Blog Archive - July 2010

Posted: July 30, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Sun Times reports that 31% of hiring managers are concerned about employee morale and productivity.  According to the article, companies need to communicate better with their employees.  To a degree, this is true.  However, communication has its limits.  Overworked employees will break down sooner or later.  Their performance will tank, or they will get so disgusted that they will quit.

I think this article is a sign of good news to come.  Sooner or later, this situation will lead to hiring because smart employers will realize that there is nothing more to squeeze out of the existing staff. There is only way out of this situation: Start hiring!

Posted: July 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Career planning is not just about looking for new jobs or promotions.  It’s also about what you do every day you go to work.  One of the biggest complaints employees make is that their managers don’t recognize them.  Managers also have feelings.  We need to remember that when we are communicating with our bosses and say thank you to them when they help us.

A client of mine recently received a letter from her manager recognizing a long tenure with the company.  She could have said “that was nice” and moved on to other things.  Instead, she sent a note back thanking him and saying how much she appreciates what he and the company have done for her. 

Such communication doesn’t take much effort, but it sends a message that you care.  It helps to build a relationship that could help you somewhere down the line when time comes for a raise or promotion.  It also shows that you have good people skills, which are often rewarded in the workplace.  When someone does something good for you, take a minute to say thank you.  A short note could help your career.

Posted: July 28, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Demand creates value.  If something is easily obtained, it’s usually cheap. This principle is true in the job market as well.  If a person only has basic skills, she will be limited in career advancement and salary.  The key is to discover what skills or knowledge you have that set you apart from the competition. 

One of my clients grew up in China and speaks fluent Chinese.  He is currently seeking to combine his experience and education in America with his understanding of Chinese language and culture as well as experience working in China.  His resume plays up these selling points.

Another client is seeking a position in event management.  She has also worked in positions that require strong presentation skills.  Where many event managers are good planners and managers, my client has those skills as well as the ability to interact with clients and guests at events.  This ability means potential employer gets extra value.

Look at your experience, skills, and achievements.  What makes you different?  What are your selling points?  Once you have answered these questions, it is easy to focus your job search and revise your resume to target employers who will value what makes you different.  Too often we hide our most valuable attributes.  Nothing could be worse in managing your career. As the Good Book says, let your light shine.

Posted: July 28, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Common Dreams, Jesse Hagopian analyzes the standards used to evaluate teacher performance in Washington D.C., where 241 teachers were recently laid off for “poor performance.”  This article is further evidence that we need to look behind the “bad teacher” myth and focus on administrators who want to bust unions.  Corporate media loves education reformers like Michelle Rhee, Ron Huberman, and Arne Duncan.  Where is the proof that they are making schools better?  They certainly are making it easier for charter schools to exist.  Who is profiting from that “reform?”

Posted: July 27, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

I recently worked with a client who had been a manager in the hospitality industry.  He worked at a major hotel for over eight years.  He went on to manage property and businesses that he owned.  Now he is exploring the next step in his career. 

He decided to pursue jobs in both areas of experience:  hotel management and property management.  The secret to this client’s job search is to have two resumes.  One will be tailored to hotel general managers who expect to see words such as “guest” and “occupancy” in a resume.  This language would mean nothing to employers in his other career path, property management.  Those employers want to see “tenant relations,” “capital projects,” and “leases.”

Your goal in pursing two (or more) career directions is to present yourself in your resume and during interviews as someone who belongs in the industry.  It is important to use the correct language.  Take the time to target and your resume.  The results will justify your efforts.

Posted: July 27, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Common Dreams, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich analyzes the relation between corporate profits and unemployment.  We’d expect companies with profits to be hiring and expanding operations.  Many large companies are expanding – outside the U.S.  Reich explores the dilemma of a country in which companies won’t hire until consumers spend, and consumers can’t spend if they have no jobs.

Posted: July 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

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

School Supplies

About a week ago I started buying school supplies, which is odd since I don’t have kids.  About three year ago, my Kiwanis Club started collecting supplies to help local schools.  Many parents can’t afford pens, paper, and other essentials.  Teachers often spend hundreds of dollars each year buying supplies that their cash-strapped schools can no longer afford.  Our club wants to do our bit to help in this difficult situation.

