Job applications suck, I know. They are time consuming, and if you are one of those nimble 21st century professionals who could be useful to at least 5 different types of roles (hint: you probably are), it feels like you have to reinvent yourself and all of your personal marketing materials each time you apply for something. And the agony of writing the perfect opening cover letter sentence? I know that pain. Set it aside and pour yourself a beverage, you have better options.Read More
I started to get the sense that work-life balance would be a problem at this company when I noticed that the girl setting up my interviews was sending emails and meeting invitations at odd hours. I had been interviewing for a role at a Very Cool Tech Company, and the scheduler was sending me messages at 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm. There were subtle signals that the pressure to meet the expectations of the job would be large. And then, the kiss of death, the phrase that made the work-life balance question clear: "This is not a 40 hour a week position." It was clear that it would indeed be much more than that.Read More
"Every day is like being in an abusive relationship," Liz said of her job. She was miserable. And yet, not SO miserable that she had to leave immediately, only miserable most of the time. There would be some good days, a week or two that were fun or engaging. But mostly, she was miserable, and it was only getting worse. Her boss was terrible, either criticizing her behind her back or avoiding her entirely. Her motivation was shot and had been for months on and off. Instead of starting new projects she would job hunt at work, looking at listings online and thinking about leaving. Most days she couldn't muster the cheerful hello to her colleagues, and quietly went straight to her desk in the morning. She would question decisions instead of act on them. Sometimes she would argue, she just couldn't help it. "I don't think my manager is very happy with me," she told me. And at about 2:30 pm, she would watch the clock tick ever slowly toward the end of the day. She was slipping slowly into the void.Read More
"Should I learn to code?"
I don't always say Yes to "should I learn" questions. I'm pro-learning in general, but there are times when, because we're talking about your career plans, you should focus your learning efforts on one thing over another. In the case of computer science, and programming/coding in particular, I can safely and assuredly say that this is a skill you should learn.Read More
"So I think I have three options," he told me. "I can start my own company now, or I can go work for an established startup, maybe that has some stable funding, or I can get a job in corporate. What do you think I should do?" He had just spent the last 10 minutes telling me about his volunteer work with a local entrepreneurship organization, his desire to travel, and his participation in the campus incubator program. His passion was pretty clear: this was a man born to start something. So that's what I said.
"Oh thank God. I really thought you were going to tell me to go work in Corporate."
Why did he think that? Because that is what most well-meaning, middle-aged people (Just for the record, I am NOT middle aged...) would probably say. They might say - "Build your resume!", or "What about this grad program at XYZ Bank?" or "Your cousin just got a job at this consulting firm". They might encourage a young college grad to think about his student loans and go out and get a great job that will help him save up some money (because after all, the real estate market you know...). But there is a dark side to choosing that road.Read More
"I only looked for jobs in Seattle because I feel like this is a relationship I want in my life. I'm interested in us being together. I limited my search for HIM," my exasperated friend ranted, "and then we're visiting with his parents, and he started talking about how maybe he'll move back to Wisconsin! UGH!" She threw her napkin on the table. I could relate.Read More
"I sometimes wish I had a plan. I see my friends who are my age and are graduating with their PhD or their MD or their JD and I think "Fuuuuuuuu$!....", my 26 year old client agonized. Just two weeks later, I met with a recent graduate who lamented, "I feel like I'm the only one of my peers without a plan. I just want to know where I'm going."
I get a gut-punch feeling when I hear this because I remember it. I didn't have a plan, either, and those days of feeling lost in life's outer space really sucked. It's lonely out there.Read More
"What classes should I take this year?"
"What kind of education should a young person have to be employable?"
"What skills will get me a job?"
These are all questions I hear in my office and in my inbox regularly. And there are lots of ways to answer this question. I can encourage you to study what you are interested in (and you should do that), and I can use employment statistics to tell you which majors have the highest employment rate or earn the biggest salary. But there are themes in education that I think will serve you well to be part of the new working world. Because an education needs to not just get you a job in 4 years, it needs to build you up as a functioning member of society and the global economy for the next 50 years. So kids. Here's what you should study this year.Read More
"I googled him but nothing came up," Lisa said to me, "isn't that weird?".
"Yes." I had to agree.
