I think my life coach is giving me bad advice

A reader writes:

I graduated from college last year and quickly found a job in my field of study (journalism). It wasn’t my dream position, but I enjoyed it. I was unfortunately laid off, without very good reason. That was about two months ago and I have been job hunting since.

My parents thought I should see a life coach to help me figure out my next steps. (I had been considering leaving my last job for a while and had begun the job search, but wasn’t planning on leaving until I made it at least a year. I was only there 10 months.) And I haven’t found her help to be completely helpful.

For one, she constantly spouts the figure that “80% of jobs are unlisted.” She doesn’t think online job listings are the best way to get a job and thinks instead I should be contacting people in my field (who I don’t know) to ask for to meet them. I don’t think this is bad in theory, but it doesn’t seem like an easy way to get a job.

Two, personality tests: she had me take one to see whether my “personality” matched with my career choice (it did). And while the website does give in depth detail about each job, I didn’t think it was a great way of determining where you should go.

Three, she thinks my headline on LinkedIn ought to be more engaging and that I need a more interesting background pic. I don’t really understand this bit at all.

Some of her advice has been kind of helpful, but very little of it has related to my job hunt and instead has related to other parts of my life that I needed to get together. I’ve been following your blog for awhile and it seems a lot of her advice contradicts what you say. I wanted to give her a chance, but I just can’t seem to mesh well with her.

I’m still job hunting and have only had one phone screen interview despite applying to 50-plus places. I had another, but the interviewer had to reschedule and hasn’t gotten back to me with a new date. A few other places have contacted me to see if I’m still looking but not to schedule interviews, yet.

I’ve done some freelance in the meantime, but that’s managed to fall by the wayside since some things have come up. I don’t think my resume is the issue. It managed to get me plenty of interviews out of college. I’m not really sure what to do and I want to scream.

Yeah, do not take further career advice from her. This is the classically bad advice you hear from people who have no idea what they’re actually taking about.

I don’t know if her non-work, non-job-search advice is any good, but based on the job stuff, I’m skeptical about that too.

There’s really no evidence backing up the idea that 80% of jobs are unlisted, but it’s a myth that gets often repeated — usually by people who have a financial incentive in you believing that, since if you can’t find jobs through job postings, then job searching is a mysterious process and you’ll need their advice about how to get leads. It also gets repeated by people who don’t have a lot of experience hiring and thus don’t recognize how off that number is.

It’s certainly not a terrible idea to network in your field — it’s a good idea, in fact — but you’re very right that asking to meet strangers is not an easy way to get a job. Asking to meet with strangers to broaden your network is more of a long-term strategy; it’s not the thing most likely to get you a job right now. The thing most likely to get you a job right now is (a) applying to job postings in your field, and in your case, sending writing clips, and (b) talking with the people who are already in your network and thus most likely to help you.

I don’t know what your headline is on LinkedIn, but unless it’s something that’s actively off-putting (like “will work for cocaine” or “I eat children”), making it more engaging isn’t in the top 20 most important actions you could be taking for your job search. And a more interesting background picture isn’t something that’s even going to register for employers. No one cares if you have a background picture or not. The fact that she thinks they do is a really, really bad sign about her understanding of what gets people hired.

Which leads us to … what exactly are her credentials in this area? I’d bet good money that she hasn’t done significant hiring and instead is basing her advice on things other people have written, without the ability to rigorously evaluate it, separate good advice from bad, know what’s outdated, judge it against her own experience, or apply it with nuance.

Please don’t keep paying her (and don’t let your parents keep paying her, if they’re doing that). She’s basically running a scam, and I’m sorry you got caught up in it.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 345 comments… read them below }

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Nah, but it always comes across to me as counseling without a therapist’s clinical training and license.

      1. Kate R*

        That was my impression too. I always considered them like a personalized motivational speaker. I don’t want to crap on the whole profession because admittedly, I just don’t understand it, but this one has not changed my mind.

        1. Specialk9*

          The ones you want are CTI certified. There’s a website. My friend was really close to that career path, and that was her recommendation. My husband went to the CTI website, found someone specific to his career, and got amazing advice – the stuff that he couldn’t have heard from me but could from a coach. And it worked, he got the job.

      2. TIFF*

        My therapist actually referred me to a life coach. I needed someone to help me make decisions and even tell me what to do sometimes… ethically she couldn’t do that, therapists are only supposed to help you come to this stuff on your own.

        1. General Ginger*

          I’d trust my therapist’s recommendation of one; she’s a professional, and her recommendations have always been solid. But I’d be reluctant to just go to a life coach I found in the phone book.

      3. CoveredInBees*

        I worked with a coach on work (but not solely work) related things and found her very helpful. It was a lot of advice that you’d get from a parent who actually knew what they were talking about. I talked to five different people whose names I’d gotten from people I actually know. She was the only one I clicked with. However, I can see how the area would be ripe for scams. Caveat emptor.

    2. Caryatis*

      Pretty much. You can be a life coach with zero credentials. Better options: for career advice, talk to someone you know who is successful in your field. For general life advice, talk to a therapist or friend.

      1. Artemesia*

        I did a little group therapy back in the dark ages and one thing I noticed is that often the neediest most dysfunctional people in the group were the ones who got certified to lead groups and tried to make a career counseling people. And I have watched a lot of very weak students and very poor business people go into business consulting. It has made me very dubious about counseling consulting type roles unless the person has a pretty stellar track record.

        1. selena81*

          I’m autistic and i never seize being amazed by the massive number of people who sell themselves as ‘experience expert autist-therapist’.
          Like, if you are kinda bad at talking to people maybe *don’t* make it into your job.

          I am far more interested in f.e. the opinion of my (strongly suspected by me to be autistic) math-teacher.
          I want advice from people who generally-speaking succeeded at life, not from people who choose to define themselves by their biggest shortcoming.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammo*

      It really depends. Some life coaches are excellent (but often require a degree of counseling), but there are many folks who call themselves life coaches and have no business advising people.

      The other disconnect seems to be that OP would like a career coach, which is somewhat different. Either way, this doesn’t seem like it’s benefitting OP.

      1. Anonymous Career Coach*

        Agreed. This coach is not benefiting the OP. Coaching is not a licensed profession, though there is a push for licensing within my field of career coaching. If anyone is considering working with a career coach, you should find out what education/training they have completed for their field, how much and what kinds of experience they have, and their connection to the field (professional associations, publishing, conferences…). You should also ask them how much time they spend researching. I read almost as much now in my consulting business as I did when I was in graduate school. It’s the only way to keep up with developments and trends related to hiring and employment.

        There are tons of bad coaches out there, but there are good ones too. It’s worth it to do the digging and set up consultations before investing.

      2. Specialk9*

        There are respected credentials, and then just any old yahoos with a business card. But the latter doesn’t take away from the validity of the ones with certs.

        1. Specialk9*

          The respected credential I know of is CTI.

          I posted above that sorting for that cert helped my husband find someone hugely helpful in his career transition.

          1. Anonymous Career Coach*

            I’m familiar with CTI as the Coaches Training Institute. Here, the designation is CDP (Career Development Practitioner) along with whatever additional credentials someone gains through continuing education, like through ICF (International Coaching Federation) or similar PD programs.

            Glad your husband found someone helpful!

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      IME, the life coaches I’ve met (who actually bill themselves as Life Coaches) are not people who seem especially happy or successful in the traditional sense of the word; so, I have never looked kindly upon that profession.

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      One of the girls on Teen Mom (MTV “reality” show; we all have our guilty pleasures) decided she wanted to be life coach. I now side-eye the entire field.

      1. always in email jail*

        OK I’m an avid watcher and can’t think of who this is, except I think it was the one selling lip gloss who decided this a season or two ago but then we’ve never heard about it since?

    6. Secretary*

      where are you getting pyramid scheme? FTC defines that as a business model based on hierarchy that doesn’t involve product/service being rendered.

      I mean, lots of people mistake MLMs as pyramid schemes (most of them are sketchy but most not illegal pyramid) but a life coach?

      1. always in email jail*

        There’s definitely been a rise in former acquaintances who are now “life coaches” in what appears to be a MLM-esque business model in my social media feeds the past 6 months.

        1. CM*

          Yes, I’ve also heard of life coaches who can’t make enough money so they end up coaching other people on how to become life coaches. I don’t think it’s a formal a pyramid scheme but that’s the effect. Similar with yoga teachers, where they spend a ton of $$ getting certified and then can’t make enough money teaching yoga students, so they end up training other people to be yoga teachers because the aspiring teachers are the only ones willing to shell out enough money for their services.

          1. selena81*

            My BS-meter starts going off the moment someone implies they can train someone to be on the same professional level as them, without outside schooling.
            That’s even worse then philosophy where the only real job is philosophy-teacher: at least they have a vetting-process for teachers.

            I like to dance (bellydance, hoopdance) and you see it there a lot: teachers trying to upsell potential customers into courses that supposedly make them able to teach their own class.
            I’ve never been to those classes but i always assumed they are mostly populated by people who want to feel good about themselves (‘i am not just doing this for fun’, ‘i am investing in myself’) rather then people actually willing/able to make this their career.

      2. Manders*

        There are a few different life coaching companies that were operating as very pushy/borderline legal MLMs. One, NXIVM, ended up becoming a full-on cult. They’re not all pyramid schemes but the ones that did go bad went really bad.

        1. General Ginger*

          I first heard of that earlier this year when it turned out several actresses from shows I used to watch were part of it, so I looked it up right around as they arrested the leader. And wow, was that information I kind of wished I could scrub from my brain.

      3. Blah Blah Blah*

        There was an article I read online (so must be true right?) where essentially after a while of “life coaching” a client, the original life coach would recruit that person to they, themselves be a life coach and somehow money was involved.

        1. always in email jail*

          This sounds like what I’m seeing play out on my newsfeeds. It also seems to involve attending a lot expensive “conferences”

    7. Manders*

      There are definitely some organizations that will give anyone credentials for cash. I don’t think every single life coach in the world is misguided, but the nature of the work (working for yourself, hustling for clients, not being accountable to a boss) makes it unlikely that the group of people who want to go into life coaching will overlap with the group of people who are great at getting and keeping more traditional jobs.

    8. Les G*

      There are a lot of crackpots into crystal woo out there. A friend and his wife go to “marriage counseling” that’s actually just at a life coach’s house. I tolerate it as one of his eccentricities, but smack him down with the quickness whenever he suggests the Mrs. and I give her a try.

      1. General Ginger*

        I’m guessing you mean literally the life coach’s house, like, living room couch or the like, and not an office attached to the house?

      2. Specialk9*

        I’m not sure that counts as crackpot and woo so much as outside the norm in a way that indicates a lack of success.

        Crackpot and woo would be if the marriage counseling were by seance for a dead spouse

    9. Triple Anon*

      Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think the counseling field has some issues (depending on who you are and what you need). It doesn’t work for everyone. And not everyone can afford the cost. I think there is a need for people who are more like “peer counselors” – lower cost because they don’t have an advanced degree, and more like a supportive friend who you can talk to about your goals. Counselors tend to focus on the past, look for pathology, and encourage people to talk about what’s wrong and how their thought patterns are contributing to it. Sometimes you just need someone to cheer you on and help you work out the logistics of, say, job hunting, or changing fields or becoming successful at something outside of work.

      But, unfortunately, there do seem to be a lot of scams in the life coaching industry. We need a third option – call them peer counselors. People who offer support and help with strategizing to make your life better, don’t follow a traditional counseling model, but aren’t scam artists either. (Not to say that all life coaches are scam artists; just that there seems to be a lot of dysfunction in the field).

      By the way, the, “She’s running a scam,” part rang a bell with me. I’ve been puzzled by some bad experienced I’ve had with career counselors. They were really mean and insulting. I just realized that it was probably a “negging” kind of thing – trying to make the client less confident so that they’ll feel the need to pay for more services.

      1. AMT*

        Re: the last thing, as a therapist, I like to refer people to GoodTherapy’s list of warning signs of bad therapy: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/warning-signs-of-bad-therapy/

        I think it applies to many categories of professionals, including life coaches and career counselors. I’ve heard so many horror stories of therapy clients feeling horrible about their therapists and asking themselves, “Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?” when the therapist was the one engaging in abusive or questionable behaviors.

        1. Triple Anon*

          That’s very interesting! Thank you. It was very helpful, but it also reminded me that a lot depends on how your personalities and communication styles match. For example, I saw one person who gave a lot of emotionally validating responses like, “That must have been very upsetting,” “It must feel good to talk about that,” and so on, and I found it annoying. To me it was like, “Well, duh, but what can I do about it now?” I’ve seen others who didn’t shy away from more direct responses like, “That person sounds like a jerk. Why don’t you stop talking to them?” and I like that because it creates dialogue that leads to solutions. I like to discuss things in that kind of way. I like hearing people’s advice whether or not I agree with it. But I can imagine it going the exact opposite way for someone else.

    10. mrs__peel*

      When I hear the words “life coaching”, I immediately picture Jeremy from “Peep Show”. So, yes.

    11. Pineapple*

      My boss has an executive/life coach. Our whole team did a workshop with him and despite my complete and utter disbelief, it was actually quite wonderful, very productive and the positive effects are still being seen 2 years later.

      I also used to work with someone who became a life coach after getting fired. She was an awful employee. I had to work with her a bit and everything she did, she did wrong. If you upset her in the least, she would cry/scream/pout – and she was supposed to be an executive admin. I sat next to her for over a year and based on the massive amount of personal calls I had the pleasure to have to overhear, she was a terrible person in her private life too.

