Career Calling

March 24, 2010

Lost Vacation Days

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 1:46 am
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The Chicago Tribune cites a survey by on the use of vacation days.  One third of American workers skipped an average of 3 vacation days.  Add that to furlough days, pay cuts, and increased work load, and it’s easy to see who the big winner in this economy is.  It’s not working people.

Click here to read the article.

March 23, 2010

When to Use Numbers on Your Resume

Filed under: Resume Writing — claycerny @ 12:44 am
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It’s become a cliché that we should include “numbers” on our resumes.  Like all simple answers, clichés should not be trusted.  Am I saying you should not use numbers and percentages to support your achievements?  No.  But you need to think about what those numbers are saying.

If you’ve increased sales or productivity and you can quantify that success story, do so.  However, be careful about the number.  A client once told me he had increased sales 500%.  In reality, he took a small client base and made it average at best.  If an interviewer pushed my client’s original number, it would have looked like he was being slick – or, worse still, dishonest.  This client might have been better off telling the story how he increased sales rather than trying to force a number where it did not benefit his case.

Similarly, it is a good idea to use numbers to show increased efficiency or cost reductions.  When you do this, be sure you can explain how you were the once behind the success.  For example, if you are in purchasing and materials costs fall, prices will go down.  Any smart employer will know that.  However, if you negotiated a lower price or found a new vendor that cut purchasing costs by 35%, take credit and use the number.

Quantify your success whenever you can on your resume and in interviews, but be sure that the numbers will stand up to any challenge by an interviewer.  The key is to win the interviewer’s confidence.  Be careful with your numbers.

March 21, 2010

Sabbath, March 21, 2010

Filed under: Sabbath — claycerny @ 6:48 pm
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[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature that looks at life and work beyond the world of careers, jobs, layoffs, and furlough days.}

Working on Sunday

Later today, it is expected that the House of Representatives will pass a health insurance reform bill.  What does that have to do with Sabbath?  The politicians will do this work on Sunday.  Conservative critics of the bill, including the ever-more-crazed Glenn Beck, claimed outrage that this would be done “on the Sabbath.”  Whatever we think of this particular law, everyone has to admit this:  Work on Sunday is here to stay.

Why not?  For many believers, the Sabbath isn’t even on Sunday (Jew, Muslims).  Many Catholics now attend mass on Saturday night.  As a religious issue, the claim that we shouldn’t work on Sunday, makes no sense.  Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and the only ones unhappy were the hypocrites who later called for his crucifixion. 

Many small businesses – especially restaurants – depend on their Sunday sales to keep the doors open.  Sunday hours also enable us to be a little less harried on Saturday, which is a day when more and more of us have to work.  There are only so many hours in a day, which means Sunday is often the time to do laundry or vacuum. 

Sunday does not equal Sabbath.  The “day” of rest has become more and more an attitude about how we think about life and work.  One of my friends is retired, but still works in his wife’s small business.  They often work seven days a week.  Where is his rest?  Leon keeps a lounge chair in a back room which he uses to nap every afternoon.  Other times he’ll take a couple of hours off to have lunch with his friends or a few weeks to enjoy Las Vegas.  He does his work, but he’s keeping time for himself and things he enjoys – that’s Sabbath, recharging the spirit and remembering that life is not all work.

Many people take sabbaticals, time away from work to explore themselves and the world.  For some, this period is part of a professional transition.  In 2000, I left a company where I’d worked for ten years.  During a three month vacation, I decided that my next career stop would have more to do with writing.  That decision led me to resume writing and career coaching, which is what I have done professionally since 2001.

Sabbatical or Sabbath, we need to find time – hours, days, months – to clear our heads and relax, which is often impossible in a world that says:  NOW! 

Again, Wendell Berry puts it best:

The year relents, and free

Of work, I climb again

To where the old trees wait

Time out of mind.

*    *     *    *

Calling again to mind

The grace of circumstance,

Sabbath economy

In which all thought is song,

And all labor is a dance.

Sabbath is when “all labor is a dance” and “all thought is song,”  May each of us find that place at least for a few minutes, now and then.


Poetry Foundation Profile of Wendell Berry

Selections of Berry’s Poetry

YouTube video of Wendell Berry reading

March 20, 2010

How Much More Can They Cut?

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 9:52 pm
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I was just talking to a client who works at a large law firm.  He told me that all the lawyers in the firm have been given 10% pay cuts, which is bad – but not the worst news.  Administrative staff is being made to take a furlough week, and their hours have been cut.  Going forward, they will work four day weeks. 

Let’s do the math and figure out what the administrative staff is really losing.  Since there are 52 weeks in a year, let’s round down and call each week 2% of a total year’s salary.  One week means 2% lost.  However, that extra work day really adds up.  If a day is cut from every week, each administrative employee at the law firm is losing the equivalent of 10 weeks’ pay – 20% of their annual salary.  Adding in the week cut, the entire loss for clerical workers at this firm will be a whopping 22%.  How many people can take such a cut?  How long can they take it?

How much are the partners sacrificing?  Please don’t tell me they “give” people job.  It sounds like what they are giving working people is the shaft.

The late Ted Kennedy put it best: “When does the greed stop?”

