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Tom Denham: October 2011 Archives

My clients sometimes say, "I just don't know what I want." Most of them are just confused. They actually do know what they want; they are just having a crisis of choice given all the many options available today. There are 2 ways to pick your career.

The first way is Inductive Career Decision-Making where you start with a list of specific jobs and then look for the patterns that emerge into a general field you are considering. I use a resource called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles which has over 1,600 jobs listed. I ask my clients to review the entire list and then pick their top 25 jobs. We then discuss it and break it down to a top ten list. Next, we prioritize the list into three to five jobs to pursue for their job search and then develop a plan of action.

The second ways is just the opposite. Deductive Career Decision-Making is where you begin with general career fields, then subcategories that further lead to specific jobs. Dr. John Holland devised a way of organizing personality differences into a classification system called the Self-Directed Search (SDS). He argued that jobs can be grouped into six themes:

1. Realistic (R)
Practical Doers who take an active hand-on approach involving construction or outdoor activities. They tend to have mechanical abilities or exceptional manual dexterity and prefer to work with objects, machines, tools, plants or animals or to be outdoors. Rewards come from having a straightforward and relatively simple life. Sample jobs include: athletic trainer, craftsperson, chef, EMT, engineer, farmer, firefighter, forester, machinist, mason, mechanic, military, or police officer.

2. Investigative (I)
Scientific Problem Solvers who take an intellectual approach involving research, experimentation or diagnosis. They typically like to find out all they can to satisfy their curiosity - to learn, investigate, analyze, evaluate or solve problems. Sample jobs include: chemist, criminologist, physician, professor, systems analyst, dentist, dietician, economist, geologist, horticulturalist, meteorologist, nurse, podiatrist, botanist, science teacher, veterinarian or zoologist.

3. Artistic (A)
Creative Communicators who take a self-expressive approach involving art/design, music or writing. They typically have artistic, innovative or institutional abilities and like to work in unstructured situations using their imagination and creativity. Sample jobs include: advertising executive, architect, archivist, broadcaster, curator, editor, floral designer, graphic designer, historian, lawyer, photographer, poet, reporter, teacher, translator, visual/performing artist or writer.

4. Social (S)
Empathic Helpers who take a helping or altruistic approach involving teaching, developing or caring for others. They typically like to work with people - to inform, speak, enlighten, help, serve, train, understand, develop, heal, lead or counsel. Sample jobs include: barber, bartender, career counselor, clergy, education administrator, funeral director, hotel manager, human resource specialist, mediator, psychologist, sales manager, social worker, sociologist, or teacher.

5. Enterprising (E)
Active Persuaders who prefer to influence or lead others through selling the merits of ideas or products. They typically like to work with people - influencing, selling, speaking, persuading, performing, leading or managing for organizational goals or for economic gain. Sample jobs include: business executive, consultant, entrepreneur, event planner, fund raiser, investments manager, lobbyist, public official, real estate agent, store manager, teacher or treasurer.

6. Conventional (C)
Careful Organizers who take an orderly approach to organizing and managing finances, procedures or data. They typically like to work with data, have clerical or numerical abilities, and carry things out in detail or follow on other's instructions. Sample jobs include: accountant, actuary, assessor, bank examiner, budget analyst, CFO, court reporter, data analyst, inspector, IRS agent, medical records technician, postal worker, stenographer, statistician or teacher.

Very few people are "pure" types, or only have the characteristics of one of the types. It is important to recognize that most people have a combination of characteristics that reflect two or more types. The types the individual resembles are usually the result of their personal background, experiences, work history, social class, hobbies and the impact of family and friends.

The Self-Directed Search produces a three letter code (i.e., SEC, RAI, CAE, etc.). The first letter of your code shows the type you resemble the most, the next letter the type you resemble somewhat less, and the third the type you resemble still less. The remaining types not in your three letter code are the ones you resemble the least - don't focus on these. The first letter is always the most important. You can then look up specific jobs based on your theme codes. This may just validate your thoughts.

So, which themes match who you are and what you are interested in? This can be a starting point to make sense of the world of work. Don't make your career choice based solely on the results of one assessment, but rather from a variety of sources. However, by starting with themes and drilling down to specific jobs or vice versa, you can pick your career with more confidence.

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted Friday, October 28, 2011

There are many types of interviews serving diverse purposes. Knowing what to expect can help you achieve your goals.

1. Informational Interview
The objective of this interview is to ask for advice and learn more about a particular career field, employer or particular job. Interviewing experts in their field is one more way to become more occupationally literate. The knowledge that you gain here will make you a sharper and more informed. You will also make a contact and further develop your network.

2. Screening or Telephone Interview
A phone interview is a very cost effective way to screen candidates. These can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. You should prepare for it like an open book exam. It is recommended that you have in front of you your resume, the job description, a list of references, some prepared answers to challenging questions and perhaps something about the company. The vast majority of communication is non-verbal. Because they can't see your body language, it is critically important to have positive and polished answers with energetic tone and inflection. Be sure to ask what the next step is.

3. Individual Interview
This is the most common type and often called a "personal interview." It is typically a one-on-one exchange at the organizations offices. In order to best prepare you will want to know the length of the interview which can usually range from 30 to 90 minutes. If the interview is 30 minutes you have to be concise and have a high impact with your answers. If it is 60 or 90 minutes you will want to go into much more depth and use specific examples to support your generalizations.

4. Small Group or Committee Interview
This is where you will be meeting with several decision-makers at once. This can be an intimidating experience if you are not prepared. It's an efficient way to interview candidates and allows for different interpretations or perceptions of the same answer. Be sure to make eye contact with everyone, no matter who asked the question. It's important to establish rapport with each member of the interview team. Try to find out the names and job titles of the participants.

5. The Second or On-Site Interview
After your first interview, you may be asked back again for a "second date." They like you enough that you made the first round of cuts, but they would like to know more about you before making their final decision. Second Interviews can last either a half or full-day so it is best to check again and get an agenda. You may be meeting with three to five individuals. This may include a representative from Human Resources, the department head, the office staff and the department head's supervisor. Be alert and enthusiastic at all times! The more you know about the structure of the process, the less anxious you are going to feel and the better you will perform. This is the last step before an offer is made.

6. Behavioral-Based Interview
The theory behind Critical Behavioral Interviewing (CBI) is that past performance in a similar situation is the best predictor of future performance. CBI probes much deeper than traditional interviewing techniques. You should prepare by thinking of specific examples that demonstrate your competence in core behaviors such as teamwork, problem-solving, communication, creativity, flexibility and organizational skills. You will want to tell your story and structure it by stating your answers in terms of the situation, the task, what action you took, and what was the result or outcome.

7. Task Oriented or Testing Interview
This is a problem-solving interview where you will be given some exercises to demonstrate your creative and analytical abilities. A company may ask you to take a short test to evaluate your technical knowledge and skills. Sometimes a presentation to a group is necessary to determine your communication skills. Try to relax as much as possible.

8. Stress Interview
During this rare type, the interviewer tries to bait you, to see how you will respond. The objective is to find your weaknesses and test how you hold up to pressure. Such tactics as weird silences, constant interruptions and challenging interrogation with antagonistic questions are designed to push your boundaries. The question you have to ask yourself is: Do I want to work for a company that treats me this way even before the offer is made? Rethink the corporate culture.

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted Friday, October 21, 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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