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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.  

I want to work in Environmental Consulting

earthEmily Gallagher, a freelance writer, compiled the following information for PM Environmental, an environmental engineering firm. The original post can be found on the PM Environmental website.  Emiliee has given me permission to reprint it here.

PM Environmental discovered that many students express interest in environmental consulting careers, but that there wasn’t much practical information available about what a career in this environmental consulting looks like. With that in mind, Emiliee asked some successful environmental consulting professionals about their thoughts on career paths, advice on classes, starting positions and much more.   Their responses are below.

If a student were looking to get into environmental consulting, what courses should they focus on and what skills should will be most valuable in the industry and most important in helping them succeed?

It depends what type of consulting they are interested in. The environmental sector is really broad, and is probably going to continue to spread into different areas in the future. Clean Tech, Supply Chain, Environmental/Green Design, Sustainable Business Practices, etc. all have different areas of expertise; but, in general I would say focus on the hard skills (math, science, design, engineering, environmental economics, etc.) that pertain to your area of interest. These are more marketable, are likely going to pay more, and are more difficult to learn/master once you are out of a college environment.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Students looking to enter the environmental consulting industry should do their research and determine what aspect of environmental consulting they are interested in making a career.  If environmental due diligence (i.e. Phase I ESA, Phase II ESA, etc.) is the area  students wish to get into, students should focus on environmental policy, environmental chemistry, geology/hydrology, and writing courses. Most courses are not going to cover the basics of writing a Phase I or Phase II ESA, however, if you have a good background in the policy and science involved, you will stand out as an applicant and consultant. 

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

The environmental due diligence consulting that we do at AEI is primarily related to helping people evaluate property for the presence of contamination – it’s a bit like environmental detective work.  Environmental history plays a role in understanding how land use can affect property with legacy issues.  Geology and hydrogeology are important in regards to subsurface sampling and remediation of soil, soil vapor and groundwater.  GIS and geography can help with the presentation of the information that we gather.  One of the most important skills in environmental consulting, in my view, is the ability to take complex information and present it in a well-written, easily understandable format for the layperson.  Conducting research and preparing written findings of your research is one of the most important skills you gain during your studies.

 Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

There are many branches of environmental engineering. Examples include water (potable) and wastewater plant construction, operations and management, infrastructure impact planning, mining operation amelioration, energy conservation, etc. Other aspects include helping governments in the US and overseas develop environmental legislation and regulations for industrial, commercial and residential polluters or those industries that specialize in pollution cleanup.

In addition to technical courses, students should take a foreign language, economics, accounting or finance, political science/government, sociology and writing because consultants are required to be conversant with a range of issues and comfortable communicating with diverse groups of stakeholders.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Earth science, biology, chemistry, and public policy. Learn to write an intelligible report, unlike what engineers tend to crank out. Read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White, or some other such manual.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

LEED AP – then work on energy modeling and audits that show how to pay for improvements.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

If there were such a thing as a “typical career path,” what would it look like?

Internship, associate, manager, director….I’d say that the corporate ladder in the environmental sector is much the same as anywhere else. Which sector you are working in will dictate a bit of how that path looks, and many people in the environmental field cross sectors throughout their career.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

A typical career path starts out with an internship or entry level consultant.  The next step depends on the specific type of consulting and the company you are working for.  You may transition to a project manager and find that is best for you, or you may have management opportunities and find that is the career path for you.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

In the environmental due diligence field, people generally start out assisting with field work or research under the guidance of a Project Manager.  They then grow into a Project Manager role where they are responsible for all aspects of the project.  Over time, they can progress towards more senior roles such as managing teams of Project Managers and providing technical expertise and working with clients directly.

Holly Neber
President and a principal at AEI Consultants

In an entry level position, what types of tasks and responsibilities should a student expect to take on?

Sector (public, private, or nonprofit) and business size (large, medium, small) will play a large role in terms of what types of tasks and responsibilities an entry level employee will be faced with. In general, larger agencies tend to have more structured roles, opportunities, and larger budgets. Smaller companies and nonprofits tend to have more diverse needs, less structure, and less disposable income. Both of these can have pros and cons, depending on what your goals and needs are. I would say that after looking at sector and business size, the next variable is your manager or managing team. These people, and their working styles, will usually play a big role in terms of what responsibilities will be delegated to you and/or how open your managing team is to you taking initiative as a new hire.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Entry level tasks will focus on learning and building on various aspects of the area of consulting you have chosen.  The training period can vary, and within our company the first year is considered your training period. You will help with research, site visits, information gathering, report writing and preparation, and client communications. All of these will build on each other and as you become more skilled, the projects you are working on will increase in difficulty. As an entry level employee, you should take this time to ask questions and absorb as much information as you can from senior staff members because you will be able to apply all of that information to future projects.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Connsultant, PM Environmental

Example tasks would be conducting site research at local agencies or conducting soil or groundwater sampling at the site.

