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ABCs of CAREER CHOICE: A Glossary
In career terms, accomplishments may be: (1) enjoying a career that matches and dovetails with "who you are" -- your interests, needs, preferences, your most enjoyable skills, most transferable skills, strongest skills, and your personal and professional priorities; (2) achieving something that you recognize as emotionally satisfying and fulfilling; (3) achieving something that the world recognizes and rewards (a Nobel Prize, an Emmy, a Grammy).
To certain people, ambition may be deemed pointless, vicious, "perverse" in an unjust society, "arising from a lack of ability", a "dirty little secret", the dark side of self promotion, careerism, opportunism, or best kept hidden (as in Jay Gatsby, Sammy Glick, Uriah Heep). However, to career management professionals, ambition is an "ardent desire for satisfaction, rank, fame, or power", the "fuel and oxygen of achievement", intrinsically healthy, innate, a foundation for developing the complete person, a way of forming our own destiny.
Years ago, a pervasive need to appear satisfied with one's career made open and free discussion of career dissatisfaction off-limits and even taboo (especially true then among professionals); this aggravated the mismatch between our preferences and our careers, intensifying career dissatisfaction, career confusion, career burnout, and career malaise. The modern approach emphasizes systematic and explicit career assessment, career options exploration, implementation, that lead to career change, career re-tooling, career renewal, and career well-being.
A systematic and detailed answer to the question, "Who are you?", is the result of a professional career assessment. It objectifies and identifies your preferences, your needs, your values, your most-enjoyable skills, your strongest skills, your most transferable skills. It also derives a range of career options based on who you are, and helps you develop the ability to describe yourself clearly, confidently, and fluently -- initially to yourself -- and eventually (with practice) in interviews.
In contemplating a career transition, it's important to be mindful of your personal and professional assets. These often include: a bushel basket of fundamental and perhaps-exotic skills, many of them "bankable" -- coin of the realm -- reusable in other occupations or careers; the good-will of friends and colleagues; the ability to recognize opportunities when they appear serendipitously, or to develop them through contacts and networking; the ability to acquire new career skills, attitudes, and behaviors; See optimism.
Discovering career activities that utilize both obvious and latent abilities effectively; achieving results that are important to you; allowing or stretching your interests to accommodate as widely as possible who you are. A balanced life is a salient goal of professional career management, and a highly recommended priority for those who seek career self-guidance.
A one-page biography is often more effective than a resume. A resume tells who you are or were -- not who you want to be. The subtext of virtually any resume is: "Please help me. I'm desperate. I need a job." Consequently, a one page biography (written in narrative prose...sentences and paragraphs) has more dignity than a resume, and does not carry its implied desperation or neediness, which is a poor stance for job-search and job-negotiation purposes.
Your career may now be chaotic, complex, or confusing -- perhaps set in motion early on by simple but inappropriate career decisions made long ago, which amplified themselves over time into distressful or crisis career circumstances now. A butterfly flapping its wings in Iowa could put into motion a set of atmospheric conditions that could culminate in a monsoon in Indonesia. You might not comprehend the future consequences of your early initial error. "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the level of thinking with which we created them"...Albert Einstein.
The word vocation come from the Latin "to call". Being called to an occupation, as in a religious calling, reveals its presence by a sense of extreme dedication, continually energized and inspired by our deepest feelings. "Each of us must find and obey the demon that holds the very fiber of our being."...Max Weber.
Our general, moral, or intellectual course of action through life; following our profession, training, occupation, or life's work. Increasingly, we have more than one career per life-time. Those who work within their preferences report that they view their career as "an activity embedded within the flow of life", a "useful pursuit of worthy goals", a "worthy expression of my life", an "opportunity to make others feel good." To experience and live these definitions: recall the best things you've ever done, and then find the opportunity and venue to do them again.
Career change ability
The ability to change careers is measurable by comparing oneself to those who have changed careers often, easily, happily, and successfully. About 10 percent of the US adult work force changes occupations per year, and about four million members of the work force change employers per month. This represents some 12 million occupational changes, and 48 million job changes, per year.
Career decision-making patterns
Prior decisions and patterns of decision, even those that you may not be fully aware of, may be responsible for your current career or your current career dissatisfaction. These career decision-making patterns may be identified by a systematic examination of each career choice made at the time, the other options available and rationale at that time, and how those decisions appear 'in retrospect'.
