Blog Archive - January 2014
According to the business website 24/7 Wall Street, unemployed workers are moving to big cities. Some of the cities in the South and Southwest that have attracted new residents, such as Tampa and Las Vegas, have endured high unemployment. Denver and Houston are drawing people because their unemployment rates are below the national average. This article follows a trend that Fortune editor Leigh Gallagher has described in her book, The End of the Suburbs. People are voting for life that has more options and is less dependent on the automobile. According to Gallagher, young professionals, those who are most challenged in the current job market, do not want to live in suburbs. This trend will impact how people work as well as how they live. Cities are back, and that’s a good thing for our economy and culture.
It’s true that employers read resumes quickly. However, you still need to give them something to read. A client recently showed me a resume that looked good, but said nothing. It gave no reason to hire her beyond broad generalizations.
A good resume has content that is relevant to employers. It is not wordy because it shows why a candidate is qualified for a position. A resume becomes wordy when it includes elements that are not relevant to the employer. Over 10 years, I’ve found that employers will read two page resumes formatted in a paragraph style. They will do that if they can quickly see that the applicant might be a good employee.
Don’t hide your skills. Sell them is a good resume that is rich in content and relevant to the employer’s needs.
Apparently, college football players do. Think Progress reports that the National College Players Association has filed a petition on behalf of football players from Northwestern University to be recognized as members of a union. This effort is being support by the United Steelworkers Union.
I’ve long believed that college athletes who generate millions of dollars for their universities deserve some kind of compensation, and I have no problem with their organizing. However, it says a lot about our country when this story gets so much attention while the ongoing effort of low wage workers at Walmart and similar companies is almost ignored. Public sectors unions are under fire at the Supreme Court, again, with little or no coverage.
Until working people recognize that we are all in this together, it will be easy for the super rich and their lackeys in politics and the media to play games of divide and conquer. I hope low wage workers stand with college athletes in their struggle for union right. And I hope college athletes do the same for the people who serve them at fast food restaurants and big box retail stores. On this day that has seen the passing of the great Peter Seeger, a man who loved working people, we need to all stand together and support unions.
A client called today to go over some points before a job interview. He was worried about a small gap in his resume and the level of his Excel skills. I reassured him that a small gap was not a problem. I also pointed out that his Excel skills may not be a problem. He would learn more about that during the interview.
While it is important to think about any weak points before an interview, it is more important to know and be able to present your strengths. Here’s a simple way to evaluate your strengths: Why are you good at what you do? Make an inventory of your achievements and success stories. Be sure these points are highlighted on your resume and that you are able to present them during a job interview.
We tend to focus too much on the question: What can go wrong? That leads us to think about our weaknesses. A good interview must convey competence and confidence, not weakness. Know your strengths and be able to sell them. That’s the key to a good interview.
Where does the money go? Many Americans are asking that question, and, according to Bryce Covert of Think Progress, they have good reason to confused and questioning. American wages are growing at their slowest rate since 1965, barely outpacing the rate of inflation. Worse still, real wages have declined 7% since 2007. Covert breaks out the sectors of the economy that have grown their wages in this time, but that news seems almost irrelevant to me. If more than 50% of the country is falling behind at the current pace, we are all going to have to pay the piper.
When I advise clients on career planning, I always emphasize the importance of income and challenges of current salary trends. Too many of my clients have told me horror stories over the past few years about working more and make the same (or less). For most of us, the only alternative to the wage trap is to be on keep looking for a better job that will pay more. The never-ending job search is exhausting and frustrating. But, in the current market, it’s the only way to get ahead.
I ran into a neighbor today and made a joke about the weather. He didn't laugh, telling me that Chicago will be hit by about 6 more inches of snow before we face two days of below zero temperatures. This winter sucks, and there's another month left to go.
What does this have to do with job search and career management? A lot. Whenever we dial back on looking for work or put career management on the back burner, we lose opportunities. Employers need to hire, and they will make an offer to the best available candidate. If you're so traumatized by the snow and cold that your not networking and responding to job posts, another person is getting a job that could be yours.
Here's a good reason to look even harder during this kind of weather: Less competition. If bad weather is keeping people from applying for the jobs you want, that means your chance of landing that job is better. Take advantage of a bad situation, and make it work for you. Don't get stuck singing the Cold Weather Blues.
Aljazeera America reports that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is backing a plan that will help Detroit workers save their pensions. That’s great news if it is true. Snyder is the man who brought emergency managers to strip out public wealth from poor cities throughout the state. Now he’s promising $350 million to offset what his own emergency manager in Detroit claims is an $18 billion debt. As Scott Walker in Wisconsin is promising voters big tax cuts, Snyder is trying to show that he really cares about poor people. What is this about? It’s time to run for re-election. If working people are gullible enough to elect leaders that work against their interest, they will get what they deserve.
Citing a report by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Think Progress examines the plight of recent college graduates who can only land low paying jobs. Ironically, some jobs that don’t require college degrees pay significantly more. The report does not deny that people with degrees have better work opportunities. What it notes is that more graduates are not enjoying opportunities they had in the past. As a country, we need to start paying attention to the kind of jobs that are being created in the current “recovery.” As more stories of college students falling through the economic cracks become prominent, especially when they are backed by data from the New York Fed, it’s logical to assume that some students will give up on college and give up on their future. Opportunity needs to be more than a political slogan.
Older workers have a target on their back. They often make more money, which is the sole focus of companies that want to improve “productivity” through salary cuts. For many older workers, job loss is very difficult because age discrimination exists. However, for the lucky few, being older can be a great advantage.
I have three clients who recently decided to retire. Each worked for a company that was going through rapid change. Their opinions were listened to – and ignored. Companies they cared about were not the same place anymore. Rather than play the game and hope to last a few more years, each of these people wase able to retire with full benefits. Given tax laws enacted in the 1980s, they can continue to work full/part-time as they wish.
Who is the loser in this scenario? The employer who let loyal workers take their dedication and knowledge into retirement. Many corporations and some smaller companies have lost sight of all but short term, bottom line thinking. Beyond measurable contributions, dedicated employees bring the intangible qualities that are hard to measure. They know how the company works and how problems were solved in the past. They put in the extra hours because they are committed to the company, not a paycheck. I expect to see more older workers following this pattern in coming years. Once they are eligible for retirement benefits, the tables will turn. The big bad boss won’t be so big or so bad.
Prospective clients often bring me cover letters that are thicker and longer than their resumes. I ask: If a hiring manager doesn’t want to read a long resume, why do they want to read a longer cover letter?
My philosophy is simple. Keep your cover letter concise and focused on your strongest qualities. State your current duties in a sentence. Sprinkle in a few of the soft skills that employers ask for in job postings. Don’t repeat specific details that will be played out in the resume. Use the cover letter to drive the employer to the resume. Keep it short and focused on the most important qualities you will bring to a new employer.
P.S. There is one exception to what is said above. Some employers, very few, give specific instructions about what they want in a letter. In those rare cases, be sure to address what the employer is looking for.