Q&A: How Do You Find Out What to Do?


Q: I am 24 and I am looking for a new job. Where im not sure. I am currently in the army national guard in as a CBRN wich did not help at all and am about to get out in a couple months. My wife is talking about kids and i dont want to be struggling financially when we we do.
I currently fill vending machines as a union teamster but the job is killing me. Constantly changing routes and everyone is a critic.
I have also worked in door to door sales and for a while extruded plastic in a warehouse but both where not what i want in life
I need to get my life in order i have been bouncing around alot from jobs and can not even find one i can stand.
Im having trouble finding out what i want to do for the rest of my life
I love computers video games and motorcycles. I was thinking about becoming a network admin because i have always been fascinated with the internet and wanted to learn about it but i will need time to go to school for that.
What is a good entry level job with i can do where i wont loose my mind every day?
What would be a good first step?
How do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life?

A: Mistajumpa, we can definitely sympathize with your situation. Know that you are not alone in it. Many people find themselves in the same boat. What I would recommend for you is that you identify not only the things you like, but also the skills you have that you would want to use at a job. Perhaps a career assessment could help you with that. The O*NET Skills Questionnaire (https://www.onetonline.org/skills/) might be a good place to start. After identifying the skills you feel most satisfied using in the work place, evaluate the list of corresponding jobs against your interests. I think you’ll find something you love in no time. If you need help through this process, contact the NOE Career Center online or at 504-434-0510. We’d be happy to help.


Q&A: What About my Sketchy Job History?


Q: I am 50yo with sketchy job history due to abusive marriage and PTSD after divorce.

I’m in therapy, moved out of state and ready to get on with my life and back in the work force. Suggestions, tips, advice?

A: Good for you Tia, you have taken the steps that you need to get on with your life. I’m sure that this has been an extremely challenging process for you. It wouldn’t be odd for you to be feeling some anxiety right now about what putting yourself back out there will entail. Just know that you can get through this as well.

One of the first things we need to settle is your resume and how it presents your job history. If you have several gaps in your employment history, you may wish to consider a functional resume instead of a chronological one. The functional resume will tell the employer about your skills and experiences, instead of emphasizing dates and
longevity on the job.

After you rework your resume, you will want to strengthen the references you will use when applying for jobs. Be sure your list of references includes former supervisors, co-workers, and other personal and professional references who will sing your praises. Their testaments of your experience, skills, and worth ethic will be invaluable.

Third, I highly recommend thinking through the spiel you will use in interviews and call backs about the gaps in your employment. Make sure that whatever you decide to say, that you do not appear apologetic or ashamed of your time away or need to switch employment. You once lived in a very volatile situation and your safety and that of your children (if you have any) was paramount. Rehearse what you will say with a friend to gain feedback about how it comes across.

Lastly, I recommend that you spend time networking with employers and friends who work at places that may be hiring. When people like and care about you, it expands the list of what they what be willing to do to help you.

Best Wishes.

Q&A:  I Have Bad Employment History. What Do I Do Next?


Q:  My work history isnt terrible but its pretty bad as of late. I worked at UPS for 5 months and left in great standing, gave 1 month notice to my departure, the job just wasn’t for me. No issues there beside the fact I was only there for a short time. Then I started working at target… and was terminated about a month in for using an earbud during work hours. Not proud of it at all. I didn’t expect them to just flat out fire me but I understand why they did. I was warned once and when caught a second time, I was let go a week later. That being said I worked my *** off was recognized many times for my work, which is why I was super surprised when they fired me for wearing an earbud twice. (I do know it was a really stupid decision and I’ve learned my lesson) Then I got a job at a pizza place and absolutely hated it and left like a scumbag a week in and gave no notice to my former boss (he was a jerk and I just wanted out), just called him up about 6 hours before my shift and let him know that the job wast for me and that I’d be resigning. I feel like my employment history sucks and any employer who looks at it will likely not hire me. I was good at all 3 jobs and was never a troubled employee, besides the earbud deal but even during my time at target I worked very hard and was recognized for my work many times which is why i was surprised when they fired me. Any advice moving forward would be nice.


A:  No one has a perfect employment history.  We all make mistakes.  Learning from them is the best thing we can do, besides remedying them, when we can.  Because you have indicated that you have learned your lesson, it’s time to move forward, making sure that any future employers understand that you have as well.  You may do so with confidence.

