8 Suggestions on What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (Career-Wise)

Imagine this: You’ve been a stay-at-home mom for years, with memories of the workplace being distant ones at best. In lieu of making your mark in the professional world, you’ve been running the show within the confines of your place of residence. Supporting your husband as he focuses on his lucrative career. Ensuring that your children’s basic needs are met. Paying all the bills. Keeping the house tidy (or at least preventing it from becoming a health hazard). Assisting with homework.

Planning and coordinating meals, doctor and dentist appointments, school obligations, holidays and other special occasions, family activities, play dates, birthday parties, and the children’s extracurricular activities. Not to mention the endless job of being the primary caregiver – tending to boo-boos, coaching your children in developing acceptable social manners, and implementing appropriate consequences for poor behavior. In your own personal enterprise, you’ve been the CEO, nurse, psychologist, teacher, chauffeur, accountant, housekeeper, chef, and event coordinator. Essentially, this has been your job for 18 hours a day/7 days a week/year-round, UNTIL…

…you find yourself divorced and needing to work outside the home, or

…your husband loses his job, and the family needs the extra income to survive, or

….somehow it’s necessary for you to return to the workplace.

But how? Now what?

Up until this point, you’ve worn so many proverbial hats, clocking in hours that make a corporate workaholic look as productive as a dog on a summer afternoon in Texas. But, unfortunately, not one hour is transferable in the professional world.

That college diploma is hanging out with the resume you’ve written in your B.C. (Before Children) years, collecting dust somewhere in the back of your closet.

You yearn for a meaningful career – not just a job that pays the bills. Yet, you’re not sure if you even want to return to the exact same occupation/industry path you once traveled. Volunteering to gain work experience sounds wonderful and noble, but you need to earn an income NOW.

Bad news: to drag out the old, tired cliché, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Good news: there are more resources in your own backyard and/or at your fingertips – than you may realize. And, you may not necessarily need to start from ground zero.

If you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree, you’re already further ahead than you may know. The difference between a degree holder’s earnings and those of a high school-only worker are sizeable over a lifetime. According to the U.S. Government Info Web site, “… a high school graduate can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor’s degree $2.1 million; and people with a master’s degree $2.5 million.” (Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnebersole/2012/08/08/why-a-college-degree/)

You may be thinking, OK, that’s great, but my head hurts from thinking about where to begin and I still have no clue where to begin!

Just like starting an exercise program – or any other major project, getting started is key. And, you need to start somewhere. Below are 8 suggestions:

1. Be Kind to Yourself. I’ve had to tell a few people who are (or were) in this journey – myself included. Entire books have been written on this very subject.

book_cover_what_should_i_do_frankel What Should I Do With My Life book

And, Economist Neil Howe estimates that only 5 percent of people find a good career match on the first try (Source: brazencareerist.com).

Bad news: You won’t find a clear, definitive guidance in any one single source. You’ll need to make a commitment to chip away at the layers of uncertainty to find your ideal career path. However, if you do find one single resource that provides you with that revelation, please share with the rest of us!

Good news: You’re not alone! And, in research conducted nationwide in 2005 among 2,443 college-educated women of all ages, the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWP) found that 74 percent of women who want to go back to work do manage it (Source: http://www.more.com/reinvention-money/careers/back-business-stay-home-moms-return-workforce).

2. Take a Test. You may have heard of the book, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles that’s been in print since 1970. Today, there’s no shortage of quizzes, tests, and other tools that provide insight into a career path that’s right for you. Here’s a website with a list of tests to consider: http://www.jobhuntersbible.com/for-career-changers/view/figuring-out-a-career-through-taking-tests

3. Do Your Research. Surf through popular job boards, such as monster.com, www.careerbuilder.com and www.linkedin.com. Print out some job postings with your desired job title and/or industr(ies). DO NOT worry at this point whether or not you may be qualified at this time. First, determine whether or not the scope of work sounds like something you truly would be happy doing (at least most of the time) for 40 hours a week. Next, highlight those requirements for which you lack experience.

4. Invest in Continuing Education. Does the job require some working knowledge of a particular software program or an industry best practice? Consider taking a course at your local community college. Or, “navigate the world of online education through 75,000 student reviews” at coursetalk.com to determine which course(s) would be best for you. Sure, it’s money out of your pocket now. But, you’ll more than likely earn that payment back in due time.

