Some stories are true, but still make no sense. Here’s one.
September 30, 2011
Expect to get stuck at some point in your job search. When you are stuck, try something new. Here’s one idea. Pick three companies you would like to work for. Look at all of their open positions.
1. Which positions would you like to apply for? Print the job posts.
2. Does your resume show how you are qualified? If not, adapt your resume.
3. Apply for those jobs.
Here’s the next step. Find companies that are similar to the three you selected. They will likely have similar job functions and may have similar open positions.
Keep looking for new ways to spark your job search. Try something new.
September 29, 2011
As a rule, most job seekers undersell what they have contributed to their employers. This is especially true in situations where someone has a good idea that solves a problem or makes work more productive.
When you have had a good idea, take credit on your resume. Here are some examples:
• Conceived and managed a program that increased customer satisfaction scores from 75% to 89%.
• Designed process improvements that cut production time by 50% (90 minutes to 45 minutes).
• Created a newsletter and website that increased parent involvement in school programs.
• Invented a component that was patented (patent #).
• Devised new metrics for evaluating employee performance.
If you were part of a team, it’s is still acceptable to show your contribution:
• Played a key role on a team that designed the company’s website.
• Served as the chief writer on a team that developed a 150 page technical manual.
Employers want more than someone who can just do the job. They are looking for people who add value by finding better ways to work. This type of employee has good ideas. If you are that kind of person, don’t hide your talent. Promote your creativity on your resume and in interviews.
September 28, 2011
One of my clients asked if he should go to an interview with a company that requires a long commute. He doubted that he would take the job given the distance from his home. I recommended that he go to the interview. What if this job will offer something that makes the commute worth it or makes it worth it to move closer to the job?
I urge clients to follow this formula: If you are doing the right thing with the right people in the right place, the money will work itself out. Most people who are unhappy at work don’t talk about money as their main problem. They hate what they are doing. They can’t get along with their boss or co-workers. They don’t like the atmosphere of the workplace. People who are doing work they like and working with people they like usually call themselves happy.
The priority in an interview should always be to get an offer from the employer. However, job seekers also need to make a careful evaluation of their prospective employer, especially the person who will be their manager. Trust your gut. If you feel comfortable with the people interviewing you, that’s a good sign. If you see red flags waving before your eyes, don’t take the job (unless you absolutely need the income).
You never know what a potential employer will be like until you interview with that company. It’s a good bet to go to every interview. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If a company you don’t want to work for offers you a job, you can politely decline the offer. On the other hand, if the company is a perfect fit, you might have a good job for a long time.
September 27, 2011
Writing in the Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan collects some interesting ideas about work and jobs. The experts cited seem to agree that it’s time for people to make their own jobs again. This idea sounds great, but I don’t think it’s realistic (even when it’s pushed by Seth Godin in Linchpin).
Can enough people make their own jobs to make a difference? I don’t know. But thinkers who present this model do not give any kind of model of what such a society would look like or how it would work. I’d like to see a blueprint before I buy in.
A big thank you to Bill Savage for sending me Sullivan’s interesting post.
One of my clients is a recent college graduate. Let’s call him John. He majored in Music and worked for three years at the school’s radio station. John would like to build a career in music or radio, but he knows that those jobs will not be easy to get. He has rent to pay as well as college loans. This client is exploring a Plan B.
John has always enjoyed performing administrative duties, and he knows this type of job is more readily than his ideal profession. As a short term strategy, he is pursuing work in an office. This job will hold him over financially until he can find his ideal job.
When you’re stuck in a job search, it’s good to think about other options. If the door you want to open is locked, try knocking on some other doors. Find your Plan B.
September 25, 2011
[On Sundays, Career Calling explores intersections of work & life in “Sabbath.”]
Wendell Berry – Again
The Kentucky poet inspired this Sunday feature. Over several years, Berry wrote Sabbath poems that reflect his (and our) spiritual connection not just to the land, but also to the cycles of nature. In the fourth Sabbath poem written in 1984, he address this bittersweet time of year: “The summer ends, and it is time/To face another way.”
The poem recognizes the need to store for the cold that is to come, the need to prepare the land for next year when the cycle begins again. Berry casts the poem in the scene of a couple: “You do not speak, and I regret/This downfall of the good we sought/As though the fault were mine.” Unlike Robert Frost’s great poems “Death of a Hired Man” and “Home Burial,” which both focus on a dialogue between a husband and a wife, the actors here are vague. One is clearly working the land on a plow. The other, though, could be human or a personification of the season, an ambiguity that enriches the feeling.
