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How can you overcome being terminated from a job?

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

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

Hi Kyle

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

I’ve been fired. How do I start over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get some coaching!

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

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

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

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

Good luck!



How should I format my post-military resume?

military_sealsJack at Antonelli College asked: 

I just finished a 15 year career in the military and am working to transition into a civilian career in information technology.  My current resume is six pages long, details my military background and positions using military jargon and has nothing to do with information technology. I know this resume needs revision, but I’m not sure where to start. As I approach my post-military career, how should I reformat my resume?

Hi Jack –

One of the greatest challenges veterans face when they seek to transition from the military to the civilian workforce is translation: How can you translate what you did in the military from military jargon and context into language meaningful to civilian employers?

This translation can be really difficult. Regardless of where you came from professionally, it is usually challenging to explain what you did in terms relevant to someone who doesn’t understand how your qualifications translate.  If you are a teacher, try to explain to someone in business how your teaching skills translate to business. If you have worked in business, try convincing someone in the non-profit sector that you have the ability to work in their world.  The translation isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and it is your job as the job seeker to do the translating.

A while back I responded to a similar question: How can I get  into consulting after a military career?

I recommend you review my advice in that blog post as well.

Now your specific question about resume format and structure.

If the military service is directly relevant, list the specific roles (described in civilian terms) in the Experience/Relevant Experience section of the resume

If your military experience includes experience working in information technology, by all means include that experience in your resume but describe it using civilian language.  Your campus career advisors should be able to help you do the translations..  For example:

Military Experience 1


Military Experince 4

Sometimes, simply using military experience to illustrate beneficial qualities and characteristics is the best option

If your military experience is not related to the civilian field you wish to enter, you may just use it to convey the valuable qualities and characteristics you offer as a veteran, such as leadership, dependability, maturity, decision-making, courage, loyalty, etc.  Your resume speaks to your experience and education, of course, but it should also convey information about your skills, qualities and characteristics.

Miliary Experience 2

Many resumes include Honors and Affiliations or Honors & Recognition sections. This can also be a good place to include military honors

Your military honors are evidence of you accomplishments.  Employers like resumes that are evidence-based (example-based), and military honors are evidence that your superiors recognized excellence in you!

Military Experience 3

Keep it brief – 1-2 pages tops

Your resume is an executive summary of what you offer.  It should not be the “extended play version” of your life on paper.  Try to keep your resume to a single page (two pages, tops!).  Again, your college career counselors should be able to assist you with your resume.  You can also check out my Resume Guide and the Resume Gallery that is part of this blog.

Focus on the “Why” not on the “What”

It is important to focus on the “Why” and not just the “What” when preparing content for your resume.  Answer the “Why” question and you will know where and how to include your other experience on your resume as well.

Your resume should tell your story.  Not your entire story; but the parts of your story that are relevant to employers told in a way that makes sense to them.  You are the storyteller, so tell an interesting and compelling story.

When you focus on the “Why” message in your resume (your story), you have to translate what you offer into language meaningful to the audience you are trying to persuade of your candidacy.

I hope these examples help.

Good Luck



Can a convicted felon find a job?

long journeyHarold asked:

What job search advice do you have for someone with a felony conviction on their record?  What should I disclose and when?  Are there resources available for people like me who have served their time and want to make a fresh start?  Any advice you have would be really helpful.

Hi Harold

First, congratulations on this new chapter in your life. Starting over after a conviction and period of incarceration is not easy.  You will face a lot of obstacles in seeking employment that most other job seekers will not.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you that! You are living it right now.  Here is my advice:

Surround yourself with positive influences

Think about the crowd you ran with when you got in trouble with the law.  How much influence did those people have on your daily decision-making?  I’ll bet they had great influence and, as a result, you made some bad decisions which resulted in your arrest and conviction.

If you want to take positive steps forward in your life and career, you need to surround yourself with people who will help keep you in check, offer positive advice, and provide encouragement. You will come to depend a great deal on these people and the support the can provide. They will become your “advisory board”- the people you turn to for advice when you have to make important decisions.

Your “advisory board” could include some friends and family members, your parole officer, your pastor/priest/rabbi/imam, fellow parolees who have successfully transitioned into new careers, and others.  Everyone’s situation is unique.  Surround yourself with people who can help you.

