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.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The over-hyped bachelor

Economists and politicians have myriad diagnoses regarding the job market’s chronic anemia. The forecast appears dismal with no apparent cure. This is the great American quackery.

Sure, the unemployment statistics hover around 9% reflecting a significant contraction in jobs becoming obsolete. But what about the stable careers planted deep in American soil not being shipped to India? Such jobs are under the national radar because of a covert operation to hide them from our younger workforce. There is a dark side to the cause of unemployment better known as “parental aversion”.

It is a stealthy systemic infection plaguing our job market. Symptoms include college graduates washing dishes at the local diner. Harvard’s recent report, Pathways to Prosperity addresses the 21st century demand for every worker needing a high school diploma but not all jobs require a four year bachelor degree. This is an understatement.

Most parents, educators and guidance counselors have tainted the career selection pool. Typically, the smart, affluent and successful have a navigational GPS destined for careers requiring a bachelor’s degree while job titles needing a vocational certificate are for the dumb, lazy and unmotivated student or worse, the drop-out.

Vocational education has become the “wayward child” alternative that a typical parent would thumb their nose at. This unspoken vow not to let children consider it as optional is a root cause of our perceived debilitated job market. Think about it. Where are the current openings? They’re in occupations parents refuse to allow their children to consider.  Yes, parents may not consider manual labor as a job that pays the bills, but ask your local utility company how desperate they are to find workers. Call up a plumber and ask how business is. You’ll quickly discover the critical lack of skilled employees especially for the future. In addition, the Harvard article also admits startling facts about how much money can be made without a college degree.

Universities have over-marketed the bachelor degree. Parents have bought a bill of goods that saddle their children with debt promising to be the next financial crisis. As a result, the job market languishes while a skeletal crew keeps the lights on as smart, affluent and successfully unemployed college graduates move back home.

We parents must confess that a bachelor degree has become a safety net for our children. The reality is students who get the degree are likely to land a menial job than a dream career because of woeful job preparation. After all, competition is ferocious. The new graduate with a four year degree vies for a job representing no more than 20% of the market. The rest of work opportunities belong to the plumber, electrician, HVAC repairer and the mechanic.

To complicate matters is the overall inept national high school guidance model that exacerbates the crisis. The title “guidance counselor” is a total misnomer. Monitoring student progress and completing necessary forms is not career development. Our children need direction and decision-making skills for a lifetime of hard choices. Guidance counselors who do spend time with students may be inclined to assist the ones likely to receive the bachelor badge. This coupled with parental snubbing has caused an oversupply of college educated job seekers who can’t find work. Meanwhile, the significant chasm between older workers in vocationally certified jobs and younger workers to replace them continues to widen.

So what’s the cure?

Let’s start with a wake up call not to educators or politicians, but to parents. Vocational education must be considered a viable option for our children’s career choice. Stop branding it as the alternative school for the dumb kids. A vocational education provides the foundation for a sustainable wage that can outpace the worker with a four year degree.

Next, America must demand for high schools to equip guidance counselors with the critical career development competencies necessary to facilitate a life long pursuit of making sound occupational choices. To not equip our children with fundamental career counsel is a travesty.

Finally, if your children sense the gravitational pull to work with their hands and get dirty, what’s the risk of letting them sweat? We need a serious injection of reality to stimulate our energy for adapting to the needs of the workforce.

After all, ask the Wall Street broker when his electricity goes out who he calls or the politician who she will dial when discovering the air conditioner doesn’t work. It may just be your child.

We parents must embrace the career path our children choose to marry. Let’s no longer allow universities to be the match-maker and end the quackery of our misguided career perception.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Job Interview: the adult version of the science fair competition

The most anxiety provoking stimulus on the planet is preparing for a job interview.  The trepidation causes physical symptoms ranging from cold hands and heart palpitations to severe migraine headaches.  The reason?  Our human nature fears rejection. We don't want to make a fool of ourselves and fail to ace an interview that leads to a job we really want.

So much seems to be at stake for such a short window of sitting at the table with strangers.

Thus, many jobseekers feel powerless when preparing for an interview and that lack of confidence can sabotage their chances. 

What can you do to increase the probability of success?

Know the rule of controlled variables.

Remember the day you completed your science fair exhibit for school?  The entire experiment was based on your ability to hypothesize, conduct procedures and draw conclusions from the results.  The key to success was in comparing the trials with variables you controlled with the one variable you couldn't.  
Interviewing is exactly the same process.

It is the adult version of a science fair project and the employer is your judge.

1. The variables you cannot control

Here is a list of the variables you can't sway or change that may affect your interview:

1. The interviewer had a bad morning before coming to work and sits at the table in a closed posture and horrible mood.  You think he just doesn't like you.
2. The employer interviewing you is in a conflict with his boss and displaces aggression in terse questions that take you off guard.  You had no idea this was going on.
3. There is an internal candidate privy to being hired and you know nothing about it.
4. The interviewing panel has poorly prepared for discovering your talent and if you're a match for the position. The interview ends abruptly and you don't know why.
5. The interviewers ask questions you haven't prepared for including illegal ones and it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

I could go on and on, but catch my drift: there are some things you can't change that may impact your interview success.

BUT!  There are variables that you can control, so take the reins and make sure you minimize a potentially negative perception.

2. The constant variables you control

Here is a list of the most important variables that you have the power to regulate:

1. Your attire- Make certain you dress professionally to the interview with no exception.  Employers are now seeing young adults coming to an interview in pajama bottoms.  Seriously!
2. Your smell- Make certain you don't wear strong perfume or cologne.  Allergies, scent of a former spouse can adversely affect your interview.  Smell clean and fresh with plenty of deodorant.
3. Your body- Have a strong handshake, confident eye contact and warmth in your smile.  Don't wear excessive jewelry (especially on the face) and show your prized tattoos.  It is a variable that could be negative.  Do you want to risk it?  Maybe you do.  If you choose to show body art and piercing it will certainly weed out an employer if they decline to offer you a job because of your body art. 
4. Your mannerism and language- Be friendly, open and honest in your answers.  This calls for serious preparation and mock interviews with friends to get comfortable hearing yourself discuss the finer points of your talent.
5. Your answers- Study the company, the job description, interview professionals in that position at other companies and practice your responses. 
6. Your cell phone, friend or parent- Leave it or them at home. End of explanation.

It all comes down to convincing the interviewing team that you possess the skill-set, attitude, work ethic and temperament that fits the company culture.  The judges will decide if you're the right fit.  Yet, in the end, your preparation, skills and attitude make you the true winner.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The workforce opportunity project results published

The workforce opportunity project is an empirically based research project that randomly selected 100 Eastern Kentucky employers. We asked a rigorous set of questions that included skills, training and character traits needed for future workers.

Visit the official website for a full report and the project highlights:

Here is also a recent article about the project published in the Floyd County Times.