Category Archives: Career Resources

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Job Interviews

Readers often find The Proactive Professional by doing internet searches regarding questions they have about the job interview process.  I have compiled a list of these Frequently Asked (and Searched) Questions and answered them here:

  1. Can you wear heels higher than two inches for a job interview?
    1. You *can* but that probably doesn’t mean you should.  I suggest wearing 2-21/2 inch heels—three inches at the most—for job interviews.  I’ve participated in plenty of interviews where the candidate didn’t realize how much walking would be involved and was practically tripping in her shoes.
  2. Are capri pants professional enough for a job interview?
    1. It depends.  If you’re applying for a job in the service industry or an artistic field, capris should be fine—provided you wear them with a nice blouse and dress shoes.  If you’re applying for a position in business or a more conservative office, wear a pencil skirt or lightweight dress pants.
  3. Is it okay to wear a sleeveless dress to an interview?
    1. I suggest pairing a sleeveless dress with a nice cardigan or blazer for a job interview.  I suggest this for a couple of reasons—one, offices are often unreasonably air conditioned during the summer and you don’t want to be uncomfortable, and two, as with capri pants, more conservative/traditional fields may not approve of sleeveless clothing.  (My job interview motto is always “Better safe than sorry!”)
  4. What do I do if the interviewer says dress “comfortably, but professionally”?
    1. I suggest wearing clothing that allows you to move freely—i.e., clothing that allows you to comfortably sit, stand, bend, climb stairs, etc.—but isn’t casual.  A sleeveless dress that comes to the knees with a nice cardigan, a pencil skirt with a long sleeve blouse, dress pants with a short sleeve blouse, etc.
  5. What is the worst thing to wear to a job interview?
    1. Anything that calls attention to you in a negative way.  I am a major proponent of being who you are and celebrating yourself, but the job interview is a time to showcase your skills and experiences as a professional.  It is not the right time to highlight your clubbing make up or your fashionista wardrobe.  These are a few things I would make “non grata” for a job interview:

Halter tops, strappy sandals, heels above three inches, see through clothing, leggings worn as pants, visible bra straps, major smokey eye, bright red lipstick, more than a very light spraying of perfume, patterned tights, more than 2-3 pieces of jewelry—especially long, dangly jewelry, shorts, skirts more than an inch above the knee, blue jeans.

Let me make this clear: these rules do NOT apply to every job.  When I was 20, I applied for a position at a convenience store in a nice pair of dark blue jeans and a dressy top.  As a candidate for a graduate assistant position at a university LGBT center, I wore gray slacks and a short sleeve blouse.  For my first professional position after graduate school, I wore a navy blue Anne Klein skirt suit with nude pumps and a cream colored camisole.  These aren’t hard and fast rules for every position at every stage of your life, but they are a good foundation for dressing for job interview success.

 

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How Social Media Can Advance Your Career

Job seekers are often told to safeguard their social media accounts to insure that they aren’t viewed during the job search.  While this can be wise advice, there is another side to the story:

Using social media to ADVANCE your job search (and your career).

With the majority of professionals (and people in general) on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. these days, being “unsearchable” via social media may be more trouble than it is worth.  When I can’t find someone through social media, I sometimes wonder why–are they making all accounts super private because of something inappropriate? What’s going on?

While it is a great idea to “clean up” your Facebook or Twitter accounts so that potential employers don’t get a negative impression, you can also use social media to your advantage.  I use my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts to post (publicly–so that “everyone” can see) any major accomplishments, such as receiving a promotion or presenting at a conference.  I also post information about events that my office organizes or articles relevant to my field.

I work in a field that offers great work/life balance but also a good integration of professional and personal life.  Many of my colleagues are Facebook “friends” so I post appropriate personal information as well, like recently buying a home, becoming engaged last year, and birthdays of my nephews and nieces.

I’ve had many Proactive Professional readers find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  I’ve also received emails from professionals who Googled me and found my website and Facebook page.  When this occurs, I am grateful that my public Facebook reflects positive things in my life, an interest in my field, and the work I’m doing in career counseling.

Consider going beyond protecting your Facebook from colleagues, supervisors, or potential employers.  Instead, use social media to your advantage by creating a “brand” for yourself online.  Using social media proactively may convince potential employers or current supervisors that you’d be a great fit within their company–or are ready for a promotion.