If you don’t  surround yourself with positive influences, you will find yourself surrounded by negative influences and/or just feeling isolated.  Don’t let that happen!

Use the resources and assistance available

There are many resources available specifically to assist people just like you.

The Safer Foundation, a non-profit organization that  focuses on reducing recidivism by supporting the efforts of people with criminal records to become employed, law-abiding members of the community, has a full portfolio of Employment Assistance Services, including a Transitional Employment Program

There are other organizations and resources that specialize in helping people with criminal records enter the workforce, including:

The Center for Employment Opportunities
Project RIO 
Career One Stop 
The National HIRE Network

There is even a page on Facebook: Moving Forward offering advice, assistance and community.

I also recommend you review the article: The Top Five Jobs for Felons.

Finding a job post-incarceration is not easy, but it is a lot harder when you don’t do your research, and you don’t take advantage of all available resources.

Recognize both your options, your opportunities and your obstacles

The terms of your parole may limit where you can look for work.  Your criminal record many prevent you from pursuing or being considered for certain kinds for work.  Your financial situation and your family/personal obligations may factor into what you can and cannot do.  Medical/health considerations may impact the type of work you can consider.

Be as thorough as you can when assessing your options and opportunities, and recognize the obstacles you must overcome in seeking employment.  Despite the challenges you face, you can be optimistic in your your job search, if you are realistic about your options, opportunities and obstacles.

Be prepared to discuss your past AND your future with potential employers

You’ve made some mistakes in your past.  You must be prepared to discuss your past and frame your future with potential employers, and you have to do so authentically. Trust me, employers can tell when you are trying to avoid a topic or feeding them a line of BS.

Your job in an interview is to convince the employer you deserve the opportunity they have to offer.  Give them reasons to hire you, not reasons to turn you down.

When you discuss your conviction, do so briefly and honestly – don’t dwell on the details. Admit your mistakes and then shift the focus to what you learned through your mistakes that has made you a better person.  Share that you did your time in prison, but focus on how you used the experience to prepare to re-enter society and the workforce productively.  Recognize the challenges you face re-entering society, but focus on how and why you know you will be successful in becoming a productive citizen this time around.

When you apply for a job, you are asking an employer to take a chance on you.  Be prepared to tell an employer why you deserve that chance.

Celebrate the little things as well as the big things

Finding a job and re-entering society after a period of incarceration can be really challenging.  You need to recognize and celebrate the little victories and accomplishments along the way, so that you do not get too frustrated or discouraged by the journey. Set job search goals for yourself each week.  When you reach these goals – celebrate a little!  Pat yourself on the back.  Give yourself credit for the work you have done, and then set some new goals for the coming week.  Doing this will help you stay focused and positive.  It will also give you a reason to kick yourself in the butt when you don’t meet your expected goals for the week.

When you don’t have a job and your are looking for one, your full-time job is looking for work.  How are you using your 40-hour “work week”?  Ask yourself that question every day.

Harold, you have a challenging path ahead.  I hope my advice helps you along the way.

Good luck!


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!


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.


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,


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

climb_ladderFrom Marcel, a working professional at a career transition point:

Background: I have a great job for a great company. The job is an entry-level position, though I’m not doing entry-level work any longer. I have been in the job for over two years and with the company for three.

I really love my day-to-day responsibilities, I get verbal recognition from my bosses, and I have even won two awards.  All of that said, I’ve become frustrated recently with the lack of advancement opportunities and mediocre pay. I do more than a lot of our managers, but people rarely leave the company, so opportunities for growth are few and far between.

I recently sought my boss’s advice about my career advancement options, and even he recognized that I would probably need to switch departments/roles to get promoted with this company.

Since I want to continue in my field, I have been considering looking at silimar opportunities outside the company to advance and diversify my portfolio of experience.  But, the thought of “breaking up” with my current employer is hard to grasp because I really believe in our product.

Questions: What is your advice for someone in my shoes? Does the title matter much to employers? Can having a coordinator title for 3+ years damage my growth even though I do the work of a manager? Do employers give significant consideration to the experience described in resumes and cover letters? Will staying with the same company for a long time make me less marketable than someone who’s moved around more? What’s the standard amount of time for moving from one company to another when growing a career? Do you see that as necessary for growth?

