Q: I am 21 years old and I work two jobs, one in retail. Both are not in professional office environments. My goal is to work in a professional office environment. I have a degree but I really don’t use it now. I feel stuck. How do I make a change? I have bills to pay.
A: I understand your dilemma. It is hard to make a change. Yet the longer you wait, the harder it will become. Let me share some suggestions on steps you can take to make a move.
- Use the career and alumni services office of your college or university. Re-connect with them and meet with them if possible. Explain that you are looking for a more professional position.
- Update your resume. Include your experience. Make sure that you include your degree! Proofread your resume. Ultimately, your resume crisp, error-free and professional. I always find it easier when a candidate includes their name in the title of the resume attached. An example would be: JaneMDoe2022. Of course in 2023, that date should be changed.
- Start using social media tools on weekends and free evenings to start searching for a new opportunity. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter can all be valuable in a search.
- Let your friends, relatives and others know you are looking for a new opportunity. Build a network of contacts. These contacts are critically important. Thank anyone that meets with you, shares their time with you or provides a referral to you.
- Begin actively networking. Meet with 1-2 people per week, even if virtually. Explain your situation. Ask for their advice, guidance and referrals if they hear of an opportunity.
- Make sure that your PC skills are current. Almost every professional role requires solid PC skills.
- Join groups on Linkedin. These groups are important. Expand your connection on LinkedIn.
- Keep close to your email. Nothing is more frustrating than an unresponsive candidate.
- Evaluate your email address. Ensure that it is professional and descriptive. Avoid addresses that are racy or inappropriate. Earlier this month I received a resume from an email address that was similar to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hmmm… no thanks.
- Consider contacting a few temporary and/or contract firms. You may have to start at a reception desk or in a clerical role, but it is a foot in the door and will give you valuable experience in a professional environment.
- Invest a bit of money in your professional wardrobe. It is better to be a bit overdressed than too casual. Buy a few classic pieces and then build from there. What you wear out on a Saturday night is probably not appropriate for what you would wear to an office environment on a Monday morning. Dress for the position to which you aspire.
- Ensure that your online presence is positive and professional. Clean up your Facebook page if you have photos online that are less than professional. Limit your Facebook page visitors by using their privacy tools.
- If you work for a large retailer, there may be opportunities that are not strictly retail selling. Larger retailers have opportunities in finance, HR, marketing, operations, e-commerce, etc. Often these larger retailers have an internal job posting system that might be worth exploring.
- Never say no to an introduction. Introductions often lead job seekers down a path of opportunity.
- Stay positive. Know that you may encounter rejection. Learn from the slips, falls and missteps and correct your course going forward. Avoid bashing former employers, colleagues or jobs.
Many companies are struggling to hired talent. This is a great time to be a job hunter.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.