Online Career Advice

After publishing my take on the career advice given by others (my last four posts to this blog), I’ve received several more similar articles, so I think that I’ll continue on that topic for another post or two.

Today’s post looks at a few of the “Top 16 Pieces of Career Advice” by Dr. Marty Nemko, as published online by U.S. News & World Report via Yahoo Finance. I’m only going to write about his first five suggestions, since the final 11 provide ideas for how to succeed once you’ve found a job and this blog focuses on the job search.

Nemko: Focus on what really matters. You’re more likely to be happy with your career and job if you focus less on its prestige or coolness and more on finding a career and job that uses your natural strengths and doesn’t tax your weaknesses, is appropriately challenging, with a good boss and co-workers, reasonable pay, commute and job security.

Me: Wow—that’s a big chunk of advice, and it’s great advice, but you may need help breaking it down into its constituent parts and figuring out how to use it.

The first thing you would need to do is determine what “your natural strengths and … weaknesses” are. The first Step in my book has 7 Tips to help you identify your skills and strengths (and, along the way, you’ll learn something about your weaknesses as well).

The next part of this advice boils down to what I would call envisioning a satisfying worklife, which is the second Step (with 5 Tips) in my book.

Nemko: Career passion comes AFTER you’ve chosen it. Most people came to love their career only after they chose it and took the time to become a go-to guy or gal at it. So take a month or three to explore career options and then pick what feels best, even if it doesn’t make you want to do handsprings.

Me: So far I’m really liking Nemko’s advice, it lines up with my book so perfectly. His second piece of advice matches my book’s Step 3 (Research potential jobs), where I provide 8 Tips to help you “explore career options.”

Nemko: One job-search method does not fit all. For example, networking works only for some people. If it hasn’t worked for you in the past, more networking will more likely burn you out than land you a job. Based on your past performance and current preferences, decide the proportion of job search time you should spend on in-person networking, online networking, cold-contact of employers, answering ads and headhunters.

Me: Here’s where Nemko and I begin to part ways. Everything I have learned from professional recruiters and the experiences of my students is that more jobs are found through networking than any other method. It may be true that different types of networking work before for some than others—if you have difficulty introducing yourself to strangers in person, you may be better off focusing on LinkedIn and other online resources than going to local meet ups—but I still think that networking is so important that it is Step 4 in my “5 Steps to Finding the Right Job after College.” In fact, I think this Step is so important that it has 14 Tips, which provides ideas for everyone’s comfort level and networking preference. Rather than back away from networking, if it’s not your strength, you may want to work to improve networking skills because, in addition to helping you get a job, those skills will serve you well throughout your career.

Nemko: Use a point-by-point cover letter. In answering a job ad, the best cover letter explains, point-by-point, how you meet the main job requirements.

Me: This is great advice, and the internal link gives you some good ideas about how to write a cover letter. As I say in my book, a cover letter is one of the most important documents you will ever write—and, perhaps, one of the most difficult. In addition to the advice that Nemko provides, you can find detailed suggestions, models, and a checklist for review for the cover letter in Tip 39 and Appendix I of my book.

Nemko: Get a second offer. When you think an offer is coming, let your other prospects know and ask if they’re willing to fast-track the decision to hire you. Having two or more employers competing for you boosts your negotiating position.

Me: This is certainly more good advice, and Tip 49 in my book can give you more ideas and details about how to respond to a job offer. And if you go back to some of the earlier posts in this blog (June 20, 25 & 27 and July 2 & 4), you’ll find more advice about salary and negotiation.