Blog Archive - May 2012

Posted: May 30, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

A client recently told me that she uses LinkedIn to learn more about her field and navigate the job search.  Her idea is great, but it needed a little discipline.  I suggested that she start tracking the information using MS Excel. Save a file under a name like “job search data.”  Then create three worksheets.  One to track potential employers.  One to capture job titles. And, finally, one to record key words.  Excel will let you sort these terms, which is especially important for key words.

Each of these worksheets needs a different kind of follow up.  The employer list can be used to build a favorites folder, which should be checked once a week.  The titles list will be a guide for online searches of job databases.  Finally, most importantly, the key word list will be vital for writing and updating your resume.  This is the one area where I would recommend going beyond LinkedIn.  Find 10-15 job posts for positions you would want to apply to.  When a word or phrase is repeated more than 3 times, consider that a key word and add it to your worksheet.

Treat your job search like a sales campaign.  Most good sales campaigns begin with market research.  Using Excel, LinkedIn, and job posts, you can develop a good tool that will give you more control over your job search.  It will also give you better results.  Hit the target!

Posted: May 28, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Actions do speak louder than words.  Across America on this Memorial Day, speeches were made praising the sacrifices of veterans.  I’m not criticizing such speeches.  We need to remember our vets, especially those who are alive and struggling.

In today’s Think Progress, Amanda Petersen Beadle reports that unemployment is having its hardest impact on vets between the ages of 35-64, a group that would include individuals who fought in Vietnam, the first Gulf  War, and current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those who served outside of combat zones.  Younger vets have access to benefits and services that are not available to older veterans.

A friend of mine is trying to start a business that would help disabled veterans.  He has told me that many veterans he is trying to hire can only be on the job for 4 hours per day because of lasting war injuries.  Even if they are paid a decent wage, they cannot work enough hours to earn enough money that would let them live independently.  My friend wants to set up a housing facility that would enable the vets to live in a dorm.  His mission is to help.  How many other businesses will be willing or able to do that?

Memorial Day is a great time to honor the sacrifice of those who served in the military.  It’s also a great time to be honest with ourselves about the problems facing vets who are injured or homeless or unemployed.  Now it is our time to sacrifice for them.

Posted: May 27, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond jobs and careers.]

The 1% speaks for the 99%.

Nick Hanauer is a rich man, an entrepreneur, part of the 1%.  He gave a speech at TED that lasted a little over five minutes.  However, if you go to the popular website, the speech can’t be accessed.  Hanauer’s talk was deemed too political.

Hanauer argues against the claim that rich people like himself are job creators.  He says, “Sometimes the ideas we are certain are true are dead wrong.” Instead, he points to consumers, especially the middle class, as the true catalysts for economic growth.  Using himself as an example, Hanauer asks how much the rich can stimulate the economy.  They can only buy  a limited number of cars and clothes.

Like all myths, this one comes wrapped in metaphor.  Hanauer looks at the term “job creator” and say it is just a “small jump” to “the creator.”  The wealthy give them selves a special status, even if it’s not justified by any hard evidence.  Hanauer considers the last ten years and says the increase of wealth at upper incomes should mean we have a great  economy.  Instead, we have one of the worst in history.  “We’ve had it backwards for the last 30 years.”  Hanauer concludes that  the “true job creators are middle class consumers.”

TED’s decision to take down this talk is very disappointing.  The site features presentations by liberals and conservatives, including Arianna Huffington and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom.  Luckily for us, the wonder of the internet has preserved Hanauer’s talk.  It can be accessed through articles in Huffington Post and the Atlantic.  I remain a big fan of TED, but, in this case, the people who run it were not true to their own principles.

Hanauer has written two books that outline his political beliefs, which can also be explored at True Patriot Network, Hanauer’s project with his writing partner Alan Liu.  This website promotes a progressive version of America based on these values:  “service, stewardship, tolerance, and equality of opportunity.”  It offers ways to engage on the issues that Hanauer and Liu define as true patriotism.

Agree with him or not, Nick Hanauer cares about this country.  His voice deserves to be heard.

Posted: May 26, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Nation writer Greg Kaufman has written a great article on wage theft in Houston.  While the city is known for its growing number of millionaires, it is also a place where low wage workers lose of $750,000 a year in wage theft.  Three cheers to Houston Interfaith Worker Justice for revealing this scandal.  Its report breaks down the problem and what can be done to fix it.

Posted: May 25, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Clients will often ask me, “What are the latest trends in resume writing?”  One trend I’ve seen over the past few years is the achievement-based resume.  This style focuses on measurable achievements, and it is supposed to make employers think the applicant can deliver results.

I have two problems with this style.

First, a list of achievements quickly loses coherence.  It’s hard for the reader to remember anything specific about the applicant.  Rather than impress an employer, this style leads to confusion.  Achievement follows achievement, and it sounds like buzz, buzz, buzz.

Second, the all achievement style doesn’t address what an employer is looking for.  I’ve never seen a job posting that says, “Send a list of your success stories.”  Instead, they ask for a mix of experience, skills, and education.  If those elements aren’t featured in your resume, it will be difficult for a screener to see how you are qualified for the position.

I’m not saying achievements should not be part of a good resume.  They need to be balanced by information that shows why you are qualified to do the job.  The sample at the end of this post demonstrates what I mean about mixing achievements and qualifications.  Don’t get lost in the buzz.

Sales sample




Posted: May 24, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Common Dreams reports on recent protests against in the U.S. and Canada.  In one instance, Philadelphia is proposing to cut 40% of its public schools.  In Canada, fees for university students have seen major increases (82%).  The government added insult to injury by passing a law to restrict demonstrations by students.  That didn’t stop a crowd estimated at 100,000 from protesting.  The Philadelphia protest was much smaller, but it was still a sign of working people and the poor fighting back.

