Choosing a Career Path and Sticking With It

We’ve talked a lot about getting a job, choosing a career and tips for being at work, but we haven’t directly talked about a career path yet. Knowing your career path early on is a big advantage. A career path can help keep you focused on your end goal. You may have a dream to work in a certain position or for a certain company. A career path tells you how to get there. If you haven’t chosen a career path yet, I’ve come up with a list of questions to ask yourself so you can find the right career path for you… and stay on track with that career path.

How do I know what job I want at the end of my career path?

Listen to your unthought knowns, as Dr. Meg Jay calls them in her book, The Defining Decade. There’s a voice inside you that knows what you like and what you’re good at. It also knows what you don’t like and what your weaknesses are. Listen to your inner unthought knowns. They’re called unthought knowns because you know them… You just haven’t thought about it yet.

To help focus in on your unthought knows try one of these techniques:

  • Make a list of all skills, interests, etc.
  • Pay attention at work – what aspects do you like and not like?
  • Have informational meetings to learn as much as you can and ask all your questions.
  • Find out the job descriptions of different positions.
  • Understand the different departments, how they work together, where their work ends, and another starts.

Nothing’s worse than working your way to a position, only to then find out its nothing like you thought it would be and you hate it. Do the research now while you still have the flexibility to move around to an area you know you will enjoy for the long run.

How do I get on a career path?

After you have chosen your end goal you can find out what your career path should be. Some of the techniques listed above can also help you discover the steps it takes to get to your end goal. Talking with co-workers who have been in the company or the industry for a few years can be very helpful. What’s even more helpful is if you can sit down with someone now who is in the position you would like one day. If you can find someone has been or currently is in a position you want here are some questions I would suggest asking…

1. What type of schooling do I need?

2. What type of experience and how many years of experience do I need?

3. Is there any additional experience outside of work you would suggest?

4. What skills should I be practicing?

5. Any final words of advice? Steps I should take? Positions I should hold? People I should talk to?

Will this job offer help me in my career path?

This is an important question to ask yourself every time a new job offer comes your way. My best advice, only take a job if you “side step” or move up on your career path. A”side step” is when you move to a different position, but you’re still on the same level as your previous position. You didn’t “move up in rank” is another way to look at it. Still a perfectly good option. This “side step” position can teach you new skills, give you more experience, introduce you to a new network or allow you to move to a new company.

Receiving a job offer is obviously a great sign that your boss, and the company likes you. They have faith you’ll do good for the future of the company. But, I would advise that accepting a position which leads you off your track does you no good. It would better serve you to politely decline and stay where you are. If you do have to decline, I would suggest having a conversation explaining the goals you have set up for your future. This conversation may also allow the employer to see the big picture you have for yourself and may look for opportunities to help you achieve it in the future.

Sometimes being offered a position that is lower than your current position can actually help on your career path. If your career path is for a position with a certain company, you may want to consider a lower job offer in order to start working for your dream company. However, I would not accept the job offer until I knew exactly what I would be doing, knew it would help me get to where I wanted to be, knew there was room for growth within the company, and knew I would be happy.

Am I currently doing everything I can for my career path?

It’s good to check on your own progress from time to time. But before you can check on your progress you need to have a set of clear goals with steps. From the information you got doing your research about the position you’re working towards and what the career path looks like you can make yourself a basic timeline. I say basic because I don’t want you over stressing and feeling completely depressed if you do not follow the timeline exactly. Still, a timeline will allow you to see roughly how long you should stay in a position to get the experience you need and tell you when its time to start thinking about getting a new position.

After you have your clear goals with steps, sit down to have a self evaluation or ask for a peer evaluation. To have a peer evaluation you could ask a co-worker or boss for feedback on how you’ve been doing. Then take that information and compare it to your time line.  Use the comparison to decide if you are where you should be, if you’re behind or meeting the bare minimum. Are you meeting work requirements? Have you required all the skills you can in your current position? Is there anything more you can be doing? In my opinion, there’s always room for improvement, that’s the way growing works. You grow as a better employee if you keep challenging yourself. It’s always better to be challenging yourself than to be safe. Safe keeps you in one spot, challenging keeps you moving up.

What career path have you started on? Do you have any additional tips or questions?

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6 Steps For Life After College

To all those who just graduated in May, CONGRATS! I hope you’re enjoying your summer full of graduation parties, but when all the presents and cards full of money disappear, do you know what to do next? Here are my 6 steps to start a life for yourself after graduating from college.

