Career Key

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

Monday, September 29, 2008

5 Ways to Look at Negatives of Career Options

When you don’t work in a career, it’s hard to know what it would be like to work in it. In the process of choosing a career, it’s common to learn negative things about a career option like long hours, poor pay, few jobs, on the job stress, lack of job security, or physical demands. All careers have negatives so whatever you do, don’t ignore them. So how should you consider them? Here are 5 ways to look at negative information about careers as part of a good career decision.
  1. Consider the source. Is the negative information coming from one angry blogger? A friend who “heard” the information? A reputable resource like the Occupational Outlook Handbook? Someone with whom you did an informational interview? Multiple, reputable sources are better than just one or two who may lack the firsthand knowledge or objective viewpoint you need. Some people don’t like their jobs for a variety of reasons so the more people you talk to, the wider variety of viewpoints – and more accuracy, you’ll get.
  2. Dig deeper. Does a negative depend on what part of the country you’re in? (e.g., number of job openings) Or who you work for? Some employers make you work more hours than you would work if you were self-employed – or vice versa. Most careers exist in a variety of physical and social environments. Working for a nonprofit can be very different than working for a private company. Informational interviews will help you get the additional depth and perspective you need.
  3. Can you handle it? Based on your personal, past history, how well do you think you would handle the negative? Some people like flying by the seat of their pants. Others are more conservative. You may like physical labor and working outside – others don’t. Be honest about what you are willing to take on – your past behavior will help guide you.
  4. Are you willing to make sacrifices for long-term goals? If you want the admiration and fame of being a collegiate sports team coach, are you willing to put up with job insecurity (depending on the success/failure of your team) and moving around to different geographic locations? If you want the larger pay and prestige of a job in a big law firm, do you want to put in the grunt work, long hours and job stress to get there? Every job has its “dues” and are you willing to pay them?
  5. Follow the ACIP model of career decision-making. Take into account all the negatives and positives of the careers you’re thinking about and see how they balance out. The four steps are: consider all your alternatives (A), think about the consequences of following each option (C), get all the information you can about your options (I), and plan out your next steps of your decision (P).
Nobody said life was easy or money grows on trees (well actually, they did - see recent financial turmoil), but if you know what you’re getting into with a career choice and make plans for dealing with the challenges that come up, the more likely you are to succeed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

3 Tips for Making Career Choices in Volatile Times

A few weeks ago, I wrote in a post that we should “Stop Reading the News,” advice I continue to stand by as emotional, irrational swings take their toll on Wall Street. What are we going to do, take our money out of investments and banks and stick the cash in a mattress? Of course not, although the thought has crossed my mind…

What does all this financial turmoil mean to the person trying to decide what their next career is?
  1. Keep a clear head. Continue to think long-term, no matter what roller coaster financial markets are on. The need for nurses, occupational therapists, and schoolteachers is not going to evaporate even if half our banks melt down. Education and training costs are a long term investment, whether that means you’re in a career 5 years or 25 years.
  2. If you’re interested in an industry that enjoys wild ups and downs, make sure you're well-informed and adaptable to change. For example, would-be geoscientists (energy, oil/gas/mining) and financial analysts need accurate career information and comfort with change. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go into these occupations, just know what you’re getting into. So don’t be blinded by the current proliferation of hiring bonuses in the energy industry. It’s a cycle and if you’re lucky, you’ll get out of school at a high and not a low – but don’t plan on it.
  3. With great rewards, come great risks. High-paying careers likely carry high risks and low job security. Remember the unbelievable Wall Street bonuses reported for the last several years for investment bank employees? Often where there are soaring financial successes, there can be seriously low lows. See today’s headlines and a blogosphere full of advice for the newly unemployed.
Whether or not you believe “the sky is falling” right now, the reality is that you are making a career choice for the long term. You want to make a reasoned, good decision, not a decision based on panicky, volatile information. Which seems to be what is dominating the news these days - so turn it off.

Choosing a Satisfying Career in Canada

An article I wrote, "Choosing a Satisfying Career: Where Do I Start" has just appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Career Options magazine, published by the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers. If you are interested in a copy of the article, you can download it from the magazine website for free or contact me.

Career Key Canada, our companion website that provides up to date, accurate Canadian occupational information about matching careers using Holland's Theory of Career Choice, has been very well received. In addition to free professionally developed career guidance information, what distinguishes The Career Key from other websites is that we combine an easy to use, valid measure of Holland's six personality types, with accurate, up to date online career information.

Top Reasons for Job Dissatisfaction: Stress, Pay & Benefits

As you gather information in choosing a career, these recent Gallup polls may give you some perspective and suggest work issues worth researching further:
I was surprised at the level of job satisfaction, although Gallup cautioned in its analysis that people appreciate their jobs more in difficult economic times. But unsurprisingly, job-related stress, pay and benefits (amount of vacation time, retirement, health) top the list for creating dissatisfaction.

As you weigh the pros and cons of your career options, include these top three issues. Pay is always on everyone’s list of important career information, but job-related stress may be under your radar.

When you talk with someone about their career, make sure to ask them about how stressful their job is, and what factors cause stress. Is it a supervisor or employer that can be changed, or is it in the nature of the work? For example, a research scientist may need to seek financial support from the federal government through grants every 2 years. Having one’s job security or project depend on this kind of funding may be stressful. But people handle this type of pressure in different ways – how does the person you’re interviewing handle it? How do you think you might handle it?

Learning more about the negative aspects of a career and deciding how you will deal with them, before you make a choice, will help you avoid joining the ranks of the dissatisfied later.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Choose a Career First, Tweet Later

With all the buzz around them, you may wonder whether Twitter and other Social Networking wesites could be helpful sources of information in choosing a career. Other bloggers post excellent tips for using sites like Twitter for job search, business development (take note would-be entrepreneurs), and on the job. But what if you’re choosing a career or making a career change? Recently I did some research, trying to see if I could learn anything practical or valuable about careers and came up with very little - certainly not worth the time and effort.

