Career Key

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Free Agent Worker Principle #2: Stay Mobile and Visible

Staying Mobile is the second of the 6 Principles of the Free Agent Worker. What does it mean to “stay mobile”? In her earlier comment, Angie from Caribbean Career Advice got it right. She said it could mean, "available", "flexible", "visible", "participatory" or "involved."

You need to see yourself as an actor on a stage, someone who takes action and takes control of his or her life. This applies whether your career is repairing home appliances or teaching extension classes at a local college. Get over any stigma of "selling yourself." If you follow the suggestions in this post, you won't need to sell anything. Let your actions speak for themselves.

Many people become too entrenched and too “in love” with their current employer – and in some cases, their industry. Narrowing your worldview to one workplace places your fate in one employer’s hands – not a great idea, even in a hot economy.

I’m not suggesting you set your sights so broad that you try to be all things to all people – just prepare yourself to make the next move, before you need to. Depending on where you work, that may require you to switch industries or job titles. Learning about the criteria for job satisfaction will help you think about what you want in your current job and the next one.

Here are some suggestions on how to stay mobile by making yourself visible.
  • Join at least one networking group for your industry (see our tips in my recent post, career specific networking), and plan on attending at least 50% of the meetings. After going for awhile, you'll meet people and learn new information about other employers and your industry. At some point, you'll feel comfortable in contributing to the group - either in leadership or giving a talk.
  • If your industry doesn’t have a networking group, try one that bolsters skills you need in your job (Toastmasters for public speaking, etc.)
  • Offer to volunteer with one group or nonprofit, using skills and/or knowledge needed in your career.
  • If you don’t enjoy going to the group after a few tries, think about why that is and try a different group. Does the reason have to do with you, or with the group itself? Are you meeting other like-minded people? If you have trouble talking to strangers (like I do), go online or get library books at with helpful advice, or team up with a more outgoing colleague who will go with you. Just make sure you branch out when you get to the meeting.
  • Don’t be afraid to join a group or volunteer where you think people are more educated, outgoing, or interesting than you are. Chances are, you underestimate yourself. As we all learned in grade school (and nothing has changed), who you “hang out” with will rub off on you. You might as well spend time with and learn from other successful, motivated people.
Never lose sight of your goal to be someone available, flexible, visible, and ready for a new opportunity. That’s not disloyalty to your current employer, that’s being smart.

Monday, January 26, 2009

WRAL-TV Profiles The Career Key: Moving Forward Using a Career Assessment

On January 19, as part of their "Here to Help: 5 on Your Side" series, WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina profiled The Career Key in an interview with Thu Washington, coordinator of counseling services at Wake Technical Community College. Watch "Career assessments can help you move forward" by clicking here. I love how reporter Monica Laliberte's colleagues agree with the personality score she received after taking The Career Key - that she liked being her own boss. I can relate...

op local, national and international education non-profits and companies license The Career Key test and website content. One of them, the State of North Carolina's College Foundation of North Carolina, was also profiled in the segment. I've blogged recently about how I'm a big personal fan of CFNC; their loans made it possible for me to attend Princeton University.

Ms. Laliberte did an excellent job of quickly focusing viewers' attention on how CFNC and The Career Key link users, not only with careers that match their personality but also in depth information about each career they want to explore - tailored to North Carolina. In the TV news format, it's hard to present information about online services in an engaging way but Ms. Laliberte did just that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Know and Strengthen Your Job Skills You Enjoy: The Good News

In the rush of daily work, many of us forget to do regular “maintenance” with our job skills. Maintaining our attractiveness on the job market means identifying our skills, strengthening and adding to them, Principle #1 in my blog series, 6 Principles of the Free Agent Outlook on Work.

The more scarce and in demand your skills are, the more likely you will get or keep a job – in other words, marketable skills. The good news is that skills can be both “marketable” and “enjoyable” – you just need to plan it that way.

The following 5 actions will help make you a successful Free Agent using marketable skills you enjoy:

1. Identify your skills, including the “Foundation Skills” and your “motivated skills”, those you enjoy using. You can do this by following the steps in Career Key author Dr. Lawrence K. Jones’s article, “Identify Your Skills.

2. Match your personality with careers, keeping in mind what you learned about your “motivated skills.” Your Career Key test results and the skills you identified will show you the direction most likely to result in job satisfaction.

