Job Talk: Is it career passion or a daydream?
Dear J.T. & Dale: I just turned 31, and I'm having a difficult time finding a career path. My mom says I should look into nursing, but I can't see myself being a nurse.
Another idea my mom presented is becoming a mechanic. I like cars, but I'd rather drive them than fix them.
My true dream is to be an actor. But the entertainment industry is very competitive, and my folks suggest that I have a backup plan. My mom told me that if I don't engage in something soon, then I have to move out. I could use some advice. — Tyler
Dale: There are two basic career strategies: "Follow the money" or "Follow your passion." The second of these creates confusion, especially when stated as: "Do what you love, and the money will follow."
In your case, that would suggest that you're meant to be an actor. I'm not so sure. Do you love acting, or do you love the idea of being a successful actor? This is a critical question that applies to any career, not just the glamorous ones.
Being, say, a successful stockbroker is a wonderful job, but before going into that field, you need to ask yourself if you love financial analysis and selling or if you love the idea of nice paychecks and lunches with clients.
My point is that many people confuse a passion with a daydream. That's why we recommend a third path — what I think of as "Follow your gifts."
J.T.: I agree, but I prefer the practical name: "Leverage your skill set." I have stopped telling my clients to think about "a career" — the average person today will change careers many times — and instead I ask them to identify things they do well that apply to multiple careers.
If you have acting skills, for instance, then part of that skill set includes speaking, performing and presenting. Which careers utilize those skills? Sales, customer service, training and so on.
The key, Tyler, is to choose something that will let you start gaining experience, and then, over time, you can alter your path. I don't think this is the answer you wanted, but I believe your parents are right — jump in and get started.
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Dear J.T. & Dale: I left my job five months ago, moving from the corporate world to a local company. I thought it was the perfect job, but unfortunately it didn't work out. After a month, I had to travel back home because of a death in the family, and I left the new job.
Recruiters have advised me to not include this one-month job on my resume. In interviews, when asked what happened at my last job, should I just not mention the short-term job? — J.R.
J.T.: I see why recruiters are suggesting that you not list the job: It could raise questions and cause some companies to pass on you.
Dale: Yes, but this isn't a case of "no one will ever know." When a prospective new employer contacts references, your old employer may mention that you left to take a new job.
J.T.: So, when you get to that point in interviews, tell them that you accepted a new job only to depart after a month due to an unexpected family matter. If they ask why you didn't put it on your resume, simply say that you weren't there long enough to have any major accomplishments to list and therefore felt it should be left off. The honesty and sincerity will put their minds to rest.
Dale: I'd suggest one small change: Don't wait to be asked why it wasn't on your resume. Say that you left it off on the advice of recruiters and a pair of beloved newspaper columnists.
You even might say: "I felt funny about leaving it off, but that was the advice I got. Do you think I should have put it on there?" That way, you are demonstrating respect for the opinions of interviewers while letting them know that you wrestled with the decision. That's impressive candor and openness.
Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.com. Their website is jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.