Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/10/2008 4:44:47 PM ET 2008-08-10T20:44:47

There’s a lot of career soul-searching going on among many readers, so I’m devoting this whole column to your questions.

In a tight economy, it’s easy to blame fuel prices, the mortgage crisis, etc., for your career woes. But let’s look beyond all that for a moment and try to figure out how you can make your own little job universe better.

Here are some of your questions:

I have been thinking about trying to get a job with (a major accounting firm) in Vietnam, Thailand or Hong Kong. Did your research ever come up with information about where would be a good place to get a job overseas that had comparable pay for highly skilled labor and also the best marketable overseas experience?  I do international tax information systems so I thought I could do well there.
— R.S. from Dallas, Texas

In today’s global marketplace, almost any experience you get abroad, especially when working for a large corporation, will enhance your resume. And when you think about salary, keep in mind that the cost of living in many Asian nations is a fraction of what it is in the United States.

That said, you’ll want to get top dollar to take on a foreign assignment or you risk being at the bottom of the salary chain when you decide to relocate back to the U.S., especially if you want to stay at the same firm.

Among the Asian countries, many career experts point to China as a great place to grow your career.

“China is many worlds in one,” says Michael Jalbert with recruiting firm MRINetwork, but even within China, or any country you look into, there will be different regions that are better than others. Shanghai and Beijing, he says, are both huge burgeoning economies. “And Hong Kong is one of the most exciting places on Earth,” he adds.

There are other parts of China that are very rural, he points out. That’s not a bad thing, but you have to figure out what you want out of a job and how that job will fit into your future goals.

Vietnam, Jalbert said, is still a developing country, but it’s becoming more westernized; and Thailand has a fairly well-developed economy, but it has some cultural differences that Americans may not cotton to, like trafficking of human beings.

The more skilled workforce will probably be in Hong Kong, he adds. But your money will go further in Vietnam and Thailand.

Since many will be apt to choose more westernized locales like Hong Kong, he says, you really have the opportunity to be a trailblazer if you choose a more underdeveloped country to cut your international teeth.

When it comes to fitting in, language will be a key. In some more cosmopolitan Asian cities, you’ll be able to get along with only English, but for other areas — especially the more rural — you’ll probably want to get a basic understanding of the local language in order to make the most of your foreign adventure.

I am writing because I am not happy what I do career-wise. I graduated with a degree in liberal arts and [that was] not the smartest choice I made. I have no idea how I could get my degree and my experience [to] work with me. I have applied [to] over 20 jobs every year. Yet I have not had a nibble. So I am a bit frustrated. How does one go about changing their career and move into a different direction? What direction can a liberal arts major go into career-wise besides being in the education field?
— Barbara

There is nothing wrong with having a liberal arts degree, says Norma Gaffin, director of content for Monster.com.

“Stop and figure out what you want to do. Don’t use your degree as a crutch,” she stresses.

Sure, liberal arts can be a gateway to education jobs, or gigs in public relations or publishing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t branch out into finance, or even health care.

Once you have a career direction, or an industry in mind that may work for you, you can take a class or two at a local college that’s in line with your new path. With a liberal arts degree and some targeted courses, hiring managers will be willing to give you a look. “Not every job requires a full vocational degree,” she notes.

And look beyond what you do in your 9-to-5 workday. Do you volunteer, or do the books for the PTA? Try and figure out how what you do, or have done, shows off your knowledge in a certain area, and include that on your resume.

Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up, maintains Gaffin. If you don’t have a specific degree or expertise, many employers will be looking for your potential.

I just retired from the U.S. Navy and have spent most of the last two months filling [out]applications on just about every job site and many corporate Web sites. One challenge I have is addressing the section on past employment. For me, I have really only had one employer — the Navy. I have worked in different positions, in different states, and in some cases, different countries. I was in some positions for anywhere from nine months to three years before reassignment. Also, in many cases, the addresses were not typical mailing addresses that fit the profile on the job applications. On top of that, providing a name and contact number for a supervisor is difficult because in some cases I cannot even remember who they were, or they are no longer there.
— Rob Straker, Jacksonville, Fla.

This can be a big problem for anyone who’s had an untraditional job that doesn’t fit nicely into a corporate box — for example, military folks, freelancers, etc.

Unfortunately, these cyber applications give people like you few choices. You don’t want to make up numbers or addresses because that will come back to haunt you, but if you don’t include some of this information, the application won’t file properly.

One thing some job seekers have tried is putting in question marks in the spaces for numbers and names. If you do that, it could set off warning bells for the hiring managers, but it’s better than not filing at all.

And also, the summary space provided on many of these will become even more critical for you, says Deborah A. Bailey, a career coach. It’s in the summary where you want to mention right away that you’re a veteran and you’d love the chance to fill them in on your extensive background. And play up the leadership roles you’ve held and the skills you’ve learned on and off the battlefield.

Bailey stresses that you have to go back to the Navy and get names and numbers, even if individuals you worked for are deployed. There has to be someone in the military who can verify what you’ve done and the years you served, even if it was going back a few years.

Remember to also leave the military jargon off your resume and application. (Check out these two previous columns I wrote on career advice for veterans: To get a post-military job, drop the jargon, GI and Disabled vets face challenges finding a job .)

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