I’m reading a book on career management that dismisses resumes as “historical.” While it’s true that resumes summarize work history, their more important function is forward looking – to show why you are qualified for the kind of job you want, not the one you are leaving.
Many of the clients that ask me to review resumes fall into the historical trap. They focus on their most recent jobs and are very detailed in discussing that job. Being overly specific often makes it hard for an employer to see how a candidate fits their needs. This problem is even worse when a job seeker uses the language of her old company, language that only someone who works for that company would understand.
I frequently recommend that clients find 5-10 job posts and send them to me. I review them to understand the requirements and skills employers are looking for. I also track the repeated “key words” that are so important. By looking at these documents, I am able to focus the resume on the jobs my clients will apply for.
The key to a successful job search is to keep looking forward. You should only discuss your past to the degree that it shows how you are qualified for your next job or career move. In writing your resume and interviewing for jobs, keep your focus on what your next employer needs. It’s all about the future – and finding a better job.
On this said day, when the mayor of Chicago has closed nearly 50 schools, Daily Kos links to a great profile of education reformer Michelle Rhee. The former head of Washington D.C. schools, Rhee makes strong decisions that seemed based on belief rather than fact, especially the belief that teachers’ unions are the biggest problem facing public schools. Instead, she favors an unproven market model that depends on charter schools. There is no clear evidence that charter schools perform better than traditional public schools. In other cases, as Diane Ravitch documents in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, reforms have clearly failed, only to have billionaires pour more money into some new model as well as funding union-bashing PR. Is this reform really about children or busting unions?
I’ve found a great blog that you should be following: Matt Chong’s Pinstriped Suit. Matt covers a range of topics, including career strategies and job market trends. One recent post listed 10 jobs in marketing that did not exist 10 years ago. If you want to enjoy some great perspectives on managing your career (and some interesting thoughts on marketing), check out the Pinstriped Suit.
Today’s Huffington Post offers a fascinating and frightening analysis of youth unemployment. The overall loss to the nation is estimated at $18 billion, but behind that big number are millions of young people who will struggle to survive. Beyond the unemployed most of the new jobs created over the past few years have been low wage, which means that many other young people are starting their careers with little opportunity to save money.
While we need to pay attention to unemployment, we should also look to other factors that impact young people, such as student debt. Young people who attend college are less likely to be unemployed, but they are often leaving school with a debt equal to a small mortgage. If Congress does nothing (which is what it has done best over the last few years), interest on student loans will double later this summer.
Our political leaders need to start focusing on this problem. However, given their general failure to care about working people and the unemployed, it’s most likely that the problems described above will only get worse, and young people will suffer because their elders are acting like children.
[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks beyond careers to the broader work of life.]
Music for the Masses
I live in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, a community that values the arts. We have several theater groups, musicians, and artists that hold frequent performances and exhibitions. Yesterday, I was fortunate to attend “Let’s Do It,” a performance by the Edgewater Singers. The program ranged from traditional folk songs to modern jazz and pop standards. I’m not expert on vocal music, but, to my ear, the program was outstanding. Later today, I’ll attend a concert by the International Chamber Artists (ICA), a local chamber music group. This program will include works by Dvorák, Plog, Bozza, and Beethoven.
While the music in these programs is very different, they have this in common: no charge. Both music companies want to offer high quality art to neighbors who can’t afford it. Many people, including me, happily offer donations to support the programs and artists. But others can’t. They are out of work or low paid. These people could never attend similar concerts held downtown or at suburban venues. Companies like the Edgewater Singers and ICA do a real service to their community by offering free concerts.
I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy great music in a community setting. Both groups hold their concerts at local churches. I am more thankful that hard working people, some of whom are professional musicians and singers, donate their time to entertain and enrich the lives of their neighbors. What they are doing is truly good work.
Many clients tell me that they follow up with employers by email after job interviews. They also seldom get a reply. Here’s a better strategy: Use the phone. While it is possible to dodge a message as easily as it is to delete an email, a phone call carries more weight. The interviewer hears your voice and remembers that you’re a person. Better still, if the interviewer picks up the phone, you get the chance to ask questions and engage the interviewer.
An email message is passive, and it gives you no chance to ask questions or answer them. Some clients think they are being polite by using email. Think about it this way: You took the time to interview with a company. Don’t they owe you the respect to reply to a phone call?
