Encourage Teens to Experiment… with Career Options

Encourage Teens to Experiment… with Career Options
Over 300 students attended Disability Mentoring Day 2013 at Malcolm X College


On Friday I presented to CPS high school students attending the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities’ “Disability Mentoring Day.” My presentation was on “Animal Careers,” but my message to all the students (whether or not they like animals), was to get out there and experiment with LOTS of career options in order to find fulfillment.

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Teenage years should be about gaining as many experiences as possible to learn about what sets the heart aflutter. Photography, writing, working with people, studying animal behavior—the possibilities are endless. There are far too many people that invest multiple years and thousands of dollars in pursuing a career only to find out that it is not something they are well suited for. Passion pursuits could lead to less apathy in our workforce.

I love my work, but my 18-year career with animals wasn’t a childhood dream. When I was 12 years old, if you asked me what I wanted to be, I would reply, “an international corporate attorney.” I remember the conversation with a 6th grade teacher that led me to recite that answer on cue. A teacher with the best intent remarked that I was good with debate so I should be an attorney. I replied, “I would never want to defend someone that was a murderer.” The teacher countered me by saying that I could be a corporate attorney and not deal with murder cases. I recoiled with a final protest, “that sounds so boring.” “Well, be an international corporate attorney and you can travel the world,” was the teacher’s final reply that melded into my mantra, but thankfully the career never came to fruition for me. The teacher was trying to foster a student’s talent into the pursuit of what she thought was a well-suited career, but she was quite unaware of the multitude of non-traditional opportunities.

Growing up, my mom and grandmother spent a lot of time taking me to Brookfield Zoo. We had nearly every pet imaginable and my mom was sort of the neighborhood Dr. Doolittle – giving advice and helping animals (some of which were literally left on our doorstep). The love for animals was there, but no one talked to me about careers related to animals. When most people think of “animal careers” a veterinarian is the first, if not only, that jumps to mind, but there are dozens of other options.

At 16, a summer job at Brookfield Zoo ended up turning into my 18-year career working at nonprofits that help animals. I couldn’t be happier and I want to help other kids experiment and explore different organizations and jobs because there are so many more options than one could possibly learn about in a classroom.

On Friday I also explained the importance of building up essential job skills such as reliability and dedication. Pursuing passions doesn’t mean a life void of hard work; something Confucius’ famous quote doesn’t mention. Truly rewarding careers come through real labor and sacrifices. I started off my career only making $4.25/hour (minimum wage in 1995) and didn’t have health care for the first 8 years of full-time work. I balanced work, studies, and waiting tables to make it all possible. Every opportunity and promotion came from drive and putting in extra effort beyond the job requirements. In general, attitudes of entitlement don’t take people very far – they only lead people to create imagined lists of things they think they should get.

Personally and professionally, everyone chooses his or her own attitude. All jobs have work and undesirable aspects, but our focus and emphasis defines our attitude. When I worked as an attendant to the dolphin trainers, most of my days were spent cleaning up after people that visited the building – cleaning bathrooms and scraping gum off the floor filled a lot of my time. I chose to focus on the fleeting moments of public education, animal interaction, and fun with coworkers. Every person has the ability to choose an attitude of gratitude; it makes work much easier for everyone.

In addition to cultivating experiences and a positive attitude, I encouraged youth to stick with their academic studies – (even the ones they may find tedious now) because you never know what you will use later. Zookeepers need math to calculate the weights and measurements of animal diets. Many animal-related careers (my current job included) involve a lot of writing. I hated writing in school. I was assigned to do so much of it and I always saw it as a laborious task. Today, I see the true power in writing. I told the teens how powerful animals’ stories are in helping them find forever homes. Writing can change the world and save lives.

If you know of any teens that occasionally find themselves struggling and seeking direction, encourage them to think about the things that make them happiest and help them seek out a variety of work experiences that will allow them to learn about possibilities. Guide them in cultivating a positive attitude and support them in building a strong academic foundation.

Meet The Blogger

Tatiana’s Tails

Tatiana grew up with dogs, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. Tatiana has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but she always says that people are truly at the heart of her work. The welfare of people and animals is connected through a shared environment and the same traits of empathy and compassion that make someone a good pet owner also simply make people better neighbors and citizens. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society, hosts “Chicago Tails” on Watch312.com, and is a Guest Blogger for Tails Inc.


The Keys to Life-long Self-development

People define success differently. For some, success means having achieved financial security or career pinnacles. Some people judge their success by the positive impact they have made on others whether these are clients, students, associates, or family. Other successful people have acquired a level of expertise that is recognized and respected by peers. But despite these differing definitions of what constitutes success, successful people themselves have similar characteristics.

  • First, they are self-confident without being arrogant. This comes from being self-aware: knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, knowing one’s goals and remaining true to one’s value and capabilities.
  • Second, they are willing to grow by challenging their limits of knowledge and experience.
  • And third, they are willing to reflect and learn from experience.

In contemporary times, groundbreaking research by the Center for Creative Leadership in the late 1980s found that successful executives were those who had benefited from the “lessons of experience.”So from these common traits of successful people, those striving for success can seek to practice three fundamental steps to self-development.

