Career Key

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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Career Key Canada Will Be at Cannexus in April

I'm glad to announce that in April 2009 we will be attending and exhibiting at Cannexus, Canada’s top career development conference, held in Toronto. We’ve been very pleased at the positive reception for Career Key Canada, our newest website launched earlier this year. We’ve created a special version of the popular Career Key test that matches users’ Holland personality types with Canadian job titles and up to date Canadian career information. Like the U.S., Canada has great online resources for career information, which we wanted to tap into for our growing Canadian audience.

I am now scheduling meetings with customers and look forward to meeting you in person. If you’d like to meet me there, I’d love to hear from you or just stop by our exhibitor table. I’ll be handing out free test codes for people interested in group discount purchases ($1 per test when you purchase at least 30).

I’m looking forward to going to Toronto, even though it will be a bit chilly. I was there about 5 years ago for a friend’s wedding and it was one of the most beautiful, cosmopolitan cities I’ve been to; don’t get me started on how great the food was!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Choosing a Career and Avoiding the Costly Impulse Buy

Just like shopping, many career choice mistakes are made from impulse buys – where you really haven’t crunched the numbers. Instead you react to feel good advertising messages, a desperate job situation, or the seductive admiration of friends and family. For example, think about well-intended but wrong money-saving choices – like the person who skimped on buying fancy soup (a few bucks savings) but bought new dog beds (hundreds spent). I suspect most of us have been guilty of trying to save money but spending more instead. Overbuys at big box stores anyone?

I’m not suggesting your financial situation or family opinions shouldn’t matter – they should. Just include them as part of a well-thought out career decision process. Poor impulses derail good career decisions.

Common poor career choice impulses:
  • you react to what you think people want you to do, but it’s not a career that matches your personality – “I always said I wanted to be a doctor, but I’m really more Social than Investigative…
  • you choose a career you think will pay you a lot of money and bring you prestige, but after factoring in school loans and little work/life balance, you end up in the “hole” – “my investment bank works me like a dog, I have to pay Manhattan rent – and people think Wall Street is evil”
  • you choose something with unrealistic expectations and are badly disappointed and discouraged, leading to lackluster work – “I thought being a park ranger would be perfect, but the pay is lousy and I hate all the government bureaucracy - I'm taking a 2 hour lunch to get away”
  • you act out of desperation due to money concerns, without mapping out a long-term plan to the career you really want – “I’ve been stuck in this customer service job for 5 years and gone nowhere…”
Here are 3 ways to choose a career without detours from costly impulses:

1. Choose your career using a high-quality, science-based decision making process. Get started with your matching careers and research on career options, and then make a good decision using our free website resources. As part of the process, you’ll be asked to include family and friend opinions and your financial situation.

2. View your career as a series of stages. It’s hard in an instant gratification society to be patient. But if you see school and/or a series of introductory jobs as part of a long-term plan to reach a specific goal, instead of just a place to be, the more likely you’ll be successful and to get promoted.

3. If finances are an issue, consider starting your career in a supporting role. The Career Key organizes your matching careers by work groups so it is easy to spot similar and supporting occupations. Support and technician positions in certain careers require less financial and training commitment in the short-term and give you the advantages of:
  • learning more about what it’s like to work in the field,
  • putting you in a position to make a new professional network and develop mentors, and
  • teaching you new job skills that not only may get you into a better school, but give you a leg up in a future job.
When emotions and stress get involved, as they often will in choosing a career, it's easy to act on impulse. But slowing down and putting together a long-term plan will avoid most costly mistakes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

3 Career Choice Tips for Older Workers

A few days ago, I ran into someone (55+) who related his experience with age discrimination in hiring. When interviewing for a job with a small business, they told him point blank that despite his excellent qualifications, they probably couldn’t hire him because his health insurance would cost the company too much. So they went ahead and hired a less-experienced, younger applicant.

Unfortunately more and more older workers will face obstacles like these in getting jobs: the percentage of workers 65 and older in the U.S. workforce is projected to double in the next decade – from 3.6% to 6.1%.

