Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Find a Job From Ideas (and Some Surprising Government Technology)

Implementing a career change and getting the right job in the digital age is a complicated task. I am meeting with placement specialists, updating my resume and social media profiles, scouring career opportunity websites, and talking with everyone I know to get myself out there.

I am fortunate to have so many colleagues and friends who know me well and want to help.

Last week my friend Scott Landress asked me how the career change process was going. After I went over the whole story he looked at me and said, "Brad, so far I know what you don't want to do, but you haven't told me what you do want to do."

In reflecting on his point I told him it's difficult to imagine myself doing something different from what I've done professionally for so long. This was reinforced by placement people who told me I would have plenty of opportunity to apply for technology and IT related jobs, particularly positions similar to my recent experience in education.

Getting options and offers to do something else is going to be a bit more challenging. I'm going to have to sell myself.

With that understanding I set out to identify exactly what I wanted to do in this next chapter of my working life. I decided to begin back in the early days of high school when I took aptitude tests to help me figure out what I was good at and what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Job Title Search circa 1976
I still recall the three job titles that came to the top of the list after I took the career search surveys in high school: Architect, Occupational Therapist, and Photographer.

There were a few other interesting options in my search at the time including: Commercial ArtistPerforming Artist, Public
Relations Worker, and Recreation Worker.

Looking back at these job titles today (nearly 40 years later) it's amazing to think of the many skills it takes to do any one of these jobs well and the preparation needed to develop those skills.

Job Title Search circa 1976
What's not surprising are the job titles that existed then versus those that exist today. Which brings me back to that question of articulating what I want to do when I grow up.

With all the different resources available to HR directors and job seekers today I was stunned to find a set of powerful career development technology tools that help workers identify their skills and abilities. It also helps them find the titles of jobs they may be qualified for and interested in pursuing.

Where is this tool? You can find it online with the California Employment Development Department's "CalJobs" website.

I won't go through all the details but there are two very specific tools in this system that are fabulously helpful for anyone thinking about their work and wanting to improve their career.

Things Brad Can Do!
At CalJobs users build their resume using online tools that have 19 different steps. It may seem unnecessary for people who already have a resume, but once the process is complete this system magically presents jobseekers with a list of their likely skills.

These are very specific abilities that, for me, included: public speaking techniques; work as a team member; write administrative procedures services manual; use project management techniques; use computer networking technology; provide technical computer training; prepare cost estimates; plan meetings and conferences; make decisions; distinguish details in graphic arts material; edit video scenes; and another 116 possible skills.

Wow! Who knew that there were 127 specific things I could do for someone looking for a skilled professional?

Granted this is just a list, it doesn't say how much experience I have with any of these skills or how well I might do any of these activities. However, as someone looking to identify the job I want this was crucial information. This tool also gives me a strong set of words to use as I describe for people what I want to do and where I am focusing my search for a new career.

Occupation listing
The other powerful tool in the CalJobs system is the database of "Occupation Listings." Part of the process requires users to choose an occupation they are seeking. The list is fascinating when compared to the one I was required to use back in 1976. The CalJobs list is also fascinating for what job titles it does NOT include.

I've spent a good amount of time in my career teaching students, parents, educators, and administrators about the fact that we are often preparing students for jobs that haven't even been invented yet. Using CalJobs I've learned that my job for the past 17 years (Director of Technology) doesn't exist in their list of possible occupations.

Obviously not a lot of people have had this job yet.

I suppose I can feel fortunate in that I've been on the cutting edge of technology in education but I do know it can be problematic to tell someone you were a Director of Technology and their response is "what is that?"

Thankfully, the system provided an occupation I could use: "Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School." Seems like that occupation type combined with the actual title (Director of Technology) should get me past the initial confusion some people may have about my previous work.

So the process continues and I get closer to knowing what I want to do and what's out there as a possible career. The truth is there are many jobs I would do well in and the real questions are: what will make me happy, and what will allow me to earn enough money to provide for myself and my family?

One of the most astonishing items on my list of skills was "create art from ideas." While I absolutely love this phrase and wonder how I can find a job doing THAT, I am also realistic that there are even fewer people getting paid to create art from ideas then there are people doing technology administration in schools.

Trying to create a job from ideas is a great challenge. I am happy to know that the State of California has developed these powerful tools for job seekers. To me this is one of the best examples of our tax dollars well spent.

Now, if I can only get someone to speak with me about changing the time of this "notification of benefits eligibility interview . . . "

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