Finding yourself in the job market can be an exciting and terrifying time. Whether a first-time job seeker or returning to the work force after a period of unemployment, personal responsibility or a job change, it can be bewildering. You may be unsure where to begin or you may even have too many options. “That can be just as confusing as not having any choices,” says Linda Rolie, owner of Career Counseling Services in Ashland and author of Catch Me When I Fall: Smooth Landings for Job Seekers.
A great place to begin is to develop a career plan that can be divided into specific action steps to move you toward your career goals. Peter Weston, director of Career Development Services at SOU, says a career plan can be broken into three main parts: exploration, understanding and action.
There are a number of resources available to help you build a workable career plan. Peter Weston and Linda Rolie offer a few to consider:
What Color is Your Parachute: A practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers by Richard N. Bolles
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Tieger and Barron-Tieger.
Occupational Outlook Handbook webiste: www.bls.gov/oco/
Occupational Information Network http://online.onetcenter.org/
Professional career counseling and assessment – these may be available through community or private organizations, business professionals or through university and college programs for students and alumni.
1. Know your options
The best place to begin looking at your career choices is by taking some time to assess your own personality and skills. “This may be accomplished through a variety of methods, such as reflection, individual or group career counseling and career assessments,” says Weston. “Questions like “What are my interests and skills?” or “What do I value in a work environment?” can be a good spring-board for further exploration.” There are a number of assessment tools available that help to identify both transferable skills and what Rolie calls “core competencies” — personal strengths and skill sets that will be assets in a job situation. It’s also the time to look ahead, as she asks, “Where do you want to be in seven years?” From these beginning steps, it will be much easier to look at job titles most suitable for you.
2. Find out more
Once you’ve identified some job avenues that interest you, both Weston and Rolie recommend doing some research. This may range from seeing what the job market is in that field to setting up an “informational interview” or job-shadowing session. Rolie always encourages this to get a clearer sense of the opportunities, physical demands and required skills from someone already working in that field. Weston concurs, “An informational interview with a professional in one’s desired field or job function can be highly beneficial in providing more information in facilitating career choices,” and points out that other benefits including building a network, internships, volunteer opportunities or even employment can result from this informational contact. This will also help you identify any training or education that may improve your future in that career. “A well-informed understanding of the job market, salary expectations and educational requirements strengthen one’s career plan,” sums up Weston.
3. Set your goals
Once you’ve assessed different job titles, it becomes easier to identify smaller steps that will move you forward. It may be that you only need to polish your resume to be ready to move ahead. “An authentic resume will open a lot of doors,” says Rolie and should be flexible enough to apply to a variety of job applications.
Rolie also says interview coaching can be very helpful. A lot of people are just lacking confidence, she says, while some just need to add a new tool to their skills box to step into a new career. An internship or volunteer opportunity in your chosen field can increase your experience and skills. Weston points out that each summer job, internship, or volunteer opportunity introduces and/or strengthens a person’s skill set, and makes them more marketable to employers.
And that is the goal of any career plan. “I’m always looking how to design a suitable fit between an employer and employee,” says Rolie. And a well thought out career plan is the road map that will lead to the best career choice for you.