Archive for October, 2009

Thinking about a Gap Year?

October 31, 2009

Gap Year is defined as a period of a year (or so) between high school and college.  It can also mean a time between undergraduate and graduate work, and, occasionally, it can mean the time between jobs.  It’s on the minds of many families these days.

If you have a teen in your family who doesn’t have a clue, doesn’t seem to have focus, or lacks maturity to tackle college courses, then someone has probably suggested a gap year.  I hear about it quite often.

There’s an article available at the ever-helpful website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  You can find it at  There you will find a discussion of programs and things to look for in choosing one.

There are a few points that I would want to consider if I were in the market for a Gap Year program:

  • Is there useful work to be done that is of interest to the young person?
  • Is there ongoing guidance and discussion of goals for the year?
  • Is there security and supervision in housing?
  • Have you checked with a favorite college to see how they view/evaluate gap year programs?
  • What about the cost?
  • How does the high school student feel about the program?

The article cited above, published in the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (fall, 2009) is written by Elka Maria Torpey.  She has concisely identified pros and cons of gap years, provides timely advice (get accepted to college first if possible, then ask for a deferment), and lists resources for organized gap year programs.  This is well worth considering.

What an effective Gap Year is not is a chance to sleep late, hang around, or get more depressed about the future.  Each family should set goals, structure the time, and establish clear understanding of expectations.  If career counseling can help,  feel free to contact me through my website at

Note to adults in career transition: my next posting will discuss your own Gap Time and how to make the most of it.

Stopped in your Tracks? Learn from it!

October 30, 2009

One month ago today, I fell onto my own foot and broke three bones.  It appears that my pride has been shattered along with a couple of pieces of my foot.

While hobbling around, I have been hibernating, grateful for calls and visits from friends,  highly appreciative of the care of my husband and attentiveness of family far and near.

What are the implications of an accident or an illness on the job search process?  Well, speaking only from my own experience, I can see that:

  • you feel self-conscious when hobbling around,
  • pain really makes you feel old,
  • you look at things differently – in terms of the physical challenges (stairs?  how many?  parking?  how close?),
  • you want people to see you – not the cast, not the cane.

Those of you with more permanent challenges can rest assured that I’m closer to understanding you than I used to be.  Let’s see how I’m doing:  others want to know what happened, but are hesitant to ask.  They want to help, but don’t know whether to offer assistance.  If you are in pain, it’s hard to put forth your best appearance and conjure up enthusiasm for the job opportunity you are seeking.  And you’d like to explain that you aren’t always in pain.

I’ll get liberated from my situation in a few more weeks. Meanwhile, please hold that elevator door – I’m coming!

Gift Giving Guide – a call for help

October 24, 2009

I’m in the process of upgrading my 2009 top ten gifts for the job hunter and I’m seeking your help. Last year’s list elicited quite a positive response from readers, and was linked by other sites.  Now it’s time to reconsider the nicest, most comforting, most inspiring, most useful (and sometimes the most tactful) items that a job hunter could receive.

Is it the gift of time?  Something luxurious?  Something classic? Something basic?

You tell me.  If you are unemployed right now, what would you welcome into your life in December (besides a new job, we know!)?

I’ll be releasing my list on Black Friday, but until that time, I’m happy to have some suggestions.  Just add a comment to this posting and I promise to consider your suggestion carefully.

Career Choice: Keeping it Simple

October 20, 2009

A client who is seeking a new direction, away from the really boring work she’s doing now, recently received a fascinating piece of advice.  She said that the other day, her young son, overhearing her expressing frustration with her current situation, said, “Mommy, why don’t you just do something you like?”

I love this.  I should hire the kid as an assistant, right?  But wait, if everyone knew that choosing something you like is at the core of career counseling, my whole industry could fold up and go home.  Think about it:  what do you like to do?

  • chat with people,
  • make the money stretch,
  • dress up and go out to lunch,
  • solve a problem,
  • persuade people to do it your way,
  • correct others’ grammar and spelling,
  • raise money,
  • read something new,
  • fix something that’s broken,
  • give a speech,
  • taste frosting mixes.

Okay, probably kidding about that last one.  It’s not that your whole paid job is doing something that you like, but it’s a great place to begin your self-assessment.

What do I like to do?  I actually love listening to people’s stories, focusing on how they got from there to here, and where they’ll be going next.  Their style of decision-making, their ability to roll with bad situations, their willingness to let friends help them, their courage in walking away from something that’s not working out — these are all considerations in helping people make their next career moves.  I consider it a privilege to be part of someone’s life for a little while.  That’s what career counseling means to me.