    12. LifeCoachJo*

      So, Life coach is not a protected term. Meaning anyone can be a “Coach”. Whether they are selling shakeology, teaching cross fit, or giving resume advice they can call themselves a coach.

      I’m an ICF accredited life coach, and we’re not a pyramid scheme. We’re not trained in quite the same way as therapists but there is a significant amount of training and actual hands on work that happens before you’re really a life coach. What the gal is describing here isn’t too far out of bounds for a coach , assuming the coach isn’t a “career coach” like CTI offers.
      As a Life Coach, I focus on what’s important for my clients, not just one sliver of life . One of my clients came to me because she was trying to apply to grad school. through her process, we worked on her network, developed a plan for retaking her GRE if she needed too, strategized around the personal life changes she needed to make when she got in, and created some goals around health and wellness to support her as she went back to school. All of these came out of her interests/ desires.

      It’s not a scam.

  1. Justme, The OG*

    The only “personality” test that I give any support to is the O*Net interest profiler. Even then, they say it is to help you explore and not make a decision.

    Your career coach sucks. I hate that advice about unposted jobs. Sure, that happens sometimes. But 80%?

      1. Anna*

        ONet didn’t tell you should be those things; it just told you what fields are related to skills and interests you put into its algorithm. ONet is meant for exploring, not for making life decisions.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Yes, this. ONet has told me that teaching, archiving, and social services are fields related to my interests. Which is really interesting to me because I have considered all three and have even had jobs relating some (archiving – it was a job and not a career).

        2. Ali G*

          I get that – my point was that it wasn’t helpful to me. I know those fields and whether they are related to my skills and interests or not – I am not interested in them, nor other parallel fields. I honestly don’t know how I ended up there. I have to be one of the least empathetic people on the planet.
          I am also sure that the 70-year old woman who’s skills and interests lined up with “masonry” and other blue collar fields isn’t making any life decisions based on ONet. :p
          Maybe it’s helpful if you are just starting out and have a general degree and need help focusing. I’m not in that position, so I wouldn’t know.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        I don’t remember the name of the career advisory test i did 20+ years ago at school, but I remember the outcome being that I would be good at working for social services. Apparently, I like to help people.

        Turns out (via a lot of other things) that helping people by managing the customer service of a financial company is a lot more lucrative and a lot less stressful (our customers want help because they have money they want to invest, not because of debt or other problems).

    1. Sara (A Lurker)*

      I went to a university-appointed career counselor when I was working at a university some years ago, and she administered a sort of combo interest profile and Myers-Briggs profile, and which generated an enormous packet of analysis/interpretation. It was actually tremendously useful for me–not as much in terms of figuring out what I wanted to do, but in terms of naming my work style and preferences, and viewing those as strengths rather than things to overcome. (I was transitioning into the workforce from academia, so I kind of felt like the whole thing was something to overcome at first.)

      For example, I’m a very nuts-and-bolts, how-will-this-work-on-the-ground person, which makes my MB type one that is typically associated with STEM careers. I’ve always worked in arts and education, and have no interest in changing that! The combined test interpretation explained that arts careers need practical people too, which seems self-evident but I needed that perspective to help me tell a better story about myself in interviews and cover letters. Also, it encouraged me to see myself as a person who prefers scheduled communication, and not just a person who gets flustered from cold calls and who hates people dropping by her office.

    2. Persimmons*

      I will have to try that one. All the ones I’ve attempted were total nonsense. Twice I was told to become a taxidermist. I can’t even drive past roadkill without welling up.

    3. Le Sigh*

      The only personality test I’ve ever taken was to figure out which Harry Potter house I am. And even that one was pretty off.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        If it was Pottermore, search for the full questions quiz. I did that, it gave me two different houses with the same score, and felt much more accurate. But remember the Sorting Hat does let you choose in the end…

    4. Specialk9*

      The one career aptitude test I know of that is really good is Johnson O’Connor Foundation. (Someone always comes out to accuse me of being a shill, but I’m a regular commenter.)

      My friend took it and it helped her make a total career change. My husband took it and it helped him NOT make a total career change, just to tweak it in these ways (which worked). I’m a fan, even at $650.

      Not affiliated, just had it work.

      1. Sara*


        I took Johnson O’Connor when I was in a job that really wasn’t working out — the tests were really helpful in figuring out WHY the job wasn’t a fit, and why my boss and I kept butting heads. Plus offered a bunch of other insight. I’ve gone back to the report and my notes multiple times in the years since. Definitely worth the investment.

  2. Apostrophina*

    Am I wrong in thinking that a career coach and a life coach are different (though possibly related) things?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t think so. To me, a life coach would be more about your whole person. I would expect nutrition, exercise, budgeting type advice too.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmm, I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. My impression is that life coaching is about figuring out your life more broadly — habits that are holding you back, etc. — not the nitty-gritty of stuff like nutrition or budgets.

        1. Specialk9*

          I wouldn’t actually take financial advice from any kind of coach, and I am a fan of CTI-certified career coaches. (Well the one at least.)

          Only take financial advice from people with fiduciary responsibility and no kickbacks, and even then check hard with Bogleheads and other good blogs.

      2. nonegiven*

        My son went to a life coach that helped him come up with structures in his life to cope with his ADHD.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They are indeed different. I’m skeptical of both, frankly, but especially of life coaches giving career advice (which requires some specialized skill, unless it’s broad advice like “your interests would match up really welll with X job” — which is different from recommending specific job hunting techniques).

      1. Yorick*

        I would expect a life coach to give general career advice like “it sounds like you’re holding yourself back at work with your bad habits,” but not to act like they know secrets about getting a job.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          My only question is whether OP’s life coach checked out “What Color Is Your Parachute?” from her local library, or if she bought it at a used book store?

          1. Artemesia*

            Ahh reminds me of a merger where dozens of very senior people lost their jobs as they cut departments to avoid any legal issues. Alas some of our strongest people got cut this way. They provided outplacement services and how well I remember these very senior someone shell shocked professionals filling out flower petals and hearing earnest 22 year olds exhort them to find their passion and how easy it would be to re-invent themselves at age 57. Someone made a bundle out of ‘parachute’ but I doubt it was very many people who tried to use the techniques.

            1. Former Employee*

              This reminds me of the George Clooney/Anna Kendrick movie “Up In The Air”.

              I really liked the movie and the concept seemed to be based on real life experiences of various people, though the main characters were clearly invented.

      2. Secretary*

        I have life coaches. The problem with a life coach is that ANYONE can put their name on a business card and say they’re a life coach.
        Like with asking advice from anyone, the best way to evaluate a life coach is to see if they have the results you want in the area you’re asking advice from.
        If you want a successful career in journalism, OP, maybe find someone in your field who has the life you want and ask for their perspective.

    1. Rachel Schachter*

      Maybe the OP from yesterday should get together with an “I eat children” to solve her CW problem…

      1. Ali G*

        CW: On my way to your place for our meeting. BTW I have the Hobgoblins with me!
        LW: Great see you soon. Can’t wait for you to meet my new Childeater! He’s looking forward to occupying the Hobgoblins while we actually get some work done.

  3. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Life coaching and career coaching are two different things. And career coaching advice is gonna vary wildly from career to career.

    Networking is irritating, but you seriously can’t get a job if you don’t know who’s looking for employees. Participating in online and in-person communities aimed at your profession can really help.

    Since LW is a relatively recent graduate, I’d also recommend getting in touch with the alumni and/or career placement office back at school.

    1. Anna*

      But you know who’s looking for employees based on things like job postings. Networking is a tool, but it’s not a cure-all for finding a job.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I didn’t say it was a cure-all? Just because I didn’t mention “look at job listings” doesn’t mean I’m telling LW not to do it. Geez.

        1. Thegs*

          Perhaps, but you did say, “you seriously can’t get a job if you don’t know who’s looking for employees.” My current job is at a company I had never heard of before. They reached out to me after they found an old resume of mine on Clearance Jobs. Admittedly that may fall into participating in online communities, but I would hesitate to call that networking.

          1. sap*

            From their username it sounds like Glomarization is in the legal field, and I know that a lot of jobs, INCLUDING my job that I haven now, don’t get posted on anything other than maybe the company website if it’s an in-house position, and otherwise get staffed through recruiters, forwarding the website for in-house through common interest networks, and word-of-mouth.

            This isn’t common for most fields though and I realize it’s an outlier.

          2. Specialk9*

            I feel like people with security clearance have a lot more employers looking for them than the reverse.

    2. Onyx*

      “Networking is irritating, but you seriously can’t get a job if you don’t know who’s looking for employees.”

      I take it you buy into the idea that the vast majority of jobs are unlisted? Do you have a reason for that?

      Otherwise, a way to find out who is looking for employees is to see who has listed open positions. That seems to me like a much more targeted way of getting that information: all employers listing open positions are by definition looking for employees, while a lot of the employers you would find through networking may not be.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        > I take it you buy into the idea that the vast majority of jobs are unlisted?

        Uh, no? That’s putting words into my response that I didn’t type.

        Networking is often an important tool for finding open jobs. AN important tool. I actually know more than a few journalists, and I know for a fact that they’ve gotten their current jobs by networking. I’m sure the jobs were posted as well, and maybe they even found the job postings before they networked. But the jobs they got were in towns where they knew people, which gave them an edge when it came to applying.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammo*

          I’m sorry folks are being so #sandwiches with you—I agree with everything you said except the career services part (their quality/accuracy/utility varies dramatically).

          Networking is definitely a core element of career development over the long haul. It broadens your referrals and access to jobs, and it helps you refine what fields or roles may interest you (it can also open doors). It should certainly be among OP’s priorities as a long-term priority, but I think it’s ok to deprioritize it a bit in the “job hunting right now” list of priorities.

          OP may want to shift their focus toward strengthening their applications, and if they have downtime, I’d schedule informational interviews with alumni and other folks who are in jobs that OP would like to do (or explore) in the next 5 to 10 years. Worst case scenario, there’s no immediate benefit, and best case scenario, someone may keep an eye open for jobs that fit OP’s interest and skills.

          1. Glomarization, Esq.*

            I’m salty about the quality of alumni/career services at my own professional school, to tell the truth. But I’d give them a call if only to contribute to their metrics of how well their graduates are finding jobs.

          2. Just Jess*

            Whenever the topic of networking comes up there are a lot of people who seem outright offended by the idea that people prefer to hire based on who they know, trust, and like if the opportunity presents itself. I don’t agree with hiring that way, but I accept that it is happening and is connected with bias and systemic discrimination.

            1. Specialk9*

              When you hire based on observed competence, it’s basically a very prolonged interview, but with real world data instead of someone just talking.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Sure, but because of being human, you’re more likely to notice the competence of people who look more like you, and subconsciously downplay the competence of people who don’t.

                I’m in no way saying “don’t ever hire someone whose work you already know”. I’m just saying that the real-world data being collected is probably filtered thru a biased lens. (Human brains are designed very well to categorize things, and we might be best of all at categorizing people.) It’s good to know this, because then we can account for that bias. See my signature for a book recommendation for why I say this.

        2. JJ*

          I’m an introvert and I hate networking. But I know it helped me get my last job before the one I have now. A coworker mentioned an opening nearby (which I probably would have seen anyway the next time I checked my email, but still she told me first). My boss at that job (who knew I was hunting) had previously worked with the boss at the place with the opening. I know she gave me a good ref and it surely didn’t hurt that she and my new boss had that prior connection.
          So, yes, networking is important, but seekers can’t just rely on that. Checking company websites, industry job sites and listservs, are just as important for finding where openings exist to see of anyone from your network is connected.

      2. sarah*

        I think this depends a LOT on field. Since graduating from grad school, I’ve had three positions — one actually was unlisted and my advisor happened to know someone who was scrambling to hire quickly. The other two were certainly listed, but I still think my connections played a factor in my application getting an extra look (I’m in one of those fields with over a hundred applicants per position, and in both places, either I knew someone on the hiring committee, or an advisor reached out to make a connection.)

        Now, I certainly don’t think networking would automatically get a person a job — if I didn’t have good qualifications, people probably would have taken that extra look at my application and said “No thanks.” But, I definitely believe it helped.

        That said, in a different field, this could be a completely different story! Still, I don’t think networking could HURT, as long as the LW does not see it as a substitute for having high-quality application materials and actually, you know, looking for and applying for jobs.

    3. Antilles*

      I don’t think focusing on networking is particularly useful advice for the OP in the here-and-now short term job search.
      If she’s a recent grad, odds are that her existing network isn’t robust and widespread enough to help her find something…especially since it’s likely that most of her contacts are also early in their careers and aren’t in a position to do very much.
      As for participating in online and in-person communities, that’s a long process to get in. Online communities in particular usually require months if not years of effort to really build up a reputation enough for people to be willing to stick their neck out for you. And in-person communities are usually the same – most people in professional societies tend to stick around for years, so it takes time to really fit into the circle.
      Over a longer-time span of a few years, yes, it absolutely helps and worth doing…but that’s definitely more of a several year kind of plan, not something that’s going to help her right now.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes to this. Building a professional network is something that takes years, and involves both being known by people *and* having a good professional reputation. Having someone recognize your name is not by itself an advantage – people don’t just recommend people they know, they also warn people away from them.

        The type of social contacts that can get you jobs and opportunities, on the other hand, are a real thing, but also something that you can’t get by randomly contacting strangers. Those are the kind of connections where being born into the right family is often an important first step. If you don’t already have friends and family who have influential connections in your field, you’re out of luck.

        In my field, the only jobs that aren’t advertised either on the institute website, or profession-specific job boards, are internal promotions or job re-classifications that are only applicable to current employees.

