Blog Archive - July 2011

Posted: July 31, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I’m lucky.  Running my own business means that I can make my own schedule (within reason, of course).  That allowed me to join my friends Bill and Rich for a weekend watching amateur and minor league baseball in three Iowa cities: Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport.

We’ve done similar trips over several years.  I use this time as a way to decompress – no email or checking phone messages at work.  It’s also great to drive acrossIowa, where so much of the land is covered in corn or soy, a very different view than what we city dwellers enjoy in our hustle, hustle lives.

There is one part of this trip that I connect to my business:  dreams.  Every player I watched this weekend has a dream:  to play in the big leagues.  Most – almost all – will not achieve their dreams.  But they are trying.  Because of that, I was able to enjoy 3 great games and watch young people test their skills.  It was great fun.

This weekend’s post will be cut short a little (I need to unpack and get ready for work tomorrow).  Below are a few photos from today’s game in Davenport.  Why no photos from Waterloo and Cedar Rapids?  I forgot the camera!

Me with the Mississippi in the background







Baseball and corn? It must be Iowa.


A big bridge for a wide river


Bandits' pitcher Boone Whiting -- on his way to Kansas City?

Posted: July 29, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

When I started writing resumes in 2001, teachers had a much easier time getting hired.  Now with budget cuts and more programs to certify teachers, it is much harder to find a job in teaching, which means teacher resumes need to sell more.

The first step in writing a teacher’s resume is to layout qualifications: certifications, endorsements, and types of classes taught.  It is equally important to show other ways one has contributed to a school’s success: tutoring in before/after school programs, coaching, and in-service training.  School “reform” has led to an emphasis on test scores.  If a teacher has raised test scores, she should take credit for that achievements.  Similarly, given funding concerns, if she has obtained grants or participated in fundraising, those elements should also be highlighted on a resume. 

Use this question when editing a teacher’s resume: Would a principal want to see this?  Would she want someone with this skill or achievement on her faculty?  Answer these questions, and you will have the base for a winning resume.

Posted: July 28, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

While politicians in Washingtondebate nuances of high finance, Americans are most worried about jobs.  A post on Daily Kos Labor details polling information about what sectors of the economy are the greatest concern.

We cannot ignore the games being played in Washington.  Default could make the current economy even worse, which will impact job growth.  If interest rates go up, business will have more trouble raising capital.  Raising the debt limit has never been a problem before.  What is different now?

Posted: July 27, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Job seekers worry about computer filters that sort resumes by key words. How can you avoid being rejected by a machine?  To some degree, it is impossible.  You cannot know how a given company has programmed its screening system.  However, you can identify and use key words by doing a little research and then adapting your resume as needed.

Start by building a Market Profile.  Collect 10 postings for jobs that you want to submit your resume.  Note words and phrases that are repeated.  These are you base key words.  Keep them on your core resume.  If a company uses different words, adapt your resume for that posting.  Save it under another name and use it only for that company/position. 

Keep a file of key words and phrases.  You need to be able to use them during job interviews as well as on resumes.  Professional success requires a little marketing skill.  You need to be able to present yourself as a professional in a way that makes an employer say, “She can do the job.  I want her on my team.”

Posted: July 25, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

In today’s Common Dreams, Holly Sklar tells a story we’ve heard before, but can’t hear often enough:  Workers are getting screwed.  Sklar writes:  “CEOs make more in a few hours than minimum wage workers who care for children, the ill and the elderly make in a year. Median CEO pay was $10.8 million last year among 200 big companies measured by Equilar.”  The next time someone condemns the phrase “class warfare,” tell that person that the war is on and the top 2% are winning.

Sklar advocates raising the minimum wage.  While I think that idea, like tax increases on the super rich, is good, will it real solve the bigger problem:  insatiable greed?  People like the Koch brothers believe they live in a world apart.  They don’t care about their fellow citizens.  They don’t care about the poor.  They care only about themselves.  Sadly, they have about 30% of this country bamboozled into following their ideas. 

Working people – those that do not live off of investments or inheritance – need to wake up.

Posted: July 24, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Daily Kos has launched a website that will be devoted to issues facing workers.  Some people will immediately dismiss this as “left wing” propaganda.  My retort would be to look at the charts.  If this data is true, American workers have been screwed for decades.  It’s time to wake up and stop believing in tooth fairy myths about “job creators.”

Posted: July 24, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

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

American Scholars?