So, on the next application that you complete, I recommend omitting the pizza place.  Since you were not there any real length of time, the “experience” is immaterial.  While I do not know how long you worked at Target, I see that you were recognized for your work there, so you may want to list that position, as well as the one at UPS.  Be sure to get the name and telephone number of someone at both places that can attest to the positive parts of your time there.  You may even check with the manager at Target to determine whether or not you are eligible for rehire, so that you will know what will be said if that question is asked of your references.

When you are asked for the reason for your departure at both jobs on the application, be honest.  State that you resigned from UPS to find other work.  This is the truth and no one can fault you for that.  When you speak of your reason for leaving Target, use the verbiage “misunderstanding about company earbud policy.”   (You did, after all, believe that you would get either a second verbal warning or a write up before being terminated).   If there is a check mark for terminated, check it, otherwise, simply state the reason.

During an interview, simply state that you discovered that the UPS job wasn’t something you could do long term and that you wanted to find something more interesting/meaningful/challenging (choose something that fits).  When you talk about your experience at Target, accentuate the positive experience you had there.  Talk very specifically about how you were recognized for your work there.  When it comes to the termination, admit that you have learned from your mistakes and have matured in that area since.  Promise to demonstrate that once hired.

Best wishes.

Q&A: Self-introduction in a Job Interview

Q: Employers often ask me to introduce myself (or talk about myself) in job interviews.
What kind of answers do they want? They know my name, background etc because we send our resume beforehand.

A: This is a very good question, AmyS. Before I answer directly, let’s think about another situation where someone would want you to tell them about yourself – dating. I often tell clients that I have a very attractive, intelligent, and single sibling that’s interested in meeting new people. I list a few characteristics my brother/sister is looking for and ask them what they would respond, knowing these “requirements.” More often than not, their response mirrors those requirements. When you are responding to this question in an interview, you are expected to do the very same thing – think about what the interviewer needs and who you are, and customize your responses to that person.

Let’s say you are interviewing for a job as a Receptionist. In the job posting, the hiring manager will have listed the things that he/she finds important to have in a receptionist, the duties one would be required to undertake, and maybe a little about the mission or vision of the company (if those things aren’t all in the ad, you can probably find them on the company’s website).

Let’s say they are looking for someone who is/has:
• professional
• at least one year experience
• good people skills
• working knowledge of MS Office
• working knowledge of office equipment
• detail-oriented
• organized
• flexible/adaptable
• able to multi-task
• demonstrated teamwork skills
• able to work under stressful conditions

• greet all guests, visitors, and employees
• develop and maintain files
• answer the telephone and take messages
• retrieving, preparing and distributing incoming and outgoing mail, courier services and packages.

and their mission is:
• to offer programs and services that help the elderly remain as independent as possible
After evaluating these qualifications against your own characteristics and skills, you would reply something like this:

“I have been working as a Receptionist for the past 4 years. I really enjoy this type of work. I love people and enjoy every opportunity I get to brighten someone’s day, whether on the phone or in person. You never know how you can impact people and it’s really critical to customer service. I’m very good with computers. I have often been asked to help co-workers and sometimes supervisors with little computer issues and even big projects with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I don’t mind. I enjoy helping others. I see us as a part of a big family and who wouldn’t help their family, right? I’m very organized and I pay very close attention to detail. I’m also very good at staying calm in stressful situations. I can prioritize and multi-task, and I’m pretty flexible, so things that get other people frazzled don’t really bother me so much. I’m really excited for the opportunity to meet with you today.”

Of course, your response will be modified to your personality.

Practice looking at various ads and company profiles and thinking about a few different ways you can do this. Once you have a handle on what companies are looking for in the specific job title you are applying for, you will be able to craft a more general “elevator speech.”
As far as the questions you may ask, consider asking questions that are relevant to your interests and needs:
• How long have you been working here? Is it common to find employees who have worked here for a long time?
• What opportunities are their for advancement?
• Does the company offer professional development courses for employees to build their skills?
• May I meet some of the staff I will be working with?
• If I started today, what would my first priority be?

Best wishes.

Q&A: Do I Take Lower Pay to Get the Experience?


