Master Career Counselor

Carla Hunter, President of Career Span, Inc. is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) by the National Career Development Association and a Certified Career Coach by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She is an expert in writing resumes, effective job search strategies and interviewing success. Most recently, with over 20 years of navigating the complexity of today's world of work, she published "Finding Your Place in the World of Work", a career interest inventory (2014) and CareerView, an iPad app. As a private practice career counselor and a workforce development consultant, this blog is Carla's trove of ideas, trends, forecasts, and career tips for finding meaningful work.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Career mastery is in your hands, not the employer's

As a career counselor that works everyday with clients who have lost their job, are seeking to change careers or want to confirm their current path, all have one common denominator:
they are the ones in control of their future even though at times it doesn't appear that way.

Over the past three years, the job market has given everyone a chilling and sometimes brutal wake up call: job security is the greatest mirage in the world of work.

Many jobs once called "hot" are now cold. Many companies who once were teeming with employees are now hollow with very few people remaining. We have become a lean job market machine and the excess fat has been thrown out the door. But hey, wait! Isn't there a good use for what an employer may deem unnecessary or no longer a viable contribution?

The answer is yes. The questions that matters most are these:

Are you tired of not knowing what will happen to your job today?
What about tomorrow?
Next week?

The critical response to these questions is what are you doing to stay relevant, timely and indispensable to your employer?
Or better yet, what would it look like if you were your employer? What if your destiny hinged on you alone not some corporate stock price?

The world is now at your finger tips. The canvas is blank with hope and promise. The key to your successful worklife has always been in your hand. Isn't it time to unlock a new door of opportunity?

The quest is for the true meaning of becoming an entreprenuer and owning your career outcomes. You don't have to buy a franchise or develop some ingenious new contraption.

What you do need is a level of discomfort in the status quo and waking up every morning wishing you could change your small corner of the world for better.

In the next post, I will share what that might look like. It isn't a mirage after all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Job contraction and the big balloon effect

The overall unemployment rate in the United States is sitting at around 9.6 percent.

This statistic is almost double the unemployment rate for years. What is really going on? Economists are trying to gain a grasp on all the complexity of the market, when really it is quite simple:

Technology just blew up a HUGE balloon, tied the knot and now is sqeezing the workforce.

Let me explain.

The huge balloon of technology

Technology has ended the industrial age as we know it. We are now in a knowledge economy where information is instant and available to the masses. This access to knowledge is like someone has taken an empty balloon, filled it with air and gave a new dimension to what has previously been lifeless.

The explosion of the computer, technological resources and the Internet has flourished for the most part. The dot-com bust caused the big balloon to be tied with a knot.

Now, the balloon is being tightly squeezed in one particular section. Imagine taking a balloon, blowing it up, tying a knot and then squeezing it. Would the inside air leave the balloon? Of course not. It would be moving in another direction. This is how I see the American economy at work. We are being squeezed but not popped as reported so negatively by the media.


Well, when you sqeeze one section and it contracts, another section of the balloon is forced to expand. It is the nature of pressure.

Our "recession" is a contraction in the market. The key to our dismay is that NO ONE is pointing to the expansion and movement in another part of this balloon. When one part contracts, another expands. This isn't rocket science!!!!!

So what has contracted in the market? The jobs that are no longer viable because technology has made them faster, easier and cheap. What is expanding? The businesses that make it faster, easier and cheaper for the employer using technology as the catalyst for change. It is a simple equation that has had devastating results because we have been largely unprepared for the intensity of the squeeze.

In the end, if our nation recognized and prepared for the contraction, this unemployment rate would have been minimized. Economists can only predict. However, it would be a beneficial resource to have a career counselor as an advisor to the President. That expert would have focused on when the market's balloon was being naturally squeezed and to not react so negatively to a brilliant shift in our economy. The balloon hasn't popped!

It has just been squeezed. My next post will focus on our major resource to take us to the height of this new economy with a mastery yet to be defined.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The job market continues to get a BAD rap

Found in a recent article:

For every one posting, there were at least 5 to 6 workers that were applying and needed the job.

In essence, according to grim views of the job market, there are more job seekers than there are jobs at a 1 to 5 or 6 ratio. Most of the research data is based on the number of online job postings.

