By Ellen and Dana Borowka, MA
Ever find yourself confused over what career direction to take? Or how to successfully prepare yourself for that career search? Whether one has been in a career for many years or just beginning, these are not easy areas to navigate through. It can be very difficult to find the career path that is right for us. Sometimes we may find ourselves trying to live up to someone else’s expectations rather than our own; or we don’t know what we want in a career – what will truly make us happy.
Starting the Search
So, where does one start in a career search? First, if you have recently been let go from a company – don’t panic, as that will be picked up when applying for positions. Yet, don’t deny the feelings of anger, hurt and fear either. A good way to deal with these feelings is to talk to a counselor, clergy person or friend, and journal out your feelings. That will help to resolve the feelings so they don’t get in the way of your career search. Next, it may be best to take a week off and go away on a short, inexpensive vacation. This may help to put things in perspective and calm things down. Then assess your financial status & needs, and create a budget. It’s also very important to take care of yourself while looking for a new position. Be sure to eat healthy, exercise, sleep and keep a balance between the job search and play time.
- Finding the right career is a process. The following are some steps in finding your pathway. Here’s an exercise that you might find helpful in making an action plan for your search.
- First, dream about three things you’d love to do in life. What turns you on? What gets your blood going? Some examples could be going to the moon, being a Broadway star or exploring ancient ruins. Don’t put limits on your dreams – write them all down. This will help you to discover what pathways you are most interested in.
- What is it about these three ideas that really excites you? Let’s use the example of going to the moon. It may be the instruments in the Space Shuttle that really excites you. Focus in on what is so interesting about your dreams.
- What is it about the (you fill in the blank) in your dreams that really excites you? What is it about those Space Shuttle instruments that is really interesting?
- Now, you get to research! So, go to the library, Internet, college career placement centers or other resources to research the companies associated with what you are excited about. With the Space Shuttle example, you might research the manufacturers of the Space Shuttle.
- Then contact a company representative in the department that interests you the most. You may be interested in design, sales, marketing, accounting, etc. so ask for that department when calling. Emphasize that you are doing research when calling, as people seem to be more helpful. You’ll gain information on opportunities and job requirements in the company and the industry. Also, ask what other companies or contacts would be helpful in your research. This can give you possible referrals and assist with networking. As part of your research, see if you can visit the area where you want to work and talk to people who are in your desired career field. This will help you decide if this is the right career for you.
Sometimes, we can be too close to the situation and need help to find our way. When this is the case, be sure to reach out for assistance from a counselor, clergy person and friends. Support is very important during this difficult process.
Researching is the Key
Research is a very important part in any career search, whether it is to find that perfect career or new position. Many people do very little research or preparation in their search – a practice that failed us in school and will fail us in our job search. How many people do you know who obtained a graduate degree, only to discover to their horror that they hate their new career? If you want that great career or position – be sure you are ready in all ways for it!
When I graduated from college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I thought about what I liked and researched three areas – business, computers and psychology. I gathered information on different careers and companies in these three areas by looking in the library’s reference section and contacting companies, individuals and counselors. I asked about the job requirements, pros and cons, and the daily routine of my desired careers. At the time, I used this information to obtain a business position in a corporation then later made a career change to counseling. This process helped me to decide what pathway was right for me at that time in my life.
In-depth work style testing can be very helpful. It is not a silver bullet, but can assist in exploring environments that would be conductive to your personality. When used appropriately, an assessment can stimulate ideas as a part of the research phase. The data can also help in preparing for potential questions you might be asked during an interview. If you would like additional information on this topic, please email Dana at email@example.com.
Effective Interviewing Tips
So, now that we have a direction to go in, how do we prepare for our career search? Here are some interviewing tips to help you on your way.
- I can’t say it enough – Research! Be sure to research the company and position fully before the interview. Know the salary range ahead of time and how long the previous employee had been in the position. Knowing how long employees have been in the position will help key you in to any danger signs. It can signal whether this opportunity is the door to heaven or hell.
- Self-image is very important in interviewing. Make sure your suit or interviewing outfit is in good shape and pressed. Keep appearances fairly conservative like neat hair, no long fingernails and light on perfume/cologne and jewelry. This advice may bother some, but appearances are vital in interviewing. As you may know, an interviewer usually makes a decision within the first 10 minutes after meeting the interviewee. So, it’s important to put your best foot forward.
- Successful resumes and cover letters target the position. Go to the library or bookstore to get ideas for effective resumes and cover letters. Keep resumes and cover letters brief and to the point – one page in length, and targeted to the desired position. Be sure to cover all areas of job requirements from the job listing in the cover letter. For example, if the listing calls for five years of experience with gadgets then put that in the cover letter. Or if you don’t have that experience then be sure to address it with similar experience or skills. Also, different jobs call for different resumes like a sales resume for a sales job or a management resume for a management job. There is a different emphasis for each job type. Plus, you always need an original cover letter for each position. Don’t use form letters, as they are too general and unfocused. After the interview, always send a thank you note. It gives you the edge over others who don’t. It’s also important to have someone else proof your resume, cover letters and thank you letters to watch for grammar and spelling errors.
- Practice makes perfect! Before the interview, practice with interview questions. You can get sample questions from career books at the library. If possible, practice with a friend – role-play the whole interview from handshake to good-byes. You can even videotape the interview to study how to improve your interviewing style. Be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses; what you liked and disliked about your last position (in a positive manner – don’t complain about supervisors); and why the company should hire you. Keep your answers brief and to the point, using workplace examples in a positive manner. Be able to discuss difficult areas like employment gaps or lack of experience. Remember that this is the time to toot your own horn. If you don’t believe in yourself, then it will be hard for an employer to believe in you.
- Be prepared for that big interview. Take an extra resume copy to interview and fill out all forms completely. Confirm your interview before going. Always ask one question about the company – something you really want to know, but avoid asking about salary and benefits in the first interview. Ask for business cards to send thank you notes after the interview.
- You make the decision. Look around the company environment to be sure you feel comfortable there. The interview process is not a one way procedure. You have to decide if this is the right place for you. So, look at everything and everyone at the company to help you make the right decision. Listen to your intuition. If it feels wrong, then it’s probably not the right place for you.
- Assess the interview for self-improvement. What could you do differently? Yet, don’t beat yourself up for nervous slip-ups. We’re all human and we all make mistakes.
There’s a Place for Everyone
Well, that’s the scoop on searching for the right career. Finally, I want to leave you with a story to ponder. A friend once told me about a young lady who was trying to sell her car to pay her college tuition. She was having little luck and tuition was due in a few days. She drove her car into a gas station and began to cry in frustration. The owner of the gas station came over to see what was wrong and she told him her tale of woe. When she was finished with her story, he made an interesting, if somewhat inspiring reply. He said, “Honey, let me tell you something. There’s an ass for every seat!” Then he suggested she leave her car at the gas station and he’d see what he could do. The next day the car was sold and the young lady was able to pay her tuition. The owner would not even take a commission for the sale. When life seems dark and hopeless, this story can remind us that everyone has a perfect place in life. So, no matter how tough things may be, the right pathway is waiting for all of us. The key is to maintain our vision.
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