Fort Lewis Employment Smarts: turning work history into professional career
February 27, 2009
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Question: Since getting married to my Soldier-husband right after high school, I've had a variety of work (waitress, receptionist, movie theaterstaff, AFTB volunteer, fast-food cook and cashier). All were entry level, and I never got a real career going. I love that my husband is in the Army and making a career of it, and I've traveled and had opportunities I wouldn't have had if I wasn't a "career Army wife." How do I use my hodge-podge of jobs to get in a career field'
Answer: Think of each job as a building block for training and qualifying in a chosen career. There's that old saying about "... can't see the forest for the trees." It seems you are seeing each job ("tree") as unrelated to the others. All of the jobs you held can work together ("forest").
Here's how to connect them. First, examine the type of work you really want. Did you enjoy and do well as a cook, or was it the receptionist job that used your "people skills" and organizational abilities' Focus on the job that you liked best, and make three lists, such as: List 1: Tasks Performed Daily: opened the business, answered the telephone, checked returned voice-mail calls, made appointments, recorded service transactions. List 2: Tasks Performed Weekly: notified delinquent accounts, dealt with customer service issues, recorded time cards. List 3: Tasks Performed Monthly and Special Projects: ordered office supplies, created the monthly service report, billed accounts, coordinated awards presentations.
Next in each list, number the jobs from the most advanced skills to the simplest. You probably learned something on each job - check for tasks in each of the jobs that are related to the job that you identified as your favorite. When you worked as an Army Family Team Building volunteer, you set up fund-raisers, recruited new members, and organized the classes.
You worked a job when you volunteered, but (in effect) you donated the pay. You can use a descriptive job title, such as program assistant. Dealing with people for better performance is a transferrable skill, and it's one that can help you to justify a higher level position.
For a job that is above entry-level, you'll need a resume. Consider leaving out the simplest tasks when you create your resume (and definitely leave out tasks you don't want to do again); the most advanced skills are the ones that you'll want to emphasize. Don't apply for entry-level jobs; your skills may be the most advanced in the office. Since you've already worked in the entry-level, you can negotiate for the next level of pay. Jobs that require new skills with more precise results pay more; lower percentage increases are paid in jobs that do not require new skills and pay is based on the length of time in the position.
Check with your Employment Readiness Program Specialist for pay guidance.
Getting an answer to your job question might benefit others. E-mail your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Bennett directs Fort Lewis' ACS Employment Readiness Office.