Blog Archive - October 2009

Posted: October 31, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

There is a simple, cost-effective tool job seekers and networkers should carry at all times:  business cards.  After you meet someone at a networking event or lunch meeting, you want them to remember you.  A business card offers a good reminder of who you are, what you have to offer potential employers, and how to contact you. 

You do not need to make a big investment to have professional looking business cards.  Call local printers and check prices for simple black and white cards.  You can also order cards through Vista Print (website), which provides cards at no cost.  You pay only the shipping.  If you have a good printer, you can make your own cards using forms that can be purchased at most office supply stores.  Cost should not hold you back from getting business cards.

I would suggest that you print your cards in a “portrait” layout (most cards are printed lengthwise or “landscape).  What information should you include?




Two or three lines that describe what you offer an employer:

Proven Sales Professional

Manager with 10 years experience

Strong Customer Service Skills

Bilingual (English, Spanish)

Event Planner

Award Winning Designer

Problem Solver

Committed Educator

Project Manager

Strong Computer Skills

Include skills and qualities that fit the kind of job you will be seeking.  Put forward your strongest selling points.  A business card will help your network contacts remember what you have to offer.  It will let them sell you to potential employers.  The investment is low.  The return can be a new job.

Here is an example of a portrait layout (my business card).  Notice how much information can be put on a card (You don’t need a logo)

biz cards 001

Posted: October 30, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

An article in today’s Chicago Tribune analyzes the impact of the recession on wages and benefits.  One major force keeping wages down is unemployment.  Companies feel no urgency to give raises when there are many unemployed willing to work for less.

As I said in yesterday’s post, wages might be a bigger story than the jobless recovery when the history of this recession is written.  Several of my clients have had pay cuts or changes in compensation structures.  Jobs in manufacturing that pay more than those in the service sector are gone – never to return.

The challenge for our political and business leaders will be to create a new economy with jobs that pay livable wages.  Rather than asking workers to take less, we need to have jobs that will reward labor and offer more security.

Postscript:  Yes! magazine has an interesting section on cooperatives as a model for a different kind of economy.  I don't know if this model can renew entire cities like Detroit or Cleveland.  But, for some people, they offer an alternative way of working and living.

Posted: October 29, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Mayor Daley and several of his allies on the City Council are asking the city’s police officers and fire fighters to take 24 furlough days next year.  Once again an employer – in this case, city government – is looking to balance its books by asking its employees to sacrifice.  More than all of the bank bailouts and layoffs, the hallmark of this recession will be how employers have been embolden in their ability to convince employees to work for less.

Isn’t it better to be furloughed for a couple of weeks – even four or five weeks – rather than be laid off?  Let’s do the math again.  Say a police officer makes $75,000 for the year, about $1,500 per week.  Five weeks of furlough days would mean a salary cut of $7,500 for the year. How many families could balance their budget losing that much income?  Moreover, how will these cuts affect morale?

Wall Street brazenly tells us that it must pay million dollar bonuses to keep its “talent.”  What about the talent that works for city government?  I’m sure the city is banking on the fact that many police officers and fire fighters will not want to leave one of the few jobs that offers a good pension.  That incentive may keep many on the job.  It will not make them work harder or happier.  Don’t get me wrong.  Public safety officers are dedicated people who will do their duty, but they will – and should be – bitter.  Risk your life – and give back 10% of your pay.

Every business has priorities.  For city government, what could be a higher priority than public safety?  If this plan takes effect, it will be a matter of time before other departments are asked to take even more furlough days.  Where will it end?

Whether the employer is public or private, the practice of asking employees to take days off without pay is wrong.  Employers benefit more from furlough days because the company saves money and gets to keep its trained employees.  When an employer lays off workers, there will be costs and time needed for hiring and training.  Furlough days work well for employers.  They win.  Workers lose.

Posted: October 28, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

In yesterday’s Sun-Times, Francine Knowles reported on job numbers, which you should think about as little as possible because you are not a statistic or percentage. 

What was more valuable in this article were three career management strategies from Challenger, Gray, and Christmas (in quotation marks) to which I am adding some extra advice:

1.  “Don’t keep your job search a secret.  Let everyone you know that you are looking for a new job”:  I would add to this advice that everyone means both personal and professional contacts.

2.  “Join new social networks and professional groups”:  You should do this whether or not you are looking for a new job.  Learning more about your industry will help you navigate career transitions and meet people who can help you get ahead.  A client emailed me yesterday to let me know she was recruited for a new job.  How did she do this?  She kept contact with a mentor and helped that person.  Keep this example in mind when you network.  Look to help others first.  There will be a payoff.

3.  “Attend professional and social events with your spouse/partner”:  Personal contacts are important.  Sometimes they offer a direct path to a new employer.  Others times someone you or your partner will know someone who knows someone – 6 degrees of separation.  The main reason to go to social events, however, is more basic: it does no good to stay at home and isolate yourself.  There is no shame in not having a job in this economy.  People understand.  Many of them want to help.  The only way they will know you need help is if they hear it – from you.

Let me add one more simple “to do”: get business cards and hand them out.  People need to know how to contact you.  The cards are also a reminder that you are on the market.  I will post later this week on how to produce cards that offer more than name, address, and phone number.

Network, network, and network some more.

Posted: October 26, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

There is a hiring season – or put more clearly, a time when companies hire less.  Clients will often call me between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and ask:  Where are all the jobs?  During the holiday season companies work on budgets and planning for the next year.  They hold holiday parties, and employees on all levels take more time off.

Many companies save hiring for the coming year.  Does that mean you should not look for work in this period?  No.  Keep looking, but do so with realistic expectations.  Fewer jobs will be posted.  Many job seekers will see this, get discouraged, and put their job search on hold.  Those who are persistent might find a diamond in the rough, an employer who needs talent now.  A good job search doesn’t end until you are hired.  Keep looking.