  4. Mystery Bookworm*

    I actually find this a little fascinating. I’ve often wondered about life coaches and what exactly it is they d0 – as far as I understand it, it’s not a registered or licensed role, so can just anyone slap on a life-coach label and just dispense advice? It just seems like such a vague position.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I think life coaches appeal to people who don’t want to face the fact that what they could really use is an actual therapist.

      1. And So it Goes*

        That is rich! As far as my advice: (I was going to do all caps but thought better of it) Run from this person as fast as you freaking can!!!!

        Good luck, things will turn out well for you.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. Do you remember Jayson Blair, the reporter who was very publicly fired from the NY Times for making up numerous stories wholesale? (He’d stay in his apartment in NYC and tell his editor he was reporting from around the country, and turn in stories with all kinds of colorful “on the scene” detail that he’d just made up.) He’s now a life coach. Which is not to say I don’t believe in redemption — I do — but that’s always struck me.

      1. Yvette*

        I think one of the Law & Orders had a “ripped from the headlines” episode (or maybe more than one of them) based on that.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Almost all of law and order’s stories are ripped from the headlines :) They ran several story arcs based on Stephen Glass, who is essentially a Jayson Blair predecessor that tried to become a lawyer but was denied admission. He was on the inspirational speaker circuit talking about his rehabilitation from being a serial liar, but I suspect he’d have been a life coach if such a thing was as popular when he first fell from grace.

      2. Lora*

        Just looked up Jayson Blair as I hadn’t heard of him.

        Wow. Do people not really fact check things much, or…?

        Add me to the pile of folks deeply suspicious of life coaches. The only people I know who hired life coaches swore at the time that it was super helpful, but then ended up discarding all the advice they got anyways (which didn’t seem all that helpful to me in the first place, but whatever). They were also of the philosophy that if you didn’t get better from anything (whether it was health issues, work issues, whatever) it was because you had bad thoughts creating bad vibes that went out into outer space and then the universe would hold you back in crappy situations until you learned to think happier thoughts. Like clapping for Tinkerbell, sort of thing.

        Yeah, I don’t know. I’m doing okay (okayer than the people who had life coaches), mostly because I like to try new things, I have zero loyalty to employers who don’t treat me well and I am willing to move away from areas that don’t have great employment options for my field. Most of the people I know who don’t do too well, either were scared of trying new things and didn’t want to try things they thought would be difficult, or weren’t willing to bail out of a crummy situation due to misplaced loyalty / fear of change, or didn’t want to move away from their families even if that meant living in a town with few job options for them.

        1. Triple Anon*

          Yeah, what happened to fact checking? When I was in high school in the mid-nineties, I had a friend who landed an internship as a fact checker for a well-known but not huge paper. In recent years, I never hear of anyone of any age being a fact checker.

      3. lil'*

        In reading this post, I now have a floating footer ad telling me to apply to an online course to become a life coach is 24 weeks! hahaha.

        The only way I’d consider a career coach if it was sponsored by my company. My last job worked with “career trainers”. The junior sales team had one coach and the senior reps had another. I think a coach in that sense only works for certain industries, like sales, where your “mindset and attitude” can easily be “influenced”. It was still corny and I HATED it.

    3. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I’ve always thought life coaching was BS. One of my best friends had one and I bit my tongue about it (her money, her business) – but now she sees an actual licensed degreed therapist and she says that’s much more helpful. I’m very pro-therapy (I’m in therapy myself) but life coaching has always seemed like snake oil sales to me.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Correct. Anyone can do it, which is why I’m surprised this OP’s parents are paying.

      One life coach interviewed by the NYT said she helped her clients feel better by telling them to eat healthy.

      So there’s that.

    5. Antilles*

      As far as I can tell, there is absolutely zero standards for life coaches. No registration, no licensing, not even any standard training.
      So “life coach” can cover anything from an ex-sports player to a person pushing pop psychology to to a former pastor whose advice is based on his religious beliefs to CEOs to people who completely failed in their career. And literally anything else you can think of.
      As you can probably imagine, the quality of advice varies wildly depending on exactly what you’re looking for and who is giving it.

    6. Not All Who Wander*

      I have to concur with those who said it varies really, really widely. A lot (most) of them are total quacks. BUT, there are some specialized ones with very good qualifications. For example, there are some with extensive training who specialize in teaching skills to people with specific mental health or physical conditions. We used one briefly for my bipolar ex-husband that was very effective in helping us figure out work-arounds for his brain. I also know of a few who help autistic children/teens/young adults. The difference is that these people all have various degrees & certifications in psychology, childhood development, etc.

    7. Lyssa*

      I’ve always sort of loved the idea of a life coach. It seems like so many people out there have just screwed up their lives, and could, at least in theory, benefit from someone sitting them down and saying “OK, let’s make a budget for you” or “let’s talk about how you need to dump that loser that you’ve been dating” or “you’re drinking too much; stop it” or that sort of thing. (Sort of like therapy, but more action, less talk about feelings.)

      But I don’t think that it plays out that way in practice.

      1. Kimberlee, Ranavain*

        Same. I think it’s very possible that working with a life coach could be really positive for someone… in the same way that going to therapy can be really positive, or taking the Meyer’s Briggs or other personality tests, or reading self-help or career advancement books… ultimately, I’ve come to believe that the key isn’t that one particular thing works or is good all the time, but that each individual will have stuff that resonates for them, and stuff that doesn’t, and that we need to come into contact with *something* that resonates for us in order to make a lot of the positive changes we’d like to make. It’s hard to tell beforehand what’ll resonate, but I don’t find it on-face ludicrous that a life coach could either be that thing themselves, or have access to a lot of things you can try. Unfortunately, it can amount to spending a bunch of time and money to figure out that a book you could have checked out from the library for free was what you really needed to hear.

        1. ket*

          In the scenario that a life coach is useful, the benefit of the life coach vs the library book is accountability. You can learn calculus from a text book or three — you don’t need a teacher — but it turns out that most people are not going to bother without having a teacher who gives them crap about doing homework and turning it in on time, and then corrects said homework and gives feedback so the student can catch misconceptions along the way. Same with the exercises in the healthy-relationships book in the library. The life coach ideally calls you on your crap & suggests a few different ways to look at the things you’re stuck on.

          In the math analogy, they’re supposed to be like a teacher or tutor, not an educational psychologist — they’re not there to diagnose an information processing disorder or anything like that, just get you to do your homework.

        1. sap*

          This is definitely not true. Whether a therapist talks action can and should vary wildly with their field and the needs of their particular patient.

          If a therapist “talked action” with me, I’d immediately know that they were inexperienced or unsuited for treating patients like me, and I’d fire them then and there.

        1. Breda*

          Yeah, someone who can dispense “mom advice” without the defensiveness that comes from getting it from your ACTUAL mom, or can walk you through the stuff your best friends can’t force you to do, could be incredibly useful. Accountability to someone who you are paying to help you and judge you is a terrific motivator (as my friends who have trainers at the gym can attest). But this is…not that. What the OP needs is an expert who can revamp their resume and cover letter, and then say something like, “I need you to show me, every week, that you’ve applied to ten suitable jobs or reached out to enough people in your network to make up the number.”

      2. Persimmons*

        That could be rebranded and better sold as an honest friend for rent.

        “Are you struggling in your career and social life? Do you need a kick in the pants to really get things in gear? Hire Blunt Best Friends! At BBF, we won’t let you whine over cocktails like you usually do at girls night. BBFs are here to tell it like it is and help you make real, lasting changes. Call BBF and meet your new best friend today!”

        1. Specialk9*

          Ha, I know someone like that. She’s such a delightful person in other ways that she still has friends.

    8. k.k*

      I used to work for an insurance company that did business insurance. We could not sell polices to life coaches because it was such a vague and unverifiable category, we considered them uninsurable. There were very few customers I had to turn away for being an uninsurable category, but the ones that I did were life coaches, a crystal healing center, a psychic, and unlicensed daycares.

      1. Zennish*

        I wonder why psychics need insurance, since it’s kind of by definition for dealing with unforeseen events…

      2. Atalanta0jess*

        Fascinating! I know some therapists (licensed) turn to life coaching because they view it as a lower liability way of practicing their skills. But a recent ethics training I took from a lawyer indicated that is incorrect. Your company’s viewpoint seems to agree with the lawyer.

    9. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I always thought I’d be an awesome life coach. I am great at telling people what to do. (Not so great at taking my own advice.)

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        My personal line is “I am FILLED with advice! Some of it is even helpful!”

        I know myself. I always have an opinion. Often that opinion is informed by knowing … something. More often, it’s what I would do in their situation, which is SO unhelpful because it’s not me in their situation, plus it was probably not a great idea to start with. For me, the big life skill was in learning to tell the difference before anything actually comes out of my mouth.

    10. [insert witty username here]*

      Agree! I’ve been low-key intrigued by the concept of a “life coach” for years (especially after Paris had one on Gilmore Girls for a while).

      An acquaintance from college posted on FB that she was going through training to be a life coach (so I guess there is/can be training involved? We didn’t discuss it further. But who qualifies the trainers???) and needed a few participants for free sessions. I was going through a period of feeling very unmotivated in my life so I did a few Skype sessions with her (I also just wanted to see what it would be like and wanted to help her out).

      She DID help me – a little. It wasn’t like fireworks going off and now all my problems are solved and I’m a billionaire genius playboy (or…girl) philanthropist, but she did help me identify some mental roadblocks and some ways to get around them or re-frame them in my mind. It was less touchy-feely than a therapist. Really, it was helpful to talk to someone where I felt like I could just focus on me. It was like talking to a good friend but you don’t have to feel guilty or selfish for just talking about yourself and your pettiest of problems, and there was a little more focus.

      Soooo…. I think there can be some potential for a life coach relationship to have some merit….. but yeah, it’s pretty vague. Would I do it again moving forward? Probably not if I had to pay for it but if I ever felt too overwhelmed and just needed a good sounding board, there are worse things I could do. It’s so hard to know what would make a “good” life coach, but overall, I had always felt like this acquaintance was a good, level-headed person – there are definitely plenty of my friends or acquaintances who I never would have wanted a life coaching session from. So in the end, I definitely agree that it’s a pretty vague position, but there are people (like my college friend) that are worth it – it’s just hard to know who to trust.

    11. Anon because of the stigma*

      I endorse strong skepticism on life coaches, in general. It is true that literally anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a “life coach.” (The examples about Jayson Blair and Teen Mom illustrate this point.)

      BUT they are not all terrible, by default. I did use one for about 6 months, after I hit rock bottom at a toxic job and couldn’t see my way out. She came recommended by a friend who was also dealing with a very toxic boss. And one of the things the coach said on the “trial” meeting was, “Anyone can call themselves a life coach. Check references. Before you commit to me, I want you to check out other coaches, find out what they offer and see what you think will work for you.” She described the type of clients she focused on, the style of coaching she used, and how we’d negotiate the process. I got to decide what parts of my life she “coached” me on. It was professional, I was the client, and I felt ownership of the process.

      I don’t talk about it publicly because people are really judgey about it. She didn’t “tell me what to do” or “give advice.” She drew out what was going on, gave me exercises to do that focused me on actively letting go of the toxicity and then sorting out priorities and next steps. She called me out if I was talking BS or exhibiting bad habits. Like a sports coach, she gave me tools and exercises so that I could build my strength to do what needed to be done in this aspect of my life. Could I have gone to a therapist for the same type of help? Maybe. But finding the right therapist can be just as much of a difficult process. And my prior experience was that a therapist was even slower at making progress, because they focus a more on how you feel about what’s happening than about what you can do to change it.

      It’s like hiring any contractor or consultant. Know what you want to achieve or what problem you need help to work through. Ask about what to expect in both process and results. Check references. If they can’t be concrete about it at the inquiry stage, move on.

      OP — Your coach clearly sucks. Stop giving them money. If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve by working with one, I’d hold off until you can articulate that. If it’s really just “get a job,” I don’t think any kind of coach is worth the money. Good luck.

      1. ket*

        This is a great explanation of what happens with a decent life coach. I have done a bit of therapy and a bit of sort-of-life-coaching (a small group built around reaching particular goals that you’ve back-burnered). Therapy is fine for what it is but it’s not the same as saying yeah, I sent in three proposals this week like I promised or yeah, I sat down & had the hard conversation with my roommate.

  5. Lynca*

    So I’m left wondering how that conversation would have went if the personality test didn’t match the profession. I’d be looking sideways at someone telling me to switch careers based on an online personality test.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Right especially since a lot of personality tests only measure positive characteristics. They’re on par with a BuzzFeed or Cosmo quiz.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          If I told you mine, you’d say I should become a gluten-free baker. ;)

          (Also, ice cream: snack or dessert?)

      1. Book Badger*

        Not to mention that, while it’s likely that some personality types do better in some jobs than others, it’s certainly not universal. Especially since skills can be learned and aren’t inborn: an outgoing person might make a good teacher, but so too might a shy and studious person who just needs to be taught public speaking skills.

    2. smoke tree*

      I don’t know what the point of the personality test was supposed to be, since it doesn’t sound like the LW was interested in switching careers. I think the life coach is just trying to come up with legit-seeming exercises to make it seem like she’s being helpful.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I have no idea if there are any reliable scientifically-sound career assessment or personality tests our there, but I’ve met enough people who are a real mismatch for the career they imagine and the skill/talent/personality that they have, so I can see a benefit to a neutral third party suggesting a career shift, sometimes. Usually friends and family are going to be “supportive” even with clear evidence that the career is wrong for the person.

