Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Friday, June 27, 2008

4 ways to include community service in choosing a career

Combining your career and community service goals provides more options than you think. We hear a lot in the press about Generation Y opting for big money career goals instead of helping people. (I think they said the same about my Generation X and every one after the 1960s) "Going Green" is a slogan now applied to careers, in addition to household cleaning products. With all the buzz, this may be a good time to ask, where does community service (including environmental advocacy) fit in with your career goals?

The best way to include community service as part of your career goals is to follow the guidelines for making a good career decision, and include service goals along with consideration of your Holland personality types.

Helping people comes in many forms, both on the job and off. You do not have to choose a well-known service-minded occupation like Social Worker or Health Educator, although for some that will be the best match. If you do not score high in the Social personality type, then Social occupations will not be the best choice - but that doesn't foreclose your ability to help others. Most people are a combination of types and some combinations are unusual. So if you are highest in the Realistic personality type, it may be better to choose a Realistic occupation if that is your highest score, and serve your community after work. Or choose a Realistic occupation, like a carpenter, and work for employers who primarily serve others (i.e. affordable housing nonprofits, Habitat for Humanity).

4 ways to include community service in your career plans:
  • Adapt the jobs that interest you to a community service goal, if you make that your priority. For example, a pulp and paper scientist with a multi-national paper company can work on environmental initiatives - if you develop your skills in that area and seek out those projects.
  • Make community contributions "off the clock." As part of volunteer work, church activities, or even a part-time job completely different from your regular work, you can make significant contributions. For example, a building contractor can volunteer his or her skills to Habitat for Humanity.
  • Develop and grow your skills so that you have the maximum job mobility. That way, if your employer acts in ways that conflict with your personal morality, environmental, and social views, you can leave.
  • Recognize that you do not need have to do everything all at once. Sometimes the ups and downs of life makes demands on your energy and time that make showing up to work and maintaining a career an achievement itself (having a child, caring for a sick relative, illness, etc.). By planning how community service fits in with your career and life's ups and downs, you are more likely to include service and go back to it after a needed hiatus.
Fitting community service into our careers and lives is an ongoing process and according to well-known psychologist Martin Seligman, PhD., important to happiness. Being creative and practical about how it fits in with the rhythm of our lives and careers will make community service a greater part of our society - benefiting all of us.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Layoffs and the Employee Over 40: Are you flexible and retrainable?

Think you are protected from layoffs if you're over 40? Recent news reports about a U.S. Supreme Court decision favorable to older workers may lead you to believe you are protected. In this age of financial and job insecurity, many of us welcome any positive news that there are some safety nets left. But while recent court decisions are positive for employees, they by no means spell "security" for older workers. It's nice to keep rogue employers under control, but these cases do not change the underlying truth - your job security is your skills.

The reality is that laying employees off because they are expensive, inflexible, or resist retraining are still, and likely will always be, lawful reasons to let people go. And if the company can prove these problems exist and their need to control it, they will win.

Of course many employers don't do their homework before conducting layoffs, sometimes because they are, in fact, discriminatory and just want to get rid of older employees. Or more likely, are sloppy, have poor managers, and in their eagerness to cut costs, cut good, older workers who actually make the company's business succeed.

I've seen these employer mistakes several times and had a feeling of deja vu when I read in the facts of the recent Supreme Court case, "Managers were instructed to rate employees for how “flexible” and “retrainable” they were." Sometimes these are code words for discrimination. But what if there truly was a problem with inflexible or untrainable employees?

Although this is not a fact in this particular case, what if some employees refused to learn a new software program? Like Microsoft Office? Don't laugh, I've seen a few people like that in my legal career. Unfortunately, some people decide to not make an effort in their work - and regardless of their age, that will spell doom for their employment future.

Having seen both good and bad employers and employees, I can say the following remains true:
If you have skills in demand, do them well, and are pleasant to work with, you do not need to worry about your future. Even if you encounter a bad or discriminatory boss (it is not always easy to distinguish between them), you can get a job somewhere else.
Would you rather be fighting battles over whether an employer is discriminatory or in a satisfying career supporting yourself and your family? Start picking your path now so if you are the victim of a layoff, discriminatory or otherwise, you will have options.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Harmful internet career tests attract national attention

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) has just published an article on the growing problem of harmful internet career tests in the summer 2008 issue of its national magazine, Career Developments. This summer's issue focuses on important public policy issues facing career development professionals and their clients. In the article, The Career Key's author, Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, examines the nature of this growing problem and why counselors and the people they help should be concerned.