In my previous career as an employment discrimination lawyer, I became familiar with the challenges older workers face. I recently wrote about layoffs and the older worker. Here are 3 more career choice tips for older workers:

1. Look at ALL your career options.
To narrow down your choice among careers matching your personality, consider your unique talents and challenges. If you find a career that really interests you but it has some requirements (physical or academic) you’re not sure you can or want to meet, do at least a couple of information interviews before you cross it off your list.

I find that career information, online or in print, does not always reflect reality. For example, experience may substitute for a graduate degree. There may also be a job title in the same career field with different minimum requirements, ones you can meet. Once you gather your information, follow this science-based process to making a good decision. Our ebook, “What Job is Best For Me?” contains helpful exercises for decision-making.

2. Look for career fields or employers that are friendly to older workers.
In addition to informational interviews, check other resources for career information specifically about older workers. JIST publishes some excellent books, many of which you can find at your public library. One of my favorites is Michael Farr’s and Laurence Shatkin’s “Best Jobs for the 21st Century.” Among many other resources, the book contains helpful lists of top jobs broken down by age. So you can see career paths that have more people your age – and perhaps more friendly to older workers. Also check AARP’s list of friendly employers on their AARP National Employer Team.

3. Network.
Networking is the best way to avoid being a target for discrimination. Having a personal connection with someone in the industry who can vouch for you or promote your talents behind the scenes will do more to get you started in a career than anything else. These connections will promote your strengths over negative stereotypes and biases. And the less you see yourself as a target and more of a player, the better chance you’ll have as presenting yourself as a confident, qualified, and pleasant person to work with.

Age confers many benefits our society is very slow to acknowledge: experience, wisdom, and skills acquired over a lifetime of learning. Looking at the big picture, doing your research, and networking are the best ways to showcase them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 Ways to Move Forward Using Job Skills

Your unique talents, interests, and skills lead to your best career options. Job skills move you forward. But insecurity lurks nearby, ready to demoralize you. It’s easy to focus on barriers and what you lack instead of what you have, and what you could learn in the future.

If you’re in high school or college, you may bemoan your lack of “real world” work experience and connections. If you’re changing careers, you may dread the prospect of starting from scratch again – and taking on student loan debt at the same time. Add more stress and physical discomfort to this list if you’re disabled or newly disabled. And in these difficult economic times, the term “transferable skills” may spell doom as part of an anxious search for an angle to get employed.

To be successful with choosing a new career, you have to be optimistic and realistic. Here are 5 ways to move forward using your skills:
  1. Lose the negativity and evaluate your skills as objectively as possible. Everyone, from high school students to retirees, has skills. And just because someone says you can or cannot do something well is not the end of the story. That person may be right or wrong, but you know your track record best. Start with this exercise to identify your skills.
  2. Decide on your short-term and long-term goals and list possible ways to reach them. Do you just want a new job ASAP to pay bills? Or are you looking for a long-term solution? Making a good career decision is a start. Dig deep for what the real issues are. It’s one thing to dislike your boss, it’s another to dislike the work you do and everyone you work with. One is fixed by moving employers, the other probably means you need a new career.
  3. Make a plan and make small steps to complete it every week. The 3 steps of that plan are knowing yourself, knowing your options, and making a good decision. More...
  4. Get organized with folders and start writing things down. Even with PCs and the Internet, it’s amazing how more concrete and satisfying something seems when it’s printed or written down. Buy inexpensive jazzy folders if it makes you more likely to use them.
  5. Connect with people who will help you. You may need to phase out certain relationships and start new ones. If you need convincing, think of someone whose accomplishments you admire. I guarantee that focusing on negative people around them did not make him or her successful. Informational interviews in career fields that interest you are a great way to start meeting new, inspiring people who can help you.
If you found this helpful, you may also want to read my post about how to add new skills to your list.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Social Media Resource for Career Planners

I’m always looking for ideas about how to use social networking and new Web 2.0 tools to help people make better career and small business start-up choices. Chris Brogan’s Blog is one of the best resources I’ve found for tips on using social media – not just for promoting your personal brand but also promoting your business.

When you click on his tag “LinkedIn,” you find a great post (among others) “Write Your LinkedIn Profile For Your Future.” This idea of presenting yourself with the future in mind reminded me of my recent post, “Choose Your Career First, Tweet Later.” Brogan drills down further by focusing on LinkedIn, with some concrete, practical suggestions for improving your profile.

