Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Five things you can do to "enhance your career." (Day Four)

So, I am talking with this guy yesterday who is completely frozen in his decision about "the next step." He point of confusion had to do with the fact that every time he turns around another job disappears. We're not talking about a specific position that has disappeared, but whole job categories. "Example," you say? How about Keypunch Operator? Somewhere back in the 1890's, cards with tiny wholes punched in them were used to automate everything from looms to printing presses. By the 1990's, they were gone, replaced by Data Entry Clerks. Do you know where your job is headed? Here are a couple of resources to help.

How do I find out what I have to do to do what I want to do?
For decades, the Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor statistics have... well, labored at collecting the minutiae about jobs and careers. Back in the day, when I was a career counseling pup, there was The Occupational Outlook Handbook, The Occupational Outlook Quarterly, and The Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Thankfully, these have all made it to the Tuberwebs in a couple of forms.

The Occupational Information Network, aka O'Net, pulls together several different functions. It can help you understand exactly what a job title is by defining tasks, interests, preparation, etc. There are extensive lists of knowledge, skills, and abilities (Think Basketball) necessary to excel at a job and emerging trends for various fields. For instance, the field of career counseling is moving more towards a "coaching" style of practice with an increasing reliance on the use of technology and information management. To that end, one of my counselors attended a training for career coaching last year and I have begun... well, this blog.

While you can access the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) and the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (OOQ) from O'Net, clicking the previous links will take you directly there. As you might imagine OOH is a more complete volume and the content can be a bit dated. OOQ is more timely and the content can range from Labor Market projections for the coming quarter to their quarterly "You're a What?" feature (Did you know that Limnologists study freshwater habitats?) To cut to the chase here, all three of the above are helpful if you are concerned that your job or the one you are preparing for might disappear.

Want to join our club?
I grew up on a diet of Little Rascals reruns and remember the camaraderie of the "He-Man Women Haters Club." I'm not sure that would enhance your career prospects, but I would consider joining professional or service organizations. If you are currently a student, membership in professional organizations is notoriously inexpensive. Professional organizations also offer opportunities for at that networky, connecting, making contacts stuff. Google and Yahoo are your friends here. Hit up a halfway decent search engine and type in "professional association" and an occupational title, like volleyball coach or glassblower, and you come up with three volleyball coaches' associations and The American Scientific Glassblowers Association. Try it and join something.

Chance favors the prepared mind.
I always wanted to write that somewhere and in this case it is true. The difference between getting a job or a promotion and not a job or promotion is often a candidate's ability to anticipate what the future of a profession looks like. Starting a blog or learning how to do basic HTML programming may be the difference between me and my competition the next time a raise is on the line. If you are still doing what you were doing last year and if you presume you will be doing the same thing next year, then you probably will be. If you are trying to learn new stuff and do things differently from last year, you may be in the position to do different, creative things in the future.

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