Holly Neber
President and aPprincipal at AEI Consultants

Most beginning engineers are assigned to a mixture of duties and projects that will teach them the basics of the industry in which they have chosen to work. They will hone their skills as mining engineers, dam designers, energy auditors, etc. They also may be asked to take some accounting or finance courses if they have not done so as undergraduates to prepare them for preparing budgets or capital justifications. They may be asked to go into the field to conduct environmental assessments. In most cases, the work, while interesting, is not glamorous. They may spend several years as part of a team conducting a survey of the water and geological resources in a site scheduled for development.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Grunt work, carrying gear around, helping more senior staff finish reports.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

What kinds of varying positions / jobs / experiences should a new hire seek out to become well-rounded as an environmental consultant and make them marketable in the industry?

In environmental work, I would say seek out projects/jobs/roles that allow you to flex some of those skills (math, science, design, engineering, sales, networking, legal work, etc)–especially skills that you can quantify and talk about in a resume. Project management, which many young environmental professionals do, can be a bit vague. It can be a hard sell. You should learn to back that up with either technical skills (that you can demonstrate you have used at work) or soft skills (Are you a good networker? Do you write really professional emails? Can people refer you to others?). Word of mouth, and having a great network, are really important in the professional world. Of course, in order for your network to work for you, you also have to be good at what you do.

If you want to work abroad, you should definitely spend several months in that area–either as a volunteer or in a paid capacity. If you want to work in or with a country that speaks a foreign language, you should also speak that language.

Working in different sectors–maybe even all of them–would also be great. Unlike other industries, environmental issues cross all three sectors. Having experience working at a non-profit, government agency, and for-profit will give you insider knowledge about culture and operations of each of these types of businesses. It can also be very attractive on your resume, depending on what a particular job is looking for.

For me, when considering potential hires for entry level positions at a social venture start-up, these two main things have popped up as “issues”: (1) This person does not have the hard skills and/or experience we need for this specific project and (2) This person does not have the soft skills we need for someone to be a part of our team (they are a bit awkward, don’t feel comfortable networking, their emails are a bit odd and unprofessional sounding). These soft skills will not be taught in school, you kind of have to learn by doing… and the earlier you start, the better.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Internships are valuable experiences and stand out on a resume and application. If you know your career path early in your college career, you should seek out internships with similar skills. As we all know, you do not necessarily know what your career path will be until your last year in college or even after you graduate. However, internships are still very important and will provide you with valuable skills that you will be able to apply to a future career. If you are unsure of your future path in the environmental industry, seek out a range of internships that include field work, data collection, report writing, etc. Any of these can be applied to an environmental consulting career.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessment research is a good place to start because you get exposed to the regulatory oversight agencies and reviewing the other phases of work that often occur (Phase II investigations and remediation projects).   However, it is a mistake to think of a Phase I position as an entry-level job.  Phase I ESAs can be very complex, depending on the type of site you are evaluating.  If you can work under the guidance of a top notch Phase I Project Manager, you will gain a great skill set and a well-rounded view of the overall industry.   Joining a Subsurface Investigation department as an entry level person can also be helpful in terms of understanding typical contaminants and how they behave in the subsurface of a property.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

Study federal and state regulations and local industrial history.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

What differences are there between working for a large (national or international) environmental consulting firm compared to a smaller, regional one?

For starters: bureaucracy. Larger companies have much bigger food chains, and rely more heavily on bureaucratic processes to get things done. Smaller companies have more of an opportunity for a more democratic or “flat” hierarchical structure–but that is not necessarily always the case.

Second, opportunities and/or requirements for travel and professional development will likely vary between the two.

Third, benefits–and that could go in either direction. Environmental companies tend to be a bit more socially-minded and often offer great “quality-of-life” benefits, but that is really dependent on company culture.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Smaller firms typically allow their staff to “wear more hats” which allows for more variation in your job responsibilities.  If you join a growing smaller firm, there is often more opportunity to advance to levels of more responsibility quickly.  A larger firm may offer more opportunity to work on extremely large or complex remediation jobs or the ability to work internationally.

Holly Neber
President and Principal at AEI Consultants

Larger international or national environmental consulting firms, or the environmental divisions of a large construction or international development firm may work on larger projects in more locations. Smaller firms tend to work locally or partner as subcontractors to larger firms for a piece of a large contract, foreign or domestic. The contract manager usually comes from the larger firm. I am an international consultant who has been a project manager as well as a subcontractor to large multinational corporations.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Large tends to be more for big or quick spill cleanups under EPA oversight; small tends to be more geared towards local conditions such as endangered species, watershed issues, etc.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

If you had one piece of advice for a student looking to get into a career in environmental consulting, what would it be?

Develop your professional skill-set as quickly as possible. Get networking. Everyone hates it, but there is no substitute for it.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Do your research. Self evaluate your skills and match those with an aspect of environmental consulting that is consistent with those skills.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

When you get your first job, be a hard worker.  Show your company’s management that you are up to any challenge.   Opportunities will open up to you from there.   Internships are also great.  We’ve hired a few people that originally worked for us as interns.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

Technical advice: Water – access to clean water and the reuse of process water and waste water- is the single most important issue affecting the world today. Life does not exist without water.

Personal advice: Learn to write well and to be comfortable speaking with people of different backgrounds.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Get a job with a government agency first for the experience. Stay there if you can.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental 

Based on your experience, what are the most surprising or unexpected elements about working in environmental consulting?

