Why Isn’t Career Counseling Working for Me?

A Guest Post by Nisa ChitakasemNita

You’ve been working with a career counselor for a while, but you aren’t seeing any results. With each passing session you feel like you’re wasting a lot of time and money. You’re not moving forward in your career and you’re wondering why this relationship isn’t everything you thought it would be.

Too often we turn up to see a life/career coach and we expect everything to be automatically wonderful. Did we even stop to think about what we wanted out of the sessions or why we were going in the first place? You must be clear on what you want for counseling to work.

To be clear you must know yourself. Before your next appointment with your counselor, reflect on your life and experiences and write down your strengths, skills, and passions. Looking at these lists, where can they take you next in your career? Where is it you want to go?
A career coach can only guide you if you have a vague idea of which direction you want to be guided in. A good career professional will guide you in the right direction, not make your decisions for you, which is why we can’t go to a counseling or guidance session and expect to be completely passive throughout the process. Get involved and take control of your own career.

Your relationship with a career counselor can consist of conversations going all over the place- bouncing between the past and future and different aspects of your life and career. This is why you must have clarity on what you want. The conversation should always come back to you and want you want, right here, and right now.

Editor’s note: For more about career coaches and counselors, see Quintessential Careers Directory of Life and Career Coaches, which includes links to articles about career coaches and counselors. Nisa Chitakasem is the founder of Position Ignition – a careers company dedicated to taking you to the next step in your career. Nisa is passionate about helping individuals find the right career path for them whether it involves finding a more rewarding career, making a career change, figuring out the right career plan or being creative about career directions. For free advice, guidance and information on careers visit the Position Ignition Career Blog or find her on Twitter: @PosIgnition or Facebook.

Career Change from Factory Worker to Real Estate

Johannah writes:
CareerChangeI am 46 and thinking of changing my job from factory worker to real estate. I am currently taking a class for real estate. and have been offered jobs by two people. I am presently working where I have insurance and medical benefits. Do you think I should take benefits into consideration for the amount of money I should ask for?

I won’t be able to get commission until I get my licenses. Do they usually offer benefits to people who plan to be a licensed salesperson in real estate? I am not sure just what to expect and what I should beware of. I had asked for part-time, and they said they need full-time.

The other one said fine for part-time and did not say much about how I would get paid. What do you think I should do?


The Career Doctor responds:
Making a career change is a big step, and it sounds as though you have taken some good first steps in terms of taking classes and networking your way to two potential job offers. I’m a little concerned because I don’t see many details about the two offers other than one has to be full-time and the other could be either full- or part-time.

Here’s what you need to decide: How much income do you need over the next year or so? How much do you have in savings or other liquid accounts for emergencies? Do you need the insurance and medical benefits – or can you afford to pay those on your own?

Without knowing all the details, I would suggest staying on in your current job, continue taking classes and working toward your license, and work for the company that offered the part-time position so you can get your feet wet and decide if this is really the career change you want to make. By following this plan, you keep your current salary and benefits while trying out the new career and moving forward in the direction to make a transition.

In terms of salary and other types of job comparisons, you might check out RealEstateJobs.com.

Portraying Military Job as Applicable in Civilian World

TransitionZachery writes:
I have just retired as a jet-engine mechanic from the US Air Force.

I am experienced in all phases of repair troubleshooting, trimming, buildup, and management of aircraft and jet-engine repair.

My question is: how does this experience translate into a career in the civilian sector?


The Career Doctor responds:
The first thing I want you to do is consider all your transferable skills – not just your mechanical skills, but also all those other skills related to being in the military.

The second step is to go and visit some of the sites listed at Quintessential Careers: Job Resources for Veterans and Former Military. One of our favorite sites on the list is Transition Assistance Online, which provides free services to separating military service members to assist you in finding their next job or career with employers seeking to hire individuals with the unique training, education, skills and leadership that only the military provides.

See also our section inspired by our 2013 Job Action Day, with numerous articles and resources generated by that event, and our Career, Job, and Entrepreneurial Tools for Transitioning Veterans & Former Military.

Finally, once you done a full self-analysis and determined all your skills and accomplishments, I would suggest looking for jobs in all the traditional methods: networking, other offline job searching, job-hunting on the Net, etc. We outline all these steps in our tutorial, Quintessential
Careers: Job Search 101
.

Lack of Response to Online Applications

RSVPAnonymous writes:
I have been searching online for a job in a particular geographical region for the past few months and have been surprised by the number of submissions to which I get no response at all. I would expect at least an acknowledgment of receipt. Is this a new trend in online recruiting due to the number of responses companies receive, or should I be concerned that I am not projecting myself correctly? Or, even that the companies are not receiving my email?