I was cleaning up my office yesterday when I came across a paperback version of Emerson’s essays.  I flipped to the “American Scholar,” a speech given to Cambridge’s Phi Beta Kappa Society in 1837.  Emerson’s definition of scholarship goes far beyond our current ideal, which can be measured in letters after one’s name.  For Emerson, the scholar must be one who knows nature and the past.  He also must live a life of action, being part of the world.  This definition made me think about contemporary American culture.  Who are our American scholars?

In saying the scholar must know nature, Emerson describes someone who understands connections, “roots.” Similarly, his call to know the past is not simply a matter of studying history.  Instead, the scholar needs to engage in a lived relation with what has come before and understand how it has shaped the present.  Action builds on the knowledge of nature and the past by letting the scholar bring his learning to the world.  Emerson put it this way: “If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action.  Life is our dictionary. . . . I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived through the poverty or splendor of his speech.” 

America lost two great scholars over the past few years with the deaths of Richard Rorty and Studs Terkel.  Rorty was a traditional scholar, a philosopher, who could write for and speak to all types of audiences.  I once had the pleasure of attending one of Rorty’s lectures.  When the time came to answer questions, he took on all challengers without ever resorting to jargon or “-ism”-based thinking.  Studs was the intellectual everyman.  An actor and a radio host who became a writer almost by accident.  His gift was listening to people and weaving their stories into quilts that defined America after the Second World War.

Who are today’s American scholars?  I’d nominate Garry Wills and Cornel West as two thinkers who have been involved in the debate not just to describe the country, but to shape it.  Some critics would instantly dismiss both men (especially West) for being too liberal. I am aware of such thinking, and it makes me despair that we are a time in which it might be impossible for there to be an American scholar.

We are a divided country in which some are on the political left, some are on the political right, and most (my guess is 50%) are in the “we don’t care” middle.  The questions that engaged Emerson have little relevance to most Americans today.  They don’t want to think about politics or history, much less philosophy or ethics.  When confronted with an intellectual challenge, they walk away, muttering, “Whatever.”  Emerson saw the scholar having a much stronger commitment to truth: “Let him not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun though the ancient and honorable of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom.”  Few things engage most American beyond the last hot TV show or what a friend posted on Facebook.

Emerson says the scholar must be “man thinking,” a person who treats ideas in a way that rises above petty things like current events and politics.  As Jay Leno demonstrates with his “Jay Walking” segments, many Americans know little about their country, its history, and culture.  How can we have scholars who are “men [and women] thinking” if his or her audience knows so little about their identity as citizens?  These people are not illiterate.  Many have college degrees.  They live in a pop culture where styles changes quickly (which is a good way to sell things to these people).  They do not read books.  They don’t care about history, literature, or art.

Ever the dreamer, Emerson thought the American scholar would be a great force for change and cultural independence: “We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.”  That spirit and independence does not exist in our culture today.  Maybe some genius (a new Lincoln?) can spark the country.  Maybe.  With Emerson as our guide, we can still hope.

Postscript:  I forgot one person who would also be on my list of contemporary American scholar, the inspiration of this feature, Wendell Berry.


Posted: July 23, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

No one puts together the worlds of politics, business, and sports together better than Dave Zirin, author of the Edge of Sports blog.  Dave stands on the political left, but his arguments are always well reasoned and supported by evidence.  In his current post, he lays out the NFL owners’ strategy in claiming to accept an agreement they had not cleared with the players.  If you think the players are the problem, please read what Zirin has to say.

Posted: July 23, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Common Dreams has published a review of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow.  The reviewer, Margaret Kimberly, asks some troubling questions about states that are now using prison labor as a revenue source.  Alexander’s research found that not only are many inmates not paid, but they are charged fees, which lead to an extension of their sentences.  In Wisconsin, prisoners have replaced union workers for some projects.  Once upon a time, people who replaced striking works were called scabs.  We need a new word to describe prisoners who are forced to replace fired union workers (only in the state of Fitzwalkerstan!).

Since the U.S. has the world’s largest prison population, this problem could grow and grow.  As Kimberly points out in her review, many prisons have disproportionately minority populations.  We need to ask:  Are we reinventing slavery?

Posted: July 21, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I just met with a client who is looking to transition from a specialized type of management to a corporate position that would focus on operations.  He has managed large staffs and budgets.  He has also been responsible for strategy and planning.  His current resume does not work because it focuses too much on the industry and job he wants to leave.

The first step in writing any resume is to determine where you want to be in your next job.  What is that employer looking for?  What experience and skills does that position require?  Don’t be trapped by a title or job description.  Write your resume so it shows how you are qualified.  Push up those elements that are most relevant to the job you are seeking.  In the end, prospective employers don’t want to know what you did on your last job – except as it shows how you will be an asset to their company.