Blog Archive - March 2010

Posted: March 31, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Sun-Times reports that job growth will be up in three areas: health care, high-tech, and the federal government.  This is good news, but we need to dive under the numbers a little bit to consider how you can use this information to manage your career or find a job.

Each of the areas described is a super category of employers, not a single industry.  Health care would include hospitals/doctors, testing centers, pharmaceutical companies, insurance, and research.  High-tech would include computers, telecommunications, green technology, and might even include parts of the health care industry like testing technology (MRI).  The federal government involves several industries from the military to health care (the VA, Medicare, Medicaid). 

It is important to know who will be hiring.  However, it is more important to determine what kind of work you want to do and why you are qualified to to that work.  Then you can start searching for employers who need that skill.  Focus on yourself first, and then you will be better able to target the industries and companies that need your skills.

Follow this link to read the article.

Posted: March 30, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

A client complained recently about a problem she had during an interview.  The interviewer asked if she had ever used a specific software.  She answered, “No.”  From that point, the interview went downhill. 

What could she have done differently? Rather than just saying no and giving up, she could have looked for a middle ground by saying, “No, I haven’t.  But since I perform similar duties in my current job, I’m sure I use a software that is very similar.  Can you tell me more about that software and how it is used?”  This answer would have given my client a chance to show that she has the skill the employer is looking for.

If possible, don’t leave an answer at a simple “No.”  Try to go behind the interviewer’s question and find a way to show that you can deliver what the employer needs.  Know how to present your transferable skills in a way that shows you can fill many functions and solve many problems.  Remember that your job in an interview is to sell yourself as a candidate. “No” is a turn off.  Find a way to say, “Yes.”

Posted: March 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

I was working with a client today who said that he didn’t know what kind of job he was going to pursue.  The more we talked, the more it became clear that this client really enjoyed working with people in positions that didn’t involve repetition and routine.  Most of the jobs listed on his resume focused on the kind of work he hated doing.  Rather than emphasizing transferable skills related to working with people (communication skills, problem solving), he focused on administrative skills that would put him in a place he hated – a cubicle.

We determined the skills my client wanted to use in the workplace.  Based on that information, I am going to rewrite his resume to position him for the kind of jobs he wants to do.

The moral of the story is pretty simple: Don’t let yourself be defined or limited by your past.  Think about what you want to do, and what you need to do to achieve that goal.  In some cases – not all – that will mean additional education, training, or certification.  In others, it might mean stepping a notch or two lower on the career ladder to get a job in a new field.  The key is to know where you want to be and commit yourself to getting to that place.  The future is where the action is.  Look forward!

Posted: March 28, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, Career Calling explores the world of work and life that is bigger than our careers.]

Deadlines and the Common Cold

I almost didn’t write this post.  Over the past three days, I’ve had a hacking cough, a head that feels like it’s stuffed with cotton, and a nose that won’t stop running.  People who own stock in Kleenex should be sending me thank you cards.

O.K., so why am I writing?  Because I have deadlines – commitments.  Tomorrow I have to deliver three projects.  At the same time, I’m helping a client with a business plan which has been very time consuming.  Add it all up, it’s 8 a.m. on Sunday, and I’m at the office in front of my monitor.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I am – a little bit.  Overall, I’m lucky to have too much work.  That’s a good thing.  However bad I might feel, I also know that they are many people facing worse things than the sniffles and congestion.

Deadlines are good things.  They make us focus our energy and get things done.  Think about all the things you meant to do tomorrow, next week, next year.  A hard deadline means you get it done, or there is some kind of consequence.  A real deadline motivates us to get going, to move beyond the plan. 

Since I’m facing some real deadlines, this week’s “Sabbath” will be a little shorter than usual.  I wish all of you health and success in meeting your deadlines.

