Ask Jen!

Welcome to Ask Jen, a weekly Q&A with the “career doctor” herself Jennifer Kushell! Every Wednesday, Jen will answer one of your burning career questions so start sending them in!

If you would like to submit a question, please e-mail and she’ll do her best to get to them all. Oh, and don’t forget to register on – Your Success Network and fill out your profile so we can link back to it!


a note from Jen: Hi everyone! I thought I would turn this week’s question over to YSN’s chief career guru (and one of my mentors!) Bob Cohen. Bob is an assistant director of Career Services at Harvard University and actually started a fantastic group on YSN called “Where do I go From Here?” Be sure to check out his mentor portfolio, ask him questions and join the “Where do I go From Here?” group!


YSN member robs1913 asks: “How do I start a career search? I’m graduating in a few days. I have a general idea of what type of company I’d like to work for but I don’t know exactly what I would like to do. Where and how do I find a career path?

Bob Cohen responds: “While career planning can appear to be an overwhelming task, it’s not so bad once you have the information you need to make more knowledgeable choices about the options you’re considering. It’s kind of like writing an original paper without having a research topic in mind. So, your first task is to decide what [career field] you want to research. A good place to start is to talk to anyone in your career services office if you’re graduating from a 2 or 4 year college. They can certainly help you put together the information you need to make some preliminary decisions about careers you may want to explore.

I was also curious about whether you took the YSN assessment instrument. The report provides you with solid data about who you are and what works best for you at work, and the action planner outlines the step-by-step process of how you go about executing a career and job search. If you’re not into formal advising or assessment, start with what you know rather than what you don’t know. Think about your most immediate life/work priorities and how they might influence what you choose to do next in your career. Consider things like lifestyle, life-work balance, geography. Any one or more of these can impact your decision. Take some time to write down what’s happened in your life over the last 5 years or so that you recall as being particularly rewarding. What was the experience, what skills did you use, and what made it so rewarding for you? What are your interests? your passions? How do they relate to an industry which offers potential that doesn’t conflict with your other life/work criteria? For example, I want to live in NYC but want to raise horses. Get the idea?

Once you have collected a reasonable amount of information about your preferred skills, values and interests, the task of narrowing down the field becomes incredibly easier. A good resource to begin the mix and match process of linking who you are with work options is America’s Career InfoNet . Another good all-purpose resource for everything from how to use the web as a research tool to a well-organized listing of career and job resources is The Riley Guide.

So, to recap. First figure out who you are and what your standards are for your next career step. Don’t worry about 10 years from now… at the moment. Use this information to develop a brief description about yourself or “pitch.” Next, find people you can talk to who work in a career field or industry you’re interested in exploring (after you’ve done some research about these areas and can connect-the-dots in your own mind between what you can bring to the table and what’s required for the career). YSN alone offers you a veritable smorgasbord of contacts which you can supplement with your friends, family, school alumni and so forth. Also, don’t worry about not knowing what the right “title” is for the career you’re seeking. Stick with your pitch and the person you’re talking to will let you know what it’s called in his/her industry.

There you have it. It’s really not as hard as it looks once you have the “informational confidence” to put yourself out there. Good luck!!”