Find a Job that Matters

Ep. 002: Managing Your Career by Improving Your Marketability, with Dawn Rasmussen

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Managing Your Career by Improving Your Marketability, with Dawn Rasmussen

Fifty years ago, it was common for workers to have the same job (or stay with the same company) from graduation until retirement. Today, the average American will have seven to ten different jobs in their lifetime. This volatility in employment has created more uncertainty–but also more opportunity–for career-minded professionals. The secret to thriving in this job market is successful career management: being focused, knowing your goals, and marketing your skill set.  

In this episode of Find Your Dream Job Mac speaks with career advisor and author Dawn Rasmussen. Dawn contends that “job security is dead” and that the key to professional success lies in improving your job marketability. She shares her tips on having a clear vision for your career, keeping your skills up-to-date, and adroitly marketing your transferable skills.

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In this 30-minute episode you will learn:

  • How to discover your professional purpose and what you do best
  • How to change careers by breaking down your transferable skill sets
  • The habits of successful career managers
  • How to overcome the fear of a career change or job search

This week’s guest:

Dawn RasmussenDawn Rasmussen (@DawnRasmussen)
Principal, Pathfinder, Writing and Career Services
Author of Forget Job Security
Portland, Ore.

 

Listener question of the week:

  • How can I transition from the for-profit sector into the nonprofit sector?

If you have a question you’d like us to answer on a future episode, please contact Jenna Forstrom, Mac’s List Community Manager at jenna@macslist.org.

Resources referenced on this week’s show:

If you have a job-hunting or career development resource resource you’d like to share, please contact Ben Forstag, Mac’s List Managing Director at ben@macslist.org.

Thank you for listening to Find Your Dream Job. If you like this show, please help us by rating and reviewing our podcast on iTunes. We appreciate your support!

Opening and closing music for “Find Your Dream Job” provided by Freddy Trujillo, www.freddytrujillo.com.

 

Full Transcript

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host. Our show is brought to you by Mac’s List, your best online source for rewarding creative and meaningful work. Visit macslist.org to learn more. You’ll find hundreds of great jobs there, a blog with practical career advice, and our new book, “Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond.” Welcome to episode two of Find Your Dream Job. Every week we bring you the career tools and tips you need to get the job you want.

Now according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics the typical American changes jobs every 4.1 years. With most of us working well into our 60s that means you may have 10 or more employers in your lifetime, and you’ll not only change jobs but careers too perhaps up to seven times some experts say. None of this comes as surprise to our guest today, Dawn Rasmussen. She says job security is dead and what matters now is employability and knowing how to manage your career.

Dawn is president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, a company that provides resume, cover letter, and job search coaching services. She’s the author of, “Forget Job Security: Build Your Marketability,” a step-by-step guide to how to manage your career, attract promotions and salary increases, and find new opportunities. Dawn is also a career columnist for OnePlus magazine and talentzoo.com and she’s been featured on CBS Morning Watch, CareerBuilder, and in business journal newspapers across the US.

Dawn, thanks for joining us today.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Thanks for having me Mac. Nice to be here.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a pleasure to have you here. I find that when I talk to job seekers when they get their job they think that’s it, I’m all set, my job search is over, and now I’m employed and I don’t need to think about that anymore. Now tell me why you advise the people you work with to think differently.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Mac, I always try to encourage people to see their career as something that’s happening concurrently to their actual jobs, so while you’re in your job your career’s happening at the same time, but the career is actually like a river that’s running underground and that’s carrying you onto the next destination. It’s all the things that you can do that can help prepare you for that next opportunity or position. You need to be in the right place when that opportunity does happen. It’s not just being a static thing. It’s a constant process. You really have to think about where do I want to go and what are the things that’ll get me in that river so I can navigate it, even though you’re in your current job but there’s some things you can take with you that will get you to the next destination.

Mac Prichard:

So you’re in the canoe, you’re going down the river.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Good metaphor, I love it.

