Career Calling

November 19, 2015

Looking for Work During the Holidays

 

I try to post on this topic every year.  Many job seekers assume that companies do not hire during the holidays, and they stop looking for work.  That’s a big mistake.  It’s true that many companies do not hire during this period, but others are hiring.  They need to fill a position now and will not wait to mid-January.  Over the years, I’ve had clients call me on the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Day to tell me they have received job offers.

What’s the trick to looking for work between mid-November and mid-January?  First, expect to see fewer job posts, but keep looking.  Second, use this time to reconnect with network contacts.  Share some holiday spirit and catch up on what is happening in their career.  Then you can ask them if they have any advice to help you move forward with your career.  Third, enjoy time with friends and family.  Balance your priorities of looking for work and spending time with those who are closest to you.

Here’s one final point to think about.  While fewer companies hire during this period, much of your competition is not looking for work.  If you’re lucky, this a good time to be considered for a job that you would not get when resumes start to fly in February and March.  Keep looking for work during the holiday season, and you might find a gift of a new job under your tree.

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November 4, 2015

Graduate Degrees and Tech Jobs

 

I often cite Bloomberg as a great resource to understand the economy and job market. Today, it offers a report on tech jobs and MBA grads. Common wisdom is that Stanford is the MBA that produces the most grads who get jobs in tech (19%). That said, Arizona State, UC Berkeley, and other MBA programs in the Southwest and West are catching steam, producing 16% of new tech jobs. If you’re considering a career in tech, an MBA is one path. However, if 35% of tech jobs are obtained via an MBA (that number feels high to me), most tech jobs (65%) are landed by other means. I respect and value education. At the same time, I recommend that anyone seeking a job in an industry follow a strategy Richard Nelson Bolles talks about in What Color Is Your Parachute:Research how people without the “ideal” degree broke into the field.  Bolles asks this question:  “How did people without a degree in that field get into it?” Is the degree or certification necessary? For certain positions at certain companies, an MBA from a highly regarded school is a good way to get through the door. For other jobs, it is not needed. Think about where you want to work and what you want to do before investing in any kind of education or certification.

November 2, 2015

The Problem of Going Down the Career Ladder

 

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times features an interesting article by Paul Davidson (USA Today) on the problem of moving back in a career, taking a lower level position, to stay employed. Davidson cites experts who say that a person who tries to take a few steps down on the career ladder is actually less likely to get hired. Applicants who were unemployed but seeking jobs at their current level were more likely to get hired.

That doesn’t surprise me. It’s not a matter of being employed or employed. It’s a matter of being qualified. Candidates who dumb down their resume or take a lower level job often show themselves as overqualified. They are less likely to get hired for lower level jobs because employers are worried that they would be bored or constantly looking for a job at their level. Worse still, as Davidson notes, if job seekers are “lucky” enough to land a lower level job, it’s very hard to climb back up the ladder. The article features the story of a former executive who took a job as a front line employee to keep from having a gap in her resume. Now she is having trouble getting interviews for executive positions.

My advice to clients is to take a lower level job only in two cases. First, if you need immediate income, take whatever job will give you the income you need. Second, if clients are looking to downshift and work at positions with less responsibility, they should pursue those jobs. In both cases, I inform them that moving back up the ladder will be difficult. Don’t move down the career ladder without considering the consequences.

 

October 30, 2015

Career Advice from Thomas Jeffereson

 

Persistence is a big part of success.  Whether you’re looking for a new job or trying to change careers, it’s easy to find negative advice.  The Internet is filled with experts who can give countless (bad) reasons why you will fail.  However, if you’re doing the right thing and you believe in yourself, success is almost always possible (See The Dip by Seth Godin).