1. Find a place

Find a place you can see yourself living for 5 years. You will want to stay in one place to build a reputation and create a network. Moving form city to city will make it hard to build a reputation because every time you move you will have to start from square one again. It is also hard to be referred across states for entry level positions. 5 years is, on average, how long it takes to climb the latter a little bit and build a name for yourself.

2. Create a Financial Plan

Now that you know where you want to live you can start creating a financial plan. You can do this even before you move, in fact it’s better if you do! Look at the prices of renting an apartment in different neighborhoods. Will you have to pay for public transportation or gas? Will you want cable and internet? What about utilities, what will that cost? The answer to all these questions will help you decide how much you need to make, how much you can afford realistically and will help you start creating your own budget.

3. Find A Job

The next step is to find a job you enjoy and pay the bills. Apply to jobs that fit within the field you want to work in or will give you some identity capital. Do not apply to just any job. Applying to jobs you don’t care about or aren’t beneficial to you is a waste of time. Employers can tell when you’re just applying for applying. Find jobs you’re actually interested in and would be proud to have.

4. Meet New People and Network

Get out of your circle! Meet new people! Network! Surprisingly, you will not advance in your careers because of your closest friends. Most of the time it’s from people you barely know; the weak ties. Also, meeting new people and networking will open you up to a whole new set of resources and advice you couldn’t get anywhere else.

5. Work Hard and Build Your Brand

Work hard at your job. Show that you want to be there. Build your skills and your brand. Building a brand for yourself is probably the most important thing in this economy. The best way to start is with a website. Build a brand for yourself so people know what you are about right away. More and more recruiters and employers are going online for their next hires. Make sure they can find you!

6. Learn About Yourself Along the Way by Listening and Observing

As you start your journey as a young professional learn about yourself. See what your strengths and weaknesses are. Try new things, test your boundaries. Being in your twenties is the best time to take some risks to find out more about yourself. Decisions and habits you create during your twenties will form who the adult version of you will be, most likely for the rest of your life. Take advantage of your time while you can still mold the clay of who you are.

Are you having any trouble starting a life after college?
Tell me below or email me at asktheyoungprofessional (at) gmail (dot) com!

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6 Job Search and Application Tips

Summer is coming to a close and companies are starting they search for new hires. If you’re looking to apply to a job think about these 6 tips during your job search.

1. List What You’re Good At and What You Like

Before you start sending out applications to any hiring company, know yourself. List your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, goals and dreams. You’ll waste much less time searching aimlessly online when you know yourself better. You can be more specific in your job search to find a job and company that suits you.

2. Find Something That Suits You and Makes You Happy

Now that you are properly prepared you can start the search. Find a position you can succeed in. Even better, find a company you can support and advance in. Finding a company you can support will give your work meaning and purpose. You’re passion about your work will give you the drive to make an impression and advance through the field.

3. Gather Your Experience and Qualifications

Narrow down what experience and qualifications you have that apply to the job. Think about what you’ll use in your resume, cover letter and portfolio. Do you have any online presence you can included? Or other “outside of the box” qualifiers? You don’t need to list everything on a resume, only items that most apply to the position and create a story about you.

4. Find A Way To Stand Out

When that big pile of black and white resumes lands on the employer’s desk, how are you going to stand out? Will you stand out by the design of your resume? The story in your cover letter? An unique experience? Come up with something creative so you will be remembered.

5. Represent Yourself Correctly

Sometimes we can get caught up in the formality of the job search. Don’t lose yourself in all the paperwork. Make sure you’re presenting yourself in the right way. Don’t sell yourself short. Show some personality and what you can bring to the company. You can do this through what information you choose to share on your resume and cover letter; how you design your resume; and your online presence.

6. Complete The Process

You can find numerous articles and resources on how to create a resume, write a captivating cover letter, properly dress for an interview, and how to prepare interview question and answers, so I won’t dwell on that. Just remember when you are doing the professional thing, be the charismatic you. Show your true self. Let the interviewer get an idea of you are. Genuine personality is more attractive than dishing out answers you think they want to hear.

Today I will be posting more articles and tips on job searching, applying and interviewing on Ask the Young Professional’s Facebook page! Follow today! 

What other job search and application tips do you have?

 

9 Steps To Get An Internship

Recently someone from my university reached out to me for advice on how to get an internship. Luckily my university, Fitchburg State University, had a full time internship program set up for us so we had a little advantage. There are still some basic steps anyone can take to get an internship. I’ve come up with 9 steps for you to follow on your own.

