Where should I start?

Building a meaningful and rewarding career in today’s competitive, global economy is possible. Today’s career planning involves self-discovery and analysis, while managing a lifetime of choices and opportunities. Educators, community leaders, parents, and people of all ages are seeking to understand and navigate today’s world of work to help their students, community members, children, and themselves. Here are some of the questions I hear often, and how I begin to address them. If you have further questions or thoughts, or want to explore how I can help you build your career, please contact me directly. I look forward to hearing from you!

Q How should I begin to explore a new direction or launch my career?

A Breaking down career development into three steps can be a helpful framework to guide a career change or to launch your career. In the first step, “Know Yourself,” you consider your skills, interests, and values. This is an important first step, involving honest self-exploration and reflection about what you want for yourself and what worked for you—or didn’t feel as comfortable—in your recent experiences. During this phase, career assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument and the Strong Interest Inventory® instrument may be helpful. In the second step, you will “Explore Your Options” through career research, networking, and decision-making. During this phase, you consider if you have the skills needed for your next move, or if your plan should include further education or an interim, skill-building experience. Finally, prepare to “Market Yourself” by using effective job search strategies and creating a strong, targeted resume, online profile, and cover letters. My book, Creating Career Success (2014), is divided into these three sections to help guide this process. You can also read Chapter 1: Prepare, to learn how this approach can get started.

Q I am considering attending a career workshop or taking a career course. Are they helpful?

A Having taught workshops and seminars for more than ten years, I have seen courses help people expand their career skills, sharpen their job search tools, and become far more open-minded about their opportunities. In fact, my colleagues and I were inspired to write a comprehensive career book and program because of the success of our students and workshop participants. Moreover, peers often share similar concerns and can offer support, insight, and helpful ideas. Resources and activities will usually be part of any course you take, and, in some cases, small groups or individual sessions with a counselor or coach might be available after a course. To find career workshops and courses, contact your college’s career center or a local library, community center, university continuing education department, or Department of Labor CareerOneStop. These locations may also offer additional career resources, such as job search support.

Q My family demands are making it difficult to keep working in my career or create the career I want. How can career support help?

A Developing the life you want means that your work has to work for you. It’s not enough to have a career you enjoy, it has to work with your schedule, financial needs, family demands, and personal values. Through workshops, ongoing groups, and private career counseling, I work with couples, families, and individuals to identify personal needs, explore career goals, consider and understand available options, negotiate with employers when appropriate, and develop and implement short- and long-term plans. My courses and workshops have addressed such topics as pregnancy and work, maternity and paternity leave, flexible workplace arrangements, re-entering the workforce, and creating work-life balance. I also partner with community centers and universities to develop programming that can address these vital career issues and help their members or the general public.

Q I’m in high school, but I am very eager to begin planning for my future. What can I do?

A In high school, you are making important choices that will prepare you for the future. Course projects, grades, community service, activities, and leadership roles help you gain skills and confidence, while also strengthening relationships with advisors, coaches, and supervisors. If you’re thinking about college, you may also be trying to select activities, part-time work, volunteer options, and summer experiences that will improve your college applications. Understanding how your skills, interests, and values connect with careers can help you choose experiences that will challenge and excite you, demonstrate your strengths and help you make meaningful connections with others. You’ll do better at activities and classes that are a better fit for you, you’ll like them more, and you’ll learn to seek out support where and when you need it. Together, all of this can improve your college applications and your likelihood for success in, and after, college.

Q I’m in college, and I want to start planning for my career. What can I do?

A College is a great time to explore and pursue your interests, as well as to take risks by trying activities or subject areas that may not fit into the larger picture of your career interests—yet. For instance, the story of how Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, took a calligraphy course and the course’s later impact on his interest in fonts is now a frequently told tale about the relationship between unexpected ways that interests and skills intersect. In fact, before Jobs made font selection possible in his personal computers, few people even knew what a “font” was! Not sure which major to choose, activities to join, or how to spend your summer? By exploring what you like, what’s important to you, and learning what jobs and activities are out there, you can begin to make decisions and pursue opportunities. There may be many valuable resources available at your college, including career counseling, a career and internship center, academic advising, and more. Visiting these offices early in your college experience can help you learn about programs and deadlines. Some of the programs that might interest you are recruitment for internships and jobs, mentor programs, alumni networking events, practice interview sessions, and employer visits. When I work privately with college students, I always encourage them to visit their career centers. Having worked at Columbia University’s Center for Career Education and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Career Services, I know how much effort is put into these programs, and how much you can benefit from participating (we can even discuss how to get the most out of these opportunities)!

