Blog Archive - May 2010

Posted: May 22, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

A client told me a story today that gives a good example of when to worry about being laid off.  He has been told to prepare his team for downsizing.  At the same time, his manager has told my client that he should have nothing to worry about.  Beware of such comforting statements.

My client listened and heard other things his manager said.  He was told that he should look at other openings in the company “just to be safe.”  When he asked his manager why, he was told that other employees on his level – people with less experience – are paid less.  Companies are looking to cut salary.  They not so concerned about talent or loyalty.

The moral of the story is: Don’t believe what you want to believe.  Pay attention to all the signs about what is happening at your company.  Be ready to move whatever happens.  Keep your resume updated. Make a list of people you want to network with.  If there is a hint that layoffs might hit you, start looking – at least to see what kind of jobs are available.  Don’t wait for bad news.  Get ahead of it.

Posted: May 21, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Yes! Magazine offers a review of Bringing It to the Table, a book on farming and food by Wendell Berry.  Anyone who has read Berry’s poetry or prose experiences a very different perspective on the world.  Turning away from the modern world and its conveniences, Berry has held to traditions, and he offers strong reasons for doing so.

We may disagree with some of Berry’s ideas, but it is hard to dispute his sincerity and the thought behind his words.  Like Michael Pollan, he presents a healthy way to live and eat -- and work .  I hope to learn something from these essays.

Posted: May 20, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

An editorial in today’s Sun-Times calls on Congress to save schools just as it saved banks.  However, the editorial’s deeper concern is watering down an important protection of teachers’ rights as unionized workers: seniority.

The editorial waffles on its position regarding seniority.  First it says, “In exchange for the money, teachers unions should give up seniority rights.”  A few sentences later, “Seniority-based layoff rules have value; they prevent more expensive and experiences from taking a disproportionate hit.”  Then, in the last sentence of the editorial, the writers call on senators to “make it clear that blanket seniority rules must go, and go soon.”

Let’s back up.  The original problem discussed in the editorial was school funding.  State and local governments across the country have not – for various reasons – properly funded public schools.  The Sun-Times editorial puts 100% of the blame and solution on teachers and their salary.  Once again the media, the voice of corporate America, is targeting working people and going after their job security and salary. The editors of the Sun-Times care more about union-busting and cutting salary than they do about children.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen my clients who work in Chicago Public Schools face more layoffs.  This year once stable suburban schools started laying off big numbers.  In the short term, schools might balance their budgets through layoffs and salary cuts.  In the long run, who will want to be a teacher?  Everyone says children are the future, and we need to invest in education – but no one wants to pay more taxes to support schools.  Instead, teachers should make less money.  Teacher unions need to be weaker.  That’s not a solution.  It’s a joke.

Posted: May 20, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

In this economy, it would be easy to assume that every job is filled or quickly filled.  However, according to today’s Chicago Sun-Times, skilled trades, sales, and nursing are the hardest to fill jobs. These jobs require specialized skills, college degrees, or professional training.

The article profiles a manager at Trump Tower who has completed a diploma, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree in the hospitality industry.  It’s easy to look at a job and say, “Anybody can do that.”  As industries become more specialized, they require new skill sets.  Learning doesn’t end with high school or college.  To be successful and advance as a professional, learning never ends.

Posted: May 19, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The New York Times has a good article on how to handle phone interviews.  Treat such interviews as seriously as you would face-to-face meetings.  For more good advice, follow this link.

Posted: May 18, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Sun-Times features a profile of a woman who claims she was fired because she has cancer.  However, as I read the story, it became a more cloudy issue.  Can employers keep employees who are going to be off the job? Should they be required to?  Does it matter how long someone has worked for a company?  These questions don’t have easy answers.

To read the story, follow this link.

Posted: May 18, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

When most people include achievements on their resume, the first thing they think about is numbers, numbers, and more numbers.  It’s great to quantify your success stories, but another way to show your value to a potential is to talk about when other people have recognized your value to them.  Every employer wants to hire someone who makes co-workers and customers happy.