Self-development Step: Know Thyself
This is the most basic tenet of psychology, self-improvement, and emotional intelligence. If you think you need to get to know yourself better, try these basics.

  • Solicit Feedback Regularly: Perception is reality. Seek to understand how people perceive you. You may not be achieving the impact you expected in leading or working with others. You can not adjust your approach without the benefit of feedback that can inform you in terms of how your intentions were received by others. Be proactive in finding out what people think about you and your style of interacting and your approach. Be open to and appreciative of the feedback you receive, not defensive. Seek to understand rather than to be understood.
  • Reflect on Performance: Some successful people are gregarious and extroverted while others are reserved and introverted. But all successful people know how to spend time alone being reflective and thoughtful about recent performance and behavior. Take time every day to reflect on the day’s work and interactions.

Always take ample time at the conclusion of major elements of work to reflect on the quality of what you produced and the effectiveness of your work with others. The key to reflecting on performance is remaining balanced in your self-assessment. Be self-critical: understand what you could have done better and learn from these mistakes. But also acknowledge success whenever warranted: celebrate and take pride in what you have done well.

  • Know your Strengths and Weaknesses: As you collect feedback and reflections, come to understand your personal strengths and weaknesses. Know that everyone has both. Successful people build success from their strengths while they limit the negative impact of their weaknesses. The reason to identify your key strengths and weaknesses is not so that you can improve your weaknesses. It is much more important to identify your key strengths and leverage these.

The management guru, Peter Drucker, in his classic article, “Managing Oneself” , states: “One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from in-competence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. And yet most people . . . concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones. Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer.”

  • Know Your Joys and Passions: Be in tune to your emotions as you engage in your work. We all need to do elements of work that are tedious or displeasing, but the bulk of how you spend your day should satisfy you and make you feel good about your contributions and the impact of your efforts. Success is difficult to achieve without that level of satisfaction. Know that people who excel enjoy what they do and do what they enjoy.

10 Tips for College Students

142776991750410 Tips for College Students Looking for a Job in a Tough Market

Many students are worried about how they’ll finish college, and some students are even more worried about how they’ll find a job after college—especially given the current employment situation for recent college graduates. We’ve invited visiting professor Susan Schell to offer her very best tips on how to approach the current job market. She should know: In addition to having worked at a major law firm in the tobacco wars of the 1990s and as a lawyer for Wal-Mart, she taught organizational communication at Purdue and currently directs career services at the University of Arkansas Law School. Here’s her advice:

When you are actually looking for a job, it is always a “bad” market. Today’s market just happens to be a little more so, especially if you happen to be an autoworker or a “big law” associate. But while many people lost their positions during the “Great Recession,” others have found interesting and rewarding jobs. There is no magic formula for finding a job, but there are ways to take control of the process and enhance your odds of finding a job. Here are 10 tips for finding a job in an economic wasteland.

1. Know what it takes. Different fields have different application requirements, and you need to know what those are for the field you are interested in. Do you need a résumé, a cover letter, a writing sample, a portfolio, etc.? You also need to know what these materials look like in your field and which skills and experiences you need to emphasize. A legal résumé is different, both in form and content, from a management résumé, which is different from a marketing résumé. Don’t have a clue? Try to arrange an informational interview with a professional in the field to which you aspire to learn what it takes.

2. Perfect your application materials. Always have your application materials reviewed by someone who is a better editor than you are. After polishing and massaging your résumé 100 times, you are probably too close to see the nits that need to be picked. Have your materials reviewed again whenever you make revisions or add updates. Don’t know any good editors? If you are in school, try your career services office.

3. Activate your network. Tell everyone you know what type of job you are looking for. There is no sin in looking for employment, so you need to get everyone in your network working for you. While your hair stylist is not a lawyer or a management consultant, he or she may know one. Follow up every lead you are given; you never know who knows the person who can get you the job you want.

4-Star Tip. If you have a professor who has worked in industry or does extra work in the field you’re considering, make sure to invite him or her to use their contacts on your behalf. Often, even an informal recommendation from a professor can open doors.

Extra-Pointer. If a parent, family friend, older brother or sister, or employer of yours works in the field you want to go into, enlist their help, too. You never know who has the contacts that count.

4. Join a professional organization. Most occupations, from restaurant professionals to engineers, have professional associations. Join one. (Many have student rates.) Attend meetings, go to seminars, and read the materials. Like an anthropologist, learn the language and customs of your field, the issues of the day, and identify the key players, so that when you land an interview, you will “speak the language” like a native.

5. Be patient and persistent. Set aside time every week to check for job postings, to do research on employers in your field, and to send out a manageable number of applications. It is probably not realistic to try to send out 20, letter-perfect, individually tailored applications in a weekend, so pace yourself. It is better to send five high-quality applications than 20 generic ones. Treat the job search as a marathon rather than a sprint. When you work on the job search regularly, rather than in fits and starts, it is easier to stay focused and to control the stress that inevitably accompanies the job search.

