Work Interview: Colleen Plasek


Colleen Plasek – career coach, Bellevue University (http://www.bellevue.edu/student-support/career-services/career-services) 

What are the best resources locally and online for our local workforce to advance their careers?

What I recommend to people locally here in the Omaha market, Careerlink (careerlink.com) is a great resource. But I also use Indeed (indeed.com) a lot because they work in different ways. The nice part about Indeed is that it will search a lot of different sites but with Careerlink it has to be posted directly on Careerlink; so this kind of offers both for you. I don’t want people to miss any openings; I want them to see everything that’s out there so they have all of the opportunities in front of them. For Bellevue University students we have on online job posting system that we do in collaboration with some other local schools, so I always recommend that people get into that as well. 

Another resource I think is tremendous for everyone to use is LinkedIn (linkedin.com). I talk about LinkedIn in almost every conversation I have with students and alumni because it’s such a valuable resource to find companies and people, and people who might work in the job field who might be able to provide some perspective on the job or how they got into the career path or field. And you can find other people are associated with Bellevue University…It’s power, and it’s reaching out to find people who are doing what you want to do.

What is the future of work in this area? 

Right now there seems to be lot of people hiring. It’s a wonderful time to be looking for a job. We had a tremendous response to our spring career fair. We had more employers come that we’ve had in a long time. We had a waiting list right and a lot of people who called and asked to get on the waiting list. It’s a good time to be looking for a job now because it seems to be shifting back into a market where it’s an employee’s market. And I haven’t been able to see that in a long time. 

Where are the jobs and how do we get ready for them?

I pulled up information from NACE—the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which is the main association and voice of our world and core services—and their listing had finance, accounting and computer science as top fields. I don’t think anyone would argue with those, they’ve been kind of big for a while. Another area, the trades, are kind of a big deal; there is a lot of demand for people in those areas. 

Usually the first step that I recommend is that you have to identify what are your strengths, skills and abilities; what is it you’re good at and what are your interests. And then we go from there. What is the end goal? Where do you want to land at the end? And then we figure out how to get there. 

The other thing we talk about is a plan B, knowing that life happens and it might derail what your plan was…How can you adjust and what other things can you do? A favorite story I talk about a lot is that if you are in love with marine biology but you don’t want to leave Nebraska, something’s got to give. There are ways to make it work, but it’s going to require compromise. What are you willing to give up, what are you willing to adjust to make it work?

The other thing I like to focus on is that when you’re making decisions on your career plans and what you want to do, focus on what you’re most excited about and passionate about right now. When you’re 18 or 20 years old, you’re probably not going to have one job for the rest of your life. You might not even have one career for the rest of your life…Bellevue University is a leader in adult learning and we have a lot of students who are changing careers in the middle for some reason or another. They got bored, they needed something different, they needed a new challenge. That’s okay. That’s the world we live in now. People are changing direction, so don’t stress out that this has to be a permanent choice, because it’s not. 

What are the biggest challenges holding the workforce back from career advancement? 

That’s a lot more individualized. Sometimes it’s fear of the unknown; the idea of having to investigate what’s out there is scary. (If you’re) comfortable in your current job, taking the next step a risky proposition. I see people at all stages of their lives making changes and anything is possible.

What do you wish job-seekers knew better as they aim to advance their careers?

 I always tell job-seekers that the process takes time. It almost always takes longer than you want and you want it yesterday. Just be realistic in knowing that it’s going to take some time. Also, you want to be actively working on your search and you want to be doing something every day, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything every day. If you look at the same three or for websites every day, they’re probably not going to change that much. Hopefully, if you’re doing a lot of networking that can help things go faster because you have a lot of people championing your cause. 

What do you wish employers knew better as they seek talent?

It’s easy to overlook someone if they don’t make it through a training program or they don’t have exactly what’s in that job description, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do that job. The can pick it up, but it just takes some more training. That’s where that networking comes into play; If you have someone who says you’re a really good person and a fast learner who can pick this up, they might be more willing to give it a shot. 

A lot of people are frustrated that it’s like sending everything into a black hole because they never get any feedback at all…I encourage people to follow up when they can: Did they get (the application/resume)? Where are they at in the hiring process? What is the timeline? 

What are employers doing to retain their current staff?

There’s where tuition remission is big, because then people have the freedom, if they get their degree, to advance in the company. It might help them branch out into another area of the company. Encourage them to learn more and develop themselves as professionals by providing opportunities to get promoted; people are really looking for that. And being willing to let them change directions if they want to—I know that’s hard, because if you’re really good in one role they want to keep you where you are. But I think it would be better to retain employees than to lose them.


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