretted their career choice.
  • Higher Risks – For the obvious reasons, plastic surgeons face an increased risk of malpractice cases, which means you may find yourself defending your techniques in court on more than one occasion. That said; so long as you follow all guidelines, you’ll be covered.

So, you should clearly see that opting for a career in cosmetic surgery is still a very wise move at the current time. This could change in the near future depending on the amount of students enrolling on relevant courses, but anyone considering pursuing this path over the next couple of years shouldn’t experience any major issues. I hope this article will prove useful, and maybe it will have given some of you the inspiration needed to improve your lives.

See you next time!

Sam Gatt
UK-based guest blogger who writes on all thinks business and career-related.  

What can you do with an engineering degree?

UK EngineerHere are some great suggestions from UK-based guest blogger Sam Gatt, a writer on all things business and career related. 

In the UK it’s rather difficult to find well paid work at the moment, so when you finally graduate from university with an engineering degree, you’ll need to put extra effort into researching possible employment solutions. You might not realise it at the moment, but the skills you’ve gained over the last three years are desirable to employers in a wide range of different industries. This means your options are vast when it comes to finding a good job that you truly enjoy with ample prospects for promotion in the future. With that in mind, this article will give you a few ideas that you may wish to research before contacting relevant businesses and asking about vacancies.

So, if you’re due to finish your course this year, spend a couple of minutes reading through the suggestions I’ve made below, and hopefully you’ll be in the best position to find employment in a timely manner. At the end of the day, the quality of work you find will depend heavily on the amount of effort you’re willing to put in, but the jobs listed below will give you some new ideas that could assist you along the way.

Logistics

Most firms that deal with deliveries of any kind will have a dedicated logistics department that deals with ensuring things operate in the simplest and smoothest way possible. The skills you’ve obtained during your degree course will come in very handy in this kind of role, as you’ll be required to create methods and processes in much the same way you would when designing a machine.

Supply Chain Management

Most manufacturing companies will need to employ a professional supply chain manager to oversee production lines, the sourcing of raw materials and manufacturing processes. This means they require people with a logical mindset who are capable of drawing up plans and making sure all requirements are met. In most instances, they look towards engineering graduates because their talents are usually very similar to those needed for successful completion of the role.

Traditional Engineering Jobs

Of course, we mustn’t overlook the type of job you’re been specifically trained for, and so becoming a traditional engineer and working for companies like Fastec Engineering might be suitable. The great thing about this kind of employment is that your days will be varied, as most engineering firms specialise in custom projects for clients all over the world. So, you should never get tired of performing the same old tasks over and over again.

Teaching / Lecturing

Anyone interested in pursuing this form of employment will obviously have to also complete a basic teaching course, but so long as you can afford to stay out of work for an extra year, this could be a great way of giving something back and making a real difference in the lives of new students. The benefits of a role like this are many, but the most prominent is that you’ll spend most of your working life comfortable and warm, which is something that can’t be said for most engineers.

After reading through my suggestions, I hope you now understand a little more about some of the most lucrative opportunities open to you on the UK job market at the moment. That wasn’t an extensive list, and there are many other routes you could take, but I’m sure the ideas presented will serve to point you in the right direction.

Good luck with your search, I’ll see you back here again soon!

Sam Gatt

To Whom should I address my cover letter?

SampleCoverLetter_crop380wJennifer from the University of Texas at Arlington asked:

I am applying for a job that requires a cover letter. I already have a cover letter but I am unsure to whom I should address it. I have looked on the company’s website for the name of a person, but I cannot find one. Who would I address my letter to in this scenario? 

Hi Jennifer –

So many people make huge mistakes when writing cover letters. I will answer your question and offer you some advice.

Never send a resume without a cover letter

Let me repeat that!  Never send a resume without a cover letter, because when you do, you miss a valuable opportunity to market yourself. Your resume should provide a focused summary of what you offer employers, in general. Your cover letter should present a focused summary of how what you offer matches what the employer is seeking. If the ability to write well is important for the job you are seeking, demonstrate your ability to write well by crafting a well reasoned, well written cover letter.  You miss a valuable opportunity to market yourself when you do not send a cover letter. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Every cover letter should be customized

A “one size fits all” cover letter is not actually a cover letter.  It is junk mail.  Generic cover letters say: “I care so little about this job opportunity, that I am sending you the exact same cover letter I sent to 200 other potential employers. Don’t you feel special?”  A well written, customized cover letter will set you apart from other candidates.  A generic cover letters says “I’m no different from anyone else.”    Which response do you want?