Step #1: Start Early

If you’re looking for interning tips, most likely you’re still in college. That’s perfect. The more experience you can get before officially entering the work field the better.

If I could go back and do college over I would change two things; interning more and going abroad. Going abroad is a completely different story of itself but I do encourage you two explore that option as well.

Interning while you’re in college gives you the opportunity to not only build and define skills that you will need to get a job, but it is also the first time you will be able to see the work force first hand. This first hand experience will allow you to decide if you enjoy in this field before it’s too late. You can also narrow down what specific areas and positions you like.

Lastly, starting early gets you ahead of the game… And the competition.

Step #2 See What Your School Can Offer You

Start by seeing what your school has to offer. Is there an internship program offered through your school? Can you get school credit for your internship? Even if the school doesn’t have anything official set up, professors may have good suggestions on where to look. They also can give you great recommendations!

Step #3 Always Be Collecting and Updating

During your college career it is important to keep track of your accomplishments. Later, when applying for an internship – or a job – you will need a list of your experience, awards and projects to create your resume, cover letter and portfolio.

I highly suggest you create a document where you can keep track of what you have done, if you haven’t already. In this document you should also include the date and a brief description of each item you add. While you are collecting pieces of your professional portfolio make sure to update it at least yearly. The more frequent you update, the easier it will be to recall each experience.

Step #4 Learn About the Company and  Find A Contact

By now you should have selected a few internships to apply to. Before you send in you application make sure to do your research. Start with the company’s website. Learn about the company’s mission and vision statements, what projects they’re currently working on and find a contact.

Learning about the company will help you decide if this is the right choice for you and will help you during the interview. I might be bold enough to say that the contact will be the most important part. The contact may or may not be the internship coordinator. Maybe this contact is someone you know personally or through a friend. Either way it will behoove you to also talk to this contact before you submit your application.

Use this contact to learn more about the company and ask any questions you may have about the industry. This contact they may be able to refer you to the internship coordinator. This should help you make an impression. If it doesn’t work out with this company, you always have this contact to go back to for advice or to refer you to a different company or contact.

Step #5 Apply, Then Make The Call

Now you are ready to apply. A lot of applications are strictly online now, but if there is a number where you can reach the internship coordinator personally, CALL! I cannot express how important personal human contact is.

Of course you will go through the normal routine of applying online just like the other applicants but you will call to ask for an interview. If you do not know what to say here’s a script to follow;

“Hello, Mr./Ms./Mrs. _____________, My name is _______________. I’m calling about your internship program in the _______(say what semester here)______. I have submitted my résumé, cover letter (and possibly portfolio) online. I was wondering if I could come in for an interview.”

They may ask you to call back in a few weeks or a couple of months even. This is because sometimes companies are so busy or they get such a big applicant pool they do not do interviews until closer to the internship starting date. Do not be discouraged, just make sure you call back when they ask you to.

Step #6 Confirm

Normally you’re interview is scheduled at least a week later or more. It is good practice to confirm your date and time before the interview. If the internship coordinator was okay with you calling him/her you can call them, but some prefer email so just make note of how he/she likes to be contacted. You can call or email saying;

“Hello, Mr./Ms./Mrs. _____________, this is ____________. I’m calling/emailing to confirm our interview on __________________ at ____________.”

Then they will reply and you can say something like, “Thank you for your time, I look forward to meeting you in person on ____________.”

Step #7 Have The Interview

It’s the big day! Now you are finally having the interview. Make sure you are wearing something appropriate. There is a debate on how dressed up you should be for an interview. At the very least you should be as dressed up or a little more dressed up than the best dressed person in the office. How do you get this information? Ask your contact! Or go with one of these safeties…

For Women: A dress, but not a sundress. A skirt with a blouse. Or slacks and a blouse.
For Men: A pair of khakis or dress pants with a button up shirt.

Now that you look the part, go over your research and practice responses to interview questions. You can go here to use my mock interview to practice your responses.

When the interview is over make sure to think the interviewer and shake his/her hand.

Step #8 Follow Up

After the interview you will want to follow up with the internship coordinator. You will be thanking them again for the interview and ask when the decision will be made. Jut keep it sweet and short. This will be the last time you talk until you hear the decision.

Step #9 Wait Patiently And Pray!

Now there’s nothing left to do but wait. It will be tempting to call or email to see if the decision has been made. It will also be torture waiting. Just keep yourself busy, enjoy whatever is going on in your life and wait for the call.