A state of career distress, malaise, confusion, or burnout which occurs when your work and 'who you are' no longer feel compatible or comfortable. See career evaluation , assessment, assets, alternative careers, appearances, career change ability, butterfly effect, calling, career health, career well-being.
A systematic approach to identifying all of your preferences -- your skills (including your strongest skills, your most enjoyable skills, your transferable skills, your social skills) your needs and values, your prior career decision-making patterns, your personal and professional priorities --in order to derive a range of desirable career options given who you are.
An attainable career condition, similar to physical and medical health, in which individuals alter a career or job when desirable or necessary to achieve satisfaction or harmony between who they are and what they do. This is measured by comparing oneself against a gold standard of rare individuals who have changed careers easily, often, happily, and successfully. (career-change champions).
Career or vocational possibilities open to you based upon your personal and professional preferences: your skills, interests, needs, priorities, and values. Each career option is then tested against timely realistic marketplace data to determine how well they fit together or dovetail.
(1) Applying a systematic and logical process of evaluating oneself and one's career in order to develop a master plan or "theory of career victory" to achieve an acceptable fit. (2) Then implementing the plan or theory to achieve career satisfaction based upon a match between the marketplace and who you are.
Career-change champions are those who have changed careers often, easily, happily, and successfully. We can compare ourselves to their career beliefs, career attitudes, and career behaviors since these reveal common themes and hallmarks. Examples of successful and satisfied early career-choosers: Steven Spielberg, who made his first film at age eight; Albert Einstein, who had his first inkling of relativity at age sixteen. Example of a satisfied career changer: Benjamin Franklin, who was a printer, author, inventor, engineer, politician, diplomat.
In career terms, compensation includes the full range of rewards: subjective, objective, emotional, financial, and ego-gratifying that accompany a good fit between an individual and a career.
The group of individuals and organizations that allow us to share and communicate our career interests, skills, desires; properly approached, these individuals can help us expand our marketplace data, and amplify our career wisdom about new career directions we are contemplating.
Curriculum vita (cv)
A written presentation of one's career achievements and landmarks, work experiences, education, publications, awards. Formerly useful for obtaining an academic or research position. Not as useful or dignified as a one-page biography, especially for changing career directions, since cv (or resume) tells who or what you are or were--not who or what you want to be.
Past career choices may represent imperfect understanding of yourself and incomplete knowledge of the world as it is. "Much of the journey toward career self-realization is not known to the individual either at the time it is happening, or even (surprisingly) in rerospect...Time is unlikely to unveil important career decision process, since individuals are too involved to perceive connection, or too inexperienced to be able to assess them correctly"....Eli Ginzberg. Nevertheless, these patterns are discernable later in life, often with outside guidance or rigorous self-examination, or both.
Pessimism and systematic negativity, extending over a period of weeks or months, that can paralyze or damage one's career and career decision-making, and degrade the quality of one's life. Depression may be situational or clinical, is usually treatable with medication, therapy, or in combination, and is measurable by a brief written test. (See Depression Inventory, pp 286-8 of Career Renewal)
Declaration of career independence
Specify your long and short-range career goals in writing. State their cost to you in time or effort. Indicate in written form the necessary steps you must take, including "perfect execution". Write your past successes, and elaborate what they felt like. Then write what your new career goals, costs, and necessary steps will feel like.
In expanding one's circle or web of contacts, or 'information-gathering interviews' to expose new options, desensitization is the ability to identify and overcome social obstacles or personal resistances that might retard the process.
When organizations fire employees or let them go. Downsizing may take place in the (sometimes-mistaken) belief that the down-sized organization will become more profitable or cost effective.
Often an impediment to changing careers, education or "the curse of knowledge" may strengthen a favorite set of skills or "muscles" at the expense of others. See trained incapacity.
Coined by Daniel Goleman to describe 'street smarts' or social competence in win-win situations where many participants benefit; a set of people skills and abilities that "win friends and influence people"; the ability to mobilize others (especially who or what they know) to advance their interests and yours.
