Counseling Awareness month has inspired me to promote counseling the best way I know how – by sharing with you all of my career counseling goodness. The purpose of this series is to help those Mamas and Papas out there who are planning on returning to “work;” the kind you are hired for not the kind you give birth to or adopt. It can be intimidating, especially in this economy, to put yourself out there when you feel like the only thing you have been doing for the past 5 years is cleaning up poop. And hey, don’t discount that, it is a good skill to have. Starting or re-starting or changing your career can be fun (and should be if you are choosing the right career for you!) but it is a process, and you want to do it right.
Here is what you have to look forward to in this series:
- Defining Success
- Career Goal Setting
- Creating a Plan
- Career Research
- Resume Writing
- Cover Letter Writing
- Informational Interviews
These skills are not only good for applying to jobs but can also be used in blogging. Think about it – You need to decide why you are blogging, create a plan for your blog and research the topics you write about. I’m not saying that I did all of those things (i.e. if you look for my blog plan, well you won’t find one) – but you should!
In the resume, cover letter and professionalism segments the topics covered will apply to your blog posts as well as interactions with other bloggers, potential sponsors and readers. Blogging can be a career; and while you may not necessarily be applying for a job in the traditional sense, if you have made the decision to make blogging a career then professionalism, accuracy and goal setting are important when trying to get noticed and keep all of your ducks in a row.
PS This is how the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines Career Counselor:
“Counselors can help you make choices about which careers might suit you best. They can help you establish which occupations fit your skills by testing your aptitude for various types of work and determining your strengths and interests. Counselors can help you evaluate your options and search for a job in your field or help you select a new field altogether. They also can help you determine which educational or training institutions best fit your goals and then assist you in finding ways to finance your education or training. Some counselors offer other services, such as interview coaching, résumé building, and help in filling out various forms.”
Let’s get started…
When you think of career counseling you probably just think of getting help with your resume and cover letter in a college career center. But there is so much more to it than that. The counseling part helps you figure out where you want to be and where those resumes need to go.
Get to Work! – Part I: Defining Success
Decide what career success means to you. What you may define as success may be different than what I have defined as success in my career. Some people define their success by salary others by job duties. Consider these 6 things:
- Salary – Unfortunately, salary can be a motivator for career choice for many people. I say unfortunately because this (along with status) have the tendency to lead people to pursue careers that make them unhappy. Of course, realistically, salary does have to be a part of your decision when accepting a job offer but it doesn’t necessarily have to be how you define success or choose your career path.
For Bloggers – Do you want to monetize your blog? If your blogging goal is to make money, this can determine how your blog is run, who you have to work with, what you write about and what kinds of ads you want to run. It could also mean more work than you anticipated.
2. Status – For some people having a career that is well recognized is the most important thing when they search for a job. It makes them puff out their chest when they can say something like “I work on wall street” (well maybe that isn’t so prestigious anymore…). The kicker is so many times choosing a job based on the chest puff factor can lead you down an unhappy path. Then people stay in those jobs because they get comfortable, are well paid and feel secure. The problem is they come home too tired to enjoy their family and too stressed to enjoy life. You have to decide if status is important to you and if so what career you can choose that will allow you to attain status and maintain balance.
For Bloggers – Is your goal to be well respected in the writing community? Or maybe it is to be recognized by a certain association. If this is how you are defining your blogging career success you might have to look into joining certain blogging communities and you should definitely figure out what is deemed appropriate and inappropriate blogging material for whoever your target blogging audience might be. Status is also attained by: providing reliable information; respecting the unwritten rules of the blogging community(i.e. don’t just follow my blog for a prize and then unfollow); and remembering that to some a blog is not a personal diary it is a business that requires a professional appearance. No judgments about those of you who use blogs to vent – but that could affect your ability to attain status in certain communities.
3. Enjoying your work – There are going to be two groups of people out there: those who read this and say “Of course I want to enjoy my work, duh!” and those who say “Work is work. I don’t need to enjoy work as long as I have a steady job and get paid.” There are strong arguments for both. There is a particularly strong argument for the second group of people in an economy when so many people are struggling to find jobs. I’m not saying that everyone is going to find a job that they love so much they sing about it on their way there every day and come home with a smile every night. The key is to find a job where you like the majority of the work enough that the few parts that you don’t like are not a big deal. Finding this blissful balance is tricky but very possible. Is this an important part of your definition of success?
For Bloggers – the great thing about starting your own blog is that you can choose what to write about. So as long as you like writing and having people read it, you should be enjoying your work! If your blogging starts to become something you loathe and it is not something you depend on for income, you might want to take a break. Blogging should make you happy!
4. Liking your co-workers – OK so you can’t know co-workers if you don’t work with them yet. But you can have an idea of the type of people you want to work with and where you can find them. If you wanted to work in politics and you are a democrat you certainly wouldn’t go seeking out a position campaigning for a republican. This should apply when you are making career choices, too! For instance, if you want to work in education but you are a free spirit who enjoys connecting with parents and students in a more casual environment, you may not want to go work at private prep school. Things there might be very structured and follow very specific rules. Your boss and even the parents you deal with may want to hear very little from you and just expect to do as told. So, you may be in the field you want –education- but you may be unhappy with your surroundings and colleagues.
For Bloggers – you won’t necessarily have “co-workers” but you will have followers, people who want to link up and hold events/giveaways with you, and companies that want to work with you. Don’t just connect with people who are willing to work with you. Connect with people who have your same interests and companies that share your values. For example, I focus on living eco-friendly and promoting veganism, so I will only promote products that are safe for us and proven to be friendly to the earth as well as food products that are vegan. You will not find a giveaway for Omaha Steaks on my blog.
5. Being the BOSS – Being the boss is important to a lot of people. But unless you are starting your own business, or have a ton of experience, you probably aren’t going to start out as the boss. Some people just get so sick of following orders that they are determined to be in charge the next time around, but have you considered what it means to be in charge? Being in charge comes with a lot of responsibility, can come with long hours and can cause high stress levels. This may not be true in all fields but do your research and take a look at how your current boss lives before you make this your priority.
For Bloggers – in most cases the greatest benefit to starting a blog is that you get to be your own boss! And generally, you don’t have to worry about bossing employees around, phew. But you might have to work with brands and other bloggers and if things get shady you might have to have the occasional awkward email exchange. You will also have to make sure that you are doing things legally (I only recently noticed that professional bloggers had a legal section on their blog) and following copyright laws with your photographs.
6. Flexibility in schedule – 9-5 is not the only option for working hours. There are options for different shifts, the opportunity to spend some time working from home, or even working longer hours fewer days a week. Having a flexible schedule is particularly important to a lot of parents who want to bring kids to school and/or pick them up, want the option to leave without scrutiny if there is an emergency at home and don’t want to feel so overworked that they cannot enjoy their family when they are home. Is this your biggest concern when searching for a job or starting your career?
For Bloggers – what is more flexible than blogging from home?! Well, ok, for those of you who have made this a career there can definitely be an enormous amount of planning, writing, emailing, picture taking and fact checking that has to be done. So your schedule might be flexible (like, you can get it done when the kids go to sleep) but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting even if you do love it. If you are someone who blogs for pleasure and does not do it solely for income or status then the flexibility in schedule is definitely a perk.
If you could pick just one of these which would you would choose to help you to define success in your career? This is the first step on your career counseling journey! Next, goal setting…
Why do I keep using the word career? Isn’t it just a job? Here is an interesting article to help you understand the important difference between having a career and having a job:
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