Blog Archive - December 2009

Posted: December 30, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Huffington Post has a list (yes, another list!) of industries that are projected to have the most job growth in the coming decade.  The largest sector for growth is the service industry, which usually means jobs with lower salary and fewer benefits.  More jobs? Maybe.  More good jobs? No.

To see the list, click here.

To see yet another list on top cities for job growth, click here.

Should you move to get a new job?  Maybe.  Some cities are deep in the recession and will not come out anytime soon – if ever.  Sometimes the best bet is to move.

Posted: December 29, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

It’s the end of the year, which means that newspapers, magazines, and websites are flooded with lists: best/worst movies, songs, and books.  Since we’re closing out the first ten years of the 21st Century, we are also seeing “best of the decade” lists.  Most of these topics really don’t change our lives.  I suggest that we make our own lists to focus our careers and professional futures.

Start with your achievements.  Make a list of the top 5 things you did in 2009 that contributed to your employer’s success.  If you’ve been out of work, make a list of ways that you have improved your skills or ways that you have looked for work. 

Broaden your focus.  What are the five favorite activities you perform on the job?  What are your least favorite five job functions?  These lists can help you set a direction to move forward in your career or focus your skills in a good resume.  Play up your strengths. Try to avoid jobs that ask you to perform tasks that aren’t your strengths or duties that you find boring.

Don’t forget about the boss.  The person who defines success in any job is usually your immediate supervisor.  Make a list of your favorite bosses.  Underneath each name list the qualities of a good boss.  Turn the exercise around.  Make a list of your worst bosses.  What did they do that made your work life bad?  Be specific.  These lists can help you evaluate potential supervisors when it is time to move to a new company? 

Rather than waste time pondering lists about celebrities or reality TV shows, let’s take a few minutes and use lists as a tool to focus our career goals.  Think about the good things you have achieved this year, your favorite skills, and your best bosses.  Note the things you don’t want to deal with – bad bosses, least favorite job duties.  Good lists can turn into maps for success.

Posted: December 28, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

It is expected that many professions (artists, writers, and teachers) will bring portfolios to job interviews.  Some see this as a burden, a waste of time.  In reality, it is an advantage.  Job seekers in other professions should think about how they can design a portfolio that will help them make a better impression at interviews.

Start with the purpose: a portfolio helps you demonstrate how you can contribute to a new employer.  In some cases, a portfolio will be a three ring binder that contains samples of your work and testimonials from those who appreciate your skill.  In other cases, you might use online resources, including blogs, to represent your skills

A good portfolio will make potential employers confident that you will be an asset to their company.  Look at your career from the employer's point of view.  The elements in your portfolio should speak to what the employer needs, not simply achievements you are proud of. 

Keep your portfolio concise, and practice using it as part of a presentation. Again, listen during the interviewer to identify what is most important to the person interviewing you.  Emphasize those sections that show how you can make a contribution.

The job market is competitive.  One tool that can give you an advantage is a portfolio.

Posted: December 27, 2009
By: Clay Cerny


“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”  Henry Ford

Success begins with a dream or vision. However, we achieve little in life (for good or ill) without motivation.  Look at any successful person.  In almost every case, that person has a story of some incident that drove him or her to be great.  Michael Jordan was cut from his junior high school basketball team. We all know what that experience motivated him to do.

As we push in 2010, most of us will set goals, professional and personal.  As I wrote last week, it is important to have a plan.  It is more important to have a purpose.  Why do you want this goal?  Write it down – but don’t stop there.  Tell people you trust, and ask them to help you (nagging if necessary).  Make a timeline and reward yourself when you make progress toward the goal.  Most importantly, revisit your goal on a regular basis.  What do I want?  How am I going to get it?

