Job hunt needs direction

Dear Ms. Lloyd:
I graduated from college four years ago with a degree in communications (advertising and marketing). Since I've been out, I have been doing different "jobs" somewhat in the field, although I want more of a direction. I do not believe that going back to school is my next step in that I don't really know if I want another field. I'm wondering if you could advise me as to whom to call as a career counselor for really better direction.

I have been to quite a few places such as local colleges, the YWCA and other community services. I have taken many of the same repeated tests and though still remain not very clear as to what they have come up with. For example, sales is a very similar interest of mine, but the lack of security and commission and running around all day is not so appealing. I'm sure you will have some good advice. Thank you.

You will never find the answer until you search inside of yourself. As you have found, tests and counselors can only provide the canvas and the paints. Your picture must be created from within.

You have been looking for the easy way and have found that there are no magic answers. Four years is a long time to be wandering and you must be willing to buckle down and do some in-depth research on yourself so you can get on track quickly. If you don't act soon, employers will question whether you really want a career and if you are goal-driven.

To help you in your research, I suggest you write down everything you discover. This project is very important and you want to be able to review what you have learned along the way. Perhaps when you reread what you wrote, you'll see some patterns emerge.

First, make a list of all the things you liked about each work experience from the past. Force yourself to be specific. For example, "working with people" isn't going to help you, whereas, "working with a small team on a shared project that required creative input from everyone" is much more explicit. Include what you liked about the work environment, the people, the work itself, the size and type of company and so on.

Get ready for another list. This one should be easy for you since you have taken many tests and worked with many counselors. This list will contain your strengths and interests. Include all hobbies and social activities because they will provide clues to what you are interested in. Ask at least two people, who know you well, to add to the lists. Otherwise, you'll take some of your talents for granted and won't include them.

Next, review the lists and identify possible jobs that would require these skills. It's not important to know what the titles are or where these jobs exist. Simply begin to shape in your mind what sounds good to you.

Now you are ready for the real test of your commitment. You need to do some serious informational interviewing and networking. This takes drive and persistence. It also requires many of the things you found distasteful about the sales profession. You will need to "run around" and make some introductory calls. However, your natural strengths lean in this direction, so selling yourself as you learn about yourself might actually be fun.

Ready for the next list? Write down every person you know and where they work. Yes, I know, it will be a long list-but a very useful one. This list should include relatives and neighbors. Before you contact anyone, you should select three fairly specific jobs to research. For example, customer service sales rep, public relations, and recruiter.

Start by asking people on your list, "Do you know anyone in these three fields?" If they can give you a name of someone, ask them everything you can about that person and if it is ok to use their name as a referral when you contact them. Make it clear that you are only looking for information, not a job. Save your most valuable contacts for a little later in your search, when you have more confidence about what you want.

Prepare a three paragraph script to use when you call. It should include your opening line (so you don't stammer), a brief description of what you want and a short summary of your strengths and accomplishments.

Your call might sound something like this, "Hello, my name is ___. Sara Finley and I were discussing my background the other day and she suggested that I call you. Do you have a short time to talk? My strengths and background are leading me to the field of recruiting and I'm looking for more information about it. For instance I'd be very interested in hearing how you got into the field and what you see as the pros and cons of different jobs within the field." At this point, you may be asked for information about your background. Your listener will be trying to determine how well focused you are and how much research you have done.

He or she will also be doing a mini-resume check to see if you are worth talking to. The more you say about past achievements that are related to the field of recruiting, the more the listener will be willing to meet with you. This is where your lists will begin to pay off.

Try to get an appointment late in the day so you can get there after your job. If this is impossible, try to get as much information as possible by phone and ask if they'd be willing to review your resume and mail it back to you. This is a great way to get your qualifications in front of someone and get some needed advice at the same time.

If they are so busy they can do none of the above, ask them if they'd be willing to answer two quick questions on the phone.

Finally, always ask each person if they know of anyone else who might be able to provide some advice. Ask if you can use their name as a referral. Are you beginning to see a pattern? If you are tenacious and determined, you should not only know what you want to do but actually be getting some job offers within 6 months. Good luck! 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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