Access to education is the only hope the poor and working class have to enter the middle class.  Everyone needs to think about how we enact “austerity” in a way that still gives people a chance at a better life.  Better still, let’s replace austerity with investment.

If we don’t do that, democracy is a joke and capitalism is a rigged game.

Posted: May 21, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

I read cover letters every day.  What’s wrong with most of them?

1.  They’re too long.  If conventional wisdom says employers don’t have time to read resumes, how will they have time to ready windy cover letters?

2.  They simply repeat details from the resume.  The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce you and your resume.  Let the resume speak for itself.

3.  They talk too much about the employer and how wonderful the employer is.  Employers know their company.  They want to know who you are.  More importantly, they want to know why they should invest time in interviewing you.

Remember the function of a cover letter: Write something that makes the employer want to read your resume – and meet you.

Posted: May 20, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks beyond career issues.]

Marvin Gaye, a Life of Genius and Pain

I’ve attended several plays at the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago.  Each was written by Artistic Director Jackie Taylor, and, in each case, the play was outstanding.  Last night I attended the final preview of Taylor’s new production: Marvin Gaye: Don’t Talk about My Father.  God Is My Friend.  It is Taylor’s crowning achievement, exploring Gaye’s life and career in a manner we would expect in plays written by Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill.

The play began and ended with the audience being addressed by a ghost of Marvin Gaye, who was killed by his father in 1984.  This frame is important because it lets Taylor take the story of a man’s life and use it to make us look deeper into a story we thought we knew.  Gaye’s father was a monster, but, to a great degree, so was his son.  In the opening scene, Marvin says he and his father were haunted by demons.  For the artist, these demons drove him to create great music and cause great pain to those he loved.  For Marvin Gaye, Sr., a failed preacher, his demons locked him a world of hate that he took out through physical and verbal abuse of his wife and children.

Marvin’s rise to success runs parallel to the impact his father has had on him: addiction, an inability to have a normal relation with a woman, and, worst of all, profound self-doubt and self-loathing.  Taylor deftly presents Gaye’s stage fright and addictive behaviors.  He seemed happy only in those brief years he performed with Tammi Terrell, who died from a brain tumor in 1970.  After that, hit records mask a steady personal decline that ends with Gaye daring his father to shoot him, a challenge Marvin Sr. answered by pulling the trigger.

However, that’s not how the death scene takes place in Taylor’s production.  Instead, Gaye’s mother stands at the front of the stage, facing the audience and begging both her husband and son to stop.  Gaye and his father stand on either side of the stage with their backs to each other.  Taylor doesn’t want simple drama where Marvin the son is victim of the demonic father Marvin.  Instead, both men are victims, like Oedipus, of a fate that can crush even the greatest of men.  The death scene ends with the stage going black and two gun shots echoing.  Then the actors playing both Marvins leave the stage and a spotlight shines on a mother and wife who has seen too much.  Her song of grief brings home an intimate pain that outweighs the cliched headlines of our celebrity-focused world. This scene is followed by Marvin reappearing, dressed in white to make sense of what we have seen.  He wraps the story up in one word: “forgiveness,” which is followed by Gaye and fellow cast members joining in a deeply soulful rendition of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”

Every performer from Rashawn Thompson, the actor playing Marvin Gaye, to those playing minor roles gave authentic portrayal of their characters.  The music and singing was equally fantastic.  The house band is integral to all productions at the Black Ensemble Theater.  In this case, however, they played a role almost as important as the lead actors.  At times, they were completely faithful to Gaye’s original songs.  At other times, they added twists and extensions that fit the play’s changing moods and themes.  The staging was simple, but fitting – nothing out of place or distracting.

The range of songs from Gaye’s pre-Motown career to several songs from What’s Going On? to the late hits like “Distant Lover” and “Sexual Healing” were a joy in themselves.  Anyone who doubts how great Marvin Gaye was as an artist simply needs to listen to these songs.  As in her other plays based on musicians, Taylor’s cast was true to the original version without simply singing covers.

During a Q&A at the end of the play, an enthusiastic audience member asked Taylor if she could write some kind of second Marvin Gaye story.  She simply said, “No” and then explained why.  To prepare to write this play, Taylor read 13 books on her subject.  She interviewed his family, and watched tapes of performances.  Most of all, she felt the pain and said she could not cry those tears again.  Anyone who attends this production will appreciate Taylor’s sacrifice and how it let her tell the story of a wildly talented, wildly troubled man, Marvin Gaye.

Posted: May 16, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Think Progress reports that wages for college graduates have not increased over the last 10 years.  In fact, they have dropped 5.4% (1.6% for men, 8.5% for women).  This data was taken from The Economic Policy Institute.

This news is very troubling given the trouble recent college graduates are having finding decent jobs.  It’s logical to assume that the wage decline will be even steeper in the future.  Not good news.

Meanwhile, the Board at JP Morgan Chase approved Jamie Dimon’s annual compensation of $23 million.  Nice work if you can get it.

Posted: May 15, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos explores the impact of cuts in unemployment.  Nearly a quarter of a million people have been taken off the unemployment roles, many in states where unemployment is still very high, including California where 100,000 people will no longer receive benefits.

It’s easy for politicians to cry poor or rationalize cutting a benefit.  It’s another thing for the person who now has no income.  Over the past ten years, federal and state governments have found ways to help the job creators who create no jobs.  How about doing something for the real wealth creators – workers – who are the victims of a system that pushes money up that never trickle down?