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You’ve completed the assessment and received suggestions for careers based on the results. As you read over the report keep an open mind about the possibilities even if you think something isn’t of interest at first. There could be rewarding opportunities you eliminate because of uninformed prejudices.

Check Educational Requirements

Once you’ve narrowed down the list to a few career choices, the next step is to look at the requirements for entry. Don’t make your decision based solely on whether think you would enjoy the work. You need to determine if you meet the minimum education required. Is a college degree, specialized training, or special license required? If a degree is required, what area of study? Do you need a degree in engineering, communications, business, etc...? Are there certifications or other required credentials?

Meeting The Requirements

You have to decide whether you’re willing to make the sacrifices necessary to satisfy the education requirements if you do not already meet them. Being realistic here is important, there is a commitment of time and money. If you decide to meet minimum educational requirements, the next step is to find colleges, trade schools or professional associations in your area. Use search engines to find local institutions and associations offering programs that meet the requirements. These institutions will likely have a list of additional resources that might be valuable. Tap into your network of contacts to see if they have information about other resources to help with your training. Determine whether there are continuing education requirements or if additional training or certifications are requirements for advancement in the field.

Continuing education is often a renewal requirement for fields that require a license. There are professional associations that offer industry certifications to professionals. Industry designations can also enhance your profile for jobs in your desired field.

Build a List of Companies

If you already meet the educational requirements, begin researching companies in the field or industry as potential employers. Make a list of attributes you look for in a company. Are they aligned with your beliefs and personal brand, do they offer healthcare, do they allow telecommuting, are they socially/environmentally conscious, are they a fun place to work? Look at how their products or services are viewed by the you, customers, and competitors. After creating your list, check your professional network again to see if you have contacts at any of the companies. Informational interviews are an excellent way to learn more about the companies and potential opportunities.

Identify Company Contacts (Present & Past)

Use your network of contacts and search engines to find the appropriate contacts at the companies on your list. Depending on the size of the company and their internal policies you may be able to simply call and ask the receptionist for the person’s name you should contact. Also use resources such as Glassdoor to learn about the kind of place it is to work. Another underutilized tactic is to find past employees of the company through LinkedIn or your network and ask them about people to contact within the company.   

Initiating Contact

After compiling your list of names it’s time to make contact. For many people this is one of the most difficult tasks, because it requires stepping outside of their comfort zone. However, it’s a necessary step to beginning a new career. If you’re comfortable in picking up the phone a reaching out directly to them, be sure to prepare a brief greeting and notes on what you’d like to discuss. Remember they’re not familiar with you and may be inclined to quickly end the discussion. Respect their time and keep the discussion short and focused.

Another option is to try connecting with them on LinkedIn. This is less intrusive and can make future person to person communication easier. The same rules apply as with phone contact. Be brief and focused about what you want, but not pushy. Consider sending them information (news article) on a topic you think might interest them based on their field after getting connected on LinkedIn. You’re trying to build a relationship and the best way to do that is by adding value to the other party. This process takes time, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results from your initial efforts. Stay positive and committed.

You’ve completed the assessment and received suggestions for occupations based on the results. As you are reading over the report, keep an open mind about the possibilities even if you think something isn’t of interest at first. There could be rewarding opportunities you eliminate because of erroneous prejudices.

The results only provide recommendations based on your distinguishing characteristics. There are different features for different occupations that may make some options seem more appealing. However, don’t eliminate anything until you take the steps below.

A. Keep it Simple

Do cursory research on the different recommendations. The purpose for this research is to pare down the list. Learn the essential information about the occupations:

1.    Employment Forecast - Are jobs growing or shrinking?
2.    Geographic Information - Where are the jobs?
3.    Salary Information - What is the salary range?
4.    Education Requirements - Is a college degree required?

There are many sources of information, government agencies such as the Bureau of Labor, and private institutions, colleges and universities, that compile and publish data. During this exercise you may discover occupations that don’t appeal to you. This will reduce your list to a manageable number of possibilities.

B. Do A Thorough Investigation

Now that you’ve shortened your list, it’s time to get a more in-depth understanding of the occupations. The objective is to learn what real-world work is like. In addition to accessing your network of professionals to see if you know anyone already in the field, some other options are:

1.    See if there are publications, podcasts, or webinars/seminars you can access to gain further knowledge. Many of them are low to no cost.
2.    Offer your services in an unpaid capacity to gain experience and establish contacts.
3.    Setup up informational interviews to give you insight into companies and how the job is actually done. Pay close attention to the rewards and obstacles.
Once you’re done with the Career Exploration step, you should have a better idea of what appeals to you and be ready to continue on with your Career Development Plan. If you complete these steps and still can’t decide which occupation is best for you, go back to the list and do a more in-depth analysis of occupations you may have previously eliminated.

A self-assessment uses analytical tools to help identify your tastes, values, aptitudes, and personality type. Depending on the tool(s) you choose you will have a list from ten to several hundred recommended occupations. There are a number of companies that offer assessment testing and recommendations based on different methodologies. Here is a list of five companies offering assessment tools:

•    Myers-Briggs - Perhaps the best known assessment is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The test determines your preferences in four divisions with 16 personality types. It will cost between $40-$50 to take the complete assessment.

•    16Personalities - This is a brief assessment (around 10 minutes) that incorporates Jungian theory with Myers-Briggs dichotomies to help you determine whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. The result is categorized into one of 16 personality types. This assessment is free.

•    Truity’s Holland Code - Using six themes: Artistic, Conventional, Enterprising, Investigative, Realistic, and Social, this assessment takes 20 minutes to complete but determines your top area of interest and compares it to your other interests and makes career recommendations.

