It’s August, and you’re probably drowning in photos posted on Instagram and Facebook of your friends and family members’ first days back at school. The days of the photos of boating, swimming, water parks, and the Grand Canyon are long gone… until next summer. Most of us can no longer take week-long summer vacations, but some might splurge on mini vacations over the weekend.
Out of curiosity, I crunched some numbers online to determine the average cost of a mini vacation in the United States for one adult.
Concert ticket: $78.77
Dinner out: $39.40
Drinks with friends: $20
Movie and snacks: $20
Adult ticket to theme park: $84
Hotel for one night: $75
Other meals: $50
Biting the bullet and asking a career coach to help you write or edit your resume, craft an excellent cover letter, prepare for an important interview, or hone your networking skills might feel like a luxury. But did you know you can spend about the same amount of money on your mini vacation on a basic resume and cover letter session with a career coach?
A great basic resume won’t make you laugh out loud or take selfies with you, but it will open doors for you when you apply for jobs–over and over again. You’ll tweak the basic resume every time you apply for jobs, and you can use the same basic resume for several years, adding to it and editing it as your job history and experience changes. It’s not a one-time memory. It’s a long-term investment.
When you gain great interview skills, you don’t utilize them once and file them away. Your confidence as a candidate builds each time you interview for a job. Your investment grows exponentially the more you use it.
The next time you consider taking a mini vacation, and simultaneously wish you could switch careers or apply for a promotion but don’t have the extra cash to seek help with your resume, chew on the concepts in this article.
As someone with nine years of experience in higher education, I absolutely understand the notion of “it costs too much to seek help on my resume.” Some things are worth saving for, and if I’d never made big choices to make big changes, I’d still be wishing for something different.
People who know me well—both personally and professionally—know I have established mentors in various areas of my life. I don’t hide this fact from anyone. I’m thankful for the guidance my mentors have selflessly offered me over the years, and I could never have navigated life’s changes, both positive and negative, without their encouragement and leadership. I am rather fond of my mentors and have even written about them on both my personal blog and for College Recruiter.
I’m the first to admit that when it comes to mentorship, I’m biased. Because mentorship has worked so well for me, I totally believe every new professional should seek out both workplace mentors (these often change and are temporary) and a long-term career mentor.
I recently came across an article by Millennial expert Lindsey Pollak about new approaches to mentoring. It suggests that due to the nature of today’s workplace—which constantly evolves at a rather rapid pace—it might be helpful to consider letting go of the idea of having a long-term singular mentor.
While Pollak’s article suggests some good approaches to mentoring which I’m not opposed to as add-ons to traditional mentoring, I do not think these approaches—such as having a group of great people to call upon for advice, or simply emailing someone with a question one time rather than having a true long-term mentor—can stand in the place of having a long-term career mentor.
Why? I’ll explain. Let me first state that there’s nothing wrong with professional networking or collaboration. I’m an advocate of these practices and encourage career coaching clients to do these things.
I believe the activities Pollak suggests fall under the umbrella of professional networking and collaboration. I have a group of professionals in my field (and related fields) I call upon occasionally. I ask them questions, send them work to critique if they have time, and ask them to serve as references. I even ask them to analyze my strengths and weaknesses and help me develop myself professionally. This group serves as a vital force in my professional realm. Pollak also mentions reverse mentoring; as a faculty member, I can appreciate this term. I have often asked college students for help when brainstorming, particularly for ideas for titles and ideas for presentations which will engage college students.
But what’s missing from the picture if you rely on group Skype calls, mass emails or texts, or random messages sent when you need to bounce an idea off someone younger is relationship.
Mentorship is about relationship.
How can you guide me if you do not know me?
I have served as a mentor to multiple women. The time commitment varies, but regardless, mentoring is a commitment, and it’s not one to take lightly. You’re investing in someone’s life. The irony is you’re probably benefiting just as much as the person you’re mentoring (at least this proven true for me).
And when someone is mentoring you, you shouldn’t blow it off either. They are literally choosing you over everything and everyone else in their life for the hours you spend together. I’ve had the same career mentor for about eight years. How many hours of her life has she invested in me?
I cannot replace her with a panel of advisors, a group of college students, or a few people I text randomly, no matter how smart or savvy all these people might be. None of these people have spent hours with me over the past eight years. They do not understand why I’ve made career changes. They don’t know my educational background and didn’t encourage me to create my vision card, which has helped me make career decisions for eight years and counting.
You see, my career mentor was the first person—the very first person—with whom I shared my secret idea about starting my own career coaching business. Why? Because we have a real relationship. I trust her. She believes in me, and I know that. She doesn’t fill me with fluffy sentiments, but she doesn’t shoot down my dreams either.
