Blog Archive - January 2011

Posted: January 31, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The Chicago Tribune reports that 76% of jobs created in 2010 pay $8.50 to $15 an hour.  Many of the jobs Americans have lost paid $17 to $31 an hour.  It doesn’t take a physicist to work out this formula.  If the Bureau of Labor Statistics is correct, this trend will continue through 2018.  When we talk about jobs, we need to remember to ask:  Are they good jobs?

Posted: January 30, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” looks at work we do beyond our careers.]

The Work of Courage and Freedom

A few weeks ago, a movement began in Tunisia.  Now it has spread to Egypt.  Brave women and men, young and old, are stepping in front of riot police and tanks.  They sending a message to their governments: It’s time to change.  In Tunisia, the long-time President/Dictator fled the country.  President/Dictator Hosni Mubarak is hanging on in Egypt – for now.

These stories and the video that accompany them inspire us.  For Americans, they remind us of the stories of our own country’s founding.  However, we often forget the work and risk that go with rebellion.  In the Spring of 2009, protesters rose up in Iran.  A young girl named Neda was shot and bled to death on the street.  That image inflamed the country for a few weeks, but the government cracked down.  Protest leaders were jailed.  The police and paramilitary thugs took back the streets.  During the current situation in Egypt, the government has shut down the internet.  It is logical to assume that it is also tracking calls and email from people identified as protest leaders.  Let’s hope Egypt doesn’t follow the path of Iran.

Courage shows in situations like these.  During the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, one man stood in front of a column of tanks.  When the tanks tried to move around him, he stayed in front of them.  This action can be dismissed as symbolic since the Chinese government eventually smashed the democracy movement.  However, one person’s courage stands, and now it is born again in the people of Tunisia and Egypt.

Freedom comes after courage, and it is even more difficult to achieve. Revolutions in Cuba and Iran began with the noble goal of kicking out the dictator.  The governments that followed brought in new types of repression that have done little to bring power to the people.  In China and Russia, governments preach economic freedom while finding new ways to control their citizen’s lives.  Where can we find hope?  South Korea was under a dictatorship for several decades before its people rose up and took their country back.  Similarly, in the Philippines, democracy was established after years of dictatorship.  Sometimes, people can win their freedom when their risk their lives.  Let’s hope north Africa is going to be like one of those happier situations where a seed of democracy blooms.

In our work and personal lives, we follow routines.  They keep us focused and straight.  Those who dare to go into the streets risk that security.  When commentators drone on about the politics behind the protests (and see everything through an America-first lens), let’s take a minute to think about the individuals who dare to take a stand.  They put everything on the line.  Whatever the outcome of these rebellions, their courage deserves our admiration.

Sunday extra helpings:

Al Jazeera English has produced some of the best coverage of what is happening in Egypt.

Professor Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment is a must-read for understanding the complexity of the Middle East.  Cole’s position is too liberal for some.  Others call him anti-Israel.  I think those charges are nonsense.  He gives his readers plenty of source material to back up his claims.  Cole is a scholar in the truest sense of that word.

What’s a Sabbath post without a poem?  Check out William Butler Yeats’ “Easter 1916,” which captures the emotion and courage of those who led the Irish revolt as well as Yeats’ self-critique of his reaction to the event.  This is one of the great poems in English literature because it brings together music, philosophy, and history (all the human’s arts).  Enjoy.

Posted: January 29, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Spain now has the highest unemployment in the industrial world, 20%.  At the same time, the country is cutting support to the long term unemployed. What we see in our country is really a world problem.  Everywhere the solutions seems to be the same:  Make working people suffer.  Did we cause this financial mess?  Did we benefit from it?

Posted: January 29, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

A client recently wanted to put her language skills and her sorority on her resume.  I recommended that we omit these details.  Why?  They have no relevance to the job she is seeking.  Most employers do not have the time or the interest to consider any information that is not relevant to the open position.  Everything else you put in your resume is white noise that distracts the reader and makes it less likely that you’ll be called in for an interview.

How can you keep white noise out of your resue?  Edit the document by asking this question:  Why (or how) is this detail relevant?  Keep the focus on what a potential employer would care about.  As I have written in other posts, some people will need to have two or more versions of their resume because they are pursuing different kinds of work.  Their challenge will be to pare out of each version those skills, experience, and achievements that do not fit the kind of job they are seeking.  Every job seeker needs to perform a careful, critical review.  What elements in your resume are not relevant?  Cut what is not needed, and you will make it easier for the employer to understand what you have to offer. Focus on what the employer needs to hear, not white noise.

Posted: January 28, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The job market is still very difficult, so I think it’s a good thing to have a Plan B for a job search.  At the same time, many of the clients I meet ignore their strongest professional selling points because they think it will be impossible to find a job in their field.  They are starting with Plan B (or Plan C). 

Think about your career, the experience you have, and the skills you have developed – and want to use.  That’s your Plan A.  Target the kind of employers who need someone with your professional background.  Take some time to do this – at least a week.  Look at job postings and open positions, but you should also think about who needs your skills.  Use a search engine to find potential industries and employers.  For example, someone whose skill is business analysis and lives in Chicago should go to their favorite search engine and type: jobs Chicago business analysis.  Go through several pages of listing.  See what you find.  If this doesn’t work, try as different combination of key words.  Then, look beyond the computer and talk to people in your network.  Ask them for advice – ways to look for a job, rather than just asking if they know about any openings.  Look for strategy, ways to open the door. 

If you have trouble find open positions after following these steps, then it might be time to look toward Plan B.  However, sell your best skills – the ones you want to use – first.  Start with Plan A.