While social networking websites can be helpful if not necessary after you decide on a career, your time now is better spent on learning about your career options. Because how can you market your “personal brand” when you don’t know what it is yet? The answer is, you shouldn’t, especially when information on the web has the shelf-life of a rubber tire dumped in the ocean. You don’t want to present yourself in a certain way or say things you might regret later. Professionalism is highly valued but easily lost.

If your goal is to get more information about career options, career specific networking is a better use of your time. In this type of networking, you use the Internet to meet in person new people to gather information about a career (informational interviews). Once you are in a career that satisfies you, social networking with peers through sites like LinkedIn for future job leads and mentoring is practically a “must."

One of bestselling author Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the End in Mind.” This fits perfectly with using online social networking. Decide what career you’re aiming for and then present yourself accordingly.

If you disagree and have ideas about how social networking sites help with career choice research, I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

5 Steps to Smarter Career Exploration: Leave No Stones Unturned

When choosing a career, it’s easy to have a narrow mind about your choices. We’re most comfortable with careers we’ve heard of and know something about, even if our only information comes from TV: think forensic scientist, real estate agent, fashion designer, crabfisher, those crazy Mythbusters guys making hovercrafts in their garage (job title anyone?) and the "usual suspects" doctors and lawyers.

But wouldn’t you hate missing out on a great career just because you didn't dig deep enough? Don’t be intimidated by massive databases of jobs or giant encyclopedias of career options. The internet makes exploration a little easier. Here are 5 steps to be smart and efficient in your career exploration – without leaving stones unturned.

1. Learn about Holland’s Theory of Career Choice and how identifying your personality type(s) helps you choose a more satisfying career. This theory will help guide your thinking about what careers might be right for you.

2. Narrow your choices to careers that match your top two Holland personality types measured by a valid interest inventory. Don't cross off a career because of concerns about your finances or abilities. You'll address those issues later when you have more information to make an informed choice. Ask yourself:
  • Are there any careers I think match my personality but are not listed? Write them down and do searches for their key words using our recommended resources below.
  • Am I interested in starting a business? If so, what kinds of business opportunities are related to the matching careers I see listed?
  • How do I combine personality types in a career? To see an example, read about how Dr. Lawrence K. Jones, the Career Key’s author, combined his top two Holland personality types or “differing gifts” in one job.
3. Start with, then go beyond the Occupational Outlook Handbook job titles for matching careers we provide on our website: doctor, lawyer, engineer, social worker, accountant (not that there is any wrong with them). Remember that any job title you see anywhere (not just on The Career Key website) has many versions. Think about “social worker” and how many different types of jobs do “social work” that would fit a Social personality type. Recommended online resources:
  • Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Outlook Handbook has “Related Occupations” links at the bottom of a career description. If you find a related career you like, click on it and it will have its own “related occupations” link – follow these links as far as you want.
  • DOL's Career Guide to Industries. Explore the industries that most closely relate to your personality. Don’t hesitate to look at an area about which you know little.
  • Use your favorite search engine. You might get more ideas from blogs, association websites, Wikipedia and Knol entries. Remember that just because it's on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true - so go to diverse sources, including real people (see next step).
4. Conduct informational interviews with people working in an industry that interests you, but ask them about jobs related to theirs within it because there might be one that’s a better fit for you. For example, a software developer career may be of interest to you, but software developers know a lot about other related occupations they work with like Program Managers and Quality Assurance/testing engineers, and can refer you to other people in those jobs to talk to. Don’t know any software developers? Read my previous post on career specific networking – it’s easy to meet some and interview them.

5. About each alternative, keep asking yourself, how does this job fit with my personality? Are there a lot of supervisory duties that make it more Social than I would like? Is there a way to combine my top two personality types in one career?

For more ideas, you’ll find over 12,000 careers organized by Holland personality types in your local library; go to the Reference section and ask for the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Titles by Dr. Gary Gottfredson and Dr. John Holland. Unfortunately you can only find it in book form, not online. But although it’s a large book, you’ll only be looking at a few sections and just skimming through it will spark some ideas.

Don't be overwhelmed by the options you have; celebrate them by narrowing your search in a thoughtful way. By doing your online and book research and talking with people working in interesting industries, you will broaden your options. Only then can you say you’ve left no stone unturned – and you can make a decision you won’t regret.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Setting Personal Career Goals Ensures Success

Always on the lookout for new, helpful career resources, I read Hearst Magazines' head Cathie Black’s new book “Basic Black” over the weekend and would recommend it to career seekers and would-be entrepreneurs. Many career/business books contain much of the same, recycled advice, but I found Ms. Black’s book a fresh read because of her down to earth writing style and practical, real life “case studies.” It’s like reading the text of an engaging informational interview. Anyone from high school seniors to midlife career changers will get something valuable out of this book.

Career Key’s mission is to help people make the best career choices so I found her chapters about Drive and Passion particularly relevant. “Knowing yourself” takes more time than some people in this fast paced world are willing to spend; but for speed you sacrifice quality. Ms. Black reiterates the importance of taking time to set specific personal goals; you’re more likely to reach them. She also recommends finding authenticity for yourself and “figuring out what kind of work will be most satisfying for you.” In 2006, Ms. Black was named one of Forbes' “50 Most Powerful Women in American Business,” so I suspect she might know what she’s talking about. Fortunately Holland’s Theory of Career Choice offers a scientifically proven way of finding work likely to lead to job satisfaction. Learning what your Holland personality types are will help you set those personal goals likely to lead to future career success.