How to Select the Right Help
Thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations help people in their job search. It is a major industry involving consultants, corporations, colleges, universities, and churches with support groups. Many of these people and organizations have good intentions. Some of them are in it only to make money. Others are not qualified to be of real help to you. Let us have some guidelines for winnowing those that can help you from those that can't.
There are seven basic professional services available:
- Personal direction
- Career planning
- Resume writing
- Interview skills coaching
- Prospecting/marketing support
- Getting the job offer
- Ongoing moral support
Before spending any money, ask yourself, "Why do I need the help? Do I need more information, or am I trying to get someone else to make the decisions for me?"
Your may be part of something larger, a mid-life crisis. If you are, you may need a substantial amount of help to boost your ability to cope with life. You may need a psychologist. Discuss this with your doctor or minister and ask them for a referral.
If you have only an old-fashioned career crisis and need more information, then seminars and support groups are low-cost ways to obtain it. Colleges, universities, and churches are places where such seminars can be found. The lowest cost of all is still your local library. You may just need to read the right books to help you find direction. A good one to start with is Pathfinders by Gail Sheehy.
Help with career planning can be found through counselors, consultants, and career planning companies. Most individual career counselors use self-assessment tools to help guide career direction. Career consultants are generally individuals with extensive business experience who, after an interview, will make suggestions about viable career options and people to contact. Career planning companies usually have group sessions where self-assessment and a high degree of interaction take place in order to facilitate learning about career opportunities.
The best way to find a good counselor or program for career planning is first to ask people you know. If you can't get a referral from them, call several counselors or organizations and ask for three client referrals. Interview each referral. Ask them why they chose the counselor or program. What did they like most? What help were they looking for? Did they get it? What did they like least? The answer to these questions should give you enough information to determine whether or not the counselor or program will meet your needs.
Ordinarily, a career planner will supply names of clients as references. If they don't, they will give you a preliminary interview to determine just how much help they can give you. Most organizations have a brochure that gives you detailed information about their program, or they have a person avail-able who can answer questions.
A good resume is always important in a job search, but for a mid-career changer it is even more important. Why? Because you have really great information to put in your resume: your years of experience, which, presented in the right manner, will make your career change possible.
Ask yourself what you want from this service. Do you want someone to help you determine what should go in the resume, or do you want someone who will help you improve the way the resume is written?
You may want help doing the entire resume. If you want someone to determine what should go in the resume, recognize that this will require a good deal of interview time and it will be necessary for the professional to understand what career you desire. A resume should be targeted for a specific career. If this is the type of professional you need, try to locate one through referral. Can't get a referral? Then contact several resume professionals and ask for client referrals whom you can interview. Ask these clients what made them select this professional. Did they get the service they were after?
You can get help with improving the wording of your re-sume through professional writing services. To evaluate a professional writing service, ask to look at some of the resumes it has prepared. Read them carefully and then ask yourself, "Would I interview the candidate presented in these resumes?" If you say yes after reading the resumes, then you have found a good service.
The telephone book and your local newspaper have listings and advertisements for professional resume services. Even job search sites advertise that they write and print resumes. Remember, what you need is a resume that is an accurate reflection of your skills.
Interview Skills Coaching
Because you are making a change in mid-career, it may be years since you have had an interview. There are even those lucky few out there who have had only one employment interview in their life! If the prospect of an interview makes you turn pale, your knees quake, and your mouth go dry, take it easy! There is support available for you.
However, this type of professional help is limited. Inter-viewing skills are probably among the most difficult to teach. What is really being taught are selling skills. Effective selling skills are acquired through much experience and a great deal of training, so don't expect too much from any training or coaching you find. If you do locate a class and have the time and resources to take it, sign up. It is bound to help. You will leave with at least one good idea to improve your interviewing skills, and that will make the training worthwhile.
Recruiters and placement agencies may have someone who can coach you. If not, they can put you in touch with a support group or consultant who can help you.
It has probably been years since you looked for a job. Not only that your present job and other responsibilities leave you precious little time to find a new one. You may not know where to start, what is available, or what salary to expect. Recruiters and employment agencies can give you support.
A glance at the Yellow Pages of your telephone book will reveal dozens of recruiters and employment agencies waiting to help you find a job. They fall into two major groups, those who expect you to pay for their services and those who are employer paid.
Don't even consider using a service that expects you to pay for its help. Unless you lack any marketable skills, you should be able to either market yourself or use a recruiter or agency that is paid by the employer. If you have executive or technical skills, you can be listed with a recruiter or agency that specializes in such placements.
No matter what your qualifications are, or how limited your time may be, you do not want to depend solely upon a recruiter or agency to do your search. Employment agencies and recruiters fill only a small percentage of the jobs that are available on any given day. Depending on the source you read, 75 percent to 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking.
To put it simply, networking is using your business contacts, family, and friends to help you make a career change. It is through business associates and friends at clubs or church that most jobs are found. Why do your business associates help you look for a job? Because, there may come a time, when they need the same help.
Employment of any consequence usually requires more than one interview. Successfully filling a position is so important that very few companies rely on only one interview in making a decision. You may need help in securing follow-up interviews and in learning techniques to make you the outstanding candidate.
Many career coaches help with this step, and some of the career support organizations offer group sessions to analyze interview results. If you have not interviewed for a while, this type of support could be very valuable. What you need at this point are creative ideas to separate you from the other candidates.
Ongoing Moral Support
The greatest help a career counseling organization can give you is moral support while you go through your job search. It can be very demoralizing to make a mid-career change. It helps to know others are also finding it difficult and to exchange ideas about the best way to cope with the problems.
If you're not a joiner, then enlist the help of a friend who can meet with you on a regular basis. Get together for a weekly lunch or dinner. The purpose of your weekly meeting is to have your friend cheer you on your way. A friend who has been through the same problems also can give good advice.