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Ask Dr. Tom

February 2011 Archives

As a professional career counselor, I have been a practicing for almost 20 years now, and my clients have taught me a lot about authentic personal and professional development.  Many of them reach a crossroads at the mid-life stage.  Often they feel bored, directionless and unfocused.  They know they need to make some kind of change, but simply do not know how to get out of their current situation and move forward.

Typically, my clients find the most meaning when they are making a difference.  Finding your passion is a critical part of the 3-step career development process.  As a professional career counselor, my role is to carefully guide a individual through these 3 stages: 1) Self-Assessment - Who am I?, 2) Career Exploration - Where am I going?, and 3) Action Plan - How do I get there?.  From the initial meeting, this process typically takes five to seven weeks.  In other words, you have a "crock-pot career in a microwave world."

Unfortunately, some one in mid-life might think the quick fix to finding career satisfaction is to change jobs immediately.  Misguided and sometimes impulsive, these people usually wind up unhappy in another job.  By investing in the self-assessment and goal setting phases, you will avoid making poor career choices.  Most Americans spend more time planning their weekends than planning for their career.  Having initiated this process, you will not fall into this trap.  Instead, by setting specific and realistic goals you will live a more purpose-driven life. 

Begin by making a commitment to the process of self-assessment.  By working collaboratively with a professional such as a career counselor or life coach, assessment inventories can be interpreted to more thoroughly evaluate your VIPS (Values, Interest, Personality Traits and Skills).  Next, you can explore your options and narrow your options down to your top three to five jobs.  Finally, you can develop an action plan that works for you.

Career counseling involves an active partnership between the client and the professional.  It is essential that you ask yourself questions about the process whenever they arise.  Career counseling can have benefits and risks.  It often involves discussing unpleasant aspects of your life and you may experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, loneliness and helplessness.  It is perfectly normal to feel this way.  However, the benefits of a more satisfying work life will be well worth the time and effort you put into it.

I wish you total success in accomplishing your personal, professional and play goals in mid-life and beyond.

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - - Friday, February 24, 2011


Networking Quick Tips


Networking is a contact sport.  Are you taking full advantage of the networking opportunities available to you right now?  Here are just a few tips I've learned about the neglected art of schmoozing:

1. Get Goals - What is my objective for each event? How many contacts have I added this month?

2. Practice WAITing - Why AM I Talking?  Am I spending more time talking, or listening?

3. Business Cards - How many did I give out and collect this week?  Is my pipeline growing?

4. 3 Circles - Have I added to my inner circle of closest contacts, my middle circle of close associates, and my outer circle of lesser known contacts?

5. Rule of 200 - Everyone knows at least 200 people. Have I tapped into other peoples' networks to build relationships?

6. Coffee Talks - Have I set up several one-on-one meetings this month with my best contacts to exchange ideas?

7. TOMA - Am I creating a Top Of Mind Awareness of my message to others?

8. Evaluate Regularly - What have I learned?  What's working and what's not?  Am I being patient and persistent?


Keep Climbing,
Dr. Tom


An internship is a short-term work experience in a professional environment where the emphasis is on learning versus earning. You will learn new skills, gain insider contacts and references as well as clarify your career goals.  More and more students are realizing how these benefits enhance their college education.  Even more employers are expecting it.  Once you realize that you need to build your resume with more than McJobs and campus activities, follow these ten steps to finding the perfect internship:

1.  Define Your Goals - What exactly do you want?  You want an internship, but an internship doing what?  Where do you want to be doing it?  How many hours a week can you devote to your internship?

2.  Meet With Your Career Counselor - Perhaps you are feeling confused and really need a coach.  They will be excited to help you find the right internship, and they can even give you ideas you might have missed.  They are professionals and have helped many in the past.

3.  Start Early & Explore Your Options - Develop a time frame that works for you.  You will need to send your resume and cover letter out several weeks before you actually need to start the internship. Commit your options to writing and come up with your top 3 to 5 internship choices.

4.  Develop Your Resume & Cover Letter - You'll have a hard time acquiring an internship without these important documents.  Be sure you are sending your tailored letter to a specific person and not to "Dear Sir or Madam:"

5. Research Your Internship Prospects - More and more firms list their internships directly on the company web site.  You might also use a clearinghouse site such as, and

6.  Implement Your Internship Campaign - Employ a number of strategies for a successful internship search.  The number one tactic is networking, talking to friends, family, faculty, alumni and your "connections."  Other techniques you will need to consider include your career center's recruiting program and internship listings, classified ads, headhunters, career fairs, direct mailings, and the Internet.  You will need to send out several resumes and cover letters over a period of time to produce the right number of interviews and offers.