Q: It has basically been said, in so many words that I wouldn’t move up any higher in my current department. I applied for a management position in another area that I currently support. They are considering me but because I have never had a management title they consider me as not having experience and want to start me at the bottom of the pay scale, much lower than current salary. Do I push for this position knowing it will open doors down the road even though it’s much lower in pay and the understanding that my current boss doesn’t plan on helping move up?
A:  This is an excellent question, K, one that I believe many people struggle with, more often than we realize.  It is possible, however, that you don’t have be one of these.
Although your job title, to date, has not yet been “Manager,”  you could very well have operated in the role many times.  I think it may be time to reevaluate the effectiveness of your resume.  Reflect on each of your previous work experiences.  Think about the tasks and responsibilities you encountered with each and weigh these against the job responsibilities and tasks of a manager at your company (the job ad or job description will help).  Research the core competencies and common responsibilities and tasks of a manager, supervisor, or leader, if necessary.  Have you lead any projects or teams?  Have you trained team members or other new staff?  Have you represented the company outside of your “traditional role?” If this is the case for you, perhaps you can submit a restructured resume showing your justification for management classification now, while you are still being considered for the position.

In this new resume, I would recommend that you include any professional development courses (continuing education or otherwise), college courses where you have been taught how to be a leader.  Then review your activities – volunteer activities or other extra curricular activities – where you have been or have emerged as a leader.  These all add to your experience. The rest is up to you to plead your case, given the opportunity.

Best Wishes.

Q&A:  What’s the Best Way to Network?


Q:  Ok.  I don’t like talking to people.  I’m nervous and reserved and I hate small talk. It feels like superficial fake unnecessary conversation.   And I have nothing to network with – to offer others.  I know establishing relationships is necessary but I feel awkward doing so.  How do I effectively do it?

A:  What a great question Letitia!  I’m willing to bet that several of our readers are on the edge of their seats waiting for the response to this one.  Judging by your very strong feelings against small talk, I’m going to guess that you’re an introvert.  You are not alone.  Statistics suggest that an estimated 50.7% of the population is as well.  I hope that you take comfort in this fact, because it means that about half of the people you could possibly connect with have the same feelings you do about interacting with strangers in an environment where one is expected to engage in networking activities.

Let’s start by getting some perspective on what networking is.  Google defines networking simply as interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.  The methods for who, what, where, when, and how you interact with others are unlimited, so try not to restrict your thoughts to navigating a room of 50 or more intimidating people in suits, balancing a glass of wine and a stack of business cards, while pretend-chuckling in unison with strangers at unfunny comments.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

As a matter of fact, the way to be successful in networking is to discontinue any practices you may have adopted that force you to be something that you’re not – like, say, an extrovert.  Be yourself.  Your networking experiences will be most meaningful and effective if they’re authentic.  So, find what works for you and WORK IT!

The Who.

Take a page from the networking marketers and work your “warm market.”  Start with your mentors, family, friends, and colleagues.  If you’re anything like me, there are several people in this segment of your life who have no idea what you do and you really aren’t sure what they do either.  Allow the familiarity you have with them to be the launching pad to a conversation.  Ask them, “what do you do now,” for example.   And since constant conversation is not the introvert’s “thing,” try creating/finding activities or activity-based outings and events to participate in as you talk with the people you select – like jogging or sports or movies or dining.

Think about the groups that you participate in at work and in your community (places you volunteer, church, local meet up groups).  Start building relationships there.  If you aren’t in any groups, start researching the clubs, groups, and associations at work, or related to your job, that have activities that might interest you.  Check meetup.com, Facebook, the local paper, and other social outlets for groups that match your interests outside the workplace. Author Lisa Evans suggests, “A community garden, for example, can provide an introvert with the opportunity to become part of a community without having to change their personality.”  She goes on to say that “what community groups offer is a chance to be with other people and … learn new things and have fun in ways that aren’t socially demanding.”

The What.

Begin with the end in mind.  Give yourself a goal, then make it your mission.  This makes your conversation purposeful.  If your goal in initiating a conversation with a stranger is to find out where the bathroom is, you decide that up front, you approach, and before you leave them, you know.  It’s as simple as that. Maybe you want to learn more about the company where the person works.  Maybe you want to find out if a company is hiring and what their hiring process is like.  Perhaps you are interested in gathering intel about a decision maker in advance of an interview.  Maybe you want to learn the steps you need to take to reach a personal or professional goal.  Starting with a clear vision for your networking activities will help you avoid the feeling that you are just having unnecessary conversations.

The Where.

You can network ANYWHERE!  While face-to-face networking events are typically formal events hosted by companies and organizations at colleges, hotels, restaurants, etc., you can network at the grocery store, the bank, the library, and even online.  Become a regular somewhere, as people start to expect you, the conversations and connections will evolve.    The number one prerequisite here is that you are someone where YOU feel comfortable.

