Blog Archive - December 2013

Posted: December 30, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

A client met me today.  At first, I thought she lived in Chicago, and I was confident that she could find the kind of job she was looking for.  Then she told me she was living in Tennessee with her husband, who is in the military.  That made me stop.  There are rural and urban areas of Tennessee, and where she was living could impact her job search.  When I asked her about her current location, she threw a curve ball: “We’re moving to Hawaii in two weeks.”  I love Hawaii, but it has a unique economy and culture.  What we expect on the mainland is not always the same.  Moreover, each island is different.  I counseled my client on the importance of doing good research to know what kind of jobs are available that meet her skills.  The bottom line is that where we live has a big impact on the kind of work we can do.  Know where you live and what you can do there.  That’s a big factor in career management.

Posted: December 28, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

There isn’t one.  A good job search should never rely on one of anything.  First, have more than one way to look for work: networking, identifying/following specific companies, job boards, LinkedIn, posting, recruiters, and temporary services.  This list is not complete.  There are many other ways to look for a job.  My advice is that you should consistently use at least three methods during every job search.

The same point applies to job boards.  Many clients have told me that they love Indeed because it collects job posts from several websites.  It does, and that has always been my problem with the site: the same job can be listed more than once.  I recommend that job seekers find two or three sites they like to use and check for new posts every few days.  Should you post a resume?  In most cases, it doesn’t hurt.  But it will seldom lead to an interview.  When should you not post a resume?  Never post a resume if your company has a history of firing employees who are looking for a job.  Not many companies do this.  However, I have been at two seminars where HR managers talked about working for companies that fired employees who were discovered to be looking for jobs.  Posting should only be done if you are unemployed or if you are certain that it will not lead to your being fired.

What sites do I recommend?  Careerbuilder, Monster, and LinkedIn.  If you are being paid by the hour or looking for a part-time job, Craigslist might be a good option.  However, it’s also important to learn about any websites in your industry that might also post jobs.  This could included sites for professional associations or industry news.  Some groups on LinkedIn have job boards that are only open to members of the group.  Keep looking for new sources where you can find potential employers.  Don’t assume you are covering all the bases.  Most important, never rely on one source.

Good luck in your career management and job search in 2014 – Happy New Year!

Posted: December 26, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Aljazeera America reports that McDonald’s has taken down a controversial website that offered “helpful” advice to low wage employees.  In the recent past, the website has come under fire for advising employees to earn money selling things on E-Bay and how to tip a pool cleaner.  The final straw hit close to home for the hamburger giant when the website, which is operated by a third party, told employees to stop eating fast food because it was unhealthy.  Something tells me that the company responsible for that bit of wisdom no longer works for McDonald’s.

Rather than try to tell low wage workers how to live on less, companies like McDonald’s should be leaders in paying a living way.  Would food cost more at the restaurant?  It would.  Would investors earn less on McDonald’s?  Probably.  Might franchise owners and corporate leaders need to take a pay cut?  They would.  Those are the costs.  What about the benefits?  Low wage workers would be pumping more into the economy.  McDonald’s would be able to recruit better talent.  Rather than give employees bad advice about how to live on less, it’s time to pay a living wage.

Posted: December 24, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a story about how a bad boss turns good.  Scrooge is a small business owner who abuses and insult his employee, Bob Cratchit.  He only cares about money.  After being visited by the Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future, Scrooge is a changed man who “keeps Christmas in his heart” every day.  At the end of the story, the bad boss becomes a best friend, giving Cratchit a raise and treating his boy Tiny Tim as his own son.

Stories in the real world don’t normally have such a happy ending.  Bad bosses stay bad, and companies that put money before people lay people off days before Christmas.  A few weeks ago I saw a client who had worked for the same company for 30 years.  He was laid off because his salary was too high.  Another client who worked for the same company for 20 years was laid off so a member of the owner’s family could take his place.  So much for loyalty.  Over 6,000 employees at Dominick’s stores in Chicago are being laid off a few days after Christmas, so a Wall Street investment firm can pump up the value of the store’s parent company, Safeway.

Most companies and bosses won’t change as Scrooge did.  They don’t care about the time of the year or the hardship of employees who are losing jobs.  All that matters is the bottom line.  Dickens imagines Scrooge as a man who has a conscience and is capable of change.  Sadly, too many large investors and corporate leaders in our time have not been visited by the Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future.  They have no feeling for others and think only about what they can gain.  Scrooge would pity them.

Posted: December 23, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Huffington Post reports that Snarf’s, a chain sub shop, has fired all of its employees at a Chicago restaurant three days before Christmas.  It informed its former staffers in the most personal way – email.  20 employees lost their jobs because the store will be “reconcepted” as a burger joint.  The chain’s Director of Marketing told Huffpo that the employees should not have been surprised because “they were aware of the loss of business over the last year.”  How would she have felt if she were laid off three days before Christmas?

