Archive for May, 2011

Taking a risk 2011-style

May 29, 2011

What makes a risk worth taking?   I see it as a matter of individuality, although in this tough year of economic struggle and recovery, it’s also a necessity.  I mean, even if you are not a risk-taker by nature, you really have to venture into the unknown if you hope to increase the chances of getting a job.

Attitudes have changed.  We used to be concerned about changing jobs too frequently (and what was too frequent?), changing areas of expertise, staying too long at one level of responsibility, or gaps in employment history.

The rules of risk-taking continue to evolve.  Job-seekers are being propelled into unknown areas, which is pretty scary.

Ah, but the rewards are there.

For some, that means gainful, permanent employment.  Yes, it happens!

For others, it means swallowing a lot of pride and taking temp and part-time assignments that you can get.  It pays some of the bills.  You encounter new people.  And we know, you didn’t want to do it.

For some, it means recognizing that you need updating in the skills and knowledge departments.  Back to school it is.  But this time, please, PLEASE ask about job assistance upon completion of the course of study.  You have learned that, right?

So exercise your risk muscle.  Meet new people.  Listen in on new conversations.  Read something new.  Find a new network.  Let some enthusiasm show.  It is a new time, with new rules in place.  Risk is something you can be proud to use.

Risk-takers:  care to share?  We’d love to hear from you.

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Stating the Obvious

May 26, 2011

Like so many, I made time to watch bits of Oprah Winfrey’s farewell show yesterday.  Like Oprah and her audience, I, too, teared up a bit from time to time.  Why?

I think what Oprah did so brilliantly was to state the obvious.  We are better than we act sometimes.  We all deserve love and recognition.  We don’t always get it.  We should eat better and exercise more.  And celebrities are sometimes fun to watch, although that part of her record is the boring part to me.  I don’t really care about who is starring in a movie that I probably won’t see anyway.

I do care a lot about who learns to listen to oneself, and that’s why Oprah, at her best, is a career counselor.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit that what I really do is listen, LISTEN to people. who will eventually tell me what they have always wanted to do.  And then it’s my job to help that person reach at least some of that long-desired goal.

Sometimes I need to point out that as far as I know, Congress has not passed a law stating that everyone but (your name here) may have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So go for it.  Put me out of business.

No, wait.  Listen to Oprah about being your own best person.  And then contact me to learn the tools to be that person.

Thank you, Oprah, for stating the obvious.  We all need to hear it.

Early job interviews

May 17, 2011

Do you remember your first/second/third job interview?  I barely do.  Maybe since the jobs were not memorable, why would I care how I got them?

My memories become much clearer when the interviews were for things that I realized I wanted very much.  Here’s one memory:

I had had a series of short-term positions doing conference and event planning.  That’s something I’m good at, but I don’t particularly like.  I hate that when something goes wrong, you get all the blame.  I remember the frustration of other people not doing their parts, being on my feet for hours, and other really bad parts.  Yes, it was exciting, and yes, it was a job, but I was never sorry when the event was over.

After those jobs, I realized that I had to get back on track and stop saying yes to jobs just because I was offered them.

I noticed an ad in the newspaper for a volunteer position with the YWCA Career Center in Annapolis, MD.  Wow !  Isn’t that what I had wanted to do for a long time?  Isn’t that what I had trained for?  For the first time, an interview really mattered.  Shakily, I called the contact number and talked to the director of the career program.  She was gracious, welcoming, and eager to set up a meeting as soon as possible.  I drove the requisite hour to get there, had a wonderful meeting, and was offered the chance to meet with clients, lead workshops, and work as many days as I could.   When I learned there was a stipend available to help with the expense of driving, I was ecstatic.  My volunteer stint there turned into a paid job and I worked happily there for six years or so.  That was in many ways the best job of my life.

As to what was discussed, I don’t remember.  I do recall the cordiality, the friendliness, and how welcome I felt.  They thanked me for coming!

On those few occasions where an interview just flows, you know something special is going on.  It’s not that you always get the job, but I believe that rapport is a huge clue that things are going well.

I hope every reader has a memory of the interview that was an indicator of the joy that was to come.

What are your hobbies? Does anyone care?

