Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Career Horizons

I'm 46 years old and have been working since the age of 14. Suddenly I find myself unemployed for the first time in my life!

My problem is that I've worked in several different areas of employment and I'm not sure how to approach the hiring market. I have 9 years in the jewelry industry and have certifications as a Graduate Gemologist from the GIA in NY. I also have worked in the medical field for almost 8 years and have a certificate as a registered medical assistant and x-ray license in Florida (not good anywhere else unfortunately). My experience in the corporate world is for almost the same length of time and I'm really torn as to how to approach each market.

Since I have 17 months before my last leaves for college (I'm a single mom), I want to make sure I'm available during nights and weekends for that time period. I'm also finding that many companies advertise or post positions that they fill from within the company, but are using the postings to meet the EOE requirements.... It gets crazy going to an interview only to follow up and find out that they hired someone from their own company for the spot.

Sorry there is so much to address here. I guess the most pressing question would be: Do you have any recommendations on how to approach the workforce with such a diversified resume???
Thanks, Carabeth

by Townsend Belisle, former Professional Headhunter

Hello Carabeth,
I can hear the frustration in your words and the challenges you’ve faced given your situation. And I know you’re not alone. We’ve all found ourselves at an odd career crossroads at some point – especially because we find ourselves living in a time where, unlike our parents or grandparents, we don’t keep the same, tenured (and pensioned) job for 40+years, nor do we even stay in the same industry. Here are some thoughts based on your circumstances that I hope will shed some light - and will potentially change your perception and possibly inspire you to try a new approach.

First, perhaps you could find those companies who desire and celebrate your diverse background. Many companies are not just looking for worker bees but specifically seek talent with experience across many industries. The theory is that by bringing your best practices to their environment, you could create new and different ideas to the process (or products to the marketplace). For example, perhaps the manufacturer of the microscope you used (while a Gemologist) or x-ray machine you mastered (while a Medical Assistant) would welcome someone with “hands-on” or “in-market” experience like you, to tell them how to do what they’ve done, better.

Second, consider writing a resume that focuses more on your skills than your titles. For example, I could quickly guess that with some of your experience, you definitely have an exceptional eye for detail. You can catch the flaws, or spot perfection quickly. Then you could learn to speak of your experience not as a “Gemologist turned Medical Assistant” but as a “highly-detailed quality assurance expert.”

Third, use your connections. Tell everyone that you’re looking for new work – and speak of it matter-of-factly, because you’re confident that the next (ideal) job is out there. When speaking with friends, classmates, fellow moms or family, tell them you’re open to any of their ideas about what you could do. And ask your kid! Perhaps he or she will offer up a job scenario or a specific opening that you couldn’t have thought of yourself. You could also try some other means of networking: your school, your child’s school or daycare, the local cafĂ©, your church… or you could check out the online networks through LinkedIn, MeetUp or those Associations from previous work.

Finally, try to connect with companies who’d hire you for you, and not you for your resume. Most smaller companies focus less on a resume and more on your personality. I’ve presented to clients some talent that were missing most of the requisite experience based on a job posting – only to find that the company quickly hired the talent, with a manager noting, “I just liked her and felt confident she could do the job.” Whenever you find yourself enticed by a nice friend or even a nice stranger, ask them where they work and if they like it.

Still having trouble figuring out that next career? See this Job Lounge post, where I list a few ideas about how to get inspired about what you really want to do.

But the best thing you’re doing right now is being a good mum. Of all things, concentrating enough on raising your kids is an investment that will pay you for years to come.

“I've learned that every working mom is a superwoman. For most of the world, it's really a necessity.” ~ Uma Thurman

Townsend Belisle’s favorite title is “dad.” While he’s held 12 other job titles throughout his 20-year career, his key expertise has remained: mediating between creative people and business people. He prefers to work with people who have diverse backgrounds and he is constantly trying to connect people to others with whom they would find synergy.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

1 comment:

Career Change Advice said...

I also feel you can or should highlight your diverse background as proving that you can learn new fields and won't balk at new challenges.

But I did kind of wonder, what kind of work do you want to be doing? Is the reasonable hours to allow you to continue to be a great Mom, your only job criteria?

But definitely tell anyone that you are able to apply your skills to many different problems. And that you can learn the language and business of any industry. That's what your resume proves.

Go get 'em! Best of luck!