Employers find new employees to hire by: (1) asking trusted employees (least expensive method for employer); (2) asking friendly competitors; (3) placing want ads (more expensive for employer); (4) hiring search firms (most expensive). But, most employees search for jobs in ways that are incompatible with these facts and employer realities: (1) employees respond to ads (easiest and least productive for employee to find work); (2) sending out unsolicited resumes (very unproductive); (3) using recruiters or search firms (paid for by the employer, and thus not serving the career interests of employee); (5) gathering current marketplace data from colleagues, contacts, and associates (most socially-difficult and yet demonstrably most-productive).
Entrepreneurs have the ability or talent to shift resources from areas of low productivity and yield to areas of high productivity and yield. They understand a marketplace need and how to serve or fulfill that need. They embrace risk.
If you speak to three individuals from each of whom you glean three contacts, and from each of them you glean three more contacts, then you have access to twenty-seven sources of new information about a new career direction hitherto unknown to you. Thus by contacting successive 'generations' of contacts or 'degrees of separation' you can increase your contacts (and marketplace data) exponentially.
Meeting for the purpose of gathering information from a contact or "target" are called "informational interviews", since you interview the target. These are done most effectively face-to-face, rather than at a distance, since most human communication is non-verbal, and in this process you can learn what the target's career looks and feel like.
If one goal fades, an optimist finds another and strives to reach it. Optimists externalize setbacks and internalize accomplishments. Optimism is one of the best predictors of career success and satisfaction (and longevity). By breaking down formidable goals into discrete specific elements, optimists are able to accomplish much.
Career well being resembles physical fitness; exercise improves both. Diagnosis and check-ups prevents loss of health and muscle strength (atrophy), just as career diagnosis and career check-ups help prevent "career atrophy" and "career malaise". It's more important to know what person has the career, than what career the person has.
During a job interview, an invitation by a job interviewer to "Tell me about yourself", is tantamount to asking -- or the subtext of -- "Why should I hire you?"
The third phase of a career transition process (following "assessment" and "options exploration") which is designed to get you to where you want to be: organizing a campaign of letters, resumes, one-page bios (better than resume if changing career direction), interview practice, negotiations, etc.
The "opposite" of a job interview, in which you interview an individual (a target) whose name you obtained through a credible intermediary. The target works at a job or career that you think you might like to know more about -- before you decide to pursue this potential career direction. Ideally, you'd like the target to tell you: how she got the job; what she likes and doesn't like about the job; who else does similar work whom you could contact and be introduced to.
A job interview is a dialogue (not a KGB interrogation) that leads to one decision by the candidate (you), and one decision by the interviewer (the hiring decision-maker). This dialogue allows you to find out more about the job's opportunities, specifications, and environment. Before the job interview, research the organization fully so that you have intelligent questions to ask, which become the basis for a dialogue between peers.
Interview questions (difficult)
Prepare candid/believable/positive answers to the most difficult job interview questions, such as: Why are you changing careers/jobs? Why did you leave your last job? What are your greatest weaknesses? Where do you want be in five years? Describe a time that you failed, or clashed with a superior?
Job search systems
Formal methods: ads, search firms, resumes, intensely competitive, easy-to-send-out resumes...all ultimately unproductive. Informal methods: research, investigate, use contacts, unpublished openings, "hidden" job market, unconventional, private, your initiative, more work for you, most professional jobs found this way...highly productive.
A career-transition diary or journal helps you focus on your career-transition process: it captures, preserves, and extends your detailed thoughts, musings, jottings, ruminations, informational-interview contacts and ideas, wisdom, and random notions about your contemplated career transitions. The journal/diary format: prevents your insights from slipping away; consolidates and incorporates new career ideas, behaviors, marketplace data, and attitudes.
Embarking on a career transition, or choosing a career, requires knowledge of oneself, knowledge of the marketplace for one's most enjoyable skills, and knowledge of the "overlap" between them.
Leads are people who you know, or can get to know, who are able to "amplify" the intelligence within your own brain by "leading" you to socially and professionally well-connected others, whose assets, wisdom, and contacts you can mobilize. It's important that you and your leads share reciprocal interests in common, and that they do not feel exploited.
Letters and e-mail require a considerable investment of time and thought since they represent you, who you are, and what mutual interests you seek to explore. A "contact" letter must exclude a resume or else the target will assume you are asking for a job, when in fact you are (or should be) asking for advice. A "cover" letter includes a resume since it is sent in response to an ad requesting your resume. A "thank you" letter should always conclude with the phrase, "I will keep you informed of my progress", to suggest the possibility of a continuing relationship that advances your search.
