Blog Archive - June 2010

Posted: June 30, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The Daily Kos’s Meteor Blades has written an incisive post on how working people have suffered in this recession.  Beyond the millions who have lost jobs, millions more have taken cuts in pay or hours.  Others can only find a part-time job to replace (only in part) a full-time job.  Blades also looks at recent job growth (very slow) and the factors that may keep it this way.  This article is worth a read.

Posted: June 30, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

In planning your job search, it’s vital to think first about what the employer is looking for.  You will not hire yourself.

At the same time, a job search gives us an opportunity to review our relation between work and life.  Ask yourself:

How much money do I want to make?  What is the minimum I can have for a salary?

What benefits do I want?  What are my minimum benefits?

Where do I want to go in my career?  Will this job take me forward, or is it a dead end?

What days/hours do I want to work?

What is my ideal commute?  What is the limit for a commute?

The best way to find an ideal job is to define what you are looking for.  Be specific.  If you give yourself well defined goals, you will have specific targets to aim for. This information will give you a foundation for negotiating.  It will also help you manage your career – and your future.

Posted: June 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s New York Times features a bold editorial calling on our political leaders in Washington to do something about unemployment and state budgets.  Whatever recovery we have seen will disappear if action isn’t taken soon.  If the states have to lay off employees, the unemployment problem gets even worse.  It’s odd how the Congress could solve the bank problem in a few days.  Working people – who cares about them?

Following the path of one of its editorial writers, Paul Krugman, the Times says that we need spending now, not deficit cutting.  Will Washington listen?  Don’t bet on it.

Posted: June 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Your references are very important resources in your job search.  You have identified these people as experts on your career.  They have agreed to help you in your jobs search.  Take it one step beyond asking your references to talk to prospective employers.  Ask them some questions that will help you set goals for your job search.

Take your references to lunch or for a cup of coffee.  Tell them you want to pick their brains a little so you will be better able to plan and execute your job search.

Here are some questions you should ask:

What kind of jobs do you think I should be pursuing?

Why will I be successful?

What are my strengths?

What are my weaknesses?

Who do you know that I should talk to or contact?

Listen carefully to your references’ answers.  Take notes so you can remember what was said.  Use this information to set a direction for your job search and update your resume.  Most references will be happy to answer these questions.  In fact, if they don’t want to help you by answering these questions, you have to wonder what they will be telling prospective employers.

Take full advantage of the direction and advice references can offer.  Always remember to say thank you and offer to help your references as they have helped you.

Posted: June 28, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Everyone has advice about how to write a resume.  It should be an all bullet format.  It should only be one page.  It should always (or never) begin with an objective.

When anyone gives you any advice, ask that expert two questions: How?  Why?  If someone can’t tell you how to do something or why you should be doing it, what business does that person have giving advice?

Too often the people who speak most loudly with the strongest tone of certainty guide people down the wrong path. 

Test them.  If they cannot tell you how and why you should be doing something, they are not worth listening to.

Posted: June 27, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, Career Calling looks at intersections of work and life in ”Sabbath”]

Play’s Dark Consequences

Rick Telander of the Sun-Times is a great sportswriter.  His columns are always thoughtful, and his book Heaven is a Playground captured the joy of young men playing basketball in the city.  Now he has taken on a less happy, but important task:  examining the effect of football injuries long after players have left the game.

This topic grew hot last year.  Many former NFL players are joining programs where their brains will be studied after their death.  Based on findings so far, many players have suffered greatly for whatever fame and fortune they took from football.

Telander ponders teammates and other players who have suffered brain injuries.  In the first installment of the series, he discussed some of his former teammates from Northwestern University.  But the most compelling story was that of former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Wally Hilgenberg.  I remember watching Hilgenberg play in the 1970s.  He died at age 66 from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).  Telander interviewed a doctor who studied slides from Hilgenberg’s brain.  She demonstrated for Telander how constant impact to Hilgenberg’s head had caused damage to his brain that would not occur in a normal human even at age 100.

