The best job opportunities usually go to the men and women who have the best skills demanded in the job market place. In the preceding chapters we have discussed some of the most common openings and their requirements. We have also pointed out how a talent, a hobby, or an interest can be developed and directed for work. In addition, opportunities are growing for women of higher education to enter professional and semi-professional fields.
You may have a fairly good idea of the kind of job you could fill—or you may prefer to try something else, but are not certain of what else you can do. Then again, you may not be aware of a latent capability that can be brought out and put to practical use. There may be job possibilities that could use another skill or knowledge you can acquire.
Take a Self-Inventory
Unless an emergency requires you to take any job at once, the ideal way to find the job you most want is to start planning ahead of time.
Your first step is to take pencil and paper and write down:
- Your experience at paid jobs
- The skills that were required
- Your experience as a volunteer
- Your hobbies, talents, special interests
- Your education—what subjects appealed to you most, which you have continued to pursue on your own
- What you are happiest doing—playing an instrument, caring for children, for sick people, cooking, sewing, art, etc.
- The foreign languages you know
- Any special notice or honors you have received
These are merely suggestions. The important thing is to scan closely the record of your lifetime and write down, so you can study them, the activities in which you engaged, and which were important to you at the time. Don’t overlook anything, whether or not, at the moment, you believe they can be adapted to paying work.
Some of your experiences will be of little use in the job market of your community. Some may lead to exactly the goal you seek.
Opportunities for Further Schooling
The opportunities for schooling are practically endless in the cities where classes in business procedure, office skills, ceramics, dressmaking, cooking, selling, nursing, institutional housekeeping, writing—to name a few—are available in night public schools, vocational and recreational centers, and colleges. The opportunities in small communities are naturally more limited, but in the majority of these there is some organization or facility which offers classes in a variety of subjects. Many an applicant has been preferred over others with equal capability for the essentials of the job because she had greater facility in the use of English, had knowledge of a foreign language, or because her education, in general, was superior.
The better your all-around knowledge, the better will be your chances for the job, and then for advancement.
Special College Programs
A few universities, like the University of Minnesota, are developing pro grams especially planned to attract women to continue or resume their education to be better prepared to fill job demands when they are in a position to go to work. Some of these courses are available only at the university; others can be pursued through extension courses.
Some colleges, like Smith, have been appealing to their alumnae to take refresher courses in their home towns. Under that plan, a member of the college faculty comes to a community where alumnae have enrolled, and conducts the class, for one or more periods a week.
These programs are of especial value to the women who, during their college years, took courses only in subjects that interested them, without thought of preparing themselves for work. They now are able to engage in study that will point them toward a specific job goal.
Training for Business
As I’ve said before, be sure your office skills are good and that you are familiar with the new machines. For example, the electric typewriter re quires a different touch and has a few added symbols which can throw out of gear your automatic familiarity with the old standard keyboard.
Many employers are using the tape recorder and Dictaphone for dictating. There are new calculating machines, tabulators, punch-card systems.
There are a number of other business courses from which you can benefit in a short period of time and which will improve your qualifications: business mathematics and principles; filing; speedwriting or notehand, or short hand for fast dictation; business English; and letter writing. You will find that courses in insurance, investments, retailing and wholesaling, real estate, accounting, advertising, and public relations will expedite a job search in those types of businesses.
A class in general science, finance, or medicine will better equip a secretary who wants to work for companies or installations in those fields. They will familiarize her with the special terms and symbols. Notice how often an ad for an office worker specifies knowledge of particular terminology. It can be acquired with a little diligent study.
Many firms engage in international trade where a foreign language is a requisite for the good secretarial jobs. Your French, German, or Spanish will come back to you with a little application.
If you are interested in being a practical nurse, an X-ray technician, or a medical assistant, you may be able to find a public vocational school that offers the necessary courses of training. Some schools of this kind also offer training for would-be electronics technicians and mechanics—women are no longer so restricted in the choice of what kind of technician they want to be.