Mac Prichard:

Now what do you do next? How do you know where you’re going? The way I’ve seen people do this successfully is they’re clear about their purpose. What do you see with the people you work with?

Dawn Rasmussen:

I think for the most part the people I work with are pretty clear on what they want to do, although I will get the occasional client. For example, I’ve had recently someone who was trying to do too many things. She was applying for a medical … Well she was a medical billings person and she was trying to get into marketing and patient representation and a whole bunch of other things. She was trying to cover all these different bases, but she wasn’t being very clear on what she does best and how she might help the employer. She was just being a job search chameleon, that’s a term I like to use, that she was changing the color of her spots for each job opening.

If you’re not pretty clear on what you do best then that’s going to be a problem because nobody else can see that either. The clarity helps you answer specifically what the employers needs are. It’s really important to have a vision of what you want to do. That can change as you alluded to earlier having some kind of … Change in your life is inevitable, that’s fine, but the main thing is to really be clear that okay I’m going to target this next thing and then that may roll into something else later on down the line whether you get bored or another opportunity comes along. It’s not a be-all end-all, but it’s something that’s a jumping off point to the next thing. It’s a constant process. It really is.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s drill down to that process Dawn because I can imagine some listeners might be saying, “Well, I get that, vision matters, clarity matters, but I don’t want to close out my options. I want to be open to a lot of different things, because by doing so I’ll make myself a more attractive candidate.” What steps do you see people take who are successful into finding their purpose and getting clarity?

Dawn Rasmussen:

I use the example no employer is going to hire a generalist. If they have a need for X, whatever that job is, then they’re hiring for X and they’re going to be putting that perspective, that microscope on X, looking at all the different candidates. If you’re not sure … You can have more than one version of your resume. You can have a couple different iterations. Myself personally I have a lot of different curves under my belt that are extremely different from each other. I’ve been obviously a writer, I’ve been an educator, I’ve been in sales, I’ve been in tourism, I’ve been a meeting planner. I can’t cram all those things in one resume. I have to be clear on who my target audience is. How would someone perceive what I’m saying in this document? Is it meeting their needs specifically?

It doesn’t mean you have to cram all the non-relevant stuff in there, you can summarize it. But having a real understanding of how are you answering their call, their need, and drilling down to that. Reading job descriptions, if you’re not sure, that’s okay. A lot of people, they don’t know what they want to do. That’s maybe where a career coach can help you work through that process because you really have to have that clarity. If you don’t know what you want to do then how do you expect an employer to know that either.

Having some help or using some online tools such as MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and some of the other tests can help you, or working with a career coach like I mentioned are all things that you can use to help pinpoint or narrow down what your focus is. Then have a separate resume for each one of those areas that addresses that.

Mac Prichard:

I hear that from a lot of employers. They tell me that when they’re interviewing candidates the question that’s often going through their mind first and foremost is, “What can this person do for me? I’ve got problems. I’ve got work piling up on a desk. How is this person going to make my life easier?” They say that the candidates who address that are the ones who stand out.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Exactly, you need to figure out what the pain points are of the employer and how you’re going to solve them for them, and then write your resume in a way that shows specific examples of how you have addressed those pain points in a relevant way that matches the job requirements.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s get back to purpose and vision. Many people may switch careers several times during the course of their working life. How have you seen people when they’re thinking about changing careers do that successfully?

Dawn Rasmussen:

It’s really, Mac it boils down to looking at what are my transferable skill set. For some people it’s a pretty easy leap. I’ll give you an example. There was one client of mine. She was in Chicago and she was a writer. She wrote books. She did the whole publicity, marketing, and all that kind of stuff, familiar with that aspect. Then she really had a passion for wine to the degree that she was going down to California and spending time with the wine maker. She actually did a bootcamp where you make your own wine. She toured with the wine maker. She worked part time in a very high end wine store in Chicago and her passion was to really get into promoting wine. By looking at breaking down her transferable skillsets it was an opportunity for her to basically say wine marketing specialist. We married her marketing skills plus her wine knowledge into a resume that really covered all those bases. It was a easy step for her. For some people, they don’t have that immediate step in front of them.