3. Know what skills your industry, desired employer, and career path requires. If you’re in the right career – one that matches your personality, it should require your “motivated skills.” If not, then you need to re-evaluate your career path. What you don’t enjoy, you will not do well in the long term.

4. Strengthen the skills you enjoy and that your career requires. You can do this in several ways:
  • take training or classes (paid for by your employer or by yourself),
  • seek out people with skills you lack or are weak in, and spend time with and learn from them. This could be in your social life and on the job,
  • ask for certain work assignments, and/or start a project outside of your job (small business, volunteer).
5. Clearly communicate your skills and accomplishments to employers, whether you are interviewing or in a performance evaluation meeting. If you don’t get performance evaluations, find appropriate ways to make sure your boss – and if possible, your boss’s boss, knows about your skills. For example, if your project made money for the company, find ways to publicly thank people who helped you on the project.

Successful Free Agents need to be ready to tell a prospective employer what their skills are, how they used them in the past, and how they will use them in the future to help the employer achieve their goals (profits, helping people, etc). Preparing yourself using these exercises will make you a successful Free Agent.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Embracing Challenging Career Options: Part 1, Careers for Women in Science

After an inspiring Inauguration Day, it seems appropriate to talk about taking on challenging career options. This post is one of several I'll be writing about them. This week, it's women in science.

If you’re a woman considering a science career, you’re already aware of some of the challenges that lie ahead – whether you encountered them in the classroom, in an internship, or on the job. I don't just mean outright discrimination, but also peer pressure (anti-geek chic), not having as many female role models, and a lack of female supporters/like-minded friends.

Some believe/hope President Obama is ushering in an era of “geek chic” and greater support for scientific inquiry – and women in science. I recommend Natalie Angier’s excellent article yesterday in the New York Times about the status of women in science careers.

No matter what changes President Obama brings to federal grants and support for scientists and their families, I don’t think the fundamental challenges facing women in science or working women in general will change until the American culture and workplace embraces more practical support for family loyalty and obligations. By practical support I mean flexible schedules, penalty-free “time outs” for women to meet family obligations (children, illness, or parents), and top quality affordable childcare, to name my top three.

What inspires me is not how many women are in certain positions, but what kinds of lives they lead.
  • Have they been able to have a family if they wanted one?
  • Could they pursue other passions outside of work to enjoy a full professional and personal life?
  • Do women feel satisfied with their professional and work goals at the twilight of their careers?
Contribution to society, family and work/life balance are likely some of the issues you’re examining in your career decision and as part of completing your Decision Balance Sheet.

If you want to see how other women are managing, I scratched the surface and found some inspirational, fun, and informative websites and blogs on women in science. Their blogrolls and links lead to others…Please suggest others you find helpful.

List of Women in Math websites, Agnes Scott College
Biography of Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman, President of Princeton University
Women in Science Blog
Sciencewomen: a scientist and an engineer being the change we want to see (Blog)
Association for Women in Science, see their comprehensive list of women in science organizations. a curious look at Women’s Adventures in Science (for young women)
On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess (Blog)
See Jane Compute (Blog)

My advice is to embrace the contradictions of raising a family alongside a career path and find female mentors who had and achieved similar goals to yours. It won’t be easy, but you should write your own plan that fits you best. Whether it takes 10 years to get tenure or 5. Who wants to sit around and wait for change? And don't forget your sense of humor - you'll need it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

6 Principles of the Free Agent Worker

No matter what the economy is doing, following these timeless 6 Principles of the Free Agent Worker will lead to greater control over your career and more success.
  1. Know and Strengthen Your Marketable Skills.
  2. Stay Mobile.
  3. Watch Your Company and Industry.
  4. Do Your Job Well.
  5. Be Loyal to Yourself and Your Family.
  6. Think “Right” Thoughts.
What often trips people up is not paying attention – just going through the motions wherever they work. Being in denial about your boredom or unhappiness is almost as bad as actively hating your job - the result is the same, job dissatisfaction.

If you lack the opportunity at work to use skills you enjoy, then it’s time to learn about and identify your motivated skills. It’s time to pay attention to yourself and what you need for satisfying work. Following the 6 principles listed above will give you a well-rounded approach to your work – keeping you in control of your future.

