I want a better job!

Originally Published: April 14, 2000 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 12, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I went to college to better myself for a better job. It has been over a year and I have not found a new job yet. I feel like I wasted my money. And I am sick to death of my job. I hate finding a new job because it may be just as bad or worse. What can I do?

Dear Reader,

It's no picnic to go to a job that you can't stand every day. You can't help wondering, "Why did I spend all that money on college, or study so hard, if I'm still working here?" However, instead of being stuck with feeling stuck, take action!

Breaking the job search into smaller steps can make it more manageable. Here are some basic things you need to do to get ready for a job search.

Decide what interests you
First things first, do you know what you'd like to be doing? This can be a daunting question, with so many different careers in the world. Many people feel uncertain about which occupation to choose. Consider your studies and interests: were there particular topics that you loved to study, or areas you excelled in at school? Focus on those. It might help to go to your local library or bookstore and check out some books about job searching, career exploration, and different fields that interest you. Some books to take a look at include:

  • Barbara Sher's, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It
  • Richard Nelson Bolles's, What Color is Your Parachute?: 2014: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
  • Laurence G. Boldt's, Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design

These books can help you get focused. You may also want to seek the services of a career counselor, who can help you figure out your career interests, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Your college can usually help with this. Columbia students can talk with a professional from the Center for Career Education

Get your resume together
Do you have an updated resume? Highlight all relevant aspects of your career and educational experiences. Were you involved in community service organizations or other extra-curricular activities in college? Include them! Make sure to use action verbs, such as "developed," "created," or "implemented," and check the spelling, grammar, and succinctness. Ask your more experienced friends to read it and make suggestions as well. Referring to books on resume writing could offer you some other good pointers. You may also want to call your college's career services office, as they often have alumni services available that could offer you further assistance.

Think about your goals
Another thing you might want to consider thinking about is your short- and long-term goals. It sounds like a short-term goal is to get out of your current job and find one that satisfies your needs. Take out a notebook and jot down some ideas about where you want to be in one year, five years, ten years, or beyond. Do you want to be part of a large corporation, or is something smaller or non-profit more your cup of tea? Are you good at working in teams, or do you prefer to work by yourself? By doing this exercise, you can begin to see where you want to be.

Do some research
Are there certain companies that you'd love to work for? Make a list and begin calling them to see if they are hiring. Also browse the classifieds in your local paper for job openings that interest you. Find out what the company does, their mission, some history, and anything else that could help you decide if you'd like to work there. And don't forget the Internet: you can find out about many potential employers and job openings faster than you can say, "I quit!"

Set up informational interviews
Okay, so you've read a few books and figured out what field you'd like to explore. Do you know people who work in this field? If so, talk with them about what they do and how they got there, ask for recommendations, and don't leave without getting a few names and numbers of others who work in the field. This type of networking can be a very effective way of making connections with people or organizations that may be able to hook you up with possible job opportunities. Even if you don't personally know someone in your desired field, look at agencies or organizations that you'd like to work for. Call and ask if you can speak with someone about what they do. This process is called informational interviewing, and can often lead to job possibilities — or more resources and contacts, at the least. It can be scary at first, especially if you're talking with strangers; it can also be exciting and invigorating to discover interesting jobs. Always come to these interviews nicely or professionally dressed, with copies of your resume, and ask your interviewee for some names of others whom you could meet.

Prepare to interview
Interviewing for a new position can be nerve-wracking. However, there are lots of tips to help you ace that interview and knock the socks off of a potential employer. If your college offers services for alumni, stop by and pick up handouts and books on interviewing techniques. Your college may even offer practice interviews that could help determine your interviewing strengths and weaknesses, which you can then work on improving. 

There are certain things you can do to impress your interviewer. Remember to:

  • make eye contact.
  • dress for success.
  • highlight your experience.
  • know the company that's interviewing you.
  • show enthusiasm.

You want to show your potential employer that you are sincerely interested and knowledgeable about the job. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the position. This shows that you've thought about it. Also, having a positive attitude going into an interview will increase your chances of being perceived as a competent and enthusiastic employee. Remind yourself that you are intelligent and hard working. Imagine yourself responding to the questions in a calm and confident manner. Research shows that this type of mental practice can help us in real-life situations.

And remember, even though you hate your current job, you may want to be careful about disclosing this in an interview, if at all. The goal of the interview is to convey that you are capable and interested, and would make a great addition to their company.

Begin applying for positions that interest you
You're ready to go for it! Look at the newspaper, Internet job boards, position announcements at your former college, and human resource departments at your desired companies. Send your resume with individualized cover letters for each organization to the appropriate place or person. You may also consider utilizing the services of a job headhunter, who can match you with potential job openings in your field(s) of interest.

Searching for a new job can take some time and a lot of effort, but finding a job that meets your goals and excites you is worth it. Keep this in mind: you made it through college so that you could find a better job. Commend yourself for that. You sound like you have a lot of determination. Alice hopes you find a rewarding position in the near future.

Good luck!

Alice

April 21, 2000

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In response to, I want a better job!: you are not alone. These days, most people go through several career changes — often in very different fields -- before they settle on a job that lasts until...
In response to, I want a better job!: you are not alone. These days, most people go through several career changes — often in very different fields -- before they settle on a job that lasts until retirement. Remember that life is a journey, not a destination. I think Americans, with their competitive nature, feel especially rushed to develop their lives before a certain age. Even people who major in hot new fields, such as international marketing and computer science, eventually find themselves insecure because future entry-level employees have more current training than they do. Take your time and enjoy the road to self-discovery! Fellow Job Searcher