Career Coach offers advice for interns and new college graduates

Jul 16, 2014

Whether you work in a cubicle or a corner office, an assembly line or a sales floor, everyone could use a little career advice now and then. Our career coach, Joyce Russell, is here to help you solve your workplace conundrums, from how to ask for a promotion to how to deal with a difficult boss. Ask her your question now!

Want more? Read Joyce Russell's Career Coach columns.

Dear Readers:

Welcome to this month's online chat. Great to see your career or job-related questions.

Best,

JRussell

Your chat is timely. I am a paralegal in a large law firm downtown. Last month I electronically submitted my resume to another law firm, in response to one of their openings. I can check this law firm's job listings online, and yesterday I noticed that the position I applied for in June was still available, with a new July listing date. Should I re-send my resume in response to the updated listing, or just assume that their lack of contact means lack of interest? Thanks very much.

Great question and one that others have also asked. I would definitely reach back out to them, either by resubmitting your resume or by calling them directly to let them know that you are very interested in the job and highlight how your skills and experiences fit their needs. I would not just assume that they are not interested in you. Maybe you can reexamine the listing to make sure that your resume or cover letter specifically addresses the areas they have mentioned in their job listing. For example, if they mentioned they needed someone with strong analytical skills, you should directly (point for point) mention how you have those specific skills. It is possible that your cover letter or resume was too generic and was not tailored to their particular needs. Best of luck!

A couple months ago, I was promoted into a senior-level position at my organization where I now head up a couple projects. The corporate "type" for leadership at my company is extroverted, while I am decisively introverted (variations on the comment "she should come out of her shell more" have appeared regularly on my overall very positive performance reviews since I was hired). I've been with this company for most of a decade and my hire and promotions have all been when introverts were making the employment decisions. My recent promotion was no exception, and my now-boss said at the time that he was clearly aware I'm an introvert but he recognizes that there are many ways to get things done. The boss who promoted me into this position is now going elsewhere in the company, and I'm concerned about working for a new executive, who has not yet been chosen, although I'm familiar with some of the finalists. I think I'm starting to settle into the position and have some decent accomplishments I can point to and no big negatives, but do you have any suggestions for starting off on a good foot with a new supervisor who is likely expecting me to fit the standard "type" for my role? Many thanks.

I would definitely make sure that when your new boss is hired that you spend some time with him/her to let them know about your work style and to learn about theirs.  Spend some time asking questions of him/her to learn what his/her goals are for your job (that is, how will he/she know if you are successful) so that you know what the expectations are. But, ask questions and listen to mainly learn what his/her style of work and leadership is. This will tell you a lot about how you might need to work with him/her.

Since you mention being an introvert, there are some great books out there that can provide some valuable tips for introverts working in an extroverted world (The Introverted Leader; Quiet; The Introvert Advantage). You might find them really helpful as you work surrounded by more extroverted folks.

I have a stable job that I don't hate, but I have an idea for starting my own business. How do you suggest I begin down the entrepreneur path while still working full time? I'd like to start small and expand if it takes off. What are some of the early steps I should take to get something off the ground?

I would definitely network with groups that provide entrepreneurial assistance. For example, at the Smith School of Business, we have the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides a lot of help and guidance for our students and alums interested in starting their own businesses. I would definitely try to reach out to groups like this (to start attending events for entrepreneurs so that you can network). I would also read about the tips for successful entrepreneurs and attend any workshops or classes that could offer ideas for starting your own business. This is such a popular topic that there are definitely plenty of books and classes on it. But, most importantly, develop a plan or schedule for yourself outlining what you will do and by when. For example, you might stipulate that you will use the next 3  months to scope out your idea, the following 3 months to learn all about starting a business and attending workshops, the next few months to network with others in your possible field.  Without a plan, it will be hard to dedicate time to starting your business. Talking to people who have started businesses is also a really good idea since they can serve as a sounding board for things to think about and who else to talk with.

Many people stay in their current job until their new business venture starts to gain traction. Then, they realize it is time to quit their job and spend more time with the new business. But, often that could take up to 9 months or a year, depending on what your new business involves (maybe less or more time). Great that you are doing this - make sure to do the research at the front end to be as prepared as possible.

I've been actively searching for a job for 6 months now...I have exhausted my networking contacts and even my LinkedIn network. I'm running out of ideas. Any suggestions on what to do next?

What is the primary sticking point do you think? Is it that you are not getting called back after you send your resume or you are not getting 2nd interviews? First, try to figure out what part of the process is problematic for you. Maybe it is the cover letter or resume (you are not catching their attention). Or, maybe it is the interview (you are having trouble selling yourself). Once you have a better sense of what part of the process is causing you problems, then you can try to get feedback on this aspect to improve those areas. Do you have the needed degree to do the jobs you are applying for? Do you need additional training or certifications? You did not mention what field you are in so it is hard to tell. Just some things to think about and reflect on in order to help you make it to the next step.