In the next six blog posts, I’ll examine each of these principles in more detail. I have a few examples from my own life to share...Feel free to share yours too!

Let's get started: Principle #1: Know and Strengthen the Job Skills You Enjoy

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Your Best Self and Your Career: Working Your “Career Core”

Visualize yourself working in a career that you enjoy and you are proud of. Imagine getting up in the morning to a cheerful, challenging day – one where you have enough pressure to perform well, where you use your motivated skills, and laugh or smile during the day. This is your “Career core” and best self – a place where you feel productive, useful, and hopeful.

Using a fitness metaphor this time of year seems appropriate, especially for choosing a career. If you focus on your “core” by:
you’ll narrow your career options to the ones most likely to lead to job satisfaction – the visual I described at the beginning. The smaller but important details will follow, like the salary you want and balanced work hours.

Unfortunately, many people don’t do the work to sit down and evaluate themselves and what they enjoy. Isn’t that strange? Especially when you consider these exercises are a lot easier to do than going to the gym. No need to go on national television in a sports bra or spandex pants and step on a scale. All you need to do is pick up a pen and click a mouse….

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Using the Career Personality Test To Jumpstart Your Career Planning

A valid career personality test is just one tool for making a career choice but one of the most important. By giving you a concrete, science based way to jumpstart your career planning, you will be more likely to take action and make a decision you won’t regret.

Three of the biggest challenges in choosing or changing a career are:
  • Getting started – what to do first?
  • Narrowing your career choices to a “short list” of options.
  • Making and following through on your decision.
Taking several valid career tests can help you overcome these challenges by giving you a:
  • concrete first step to immediately take,
  • proven, accurate way to narrow your options, and
  • confidence builder by knowing your decision is based on proven science, making it more likely that you’ll follow through on your decision.
Holland’s Theory of Career Choice, on which our career tests are based, is the most popular, most researched and well-established career theory in the world. Helping you locate yourself in the world of work is its greatest benefit. The Career Key test is a scientifically valid measure of the 6 Holland personality types.

If you’re still having trouble focusing or getting started on your career plan, I recently found this excellent online resource with great tips on how to concentrate. When you get to summarizing your objectives and setting a “general strategy of accomplishment,” look to our most popular page, “Getting Started,” to show you the way.

I also recommend visiting my previous posts: 5 tips for choosing the best career test and Career Test Results. Our 3 websites, The Career Key, The Career Key Canada, and The Self-Employment Key, offer one of the few scientifically valid career tests on the Internet.

As always, I enjoy hearing from you. How have you successfully used valid career tests to get started and focus your efforts?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tips for Motivating Yourself for Career Planning

It’s tough to get motivated to evaluate your career path, whether you’re a directionless college student or a well-established professional with family obligations. A big stumbling block to career change is the fact that something about your current situation works for you. Otherwise you likely wouldn’t be there. (Except if you’ve been hit by a bus…)

Some examples:
  • You’re underemployed (working in a boring job that doesn’t challenge you) but you receive a steady paycheck needed for your family.
  • You’re a college student who has chosen a major but has no idea what career path you want to take after college. Maybe you don’t want to face life’s reality that you can’t live off student loans/parents forever. Or you think “real” work, by definition, can never be fun.
  • You’ve been laid off, out of work and directionless for several months. You suffered blows to your self-confidence; and you have a limited monetary and family support system.
I’m not trying to be the “Dr. Phil” of career choice and say, “that dog don’t hunt” to people in the above examples. I just want to give you a push to say, stop talking about how much you don’t like your job or you don’t know what to do next – and do SOMETHING.

Start by writing down:
  1. Positive aspects or comforts of your current career situation. Even unemployment can be a “pro” – think of all the time you have to work out! Talk to friends on the phone, surf the Internet (even if it’s for free at the library). Yes, I've been unemployed before so I know what I am talking about.
  2. Negatives of your current career situation. Go beyond “not making enough money” and look at yourself – “I don’t feel challenged” or “I find little to no joy or fun in my work.”
  3. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? If so, you’re not ready for change.
  4. Take small steps to evaluate your career path. Even if it’s for a half hour after work each day. Getting started with the suggested activities in these 3 steps will lead to a career choice you won’t regret:
1. Know Yourself.
2. Know Your Options.
3. Make a Good Decision.

Get a cup of coffee and pick up your pen. Good luck!