      I’ve met a few graphic designers in my career that just…can’t — they can’t handle feedback from clients…they can’t change their “style” no matter what the project is or who the client is…they can’t use the software correctly despite training…and sometimes, they just have atrocious taste but think they are Fabulous!. For cases where a client is convinced they are a the Best (Whatever), I wonder if having a test gives a career coach something to point to as “non-biased evidence” that can’t be as easily dismissed as an “opinion.”

  6. ThatGirl*

    A lot of these tips sound like what I heard at my “outplacement firm” experience post-layoff. Want to go back sometimes and tell them how many ways they were wrong.

    Networking IS a good idea – but you should start with people you know, and not be pushy or demand meetings/lunch/informational interviews. Just let them know you’re looking, or if you see a job somewhere where you have an in, ask for a referral (IF you know them well enough to do that).

    I will say journalism tends to be a small world; I got both of my newspaper jobs via knowing someone who knew someone — but again, that’s your existing network, not haranguing strangers.

    1. MLB*

      100% this…I’ve always said that finding a job is more about who you know than what you know. I have gotten jobs applying online but it’s a very long and frustrating process. My current job came by way of my former manager and I probably wouldn’t have even been considered if I hadn’t known her. When you reach out and network, people are more willing to consider you for a job knowing your strengths and potential, even if you don’t seem to qualify on paper.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m going to point out, though, that your former manager was part of your existing network and someone who knew your work well. Totally different than approaching strangers who don’t have the same ability to know and assess your work on that level.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Well, I didn’t say that – I got my first two jobs via networking, and my most recent one, but I also got a job through Craigslist and had a second offer last year on a job I found via ZipRecruiter. It depends a lot on industry and luck – but journalism, specifically, tends to be somewhat insular.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      > I got both of my newspaper jobs via knowing someone who knew someone

      That’s the experience of my journalist friends, as well. Both were laid off from positions in the city where we knew each other, and they found work again only when they went back “home” to cities where they had professional connections from several years ago.

      1. Maggie*

        Journalism is such a small world that it slightly concerns me she’s applying to 50 jobs. In my field (education), you couldn’t even find 50 jobs to apply for in a year at what I’m trained to do. So I feel she also might not be getting calls because she’s pepper spraying the classifieds?

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          As much as I now love the phrase “pepper spraying the classifieds,” I imagine that applying to any job relating to “writing” is exactly what she’s doing because there aren’t many journalism jobs and she doesn’t have much experience anyway, so no established niche or network. At this point in her career, pepper spraying is probably her best bet.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          What’s wrong with pepper spraying? Isn’t that the traditional way to job-hunt?

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            I think it’s fine for entry-level and early career people. But those in mid to late career usually are much more focused on their job searches. I’m mid career (and I’m not looking for jobs), and I wouldn’t apply to just everything that said “graphic designer” or something similar — the pepper spray technique — I would definitely tailor my search and resume to areas that I have experience with such as in-house design and marketing for higher education. Yes, it limits my prospects, but it also limits wasted time on jobs I would never accept, or be hired for.

    3. Triple Anon*

      Yes. How you approach people makes a huge difference. It can be hard to feel confident in your skills when you’ve just lost a job, but you have to summon confidence somehow. Think about the compliments a professor gave you, times when you did something well and someone appreciated it. Then take that attitude to networking – you have something to offer; you don’t have to ask for anything. In other words, be nice, be friendly, and mention what you can do and what you find interesting. You can also be direct and say, “I’m job hunting. I’m looking for xyz. Do you know anyone who’s hiring?” but only after building some rapport.

      Disclaimer: I’m job hunting, and not having much luck, but that’s partly because I’m much better at in-person networking, and sending out applications is pretty much my only option right now.

  7. Not Today Satan*

    I think that 80% stat is fascinating–in my experience it’s the opposite in that most employers post job ads publicly even if they only ever intend to hire anyone internal. So if anything, there’s more job listings than truly available jobs.

    1. Anna*

      I have a friend who, every time I talk about how I didn’t get an interview, tells me that it might be they posted the job but already had somebody in mind for it. I know she thinks that’s being helpful and trying to make it sound like it’s not me, but it doesn’t actually help and makes me feel hopeless for even trying. It’s kind of the same thing. I don’t know where she heard that or why she believes it so fiercely.

      1. Nita*

        If it’s government, that may actually be the case. Some government agencies are required to post openings. They may have someone already in mind when the opening goes up, and no intention to hire random external candidates. I’m going by the fact that in my husband’s old government job, most new openings went to either internal candidates, or outsiders who are acquaintances of top management. I’m sure the legality is questionable, but it’s not easy to prove new manager X is the son of director Y’s childhood buddy, and they haven’t been sued yet, so it’s still going on as far as I know.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Agree. I work for state government (a university) and my promotion to a job listing written specifically for me from my resume has to be posted for five days.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          If you take a look at how long the position is open for, that’s usually a clue. If it’s only accepting applications for a three day window? They almost certainly have a candidate in mind and it isn’t worth your time.

          1. Anna*

            Exactly this. I work for a government contractor. That’s how we do it. No agency puts up a job listing for a window of thirty days or however long if they’re hiring internally.

            It’s not as common as people seem to think.

        3. Melly*

          I was told once about ten years ago that if a government posting (federal) is open for two weeks or less, they have someone in mind and it’s not worth it to apply.

        4. Canadian Public Servant*

          This seems very different from the Canadian federal public service. Because the process is so long and complex, usually if I want to hire/promote a specific person, and go through the competitive process that includes posting it publicly, you end up screening through all applicants to create a “pool” of qualified people, then pick whoever you want from that pool, but you and other employers in the federal government can pull candidates from that pool as well, for similar jobs at the same level. So if you see a position posted publicly in the Canadian federal public service and the application window is short (sometimes 24 hours), it’s really just an attempt to sort through only 500 applications, rather than thousands, and one should definitely apply.

          That said, of the 11 jobs I’ve held over 12 years in the Canadian federal public service, exactly one was publicly advertised – I used it to get a permanent job in government, and then my network has been responsible for every move since then. Even where I competed for advertised jobs, I’ve gotten into the “pool” then been promoted in the areas I’ve been in.

          Now that I am a manager, I try to advertise entry level positions through internal and external job boards to get people outside my network, as much as possible, but largely that’s because it’s hard to find entry-level talent. At more senior levels, I almost always use my network, and then pools.

          TL; DR: Canada be different?

      2. GG Two shoes*

        I don’t know if all public universities do this, but at my school they had to post a job description every so many years for certain positions even if someone was already doing that role. They basically made the job description around that persons qualifications so they would be a shoe-in.

        I have no idea how common it is, but I have definitely heard of it happening.

        1. curly sue*

          Yup. I have to reapply for my own teaching job every year, and it has to get reposted every year. There are multi-year incumbents in almost every position in my department that gets advertised annually, and I think last year something like 800 applications came in for those ~15 slots. It stinks all around.

        2. ket*

          My university job had that problem. They wrote the job description using my most disparate talents (like llama-wrangling and tap-dancing, with expertise in teapot structure instructional design) so as to discourage applications. I know that sounds bad… but what can you do? I pitched them a certain position and they wanted it, but that’s not how the system is designed to work — ideas are supposed to come only from within.

      3. A username for this site*

        The last two organizations where I worked did this all the time, they’d post a job that was already given to someone internally. In one case, I was working as a 35 hour a week employee, and in order to get reclassed as a 40 hour a week employee, they had to repost my job and take applicants, then send me to HR to interview for the position I was already doing.

        It used to irk me a lot, but now I see it more as the problem of faulty “rules” than something nefarious.

      4. Not Today Satan*

        It’s definitely a thing that happens–I’ve seen it happen (or been forced to do it when I was the hiring manager) at several employers. But if you don’t think the thought is helpful, you should tell your friend.

    2. Mazzy*

      Even if it’s true it’s a mid to high level career thing. Doesn’t impact the OP who just finished school

    3. smoke tree*

      My field is so small and insular that even though most jobs do get publicly posted, good luck actually getting any of them unless you know the hiring manager personally and have worked with them before. Internships and freelancing are also common so most employers are hesitant to hire someone they don’t know.

    4. Triple Anon*

      You can create a job for yourself by talking to someone about their business needs and recommending your services. That does happen, and it can go really well. But it has to be done right, and not everyone will be receptive (or have the means to hire you).

      1. Triple Anon*

        I meant to add, I think that is the hidden job market, to a large extent. When an employer is planning to hire for a specific role, they usually post it somewhere.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    If job openings don’t get posted, then you don’t find the best people. The only options are people who already know about the job, which isn’t exactly a talent.

    In my experience, if a job isn’t posted publicly, then the employer already knows who they want or the employer has created a job for someone specific. Either way, there’s a zero possibility you’ll get that job so don’t beat yourself up.

    ***Besides, even if that 80% figure was true, did you really need to pay someone to tell you to contact people in your field about looking for a job?***

    Honestly I’d stop paying her altogether. If you want career advice, there’s this blog. If you want help in other areas of your life, I’d get a free/low cost therapist.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Right about not posting jobs limiting the applicant pool severely in terms of available talent. I’d bet it also cuts down on diversity of hires for exactly this reason too so it would be a bad idea all the way around.

      However, it does apparently vary by field.

  9. NotALifeCoachBut...*

    Life coaches are like therapists, in that there are tons out there and they definitely aren’t all good. I tried two terrible therapists and one bad therapist before I found one I liked okay. You may or may not need a life coach at all, but you definitely don’t need THIS one. Whether you choose to try again is up to you, but I agree that you shouldn’t give this one another dime, minute, or thought!

    There are soooo many blogs and podcasts on this topic, you may find it useful to explore some of what’s out there for free before paying anyone for their services again. Check out some of the people in the Dave Ramsey network. I’m definitely not into everything that guy says, but some of his career advice and some the perspectives from Rachel Cruz and other speakers in his company really helped me as I was preparing to switch fields.

  10. Danielle*

    I’m still giggling about Will Work for Cocaine or I eat Children, this will amuse me for the rest of the day

  11. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    The plural of anecdote isn’t data, but at least in my experience, I’ve found that when jobs aren’t listed externally, it’s because there’s no intention to hire someone external. What’s the point of trying to pursue such a position from outside the company, even if you figure out that it exists?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        How many letters have you gotten that basically said “I was a great fit for this job and then they hired some internal person. Why did they waste my time?”

        1. Anna*

          Probably a lot, but that goes into the whole thing about being a great fit on paper isn’t a guarantee of being hired. Or even interviewed.

    1. Triple Anon*

      I’ve had conversations with business owners where they said something like, “We’ve been thinking of hiring someone to help with xyz. I’ve asked around and my friend’s sister was going to do it, but then she got another job and who knows what happened. I don’t know anyone else and we’re been too busy with other things to really think about it.” It’s usually a part-time / contract sort of thing, usually at a small business. Larger businesses tend to be better at identifying their personnel needs and advertising openings.

    2. buttercup*

      This was my exact thought process when I was in a similar job searching situation as the OP 2 years ago. I was told the exact same stuff…the 80% “fact” and that I needed connections. And I was like…it’s not like I’m going to get these connections tomorrow.

  12. Budgie lover*

    If you haven’t updated your resume recently that could also help. I wasn’t sure whether you meant you were using the same resume as when you had recently graduated or whether you worked on both that and your current resume by yourself. If you haven’t updated it in a while there might be some more skill to include, or older stuff that’s not as relevant to your current search.

    1. OP*

      Hi! I did update my resume but the format and descriptions of previous jobs have remained the same. Sorry about not being clear.

      1. diaphanous*

        Your resume may have been good enough when you were last job hunting, but it doesn’t seem to be working for you now. You said yourself you’ve sent it out over 50 times and have gotten one call back. Perhaps it’s time to revisit.

        1. Elysian*

          This is what I was jumping on to say! Everything Alison said is true, but I wanted to pick on the idea that if your resume was good enough then, its good enough now. I think the expectations are different when you’re just graduating from college than when you’ve been working a little, even if college isn’t that far in your past. A lot of resume “sins” can be forgiven by someone who is still in college, but even with the small amount of time you’ve been out, the bar is likely higher for your resume now. I would recommend taking a really critical look at your resume and cover letter — but don’t let your life coach review it.

  13. MissGirl*

    You’re working in a shrinking industry, but still has a lot of people graduating in it, hoping they’ll be the exception. My best advice (I’m a journalism graduate) is to transfer your skills to another industry and broaden your scope.

    1. Doug Judy*

      Yep, marketing might be a better way to go for the time being. A lot of those postings will say a degree in Marketing, communications or journalism.

  14. VermiciousKnid*

    OP, I’ve been a journalist for almost 10 years and here’s the top piece of advice I give my interns: look for jobs at trade publications. These jobs usually fly under the radar when people look for writing/editing gigs and typically offer solid, reliable, predictable work with good benefits. They give you the opportunity to become an expert in all sorts of weird and wacky fields (there are trade magazines for everything). They’re also typically small operations, so you learn how to do everything from soliciting content, to writing, to editing, to working with designers, to social media. Google around to see if there are any nearby.
    Best of luck to you! Your letter shows that you have good instincts—keep following them.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP may also want to consider joining a comms team in a large organization. Our entire comms department is made up of former journalists who now write and pitch/place stories.

      1. Triple Anon*

        Yes! And internal comms is another one to consider. A lot of orgs have someone who does internal comms, and they’re usually in a different department than external comms. The writing style is similar to journalistic writing, and these are lower profile roles so there’s less competition for them.

    2. Logan*

      I remember an ‘open work-related topics’ Friday in the past month or two where someone mentioned that there is typically a need for people interested in working on science-type journalism. It sounded as though the work could be done from home (requires contacting experts to learn about the topic, and not going to locations to report on an event). I don’t want to sound pushy and make this completely off-topic, but the OP might want to search that out if they are interested in this option.

