Career Calling

July 22, 2010

Purple Cow Thinking

Filed under: Career Management — claycerny @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,

The August edition of Psychology Today features an interview with Seth Godin.  I frequently refer readers to Godin’s blog, which offers concise, thoughtful musings on careers and communications as well as marketing.  As Seth puts it, “My job is to point out things people already realize but help them understand them is a different way that gets them to take action.”

One of Godin’s biggest insights is that it is O.K. to quit or fail.  Too often we live fixated in a “school” model that makes us afraid to try new things because we don’t want to make a mistake.  We need to do the opposite, moving beyond the fear of our “lizard brain” and accepting challenges that fit our skills and gifts.

There is one section in the profile in which I take issue with Godin.  He criticizes companies that hire “compliant” employees based on their resume, “a sheet of paper saying how compliant you are.”  He says companies should hire people who make a difference, a quality he describes in his most recent book, the excellent, Linchpin.  A good resume does exactly what Seth is looking for.  It demonstrates how a job seeker will bring value and make a difference.  A good resume will show, in Seth’s words, how a prospective employee is “indispensable.” 

In all of our communications, we can take a lesson from Seth’s books, blog, and his call to communicate through interesting stories.  He explains to the interviewer his concept of using original words and phrases to catch a reader’s attention and generate a new kind of thinking: “The only way to get talked about is to make interesting products – purple cows.”  In our career management and job search strategies (and resumes), we need to present ourselves in a way that sets us apart, a way that plays up our indispensable purple cowness.

Texas Teachers Need 2nd Jobs

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 12:42 am
Tags: ,

Huffington Post reports that 40% teachers in Texas public schools need to work second and third jobs to supplement their incomes.  Several teachers who were interviewed as part of a study say this extra work affects their teaching. 

Once again we see our social values (we value education) undercut by reality (teachers having to work second jobs).  What is happening to America?

July 21, 2010

Up and Down Job News

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 1:13 am
Tags: ,

For now, hiring is up and layoff are down, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.  The less happy news is that employers expect to hire fewer employees in the months to come.  Time will tell if that forecast holds, if the news if worse, or if more hiring takes place. 

Remember, we live in a time of looming disasters.  Y2K was going to shut down society.  Experts predicted rampant terrorist attacks in the wake of 9/11.  And we should all be dead by now if H1N1 was as bad as projected.  Let’s live in the present, and celebrate the small gains we see in the economy and the job market.

July 20, 2010

Is It Worth Waiting for a Buy Out?

One of my clients works for a major corporation that recently merged with a large competitor.  Some positions will be eliminated, and my client expects his to be one of them.  His dilemma is that he wants to quit now.  He hates the job and needs to move to be near an elderly parent.  However, there is another side to the coin: if he is offered a buyout it will probably included six months’ salary and health coverage.  As Billie Holiday sang, “Nice work if you can get it.”

My advice was to wait, but get active in the job search.  I talked with my client about studying the area he would be moving to and assessing the job market there.  We also talked about updating his resume so he could start the job search as soon as he hears about the buyout.

There is always a catch: What if my client isn’t offered a buyout?  What if he keeps his job?  Those are the areas where career management involves risk.  If he waits six months or a year and nothing changes, he will have wasted time need to make a transition as well as time spent with his mother.  On the other hand, if he quits early, he might be leaving the buyout behind.  It’s not an easy decision.  The challenge is to make the best, informed decision.

July 18, 2010

Sabbath, July 17, 2010

Filed under: Sabbath,Uncategorized — claycerny @ 9:31 pm
Tags: , ,

[On Sundays, Career Calling explores intersections of life and work in “Sabbath.”]

Time Off

It’s been miserable in Chicago for the past couple of weeks – hot, humid.  We can take small comfort that it’s been even hotter and more humid in the Northeast.  My friends from the South laugh and say that they just call this weather “summer.”

I don’t think the weather is the only thing that’s making people miserable.  One client I met last week had worked 15 hours a day for three straight days.  Another, working two jobs, hadn’t had a day off in over a month.  40 hour work week?  Very few people are lucky to enjoy that 20th century work schedule.  As a country we’re overworked and stressed to the breaking point (a mood not helped by this summer’s heat wave).

What can we do?  Stop.  No, I’m not suggesting that people quit their job.  But we have to find a way to give ourselves some time when we’re not answering a call from work or checking email for work-related issues. 