Please contact me if you have comments or would like a copy of the article.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Helicopter Parents and Students' Career Choice

Is helicopter parenting good for students' career choice? Our website offers 8 positive ways parents can make a difference in their child's career. Whether or not you are "overinvolved" as a parent depends on the degree to which you put this advice into practice. My mother was very involved, but not too involved, in helping me get into a top college. My college choice had an enormous impact on my career path in ways too numerous to list here.

My mother saw my athletic ability as a tall woman (I am over 6 feet tall) as an asset for rowing teams, and therefore a possible boost to my chances of getting into Ivy League colleges and the Seven Sisters schools. At that time in 1989, few women recruited for crew had previous rowing experience. Without my mother's guidance and encouragement, I would never have written the letter I sent to crew coaches about my basketball athleticism and good grades. I got several positive responses. Without her, I would not have gone to Princeton and enjoyed rowing ever since. But my mother did not push me into something I did not want to do, or into a situation I could not handle. Yes, in the beginning my public school background made coursework a little harder for me than an alumna from Exeter, but I ultimately improved when surrounded by excellence.

In this highly-competitive education and work environment, parents are understandably concerned about their child's future. But the truth is that no matter how much you do things for her and give advice, she is ultimately the one who has to do the work. And if it doesn't suit her or she is not competent, she won't succeed.

I'm sure there are a few parents out there that could care less about their child's satisfaction with a career, as long as it has an MD, JD, MBA or PhD in the title. But for the vast majority, success must include some component of job satisfaction. Guiding your child through the process of a good career choice increases the likelihood of job satisfaction. That's what my parents did for me and I still reap the benefits.

Holland's Theory and College Student Success

A recent national report sponsored by the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative links Holland's Theory with college student success. One finding suggests congruence between one's personality type and major leads to higher scores on the sets of interests, abilities, and values the relevant academic environments seek to foster and support. This makes perfect sense given the more time you spend studying an academic subject matching your interests, the greater your knowledge and skills in that area. And building your skills to match the career and jobs you're targeting increases your qualification for more job options in your field.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Community Colleges' Growing Role in Helping People Get High Skilled Jobs

With all the talk about needed 21st century job skills, who is on cutting edge of helping people get them - and doing it in a cost effective way? Community colleges. If the idea of community college does not fire you up, consider your opinion outdated (and elitist) as the cost of 4 year colleges skyrocket and financial aid programs tighten. Consider these statistics from the American Association of Community Colleges:
  • Health care: 59% of new nurses and the majority of other new health-care workers are educated at community colleges.
  • Homeland security: Close to 80% of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMTs are credentialed at community colleges.
  • Average Annual Tuition and Fees:
    Community colleges (public): $2,361
    4-year colleges (public): $6,185
  • Nearly 12 million students (half of all U.S. undergraduates) attend community colleges.

Ben Bernanke, chief of the Federal Reserve who plays perhaps the biggest role in managing the U.S. economy, observed in a November 2007 speech in North Carolina:
"...improving the skills of local workers--especially those displaced by industries in decline--remains critical for both urban and rural areas in the state. Four-year institutions play an important role in meeting that challenge, but they are not the sole means for developing workforce skills. For example, in the 2004-05 school year, the North Carolina Community College System served nearly 780,000 students in fifty-eight institutions. The average community college student in the state is thirty years old and likely working while attending school (North Carolina Community College System, 2006). Because they offer education closely tailored to employer demands in the local workplace, community colleges in North Carolina, as elsewhere, play an essential role in training and retraining workers. Moreover, they do so at a relatively low cost. In general, we must move beyond the view that education is something that takes place only in K-through-12 schools and four-year colleges, as important as those are. Education and skills must be provided flexibly and to people of any age." [emphasis added]
The Career Key's author, Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, was the first person in his family to go to college and he began his education path at a community college; as you talk to people, their connections to these colleges appear. Consider how you can build new job skills using this resource. We offer tips on how to find the right college.

If you're worried about prestige, an Ivy League degree certainly helps but for the vast majority of people, their networking, informational interviewing, and acquired job skills get them the best job, not the name on the diploma. If you don't believe me, just talk to the people you consider successful.

Career Key Blog Featured on Alltop

I'm proud to report our Career Key Blog is featured on Alltop Career, an aggregator or "digital magazine rack" of "all the top" career blogs and sites. We did not pay for this listing, but were selected for it. We are proud Alltop put us in this selective group next to top sites like the Brazen Careerist and the New York Times Shifting Careers, both of which appear on our blog roll.