    3. OP*

      Thanks for the advice! I’ve been looking at some trade pubs and I’m not too far from NYC (where I’m going to guess there are a lot so I’ll keep that in mind.

      1. VermiciousKnid*

        I know “not too far from NYC” can mean a lot of places, but I grew up in New Jersey and have some specific advice if you’re near south/central Jersey. First, poke around the Princeton area and Philadelphia suburbs (specifically Bucks County). LOTS of trade pubs around there. There are also a lot of agencies in this area specializing in pharma materials that are always looking for editors. It’s not journalism, but the agencies pay well and you can expand your skillset.

        1. run with it*

          Lots of publishers HQ’d in NYC have their main offices in North NJ too (not sure what fits a journalism skillset tho – my focus is technical publishing)

        2. OP*

          I’m in the Connecticut area so NJs a bit far from me at the moment to commute but I’m willing to relocate.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You could always work for Yale….

            (The benefits and $ are unreal.)

  15. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I had forgotten about the “Headline”, which apparently I did fill out years ago, but I had no idea until today that you could change that background! I am going to change mine to Nyan Cat!

    (Yes, I’m joking….)

  16. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Yeah….I’d stop using the life coach for career advice.

    As for what to do, I’d try to keep freelancing if I were you. One, it would show prospective employers that you take what you do seriously and are determined to make it work. (I know you said other stuff has come up and I understand that, but as you get older Life Stuff doesn’t stop interfering and you’ll need to figure out how to work around that.) Two, you’ll have current writing samples to show prospective employers.

    Good luck, LW!

  17. brooksider09*

    Journalist here with a decade plus of experience. First of all, I’m really sorry about the layoffs. Happened to me 2+ years ago under similar circumstances. I personally feel lucky that I’ve only been a victim of cuts once and have lots of friends and professional contacts that have been through this time and time again.

    One thing I will say is that with the exception of my first job in market, I was hired onto every other job I’ve had in this field through networking. But as Allison and others have pointed out, these are people I knew for years and not contacts that I made while aggressively job hunting. More broadly though, I’m not sure I would trust this person as qualified to give you meaningful advice in how to get a job in this industry. If it’s working for you in other parts of your life, that’s great! But I would recommend possibly investing some of your financial resources into industry groups or trainings (Society of Professional Journalists, Poynter, etc) if you’re able. They could have great short term and long term benefits.

    1. OP*

      Thanks for the advice. I’ve been looking into SJP but wasn’t sure if the investment was worth it. I’ll look into it some more.

      1. brooksider09*

        Not a member of SPJ but have heard good things about their resources and reach. Did a 5-day Poynter in person training for mid-career journalists and got a ton out of it, including a lead for a job I’m pursuing from another participant. Online News Association (depending on what types of roles you’re looking for) might also be a good avenue. Conference is coming up in Austin later this year and they have a robust network. These are things that might not pay off immediately but are part of a good long-term strategy for looking for work in the field. Good luck!

    2. WellRed*

      Yes to the industry groups. Also, since you are a fairly recent grad, reach out to your fellow student paper colleagues (I am assuming you worked on your college paper), and newspaper advisor if you had one. It’s an easy way to get your feel wet on networking.

      1. OP*

        I’ve done that! My advisor (fortunately and unfortunately) is very busy with his journalism career so he’s difficult to get a hold of. Most of the colleagues I was close with on the student newspaper have no graduated yet and besides the Editor-in-Chief my freshman year, none have gone into the field.

  18. Wifey of a Journalist*

    I’m here tonoffer advice as the wife of a journalist for the last 10 years. He’s worked at many papers as well as at very large multi-media companies. He’s a reporter and journalist.

    He was laid off after a decade at one organization and when he started his job hunt, I was amazed at how it differed from mine (I’ve worked at many Fortune 100 companies). Every job he has gotten in his field since he graduated 20 some years ago is because he knew someone. There would be an opening, it wouldn’t yet be posted, and someone would tell the editor “you should talk to so-and-so.” He got his current gig when an old editor called him about the opening. It was never posted. He had interviewed with another news organization for a role that was not yet posted but someone on staff told the editor they should talk to him. Journalism is a small world and word gets out. He even on occasion would call an editor because he had heard there would be an opening for a beat and the editor didn’t even know yet because that person had not rendered notice. It was crazy for me to see.

    So, yes, in journalism (at least sports journalism), a lot of times jobs aren’t posted. Or they are posted and they already have someone in mind. But it’s not about cold calling people you don’t know – it’s about leveraging your network, hard. When my husband was looking, he called basically everyone he could think of he had a good relationship with to let them know he was looking and they turned into his ears across the country. He would get texts from friends saying someone was leaving or being moved around and a spot was coming and he was on things of interest quickly.

    Good luck. My husband loves his job but I can tell you the world of journalism can be very tough. People do not because they love it.

      1. OP*

        Thanks so much! Not a sports journalist but great advice. I’m going to start digging into my contacts more to see if anyone can help.

  19. Lexie*

    I’ll be honest, this advice isn’t all bad. She seems to trying to help him seem more professional, and the little things, like a better LinkedIn profile and images, will do exactly that.

    I’m a writer too, and I help my friends and family with resumes and job hunting. My last 2 jobs have been found as a result of recruiters finding me on LinkedIn – I wasn’t even looking for work. Sometimes it’s the tiny details that tip the scales in your favor if it comes down to you and another candidate.

    Also, recruiters do keyword searches on LinkedIn. It’s like Google. If your profile is missing the keywords for your skills, then that job will have harder time finding you.

    To me, the letter writer seemed super negative, and not open to trying new things. The resume that worked in college may not work anymore, and it might be time to try new things.

    That said, if a job seeker isn’t in the right open, positive, mindset, no career coach or mentor can help them. OP might want to listen to a few people (maybe not this life coach, but other trusted, professionals with experience).

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I’m not sure where you’re getting the sense that LW has a bad attitude. She is open to networking, she’s job-hunting and actively seeking freelance work.

      Being doubtful of the benefits of tiny LinkedIn tweaks (entirely rightfully, IMO–LinkedIn recruiters are rarely looking to fill very early-career positions) doesn’t mean they don’t have a positive mindset!

    2. WellRed*

      I didn’t see bad attitude, but there’s something a little “checked out” about her attitude in the letter, which I pointed out to her in a comment.

    3. Les G*

      Now you sound like a life coach. The OP’s not getting a job because the energy she’s putting out isn’t positive enough? Come on.

      1. Lexie*

        Nope, not energy. And I’m definitely not a life coach. What I was saying (and you may have missed) is that it’s all about *effort* and *attitude*.

        Job hunting is a stressful, exhausting process. If you have a negative attitude and reject advice because you think you’re smarter than everyone else, you’ll make that job search even harder than it needs to be.

  20. JKP*

    Maybe it depends on where you live and what field you’re in. My personal experience right after college was that more than 80% of the (non-retail) entry level jobs weren’t posted. I struggled to find a job until I figured out that the majority of companies used temp agencies and internships for entry level positions rather than hire directly. I lived in a huge metro filled with corporate headquarters for many, many national companies. I worked for many different ones those first few years, and they all used temp agencies for all their entry level employees, then hired people on permanently from that pool.

  21. Murphy*

    I knew a person who, when I was job searching, insisted that finding job listings and applying online “isn’t the way that people get jobs anymore” and it’s all about who you know. While I don’t discount that knowing people can be helpful, I got my job just by applying online and doing well at the interview.

  22. Lady Jay*

    Worth noting that I’ve heard the 80% of jobs are unlisted from two reliable sources in the last two days. While the career coach doesn’t seem helpful overall, it’s true that a lot (80%? Hard to say) of jobs ARE unlisted.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You should ask them to tell you their source for that (and their source can’t be just someone else repeating it from somewhere they heard it) — no one has a source for it because it’s not actually true. It’s a made-up statistic that has been passed around for at least 30 years (dating back to when job searching was really different). Here’s a great piece on it:


    2. RES ADMIN*

      I worked for the largest employer in our area. No one gets hired until the position is posted. Doesn’t matter if it is an emergency, internal candidate, whatever. The position must be posted for a set number of days and, in most cases, a certain number of interviews must be documented. This includes positions for which there is already a candidate filling the role on a temporary basis.

      Networking can help you find out what positions are posted or going to be posted. It can even, possibly, get your resume brought to the attention of the hiring manager. Really good networking may even make the difference if multiple candidates are otherwise equal. But no one gets hired until the position is actually posted.

    3. hermit crab*

      This is so weird to me, as a government-contractor-turned-nonprofit-worker in the DC area. Basically any position that touches federal money (and a lot of other grants/funding sources) has to be posted to comply with equal opportunity requirements & similar, and everyone is held to the same application requirements.

      Once I had a part-timer occasionally filling in on my old team (someone who used to be full-time and left to go back to school), and he got purged from the payroll during a periodic removal of staff who hadn’t done any work in X period of time. I had to post a whole new position to get him reinstated to his actual job. It was totally one of those “must have X years of experience doing this thing that only our intended hire has ever done” postings (which I still feel a little bad about).

      Anyway, this makes me wonder what the “non-listed percentage” of jobs really is across different fields and geographic areas.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      Sure, two people said that, but where did they get that info? Even newspapers (which supposedly fact-check stuff like this) have been known to re-publish things that sound good but aren’t true. (Even stuff listed on Snopes, so that’s not exact difficult time-consuming research!)

  23. sfigato*

    I’ll just say that I’ve been to three or four career counselors, and found none of them anywhere near as useful as AAM and her book “How to Get A Job.” I think it is less than $20. Wayyyyyy cheaper than a life coach.
    99% of the jobs I’ve gotten (in nonprofits) has been through job postings. In the companies I have worked for there have been zero jobs I am aware of that we hired without posting for first. My wife is in design and they will occasionally hire people without posting the job, but more frequently she’ll post a job but also actively recruit people via linkedin. And the jobs she doesn’t post are pretty specialized things where casting a wide net wouldn’t get you better results than just asking people within your network – so probably not relevant to most of us.

    Related question: has anyone ever gone on an informational interview that actually was helpful? I am always told to do them, and have never found them to be any use. I’ve found it much more helpful to just talk to people in my network about what I’m looking to do.

    1. Ali G*

      I hired a woman after she contacted me for an informational interview. I met her when I went to speak at my Alma Mater and she was about to graduate. She had interest in my field and contacted me for an informational interview. We both knew she was angling for an “in” but she was very professional about it and asked really good questions. I few months later I got the green light to hire someone for a position I knew she’d be great at. She’s still there 5 years later (I am not however – whole other story!).
      They can work if you don’t treat it like something will come of it – and you respect the person’s time by being well prepared and asking great questions and keeping it short and to the point. At the very least someone in your network who knows people, now knows your name and hopefully has a positive impression of you.

    2. Persimmons*

      IMO, informational interviews are extremely valuable for getting a job in the company for whom the interviewer works. They do not seem terribly helpful for generic advice, though, because that is more easily gleaned elsewhere.

    3. LQ*

      Information interviews – yes. Super helpful. But I was really looking to figure out what job I wanted next or what direction I wanted to point my career. And it was really just talking to people in my network about what I was looking to do. Some of them were like 4-5 steps removed people in my network, but it was really just half hour or hour over coffee conversations with people about what their jobs were really like and what they hated about them and how they ended up there. (The what they hated about their jobs was hands down the most valuable thing I learned.)

  24. Alton*

    Add me to the people who are skeptical of life coaches.

    With regards to the personality test part, I’ve found some career aptitude tests mildly helpful as a way of reflecting on what I gravitate toward and feel strongly about, but I find them pretty limited. I’ve never had a major revelation from one, and they’re not enough to choose a career path from. And it sounds like that wasn’t a concern for you in the first place.

  25. Dan*

    Hi — former journalist, still in touch with the field, here. I wasn’t sure by how the question was worded if the writer was still looking to stay in the field or not, but here’s some journalism-specific info, for however much it helps.

    1) You will get laid off from jobs in journalism. All the time. It happens. People got fired for cause every once in a while, but in most cases it’s almost always a financial thing that has nothing to do with individual performance.

    2) Do not be discouraged by applying to tons of places. Take what everyone says about regular jobs getting tons of applicants and multiply it by several dozen. There are LOTS of journalists, both new, underemployed, freelancing, or un-retiring. That does not mean jobs are impossible, but it does mean there is lots of competition.

    3) Partially because of 2), I agree that the “80% of jobs are unlisted” is nonsense. Almost every position is posted to JournalismJobs, but also make sure you check local media companies as many still have ancient HR people who just use their own jobs page.

    4) The best thing you can do for a job search is to produce content. That’s what will make you stand out. Be willing to freelance (though typically not as part of a job application process — if they think they can get you for cheap, they’ll do that instead of hiring you). Constantly be pitching and submitting to various places and get stuff published. Use those clips when you apply. Also, if you’re a valuable enough freelancer, you’ll usually be in a good position when a staff job opens up.

    5) Newspapers and magazines are usually looking to fill positions with either newbies (cheap) or people who already have jobs (proven experience). As @VermiciousKnid pointed out, looking to trade pubs isn’t a bad idea, and can also be used as a stepping-stone back into “real” journalism as well.

    Similarly, there are LOTS of positions out there where journalism is a great skill, even if the work itself is not journalism (PR, but also just general writing). Most of them have a) better benefits, and b) nights and weekends off, which will also allow you to pursue passion journalism projects (with an eye toward freelancing them, if you want to get paid for them). A lot of former journos have found this to be fulfilling, but YMMV.

    My contacts are fairly region-limited, but if you’re in either central PA or the Washington state area, I can at the very least provide any leads, if helpful.