The poem’s last lines describes the plow turning stems into the dark earth “From which they may return.” But the last sentence is more plaintive, almost final, “At work,/I see you leaving our bright land,/the last cut flowers in your hand.” This powerful image could be a lover, a son, or just summer, giving way to the dark, cold, flowerless time to come, a Sabbath reflection on what was, is and will be.
Berry’s genius as a poet is to use simple language and images to capture the profound. His poems and prose never lose the reader in a way that requires explanation or an expert. Berry follows Wordsworth’s poetic path of a “man speaking to men.” He touches us – like the last days of summer.
September 24, 2011
This is a great question to ask when you’re networking as part of your job search. Think about people you’ve worked with, people who would be able to sell you a potential employer. We often start with the most powerful people we know: ex-bosses, business owners. The problem is that in most cases these people were not your biggest fans. Often they didn’t you or your work. Sometimes they’re the person who fired you or laid you off. Start with people who value what you can contribute and care about you.
Make a list of those people and call them. Keep your message simple: “I’m looking for a new job, and I was hoping you could give me some advice.” Try to set up a face to face meeting at a café or restaurant (whatever your budget can afford). Don’t bluntly ask anyone to help you find a job. If they offer, that’s great. If they suggest you look at a certain company, you can ask if they know anyone at that company. Don’t be too pushy, or you will push away someone who wants to help you.
Always follow up on any networking meeting with a thank you note. Offer to help in the future. Your goal is not just to find a new job, but also to build relationships that will help you throughout your career. Ideally, some of your network contacts will also become friends.
Start with the phone call. Who will take your call? That’s the first step.
September 21, 2011
Yes! magazine doesn’t follow the simple path of conventional wisdom. Rather than indulge in clichés about mythical dodo-like “job creators,” it asks how our economy needs to change in order to generate a more stable economy in a time when we all need to be conservative in the greenest sense of that word: buying from local/regional markets, learning how to grow food and fix things, and working less/living more.
I love these solutions. But something radical would have to change in our society for this blueprint to work. Many people work so hard that they can’t fix things. They don’t even have time (in many cases, the income) to shop at a farmers market. Too many Americans have fallen in love with Wal-mart and the promise of cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. What they fail to realize is that corporations and business owners are applying a similar philosophy to how they will pay working people. Until we have a stable labor market that will allow the middle class and working poor to build wealth, we will look at a world where 22% of American children live in poverty. That’s unacceptable.
September 19, 2011
[On Sundays this blog explores life and work in “Sabbath.”]
One City – Three Americas
About a week ago I took my first trip to Las Vegas. Friends said it would be like nothing I had seen before, and they were right.
The strip, especially at night, is Disneyland for adults. People flow from casino to casino. Some are going to shows, and some are going to restaurants. The heart of the city, however, beats with the slot machines and gaming tables. This aspect of Las Vegas reflects post-Reagan America, a country that welcomes risks and says losers be damned. We know the house wins, but we play the game anyway. The person playing next to you is not your problem. Win or lose – you are alone.
My friends and I visited another aspect of the country when we went to Hoover Dam. We took a tour of the facility, which was interesting in several ways. The Dam is an engineering wonder, which was completed during the Great Depression. It represents the opposite of the strip: control, security, and shared resources. The water that the Dam holds in Lake Mead is not only used by Las Vegas. Its primary function is irrigation for farms in Southern California that are essential to the nation’s food supply. Before the Dam was built, the Colorado River would often flood and ruin crops. For me the Dam represents a country that builds for the future, a shared future.
We also took a tour to see the Grand Canyon. This version of America puts everything in perspective: man is small and pitiful in the face of nature. We can build skyscrapers and rockets that go to the moon. We could never do what nature has done in carving this wonder. This is the America that is too often being lost to our need to build and grow. In Kentucky and West Virginia, smaller wonders have been spoiled in the process called mountain top removal. In Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, we have fouled the oceans with oil spills. Thank god developers have found nothing of value in the Grand Canyon. . . yet.
I came away from Las Vegas with both fear and hope. My fear is that we are becoming a nation of risk takers who care little about our fellow citizens or the future. Gambling, which was once legal only in a few places, is now a national growth industry. Governors and mayors cry poor and look to casinos as alternatives to increased taxes. I see people who are obviously not wealthy buy $10 or $20 of lottery tickets, their hope for the future. This is the America where risk rules and the winners run the game. Still, I also came away from my trip to Las Vegas with some hope. If we can build Hoover Dam during the greatest financial crisis in the country’s history, we can wake up again and work together for the common good. We still have the Grand Canyon to inspire us to protect the planet and its wonders. We still have a chance – if we don’t gamble it away.