Career Calling

August 30, 2011

Is Van Jones a Job Creator?

Filed under: Economics — claycerny @ 3:20 am
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In Yes! magazine, Sara Van Gelder interviews Van Jones on several subjects, including how green investments could also yield new jobs.  Jones is smart and practical.  He points out that the U.S economy is still twice as large as China’s.  Then Jones boils his point on jobs down to a simple formula: “It’s not a question of wallets but a question of will­­—whether or not we connect all the people who need work with all the great work that needs to be done in our country.”  I strongly recommend this interview and everything else published by Yes!. 

It’s interesting that so much of our politics is negative and angry.  Yes! and Utne  are magazines that present thinkers like Van Jones who look at the world with more open, optimistic eyes.  We need a change in our political and social lives.  Too much is negative, conflict-driven.  It’s time to do what Jones calls the “great work,” a task we all should share.

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August 28, 2011

Sabbath, August 28, 2011

Filed under: Sabbath — claycerny @ 11:55 pm
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[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature on different types of work.]

Building a Community – and Saving It

Last week I had the pleasure to view a documentary entitled A Village Called Versailles.  It tells the story of the Vietnamese American community that lives in the eastern part of New Orleans, which is called Versailles. This lowland area was flooded when the levees broke following Hurricane Katrina.  Like others groups in the city, the Vietnamese American community was dispersed to Houston, Baton Rouge, and other cities. What makes them different is how they responded to the disaster.

99% of the community returned toVersailles and rebuilt their homes.  They washed clothes and ate outside while gutting homes and replacing roofs.  They planned to open new community centers and make their neighborhoods even stronger.  Then a second disaster occurred.  Against the vote of the City Council, the Mayor of New Orleans decided to put a large landfill near Versailles.  The waste would included toxic materials, which would pollute waters and the crops grown locally.

The community developed leaders in a parish priest and young activists to stand up against the mayor and his corporate partners.  They protested at City Hall and organized a blockade at the gate of the dump site.  The mayor backed down, and the people of Versailles protected their community.

 The film was inspiring as was the appearance Minh Nguyen, the founder of the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association -New Orleans (VAYLA – NO).  Mr. Nguyen is only in his mid-20s, but he played a key role in the campaign to block the landfill.  Since that time he has built an organization to support youth and provide services for young people.  He discussed the new challenges the area faces after last year’s oil spill.  The Vietnamese American community has many fishermen, which means that they have been impacted by the spill.  Nguyen approaches this problem as he does everything else – in a spirit of optimism and common sense.  The people of Versailleshave faced other challenges and endured.  With the leadership of young people like Minh Nguyen, there is no reason to think they will not build an even stronger community.

 This event was put on by the Chicago Chapter of the Japanese American Citizen League, which has helped its New Orleans Chapter and other groups in the city.  We often ignore how groups like JACL help us all when they serve our neighbors.  Community does not build itself.  It takes leaders and people who are committed to solving problems.  Their work deserves our respect and recognition.

Charter Schools, Choice, and Teachers’ Jobs

Filed under: Job Market Trends — claycerny @ 2:14 am
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Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson examines the claim that charter schools give parents more choice.  We have to ask if school reformers are really changing things for the better – or just cutting revenue for public schools.  Why would they want to do that?  To break the “evil” teachers unions, of course. 

Some charter schools are very good, but the overall concept is a Trojan horse that will reduce another middle class profession with longer hours, no protection, and less pay.  We also have to ask where the money that isn’t paid to teachers and principals is going.  The Chicago Reader investigated local charter schools.  Most refused to give information about their budgets or payrolls, information which Chicago public schools are required to make public.  Ruining teaching as a profession, hiding how taxpayer money is spent – that doesn’t sound like reform.

August 24, 2011

A Bad Deal for CPS Teachers

Filed under: Commentary — claycerny @ 11:10 pm
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According to today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) wants to extend the school day and the number of instructional days each year.  No one can be against this proposal as far as it addresses improving education.  The problem lies in the way the administration treats the people who will have to work more: teachers.

Earlier this year, the system said it could not meet its contractual obligation to give teachers a 4% pay increase.  Now CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizzard says he can find cuts to increase the pay of elementary school teachers by 2% if they agree to the longer day.  Why couldn’t he find that money to pay what was promised in the original contract?

Let’s get this straight.  They don’t have money, but they can find if the teachers work more.  That’s a fancy way of saying, “Work more for less.”  As I’ve written before, all of the alleged education reformers (a.k.a., union busters) claim that they want the best teachers.  Then they advocate or institute policies that will making teaching an unattractive profession.  How will lower pay and longer hours attract better candidates?  This plan – and the larger “reform” it represents – makes no sense.