The When.

Know yourself.  Network, however you choose to do it, when you are at your best.  If you know that you are a wreck in the morning, that coffee mixer might not be such a great idea.  If you tend to get a bit too happy during happy hour, maybe you ought to skip drinks with the company execs.  Your health, mental state, how you are feeling about your appearance at the time, if you are hungry, etc., all of these things tend to come out when you are engaging with others.  Sometimes, they come out in the form of complaints.  Other times, there are physical manifestations that can’t be helped (coughing, sneezing, running to restroom, etc.).  If you are at your best, you will be more relaxed and confident as you engage with others.

The How.

Take it one step at a time.  Begin with a goal and make it your mission to achieve that mission before you’re done.  Be prepared to talk about yourself.  Think about what you want to say, write it down before hand and practice it in the mirror if you need to so that you can talk in your natural style of conversation.  Write out some questions to ask the people you encounter, in the event that you get stuck.  Arrive early to avoid walking into crowds.  Since you are better one-on-one, make it your goal to try to catch people who are alone instead of waiting to arrive at a time when people will be bunched or packed together in small groups.  If you are feeling stuck, introduce the person you just met to someone new and listen as the two of them engage or excuse yourself to continue mingling.  If possible, network with a friend.

Check your body language Make sure you are feeling well and comfortable with your environment, your outfit, etc. before you approach others or before they approach you.  If it makes you feel more in your element, hold something in your hand (a pen, your cell phone, a scarf).  Allow yourself to be temporarily distracted if it gives you fuel to continue the event.  You may also consider giving yourself a time limit to be at the event or activity so that you can reduce any anxiety.  If this is not appropriate, permit yourself to take frequent breaks outside or in another area for the same purposes.

Use technology to your advantage.  Making connections with people online first will do wonders to break the ice before you meet face-to-face.  Use the Internet to do research on the people who are likely to be attending the gathering you are going to and find some common ground for your discussion.

Lastly, get your head together.  Be positive.  Be in the moment.  Be yourself.

Best wishes.

Additional Reading:

Evans, Lisa “How Introverts Can Network Without Changing their Personalities” http://www.fastcompany.com/3044860/work-smart/how-introverts-can-network-without-changing-their-personalities

Clark, Dorie “Networking for Introverts”

Florentine, Sharon “9 networking tips for introverts”

Campbell, Rebekah “An Introvert’s Guide to Networking”

Johnson, Cynthia “How to Network When You’re An Introvert”

Gardella, Adriana “Networking Tips for Introverts”

Ayres, Andrea “A Guide to networking for people who suck at networking”

“How to Network if You’re an Introvert (wikiHow)”

Q&A: I Am 26 and I Have No Idea What to do For a Career. All I Keep Taking is Basic Retail Jobs?

No Job at 26

Q:I am 26 and I have no idea what to do for a career. All I keep taking is basic retail jobs?
I went to college and earned a BA, but it seems the only places that are hiring is for healthcare or positions with many years of experience. I was an education major in college until my senior year, where I decided I had no interest in teaching anymore.?  I was initially Social Studies Education, but I switched to History BA. Ever since I graduated with a History BA, I feel lost in the job market. I don’t know what to apply for, and most jobs I feel not qualified for. I look for basic entry level jobs such as Administrative Assistants, Data Entry, etc. Even those are hard to get. I know some people say go back to college, but I don’t know what I would get a masters degree in that is useful. Is anyone else in this situation? What should I do?

I feel like giving up and try to be self employed. The U.S. Economy sucks.

A: I’m sorry to hear that you are having such difficulty finding the work you love, Kevin. Have you tried visiting the career development office at the college that you graduated from? There are people there who are trained to help you identify the path you should take to your dream career, be it in radiology, computers, web design, real estate, or some other field.

In addition, I would recommend using the keywords “entry level” or even “recent college graduate” when you do your job searches on websites like Career Builder and Indeed.  Many employers write their job postings to include these key words when they are hoping to recruit new entrants to the job market.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Workforce Development System has a site called Job Gateway. Have you visited their site yet or one of their service locations? From the site, you can do a search for entry-level positions in your city or zip code. You can also check with their service offices for the latest on career fairs in your area.

I know that you’ve been trying for a while and job search can be frustrating, but I’d like to encourage you to seek a little direction for your search. Getting clear objectives for your career will help narrow down the infinite number of areas there are to go in and then you will be able to search for things that really do interest you.

Don’t give up. There’s a great job waiting for you!