Blog Archive - September 2013

Posted: September 5, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I advise everyone to network and let your friends and families know that you are looking for a new job.  There is one important exception to this advice.  If you work for a company that fires or punishes employees looking for work, you have to be careful in how you look for work and network.

One of my clients works for an organization that would demote her if it learned that she was looking for work.  Some companies will even fire employees who are seeking a “better opportunity.”  What can you do if you work at such a company?  First, limit your networking to people who you trust.  Beware of sharing your job search plans with any co-workers, clients, or vendor who might accidentally inform your boss.  Similarly, don’t post your resume on a job or change your LinkedIn profile to indicate that you are looking for work.

If your current employer is the kind that punishes or fires employees, you need to be careful about how you move forward.  However, you still need to find a way to look for something new.  The key is to talk to the right people and keep your voice low.

Posted: September 4, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

A client brought me a resume that had been written by a professional service.  She was seeking a role as an administrative assistant, and she was especially troubled by two job descriptions that were each one sentence long:

1.   Effectively performed a variety of duties within office settings at several organizations; consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic and capability to adapt new environments.

2.  Conducted numerous daily responsibilities entailing optimal organization, coordination, scheduling, and issue resolution for a fast-paced department compromised of 205 personnel.

Both of these sentences suffer from the same problem.  They are packed with generalities that do not address an employer’s needs.  We do not know what skills or experience the job seeker is offering an employer.  Compare these two examples:

1.  Supervised business operations for an electrical contracting firm.  Processed a payroll for as many as 20 employees.  Managed accounts payable and accounts receivable. Wrote correspondence, and took dictation from the owner.  Coordinated transfer of documents needed to close contracts.  Maintained office supply inventory and ordered new stock.  Answered phones, routed calls, and took messages.  Kept  the office clean and organized.

2.  Supported 4 executives, working proactively to address each individual’s needs.  Maintained and updated each executive’s calendar.  Screened calls, took messages, and set up meetings.  Scheduled travel and lodging.  Set up and managed expenses accounts.  Created presentation materials, including PowerPoint files.

Keep the language of your resume simple and clear.  Make sure that it speaks to the employer’s needs. If a sentence feels too thick, break it down so it is easy to read.  Employers receive hundreds of resumes for most positions.  If you’re language is foggy, one thing is guaranteed: you will not be called for an interview.

Posted: September 3, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I don’t have time for a post today, but I would recommend this piece by Canadian union leader Gary Engler.  He examines how our self-definition as workers (and I would add citizens) has been replaced by an idea of ourselves as consumers, people who only know themselves by what they buy, not what they make.

Posted: September 2, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I just spent a couple of days in Springfield, Illinois, visiting many sites that honor one of America’s greatest heroes, Abraham Lincoln.  People think of Lincoln as the President who fought the Civil War and ended slavery.  We also marvel at his wisdom and morality.  What we often forget that Lincoln was a worker who believed in the dignity of labor.  As a young boy and man, he was a farm worker, rail splitter, boat worker, and surveyor – all before he was 30.  After moving to Illinois, Lincoln became a lawyer and politician.  He often argued that freedom depended on the ability to earn a fair living, and he compared kings to those who “live off the toil of others.”

After Lincoln’s death, American workers joined in labor unions that brought improved wages and working conditions.  Labor Day was made a holiday not long after the Pullman Strike in the late 19th century.  Many workers were jailed and died in the strikes and protests that brought change, including the ability to join unions.  The influence of unions pushed politicians to build a social safety net with its base as Social Security and Medicare.  Over the last 30 years, too many Americans took these advances for granted.  They accepted anti-worker and anti-labor propaganda while more and more of wealth and income was transferred from working people to – in Lincoln’s words – “those who live off the toil of others,” wealthy investors and their bankers.

This Labor Day we might be seeing a change coming.  Last year, the Chicago Teachers Union defied a Democratic mayor who hates labor almost as much as the most conservative Republican – and they beat him (at least until the school closings and budget cuts). Low wage workers in the retail and fast food sectors are starting to fight as miners and rail workers did more than 100 years ago. Like their great grandparents, they are engaging in direct action, risking arrest just to have the right to ask for a raise and join a union.  Elsewhere in Chicago, I see signs in the windows of many homes and signs on the lawn: Proud Union Home.  Working people are beginning to make their voices heard.  Lincoln would approve. 

Labor Day Extras

 Senator Elizabeth Warren discusses the importance of unions and respecting labor.

 President Obama praises labor and organizing without mentioning unions

 Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times reflects on the day.

 Amy Dean looks at the new face of labor – alt-labor – and the tactics it uses.