That may sound like a dumb question, but it really is one designed to make you think. A job gives you a paycheck to be able to do things like buy groceries, pay bills, and support your child’s activities. That is not a bad reason to have a job. In fact, I’d say it is the only reason to have a job. If you need money, get a job. Right?
But a career is different.
Two people can be working side by side at the same task in the same workplace and one will have a job while the other has a career. One is focused on the paycheck, the other is focused on the future. If you are taking the time to improve your skills, paying attention to more than your job description, and getting ready for the next opportunity, then you have a career.
Improve your skills by learning to do things that intimidate you a little bit. Read more. Write more. Take some classes or tutorials about using software that might be helpful. Learn to do your job and be open to learning how to do any other jobs around you.
Pay attention to more than your job description by noticing how things happen. What’s involved with getting the product to the shelves or the service to the customer? How is this business managed? What other businesses feed into it or support it? Expanding your perspective opens your eyes to networking possibilities and possible career paths.
Get ready for the next opportunity by keeping your resume up to date and looking for ways to stay current with the job market. Seek out an executive resume writer to help bring your resume current. The Job Search Resources page has a lot of ideas here. It may say “Job” in the title, but it says “Career” in the result. The difference between a job and a career is the attitude you have about your long-range plans.
The holidays are a hard time to be looking for a job, aren’t they? The added pressure to spend money when you don’t have regular income is stressful, and the cultural expectation to have a good time when you are worried about the future is a double whammy.
The end of the year can actually be a good time to find a temporary job that leads to permanent employment. You might be lowering your standard by taking a job as a retail clerk in a department store, for instance, but that job puts you in contact with management, and more, so it will be a chance to network and make a good impression that will be remembered when you apply for other jobs within the company. And sometimes you can get discounts on gifts.
Many organizations will need to use up funds in their budget by the end of the year. If your expertise allows it, there might be a chance to make your own temporary job as a consultant and give them a hand. This too can lead to future opportunities for employment.
Holiday parties are great places to network if you keep yourself alert to the people around you. They are also great places to ruin a reputation if you overdo the drinking. Know your etiquette for office holiday parties.
Just because an office is emptier with mysterious holiday illnesses doesn’t mean that they are not hiring. You will be able to stand out as one who is productive when others are out shopping. Human Resources will always have a future openings list, and your resume on file will be enhanced by the fact you are diligent.
Depression at this time of year is normal when you are worried about the future. Doing something definite about your job search really helps keep you confident. Check out the Job Search Resources for possibilities you may not have explored yet, and good luck!
Many times, we set our goals using the wrong data. We have dreams of a certain job or lifestyle, but the steps it will take us to get there in reality are nebulous. The Job Search Resources page has a number of tools for your use, and the variety of salary calculators listed there will give you real help.
Using a salary calculator to find the reasonable expectations for what your job should pay gives you the range of salaries you can expect for that job. Location, skill set, education, and experience can be factored in. That means you can look at where you currently are and decide if there are steps you can take to get to where you want to be:
- Is this the field you want to stay in?
- Can you meet your financial obligations with your current salary? How about the top range of salary in your bracket?
- Are there other, higher paying jobs within this field (or others) that interest you?
- Do you have the skills, education, or experience to reach that level?
- What practical steps can you take today to gain the skills, education, or experience you need to reach your goals?
The salary calculator is simply a tool that equips you with facts. You can print out a graph or data sheet showing what your level of experience in your location should reasonably be paid and show it during salary negotiations. You can answer confidently when an interview question about salary expectations comes up. At the same time, you have a reality check about the job market.
Like any tool, this one is only as effective as the person using it, but the person using it can learn how to use it properly to get great benefit from it. Your goals are achievable with the right tools!
We all have someone we look to for guidance in making choices. In our career choices, it’s a good idea to have a mentor; someone we can trust to give good advice. But how do you determine who is going to be the best mentor for you?
- Have they followed their own advice? If not, can they explain why? Sometimes, you can learn from their mistakes.
- Are they doing what you hope to be doing? You may not want to be a writer, but if that writer owns a company and you want to start your own company, then you hope to be doing the same thing, right?
- How long have they been doing what you hope to be doing?
There’s a lot of advice floating around the internet and the dinner table and everywhere in between. Our challenge is to filter that advice in a way that lets us keep the best advice for our own lives and careers. I think it is good to have enough advice to need to filter it, because it gives me a bigger perspective on the issue. I want to know what different generations and different career paths can teach me.