List all career-related life choices (college, major, professional school, first job, second job, etc), the alternatives available at the time, your rationale used for your actual choice, and finally, in retrospect how you feel now about your choice made then. You can now determine if there were patterns then -- and going forward -- now. Early small career decisions made with imperfect knowledge then can result in large career errors now. (Butterfly effect).
Marketing oneself ethically and with integrity is one of the bases for long term career success. Marketing is an exchange of value, preceded by an understanding of the employers' needs and wants, trust and rapport, and high moral principles. Pressure to acquire your services must arise naturally from the buyer, and not aggressively from the seller. To understand the buyers' needs, you must do detailed research in advance of any job or information-gathering meeting. Consequently, you will be able to ask intelligent questions eliciting facts, and to demonstrate your eagerness to learn more about targets' needs.
Very few careers or career transitions occur without worthy role models, coaches, guides, or mentors -- who provide access to appropriate up-to-date job-market information. Having a worthy mentor enhances a junior person's knowledge of how to navigate effectively in the professional world of new colleagues and contacts. Mentors provide sponsorship or reflected power from the senior to the junior person. Research shows that a substantial majority of successful job/career changers obtained their employment through personal approaches or introductions or polite solicitations to people who know people, role models, mentors, and contacts of potential employers. See (Networking).
See Exponential interview.
About 58 % of advanced-degree professionals (law, medicine, science, engineering, architecture, humanities) follow a straight-ahead career path. About 29 % follow a broad career path, shifting fields slightly or moving into administration within original career. About 13% follow a variant or non-traditional career pattern, changing career directions completely or significantly.
Poor interpersonal skills are leading obstacles to success in making a career transition. If you have no master plan or "theory of victory" you can get lost or fail. If you lack energy or optimism, you lack key ingredients. Depression is a significant obstacle. If you have difficulty distinguishing between what you know and don't know, you must acquire these distinctions. You may fail if you are "a product looking for a market"... instead of "searching for a market that's looking for you".
Occupations are full-time activities that occupy and can fulfill us.
The ability to change occupations or careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 10 % of the total adult labor workforce change occupations per year, and about 4 million per month change jobs or employers.
Optimism is one of the best predictors of success in a career or career change. To convert justifiable pessimism into learned and earned optimism requires career change planning and a theory of career victory. Optimists live longer, have better health than pessimists. Optimists tend to internalize good things that happen to them and externalize bad things. Optimists break formidable tasks into specific incremental elements, and keep written records or diaries.
Options Exploration Research
The second stage in a career transition when a range of desirable career options, derived from an evaluation of one's preferences (see assessment), lead to reality-testing based upon true job marketplace data, usually gleaned from informational interviewing and contacts.
Par statements are of the form: Problem, Action, Result. That is, "what Problem were you facing at a prior employer?"; "what Action did you take to solve it?"; and "what were the (preferably quantitative) Results?". These PAR statements are useful in writing one-page bios or resumes and in job interviews.
Persistence is the ability to "perceive each rejection as one less obstacle" on the way to an acceptance.
In a study of those with outstanding talent and performance, those who had pleasing personalities, all other things being equal, were found to be at the top of their profession ten years later. Those with unpleasant personalities were found to be next most successful. Those with an insipid personality, even though at the same original level of talent and performance, were at the bottom.
Pessimism has a significant negative impact on career satisfaction, and the ability to change careers. See optimism.
Every interview, whether job or informational improves upon rehearsal and practice. So does career changing. An old joke has an out-of-towner coming to New York who asks an old Jewish lady, How do you get to Carnegie hall? and she answers, "Practice, practice, practice".
Mentors have protégés, disciples who are star pupils, favorite students who carry the master's teachings forward, who are an extension of the mentors ego. Becoming a protégé is a matter of personal chemistry and the so-called "elusive obvious".
Recruiters are paid by the employer, and thereby represent the employers' best interests. They are assigned by the employer the task of finding a potential new hire who meets certain very stringent requirements. If you happen to possess those requirements, you will be sought after; however, if you seek career guidance from a recruiter, do not be surprised if you do not receive professional guidance that is in your best interest.
If you are asked to provide the names of references, before you provide these, check with the people you wish to use as references to see precisely what they will say about you, and do not say anything otherwise about yourself.