    1. Dan*

      OH, also: The rules that AAM talks about in terms of long/crazy-seeming timelines are worse in journalism. The excuse they’ll give is that they’re so busy doing five jobs they don’t have time to interview/winnow candidates, but the usual answer is somewhere closer to laziness (many journalists only get anything done on a deadline). It is not uncommon to get a response six months after application. So hang in there!

    2. OP*

      Hi! I am planning on staying in the field. I’m already on JournalismJobs and I find that LinkedIn has some good opportunities for expanding my search.
      Unfortunately my previous job was with the company that owns pretty much all the local publications in the area. I’m going to pick up on the freelancing soon, and I’d appreciate any advice I could get there. I’m in the NYC/Connecticut region but I’m willing to relocate.
      Thank you so much

        1. OP*

          Ok. I wasn’t sure about that! However, I’m not crazy about working for the same company again. But if a job opens up I’ll definitely apply.

      1. katherine*

        If you’re in NYC I would also look on MediaBistro’s job listings. There are some downsides — not just journalism but also book publishing, advertising, etc., and they’re similar to the other big sites in that they have many, many applicants for every job, but it’s a broader net, and it’s more NY-based than JournalismJobs.

        I would also check any papers you signed upon being hired or getting laid off, to make sure there isn’t any kind of noncompete clause (in journalism there often is). Whether they’re enforceable or not is kind of a fuzzy area, but it’s good to know whether one is there.

        As far as freelancing, Who Pays Writers is not always up-to-date, especially on pay rates, but it does give you a general sense of which publications commission freelance work or have in the past.

        1. OP*

          Ooh. Great advice. I do use MediaBistro. I was in the editing section of the company. From my papers (though I’ll check again) I simply wasn’t allowed to work for another company while working there (so that’s not an issue any more)

      2. irritable vowel*

        Take a look at Higher Ed Jobs (go to the Administrative section and then either Publications/Editing or Public Relations/Marketing/Comms) – there are a lot of colleges and universities in NYC/CT and they all have communications/marketing departments in addition to producing news stories/alumni magazines/etc. Working for a university can be a great way to still write/produce content for a living but get great benefits and work/life balance.

  26. nocoffeenowork*

    The people I’ve known who use life coaches are usually in a dire place in their life – think no job, no home, ruined relationships with friends and family, among other issues. The life coach basically helped them organize their issues, prioritize, then plan how to address each issue. Good life coaches also recognize when their job is done OR when another professional is needed, like a therapist. And the ones I knew held multiple degrees, like finance and counseling (but not full doctorate).

    At least on the surface, it seems like a life coach is for someone who is really struggling in multiple areas and needs structure and guidance because their problems are so varied that it’s too overwhelming to address on their own.

  27. Collarbone High*

    Newspaper journalist here, so maybe (?) some of this will resonate with your parents and back up your very good impulse to ignore the life coach:

    1) People involved in daily/weekly production of a publication are pretty much constantly on deadline and don’t have a lot of time to meet up with recent grads for a general conversation about employment. You’re right that calling them up isn’t an efficient way to look for a job.

    2) Sadly, the number of journalism jobs shrinks every year, so I’d recommend looking at related fields like PR and technical writing/editing as well. You might have a great resume and be doing nothing wrong at all in your job search, there just aren’t that many jobs.

    3) Journalism job listings are less likely to be posted on sites like Indeed or Monster, so be sure you’re looking at niche sites like Journalism Jobs, Society of Professional Journalists, copyediting(dot)com, etc. Also check the careers pages of state universities for communications jobs.

    4) Join professional journalism organizations and go to their conferences, which *is* a great way to network and many of them aren’t terribly expensive.

    5) Don’t worry about your LinkedIn (unless, yeah, ‘will work for cocaine’) and focus on getting clips and experience, even if that’s through volunteering and/or freelance work. Journalism is the ultimate “show, don’t tell” – editors want concrete evidence that you can do the work.

    Good luck to you, LW!

    1. OP*

      Thanks so much! JournalismJobs is one of my main resources, though I haven’t SJP or those other sites so thanks for the advice.
      I know it’s a hard field but I’m really determined to make it work!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agh! The fact that your life coach hasn’t told you “seek out niche job sites” (like SPJ) (and instead is focusing on things like LinkedIn background pic) is a huge indictment of her abilities.

        1. Cait*

          Yes, this. The LinkedIn background photo is such a hollow piece of advice. It’s like the coach read a “top 10 things to make your profile stand out” article on buzzfeed and is spinning it as “expertise”.

      2. Collarbone High*

        One more tip: the place that laid you off has likely laid off a lot of other people in the past decade or so. Where did those people end up? Some of them probably left the business, but others might be working at colleges, trade publications, government contractors. Those are good people to network with, because you already have things and people in common, and if the old place has a rigorous hiring process and good editors, the fact you got hired there in the first place will speak volumes.

        1. OP*

          That’s a good question. I’m not sure. The other people “laid off” around the same time (in my department) were senior members and thus weren’t so much laid off as opposed to “forced to retire” so I don’t have their contact info.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            So … I think you might have weird confusion about layoffs, based on this and the “for no reason” thing in your original letter. Layoffs are financial decisions where an employer eliminates positions in order to save money. That’s the reason. (When you said you were laid off “for no reason,” it sounds like you think it was unfair because your performance was fine. But that’s not how layoffs work. The reason isn’t about you; it’s about money.) And your laid-off coworkers probably were laid off, not forced to retire, even if they were retirement age since in most cases that would be illegal.

            1. OP*

              My position has been eliminated. They haven’t hired anyone to fill it. I understand it wasn’t personal. Sorry for the confusion. And from what I know regarding my coworkers, both are of retirement age; one of them put in his retirement papers and later that day/the next day was told it was approved. We were given a ten minute notice to this. I’m not sure about the other guy but it was a similar case.
              I’m not really sure how to put it, but coworkers were using “Forced into retirement.”

              1. hermit crab*

                I’ve certainly known people who were about to be laid off and decided to retire, and also government workers who took an early retirement/buyoff package as part of a reduction-in-force. But that just meant that they chose to retire instead of staying in the workforce after their job went away (similar to someone who gets laid off but decides to spend time at home with kids or travel or whatever instead of seeking new work right away). To me, “forced into retirement” sounds like they had to choose whether to resign or be fired.

          2. Ali G*

            Find them on LinkedIn. You can search by the company name and it will bring up everyone who has that company in their work history (if you can’t remember their names).

          3. GermanGirl*

            But you do have their name and one place of work – finding them on LinkedIn should be possible and you might also see whether they indeed retired or just went somewhere else.
            Then connect via LinkedIn in and mention that you’re job searching.

    2. Wifey of a Journalist*

      I laughed at your #5. I made my husband set up a LI account because he didn’t have one and in my field, it’s odd not to have one. No one looked at it. They wanted his stories, video clips, etc

    3. anon because I got bored*

      I was just coming here to say this: I do a lot of journalism hiring and I don’t even have a LinkedIn page. It’s useful in a lot of fields but useless in media.

      If I’m trawling for candidates, I’m looking for bylines of people doing the kind of stuff that I’m hiring people to do and emailing them to see if they want to get coffee and talk about if they’d ever want to work for my outlet.

      80% of jobs aren’t unlisted, but it’s true that if there’s someone an outlet really wants to hire, sometimes a job can materialize. But if you know you need to hire someone, and you don’t plan to promote someone internally, it’s posted.

      As everyone else has said: networking is important, but not “informational interviews with hiring editors” networking. Former colleagues, former managers, people you went to school with (if any of them are in media). My horizontal network of people around my age/experience level has only gotten more useful as I’ve gotten older; for now, they can at least tip you off when someone leaves their current position or if their team seems awfully shorthanded and bosses are murmuring about hiring (I know the latter seems laughably rare in journalism, but it can happen).

  28. Nita*

    I don’t know, unless OP’s life coach is also a journalist their advice may just not be useful to a journalist. OP may be better off reaching out to senior former coworkers for resume/LinkedIn advice, or better yet, recommendations on where they could apply.

  29. OP*

    Hi, OP here! Thanks for the advice ! The person I went to bills herself as a “life coach.” A lot of her other clients, from what I know, are people who have no idea what they want to do as a career. This is very different for me; I know what I want to do but I wanted help getting on the right path since I had a couple different ideas. I don’t want to say too much but basically I was torn between: grad school, continuing my career and teaching abroad. I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to do since I’d be teaching in Japan (if I’m accepted and therefore wouldn’t start until March) and I still need to work before then.
    She had me take the O*Net test. Good in that my “personality” matches what I want to do, but I didn’t really see the point beyond that.
    I still have a few more sessions scheduled, that are paid for, but I’m going to stop after that. I have a few interviews scheduled so hopefully something will come up

    1. Justin Gerald*

      I taught overseas. At your (presumed) age, it’s a good way to spend a year or two. I bet you could find an English-speaking magazine/website overseas to build up, clips, too.

      1. OP*

        If I get hired that’s my plan! Teach and do some writing on the side. There’s an English language publication I have my eye. In the past they wouldn’t hire me because I didn’t have a visa, but once I’m there for a year or two teaching and freelancing it should be easier

    2. animaniactoo*

      There’s a bunch of good advice here from journalists who are up to date with hiring practices. But – I would also take another look at your resume. Getting interviews off it straight out of college can be very different than the same info on it 1 year out of college. There might be stuff there that’s worth revisiting/updating/emphasizing from that year’s distance, particularly with that 10-month stint and how it’s framed.

    3. Kathy*

      Oooh, yes, teaching abroad in Japan would be an amazing experience. My aunt did it ten, almost fifteen years ago, and she still raves about to this day. It would also give you good time to do freelance work, like how some other suggested above.

      Good luck on your interviews!

    4. GRA*

      Chiming in to say “YES!” to the teaching in Japan experience! I know several people who did that when they were in their 20s and had a wonderful time. It’s always a great thing to living in another country, and you’ll learn things you can take with you through the rest of your life/career!

    5. Jennifer Thneed*

      OP, you don’t have to attend those sessions, even if they’re paid-for. Your time is valuable even if you aren’t working right now, and spending an hour with someone who is frustratingly inaccurate about your field might be worse for you than anything.

      I mean, think about spending an hour discussing your career with a grandparent who hasn’t interviewed for 40 years — you’ll mostly be humoring them and not getting anything useful out of the interaction, but it’s still your grandparent so you’re getting the social familial stuff. This person is a stranger who doesn’t need your attention. (It’s worth asking if you can get a refund or partial refund, but even if you can’t, that money is spent whether you spend the time with her or not. Don’t feel like you’re wasting it if you skip the final sessions.)

  30. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I have a friend who currently has a fairly successful career as a freelance journalist that at least partly got off the ground because of her mommy blog. So I’d say to keep freelancing and also maybe try to start a niche blog of some sort to promote yourself.

    1. OP*

      Got a niche blog! I talk about cartoons. If you want to check it out, it’s scoopsanimationcorner.wordpress.com

        1. OP*

          I have. Most of my writing has been for ScreenRant.com but I’m looking at others. I had to take a break because as I mentioned above I’m looking into teaching in Japan and it’s a very intense interview process.

          1. always in email jail*

            I am sure it is an intense interview process, and I don’t want to be too harsh but… unless it’s taking literally 40-60 hours a week you should really squeeze in some freelancing. A lot of people who actively work in your chosen field are advising you to get your content published as much as possible, but you’re too busy with an “looking into”/interviewing for a position teaching in Japan to work right now? It doesn’t sound like you’re in a position to “take a break” from any professional opportunity you can get at the moment.

            1. OP*

              Yeah. I realize that. The interview is on Saturday and requires quite a bit of prep. And I’ve been busy with some other things, but once the interview is done I’m planning on getting back on it. I know it isn’t the ideal choice but it’s what works for me

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                You’re fine. People are jumping on your word choice but you’re fine. When I was in college a housemate got a job teaching English in China and I remember how it was for him.

                So: “I’m prepping for my interview this weekend — it’s like studying for the bar exam” is the sentence you want right now. Don’t expect people to translate the data you give them into the information you want them to have: tell them the information, even if it seems like the conclusion should be obvious. It’s like cropping a photograph so that the important thing in the picture is what draws the viewer’s attention, and right now the conclusion people should come to is “OP is beyond hella busy right now but will have more bandwidth a week from now”.

  31. Nocleverusername*

    Journalist here. I wouldn’t necessarily say that 80% of journalism jobs are unlisted, but networking has been HUGELY helpful in my career in terms of “oh, X company just got funding to launch/expand the Y section and they haven’t started to think about hiring yet, you should get in touch with the editor.” That’s not necessarily an “unlisted” job as much as a job that doesn’t yet exist, but this works wonders.

    Also, this is not a good year/decade/millennium for journalism jobs, so you’re not necessarily doing anything wrong. It’s just a really tough market.

    What worked for me:
    Join as many professional societies (especially the local chapters of said societies) as you qualify for/can afford. (Often they’ll have recent-grad discounts if the membership fee is too steep.) Off the top of my head that’s SPJ for general journalism, NABJ/NAHJ/AAJA/NAJA if you identify with one of those ethnic groups, and there are associations for basically every beat you can think of (SABEW for business, NASW for science, AHCJ for health, etc) – find the local chapter of whatever of these you are interested in and go to the happy hours and networking meetings. Most of these societies also have niche-specific job boards.

    Freelance, freelance, freelance–it’s most likely not going to pay the rent, but it’s the best way to get in the door at a publication you want to work for. When a magazine or newspaper is hiring their top-of-mind candidates are going to be the people who just filed a great story for them the week before. Are you spending 5 hours a week mailing out resumes? It might actually serve you better to mail out resumes for 2 hours a week and spend the other 3 pitching.