My suggestion is that if you’re considering a career change, don’t despair, you have to take an inventory of what skillsets that are relevant to where you want to go that you actually possess, and if there are gaps there are opportunities to add in experience. For example, you can take a class that would fill in a knowledge gap area so then you remove that liability from your job search.

A second thing might be volunteering for a professional organization or a civic organization, performing the types of tasks that would matter towards where you want to go.

Finally, for the people that are in school that may have gone back to school, they’re more the nontraditional learners that they’re going back and maybe getting a new degree or re-purposing their background, I suggest that you really go through your classroom experience and think about what projects, what kinds of papers, what kinds of experiments or anything else that would be real life applications of the concepts you’re learning and cite those as examples in your resume. Your header should be relevant experience which can encompass both paid, volunteer, and educational experience, so that way it’s sort of a loophole.

Mac Prichard:

What I’m hearing is be clear about your purpose, be prepared to switch jobs throughout the course of your career or even switch careers, and when you’re ready to switch careers Dawn think about those transferable skills or you acquire them and document them. Now how do people know it’s time to switch? A lot of people I think don’t think about these things until someone says, “Oh there’s a great job over at this company or this nonprofit organization.” Or they get a new boss and things aren’t working out well and then they try to catch up. So instead of thinking about their career over the long term and the investments they need to make, they try to catch up and do all these things when perhaps it’s too late or things they might have done. What are some of the habits that you see people who are successful career managers adopt and practice during the 30 or 40 years they’ll be in the workplace?

Dawn Rasmussen:

Oh gosh, there’s so many. Networking is probably job number one. We do tend to get quite a bit complacent once we take on a new job. The heavy lifting’s been done. You beat all the connections. You’ve landed that job. People are usually so consumed with learning the ropes of the new job that they really don’t invest as much time or energy into the networking piece that they were spending during the job search phase. My biggest concerns I see a lot of people just tune in and tune out basically on the networking. “I’m too busy. I don’t have time to go to this networking function. I don’t have time to do that.” Your networking piece is really the critical life line. Most people find jobs through someone they know.

I know and I think its Gerry Crispin from CareerCrossroads had a statistic that said if you apply only online you have a 2% chance of getting interviewed. If you apply and you apply working through someone that you know you have about a 50% chance of getting interviewed. That really in stark contrast really shows how directly the networking impacts your job search success. Building that relationship and nurturing it and continuing the conversation from the initial meeting point is going to be critical for laying the groundwork in the future, not only just when you need to talk to them, but they may consider you and may come to you organically unsolicited even. That could be one way.

Another thing that I see a lot people doing that are really good career managers is that they always see professional development as a center to their own development so that they can continue to learn and grow their skill sets. Employers are hiring subject matter experts. The more that you can gain job specific knowledge, it can be anything related to your particular job function, your industry, or management, anything in those realms, those are some things you should be adding one or two activities a couple of times a year so you show progressive job knowledge. If your employer doesn’t pay for it this is absolutely an investment you need to make in yourself. It’s not something you can say, “Well, throw up my hands. The boss won’t pay for it. Oh well, I won’t do it.” Really? You can’t do that.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I think that’s-

Dawn Rasmussen:

You need to be able to invest in yourselves.

Mac Prichard:

That’s an excellent point about investing into yourself. Just to back up and think about that, people who apply only on online job boards, and that’s 2% success rate that you cited, to put that in perspective I think 8% of people apply to Ivy League Colleges get in, so you may have a better chance of getting into Harvard than to getting a job on an online job board.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Lots of pretty … Oh I love a good statistic. I love that one.