In general, it’s less about what I learned in school, and more about how well you do the job. But, I always love how often I get to use economic principles in my job and use project design skills from school when analyzing impact.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

The most surprising aspect of environmental due diligence is the standardization of the process. Although every state has their own regulations, I have had experience completing Phase I ESA reports throughout the eastern and southeastern United States because of the standardized process.

The most unexpected element is the number of industries you will encounter and the manufacturing processes you will have an opportunity to observe.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Every state has a unique regulatory environment so working in Michigan can be quite different from working in Illinois, even on the same type of project.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

The most surprising aspect of environmental consulting is the extent to which projects are subject to politics, both in the US and abroad.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Congress yanking funds from programs.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

Not wanting to study to pass the LEED AP exam and then go on to work on projects.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Essentially being my own boss and being really creative and strategic about solving social and environmental problems.

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the ability to be a resource for our clients.  We have clients that are just as knowledgeable as we are, and we have clients that have never even heard of environmental due diligence. I am able to provide valuable information to clients on both ends of the spectrum, and in between.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

I love working with our clients to find solutions to environmental issues, and I love building a collaborative team with my co-workers.

Holly Neber
President and a Principal at AEI Consultants

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Doing public education. It’s amazing how concerned but uninformed people still are about all this stuff.

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental

 

It’s the future.

Chuck Lohre
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

Biographies of Respondents

A. Lauren Abele
COO, Pipeline Fellowship

Prior to her involvement with Pipeline Fellowship, Lauren worked in the nonprofit sector in economic development, environmental issues, and women’s empowerment. A long-time sustainability advocate, Lauren has analyzed the Kyoto Protocol with the U.S. Department of State in Brussels and worked on environmental projects in both Spain and Australia. Her interest in social and environmental issues led to her involvement in social entrepreneurship where her focus has been on strategic planning, social impact assessment, and executing mission-based business strategies.

She currently serves on the New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE) Events Committee and is a former Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of New York City (YNPN-NYC) board member.

Lauren has a B.A. in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.P.A. in Economic Development and Comparative & International Affairs from Indiana University’s School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). She is also a proud School for International Training (SIT) alumna. You can find Lauren on Twitter (@laurenabele).

www.pipelinefellowship.com

Holly Neber
President, AEI Consultants

Holly Neber is President and a principal at AEI Consultants, a national environmental and engineering firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area.  AEI performs environmental and engineering due diligence, investigation and remediation projects with 14 offices located across the US.  Holly’s educational background consists of a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas and a Masters of Education from Holy Names College.   She is a Registered Environmental Assessor (REA) in California, and oversees the day to day operations of AEI.  AEI’s website is www.aeiconsultants.com

Carla Sydney Stone
Founder & Principal, International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC

Ms. Carla Sydney Stone is the founder and principal of International Development & Technical Assistance, LLC, a firm that delivers projects that improve people’s lives. It provides consulting services to companies, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies. Ms. Stone has a proven ability to initiate and build international partnerships to achieve results. A mining engineer, with additional training and certificates in water and wastewater operations, she also acts as a consultant to governments on the critical areas of environment, human capability, and resource management. She has considerable experience in developing, managing and implementing training programs, project management and public information programs for stakeholder support.

Carla Stone is a graduate of Columbia University’s (New York) Henry Krumb School of Mines with a B.S. degree in Mining Engineering, Geophysics Option and M. S. degree in Mining Engineering and Mineral Economics. She also holds certificates in Wastewater III (Delaware) and Water Operations (Delaware). She is a Member of the Board of Directors of People to People International, Delaware Chapter, a Past Member of the Board of the World Trade Center Institute Delaware, and serves on the International Council of Delaware. She also is a member of the Water Environment Federation, the Society of Mining Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, and the Project Management Institute. She has been Chair of the Council of Economics of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. She also served as Economics Committee Chair for the Delaware Delegation to the White House Conference on Small Business.

Kristin Dawkins
Staff Consultant, PM Environmental

Bob Carlson
President, Green Knight Environmental
http://rlcarlson.wordpress.com/

Chuck Lohre, LEED AP+
Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

http://www.green-cincinnati.com

In 2007 we started to promote LEED by holding afternoon seminars as forums for prominent LEED pioneers to address the community of architects, engineers, contractors and the public. From there we started to volunteer with the Cincinnati Regional Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and helped develop their web site and trade show exhibit materials. Promotion doesn’t come without education and we registered our offices as a LEED CI project as well as Chuck Lohre passing the LEED AP exam. After developing educational materials for the Fernald Preserve Visitors Center we created classes to help individuals pass the LEED AP exam with one-on-one mentoring and tutoring. With the push to achieve LEED AP status by June 30, 2009, several classes were held. A unique aspect of the classes was actual tours of many regional LEED projects. We received LEED Platinum May, 5, 2011 on our office.

 

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?

How can I find the right career path for me?

Bailey from the College of the Canyons asked:

I’m a freshman, and I work full time in the Aerospace Industry.  My work experience has really changed my perspective on my degree and my career exploration.

I’ve lost interest in powering through my General Education requirements, as I have come to believe that no entry-level job can be satisfying . . . so why not just take classes I enjoy? 

I’ve even gone to the extremes of escapism: Maybe a degree isn’t for me. Maybe I need to leave the country. Maybe [fill in blank with absurd alternative to going to college].