Hi Marcel –

This is a wonderfully awful problem to have!

You love your employer, your co-workers and your job.  You’re praised for your work and given new projects and responsibilities (good!), but you are seeing any growth on your pay stub, in your title or in your career (not so good!).  Any number of people would be thrilled to be in your shoes right now.  Some might say you are wearing “golden handcuffs” – what you have looks so good, it seems like you can’t get away from it.

handcuffsHere’s the reality – you have options; but there is a cost to exploring every option.  Life (and your career) is about what trade-offs and compromises you are willing to make.  Contentment and satisfaction in life are about knowing and accepting consequences of the trade-offs and compromises you make.  Not all consequences are bad, but there are always consequences to your actions.

You have a really big question to consider:

Right now, what’s more important to you: Advancing in your profession or staying with your employer?

If staying with your current employer is more important, you probably have to consider different paths and departments (other than your current one) in order to advance within the company.

If staying in your profession is more important, you probably have to pursue opportunities in your field with different employers; knowing there is no guarantee that you will be able to return to your current employer someday.

If you want to say in your profession AND stay with your current company, just keep doing what you are doing, accept what they offer, and wait to see if any opportunities open up down the road.

Now to your specific questions.  I’ll  address each quickly.  Please know that the same answers do not apply to all people in all situations.  Keep this is mind as you review my comments.

Does the title matter much to employers?

Titles do matter quite a bit  to some employers; to others they matter little.  Title matters the most when you emphasize it and  it is the only information or the most defining information you provide. It matters less when you de-emphasize it and provide other examples of the work in your resume that illustrate your capabilities.

Can having a coordinator title for 3+ years damage my growth even though I do the work of a manager?

Being in a coordinator role for 3+ years shouldn’t hurt you as long as you provide some details about how your work and scope of responsibilities have progressed and your accomplishments have increased in magnitude.  This is a reason I recommend that you NEVER put your job description on your resume.  Your job description tells the reader only about what you were hired to do – it’s not about you.  Providing your most relevant and most recent accomplishments on your resume shows what you are capable of doing by showing what you have done.

Now, if you stay in the same job for a long period of time, be prepared to answer that question in interviews:  So, you’ve been in your current job for a very long time . . . why is that?

Do employers give significant consideration to the experience described in resumes and cover letters?

Employer who want to evaluate candidates before meeting them do give significant consideration to the information in your resume and cover letters.  They also look at where you worked (as that also says something about you)  and solicit referrals from friends and colleagues (people hire people, after all).  Your resume and cover letter are usually your first and best opportunity to define and describe your brand (what you offer) to potential employers.

Will staying with the same company for a long time make me less marketable than someone who’s moved around more?

In both cases, it depends upon what you did while you were there, regardless of how long you stayed.  There is a lot of gray area between being defined as a “lifer” or a “job hopper.”  Most of use live in that gray area, which means you have to use your time telling your story effectively.

What’s the standard amount of time for moving from one company to another when growing a career? Do you see that as necessary for growth?

There is no such thing as a “standard amount of time.”  In general,  I recommend that you stay with an employer at least one year before trying to initiate any change.  You need to demonstrate a little bi of patience and perseverance, and sticking around for at least a year can indicate that.  My advice is to stay with a job and company as long as it continues to challenge you professionally, offer you opportunities to develop personally and professionally, and compensate you fairly (according to market rates, not your personal definition) for the work you are doing.  To me, this is a more realistic approach than is putting an egg timer on your career planning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Change is scary!

No matter how good or bad any job you have might be,  it is a known comodity.  You know the rules, the environment, the people, the expectations . . . .  and you know how to function in that environment, following those rules, working with those people and meeting those expectations.

Change means new rules, a new environment, new people and new expectations. And, change rarely comes with certainty.  There is always the risk that any change you make in your career will not work out.  What will you do then?

Marcel, don’t run scared. Don’t live you life or manage your career like a deer stuck in the headlights of an oncoming car.  You have to act, and you have to own your actions.

Do your research!  Ask yourself the hard questions and demand answers?  Seek advice from people you trust and who know you well. Process all of the information and advice you gather and then make the best decisions for YOU.

Do that, and you will be able to look yourself in the mirror with pride, regardless of the decisions you make.

Good luck,