5-Star Tip. MyColLife Career Tab will help you in your job search. They provide job search tips, career research information, company profiles, and many other features.

6. Don’t treat an interview as an interrogation. If you are fortunate enough to land an interview, treat it as an opportunity to establish a professional relationship with the interviewer. Know the employer, and be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Engage with the interviewer, and do not be shy in letting the interviewer know how much you know about the employer and how much you want to work there. Be enthusiastic, not desperate.

Extra-Pointer. It’s always a good idea to do a little Web research before the interview on the company—and, when possible, on the individuals—that will be interviewing you. You’ll make a much better impression when you know what the company is doing and how you might fit in.

7. Practice out loud. Try to anticipate the types of questions you will be asked, and practice your responses. If you lack experience or feel uncomfortable in interviews, find someone to do a mock interview with. Like any other skills, communication skills get better with practice. And though you may think you have a perfect answer in your head, you won’t know it until you actually articulate it. In an interview, there is the answer you plan to give, the one you do give, and the one you wished you’d given. With practice, those three answers come together.

8. Be “on” from the start. In this age of security cameras, you may be recorded from the moment you hit the employer’s parking lot. Act as if the employer is watching you from the outset. Dress the part. Be friendly and respectful to everyone you meet. Stay focused. Even if you are left cooling your heels in the reception area, do not be tempted to check your phone. If you cannot resist the temptation, leave your phone in the car.

9. Make that first impression count. With everyone you meet at the employer, but especially with the interviewer, you want to make your first impression count. Stand up straight. Look the interviewer in the eye. Smile, and extend your hand for a firm, but not knuckle-crushing, handshake. (Again, these introductory behaviors can be practiced with your friends and family to polish your behavior and enhance your confidence.)

10. Be positive. Stay upbeat throughout the interview. Smile—it will register in your voice. Do not let the interviewer’s facial expressions or tone of voice throw you off your game. Do not assume that a particular answer is “wrong” or that you have “blown it.” Stay confident. If asked about a perceived negative, do not make excuses or provide elaborate explanations. Give it one sentence, and move on. Remember that there is no “perfect” candidate; just be the best you can be.

© Copyright 2010 Professors’ Guide LLC. All rights reserved

Career Redundancy

Redundancy isn’t usually welcome, but it is something that happens to many of us during our working lives. However, it is not necessarily a negative situation to be in; many people have used it as an opportunity for positive change in their lives and careers. What is important is how you react to a situation which is not of your making.

Redundancies can be caused by any number of situations: falling profits, lack of trade or orders, increased competition, advances in technology, changes in legislation, even poor management are just a few of the many causes.

Remember, though, employers and companies don’t like making anyone redundant. It could mean that they, too, will become redundant.

Employees, however, have varying degrees of protection to help them overcome being made redundant. If you had resigned or given notice, that protection would not necessarily have been there.

This page will provide you with guidance in dealing with your situation.

Do’s and don’ts

Being made redundant can be a shock but try not to rush into any hasty decisions. These pointers can help you get into the right frame of mind to deal with things:

  • keep calm
  • stay positive, see redundancy as an opportunity for change
  • focus on moving on, rather than looking back
  • take stock of your situation and look at your options
  • get advice from professional advisers
  • talk to your friends and family.
  • take it personally – in reality, the job has been made redundant, not you
  • get too down about yourself – most people face redundancy sometime
  • panic, don’t make rash decisions
  • feel negatively about the company that made you redundant.

One thing is certain: it’s a time of change. Many of us find change a bit unsettling, but remember that it can also be for the better.

Practical things you must do straightaway

Important information on what to do if you are made redundant.

Before you leave your employer:

  • pick up your P45
  • get written details of your redundancy payment and package.

Make a note of the contact details of your:

  • line manager
  • trade union representative
  • human resources department
  • pension fund trustees.

If your employer offered any benefits such as health insurance, note the contact details of these too.

What extra benefits might my employer offer me?

Your employer might provide free careers guidance to help you decide on your next move. Some will offer money for training. Remember to ask.

Whatever they offer, make the most of it.

How do I find out what I’m entitled to?

Redundancy issues are complex. You should get help from a professional adviser who can explain your rights and look at your financial options.

You can get advice on redundancy issues from:

  • your trade union
  • professional bodies and associations
  • your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau
  • independent financial advisers
  • employment law experts.

What if I feel upset about losing my job?

It’s only natural to feel upset. It can be a stressful time but there are people who can help you cope. Remember that you can speak to a counselor, who can help you make sense of what you’re feeling, put things into perspective and support you in moving on.

Check with your employer, too, to see if they are part of the Employee Assistance Program  that provides free practical and emotional help to workers and their families who are going through difficult times.

What do I do next?

Don’t rush your decision – although you might have concerns about money, a quick fix might not be the best way forward in the long term. Weigh up all your options carefully – this way you’ll make the best decision.

You can find information on this site that can really help you to make more informed decisions about your future. Find courses that improve your skills, find information on hundreds of different types of job and advice on how best to get back into employment.

Reference: National Career Service