Archive for January, 2008

Aha – the spark of recognition

January 29, 2008

Thank you, clients, for thinking that I’m so darned smart that I can tell what you really want to do. But it’s confession time: This career counselor doesn’t have a clue.
You are the one who is telling me. Sometimes it takes time. A long time. But at some point, not when I can predict it, you will light up – and I mean that. Your voice rises, your eyes glow, you smile, you say confidently,

  • “of course, what I’d REALLY like is…”
  • “I’ve always wanted to…”
  • “If it were possible, I know I would…”

It really is that simple. If you can express it, I can help you figure out what steps have to be taken to come nearer to your goal.

It is intriguing to know why our work choices became so seemingly complicated. Who told us that it isn’t that simple? Who said it was time to grow up and put away those childish fantasies? Who told us we couldn’t do it? Claim it!

You can consult a career coach or counselor to learn how to take control of your own career planning. You can get information on making an appointment through
• If you want it, you can start today by taking steps to get it. You can read a book or article, find a new web site, enroll in a class, move in circles that can bring you in contact with people who know about that sort of thing. You might need to keep your day job. You might achieve your goal in your lifetime or you might not, but the journey will be to your liking. I don’t have the answers: but go and look in the mirror and ask that beautiful person what he/she really wishes to achieve. Listen as you haven’t listened in years. Then tell me about it.

Why does a career counselor want to blog?

January 26, 2008

The employment world changes so fast that there is always something new to discuss. Blogging is a perfect example of this. It began as an opportunity for self-expression, and of course it still is. But it also makes use of the Internet’s awesome potential for capturing the thinking of the moment. You’re not reading polished prose here – if this were to turn into a book, a lot of editing would have to take place. I value the creative opportunity to communicate with people on the topics that are of interest to so many of us. If I hear of a new interview question that is currently in use, I want to share it with you. If I have read a wonderful new book or seen an article on some aspect of employment, I will mention it here. If someone doesn’t get a job for an interesting reason, I want to talk about it. And judging from your response, you want to hear about these things and even respond to them.
This is the kind of material that used to be in a Q and A format in the weekly newspaper. The deadlines come around faster and the turnaround time is immediate, but the two-way communication continues.

What do you want to read about?
What career information is useful to you?

I look forward to your comments, and ask you to stay tuned.
• And if you would like to read some recent book reviews, please visit my web site at

Good news for the older worker

January 24, 2008

Yes, there are obstacles. Yes, there is age discrimination. Yes, you are being interviewed by someone years younger than you.
But this is a time to remember the good news that you have to offer. Let’s review five assets of the older worker:
People over 50 can spell. Probably untainted by years of instant and text messaging, you don’t spell you with a U. Back when Friday afternoons meant spelling bees instead of movies, we learned clusters of sounds and rules of spelling (along with the exceptions to the rules).
We also know our grammar. When speakers from radio, tv and movies bombard us with atrocious grammar, we cringe because we know better. The language that is presented on a daily basis would never have passed the eagle eye and red pencil of our fifth grade teachers and we know it.
We are often the go-to-people in a work situation – the ones who will be glad to peruse the important correspondence, supply the elusive word that’s just right, explain a political reference from the past, or even translate the Latin phrase which has appeared in a trade journal.
We have a sense of perspective. We have experienced failure and rejection before and have survived. We want the job, but won’t fall apart if we don’t get it. A debriefing over coffee with a friend will put us on the path to recovery. A job rejection is not really a tragedy.
We know that we are there to work. Probably not in search of new friends or week-end pals, we are able to look an employer in the eye and state confidently that we want to work there.
There are good reasons for presenting ourselves confidently at a job interview. What have you experienced that makes you proud to have achieved your years?
If you need to practice your answers to get in touch with your pride and confidence, contact a career counselor and request a practice interview session. A good place to start is

Career Decisions and Spirituality

January 20, 2008

What does your spiritual view have to do with your career choice? Whether you approach your job search prayerfully, thoughtfully, or with a concern for the environment, I believe that you make your choices based on a conviction that your work should count.
Do you follow the teaching of your religious framework?
Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome in which he said,

A teacher should employ his gift in teaching, and one who has the gift of stirring speech should use it to stir his hearers. If you give to charity, give with all your heart; if you are a leader, exert yourself to lead.