I am working on a government contract. In order to qualify to bid on the contract, my employer had to partner with a small business. This means that if they win, half of our employees will move over to the other company who would be the Prime on the contract. There was word the government may award the work to up to 3 companies, so it could be even more of a change going from everyone working for one company to having three or more competing companies working side by side. Needless to say, my co-workers and myself are a little nervous about what is to come. (The RFP states the government wants to keep all of the employees working on the contract, so in theory we will keep our jobs, even if we switch companies in the process.) I guess my biggest concern (after not knowing what it means for salary and benefits) is knowing that the people I work with will all have different managers who may make it harder to resolve personnel issues. It almost seems like the better option is to jump ship before the contract ends and avoid the mess.

This is tricky. I would not jump ship unless you already had a good job to jump to. After all, it is not clear exactly what will happen here. I know it seems like everyone is worried about what will take place, but it might all end up okay. As you mentioned "there is word that...", but no one is sure just yet.  If you are really concerned, you could look at your other options, but I would still not leave unless I have another great plan or job lined up.

How do you secure that you get asked back next year?

 

Glad you are asking this question. It shows you really care about what you are doing in your career and want to make a great impression at your job. There are a number of things you can do at an inernship to enhance your chances of being asked back the following year. First, make sure you find out what your manager's expectations are for your performance (what would they say you would need to do to be successful). This way you can best meet their goals and objectives for you on the job. Then, be a strong performer (be on time or early, turn in high quality work), show initiative (look for work to do that will meet the goals of the firm or your manager when you don't have things to do, ask your peers or other staff how you can help out and then do it), dress professionally and be courteous to all staff, clients, etc. Your style can really send a signal to managers and others about your work ethic. Be personable to everyone you meet, yet maintain confidentiality if people share things with you. Best to be as professional as possible and not play favorites. I also wrote some other ideas in an earlier Post career coach column. Best of luck!

 

Readers:

For those of you in the halfway point of your summer job or internship, use the remaining time to really make sure you are meeting your employer's and manager's needs for the business. If your manager has not given you any feedback yet about how you are doing, you might want to go ahead and schedule some time to meet with him/her to find out. But, first think about what you have done (what projects you have worked on, what accomplishments you have made, etc.) so that you can go into his/her office and share this information. First, I would just let him/her know you would like to schedule some time to hear his/her views about how things are going, then meet with him/her and ask what he/she sees as your best contributions as well as any areas he/she would like you to continue to work on. LISTEN more than talk. That will impress on your manager that you really do care what he/she thinks. Then, share some of your project information in case they are not aware of the various things you have done. Often times they are not aware of all you have done in an internship or summer job if you are also helping others in the firm. Finally, use the information you learn from your manager to make any modifications or improvements in your behaviors during the remainder of your summer job. This will help ensure that you will be called back for a future job!

I'm a freelance writer/editor/researcher. I've been in this field for about twenty years and have been freelancing for about ten years. I have solid clients and my work is steady and interesting. Do you have any advice on how to keep a freelance career moving forward? I worry about stagnation without the structure of a traditional career path to follow.

It sounds like you have been pretty successful so far since you have been doing freelancing for the past 10 years. I do have a few tips you might want to think about. Do you have a "role model" or example of someone who excels at freelancing that you could model yourself after? If so, you could read about them to see what they did or do to keep themselves fresh and continually growing. It seems you would really need to be on top of changing media outlets and topics, etc. Do you attend conferences or workshops, network with others, or read about latest trends? Devote some time each week to doing this to keep yourself current.  Have a few people who can serve as a support group to give you feedback and advice. Most people are willing to share their advice or tips and it might prove useful here. Good luck!

Readers have asked how to continually stay current. What is really important is to allocate and devote some time each week to yourself and your own career or life goals. Find a set time each week that you hold sacred so that nothing interferes with it. Then, outline a plan for yourself about how you will use that time (writing, reading, reviewing your resume, etc). Once you have a plan for how to use that time, then really stick to it. Even if you only start with 30 minutes a week, you will be amazed at how taking that time for yourself enables you to feel like you are making progress on your own life goals. Good luck with this!

Dear Readers:
Great questions today. Thanks for sending them in. I look forward to hearing more of your career and job questions at our next online chat on Wednesday, August 20th from 12 noon to 1pm. Until then, good luck with your jobs!

Best,

J Russell

In This Chat
Joyce E.A. Russell
Joyce E.A. Russell is the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist.
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