I know this is flawed reasoning, but how can I deal with serious estrangement from something I used to be very compassionate about: heavy college involvement in the effort to transfer, excessive career searching?

Hi Bailey –

Wow – talk about having your perspective turned upside down! I can understand why you are frustrated and confused. That said . . .

baby-with-the-bathwaterDon’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

In your haste to figure out what do do next, don’t do anything drastic or rash, like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

You should finish your college degree.  There are many studies that show that people with college degrees have more opportunities than those without.

For now, focus on two things:

Power through your General Education Requirements

Regardless of the degree you end up pursuing, you will have general education requirements.  Get as many of these out of the way as you can. Consult with an academic advisor at your school to determine which classes will help you fulfill these requirements.  Working on your GEs will also buy you some time as you try to identify a major field of study to pursue.

I have to challenge you a little bit – particularly the following comment:

“I’ve lost interest in powering through my General Education requirements,
as I have come to believe that no entry-level job can be satisfying” 

What does completing your GE requirements have to do with your potential satisfaction with a yet to be determined entry-level job?  I don’t see the connection.

How did you come to the conclusion that all entry-level employment will be unsatisfying?  That is a pretty broad and sweeping statement which – I bet – is just a result of your current frustration. Don’t fall prey to your frustration.  Work to overcome it.  How?

Get to know yourself really well!

And, use that knowledge to drive your academic and career exploration.

What do you enjoy doing?  What are your skills, gifts and talents?  In what kinds of work environments do you best thrive?  What types of work environments are “toxic” for you?  How do you define “job satisfaction”? What motivates you?  What are your hobbies and interests, and what business/professions surround those hobbies and interests?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

From my perspective, everyone has the right to pursue a career path they will enjoy and find fulfilling.  Sounds pretty great, don’t you think?  Well, there is a catch:  In order to pursue a career path you will enjoy and find fulfilling, you must be able to define that which you enjoy and that which brings you fulfillment.

Think about it: How will you know you got it, if you can’t define it in the first place?

By the way, that is much easier said than done!  I strongly recommend you seek the assistance of a career adviser/counselor at your school.  They can be really helpful in sorting out your options and answering those questions.

 . . . so why not just take classes I enjoy?

If you can afford to do that (financially, that is), go ahead and just take classes you enjoy.  Most people do not have that luxury.

Remember, every decision you make has consequences; some good, some neutral, some bad – but every decision has consequences.

Eventually, you will have to pay your own bills (you may already), and pay back your student loans (if you have any).  That means, you are going to have to work.  And, life will be a whole lot better when your work doesn’t stink, don’t you agree?

Finding a job and career path you will enjoy and find fulfilling takes time, energy and attention. Invest that time, energy and attention, and you will discover a variety of career options to consider.

One last thing!

Try to enjoy the journey of your career exploration – over the course of your life (not just your college career) that journey will take many turns you will not expect and cannot anticipate.  This is normal. Nearly everyone experiences this.

Some people are born knowing precisely what they are going to do for a living – the“I always knew I was going to be a [fill in the blank]” people. Most of us were not!  I think this is good.  Too much certainty breeds complacency.

Consider this:

Many of the jobs/careers you may encounter in your future don’t even exist yet,
so how can you want them right now?

Take a deep breath! Relax! And, start this next phase of your career exploration with an open mind and a blank slate.

Let your curiosity help you explore and let your common sense and intellect help you sort through your options.  Do this, and you will find your way!

Best of luck,

matt-signature

65 “Ask the Coach” Answers from The Campus Career Coach

Do you have a question for the Coach?

The following questions have been addressed by The Campus Career Coach during the 2012-13 Academic Year.  If you have a question, just “Ask The Coach” and look for the response on this blog!

Are there any jobs where you can work from home?

Are there jobs in Omaha related to lobbying?atc

Can I afford my current lifestyle?

Can I get a job with a 2.2 GPA?

Can you recommend trusted sites for salary information?

Do career centers verify the legitimacy of employers that post jobs to their systems?

Does my resume need an Objective statement?

Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market?

Getting Your Foot in the Door with the Southwestern Advantage Company

How can an international student find a job in the US?

How can an international student find a job in the US?

How can I build up my managerial skills?

How can I find an internship when I’m not enrolled in school?

How can I find an internship/co-op that matches my skill set?

How can I get a job in my career field with a degree but no experience?

How can I get experience in a new field when I work full-time and go to school?

How can I get into consulting after a military career?

How can I get paid experience when no one will give me an opportunity?

How can I prepare an Applicant Tracking System-friendly resume?

How can I pursue a career in homeland security and cyber intelligence?

How do I improve the appearance of my resume?

How do I pursue a career in sales when my degree is in political science?

How do I show my education from another country on my US resume?

How do I write a resume when my skill set is very diverse?

How do you pursue a long distance job search?

How does an older job seeker get his foot in the door in web development?

How important is establishing an online presence when I’m looking for a new job?

How should I address my military experience on my resume?

How should I format my resume so I don’t come across as a “job hopper”?

How should I respond when asked for my salary requirements?

How should I show transitional employment on my resume?

I am frustrated with my job search. Can you provide insight or new ideas to consider?

I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?

I have no relevant experience; how can I make my resume attractive to potential recruiters?

