Blog Archive - May 2011
Common Dreams reports that crowds of protesters are growing in Spain. They call themselves “Los Indignados,” the indignant. Crowds have also risen in Athens and Paris. What’s the problem? High unemployment compounded by government austerity (welfare for the rich and their bankers).
Mark June 19 on your calendar. That is the day being set for a pan-European protest.
In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Francine Knowles reports on the plight of military veterans in finding work after their service. Experts identify three major factors that limit veterans:
1. They tend to think and talk in military language, which doesn’t translate well to the civilian workplace.
2. Veterans don’t know how to market themselves outside of the military.
3. Private sector employers do not take part in programs that integrate veterans into the workforce.
Many returning veterans have skills that employers need, but in the words of T. McCreary, former admiral and President of Military.com, veterans and employers are “communicating past each other.” In my practice, I’ve worked with a few veterans of the Iraq War, and I agree with McCreary. My biggest challenge was translating military language into a civilian resume. At the same time, I urged my military clients to practice describing their skills in language that a civilian employer would understand during an interview.
Another factor impacting this problem is that returning veterans do not know about or take advantage of resources that are available to them. Both federal and state agencies offer special services to help veterans find jobs. Private groups also offer support. We are in a difficult employment market for everyone. Every job seeker needs to take advantage of any resource that is available.
Every Memorial Day we honor veterans with parades and ceremonies. This year, the best way we can show respect to returning military personnel is to help them find work. Three cheers to Francine Knowles and the Sun-Times for this great article and the resource list that accompanies it.
I did not provide links to the articles because I could not find them on the Sun-Times website. Below are links to web resources listed in the accompanying article:
Normally I write longer pieces on Sunday, but I've been under the weather the past couple of days. Instead of something new, I'll quote a few lines from a "Sabbath" poem that Wendell Berry wrote in 1980:
The intellect so ravenous to know
And in its knowing hold the very light,
Disclosing what is so and not so,
Must finally know the dark, which is its right
And liberty; it's blind in what it sees.
Wise, humble words from a poet and thinker who is underappreciated. Happy Sabbath.
Common Dreams offers an insightful article by David Lindorff that compares conditions that caused uprisings in the Middle East and what is happening in the U.S. today. Lindorff points out that young people inEgypt and Tunisia faced unemployment rates of 40% and 30%. The situation in the U.S. isn’t much better. Young African American endure 44% joblessness. For Latino youth the figure is 30%. Overall youth unemployment is 20%. Sound familiar?
These statistics in themselves doesn’t mean the U.S.is going to see street protests, but it does suggest a serious problem. Lindorff speculates that a youth movement could change things in this country, leading to government sponsored jobs and access to college funding.
I’m wish I could agree with his progressive vision. As Lindorff says, generations of Americans have been raised not to protest. We accept what our leaders tell us. As bad as things are for young people, it will have to get worse before we see street protests in this country. Even then, given our current political leaders and corporate media spin machine, I’m very pessimistic about the outcome.
Common Dreams features a post by labor historian David Zonderman who offers three reasons why all workers should support labor unions. Zonderman reminds us that things we take for granted (8 hour day, benefits, weekends) only came to be because of labor struggles. He also raises a frightening thought: What if there were no unions? Where would you put your money: the worker or the boss?
Unions function to protect employees. Yes, sometimes they might protect a “bad” employee. But what about the bad boss or bad company owner? Who protects us from them? For a lucky few, unions.
According to the Chicago Tribune, American workers are using only 14 of an average 18 vacation days. Workers in other countries get more time off – and they use it (French workers take 35/37 days, English 25/28). The overall gain to companies through unused vacation time is estimated at $67 billion. That’s productivity!
What’s wrong with Americans? (That’s a loaded questions!) The reasons given in the article include: pressure from the boss, too much work, fear of being laid off, and understaffed companies where the work has to get done. In a time of high unemployment, such fears are reasonable.
But it’s odd that companies making big profits and often paying no taxes will ask employees to give back paid time off, especially after many were asked to take pay cuts in recent years. Maybe it’s not odd. Maybe it makes perfect sense given the way working people are treated today.
A client sent me this note:
Just wanted to send you a little "thank you". It has taken 6 months,
but I just accepted a new position. I wanted to share with you that I
received a lot of positive feedback regarding my resume. Many
commented that when we met in person that my resume matched my
personality and really accurately portrayed who I am and what I am
This new position, I am making 20% more, better benefits, more
vacation, casual work environment and best of all summer hours!
