Blog Archive - September 2011
Today’s Common Dreams features 3 articles that reflect our tumultuous world.
Indian writer Arundhati Roy profiles the Indian government’s crackdown on journalists, who are deported when they report on land grab schemes in the country’s central region or the never-ending conflict in Kashmir. Protestors are called Maoists or jihadis, and the government plays the “War on Terror” trump card that Americans know too well. Many American voices on the right and left criticize China for oppressing its people. Roy challenges us to look at India. Is it following a similar path?
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues that America is in a “jobs depression.” Reich is unapologetically partisan, but it’s difficult to dispute his facts. If the government is the employer (directly or indirectly) of last resort and Republicans will not fund job programs, expect unemployment to stay bad and probably get worse. Reich challenges President Obama to make his 2012 campaign “a bold plan to revive jobs and the American middle class.”
Finally, Chris Hedges, who has written some dark, dystopian articles over the past few months, is almost giddy about the Occupy Wall Street movement that is spreading to cities throughout the country. Hedges issues the sharpest challenge of all: “Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.” Somewhere, Joe Hill is smiling.
We live in challenging times. What will tomorrow bring?
A client recently sent me a resume to review. The first half of the first page says nothing that indicates his profession or the level of responsibility he is seeking. He offers a list of skills that could apply to any number of professional fields. Employers don’t have time to figure out or guess what job a candidate is seeking. Let them know by including a simple objective or profile in your resume.
A simple objective should state what job you are seeking. An example might read: “To obtain a position as Assistant Marketing Manager.” I recommend using an objective if the job title of positions you are seeking changes from posting to posting. On the other hand, if the direction of your job search follows your recent career path, the profile could be replaced with an objective. I recommend beginning this kind of objective with an “Experience” phrase. An example of this would be: “Experience: Retail store manager who has supervised operations, staff, and customer relations at large operations (+$4 million annual).”
A good resume will quickly tell an employer what position you are seeking, and it will establish why you are a good candidate. Get to the point, and you’re phone will start ringing.
Expect to get stuck at some point in your job search. When you are stuck, try something new. Here’s one idea. Pick three companies you would like to work for. Look at all of their open positions.
1. Which positions would you like to apply for? Print the job posts.
2. Does your resume show how you are qualified? If not, adapt your resume.
3. Apply for those jobs.
Here’s the next step. Find companies that are similar to the three you selected. They will likely have similar job functions and may have similar open positions.
Keep looking for new ways to spark your job search. Try something new.
As a rule, most job seekers undersell what they have contributed to their employers. This is especially true in situations where someone has a good idea that solves a problem or makes work more productive.
When you have had a good idea, take credit on your resume. Here are some examples:
• Conceived and managed a program that increased customer satisfaction scores from 75% to 89%.
• Designed process improvements that cut production time by 50% (90 minutes to 45 minutes).
• Created a newsletter and website that increased parent involvement in school programs.
• Invented a component that was patented (patent #).
• Devised new metrics for evaluating employee performance.
If you were part of a team, it’s is still acceptable to show your contribution:
• Played a key role on a team that designed the company’s website.
• Served as the chief writer on a team that developed a 150 page technical manual.
Employers want more than someone who can just do the job. They are looking for people who add value by finding better ways to work. This type of employee has good ideas. If you are that kind of person, don’t hide your talent. Promote your creativity on your resume and in interviews.
One of my clients asked if he should go to an interview with a company that requires a long commute. He doubted that he would take the job given the distance from his home. I recommended that he go to the interview. What if this job will offer something that makes the commute worth it or makes it worth it to move closer to the job?
I urge clients to follow this formula: If you are doing the right thing with the right people in the right place, the money will work itself out. Most people who are unhappy at work don’t talk about money as their main problem. They hate what they are doing. They can’t get along with their boss or co-workers. They don’t like the atmosphere of the workplace. People who are doing work they like and working with people they like usually call themselves happy.
