Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview with Debra Wheatman: Entrepreneur, Blogger, and Career Specialist

Debra Wheatman, a human capital management strategist, has been featured on Fox Business News, WNYW with Brian Lehrer and her work has been cited in such leading online and traditional outlets as, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. With over 18 years of experience in human resources on the corporate level, Debra has proven that she has the goods in assisting her clients in identifying career paths that are personally rewarding and meaningful.

Dear readers of Peoplegogy, meet Debra Wheatman - blogger, career specialist, and owner and CEO of Careers Done Write.

Will: Who is Debra Wheatman? When did you discover you had a gift for helping people with their careers?

Debra: I started my career in human resources. What I do is a natural extension of that. I spent a lot of time in corporate HR working with people, listening to concerns from both a workplace and personal perspective.

Will: How long have you been a career specialist? What are the three most common mistakes you see in your work?

Debra: It has been over 20 years. For the better part of 10 years I have been very active in working with people to advance their careers or make transitions to new areas. The most common mistakes I see are the following:

a. People not preparing effectively for a job search – disorganization and seemingly unaware of what their value proposition is.

b. Being ill prepared for an interview, including failure to conduct research regarding the company and position.

c. Poorly prepared career documents and a failure to understand the importance of self-marketing and personal branding.

Will: How would you describe your coaching style?

Debra: I tend to be fairly straightforward. I really enjoy speaking with people from diverse backgrounds and sharing ideas. I have found that there is really no one right answer or one way to do something. Certainly, I have my opinion and an expertise in the career space. However, I will say that I learn something new everyday. An open mind is something that is a necessity if you are going to be successful in working with and coaching others.

Will: In deciding on a niche to pursue, what are some of the ideals, signs or values should one pay attention to?

Debra: There are many things to consider as a person pursues a career path. Many times, family and other personal matters come into play. Every one of us has things that we are passionate about; it would be great to translate this to professional efforts. Sometimes, this is not a possibility due to other limitations or constraints. Research is a very important part of the career planning process. Research allows a career seeker the opportunity to understand industry and company information. Research will also help uncover information that can facilitate the decision making process.

Will: How long should the typical resume be? Is a cover letter ever optional?

Debra: There is no such thing as a typical résumé. All people are unique – so too are their individual career documents. A résumé should be like a skirt: long enough to cover the topic, but short enough to keep it interesting. If a candidate has enough relevant, interesting, and timely information for a two-page résumé, so be it! No, a cover letter is never optional. Would you leave the house with a shirt and no pants? Probably not. Your résumé and cover letter come together. They are an ‘outfit’.

Will: There are a myriad of jobsites and career boards out there. What should be ones game plan for applying for jobs? Is there such a thing as applying for too many jobs?

Debra: Not all jobs are created equal! Again, the research will help a candidate uncover and understand the positions that he or she should be applying for. Yes, you can certainly apply for too many jobs. If a person keeps applying for things he is not qualified for, likely he will not get any responses. This can cause the person to become despondent and abandon what could be a productive search. Planning for a search requires a plan, including knowledge of one’s own abilities, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and drivers. Self-awareness is an important aspect of the career planning process. Applying for things with no clear direction will not yield positive or expected results.

Will: What is an informational interview? How often do you recommend clients to conduct them?

Debra: An informational interview is one in which there is no job available at the time. As the name implies, it is to gain ‘information’ about the company, its operations, and serves to allow the candidate an opportunity to establish a relationship with the interviewer for potential future openings. Informational interviews are important because they can facilitate interactions and serve as a springboard for a longer-term relationship – potentially leading to a job interview and offer of employment.

Will: So one of your clients tells you they have just landed an interview. What advice do you give them? What should he or she wear? What is the one thing you should never do?

Debra: I tell all of my clients to play the ‘recall game’. Oftentimes people need to reacquaint themselves with their own backgrounds. Do research about the company to learn about any new things that are going on. A quick Internet search will likely yield enough information to keep a client informed. Wear a suit. Even if a company says they are business casual, the client is not employed there yet! First impressions are lasting ones. There are a lot of things that should ‘never’ be done. Don’t be late to the interview; don’t come unprepared – bring several copies of the résumé – you never know who you will meet; never leave the interview without asking questions!

Will: What made you become an entrepreneur? Tell us about your company, Careers Done Write? What was the inspiration behind your company?

Debra: I really enjoy the process behind driving the growth of something – especially something that I really enjoy doing. My passion is helping people with the career planning process and contributing to their success. Careers Done Write is a career planning and management company, which helps guide people through all aspects of their career. We strive to establish long-term partnerships with our clients so they continue to use us as a resource.

Will: How do you use social media? What is the process for deciding which platforms to use and which to pass on?

Debra: Naturally, social media is a part of the career planning process. Yes, I encourage clients to use social media. There are a lot of platforms out there. Since it is not possible or even advisable to use all the social media platforms available, I encourage clients do conduct some research about how they plan on using social media to enable them to choose the most appropriate platforms. Generally I recommend LinkedIN for business; Twitter for connecting with a broad audience, sharing ideas, and general networking; and Facebook for personal interactions.

Will: Has the popularity of social media influenced how you conduct business?

Debra: Social media has been a definite impact on how I conduct business. It provides me with a wide variety of vectors to communicate with people looking for assistance in their career search.

Will: Do you encourage your clients to get involved in social media? If so, what are some of the guidelines you give them?

Debra: Yes, I encourage clients to get involved. Social media is a wonderful forum for people to engage with their peers. I recommend keeping the information positive. Of course, no matter what social media a client uses, I advise posting information that he or she would be proud to have his or her grandmother read or see.

Will: Debra, it has been a pleasure. I want to thank you for the opportunity to share your expertise with the readers. Do you have any final thoughts?

Debra: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my background and thoughts with you. The career planning process is one that should be planned and implemented with care to ensure success.

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