Career Key

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Choosing a Career in the Humanities

If you're considering a career as a college professor, choosing a college major in the humanities, or going to graduate school in the humanities, you need to read Patricia Cohen's article in yesterday's New York Times: "In Tough Times, The Humanities Must Justify Their Worth." By humanities, Ms. Cohen includes "languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion."

Some of the 300+ comments are worth reading too - readers talking about their own career choices in the humanities.

It's true that career paths go through ups and downs in popularity and outlook. But the question of whether a humanities degree, undergraduate or graduate, is worth the investment (monetary and time) has been around for awhile.

My take is that if you have a clearly defined career goal in mind, you will be more likely to achieve it - whether you want to teach philosophy at an elite college or write critically acclaimed novels.

The problem with getting a humanities degree is that if you just choose one because you have no career goals, you're more likely to suffer in finding a job later - rendering your investment less useful. At least if you "fall into" most science or technology degrees (nuclear physics maybe not so much), you have more career options to fall back on. Science and math skills are the foundation for many jobs.

Bottom line: choose your career path before choosing a training program, college major or graduate school. Do your research and investigation early - don't wait until after you've taken out all the loans, gotten the diploma, and are sitting in Career Services wondering what job to apply for. Get started with the 3 steps at our website:
  1. Know yourself,
  2. Know your options, and
  3. Make a good decision.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Career Network Safety Net: 3 Tips for Keeping It Strong

By choosing a career you enjoy, you’re more likely to pay attention to it. You’ll give your career path the care and upkeep it needs. Part of keeping your skills current and in demand is knowing your industry and having a strong personal network – people who serve as a sounding board, give you information what’s going on with other employers, teach you new skills, and set an example you want to follow.

A career network safety net includes people who support and strengthen you in your career, with whom you stay in touch and connect.

Here are 3 tips for keeping your network strong:
  1. Don’t wait until you need something to make contact. Try to set up regular contacts – whether through a coffee date, an email newsletter, attending a group networking meeting, or a phone call.
  2. Offer to help when someone needs it, even if you think you don’t have time for it or you think they don't need your help. If someone loses their job or has a personal crisis, try to find a way you can help – even if it’s just a phone call to lend support. You know how karma works…
  3. Set a monthly goal for maintaining your network. Whether it is attending a networking function or making one phone call, doing something will keep you from killing the goose that lays the golden egg – your network.
I thought of this topic because over the last few months I’ve heard from friends and colleagues I haven’t heard from in awhile (and with whom I have not stayed in regular contact). It reminded me that in times of crisis and uncertainty, it’s your relationships to people that matter the most. People who listen (who you trust not to share your information with the world) and people who are sources for job search advice and connections. People with whom you've built rapport.

I need to improve my attention to my personal and professional relationships – maybe you do too. Let's remember to regularly reach out to our friends and colleagues in our weekly/monthly/yearly goal setting.

P.S. Having trouble tracking and categorizing your networking contacts? Read this blog post by social media expert Chris Brogan.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free Agent Workers Do a Good Job

If you want better control of your career destiny as a “free agent” in the world of work, do a good job wherever you work. This principle (#4 of 6) of The Free Agent Outlook on Work seems so obvious, and yet you would be surprised.

We've all met people who have given up on their jobs - their careers - their clothes. Or people who continue to work for a bad boss. In addition to the fashion makeover show, TLC's What Not to Wear, we should have a career makeover show for people whose career choice is the equivalent of a velour pantsuit. (can you believe Blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize the word "velour"?) The Free Agent is not "comfy."

The real standard is not to be perfect, but to overall meet and exceed your job’s performance objectives – whether that’s finishing a beautiful piece of art for an upcoming exhibition or checking in code for a programming project.

As I alluded to in last week’s post about faking sick leave, if you find you’re not performing well in your current job – regardless of who's to blame, it’s time to either get help with improving your current situation or move on.

Take a few minutes to answer these questions:

1. Are you a glass “half full” or “half empty” person? Studies show that if you have a negative outlook on life, you are more likely to be dissatisfied with your work, no matter what you choose to do. See my future post on Free Agent Principle #6 “Think Right Thoughts.”

2. Are your problems temporary or long-term? Maybe the issue is a divorce, money problems, illness or death of a loved one. If challenges from your personal life are spilling over at work, make a plan for how to move forward. Paralysis and denial will not work for long, especially if your supervisor is one of the few who actually does written performance reviews.

3. Are you in the right career and job? Figure out whether it’s the job you’re in now or the whole career path. In your work world or industry, if you’re around people you don’t like on a consistent basis, then maybe you are in the wrong Holland [personality] work environment.

4. What is your next career step? Make plans for your next career decision: your next job and how to reach your personal career goals. You know the drill - you need to set goals to achieve them.

Next Free Agent Principle: Be Loyal to Your Friends and Family… Stay tuned.

For the previous posts for this 6 part series see:
The 6 Principles of the Free Agent Worker
Principle #1: Know and Strengthen Your Marketable Skills
Principle #2: Stay Mobile
Principle #3: Watch Your Company and Industry

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Do you need to fake sick leave? Time to Evaluate Your Career

If you take a sick leave day when you’re not really sick, does this mean you’re:
(a) sharp, just working “the system,”
(b) a deadbeat loser, destined for the fiery place, or
(c) in the wrong job or career?

