You Need a Career Time Capsule

One of the things I liked best about Mac computers is an app called Time Machine. It lets you back up your computer so you can see which files you had on any given day. You can revert back to a day on which you knew you backed up a file and were sure it wasn’t corrupted or had the wrong information in it.

A career portfolio can function as your own personal career time machine and capsule. Many of us who use career portfolios to showcase work, our resumes and our projects update them on a fairly regular basis, often deleting earlier incarnations of the career portfolio. However, these old career portfolios do have significant value.

One piece of career advice that career consultants give is to tailor your resume and portfolio to the specific job for which you are applying. This means you are often adding or deleting valuable information about yourself. Creating a master career portfolio or time capsule ensures that you will not lose the information about the project you did five years ago. You may not think it matters all that much now, but there may be a future job for which you will need this information. Computers crash, and resumes and projects get lost. Continually updating a master career portfolio may seem like a chore, but you will be relieved to have it when you need it. And you will need it.

Recruiters are always on the look out for passive candidates, those candidates who have a job, are not looking for a new job and have up-to-date skills. Their goal is to place you as a passive candidate in often hard-to-fill positions. While there should be a good fit between you and the job, your career goals are not always going to receive top consideration.  This process can be an intense situation. Time is of the essence for both the recruiter and the company.  They may give you the hard sell and rush you into applying for a job and accepting an offer, one which you did not even know yesterday that existed.

This means that it is up to you to know what your current career goals are. Your previous career portfolios, along with a master career portfolio will remind you of your career goals and accomplishments along your career path. Armed with this information, you can calmly decide whether a job offer is right for you. Is one of your career goals still to have less travel days and more days with family? Then will the job that offers you a $10k raise in return for 150 more days of travel be worth it to you?

You also need to know and be reminded of what your past accomplishments are. Does this current job offer you a chance to build on past accomplishments, or merely to repeat them? Can you clearly define what the trade offs are going to be if you accept a new job, and whether will they be acceptable to you and your family?

A current master career portfolio reviewed with a series of saved previous career portfolios can save you time and stress when it comes to taking that next career step. This process puts you in control of your career and can make it easier to respond to and work with recruiters.

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Active and Passive Mentors and Why You Need Both

Many of my work supervisors have acted as a mentor to me: the boss who was excellent at written and verbal skills and showed me how to work my way out of sticky client situations; the boss who modeled how to navigate the corporate good ol’ boy network of automotive design. These were active, on-the-job mentors, teaching me skills and how to adapt to the work culture. Active mentors teach and model valuable skills. You can find them at work, through LinkedIn, word-of-mouth and many other places. They are the people in the career in which you want to be, albeit it further along the path, but in-the-know. They have many of the same career goals as you, and are willing to invest the time to help you reach those goals.

Now, many career professionals will tell you if you are looking for a mentor to try and engage a KOL, a key opinion leader in your career on LinkedIn, Facebook or some other social media site. But the reality is these KOL’s have so many demands on their time that they will likely never even reply to your request for mentoring.

Meet Your New Mentor, YouTube

This is where passive mentoring comes in. There are different types of passive mentoring: mentoring that takes place inside your career and mentoring that comes from other areas of interest. You do not get to be passive in finding active or passive mentors. It is up to you to do the leg work. KOL’s are all over the place. They lecture and record it on YouTube; they offer webinars; they blog; they speak at conferences. They are passive mentors in the sense that they  do not know you, but every time you watch, listen and read their words, they are mentoring you. Often, they are giving you valuable intelligence about your career that you would not get from day-to-day work interaction.

The other type of passive mentor comes from your interests. Again, they do not know you, but you know them. They are the NASCAR drivers, the opera singers, the sports figures, the gamers, the artists and actors whom you follow, whose careers you are passionate about. You hunt for their videos, their blogs, their games, their concerts. You avidly keep up with what they are doing, where they are going. These people often give you valuable information too. They model ambition, good and bad work-life balance, how to communicate and work as a team, and even how to stay out of jail.

So why do you need active and passive mentors and why must you actively seek them out? Active mentors help you acquire the career skills you need to be successful. Passive career mentors can do that too. Passive mentors in your interest fields can pass along knowledge that may not be direct career skills, but still can help you get ahead in your career. For example, I definitely know I do not want to be an opera singer. However, watching some of these singers in their careers gives me motivation and determination to succeed in my own career. All of these skills from both types of mentors may make your career path easier and more successful. You need to be proactive in seeking out both types of mentors because I can practically guarantee that:

This May Never Happen to You:

There is a now-famous story in opera circles that Renee Fleming tells about how Leontyne Price ended up mentoring her. Ms Price literally contacted her and said, “I think I can help you.” You can watch Renee talk about her experience here. It is a wonderful story; however, it almost never happens that way for the rest of us. But do not be discouraged: most people genuinely like to help others and are gratified to be asked for their expertise. So do your research and ask. Your active and passive mentors are just waiting for you to find them.