Here's something to consider:

First and foremost, NOT ALL JOBS ARE POSTED!!!!!!!

When a job seeker learns this imperative rule, he or she is on the road to job recovery. I would estimate that at least 70% of all job openings (if not more) are never posted online or in some type of print advertisement.

Job titles are constantly evolving and altering nearly daily due to technology, the global economy and the shifting labor force with diverse and broad needs. Thus, a company may have an opening with a certain job title but within weeks or months, such a title has become obsolete.

Employers are not posting openings online because they are looking for a worker that goes beyond a static job posting or description. They want TALENT, VISION, COMPETENCE and ENERGY. What they are looking for is not found online or posted in bright lights at multiple search engine job boards. Yes, people do find jobs online. It is a tool but not the ONLY tool. It doesn't have the best rate of success.

What does? It is called "getting out and connecting to the world around you more than searching online".

I want to know who is counting the number of people that find jobs that were never posted online? What about the job seekers who got of their behinds and got out of the house and met people? What about the ones who were very intentional in going for a company they wanted to work for even when no opening was officially posted? After all, that is the majority of the authentic pool of employers and those who seek employment.

Yes it may be true that there is one job online for every five to six job seekers. But that is not the full picture.

The more important story is that there are employers who never post such openings and are hiring that never get accounted for in data that makes the job market seem abysmal.

That is a very sad illusion that has disconnected and depressed people from even trying to find a job. Never forget...when one part of the market contracts, there is another part expanding.

The key is whether or not the job seeker knows how to navigate the course to locating that expansion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Career Success Has No Shortcuts

Career Success is a culmination of individual experiences and lessons learned that are quilted together.

There are those who never connect the patches of development, making intentional choices and overcoming their fear to grasp the reality of success. Rather, they see a random and purely chaotic scene of reacting to job offers, jumping on new opportunities and never stepping back to assess the critical factors of career happiness. Success never lands on you without reason or fortitude. It can be grueling, difficult and time consuming to put your development as a professional as one of your top priorities. The pay off can be HUGE.

Consider the following strategies to harness your career potential:

1. PACE yourself. Take a new class, find an online course and learn something new daily.
2. Recognize the value of colleagues and spend quality time having lunch, a cup of coffee, a round of golf or Skype. Be available.
3. Learn to use technology to your advantage.
4. Study the resources your community offers and take advantage of them when possible.

Enjoy the journey of developing your career by recognizing there may not be a shortcut to arriving at success but take advantage of all the scenic beauty.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Career Contractions and Birth Pangs

No woman who has experienced the birth of a child can truly forget the pain of contractions. They HURT!!!!!!!!!!!!! The contractions prepare the body for a baby's imminent arrival through the birth canal. Contractions in essence are giving notice to the uterus that it is soon to be finished with its work of nourishing the baby.

The labor market is doing much of the same. It is giving life to new opportunities while making former occupations obsolete. The birth of a new economy based on knowledge, continual learning, flexibility and results will be born regardless of our objections to this change.

The key? Are you prepared for the arrival of a new, bouncing and healthy market that will demand much time and focus as you retool and begin this next step in your career journey.

It is worth everything. The reason? Like children, everything you expend on your career is not an expense but rather an investment.

Start that investment today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NEVER too late...

So many clients ask the same question:

"Is it too late for me to change careers?"

The short answer is complicated. But, not impossible.

Complicated because AGE is not the primary barrier. One's attitude and lack of confidence will override chronology any day. The issue is not time, but rather energy.

The more applicable question may likely look like this:

"Do you have the energy, focus, drive, support and resources available to you to make the transition work successfully?"

Career change is becoming an oxymoron. Careers change faster than lightbulbs. It is the way of the workplace and it isn't going to slow down soon.

So, how motivated are you?

How much do you want it?

Are you ready to focus and give what it takes to transition?

In the end, it is much better for you to make the decision than for your employer to make it for you. Especially if it comes when you least expect it.

Don't put off until tomorrow, what may not be there tomorrow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Identity Theft in a Job Title

Where is your identity?

Has your job title stolen it from you.

