Blog Archive - May 2010

Posted: May 31, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

In These Times Magazine reports on changes in the Chicago Teachers Union.  While the incumbent leadership group won the first round of a recent election, it faces a new faction CORE (Congress of Rank and File) in a run off.  This group opposes the system’s recent move to replace traditional schools with charter schools.  The 30,000 member union has lost 6,000 members over recent years in which the number of charter schools have expanded. 

As I’ve written before, experts in the media and representatives of employers pack all the blame for their problems on employee salaries, usually salaries of working class and middle class workers.  Hopefully, CORE is a sign that working people are fed up with layoffs, salary cuts, and furlough days.  May working people in other industries follow the example of these brave teachers.

Follow this link to read the article.

Posted: May 30, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature on work and life.]


I just got back from watching the St. Louis Cardinals beat the team the Chicago Cubs 9-1.  That’s not a big deal.  Major League Baseball teams play 162 games; they will lose games and sometime lose in a blow out.

Today’s game was different because of one man, Albert Pujols, the first baseman of the Cardinals.  Since his rookie year in 2001, Pujols has been an All Star with a career batting average of .332 and over 1700 hits.  Today against the Cubs, he hit three home runs and walked two times. 

What makes Pujols unusual is how quiet his achievements are.  He’ll point to the sky after a homer (a cliché embraced by athletes in several sports – Really, does God care about a game?), but that’s about it.  He does his all aspects of his job with consistent skill and effort.  When I watch him play live, the player he reminds me of most is Tony Gwynn.  Like Gwynn, Pujols controls the plate, which is usually the role the pitcher.  What distinguishes him from Gwynn is the ability to hit for power as well as average.

It is a thrill to watch Albert Pujols – even when he’s beating the Cubs.  That’s a mark of greatness.

Enjoy your Sabbath & Memorial Day.

Posted: May 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Chicago Tribune offers an interesting article on the increased number of women in the auto industry.  As women buy more cars (soon more than men), their influence in the industry will grow.  Follow this link to read the article.

Posted: May 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Help others who are helping you with your job search.  When you ask a friend for support with networking or ask them to review a resume, be sure that they understand what kind of job you are seeking.  Often they will judge you based on your most recent job or the job where you were co-worker.  They need to know how you are positioning yourself for the next job.

For example, if a teacher were making a career change into sales, her friends and co-workers might be put off if her resume talked about the skills sales professionals need: “presentation skills, persuasiveness, negotiation, training.”  They need to be told that the goal is a job in sales, not teaching.  They need to be able to say why a former teacher will be a good sales professional.  Work with your support network so they know how to present you.  Help them understand the transition you are making, and why it is important for them to sell you for the job you want, not the job you had.

Posted: May 27, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The Reader’s outstanding political reporter Ben Joravsky has investigated salaries at Chicago Public Schools.  Teachers and other employees that serve students are being laid off.  Assistant coaches are asked to work without pay.  Meanwhile, CEO Ron Huberman has added salaried staff.  According to Joravsky, 133 employees make $100,000 or more.  Several of these people formerly worked with Huberman at the CTA.

What bothers me most about this story is hypocrisy.  Huberman and his aides have no qualms about asking schools to tighten their belts, to cut staff and programs.  They want the teachers and their unions to agree to furlough days.  At the same time, the CEO and his staff have increased their salaries.  It’s nice to hear administrators say they want what’s best for students.  Stories like this indicate that they really care more about themselves.

Follow this link to read Joravsky’s story.

Posted: May 26, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Beware of following every kind of advice you get during your job search.  One expert I encountered recently told readers to “customize job titles” so they fit the position being sought.  This advice sounds good.  I always tell clients to keep information on their resume relevant.  However, there is one big problem with customizing job titles: HR departments.

When a prospective employer calls your former employers to do a background check, they usually receive very basic information: eligibility for rehire, years worked, and job titles.  If you call yourself a manager and your official title was coordinator, your prospective employer will think you are inflating facts on your resume.  Don’t expect a call for a second interview.

What can you do if your job title doesn’t fit what you are trying to say on your resume?  I suggest two strategies: rephrasing and subtitles. 

Rephrasing is simply to provide a second definition of what your job function was.  For example, I once had a client who was a Team Leader at a large department store.  Team Leader sounds like this employee might be a Department Manager or even the assistant to a Department Manager.  My client ran a muli-million dollar operation.  Many similar employers would call his position General Manager.  We listed his title as Team Leader (General Manager).  The first sentence below the title made clear that he was responsible for all store operations.  That’s rephrasing.