That’s one way school supplies are significant.  They remind us that schools across America are in trouble.  Not only do many schools lack the funds for basic supplies, many are laying off teachers and support staff (400 teachers and 200 staff were cut in Chicago last week; 241 in Washington DC).  Over recent years several local communities have voted not to increase school funding.  Property owners are choosing lower taxes over education.  That’s short term thinking that will have serious long term consequences (a less educated work force, more crime, weaker communities).

When we buy school supplies, another hard reality hits home: the end of summer.  It’s still July and forecasts for next week call for temperatures in the 80s and 90s.  Even so, pro football camps open next week.  The selection of fruits and vegetables at farmers markets is starting to change.  Soon we’ll see apples, a sign that fall is coming.

I also enjoy my school supply purchases because they signify hope.  It’s easy to find bad news about public education and “kids today.”  The reality is that many students across the country are working very hard in school, learning new skills each year, growing more curious about what is possible – how to build the iPhone or create the next FaceBook.  I’ve seen firsthand students at Chicago Public Schools who have great futures ahead of them.  It’s a small sacrifice to buy some paper or pens for these deserving young people.  They need more than our help with school supplies.  They need us to believe in them. That’s the least we can do.

Posted: July 24, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Diave Ravitch thinks so.  Ravitch, who was once a champion of charter schools and high stakes testing, has turned against both “reforms.”  She says that President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are “anti-teacher” in using test scores to evaluate poor teaching perform.  Ravitch has done extensive research and found that poor neighborhoods, not poor teaching, are the main cause of low test scores.  She also points out that cities like New Orleans that claim to have a successful charter school program have built their success by cherry picking students, leaving the disadvantaged and discipline problems in the public schools.

Why do President Obama and Secretary Duncan favor charter schools?  They are free of union rules, which means teachers have no job security.  Duncan followed a similar course in Chicago, which is being maintained by his successor, Ron “Doomsday” Huberman.  (I call him “Doomsday” because he and his flacks used that term to justify layoffs and service cuts when Huberman headed Chicago’s transit system.  The man is a political sock puppet.)

Working people need to look hard at the claims being made about teacher performance and salary.  If we join with the campaign against teachers, we are simply helping to drive down salaries for all workers while we are carving up what little is left of job security. 

Follow this link to see an interview with Ravitch.

Click here to read an essay by Ravitch, “Why I Changed My Mind.”

Posted: July 24, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

How should you write a resume?  What kind of language should you use?  I recommend using the basic test for any kind of writing: Who is the audience?  Think about the people who will be reading your resume.  Will they understand or care about the language you are using?

Many clients I meet use language in their resume that is unique to their current or previous employer.  This is a big mistake.  You need to think about you next job, not the one you are leaving.  It is often possible to translate company language into terms that are used more commonly.  Ask yourself: would my new employer understand this word or term?

Jargon presents a similar problem, especially for career changers.  Using terms that are specific to an industry or profession tells an employer that you belong.  However, if you are changing professions or extending your job search beyond your current field, that same jargon signals an employer that you are limited to a certain kind of job.  The key in this situation is to show transferable skills and examples of how you are flexible and able to take on new duties.

Keep looking forward, thinking about the job you are seeking, not the one you are leaving.  Refocus your experience and achievement so they will speak to the needs of the employer you want to hire you.  Remember your audience, and you will be invited to the best kind of audition: a job interview.

Posted: July 22, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Good career management requires consideration of all aspects of work-life balance, including a factor that many people ignore: commute.  Many of my clients spend over 90 minutes a day going to and from work.  Add that time to a five day week, and the work week is increased by over seven hours, almost a full day.

How can we avoid such problems?  Find a job closer to home.  I’ve worked with several clients who have found jobs that involve a short commute (in one case, a client often walks to work, 10 minutes from his house).

The key to finding a job close to home is to start by making a map.  Think about how far you are willing to travel to work.  Next identify potential employers are located in this area.  Don’t rely on what you know or the Internet.  Hit the streets.  Walk and take down the names of potential employers.  Learn about their business, and see if they have openings that fit your skill and experience. 

Sometimes your map will be too small, and you will have to go outside your boundary to find a job.  Some industries or professions will not be found in your area, which means you will have to commute or make a career change.  For many people, however, there are jobs close to their home.  The challenge is to find them.  The reward?  A commute that gives you more time to live your life.