When Dina Epstein was interviewing for jobs her senior year of college in 2001, she says an interview went something like this:
I told my interviewer that I wanted to work in advertising, and he asked me, Why? What have you read recently in Advertising Age? I didn t really have a good answer for why I wanted to work in advertising, and I hadn t even heard of Advertising Age!
Epstein, a former Columbia University admissions director and founder of Admit One college consulting, Washington, D.C, fell into the common twentysomething job-seeker trap: haphazardly applying to jobs.
Fast-forward to 2007 and enter Emily McLellan, the founder of Springboard Career Consultants, a sanctuary for twentysomething job seekers.
McLellan, 30, says the germ for her business came from the overflow of students she saw being handled at career-counseling centers and the lack of personalized attention twentysomethings receive about how to navigate the highly competitive 21st-century job market.
Career-counseling centers on college campuses have over 1,000 students they are working with McLellan says. It s just not possible for them to give the kind of individualized attention that job seekers today need.
While the term career counselor can sound somewhat nebulous, the approach at Springboard is anything but.
McLellan s mantra: Find your focus.
Career counselors, she says, can help two very different types of job seekers all under the auspices of the find-your-focus mantra.
We work with people who are already zeroed in on what they want to do and just need help executing their goals, as well those who are still trying to figure out their career path. I recently worked with a young man who wanted a job in financial services. He had the background and skills for the industry. We helped him to validate his career path, develop a network and refine his r sum . He landed a great internship that will hopefully be a pathway to a full-time job.
For others, however, the path to a career doesn t look like a straight line. Many job seekers, particularly in their 20s, are unsure about how to turn their skills and interests in to a job, let alone a career.
McLellan says that s the main currency of seeking outside help. A professional that can help you match your skills and interests to a career path. But identifying how your skills will augment your interests and talents is only one part of the process.
I recently worked with a young woman to figure how to merge her interests in science and media, says McLellan. There were a number of strategic steps we took before she landed a job. We honed her r sum to make it industry specific, identified contacts and decided that an internship was the most appropriate position for her to start in. She quickly, however, parlayed the internship into a full-time job.
Sounds like magic, right?
McLellan says the approach is so effective in landing clients in career-tracked jobs because of the rigorous assessment process that leads to an extremely focused job search.
I think one of the tendencies for job seekers, particularly in their 20s, is to scattershot their r sum , which doesn t put you in a very strong position. There s nothing more compelling to an employer than an industry-specific r sum and a candidate that can talk comfortably and articulately about why they are qualified for the position.
And don t think career counselors only are for the newly minted graduates.
Rebecca Lurie, 28, sought career counseling three years in to her first job.
I felt pressure to decide what to do next, and I wanted to talk to someone about what I was envisioning for the long term in my career.
While Lurie didn t end up switching jobs or fields, she says going to a career counselor helped validate her decision to go to business school.
The career counselor I saw also assisted me in putting together of network of people I know, beyond just my friends. I found that extremely useful because it helped me think about how broad my network is and how to use that group of people as I progress in my career.
While some, such as Lurie, took well to the networking concept, McLellan says it can be a hard sell to twentysomethings.
Young people tend to shy away from networking because they think it feels dirty. The networking we talk about is not about taking advantage of some uncle. It s about developing a professional network to assist you in achieving your career goals.
And don t think you are bereft of a network a common misnomer among job seekers. Everyone has an alumni network, a family and friends who are in professional positions, McLellan says.
And while career counselors might be flying somewhat under the radar they aren t quite as ubiquitous as the college counselor the reaction Lurie says she got from her friends is telling about their impending rise.
I must have told 35 people about the career counselor I went to see and they all wanted to go. A career counselor is someone you don t think of automatically, but it s a resource everyone, particularly in their 20s, could use.
Hannah Seligson is a writer based in New York currently working on her first book, New Girl on the Job: How Not to Cry at Work to be published by Kensington Books in the spring of 2007.
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