Friday, February 20, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Suggested Career Books for Introverts

Introverts face special challenges not only when looking for work, but also when trying to secure promotions. Our quiet nature can come across as rudeness and we often have trouble with social conventions such as small talk. Luckily, there are several books that target introverted people who want to achieve success in their careers. A few to consider:

1. The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career by Wendy Gelberg
Gelberg, an introvert herself, interviewed successful introverts from a variety of backgrounds. Their advice can be found throughout the book, as well as tips for job searching, interviews, and networking.

2. Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl's Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Life by Megan Wier
Introversion and shyness aren't the same thing, but many introverts are shy and vice versa. (A quiz at the beginning of the book will help you figure out if you are an introvert, an extrovert, or shy). The book contains advice about building confidence, dealing with social anxiety, leadership, networking and self-promotion. I recommend this to any introvert or shy person, regardless of your age or career goals.

3. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
Although Laney doesn't offer much in the way of career advice, this book is an interesting read about the introvert personality and advice on how to introverts can accept themselves in a society that prefers extroverts.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Common Fears about Pursuing Your Dream Career

Why do people pursue certain careers? I suspect that many choose their careers because they are familiar and safe. Maybe they grew up in an area where there weren't a lot of career options, so they chose something they knew. They are held back from pursuing careers that interest them because they have fears, some of which are very legitimate and some that are not. Some common fears that hold us back when choosing a career:

1. Being judged by friends, family, and society
. If I quit my job/change my major, what will people think? This is what I thought several years ago when I was pursuing a career that I knew wasn't right for me. I was worried about seeming flaky and worried about what other people would think. Changing from a seemingly interesting and secure career path would seem crazy. I was worried entirely too much about what other people thought and not enough about my own future happiness. People change careers all of the time and many college students change majors several times. Stop worrying so much about being "normal" or following a conventional career path. Often, judgmental people have many regrets themselves and are jealous that you have the courage to make a change or do something unfamiliar.

2. Not finding a job in your chosen field. I admit that this is a legitimate concern because demand is declining rapidly for some careers and other jobs have very few openings. If job security is something you value highly in a career, you shouldn't pursue one of these careers. However, don't let demand be the sole criteria in choosing a career. Research careers and how many openings there are annually. Also, how long and rigorous is the training? Jobs that require a professional degree might have a small number of openings per year, but they also have a smaller number of qualified applicants per position. Talk to people working in the areas that interest you and see if they are confident about demand and growth. If you are willing to move where the jobs are concentrated and choose a field with growing demand, chances are you can find employment in your chosen field.

3. Not making enough money to live comfortably. This is another legitimate concern. You have to be realistic when choosing a career. Decide what the minimum amount of take-home pay you need for basics, savings and a few extras you really enjoy. You should also have enough to pay off debt and have some left for emergencies. Making a modest salary in a job you love will probably be worth giving up some luxuries. Also, having a high paying job might not be worth the trade-offs: poor health, stress, and lack of personal time.

Some links to help with your research :
What if you determine that your dream career isn't realistic? Find the next best career based on your skills, interests, personality and values. Take career tests and look for careers that are always near the top. Talk to people currently in those careers and do some job shadowing. You dream career might make a good side income and you may even be able to pursue it full-time someday.

4. Failure. Fear of failure should never hold you back. Failure means different things to different people, so redefine what failure means to you. As long as you keep pursuing your goals (and these goals may change over time), you haven't failed. When you first start out in a career, you won't have a lot of experience and you may feel overwhelmed. This is common, especially among perfectionists who want to be the best at everything. Feeling incompetent and overwhelmed when you are starting out in a position does not mean you've failed. In many professions, there is a steep learning curve where the keys to doing well are practice and persistence.

Fear can be paralyzing and can prevent us from reaching our goals. Don't let irrational fears hold you back and address your legitimate concerns by conducting extensive research. Regrets from not pursuing a career that's right for you can last a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Assessing Your Career Values

Values are often overlooked when we choose a career. Most career tests are based on personality or interests. However, overlooking values can mean choosing a career that is unsatisfying. Some career-related values to think about:
  • Security - You want a job that provides steady income and employment. You'll want to choose a career that is relatively resistant to downturns in the economy and one that also has steady or high projected growth. Careers to consider: registered nurse, teacher, computer systems analyst, physician, physical therapist, pharmacist.
  • Social Interaction - Other people motivate and energize you. You may prefer one-on-one interaction or working with large groups of people. Careers to consider: sales representative, social worker, teacher, counselor, human resources manager, occupational therapist.
  • Growth - You want a career that gives you the opportunity for advancement, whether it means moving up within an organization or specializing in a certain area. If you value growth, continually learning and acquiring new skills are necessary aspects of a satisfying profession. Careers to consider: public accountant, attorney, medical scientist, software engineer.
  • Variety - You want work that involves new experiences every day. You would hate a job that never allowed you to meet new people or face new challenges. Careers to consider: emergency medical technician, event planner, social worker, public relations manager.
  • Creativity expression - You want a career that allows to express your personality, talents and ideas. Purely objective work would not be fulfilling for you. Careers to consider: writer, interior designer, graphic designer, web developer, photographer.
  • Independence - You are self-motivated and want control over most aspects of your work. You like working alone and making your own decisions. Careers to consider: business owner/entrepreneur, freelance writer, statistician, mathematician, biochemist.
Identifying your career-related values is an important step in the process of choosing a profession. Write a list of your values (you will probably think of some that I didn't list) along with careers that seem to fit those values. Now you can focus your research on careers that fit most or all of your values.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