May 16, 2011

It has been an enduring question for those writing their resumes:  what should be done with hobbies?

And my super-helpful answer has always been – it depends.

Now there’s a really useful article on the topic.  It not only names hobbies that employers might like, it links those hobbies to their workplace applications.  Read this and feel proud of your crossword, travel, fix-it, or shopping passion.  (Hey!  what about sudoku?)

The more your resume reflects the best of you, the happier you will be with it.  So go for it – share a bit more of yourself.  But first, read all about the top ten hobbies to share.

Ideas for blogging

May 15, 2011

WordPress postaweek wants to know from where we get our ideas to blog.  Sources are everywhere!

  • from clients,
  • from the news,
  • from conversations,
  • from other blogs and websites.
From clients:  someone mentioned recently that she is too tired to be creative.  I think I understand that.  Something to ponder.
From the news:  a recent story in the local paper told of a woman attending the president’s Town Meeting at the Newseum, who mentioned that she is losing her federal job.  He spoke briefly with her, and later that day she got a call from someone in the administration offering further assistance.  It’s not that all of us can catch the ear of the president, but we all have access to new people, and you never know….
From conversations: the other day, I was a guest at a career day at Barack Obama Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, MD.  A young man shared that he is feeling pressured by his parents to become a doctor, when in fact, he has some other ideas, such as a career in law enforcement of some kind. Even the very young need to be listened to and encouraged.
From other blogs and websites: when all else fails, I can visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and find information I didn’t know before.  You can, too.

The art of the thank you

May 10, 2011

Remember how I was invited to go to Career Day at University Park Elementary School a few weeks ago?  I visited three classrooms and led discussions on career choice.

Today came a pay-off in the form of a big envelope full of thank-you notes from the students in Mrs. Rowland’s third-grade class.

Wow – you people got the message.  Almost every one of you mentioned your academic strengths and interests as well as the ability to dream.  And you mentioned that you will definitely pursue those dreams.  Could anything be more rewarding to a career counselor?

So here’s to you: soccer player, basketball player, doctor, vet, helper, cook, fixing-man, traveler, architect, FBI agent, video game designer, artist and singer. You know you are good, you know you have to keep working at it, and you have to keep dreaming.

And here’s to you undecideds:  you know it is hard not to know, but you all get that you are especially good at something and your path will become clearer as you grow up.

And here’s to Mrs. Rowland, who not only encourages her students to recognize their strengths, but teaches them the absolute career necessity of writing great thank-you letters.  I wish more adults had learned this.

You’re very welcome.

Who annoys me? That’s easy!

May 8, 2011

The WordPress blog challenge has posed a question:  who annoys you more, Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga?

All questions should be this easy.  They both annoy me.

What really annoys me is this fascination with pop stars who describe themselves as singers.   TV networks continue to add shows in which people screech, warble, and throw themselves around and call it singing.  And they are loud. This is annoying and depressing.

Next question, please.

Early Work Fantasies

May 4, 2011

The other day, I mentioned that I visited a local elementary school, and had the chance to ask bigger kids (fifth grade) what they had wanted when they were 4 or 5.

Policeman! Cowgirl! Shopkeeper! Celebrity! Artist! Farmer! Inventor!

Boy, they all know the answer to that question.  And here’s mine.

I wanted to be a concert pianist.  My mother would take me to recitals and concerts.  Those ladies were beautiful, with elegant gowns.  They played music without the books. People clapped a lot.  I wanted that.

And so I started playing.  Little baby pieces to earn a sticker of a kitten.  Then scales.  Hanon. Bach. Schumann. Beethoven.

I liked fancy dresses and applause.  I loved learning the music.  Didn’t mind memorizing it.  But I never liked performance.  I couldn’t get over the nerves, and I couldn’t see any end to it.  So I quit.

Now I occasionally do training and facilitating around career development.  The wardrobe isn’t quite as glamorous, the applause isn’t quite as deafening, but I love the planning and presenting.  If I make a mistake, I can fix it.  If I don’t know something, I can admit it.

The early work fantasy is a real clue to what we’ll end up doing, but it isn’t an absolute prediction for most of us.

What about you?