This story is another example that shows how employees are just numbers to large corporations and chains.  What would it have cost a national chain like Snarf’s to wait until the end of the week?  It might have cost them the chance to turn the knife.  Employees at this store participated in a fast food workers’ strike that took place earlier this month.  Retaliation?  No, they say, it’s all just business.  Hopefully Snarf’s customers will treat the chain the same way it treat its workers.  A company that can be this cold at this time doesn’t deserve to exist.

P.S. (12-26-2013)  The CEO of Snarf’s, Jim Seidel, has issued an apology for how the layoff was handled.  To his credit, Seidel called the action, “insensitive and poorly planned.”  He also wrote that employees would be provided an extra week of wages.  This admission shows that pressure and negative PR matter.  We who support a living wage need to remember this lesson.


Posted: December 22, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, this blog explores issues beyond the realm of career and jobs.]

A Christmas Joy

I’m a big fan of Raven Theatre in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.  Last night I attended a performance of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose.  It was a short play – only an hour – but a total joy.  Michael Mendendian and John Weagly adapted a story by Arthur Conan Doyle, keeping the detective story and adding large measures of joy and holiday cheer.

The performance began with a rousing musical number that moved from jazz to Christmas carols.  The musical director, George Goetschel, played multiple instruments and led an ensemble that was energetic and clearly having a good time.  During the Holmes story, members of the ensemble performed sound effects on the stage, reminding the audience that this was fun, not a life and death detective story.

The Sherlock Holmes part of the story was also fun, but somewhat predictable, even “elementary.”  Holmes investigates how a rare gem came to be found inside of a Christmas goose.  He and Doctor Watson reason out details of the crime, which culminates in an interview with the thief.  Using his powers of reason and deduction, Holmes quickly leads the thief into a humiliating confession.  Then, in the spirit of the season, he lets the thief escape, pitying him as more of a mope than criminal and knowing that a man falsely accused of the crime would be released.

During the play and at the end, the ensemble again joined in Christmas carols.  The adapters wrote two jokes into the script that referenced Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, which was a great comic touch, if a little anachronistic since the play is set in 1890.  These elements charmed the crowd and really fit the holiday spirit.  Three cheers for the Raven Theatre and its talented performers. Hopefully they will make Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose an annual holiday production.

Posted: December 21, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Check out this short (150 second) video in which former Labor Secretary explains inequality.  It could be argued that his explanation is not inclusive, but it helps us see where too much of our money is going.  The video shows how job loss is connected to corporate schemes to make more money for investors.  It is worth your time.

Posted: December 20, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Today I was working with a recent college graduate who wants to break into the fashion industry. Her current way of looking for work is to check job board websites every few days.  I suggested an alternative: Become an expert about your profession.  I recommended that she learn everything she can about companies in Chicago that deal with fashion (She does not want to relocate).  Her next step would be to look for any open jobs at these companies that fit her skills.  Beyond that she should try to build network relations that will let her meet potential employers.  It’s fine to check job boards.   But when you work in a specialized industry, the only good way to manage your career is to know it inside and out.  It is necessary to build a network and track changes in the industry.  Think of this exercise as creating a map that will let you plan and navigate your career.

Posted: December 19, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I’ve lived in Chicago for over 20 years.  In that time, I’ve become a fan of the Loyola University men’s basketball team.  Yesterday, I attended a game between Loyola’s Ramblers and the Northern Illinois University Huskies.  The first half was ugly, but it went well for the Ramblers who were up 28-14.  The Huskies of NIU seemed lost and defeated.

Then the second half happened.  I noticed that NIU head coach Mark Montgomery took off his jacket.  He paced the sidelines and was animated in directing his players on the court.  Their teammates jumped off the bench every time NIU scored or made a great defensive play.  A small group of NIU fans grew louder and louder.  The tables had turned.  Now Loyola was feckless and fumbling.  The game ended as a 55-49 victory for the Huskies.

What does this have to do with career management?  Everything.  Coach Montgomery willed his team to victory.  He inspired them to play and believe that they could win.  Anyone who has to find a new job or make a career change needs to have the same psychological resources.  Almost every job search is filled with moments when we feel like the Huskies did in the first half: lost and defeated.  However, if we dig deep and kindle the power of emotion, miracles can happen.  If we rise above any kind of excuses or self-pity, we will move forward and take the action needed to find a good job or a new career.  Losing the first half means nothing if we find a way to win the game.

Posted: December 18, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

A report in Common Dreams examines a survey of economists about the impact of inequality in the U.S.  Economists across all political ideologies agree that pushing money to the top earners limits the ability of those in the middle and working class to spend.  The report cites Paul Krugman, who writes:  “On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie.”

Economists agree that inequality is a problem.  Too many politicians, however, fear the charge of “class warfare” and ignore this problem.  They are also ignoring that wealth has been redistributed for the last three decades.  It has been taken from the many and given to the few.  This issue should concern everyone who works for a living.