But we need to choose who we listen to when it comes to making choices about our careers. How to look for the best job, how to write a resume and cover letter, how to do an interview, and how to stay productive and reach the goals we set for ourselves are important choices that merit careful filtering.
I hope you read this blog because you consider me a mentor, but I shouldn’t be your only source of information. That’s why there’s a Job Search Resources page on this site; nobody knows it all. You should be filtering every bit of career advice you hear through the evaluation of who said it, why they say it, and how it has worked for them.
One of the realities we face when unemployed and searching for a job is the reality of disorganization. There are a few reasons why things go haywire:
- suddenly your schedule is not tied to the workplace
- it’s usually at least slightly depressing to be unemployed
- there’s a learning curve in the development of job-searching skills
- people tend to think that someone who “isn’t working” can do all sorts of errands, emergency babysitting, and projects
Disorganization has a way of growing and taking over, just like those expanding spaces in popular match-three games ooze into the board wherever they can unless you explode them all. How can you keep disorganization from taking over your job search?
- Make yourself a schedule and remind others that you have a commitment to searching for a job. It doesn’t have to be eight hours every weekday, but it’s a good idea to block out a good chunk of time to do what you need to do for your career and tell people you aren’t available during those times.
- Stay on top of paperwork. Keeping your resume files organized, having a home for job-hunting expense records, updating a resume with any part-time jobs or seminars you’ve attended, and making sure you are on top of all the details will not only make life easier now, it is a good skill for the future.
- Declutter. The last thing you need when unemployed is a pile of stuff that hasn’t been dealt with and is reminding you of failure every day. Even if you need to take a day every week to work on it, you’ll appreciate space to breathe. Some people find that instead of a “day to declutter,” a timer set for 15-30 minutes every day motivates them to move junk out of their lives.
- Take care of yourself! Get up in the morning and stretch, take walks, eat right, etc., etc., etc. If you are unhealthy, you don’t have the energy to deal with the real work of an organized job search.
- Educate yourself. Use the job search resources that others have found helpful and spend some disciplined time learning how to utilize this time to your advantage.
When you are searching for a job, remember that your privacy is still a concern. Instead of blasting your information on every site out there, be particular about which sites you choose to use and go with job search resources recommended by experts. In addition, there are a few basic online rules to remember:
- Don’t give all your personal contact information: Use a dedicated email for contacts and protect yourself (and your family). This has the additional benefit of making you look intelligent about security risk.
- Understand and use cyber-safe resumes. Utilize the levels of visibility that site allows and understand the differences between “searchable by employers only,” “private,” “semi-private,” and “open.” Again, you have to read that site’s definitions in order to use it correctly.
- Keep track of when and where you posted your resume. Keep a spreadsheet, or use a career management tool like JibberJobber to keep track of your online job search.
- Your Social Security Number, bank account number, and mother’s maiden name do not belong with your resume. Period. That’s like giving a hacker the easiest target in the world for identity theft. That information can be given at the job site after you are hired.
As one security expert said, the safest place for information is on a piece of paper in your pocket. But you can’t find a job when your resume is hiding so you have to take steps to balance the real need for security with the equally real need for exposure. Demonstrating your understanding of cyber security standards during your job search is an asset to potential employers.
When your job search has been spinning its figurative wheels and all your efforts are ineffective, you have hit the plateau. The “plateau effect” is named after the geologic formation called a plateau: a level stretch of land that extends for many miles. You see the plateau effect in exercising, in medicine, and in a lot of other areas — the thing that worked previously is no longer working and something new has to happen in order to see change.
Make a list of what you have been doing in your job search. This is your assessment tool, so be thorough and honest with yourself. If you have only been looking at the newspaper or online job boards, say so. You want to have a visible list of what your plateau looks like. In physical therapy, the therapist will get very specific about how many steps the patient took, for instance, or exact range of motion in the shoulder they are rehabilitating. That specific list allows them to see where there has or has not been change so they know what to work on. For your job search list, keep track of how many jobs you actually applied for and when you worked on your resume, etc.
Set goals a little outside your comfort zone. That physical therapist will push the patient past what feels good but not as far as injury. This is how the body gets off the plateau safely and the shoulder gains the next degree of motion. Are you on LinkedIn? Maybe now is the time to consider that. The plateau happens because we get comfortable and stabilize. That isn’t always a bad thing, but in your job search it is! If you are ready to get off that plateau, it is going to involve some discomfort as you do unfamiliar things and explore new territory in job search resources.
The results of getting off that job search plateau are new skills, deeper understanding, and more job opportunities.