The priority in an interview should always be to get an offer from the employer. However, job seekers also need to make a careful evaluation of their prospective employer, especially the person who will be their manager. Trust your gut. If you feel comfortable with the people interviewing you, that’s a good sign. If you see red flags waving before your eyes, don’t take the job (unless you absolutely need the income).
You never know what a potential employer will be like until you interview with that company. It’s a good bet to go to every interview. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If a company you don’t want to work for offers you a job, you can politely decline the offer. On the other hand, if the company is a perfect fit, you might have a good job for a long time.
Writing in the Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan collects some interesting ideas about work and jobs. The experts cited seem to agree that it’s time for people to make their own jobs again. This idea sounds great, but I don’t think it’s realistic (even when it’s pushed by Seth Godin in Linchpin).
Can enough people make their own jobs to make a difference? I don’t know. But thinkers who present this model do not give any kind of model of what such a society would look like or how it would work. I’d like to see a blueprint before I buy in.
A big thank you to Bill Savage for sending me Sullivan’s interesting post.
One of my clients is a recent college graduate. Let’s call him John. He majored in Music and worked for three years at the school’s radio station. John would like to build a career in music or radio, but he knows that those jobs will not be easy to get. He has rent to pay as well as college loans. This client is exploring a Plan B.
John has always enjoyed performing administrative duties, and he knows this type of job is more readily than his ideal profession. As a short term strategy, he is pursuing work in an office. This job will hold him over financially until he can find his ideal job.
When you’re stuck in a job search, it’s good to think about other options. If the door you want to open is locked, try knocking on some other doors. Find your Plan B.
[On Sundays, Career Calling explores intersections of work & life in “Sabbath.”]
Wendell Berry – Again
The Kentucky poet inspired this Sunday feature. Over several years, Berry wrote Sabbath poems that reflect his (and our) spiritual connection not just to the land, but also to the cycles of nature. In the fourth Sabbath poem written in 1984, he address this bittersweet time of year: “The summer ends, and it is time/To face another way.”
The poem recognizes the need to store for the cold that is to come, the need to prepare the land for next year when the cycle begins again. Berry casts the poem in the scene of a couple: “You do not speak, and I regret/This downfall of the good we sought/As though the fault were mine.” Unlike Robert Frost’s great poems “Death of a Hired Man” and “Home Burial,” which both focus on a dialogue between a husband and a wife, the actors here are vague. One is clearly working the land on a plow. The other, though, could be human or a personification of the season, an ambiguity that enriches the feeling.
The poem’s last lines describes the plow turning stems into the dark earth “From which they may return.” But the last sentence is more plaintive, almost final, “At work,/I see you leaving our bright land,/the last cut flowers in your hand.” This powerful image could be a lover, a son, or just summer, giving way to the dark, cold, flowerless time to come, a Sabbath reflection on what was, is and will be.
Berry’s genius as a poet is to use simple language and images to capture the profound. His poems and prose never lose the reader in a way that requires explanation or an expert. Berry follows Wordsworth’s poetic path of a “man speaking to men.” He touches us – like the last days of summer.
This is a great question to ask when you’re networking as part of your job search. Think about people you’ve worked with, people who would be able to sell you a potential employer. We often start with the most powerful people we know: ex-bosses, business owners. The problem is that in most cases these people were not your biggest fans. Often they didn’t you or your work. Sometimes they’re the person who fired you or laid you off. Start with people who value what you can contribute and care about you.
Make a list of those people and call them. Keep your message simple: “I’m looking for a new job, and I was hoping you could give me some advice.” Try to set up a face to face meeting at a café or restaurant (whatever your budget can afford). Don’t bluntly ask anyone to help you find a job. If they offer, that’s great. If they suggest you look at a certain company, you can ask if they know anyone at that company. Don’t be too pushy, or you will push away someone who wants to help you.
Always follow up on any networking meeting with a thank you note. Offer to help in the future. Your goal is not just to find a new job, but also to build relationships that will help you throughout your career. Ideally, some of your network contacts will also become friends.
Start with the phone call. Who will take your call? That’s the first step.