Use your cover letter to show how what you offer matches what the employers is seeking

Read the position description of the job for which you are applying.  What qualifications are they seeking?  Of those qualifications, which ones do you possess?  Use your cover letter to connect those dots!  Make it easy for employers to see just how strong a candidate you are.  Don’t claim you are “the perfect candidate for the job” and ask them to take your word for it.  Back up your claim with examples of your relevant qualifications.  Give them reasons to interview you.

If you can’t find a name, lose the salutation.

I do not like “Dear Sir/Madam,” “To Whom it may concern,” and “Dear Hiring Manager” as salutations.

When you can find the name, title and contact information for the hiring manager, definitely include it. When you cannot, consider a simple “subject” or “regarding” line at the start of your cover letter.  

For example:

RE:  Application for Bookkeeper Posting (Job #345467) with ABC Company

or

Subject: Account Executive Opening with Armstrong Holding Company LLC (Posting #98763)

In both instances, you are placing your cover letter into a specific context.  They know why you are writing.

If you are applying via email, your email message will already have a “Subject” line.  Use it to set the context and begin with the first paragraph of your cover letter in the body of the email.

For additional advice on cover letters and thank you letters, I encourage you to download my guide to writing cover letters and thank you letters.

Good luck,

matt-signature

How to Use a Job Performance Review to your Advantage

exceedsGuest Post by Johanna Harris

You can turn your annual performance evaluation into a valuable tool. You need to prepare for your review. You should be able to detail the positive contributions you have made. If your manager identifies areas for improvement, you need to approach the evaluation with an open mind. Whether your evaluation is written or oral or both, by the end of the critique you should have a clear road map of what needs to be done to improve your performance.

Pinning down your goals and objectives

It is your responsibility to review and understand the goals and objectives of your job. You can’t do better if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be better at. You can’t do better if you don’t know how. Your job goals need to be understandable, measurable, attainable and consistent with the objectives of your department and company.

Your evaluation may focus on your immediate past performance, but you need to look beyond that into the future. You need to stretch yourself, to set higher goals, to learn new skills that will add value to the company. This is not simply a matter of more training. You need to build a support network of people who will help you in the future. You need to network with people who will give you new opportunities.

How you will be evaluated

Before your manager begins your evaluation, he will generally look at your job description, goals, compensation history, prior evaluations and any disciplinary warnings. If you’re concerned that your manager does not have an important piece of information, such as a favorable customer satisfaction survey, you should provide this information to your manager before or during the evaluation.

Your manager will base your evaluation not just on his own experience with you. He will often seek input from clients, coworkers, your subordinates and other managers.

Your manager will look not only at the quality, accuracy and timeliness of your work, but also at your teamwork, leadership, independence, flexibility, initiative and your compliance with the company’s ethics.

Two factors can complicate the evaluation process: working at a location far from your manager; and having more than one manager. If a significant geographic distance separates you from your manager, you will need to work extra hard to make sure he knows what you’ve been doing and to convince him that your work is valuable to the company. You don’t want to be evaluated by a stranger. If you have more than one manager, you may find yourself with conflicting goals and recommendations. Before your evaluation, you need to figure out how to present your accomplishments in a way that satisfies both managers.

Traps that managers fall into

You can be guaranteed that at some point in your career, a manager will jump to incorrect conclusions about your performance based on faulty reasoning. To protect your record, you need to understand the two most common logical traps that managers fall into.

● Rather than evaluating your performance throughout the entire evaluation period, a manager may focus inappropriately on a single incident because it was negative or occurred quite recently.

● Some managers tend to reward people whom they see as clones of themselves. They tend to reward subordinates who solve problems in exactly the same way they would have, even if there are other ways to get the job done.

In situations like these, you need to work extra hard to document your accomplishments in a professional and factual way. You should present this information to your manager. If he is still unresponsive, you should retain the information for the future. When you apply for a transfer or a promotion, you can present the information as an addendum to your file at that time.

Conclusion

Your performance review is just like any other job assignment. You can’t just show up without any preparation. You should make sure that you’ve done everything possible to document your accomplishments and present them in the best possible light. You may have the opportunity to fill out a self-evaluation form, but if you don’t, you’ll need to create your own form.

A short, vague positive review is almost as bad as a negative review. If your manager indeed believes that you are a valued employee with a future at the company, you want to give him the tools to produce a positive, useful and thoughtful review.

Copyright © 2013 Johanna Harris

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. 

J HarrisAbout the Author: Johanna Harris has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC (http://hirefireandretire.com). Her new book, USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (http://www.amazon.com/author/johannaharris), is intended to help you learn enough about labor law and personnel practices so that you don’t get derailed from the career track you should be on.

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!

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Six Career Resolutions for 2014

new yearI resolve to . . . .

How will you finish that sentence this year? The new year offers the opportunity for new beginnings in all areas of life. As you ponder possible new year’s resolutions, consider the following six. They’re not complicated, but they are bold, and they are all possible.

