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Jessica Sweet of Wishing Well Coach on Finding a Fulfilling Career

Expert Interview Series

Jessica Sweet

Career Coach, Wishing Well Coach

Jessica Sweet, Wishing Well Coach, is a top career coach who works with midlife professionals to help them find work that's more meaningful.

We recently asked Jessica for her advice to young professionals on finding fulfilling careers and navigating their professional lives. Here's what she shared:

Can you tell us about your professional background? What led you to career coaching? What is your approach to helping your clients find the right careers?

My background is as a therapist, but I had my own career change after my first daughter was born and I was "knocked out" of the workforce because of my salary and the high cost of daycare. It just didn't make sense to go back to work and pay my entire paycheck to have someone else take care of her. So, I did some soul-searching to figure out what I wanted to do, and started my coaching business on the side. 

My approach to helping clients is to use a design thinking process. First, we think divergently about what possibilities are out there that might solve the problem, then we think convergently about the answers we've come up with.  

How should recent graduates and young job seekers approach starting their careers? What considerations should they make when looking for their first jobs?

There is a lot to consider when you're first starting out, but I think you really have to take a look at your values.  Do you care about work/life balance, financial success, enjoyment of your work day-to-day or something else? Decide what you value most, and then make decisions based on those values. Don't let other people's values make your decisions for you. 

What are the most common challenges facing young job seekers today? How can they overcome these challenges?

The biggest challenges for young job seekers are all related to the fact that they are just starting out. They lack the experience, skills and qualifications that would land them a better role, and so they are stuck in a trainee role, and many times there aren't enough of these to go around. Often, too, these roles are appropriate for the level of skills and experience, but not the level of intelligence of the employee – they may not be skilled, but they're bright, so it's hard to be in a role that's for a newbie. 

You can work to overcome these hurdles by gaining skills, experience and qualifications before you're in a position to seek your first real role. Volunteer, take additional courses, or find part-time work while you're still in school. That way, when you're ready to take on your first real job, you've already got the skills and experience you need to leapfrog ahead of the competition. 

What's the most important piece of advice you think a mid-career professional could pass on to their younger selves who are just starting out?

Do what you love. I see so many people who have spent their younger years climbing the ladder, but then feel like they wish they had a meaningful career to show for it. You can do something you love and make money too. Invest some time in figuring out what that career is, and you'll feel fulfilled your entire career. 

As someone who advises clients on mid-life career switches, what advice can you offer young professionals on being mindful of their interests in values throughout their lives?

Realize that your career won't be stagnant. This is probably less of a revelation for this generation than for past generations, but you'll have to be aware that there will be job and career changes along the way. You'll have to think about your career overview so you can see where you're going, especially since the career landscape will change rapidly because of technology and other forces. 

What are your favorite resources for launching a job search? What types of job search tools would you advise young job seekers avoid?

LinkedIn is amazing. I love LinkedIn. I also think people should be out in the world more, talking to the people they know and getting to know more people. That's how the best jobs are landed. Avoid at all costs just sending out resumes blindly. That's a black hole. 

What should young job seekers who might not have a lot of professional experience highlight on their resumes and online professional profiles? What are best practices for crafting a standout resume?

I'm not a resume writer, but I would say that you do yourself a huge favor by hiring a professional resume writer. Make sure you highlight anything that shows that you are employable, reliable, trustworthy or interesting. People will hire young people who are promising and show potential, even if it hasn't been realized yet. 

What type of research should young job seekers do ahead of their job interviews? What types of questions should they make sure to ask hiring managers?

You should be thinking about the job from the perspective of the company as well as your own perspective. What does the company need from you? Looking at the company's webpage will give you information about their mission and values. Figure out how you align with those and highlight that in your interviews. Ask questions that will impact how you'll fit or whether you'll be happy at the company. Do you want to know about culture, your growth potential, how you can make a difference there? Ask about that. 

What do you think young job seekers often overlook when interviewing for their first jobs? Why should they be mindful of these things?

I think jobseekers overlook the employers' perspective and think mostly about what they are getting out of the deal. The truth is, you really need to be looking at what you can give, too. When you look at how you can make a difference, you're setting yourself up to be a standout employee. 

What do young job seekers need to know about approaching their first salary negotiations?

Always negotiate. When you get the best deal for yourself, you've cut potentially years off of hard work to get to that salary that you've negotiated for. There is, however, an art to negotiation. It's a collaboration, not a war. These are people you're going to be working with, so you're going to want to have things go well. But the more you can feel good about what you get, the happier you'll be in your position. 

When is it time for a professional to switch jobs or careers? What are signs that a particular job or position is not a good fit?

You'll probably know. Sometimes it's hard to know if it's the job or the career, but you'll know when you feel burned out. Take some time off and come back to it, and see if that helps. Ask for what you need to make the situation better, and see if that helps. Get professional help in the form of a coach, and see if that helps. Take your career seriously. It impacts your happiness and your entire life. Don't let it go for too long with your happiness taking a hit. It's too important. 

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Zack Andresen

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