Getting A Foothold On Your Career

In an uncertain job market, here's how to stay optimistic about your future

could be replaced any day,” the 30-year-old North Carolina native acknowledges. She is currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix, in an online master’s degree program in healthcare management, to broaden her options in public health.

Mitchell has changed jobs several times since graduating from Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina in 1994. Her first job was with Roche Laboratories in Atlanta, where she worked processing results in the histology lab. That job lasted 7 months before she moved to occupational medicine, where she educated and offered client services — such as worker’s compensation, and return-to-work programs — at what would eventually become Novacare Occupational Health Services. (The company was bought and sold three times during her 3-year tenure.) Frustrated with the lack of stability, she secured a position with insurance company, Crawford & Co., an international, third-party administrator, where she cut her teeth at claims adjusting. After a 2-year stint, she moved to Gallagher Bassett Services for a year and 8 months, and then applied to One Beacon which merged with what is now Montgomery Insurance.

“I would just move my boxes to another desk, another location,” offers Mitchell about her surviving the buyouts and mergers, “I learned to keep my knees bent.”

Both Mitchell and Pittman feel that returning to school will provide them with more flexibility and marketability in their career choices. But according to Janice Bryant Howroyd, chairman, CEO, and founder of ACT-1 Group in Torrance, California, employees with minimal years invested in the workforce need to be more specific and more detailed in their planning. She offers several key points that should be part of serious strategizing.

Match your personal decisions to your career goals. It is very important that young professionals determine how their personal lifestyle over the next five years will impact their careers goals and aspirations, says Bryant-Howroyd. Do you live at home? Are you married or do you plan to get married? Are there children, or do you plan to have children? Are you a homeowner, or do you plan to relocate? “You also need to learn to do more with less,” she offers. “Sit down and determine your expenditures on a daily basis — everything from rent to entertainment and even toothpaste. Put it on a chart with columns and heads. What is it costing me to live? This will help you determine not just how much you spend, but trends in your spending. It may be frustrating at first,” she continues, “but it will help you figure out whether you need to make a career change or a job change — which are two different things. You may work several jobs on your way to developing your career.”

Improve your health habits. This is very important. Making sure that you are physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy will phenomenally affect your attitude and your ability to focus and perform when learning new things, or moving on to new areas.

Understand what works best for you in a business culture. Do you perform better in smaller, more independently run

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