Mark Twain put it this way:

Always do what is right. This will surprise some people and astonish the rest.

Whether in a sacred or a secular context, there is guidance all around us, exhorting us to do the right thing. I think this voice that urges us to be responsible adults should be audible to people as they go to interviews, negotiate salaries, and accept or decline positions.

What spiritual guidance do you seek/find as you engage in your job search? If you would like to identify that inner voice and apply it to your career decision-making, please contact me through my website at

The Thank-you as Career Tool

January 18, 2008

If your memories involve sitting at the kitchen table writing thank-you letters for birthday gifts, consider yourself lucky. Mom didn’t know it, but she was teaching you a valuable tool for success

So why don’t people do it? These are some of the excuses I hear:

  • It’s too late now.
  • I don’t remember the name of the person.
  • I’m not going to get the job anyway.
  • I was never any good at that sort of thing.
  • I don’t know whether to email it or not.
  • They’ve already made their decision.

To debunk these excuses is easy – it is not too late (although sooner would have been better). Sincerity is the only attribute you really need. And they did give you some of their valuable time. Therefore, the time is now. The best is within 24 hours of the interview, but today is better than tomorrow.

I believe hard copy is usually preferable to email, but something is better than nothing. And there are some fields where email is the only way to go. (You know who you are.) Also, in the past several years, large corporations and bureaucracies may have put stringent security measures in place, and your hand-written note may be delayed beyond effectiveness. In this case, send an e-mail.

About their decision: it may have been made. You may not be their first choice. But Number One may turn them down, or may not work out. They may have another opening. Please remember that this is a writing sample. The chances are good that the note will be passed around. It may even live on for a while.

A special note to young people: you can charm almost anyone by old-fashioned courtesy, and a thank-you letter gives you a chance to shine. Try it!

If you are not confident about your ability to write an effective note, please contact me through my website at for a critique of your typical thank-you letter.

I can live for three months on a good compliment– Mark Twain

A Question of Age

January 16, 2008

You may have on a fashionable suit and you sport a new haircut. You can be physically au courant, yet you open your mouth and prove their fear that you are “too old”, or more tactfully, “overqualified”.
Stop! I have a suggestion which can minimize the impact of your 30 plus years in the workforce. Here’s the first one: when asked about your experience, please do not tell them everything. They really don’t want to know. Follow the guidance that we career counselors give in any discussion of interviews: speak briefly (about the size of a short paragraph), pause, and inquire if they would like you to go on. You’ll be amazed at how many times (most of the time), they do NOT want you to continue. They will simply say, “no, that’s fine”.
• You think you need to persuade them you are qualified – please get over that idea. They already see that you are qualified. You could be working hard to sell yourself, and be selling yourself right out of the job offer. No one is going to hire someone who is perceived to be better qualified than the boss.
• In addition to being brief when talking about the past unless being urged to go on, you can follow your summary of skills by asking how they do things there. When someone describes the way things are done in this place and how well it is working for them, you can be enthusiastic and say you look forward to learning that. If what they are doing is not working for them, follow up with asking what they are doing to find solutions. Look thoughtful and suggest that you would love to be part of that problem-solving dialogue. If you have other ways of showing that you are young in your attitude, not fossilized in how you work, I hope you will share your secrets and strategies with other blog readers.
“I’ve been in this business 36 years. I’ve learned a lot and most of it doesn’t apply anymore” – Charles E. Exley

If you would like to discuss job interview strategies for the older worker, whether for moving up in your job, making a major transfer, or planning for a new direction in your retirement, please contact me through my website at

The Career Coward: is there a cure?

January 14, 2008

For the phrase Career Coward, I am indebted to the author Katy Piotrowsky. The complete title of her very useful little book is The Career Coward’s Guide to Changing Careers. There are many people who are petrified at the thought of going out and looking for a job, or even applying for a transfer/promotion in their own organization. Sweaty palms and high anxiety loom at the prospect.
This paperbook, new in 2008 from JIST, breaks down the job search into small steps, which seems like a tried-and-true way to proceed. In addition, the author has inserted case studies and reality checks throughout the book.
• If you are a young person in your life who seems to be in no haste to get that first job, fear might be the reason and this book might help.
• If the book itself is not enough, it may be time to seek out an experienced career counselor or coach, who will be supportive and encouraging (yet structured) during the stressful pursuit of a job.
• To make an appointment or to read a complete book review, please visit” .

