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.
One of the biggest challenges for anyone looking to change change careers is making the change. It's easy to rewrite a resume and go to networking events. It's much harder to put yourself on the line and face failure. One of my favorite thinkers is Seth Godin, who loves it when people "deliver." For someone trying to change careers, delivering begins when you go on the first interview. Delivering is also when you start to describe yourself in your new role. Change might be the most difficult thing we do as humans, but it is also the power that lets us grow and develop. Failure is part of the process, so is frustration. However, speaking for myself and the millions of other who have found happiness by changing career, every moment of sorrow will be repaid by years of satisfaction. Get out there. Find what will make you happy
During yesterday’s Republican Primary Debate, Donald Trump and other candidates stated that they would not raise the minimum wage. Trump took this level of thinking even lower, proclaiming “Our wages are too high.” He thinks the only way for America to be competitive is for “people to work really hard” to “enter that upper stratum.”
This kind of language is out of touch. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich teamed up to “end welfare as we know it.” Most poor Americans work, but they don’t make enough money to get ahead. It’s easy for a billionaire who was born into a wealthy family to tell others to work hard. It’s also dishonest. Our economy does not produce enough jobs that pay enough for people to enter the middle class, much less Trump’s “upper stratum.” Complex problems need thoughtful solutions, not cliches.
I’ve blogged before about the job destroying impact of automation and robotics. Once a machine can do a job, it’s gone. Peter Coy of Bloomberg has a different take. He believes humans and robots will work together in a future society. Robots will do work that is rote and mindless. Humans will perform tasks that require creativity and emotional response.
Hopefully Coy is right, but I’m more pessimistic. Coy talks about the improvements in voice recognition software. How many phone sales and customer service jobs have been lost because of this innovation? How many more will be lost in the future? Similarly cloud storage is enabling companies to cut staff that manages network and IT support functions. Driverless vehicles, when they are perfected (not if), will push many workers out of a job.
I hope the optimists like Coy and many smiling futurists are right in predicting work will become more creative in the age of robots. I’m less sanguine. As Coy states, too many jobs involve rote tasks that can be automated. I grew up near the steel mills in Cleveland. Within ten years, 4 steel mills were closed because European competitors sold cheaper, higher quality steel produced with automated functions. The city was devastated and has never fully recovered. That was industrial automation. Now the service industry and professional services are being automated. What sane employer will pay an employer if she can invest in and profit from a much cheaper, more efficient robot?
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.
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.
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."
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest day for retailers throughout the U.S. Some companies have even opened their doors on Thanksgiving to get an advantage over competitors. Who loses? Workers who often have to leave family meals and then have to work on days when their neighbors are getting the best deals.
REI, a co-op retailer for outdoor wear, is taking a very different approach. The company has decided to close on Black Friday and give its employees a paid day off. Rather than fight frenzied consumers at the mall, REI suggests that its employees should enjoy a day in the outdoors. REI is putting its people first, and it should be cheered for doing so.
I've always been a sports fan, and watching football has been one of my favorite pastimes. Over the last few years, however, it's been a guilty please at best and, maybe, hypocrisy at its worst. A few years ago, I attended a presentation on brain injuries that woke me up to the cost football players pay to entertain fans like me. PBS's Frontline series went even deeper into the issue, showing how pervasive brain injuries are for professional football players. The news has not gotten better.
On Thursday, a 17 year old football player, at Chicago's Bogan High School, Andre Smith, died after a game. He was the seventh high school player to die in the U.S. this season. At first, it was reported that he was injured on the last play of the game, but, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, he walked off the field and collapsed as he was leaving the field. No one knows the exact cause of death, and there will be an autopsy next week. Here's what we do know: He died playing football.
Is football so dangerous that it should be made illegal? Once upon a time, I scoffed at this question. There is risk in everything we do. Players willingly participate in the sport, which they know is dangerous. I've used all of those reasons to convince myself that football is the same as basketball and baseball. It's a game. But something interesting happens when we compare football and hockey. It is possible to play a much less violent version of hockey than we see in the NHL. Fighting is banned in the international game. Checking is limited or banned in many leagues. Unless you're playing some kind of touch or flag version of the game, football is all about violence, hitting another person with your body and knocking them to the ground. Fans like me often cheer loud when both the offensive and defensive player collide at full speed. Violent hits make us cheers, and we do not ask the question: What is happening to their brains and bodies when such collisions occur?
This blog is about career and work issues, and whether they are amateur or professional athletes, football players work very hard at what they do. They practice, lift weights, and eat special diets to maintain a certain weight. They learn complicated plays and signals that are called out before each play. Paid or unpaid, their work needs to be taken the same way we consider other workplace or work-like recreational activities. Is this game too violent however it is played? Tomorrow I am meeting two friends to watch the Carolina Panthers play the Philadelphia Eagles. We meet several times over the course of the season, but it's getting harder for me to watch football given what we now know about the price paid by those who play the game, those who are working for our pleasure. Andre Smith's death has made me question my complicity as a fan. Is it time to turn off football?
P.S. DNAInfo reports that Andre's Smith's autopsy has been completed. It found that he died of football related injuries, "blunt force trauma" to his head.
USA Today reports that wages may be going up. The problem is that increases tend to be in certain professions and areas. Following an analysis by payroll processor ADP, the article claims that key trades are seeing pay increases between 3.8 and 7.2%. Interestingly the biggest pay increases have come in companies with 1,000 or more employees (5.9%). Smaller companies have offered lower raises: 500-999 employees (2.9%), 50-499 employees (2.5%), and 49 workers of less (2.9%). By region, the Midwest (4.4%) and West (4.4%) are earning more than those in the Northeast (3.0%) and South (2.6%). If these numbers are accurate, it's good news for workers in the right trade in the right area. Hopefully the good news will continue to grow and spread.
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