** These steps are similar to the steps taken when applying for a job. On Tuesday I will have steps for applying for a job. On Thursday I will have 6 steps to take after graduating. **

What do you think of these 9 steps? Would you add any steps or advice?

Sneak Peek of Next Week’s YPAF with Ashley Sapp

YPAF is a collection of voices from different ages, places and industries to share advice on starting off and being twenty. This week Lindsay Shoemake from That Working Girl advised twentysomething to persevere through the rejections and never view failures as a failure. On Monday, July 22nd we will hear from Ashley Sapp from Chaos and Words. Here is a sneak peak…
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Your Twenties: The Ultimate Experience

When one begins their twenties, s/he may be in college, searching for a job, working multiple positions, still living at home, finding his/her own place, moving somewhere new, beginning his/her career, perhaps even getting married and having children, or many other examples. The choices are seemingly endless, and that is, in part, of why being a twenty-something is probably even more daunting and confusing than being a teenager. There is still so much to learn, and yet, we are considered adults.

Being uncertain on what you want out of life can be unsettling. Personally, I ran through a multitude of ideas of what I wanted my career to be, and though the industry and job title varied, there was one thing I remained passionate about at all times: writing. What I slowly figured out was that there are ways to put my skills and passions to cohesive use if I did not limit myself on what my possibilities could be. That is perhaps the biggest piece of advice I have to offer other twenty-somethings: allow your potential to expand continuously. There is no need to cut yourself short before you even start.

For more on this story and great advice from Lindsay Shoemake, tune in Monday morning at 9am for the full post. 

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Young Professional Advice From Friends: Lindsay Shoemake

This is a Young Professional Advice from Friends post written by Lindsay Shoemake at That Working GirlYPAF is a collection of voices from different ages, places and industries to share advice on starting off and being twenty.

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Young Professional Advice From Friends – Lindsay Shoemake

Your  twenties. The movies depict them as that magical time in your life when you’re walking down Madison Avenue to your own theme song, your hair looks perfect, you’ve nailed your dream job, and when it comes to dating? The men just can’t get enough of you. However, life honestly doesn’t work that way for us twenties-somethings.

As I sat at company happy hour yesterday afternoon, my boss mentioned something that stuck with me. She said, “Your twenties are the best-worst time of your life. You’re figuring yourself out and you’re growing, but nothing feels quite permanent.” And that, ladies and gentleman, hits the nail on the head.

Although I’m greatly leaning toward loving my twenties rather than loathing them, each and every day still consists of a lesson to be learned.

So far, I’ve tasted a lot of success, and I have to be grateful for it! For starters, I run a successful blog, That Working Girl, along with my two stellar interns, Catia and Stephanie. As a three-person team, we do a heck of a lot, and we have fun doing it. Running a blog is a ton of work, but it’s gratifying seeing how readers relate and respond – and when companies want to send you free samples! I also intern for one of the best PR firms in Atlanta (and I’d argue on the East Coast), Caren West PR. I’m living the life I dreamed of since I was a little girl, ogling the Atlanta skyline when my parents decided to take me into the city. I would always turn to my little sister in the car and say, “Look, we’re in ‘magic town,’” and now I’m living in it. Now that is truly magical.

However, it wouldn’t be your twenties without a little hardship and disappointment. After applying to 40+ internships in New York City and not landing a single interview, I’ve dealt with feelings of rejection from the one place I can’t get enough of. I had a blueprint for my life that I’ve had to completely scrap – I’m working from the ground up again, but I know there’s a rhyme and reason behind it. I’ve learned to turn criticism and disappointment into opportunities for growth with a lot of practice. I still get sad when I think of New York, but I remind myself that it will always be there waiting for me, if I just work hard enough and make the key connections.

So, a little advice for all of you fellow hard-working twenty-somethings out there? When opportunities don’t work out, don’t get down on yourself – we’re too young not to come across a second chance, or something even better. I’m a firm believer that doors are closed only for new ones to open, because I’ve experienced it time and time again.
Also, don’t expect your first job to be your dream job and where you truly flourish. Sure, it may happen for a few lucky ones, but look at job switches as stepping-stones when they happen. As you grow, your taste in work will change.

Most of all, have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously! When you quit smiling, you quit growing and enjoying all that life has to offer. When you feel the seriousness coming on, go grab yourself an iced coffee and watch re-runs of “Seinfeld.” I assure you, it works every time.