This note made me feel good, but it’s always nice to hear good things about your work. It’s also great that my client has found a job with better pay, benefits, and vacation. But we can’t ignore the hard facts. It took this client 6 months to find a good job. A winning job search requires patience and perseverance. My client stuck it out and won the prize. Be strong and keep the faith.
I just met with a client who recently finished a graduate program in multimedia marketing. His resume simply listed the degree and the date on which it was completed. When I asked my client what skills he’d take from school to a new job, he pointed to the computer skills section at the bottom of his resume and said, “They’re all listed right there.” Not a good answer.
Computer software programs are tools to do jobs. For example, some people use Excel spreadsheets to capture financial data. Others use it to record inventory or pricing data. I use Excel for my books. I also use it to track client contact data and print mailing labels. Don’t confuse a tool with its functions.
If you’re selling a recent degree or certificate program, you need to let the employer know what skills you will be bringing to the job. My client told me that he had learned advanced skills in website design, graphic design, and email marketing. He also completed a project in which he built a database to capture contact data from social media. His resume was much stronger once we added these skill sets. They show how my client’s education will have a practical benefit to anyone who hires him. A good resume will not just show the tools you can use, but also what you can do with them.
Revolts in the Middle East have been mostly political in nature. Labor unions have been prominent in some countries, such as Egypt. Now Spain is erupting in protests that target political and labor issues. Aljazeera reports that Spaniards, especially young adults, are protesting high unemployment and a political system that favors the needs of bankers over working people (sound familiar?).
Using Twitter to share information and messages of inspiration, young people have protested in more than 50 cities. They gathered in Madrid’s main square despite a government ban. Madison meet Madrid. Maybe something is changing in the world. Maybe the politicians will listen.
[On Sundays, this blog explores different perspectives on work in “Sabbath.”]
Listening, Talking, and Exploring
We were a Twitter society long before the first tweet was posted. Newspaper articles and TV news stories have grown shorter, and they are written in language for a lower and lower grade level. We read headlines instead of stories. The spin is much easier to understand than a story with multiple levels of meaning.
Thank God (or Al Gore) for the Internet. It is possible to access great interviews and lectures that entertainment TV will not touch. Some might ask, “What about PBS?” The focus of PBS is corporate and mainstream. To replace Bill Moyers with an insider like Jon Meachem is a big bow to conventional wisdom. Similarly, Charlie Rose is a great interviewer, but his guests are the same crowd saying the same things. The one exception on PBS is Tavis Smiley. Anyone who thinks that Tavis only talks about race would be sadly mistaken. Sometimes he talks too much about Tavis, but that is a small flaw in an otherwise wonderful exchange of ideas.
We in Chicago were lucky for many years to have had Studs Terkel talking with artists and authors on WFMT. Some of those interviews are available through the Chicago History Museum. What I always enjoyed about Studs was the enthusiasm he brought to any topic. Like a great teacher, he drew his listeners into new ways of thinking, something we have too little of today.
On the political side, Jon Stewart and Thom Hartmann interview guests in very different ways. Stewart is first and foremost a comedian. But, like Shakespeare’s fools, he often makes his strongest critical points through a joke, often a non-verbal gesture. At the same time, even when he disagrees with a guest, Stewart is very respectful and gives all of his guests time to make their point. The website often includes longer versions of interviews on the Daily Show. Thom Hartmann is more cerebral and more set in his politics. His series Conversations with Great Minds would not win praise from conservatives. However, it is a great resources for those of us who find Barack Obama and most Democratic leaders too conservative for our tastes.
My favorite website for smart talk is TED, a collection of presentations by leading scholars, scientists, business leaders, and politicians. I know nothing about cricket, but I once watched a 30 minute lecture on cricket and marketing. It was fascinating. Unlike the cooler than cool network newsreaders (What do they anchor?), TED presenters are knowledgeable about their subjects, and they speak with a passion and humor that is totally lacking in the mainstream media. TED invites its viewers to think, not just pick one side of a simplistic argument.
Great speakers and interviewers transfer their ideas and curiosity to an audience. They bring a commitment that is often personal. When people say our education system is failing, they should look at Jon Stewart or TED. Find a teacher that makes people want to learn. They’re out there – just a mouse click away.