She was serving on the hiring committee for a job in our office, and wanted to learn more about one of the candidates. And I get it, with all the hype about your personal information and privacy issues and how all of your material could be used by corporations or employers, one possible reaction to all of this is to hide out in a digital bunker on lockdown. But Lisa's impression of this invisible candidate and his digital quietude was not good. "I mean, he doesn't have a social media presence. Like, at all," she said with disbelief.Read More
You're looking at your boss or your parents and thinking "No way am I interested in working like they do." You witness the focus on competitive professional performance, the quest for a raise, the stress about saving money for retirement, the cubicle-dwelling HVAC-maintained ecosystem, the polyester wardrobe. And you think,
There has to be a better way.
I hear this all the time. "Every job description I look at says 3 - 5 years of experience required. How am I supposed to get that experience?". Fear not, there's a lot you can do to build experience when you need it!Read More
I write a lot about finding your passion, conquering fear, and doing something different to pave your own way in the world. And these are still the most important topics when we talk about career. But, you may be thinking, what about the money? Because once you've figured out the passion piece, you still need to earn the cashola. Right? Right. And there's a lot to think about when you're managing all that money you're about to be earning, from before you accept the job, to when you're well on your way.Read More
I got an email recently on a topic that always makes me cringe. This one, from an HR representative at a large organization, wrote to say, "What are we teaching job candidates these days about asking for references?" Her complaints were valid: in her experiences, she found that the contacts that job candidates provided as a reference were unprepared, didn't know the candidate, and had not been expecting a call from HR to check in on the job applicant. Don't let this be you! Here's what you can do to make sure that your references support your candidacy for the job you want, and don't detract from it.Read More
I submitted a resume with the wrong dates on it. I'm a career counselor, my whole JOB is resumes, I look at hundreds of them, and am adept at picking out a misplaced period or a misaligned bullet point and the best word to start a sentence with, but I submitted a resume to a job I was really excited about with major errors on it. The difference on my incorrect resume dates was a whole year, which effectively misrepresented my level of experience for the position I applied for. Even worse, I caught the error in formal government paperwork for the new position after I was hired, necessitating an incredibly embarrassing email exchange with an entire team of people, including human resources, lawyers, and my new supervisor, to address the error.Read More
"I've been thinking about interior design, or maybe architecture. Because I really like math, but I also want to be able to do something creative. But then I'm worried about job opportunities, I know it's ridiculous to try to get a job in those fields."
I had a hunch, so I asked, "Do you have any programming or web development experience?"
"It's funny you ask that because earlier this week I started teaching myself to code online. I like it!" Her face lit up.
"And have you ever heard about interaction design?" She smiled. And then proceeded to tune out the rest of our session because it's clear I had hit a nerve and she just wanted to go google.Read More
"The money would be amazing," my friend said, contemplating an offer from a Large Tech Company. "I mean, I think the job would be rough. And there is no such thing as work-life balance there. But I could do anything for a year. Right?"
Maybe. How precious is a year to you? What is important to you in life? People I meet get stuck A LOT on the dilemma of practicality versus passion. What happens when you have student loans to pay down, and a desire to start a social enterprise or nonprofit? What do you do when you have a family who needs your support and you want to start your own business? What if you have a great stock options offer but you know you'll find the work boring? Do you take the money or do you hold out for something else? And how do you figure that out?Read More
Last week, I went to the doctor and came back with some not-great news. I have a health profile that includes a Big Scary Illness, and occasionally I have a situation where my doc says "Heads up, this doesn't look good". I'm in the middle of one of those scares right now, and there's an internal battle that goes on in my brain in a situation like this:
1. "Crap I'm going to need lots of money and really good health insurance." (ie, a nice stable job!), and
2. "Wow life is short, and I should make the most of the time I have by doing what I love." (ie, pursue my passion now while I can!).
It's the ultimate battle: do I prioritize practicality or passion in the face of a life situation that makes me need and want both?Read More
One of my favorite things to help with is resumes, because a few simple tips and tricks will go a long way toward helping you stand out from the competition. Here are some of the most common questions I get about resumes, and my best advice on tackling them:Read More
It's been a tough time at work. There are lots of things to complain about, all of which our fearless leader knows just as well as the people working with her.
We have limited resources and big to-do lists. We have no natural light. We're in a temporary and open plan office and frequently are asked to move desks or share office space. The air conditioning is either paralyzingly cold or stuffily hot. The technology systems limit flexible work arrangements. Things are changing so much that the targets are constantly moving.
My first thought on getting home this evening naturally was: "Ugh. I do not want to go back there tomorrow.". I complained out loud to myself about a situation that feels like it makes good work challenging, too much like work and not enough like productivity.
Does that sound familiar?