When Dina Epstein was interviewing for jobs her senior year of college in 2001, she said an interview went something like this:
"I told my interviewer that I wanted to work in advertising, and he asked me, Why? What have you read recently in Advertising Age?' I didn't really have a good answer for why I wanted to work in advertising, and I hadn't even heard of Advertising Age!"
Epstein, a former Columbia University admissions director and founder of Admit One college consulting, Washington, D.C, fell into the common twentysomething job-seeker trap: haphazardly applying to jobs.
Fast-forward to 2007 and enter Emily McLellan, the founder of Springboard Career Consultants, a sanctuary for twentysomething job seekers.
McLellan, 30, says the germ for her business came from the overflow of students she saw being handled at career-counseling centers and the lack of personalized attention twentysomethings receive about how to navigate the highly competitive 21st-century job market.
"Career-counseling centers on college campuses have over 1,000 students they are working with" McLellan said. "It's just not possible for them to give the kind of individualized attention that job seekers today need."
While the term "career counselor" can sound somewhat nebulous, the approach at Springboard is anything but.
McLellan's mantra: Find your focus.
Career counselors, she says, can help two very different types of job seekers -n all under the auspices of the find-your-focus mantra.
"We work with people who are already zeroed in on what they want to do and just need help executing their goals, as well those who are still trying to figure out their career path," McLellan said. "I recently worked with a young man who wanted a job in financial services. He had the background and skills for the industry. We helped him to validate his career path, develop a network and refine his résumé. He landed a great internship that will hopefully be a pathway to a full-time job."
For others, however, the path to a career doesn't look like a straight line. Many job seekers, particularly in their 20s, are unsure about how to turn their skills and interests in to a job, let alone a career.
McLellan says that's the main currency of seeking outside help. A professional that can help you match your skills and interests to a career path. But identifying how your skills will augment your interests and talents is only one part of the process.
"I recently worked with a young woman to figure how to merge her interests in science and media," McLellan said. "There were a number of strategic steps we took before she landed a job. We honed her résumé to make it industry specific, identified contacts and decided that an internship was the most appropriate position for her to start in. She quickly, however, parlayed the internship into a full-time job."
Sounds like magic, right?
McLellan said the approach is so effective in landing clients in career-tracked jobs because of the rigorous assessment process that leads to an extremely focused job search.
"I think one of the tendencies for job seekers, particularly in their 20s, is to scattershot their résumé, which doesn't put you in a very strong position. There's nothing more compelling to an employer than an industry-specific résumé and a candidate that can talk comfortably and articulately about why they are qualified for the position."
And don't think career counselors only are for the newly minted graduates.
Rebecca Lurie, 28, sought career counseling three years in to her first job.
"I felt pressure to decide what to do next, and I wanted to talk to someone about what I was envisioning for the long term in my career."
While Lurie didn't end up switching jobs or fields, she says going to a career counselor helped validate her decision to go to business school.
"The career counselor I saw also assisted me in putting together of network of people I know, beyond just my friends. I found that extremely useful because it helped me think about how broad my network is n and how to use that group of people as I progress in my career."