Archive for the ‘Career Change/Career Exploration’ Category

A career portfolio is always a good idea as part of your job search package, to trot out at interviews to showcase your accomplishments. A job search show-and-tell, as it were.  And no, it’s not just for artists, writers and celebrity bachelor party cake decorators.

Samples of your professional accomplishments, skills, problems you’ve solved, and dragons you’ve beheaded can illustrate what you’re talking about in an interview in a powerful way. Being able to say, “…and I have an example of that if you’d like to see it,” can win you big fat brownie points in a job interview.

Of course, the interviewer may say, “no thanks, I don’t need to see your headless dragon,” but even if they don’t end up seeing anything you’ve got in there, the process of putting your portfolio together is still really helpful.  Going through your materials and work samples can help you a. prepare for the interview,  b. figure out where the hell your career is going,  c. figure out where you want it to go,  and  d. make you feel really good about yourself, because your accomplishments are all laid out in front of you and scattered all over the kitchen floor.

There are many materials you want to include in your career portfolio (more about that in a later post); here are some things you’ll want to leave out:

  • Your dating site photo; the one with the boob shirt. Really, for that matter, any photo unless you’re a model or actor. In addition to being inappropriate, it’s redundant – you’re sitting right in front of them.
  • Different versions of your resume. What is the interviewer supposed to do, pick the one that best matches the color of their walls? Choose the version that’s most relevant to that position/the same one you sent them (ahem – they should be one and the same), and include that one in your portfolio.
  • Stuff in general not relevant to the position for which you’re interviewing. You don’t want the interviewer to say, “Wait a minute. Which position are you interviewing for again?”
  • Reference letters old enough to be on yellowed paper. I don’t really have to spell out the reasons for that one, do I?
  • Confidential or proprietary information, without permission from the company or clients involved. Again, don’t really need to spell that one out.
  • Personal information that a prospective employer doesn’t need to know about. Even if you think the fundamentalist revival you helped coordinate and the tongues you spoke in while there might somehow be relevant to that office manager position, leave the leaflets you passed out at the mall out of your portfolio.
  • Anything that doesn’t demonstrate a success. If you designed marketing collateral for a huge fund raising event, you’re asked about the results, and only 3 people showed up, that’s not going to look too good for you. Showcase successes, not disasters.

straitjacket guyA comedic look at job search and success – “What Color is Your Parachute” meets “This Is Spinal Tap,” if you will. This combination of comedy and advice gives helpful tips to anyone who is searching for a job, or hoping to hold on to the one they have. Topics include contemplating your navel to find your life’s work, idiot-proofing your job search, online disasters, strategic schmoozing, resume do’s and don’ts, interviewing horrors and how to handle them, how to hold on to your job, reflections on bizarre jobs, and weird work stories.

Most of us, to some extent, suffer from inertia when it comes to our careers. We tend to keep sauntering in the same direction until something – usually getting canned – happens to toss us off the path and into the bushes.  If you’ve been tossed, how about brushing the grass stains off your shorts and really taking a look at where you are and where you’re going.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. And, of course, answer yourself. Go ahead, you can do it in public. People will just think you have a phone in your ear. Or that you’re wacko. But what the hell.

1.   Do you really enjoy the work you’ve been doing? If so, is it because of the work itself, or because of all the hot guys on the second floor?

2.   What specifically do you like the best about your most recent job(s)?

3.   Assuming the answer to #2 isn’t the hot guys, what skills were you using when you did the stuff you liked best?

4.   What was your favorite job of all time? What in particular made it your favorite?

5.   What would your worst nightmare, wake-up-screaming-want-to-stick-a-wet-finger-in-an-electric-socket, job be? Figuring out what you don’t want to do can help you figure out what you do want.

6.   What is your fantasy job? Yeah, we know – judging the Mr. or Ms. America Pageant (do they really still have those??). Come on now, try to focus on professional stuff, like work environment, tasks you’d spend your workday doing, and type of customers you’d be working with – screaming kids? Corporate execs? Granola goddesses badly in need of anti-frizz products? What’s your preference?

7.   What’s most important to you in a job? Do you know you need to be creative? Do you yearn for structure? Do you need your job to not involve people? (just kidding on the last one – if that is, in fact, true, good luck).

8.   What are your strengths, professionally speaking? Jack of all trades doesn’t really cut it any more. Three or four strong skill areas will endear you to employers a lot more.

9.   What do you suck at? Everyone sucks at some things, though some suck more than others. Guess what? It’s okay to suck. Unless of course what you suck at is necessary for life as we know it. In which case, by all means work on it. But generally speaking, you’ll be much more successful in pretty much everything if you spend more of your time and energy developing your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

10.  Am I bullshitting myself? It’s important to dream, and dream big. And go for your dreams. But if you’re blind in one eye and you want to be an airline pilot, you probably need a reality check.