Posted: October 25, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

In today’s New York Times ,” Eilene Zimmerman gives excellent advice to parents and other mentors about how to discuss careers with teens.  She stresses that young people should not be pushed in any way.  Teens have time to explore and change their mind.  With support, they will discover the right career path.

To read the article, click this link.

Posted: October 25, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

[Sabbath is a Sunday feature that ponders work & life.]

The Passions of Roger Ebert

Every Friday morning I get the same feeling of admiration and wonder.  The cause?  Roger Ebert.  Almost every review in the Sun-Times movie section is written by Ebert, whose writing has a naturalness and grace about it that sets it apart.  Most movie reviewers want to show how much they know, why they are an expert.  Ebert loves movies.  His reviews – positive or negative – speak to normal people who are trying to decide whether or not to see a film. 

Ebert wrote 8 of the 10 reviews in this week’s movie section.  I don’t know how long it took to write and edit these reviews, but we have to add to that effort the time it took to watch each film.  Most columnists and reporters produce 2-3 features a week.  Often those pieces are based on a brief interview or review of documents.  Ebert is not only one of the most talented writers in American journalism.  He is one of the hardest working.

The best kind of work is fueled by passion, which Ebert exemplifies.  Not only does he produce several movie reviews a week, he also writes one of the most popular blogs on the internet.  In this space, Ebert covers a range of topics from news to personal matters.  He reads comments and often responds to them in detail. 

Most amazingly, all of this is happening while Roger Ebert is fighting cancer.  The man who was one of the most engaging voices on TV (his program with Siskel/Roeper, appearance on the Tonight Show) can no longer speak.  Some would let this misfortune stop their creativity.  Ebert seems fueled to do even more.  He continues to attend film festivals, including the one he sponsors.  He recently gave a large gift to the University of Illinois.  There is no self-pity in this man.

Roger Ebert embodies the value of doing work that drives our passion.  When we are engaged with a task we care about – something we love – work offers us a reward greater than money.  As we see in Ebert’s example, it’s still hard – it’s still work.  But when we find a job that satisfies our passion, we take away an extra bonus from our work: joy.

Posted: October 24, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

While it is important to let employers know that you have the experience and skills that are required to do a job.  It is just as important to demonstrate that you have the qualities that will make you a good worker, which are called “soft skills.”  Employers want to know that you are the kind of person who will be a good worker as well as a skilled employee.  Soft skills sell you as a good worker

Soft skills include:

Organizational Skills

Communication Skills

Analytical Skills

Time Management


Attention to Detail

Decision Making Skills

Problem Solving




Along with soft skills, we need to demonstrate qualities that employers need:



Team Player

Attention to Detail






Find a way to integrate relevant soft skills and qualities into your resume and interviews.  Employers want to good people they can rely on, not just a set of skills.  Show them what makes you different.

Posted: October 23, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

People who are out of work or contemplating a new career often feel overwhelmed.  They don’t know how or where to look for work.  Rather than going directly to one of the big job boards like Monster or Career Builder, try a different path.  Consider the kind of jobs that are available and how they fit your interests, experience, and skill.

O*Net Online is a service provided by the Department of Labor.  It offers three search tools to explore different occupations.  Once you’ve select an area, you will see projections of future job growth. 

It takes a little time to figure out how to use O*Net.  The payoff is worth the effort, especially if you are thinking about how you can market your experience and skills to a new employer.

Posted: October 22, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

We were raised to think that winners never quit.  Seth Godin turns such thinking on its head in his short, but powerful book The Dip.  Godin’s thesis is simple: know when to stick and when to quit.

I often urge clients to read this book because the job search and career management require the ability to know when to quit.  Too often, job seekers will follow one method of looking for work.  When that method doesn’t bring results, they quit looking for work.  Godin’s advice – quit using the method that is not working.  Try something new.

The Dip is not just about quitting.  It also challenges readers to realize their gifts, which will lead to happiness in career and life.  When we find our goal, it will not be easy to achieve.  As Godin puts it, “The dip is where success happens.”  The problem is that too many people quit at the wrong time.  They give up on what can make them happy and settle for the safe career. 

When should you quit?  Whenever you find yourself in a dead end situation (what Godin calls a cul-de-sac), it’s time to make a change.  This situation may be in your career, your personal life, investing, or any other aspect of life.  Quitting is often incremental rather than radical.  For example, a husband and wife who are fighting can quit by going to a marriage counselor or minister rather than quickly running to divorce lawyers.  The solution is to quit what is holding you back, not to run in the opposite direction. 

Godin says that the best time to quit is “before you start.”  Know why you are doing something, what you want to get from it.  Is it worth the effort?  Write down your goals.  Write down what factors would make it worthwhile for you to quit. If you are moving toward your goals, keep pushing and quit only what holds you back.  If you’re in a rut, quit digging.  Climb out and try something new. 

To be happy at work or any other aspect of our lives, we need to feel that we are performing at our best level.  This means more than getting a good report from your supervisor.  Each of us needs to affirm to ourselves that our work has value, that we are doing our best. Godin challenges us: “Quit or be exceptional.  Average is for losers.”  Much of our dissatisfaction in life is not that we feel like losers, but that we are average, floating, not real in control.  The question to ask at these time is: Are we in the dip fighting toward our goals?  Or – are we in a cul-de-sac?  These questions require some hard thinking about what we really want.  Once we define our goals, it’s a matter or knowing whether to quick or stick. 

The Dip does not claim to offer a one-size-fits-all answer or method.  The book is valuable because it reminds us that we are responsible for our own happiness and success.  We have to make the right choices.  To get ahead, winners know when to quit.