The other thing I was going to mention too is that getting involved, I mean, we’re all pressed for time. It’s really hard to try to carve out the volunteer experience, but by golly, that’s another way to get familiar with other people and similar types of jobs, and you end up becoming a known quantity as you give back through either volunteer experience if you’re on a committee or on a board. Those are all really important factors as well as far as the people are really successful. They’re the ones who are constantly doing those types of things. I realize not everybody is this super type A person, but you don’t have to be the leader of the committee. You can be involved in volunteering and be that background person too and that’s okay. It’s just, make yourself known because no one is going to just reach out directly to you and say, “I’m going to help you throughout the rest of your career.” That doesn’t happen.

Mac Prichard:

Get away, step away from the desk, get out in the community, go to a professional association meeting, do informational interviews, and volunteer when and where you can.

Dawn Rasmussen:

There’s some other simple things too that, if I could just interject, that if you go to a conference, write a recap of some of the biggest things, your biggest takeaways and share it with your office. Your boss sees the value, and them sending you to the office and you help enhance the knowledge of your colleagues, that’s a great way to really help show value to the organization too. There’s a lot of things you can be doing all at once. It doesn’t mean that you’d have to enact thus immediately when you start looking for a job. If you’re constantly doing it, it’s adding to that momentum, that river I was talking about.

Mac Prichard:

We’re coming to the end of our time together. I want to hit any of the remaining points that you’d like to address. But one thing I’d like to bring up is when I talk to job seekers I think many people get this, they understand they need to think about their career over the long term, they need to think about how to manage it, and they need to get out into the community. One of the biggest barriers that they share with me that they face is fear. They’re not sure how to do it. They’re worried about rejection. Tell us about examples that you’ve seen of people who have overcome fear and how they do it?

Dawn Rasmussen:

I think a lot of it, there could be the fear of rejection and the salary discussion. I think why people have a lot of trepidation about that particular discussion in particular are because you’re finally putting a number on what you’re worth, what you think your value is. By spending some time and doing some research and really looking at the numbers you should start to feel very comfortable based on what you know your contributions are. That should really help you justify what your salary requirements are.

Part of that is making a business case. The business case comes from keeping track of your accomplishments. The more you can quantify results and show benefits to employers that means that you have demonstrable valuable value to the company, and if you can back it up then no one is going to question your numbers, they’re going to say, “Okay, I really see how important this person is,” and be willing and able to talk about it. That’s thinking about it and owning it really.

Mac Prichard: Those are great negotiating strategies. When you think about career management in general Dawn and people who are uncertain about how to begin and get stock, how have you seen people overcome that?

Dawn Rasmussen:

I think that they realize at some point that they need help and they reach out to maybe career coaches or writers or talk to mentors or talk to their trusted confidants. Everybody goes through a period of fear I think in their career management at least once or twice. I don’t know if you have Mac, but I know I have.

Mac Prichard:

Oh no, I certainly have. I’ve been stuck myself.

Dawn Rasmussen:

You have to swallow the fear because ultimately, like I said before, there is no job security, you really have to be your own advocate, so understanding and gravitating into that mindset will help you realize that no one is going to do it but you.

Mac Prichard:

I too have gotten stuck several times in my career. I’ve gone through two long periods of unemployment. What helped me overcome that fear and those obstacles was to get out and talk to people through informational interviews and follow many of the strategies that you’ve laid out, volunteering and networking.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Exactly.

Mac Prichard:

Tell our listeners how they can find you online and learn more about your book and your company.

Dawn Rasmussen:

My web address is www.pathfindercareers.com. I’ve got all kinds of social media links. I’m on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, so you’re more than welcome to connect me there. It’s pretty easy find.

Mac Prichard:

Thank you Dawn.

Joining us today has been Dawn Rasmussen, president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. Thank you for being on Find Your Dream Job, Dawn.

Dawn Rasmussen:

Thanks for having me.

Mac Prichard: Joining me in the studio today are Ben Forstag, managing director of Mac’s List, and Cecilia Bianco, our community manager at Mac’s List. How are you two doing today?

Cecilia Bianco:

Good Mac.