Make sure that how you're viewed on social media is in alignment with who you are and how you want others to see you.

Make sure that how you’re viewed on social media is in alignment with who you are and how you want others to see you.

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Are You Making this MAJOR Job Search Mistake?

I work with a lot of great applicants who constantly submit resumes online, but are not getting interviews.  When this happens, I often ask, “Do you know what ATS is? Are you submitting ATS friendly resumes?”

Do you know what an ATS is? If the answer is yes, then congratulations! When you apply for a position online, your resume and application materials are probably getting through to a hiring manager.

If the answer is no, there’s still hope! This post will explain what an ATS is and why it’s SO important during your job search.

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System.  It is computer software that helps hiring managers, recruiters, and other Human Resources personnel sort through job candidates to find the best fit for their company.  Unfortunately, job seekers who are unfamiliar with ATS often submit their standard resumes online–often resulting in them being tossed out of the candidate pool.

So, how do you make YOUR resume ATS friendly? With these quick tips:

1. Do not create your resume using a template! Using a template you found on Microsoft Word may get your resume thrown out before any of the other tips can be utilized.  Though unseen by us, templates are often filled with characters that don’t jive well with ATS software.

2. Use keywords.  Go over the job description with a fine tooth comb and insert keywords from the description anywhere you can (and anywhere that makes sense!).  If the hiring managers are looking for candidates who have Java coding experience, are team players, and have 3 years’ experience, make sure to put your Java coding experience under a header such as “Skills” and create an objective statement in which you write something like “I am a team player with five years experience in the computer programming industry.”  Keywords are the language used in the job description and will be what an ATS is looking for when searching resumes.

3. Watch your formatting.  Often, I tell my students to create more “grown up” resumes by using terms like “Professional Experience” and “Community Involvement” instead of “Employment History” and “Volunteer Work.”  I believe this advice still holds up when handing out resumes at career fairs or job interviews.  For ATS purposes, however, use simple headings such as “Work Experience” and “Education.”  ATS software is designed to seek out keywords that are important to the position and look for simpler headings.  When submitting resumes online, use simple formatting with standard fonts such as Times New Roman.  Also, avoid using tables, charts, graphs or anything other than standard bullet points.

4. Always assume your resume is being reviewed by ATS software.  How will you know if a human being is going through resumes instead of ATS software? You won’t.  If you are submitting your resume online, it is always best to assume that your resume has to make it through ATS software before being seen by an actual person.

5. Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Make your resume as easy to find as possible by saving it under a name such as “FirstName_LastName_JobTitle” instead of “Jill’s Res.”  Additionally, save your resume as a .doc instead of a .pdf.  .Docs are easily read by ATS software, whereas .pdf’s are often more difficult.

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A few easy resume tweaks may mean the difference between getting an interview or having your resume tossed in the (cyber) trash.

 

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Once Upon a Timesheet…

Over the holidays, my fiance and I began watching ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”  We’ve only made it into a few episodes of Season 2, but the main premise of the show is that all of the citizens of this modern day town are actually fairy tale characters who have been cursed and have forgotten who they really are.  Of course, I related it to career stuff– I recently began a new position as a career counselor at my grad school alma mater and have been thinking a lot about what kind of career person I am–and what kind I want to be.  As we watched “Once Upon a Time,” I thought of who the characters are right now and how they’re working to figure out who they’re meant to be.  Here are some brief descriptions of the characters–which one(s) describes you as a professional?

Snow White: Snow would’ve probably spent her whole life as a relatively placid person if the Evil Queen didn’t constantly try to take everything from her.  In terms of careers, I’d probably dub Snow White a “reactive professional.” She’s not here to make waves, but if provoked, she’ll do what’s necessary to protect the people and things she loves.

Little Red Riding Hood: Red, as she’s more commonly known on the show, has an odd little quirk: during full moons, she turns into a wolf.  Initially, Red saw this as a weakness.  She did everything possible to bury the wolf inside of her (so to speak) and to keep her true nature a secret.  As the show goes on, we see Red embracing what she once thought of as a weakness and using it to help others.

The Dwarfs: The dwarfs work all day in the mines, a task they were literally created to do.  They’re not trying to change the world; instead, they understand that their work fulfills a need and are content with this.