Subtitles listed below a main title are another way to let an employer see your relevant skills.  For example, one of my clients wanted to pursue a career in training and development.  Her current position, the one where she gained the most experience in training, had the title Event Manager.  To reorient the prospective employer, we followed that title with a subtitle: training and development.  In this section we described relevant skills and achievements.  That way the employer could quickly see why my client was qualified for the position.

Beware of changing your job title.  The employer can find that information.  Instead, use rephrasing and subtitles to help the employer see why and how you are qualified to do the job you are applying for.  It’s a little more work, but the effort will payoff in interviews and job offers.

Example of a resume with rephrasing.  resume with rephrased titles

Example of a resume with subtitles.  resume with subtitles

Posted: May 26, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes one of my favorite blogs.  I’m not an economist, and what he says is often pitched above my head.  Even so, I understand the big picture, and, according to Professor K., that picture is not pretty.

Click here to read one of his most recent posts on our slow/no growth future.

Posted: May 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that Tribune Company plans to give 35 top executives $14.9 million in bonus for work done in 2009.  Not bad for a company that is still in bankruptcy.

Moral of the story?  There’s no morality here.  Just greed.

Posted: May 24, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Seth Godin has written an interesting blog on the elements of a business plan.  He starts with a very simple principle:  the truth.  His advice:  be specific and tell the truth in detail.

The same applies to resume writing.  Too often job seekers think that they need “buzz words” to sell their skills.  Instead (and this is the second key word in Godin’s model for the business plan) assert what makes you different, better.  Just as a good company has to have something to sell, a good candidate for a job has to present evidence why and how she can do the job better. 

Be specific.  Give example of how you can do the job, and what you have achieved on the job. 

Of course, a resume is not exactly a business plan.  You won’t need sections on alternatives, people, or money.  You will need to ask yourself again and again:  How am I selling myself – truthfully – in specific detail.  If this job is done well, your resume will work like the plan of a very successful business.

Posted: May 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, Career Calling looks at work and life beyond careers.]

Wonder Work

I was 13 years old on August 7, 1974 when something very strange happened in New York City.  A man named Philippe Petit ran a cable between the north and south tower of the World Trade Center.  110 stories above the ground, Petit danced, lay, and knelt on the wire.  At one point, he even looked down to see the crowd that gathered to look at him.  Petit’s 45 minute performance on the wire resulted from years of planning and practicing.

I recently watch a documentary, Man on Wire, that chronicles Petit’s effort.  Most of the film is about how Petit prepared as a wire walker and how he and his team planned every aspect of getting into the tower and rigging a cable.  It’s interesting that no law enforcement official (or anyone else) recognized Petit.  In 1971, he walked a wire between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Later, he pulled off a similar trick at Sydney Harbor Bridge near the famous Opera House.

Petit understood the consequences of his performance at the World Trade Center.  At one point in the firm he said, “If I die, what a beautiful death – to die in the exercise of your passion.”  His first thought on looking at the towers was “impossible.”  Challenge overcame fear.

The film depicts two teams sneaking into the tower with fake identities and ID cards. Petit and his friends knew they were committing a crime. They move equipment and evade guards as they make their way to the top of the building.  They make mistakes in transferring the cable between buildings and the walk is nearly spoiled.  Petit would not give up nor would he let his collaborators quit (except for one man who ran down 110 flights of stairs when his courage gave way).

What can we take from this story?  First, don’t try this at home!  More importantly, Petit was a model of preparation, confidence, daring, and concentration.  His friends said that his face turned into a mask when he was on the wire.  He was in the moment.  Most great work brings us to such moments of focus.  We lose our sense of time and the world outside of the task we are performing.  A police officer said Petit was not walking on the wire, but dancing.  Petit compared what he did not to a circus trick or magic (which he practices), but art and poetry. 

The police arrested Petit, but only charged him with a minor crime.  A judge ordered him to do a show for children in New York, the city where he now works as an artist-in-residence at the Church of Saint John the Divine.  I whole-heartedly recommend the movie Man on Wire.  It will take you back to an innocent time when adventurers like Petit could make jaws drop.  Now we live in an age of “reality” entertainment where Petit’s skill and effort give way to train wreck sensationalism.  Philippe Petit was a craftsman – may we remember his example in our life and work.

Happy Sabbath


Photos of the walk here and here

A funny interview of Petit by Steven Colbert

A radio report from the day of the walk