An Interview with Career Columnist Andrea Kay: This is How To Get Your Next Job
I am nerding out as I write this intro… I can’t believe we had the opportunity to interview nationally syndicated Career Columnist, Andrea Kay!!! Andrea’s resume is unreal: she’s published 6 career books, she speaks to Fortune 50 companies, she’s made several TV appearances and writes a column called “At Work” that’s published in USA Today and Gannett newspapers across the United States, Canada and several other countries. She might be my career idol!
Andrea has a new book coming out on April 18th called This is How to Get Your Next Job: An Inside Look at what Employers Really Want. I’m pretty sure 8 out of 10 of you might need to read this book, if not for immediate use, to go into the next chapter of your career with gusto.
Read on to feel a little bit more normal about your career and to get inside the head of someone who has some amazing career advice.
Tell us about your career BEFORE becoming a career consultant, author and syndicated columnist.
I graduated college with a journalism degree and a minor in rhetoric communications and started out in communications in the corporate world. I wrote internal publications. I assisted with media relations and advertising and learned about promotion, marketing and media. I was always fascinated and concerned with how people communicated and interacted and was focused on enhancing both through my writing and internal training programs.
I also did freelance writing for magazines on the side. Later, I had my own writing and public relations firm, learning and writing about everything from education, wellness and toys, to construction, hospitals, finance and mental health. Later on, when I wanted to hone my writing skills (I am just mad about language and effective communications) I worked as an advertising copywriter for a major ad agency. It was the most fun job I ever had. I wrote TV, print and radio for banks, amusement parks, grocery chains and editorials for political issues.
I also created a side business in which I wrote stories and developed artwork for weddings that told how a couple met; I had them printed and delivered to the bride which she handed out to guests. I knew the advertising gig was a stepping stone to something bigger. I just knew I wanted more. So I was spending a lot of time reflecting on what mattered most to me, what I was good at and how I could best utilize my skills to help others. It was 1987. I traveled a lot and observed what was changing in the world, what people needed, and what I was most curious about.
I had always loved reading psychology books and have a deep interest in self expression. Earlier on, I had begun training to become a public speaker—something else that fascinated me. I was adept at getting to the core of an issue quickly and seeing a course of action. I knew how to position and package products and services.
Putting all that together, I decided I wanted to focus my work on disseminating information about careers—something I was curious about and people needed help in. I created a vision of what I wanted—picturing myself writing, speaking and helping others who didn’t know how to tap into what was deep inside them and then how to go about having it. I learned how to counsel people. I read and learned everything I could get my hands on about careers, management, business, leadership, self esteem, fear, motivation, trust and more. And then I implemented my vision to establish myself as an expert—first through consulting, then writing a column, speaking, being on TV and radio and then writing books.
What led you to write this book?
Two things. One, I couldn’t stand listening to myself yell at the radio anymore. I’d be getting ready for the day listening to the radio and I’d hear a report about unemployment with people saying things like “I’m looking for something where I can use my skills with people and maybe computers” and I’d starting yelling, “Don’t say that!” This went on every day.
Two, I wanted to know if my husband was crazy. He had been trying to find an employee for his small business for six months. He’d come home complaining about what potential employees were saying and doing in e-mails and during interviews. He finally gave up, discouraged about the whole thing. I wondered, “Was it him? Was he right?” I started talking to employers at all size companies. They were experiencing the same thing. They couldn’t find good people to fill openings. They told me similar stories about what people were saying and doing. It was terrible. Even though I have been writing about these issues for over 25 years, we were in a different time and place. People are more desperate. With so much fear and desperation and misunderstanding between workers and employers, I thought maybe I could bridge the gap somewhat.
I wanted people to know—it’s not that hard to stand out. There are jobs. You can get hired. But, you have to stop doing what you’re doing and do this instead to make that happen. So I decided it was time to write another book.
Of the girls who read MsCareerGirl, which group do you think this book is most relevant for: those in their first few years of “the real world,” career changers or those looking to reach the next level in their careers?
It’s relevant to anyone who is trying to make a change—which could mean finding a new job in the same field or a different job in a new career direction. Even if you’re looking to interview internally or move up in your career at a later stage, everything I write about here applies to you and how you present yourself. It will make you very aware of the most crucial thing to understand in your career: the importance of “how you are”.
You wrote another book called Life’s a Bitch and then You Change Careers. Tell us about this book. It seems like so many Gen Y’ers – myself included – change career paths a few times before they figure it out.