Here’s one other point to remember about motivation: be selfish.  Your goals – even if you want to help others – start with you and what you want.  In this case, selfishness is a very good and necessary quality.  We often fail to achieve our goals because we use other people as an excuse. Our parents, spouses, children, or friends, all ask us for time and attention.  We put off doing what we want because someone we love wants something else.  Real motivation starts with a focus on the end.  If you can move forward toward your goal and still make others happy, that’s great.  If not, it is time to learn how to say the magic word: “No.”  Stay focused on your goal, how you will get that brass ring and why you want it. 

Postscript:  The writer and career expert Daniel Pink offers very interesting ideas about motivation and how it must be intrinsic, not based on rewards or bonuses.  To see a video in which Pink explains those ideas, click here.

Posted: December 25, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

I wasn’t going to post today (holiday & all), but I found a great link on Common Dreams that took me to a YouTube video of Pete Seeger and Bessie Jones singing Christmas songs with a group of children.  As always, Seeger is warm and inviting.  I had never heard Bessie Jones sing before.  I was amazed – what power, soul.

Merry Christmas & merry all the other holidays you celebrate at this time of the year & merry days to those of us who are more secular in our outlook. 

May 2010 bring all of us hope and happiness.

To view the video, click here.

Posted: December 24, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

What does your credit rating have to do with your career?  It could be a lot.  Depending on what you do and where you apply to work, there is a chance that employers will check your credit as one way of evaluating you as a candidate.  Given the problem of identity theft, it is important to check your credit report and be sure that it is accurate.

Today’s Chicago Sun-Times lists the following website as places to get a legitimate free credit reports:

Here are some red flags to watch out for in using any credit reporting service.  Do they ask for a credit card number?  Are they trying to sell other services like credit monitoring or related services?  The sites listed above fund their business through advertising, which means they can provide reports for free.

If there is a problem with your credit, address it quickly.  As I say above, some employers screen using credit reports.  Don’t lose a good career opportunity because of a mistake on your credit report.

Posted: December 23, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Nothing happens by itself.

If you are currently looking for a job, this is a good time to set up a plan and start executing it on January 4, 2009.  Be sure that you are following all ways of finding work: Networking, answering ads for open positions, posting resumes, attending job fairs, and taking temporary positions.*  Think of a job search as a campaign.  It does not end until you have a new job.

If you are currently employed, what’s your next move?  If a promotion is possible in your current company, what positions are open and how do you apply for them?  If you are blocked at your current employer, what other companies need your skills and will give you the opportunity you are looking for?  Take a few days to consider these questions.  Then act.  Even if you decide not to pursue a new position, know what is available and what you need to do to push forward.

Don’t forget about layoffs. Be prepared.  Everyone who is currently employed needs to take the time to update his or her resume.  Updating is one of those tasks that is easy to “do tomorrow.”  Don’t wait.  Update your resume before January 1.

The end of the year is also a good time to touch base with your references and network.  Holidays are a good excuse to call people and catch up with them.  Find out how (and what) they are doing.  Update them on your professional success.  Finally, ask if there is any way you can help them. End the call by wishing your supporters a happy New Year.

Career management requires focus and activity.  Know what you need to do, set priorities, and take action.  Waiting doesn’t win the game.  Get busy!

* CNN reported today that 50,000 temp jobs were added last month.

Posted: December 22, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Who are you?  It depends on who’s asking.  Employers don’t care about our roles as parents, friends, weekend athletes, or church-goers.  They want to know how we can help their business.  They also need to know that we will be good workers, reliable employees who won’t cause problems.

We have all read stories about employers not hiring – and even firing – employees who have posted unprofessional  photos on Facebook and other social networking websites.  That’s the fear side of the equation.  Let’s turn this conventional wisdom around: how can we present ourselves online in a way that makes us attractive to potential employers?

Should you be online?  Yes.  It is a great way to let employers and your professional network know who you are and what you have to offer.  Moreover, it’s usually free. 

Think about how people will see you online as your brand.  Just as McDonald’s has the arches and Nike has the swoosh, you want to craft an identity that sells your strengths in the most unique way.  If you sound like every other person who does what you do, you will be invisible to potential employers.  What do you bring to the table that is different?  That is your brand.