Turning Hobbies to Practical Use
If you are thinking of turning your hobby into a vocation, look into the workshops for the creative arts and crafts. You will find them in design, silk screen, jewelry making, and photography, all of which lend themselves to vocations. In addition, there are courses in writing features and articles, radio and TV scripts, ceramics, leathercraft, drawing, mosaics, painting, sculpture, textile painting, and woodwork—furniture refinishing, picture frames, small articles and accessories.
You will find courses in home skills, sewing, including alterations, tailoring, draperies, slipcovers and upholstery; flower arrangements; cookery, including cake decorating, foreign and gourmet cookery; home decorating; knitting; lampshade making; millinery; weaving; pattern making and de sign. You may know how to do these things for your personal satisfaction, but a course on the fine points of the technique will elevate your work to superior craftsmanship, make it easier for you to obtain a regular job, or to improve the service you render from your home.
Sometimes the gas or electric company will hold classes in cooking; the sewing machine distributor will give instruction in sewing; a department store or needlework shop may offer lessons In knitting. Many churches now have recreational programs, where volunteers, as a public service, pass on their know-how to others. The expense is nominal, usually a small fee, plus your materials.
Former teachers and librarians, too, will find it helpful to take courses to refresh their methods and to review their subject matter before they re enter their fields as professionals.
Home Study and Online Courses
If the instruction you seek is not available in a classroom, investigate the programs offered through correspondence, especially if you can discipline yourself to follow through the procedures that Will be sent you by mail. A survey conducted revealed that women comprised about 25% of the one-and-a-half-million students enrolled in private home study schools, including university extension programs.
A Guide to Correspondence Stud in Colleges and Universities can be obtained for 25 cents from the National University Extension Association, c/o University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 14, Minnesota. You may need to shop around for a particular course. Tuition fees in these schools range from about $12 to $50 and college courses carry credit towards a diploma.
The course procedure for the various programs is similar. After you have studied the material for a lesson, you write a paper, or answer questions, or solve a problem, and then send your lesson material directly to your instructor, who makes comments and returns the lesson material to you with any suggestions for improvement that occur to him. Each lesson usually takes a week or two. The University of Chicago finds that most pupils finish a course in from six to nine months.
You can also google for the online courses. There are so many online universities and colleges with so many different courses.
An instruction source, as yet scarcely tapped, is educational television. If you have it in your community, watch the listings for courses you can take in your own home. TV courses are offered in foreign languages, science, literature, business methods, the use of duplicating equipment and transcribing machines, among other subjects.
The foregoing suggests the general range of opportunities through which you can improve your chances for a job by better, or special, preparation, if you plan ahead. Here is a specific illustration from the field of practical nursing
Many an inexperienced older woman, without particular experience, unless she took the training to be a practical nurse, might have to be content with baby-sitting or caring for children, at much less compensation. So great is the need for practical nurses that training, heretofore available only at hospitals and private institutions, is now being offered in many vocational high schools and evening schools, as well as through the American Red Cross. Applicants are accepted who have completed two years of high school or its equivalent, are in good health, and are of good moral character.
To give you an idea of the training, this is the program conducted by the Hannah Harrison School of Washington, D.C., which specializes in training mature women for various occupations and places great emphasis on its one-year practical nursing course.
For the first four months applicants spend 30 hours a week on theory For the next eight months they work, under supervision, for 7 hours a day in a hospital, performing all manner of bedside duties, except for critical patients. In addition, one hour a day is given over to class-room theory at the hospital. When the course is completed, the practical nurse takes examinations for a license (some states don’t require one), whereupon she is judged competent to care for most patients in clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, or in their own homes. She carries out the doctor’s orders, rendering, in the main, most of the non-professional care that a registered nurse gives, including the preparation of the patient’s diet.
Students, during their period of training in the hospitals, receive their lunch and transportation, and sometimes a small stipend.
In fact, the shortage of registered nurses is opening wide opportunities for the practical nurse to attend convalescing invalids. Moreover, the crowded condition of most hospitals is creating a demand that ambulatory patients be sent home earlier in the care of practical nurses.