If you would like to talk with me about how you would like to adjust your career toward something that you like, please visit my website at for contact information.  Remember, that’s what I love to do.

The 24-Hour Job Search: who needs it?

October 15, 2009

Many job seekers suffer from guilt that they are not looking all day every day – and evenings, too.  Not to be reading, exploring, tweaking your resume, writing thank-you notes, shining your shoes for the next interview  – it feels decadent and self-indulgent.

Stop!  Let’s be reasonable about this.  I would like you to ask yourself when your most productive time of day/night occurs.  Your peak hours are those in which much can be accomplished.  It’s a wonderful piece of information to have about yourself.

When you were in school, there were peak times for you to attend class, take notes, participate, and learn without much effort.  Likewise, there were those times when attending was an effort, never mind being on time, when you struggled to take notes (which didn’t always make sense later).

Why not apply that knowledge to your job search activities?  If you’re not a morning person, then don’t do the most important stuff then.  Get the laundry done, do some cleaning, and slowly, as the fog lifts and mid-day approaches, get into your search.  Maybe you’re meeting someone for lunch.  Maybe you’re following up on email.  Maybe you’re hand-delivering a resume to a contact you met at a job fair.

Don’t struggle against yourself.  Go with your flow, working with your 24-hour cycle of peaks and valleys. This is especially important when setting up interviews.  You don’t have to explain your reason, but try hard to schedule that meeting during your best time.  You’ll need that sparkle in your eyes to make a great impression.

Do you have any experience relating to your peak/off hours?  Other readers would love to hear how you handle this.

Job Postings a la française: quelle surprise!

October 11, 2009

On a recent trip to France, I was reading one of those employment sections of the regional newspaper Ouest, Very similar to our supplements that seem to come out so often with our own papers, this one had pictures of long lines of job hunters, photos of earnest-looking people being interviewed, and those alarming statistics about so many people applying for so few jobs.

The thing that most caught my attention, though, was the content of classified ads.  I noted several job openings for front desk jobs in hotels in medium-sized towns, each one stating h/f, or hommes/femmes (men or women).  And they said to send a resume, letter of intention, and photo.

Male?  Female?  Send photo?  I was amazed at what felt like a step backward.  Many of us well remember the help wanted – male, help wanted-female ads.  Our laws, customs, and expectations have changed.  Seeing these details in the employment section of the newspaper made me grateful for all the legal struggles that have brought us into a more open world of employment.

A note to young people: how was your summer?

October 8, 2009

Hello, you juniors and seniors in high school. And hello to you, college students.  It’s October, you are in classes, and summer is now a fading memory.  How was yours?

If you had a (paid or) unpaid job,

  • how was the experience?
  • (did you save some/most/any of your money?)
  • what skills did you acquire?
  • what mistakes did you make?
  • what fun did you have?
  • what memories did you create?
  • how did you say good-bye?

Now that you have had time to think about your summer, I have a suggestion:  What about a thank-you letter to your boss and to anyone else who helped you significantly?  This is not the note you were forced to write after holiday gifts were received.  Rather, this is a career step.  Here’s a sample, which you may feel free to adapt and use:

Dear Charlie/Ms. Grant/Eileen,

I want to thank you for being so patient with me this summer as I learned the position of cashier/lifeguard/counselor/———.  You trusted me with responsibilities which I never could have expected in an entry-level job.  Specifically, I will remember how I learned to be patient with customers/kids/tourists and their many questions and needs.

I will also remember the advice and coaching as I learned the job.  Thank you again for the wonderful farewell card.  I will drop by to visit you soon.



What might happen because of this note?

  • You will leave a strong, positive impression of yourself.
  • You will enjoy the sense of completion as you say good-bye to the summer and hello to the next phase of your life.
  • You will learn the art of appreciation, which will serve you well for the rest of your life.

If you would like to share some of what you have learned this summer, feel free to write a comment here.

Job Search Favorite

October 2, 2009

I am Ann Poritzky and I am your guest blogger today.  One of  my favorite job search resources is Ned’s Job of the Week. Located at, Ned publishes lists of job openings from all over the world in business communications, hospitality, and defense.  You can subscribe to the list of your choice or visit the site and review the listings there.

Ned’s lists are in NO particular order. They are not arranged by geographical area or job type.  Plus, several funny or offbeat jobs are listed among the more serious ones.  Before Ned will include any job, submitters must confirm the job openings are real and provide some details about them.

Ned considers his weekly newsletter recipients a networking community so he encourages people to continue subscribing  after they get  jobs.  I am employed in the  DC area, but I am still a subscriber.  On some Mondays, seeing an exciting job opening  in Australia is  the  perfect way to start my day!  Check it out !