Here are some examples of how you can tell this kind of success story on your resume:

•     Recognized by the company president for closing a sale with a key account.

•     Selected to represent the company at the industry’s leading trade show.

•     Frequently complimented by customers for providing fast solutions and service.

•     Given the “Team Spirit” award by co-workers for being a problem solver who takes the time to help others.

•     Cited in Crain’s Chicago as an industry leader.

•     Nominated by co-workers as employee of the year (2008).

Employers care about skills.  They also want employees who will fit in and be part of the team.  Showing how you have been recognized demonstrates how others have valued your contribution.  Make recognition part of your resume success stories.

Posted: May 17, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

In a recent post, Seth Godin questioned why we are so afraid to be seen as arrogant?  Many people hold back and don’t take chances because they are afraid of failing.  We worry that our critics will shame us for reaching beyond our abilities.  Seth’s point is: Why not try?  If we fail, we can try again.  Follow this link to read his post.

In a similar vein, looking for a job requires confidence, if not a little arrogance.  Most job postings receive hundreds of applications, and only one person will be hired.  What makes you think you’re the best?  If you don’t think you’re the best, why are you applying?

In your resume and during job interviews, your challenge is to convince the hiring manager that you are the best applicant.  Few managers will hire someone who is arrogant or cocky, but they all want someone who demonstrates confidence.  More than that, they are looking for a person who can do the job better than it has ever been done before.  Why are you the one the employer should hire?  Tell them.  Show them. Be the best.

Postscript:  After writing this post, I was skimming through a wise book by the basketball coach Pete Carril and was struck by one of his “things to remember”:  “Hardly any players play to lose.  Only a few play to win.”  See above.

Posted: May 16, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Huffington Post offers a slide of top paying jobs in America.  Most of them are in medicine.  Is it any wonder that health care is so expensive?

Follow this link to learn who the winners are in this economy.

Posted: May 16, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

[Sabbath is Career Calling’s Sunday feature that ponders work & life beyond career.]

The Work of The Place

Few poems capture the influence of work on a city more than Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago.”  The poem sings the glory and grit of labor. . . its magnetic pull on the farm boy [Who are today’s farm boys?  What is attracting them? Let’s not talk about that. Arizona wants the last word.] . . . its criminals and poor families.  Sandburg saw the full range of possibility and tragedy.  Deeper, he understood that working people fueled the city’s growth:

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to

            be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a

            tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage

             pitted against the wilderness. . .”

Here work is captured with all of its animal energy and human cunning.  Sandburg knows that nothing can be made without some kind of destructive, violent activity: “Shoveling. . . Wrecking. . . Planning. . . Building, breaking, rebuilding.” 

People in Chicago and other cities talk about the way their neighborhoods “used to be.”  We remember the downtown of our childhood.  Labor and work turned those realities into memories.  Last summer I went on a tour that focused on the history of Chicago skyscrapers from the late 19th century to the present.  The guide talked about architectural styles and building materials.  What was common to all these building was men (and later women) piling bricks, riveting steel, working high above ant-like office clerks and shoppers on the sidewalk.  The place changes – work never ends.

The stockyards are gone.  Sandburg’s “Hog Butcher for the World” is now a center of commerce, world class universities, and diverse neighborhoods.  Still, it’s a city that’s all about work: yesterday’s butcher is today’s banker, today’s researcher is yesterday’s steelworker.  The plumbers, electricians, and carpenters are joined by the new craftsmen, IT and telecom professionals who build the networks that feed the information economy. 

Our work now is as much of the mind as the body.  Some still need to know how to use the hammer.  More – most – need keyboard skills and the patience to stay sane in windowless offices and cubicles.  In the digital age, our challenge as working people is regain the “laughing,” “cursing” “fierce as a dog” pride that Sandburg celebrates:

“Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,

            sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of

            Wheat, Player with Railroads, and Freight Handler to the Nation.”

His Chicago, his America, was sweaty and dirty.  It worked hard and took pride in what it produced.  May we find our way back to that kind of work.

Happy Sabbath.