Ben Forstag:

I’m great.

Mac Prichard:

Good.

It’s a pleasure to have you here. Every week Ben scours the internet looking for blogs, podcasts, and other tools you can use in your job search, and Cecilia is listening to you our listeners and she joins us to answer your questions.

Ben, let’s start with you. What do you have for us this week?

Ben Forstag:

Mac this week Dan Rasmussen talked about all career management. That is essentially preparing yourself for the uncontrollable changes in your work life. This is a great thing to master because as we all know the only constant into this world is change. What do you guys feel about change?

Mac Prichard:

I have two minds about it. I certainly enjoyed the opportunities that changing jobs has brought, especially the chance to learn new skills. But I have to also share with our listeners it’s scary going into a new office, and learning the ways of a new boss, and mastering new responsibilities.

Cecilia Bianco:

I agree with Mac. I think change can be both refreshing and difficult, but I think that it’s good to adapt to change and to keep learning how to better deal with it throughout your career so it’s a good learned skill to have.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, I think most people struggle with change at some point in their life, and I do think it is a skill that you can learn. My suggested resource this week is a book that provides some perspective on how to successfully navigate change, whether that change happens in your work or your private life. The book is called “Who moved my cheese” by Dr. Spencer Johnson. This is a best seller back in the late 90s. Have either of you heard of it?

Cecilia Bianco:

I haven’t actually. I missed this one.

Mac Prichard:

I do remember this book Ben. In 1999 I was the Y2K communications manager for the Oregon Department of Human Services. My boss at the time, a terrific fellow, Dan Postrel, had a copy on his desk. He was a big fan of it.

Ben Forstag:

This book was everywhere in the late 90s. I remember when I was training to become a YMCA camp counselor they actually gave us a copy to help us with that job. This is a fast and easy read. But I think it contains a lot of good takeaways.

The book is a parable about mice and very tiny people trapped inside a maze looking for cheese. When the usual source of their cheese disappears the characters responded different ways. The mice, who are evidently moreresourceful than the humans, were already prepared for change and quickly move on to find other sources of cheese. The humans in the meantime are paralyzed by the question of who moved our cheese. Resistance to change and fear of the unknown prevent them from adapting to new realities and ultimately keep them from what they want.

Cheese of course is just a metaphor for anything that you’re searching for or anything that you want. It could be happiness or career contentment or new a job. When the book was really popular and the business world was using it as a training tool cheese was often representative of higher profits and increased sufficiency. The author doesn’t ever say that. He never really says what cheese is at all. It’s up for the reader to decide and really there’s no answer or wrong answer. It’s whatever you think or want.

The book can’t tell you what’s important to you obviously, but it can provide some perspective on how to navigate a constantly changing world to help you find your own personal cheese. I recently reread the book after almost 20 years and I got a lot of value from it. Folks who are going through the uncertainty of a job change or a career change will definitely find some good lessons as well.

Check out “Who moved my cheese,” by Spencer Johnson. You can find it on Amazon or any major bookstore. We’ll provide a link to it in the show notes for this podcast.

Cecilia, since you haven’t read it, this is your homework for the next week.

Cecilia Bianco:

Okay Ben, I will get on that.

Mac Prichard:

Thanks Ben. Again, if you have a recourse that you’d like to share with our listeners please write Ben. His email address is ben@macslist.org. He is standing by his computer right now, waiting to hear from you. While he’s doing that, hitting the refresh button constantly on his email.

Let’s move to Cecilia. Cecilia, what are you hearing from our listeners this week?

Cecilia Bianco:

Thanks Mac. This week our question is: How I can transition from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector?

As you know we get this question at every event. It’s a common question from our readers. We actually had it at our most recent spring panel. It was our first event at University of Portland. I’m sure Mac remembers this.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a wonderful venue up there and a beautiful campus.

Cecilia Bianco:

Ben, I remember you were in the crowd as a guest and you actually asked our panelists a question. You got on the mike. I remember that.