Helping Your References

Filed under: Job Search Strategies — claycerny @ 2:05 am
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References are important because they help potential employers feel confident in offering you a job.  Do whatever you can to help them sell you to employers.

When you begin looking for work, be sure that your references know that you are applying for jobs and someone might be calling them to ask about you.  Ask again to be sure that they are willing to say good things about you.  If you haven’t worked with someone in a while, she might not be willing or able to speak with confidence about your ability.  In such cases, it is better to take that person off the list and find someone who can do a better job of recommending you.

Be sure that your references know what kind of jobs you will be pursuing.  They need to be able to make their experience with you speak to your current goals.  For example, one of my clients is transitioning from a career in teaching to sales.  Her potential employers don’t want to hear what a great teacher she is.  They need to know how this candidate can take the skills she used in the classroom and use them to be successful in sales.

Coach your references so they understand your goals.  Ask them for advice about how you can present yourself more effectively.  Offer to send them a copy of your resume or a list of achievements that can help them say positive things about you.

Most importantly, let your references know how much you appreciate their help.  Send them a thank you note or take them out for lunch or dinner.  A good reference can be the key that opens the door to a new job.  Take care of that key.

March 18, 2010

Jobs on Twitter

Filed under: Job Search Strategies — claycerny @ 11:32 pm
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The Chicago Tribune reports that Sears/K-Mart will be posting 7,000 jobs on Twitter.  The strategy is meant to target the 18-34 year old crowd.  Tweet your way to a job?  If it works, why not?

Follow this link to read the article.

Who’s Hiring – Growing Companies

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 11:23 pm
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The March issue of Inc. magazine reports that 93.3% of the Inc. 500 are planning to hire in 2010.  Why should this statistic matter to you?  In one sense, it shouldn’t.  You probably won’t get a job with an Inc. 500.  They are small companies spread across the U.S.  On the other hand, there are thousands of very successful, growing companies that are also going to be hiring.  Look for companies that are building new facilities or applying for permits to build.  They will be hiring new workers soon.  Look for companies that have just won contracts with the government or large manufacturing companies.  They also will be hiring soon.  Keep your eyes and ears open.  Growing companies can’t keep growing unless they hire.

What Works for You?

Filed under: Uncategorized — claycerny @ 1:32 am

Seth Godin offers another of his great, short posts: “Not For Me.”  His point is that we should always give advice to others with attention to what might work for them, not just what we think is true for ourselves.  Follow this link to read the post.  You’ll read it in less than two minutes, but the wisdom will stick with you.  I hope to remember it with humility in helping my clients.

Keep Your Job Search Moving

Filed under: Job Search Strategies — claycerny @ 1:09 am
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Two clients have called me recently to say that they were in the second and third round of interviews.  Both were very happy and confident that they would get the job.  Sadly neither were the lucky candidate.  Worse, they had both stopped applying for jobs.

I don’t believe in simple rules, but here’s one that works: Don’t stop looking for a new job until you have found one.  Over the years, I’ve counseled many clients in this principle.  Too often, people stop because they have been interviewed.  Then they have to start re-applying for jobs if they don’t get the offer. Losing momentum just makes the job search, which is always difficult, even more frustrating – don’t stop!

What’s the worst thing that can happen?  If you take a new job and another employer calls you to interview, you can politely turn down the opportunity.  Or you can go and see what that company has to offer.  Give yourself ever opportunity.  Keep the ball rolling – don’t stop!

March 17, 2010

Education as a Career

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 2:48 am
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When I started working as Career Coach and Resume Writer in 2001, my advice to teachers and counselors was easy: Find a good school.  Over the past few years, I don’t give that advice so much.  It’s still a goal, but the priority is to find a job.  Now, I wonder if that will be possible for many prospective teachers, counselors, and administrators.

Chicago Public Schools are projecting massive layoffs.  In Kansas City, half the schools will be closed.  What does that mean for out of work educators?  More people seeking fewer jobs.  Worse still, what was once a secure job is now year to year.  It is almost a cliche to say that teachers are underpaid, especially given the role they play in shaping the future of the country.  Now they face a job that may not exist, which, of course, will soon be followed by lower pay and fewer benefits for those who are “lucky” enough to keep their jobs.

One of my clients is an administrator.  He recently attended a meeting that was led by Chicago Public Schools chief Ron “Doomsday” Huberman.  When Huberman ran the transit system, there was never enough money.  Employees were let go and service was cut.  It seems that the same business model is at play for the schools.  Does the State of Illinois owe Chicago’s schools hundreds of millions of dollars?  Of course.  Does the city and state have other ways to raise revenue?  They do.  The problem is that it’s easier to cut services and layoff workers than it is to raise taxes or find some other form of revenue.

My client said that one of Huberman’s solutions is to ask principals to take 14 furlough days.  I hope teachers and principals take a lesson from the CTA unions that said “No” to furloughs and forced layoffs.  Let doomsday come, and let our public officials be responsible for their poor leadership.

The long term prospects are much darker than doomsday.  Who will want to work in a profession where the pay is low and there is no job security?  Many education reformers are – with good reason – calling for students to spend more time in the classroom, which will increase the time teachers work.  More work – less pay – no security: Who in their right mind will want to work in primary and secondary education?

Postscript:  The Sun-Times reports on the teachers’ response.  Click here to learn about their response to another company trying to balance its books on the back of working people

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