The Career Doctor responds:
Not having quite enough information, let me see if I can still help you and give you some useful advice. A first – and most important – lesson of job-hunting, regardless of whether online or offline, is that employers do not respond to all job-seekers. Employers are constantly getting letters and emails about job openings – even more so when they have a published job opening – and most that I have ever known simply do not have the resources to respond to every single applicant. So, the simple truth is that you simply cannot expect to hear back from many of the employers you contact.

The second lesson – and just about as important – is that you need to be proactive with your job search. Employers won’t hunt you down just because you emailed them a job application. The old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, is true – up to a point – in job-hunting. Once you’ve submitted an application or mailed a cover letter and resume, you MUST plan to contact each employer and ask for the job interview. But one caveat: Do NOT contact the employer so often that you become a nuisance – you’re will not get the interview by being annoying.

So, get back on your computer and follow up all your job leads. You can try and do it via email, but you may also want to track down some phone numbers and make personal contact. Very few people have gotten a job by sitting back and waiting to hear from the employers, so go for it!

Researching Computer-Science Field

KeyboardBrian writes:
I am looking for any information on computer-science-related careers. I need to find out a job description, training required, duties or responsibilities, salary, and job outlook. Could you help me with any of this information?


The Career Doctor responds:
Computer and high-tech careers remain high up on all the lists I’ve seen for the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. Some of the top job classifications include:

  • Computer Scientists, Computer Engineers, and Systems Analysts
  • Computer Support Specialists
  • Database Administrators

You might want to take a spin at some of the computer-related job sites and see the specific requirements and salaries of their current openings. You can find a list of the best of them at Quintessential Careers: Technical, IT, and Computer Jobs.

Advice on Creating a Winning Resume When You’re Convinced Your Jobs Were Ho-Hum

HoHumMichelle writes:
I have found my dream job, but I am having a hard time writing the “winning” resume. I had average grades in school, wasn’t in any sports, and I’m not a member of anything other than a women’s club (basically I’m on a list and get a newsletter, no involvement).

I have a fairly steady work history, but all my jobs are ho-hum when it comes to accomplishments. Resume advice always says to quantify your successes. Well, I have been a pharmacy technician for 8 years … filling prescriptions and typing data into a computer – not too much to say about that. I was a data-entry person for about 1.5 years, and I don’t have a very good review from my boss in that area. I am currently an eligibility analyst (I look in a computer to see if a client’s files are loaded into our database) … Not too challenging.


The Career Doctor responds:

There are all sorts of ways to “quantify” your successes and skills, but first you need to step back and do a better job of identifying what they are. You remind me of a young woman who came to us for advice after several years as of doing clerical and secretarial work. She thought her experience and skills would not help her get the job of her dreams, but she was wrong.

What you need to do is change the way you look at your experiences. I suggest you read the section on transferable skills at Quintessential Careers, starting with Strategic Portrayal of Transferable Skills is a Vital Job-search Technique, by Katharine Hansen. I am quite confident that once you’ve read this section, you’ll be able to go back and write a strong resume based on your new understanding of your skills and accomplishments.

Reverting Publications to Maiden Name

Anonymous writes:
I have a question that is plaguing me. I published several research works under my married name and now I am divorced. I need to list my publications on my new resume (or CV) and the names do not agree. Moreover, I am loathe to disclose my former marriage. Can I use my maiden name in my publications? It is, after all, me. Or must I use a one-liner disclosing my prior name? If so, where do i do this?


The Career Doctor responds:
Please, whatever you do, do not change your name in your publications to your maiden name because if a potential employer were to look up the article and find a different name, the immediate assumption may be that you are lying on your resume or vitae, and that’s the end of your chance with that organization.

I suggest one of two simple remedies. First, and perhaps the easiest, is to simply include your maiden name in parenthesis, so, for example, if you were Mary Smith when you published those research works and you now go by Mary Jones, simply add the Jones on your vita, such as Mary (Jones) Smith.

Second, you could do the same thing on your resume as you would if an organization you worked for changed its name. Under your name at the top of your vitae, you could place, in smaller type, your former name … thus Mary Jones in large type, (formerly Mary Smith) in smaller type directly underneath.

Employers have no reason to ask you about the name change, so I think you are worried for nothing. Just make one of the simple changes mentioned above and be done with it.

No Clue about What to Do

CluelessAnonymous writes:
I am lost. I have no clue what type of jobs are out there for me. All I know is these few things about myself: I am a natural-born leader, I love working with people, and I love watching something work for me.

I am currently halfway through college, but still haven’t decided what is right for me. I went after business administration and then thought that it wasn’t for me.

I would like to know what jobs are “hot” by the time I graduate.

I am afraid of getting into a career that I feel I will regret.
Please help.