Problem-solving for career survival

January 13, 2008

Career advancement depends on how you handle the exceptional cases. Jobs which were formerly full of routine now often contain exceptions, challenges, and downright obstructive situations. What should a worker do?
Do not be someone who hands off the hard stuff to someone else. Whereas this might be appropriate the first few weeks on the job, after that the challenges are yours. How you approach, define, and follow through on challenges becomes material for conversations about promotions and salary considerations.

These stories are also excellent for future job interviews, where you can expect topics like these:

What do you do when things go wrong?
What is the toughest thing you’ve been asked to do?
How do you handle pressure?
What is your role on the team?

There is another, larger reason why you should become one of your company’s most enthusiastic problem-solvers. If you read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, you will learn that routine procedures can and will be outsourced to save a company money, but jobs involving unique situations will remain here. (For a review of Friedman’s book, please visit You can increase your odds of survival by solving problems and letting it be known that you are the one to turn to.
Problems are opportunities in work clothes – Henry John Kaiser

Job Growth: What’s going on?

January 11, 2008

According to the Nov., 2007 Occupational Outlook Quarterly, the top two occupations expected to grow between 2006 and 2016 are network systems and data communications analysts and personal and home care aides.
Do these seem contradictory to you? Is this a morality tale about education and success?
I think they are more complementary than contradictory. If we look closely at these two positions, they are a reflection of the world of today and tomorrow. Technology will be a ruling force, and many workers will be needed to install, maintain, repair, and instruct the rest of us on how to live in this brave new world. They will be rewarded handsomely in their salaries.
In addition, people will live longer with a variety of ailments, the treatment of disease will become more sophisticated, and people will need assistance as they survive what was once impossible. Someone will administer medication and supervise daily care. Many workers will be needed, and they will not necessarily be rewarded financially. Unfortunately, their rewards will more emotional than financial, as they seek to provide comfort, safety, and an enhanced quality of life for their patients
This information is available to job changers and choosers of all ages. Which path do you choose? What do you see the young person in your life choosing? The systems/data analysts will require a bachelor’s degree. The personal/home care aides will require short-term on-the-job training.
For more information on occupational change in this decade, you can visit
If you wish to examine your particular background or credentials to see how you will fare in the future, please visit to see if career counseling can help you. Career decision-making involves information about the occupational outlook as well as personal desires.

A Note to Young People

January 9, 2008

At graduation people are told to go forth and succeed. Cards that said things like the future is yours. If that’s so, what is this future thing and how are you supposed to claim it?

There are unique concerns that apply to young people pursuing their first jobs. When interviewers ask about your experience, or why should they hire you, what are you planning to say? Here are some hints:

You are computer savvy. You can do research on the company. Through the internet, you will have learned something of what they do.

You have worked for years. Maybe it was babysitting for a younger sibling or neighbor. Maybe it was helping your parents in the bakery. Maybe it was fundraising for the school or the team. And maybe it was a volunteer experience that fulfilled your community service requirement. Be ready to talk about it in glowing terms, including what you did and what you learned from the experience. Talk proudly about your background when asked. Remember, Eleanor Roosevelt once said, Character building begins in our infancy, and continues until death.

You take feedback well. Whether it was a teacher asking you to re-write a paper, your scout leader correcting your project for a badge, or the neighbor who pointed out that you missed a section in mowing her lawn, you have accepted criticism cheerfully, in the spirit of learning to do something better. Okay, maybe you weren’t always cheerful, but you have learned that life keeps throwing learning opportunities at you so you might as well smile at them.

You are developing realistic expectations. It would be great to be able to buy a new car right away, but that’s not going to happen. You can expect an interview question about your plans for the future and be ready with a few thoughts. College, post-graduate studies, saving money, learning work skills, establishing your independence: these are great goals. The only bad answer to the goals questions is a blank stare, as if the idea of the future had never occurred to you.

A wise person, choosing to remain anonymous, once said, Success comes before work only in the dictionary. Let employers know that you are ready to work and learn now, confident that success will follow.

If you know a young person who needs coaching for interviews, please go to for information on contacting a career counselor who is experienced in successful interview techniques