5. Talk It Out. Ask those who know you best – on both a professional and personal level – what they believe are your greatest strengths. If time and budget permits, seek some guidance and advice from a certified career coach. Check out the National Career Development Association or other organizations that certify career professionals to locate a qualified career coach. And, on the subject of talking it out…

6. Network. Chances are, you’ll get your big break through someone that you know. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. I’ll discuss this in more detail in my next post, so stay tuned…

7. Lower Your Expectations in Terms of Income – at least for the short term. Although there’s no question you’ve sacrificed A LOT for your family, the harsh reality is – that doesn’t translate into dollars and cents needed to pay the bills. And finally…

8. Ask Yourself, “What Motivates You?” Of course, we all need to make money. However, this shouldn’t be your sole driving force. Based on research involving 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients, the results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. The reported correlation (r = .14) indicates that there is less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels. Furthermore, the correlation between pay and pay satisfaction was only marginally higher (r = .22 or 4.8% overlap), indicating that people’s satisfaction with their salary is mostly independent of their actual salary (Source: https://hbr.org/2013/04/does-money-really-affect-motiv).

Bottom line: if you’re spending at least half – or more – of your waking hours earning a paycheck, you may as well be engaged in enjoyable work. Or at least at a job that doesn’t give you that gloom-and-doom feeling every time you hear your alarm clock buzz. Trust me.

YOUR TURN

For those of you who are (or were) in complete career overhaul, what resource(s) did you find the most helpful?

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If You Want to Get Back Into the Game, You Gotta Learn the Rules…

…and most likely, the rules have changed.

One of the most humbling lessons I’ve learned in my most recent job search is this: I’m outdated. Yep, somehow the past ten years have melded together into one indistinguishable color, no matter how hard I try to keep them separated in my head – sort of like my boys’ Playdoh stash. A decade later – which feels like 10 years and 10 days all at once – I’m ready to dive headfirst into the unknown waters of the full-time working world. And of course I remember how to swim. But, look at everyone else in the pool gliding flawlessly, showing off these new strokes! Am I going to look like an idiot, flailing my arms in an effort to keep my head above water? Can I learn those new strokes, so I can move with the flow of the current?

The short answer is: yes. Of course I can! But, where do I even begin?

For me, the “new strokes” I needed to learn are in the social media arena. Of course, I have a Facebook and a LinkedIn account. Aside from posting my boys’ school photos, I hadn’t dabbled much in the social media world, let alone utilize it for business purposes. Until recently, I thought:

  • Only celebrities and other self-absorbed people used Twitter to “twitter” what they ate for lunch;
  • Only teenagers used YouTube to post videos of pranking their friends; and
  • Only crafty stay-at-home moms (which I’m NOT) used Pinterest to post Martha Stewart-like projects with details that make my head spin.

And what the hell is Reddit and Snapchat?

I’m sure that’s just scratching the surface of what’s out there. It seems like the amount of social media websites and apps are multiplying faster than Catholic rats.

So, how does a perfectly capable and seasoned professional – who’s sat on the bench for a while – get back into the game and keep up?

Here are just a few avenues to consider:

1. Setting up Informational Interviews First and foremost, you need to determine your end goal. Do you wish to return to the same field you were in – prior to your professional “hiatus” – but feel as if may not be attainable? Try setting up a meeting – preferably with a hiring manager in that particular field – and ask him or her about the qualifications of their ideal candidate for the particular position in which you are interested. The hiring manager may also be able to provide some insight into any continuing education courses you could take to bring yourself up to speed. Please note: you should reiterate your intentions for this meeting – it is NOT to solicit for a job; it’s merely to gather information and advice. Most people innately like to help others. Just make it clear that you have no other ulterior motives. If you make a good impression – and there happens to be an opening in this hiring manager’s department – BONUS! But go in with no other agenda, aside from heeding advice.

2. Volunteering Regardless of your occupation, chances are there’s a not-for-profit organization that would gladly accept your specific skill sets and talents. This will also give you an opportunity to hone in on some skills – and work some of those “muscles” that haven’t been flexed in a while. Keep in mind that volunteer work counts as work experience, too. Not to mention you’d get to expand your network and contribute to a worthy cause. Here are a couple of articles that discuss this in further detail: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/04/04/how-volunteering-can-help-you-get-a-job

VolunteerMatch posts volunteer opportunities suiting various causes and professional backgrounds. www.volunteermatch.org

3. Joining an Organization That Caters to Your Particular Profession Recently, I joined the American Marketing Association. This allowed me to connect with other employed marketing professionals in the area – those who have been living and breathing the marketing world air and can possibly offer advice and/or a job lead. AMA also provides luncheons with guest speakers presenting various topics applicable to today’s marketers, as well as other free and discounted continuing education resources, webinars and seminars.