Q I recently graduated from college. Where should I start?

A This is a great time to start building your resume, making connections, and determining which skills you want to use at work. For those who know what they want to do, it is time to market yourself for the career you want and enlist the assistance of others who can serve as networking resources, references, and mentors. If you are unclear about your career interests, or can’t narrow down your choices, your next step can involve exploring your interests, past activities, educational experiences, work and volunteer history, and your values. For some students, learning the steps and where to start is enough to get the ball rolling. Others may find that using a comprehensive resource, like my book, whether in a course or at home, can help them engage in the steps of career development and move ahead. Some recent graduates feel that a personal coach or career counselor is helpful as they consider next steps. Before exploring private career counseling, you may want to learn about the programs and resources for alumni at your career center and alumni office. In fact, when I worked at Columbia University, I offered evening career counseling appointments for alumni. The career center isn’t your only campus resource’ you’ll also want to keep in touch with professors, join mentor programs, attend networking events, and learn more about your college’s unique programs. Your college wants you to succeed, and if they aren’t offering the programs or resources you need, let them know—they may even be able to develop programming for the changing needs of recent graduates.

Q My adult child is ready to start planning for a career, but seems unable to move forward. What should I do to help?

A The realities of today’s economy have made launching a career difficult for many young adults. In some cases, committing to a career direction is the challenge. For instance, such interests as playing sports, dancing, shopping, watching movies, drawing, helping others, texting, updating social media, or gaming, don’t easily translate to a varied list of career fields, classes or school activities. This can make it difficult to choose a career direction. A highly competitive job market and difficulties in the economy are making it hard for many young adults to become motivated to work at all, especially if feel they are years away from financial security or meaningful careers. Many young adults feel that their career interests won’t ever offer a salary that can support a family or that their career interests are too competitive to make success possible. Making matters worse, today’s young adults have also seen job security and early retirement become a thing of the past. The obstacles they face are real, and the path for career success has changed.

With that in mind, there are many valuable resources available. Career counseling, career assessments, career courses and workshops, and books on career topics can all be helpful. Many of the fears young adults have about the workforce can be addressed by exploring opportunities that do exist. Becoming more aware of the jobs available and how to develop skills for advancement can encourage seemingly unmotivated young adults to take action. Starting this process early makes launching a career much easier—interests are still developing, internships can be completed, leadership and involvement can be demonstrated through activities and courses, and educational experiences can be optimized through course selection and engagement.

Q I am interested in private career counseling. How long should I expect to work with you to launch my career or make a career change?

A Potential clients also often ask me how long this process may take. Within three sessions, many of my clients begin to identify patterns of interests and values, and develop a list of career fields that interest them. For some clients, this is enough information to begin the process of career research, decision-making and self-marketing independently. Others choose to continue to work together, either to explore the thoughts and feelings that impact their career decision-making, or to have support through the various stages of changing careers, from exploration to decision-making to self-marketing. In many cases, clients begin their work with me during one phase in their career, and then contact me at some point down the road, when another set of decisions need to be made. Together, we will set goals that work for you.

Q I am looking for free or low-cost career counseling. Where can I find support?

A There are many low-cost, free, or sliding scale resources for career counseling. To find services for the general public, contact your local library, university, community center, or the Department of Labor CareerOneStop. If you are a college graduate, you may have access to free or low-cost career services for alumni from your college career center. In addition to individual career counseling, many organizations offer free or low-cost career exploration programs, resume-writing and job search workshops, job search resources, and more.

Q I am involved in my local parent teacher association or community organization. Can you be a resource to us?

A Career development has become a growing concern of parents and educators, and it is a pleasure to serve as a resource for those seeking to develop career programs for schools, community centers, libraries, and other local organizations. As a consultant, I can help you identify the needs of your community and determine career topics and programs that will engage and energize your participants. I have also been honored to serve as keynote speaker, moderator, and panelist. Please feel free to contact me directly to explore how I can assist.

Q My organization or team does not specifically offer career counseling, yet we often need to provide career support. Can you be a resource to us?

A A challenging economy, changes in the job search process, and global competition are just a few of the factors that have contributed to the need for increased career support. Many helping professionals, including college faculty and administrators, social workers, therapists, coaches, and guidance counselors, feel that a greater understanding of career development could benefit their work with clients or students. Together, we can explore how I can help you or your organization through staff training, innovative career programming, and tailored resources. In addition, Creating Career Success and the book’s online resources were designed to help professionals create cost-effective, results-driven career programs. For more information, learn more about Creating Career Success, learn about my consulting services, or please feel free contact me directly.