7. Follow-Up, Follow-Up, Follow-Up! - After having sent your resume and cover letter, follow up with a phone call if they have not contacted you within a reasonable amount of time.  When you get the person on the phone, politely tell them that you are checking on the status of your resume and cover letter and you are still very interested in an internship.  Your goal in this phone conversation is to convince them to schedule you for an interview.

8. Develop Your Power Interview Abilities - This is often the most neglected aspect of an internship search.  Prepare with a listing of sample interview questions from the Internet.  Even though you may be thinking, "this is just an internship," the employer may take the interview very seriously since any intern is viewed as a representative of the company.  Be sure to express your enthusiasm and dress professionally. 

9. Send Thank You Notes, Be Patient, Follow Up & Obtain Offers - Immediately after the interview, send a sincere and tailored thank you note.  Only about 10% of candidates ever do this, but it can give you that all important edge.  Depending on the company it can be typed, e-mailed or handwritten.  If the employer has not called you when they said they would, then again it is acceptable for you to contact them and reiterate your interest and see how the process is coming along.

10.  Evaluate Internship Offers - Oh no! Now you have several offers and don't know which option is the best!  Talk to a professional career counselor.  He or she can help you weigh factors such as job content, training, supervision, prestige of the employer, location, credit versus non-credit, salary and benefits if any, contacts and which internship will best position you for the future.

© 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - - Friday, February 11, 2011

You can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job.  Volunteering is a low-risk and calculated way to facilitate a change that repackages the resume with relevant experience and new contacts:

1. Define Your Career Interests
What are your volunteering goals?  What field do you want?  What are you willing to sacrifice and for how long? 

2. Identify 3 to 5 Employers of Interest
Research various organizations by using the phone book, public library, chamber of commerce, networking, and the Internet.

3. Send Resume & Cover Letter
Tailor your resume and cover letter to a specific person.  Explain your goals and what you have to offer them.

4. Follow-Up
Even though you are free labor, someone is taking time out to train and supervise you.  Contact them to request an interview to discuss your ideas.

5. Establish Guidelines
Clarify the expectations and develop a time frame for volunteering and commitment of hours.  Create a job description and ask for regular supervisory meetings for feedback and mentoring.

6. Gain Experience
Request to have specific projects and take initiative.  Keep track of your accomplishments and update your resume.

7. Explore Your Options
You may learn this career is right for you or that it's not what you expected after all.  Is just a hobby or a true calling?

8. Obtain Letters of Recommendation
Before leaving, ask for a letter of recommendation while you are fresh in their mind.  It is a permanent record of your experience.

9. Network into a Permanent Position
Volunteering helps you break the employment barrier by becoming an insider.  Note the other organizations they work with and compete against.  Be aware of individuals leaving as areas of possible opportunity.

10. Understand  the Benefits
Volunteer experience on a resume shows hard work and determination.  By working for free, you can build relevant experience for smoother career transitioning.

I would love to hear your stories of how volunteering has help you in your career development.  Let me know what you think.

Keep Climbing,
Dr. Tom


Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - - Friday, February 4, 2011

Dr. Thomas J. Denham

Dr. Tom Denham is the founder of Careers In Transition LLC, a private practice which focuses on career counseling for individuals and consulting services for institutional clients. Dr. Tom has over twenty years of career services experience at Siena and Union Colleges as well as Harvard, St. Lawrence and Boston Universities.

Dr. Tom founded Northeast Public Radio's award winning talk show, The Career Forum and speaks extensively on career management issues. He earned his bachelors from St. Lawrence University, his masters from Boston University and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

He has climbed over 180 mountains including the Adirondack 46, Oregon's Mt. Hood and The Grand Teton. In 2009, he survived a huge crevasse fall on Mt. Rainier by ice climbing his way out. Tom lives where he grew up in Albany where he would rather be ice and rock climbing and raising his 11 year old daughter, Rachel.

Dr. Tom Denham has been a professional career counselor for over 20 years. He helps people explore their options with career testing, make job changes and write resumes and prepare for interviews.

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