Posted: March 26, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Yes! Magazine offers an interesting story on the Department of Labor under Secretary Hilda Solis.  One area that the department is focusing on is “Wage Theft.”  We don’t think much about workers who are not paid for their work.  Companies often do this as they are about to go out of business.  Other times, they promise to pay employees later, but never find the money.  Some employers go so low as to steal employees’ tips.  It is estimated that workers lose $19 billion every year in wage theft.

To read about this and other changes in the Department of Labor, click here.

Follow this link to go to Yes! Magazine’s website, which presents a very different perspective on how we can live in community.

Posted: March 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Burns has written a thoughtful and frightening article on the impact of layoffs.  He follows university research to outline several negative effects of losing a job.  Beyond the financial implications, health and relationships also suffer.

What I like most about this article is it gives us a way to think about how to deal with getting laid off.  The financial part will always be a problem.  However, if we accept the situation and deal with it, we can continue to work on our health and relationships and keep them as solid as possible.  One big idea I would take away from this article is that laid off workers need to stay active.  As I’ve written before, success starts with a positive attitude that is based in reality.  Sadly, a layoff often destroys the working person’s confidence and hope. Finding those positive emotions are a key to getting back in the job game.  As Burns notes at the end of his article, some laid off workers turn their career around by pursuing work they want to do.  For those lucky people, the dark cloud has a silver lining.

Follow this link to read Greg Burns’s article.

Posted: March 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

A good cover letter should not simply repeat what is in your resume.  Use the cover letter as an opportunity to market yourself and drive the employer to your resume.  More importantly, “everyone” (see yesterday’s post) says employers don’t have time to read long resumes.  If that’s true, why should they read long, rambling cover letters?

My policy is to keep cover letters to half a page or less.  I describe what the job seeker is offering the employer in broad terms that outline what is in the resume. Finally, I offer 2-4 qualities that reflect “soft skills” (time management, problem solving).

 Here are some examples from my website (click here, here, or here).

Whenever possible you should, make the document look like a business letter which includes the employer’s name, company name, address, and a salutation (Dear CONTACT NAME).  If there a name is not given in the job posting, I recommend saying, Dear Hiring Executive.

Does every employer read a cover letter?  No.  However, many ask for letters, which means that they are read and valued.  Why not take a little extra time to give yourself one more chance to get noticed.  Don’t cheat yourself.  Write good cover letters.

Posted: March 24, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The priceless Seth Godin has written a very wise post about “everyone.”  He can’t stand this person, who really isn’t a person.  It’s the rhetorical strategy people use to claim they have the answer – the only answer.  “Everyone” says.  Really?

I sometimes hear this from clients.  Everyone says you should have a one page resume (or an objective or no objective).  My response is to ask who told them this gem of wisdom.  They can’t say.  Everyone is really a nobody.  Don’t take his advice.

Take Seth Godin’s advice and read his blogFollow this link to read the post on the nowhere man (or woman).

Posted: March 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Follow this link to read a very interesting post on how job interviews are shaped by the personality of the interviewer.  The author, Anthony Balderama, gives some good advice about how to deal with different personality types.

I found this post very interesting, but tricky.  What if you misread the interviewer’s personality type?  Should you focus on this factor more than making your strongest presentation?  My advice is to start and end every interview by listening.  If you’re listening well, Mr. Balderama’s advice will help.  If not, the interview probably won’t go well even if you guess at the interviewer’s personality type.

Posted: March 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Mark Brown has a column in today’s Sun-Times about how the new health care reform will affect how people work.  He tells the story of a man who has a pre-existing condition and cannot obtain good insurance.  To get government help, this man is limited in the kind of work he can do.  Hopefully, the new reform will enable him to get a job that pays more and join an affordable insurance pool.

Several people have held onto jobs because of health concerns, especially pre-existing conditions.  Without this restriction, working people will be able to move from job to job without worrying about losing insurance coverage.  Others will find it easier to start their own businesses.

No one knows the full extent of this new reform.  However, if it gives people more security and confidence, it will benefit working people and help them manage their careers.  That’s a good thing.