I need help with my resume. Where do I start?

I’m a senior – is it too late for me to do an internship?

I’m ready to re-enter the workforce – where do I start?

Is a Master’s degree necessary in today’s job market?

Is it time to leave a job I love to advance my career?

Is this job posting real or fraudulent?

It’s good to be selective – it’s bad to be picky

Should accomplishment statements on a resume be stated with bullets or in paragraph form?

Should my resume have an Objective Statement?

Six Questions to Frame Your New Year’s Resolutions

What are you going to do with that graduate degree?

What can I do with a BA in English and a desire to write?

What can I do with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies?

What can I do with a degree in University Studies?

What can I do with a Psychology degree? Should I get a graduate degree overseas?

What is the best way for a “first timer” to look for a job?

What is the proper attire when attending a career fair?

What is the starting pay for an entry level laboratory testing engineer?

What jobs can I get with a Psychology degree and Spanish/Business minors?

What kind of jobs can a History major really look into?

What kind of on-campus job should I get?

What should I do next? I am at crossroads early in my career and I have a lot of questions

What should I highlight on my resume – my unrelated work experience or my related classroom experience?

What should I include in a cover letter?

What should I major in?

When is the right time to follow up with an employer after an interview?

When should I ask for a promotion?

Where can I get help writing my resume?

Where does my job flipping burgers fit on my resume?

Will getting an MBA help me advance in my field?

With 20+ years until retirement, what should I do next?

What should I do next? I am at crossroads early in my career and I have a lot of questions

GetToTheFuture-1347443320_600Nick, an alum of Indiana University – Bloomington,  asked

I’m a 24-yr old, working as a Commercial Lending Financial Analyst in Indianapolis and have been doing so for 2 years – I graduated with a Finance degree, but have realized that Finance is not what I want to do.  I plan to attend graduate school in Fall 2014 to obtain an MBA, focusing on Entrepreneurship and/or Corporate Innovation. 

Since there are 18+ months  between now and when I plan to start my MBA,  I would like to leave Indiana. I have no obligations (family, girlfriend, etc.), and I want to experience new places while young. I am considering leaving my current job and doing something else until I go back to school.   As you can imagine, I have a lot of questions: 

  1. Should I quit my job now or stick it out for the next 18+ months in a city that I don’t want to be in, doing a job that I’m not getting anything out of any longer? My family and friends seem to think loyalty to a certain company or job might outweigh my desire to experience new places, jobs, and areas of business.
  2.  If I do quit my job now,  what do I do during the next 18+ months to further myself, my grad school admission odds, and experience as much as possible?
  3. Should I volunteer and help the world globally or within the US? I’m completely willing and this sounds awesome, but if  it doesn’t further my career at all, I doubt it will look great on an MBA application.
  4. Should I obtain summer, fall, and spring internships in separate industries to try and find out what I want to do and gain valuable experience? Problem with this is that it could be construed by future employee prospects as not being able to settle down or commit to one certain job.

I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Hi Nick,

You’ve posed a lot of good questions.  Let me address them one by one.

Should I quit my job now or stick it out for the next 18+ months in a city that I don’t want to be in, doing a job that I’m not getting anything out of any longer?

Before addressing any other part of your question, I have to address the financial aspect:

Can you afford to quit your job and be out of work for any period of time?  If you cannot, don’t!

18 months is not a long period of time.  If you know for certain that you will be entering a full-time  MBA Program in Fall 2014, you are not a desirable candidate for employers looking for candidates to develop professionally. By the time you find and transition to another job, you will probably be about 12 months away from graduate school, which means that just about the time you will become really productive for your new employer, you will be submitting your resignation.  Remember, employers hire in order to meet the needs of their businesses, not so that job seekers can have jobs.  Your needs and priorities must align to some extent with those of employers; otherwise, employers have no compelling reason to consider you as a candidate.

You say you are not getting anything out of your current job.  You are earning a paycheck. You are gaining professional work experience in a business related field. You may be earning healthcare and retirements benefits. You may have an opportunity to do something new with that company that will make the next 18 months go by more quickly.  Explore all of you options.

Beyond that, if you can really do this job well on “auto-pilot,” it may offer you the opportunity to invest your extra energy in prep for the GMAT and work on your graduate school applications, and give you the financial stability you need to visit possible graduate school destinations.  Not being too invested in your current job can be a good thing!

Don’t make this decision in a bubble.

One more thing, I don’t think “employer loyalty” is necessarily an issue. You have been with the company for two years.  You have been loyal.  At the very least, you would owe them two weeks notice of your departure, but you don’t owe them any more than that (unless, of course, there is more to your story than I currently know).

If I do quit my job now, what do I do during the next 18+ months to further myself, my grad school admission odds, and experience as much as possible?

You hit on something very important here:  MBA admissions staff WILL look at what you are doing while you are applying to their programs.  Who you are as a candidate for admission is a combination of what you did as an undergrad both inside and outside the classroom, what you are doing when you apply, and everything in between.  As a candidate, you have to “make sense” to admissions officers.  Doing  the things that will “most enhance your candidacy” may not involve doing things that will allow you to”experience as much as possible.”  These are two very distinct and different things.