The Evil Queen: The Queen would probably consider herself a misunderstood individual–she didn’t set out to hurt anyone in the beginning, but was wrapped up in blaming others for what has went wrong in her life, and eventually became evil.  The Evil Queen considers herself a victim of other people and of circumstances, so she works to take down or control everyone around her.

Rumpelstiltskin: Everything Rumpel does or orchestrates is to achieve one goal.  He is so focused on achieving his goal that he does not care who he hurts or what pieces of himself he loses in the process.

Emma Swan: Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, has run away her entire life, never becoming too involved with anyone or any cause.  However, she is the only person who can break the curse.  She sees what is wrong and what needs to be fixed and is willing to fight to make things better for everyone.

During our careers, we will probably play all of these roles.  We believe we’ve been wronged by someone or something and forget our own role within the situation.  We don’t want to really commit to a career path until we find something we can’t walk away from.  We become too focused on achieving something and stop considering how it impacts those around us.  We feel guilty for not being brain surgeons, forgetting that hospitals need nurses and custodians and x-ray technicians to keep everything going, too.  I think that the most important thing we can do is figure out who we are and embrace it–embrace what makes us different, acknowledge our mistakes, understand who we want to become professionally.

Here’s the funny thing about fairy tale characters–they’re often painted as either the hero or the villain with no room for shades of gray.  I’ve definitely had bosses and co-workers who seemed more Evil Queen than Cinderella.  But my “Evil Queen” might be someone else’s mentor.  I’ve worked with students who have told me that I’ve changed their life (or at least their career)–definitely an Emma moment.  And I’ve had students who have looked at me blankly and I was certain I didn’t help at all–so perhaps I was Dopey to them? The most important thing is to figure out what role you want to play in your career and your life–even if you never achieve happily ever after with your goals, there’s always tomorrow…

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Should You Follow Your Passion?

Yesterday, I was watching the TV show “Dexter” and reading an article on passion versus contentment.  I realized that I’ve read a lot of articles, books, and blog posts about finding and pursuing your passion in the last couple of years.  Self-help books at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon are filled with such titles as “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow.” There are plenty of articles and blogs that tell us to “follow our passion” and “live a life of bliss.”

But the truth is–doing what you love does not always mean the money will follow.  Take Dexter Morgan–Dexter seems pretty okay with his job as a blood spatter analyst in a homicide department.  But his real passion (obsession? pathology?) is hunting down bad guys and murdering them.  Dexter is passionate about being a serial killer.  And his passion ain’t cheap.  Dexter spends a large amount of money on prepping for his, um…hobby, and taking care of the clean up (literally).  Although Dexter does, in fact, pursue his passion, he does not get any money, health benefits, or even recognition for doing so.

The point? Sometimes a passion doesn’t always lead to a career.  And pursuing said passion does not always mean the money will follow.  If you love kids, for example, you may occasionally daydream about pulling an Angelina and having or adopting ten of them.  But that probably doesn’t make sense for your life in terms of money, free time, or your (or your partner’s!) sanity.  It’s wonderful to be passionate about a cause, a hobby, or even a career field.  But letting that passion take over your life can quickly lead to burnout.  I think it’s more important to find something you enjoy, are content doing, and that fits in with the life you want to lead.

I recently talked with an old friend who is trying to decide between two career fields that are somewhat similar, but also quite different–nursing and social work.  During our discussion, we talked about why she is drawn to each field and how being a nurse or social worker would impact her entire life.  While it’s incredibly important to care about, and even love, what you do for a living, it’s also important to remember how your career will impact the rest of your life.

Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • Will this career provide me with a comfortable salary?
  • Does this career align with my values?
  • Would I be good at this job? (i.e., do I have the necessary skills or the ability to acquire those skills?)
  • What is the general culture of this career? (Liberal, conservative, intellectual, easy going, etc.)
  • Do I want a job that is routine and structured or flexible and varied?
  • If I pursue this field, how will it affect my family or the family I want to have in the future?