He’s definitely more connected than I would like to be – you read his blog and wonder whether he tweets and sends messages 24 hours a day. But you can take some ideas and apply them to your situation – it helps to have a virtual expert on social media in your career planning toolbox.

Questions to Ask About Working for Free

To learn more about a career path or to get a foothold in a prospective career, I’ve suggested volunteering to get job skills or work experience in a new field; I’ve done it myself. But be cautious about giving away your time and hard work. In this excellent guest post on the NYT Shifting Careers blog, freelancing expert Michelle Goodman advises how not to give away the store, especially for freelancers in the communications field. (writing, public relations) Her advice can be extended to other career fields and people like you choosing or changing your career.

If you encounter a “free” opportunity, I suggest asking yourself a few questions before making a decision:
  1. Can you get paid to do the same type of work elsewhere? (have you really looked?)
  2. Would you gain skills you could not otherwise acquire? If so, how does the free work fit into your plan for how to get the paid job you ultimately want?
  3. Is looking for paid work a more cost-effective use of your time?
  4. Are the “exposure” and other touted benefits of the free job really worth it? (Can you talk/email with any predecessors to get their opinion?)
  5. Have you talked with people working in the field about where to focus your efforts? What do they think about the opportunity?
Spend your valuable time as mindfully and effectively as possible by carefully choosing your volunteer projects. Information interviewing in your field will help you focus your efforts and hopefully steer you away from known timesinks. Just plan on making a few mistakes that will waste your time and learning from them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What you do for fun and choosing a career

Never thought you’d hear the word “fun” again? Well, we recommend you include it in your search for the right career choice. In our article, 8 Strategies to Learn About Yourself, we suggest looking at how you spend your leisure time to identify your unique qualities – to help you choose a career that fits you. New research in the Journal of Career Development connects “leisure interests” with Holland’s Theory of Career Choice, which The Career Key test measures.

To begin, write down what you do for leisure activities in the “big picture” and look for patterns and connections with Holland’s 6 personality types. For example,
if you spend a lot of your leisure time in community activities like church volunteering, tutoring young people, or working at ethnic/regional festivals, you can see the parallels between those activities and the Social personality type.

if you enjoy hunting and fishing, restoring old cars, or playing cards and games, these activities are more associated with the Realistic personality type.
No single leisure interest magically shows you the right career path. But when you think about your “off the clock” activities in light of Holland’s Theory, they provide you with more helpful, relevant information for your career decision.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Realistic meets Artistic beautifully.

I couldn't resist posting this photo I took of this beautiful park bathroom in Lincoln Park in Seattle. The Realistic personality type (architect, engineer) meets the Artistic personality type in true WPA Project (1930s) fashion. Unusual personality combinations like this can work out well.

We also nicknamed this the Hobbit bathroom because it looks like an underground house out of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 children's book The Hobbit. The chimney-like tubes sticking up are skylights.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let's get to (satisfying) work!

Democrats and Republicans working together - let's hope the future holds progress in growing good jobs and career options for America.

Career development professionals have a few lessons to offer our government leaders and the American people about success. As Oprah would say, "this is what I know for sure”:
  • Self-confidence (self-efficacy, visualization, whatever you want to call it) increases our chances of success. It’s not naivete, it’s called goal-setting.
  • Stretch yourselves to reach higher, realistic goals. Low expectations result in low achievement.
  • Economic growth is the engine for better career opportunities. Whatever path you choose to encourage economic growth – know when to regulate and when to leave business alone. And please, grow more jobs outside the service sector. And while you're at it, improve access to training/education for people who want it.
  • We are all responsible for our own destiny. In the end, whether someone chooses to graduate high school, learn new skills, or put up with an unsatisfying job, the individual is the one to live with his or her choices.
With all the challenges ahead, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to (satisfying) work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Parents: activities to encourage your child's career awareness

As part of National Career Development month, the National Career Development Association (NCDA) has made available an excellent list of career awareness activities for parents and teachers to use. Just visit the NCDA website page here and download the free PDF under "NCD Month Resources" called "K-12 Activities." There are classroom and home activities broken down by age group.

Our website offers more expert help to parents, including Eight Positive Ways to Affect Your Child's Career. Your Child's Career is another helpful website that will give you more ideas.