Must A Short-Term Job Be In Your Career Field?


I had the opportunity yesterday to listen as a 22 year-old woman explained to her fellow classmates what job or career she was after. She cited her long-term objective in Policy Development and went on to say that in the short-term she would do just about anything but it absolutely had to be related to her long-term objective or she’d feel it was a waste of her time.

So how do you feel about that statement? Would you agree that short-term jobs should be related to your own long-term goals in order to be a valuable use of your time?

It’s commendable of course that she’s got a long-term career objective. While it’s not mandatory in order to have a rewarding career, having a vision of what you want and knowing how you’re going to achieve it is one way to successfully move forward. It is, and I say with personal experience, not the only recipe for success.

This I hope comes as good news if you feel anxious about what your future holds. If you should be undecided about what you want to do on a long-term basis, it can feel paralyzing as well in the short-term should you feel you can’t apply for jobs not knowing if they’ll help you or not in the long run.

Allow me to share a little of my own experience in the hopes you might find it comforting. It wasn’t until 13 years ago, back in 2006 that I became an Employment Counsellor. That would put me at 46 years old as I embarked on what has been a rewarding, successful and fulfilling career. Prior to this I’d held a variety of different positions; some of them careers and others I’d call jobs. Whichever they were at the time didn’t really concern me as much as enjoying each I had, finding the pros and cons of each once in them and moving on when the cons outweighed the pros.

I didn’t have a long-term goal to work towards. I didn’t in my early twenties, even know that Employment Counsellors existed, so it was impossible therefore for me to have aspired to be one. Further, I suspect that had I graduated out of University and immediately had the fortune to be hired as an Employment Counsellor, my effectiveness would be very different without my life experiences to draw on.

Looking back in no particular order, I ran my own New and Cooperative Games business for 16 years after a year-long position working for the Province of Ontario; sold shoes and clothes; worked at a bowling alley; a video store; worked as a Programme Manger for a Boys and Girls Club; have been an Executive Director for a Social Services agency; worked for two municipalities as a Social Services Caseworker, and another for years in the field of Recreation. I have also worked in the private sector as an Area Supervisor, leading those who provided care in schools before, between and after classes. I’ve sold photography equipment in a mall, worked in a toy department of a major retailer, even spent one day filling in for a friend in a hot plastics factory. I’ve got summer residential camp experience, sat on volunteer boards and committees too. One year I was asked to lead an International Drug Awareness team in St. Lucia.

Whew! All over the map and one of the best examples I can think of where there sure doesn’t appear to be a linear history of progressive experience in the same field. I’ve worked for a province, two municipalities, the private and non-profit sectors as well as having been self-employed. My work has been in Retail, Recreation, Social Services and the Education sectors. I’ve also been on the front-line, middle management and senior management. I’ve had employment ended, quit, been promoted, been on strike, had to reinvent myself, and build up skills I didn’t know I had, use transferable skills and learn job-specific skills. In short, I’ve become resilient.

Now, here’s the best part. If you can believe it, all of these experiences have shaped who I am, how I think and act, given me empathy and understanding for a wide diversity of people with whom I partner. In short, I’m a decent Employment Counsellor today at 59 years-old BECAUSE of the path I took to get here.

My 22 year-old woman will likely change careers and jobs over the course of her lifetime. Jobs she eventually holds and loves might not even exist in 2019; maybe they’ll appear in 2032. Who knows?

Advice I believe to be sound is to gain experiences; paid and unpaid. Learn from what you do not just about the work, but how you feel as you do it. Always do your best to reward those who hired you and best serve those you call customers, clients, etc. You never know where life will take you; which job you may return to having left once (as I did). Treat employees and your Supervisors well for these are your future references.

All of the combined experiences I’ve had – just as you are collecting your own – are the things that are going to uniquely position us for jobs moving forward. “Why should I hire you?” is my favourite interview question. I can draw on all my past experiences; both the pros and the cons. Nobody out there has the same path as me. Or you for that matter!

Looking For Work?


Not long ago, I was watching this fellow staring at the jobs on a board. I watched him scan the jobs for about 3 or 4 minutes and then he took one down and made a photocopy of it. Curious, I asked him what job he had selected and why that one.

He had to look at the posting and read me the job title. His reason for choosing this one was – and I quote – “I dunno. Why not? It’s as good as any other; there’ll all the same.” He then took his résumé and sent it to the email as requested by the employer. The whole process was about 10 minutes from first finding the job to having applied.

If your own job search is similar to this fellow’s, my guess is you’ve had a hard time finding truly satisfying work; a job or career that’s a great fit.

