Former Secretaries of Labor give good job advice


It’s that time of year when you realize it’s the last meeting of class and you haven’t done the reading since October. Magical. We had our final session of “Leadership and Social Change” (formerly “Agency Management” but revamped to focus more on being a, you know, leader, and less on running a bureaucracy).

Anyhoo, the topic of the class yesterday was Your Fabulous Careers. Bob passed along some common-sensible but valuable job advice, which I thought I’d continue to pass for all of you current or future job hunters out there.

*sorry, sorry

Here we go:

Resist the temptation to want a fancy-sounding job title. A lot of people come out of grad school looking for a title that justifies their dedication of years and work and money—something a little more high-status than you had before school. This is completely understandable, and might work out, but don’t prioritize status, at all.

What you do want to look for is a good perch, a good boss, and potential mentors. Perch means you are able to see a lot of your field, get the lay of the land, meet a lot of people and find out who is doing what kind of work. Good boss: someone who will stretch and develop your skills, is a decent manager, and won’t make you feel like you need to compromise your intergrity. Potential mentors: people who will be willing to teach you.

How do you find these things? Not the crap-shoot of job listings, that’s for damn sure. Start by calling up three people who are about five years ahead of you in whatever field you’re interested in, and ask them for advice about how they got where they are, what sort of work they like to do, etc. And, ask them who else you should talk to. Repeat several times, till you talked to a dozen or so people. After a month of this, you should have a much better idea of what kind of jobs are out there, who might be good to work for, and who’s looking for help. To me it sounds like benign networking—it’s not just about who you know or whether you have an in to some twisted cabal, it’s about who you’ve talked to and what you’ve learned. Much less…seedy.

Anyway, it lessened my terror of life after graduation, so I thought I’d share.

One thought on “Former Secretaries of Labor give good job advice

  1. Although I will tell you this: I’ve gotten at least four jobs in my life off craigslist (as well as enough furninture, cars, dates, and arguably husbands to last a lifetime) that were *perfect* for me at the time, including the one I have now.

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