AlumnIdea at UC SanDiego

I recently received an email about a new social media site for alumni of UC San Diego:

"The University of California San Diego recognizes the importance of leveraging social networks and hearing each individual voice amongst UCSD alumni. Introducing AlumnIDea! This social media site encourages alumni to submit their event ideas which can be voted 'up' or 'down' by other alumni. The most popular ideas are aggregated into a top-10 section which are then selected for implementation by UCSD alumni officers.

Currently the site is beta so we'd appreciate thoughts and ideas from your readers. The site supports all browsers and is a way for both new and old UCSD graduates to participate in a fully interactive environment. Please visit to check it out! UCSD is the first university to use this kind of platform for an alumni association so we'd appreciate you helping us spread the word! The site is a great way for recent grads to suggest their own ideas for a stronger Alumni network. "

What do you think about AlumnIdea? What ideas would you suggest for your college's alumni association?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Five Must-Have Interpersonal Skills

No matter what your job, you will have to communicate and interact with others at some point. Good interpersonal skills can lead to a more positive work environment and can even increase productivity. Here are five interpersonal skills that will help you achieve career success:

1. Make Eye Contact

When someone is speaking to you, make eye contact. It shows respect for the speaker and indicates that you are paying attention.

2. Listen
Don't just listen passively, but offer verbal cues or nod your head to show that you are still engaged. After the speaker is finished, ask questions or give some reply that shows you listened fully.

3. Eliminate filler words and slang
Filler words (like, um) indicate a lack of confidence and knowledge. Slang should be avoided in professional settings because it may offend your listener(s) or seem disrespectful, particularly if you are talking to someone with more seniority.

4. Say thank you
Even if someone is just doing their job, you should acknowledge when you are helped in any way. Also, say it with a tone that shows you really are grateful. People will be more likely to help you in the future if they know you appreciate their efforts.

5. Be tactful
Getting your point across and voicing your opinion with tact is a skill that will allow you to manage and work with others effectively. Always try to preface a criticism with a complement. For example, "Your ideas about (something you liked, even if it's small) were great, but I would like more information about (something that needs improvement)" gets the message across while offering specific information about what needs to be improved.

Some people will naturally be better at interacting with others while some will need to work harder and monitor their actions more carefully. However, good communication and interpersonal skills are possible for anyone to learn.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Do I Really Want to Work Here?

When interviewing for jobs, it's easy to feel so desperate that you are blind to any red flags. A recent post at Water Cooler Wisdom outlines some aspects of a company you should look at when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. You should be researching the financial health of the company, the employee turnover, and credibility of the company. The article cautions against working for a new business because less than half of new businesses survive the first two years. Finally, it suggests that you follow your intuition, which I agree with completely because my own intuition has saved me on several occasions.

There are also some ways to get a feel for the company when you go on an interview. A few red flags to look for when interviewing with a company:

1. Illegal or Personal Questions
Interviewers can be sneaky about getting personal information from you. Some ask questions that are outright illegal. Keep the conversation focused on career-related matters. No matter how friendly the interviewer seems, don't let your guard down. Any questions that could reveal marital status, age, or medical issues are illegal. If an interviewer continues to dig for personal information, consider if this is really a place you want to work.

2. Rude or Unhappy Employees
When interviewing, you should be introduced to employees and may be given a tour of the company/department where you would be working. As you tour the company and meet employees, look at their faces and pay attention to body language. Do they seem miserable or content? Are they friendly or rude? If you aren't allowed to see other employees or given a tour, that could be a bad sign.

3. Disorganization
Is the company organized in its recruitment process? I've gone on a couple of interviews where I had to go back and forth several times between buildings before they found out where I should be interviewing . If your interviewers don't have your information, or if they seem confused about what you should be doing or where you should be going, this could indicate they are just as disorganized in other areas.

4. Desperation
First you should look for obvious signs of desperation, such as ads plastered all over job boards and in newspapers for long periods of time. You should also pick up on more subtle signs during an interview and office tour. One company I interviewed for seemed eager to hire a clerk to come in and implement new software. I felt like it would be a great opportunity for experience, but for some reason I felt uncomfortable about the situation. I called the recruiter and said I was no longer interested. A few days later, when talking to a friend in class who had worked there before, I found out that they always hired a young worker to come in and do the work while the older workers sat around and chatted all day. Not surprisingly, they had problems keeping new hires.

5. Lack of diversity
If upper management looks the same, this could indicate something about the company's hiring and promotion practices. Of course, it could just be the way things turned out, but you should definitely take a close look at the company culture and inquire about how promotions are made.

Remember that you are interviewing and assessing your potential employers just as they are scrutinizing you. Don't feel so desperate that you agree to work for an unhealthy company.