George Moriarty, executive director of workforce development at Northern Essex Community College, has worked in the field for three decades. He began his career as a job counselor to high school dropouts and, before going to Northern Essex, served as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Career Services. Globe correspondent Frank Olito spoke to Moriarty about his advice for job seekers, career changers, and others who want to get ahead. Here’s what he found out.
1At Northern Essex Community College, Moriarty develops programs and classes to teach basic skills needed to get a job. But employers are demanding higher and higher levels of skills — even for entry-level jobs.
“Technology has driven the upward push for a skill level,” Moriarty said. “Now there are even computerized cash registers. The technologies have really raised the bar for just about every job there is out there. “
The best way to advance a career? Find ways to take on more responsibilities.
“Do your own job the best way possible, but always try to help with the jobs a notch or two above you, and that’s what the bosses above you will be looking for.”
3Layoffs can be devastating, but they can also provide second chances to pursue long-held dreams or new horizons. In the period between jobs, consider whether you want to continue in your field or start over.
“It’s time to reassess your job. It’s a new start for you. It’s painful to be laid off, it’s frightening, but it also opens another opportunity to think where you want to go.”
4 Look for mentors. Mentors can help you change careers or excel in your current one. A mentor might provide advice, references, or just a friendly ear for ideas and questions. A mentor can also help you set goals and track your progress.
“It’s good to have a mentor in the same field. They’re the guide who has been there before [as] you’re walking down a path you’ve never been. It’s good to have someone in front of you who knows where the places you can stumble.”
5Many people forget that volunteering is a great way to get involved in and learn about other fields — and possible careers. For example, someone interested in the health care field might volunteer at a hospital. Many people have preconceived notions about certain industries, but the hands-on experience of volunteering can provide a more accurate picture.
“Give your time freely, and then you understand what it’s like. If you volunteer, you are on the inside and then you can move from room to room.”
6Everyone knows networking is probably the best way to get a job. But many people forget the connections they’ve made over their careers. Take an inventory and refresh contacts that may have faded over the years.
“We need to go back and touch those connections. By talking to people who are doing what you want to be doing, you begin to get a better understanding. You need to learn the about the work environment.”
7Success is not just measured by money. Acquiring new skills, advancing in a career, achieving goals are often the most rewarding for a worker.
“The most satisfaction we will get out of jobs is becoming better. It’s the growth that means so much to people. I started out as a counselor to kids and ended up as a statewide director. I think we all want that kind of growth.”
Frank Olito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.