Blog Archive - April 2013

Posted: April 30, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

The latest issue of Inc. magazine has an interesting feature on networking as a way to recruit new employees.  Referrals only make up 7% of applicants, but they result in 40% of hires.  Similarly 98% of recruiters use LinkedIn, but only 38% of job seekers who use social media to look for work are on that site.

These numbers indicate how the job world is changing.  As I’ve said before, we need to practice both active and passive job search methods.  The best active way to look for work is to network with a goal of referrals.  The best passive way to look for work is LinkedIn.  People are still getting job using job boards.  However, that path grows more narrow all the time.  Use all of the tools in your job search tool box if you want to speed up your search and have more opportunities.

P.S.  Inc. has a great video on how to become a master networker.

Posted: April 28, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

One of my good friends is an engineer.  For most of his career, his employer paid overtime to engineers who worked more than 40 hours.  That changed three years ago.  Now they are on a “comp time” model in which non-hourly employees are supposed to be able to take time off for working over 40 hours in a week.  However, given “lean” staffing, it’s impossible to use comp time.

Laura Clawson of Daily Kos discusses this problem and how the freedom-loving conservatives in Congress are trying to make it worse.  The Working Families Flexibility Act, a proposed bill in the House of Representatives, would enable employers to control their employees' time, working them hard during busy seasons,making them take comp time  without pay when production is slow.

Clawson calls out Eric Cantor as the leading supporter of this “reform.”  That’s not surprising.  The real challenge will be to see how many Senate Democrats fall in line if the bill passes the House.  Working people need to come together to support each other on this issue.  The Working Families Flexibility Act should be a rallying point.  Anyone (hourly or salary) working more than 40 hour should be paid overtime.  Keep it simple:  +40 = overtime pay.

Posted: April 26, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I’m working with a client who wants to use a portfolio to demonstrate her skills at a job interview.  Some employers ask for a portfolio, especially in fields such as graphic design and teaching.  I’ve also had clients in sales use portfolios to supplement their resumes.  A portfolio can be a great asset, or it can work against you.

A winning portfolio has two elements: limited content and flexibility.  As a rule, a portfolio should 8-10 elements that can be present in crisp manner.  It should be flexible in covering different aspects of what you have to offer an employer.  For example, a teacher’s portfolio might touch on class projects, curriculum development, extracurricular activities, and professional development.  A sales professional’s portfolio might display evidence of sales success, photos with customers at leading professional events, and examples of marketing materials.

Put yourself in the place of the interviewer.  You want to present evidence, but you don’t want to hear the same kind of fact again and again.  As an employer, you would also want the candidate to demonstrate good presentation skills through planning and organization.  Keep your portfolio clear, tight, and interesting.

Posted: April 25, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Laura Clawson, writing in Daily Kos, outlines the story of income winners and losers between 2009-2011.  As usual, the top wins.  In this case, it’s all of 7%.  However this story is told, the end is the same:  Working people lose.

Posted: April 24, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I always learn great lessons from my clients.  Today a client told me about a boss who was trying to intimidate him into signing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).  In most cases, PIPs lead to termination.  My client has been at his current job less than a year.  In that time, his unit has been recognized as the top performing unit in the nation.

When presented with the PIP, my client kept his cool.  He has more than 25 years experience in his industry.  He asked his District Manager why this step was being taken.  The District Manager gave a vague answer and asked him to sign the PIP.  My client then asked about how he was being evaluated and how he was evaluated by other employers.  Again, the District Manager did not address his point.  He said signing is not a big deal.  In reality, it is an admission of poor performance that can lead to termination.  My client knows this and refused to sign.

Then he did something very bold.  He offered two weeks notice.  At this point, the District Manager backed down and said they would discuss the matter later.  My client informed his boss that the issue was not personal.  He then put an exclamation mark on the affair by buying lunch for the person who was trying to set him up for termination.

For me, this client is a role model in knowing how to evaluate his own performance and having the courage to stand up for himself.  Could he be fired?  Of course.  However, signing the PIP would drag out the process and usually have the same result.  My client is not waiting to see what will happen next.  He has begun looking for a new job. The good news is that he can do so with a feeling of self-respect.  He did not let a bad boss bully him.

Posted: April 23, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing 42, the new film about Jackie Robinson.  I love baseball and have read much about Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues.  The film also had some interesting things to say about work and career.

