I was once invited to speak to a class of MBA students, and I started my presentation by asking them how much time they devoted to their jobs. The responses ranged between 40 and 50 hours a week. I asked how much time they gave to their studies, and they answered 10 to 20 hours a week. Then I asked how much time they spent managing their careers, and at first there was silence, then nervous laugher. Finally someone said, “Not much.”
This was a group of busy, committed professionals who were adding graduate studies to already crowded schedules in the hope of advancing their careers. But they were not doing the spadework necessary to make real progress possible. Even worse, most of the questions they asked me were about relatively minor concerns such as what color stationery was best for resumes!
It’s unfortunate that the only thing most people know how to do to take care of themselves professionally is to put together a resume. A resume is a necessary evil, but by itself it won’t get you the job you want. It is only a starting point. Its real value is to you, not a prospective employer; in creating a resume you go through the exercise of articulating your selling points, which becomes the cornerstone of everything you do to claim the work you want to do.
Notice that I said, “claim the work you want to do,” not “find your next job.” This important distinction points out the reason for seeking out career assistance.
Too often, when people make up a to-do list, career issues are listed under a personal rather than a business heading; too often the approach is casual and unfocused.
There is work you are meant to do and work you are not meant to do; there is work in which you can use the skills you most enjoy using and work in which you must use skills you don’t enjoy using; there is work that leaves you feeling fulfilled and energized and there is work that leaves you feeling drained and empty.
Knowing which is which before you accept a job requires taking the time to assess your skills, values and priorities and to define your goals. This is hard work, but it brings huge rewards to those who stay with it.
We establish criteria quite naturally for the things we buy. For example, if we decide to buy a car, we define what we are looking for before we go to the showroom, e.g. seats six, gets good mileage, etc. But we resist doing the work of knowing ourselves well enough as professionals and human beings to establish the criteria to evaluate the suitability of the work we will “buy” with our time, energy and dreams.
Very few people can accomplish the work of self-assessment on their own. Most of us need help seeing our positive attributes and encouragement in believing we deserve to “have it all”—to make a good living and enjoy our work at the same time.
A career counselor is the voice that tells us we do deserve it and makes us accountable for defining the goals and taking the steps that keep us moving forward.
When you have established the criteria for the work you are ideally suited to do, based on the selling points you have articulated, the rest is marketing. Not everyone is skilled at this. In fact, many of my clients who are skilled in marketing have trouble applying marketing concepts to managing their careers.
Teaching clients how to apply the same business practices they routinely use in their work life to their careers is central to my role as a career counselor.
Too often, when people make up a to-do list, career issues are listed under a personal rather than a business heading; too often the approach is casual and unfocused. Human nature being what it is, when there is no one to answer to, we put off things we are not comfortable doing.
My job as a career counselor is to make the process of achieving professional goals so comfortable it becomes second nature. Through education and training, I help my clients make career management skills as much a part of their professional “toolkit” as their technical skills. This is key to the only real job security that can be found today.
You could think of having a relationship with a career counselor as a “perk” you give yourself; or as the decision to call in an outside expert on a “big project” instead of depending solely on the “in-house” resources. It is choosing for yourself the mentor you always wished you had. It is an acceptance of your professional responsibility to yourself.