Whatever you do, you have to be able to explain it to admissions officers in a ways that highlight your qualifications effectively.  You have to be ready to answer the question: So, tell me why you quit your job 18 months ago to do what you are doing now.

Should I volunteer and help the world globally or within the US?

Volunteering is a wonderful thing.  You should volunteer because you want to volunteer, you think you can add value, you believe you can make a difference; because there is a need.  Of course, you will benefit immensely by volunteering, but you should volunteer because you want help. Your first priority should not be “what’s in it for me?”

Volunteer experiences can be extremely valuable on graduate applications.  Whether they are or not will depend upon how you position them when presenting your qualifications. Again, your story needs to make sense to admissions officers.

If they ask Why did you go on that volunteer mission? your answer should not be Because I thought it would look good on my resume.

Lastly, can you financially afford to take time off from earning a living to volunteer for the next 18 months?  Remember, you are going to have to pay for graduate school.  I don’ t recommend going into graduate school expecting to borrow your way through. Those student loans eventually do come due, and you cannot get around paying them.

Should I obtain summer, fall, and spring internships in separate industries to try and find out what I want to do and gain valuable experience?

This is a great idea in concept, but might be really tough to accomplish in reality.  Internships are typically reserved for students; not for working professionals.  If you are not enrolled in school, most companies will not consider you for internships.  If you can get these internships (a challenge), if these internships pay a reasonable wage (an additional challenge), and if they happen to be in cities that you wish to explore (a third challenge), then doing a series of internships to gain a diversity of experience may be a good idea.

Three “ifs” in one sentence equals an iffy proposition.  I am not sure how viable this option really is.

Nick, it might sound like I am only presenting obstacles to moving forward where you see opportunities to grow professionally. Reality lies somewhere between those two extremes.  When you make these kinds of career decisions, you have to look at all of the related issues.

Do a personal SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis of your situation so that whatever you do, you go in with you eyes wide open.

Be really honest with yourself in answering the following questions:

What about my current job and career path do I like and dislike?

What career transition do I hope to achieve?  Why not just look for a different job with the same company, a different job with a different company, a different job in a different city?

Is graduate school the most logical next step? Why is getting an MBA an essential element?  How will it make you a more marketable candidate? 

You are right – with no outstanding obligations to family, girlfriend, etc., you in a great point in your life to try “something new.” Just do everything you can to make sure that your “something new” is something worthwhile for you, your present and your future.

Good luck!

matt-signature

With 20+ years until retirement, what should I do next?

Crossroads1Jennifer, an alum of the University of Wisconsin – Stout, asked: 

I graduated 1993 with a BS in Dietetics and became a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). I worked in the clinical field for several years before transitioning into a Diabetes Medical Sales position, which I have held for 14+ years. Unfortunately, medical sales jobs in this field are slowly going away, and I have let my RD and CDE expire, so I am trying to decide what career path to take next!  

With a BS in Dietetics, 5+ years of clinical nutrition experience, and 14+ years successful medical sales . . .  do I need to start over completely and look for a new adventure in job market? Do I need to go back to school?  Are  there other opportunities out there for people with my background and experience? 

With over 20 years until retirement…I am looking for a career that is going to last long term and pay the bills, and one that I will continue to enjoy!  

What do you suggest I do?

Hi Jennifer,

First, I commend you for looking at this so proactively.  Many people see changes taking place in their industries but wait until change occurs before taking any action.  You are showing great wisdom by trying to stay ahead of the curve.  Now, on to your questions. I’ll start with your three priorities:

. . . a career that is going to last long term and pay the bills, and one that I will continue to enjoy!

Stability, Financial Viability and Satisfaction are your three priorities, so being clear in how you define each of these is really important.

Stability: I want a long-term solution, not a short-term one!

Job security is an interesting concept these days.  Many folk, including me, cite US Labor Department data to support the premise that the average individual will have 9-15 different jobs and work in 3-5 career areas over the course of their careers.  If you look at your own career path thus far, you appear to be reinforcing that premise as well.  I share this only to make sure you know that there are no guarantees of long-term employment.  Stabiliy and job security come through your own career management and your ability to personally manage the ebb and flow of the economy and the job market.

When I think “stability,” I think in terms of market demand:  What are the growth markets and what is driving that growth?

Healthcare is widely identified as a growing market; a market where there will be jobs.  Why?  We have an aging population increasingly in need of healthcare, so we will need a lot of people providing, direct care and services, and resources to those providing direct care and services.

Information Technology (computer systems) is the central nervous system of just about everything everyone does, so the need for skilled professionals in and around information technology continues to increase.

These are just two examples of how  the market is driving need.  Here is a chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics with some addition information the the employment outlook in different industries.

overview-cht-9

When you look at possible next steps, be sure to take market demand into account.  If stability is a priority, the last thing you want to do is consider career paths that are by nature unstable (e.g., entertainment and the arts) or those  in industries that are in decline.

Financial Viability: I want to be able to pay my bills!

Knowing that you make enough money to pay your bills requires that you know – concretely – how much you need to make to make ends meet.

Yes, I know that sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but must people do not know (or want to know?) the extent to which their income is in line with their spending habits. College students, by and large, do not know, and many working adults are no better.