1.  Listen to the boss

To be successful, Robinson had to follow Branch Rickey’s strategy of not fighting back.  In turn, Rickey had to understand Robinson’s situation and keep him motivated in standing against racist taunts and physical abuse.  The films also shows two other great examples of bosses in control.  Rickey tells Robinson’s first manager to treat his new player as he would white players.  He then warns the manager that he will be fired if he doesn’t do so.  Later in the film, Phillies manager Ben Chapman rained vulgar slurs at Robinson.  His team’s executive orders the racist Chapman to pose for a picture with Robinson.  Wanting to keep his job, the bigoted manager posed with Jackie Robinson.  Moral of the story:  want to keep the job?  Listen to the boss – or find a new job with a better boss.

2.  Be willing to take risks

Both Rickey and Robinson took great risks in going against the long established color code.  Rickey bucked the system.  Robinson literally put his life on the line.  In the end, their risks changed the game and did much to open the eyes of a country.  There is still racism in America, but men like Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey changed the game because they were willing to challenge accept wisdom and customs. To achieve our professional goals, we need to be ready to take risks and face our inner fears.

3.  Be willing to change

A few of Robinson’s teammates welcomed him.  Most did not.  However, the film shows them learning to accept him and, more importantly, respect him.  From what I’ve read, the transition wasn’t as fast or smooth as the film depicts.  But, as Robinson endured, his teammates accepted him.  In many work experiences, accepting change is the first step to being successful.

4.  Don’t quit

If I were only given one word to describe Jackie Robinson, it would be strength.  He faced hate from all angles.  His life was threatened.  Still, he did not quit.  Robinson knew what kind of treatment he would face, and his determination opened the door for other African American players.  It made baseball a better game and America a more equal nation.  In the end, Robinson’s fame is as much a matter of his mental strength as it is his great accomplishments on the field.  Again, he is a role model for any worker who faces obstacles and still achieves a goal.

I don’t mean to make 42 into a simplistic story.  It’s not.  I strongly recommend the movie as a great biography and as source of inspiration.

Posted: April 21, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

We fret about unemployment in the U.S., but we seldom consider the problem in other countries.  Huffington Post linked to an article at that lists European countries with the highest unemployment.  Japan and the U.K. have slight higher unemployment.  Countries like Greece (26.4%) and Spain (26.3%) face much higher, rates which are similar to estimates for the U.S. in the Depression of 1930s.

What if the U.S. had 25% unemployment?  We would have a major problem.  Even at the current rate, many job seekers are having problems finding jobs.  Worse still, wages have flat and in some cases declined.  Like Paul Krugman, I believe the government should play some role as an employer of last resort.  It’s not a matter of the clichéd attack on Keynes that one worker fills a hole and another fills it.  There is work to be done:  infrastructure, public safety, education, and healthcare.  We need to invest to build good country where everyone has opportunity.  We have the wealth.  We need the will.

Posted: April 20, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I was helping a client prepare for an interview.  He kept talking about what he has done over the last three years at his current job.  While his experience is good, he has more to offer.  More importantly, he missed several opportunities to show how his experience, education, and qualities meet the employer’s need.  In the end, the interview is not about you.  It’s about the employer and how you can solve her problem.

Too often job seekers get tongue tied because they want to phrase the perfect answer.  A better way to interview is to listen carefully and speak to the employer’s concerns.  If you do that, you will be focused on what the employer needs and, in most cases, feel a lot less nervous.  Stay focused on what the employer needs, and you’ll know what to say about yourself.

Posted: April 19, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I was buying a hot dog today when I saw a poster advertising a new job search tool.  It promises an easy job search using social media.  It also promotes itself through a contest that will let those who register have a chance win money.  The only way to learn more about the site is to register, which I will not do (nor will I name the site).  If any business wants customers to trust it, that business should tell us who it is and what it does without asking for registration.  I’m also suspicious about gimmicks like lotteries that try to lure people to register.

Here’s my bottom line:  The job search is never easy.  In some ways, online technologies have given job seekers great new tools.  It has also given some companies a way to offer services that do not help people looking for work. My recommendation is that you test every online tool before you waste too much time or provide information that could be used to put you in marketing databases.

Posted: April 17, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Daily Kos’s Laura Clawson is a great writer on labor issues.  Sometimes, she can also be very funny.  In a recent post, Clawson speculates what it would be like if the Teach for America model were applied to other professional fields.

The real point is, of course, that attacks on teachers are absurd.  Many corporate reformers are looking for ways to break unions and pay teachers less.  To do that, they have to create a boogie man of the “bad teacher.”  Am I claiming there are no bad teachers?  Of course not.  There are unqualified or incompetent people in every field.  The attack on teachers serves a political agenda.  In her funny piece, Clawson call out the absurdity.