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LindsayShoemakeLindsay Shoemake is a creative visionary, blogger and “PR girl” living in Atlanta. When she isn’t blogging at That Working Girl or interning at Caren West PR, you can find her perusing new coffee shops, cuddling her Pekingese, Lily, or living full-out at a Fall Out Boy show (no shame). Catch more of Lindsay on Twitter, @VivaLaLindsay or Instagram.

Young Professional Advice from Friends: Alive or Just Breathing

This is a  Young Professional Advice from Friends post written by Cristina Reyeros at Ambition in the CityYPAF is a collection of voices from different ages, places and industries to share advice on starting off and being twenty.

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Alive or Just Breathing: Tips for Young Professionals 

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Recently I was approached by the lovely Katie Robinson, of asktheyoungprofessional, to write a post that would speak to Katie’s young professional audience around the adventures of adulthood and starting a career. As I approach my 30’s I look back at my 20’s as a time for exploration, play, and most importantly, self discovery. My 20’s have been for me a time filled with youthful enthusiasm, lots of learning, a few stumbles, and a whole lot of change. I look back at this time and I can honestly say I have lived these 9 years to the fullest. I have no regrets and have used this time to discover who Cristina really is. How will you use your 20’s to uncover the best version of yourself?  In this post I hope to offer a few words of wisdom as you set forth on your path to greatness. Your 20’s should be a time of aliveness and endless possibility.  Are you alive or just breathing?

Tips For My 20 Something’s 

1. There is no invisible clock ticking above your head. Be kind to yourself. If you haven’t figured things out just yet, don’t let the pressures of society get to you. Your twenties are a time to play and be curious. Tap into your interests and give them some room to emerge. Who said you have to stick to just one job or just one career path? Test the waters. Get your feet wet in a few different oceans. Your choices are only as limited as you make them out to be. Embrace choice and you’ll keep moving forward.

2. Trust the process of life. When you believe that there are more possibilities for you then you can even imagine, you draw those possibilities into your body, mind, and spirit. Keep that youthful enthusiasm alive and kicking. Never settle when it comes to your career and life’s purpose. You want to wake each day and embrace the newness and wonder just waiting to be experienced. If you find that your days feel long and drawn out, ask yourself ,”What needs to be shifted in my life?” Be open and honest with yourself, and allow for the universe to bring forth alternative opportunities for joy, happiness, and fulfillment. When you change your mind you can change your life, and in turn the world around you. Never stifle those natural gifts and talents for the sake of a higher paying or more stable career path. Both you and the world might miss out on sharing the uniqueness you were meant to contribute in this life.

3. Step into your power and know when to walk away. It won’t be easy but there will come a time in your career where you begin to ask yourself “Is this what I really want to do for the rest of my life?” Think long and hard and envision your future self. What does he or she look like? What are they doing, and most importantly are they happy? If you find that your future self appears to be in a very different place then where you find yourself in the moment, it might be time to walk away from your present and step into a new future. Embrace choice and keep moving forward. 20 years from now you don’t want to look back on your life and say, “I should have chosen a different path.” Listen to your heart and tap into your future self in the now. He or she has all the wisdom you need to guide you on the right course.

4. Expand your view. Change can be a fabulous thing! Just as we often change our outfits throughout the week with such ease, look at your life in the same way. It is possible to try on alternative views for your life. Look at your current stance on your career and life and play around with other ways you can approach your current reality. When we step fully into another view we allow for new sensations and possibilities to emerge. Allow yourself to embody those sensations and see what’s possible if you just make this small shift in perspective. We are often resistant to making changes out of the fear that tends to come with the unknown. Step fully into the unknown with curiosity and excitement. Try on this new perspective just like you would try on a new outfit at a clothing store. Your freedom and ultimately your happiness are at stake here. If you aren’t willing to try things on for size you will always be left wondering “what if”. You don’t want to be the person that comes back to the mall for that outfit you almost bought and find that it’s no longer in stock. Missed opportunities as well as silenced ambition can lead one to feel stuck and helpless. What are you more excited about then afraid of? Let those feelings of excitement overcome your fear. You can and should do anything you set your mind to.

5. Enjoy this time. Make the most of it by being open, appreciative, and above all fully present. Your twenties are a time for such tremendous growth. Be present and alive in this moment. Notice and acknowledge what’s possible from here and step fully into living each day as your authentic brilliant self.

With Love,

Cristina Reyeros

Transformational Coach

New York City

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” C. JoyBell C.

Ambition In The City