Is the world we live in fast-paced and constantly evolving? Certainly. We’re more likely to rely on technology to communicate and less likely to engage in real conversations with people. Reach out to find a long-term career mentor; force yourself to engage in genuine human interaction. Keep your soft skills fresh. In this fast-paced world, Millennials and Gen Z employees are certainly more likely to change jobs more often than their workplace predecessors. This is even more reason to find not only workplace mentors but also a career mentor–a mentor who will stick with you from job to job, company to company, through thick and thin.
How do you go about finding an awesome career mentor like mine?
You don’t just approach someone fabulous and ask him to mentor you. That’s crazy—usually.
This is when traditional networking skills come in handy! Reach out to your potential mentor through social media. Connect online. Make thoughtful comments on her posts. Do this for a time until you feel comfortable sending a message inviting her to meet you for coffee or lunch. Ask for an informational interview. Be honest and let her know you are interested in hearing her career story (how she found success in her line of work).
If you need help navigating the networking waters and don’t even know where to start, contact me. That’s what I’m here for.
I hope all of you find a way to take full advantage of every possible solution out there. Ask for ideas on discussion boards, attend professional networking events and gain insight from groups of professionals, and network like crazy.
Don’t fall into the trap of playing lone wolf (or lone superstar). It’s easy to believe you’ve got it all together and don’t need or can’t benefit from someone investing in your life on a long-term basis. It’s also easy to convince yourself no one has the time to hear your story or offer you guidance.
As a pajama-clad college student, I never thought I’d be sitting in the office of the Vice President of Student Affairs discussing budget items and making decisions about the future of the college. But that’s what happened four years after I graduated.
Had I acted a total fool as a college student, I’m pretty sure that never would have happened. Since I minded my manners pretty well, made good grades, participated in campus activities, and networked with staff, faculty, and fellow students during my time on campus, it was easy for me to transition from student to employee after spending a few years working in entry-level positions.
Networking came pretty naturally.
One of the tricky things about networking I’ve learned over the years is that I’m constantly building relationships with people and continually making impressions on those around me. Those impressions have a lot to do with choices I make about how I communicate with others. From the non-verbal cues I give off by my facial expressions and hairstyles, to the clothes I select in the morning, to the way I cross my arms or put my hands in my pockets, I send silent—though often times very loud—messages to those around me. Combine this with the words I speak, my tone of voice, and how loudly or quietly I choose to speak, and you’ve got one complicated communication creature.
Many times, particularly in the workplace or in various social settings, I have limited choices about which people I’m around. I might not feel drawn to someone or like someone very much, but my desk might be located in the cubicle next to hers. This isn’t my choice, but it is what it is.
What does this have to do with networking?
With very few exceptions, I’ve managed to remain on great terms with everyone I’ve encountered in life. This has benefited me in multiple ways. If I need to ask for help—whether with a job search or to simply ask for information in a particular area of expertise—I don’t cringe because it requires calling someone I might dislike. I don’t fear a negative response because I know I have done my part in the relationship to maintain positive vibes.
If you burn bridges throughout life, you’ll find it difficult to navigate eventually.
Think carefully about how you treat people in your life on a daily basis. The time to treat people well is in the present moment, not when you need a favor in the future. You just never know who—and what—you’ll need, but if you treat people well, you’ll generally be treated well in return.
I’ll be honest. Until recently, I’d never even heard the term “portfolio career.” I’d heard of people working multiple jobs to make ends meet. This isn’t quite the same thing as a portfolio career, though.
A portfolio career carries a bit more intention and weight behind it; each venture is selected carefully and scrutinized. Does it contribute to my ultimate career goals? If not, I must decline, thank you very much.
As a portfolio careerist myself, I decided to stop working my full-time job on purpose. I wasn’t laid off or fired. I requested to transition to part-time status in order to pursue my interest in teaching college again. About this time, a long-time dream of mine (to pursue career coaching and owning my own business) came to fruition through the encouragement of my career mentor, Samantha Hartley, owner of Enlightened Marketing. There’s no such thing as perfect timing when it comes to taking a leap of faith as an entrepreneur; at some point, you simply have to do the best research you can, concoct some sort of back-up plan, and then leap forward and hope for the best.
The article Dr. Lindner wrote mentions multiple benefits to working as a portfolio careerist, and I can vouch for many of them. In just a few months, I already believe that the greatest benefit for me is flexibility and work-life balance. As the mother of a young child, spending time with my daughter is of utmost importance. However, it comes at a price. I have to manage my time more carefully and strategically than ever before. Starting a business and managing content for a company while taking care of a three year-old little girl (with only part-time childcare assistance) is pretty tricky at times. At the end of the day, though, it’s worth it.