Posted: January 26, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Huffington Post, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich examines the deeper implications of President Obama’s State of the Union address.  Noting that the President’s language of “investment” sounds appealing, Reich asks the most basic question:  Where’s the money?  Corporate America isn’t investing its profits back into this country.  Reich says that the President is correct in saying that the economy has improved.  However, the speech left out the small point about how little of the economic improvement has “trickled down to ordinary people.”

Reich points out that Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were in a much better position to use the language of competition and victory.  They led in times when the economy was much stronger (and times when the wealthy and corporations paid a greater share of the tax burden).  Reich ends by asking if government can look to do what is good for American families rather than profit-obsessed global corporation.  President Obama answered Reich’s question when he made Jeffrey Immelt of GE the head of his job growth effort.  Just wait, jobs will grow – in China and India.

Posted: January 25, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

USA Today explores unemployment by the numbers and by looking behind the numbers.  As author Susan Page writes in her lead sentence, “The jobless have lost more than their jobs.”  Based on a detailed survey that the paper conducted along with Gallup, Page breaks down different groups of unemployed.  At the same time, she tells stories that remind us that each of the 14 million unemployed American has a complex, personal dilemma caused by jobless.

Some findings of the survey were striking.  62% of the unemployed have not collected any benefits.  21% have needed medical care for stress or a related condition.  More surprising, 58% of the unemployed have applied for 10 jobs or less since being laid off.  This number is troubling.  Finding a job is like making a sale:  You have to knock on doors.  If people aren’t applying for jobs (and networking), the result will be predictable and depressing. 

This article and the accompanying poll results are very interesting.  At the same time, I will once again preach the 100% rule:  Do you have a job?  Do you have the job you want?  Those are the only questions that matter.  News stories and commentary help us understand the big picture, but have little to do with our situation as individuals.  Don’t get put off by scary stories or scarier statistics.

Posted: January 25, 2011
By: Clay Cerny lists ten high paying entry level jobs.  Such lists are useful in thinking about potential career directions.  At the same time, the problem with such lists is that they invite more people to pursue these occupations, which will eventually drive salaries and open positions down.  Not that long ago, it was easy to get a good job as a teacher.  New certification programs along with shrinking faculties have led to a situation where many people now have trouble finding a job in teaching.  Beware the list that seems to offer an easy path to success.

Posted: January 24, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in the Huffington Post, Arthur Delaney reports that the number of 99ers (Americans out of work for 99 weeks or more) has grown to 1.4 million.  No state pays unemployment for more than 99 weeks.  Some pay fewer weeks.  At 99 weeks, the unemployed are on their own, a condition more people face in the richest country in the world.

Some politicians want to extend benefits for this group, but that’s doubtful to happen given the current climate in Washington.  A report cited in the article says that 99ers are likely to be the last people hired when the economy recovers.  We have never seen such extended unemployment in our lives.  The government’s failure to address this issue is beyond wrong.  It’s shameful.

Posted: January 23, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, Career Calling explores questions of life and work in “Sabbath.”]

The Big Game

The Chicago Bears have had an amazing season.  A team that many people picked to finish .500 or lower won their division and will play in the conference championship today.  Adding to the excitement and hype, the Bear are facing their long-time rivals, the Green Bay Packers.  Over the last week, this game has eclipsed all other local news stories, including a heated mayoral campaign and a visit by the President of China. 

We love sports in Chicago and across America.  In two weeks, most televisions will be tuned to the Super Bowl, which has become an unofficial national holiday.  While less popular, the World Series, NBA championship, and NCAA football bowl games and basketball championship grab headlines and big ratings.  Star athletes rank with popular musicians and movie actors as some of the country’s best paid and most well known personalities.  What does this fascination with sports tell us about ourselves?

In part, I think it says something very good.  We as a country celebrate competition and performance.  We want to see a game that is played fairly, where either team has a chance to win. We also use sports as a way to share memories across generations.  Parents and children are fans of their hometown team, and they swap stories of their heroes.  Such memories build community, especially in some of America’s challenged urban areas. 

Our fascination with the “big game” also has a negative aspect, especially over recent decades.  We seem to be ever more sport-obsessed than previous generations.  As newspapers have downsized, the one section that has not shrunk is sports.  Local TV news often devotes more time to sports than it does to local politics or community issues.  We also now have 24/7 TV and radio networks that focus solely on sports (mostly football, baseball, basketball, and hockey).  Beyond that, there are fantasy sports leagues and websites for every professional and amateur team.

Let me be clear. I am a sports fan and enjoy almost any type of competition (except competitive eating, which is vulgar in a world where so many live in hunger).  My question is about our cultural fascination – if not addiction – to sports.  What does it tell us about our lives and how they have changed from our grandparents and great-grandparents?  What do we value and why do we value it?

There was a time when American had a much more diverse range of interests. Someone with a high school education would know more about literature and culture.  His or her knowledge of politics would be based on reporting and participation, not talk radio and campaign commercials.  Our love of sports has, to some degree, simplified our understanding of life.  We cheer for the winner without considering the value of the competition.  Is the winner of Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, or The Apprentice really worthy of our time or admiration?  Deeper still, does our fascination with The Biggest Loser, The Bachlor/Bachlorette, and Are You Smarter than a Fifth Greater mask more serious concerns about how we are living as individuals, families, and a nation?

We complain about many things: government, jobs, schools, health care.  The list of our concerns could fill the page.  What do we do change anything?  More importantly, what do we do to understand these problems and hold our politicians responsible to fix them?  Sports is easy.  There is always a new game tomorrow and a new season next year.  Our love of sports lets us relive our childish days of innocence.  The problem is that we live in a time of great challenges.  We can’t afford to spend so much of attention and psychic energy budget on sports.  To make our lives better and to make our country better, we need to shut off Sportcenter and spend more time engaging in activities that will make our lives and community better.  That’s the real Big Game.