Confidence! Got it. Now what?

I watched a great TED video tonight, “Susan Colantuono: The career advice you probably didn’t get #TED : http://on.ted.com/f0Wja.”

Basically, she says that women are funneled toward leadership development because that’s where all the advice says to send us. That’s great for getting to middle management, but for senior level positions, we need to be developing business, strategic, and financial acumen, which is what men are already doing.

I appreciated her example of the male mentor who was truly interested in giving those under him the best training he could. I think both men and women are tired of blaming and ready to learn more effective approaches to professional development.

Excited by Potential

When people ask themselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” or “What should I do with the next phase of my life?” invariably someone usually asks, “Well, what excites you?” The answer is usually the name of some career or profession for which the person thinks they have some talent, skill or aptitude. So often we neglect the non-quantifiable. What if we thought in terms of qualities — what qualities are you looking for?

Just yesterday, I realized I look for potential. Whether I’m working or volunteering, potential is what excites me. The opportunity to take something good and make it better. The chance to create something where currently nothing exists. I’m convinced this is what drew me into teaching. It’s also what is drawing me into the next phase of my life as a communications student.

I don’t really want to go work for a giant company with already established presence and expectations. I want to work for an organization that is just venturing out, where great opportunity to create and succeed exists, and where I also have the opportunity to grow as well, because we both have great potential.

Developing Vision

“When I grow up, I want to be a _____!”

That’s what everyone says as kids. We assume that there is an arrival point. And why not? At 13, you get social media. At 16, you get to drive. At 18, you get to graduate high school and vote. At 21, you get to drink. At 25, your car insurance premium decreases, and you’ve perhaps finished some kind of college degree. It took me 10 years after college to realize that after graduation, there are no more arrival points. Life becomes quite nebulous.

I’m looking to change career fields. At first, I thought this was a dark secret best kept in the proverbial closet. What I’m discovering is that there’s a good number of people — quality people — doing the same thing. I spent the summer job hunting and decided graduate studies were in order. But here’s what I’ve learned along the way, so far.

  • College is two things: 1) an opportunity to study something you love, and 2) a financial investment. Play both angles. Do you love arts and humanities? Fantastic — consider minoring in those subjects. Keep your mind open to majoring in something a little more financially lucrative and stable. The minor can still be useful in adding an extra edge to your resume, not to mention that arts and humanities studies make us better human beings. College is one of the very, very few times in life when you can have your cake and eat it too.
  • If you can, choose a major that affords you a lot of options. Business majors know this. Every industry needs business-savvy people on board. If you start in one industry and change later, it’s very doable. If you major in something very specific, like instrumental music education, the only thing you can teach is band/strings. A school district will have very few openings for that position. If you want to be a teacher, consider something like K-8 classroom teaching, or special ed, or occupational therapy — positions with multiple openings per district.
  • Consider the lifestyle, not just the field. If you need to be physically in motion most of the time, don’t go into a career field that mostly sits. If you hate getting up early, don’t be a stock trader. If you want to have kids, being a performing artist means you’re gone when they’re home. If you like teaching people one-on-one, don’t study classroom education. Be a reading specialist, or a physical therapist.
  • Join LinkedIn. Start networking for professional purposes. Join while you are still in college and can make a good number of connections, endorsements, and recommendations before you even graduate.
  • Conduct job searches early on. You’re not actually looking for a job — you’re looking for what employers are asking for in their applicants. Do they want certifications? Great, that saves you the trouble of getting a graduate degree. Search jobs and currently filled positions at businesses you’d like to work for — you might find a position you like that you didn’t even know existed.
  • Read and immerse. Read publications, blogs and websites important to the career field. Sign up for newsletters and join groups and forums. Follow Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. You don’t have to contribute — you’re there to absorb information. If you keep reading and are continually interested, great. If not, don’t go into that field. You’re also absorbing lingo and labels, which is important when you being the serious search for a job.

How should you conduct a job search? Here’s some tips I’ve picked up so far:

  • Use services, like Indeed and Simply Hired. Monster and Career Builder are out there too, and they all have apps for your phone.
  • Use LinkedIn’s job search feature. Don’t limit yourself geographically, because while you might be looking for a job, you’re also looking to widen your awareness of what is possible.
  • Use Twitter. Job-hunt.org has a great article on how to use Twitter as a job search. Do try both #job and #jobs with your keywords — you’ll get different results.
  • Network, network, network. Judging by my own experiences and those of people I’ve talked to, the best jobs are the ones you accidentally fall into, or are personally recommended for. I’m considering volunteering in an area related to the field I’m moving into. This is a legitimate way to build references and connections.

That’s what I’ve got so far. If you’re a young person going into college, searching for jobs seems like a world away, but I highly recommend it, as it will inform your educational choices. Don’t forget the following advice — I see it often lived out, one way or the other:

Without a vision, the people perish… – Proverbs 29:18

Even if your vision for your life changes frequently, it will keep you moving in a positive direction as your vision develops.