The reality of work can be brutal when one loses a job especially when it is completely unexpected. The pink slip for a teacher or the trip to the Human Resources office for the shocked professional who gave everything to the company only to find a hollow sense of worth and value. Emotional rage, sustained bouts of anger and depression are hallmark indicators of a person who lost even their soul in exchange for a job title and description of daily responsibilities.
What if your job isn't there tomorrow? What if you lost it yesterday? Does that loss define who you are?
It is a complex issue with no easy answer to what the balance is or how far you go in a career that defines you.

Don't get me wrong. I am all about putting in a full day's work and loving what you do. But can there be a point where a person merges their sense of self too far into an office at work? Life is always lives on a continuum that must be refined and measured over time. The older we get, the more we realize success is not measured by a bank statement. Actually, we can have a lot of money, kudos and accomplishments and still be bankrupt and utterly lost.

If your sense of value and worth better known as an identity is found ONLY in the work you do, you're missing the essence of life. The roles only you can fill are the key factors to a life well lived. Only you can fill a certain role such as sibling, parent, community activist, neighbor, friend, spouse, etc. that no one else can fill as only you do. A job title is replaceable and work can steal it. A relationship can be lost by neglect. Life's greatest meaning is found not solely in your work, but in who you spend your time with learning, loving and developing each day. Identity is validated in relationship to others as they reflect the qualities you possess or even greater, provoke you to reach a deeper level of knowledge and wisdom.

Your reflection will always be seen in a mirror as you walk by and glance at it. Your identity is captured in the roles you fill in relation to others. Remember who you are is found in what and who you love. No one can steal that from you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Intimacy is the wrap around timing and synchronicity

As we have been focusing on the importance of networking and how to do it, we come to the most difficult question of all: Who do I dance with?

Networking is after all, closely related to dancing. It takes timing, effort, focus and most of all another person to join in.

With this process comes true diligence and even tenacity. People are busy, full of demanding schedules with barely enough time to breathe. How does on find the right persons to network with and develop an intimacy that connects one human to another?

First, if you want to network, you have to know how to listen. Listening is not thinking about what you are going to say when another is talking. Listening is attentive posturing and intentional caring about what others are saying. It involves energy that is never ever wasted.

So, have you practiced listening? The best way to do this is to give feedback to others when they share with you. Let them know what you are hearing and if you are accurate. Clarifying is the key to listening.

Second, increase your awareness to the body language you are disclosing. At least eighty-five per cent of communication is without a single word. We say a lot when we say nothing but our body language betrays us.

Finally, give people a chance. They are worth your effort to develop nurture and care for. This is the secret to longer life, healthier bodies and more satisfying careers. When we network, when we connect and when we listen, we are tuly living life and not merely existing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Networking is like the composition of a beautiful melody. You can feel the underpinning of the beat and rhythm being played to perfection. If one note is out of place or one instrument playing when it should be silent, a tension is created with an awareness that something or someone is misplaced. It is an incongruency called dissonance.

Networking dissonance or a lack of right timing causes a serious misperception. When timing is off this is what happens:

1. An eager jobseeker really wants to work as an administrative assistant. She calls back to check on the status of the job daily. Eagerness is perceived as annoying.

2. A successful professional recently laid off starts to attend monthly meetings of a young professional association even though he completely dismissed it while employed. No one takes the time to introduce himself or herself to the professional and he leaves disgruntled and isolated with feelings of resentment of time wasted and a growing dread of trying to find work.

3. A worker recently down-sized starts to connect with every imaginable friend, associate or colleague he has ever known. He gets the word out that he has been let go from his company but is terribly disappointed that no one responds to him except his retired neighbor who wished him luck.

All of these examples rest on the vitality of effective networking not being utilized due to poor timing.

Let's go back and look at these three examples if networking timing happened to be in perfect correlation with the contextual scenarios.

1. The eager job seeker follows up concurrent to the same degree follow up is neccesary in the position she is seeking. A car salesman position would demand a daily follow up to show persistence. What about a professional position? Once every 5 to 7 business days at most. Perception: Engaged, persistent but not a pestering presence. Timing is critical.

2. Timing in this scenario is simple. Be active and intentional in networking long before you need it to work for you. The time given is the response you will likely receive.

3. People are busy, schedules are full and an emergency on your part is not likely to receive triage from everyone else. Unless, you have been in an emergency mode for them. We reap what we sow. How did you respond when your neighbor lost his job five years ago? Did you return his calls? Did you introduce him to potential job leads?