Be content

Appreciate what you have. Take satisfaction in what you achieve on a daily basis. Take pride in your accomplishments. Be content.

Move forward

Be content, but don’t be complacent.  Know that you can always do something to enhance your skills; to increase your knowledge.  Ask yourself:  “How is what I am doing right now helping me prepare for what I might do next?” Don’t dwell on past failures or hold onto past successes any more than is warranted to appreciate what you learned from both. Use that knowledge to move forward.

Be realistic

Don’t delude yourself with unattainable short-term goals.  Be honest with yourself about what you can accomplish right now, and set achievable short-term goals.  Build upon achievable short term goals as you strive toward bigger, long-term goals. Celebrate the little victories along the way, and life will be a lot more fulfilling.

Improve

Resolve to do better – every day!  Regardless of what you did yesterday, you can do better today.  Sometimes that improvement is small; sometimes it is great.  You will never know everything there is to know.  Every day gives you opportunities to learn something new; to discover something of which you were not aware; to improve.

Pay it forward

No matter how successful you might be, you didn’t achieve that success alone.  Your learned from others, benefited from their efforts and assistance, grew through their encouragement and advice. Others have helped you. Pay it forward. Help others.

Make a difference

Don’t just earn a pay check.  Don’t just put in your time.  Don’t just “mail it in” at work or in your family.  What ever you do, do it well.  Whether you are the head of a company, one of many people doing the exact same job in relative anonymity, or an artist or entrepreneur trying to carve your own path, you can make a difference.  What you do and how you do it impacts those around you.  In all that you do, seek to make a positive difference.  Leave your mark and be proud of the mark you leave.

Life is not as complicated as we make it!

I am not saying life is easy!  Far from it. Life can be exceptionally challenging, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we often make it.

If we can learn to be content with what we have and always strive to move forward in our lives and careers.  If we can be realistic in our expectations but always looking to improve and set new expectations.  If we remember to help others in the same way we have been (and continue to be) helped.  If we try to make a difference – big or small – on a daily basis.  If we do these things, life becomes a lot less complicated and a lot more fulfilling.

Have a very happy new year and do great things (big and small) in 2014!

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How should I follow up on an introduction to a potential employer?

first-impression2Jerry from Grand Valley State University asked:

How can I most effectively follow up on an introduction to a potential employer? 

I briefly met a man who owns a small holding company in my home town. We exchanged cards, and he asked me to send him my resume.

What is the best way to follow up?

Hi Jerry

Timing is everything!  The longer you wait, the greater the possibility the potential employer will forget he met you.  So, here is my advice:

Follow up within 24 hours

Strike while the iron on hot!  That is, follow up while this potential employer still remembers meeting you.  If you wait too long, he will forget his offer to review your resume, and you will develop a reputation as someone who doesn’t follow through in a timely manner.

Remind him who you are

In the email or letter that accompanies your resume, remind him who you are and why you are contacting him. Very likely, he is a busy guy who doesn’t remember the details of every meeting or introduction. Bring him back into the moment.  Remind him it was his idea that you follow up with your resume.

Be brief and to the point

Don’t go into a lot of detail.  He already wants to see your resume.  Don’t feel the need to include the details in the body of your email.

Follow instructions

If he told you to send your resume, do so!  If he asked for a resume and references, provide that.  If you follow the instructions he gave you – no matter how informal those instructions may have been – you will show that you know how to follow instructions.  You will show you are dependable.

Market yourself

Toot your horn a little bit.  Give him reasons to review your resume immediately.  Don’t go overboard here, but take the opportunity to market yourself a little.

Ask for the next meeting

Conclude your email with a request for a next meeting.  Regardless of whether this potential employer has current openings, he can be a valuable professional contact for you immediately or down the road.  Ask for a meeting.  The better he knows you, the more willing he will be to consider you for a job now or in the future (provided, of course, that you make a good impression in the meeting!).

Following is an examples of how you might craft your email follow up:

Dear Mr. Smith,

It was a pleasure meeting you last night at the Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting reception for ABC Corporation.  I enjoyed learning about how you started your holding company and grew it into the successful enterprise it is today.

Thank you for taking interest in me and my career. As I am sure you will recall, I will be completing a bachelor’s degree in business and finance in May and am eager to begin my professional career in business with a local company such as yours.

Per your request, I have attached my resume to this email for your review.  I am eager to visit with you again and learn more about possible opportunities with your company.  

All of my classes this semester meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I am most available to meet on Tuesdays and Thursday.  I will call your assistant next week to inquire about scheduling time on your calendar.  In the meantime, please feel free to call or email me.

I look forward to continuing our conversation!

Best Regards,

Jerry Candidate

Good luck!

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