I recently ran a free email course about picking careers and skill development. I’m about to collect feedback from the first participants and then will make the course available for free on my website. If you want to get the course when it is ready, just sign-up for my email list (on the left).

pick a career

Here’s a few techniques I shared in the course as well as a few other helpful sites for job searchers.

This is just a quick post. I will post more on the topic when I have time.

Consider emerging careers

The biggest hurdle for getting into careers is of course a lack of experience. One strategy is to focus on emerging careers as these skill markets are ahead of traditional degrees. Most emerging careers are in technology and digital fields.

As they are new, they won’t have the requirements for five years experience and will accept applicants from more diverse backgrounds.

Older workers are less likely to chase new trends and demand for new skills makes employers take risks on new hires.

This levels the playing field and even a little experience can get you a good position. For example, digital fields move very fast and you typically need to be self-taught as many of the skills needed are years ahead of the universities and professional accreditation programs.

While these jobs are typically associated with technical skills, there are positions within them for people with soft skills.

One site I found recently is Just Digital People. They are dedicated to helping young people find digital careers. They have a good blog, a job board with digital careers you can browse, and you can hire them for resume reviews and such.

I also wrote a post on a few emerging careers that humanities majors can get into here.

Email a stranger in a career you are interested in

Do some research into the type of jobs you wish to apply for. You can just find someone on LinkedIn, look up their email address, and then write them a short email, asking them about their daily work life. People love to help and love to talk about themselves.

A good way to find these people is to do a search for their personal blogs or on LinkedIn as you can search for job titles.

While you may think you want a certain type of job, your perceptions of that job and what it really entails can be two very different things and our research will pay off at the interview, you will impress interviewers with your knowledge of the role.

I also recommend asking them how they got their first start. Everyone begins with zero experience and they might have used a strategy you haven’t thought of.

Play career house

One way to determine whether a career is the right fit is to pretend you have all the qualifications and five years of experience. Then go look through the job boards and see the types of companies you’d be working for in the future.

I thought about being a technical writer, but after looking five years ahead into the career I realized that a lot of the work would be contract work. You’d get a contract with a company for six months or a year, finish it, and then move on. I’m not suited for freelancing or contract work and would rather work at a single company. You might be different.

Work culture is also important. By pretending you have lots of experience and can get any job you want, you’ll see the ideal companies hiring. Would you like to work there? Just find a few ideal companies and look through their blog or search online to see the type of environment that you could expect in the future.

Focus on your core strength

Think about what you can bring to the role. Employers want to hire people with strong specialized skills. Focus on developing one of your core strengths. In other words, if you are horrible at quant-based technical tasks and excel in communication, then you need to focus on what you are good at. I talk about this in much greater detail in my email course I mentioned earlier.

Have one skill theme for your resume

From being on the hiring side of the table, I’ve found that the biggest thing that gets your resume into the trash is a collective approach to work experience. You need to focus your resume to the skills required by the job.

Don’t make the mistake of listing every job you’ve held. Only list the jobs that gave you skills that are relevant to the career you are trying to get. If you are trying to get a sales job, don’t talk about your work as a treeplanter, your brief stint as a dishwasher, and your second life as a cab driver.

Instead, you need to either 1) cut the job completely from your resume 2) make it logically relate to the position you are applying to.

For example, I used to have the job of “pedi-cab driver” (ferrying around overweight tourists on bike cabs) on my resume. For advertising jobs, I’d list this as “face-to-face” sales experience. For other jobs, I’d usually leave it off my resume.

Don’t worry about a few gaps in your work experience. The goal of a resume is to show focus and relevancy.

And the more focused your resume is on a single skill area, the better chance you have of booking your first interview.

Finally, learn how to write a good cover letter.