You don’t want to get excited about a potential job that will not pay you enough to pay your bills/meet your obligations. And, you want to make sure that the kinds of jobs you are seeking and careers you are considering offer sufficient compensation.

Some really and fun jobs don’t pay very well, and some really lousy jobs pay exceedingly well.  Why?  Supply and demand.  Again, the market prevails.

As you research your options, be sure to factor in potential compensation in terms meaningful to your specific situation.

Satisfaction:  I want to like the job!

Job Satisfaction – everyone wants it; very few can define it!

What about work makes you happy?  If you want to find a job you will like, you need to spend some time looking at the jobs you have done to identify precisely what it was that you liked about those jobs.

By the way, this is really hard to do.

Ask yourself:

What aspects of the work itself did you enjoy most?
In what types of work environments  have you done your best work/felt the most satisfaction?
What did you dislike?
What types of work interest you most?
What types of work do you want to avoid?
What industries interest you most?
What industries/subjects do you know the most about?

The better you understand (and can articulate) your work, work environment, work style and personal likes and dislikes, the better able you will be to identify these characteristics in potential jobs, employers, workplaces and industries.  If you want a job you like, you have to be able to identify what you like an dislike.

An “I’ll know it when I see it” strategy will not be effective, and “that perfect job” is a rare find.  Every job is bound to have some aspects you don’t like, so be reasonable and realistic in your quest for a job you will like.

Do you need to to start over completely and look for a new adventure in job market?

Not necessarily!  Before you choose to head in a completely different direction, be sure to consider all options you have in, around and related to your existing profession and industry.  If you good at sales and you enjoy sales, you might look at other sales/sales-related jobs.  If you enjoy working in the healthcare industry, you might look at other healthcare and medical industry related jobs (sales or otherwise).

Do an inventory of all the people with whom you interact in your current role.  What do they do?  Does any of it look appealing to you.  Before you decide to start over completely, make sure you’re not missing something that might be right under your nose.

Do I need to go back to school?

Not necessarily!  More educated does not necessarily mean more qualified.  If – as you explore your career options – you identify a field that requires specific educational credentials (a specific degree or certification), and that  field will meet your criteria for stability, compensation and job satisfaction, then consider going back to school to earn those credentials.

Too many people  jump back into school without thinking about what they will do when they graduate.  Going back to school will require a significant investment of your time, money and energy, so proceed carefully.

Some career paths require specific academic credentials – many more do not. Before you go back to school, make sure you need to do so.  Otherwise, you may find yourself no better off than before you went back to school.

Are there other opportunities out there for people with my background and experience?

ProspectorThere are always a variety of opportunities to consider!  They key is sifting through the volume of total opportunities that exist to fine those best suited to you, your needs and your objectives; it’s kind of like panning for gold.

A career transition is a process, not a transaction. It take time.  Begin by building and leveraging your professional network of contacts.  Use who you know and what you know to explore where you might go and what you might do.  Then, explore those options that seem most promising and apply for the positions that develop through this process of exploration.

There is no single strategy or recipe that will work for everyone, so don’t frustrate yourself looking for that “magic bullet” that will guarantee your desired outcome.

There are four resources I often recommend to people in career transition:

In Transition by Mary Lindley Burton and Richard Wedemeyer
A great fit for business-minded people and mid-career business professionals in career transition.

The Proteus Solution by Jay Block and Sharon Calvin
An excellent and quick ready.  Very approachable and practical advice for anyone in career transition.

What Color is your Parachute? by Richard Bolles
An oldie but still a goodie.  The original Gold Standard of career transition books, updated annually.

Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Lawrence Boldt
If you’re in career transition and were drawn to the title of this book, it is worth considering.  Excellent information!

Hope this information and my recommendations help!

Good Luck,

matt-signature

I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?


eat_the_elephant-300x204Greg from Bridgewater State University asked: 

I graduated in May of this year with an Economics degree and a double minor in Accounting & Finance and Management. After a part time job as an independent contractor for a special education technology company over the summer, I’ve been struggling with my career direction. I don’t know what I can do with my degree. I’ve spent time looking through job postings, and I not only don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know what I’m qualified to do. I did well in school academically, finishing with a 3.25 GPA but just seem so lost. What do you suggest I do?

Hi Greg –

It has to be frustrating to not know which path to take.  The only completely unacceptable option is to not choose a path at all – to just stand still and do nothing.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you should consider any and every path equally or make decisions randomly. You have to spend some time exploring who you are, what you want, why type of lifestyle you hope to lead (in the short term and in the long term), what types of industries interest you, and which of your skills, experience and educational qualifications are most marketable.

Finding a good job  is a lot more  like dating than it is like shopping.    If you want to meet that someone special, you have to invest time in the process to see any meaningful result.

Sure, you will find enough “love at first sight” stories to make you think it happens that way for everyone.  Just like you will meet enough people who have “always known what they wanted to do with their life” to make you think that is what most people experience. These are the exceptions that prove the rule!

The reality is this:  For most people, their career is a journey of self discovery. Ask and you will find that most people do not have it all figured out. So – long story short: You are not alone!

Now what do you do?  Well, I have a few suggestions:

Check out your university’s employment outcomes reports for employers and job titles

Most universities produce employment and grad school admissions outcomes reports that often include the job titles and employers the recent graduates reported, usually sorted by major.  To get an idea of what you can do with your major and minors, take a look  at what others have done.