•    MyNextMove - The U.S. Department of Labor sponsors this assessment via O*Net. It assesses your enjoyment of performing specific tasks. Some tasks are related to skilled trades, such as carpentry while others could be technology related or finance and banking, such as software development or selling securities.

•    Big Five from Open Psychometrics - In this assessment you’re divided into five categories: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness. Your career recommendations are assessed by your method of learning and your preferred work environment.       

Career planning professionals debate on the efficacy of different assessment tools, but most agree that some formal testing is useful when mapping your future. With many available tools you can easily take different tests to see common traits based on applicable criteria. Aligning your interests and aptitudes is important for building a fulfilling and sustainable career. Often these assessments can make recommendations for occupations and industries you may not have considered.

This is the first step in the career development plan. Next week we’ll examine the next step in the process.

One of the most challenging things to do is stay productive and complete tasks daily. You wake up with the best of intentions. You have today’s to-do list that you’re definitely going to finish today. The coffee’s in hand and you’re ready to roll. You get started and soon your mind begins to wander and you waste time thinking about or doing totally unrelated things. The day goes by and you wind up not completing any of the things you intended so everything gets pushed until tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and it’s like the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day”. The same thing happens all over again. Sound familiar? You can break the cycle of futility and accomplish your daily goals by following a few simple keys. Here are 5 things you can do to get those tasks completed and check them off your list:

1. Have 3 tasks (max.) on your list - Keeping the list short allows you to stay focused on the planned tasks. Having too many feels overwhelming especially when you’re not completing them. You get distracted thinking more about the things you haven’t gotten to rather than the task you’re working on. Having a short list is more manageable because things often take longer than expected.
2. Stay in the zone (when you’re in it) - When you’re focused and engaged stay “in the zone” as long as possible. Use all of the productive energy while it’s available. If you feel more energetic and alert at certain times of the day schedule your most critical tasks during those times and get to them as planned. If music helps (and it’s permitted) use it but not so loud that it’s distracting.     
3. Allocate time to complete each task - As mentioned before, completing tasks can take longer than anticipated. Be sure to block out time (including breaks) to get through them. Don’t leave a task incomplete and start on another one. Finish it, then move on. If your mind begins to wander and you’re losing focus, step away and give your mind and body a chance to recharge. Then, immediately, get back to it after your break.  
4. Jot down those random thoughts - Ideas related to a task can come at any time. When something comes to mind have a way to capture it. Jot it down on paper or in the notes on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can also hit the record button on your device and “say what’s on your mind”. Thoughts are fleeting. Capture them and refer back when you’re re-engaged on the task. It brings additional creativity to the process and can give clarity of thought and purpose.
5. Get proper rest, food, and hydration - Getting a good night’s sleep and eating right makes a big difference in our capacity to perform at higher levels of efficiency. Studies have shown that our brain loses 10% of its capacity when we’re not properly hydrated. Everyone doesn’t require the same amount of sleep but getting uninterrupted sleep no matter how much you require is most important. Poor sleep patterns dramatically affect our capacity to learn and retain information. Studies have also shown that sleeping in a dark room and with electronic devices at least 8 feet away helps us get the best sleep. So put that phone across the room, turn off the TV, cover and block out all light (including the clock).

Following these 5 tips will help you get the most out of your work day and complete your important tasks. It takes time to ingrain winning habits so don’t get discouraged as you’re working up to it. It will yield fantastic results when the discipline kicks in.

The political landscape at many companies is fraught with landmines. Mistakes can hamper or destroy your success. Avoiding them requires perspicacity. Here are six common mistakes to avoid that will help you greatly improve your chances for a successful career in your organization:

1. Assuming you know someone’s point of view on a topic, person, situation, etc... - The easiest topic is politics. People have “very” strong opinions about politics today. If you’re asked how you feel about a particular story in the news, exercise diplomacy. Even if you’re vehement about your position try to see the issue from both sides. You don’t want to be viewed as intractable or penalized for being on the opposite side from the person asking the question.

2. Avoid the Gossip Geese - It’s tempting to voice your negative opinion about colleagues around the proverbial water cooler. DON’T! Just like with Miranda Rights “anything you say can be held against you”. News travels. A negative comment about someone can (and will) often get repeated and make its’ way to the wrong person. You could be condemned for speaking too candidly in the wrong company. Your name can be brought into a discussion when someone else is trying to justify their behavior and you never know who could become your boss.

3. Be disrespectful when reporting to someone younger than you - This can also be a difficult scenario to adjust to. We often assume that we know more than someone younger and it can manifest in subtle, inadvertent, condescensions when interacting with him/her. You should always be professional and respect their input. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give your feedback if you have a different perspective but do it in a constructive manner. Be measured in your responses and don’t come across as though you know everything better than they do.

4. Sending out unprofessional communications - Getting those seemingly harmless jokes gives us a chuckle. But avoid the temptation to send them out to a broadcast list of recipients. You never know what might offend someone and paint you as insensitive or have someone conclude that the joke represents your views which that may be completely inaccurate. You could also be viewed as wasting company time on non-work related activities.

5. Take too much credit for work you haven’t done - Most accomplishments are the result of collaboration. Not acknowledging the efforts of others involved alienates co-workers and results in people creating silos, stifling cooperation, and reduces productivity. Other detrimental consequences are saboteurs looking to undermine your efforts in front of management.

6. Giving away too much credit for work you’ve done - This one is less obvious but it’s important to recognize and communicate your contributions to the success of a project, team, or organization. It helps you (and others) know your value to the organization. Raises, promotions, and performance evaluations are based on several factors including merit.

Building relationships, respect for (and from) your colleagues, and having a tangible list of accomplishments opens more doors. Create your opportunities by not making these harmful mistakes.


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