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What Do I Say when I Don't Know what Career I Want to Pursue?

Q: "For the last six years, I've been the senior staff person on a very busy help desk. In November a multi-national corporation bought my company. When the inevitable downsizing occurred, I took the generous severance package and said goodbye. Now my friends are asking me what I plan to do next. Right now I don't want to think beyond taking a vacation and tackling some projects around the house. What can I tell them?"

A: Consider using a short-term answer first, then following up with a long-term one. For a couple of months you can say, "This is the first time I've had the opportunity to genuinely reflect on what I want in my career. I've decided to relax, regroup and think about where to go from here. I'm in the process of putting together my two-minute commercial. When it's ready, I'd like you feedback on it." With this response you can hold off the troops, reassure them you are concerned about your current and future well-being and offer the chance for input when you are ready for it.

Of course, this will only work if you are truly contemplating a description of your next position. To develop a great two-minute commercial, you'll need to identify what you do well and enjoy, the job titles requiring these activities and the environment that best supports your desired contribution. Below is an example of a good two-minute commercial.

"During my career I've been involved in various aspects of customer service from scheduling clients' appointments to handling unhappy customers over the phone and in person. Most recently I was the team leader on a phone-in help desk.

"After lots of thought, I've decided that, while I enjoy helping people and know a great deal about providing good customer service, I also want the responsibility and challenge management has to offer. Consequently, I am looking for a supervisory role in customer service where I will have some interaction with customers along with the opportunity to train and mentor employees.

"I'll make the greatest contribution at a start-up company or one with a very fast-paced environment where I can share my knowledge with willing learners. It's also important that higher management appreciate and reward hard work, innovation and flexibility."

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