Know what you want to say when you talk to the interviewer. The key question is: “Are you still considering me as a candidate?” If the answer is yes, ask when the company expects to make a decision. Don’t leave it there. Follow up with this question: “I am very interested in this position. What else can I tell you that would help you make your decision?” If the interviewer tells you that she is not considering you as a candidate, ask: “Thank you for considering me. Do you have any advice for me as I continue my job search?”
In either of these cases, the interviewer could give you an answer that isn’t helpful. On the other hand, if you don’t ask the question, they won’t be helpful because you’re not asking for it. Use the phone. Ask questions.
A group of parents in Chicago have filed a suit to stop Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close 54 schools. The suit argues that students in special education programs will be negatively affected in a way that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In reporting on the suit, The Chicago Sun-Times quotes CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennet, who said: “We have a shared responsibility to do everything we can to ensure a bright future for every child.” These words sound wonderful. However, they contradict the action being taken by CPS.
I live near Trumbull School, which is being closed because of alleged “underutilization.” The school’s problem is that it hosts several special education classes, which are capped at 14 students per class, half the expected number of a general education class. Several experts have said that the school is not underutilized if adjustments are made for special education classes
More importantly, CEO Byrd-Bennett claims that she wants a “bright future for every child.” If this is the case, why not bring students from neighboring schools (Chappell, McPherson) to Trumbull, which would lower class sizes at three schools, rather than packing classrooms at two schools? It’s no secret that students learn better in smaller classrooms. Empty seats at Trumbull would seem to give CPS a chance to give more students a chance to realize “a bright future.” Why close such a resource?
The only logical reason seems to that CPS wants to shed jobs. Is that what is best for the students and their future? I don’t think so. If the city can find money to build a new arena for DePaul near McCormick Place, it should be able to find money to keep schools like Trumbull open. Do what is best for students. Invest in schools and teachers.
I talked with a client for nearly an hour today. She’s spent the last twenty years working in advertising. However, she no longer wants to work in that industry, which now makes her feel disgusted (her word). It’s time to move. The problem: She doesn’t know where she wants to go.
We discussed her current emotions. Again and again, she said that she felt stuck as if she were facing a wall that blocked her path. I asked this question: What do we do about the wall? In a case like this, my philosophy is to make the metaphor real. What can one do about a wall? There seems to be these options: go over it, go under it, go around it, punch a hole in it, or knock it down.
Rather than jump right into work related matters, the client and I discussed her hesitation and fears. We also talked about what was most important to her: helping people. My advice was to use this goal to get passed the wall. I suggested finding a volunteer opportunity. Of course, volunteering isn’t the same thing as getting a job. It does help deal with the wall problem. Once my client is active, she’ll regain self-worth and confidence. She might find that helping people is very important and pursue a new line of work. Or she might find that her old line of work doesn’t look too bad.
Almost every person faces such a wall at some point in his or her career. We’re all open to fear and despair. The real problem isn’t that emotion so much as the paralysis it can generate. My solution is to find a way to be active and positive. Volunteer. Take a part time job. Find a counselor who can offer specific strategies to move forward. Don’t stand in front of the wall. There a job and better life behind it waiting for you.
A compromise bill has passed the New York City Council to require employers to give employees sick days. What’s surprising about this – or maybe not surprising – is that very few American workers receive sick days. Daily Kos has published a map of countries that require sick days. Once again, the U.S. does not follow the pattern of most developed countries. Workers in the U.S. are under attack. We need to look at other countries and look at our own history. It’s time to fight back.
In the Grid feature of today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Francine Knowles profiles Anne Ladky, the Executive Director of Women Employed. Ladky points out that too many women still work in low wage jobs. She estimates that 17 million women work at jobs that pay less than $12 an hour. Worse still, it’s not unusual for these jobs to schedule employees at less than 40 hours a week, which means no benefits, no security.
Ladky advocates improved education and better programs to assist low wage workers. While I agree with her in these areas, which should be called common sense solutions, the trend on a national and local level seems to be flying in the other direction. Few politicians support funding any kind of social program. Instead, they call for cuts to any program that helps people (except for the very rich and corporations). Several major cities, including Chicago, are closing schools, which means young women (and men) most likely to be low wage workers are being packed in larger and larger classes. How will they be able to compete in an economy that requires greater knowledge and skills? Is it possible to talk about meritocracy if so many have no chance to succeed?
Ladky and Women Employed are fighting the good fight. May they stay strong and lead to a better world for all of us.