Career counselor shares her advice: Begin at the end

Diana Barnett, a career counselor who’s just written a book on landing a professional job, also has launched a business offering coaching and assistance with job searches. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Diana Barnett, a career counselor who’s just written a book on landing a professional job, also has launched a business offering coaching and assistance with job searches. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Diana Barnett believes a job search — or a decision on what to study in college or what career to pursue, for that matter — should begin at the end.

What sounds like paradoxical advice is understandable, Barnett said, when people first consider what it is they want to do and then set goals to realize their aspirations. Those who envision themselves as professionals are more likely to become one. They probably could use some professional help along the way, though, and that’s where Barnett fits in.

A career counselor who’s just written the book on landing a professional job, Barnett has launched Red Rocks Career Coaching. The Grand Junction firm offers help with everything from choosing a college major and a career to preparing resumes and cover letters to hunting for jobs and interviewing.

While some basic principles and techniques generally apply, Barnett tailors her services to her clients. “Every person is different. That’s where the coaching comes in.”

Barnett has worked as a career counselor at Colorado Mesa University in assisting students choose a major; get internships; and, as they near graduation, search for jobs. In addition to working with students individually, Barnett also has led classroom workshops on various topics.

Barnett said she’s compiled the information she’s offered students into a new book she’s written titled “Landing That Professional Job.” Chapters cover such topics as career exploration, cover letters, interviews, job search strategies, references and resumes. A chapter on troubleshooting helps people encountering difficulty in getting interviews or job offers. Each chapter ends with practical advice related to the subject of that chapter.

While “Landing That Professional Job” serves as a guide for college students, Barnett said the book also provides useful assistance to high school students and their parents as well as adults who’re already working, but considering changing careers.

Ideally, career exploration should begin early on for students, Barnett said — in middle school or even elementary school. “The earlier they can get started, the better.”

Students should be presented with opportunities to learn what various occupations and workplaces are like and what qualities are needed to succeed in a given career.

Students also should be encouraged to talk with people who work in the careers in which they’re interested — or better yet, spend some time with them on the job.

That process should continue as students go through high school and even college, Barnett says.

Students should take advantage of resources, Barnett said, including high school and college counselors. Resources also are available from the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers information online about occupations as well as the outlook for employment in various fields, she said.

In deciding on college majors and careers, students should consider such factors as their interests, the classes they’ve enjoyed or performed particularly well in, and whether they prefer to work alone or in teams, Barnett said. They should also try to distinguish between vocational and avocational interests.

While not all interests might apply directly to a given job, there could be opportunities to expand a role to include those interests, she said.

In searching for a job, Barnett said it’s important that people assert themselves in striving to realize their goals, but also prepare for the process in designing a professional-looking resume targeted to given position, writing an effective cover letter that explains why they’re the best candidate and learning and practicing skills that result in successful interviews.

Networking is a critical component, Barnett said, because studies show that
50 percent to 80 percent of job openings aren’t advertised. Those looking for jobs should let as many people as possible know  they’re doing so and the kind of positions for which they’re suited. LinkedIn and other forms of social media can help, she said.

Internships and volunteer work often can lead to full-time, paid employment, Barnett said.

Those who already have jobs and work full-time but are considering career changes, should assess their skills and experience and whether or not they transfer to other fields, Barnett said. A career change could also depend on whether a person wants to remain in a geographic area or would consider relocating, she said.

Regardless of whether someone is exploring careers, choosing a college major, looking for a job or considering a change, help is available, Barnett said. “Take advantage of all the professional assistance.”