Tag Archives: career change

“Many employers are looking for someone who did the exact same job last week. You have to somehow get beyond that…[and] find a company that is looking for skills and talents rather than specific, recent experience.”—Elmer Smith, Programmer Analyst for Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield

Success Story: What It Takes to Move From Long-Term Unemployment to a Stable Career

Elmer Smith has been working as a programmer analyst for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for the past eight years. However, the transition to his current job was anything but simple. At one time Elmer was among the long-term unemployed and struggling to get back into the workforce. Read the following interview to learn how he succeeded.

Question: I met you in 2004 sometime after you had been laid off from your job at Genencor. What was your role at Genencor?

Elmer Smith: My role when I was laid off from Genencor was officially a senior applications analyst. Basically I was a software applications developer, mostly in the area of Lotus Notes. I was involved in a few other things as well, including doing some modeling for manufacturing plants.

Q: How long had you worked there?

ES: Genencor was a merger of pieces of several different companies, including Eastman Kodak. I had worked for either Kodak or Genencor for 28-1/2 years. Software was not my original field. I was originally a chemical engineer.

Q: Was this your first time being laid off?

ES: Yes, I had been continuously employed ever since I graduated from college.

Q: How did you feel at the time, and what was your initial expectation for getting back to work?

ES: I was very discouraged when I found out about my layoff because after more than 25 years with one employer, I thought that I would probably retire from there. My initial expectation was probably that it would take me 2 or 3 months to get back to work. I am really a dually qualified person (chemical engineer and applications developer). My perception was that there were positions in both areas in Rochester, NY.

Q: How long did it take you to land your current job, and what was difficult about your job search?

ES: It took about 16 months to land my current position with a couple of short temporary or contract positions in between. What was very difficult about it was that people didn’t really know how to classify me. Software people would tell me, “You’re a chemical engineer.” And engineering people would tell me, “You’re a software person.”

Q: One thing that I recall that has made you stand out is that you really embraced the idea of networking. For example, you started sending out a quarterly e-mail update to your networking contacts, which you still send out periodically. Was networking difficult for you, and if so, how did you push yourself to do it?

ES: Yes, networking was difficult. It’s not something that I had historically done very much. But nothing else seemed to be working. It helped that I had a few networking groups that I met with regularly.

Q: How did you make the transition from working for a manufacturing company to working in a similar role for a health insurance provider?

ES: I took advantage of a bit of good luck. I went to a job fair in the mall, and I was originally not going to meet with Excellus at all. My focus was on manufacturing companies, as well as a major utility company.

But I happened to engage in a casual conversation with someone at the Excellus table, and when she found out that I had worked with Lotus Notes, it resulted in a series of interviews, which led to a job offer. Looking back, it was not such a drastic change. In manufacturing I was transforming matter and energy into a product. In health care I transform data into information.

And it’s almost as though you need to have a critical mass of activity in your job search before it can amount to something. Around the same time that I was being considered for the Excellus position, other opportunities started to emerge.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to the many long-term unemployed individuals still looking for work, what would it be?

ES: Many employers are looking for someone who did the exact same job last week. You have to somehow get beyond that. You may have to find a company that is looking for skills and talents rather than specific, recent experience. It seems that employers are finally moving back toward that.

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Is That Job Hot or Is It Not?

I just read a profile for another “hot” job boasting 8.3% growth between 2010 and 2020, and it made me cringe. Here’s why. It turns out that the growth is based on only 120 jobs in our Finger Lakes Region of New York State. So what is 8.3% of 120? It is only 10 new jobs in a 10-year period—an average of one new job each year!

Imagine that you used your valuable time and resources to train for that job. Now imagine that 15 other people who read the profile did the same. What are the odds that you are the best candidate?

What is the lesson here? The next time someone recommends a job with 8% growth, why not ask them, “Eight percent of what?”

Industry Careers Panels—Excellent Information Source for Jobseekers

In March, the RochesterWorks! Career Center held our first in a series of industry careers panels. The event was a great success! We had participation from a broad range of Information Technology (IT) experts. They gave insightful answers to many questions that job seekers have, including the following:

1. What abilities or personal qualities would make someone a good fit for the IT field?
2. What can mature workers do to be competitive in the IT field?
3. How important is it to have a college degree? Is a degree even necessary for someone with work experience?

If you missed the session, you can view a four-part podcast at http://www.rwvcc.org/index.php?option=com_hwdvideoshare&task=viewcategory&Itemid=7&cat_id=18.

Our next offering in our careers panel series will focus on Advanced Manufacturing. It is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, at 9 a.m., at the RochesterWorks! Career Center. RochesterWorks! members may sign up online at http://www.rochesterworks.org/js_workshops_downtown.aspx. Pre-registration is required because seating is limited.

Here is the flyer:  Advanced Manufacturing Careers Panel 6-20-12

Career Change in 3 Simple Steps

How many different careers will you have in your lifetime? Although some experts put the number at 5–7, no one has yet researched the true answer to that question. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsfaqs.htm), one group was found to have held an average of 11 jobs between the ages of 18 and 44. So we can conclude that you will probably change careers at least a few times during your working life.

How then do you make a career change? Here are a few simple steps.

1. Start with a list of jobs that might be a good fit for you. You can develop such a list by taking a career assessment. If you live in New York State, I recommend creating an account with www.nyjobzone.org and taking the Interest Profiler. You will find that tool in the Self-Exploration section under Career Interests. Alternatively, you could download the Interest Profiler at http://www.onetcenter.org/IP.html. Either way, your scores will result in a list of matching occupations.

2. Prioritize your list. First, circle the job titles that interest you. Do not worry about whether you have the training or experience to do a particular job. If you might like to learn the job, circle it! Next, draw a line through the jobs that definitely do not interest you. Finally, if there are any titles that you are unsure about, mark them with a question mark.

3. Do your research. Start with the jobs on your list that you circled. Then move on to the ones that you marked with a question mark. You may find information on these jobs at www.nyjobzone.org or www.onetonline.org. When doing your homework on each job title, ask yourself the following questions. Could I see myself doing the job and enjoying it? How much and what type of training or preparation would be needed to qualify for the job? How much does the job pay? How many job openings are there? Your goal during this step should be to narrow your list to the top 3–5 job choices.

After completing these steps, you may still need help making a final decision or preparing yourself to qualify for your new career choice. The professional staff at your local One-Stop Career Center (www.servicelocator.org) would be happy to assist you further.