Blog Archive - June 2011

Posted: June 30, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

If you’re using Internet job boards to look for work, don’t rely solely on the big job websites.  Try using Craigslist as well.  Some employers will turn to this site because it is cheaper to post jobs.  It is usually easier to apply with companies using Craiglist because their only ask you to send an attachment of your resume.

Please note:  I’m not saying that there are not some bad jobs posted on Craigslist.  If a job sounds illegitimate or the company sounds fly-by-night, don’t apply for that job.  But don’t reject a resource because it features bad postings.  I recommend that clients treat Craigslist as if it were a discount store like Filene’s Basement:  Expect to pick through several items and reject quite a few.  However, when you find a bargain, it’s a bargain.  Add this tool to your job search tool box.

Posted: June 28, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Common Dreams carries a story about Greek workers who have shut down the country with a general strike.  The country’s two biggest unions led the effort, and workers flooded Athens.  Many protestors complained that the government is selling off government assets at below market rates.  A former IMF member said that the real problem was not government debt.  It’s joblessness.  Cutting budget deficit will never create jobs.  What we’re seeing is a modern Greek tragedy.

Posted: June 27, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

“Enough is enough.”

Collected and focused in his anger, Senator Bernie Sanders (video) challenged President Obama to stand up for working people and the middle.  Sanders fears that the President will again negotiate in a way that givens in to anti-worker policies that favor those who have the most, corporations and the wealthy.  Even so, he wasn’t just speaking to the President.  He also asked Americans who support what he is saying to go to his website and sign a letter that will be sent to the White House.

Senator Sanders – an Independent – is one of the few people in Washington who talks about the economy in terms of real people, not politics.  Where many calculate how a message will poll, Bernie tells stories of real people who are suffering.  He knows when to work with opponents and when to stand firm.  Our President could learn a lesson from this wise, principled man.

Stand with Senator Sanders and sign his letter.

“Enough is Enough.”

Posted: June 27, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The Dalai Lama teaches many valuable lessons.  He presents his formula for happiness this way: 

“Contentment is key.  If you have contentment without material things, you are truly rich.  Without it, even if you are a billionaire, you will not have happiness.”

Our ad and commercial filled world keeps telling us that we need things – new things, bigger things.  I try to ask: Did my grandmother need this?  Can I live without it?  Keeping life simple is hard, but it’s also the path to contentment and peace, which is more important than the next new thing.  Do you need “it” to be happy.  Probably not.

Posted: June 27, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

George Orwell had six rules for good writing.  Seth has given them a 21st Century tune up.  Another home run.

Posted: June 26, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, Career Calling ponders life and work in “Sabbath.”]

Not Having a Chance

In yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times, I came across an article that compared children in Hammond, Indiana with Carmel, a city three miles to the south.  Children in Hammond grow up in oppressive poverty.  The city’s median income is $10,581.  The children of Carmel are more fortunate growing up in a community where the median household income is $138,713.  But poverty isn’t simply about money.  As the article points out, children in Hammond are more likely to come to school with poorly developed social and motor skills.  They are more likely to face violent crime and murder.  The article ends with news that I found unbelievable:  over the next two years Hammond will lose $2.3 million in state funding for schools. Carmel will gain almost $1 million.  This makes no sense unless we consider the relation of poverty and education. 

Jonathan Kozol made a similar comparison in a book published in 1991, Savage Inequalities.  Some people say we can’t just “throw money at the problem.”  Kozol demonstrated that wealthy communities tend to have fewer problems (and many more opportunities).  Some wealthier districts spent more than two times as much per pupil as did inner city schools.  Kozol also argued that challenged urban schools were more likely to be populated by students from minority groups, which has led to a new form of segregation, education that is separate and unequal.

Education reforms ranging from magnet schools to charter schools to vouchers all promise results.  However, none speak to the problem’s root cause:  Poverty.  According to the University of Michigan, which uses Census data, 20.7% of American children lived in poverty in 2008.  Since that time, the economy has become more challenged.  It is safe to assume that the percentage is even higher today given increased unemployment and cuts in state assistance programs.  While more than a third of African American and Latino children grow up in poverty, only 11.9% of white children do.  However percentages can be deceiving.  A larger number of white children (4,850,000) lived in poverty than African American children (4,480,000).  Clearly, poverty affects children from all corners of the country. 

In an era when political debates focus on taxes, deficits, and job growth, we tend to forget about those who live with the least.  President Johnson’s War on Poverty –  like all the social wars that followed it – was a nice idea with few results.  Now some politicians have forgotten the poor and are attacking workers and retired workers for their “entitlements.” This shift means that the invisible poor, something Michael Harrington described 50 years ago in The Other America, have challenged physics by becoming even more invisible.

