Blog Archive - September 2010

Posted: September 30, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

It’s easy to get frustrated when looking for a job.  In his book The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide, Richard Bolles gives some great about what to do when your job search isn’t working: trying something else.  Bolles recommends that every job seeker have at least three alternative ways to look for a job.  When one path becomes a dead end, choose a new path.

For example, if your networking is going nowhere, it might be time to focus answering online posts.  If you’re not finding any job posts that fit your career goals, you can research companies, find those that need your skills, and contact them to see if they have an opening.  Bolles cites research that has found many job seekers lose momentum and stop looking for work after only one month if they only are only looking for work one way.  Bolles say that giving ourselves alternatives not only keeps our job search moving forward, it also gives us the most important resource in life: hope.

To learn more about Bolles, go to his website

Posted: September 29, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Toys R Us is going to hire 45,000 employees, which sounds like good news.  However, like the Census jobs that came and went in the spring, these are temporary positions.  Some people say “a job is a job.”  I disagree.  If the best our economy can do is to create temporary and seasonal positions, working people in America will continue to be poorer and less secure.  Rather than trumpet a temporary gain, our business and political leaders need to look in the mirror.  They took jobs out of this country.  Some people profited quite well from this strategy.  We need real good news, which is jobs that pay a living wage and offer security.  Christmas is nice, but we can’t live on a holiday.

Posted: September 28, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Employers want to see why you are qualified to fill their open position.  Too often job seekers get so caught up in resume “rules” that they fail to demonstrate why they are a good fit for the position.  One important way job seekers cheat themselves is by not taking advantage of volunteer work, internships, and other non-paid positions.

If you have done significant work as a volunteer and generated results that an employer would care about, why not list these facts on your resume?  Employers want to see relevant information, the kind that shows how you are the solution to their problem.

How can you use non-paid experience?  One of my clients is a manager in human resources, but his experience in training is limited.  For several years, he has volunteered as a manager at a camp.  In this position, he has hired and trained hundreds of volunteers, several of whom have take on managerial roles.  We listed this information on his resume.  It is true and shows his abilities to mentor employees.

Another client, an interior designer, has planned and managed several projects working for a relative who owns rental properties.  The work he has done is exactly the same as if were a full time employee at a design firm.  Why shouldn’t he take credit for this experience?  My client is not lying about what he has done and the hands-on skill he has developed. His next employer will benefit from his work in a “non-paid” position.

The challenge in your resume and in interviews is to convince the employer that you have the skills and experience needed to do the job.  If the best card you have to play is a volunteer or non-paid position, play that card.  It’s the best one you have.

Posted: September 26, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature that explores work and life outside of career.]

Working for Children

Over the past two days I’ve taken part in three events that help students and schools.  As governments cut more and more of their funding to education, neighborhood groups and parents have taken on the responsibility to raise money to support schools and programs. 

On Friday, Kiwanis Club of the North Shore joined with Circle K from Loyola University and Key Club from Senn High School to raise money with their annual Peanut Day Fundraiser. The money raised on this day will be used for programs to support reading programs in local public schools.  It will also fund an essay contest for eight graders.  Beyond its contribution to schools, Kiwanis helps children by supporting our great local food pantry, Care for Real.

On Saturday, I went to Kegs for Kids, an event to raise money to fund new programs and purchase equipment for Peirce Elementary School.  Local business donated time, products, and gifts for a silent auction.  Two businesses Hopleaf Bar and Metropolis Coffee stand out for their efforts along with Friends of a Peirce, a parent and community group that supports the school. 

Later in the day, I traveled a little north to attend the Gralley, an event to support Northside Catholic Academy.  Many of the people I saw at this event were long time volunteer supporters of the school and the church to which it is attached, Saint Gertrude’s.  Most of the volunteers were parents of school children who are already paying tuition to support the school.  Their effort shows a commitment to religious education.

Whether the cause is public or private schools, it is interesting to note how many people are willing to give time and spend money to support young people and education.  There is, however, another group that works every day to support young people: teachers. 

Over the past few months, I have frequently written about teachers and how school systems (especially Chicago Public Schools) seem more interested in cutting salary and breaking unions than educating children.  Putting this conflict aside for a moment, it’s important to remember that teachers work every day to help young people learn and mature.  They take on the challenge of communicating with a generation that is distracted by electronic gadgets and a media that often celebrates stupidity and denigrates learning. 

When we say we support education (which almost everyone does), let’s start with the people who are on the front line every day – teachers.  It’s great to raise money for schools.  I happily participate in such efforts.  However, teachers are the engine that drives learning.  They makes sacrifices and often spend their own money to purchase supplies.  We need to celebrate this dedication and the good work that teachers do every day.

Posted: September 25, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

I was listening to Hal Sparks' program on WCPT this morning.  Hal is an actor and comedian who is also a political activist.  In an exchange with a caller, he talked about how he has managed his life and career. 

