What to Say, Ask in a Networking Situation

Sally writes:
What are the most important things to communicate when networking?

NetworkingQsThe Career Doctor responds:
Be sure to tell every contact you come across – in a concise way – exactly what you want to do and what you can offer. (Some would call this communication an elevator speech or pitch.) Then, ask every contact two questions:

  • What advice can you give me?
  • Who should I be talking to?

Think about providing mutual benefit, thinking not only of what your contacts can do for you, but what you can do for them. Also keep your contacts up to date on your progress, and thank them for even the smallest bit of help they give you.

Learn more in The Art of Career and Job-Search Networking.

Learning More about Political Analyst Jobs

Anonymous writes:
political_analyst_-_Google_SearchI have a BA in political science and soon will complete a MA in political science. My chosen career path is to become a political analyst. I can find no resources for that field. Can you to direct me to anything helpful? Also, how would you suggest I go about entering the field?

The Career Doctor responds:
As I tell all my visitors who are still in college, your best source for career information and contacts is the professors in your school – and, specifically, in your political-science department. Since you’re in a master’s program, in theory, you have two different sets of professors to network with – from your undergraduate and your graduates programs.

Go talk with them and ask questions and solicit advice.

To me, there seems to be two different kinds of political analysts – the ones who work for political parties (or similar organizations) and those who are also journalists – and I’m not sure which of the two interests you more. Either way, the best way to get into these areas is through networking.
Beyond your professors, a great starting point on the ‘Net for you should be the American Political Science Association Website.

It’s Best to Include Months with Resume Dates

Nikki writes:
MonthsWhen you state the dates for each employment period on a resume, is it OK to just use the full years (e.g., 2006-2008) or should you specify the month as well (e.g., June 2006 – Nov. 2008)?

I’ve been struggling to figure out what is better and more effective from the reader’s point of view.

I graduated undergraduate in 2008, and I’ve heard people say that it depends on how long you’ve been working for, but I wasn’t sure if that was true or not.

The Career Doctor responds:
Many job-seekers use just years, but my partner, Katharine Hansen, found when she researched a book on resume-writing that employers really want to see the months, too. Using months is the safest bet.

The length of time since graduation makes no difference.

Lack of Experience and Lack of Skills: 3 Steps to Get on Track

Loretta writes:

I live in a small, closed community, and across the river is a big city. I got my BA in art eight years ago and have been working in fast food instead of in my degree field. I have been searching for all kinds of art jobs but have been turned down because I either don’t have the computer knowledge or the work experience in the art field.

I have tried starting my own freelance business with out success either and had to return to fast food as a means to survive. I just taught myself HTML (even though I already knew BASIC and some computer skills) and still get told that I don’t have enough computer knowledge.

I must be doing something wrong. I’m bankrupt and can’t move to where the job would be.

The Career Doctor responds:

Loretta, I have a three-step program for you to get your career more on track.

First, find out exactly the types of computer knowledge you need for the types of jobs you want to get. Make sure you examine any other requirements that you do not currently have. Then go out and see if you can take some classes (locally, online, etc.) to gain those skills.

Second, volunteer at night or weekends at an art museum or other establishment – so you can get some experience. While you are doing this, you should also be able to develop some key contacts and build a network of people in the art world. (See Quintessential Careers: The Art of Networking for lots of resources and strategies for networking.)

Third, try creating a version of your resume in a chrono-functional resume focusing on your skills. While working in the fast-food industry does not automatically relate to the art industry, if you sit down and look at the skills you’ve gained and can apply, you might be surprised. These are called transferable skills, and you can learn lots more about them by visiting Quintessential Careers: Transferable Skills. Be aware that many employers disdain any kind of functional resume, so if that version doesn’t seem to be working for you, revert to a chronological version, but consider getting professional help with it to make sure it’s the best it can be. You can find help with your resume at Quintessential Careers: Resume Resources.

He Needs a Physically Less Strenuous Career

Richard writes:
PainfulBackI’m 50 and have been in the trade of automotive repair, including race-engine building, auto restoration, electronics, and general service. As the years go by, my poor older body is saying stop.

Everybody is telling me I should stay in my present trade, but I have an urge to do something else at this point. My question is – having developed skills in many areas and being capable of demonstrating them in a professionel way, what type of career should i focus? How would I be able to help myself in discovering where I fit, and where would my transferable skills be of good use with out feelling like I’ve been run over at the end of the day

The Career Doctor responds:
I always believe people should follow their passions in the work they do, but it sounds like you need to be willing to take a pay cut if you do so. As for discovering your next career, I would suggest trying some low-cost/no-cost assessments listed here.

If you decide to pursue a different career, a good resume writer can help you express the transferability of your skills.

Career that Combines Interests with “Passion for Money”

Paula writes:
MoneyPassionI am majoring in psychology and minoring in business administration. I plan to attend graduate school for business administration. I would like to travel. I am interested in making money, but I want a career that is creative, artistic, and allows me to work flexible hours. I do not want to work public relations, advertising, marketing, or accounting. Can my passion for money and interests coincide? Please help!

The Career Doctor responds:
Wow … you have a lot of interests, but also some major restrictions. My most important advice, I think, is to rethink getting your MBA. I have counseled too many undergraduate students who – for lack of a clear career direction – go to graduate school thinking it will help sharpen their career focus. Or, maybe they are just not quite ready to join the workforce.

I would recommend you talk with some of your favorite psychology and business professors and chat with them about your ideas and goals. . . they should be able to give you a little more direction.

My advice from my limited knowledge of you? You might look into careers in consulting (though you will need to take more accounting) with a firm such as Accenture, or in international management. Both of these careers can offer you a good salary and travel, allow you to be creative in handling new problems, and provide a good salary. With your background in psychology, you might also consider human-resources management, but I don’t think it really meets you other requirements.