Ben Forstag:

I’m sorry that you do remember that. But yes, this was before I worked at Mac’s List, back when I was back in nonprofit management.

Cecilia Bianco:

I bring this up because one of our panelists actually asked this specific question, how to transition from the for-profit to the nonprofit. She had a really interesting answer that stuck with me. She was the HR consultant for Oregon Health and Sciences University Foundation and she said that she has found for-profit backgrounds to actually be more valuable in some cases to a nonprofit. She said that they bring some skills that nonprofit professionals sometimes don’t have from their work in the industry.

That really stuck with me because we don’t hear it a lot and we hear people in the for-profit industry nervous and thinking they can’t transition because they don’t have what nonprofits are looking for. One of the most important things that I got from that it’s a transition you can make but you have to focus on framing your application to meet what the nonprofit is looking for.

As Dawn mentioned earlier one of the most important things to do is to focus on your transferable skills and how can you apply your for-profit experience to show how it will contribute to a nonprofit success and the needs that they have. I think that’s one of the most important ways to start your transition.

What about you Mac because I know you get this all the time too?

Mac Prichard:

I agree. Highlighting your transferable skills is a very smart thing to do. The other lesson I draw from that story that you’re sharing with us Cecilia is the importance of going to the source. If you have an objection in your mind about finding a job in a sector, or organization, or company, get out there and talk to people in that sector or in that organization and in that company and ask about the concern. This [inaudible 00:26:02] you, we’re hearing from the source, a human resources director at a foundation who says she’s eager to hear from people in the private sector and that the trick is to highlight your transferable skills.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, I’d agree with that Mac. I think the good news here is that there’s a lot of new pressures on the nonprofits sector to compete for limited resources, and a lot of nonprofits are bringing in new practices that they’ve gotten from the for- profit world so folks who have experience in sales or business analytics or statistics there’s a lot of new opportunities for folks like that in the nonprofit world.

Cecilia Bianco:

Yeah, I definitely agree Ben. I think I would add that another important thing for people to do is to get on the community and network and volunteer and get to hear the things that they’re not getting in their for-profit background so that they can know what’s going on in the nonprofit world and get connected to the important people and learn the important keywords.

I actually just spoke with a reader recently. He took the advice that we’re always telling people. He was coming from the public sector to the nonprofit industry and what he did was he made it a big part of his life to get out in the community and network. This helped him learn the skills that he needed to work on that he was lacking. Because everyone in the nonprofit community when you get out there, they want to help you and they’ll give you the information you need, so you just need to put yourself out there which is exactly what he did, and be on networking. He also volunteered at Habitat for Humanity. This gave him some really great connections and he ended up learning the skills he needed to work in a nonprofit and he actually recently landed a job. You’ll see him featured on our blog shortly. I’m sure Mac will look forward to that. He loves hearing our reader stories.

Mac Prichard:

I do enjoy those stories. If you have one in addition to a question but you want to share your own story about finding a job again Cecilia’s address is cecilia@macslist.org.

These segments by Ben and Cecilia are sponsored by the Mac’s List Guides, publisher of our new book “Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond.” Now the Mac’s List Guides give you the tools you need to get the job you want. We show you how to crack the hidden job market, stand out in a competitive field, and how to manage your career. In each of the books’ eight chapters experts share job hunting secrets like how to hear about positions that are never posted and what you can do to interview and negotiate like a pro. You can download the first chapter of the book for free. Just visit macslist.org/macslistguides.

Thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week with more tools and tips you can use to find your dream job. In the meantime visit us at macslist.org where you can sign up for our free newsletter with more than 100 new jobs every week. If you like what you hear on our show you can help us by leaving a review, a comment, and a rating at iTunes. Thanks for listening.

 

 

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Mac Prichard
Mac Prichard publishes Mac's List and owns and operates Prichard Communications, a public relations agency that serves non-profits, public agencies, and foundations across the United States. He also blogs regularly about job-hunting.
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