Here’s some factors to consider in the hunt for your next job:

  1. Know the purpose of the work you’ll do. This is more than just reading what you’ll do in a job posting. Look into why you’ll be doing the job and how what you’ll be doing contributes to the overall organization. When you understand the purpose of your work, your own value rises; successful people always know the purpose of what they do.
  2. Know your own work values. If you don’t even understand this one, get some guidance from an Employment Counsellor or Coach and define the things that you hold as highly valued. When you go looking for work, you can then ask questions to find the things an employer values and see how these will fit with respect to your own. Find a good fit and the probability of a good match increases significantly.
  3. Find a job that plays to your strengths. You have to know yourself well enough to understand what your strengths are in the first place, and of all your strengths, know which ones you really want to use most in your next job. When you do more of the things you’re good at, the likelihood that you’ll do well increases.
  4. Work with a boss or supervisor whose style you can thrive with. Most job seekers never even remotely consider the management style of the boss they’ll work under next, or if they do, they just hope it works out. Even when they’ve had a poor experience with a terrible supervisor, not many think to look into the leadership style of the next person they’ll report to. Make some inquiries, ask questions of people they supervise now.
  5. Know your value. Sure we all would like to make a lot of money, but what’s your objective value in the marketplace? Your year’s of experience, level of education and how dated that education is are just some of the factors that will go into determining the level of salary you can reasonably expect.
  6. While it might sound odd and a waste of your time, know your philosophy as it pertains to work. If you think you don’t have one, let me tell you that you really do, you just haven’t put it into words. The things you value are excellent clues about what guides you in the work you do, the decisions you make, the way you view the world around you. Find a job where your work philosophy is a natural fit and you’ll be so much more satisfied. Ever had a job you just couldn’t continue with because you didn’t agree with the way the employer went about things? That was really a conflict between your philosophy and theirs.
  7. As for your weak areas – and it’s natural to have them – don’t choose to work in a job where your weaknesses will expose you to being fired. If you’re not a people person, don’t work in Customer Relations! While working on improving yourself in areas you know you’re not strong is good, you’ll do best if the job plays more to your strengths.
  8. Know what motivates you. This next job is one you’ll be at presumably 7 or more hours a day and maybe 35 or more hours a week. The things that motivate you both personally and professionally should align in some way with this new job. Are you motivated by time with family? Then don’t choose a career or job that takes you away from them excessively such as on weekends and nights. You won’t last. If you’re motivated by money or security, look at the salary; the potential salary and is the length of your stay fixed at the start or in your own hands to determine based on your performance?
  9. Look at the commute. How are you going to get to this job? If you rely on transit, don’t waste many people’s time applying for jobs you’ll turn down or quit after two days because of distance. This might sound obvious, but many people suddenly realize things are too hard to get to. Take a trip before applying and imagine it 5 days a week.
  10. Find a fit with co-workers. Certain jobs, certain fields of work, attract people of similar beliefs, interests and personalities. Know what makes you tick, the things you like and don’t like in how you interact with co-workers. These are much more important than you might now believe.

Not a complete list for sure, but factors to think about. Comments?

 

Finding The Right Fit


I meet a great many people who are dissatisfied with the jobs they have. I also listen to an equal number of people who are unemployed completely and stuck deciding what it is they really want to do. That great job or career that everyone else seems to have, continues to elude them.

When I do talk to people who are by their own definition successful and happy, I’ve generally noticed that they’ve found an occupation that combines three key elements; it pays them well, they’re good at what they do and yes, they like what they do.

I’ll bet you can easily bring to mind people you know – perhaps even yourself – who are good at what they do, enjoy the work but aren’t paid sufficiently well in their opinion. Such people tend to look at other organizations where they might do similar work but be compensated better. Money may not be everything, but money does give the means to live life on one’s own terms and without enough of it, there can be a gap between how one lives and how one wishes to.

Then there are people who are paid well and are good at what they do, but they hunger for work that is more challenging, more rewarding. The work has either never really satisfied them or they’ve come to want to do something more meaningful and rewarding.  These people will often surprise those they know by quitting good paying jobs to pursue other interests, leaving co-workers shaking their heads and wondering.

Finally, there are those who are paid well, like what they do but they aren’t good at it. A lot of the time they don’t last long in the job before being let go, but if they are in positions of influence and seniority, they can last a surprisingly long time in an organization; perhaps even resulting in the organization shutting down in the extreme over mismanagement and bad decision-making.

When all three factors align; being paid well, enjoying the work and being good at what one does, it would seem the fit is right and it’s this we call success.

Now while a lot of people I’ve shared this idea with like the simplicity of the above, I find it interesting of note that most immediately pose some variation of the same problem time and time again. “I’m still left needing help to figure out what it is I should do job-wise.”

The two are related of course, but they are different; finding the right fit and finding the right job or career. Let me explain. As an Employment Counsellor, I like the work I do, I feel I’m paid well and I can say I’m good at what I do. Were I to pick up and move to another organization but in a similar role as an Employment Counsellor, I might get paid less, or find that the scope of my job changed significantly. Hence I might have the right job but the other factors changed; in this case compensation for my work or the real work I’d be doing.

This could be where a lot of people go wrong; both job seekers and those who help people find employment. We broadly state the functions and responsibilities of a job – saying a Nurse does this or that, a Carpenter does this kind of work, a Labourer on an assembly line performs this or that, but really the experience of any one of these people will be different from others in the same roles but in different organizations.