Conduct an inventory of your skills and interests

Your campus career advisers/counselors can be of great assistance on this.  They may even have skill and interest surveys you can take, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Strong Interest Inventory or the StrengthQuest StrengthsFinder Survey. Properly administered these surveys can help you sort out and better understand your strengths and interests and identity potential career paths that align well with your strengths, interests and educational preparation.

Be honest with yourself about your lifestyle expectations

Do you have champagne tastes? Are you drawn to jobs and careers that can only accommodate a beer budget?  You’re not going to drive a fancy car, live in a big house, vacation in exotic locations AND be a school teacher, unless you marry well, win the lottery or have a trust fund.  Your lifestyle preferences and expectations play a big role in determining the kinds of jobs and career paths you might consider.  Make sure your job and career expectations are in line with your your lifestyle expectations.

Hold yourself accountable to put in the effort it takes to find a job

Finding a job requires a lot more than just “want to.”  Just about everyone can say they “want to” find a job they will like.  The hard part is putting in the effort on a consistent basis to actually find one.  If you’re not currently employed, your full-time job is finding a job.  Are you putting in a full 40-hour work week as a job seeker?  Are you doing more than just scanning the online classified ads and job boards and responding to whatever seems viable?  What daily and weekly goals have you set for yourself in your job search?

There are two old proverbs I like:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

and

Do you know know to eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!

Both say the same thing:  If you wish to accomplish a goal, you have to make positive progress, one step at at time.  Getting started isn’t necessarily going to make the path any less crooked or the the skies any more clear at the outset, but getting started in necessary if you want to reach your destination.

I know this response has been heavy on motivation and light on details, but without knowing you or the specifics of your situation, motivation and general guidance is about all I can offer. For that direct assistance and advice, ask the career advisers at your university.

Good luck

matt-signature

When should I ask for a promotion?

Recent UT Austin grad Sarah asked: 

Is there a standard as far as when to expect or ask about promotions when you’re in an entry-level position?

Hi Sarah –  this is a great question, both for those new to the workforce and for those getting ready to enter the workforce.

Looking for that first job? Bring this topic up when you are interviewing

It’s a great way to learn about the short and long term opportunities that are available, demonstrate that you are serious about the process, and show that you are evaluating them while they are evaluating you.  Plus, you’ll get some info that will help you immediately and down the road.

Ask questions like:

What is the typical career progression for a top-performing entry-level professional in your organization?

What are the new graduates you hired last year doing now?  Is this typical of the entry-level candidates you hire?

Can you tell me about the performance review process?  When and how frequently are reviews conducted?  How is job performance measured and assessed?  

To what extent is compensation tied to performance?  Are there bonuses based upon performance?  If so, how are they awarded?

The answers you get to questions like these will help you determine whether or not the job is a good fit for you.

Already in the workforce and eager to advance? Ask as part of performance reviews and as new opportunities present themselves

Where am I now?  How am I doing? How do I see my career progressing? are questions that should be central to every performance review.

Since performance reviews usually take place annually (sometimes more frequently) and are usually scheduled, you have time to prepare. So, be prepared!

Do your job well.  Keep track of your accomplishments and be prepared to share them during your review.  Use some of the time during your performance review to talk with your boss about how you would like to see your career progress and see if your thoughts align with hers.

No one is as in-tune with your performance, your skills and experience, and your career goals as are you!  Pay attention to the job vacancy announcements in your company. Pay attention to the career advancement of others.  Be honest (not too bold and not too humble) in assessing your capabilities.  If a job comes available and you honestly believe you can do it, ask for the chance. Consider the following examples.

A more experienced colleague in your group gets a promotion, and you would love to move into her role.  You could approach your boss and say:

I was so happy for Shannon!  She really deserved that promotion. With her moving into that new job,  I’m really interested in stepping up into her old job. Given my performance and the experience I have gotten during the past year here, I think I’m a competitive candidate and would appreciate your consideration.

During your annual performance review, you might say:

I really enjoy my job here, and I am very interested in advancing with the company.  Can we talk a little bit about the next steps I might be able to take here and when you think I will be ready to take them?

A job that interests you in a different division of your company comes available.  You could approach your boss and say:

I noticed that a a Network Support position just opened up  in  the Customer Service Division.  I’ve been working very closely with our Network Administrator for the last six months, and I think I could do that job.  Would you support my candidacy?  I really like working here, and this looks like a great opportunity to grow with the company. 

However you approach the topic you have to be sincere, you have to be truthful, and you have to be realistic in your expectations.

In a perfect world, you and your boss will already be on the same page with regard to your current role and performance and possible future roles for you with the organization. But who lives in a perfect world, right?

In the real world, you are going to have to negotiate office politics, competing agendas, and different perceptions of your value to the organization.  There are obstacles that come along with almost every opportunity.

Sometimes, the best way for you to advance in your career is with your current employer.  Other times, the best way is to seek new employment elsewhere; regardless of whether your current circumstances are great or lousy.

The right time to ask for a promotion is whenever the opportunity legitimately presents itself

So, pay attention – You don’t want to miss those opportunities when they come along.