Wheaton alumnae/i are a rich source of advice regarding pursuing career goals. Two of them, Laura Powers ’79 and Kathryn Sollmann ’80, are serving as career coaches to offer words of wisdom to alums through the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services. Here they share their tips for the 2012 job market.
Plan to succeed
Laura Powers is president of Powers Career Coaching, LLC, and has more than 15 years of career coaching experience. She has helped hundreds of professionals from diverse industries learn how to find meaningful, satisfying work that “fits.” Her strategies for managing your career now?
Manage your career like you’re self-employed (even if you’re not).
View your job as dynamic and your career as a series of assignments. Spend time not only delivering value but marketing it to your target audience. Build relationships in and outside your organization. Join relevant professional associations and become an active member. Stay current on industry trends and invest in career-enhancing professional development to maximize your marketability.
Define your goals and design a plan.
Are your career objectives clear? Do you have a clear, concise answer to the question, “What are you looking for?” Clarifying your career goals, “quality testing” them against the needs of today’s workplace, and designing a concrete action plan to reach them is essential.
Know how to sell your talent (talent alone is not enough!).
When asked, “Why should we hire you?” or “Tell me about yourself,” are you ready with a confident response? Can you deliver it in 15 seconds? Every conversation you have, and every word you write or post, leaves an imprint on people and helps build your personal and professional brand. Don’t assume your talent is self-evident; you have to be ready and able to describe your value anytime, anywhere.
Demonstrate your value
Kathryn Sollmann, co-founder and former managing partner of the Women@Work Network, is currently launching a new consultancy and website—9livesforwomen.com—to focus on the work and life phases of women from the college years through active “retirement.” We asked her for the do’s and don’ts of looking for work:
Realize that finding a job is a full-time sales job. Think of the best sales professionals you know and go at it with their same drive and tenacity.
Focus on the very specific skills you offer (for example, accounting, corporate communications), not the attributes (team player, reliable) that are expected in every person in every job. Finding a job is filling a specific skill gap for an employer.
Sell your fit for a job of interest. Write a cover letter that includes a point-by-point match-up of how your skills and experience match the requirements/responsibilities of the job.
Consider contract assignments as a way to prove your talents to employers and be first in line for an open job.
Don’t wait until the 11th hour to face your personal work-life balance facts. Engage in honest conversations with your family about the type of job, work hours, travel schedule and compensation that will work for all.
Don’t get lost in the Internet job boards: people, not computers will find you a job. Recognize that in any economy most people find jobs through very active and resourceful networking.
Don’t forget that individual companies set firm budgets for salaries. You may have to shop around for the pay you want. Employers will not necessarily pay you what you are “worth”; they pay what they feel the job is worth within their organization.
Don’t expect job descriptions to change dramatically after an interview. A full-time job very rarely becomes a part-time job. Compensation may move slightly higher than the stated range, but it’s also rare in this economy.
Visit the Filene Center for more information about the career coaches at wheatoncollege.edu.