(c) is the right answer. (I'm sure I'll get someone saying All of the Above). But really, no one who is satisfied with his or her job needs to fake a sick day. Yesterday I came to this conclusion as I lay in bed instead of working, worn out and nauseous from food poisoning the previous night. No one needs to call in sick if they enjoy their job, as I do.

Once I had to take a polygraph test to be hired for a law enforcement job. I was asked whether I had ever called in sick when I wasn’t. To the interviewer’s obvious surprise, I answered “no.” That’s anecdotal proof that he didn’t get that answer very often. This doesn’t mean I am a saintly person or that this was the first job I ever had. The only job I’ve disliked that much I left. I highly recommend the sick leave litmus test for job satisfaction.

To end on a light note, sick leave allowed me to watch a few episodes of Bravo TV’s “Make Me A Supermodel.” Ah, the old debate over who is narcissistic and who is self-confident. Highly successful people seem to know the difference – do you?

I’ve written before about boosting your self-confidence as part of career planning and learning new skills. I don’t have runway tips but I think these will be more useful.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Looking for Career Options and Career Opportunities in President Obama’s Stimulus Package?

If you’d like to know more about what career options and opportunities the new stimulus package offers, I just came across an excellent, timely book for your career research: Great Jobs in the President’s Stimulus Plan by Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D. (JIST 2009) Although I have not yet read it, if it is as helpful as Dr. Shatkin’s other books like 50 Best Jobs for Your Personality, then it is definitely worth reading. I look forward to checking it out.

Once you learn more about yourself and your goals, career information resources like these will help you learn more about career options that match your personality.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Being a Career Free Agent: Employer and Industry Red Flags to Watch For

Part 3 of 6: The Free Agent Outlook on Work: watch your company and industry.

Complacency, ennui, boredom, apathy – whatever you want to call it – is your career enemy. Get out your compass and decide where you’re going next – preferably a career that will keep you interested.

Now doesn’t seem the best time to quit your job, but it is a good time to think ahead about your next job or career change. Watching your employer and being knowledgeable about your industry trends will come naturally if you are satisfied with your career path. If you’re laid off, you’ll still need to evaluate your career situation. For tips on doing that, visit our article on Career Change.

Here are some red flags to watch and prepare for, even in a recession:
  • large technology changes in your industry
  • reorganizations and significant changes in upper management
  • business owner or boss close to retirement
  • new or changing government regulation of your industry
  • changes in your industry’s overall business model – does your employer’s revenue now depend solely on online advertising? Selling municipal bonds?
  • company culture that tolerates unethical or inappropriate employee behavior (including managers). Forget what the employee handbook says, are people “walking the walk” or just talking?
  • poor management of the company - bad investment decisions, failure to adapt to changing market conditions...
Although it may take awhile, poor management will filter down to your level. When bad managers run the company, including those who may be “nice” but tolerate poor performance, the company’s business suffers. They do not adapt to change, they make poor layoff choices, etc. You don’t want to be working there for long.

You may think to yourself, how do I get all this “inside” information? People, people, people. Not everything your coworkers tell you may be true (intentionally or unintentionally), but it doesn't hurt to chat up your friendly tech support person, your friend in finance, or attend and ask around at your next networking event. Are good employees or managers leaving your employer? If you can, find out why. You’d be surprised what you can learn when you’re paying attention.

Next Free Agent Principle: do your job well. Seems pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised...Stay tuned.

For the previous posts for this 6 part series see:
The 6 Principles of the Free Agent Worker
Principle #1: Know and Strengthen Your Marketable Skills
Principle #2: Stay Mobile

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thank a School Counselor - Celebrate National School Counseling Week

Whether you have a child in school, work as a school counselor, or work alongside them, this is the week to express your support for and appreciation of school counselors. The U.S. House and Senate both passed resolutions designating this week as National School Counseling Week.

For more information, go to the American School Counselor Association’s website.

Today I came across school counselor and leader Robert Bardwell’s column for a Massachusetts newspaper, The Republican. He brings up an excellent point: the typical school counselor today is not the same one you yourself may have encountered as a student. The profession has been reinvented with new responsibilities and talent.

And we need school counselors more than ever. Think about where our country is today – with one of the lowest high school graduation rates among developed countries. School counselors are not the cure-all, but they certainly help, through efforts in student support, advocacy and career education.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The best career book is here!

The 2009 What Job is Best for Me? career eBook is now available in the Career Key eBookstore. This eBook shows science-based, high-quality career advice doesn’t need to be boring, overwhelming, or expensive.

Newly updated and expanded, our most popular eBook is a great companion to our scientifically valid career test, The Career Key. The 2009 What Job is Best for Me? guides you through the process of choosing the right career. And it’s reasonably priced at $8.95. Save 20% more when you purchase both the test and eBook together. Learn more and see a link to the Table of Contents here.

Plus, you can feel good about a Career Key purchase. 10% of our profits go to charities like:

We also support career guidance in developing countries – through local, private entrepreneurs and agencies like USAID and UNICEF. Learn more from our latest newsletter.

Our eBook format is unusual – in fact, I haven’t seen any other career books like it. You navigate easily within the eBook to different topics, including a new section on how to create your own Career Portfolio. You are also allowed to print it – unlike other eBooks.

Career Key author Dr. Jones chose this eBook format because it’s easy to use and practical - our mission has always been to help people make the best career choices. I look forward to your feedback - so far, the response has been fantastic - thank you!