Blog Archive - November 2011

Posted: November 17, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Anthony Hardwick, a part-time employee at Target inOmaha,Nebraska, was scheduled to work on the night of Thanksgiving.  Rather than just ask his manager for the night off, he took a bolder action by starting an online petition “to save Thanksgiving.”  So far, more than 155,000 people have signed the petition

When I was a child in the 1960s, stores were closed on holidays (many on Sundays as well).  We had time with family (whether or not we like it).  We weren’t chasing “door-buster” values at 4 a.m.  Workers at stores also had time to spend with their families.  Now Black Friday has bled into Thanksgiving itself.  Stores claim that consumers want more hours and opportunities to shop.  Do they?  Or are they reacting to what the store claims is the best price – chickens pecking at corn?

Harwdwick’s action is very important.  His protest aligns well with the Occupy movements.  We as consumers need to see ourselves in solidarity with other working people, including those who work part-time with few or no benefits.  An article on Yahoo.Finance notes that Hardwick is not now scheduled to work on either Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  Is Hardwick being punished?  Has he been fired?  The article doesn’t say.  He has opened a can of worms for Target.  Hopefully Americans will begin to think and talk about how we are living.  Should our values center on getting the best price or living the best life?

Posted: November 16, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The great English writer and scientist Francis Bacon wrote: “All rising to great places is by a winding stair.”

Success seldom follow a straight or easy path.  Remember Bacon’s words whenever you face an obstacle.

Posted: November 16, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

A client sent me an online article that listed ten words that should not be on a resume.  Such lists often make me laugh.  The people writing them present themselves as experts, as if they were Moses coming down from the mountain with tablets, irrefutable laws.

A resume is a marketing piece.  Its purpose is to convince an employer to interview you.  If a word is relevant to what that employer is looking for, it is good.  If not, it’s bad.  Rather than a one-size-fits-all list, I recommend thinking about function: What is the word doing to sell you?

For example, here are three words I remember from the Thou Shalt Not article and my comments on their function:

Objective: The expert calls this word “tired.”  I agree if the objective is simply a word salad that does not tell the employer anything.  However, if you are pursuing a job that employers could label with different titles, or if you are a job changer, or a new graduate with no experience, a simple objective can help an employer identify what job you are pursuing.  This would be an example: To obtain a position as an Account Coordinator.

Team Player: Again, the expert proclaims that this word, “Says nothing.”  I still use this term because it appears in many job postings.  Why would employers use it if they don’t want to see it in resumes?  Moreover, if the word is put in some kind of broader context, it can tell an employer how you work. 

Responsible: I agree that this word usually has no function.  But, unlike the rule-giver, let me explain the problem and solution. When you start a statement with the word responsible, you usually end up being too wordy.  For example: Responsible for the management of a team of 32 sales professions.  Be to the point: Manage a team of 32 sales professionals.  There’s nothing wrong with the word responsible if it is used correctly. 

Whenever you encounter an expert who offers hard and fast rules, challenge that person to have a reason for her claim.  In my work, I am looking for the right words to present my clients in the best light.  My questions are: What is the function of a word?  How is it working to sell this person as a viable candidate? 

Beware of simple rules and lists.  They sound good, but can lead you down the wrong road.

Posted: November 14, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Clients often ask me, “What’s the best way to get hired.”  The simple answer is networking, and I strongly recommend that clients make networking their first priority.  However, finding a job is never that easy.  Some clients get hired by responding to job postings or by posting their resume on job boards such as Careerbuilder or Monster.  Some people transition from part-time/temporary to full-time positions.  Others are placed by recruiters.

Just as job seekers don’t follow one path, employers use diverse means to source, evaluate, and hire employees.  Some take an active role in identifying and pursuing talent.  Others ask existing employees for referrals.  Many still collect and review resumes.  The same company may recruit different positions in different ways.

It’s impossible to have a one size fits all approach to finding a job.  The best kind of job search employs several methods. Some employers will miss you (or you miss them) because they are looking for employees in a way that is different from the way you are looking for employers.  That will happen.  Factor it into your search.  Stay patient, positive, and active.  It’s not an easy solution, but it’s also the most realistic way to find a good job.

Posted: November 13, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays this blog examine intersections of work and life in “Sabbath.”]

People Who Help and Save

Last week, like people across the country, I was sickened by the news coming out of Penn State.  This wasn’t a sports story even though it dealt with a top football program.  It was about a man who hurt children and the many people who looked the other way to protect their careers – and income.  The events at Penn State also made me think about some people I know who have spent their careers and a lot of time off the clock helping children. 