Choosing and pursuing a career path takes a lot of thought and some level of certainty.  You might adore taking pictures and be drawn to the field of magazine photography, but if you have little desire to spend years working your way up the ladder or traveling the country (or world) then perhaps photography can be a fun hobby for you.  If that is the case, figure out why you’re drawn to magazine photography–is it for the notoriety? the money top photographers make? the opportunity to meet celebrities? the ability to express yourself artistically?  Then try to find related careers that better align with your values, interests, personality, and long term life and career goals.

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July 18, 2013 · 11:15 am

Top 5 Tips for Utilizing Your University’s Career Services–from a Career Coach

I often hear complaints from new college graduates that career services didn’t get them a job.  Something many students don’t understand is that career development centers are not placement organizations.  Career services professionals are there to help provide you with the tools to figure out what you want to do professionally and how to best market yourself for the job search.  With that being said, here are my top tips for effectively utilizing the career services offered at your university.

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Keep in mind: career service professionals are not there to give you a job or place you in a job.

Consider this: if you wanted to get married in the next few years, would you really want a dating service to handpick your future spouse, or even give you a half dozen to choose from? Perhaps that sounds better than going out on dozens of blinds dates, but really think it through.  Before you can have a successful relationship, you must have a deep understanding of who you are (your likes, dislikes, needs, deal breakers, future goals, etc.) as well as the necessary tools to make a relationship great (trust, open communication, intimacy, etc.).

In the same way, career development offices are here to help you figure out the kinds of careers you’re interested in based on your values, interests, and personality and how to pursue those careers.

Think about what you’d like to get from your meeting before the appointment. 

Many times, I’ve had students come in and ask for their resumes to be critiqued.  Twenty minutes later, they admit that they’re unsure of their major or feel they need practice interviewing.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having several needs, but it will make easier for everyone if you consider what those needs are before heading into your career coaching session.  We don’t always realize we have more than one issue and that’s completely fine.  If you can, though, consider how you’d like your career adviser to help and what areas you feel need the most attention.

Realize that career development is a process.

I think of our lives as being in a constant state of evolution.  Our wants, needs, and goals change based on our experiences and the things we learn about ourselves.  The mistake I see so many people (not just students!) make is feeling like a failure for changing their career plans.  It is not uncommon to realize you don’t fit in with the culture of a company or professional field.  It is not strange to figure out that you don’t have the skills necessary for the job your friends or family are pressuring you to take (an example of this would be an artistic student realizing they have no skills or interest in the field of medicine).  You are not a failure for realizing a career path is wrong for you in your senior year.  You are not useless because you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life as a college freshman.

Come back for multiple sessions.

In the same way that career development is a process the job search does not end when you submit your resume.  The career path does not stop when you figure out your major.  Career services can help you edit your resume, prepare for interviews, understand your personality type, and deal with the stressors that come with choosing a profession.  Develop a relationship with a career coach and maintain it through your time in college.

Don’t be afraid to utilize alumni career services.

Most colleges and universities have programs, career advisers and assistance for alumni.  Sometimes these services cost money, but they can help you tailor your resume to the different organizations or career fields you’re pursuing and learn to be a proactive professional.

Bonus Tip:

If you meet with a career adviser and don’t feel like they are listening to you, or you don’t feel comfortable speaking openly with them, ask for another career adviser! Every student and every adviser is different–sometimes one person isn’t the right fit for you and that’s okay.

Finding the right career can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life.  Many students believe that college is a time to go to class, go to parties, and be involved in student organizations.  While these can be great experiences and teach you so much about yourself, don’t forget to plan for your career.  We spend so much of our lives at work—it is my opinion that figuring out what you want to do with your life is as important as knowing who you want to marry or the kind of person you want to be.  Career advisers are here to help you make the journey from college to career a rewarding one.  Take advantage!

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Overcoming Career Obstacles with the staff of Seattle Grace

Meredith Grey

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When Meredith debuted as a Seattle Grace’s surgical intern, she already had a medical bag of baggage to overcome. Her mother was a wildly successful general surgeon, giving Meredith a lot to live up to. Meredith not only had to work to step out of her mother’s shadow, she also had to come to terms with the ways in which she was like her mother.  This required a lot of soul searching on Meredith’s part over the course of several seasons.