Timing is everything when desiring to network because every moment counts. If you're not connected to a community of neighbors, colleagues and friendships, take the first step. Make the initial contact and overcome your fear. Otherwise, your fear will someday overcome you. When you do it right, beautiful music is your reward.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Synchronicity is a BEAUTIFUL thing

Having synchronicity while networking is akin to pushing the pedal to the metal at a green light and slamming the break when it turns red. There are rules of networking that make synchronicity with others possible so no one gets hurt.

Here they are for you to consider:

Be nice and respectful. This may seem to be obvious but it isn't a done deal. People for the most part have forgotten to be respectful and courteous. Without these two essential skills, networking will never evolve into a productive use of your time or anyone else's.

Be genuine and get rid of the fake. This is critically important to simply be yourself and not someone who can't be real. People know the difference and no one wants to connect to a wax figure. You know the one who has life-like features but isn't natural.

Focus more of your energy and attention on others. You can't be in synchronicity with anyone unless you take your eyes of yourself. Stop thinking about what you can take and start thinking about what you have to give.

The irony? People warm up to someone who wants to focus on mutual trust, kindness and rapport. When you show respect, you form the underpinning for solid synchronicity. As I always pound into the brains of my children:

"This world isn't all about you. Until respect is the axis of your actions, you're not going to go anywhere. With it, the world rotates upon your respect and rewards you with what you have given."

With these simple basic reminders, the synchronicity of kindness gives you the green light to proceed to the next important component of networking: timing. It is the sister of synchronicity.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Networking Dance

Our definition for networking must be the frame for this post:

It is the ability to become a small yet important part of a larger interconnected system of people from across one's community, industry or professional sphere to be a resource for others and access resources from others when needed based on mutual benefit and agreement.

In essence networking is a dance. It involves three important components:

1. Synchronicity
2. Timing
3. Intimacy

Without each of these three actions properly functioning at once, adjectives begin to emerge:

Networking is so awkward!
It is so uncomfortable.
It makes me feel so clumsy and ill at ease.

Imagine for a moment, the world of work is very much like the ancient rite of proper passage: attending and participating in a coutillion. First, you must RSVP properly. Next, you dress up for the occasion. Finally, you attend only to dance with partners you don't know. When my daughter attended this event in her eighth grade year, I picked her up a little early (on purpose). I walked in to a ballroom crowded with teenagers trying to find comfort in dancing with strangers. Yes, it was organized and supervised by adults who rotated the participants alphabetically so no one would be left out. However, when you slow dance with a stranger it is plain awkward. I saw this happen to my child.
When I found her in the crowd she was tolerating the last dance. It was a slow one where she had to dance close to someone she didn't know. It was interesting to watch as they tried to dance in synchronicity. They drew close for the dance but their heads were completely turned away from each other. How can you look into the eyes of complete stranger? Their uncomfortable stance was obvious body language of complete awkwardness.
Networking can be the same as a coutillion dance. Unless you've developed a fundamental relationship with the other person, it will always feel difficult to ask for what you need or to help another person when you haven't developed the relationship. Thus, we will continue to look at three imperative networking factors: synchronocity, timing and intimacy in future posts. Get ready to dance and look others in the eyes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The "N" word...

So many career professionals hate the "N" word. You know that ten letter word that makes one cringe at just the thought of it: networking.

The sanitary version of its definition is:

The act of working a room full of people to promote yourself or business that makes one feel like a type of car salesperson.

The gross version of its definition is:

The art of making small talk for no apparent reason with people you don't know or really care to know resulting in an awkward feeling of "what the heck am I doing here?" or "This is a complete waste of my time". I feel completely stupid doing it.

The reality version of its definition is:

Being a small yet important part of a larger interconnected system of people from across one's community, industry or professional sphere to be a resource for others and access resources from others when needed based on mutual benefit and agreement.

Having a network and being able to network are two different beasts. So first things first. What is your network? Who is a part of your network? What do you have to offer your network? Answering these three questions will prepare you for the next post. It is about the network dance. This is the movement necessary to enter into a relationship of synchronicity and collaboration with others. Do your homework, answer those questions and visit again soon.