Do You Need Professional Certification?

I have several types of career consulting clients who have asked me about professional certifications: those who do not have a college degree, but want credibility with their clients, those who have a college degree  that needs updating and those who have a degree, but want to pursue a different career field.

My answer to “Do I need professional certification?” It depends. some fields such as IT usually require a college degree and sometimes certifications in order to stay current. Other fields such as life coaching can be pursued with a degree in counseling, but the life coaching certification may give you more credibility.

So how do you know if you need certification? There are several ways to find out. You can do an internet search for the national association for your career field. If you need certification, your association will list what certification you need. They will often also provide certification education and access to exams or recommendations on how to get them.

Another way to determine if you need certification is to search for jobs in your interest area. If you need a certification, the job description should list it either as a must have or like to have if it is preferred.

You can also ask people in your targeted field. Post the question to LinkedIn career groups or on your timeline. Set up an informational interview in your targeted career field and get a professional’s thoughts on certifications such as which ones are the most relevant for you. You should also ask what knowledge the certification should provide.

Once you determine, yes you should have a certification, it is time to look at certification programs. Investigate whether they are accredited and whether they provide legitimate certifications, diplomas, etc. The Corinthian Colleges debacle should be motivation enough to do your research – you do not want to spend a lot of money on a useless certification. It is NOT enough that a program is accredited. Research the accrediting body to see if they actually exist and how they determine whether to grant accreditation to a program. You can also check the Better Business Bureau to ensure that the program you are considering is not a scam.

A professional certification should provide you with the knowledge you need to pursue the career you want. It is up to you to decide if the program is affordable and will teach you what you want to learn.

Advanced Searches Can Save Your Sanity

If you have ever been laid off, you may have had well-meaning, albeit misinformed, relatives and friends tell you to shop your resume around to local offices and employment agencies. Thankfully, this time-consuming and tree-killing way to job hunt is no more. Enter the job sites and job aggregators on the internet. Job sites are exactly what they sound like – sites that list all sorts of jobs. Job aggregators are like search engines that search job sites to bring you all the jobs in which you may be interested all in one place.

As a career consultant, I have witnessed job hunters give up on the job search before they even really begin because there are so many positions out there to which to apply. While some would debate whether or not all of these jobs are real jobs, the bottom line is that the quickest way to apply for a job is online. Time is critical when you have been laid off and you need that next job.

Boolean searches are one of the best methods to cut through the plethora of job postings and to find the ones you need. Don’t let the word Boolean make you nervous. It just means using some limiters in your search to make the results manageable. Most search engines, job sites and job aggregators have an advanced search function and how to use it to help you save time. Here are a few limiters that are easy to use:

*Double Quotes: Double quotes help you find listings with an exact phrase in them. For example, if you are looking for a position as a science editor, try “science editor” in your search. Not using double quotes might bring up something like science writer or business editor instead.

*NOT – The word “not” is a very useful limiter for those of you looking in career fields that have common job postings that are not quite what you want. For example, if you are interested in working in publishing, want to explore that field and know you do not want to do sales, try publishing and not sales as a search. Another way to weed out the publishing sales jobs is to use a job aggregator like simplyhired.com with an advanced search function that lets you list words you do not want in a job posting.

*Root and Stem Words – There are many titles that consist of various forms of root words. You can capture all different forms of root words by using a single asterisk.. For example, if you are looking for all job postings that list the words editor, editorial, editing, try edit* as your search. A stem word search uses two asterisks to bring up alternate word forms. Write** might bring up written, wrote or writing in a search. Another way to run this type of search is to use a job site such as monster.com which allows you to do an advance search listing different forms of a word in the title and keyword fields.

*Compound Boolean searches – Once you are comfortable using simple Boolean searches, you can move on to using a combination of these searches to save you even more time. For example, the search “science writer” and chemistry may bring up just the chemistry abstract writer positions for which you are looking.

Advanced searches can save your sanity and time, freeing you up to prepare for those job interviews you landed by using Boolean searches. Good luck!