At some point, most of us have to overcome a shadow.  For some, it’s the shadow of a less than stellar GPA.  For others, it’s a bridge burned at a former job or a personal problem that distracts us from our careers.  The key to overcoming your shadow is knowing your personal strengths–what do you bring to the table that’s unique? Meredith may have inherited her mother’s surgical skills, but she also utilizes her natural instinct to nurture.  She plays caretaker for the interns, even having most of them live in her house, and she takes care of her patient.  For me, Meredith’s strengths lie in fighting for the weak or defenseless–namely, children.  From working hard to make sure a boy with Kawasaki disease was given the proper diagnosis, to forcing a mother to leave her abusive husband, Meredith is the voice of these children.

Miranda Bailey

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Poor “Mandy” Bailey felt that had done everything right.  She was married young, to her college sweetheart.  She graduated from medical school and became a surgeon.  She even tried to obey her resident’s rules at Seattle Grace, being mouse-like as the resident walked all over her.  It took a life or death (literally) situation for Miranda to stand up for herself and disagree with her supervisor.  Later, Bailey also made the difficult decision to walk away from her husband of ten years when he became angry and unsupportive regarding her work schedule.

How many of us have had that life changing moment when we knew that we weren’t fully being ourselves? That moment when we knew that something had been holding us back and we had to change everything to move forward? How many of us have realized that the something holding us back was ourselves?  Bailey became empowered to find her own voice as she became the voice of her patients.  Prior to the show’s debut in 2005, Bailey had been a quiet resident who submitted to authority and obeyed the rules.  It took questioning her supervisors to realize that she needed to become the authority.  Bailey then went through a complete re-branding, discarding the nickname “Mandy” and the unprofessional long hair and becoming the HBiC at Seattle Grace.

Callie Torres

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I have a confession: Callie was one of my least favorite characters during her first two seasons with the show.  She may have been a top orthopedic surgeon but you wouldn’t know it from her conduct at the hospital.  From inexplicably living in the hospital’s basement (not only is she a doctor, but she also has a large trust fund so her living situation made no sense) to going through with a quickie marriage to George, Callie’s personal life took precedence over her professional capabilities.  We all know at least one colleague who is constantly distracted by his or her personal life, (heck, maybe we’ve been that colleague) so much so that we forget why they’re qualified for the job in the first place.  After failing as Chief Resident and being unceremoniously dumped by Dr. Erica Hahn, Callie seemed to realize that she needed to make her professional accomplishments shine so that she was no longer the object of hospital gossip.

Separating your personal life from your professional one can be really difficult, especially if you’re going through a personal crisis.  Even as you try to put your personal life in a drawer while you get the job done, you may still relapse.  Callie certainly does–from having a baby with a colleague to almost moving to Africa for her girlfriend, she is still learning the meaning of work/life separation.  The key for Callie was to find things at work she felt passionately towards–breaking hips, giving TED talks, you know–the usual.  Finding the positive at work that can take your mind off the negative at home may be just what the doctor ordered.

Alex Karev

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I have another confession to make: Alex Karev is my favorite character on Grey’s Anatomy.  Alex’s childhood was spent being bounced between foster homes and his abusive father and mentally ill mother.  He worked his way through college and medical school using a combination of loans and a wrestling scholarship.  Though he secured a residency in one of the country’s top surgical programs, he always doubted whether he belonged.  From Season 1 when Alex couldn’t perform emergency surgery in an elevator to later seasons when he didn’t believe he was good enough for a fellowship at Johns Hopkins, Alex has struggled with the impostor syndrome.  The underlying insecurity that he would never truly belong in the world of surgeons has caused him to exhibit some seriously self-sabotaging behaviors over the years.  He cheated on Izzie with a nurse because he thought she was too good for him.  He reported Meredith for unethical conduct because he believed it was the only way for him to become Chief Resident.

Alex constantly works, however, to overcome his insecurities and gain confidence in his abilities.  Like Meredith, he had a bad childhood with uncaring parents.  And like Meredith, he is the voice of his pediatric patients when they don’t have a voice of their own.  Alex’s true growth can be seen when he finally frees himself of Izzie, telling her, “I’m a good man.  I don’t deserve this.”

Almost every character on Grey’s has, at one time or another, been their own worst enemy.  Though they all have unique situations, the primary obstacle they’ve had to overcome is themselves.  The only ways they’ve been able to do this is to have confidence in their professional abilities and the ability to finally say “Enough.”