Tom Schneider has been a Juvenile Parole Officer in Cook County for over 20 years.  He works hard to put kids on the right path.  Some of his clients are beyond his or anyone’s help.  They have experienced lives no one would want and are themselves warped for life.  Tom has been able to help many young people who made mistakes.  Some people really do make the most of a second chance.

Before she retired a few years ago, Demetra Soter was a doctor at Cook County Hospital.  She specialized in case of child abuse which involved physical (non-sexual) violence.  Beyond her duties as a doctor, Demetra was often an advocate for her patients working with prosecutors to protect those who were at risk.  It wasn’t unusual to see Demetra take a call during a social event or party.  Her service to children was 24/7.

 My friends from Kiwanis John Stephan and Oscar Roman also run the Boys and Girls Club in Logan Square.  They offer neighborhood kids services that often go beyond sports and recreation.  John has been very involved in school safety programs and gang intervention.  I saw Oscar’s commitment first hand during a Kiwanis meeting that took place at the Boys and Girls Club.  There was a noise outside that sounded like a gun shot.  Everyone froze – except Oscar.  He ran outside to see if anyone was hurt.  When he came back, he said it was probably a car backfiring.  Still, he had the courage to move toward the problem and try to solve it, the kind of courage that was lacking at Penn State.

For every example of the abuser and those who cover the crime up, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of good people who are working to help children and protect.  It’s easy to feel outrage at people and institutions who do nothing.  We should be angry.  However, it’s equally important to remember the people who are committing themselves to keeping children safe.  Their work deserves our highest respect.

Posted: November 12, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson investigates a growing problem:  unemployment among young veterans.  Unemployment among young veterans has nearly doubled over the last year (18.4% to 30.4%) and it is nearly double the current rate for people of the same age who are not veterans (30.4% to 15.3%).  Clawson lists several causes of this problem.  Even so, it’s odd that a country that honors “service” at public events like NFL games can’t do more to help veterans transition after they leave the military.  I guess it’s easier to have a ceremony than do the hard work of supporting vets in finding jobs.  We need to live up to our words more and recognize military service the right way:  with a good job.

Posted: November 11, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Taibbi might be the best reporter and thinker writing today.  He is irreverent and sometimes even trivial.  But no one has done a better job taking apart the lies underneath our current economic “crisis,” especially the role of Goldman Sachs.  Now he turns that same critical eyes to Occupy Wall Street and his own views of the movement.  Taibbi has shifted from criticizing the  movement’s apparent lack of focus to recognizing it as a model for understanding our society and how it might be changed.  He is not over the top in thinking Occupy Wall Street will change America.  We will never have an economy with free food or health care.  But the camp in New York provides a space away from our money-choked-and-choking lives.

Posted: November 10, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Our 16th president said this:  "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing." 

The job search is never easy.  Those who find the best jobs follow Lincoln's advice. 


Posted: November 9, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Many sportswriters and commentators are mourning the fall of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.  In today’s New York Times, several articles recognized Paterno’s many achievements, how he ran a clean program, how his career should not end this way.  An editorial writer I often disagree with, Maureen Dowd, captures the story in a different frame – disgust and outrage.

In 2002, a graduate assistant told Paterno that he saw Jerry Sandusky, a former coach at the school, rape a ten year old boy in a locker room shower.  Paterno reported the incident to his boss Michael Curley, the school’s athletic director, who waited a week before telling Gary Schultz, a VP who supervised the school’s police department.  None of these people acted like a crime had been committed.  They handed off the hot potato and hoped the story would go away.

The public is outraged, and it should be.  Everyone involved should have acted differently.  The graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, could have tried to stop the attack.  At the least, he could have immediately called the police. Paterno and the administrators could have done what is right: Report a possible crime and support an investigation.  Instead, they all buried it.

I do not mourn the fall of Joe Paterno.  This story is not a tragedy.  Adults stood by and allowed a predator to hurt children.  Schultz and Curly have been indicted.  In a just world, Paterno and McQueary should also face justice.  They all protected someone whose actions were criminal.  Parterno’s success as a coach, someone who ran a “clean” program, does not absolve him from his complicity in Jerry Sandusky’s alleged serial attacks on children.  A great career does not mitigate an awful crime.

Posted: November 8, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

In his blog for the New York Times, Paul Krugman takes on claims that over-regulation has led to income inequality.  In the period immediately after WWII, when regulations were strongest, average family income outpaced the top 1%.  Since 1980, the top 1% has exceeded average family income by a rate that is near 4 to 1.

Does anyone wonder why the Occupy movement is so widespread?  There are two Americas:  One where the top slice gets most of the wealth and income; the other where people work to support the top slice.  Is this what was meant by “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”?