First, he said that his success has been driven by not talking about his goals.  People who talk about their goals often fail to pursue them.  Hal’s advice was to spend your focus and energy working toward the goal.  Do it – don’t talk about it.

His other point about career success was not to “spread your misery.”  People talk about what is wrong and what is making them unhappy.  Instead, they should be doing something to change their lives and make themselves happy.  Again, action beats talk.

I was raised by a single father who grew up during the Depression and fought in WWII.  He could complain sometimes, but when things were really bad, we never knew it as kids.  He worked an extra job.  He cut back on spending in a way that didn’t let us feel poor.  He didn’t talk about things.  He did them.  My father would have understood Hal Sparks’ advice, especially the part about not “spreading your misery.”  It pays to be stoic – and quiet.

Posted: September 24, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

This week’s Chicago Reader provides more stories of the methods that principals are using to lay off teachers in Chicago Public Schools.  The article reviews the pretzel-like terminology used to justify layoffs.  My favorite is “honorably terminated,” which sounds like some kind of mercy killing from a 70’s film like Rollerball.

Writers Ben Joravsky and Dave Glowacz interview several teachers who were among the 1,300 let go before this school year began.  We constantly hear the cliche of “bad” teachers.  The teachers profiled in this article have proven records of success.  The problem seems to be that they cost too much when a school can hire cheaper, younger teachers. 

This article focuses more on individuals than issues of unions and contracts.  Even so, it reminds us that few teachers in CPS can feel secure in this environment.  Will good teachers want to continue to work in such a system?  How does a culture of fear impact teaching?  These questions aren’t asked.  Instead, the mainstream media feeds us stories about “bad” teachers.  Thankfully, writers like Joravsky and Glowacz are around to tell the truth.

Posted: September 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Blockbuster has filed for bankruptcy.  In the short and long term, this news probably means many people will be laid off as stores close.  I often complain that big companies are needless cutting jobs or sending them to low wage countries.  This case is different.  People now obtain videos from mail services like NetFlix and vending machines like RedBox.

Retail video distribution models like Blockbuster are no longer viable.  The consumer has other ways to get the product.  Blockbuster is the wooly mammoth in a tar pit.  It’s time is over.  Soon many people will be downloading directly over the Internet.  In a case like this, jobs will be lost.

What’s the good news?  As Blockbuster disappears, new technologies will create new jobs.  We hear more and more about “green” jobs, and there are new jobs related to wind turbines, solar panels, and alternative energy.  There are also new jobs being created in health care where nurse practitioners are providing primary care in chain drug stores.  IT generates new types of jobs all the time.  Old technologies like typewriters and cassette tapes go away.  They are replaced, and often more opportunity is created.  Try to stay optimistic, and look for ways to take advantage of change.

Posted: September 22, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

When it comes to computer skills, clients frequently tell me what they don’t know.  Or they talk about programs they have the least experience with.  Technology is always changing, and we tend to think that we need to know the latest version of a software.

Think about computers and software a different way:  They are tools that help us do our job.  I ask my clients how they use a computer at work.  If they use Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), that’s fine.  But I also want to show how they use software or database programs.  Another computer skills that’s coming into use more and more in the workplace, especially for marketing and sales, is social networking.

How do you know what computer skills employers are looking for.  Take a poll.  Review 5-10 job postings for jobs you want to pursue.  What programs or skills are listed in most postings, those are the ones that should go on every resume. 

Use the computer skills section of you resume to list programs that the employer will care about.  Don’t worry about what you don’t know.  If you need to learn a software program to do your job, it’s time to go back to school.  Otherwise, list what you know and find other ways to tell employers that you are someone they want to interview.

Posted: September 21, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Common Dreams has published an essay by Michelle Chen that challenges the claim that public sector workers are overpaid.  Chen looks at statistics rather than simply making broad claims.  She finds that people working for government still make less than people working in similar jobs in the private sector. 

Union workers are the chief target of attack.  Chen shows that the benefits negotiated in contracts took years to achieve.  Critics that attack unionized public sector workers ignore what working people in private industry have lost.  They are pushing more and more a race to the bottom. 

Chen gives us all a great example.  When a critic of working people makes a simplistic claim, ask for some evidence.  Remind that person that workers in the private sector have not only lost jobs, but had hours and wages cut.  They pay a larger percentage of their health care every year.  Ask the critics:  Why do you hate working people and want more for billionaires?

Posted: September 19, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Roger Bybee, writing in In These Times magazine, explores the root causes holding back students in many public school systems.  Conservatives, their media allies, and – at times – President Obama and Arne Duncan blame poor teachers.  Bybee looks at poor students and their families and considers the social and economic factors that affect learning, which all start with poverty, not bad teachers.  This article is a fine antidote to much of what is accepted as conventional wisdom about public education.

Are there bad teachers?  Yes.  Are their back school administratiors, business excutives, and political leaders?  Yes.  Let's look at people who have more power to influence change.