Projects and Achievements

Over my 10 years in the job game, I’ve seen several consultant and project manager resumes that string project after project.  They often repeat elements like software used in completing a project.  My problem with this format is that it’s hard for the reader to put an job seeker’s skills in any context when all information is presented as a series of discrete projects.

Here’s my alternative:  Tell prospective employers why you’re a good consultant or project manager.  Then recast your projects as achievements.  How did you bring value to the client or to your employer?  What was your contribution to the project?  Keep your details focused on the kind of job you are applying for, not the job you are leaving.

Keep your resume focused on why the employer should want to interview you.  A choppy presentation – all projects – might seem specific.  However, few employers have time to figure out how your experience fits their needs.  That’s your job.  That’s the project behind writing a good resume.

August 23, 2011

Some Good Advice on Social Networking

Filed under: Uncategorized — claycerny @ 12:02 am

Writing for AOL, Holly Paul provides some great advice about how to advance your career through social networking.  She urges readers to think about their names as “personal brands,” which means being careful about your online identity.  Casual comments made on Facebook might lead a recruiter to reject your application.  Paul offers practical advice about how to manage your online reputation, and I urge you to follow her suggestions.

August 20, 2011

More From Hershey’s

Filed under: Commentary — claycerny @ 2:12 am
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The students who walked off the job are supposed to be part of a cultural exchange.  One of the students put his reality this way:  “There is no cultural exchange, none, none,” Zhao Huijiao, a 20-year-old undergraduate in international relations fromDalian,China, told The New York Times. “It is just work, work faster, work.”

Maybe this young man is getting a real taste of America, the America where too many people are working more and more while earning less and less.

August 19, 2011

Foreign Students Say, “Hell, No!”

Filed under: Commentary — claycerny @ 4:30 am
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400 foreign students walked off temporary jobs at Hershey’s plant in Pennsylvania.  While the temporary workers (J-1 visa) were paid $8.35 an hour, they ended up with less than they paid for the visa after rent and program fees were deducted from their pay.  A Hershey spokesperson pointed out that these employees worked for a third party company (Exel), but that’s the not the point.

The point is:  exploited workers walked off the job.  Verizon’s workers said, “Enough.”  The unions in Wisconsin said, “Enough.”  The people of Ohio have told their anti-labor governor, “Enough.”  Maybe a new day is dawning.

Then, again, maybe not.  Liz Goodwin, writing for Yahoo, notes that many people involved in the J-1 visa program have been exploited.  Employers like this program because they don’t have to pay Social Security.

Enough of gimmicks like the J-1 visa.  Let’s put Americans back to work and pay them decent wages.

August 18, 2011

Are All Communication Skills the Same?

Beware of one size fits all answers.  If an employer is asking you to demonstrate communication skills, be sure that you are representing the kind of skills needed for the job.  For example, both teachers and sale professionals make presentations.  However, the teacher’s job is to educate and present subject matter.  The sales professional wants to close a sales and persuade a customer to buy.  She will often use a communication skill seldom used by a teacher: negotiation.

Writing is also a communication skill that will vary according to the needs of different jobs.  Marketing professionals write copy and create messages.  Technical writers draft technical manuals and documentation for software.  If you’re describing writing skills on your resume, be sure that they are aligned with the job you are seeking.

If you want to impress an employer with your communication skills, don ‘t simply list the phrase, “communication skills” on your resume.  Demonstrate how you have the specific skills needed by the job you want.

The Significance of the Verizon Strike

Filed under: Economics — claycerny @ 12:45 am
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Writing in the Nation, Lawrence Mishel examines how striking Verizon employees represent a much larger conflict:  Business is booming; workers are losing.  Profits are at their highest point since World War II.  Even so, companies like Verizon want workers to stay flat or take cuts. 

Mishel puts it this way:  “This mugging of the workforce—what else can you call wage and benefit reductions in the face of high profitability—occurs because it can, because employers can have their way with most workers. Verizon and other employers may think this is simply good strategy for their businesses, but it undercuts our ability to provide robust growth and to ensure a rising living standard and some basic economic security (health, retirement) for workers and their families.”

Mugging – no word could be more apt.  It’s theft with violence.  We need to root for the Verizon workers as if they were in the Super Bowl.  The giants they are opposing want to crush working people.  If they win, we all lose.

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