    Good luck–it is rough out there, and getting more competitive by the day!

    1. OP*

      Great advice. I’ve been a lot more focused on applying recently so I’ll take this advice to heart.

  32. Didi*

    As an ex-journalist, I can give you some advice about finding a new job.

    For a straight-up journalism job, try job boards such as journalismjobs.com, Editor and Publisher and Idealist.

    For a job that is not in journalism but requires journalism skills, look on LinkedIn and Indeed for jobs that require researching, interviewing, writing, analyzing and reporting. A lot of jobs in government, nonprofits, and for-profit companies need these skills but they don’t usually advertise them as “journalism” jobs.

    The hottest field for your skills is probably content marketing, which when done well is like journalism to sell stuff. Look for content marketing jobs on Indeed and LinkedIn.

    Join groups such as the Society of Professional Journalists to network in your local area. Also, follow journalism organizations such SPJ, Poynter, etc on LinkedIn or connect with people there if you can.

    Good luck!

  33. Once A Stringer*

    I was a freelance journo for quite a few years. Where I was, the work mainly came in by word of mouth, so don’t knock networking too quick. If someone likes your work and passes the recommendation on, you can have a new client before you know it. A few tips that may help more than your life coach’s advice:

    – Keep copies of all your published articles for the first few years. You want to build a portfolio to accompany your resume. In this line, people want to see your writing skills.
    – Do your own proactive pitching. Editors appreciate journos with the sense to spot a story and the initiative to go after it.
    – Find a niche. Your chances are higher if you have specialized knowledge. Technical publications are a good place to start, as someone already mentioned.

    Good luck with the job search.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I want to address the “don’t knock networking” part, because I’ve seen that come up in a few places on this thread and I don’t want my advice interpreted that way. Networking is important, absolutely! But it’s a more long-term strategy than a short-term one. If you’re going to get results from networking in the short-term, it’ll mean using your *existing* network, not strangers (and the life coach is advising strangers).

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      I dunno – I had a whole recipe up on LinkedIn for, like, a month, and I got plenty of interviews. Guess it depends on the field you’re looking to break into.

      1. Fill-in-the-blank*

        I’m still laughing about “will work for cocaine” and “I eat children”.

        Does anyone have a gluten-free vegan recipe for children? Mine are a little on the older side and may require a low-and-slow recipe.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I don’t, but I still remember the cookbook for uh, “natural” cooking using a certain male body fluid involved in the making of children.

          1. always in email jail*

            Yes, this is exactly what I was going to say. Tenderness of low and slow without having to remember to throw them in the crockpot on your way out the door in the morning!

        2. AKchic*

          No, but I did have a great recipe for purritos on mine briefly.

          I was also trying to get hired as ALF’s chef.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Children by definition aren’t vegan, though. Humans are made of meat.

          I like chili, with lots of cumin.

          1. Folklorist*

            Based on the above description of cooking with “man juice,” I snorted at “cumin.” Seems like it needs a hyphen–or a space!

          1. Archie Goodwin*

            From the unpublished manuscript in which Fritz is revealed to be a serial killer, of course.

            (Hey, not like there’s no precedent in the series…)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      FYI, I’ve moved this thread lower on the page because I didn’t want the first 20+ comments on the page to all be jokes (funny as they are).

  34. My Initials Spell Something Offensive*

    Do not, under any circumstances, cold call people in your desired field and ask to meet with them. This. is. Terrible. Advice.

    I am involved in hiring in my company and we are one that a lot of new grads really want to get their foot in the door…and we see this A LOT. You know what we do with these folks? We tell them flat out this is not the way to get into our company. 98% thank us for the advice and move on about their lives, filling out the applications and following protocols. The other 2% get pushy, and even more pushy if they manage to contact an employee who would be their peer. These people are put on a do not hire list.

  35. Susan Miller-Coulter*

    I suggest getting a copy of the 2018 What Color is Your Parachute and working the parts that pertain to you. Doing all the exercises set up is time consuming (very) but the book has an amazing track record and may well supply you with new insights/lines of attack to find the job you will really thrive in. Good luck!

  36. Journalist here*

    Hi, I’m a reporter about 5 years in.

    Most journalism jobs are listed, but networking definitely helps. The job I currently have was listed, and I applied through the general application portal, but I knew people who worked at my company who put in a good word for me. Now that I’m in house, I realized that there were 250~ applicants for my position. That means there were at least a handful of people who’d be equally qualified for the job. Having the little extra boost of personal connection may have helped me actually be picked out of that finalist pool.

    How to get a job: you need clips that how you can do the type of work and the style of writing as the place you’re applying for. If you want to go into investigative journalism, for example, it doesn’t really help you to have a heap of clips showing breaking news coverage if none of them involved using investigative skills. It also helps to have some sort of specialty, whether it’s deep knowledge of a specific subject area (like science or business — biz papers in particular are doing better than others) or a skill set (video journalism and data journalism are the ones I see hiring most often, also I often see requests for spanish language speakers). Keep building your portfolio while you’re job seeking, which also may help you get to know and build relationships with editors as you go.

    Good luck!

  37. WellRed*

    Letter writer, you’ve gotten some great advice here! I hope it revs up for your job search. I noticed a couple of things that make me wonder, generally. You say you got “laid off for no good reason.” There’s always a reason. Also, you were freelancing and it “fell by the wayside.” Are you having trouble adjusting to post-college life or some such? Maybe some things to think about as you move forward. Good luck!

    1. katherine*

      Unfortunately, journalism is a field where people genuinely do get “laid off for no good reason.” There are too many examples to list here but the highest-profile one lately is Univision’s layoffs/buyouts.

      1. katherine*

        Actually, correction — the Univision layoffs are very recent and yet they’re not the most recent high-profile set of layoffs. Those would be the ones by Tronc (the New York Daily News, according to CNN they’re considering layoffs at their other papers as well).

        Basically, journalism is a field where no-cause layoffs are so frequent that it is almost impossible to keep up with them. That’s the bad news. The (very minor) good news is that anyone who works in journalism knows this and is less likely to fault someone.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it’s super common in journalism! That said, I did wonder about the “for no good reason” part. That makes me wonder if the OP thinks it was a firing, not a layoff (?).

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You mean like how Snopes just fired their managing editor with no explanation?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, I mean that the OP shouldn’t be looking for a reason for her layoff, because the reason for layoffs is always money, by definition. So the fact that she worded it that way makes me wonder if she’s thinking of a firing, rather than a layoff.

    2. WellRed*

      Sorry, not trying to imply that she was laid off or fired for cause. The reason is always money, but the wording seems odd. Trust me, journalist with one lay-off under her belt.

    3. always in email jail*

      I noticed a similar red flag, WellRed. Upthread OP states they aren’t freelancing because they’re busy with the interview process for a teaching job in Japan. I doubt that’s taking 40-60 hours a week. Journalism is a very demanding field and if OP can’t handle interviewing and freelancing at the same time it might not be a great fit? I agree that many of your comments sound to me like there’s a bit of an adjustment issue when it comes to the reality of post-college employment

    4. OP*

      I explained in another post but I applied to teach abroad in Japan, the job wouldn’t start until next year but the application process is intense and requires you to demo a lesson. I’ve also been working on getting a driver’s license and finally managed to pass the test.

      Poor choice of words but I just basically needed to change my focus for a bit.

  38. Storie*

    In my field (entertainment), so many jobs are unlisted. This is why I didn’t balk at her advice to get in rooms for informational interviews with people who might help you. Of course, start with those already in your network and ask them for a few key introductions to get you those meetings. You’ll not only be information gathering about potential paths, but these people may know of jobs for you to go after. This is how it’s done in my experience, so it doesn’t seem off-base.

    That said, if you are so reluctant to call or email people in your field that you don’t know, but may admire, I would say perhaps journalism isn’t the right area for you. Being able to strike up a conversation or approach someone professionally seems key for this career.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m sure there are good and bad life coaches, just like there are good and bad therapists, career coaches, salespeople, attorneys, accountants, advertising people, etc etc. No need to knock an entire profession. Also, the article Alison linked to said that 10 years ago, 80% of jobs may have been unlisted, and that even today the number is 38%, so either way the claims aren’t THAT outlandish..

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It was written in 2012 and said it “may have been” the reality “10 or 20 years ago.” So, 1992 or 2002. And could have maybe been, not definitely.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        That’s what i wrote too… My point was that despite not making much sense to me personally, it does seem there are more unlisted jobs out there than we think. Guess it varies by industry? I know that was only one part of the OP’s letter but still..

    2. AMT*

      Therapist here. The problem with life coaches isn’t that they’re all terrible, but that so many of them operate outside their scope of practice and don’t know or care. They’re 100% certain to encounter people with serious psychological problems during their practice and they may not know whether/when/how to refer them to an actual mental health professional. There was a recent Times article about life coaches that featured a coach whose client confessed that she had been living in denial of her diabetes. Direct quote from the life coach: “I just made her aware of more options, like maybe you can try Splenda.” Really. Some life coaches also seem to give health and nutrition advice, which is something non-healthcare professionals really shouldn’t be doing.

      I’m sure I’d have a different attitude toward the profession if there were more legal clarity on its qualifications, but as it is, I’m concerned that people are being encouraged to enter into a profession with no standardized training, no recognized scope of practice, and no way to bar practitioners who really shouldn’t be practicing (e.g. people who have committed misconduct). I don’t think people realize how much training therapists and other licensed professionals get on how we should conduct ourselves with clients, what kinds of relationships with clients are permitted, conflicts of interest, reporting child and elder abuse, when to refer to other professionals, HIPAA…the list goes on. The frustrating aspect is that aspiring life coaches may not even know that these things could present problems! How would they if their “profession” did nothing to prepare them for it?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Good points…My wife is a therapist so I am very aware of what’s involved with training, licensing, practicum, ongoing continuing education, etc.. I always assumed that life coaches must have at least SOME basic level of qualifications…but maybe not!

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          The term “counselor” is legally meaningless, in that it refers to a job position rather than any kind of training. The term “(fill in the blank) coach” is pretty much the same. Similarly, I suspect that professional baseball coaches get actual training and probably know something about kinesiology and psychology BUT kids’ sports league coaches probably don’t know much outside the actual game.

      2. Sara*


        I started a coach training program a while back and stopped when I realized the extent and danger of the out-of-scope factor. The program I was in was one of the most well-regarded, and after seeing some bad stuff go down in one of the training workshops, and then scouring the company’s ethics documents as well as the IFC ethics guidelines, I realized that the field really did need to be regulated externally, probably somewhere under the counseling umbrella — mostly to incorporate extensive training on when and how to refer, and partly to have a therapeutically-knowledgable accountability process and consequences.

  40. Sasha Sienna*

    I’m currently training to be a life coach (I used to be super sceptical of the profession, too, before I experienced proper, trained coaching) and whatever this person is doing, it’s not coaching as I understand it. The fact that she’s *telling* you to do stuff that you don’t think is relevant to you is a big red flag, without even getting into the fact that her advice is rubbish and doesn’t seem to be based in any experience or expertise at all.

  41. Selene*

    It can be weirdly hard to get jobs. I’m a software engineer and I think I must have applied for 40 to 50 jobs before I got my job. At the very end, I got two offers I had to juggle. And tech is supposed to be a hot field, but I heard similar things from former coworkers. So keep in mind that you are hopefully getting practice! And have people look at your resume and give you feedback. Don’t necessarily go with their suggestions, but see if you think they have merit or if they might point to other issues in your resume. Same with your cover letter. And just keep applying. Assume you won’t hear back and you’re just practicing your cover letters, and in the meantime do some interview practice. Did anyone else get laid off with you? Maybe find out where they ended up. Or see if you can practice interviewing together.

    And do get Alison’s ebook about job searching.

  42. Nervous Accountant*

    I usually don’t trust self employed people unless they’ve actively worked in the same industry that they’ve opened their business in for 5+ years.

  43. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    Believe it or not, the advice from the life coach is only the second worst job advice I’ve read this week. The honor for first goes to the NY Post, which proclaimed people didn’t get jobs through sending resumes anymore and you needed to resort to gimmicks

  44. DouDouPaille*

    Hi OP – I’m an ex-journalist who left the field because of what you are going through: too many layoffs, too much insecurity in the industry. I second the suggestions above to look for a related field to move into. I am in PR now and appreciate the steady paycheck and living wage. (I satisfy my journalistic yearnings by occasionally writing freelance on the side.) Some of my former colleagues who are also ex-journos have ended up in the following jobs: public relations specialist, communications manager, community engagement specialist, press secretary, content manager, marketing coordinator, writing coach, technical writer, and digital copywriter.

  45. Properlike*

    Has anyone yet suggested visiting/contacting the career center at your college? They provide services for alumni in all career stages, not just students looking for their first job. They could help you with other ideas and potentially help you find fellow alumni who may be interested in answering questions. Local community colleges that you pay taxes into also offer the same services for residents.

    1. OP*

      Nobody has actually. I found that the career center at my college was decent for interview tips, less so when it came to job hunting. I know there’s a site for alumn but hadn’t thought about checking it out. I’ll consider it

  46. Kms1025*

    LOL! I got as far as this line in Alison’s response and literally laughed out loud! “This is the classically bad advice you hear from people who have no idea what they’re actually taking about.” I think I love Alison <3

  47. ArtK*

    An important thing to develop in life is a finely-tuned BS-detector. Yours seems to be working just fine. Have confidence in it! What this person is selling you is total bunk and may well be counter-productive.