We strive to be substantive and remain true to our mission, helping people make the best career choices using the best career test, science, and practices available. If you have suggestions for blog topics, please feel free to email me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Managing Education Debt by Early Career Choice

The trick to managing education or college loans is to limit the amount you take on to the bare minimum. You can do that in two ways:
By making the right career choice early on, you:
  • choose and pay for the training only necessary to reach your career goals, instead of paying for unnecessary classes,
  • spend less time in school and more time working to reach your career goals, and
  • focus your effort on building the skills needed for better paying jobs in your chosen career.
If you need to motivate your inner penny pincher, I read an excellent column by the NYT David Brooks this morning called "The Great Seduction," about how our country's approach toward debt has changed over the years, and not for the better. I know this kind of advice can be hard to follow; it's hard to hold back, especially when you are finally on your own, from spending money the way you've always wanted to spend it. The spending seduction increases when a loan company sends you a check or you have the plastic in hand. Hard to resist!

But if you have a clear career goal of where you want to go and financially where you want to be, you'll be less likely to sabotage yourself in debt. More debt only delays your success. Some educational debt is necessary for most people to get the training they need to advance in our economic system. So use it to your advantage, as a temporary, limited bridge just long enough to reach the other side of the gap.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Balancing housework skills with your career

Recently I evaluated my time management and problem solving skills at home because I was feeling overwhelmed. As a typical working mom, I was starting to feel like I was not doing everything as well as I could be. Although running a household is not mentioned in our Foundation Job Skills, solving the problem of efficiently keeping a clean, good house is part of our required "Thinking Skills," right? A recent NYT Shifting Careers blog post about Laura Vanderkam's "core competency mothers" and the outsourcing of housework was particularly relevant to this question. I left a comment on that blog because I feel that outsourcing everything, if you are in the financial elite who can afford it, seems like a failure of imagination - and a failure of education, not to mention, God forbid, laziness. And I am sometimes guilty of the latter.

But it's all about Thinking "Right" Thoughts - it's how you think about housekeeping chores that determines how you feel about them. When you're tired on a Monday night doing laundry after work, it doesn't feel "fun." But if you get it done all on Monday night according to your system, then you feel a sense of accomplishment that it's done and you're running your own house well. Truthfully that's how I feel. No martini necessary.

If as an educated person, I can't figure out a system to get our household laundry done - or the floors vacuumed in an efficient way, then I must have missed acquiring problem solving skills. I'm not opposed to house cleaners. In fact I am fortunate to have some that come once every 4 weeks to do a deeper clean than I can do on a regular basis. But to outsource changing beds, regular laundry, cooking, grocery shopping etc. is to me, a little crazy and frankly, an admission of failure in basic living skills. Besides, it take more time to hire, pay and maintain people than it does to think about how to get things done, do it yourself and have your family participate. What a concept!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Following my own career advice about job skills

Some of my recent posts focused on improving career options by gaining new job skills and keeping job skills fresh through volunteerism or internships. As proof that I follow my own advice, last week I started volunteering as an attorney with my neighborhood legal clinic on occasional Tuesday nights. Encountering subjects ranging from family law to unemployment compensation, I was reintroduced to reasons why I enjoyed having my own practice - but now without the tedious business side.

While I worked for ten years as a labor and employment lawyer, it's been several years since I met with street walk-ins and talked with people about their problems. I enjoyed it and my two hour commitment quickly ended. It was a relief to see that while a few of my "counseling" techniques were a bit rusty, they are coming back to me. And it doesn't hurt that I'm a bit of a "know it all" anyway. But if you've been reading this blog, you'd already know that!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Holland's Theory Still Remains Top Career Theory for Career Test

A recent Florida State University study of over 50 years of research shows John Holland's theory of vocational choice (also referred to as the RIASEC theory) still ranks as the most widely researched and used theory in career counseling. This news confirms why The Career Key test, based on Holland's Theory, continues to be the best, professional counselor recommended career test on the Internet.

The study, published in late 2007 by Elizabeth A. Ruff, Robert Reardon, Ph.D., and Sara C. Bertoch, of The Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development at Florida State University, contains a bibliographic study of over 1,600 references spanning 50 years of scholarship, showing the extent of interest and research in the theory, its applications, and tools. These references span over 197 professional journals worldwide.

The Career Key test, a scientifically valid measure of Holland's six personality types, remains one of the few valid career tests available on the internet, and the only one to provide links from matching occupations grouped by Holland personality type to the most accurate, up to date U.S. or Canadian information about each occupation.