Getting away is the objective.  For some, this might me a trip where the cell phone and the laptop stay home.  For others it can be a daily run or work out.  Hobbies can be an easy way to build a personal space that has nothing to do with work.  I enjoy cooking (and – if you look at me – eating).  When I’m chopping or mixing something, I’m performing an act that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do for a living.  Cooking puts me in a place where I’m focused on what’s in front of me, not worrying about what projects are sitting next to my computer.

We all need to find something that takes us away from work time and stress.  If there is no time for a vacation, plan a day trip.  If that’s impossible, go to a movie or read a book.  The key is to make a conscious effort to do something for yourself, something that will make you happy and relaxed.

Take a walk and find a flower.  Look at it and remember that life goes on after that flower and you are gone.  The beauty of a flower is not eternal, but – as Wendell Berry writes – it is essential: 

Such a bliss

Of bloom’s no ornament, but root

And light, a saving loveliness,

Starred firmament here underfoot. (Sabbath II, 1982)

Sunday Second Helpings

A live version of Summertime by Janis Joplin

Summer in the City by the Lovin Spoonful

Want To Move Up?

Filed under: Career Management — claycerny @ 1:32 am
Tags: ,

Some people get promoted because their bosses like them.  Others are lucky.  They are the best bad option when another employee quits.  Most of the time, however, we get promoted because our employer sees us as the best solution to a problem.  Take the initiative to put yourself in a place to be recognized as someone who deserves the promotion. 

First, identify the position you want to obtain.  Next, be realistic about what the job requires.  Know what you can do and what you need to learn.  Ask your manager to give you duties that will let you expand your skills.  In some cases, your manager will become your mentor, a person who guides you in your career advancement.  If your manager won’t be a mentor, try to find another person in the organization who can be your coach and advocate. 

Even if you do everything the right way, you might not get the promotion.  You then have a choice to make.  You can hang in with your current company and wait for the next opportunity, or you can look for an opportunity with a new company. 

Whatever choice you make, maintain a positive attitude. Maybe it’s not your time.  Maybe it’s time to find a new job.  Being negative or sour will not move your career forward.  Know your value, and put yourself in a position where an employer will recognize it.  That’s the challenge for everyone seeking a promotion.

July 15, 2010

Functional Resumes

Functional resumes emphasize categories of broad skills and experience.  They do not present a traditional work history or chronology.  Some career experts recommend this format when a job seeker is making a career change or if there is a gap in a resume.

I am not a fan of functional resumes.  First, managers and screeners in human resources don’t like them.  A functional resume makes broad claims, and usually offers very little to back up those claims.  A second reason not to like functional resumes is that they hide positive qualities and leave gaps unexplained.  For example, rather than list a few broad soft skills (organization, communication), a career changer needs to present transferable skills and achievements that will convince an employer that the career change is possible.  Similarly, a gap (out of work for a year or more) can be explained in one simple line. such as, “Child care 2006-2010.” 

A good resume will sell your strong points, the reasons why an employer should bring you in for an interview.  A functional resume does not do this.  It also leaves too many questions unanswered.  In a very competitive job market, you need to go beyond general claims of “I can do the job.”  Employers want to see why you’re the best candidate.  Sell your strengths.

What Comes to Us

Filed under: Career Management — claycerny @ 2:06 am
Tags: ,

Seth Godin ponders how we can improve our work by understanding how things come to us – upstream and downstream.  I like this model because it forces us to understand that work – like all parts of life is dynamic.  If we don’t accept and take advantage of change, we will be buried by it.

July 14, 2010

Women, Men, and Income

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 2:05 am
Tags: , , ,

Financial expert Jean Chatzky, writing in USA Weekend, looks at new work arrangements in which wives can earn more than their husbands.  She offers advice to men, women, and couples.  To men, Chatzky suggests that successful women can help their husbands find new work.  They will now know people who can open doors for the men in their life.  At the same time, men should talk about what’s happening in their lives and maintain some financial autonomy.  She urges women to accept their husbands’ new roles and understand that their careers hurt their children no less than their husbands’ did.  Chatzky’s advises couples not to be overly influenced by older generations and their attitudes.  She also tells them to be fair about who does the dirty work.  If women are bringing in the income and men are keeping the house, that means men should keep the house or find a way to hire help. 

In the future, more couples will face this situation.  Chatzky’s advice will only grow more valuable over the years to come.

July 13, 2010

Good Advice on References

Filed under: Career Management — claycerny @ 1:18 am
Tags: ,

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times features an advice-filled article on the importance of references in landing a job.  It cites one expert who claims that one in five applicants (20%) lose jobs when employers speak to their references.  This means that job seekers need to be strategic in how they manage relationships with their references.  The article presents specific ways to make your references work for you.

« Previous PageNext Page »