In the second installment, Telander interviews his friend Mike Adamle, a star running back at Northwestern, who also played seven years in the NFL.  He has been a sportscaster for several years.  One day while on the air he lost the ability to speak clearly, feeling like a “tidal wave” hit half his brain.  At age 49, Adamle was diagnosed with epilepsy.  He controls the disease with medication and lives an active life (recently completing the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii). Even so, he fears that his children will have to see him as an invalid because of the damage done to his body on the football field many years ago.

It’s not just football.  I grew up loving boxing.  In 1982, I watched a fight between Ray “Boom-Boom” Manicini and Duk Koo-Kim.  It was a horrible mismatch.  Mancini pounded Kim, but the less talented fighter wouldn’t go down.  Finally his body gave in, he fell, and died not long after the fight.  Boxing pretends to be civilized violence.  There are rules, gloves, and a doctor ringside.  What is the object of the sport?  Hit your opponent until he (and now she) falls and stays down.

My hero growing up was Muhammad Ali.  During his last, sad fights, Ali’s hands trembled slightly, controlled with heavy doses of dopamine.  His speech is slurred, and now he seldom speaks in public.  Doctors say Ali suffers from Parkinson’s Syndrome, a condition caused by repeated blows to the head.  He has lived and done many good things for the world, but I wonder:  If he could turn the clock back, would he trade wealth and glory for his health?

Many people like to dismiss pro wrestling as “fake.”  This scripted form of entertainment still involves violent blows to the head.  A few years ago, a talented performer named Chris Benoit killed his wife, their child, and himself.  Initial reports and media buzz speculated that steroids caused the wrestler to murder his family in a fit of ‘roid rage.  Later, doctors studied Benoit’s brain and said it was in worse shape than that of four football players who had also committed suicide.  Several other wrestlers have died in recent years, many from overuse of pain killers related to the damage they suffered in the ring.

Telander asks the question:  Is it worth it?  Most of the athletes say they would still play the game that could cripple them.  Those of us who watch violent sports know the truth (Ali has been exhibit A for several decades).  We want the big hit, and athletes want the thrill and glory (and, for a few, the money).  Growing awareness of head injuries may help doctors and trainers find new ways to prevent or limit injuries.  Even so, as long as sports involve blows to the head through constant punching and tackling, there will be a price to pay.  At least future generations of athletes will have a better sense of the risk they are taking.

I strongly recommend Telander’s series.

Here's the third installment of Telander's series.

Installment four

In installment five, Telander interviews former teammate Jack Smeeton, who suffered several concussions and later had both knees replaced.  Smeeton recognizes what football has done to his body, but he also credits the sport with helping him be successful in life as a prosecutor and defense lawyer:  "Football taught me determination and tenacity and discipline.  Being an attorney is a natural profession for a former football player, guys who like competition."

Telander profiles Gerry Combs, a former teammate who has been very successful in business. 

Installment 7: Jack Rudnay, a star at Northwestern and Kansas City in the NFL, who lives with constant pain from his football injuries.  Even so, Rudnay does not complain.  He sums up his philosophy in these words:  “People get pain and suffering confused.”  Tough guy.

George Keporos, the subject of installment 8, has a few memory issues, which may or may not be football related.  Otherwise he is fine.  His daughter, a volleyball player who recently graduated from Northwestern, will probably need knee replacement surgery in her 30s from the punishment dished out in her "non-contact" sport.

In the ninth and final installment of his series, Rick Telander asks what effect concussion and other sports injuries are having on our culture.  He asks a doctor if we could be experiencing a “dumbing down” in the way men think.  The doctor, a man of statistics, doesn’t what to commit to a definitive answer and will only say that it is possible.  Telander then answers his own question, “It is more than possible.”