Research is necessary to discover who you are, what's out there as it pertains to you, and how well you and what's out there will fit.
Resumes are problematical. Resumes tell someone who you are or were, not who you want to be. Resumes also imply that you are asking for a job, when in fact you may merely be asking for advice. The resume's subtext is often: "Help me I'm desperate for work". This is not a great search strategy or negotiating position.
Changing careers or jobs involve a certain level of risk. Organizing a rational, organized plan around a "theory of victory" may help address the risks.
Self (-assessment, -confidence, -esteem, -marketing)
Assessment of oneself may be limited by the long-established and set habits of mind. Seeing oneself clearly is more difficult without objective standards of measurement.
Shyness may hinder a career change to the extent that social contacts are avoided. Yet even shy people can learn how to expand their circle of acquaintances and use techniques similar to networking and exploring the "hidden job market".
Among your total repertoire of skills, identifying your most enjoyable and transferable skills is essential to a systematic examination of what the marketplace needs that would be compatible with who you are.
Social competence is the ability to win friends and influence people, to deploy ones' street smarts to make win-win exchanges. People who are good at this say they are productive and enjoy life.
Each of us has our own definition of success. One man says success is a lousy teacher; it seduces smart people into thinking they can't fail. (Bill Gates). Another says that you can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it. The tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened by using other parts (Winston Churchill).
Systematic approaches to career transitions assessment, options exploration research, implementation have been shown to work for those who are diligent and serious about attempting to change their careers.
Talent is a gift, but one not to be misused. If you think you are talented, think again. You are generally better off being a plow horse than a race horse. Plow horses win the race; the tortoise beats the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. Really.
Arrange a meeting with someone who works in a field or organization that you consider a possible career or job choice. That person is called a "target". Interview that target to discover what they do, how they like it, who they know you can speak to, and interview their contacts. See networking, informational interviews.
Picking up the telephone and asking for a meeting or interview is the cutting edge of any effective job-search or career-transition campaign. The phone can be your first oral communication with a contact or potential employer. Good telephone technique is a skill learned through preparation, rehearsal, and practice.
You can transform your career if you are willing to examine who you are, to explore the real options available to you, to discover where you want to be, and then to organize a campaign to get there. See assessment, options exploration research, implementation.
The more formal training, schooling, and advanced education each of us receives, the more we are unable to achieve practical results in mundane but necessary pursuits, and the less versatile we become. The result is a pervasive decline in broad-band competencies. In effect, by strengthening one muscle or set of skills, we become muscle-bound in one set of skills, and enfeebled or atrophied in other (perhaps more practical or street smart) skills. We need to understand the anatomy of the atrophied muscles.
These are skills that you may transfer to other careers. Example: if you enjoy writing briefs, you may enjoy writing novels. Example: if you enjoy organizing and planning and scheduling a vacation, you may enjoy managing people and projects. If you enjoy using your computer to process complex tasks, you may enjoy using your computer for other projects such as implementing programs. If you enjoy doing research in one field, you may enjoy it another field.
Use/misuse of Internet
Get real before you go virtual. Most human communication is non-verbal. Therefore, you will get further in a networking effort by meeting face-to-face than if you communicate by phone or by e-mail.
Values are those human needs, ingredients of work, priorities and qualities of life that we cherish, such as: collegiality; growth potential; opportunity to be social useful; intellectual challenge; stimulating work; control over our work schedule; location of work; compensation; shared purpose; team work; and so on. We usually rank-order these, with some at very high priority, and others at lower priority. To enjoy one's career, these priorities must be an integral part of the career transition equation.
Extensible markup language, extensible hypertext markup language. These systems of computer language allow constant transitions to and from a given document text or image, to other texts or images, as the following examples: Network, Contact.
This is the way educated people object to an assertion they find debatable or disagreeable. Objections may arise because the individual is trained to be a skeptic (lawyer, doctor, scientist), likes to debate, or actually learns from the process of disagreeing with someone else.
In career transitions, an individual may feel a certain level of comfort in staying in a future-less job or unpleasant career. The comfort may be found in a large income, high status, or other benefits that are difficult to give up: "a comfort zone". When the discomfort overwhelms and when risk appears to be manageable, we can begin to see how to leave our career comfort zone and move forward.