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Resume Writing and Online Dating

Please check out www.levoleague.com, a mentoring and career advice website for women.  Levo League features great articles on a wide range of career and life related topics, including work/life balance, fashion, the job search, etc.  This week, my article on how writing a resume is like posting an online dating profile, is featured!

 

Check out this great site!

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Career Lessons from FRIENDS’ Joey, Phoebe, and Ross

Work with What You’ve Got

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Was Joey a talented actor? Many episodes of Friends would say “no.” But gosh darn it if he didn’t try. Joey spent a ton of (Chandler’s) money on head shots, acting lessons, and other supplies designed to help him become a better actor.  Joey is an example of someone who may not be naturally talented or great at something, but feels passionately about it and thus keeps at it.  In this way, he could be considered Chandler’s polar opposite: Chandler’s naturally good at a job he dislikes, while Joey is not so good at work he loves.

While Joey never became an Oscar winner, or even a movie star, he did eventually have a respectable career on Days of Our Lives. (And as a soap opera fan, I’d say that ain’t too shabby.) So what can we learn from Joey?

Don’t let others hold you back.

Joey is the only son in a big Italian family.  Odds are, his parents didn’t care too much for him pursuing a career in the performing arts, but he pushed ahead anyway.

Throughout the first few seasons, Joey was constantly being told he didn’t have what it takes to succeed in show business—everyone from his co-stars, to producers, and even his friends said this at various points.

Never stop improving.

During the show’s ten seasons, Joey constantly looked for new ways to become a better actor and to impress important producers and directors. (Who could forget his toast/audition at Chandler and Monica’s wedding?)

Figure out your niche.

Joey auditioned for commercials, performed off-Broadway, and landed a movie role before eventually finding a home in the world of daytime dramas.  I can definitely relate—as an undergraduate, I chose to major in Non-Profit Administration because I wanted to help others.  I tried several areas in the non-profit realm—fundraising, event planning, grant writing…before realizing there were other ways I could help people.

Know Your Priorities

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Phoebe, on the other hand, is a great example of the ways in which work doesn’t have to play a huge role in your life.  Phoebe had several interests outside of her job as a masseuse and didn’t seem too concerned with “getting ahead” in the world of massage therapy. Because she wasn’t singularly focused on her career, she had time for the other interests in her life: singing about smelly cats, finding her birth mother, hanging out with her friends, and giving birth to her brother’s triplets.

Phoebe was surrounded by five friends who were all fairly ambitious and successful.  Ross had a PhD and taught at NYU; Rachel went from being a waitress to working for Ralph Lauren; Monica was a head chef; Joey became a daytime TV star and Chandler eventually left his boring job to work in advertising.  Phoebe never let this have an effect on her sense of self.  She had enough confidence to understand that there were other things she cared about more than climbing a professional ladder and eventually married a partner who shared this value (Mike, who went from being a lawyer to a musician.)

Learn From Ross’s Mistakes

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Ross, Ross, Ross…Ross Gellar is proof positive that having an advanced degree or fancy credentials does not exclude you from making huge mistakes.  Before the series began, Ross had clearly been the most stable of the friends.  Ross was more educated than the rest, was fairly successful in his work, and had been married for a few years.  This all changed when his wife, Carol, announced she was a lesbian and left him.  Though Ross continued his work at a museum and eventually became an instructor at NYU, he made disastrous career mistakes along the way.

Ross’s Big Mistakes (and what you can learn from them)

Ross was caught having sex with Rachel at work.

Lesson(s) learned:  Don’t mix your work life with your love life. Or maybe, just don’t have sex at work.

Ross had an affair with a student.

Lesson learned: Have boundaries. Know your boundaries. Maintain your boundaries.

Ross went off on a co-worker for stealing his sandwich.

Lesson learned: Practice the art of self-care. This way, stressors in your life won’t overwhelm you so much that you are suspended (or in Ross’s case, placed on sabbatical).

Ross frequently missed class (he was the instructor) because he couldn’t make it on time.

Lesson Learned: Learn some time management skills

Don’t say you can do something that you cannot do (Ross wanted to teach this class so badly that he did not tell the dean about his scheduling conflict).