Not in Marketing? That’s OK. Bottom line – I’m certain other professional organizations offer a similar format. And yes, these organizations most likely involve a membership fee to access all of their resources. However – assuming you make a commitment to actually utilize these resources – I’m certain you’ll find it to be well worth the investment. Just like a gym membership – you actually have to go and sweat a little to see results.

This site offers a comprehensive list of professional organizations from just about every type of (legal) career and industry under the sun: http://www.weddles.com/associations/

Yeah, I know. Reigniting a dormant career can sometimes feel like stepping up to the starting line of a marathon, thinking: “I need to run how far?!? I know I’ve done this before, but I haven’t ran in so long!” It’s all about finding the courage to take that first step across the starting line. And in order to go the proverbial distance – I’ve found that breaking down the entire excursion into smaller, more manageable units makes it feel much more attainable. Start small if need be. Take those first baby steps. You’ll find the momentum to get there. Just make sure you’re consistently moving in the right direction.

Your Turn

Are you interested re-igniting a career that’s been dormant for a while? Or, have you had success in returning to the workforce? If so, what avenues have you found to be helpful?

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Dear Virtual Human Resources Recruiter:

Dear Virtual Human Resources Recruiter:

Wow. You’re a tough nut to crack. Do you know that? Recently, it occurred to me that the last time I had to actively look for work, all I needed was a pen and the most recent edition of the Chicago Tribune‘s Classified section. I’d type up a cover letter and resume, print it on fancy paper stock with an envelope to match, and then send it directly to the hiring manager or the human resources department. Regardless of the recipient, I innately knew that it would fall in the hands of a living, breathing HUMAN BEING.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve sincerely enjoyed work. I sold lemonade, handmade drawings, and rocks from my driveway. I babysat nearly every potty-trained child in my neighborhood. I sold fast-food and bussed tables (which, in and of itself was quite a humbling experience). Throughout college, I waited tables to cover my living expenses while taking a full load of courses in order to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in four years. I’ve never been afraid of hard work. And, I did whatever it took to get the job done – coming in the office on weekends, working extra from home, staying up late. I’d be exhausted, overworked, and underpaid. But, I never missed a deadline. Ever.

But, of course you wouldn’t know that. How could you?

The day I made that fateful decision to stay at home – soon after my son was born almost a decade ago – I knew that returning to the workforce full-time would be an uphill battle. Meanwhile, I embarked on a role in which I had absolutely no experience, no training, and no “support staff”. The learning curve was steeper than the Cliffs of Moher. And, to top it all off, I suffered from post-partum depression (yes, anyone who’s had it can vouch that it is a real, debilitating condition). Thankfully, I did get help and felt better after a few weeks. But, for those first few months of being a bona fide SAHM, I heard it. The question guaranteed to make every exhausted, overwhelmed stay-at-home parent cringe. “So…what did you do all day?”

In the past, I had been blessed with job opportunities that found me – instead of vice versa. Now, I feel like this digital world is doing its best to wad up each and every one of us – along with all of our qualifications and achievements – and stuff us into convenient little air-tight packages stamped with customized SEO keywords. And we’re suffocating in the process.

Imagine this, Virtual HR: You come across a candidate who appears perfect online. You notify a human to schedule an interview and block off an hour or more of the hiring manager’s time to meet this person. But, as it turns out, this candidate really isn’t qualified. Or worse. Everyone who’s involved in the hiring process won’t ever get that time back. And, as they say, time is money.

Now imagine carelessly passing over the perfect candidate – the one who could really take your company to a new level – just because he or she included the words “lead” instead of “managed” or “composed” instead of “wrote”.

It happens all the time.

At the end of the day, the livelihood of your business isn’t driven by a set of black-and-white algorithms. It’s living, breathing humans who make it happen.

So, which potential star employees are you rejecting because you’ve got your digital blinders on?

Think about it.

