That Loving Feeling: When the Career Fits

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Remember how it feels to fall in love?

That “click” you feel when you meet someone who peaks your interest?

They push their way into your thoughts when you are working to focus on something else. Everything you hear makes you think of them.  They’ve captured your heart.

This 100% captures how I fell in love with my husband and career development.

That’s right, I have a long standing love affair with workforce development.

I know it sounds odd to hear someone say that they are in love with a career path, but it is February, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, I am going to ask you to go along with it.

A few weeks ago I attended a conference specifically focused on one of the federal grants I manage. I entered my first session alert and ready to engage on the topic, “Telling program stories during the life of the program”. It is actually a pretty important topic with regards to funding!

As the presenter began to speak in a very folksy style, telling a number of stories about her kindergartner, my mind immediately started linking everything she talked about to career development.

Storytelling is a key element of the job search and in career advancement. There will be more to come on this later.

My thoughts did not shift because I was uninterested in the presentation. I made the connection because thinking about career, professional, and workforce development is what I love.

Much like the incomprehensible doodles, fueled by infatuation with a new love interest, my notes include little thought bubbles with ideas related to my next career development blog post.

The week after the summit, I was scheduled to meet with a local nonprofit to discuss creating and facilitating career development courses for underserved women in the Washington DC area.

The night before the meeting, the DC area was hit by a light snowstorm that resulted in roads completely covered in ice. On my drive home, I sat in traffic for more than 4 hours, and when I was moving I slid, fishtailed, and prayed that I would make it safely.

When I woke up the next morning, exhausted and still a bit irritated, I immediately sent an email. It wasn’t an email to say that I was too traumatized to even venture out that day. Instead it was an email to the organization leaders confirming our meeting.

The opportunity to work with groups on the topic of professional and career development motivates me.

It’s my essence.

I am purposely using the word essence as opposed to “passion” for several reasons. When discussing career related topics, the word passion is completely overused and doesn’t mean very much. Those things that hit on your essence help to define your character, what you care about, and why. Your essence is bigger than a job and perhaps even a career. You find your essence in that compartment where you file your hobbies and your “if I could do anything, I would …”dreams.

I am very good at what I do, my “day job” if you will. People and program management are my crafts. With that said, I don’t leave part of my essence behind in order to do my job. A piece of what makes me such a strong manager is my ability and desire to think about my staff’s professional development needs. I work to coach them to do their best work, but also realize their career goals inside and outside of the organization.

I weave workforce development into my program management as well. When working with a program focused on professional development, like a mentoring or internship program, the connection is clear. It may seem less direct when I discuss having oversight over environmental education programming, but the connection isn’t a stretch.

Creating diverse and inclusive groups of people to discuss environmental issues is a key component of executing good programming and an important outcome of well delivered programs. Job opportunities are an essential entry point for people new to the issue. Job availability and ultimately economic prosperity will motivate people to lean in on a topic that may not have interested them before.

The ability to align my essence with my craft helps to strengthen my direction and my overall sense of joy. It can take time and work to achieve this cohesion, but is definitely worth the effort.

Do you know what your essence is? Does it match up with your job? Do you want it to?

Are You Using Common "Career" Sense During the Application Process?

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Growing up, my mother had a favorite phrase, “common sense ain’t so common.”  What can I say, we are from Texas.  After spending the past six months reviewing application packets for everything from leadership awards to full time positions, my mother’s little quip has never seemed truer.

While I love the opportunity to interact with so many hopeful and talented individuals, I have worked in career development for over 15 years and there is no way for me to overlook the common, but unfortunate,  mistakes that people make.

Last week, when I could feel a rant coming on after receiving a generic resume that included a headshot, I decided to channel my frustration into something productive.  I challenged myself to impart some common career sense by providing reality- based tips.

Let’s start at the beginning of the process: submitting your application.  The majority of applications received are submitted digitally. There are pros for electronically submitting application packets including the ease of attaching and clicking submit. However this ease can cause people to overlook or neglect some very important factors.

Faux Pas: Being lazy with your submission

Common Career Sense Tip: If you are emailing your application materials, be sure to address your email/cover letter to a specific person. In many cases, it takes no time at all to visit the company or organization’s website and find out who will likely review your resume. Take the time to personalize the submission instead of using a generic and somewhat maddening salutation, such as “Dear Prospective Employer”. I promise you I’m looking at an email submission with this greeting right now and I’m not happy!

Faux Pas: Submitting your information in an unprofessional manner

Common Career Sense Tip: I’m still fuming after receiving an application packet from someone using an inappropriate email display name. If you are submitting career related information with an email address or display name that does not clearly identify who you are, change it now! Ideally, your display name should be your first and last name. Save the cutesy epithets for your personal email address.

At some point, whether it is program admission or a job application, you will have to provide a resume.  My resume is probably one of the most personal documents I’ve ever created.  It’s me on a page – everything I am proud of and a constant reminder of what I want to achieve in my career.  With that said, resumes are personal, but they are developed for a public audience.

Faux Pas: Submitting your resume in a program specific format

Common Career Sense Tip: Submitting your resume as a Word document does not mean that every reviewer will have an easy time opening it or that it will be formatted correctly once it’s opened. A person using the Google Docs may not see the document and formatting you want them to see. If possible, always submit your resume and supporting documents as a PDF.

 Faux Pas: Including unnecessary information on your resume

Common Career Sense Tip:   Editing your resume does not solely apply to spelling and grammar mistakes. Resumes should be edited for content as well in order to ensure that information included is relevant to the position and company you are applying to.  I don’t need to know everything you can do or have done in your past.  If you include a skills section on your resume, make sure the skills are relevant to the position you are applying for.

Faux Pas: Selling yourself short on your resume

Common Career Sense Tip:   There is no need to discount volunteer experience on your resume. I review resumes on a regular basis that relegate important, professional experience to a “Volunteer” category and use the “Work Experience” category for one or two temporary or low skilled positions simply because money was exchanged for the service provided. Create a broader heading (i.e. professional experience) and promote that “volunteer” experience to the top of the resume.