The Career Doctor responds:
First things first. Relax! Here are some things to keep in the back of your mind as you contemplate your future. The degree is the most important thing, so while it would be helpful to get it exactly in your future career field, your major is not as important as the degree itself. And no matter what career you enter upon graduating from college, you can change it any time you like – and if you are like most people, you will end up changing your career field many times over the course of your life.
Many new college grads sort of stumble out of college into a job/career that they find is not what they wanted or expected – and they simply move on.

It’s great that you have already identified your skills and passions – it’s the first step toward identifying potential careers. And certainly from your description, a career in business makes sense.

It’s also important to look at forecasts of jobs/careers that are going to be in demand, but keep in mind that it’s more important to find a fit with a job and career path that matches your skills and interests.
So, I recommend talking with some recent alums about their jobs, talking with your professors, and visiting the career services office at your school.

All three of these sources should give you some good ideas about careers. And if you really do want to read about hot and growing career fields, you can look online to the U.S. Department of Labor’s
Bureau of Labor Statistics – in the section titled “Tomorrow’s Jobs.”

Some Quintessential Careers resources that will be useful for you:

Job Omitted from Resume Will Likely Show Up in Background Check

CAREERSKELETONOmar writes:

My quandary is that I left a food-packaging company under less than ideal terms (but I was not fired) due to personality issues.

I made the mistake of listing these problems in a letter to the HR department there hoping I could collect unemployment insurance (which I was unsuccessful in doing).

My question is, do you think I should leave the food-packaging company off my resume as it may create issues when getting to the background check part of the process?


The Career Doctor responds:
Whether or not you leave the questionable job off your resume, it will come up in a background check. You are better off leaving it on because when it does come up in the background check, it will look like you were hiding something if you leave if off. For more on background checks, read
Employment Background Checks: Minimize Skeletons that Employers Might Find.

5 Things to Learn About a Company Before Your Job Interview

FiveA Guest Post by Kate Willson
An essential part of job interview preparation is doing your homework on the company itself. Having this pertinent information fresh on your mind before shaking hands with your interviewer will help you feel more prepared and will equip you with quality talking points as the interview progresses. Employers take note of candidates that are educated not only on the responsibilities of the job opening in question, but also on the company itself. This demonstrates to employers that you are competent and that you made the decision to apply for the job after considering the facts, rather than just out of desperation for a job.
Here are the five most significant things to learn about your company:

1. Company Mission Statement and Basic Facts
If you are in a time crunch and don’t have the luxury of studying up on a company thoroughly, make sure you at least jot down some mental notes from the company’s website. Go immediately to the “About Us” and “Mission Statement” portions of the site.

Learn what it is that the company does and familiarize yourself with the products and/or services provided by that company.

Great basic facts to learn about a company include: the location of your company’s headquarters, if the company is international, how many people the company employs and if the company has gone public.

Some mission statements are more informative and useful than others, but many give you a glimpse of how the company wants to represent itself to the public and what the company values. For example, some mission statements will emphasize that the company is committed to environmental responsibility; others will emphasize superior customer service. In an interview, you can use this knowledge to explain how your values and objectives line up with the company’s.

2. What Sets the Company Apart From its Competitors?
Today’s top companies compete with numerous others in their industry and strive to set themselves apart by offering unique products and services or providing a different customer experience. Being educated in how a company is doing things differently is a great point of emphasis in your interview, particularly if the interviewer asks you what attracted you to the company. Studying up on this little detail will help prepare you with an educated answer. Here’s an example of such an answer: “I noticed that other financial services firms focus on high-income individuals, but your company specializes in building wealth for lower income brackets. This strategy is something I thought I could really get on board with.”

3. What is Being Said About the Company in the News and Through Social Networks?
The actions of large corporations are often reported by local and national news media, particularly if the corporation employs a significant number of people. If the company to which you are applying is not large enough to be of interest to news outlets, it may still have a marketing team that issues press releases that it publishes on a company blog, online newsletter or a social networking site.

If the company is on Facebook or Twitter, visit the company’s page and read up on what the company is saying there to fans and followers.

You may even be able to network with others who work for the company through these outlets and learn what to expect from the company from its current employees.

4. How the Company is Structured
Do what you can to learn the chain of command at the company you are applying to. For instance, some companies are set up as follows:

Entry-level associate, department supervisor, assistant manager, manager, regional manager, district manager, etc. Is there a board of directors? A corporate headquarters? How does the corporate face differ from the regional face or from the retail face?

5. Who’s in Charge?
From the top down, do some research on who calls the shots at the company. Know the name of the CEO and key top management of the company.

If the company you are applying to is not large, know the name of the manager or top supervisor you will be answering to.

Final Thoughts
The more you know about a company, the better prepared you will be to answer questions and the more competent you will come across to employers and HR personnel. Doing due diligence on a company is also a great way to come up with potential questions for your interviewer.

There is no such thing as being too prepared for a job interview or too knowledgeable about a prospective employer.

Kate Willson writes on the topic of best online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email: katewillson2(at)gmail.com.