People choose careers for many reasons—some not very well thought out. Others have to change because of health reasons, or their industry or role is becoming obsolete. There’s no such thing as the absolute perfect career or a perfect career path. People change. As they go through various life stages, their interests or focus changes. For me—and for many others—there’s a desire to do more. To help people, perhaps. Careers change as people, life and the world outside, changes. Life’s a Bitch and Then You Change Careers helps you get to know yourself and the various things that comprise a satisfying career—at whatever point you’re at. So if you just fell into a career and never liked it, this book helps you see what would be more enjoyable. I ask you questions, give you exercises to help you do that. It helps you think more openly and expansively—not just about a job title. Then I show you how to research what you think you want. I know you’ll be nervous, afraid, worried. So I walk you through that. I show you how to market yourself for your new career. I still get e-mails from people telling me how they did everything I told them in this book and it changed their life. I love getting those notes.
What role do you believe social media plays in ones career/job search?
First, it’s a tool that if used wisely, can help you establish yourself as a professional and build on that post by post.
It’s only a tool, though. You still have to talk to actually talk to people. It can help you build a reputation—hopefully a good one—if you’re strategic about how you use it. It can help you connect with people. Discover people you want to follow to learn from. It can help others know about you where, again, you can build a consistent, professional reputation. In a job search, it helps you find people you may want to approach to ask questions about a company, a job or a career direction. It is a place that allows others to research information about you. So it’s crucial—and permanent. Use it wisely.
Are you fan of people who have a “side hustle” outside of their day jobs? Could side hustles be perceived negatively in an interview?
I find it amusing that there’s a new name for something people have been doing forever. Some folks see this as Plan B—in case things don’t work out at their day jobs. But it may not necessarily be the thing you want to do full-time. It may be more of a hobby that is something you make some money doing, but don’t want to turn into a full-time business. I think being involved in other ventures can be great for some people. You can learn a lot and who knows, maybe it can turn into something you want to do full time at some point. Sure, it could be perceived negatively in an interview if you mishandle how you talk about it. If you sound more excited about that than the job at hand, that’s not good. And if it sounds like it might interfere with this job, that’s not good either. You want to demonstrate that you’re a well-rounded person with other interests. And maybe, just maybe, some of what you’re learning with your outside gig is even applicable and beneficial to this job.
I’ve always had side endeavors—doing and selling artwork, writing, developing other small businesses. Today I have another project that involves art, performing and speaking. You can learn more at FlutterbybyAndreaKay.com. (Yes, always promoting.)
What can women do to increase their chances of higher pay?
Showing the employer the value you bring to the position is what matters most. That’s why they’re paying you. So first, you need to know exactly what that value is and two, be able to explain it with specific examples. Know what problems you solve and how that can help the company or past companies. Practice this. Say it succinctly. Back it up with specifics.
Women should focus on their value, not what they “need.” Again, you’ll increase your chances of higher pay when you think like the employer. Which is understanding how to justify your paycheck by all the great things you do that make the company better, more competitive, more profitable and able to meet its goals.
Could you give us a few previews of your “15 Things You Should Never Talk About or Say” list?
#1: Don’t talk about things you can’t back up.
If you’re going to say “Works well on teams” in your resume, online or in person, you better know what you mean. You might be the most supportive, reliable, flexible team player on the planet. But if you can’t share some examples of how you’ve been so terrific, don’t say it. Everyone says things like this. And without juicy details, employers will conclude you’re exaggerating or not being honest about your abilities, you don’t really understand what that means, you’re not an effective communicator or you just said it because it sounds good.
#4: Don’t talk about TMPI (Too Much Personal Information.)
This includes hard-luck stories about sick children, pets and mothers, broken-down cars, religion, politics and bouts of depression. If you’re trying to create a bond with the employer or hope to gain sympathy, it has the opposite effect. It shows poor judgment, lack of professionalism and immaturity. Employers may also think your personal life is such a wreck you may not be dependable. Or that you’re overly dramatic. Stick to why you’re qualified for the job.
#7: Don’t say “I have good people skills.”
Everything says this too. The words mean nothing. If you are indeed someone who is “good with people” (don’t say that either) –say so in a way that has some teeth and relevance to the employer. Explain what you mean. Do you speak in a way that makes it easy for clients to understand what you mean? Do you put people at ease quickly? Explain it that way and have a couple examples that show how that makes a difference in the type of work you do.
Where can we follow your column?
My column appears in many papers every week and in USA Today every Saturday. I also post it to my Facebook fan page every week and on Twitter: @AndreaKayCareer. Or check out my Website where I post most of them eventually: AndreaKay.com.