The Carpenter might find a great fit in a small, rural community doing precision craftwork, where his talents are highly sought out and another might be happier doing restoration work in large cities working on a team of restoration carpenters. The job title might be the same, but the work done might need very different skill requirements and the environment the work is done in might mean the difference between liking the job or not. This is a factor only the person can decide.

I have for years felt the best place to start a job search is in fact not to look around at jobs on a job board, but to look inside one’s self. What makes you tick? That simple question requires a lot of thought and self-awareness. In other words, get to know yourself; your likes and dislikes, preferences for working alone or in groups and under what circumstances for each. Determine the work environment, the kind of supervision you need and want. Skills you can generally acquire and work to improve if you choose. Learning about yourself first isn’t a waste of time or stalling your career development. It’s putting yourself in a place to ultimately succeed as you’ve never succeeded in the past in finding the right fit.

The good news is that you can find the right fit by design or chance. The bad news is you can go through a lot of jobs and yes even careers attempting to find what’s the right fit for you if you don’t pay attention to learning about yourself first.

Maybe it’s because we think we know ourselves well that we overlook the obvious; but it’s been my experience we don’t know ourselves as well as we assume. And over time, yes, we change and so do our preferences.

May you find the right fit for you.

‘Why’ Not ‘What’ The Key To What To Be?


There are all kinds of jobs in this world from the mundane to the adventurous, from the physically straining to the mentally stimulating. Some require stamina to do the same task day after day and some require imagination and innovation to create new possibilities through trial and error. The tools to perform jobs can range from swinging handheld items to operating massive machinery; from a simple pencil to a robotic arm. There are a myriad of jobs out there, be they in cities of stone and glass, forests of green or pastures of gold.

And for every job, there are people best suited to do them. Some of us are physically strong, others the thinkers, the visionaries, recorders of history, we’ve leaders and followers, labourers and intellectuals. When it comes to work, we as a species engage in all kinds of activities, in all kinds of working conditions, be it water, on or under the land, the air or even space.

Often what we do for work is largely determined or influenced by where in the world we are born and then raised, the status of our family, the inclination of those who care for and influence us to expose us to a few or many different kinds of experiences. When we are born, where we are born, to whom we are born; all factor in to the opportunities we have.

There are those of course who will tout that you can be anything you put your mind to, and they may be right – if of course you are born into a society where you have the freedom to choose and the opportunities are there to seize. This freedom to be anything, aspire to be everything we want – limited only by our imagination and our own determination is empowering! Yet, this seemingly limitless potential can also have an unexpected and adverse affect.

With so many choices of what we might do with the time we have, it can be debilitating and paralyzing. After all, what if we get it wrong? What if we choose one career and work towards it only to discover that it doesn’t bring us the fulfillment that we’d hoped. While it makes others happy we know, it doesn’t bring us the satisfaction they promised it would. We believed them when they said we’d find it gratifying and rewarding, but it hasn’t turned out that way. At least we tried it! Or what if we simply arrived at a crossroads having to choose between 2, 3 or 4 possible careers that seemed mutually exclusive – very different indeed – and being unable to commit to one ‘dream’ occupation for fear of turning our back on the others, we’ve simply found ourselves immobilized – and in a flash, years have rolled by and we’re still standing still undecided?

There’s this immense fear we’ll get it wrong. Of course, some would say, “Ah, but what if we get it right?!” We might be amazing in what we do and more importantly even if we’re just an average worker in what we’ve chosen, we could still be extremely happy and satisfied. But would we possibly wonder, “What if I’d chosen that other path in life? What might I have done?”

Of course we aren’t limited to one career.  Think on that… Up until we’re in our late teens, we don’t have to be anything largely but a student – well, again – depending on where we are born in the world. In our early 20’s we begin to ‘be’ something. We who are older know this isn’t a life-long obligation; we’ll change jobs and careers during our life and some of these new choices will be in the same field and at times into a new one. After maybe 40 years of work, we might plan on ceasing to ‘work’ for pay and then work for play. Well, that’s some people’s plan.

Talk with enough people and you’ll find competent, skilled people performing their jobs without the least bit of enthusiasm for the job. Good enough to keep doing what they do, benefitting the companies and the people they work on behalf of, but no longer stimulated and in love with the job. They’ve become comfortable, their income and lives stable, and so they live out their lives.

There are those too who take chances; who quit jobs for fear they’ll become stale in them, who seek fresh challenges, new opportunities, gamble on trends and being out front as frontiers. They need not explore new lands, but they reinvent themselves, never-ceasing to learn and place themselves in the process to seize upon possibilities.

We’re all so different, so uniquely, ‘us’.  What one finds pleasurable, rewarding, stimulating and satisfying might do for another or not. The key is perhaps to find out not what job we want to do, but why it is we want to do it. Toddlers may have it right when they ask incessantly, “Why?”

When we discover the, ‘why’ in why we want to do something, we are closer to discovering the ‘what’. How peculiar it might be if instead of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which locks us into a single profession, we asked, “What motivates you? What inspires or stimulates you?” These are the what’s that get to the why’s.  Then we might discover there are many jobs that would equally stimulate us by fulfilling our ‘why’s’. That perhaps, is very wise indeed.