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Career Advice from Friends’ Monica, Chandler, and Rachel

Using Your Strengths

Have you ever had a job that you were so bad at, it made you feel as though you’d never be good at anything? For many people, first jobs fall somewhere in the customer service realm–waiting tables, making change, making food.  Employees are often made to feel disposable because this work is considered to be something everyone can do.  So, if you suck at a job like this it can really bring down your sense of self worth.  Take Rachel Green: Rachel debuted as the show’s “poor little rich girl” who had been seen by friends, family, and her fiance as more decorative than useful.  Although she attended college, it was assumed that Rachel would be the trophy wife of some rich doctor (or dentist, as it were) and shop her life away.  All of that changed when Rachel decided to leave her boyfriend at the altar and move in with Monica.  New York City apartments aren’t cheap (even rent controlled ones) so Rachel had to get a job.  She was soon hired as a waitress at Central Perk, the local coffee shop and Friends hangout.  Seasons 1 and 2 are filled with (hilarious) examples of how bad Rachel is at waitressing.  She sits down on the job, forgets customer orders, and has little interest in the work. When she finally decides to apply for a position in a field that she’s actually interested in–fashion–Rachel has serious doubts about whether or not she has what it takes to succeed.  A large part of this doubt stems from a lifetime of being seen as ornamental, but I believe some of it also comes from performing poorly at her waitressing job.  When we work at jobs that don’t play to our strengths or interests, we begin to feel that the issue is us and not the situation.  Doing something that you’re not good at, or interested in doing, day after day begins to shake your confidence.  This is the basic idea behind the book (and career assessment) StrengthsQuest.  The creators of StrengthsQuest believe that people have a much higher chance of being successful when they are able to use and improve upon their strengths instead of trying to work on their weaknesses.  After completing the assessment, StrengthsQuest readers are given their top 5 strengths–these are the areas that come naturally to us, in which we easily excel.  Once Rachel obtained a position at Fortunata Fashions (and later, Ralph Lauren) she quickly became a highly competent–and confident!–professional.

Figuring Out Your Interests

chandlerwork

Then there’s the flip side of that coin.  What about a job that you’re good at and can do well, but hate? This was exactly Chandler Bing’s problem for most of the series.  Chandler had a professional job that had something to do with numbers and computers, although no one ever really understood it. (“He’s a…he’s a…TRANSPONSTER!” Rachel triumphantly yelled when asked what Chandler did for a living.  “That’s not even a word!!!” Monica cried in dismay.) Chandler had a natural knack for this well paying, if vague, work but little interest in his profession. How many times have we heard of someone getting sucked into that trap? A job that pays well, work that comes easily, but makes us mind numblingly bored each day? While the position did play to some of Chandler’s strengths, it did not work with his interests.  If you have this issue, you may want to consider taking a career assessment called the Strong Interest Inventory.  The Strong measures your interests–not how good you would be at a certain job or hobby, but how interested you are in particular areas.  There are six different interest areas measured by the Strong test and those who complete it are provided with their top three.  Some of the interest areas are Investigative (meaning you are interested in science, research, theories, etc.) and Artistic (meaning you are interested in being creative, drama, art, writing, etc.)  The Strong then takes your results and measures them against people who share your interest areas and are happy in their jobs–this provides you with a list of positions you can start researching.
Had Chandler taken an assessment like the Strong, he may have realized much sooner that he really enjoyed being creative and coming up with new ideas–a realization that eventually lead him to quit his unsatisfying job and go into advertising.

Bringing It all Together

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Monica is highly organized, detail oriented, creative…all personality traits that serve her well as a chef. Monica is a great example of how one’s interest, strengths, and personality type (which you can find out by taking the Myers Briggs Type Indicator) can be used to find a highly satisfying career.  Although Monica’s career had its ups and downs (Mocklate, anyone?) she had a clear vision of what she wanted to be: a head chef at a restaurant.  By the show’s end, Monica was head chef at one of the most popular restaurants in New York City and constantly received compliments on how great her food was.  Thus, not only was Monica’s personality well suited for chef-dom, but it also aligned with her strengths and interests.  Monica’s also a great example of someone having a career that they love so much, they’d do it for free. Countless episodes are dedicated to Monica baking for her friends and making Thanksgiving dinner all by herself. By using her interests, strengths, and personality type to help her navigate the career development process, she found a career she really loved.

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