How should you be online?

1.  Start with LinkedIn.  Build a public profile that demonstrates your professional experience, skills, and achievement.  Don’t skimp on the details.  Unlike a resume that needs to be concise (1-2 pages), a profile gives you more room to breathe.  Ask your references to post recommendations for you. 

 I’m providing links to threes sites (here, here, and here) that can help you build a good LinkedIn profile.

2.  Blogging and tweeting – and responding: Social media gives us platforms to show our expertise.  Consider starting a blog that explores your professional expertise.  Some people can do this on Twitter (I can’t).  Again, it is easy to have a free blog.  If you want more bells and whistles, the cost is very reasonable.

3.  If you are unemployed, post your resume online.  Many of my clients are probably saying, “Wait a minute.  You told me not to do that.”  In the past, I did find posting a waste of time.  And I still think it should be a lower priority behind networking and pursuing companies that post openings.  That said, I now recommend posting for two reasons: A.  There are industry specific sites like [for programmers] that will be targeted by HR departments.  B.  Large job boards like Monster and Careerbuilder have improved your ability to search, control, and track what happens with the resumes you post. 

Some words of caution.  Posting is likely to lead to spam and calls from companies offering junk jobs.  Set up and use a separate email account for your job search.  A second and more serious point to consider: if you are currently employed, be careful how you post.  In many states (ironically called “Right to Work”), an employer can fire you simply because you are looking for another job.  Look for options to block your current employer or post the current job as “anonymous” or “confidential.”

A well-crafted online professional brand will let a stranger quickly know who you are and what you have to offer.  It is equally important to represent your brand when you meet people or communicate with them via phone or email.  What makes you special?  Let others know – don’t hide your gift.

Posted: December 21, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Every new year brings resolutions.  However, for many of us, those high hopes are abandoned by the end of January.  To achieve our goals, it is good to have a plan about how to pursue success.  Here are a few key points:

1.  Know what you want and why you want it.  If something is not a real priority, it is easy to put off the effort and sacrifice needed to get what we want.

2.  Make it a commitment and find allies to support you.  Pick two or three trusted friends, tell them your goals, and ask them to follow up to see that you stay on track.

3.  Write your goal down and, if possible, break the goal down into steps or stages.  It is easier to meet a goal if we take small steps.

4.  As you move forward, review your success and be ready to make changes – as long as they are taking you toward the final goal.

5.  Reward yourself when you make progress.  Brag a little.  Call your confidants from Step 2 and let them know that you are making progress.

6.  Be ready for setbacks.  Very few goals come without encountering obstacles and challenges.  We need to find the energy and strength to keep our goals in mind, even when they seem hard or unattainable.

7.  Never forget why you are pursuing this goal.  If you are looking for a new job because you hate your boss, or you are trying to quit smoking because you want to be healthy, focus on good times at work or being able to breathe better. 

Sometimes we will give up on a goal.  As Seth Godin writes in The Dip, that can be a good thing if  we quitting that objective to move forward in a better direction.  In the end, goals are just tools we use to shape our lives.  Like any tool, they are good if we use them correctly.

Posted: December 20, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

The business section of today’s Chicago Tribune features an interesting article about productivity, which was 8.1% in the 3rd quarter, the highest measure since 2003.  The core of the story focuses on workers and how they are working more hours, filling more job functions.  Everyone interviewed says the same thing: they are afraid of losing their jobs.

Workers are not only under stress because their fear unemployment.  Wages are down.  The article cites a survey by CareerBuilder that reports workers feeling overworked and overstressed.  In this recession, both those who are unemployed and those who still have jobs are facing uncertainty.

The good news, however, is that increased productivity often proceeds hiring.  A few weeks ago, I noted that temporary hiring was up, which is another positive sign.  Hopefully, 2010 will be a happy new year with more people finding jobs than losing them.  It won’t take much to be better than 2009.

To read the article, click here.