I won’t list all the benefits to working as a portfolio careerist, but here’s one more. I have always had so many interests that I’ve found it difficult to remain focused at times. I’ve felt like a kid in Baskin-Robbins when taking interest and skill inventories. Should I pursue a career as a writer? Oh yes. But what about a physician? I love biology and science. Oh wait–what about philosophy? I could discuss Plato’s dialogues all day long. As a portfolio careerist, I allow myself the license to explore a few of my favorite things simultaneously: teaching, career coaching, and writing/content management. The result? I’m fulfilled and am able to use multiple abilities/talents rather than just one teeny tiny skill set. For college students and recent grads (or rambling adults, for that matter) who make all A’s and can’t ever make up their minds about which direction to turn, a portfolio career might be a great fit.
Is a portfolio career right for everyone? Absolutely not. Is it a great fit for many Millennials? Certainly. For people who match the descriptions laid out in Dr. Steven Lindner’s article, it’s worth considering whether pursuing a portfolio career is right for you.
This depends on the resume writer, I suppose, but I must protest!
Let me explain my own resume writing process and the rationale behind the old school approach I take to resume writing.
First of all, I believe in helping people write resumes. I do not write resumes for people—I write resumes with clients. As a career coach and as a former faculty member and career development director, I believe in helping clients create documents they can send to employers as honest representations of themselves. If I do all the work and 100% of the writing myself, I don’t believe the end products (resumes and cover letters) are honest representations of my clients. For this reason, I work closely with clients to create well-written documents (that’s where my expertise as a professional writer comes in). The end products reflect my clients, featuring their own unique voice and tone. I probably spend more time with clients than the average resume writer or career coach during the resume writing process, and that’s okay with me.
When you need help with your resume, you contact me. Most of you already have a draft of a resume or an existing resume on hand. You send it to me to review, and we begin working to create something much better together. In this case we’re not starting with a blank page, but we’re not starting with a template either.
Let’s say you have absolutely nothing created and that you’ve never drafted a resume in your life. We would literally start with a blank page, but I’d ask you to gather documentation to help me understand your work history, your educational background, and other key components to help us create a killer resume.
I want to be clear that when I say “killer resume,” I’m referring to the CONTENT of your resume, not to any fancy design elements. Resumes are not meant to be pretty or graphically impressive. They should be streamlined and easy for recruiters and hiring managers to read. After all, the average recruiter spends about six seconds reviewing your resume. Your resume layout should be ATS (applicant tracking system) compatible. If it’s not, you will not likely receive many interview offers.
At no point in time would I suggest that any job seeker—whether a college student, entry-level candidate, or executive-level candidate—use a resume template. Not only will templates reduce the likelihood of ATS compatibility, but they will also reduce the odds of your resume standing out from the stack of resumes on the recruiter’s desk. How many candidates do you think used the same template, including the same suggestions for wording? In addition, editing resumes created in templates is almost always clunky and time-consuming.
Your resume is the key which opens the door to potential job opportunities. If you’re using the wrong key, you can try as many doors as you like, but you won’t make it into the lobby for the next phase of the process—job interviews—if recruiters don’t respond well to your resume.
I never set out to become a networking expert. I’ve simply always applied a few basic principles instilled in me at a young age. By my mid-twenties, I earned the title of Director of Career Development at a private liberal arts institution. Most of the other directors were in their fifties. I should have felt like a fish out of water, but I didn’t. My boss mentored me and surrounded me with great mentors, and because of his wise leadership, I learned one of the greatest truths about networking: it’s not always about what I can get from the relationship but what I can give. I am forever in debt to the dozens of higher education and recruiting professionals who answered my calls, returned my emails, and visited with me over dinner during that time. I’m still paying it forward.
Since then, I’ve worked in various fields, in both private and public sectors, in higher education and in the corporate world. Helping college students, recent graduates, and other job seekers in need of guidance take the next best steps for them in their individual career journeys still thrills me. Whether writing content for students and grads or teaching college students how to write, I still find myself circling back to the questions, “What do you want to do with your life? And how are you going to reach that goal? Do you need help to get there?”
I can’t tell you how many of my former students’ resumes and cover letters I’ve edited and how many friends, former students, and coworkers I’ve advised regarding career choices before starting this business. I don’t regret one minute of that time. I have invested in their careers; I have invested in their lives.
This is the crux of networking.
For this reason, striking out as a career coach was an easy decision.
My goal as a career coach is to offer you the same level of genuine care, consideration, and thoughtful reflection as I have shared with my students, friends, and coworkers in the past and yet to take things to a deeper level. I won’t just share thoughts with you; I’ll ask you to take actions. The goal of our time together is to work, after all.
I recently shared this networking tip of the day on LinkedIn, and I think it captures the spirit of my goal when working with clients. I certainly look forward to applying these principles when working with you.
Networking tip of the day: Do more than is asked of you on a daily basis for clients, colleagues, and supervisors. You never know when someone you’ve gone above and beyond for will do the same for you when you least expect it (and really need it). This is networking at its finest, but it only works if you suit up and show up with a high degree of ethics, passion, and kindness on a daily basis.