Sincerely,

Frustrated Job Seeker

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What’s Your Dream Job?

“What is your dream job?”

That’s what a friend of mine asked me recently after seeing my Facebook post asking for advice on using the DART railroad system to commute to downtown Dallas – should I land a job there.

Had he asked me that question even 6 months ago, I would’ve had no idea how to answer. Now, I know that my immediate answer. My DREAM job – without boundaries or restrictions – is to be a travel writer. However, since I’ve got two boys who depend on me day in and day out, I know that’s not feasible (at least for now). Therefore, I interpreted the question as:

“What are you made to do?”

Without much hesitation, I replied, “I want to get back into marketing communications – which is what I really enjoyed most about the previous positions I held. Creating and executing marketing and promotional campaigns, doing PR work and writing and managing the production of marketing materials. I enjoy business development too – but it would have to be the right gig for me to take on sales.”

“Wow! You really know what you want. I am constantly asking people about their dream job, and a lot of people don’t know.”

Frankly, that made me feel good. I have to admit, though – clearing that hurdle was no small feat. Figuring out what you want to do professionally – and actually make a viable living doing it – has been an issue that’s probably existed for generations.

And, it’s been my reality, too.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women comprised 47% of the total U.S. workforce in 2010 – with projections to account for 51% of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018. However, I can imagine nearly 100% of adult women – at least at some point in their lives- wrestled with the idea of:
a.) what career path to choose;
b.) whether or not to start a family – and when; and
c.) whether or not to cultivate their chosen career and raise a family – or both. And how?

Sure, I’m sure there are a few lucky gals who have had unfailing certainty of their destined profession before they could even legally work. And, there are women who have always assumed they would take on a more traditional role as homemaker and full-time primary caregiver in a one-income household. And, of course there are women who’ve never experienced even an inkling of an itch to reproduce.

And, I think it’s all good. It’s indeed a personal choice, subject to each individual’s preferences and/or circumstances.

Personally, figuring out how to strike a healthy balance between motherhood and a fulfilling, satisfying career has been a real struggle for me. And, I know there are others out who share similar sentiments.

Life circumstances have found me in this transition period from essentially being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) since August 2005 to a full time employee (FTE). And let me tell ‘ya – it has been a real eye-opener. The job seeker’s playing field looks entirely different than a decade ago. It’s forced me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished professionally – in what feels like a lifetime ago. Memories flooded in of desperately seeking what I’m called to do all throughout my 20s. Feeling like I’ve been blindfolded and dropped in the middle of a dark, dense forest disguised as the corporate world with no compass, no map, and no guide – only with this single piece of advice I’ve ever received:

When mentioning my intentions of applying to the College of Education and pursuing a career as a high school English teacher: “Don’t go into education. You should go into business. Tall women are successful at business.”

Really? No kidding.

Remembering how much I enjoyed selling lemonade, hand-drawn pictures, rocks from my driveway, and other random things as a kid – I decided to give marketing a try. Since college graduation, I considered a career as a social worker, a family and marriage counselor, an ESL teacher, and a reading specialist. All the while, I felt like a hamster on a treadmill – working hard and getting nowhere.

Nearly two decades after that fateful decision as a college student, I finally, finally realized that the marketing arena is where I need to be. More about that in future posts…

So, What’s The Point? Why This Blog?

Based on various conversations I’ve had over the past few years with friends and acquaintances – mostly women, but a few men as well – I know I’m not alone in this journey to find professional satisfaction. Transitioning back into the workforce feels a bit like starting over. Except, now I also have little ones that depend on me.

I’m no expert by any means. But, with a love for writing and a heart for helping others, I figured I could combine those two and share what I’m learning in my journey from essentially being a SAHM to a FTE. My struggles and my successes. The good, the bad, and the WTF moments.

And, if I know all the blood, sweat and rejection letters I’ve experienced in this job seeking process has helped at least one person, I’ll be happy.

Share Your Thoughts!
When have you determined your chosen profession? If you are currently transitioning back into the workplace from a hiatus as a stay-at-home caregiver, are you planning to continue down that same career path?

What is your dream job?

Hello world!

Hi there! I’ve actually written some blog posts that have been idly tucked away on my laptop for a few months now. Ironically, I wrote these during my initial job search earlier this year. But, as I’m facing yet another potential transition, God has placed on my heart to share what I’ve written so far and to…

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