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Career Corner
A foot in the door

Roberta Chinsky Matuson -- No matter what industry you're aiming for, you need to get your foot in the door.

Many articles make this seem easy to do, but real life is another matter. It takes a lot of determination and effort to turn your career dreams into reality. So, grab a cup of high-test and let's get going. You're going to need all the energy you have to make it through this trying--yet potentially rewarding--period.

Attitude Adjustment Time

Before you get going, make sure your attitude is in check. Most people approach a job search with trepidation. But it doesn't have to be this way. This is a wonderful and exciting time for you. You have the opportunity to fulfill your dreams. Remember, it's all about choices and you are taking the first step towards controlling your destiny.

Karen Pappas, principal of Boston-based Pappas and Pappas, tries to help people get their feet in the door every day. A third-party recruiter, Pappas has been in the HR industry for a number of years and has some great advice on mental attitudes and job searches. For one thing, Pappas believes that too many people approach their job search as a dreaded chore. Jobseekers need to tweak their attitudes a little. "This is about needs, dreams, and fulfilling your passion," she says. "You are one step closer to achieving one of your ultimate goals in life."

Tips to Get You Going

Before you start knocking on doors, make sure you have a plan. Pappas offers some suggestions:

*Take the time to do your homework beforehand.
*Make sure you have a well-written resume and cover letter.
*Use the Internet to determine your target market.
*Put together a clear plan of attack, and hit the ground running.

And you should also start networking immediately. Everyone with whom you come in contact--parents at the soccer field, for example--may be of help in your search. You'd be surprised how many great contacts are made at after-school soccer games.

Starting at the Bottom

We can't just walk in the door and start at the top, but do we really have to start at the bottom? That depends. If you consider the following questions closely, then you'll better be able to evaluate your job prospects.

*What does the current labor market look like?
*Are there more jobs than there are candidates?
*What does your skill set look like?
*Will your current educational level allow you to move on to the next step?

People often say, "Just get your foot in the door and you can move up from there." Just be careful where you step. If you enter an organization as an administrative employee, you will probably be considered an administrative person until the day you leave. Yes, a few secretaries may rise all the way to the top, but not many.

If the job market is strong and you have the skills necessary to move into an entry-level position, find companies that offer training programs. Financial institutions and retail organizations are just a few of the industries where you are likely to find these programs. The pay might not be outstanding, but you will gain experience and contacts that will pay off later on in your career.

This advice is fine if you are just coming out of college, but what do you do if you are going through a career change?

Repackage Yourself

Leslie Friedman, HR generalist for The Chickering Group in Massachusetts, knows firsthand about career changes and getting your foot in the door. Several years ago, Friedman left her government job to go into HR. Armed with a second master's degree in the field, Friedman hit the ground running--only to find many roadblocks in her way.

Friedman's lack of corporate HR experience seemed to be a major stumbling block. At the time of her search, companies were looking for people with recruiting experience, which she did not have. So, on the advice of friends, Friedman approached someone through her networking efforts about a possible internship. Her only compensation was gaining the necessary experience to break into the corporate world of HR.

It never hurts to go on informational interviews, make a few cold calls, and attend professional meetings. You might even try, like Friedman, to land an internship and develop core skills. "You have to gain more and more experience," she confirms, "so that you can move ahead." Getting your foot in the door is a difficult process. Set realistic goals and try not to get disappointed. Many doors may be slammed in your face before the right one is opened.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, of, is an independent human resource consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the field. She is a principal at the consulting firm HR Solutions.

(c) 2002

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