Thomas Jefferson captured this idea in these words:  “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

October 11, 2015

Another Bad Trend on the Wage Front

 

USA Today asks a very troubling question: “Is the annual pay raise dead?” When clients ask me about the job market, I tell them that the problem isn’t jobs. It’s getting paid. Wage increases have ticked up at about 2%, which for most people is not enough to cover increased costs. Bob Sullivan of CNBC, the author of the USA Today article, cites an expert from AON Hewitt, who said, “Base salary increases are flat. We don’t see the prospect of that changing much at all in the next several years.” Rather than annual salary increases, many companies are turning to bonuses as a way to reward productive employees while better controlling labor costs.

The article goes on to state that employee turnover is high and “critical-skill” employees are hardest to retain. Go figure. Why should employees be loyal to companies that only care about the bottom line? They are following market forces just as their employers are. I agree with an expert quoted at the end of the article who urges workers to know and refine their most marketable skills. But I’ll take it one step further: Rather than hope that your current employer rewards you with a bonus, always be ready to find a better employer if your compensation is not fair or if a better option is available. Treat your career like a business.

 

October 9, 2015

Two Views of Failure

 

Seth Godin offers an interesting perspective on failure – It’s all about your attitude. Some successful people feel that they are failures. They are never happy with their work even when it is good. Such thinking is a trap. People lost in feelings of failure keep looking for an ever elusive success.

Godin is not saying we should be happy with failure, but that we should know how to work through failures and deliver. His books The Dip and Poke the Box are necessary reads for anyone who’s caught up in the failure trap. Successful people fail before they find a way to succeed. Or, as Godin puts in The Dip, they know how to quit the right things. If you’re doing the right kind of work for the right reason, the feelings of failure will still come now and then. But they won’t be how you define yourself. Take joy in your work and your life.

October 1, 2015

Another Good Sign for the Job Market

 

Most people look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its monthly employment report to understand the job market. While that is probably the best measure, there are other important signs, including how employers are treating employees and job candidates. A few months ago, I noted that almost every job posting now includes a list of benefits offered to new employees. Some are even listing a salary.

Employee retention is equally important. Bloomberg reports that some employers are now encouraging employees to use PTO and vacation time. A few employers are even paying bonus that employees can use during a vacation. Others offer “unlimited vacation.” These are the same companies who laid off so many workers that those who were spared worked extra hours and skipped vacation days. Now, as the job market tightens and employers still do not want to raise wages, vacation is a perk used to keep employees without increasing labor budgets.

If you’re asking for a raise or trying to negotiate salary with a new employer, think about vacation as a bargaining chip. If an employer cannot give you a higher wage, ask for an extra week of vacation or PTO. This is a good time to talk about time off.

September 23, 2015

Want to Earn More?

 

Bloomberg reports today on careers that offer significant pay increases. Most workers are looking at minimal salary increases even though the unemployment rate has fallen. Workers in technology and finance have seen wages grow between 4-10%.   What can you do to earn more? For most working people, especially those with college degrees, the best way to earn more is to find a new job. In many cases, new employers tend to offer more than current employers. Another way is to try to take the next step up the career ladder. Two clients who are clients in the grocery industry have told me that they have hired department managers with little experience. Why did they do this? Turnover. As the job economy heats up, there is more opportunity to move up because the experience employees are less available. If you’re unhappy with your current income, find a way to make a move.

September 22, 2015

Relocation and Career Success

 

USA Today offers a great article on people to have to move for a new job. 15% of executives and managers had to move to take a new position. The article attributes this situation to two factors: an improving economy and job seekers’ willingness to move. Many of my clients can’t move because of family commitments. Those who can expand the market for their services. In a job market where salaries are still tight, moving to another city can be a way to earn more money. Relocation should be an option in a good career management strategy.

September 8, 2015

John Wooden on Playing Your Strengths

 

The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

I agree with Wooden 100%. Many clients come to me almost paralyzed with areas of weakness and career obstacles. In almost every case, these people have been successful in their careers or just completed a new degree. My job, one I greatly enjoy, is helping them see what they have to offer. Most people have made great contributions to their employers. Their problem is telling the story. They think too much about what “they cannot do.” Instead, as Wooden recommended, the secret to know is what you do best. Play your strengths.

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