 I agree with Telander.  Look at current movies.  Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell have built careers out of playing lovable doofuses.  Earlier in his career, Jim Carrey gave us “Dumb and Dumber” and the even dumber, Ace Ventura.  What do these characters and stories say about men?  If we don’t respect ourselves enough to be intelligent, why should we care if a few men suffer serious brain injuries as part of our national passion, football? 

Rick Telander deserves great credit for the intelligence and sensitivity he brought to this difficult topic. 

Posted: June 26, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Sun-Times features the story of Omar Soliman, a student at the University of Miami who could not find a summer job when he went home to Washington D.C.  Soliman could have done nothing and blamed forces beyond his control.  Instead, he borrowed his mother’s van and started a business hauling junk.  Later, he proposed the business model at his school’s entrepreneur competition, where it won first prize.  Soliman’s business has been profitable and expanded to 40 locations in two years.

Can everyone be this successful by starting their own business?  No.  Soliman obviously is a talented, if young, business person.  What we all can do is follow his model for persistence:  if your method of finding work is a dead end, try something new.  Take a chance, but be aware of the risks.  The great thing about working for someone else is they take the risk.  Sometimes, however, the risk can have big rewards.  Omar Soliman started without a job – he ended up owning a successful business in two years.  That’s ambition – and a good story.

Posted: June 26, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

In These Times magazine’s Richard Greenwald examines the growth and impact of temp jobs on workers.  As much as 25-30% of jobs today are contract or temporary.  Greenwald points out that many freelance employees struggle to make it in contingent jobs with low pay and no benefits.  Ironically, some of the most successful people in this new economy are the authors and seminar leaders who try to convince contract workers that they can get rich [Greenwald lists Daniel Pink among these authors.  I haven’t read Pink’s book on freelance jobs; I still recommend Drive.].

Greenwald also exposes a problem that some of my clients have complained about:  websites that let customers bid down the price they will pay contract employees.  Like many small business people, contract workers tend to be optimistic.  Greenwald shows that this attitude will often set them up for exploitation.  I can hear my conservatives friends saying, “No one is forcing them to take the gig.”  I agree.  But, through their eyes, there is no other gig available.

My advice would be to find a new game.  Some of my clients who were free lance (graphic artists, editors) are looking for full time gigs.  If they don’t find those jobs, they will change careers.  Hopefully more people will get wise to this growing game.  Three cheers to Richard Greenwald for his efforts to educate the public.

Posted: June 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The New York Times has collected opinions of leading economists on what the President can do to spur job creation.  Follow this link to read the expert opinions.

Posted: June 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

When you list achievements on your resume, it’s important to frame them so they are specific and relevant.  Below are some sample success stories followed in brackets by the profession targeted by the resume.

Named Manager of the Year by Hilton (2005) in recognition of gross revenues, profit and guest satisfaction. [hotel general manager]

Quickly achieved goals for profitability and compliance (11 months; normal time, 18-24 months). [bank president]

Supervised a $14 million LEED rehab of a commercial building. [construction superintendent]

Recognized by the company’s Vice President for increasing acquisitions by 25%. [real estate developer]

Led in-service training on the use of PowerPoint and database programs to improve presentations and organize information (i.e., grades, attendance). [teacher]

Set a record by generating 23 leads at an industry trade show. [event management]

Managed the only store in the U.S. (10 stores) to exceed sales goals for new products. [retail store manager]

Selected to open a new campus in Orlando, Florida.  Set up all aspects of operations, including recruiting, financial aid, and curriculum. [professional school administrator]

Saved 66% on anti-virus software by negotiating with vendors. [IT professionals]

Recognized by New City (Chicago) for mixing the best martini. [bartender]

These examples give employers confidence because they use specific detail, examples, and numbers.  Note that some of these achievements do not quantify the achievement.  Don’t force a number just to have a number.  Tell the success story, and let the employer be impressed.  You can also refer to your success stories during a job interview to show how you will add value to the company.  Keep track of your success stories, put them on your resume, and practice how you will present them during interviews.  If you present your achievements well, your next success story will be a job offer.