"I'm not sure what I want to study, is there a good general degree I can take?" one of my students asked. She was on campus to explore her options to study and dropped in to see me for some advice on how her choice of major could impact her career. "What do you mean by a general degree?" I asked. "Well," she said, "I really don't know what I want to do so I'd like to study something broad that will give me the best chance at a job when I'm finished." Ah. Right. No. Don't do this.Read More
You graduated. You made the choice. You started working. And now it's been about, oh, six months, maybe less, and you thought you'd be happy. You thought you'd feel this sense of "Yes! Good choice! Right job! Go me!" But instead you feel "meh, it's not great..." or even "This sucks." But why? And what would be better? What do you do now?
I see this a lot and you are definitely not alone. Pull up a chair, there is a way forward. Here's your 6-step guide to fixing it.Read More
Living and working abroad is one of the most rewarding, terrifying, uncomfortable, exciting things I've done in my life. Most expats I talk to say something similar, it's a way to grow yourself beyond what you thought was possible for your life and your career, and a chance to add value globally and not just in your home community. It's a great way to get more comfortable with risk, grow your network, and to learn. It's an amazing opportunity, and if it's something you want to do even a little bit, you should go for it! Here's how to get started.Read More
I resigned last month. I don't have another job lined up, and I don't have a specific plan for what will happen after my last day of work. This is the kind of thing your mom always advises against, and the kind of news that makes your friends say, "Really? Wow..." with a stone-cold look of "I'm not sure what to say because that sounds kind of stupid" on their faces.Read More
I'm graduating this year, and I'm not sure if I should go on the job search, or if I should go to grad school. Should I go to grad school?
No. You should probably not go to grad school. You should go to work.Read More
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