Finally, you might also try a few of the career assessments that we recommend and see if they can give you some more ideas. You can find a bunch of assessments (most free or inexpensive) at Career Assessment Tests and Tools.

Getting Beyond the Interview: Job Action Day 2014

JobActionDay2014LogoJoe writes:

I seem to do okay with getting job interviews, but then something happens and I don’t seem to get anywhere beyond the first interview. I really want a new job, but I don’t know what I am doing wrong. Your thoughts?


Career Doctor responds:

First, good for you to stop and analyze your situation and realize you have a problem that is holding you back from succeeding with your goal.

There are numerous reasons why your interview results are not what you seek – and you need to uncover what you are doing wrong so that you can address them… and succeed in the future.

My first suggestion is that you consider contacting one (or more) of the recent people who have interviewed you – someone that you felt you had good rapport with during the interview. Contact him/her and be honest; say that you have realized there may be something you are doing wrong – or weakly – in job interviews and that you would greatly appreciate their feedback. Stress that you are NOT looking for a second shot at interviewing – simply looking for information that can help you improve for future interviews.

Next, I suggest you go down this list of common interview problems and see if any of these ring true for you.

  • Late to interview
  • Not properly attired/groomed
  • Arrogant/impolite to staff (outside of interview)
  • Weak non-verbals (handshake, eye contact, smile)
  • Unprepared or insubstantial responses to interview questions
  • Lack of knowledge about the employer
  • Boring/rambling responses to interview questions
  • Speaking negatively about former bosses/employers
  • Providing too much – or too little – information about accomplishments/qualifications
  • Failing to ask questions of interviewer
  • General lack of enthusiasm/appearing disinterested/disengaged
  • Appearing too desperate/willingness to accept any job
  • Texting/answering phone during interview

Finally, I want to suggest a powerful strategy that will enhance the core of your interviews. Brainstorm and develop accomplishment stories that you can use to showcase your qualifications and strengths in job interviews (and networking). I also want you to develop stories for responses to common interview questions – strength/weakness, tell me about yourself, why do you want to work here, why should we hire you, and the like.

Storytelling done correctly will make you more memorable. People remember stories more than they do facts and figures. Make yourself the hero of your stories, remembering to include a beginning, middle, and end. Try to keep all your stories on a consistent theme – a consistent narrative that showcases your career brand.

Unfamiliar with storytelling and job-search? Lucky for you, this year’s Job Action is all about storytelling for career success – and we have articles covering the entire gamut of job-hunting, from networking to interviewing. Learn more, and find links to all the articles and tools, here.

Answering the Future-Oriented Interview Question

Eddie writes:
I’m currently working temporary jobs and am seeking a permanent position. I’ve been to several interviews, and two potential employers asked me “Where do you see yourself in the next several years.” Basically, I responded by saying “As long as I have a steady income that I am satisfied with and allows me to be financially independent….” I’m unsure if that was a satisfactory response. I’m somewhat “green” as to how to respond to such a question. Maybe you can give me some advice?

The Career Doctor responds:
The_Future_-_CanvaI think you have two different problems with your interviewing situation. First, the employers are probably asking this question partly to see if you truly are seeking a permanent position or whether you really prefer temping. Second, this question is one of the most popular for employers to ask because it’s a way (they think) of understanding a potential employee’s drive and ambition.

Unfortunately, your answer to the question probably makes the prospective employers uneasy – because you really raise more questions than answers and because your answer does not show much ambition or planning.

You don’t want to answer that question too ambitiously – “I plan to be running this company,” or “I plan to be your boss,” but you need to show some direction and ambition.

A good answer would be something like: “I would hope I am still with this organization in a position of increased responsibility, making a vital contribution to its success.” You could also add a statement about professional career growth to your answer: “I hope to be in a position of increased responsibility that allows me to continually sharpen and grow my career skills, while making a significant contribution to the success of this organization.”

What Does a CEO Do?

Amy writes:
In your opinion what is the role of a CEO? What responsibilities and role should this person play in the company?

CEO_-_CanvaThe Career Doctor responds:
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – sometimes also with the title of president or the chairman of the board – is the top dog in an organization. The CEO is the leader of an organization – and often the visionary. He/she is the most visible and important strategic decision-maker. The personal goals and values of the CEO strongly influence an organization’s mission, strategy, and long-term objectives – as well as impact the organization’s degree of success (or failure). Superior planning and organizational skills are also very important.

The bottom line? Ultimate responsibility for leading an organization falls upon the CEO, no matter how many lieutenants and other senior managers may be in the organization. And the CEO has a direct impact on the success or failure of the firm.

For CEO and other top-executive job sites, check out Quintessential Careers: Executive Jobs.

Changing One’s Mind about College Major

Angie writes:
I am a sophomore in college and I had been majoring in mechanical engineering. I realized that I don’t like this major at all, and I don’t want to be doing it for the next 40 years of my life. I have no idea what I want to do. Can you suggest something that will help me in my search for a new major?

The Career Doctor responds:
Hi Angie. . . relax, you’ve taken the first – and perhaps most important – step, which is realizing that you have made a mistake and you need to look at other possible careers to find something that better suits your unique skills and attributes.

My best suggestions is for you to take advantage of the advice and resources discussed in my article, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path. My article takes you through a six-step journey that should lead you to greater clarity and direction about your future career. I also include lots of resources – from self-assessment tests to career guides – in the article.

And the most important piece of advice? Don’t panic. Yes, you are a sophomore, but if you do change your major, a lot of your courses should count as prerequisites for your new major, though you may need to take an overload or some summer courses to stay on course for graduating – but it is certainly not too late to be making these decisions.
Good luck.