Archive for June, 2008

Enthusiasm: never underestimate its power!

June 15, 2008

With the tragic and unexpected death this week of NBC’s Tim Russert, we have all had the opportunity to hear colleagues discuss aspects of Russert’s life.

The list of personality traits that came up the most is short and powerful: authentic, hard-working, well-prepared, logical, thoughtful, enthusiastic. Some of these characteristics were obvious to viewers of Meet the Press, a few were more behind-the-scene.

I was struck by how many people noted Russert’s enthusiasm. We will never forget his twinkling eyes, the tilt of the head toward the program’s guest, the ready smile. I think it was this trait that caught the attention of the viewing public. He appeared to invite us into the political realm where he would explain it all to us – and so he did.

What traits will they say about you on the job?

How will you be remembered?

It’s not that a tragic and early death awaits us all, but it is almost certain that we will leave our current positions. And co-workers will remember you. What words will they choose? It is never too late to add to your legacy on the job. Start now!

Career counseling: what has changed (4)?

June 11, 2008

My final thought on changes in the field of job/career change in the past thirty years is one that grows out of the increasing diversity in the workforce. If you remember working in the 1970s and before, you remember well how some positions, some offices, and some organizations looked – well, they looked like people expected them to look, pretty homogeneous.

People over a certain age, over a certain weight or clothing size, some with regional accents may not have been hired or promoted once they got there. Race, gender, age, physical appearance, ability – these were often defining factors in the work one pursued.

It was hard to be the first – woman, person of color, older individual, hearing-disabled, or any other defining characteristic on the job. You may have felt that all people “like you” were being judged by your actions. That was a lot of pressure.

Have things changed? I believe so, although we have a ways to go. There are many “firsts” to go in entering or rising in an organization. But if you look around you on your job, I think you will see people you couldn’t have imagined there not many years back. Someday it will be commonplace to see people with a wide range of ethnicity and gender identity running for national public office, but we are only on the first step of that ladder!

This is cause for national pride as well as an incentive to keep advancing in the quest for a balanced workplace. We all gain when all segments of our population are invested in the American Dream of advancement based on merit.

What has been your experience in the workplace?

Career Counseling: what has changed (3)?

June 4, 2008

Resumes have changed in the several decades that I’ve been reading/writing/editing them.

Here are a few conventional thoughts from thirty years ago:

  • Job objectives should be straightforward: general enough for printing 50 copies, specific enough for the job you’re pursuing.
  • Better leave off those hobbies: you might look like a dilettante.
  • Omit college or high school graduation dates: you might be too old.
  • If you have a gap in your work history, you had better switch to a functional resume.
  • Of course, employers don’t like functional resume because it looks like you are hiding something!
  • Portfolios? Work samples? They are for artists and models.

Fast forward to 2008. Things have changed, and your resume has changed, too. For instance:

  • Job objectives can be tailored to the position you’re seeking with a few strokes of the keyboard.
  • Some hobbies can make you look physically fit, such as tennis, dancing, hiking and skiing.
  • Don’t forget to mention special skills, such as the ability to speak a foreign language, no matter how minimally.
  • It’s okay to include graduation dates, but of course you don’t need to line them up in a noticeable way along the edge of the text. If you don’t include them, someone will wonder why they were left off.
  • Gaps may be covered by community work, travel, or study.
  • Use the form of a resume that works for you. Those old barriers of functional or chronological formatting have morphed into an effective resume that is usually chronological, with plenty of creative emphasis on skills and accomplishments.
  • Don’t forget to highlight some skills by offering to show a work sample or a portfolio.

If you would like to discuss your resume with a career counselor to determine if it is telling your story in an effective way, please visit my website at for contact information.

Career Counseling: what has changed (2)?

June 3, 2008

Young people are much better prepared to enter the workforce than they were thirty years ago. Whether from high school or college, they are showing up at interviews with more summer jobs, more work-study courses, more volunteer work, and more internships.

I think the mandatory community service in the state of Maryland is a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain exposure to all kinds of work settings. Whether they coach or tutor, visit in a senior center, help manage a Vacation Bible School, or help organize a street carnival, they learn about responsibility, problem-solving, and organization. In the past, fewer students had this exposure.

This extensive experience makes them more savvy. They have more accomplishments to list on their resumes, they have more stories to tell in interviews. They also have more confidence.

I sometimes wish that they knew the difference between being confident and being cocky. Because they have worked in the school office or a family member’s place of business does not exempt them from starting at the beginning in that first real job. Copying, fetching, scanning, lugging boxes are all part of beginning one’s career. Being 18 or 22 with a smattering of experience doesn’t free one from the time-tested role of go-fer, administrative assistant, production assistant, or clerk. The real challenge for a young person, as it always has been, is to perform whatever task one is asked to do, do it well and in good spirits. The fact that one can use this entry-level job as a springboard to position number two is a given.

Nevertheless, an older worker can look at today’s young people and marvel at their poise. If they can learn to combine their confidence with a genuine interest in learning from more experienced people, they will be on the way to success.

What was it like for you in your first job? What do you wish someone had told you?

Career Counseling: what has changed?

June 2, 2008

Someone asked me recently what has changed in the field of career counseling in the last (gulp) thirty years.

And the more I reflect on this question, the more changes come to mind. In the next few postings, I will identify some developments in the field, most of which have proven to be helpful to practitioner and client alike.

Let’s talk about attitudes. In the 1970s, the workplace was defined in a far more rigid way than it is today. True, newspaper classified ads were no longer listed under male and female, but certain assumptions were still alive and well. And let’s remember that newspapers were the primary source of finding openings.

It was daunting indeed to contemplate breaking down barriers, pushing against low expectations, asking/demanding to be taken seriously. And so career counseling focused partly on confidence-building. It was not enough to give an assessment, identify interests, and locate likely sources of employment. One had to gear up, work on professional attire, and strategize on appearing confident and comfortably ambitious in the interview. Remember all those workshops on assertiveness training?

These are still tasks in career work. We still work on attitudes and expectations, we still have to overcome negativity, we still work on what to wear and how to present ourselves. We still rehearse sticky interview questions and identify points that we should be making and topics we should avoid.

Yet I think that progress has been made in the significant area of belonging in the world of work. Many more people of diverse backgrounds see themselves as workers or potential workers. Selling clients on their right to participate in paid employment is a much smaller part of career counseling than it used to be. And that is really good news.

If you would like to share changes in your career expectations in the past years, please add a comment. If you would like to speak with a career counselor about your own career path, please visit my website at for contact information.