    1. Triple Anon*

      Exactly. I think there are fields where most jobs are unlisted, but OP was right to question where this person was coming from when she said that. Is she an expert on the field? No. Does she have something to gain financially? Yes. BS detected.

  48. Fiona*

    I’m generally pretty skeptical of “life coaches” but heard an interesting perspective from a friend of mine who is a clinical psychologist. In her work, she’s come across a lot of people who go to life coaches because their cultural background is such that going to a therapist is majorly frowned upon. “Life Coach” is definitely still the wild west of careers and has no real accountability, but I thought it was interesting that it might fill a niche for certain populations, if going to therapy is unfortunately still taboo — or financially impossible.

    1. Triple Anon*

      Also, I just think it works better for some people than for others. As varied as therapists’ approaches are, they are pretty much required to focus on the client’s past, traumatic experiences, any signs of psychological pathology, and emotions, and they’re not supposed to give and kind of advice or guidance. Some people want to focus on practical goals – paying off debt, eating a healthier diet, watching less tv, transitioning into a different career – and find their emotional well being is helped more by that than by talking about their childhood while someone nods, takes notes, and hands them some tissues.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Cites, please. Lots of therapists focus on practical issues. Lots of therapists give advice just fine. Speaking from personal experience, here. And lots of therapists do Cognitive Behavioral Training, which focusses just on present behavior and outcomes and doesn’t worry about childhood trauma etc — not because it’s not important to sort out, but because the goals of CBT are about present behavior.

        And this might be a terminology problem? Therapist and counselor can both mean so many different things. I think that in the US, they are actually not so much meaningful terms as umbrella terms.

      2. Kuododi*

        As a therapist with approximately thirty-ish years experience in the field. I can safely say your statement is incorrect. In my experience alone, I have worked with such diverse issues as spiritual growth, parenting skills, immigration issues, as well as crisis and trauma issues. (That list is by no means all incompassing). Typically I work with cognitive behavioral and/or solution focused styles of counseling which are focused on the goals of the client and are not interested in dredging up a bunch of ancient childhood trauma. Not to say I wasn’t trained in the type of therapy that analyses all the childhood stuff…but Ive not found it terribly helpful with my clients.

        1. Triple Anon*

          That’s encouraging to hear! I didn’t mean to insult the profession or spread misinformation. I’ve just had bad experiences myself.

  49. Jaybeetee*

    Networking is a lot like “experience.” You need to already have it to get anywhere. Which sucks because those are the two biggest tools in the toolkit for finding work, and the people who have the hardest time finding work (young people/recent graduates) can’t really use either of them. Young people are always being told what a big deal networking is, which leads to bad advice like cold-calling strangers, which often comes off desperate or out of touch with the industry’s norms – it doesn’t help you to actually get a job.

    I’m sorry OP, I don’t have any useful advise for you, as I don’t work in journalism. Just commiseration and sympathy, because I was once an unemployed 20something too, and it was a hard time in my life. Slowly, things did happen for me, and I’m now in my early 30s and happy with my career. Keep plugging away, eventually something will work out.

    But yeah, this life coach person sounds pretty bogus. Don’t waste your time or money on her. Lots of people out there preying on those who feel desperate.

  50. Susana*

    I have to disagree a little bit with Alison on this one. I’ve been a journalist for 35 years, and the hiring process is really different. This is less true than when I started, but the rule with newspapers was, by the time they have a job opening, they already have 10 people in mind for it. You want to be one of those ten people. So – we’d send in clips (photocopied!) and an introductory letter to the city editor or whomever, saying we wanted to work there, and asking if we could pop by the office and talk about possibilities. If that went well, we’d periodically send them clips of stuff we were writing, so they could see our progress.
    Now I know the environment has changed – Internet means they get a zillion people hitting “send” who would not have gone to the trouble of sending a packet of material in the mail. So they’re inundated. And as you’re almost entry-level, it’s not like you’re at the Podunk weekly trying to break into Mid-sized serious paper, and can send them stuff every month or two.
    BUT – do not limit yourself only to places that advertise openings. Call it networking, call it pre-emptive applying, but you really have to try to develop a relationship with editors, because they are the ones who decide which writers are hired, and they tend to hire people they feel they already know. Even if they know you from your correspondence and a coffee. I have worked at major newspapers and magazines in my career, and not a single one of my jobs was advertised.
    Another thing – if there’s a reporter or a writer at pub you admire (and have some connection to), you can contact that person and ask to meet for coffee so you can hear how they got their start. I’ve done this for lots of young people, now that I’m middle-aged. I had a student once who was looking for a job post-grad, and I suggested he contact former colleague of mine at Big Paper. Student said – I’m not remotely qualified to work there. I said, you’re right, you’re not – but get to know some of the other reporters, so two years from now, when you’re at Tiny Local Paper and Big Paper is looking for a semi-entry level reporter, Respected Reporter will mention you to the editors. I know that’s a long-term strategy that doesn’t help you get a job now – but it goes to what I’m saying about the process.
    Also – you said you were laid off for “no good reason.” If you were laid off, that sucks, but that just makes you a statistic. A bunch of my friends at the NY Daily News were sent packing a couple of weeks ago because the owner decided to cut the staff in half. I’m not saying it’s not awful – just not personal. If you were fired, well, that might mean getting more info about why.
    You seemed a little dismissive of the freelancing, but that is what will probably get you a job. You will develop relationships with editors (many a freelancer has been offered a staff job when it came up) and you will have clips to show editors at places you want to work. Journalism is a peculiar field, when it comes to getting hired. Advanced degrees mean (almost) nothing, unless your Columbia J-School masters is all you have – meaning you didn’t write for your student newspaper or do an internship. Editors want to see what you are doing now – kind of like being a pro athlete, really. All about proof of talent and recent performance.
    I agree that the life coach is not really doing you any good – and I’m astonished your parents thought you needed one. If everyone who got laid off in journalism got a life coach, it would be the fastest-growing profession out there.
    I’m sorry you’re struggling. It was hard when I started and it’s 100 times harder for new grads now. Have you considered writing a blog? Anything that can show your current writing/reporting/research abilities is good. Also, network up the kazoo with editors. EVEN IF an editor has no openings, but is willing to meet, it’s good. You know why? For all she knows, half her staff is planning to quit that week. Also (a more likely scenario), she’s having lunch with a colleague at another publication two weeks hence, and the colleague says she’s looking for a new writer for such-and-such, and coffee editors says, oh, I met this great woman last week…and it’s you!
    Hang in there. Dump the life coach, but understand that getting hired in journalism is different from getting hired in other fields. Good luck!

      1. OP*

        All great advice. Thank you so much. I’ve been very busy with other stuff, but I can get back into freelancing soon. Some of the stuff I’ve been doing will help. I’ve considered J-school, because I didn’t have very good internships but I have 4 years of experience working on student newspapers in college: I was news editor for about 2 and a half years for my school’s print publication. I ended up leaving the paper my senior and started up an “alternate” news website since the paper’s online presence had decreased.

        My past job in the editing/layout department so there’s not a lot to show there.

        I have a blog: scoopsanimationcorner.wordpress.com. The past few weeks, with the only good advice from Life Coach, I’ve been going back and editing past articles and my brother is helping me with getting it more out there.

        Thanks again

        But I’ll see who I can contact that I haven’t talked to yet.

        1. Susana*

          Excellent! You’re on a path, OP. It can take awhile. The student experience means you don’t need J-school, I assure you. I’ll take a look at your blog – but that’s a great way to showcase your work. In the olden days (meaning, when I was starting out), the only way you got published is if some mean editor in green eyeshades and a bottle of scotch in his filing cabinet decided to give you a shot

  51. Chocolate Teapot*

    My career coach also offers personal coaching. When I started seeing her, it was at a time when I was stuck in a dead-end job and finding a new job led to a better personal life as well. I would always recommend checking the coach’s background and qualifications (mine is a former Senior Manager of a multinational company), and usually the first session is either free or at a reduced rate, so you can decided whether you can work together or not.

    When I started with my coach, I had fortnightly meetings where we would go over my job hunting process. She would offer advice for interviews (as Alison does), and I would have a target such as “By the next session, I will have applied to at least 3 advertised jobs and sent my CV to 3 employers en spec. I will also organise a lunch with person from my professional networking association who could be a good source of advice.”

    Nowadays, I see her less frequently, but have check-up meetings where we review how things are going and what to focus on in future. (Training programmes, promotions etc.)

  52. OP*

    Hi OP.
    I realize people had some questions and I want to clarify
    1) I was laid off from my previous position. I know it wasn’t personal but I guess I’m not completely over it yet
    2) I know freelancing is important but until I read this thread I didn’t realize how important it was
    3) The interview/application process for teaching in Japan is more intense than I originally anticipated. Saturday is the last step in the process. Part of this final interview involve giving a mock lesson. Much of time has been focused on practicing this.
    4) Much of my time was also focused on getting a drivers license. It took longer than it should have, but as of this afternoon I am street legal. (Can’t be a good journalist without a car)
    5) I had been listening to my parents’ advice and focusing on applications as opposed to writing. I will begin to rectify this.

    However, thanks everyone to all the advice and support.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      OP, getting let go from any job sucks. “Laid off” means it wasn’t personal as far as the company is concerned, but it’s certainly personal to YOU! Getting fired might be harder, might not, probably depends on the person and the day of week.

      I’ll just repeat that: losing any job for any reason SUCKS and you will always be second-guessing things and it’s the worst time possible to job-hunt because your confidence takes a big hit. The fact that you’re not completely over it yet is FINE. I still get pissed about the way some jobs ended when it’s 10+ years later.

      But really: “laid off for no reason” is a bad phrase because it suggests that you don’t actually understand the difference between a layoff and a firing. Just stick with “laid off”. (And I hope you’ve been getting unemployment benefits these last 10 months? You’re entitled to them.)

      1. OP*

        I worked at the company for 10 months, I’ve only been unemployed since June. And yes, I’ve been receiving unemployment. Thanks for the vote of confidence. And I agree, poor choice of words

    2. Susana*

      OP, it sounds like you’re on a good path. It just majorly sucks to find your first couple of jobs in journalism. I swear it gets better – eventually, you’ll move to bigger/better publications because they come to YOU after reading you. Forge ahead! It’ll happen. Oh – and teaching in Japan could be great. One, if you have a chance to live abroad when you’re young and relatively unencumbered – take it. Two, you might find your location and experiences there give you something to write about. Best of luck!

      1. OP*

        Thanks so much! I’m a bit nervous about how going abroad will look on my resume since I don’t want to look like I’m job hunting but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’d really like to be a foriegn correspondent possibly or work for an English language newspaper in Japan, so I hope this is a good first step

        1. Susana*

          OP, I quit a job covering the White House for a big paper and moved to Eastern Europe to freelance. Best thing I ever did with my life and career. True, I was in my early 30s and had a rep and contacts already that made it easier (and it was SO cheap to live there then!). But – I know this sounds odd, you actually have more financial freedom now, in some ways, than you will have when you are older (health stuff, kids, mortgages, etc.). Seriously, if you itch to live abroad (as I did) and you have the structure of an English teaching job, take it. It will help you no matter what you do – it will broaden your mind and your vision. It will expose you to opportunities you never even thought of (of – and an old friend of mine taught English 2 years in Japan when she was in her 20s. Came back, worked her way up to the WashPost and is now a book author. So there you go!).
          Best career advice in general I can think of is to resist the strong urge to think of your career path as a ladder. Think of it as more of a jungle gym – you might take an unexpected turn that changes your whole life and career for the better.

    3. Triple Anon*

      You sound very level headed. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Don’t listen to any of the negative stuff. Good luck with your job search and everything else!

  53. Michaela Westen*

    I got my current job because someone in my Spanish club mentioned a health organization was hiring. I looked at their site and found a job I thought I could do. I applied and, 3 months later, got an offer! Didn’t get to start for another 3 weeks. It was an excruciatingly slow process, but it’s a good job. :)

  54. MatKnifeNinja*

    I’m such a mutant, if I saw a headline on LinkedIn that said, “will work for coke” or “I eat children”, I’d check it out.

    Beats dymanic team player..

  55. nnn*

    The weird thing is even if 80% of all jobs are unlisted, that’s no reason not to apply for the jobs that are listed. I mean, they’re right there!

  56. sorbus*

    I imagine life coaching is in a bit of a wild West phase what with the lack of formal certifications and regulation—but therapy also had to go through a dark age too.

    Where I really get skeptical of life coaching as an idea—which I admit is not so relevant to the OP—is when people categorically recommend it *instead* of therapy for people with chronic mental illness or a history of trauma. That one really gets me angry.

  57. Triple Anon*

    I re-read some of my comments here and I realize I was overly negative towards therapists and life coaches. I don’t want to attack anyone’s profession. I was speaking from my own experiences, and I had a bit of an axe to grind. But that applies to people in my own life, not entire professions.

  58. SubwayFan*

    Small bit of dissension–the advice about an engaging LinkedIn headline and background photo aren’t total crap. I’ve tweaked my headline over time and each time, I find that I get better requests from recruiters, and it looks more interesting to people who check out my profile. It’s nothing to hang your hat on, but it can give you a search-enabled edge on the platform. Also, adding a background picture makes you look a smidge more invested than someone with a standard blue background.

    But again, these aren’t things to start with, they’re icing on the cake. Pay far more attention to your cover letter/resumes than the details of your LinkedIn profile.

  59. Shawn*

    I think it’s an unfair assumption to flat out say that this Life Coach is running a “scam”. She may not be offering the most sound career advice but to say that it’s a scam may not at all be accurate simply based on the information provided by the OP. I’m not a Life Coach but still… not cool.

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