Monday, February 21, 2011

Your Career and You: "Changing Fishbowls"

Conversations with a variety of current and former students over the past couple of weeks gave me cause to think about just how we tend to stick within the real or imagined walls of our "universe."

I was reminded of the time we bought a new aquarium for our goldfish...the equivalent for the fish of moving from a studio apartment to a three-bedroom penthouse with roofdeck.

The guys totally freaked.

For the first week, they wouldn't venture beyond what they remembered as the boundaries of their old "apartment." They would be chasing each other (playing, I hope) and, when they reached what used to be the side...screech!!! A dead stop.

Took nearly two weeks for them to figure out that they actually could explore "outside the walls." (One of them...not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree...knocked himself senseless once, apparently figuring that, since the original wall was no longer there, no walls were there! He only did this once, but it was a lesson painfully learned!)

Which brings me back to the students' plights...all job-search related.

It's not that they haven't been looking. It's just that they've been looking right around their familiar stomping grounds. Those who live south of Boston are looking south of Boston. Ditto for north and west.

I understand the natural urge to stay close to home, and some of them have real reasons for doing so. But...

Common sense (and a quick conversation with their former professor) should help them realize that the odds are stacked against them... after all, I'm the guy who has lived and worked in five states and two foreign countries...and that's not counting internships and training in three other states.

If you've been looking for a job for a year or so and nothing has come up for which you had a shot, maybe it's time to change your fishbowl...broaden your search horizons.

Just because you move away for a few years doesn't mean that you've forsaken family and friends. It should be...and they should realize this...a sign that you've grown up and are making grown-up decisions!!

This isn't to say that searching elsewhere is the magic potion...that it's going to be the solution to your dilemma. But at least, at the end of the day, you can say to yourself and to others, "I took full advantage of the opportunities that were available to me in my job search."

And you don't have to be alone as you venture into those uncharted waters. Think back on the things I've mentioned/ urged you to do/preached about over the years...

1. Expand your network...Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Happo, Brazen Careerist, and the dozens of other social networking sites to make connections, establish new relationships, and ferret out job opportunities.

For my Public Relations students, I remind them constantly of the value of professional organizations like the Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicators, the American Marketing Association, and others.

2. Call on others for advice...Even at Curry College, a small private college just south of Boston, faculty are from all over the place...and have contacts all over the place. Talk to them; find out who they know where and what they know about various cities around the country (or world, for that matter).

This is a start, and you will build on your resource base as you move forward. But first, you have to take that one step that moves you out of your "same ol'-same ol'" routine. You have to change your fishbowl!

"Nature--that is, biological evolution--has not fitted man to any specific environment...His imagination, his reason, his emotional subtlety and toughness, make it possible for him not to accept the environment, but to change it." Jacob Bronowski, "The Ascent of Man" [1973]


  1. When I left Curry (longer ago than I will admit) I was married and had 2 children and jobs were far from plentiful. A degree in English wasn't exactly a key to the corner office. I found the opportunities in PR, Journalism and teaching to be near impossible to break into. I eventually went into a completely different direction by joining a Managment training program in retail, after a year or so I began to get inquires from many of the places I originally had contacted before graduation but by then my earnigs had grown and I had found that the skills from my education were more valuable than I ever would have imagined in the corporate world, even in retailing. I eventually change careers but this time to transportation where I again found my education to be valuable and the satisfaction in my job to be great. I agree with Kirk's observations but would like to add that many of your skills are transferable, many companies are looking for bright people for building their infastructure for tomorrow, don't be afraid to think out side what you consider to be the "right fit" for your degree... In the mean time if you are in Southern California or are willing to leave the Boston area for some time in the sun, let me know because our business is one of the ones that is hiring but you need to be here....

    George Reid

  2. What excellent insights and advice, George. Thanks for sharing!! I started out with an English degree and a specialty in 18th Century British Lit. Kind of limited my options until I, like you, learned to make use of "crossover skills" and ultimately found my way into public relations. It's all one amazing, continually learning, road!! Cheers! ~ Kirk