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Archive for Monday, May 12, 2008

Showing, not telling, may help job searcher in 20s

May 12, 2008

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My son is 24 years old and hates his job. He's looking to change careers - his third in the two years since graduating from college. I think he is crazy to leave his current job until he knows what he wants to do next. What would you suggest? - Janice

Dale: Ah, Janice, as the father of three kids in their 20s, I know just what you're experiencing. And if your son is like my kids, what you say will make absolutely no difference : which really takes the pressure off giving advice. On the other hand, I don't suggest abandoning all hope or help. I've had some success at showing rather than telling them about careers. For instance, I've arranged introductions to people doing interesting work. One turned into an internship at an ad agency, and my son Joel may end up there - but even if he doesn't, I've helped speed up the process of trial and error, which seems to be the main career-exploration method of 20-somethings.

J.T.: It's pretty common these days for college grads to do a series of "course corrections" - which sounds better than "trial and error." So, Janice, I don't think it's crazy for your son to leave his job, but I do think his situation will not improve until he gets some help in understanding his professional interests. To start, there is an excellent blog called BrazenCareerist.com, which has more than 50 young professionals sharing their insight and career advice with peers.

Dale: As for parents like you, Janice, J.T. has written an e-book, "Stop Hovering: 10 Rules for Effective Elevator Parenting," which can be downloaded for free at jtanddale.com. It will give you some options to show (not tell) your son about careers, while helping you understand the new workplace. It might even leave you grateful for all the options your children have, and all the jobs they will get to experience.

I'm a 55-year-old male classified as permanently disabled. However, I can manage my disability and remain active. Before leaving the work force in 2000, I was employed for 35 years. I am considering seeking part-time employment. Can employers disqualify me? - Bob

J.T.: Companies cannot discriminate against you because of a disability; however, if you can't execute the job as it is defined, then it is within their rights to choose not to hire you.

Dale: But, of course, we all know that there are people who will discriminate against you - for your age, your disability and, especially, for your years out of the work force. But here are two questions to put the situation in perspective: Are there people who won't hire you? Are there people who will? The answer to both is yes.

J.T.:> I honestly think it is all in the way you present your services. And that's exactly how you have to think of it: You are not applying for a job; you are selling your unique package of services.

Dale: Yes, the mistake most people make is to go to employers and (in effect) say, "Here are my skills; where do they fit in your company?" Doing so, you give the employer a problem to solve. But as a salesman, you do the work of figuring out what you can do and want to do, and then offer yourself as a solution.

J.T.: Once you're ready to clearly state your skills and availability, you can proactively make contact with HR departments and staffing firms. Finally, look in the want ads for jobs that meet your criteria, and apply directly. Even if the jobs are full time, you still can contact them and see if they'd be interested in someone part time.

Dale: Like a good salesperson selling a specialty product, focus on one fact: What you have is perfect for someone. There's someone who needs your experience and your determination and who can't afford a full-time employee. It's up to you to sort through a lot of wrong people to find the one you're perfect for.

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