What is the solution?  I don’t know.  I do know that poor children did not choose the circumstances of their life.  Can America be an “exceptional” nation with over 20% of its children growing up in poverty?  What will the future be like for those children as they enter a work force with fewer opportunities for people who do not graduate from high school or only have a high school degree? 

Children in poverty challenge our country’s beliefs about equality and opportunity.  How can the children of Hammond compete with the children of Carmel?  They live in two  worlds, one that almost guarantees success and one were failure is almost certain.  We need to do more than change the schools these children go to.  We must find a way to offer them the American Dream – or we should stop talking about the American Dream if it only applies some children. 

Sunday Extra Helping

The activist Van Jones is heading a new movement called Rebuild the Dream.  It is calling for an economy that serves working and middle class people, not Wall Street.

Posted: June 25, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I’m working with a client who has two job search targets.  In one she is leveraging her skills as an accountant.  In the other, she is pursuing jobs as an administrative assistant.  While there is some overlap between those jobs, they are different business functions.  Moreover, accounting staff tends to be paid more than administrative assistants.  Each resume neds to fit the open position.

For accounting jobs, key words might include: General Ledger (GL), reconciliation, public accounting, accruals, payroll, NFP accounting, GAAP, SOX, time management, and problem solving.  These words signal an employer that you are an accountant.  If you put them on a resume for an administrative assistant, it’s likely that an employer will think you are overqualified (and too expensive).

On the other hand, an administrative assistant might use these key words: maintaining calendars, data entry, expense reports, accounts payable, accounts receivable (billing), payroll, time management, and problem solving.  While there are some overlapping terms, most show a different kind of job function, especially in lower level accounting duties such as accounts payable and accounts receivable. 

If you are applying for two different types of jobs, be sure that you have two resumes that show your different skills sets.  The employer will not assume that you have the appropriate experience and skills.  Your resume has to demonstrate how you are qualified, and you have to back up those claims during interviews.  That’s the challenge.  However, if you take the time to match your skills and experience to what employers need, you can write a powerful resume that will open the door to interviews and job offers.

Posted: June 24, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Have you ever seen a resume where two or three jobs repeat the same elements or repeat them in different words?  How can you avoid such redundancy?  Organize the experience of your resume by the type of work done rather than by employer.

For example, let’s say you have done three jobs as a Warranty Administrator for car dealers.  You have done the same things at each position.  Here’s a different way to set up your resume.

Warranty Administrator, 1994-2011

•     Blackman Lexus (2004-2011)

•     Auto House (2000-2004)

•     Big Deal Auto (1994-2000)

Processed billing for labor, and corrected billing errors made by technicians.  Reviewed and adjusted payments from warranty companies.  Updated an inventory database for new vehicle  sales and delivery.  Cut checks to facilitate trades with other dealerships.  Prepared paperwork for licenses and title applications. Took payments from customers and kept accurate records of transactions.  Answered phone orders and transferred calls. 

This method will let you present your experience in a concise way.  It also gives the employer a better sense of how long you have been performing in a role.  Most importantly, you are not repeating the same thing again, again, and again.

Posted: June 23, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Huffington Post, Amanda M. Fairbanks examines the value of women finding a mentor at work.  Fairbanks quotes experts who advise developing mentor relationships early in a career.  She also distinguishes between a mentor who advises one in climbing the corporate ladder and a sponsor who is an advocate during that process.  The article ends with four very practical tips.

This advice applies to men as well as women.  It is also wise to think about mentors who are not at your company, other professionals who can give you advice and options.  Find a mentor and let that person know that you appreciate her or his support.  When your time comes, mentor others.

Posted: June 22, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I found a frightening article in the food section of today’s Chicago Sun-Times.  David Hammond, the “Food Detective,” talks about the prospect of a world in which restaurants would not have waiters.  Instead of placing an order with a person, we would place our orders via a hand-held device. Hammond says that this system would not work for high-end or low-end restaurants, but would be a good alternative for mid-level, casual restaurants (I’m guessing he means places like Fridays) where waiters often don’t care about their job.

From the perspective of the diner, Hammond’s outlook works, and I share his dislike of service that comes with a scowl or shrug.  However, from a jobs point of view, this news could be catastrophic.  We have adapted to do-it-yourself service at gas stations and at grocery/drug stores.  How many jobs will be lost forever if restaurants find a way to go to do-it-yourself menus?  If consumers accept this technology at mid-level restaurants, it will find its way up and down the food chain.  It’s safe to assume that millions of jobs will be lost with people replaced by machines.  Technology makes our life easier – except when it takes jobs away, and it’s doing that more and more in our self-service world.