Blog Archive - February 2014
I agree with most career experts that networking is the best way to look for a job. Networking can open doors to jobs that are not advertised. On the other hand, for every job attained by networking 1.5-2 jobs are found by applying to jobs posted online. There is a myth that such jobs aren’t real. If that were true, companies like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder would not exist. The key to a good job search is to have multiple ways of looking for work. Start with network and applying to jobs online. I also recommend targeting specific companies that fit your goals and skills. If you’re a high income/high skill worker, it might be prudent to add recruiters to your list. Whatever methods you use, keep your job search forward and moving forward. Nothing beats persistence.
I recently spoke to a group of college students recently. I asked what their concerns were about find work. One said that some students had problems finding jobs in their major. For some, this might be a problem. For others, however, it can be a career advantage. Many of my most successful clients work in fields that have little to do with their major. For them, a change in career goals was not a limitation, but a type of freedom.
At least half of my clients who were trained as lawyers work in fields outside of the law. Some are managers or consultants. Others work in communications or media. Training in the law provides a wide range of skills that are applicable beyond the court room. In a similar sense, people who major in the humanities rarely work in their majors. Instead, they use broad skills in thinking and communication to adapt to all types of professional fields. They are often the people best fit to move across careers because they haven’t committed themselves to a field like accounting or engineering. That said, some of my clients who are accountants and engineers have made exciting career changes that have brought them new opportunities and increased income.
Don’t limit yourself. As Seth Godin says, “Draw your own map.” Too often a person who wants to make a change convinces herself that she can’t do it. At that point, one thing is certain – failure. Some people try to change careers and fail, but they have taken the first step and have a chance to try again. They have given themselves that freedom.
One of my favorite writers/bloggers, Matt Taibbi, is leaving Rolling Stone to join the new investigative website, First Look. Tabbi can be brutally sarcastic and funny. In his farewell column, he was humble and grateful to the people at Rolling Stone who gave him a chance to move forward as a professional. In a time when many of see little to be grateful for when it comes to employers, Taibbi’s farewell is a welcome reminder that there still are some good employers out there. Good luck to both Taibbi and Rolling Stone.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos has written two recent articles that show how poverty is a growing problem in the U.S. First, she explores how households headed by working single mothers are falling deeper into poverty from 54% in 2007 to 58% in 2012. Beyond the challenge of finding a good job with decent pay, many of these women are challenged by a lack of affordable day care. Many of our politicians claim to the pro-family, but they don’t seem to care about these women and their children.
In a second article, Clawson dismantles the claims that Medicaid and food stamps keep people in poverty. Instead, she shows that without these program our national poverty rate would be 28.7%, much more than the currently shameful 16%. Most of the people benefiting from these programs work, and – despite their hard work – they can’t get ahead. Who does get ahead? Clawson points out that the most successful beneficiary of social safety nets are large corporations who know that they can continue to pay low wages as long as the government will subsidize them. The problem can be summarized in two words: corporate welfare.
Many clients despair that they cannot find key words for their occupation. In fact, they are easy to find if you look in the right places.
1. Start with job posts. For key word research, I recommend using 8-10 posts. Note what words are repeated from post to post, especially for hard skills and technology. For example, terms like cost analysis, budgeting, MS Excel, accounts payable are the kind of words that employers will look for when scanning resume.
2. Perform a similar review on any LinkedIn contacts who are in similar professions. Pay careful attention to the skills section in each profile.
3. Research any job descriptions for the function you perform. These documents can be very detailed, so be careful about selecting key words that match the job function you want to perform.
4. Some websites post key words. The problem is that these lists often cover all types of a profession from entry level to executive. You need to identify those words that fit the level of experience for the kind of you want to pursue.
It’s important to have the right key words in your resume and LinkedIn profile. To find them, study what your potential employer is looking for and how similar professionals describe themselves. That’s the model for key word success.
I’ve come across several resume experts who say that it is impossible to convey personality on a resume. Nothing could be further from the truth. Soft skills and qualities give an employer a good indication of the kind of person you are and the kind of worker you will be.
For example, a word like flexible indicates that someone can fill different roles. It is important to follow up on this point in the resume and show how you are versatile and able to take on different roles. Similarly, a popular word in job postings that I often use in resume is proactive. Someone who is proactive either prevents a problem from happening or solves it without being told to do so. These are just two examples of how a personality can be conveyed as part of a well-written resume. Here are a few other terms that you can use to give an employer a sense of what you offer:
Many job posts include these terms. Find a way to integrate them into your resume so the employer can tell who you are as well as what you do.
As Seth Godin says in his fine book The Dip, winners know when and what to quit. I met a client today who is taking some smart risks in managing his career and life. Fred (not his real name) left a job where he had worked for more than 10 years. His position was becoming impossible, and a new boss was promising to make it even worse. At the same time, Fred and his wife are selling their house as well his mother’s house. Fred and his wife, who is employed, have saved some money. So instead of staying at a bad job while looking for a new one and trying to fix up two houses, Fred decided to take one thing at a time. First, he quit his job. Next, he will prepare both homes for sale. Finally he will focus on his job search.
Not everyone has Fred’s resources or time, but his story has value for anyone who is trying to find a new job or change careers – It takes time and focus. I’ve seen many clients who put so much into the job they hate that they don’t have the energy or time to find a new one. In other cases, job seekers have responsibilities to their families that pull them away from looking for work. Fred’s story should be an example of how it is important to give yourself the time and energy to conduct a good job search. Even if you can’t quit the job you hate, or even if you have a serious family obligation, find a way to put the time in you need to find the new job. It’s not easy, but it’s better than staying in a job that is not helping you live better or be happy.
Huffington Post reports that American list unemployment as the most important problem facing the country. According to a Gallup poll, 23% of American feel this way, which is up 7% from last month. While this information is interesting, it only reflects what people think, not economic realities. Clearly unemployment is a problem, a big one. But I don’t think it’s the most serious. Most Americans are still employed. The bigger problem is that their pay has been flat or cut. Employers have increased employees’ contribution to health care, or they have stopped matching payments into retirement plans. For many low wage workers, employers have moved to a contingent labor model in which workers are scheduled on an as-needed basis. All of these people are working, but they feeling like they are falling behind. We know what unemployment is, and economists have a way of measuring it. What we need is a way to measure underpayment. That’s the real problem.
David Sirota of Pando has written a fascinating article outlining some funny business at PBS. One of PBS’s funders, John Arnold, has backed a series that is critically of public pensions. Is this reporting or advertorial? Sirota reports that PBS denies any conflict of interest. However, they refuse to release any documents that would verify their claim. Sirota also cites an expert who points out that grant payments could be made over time, which means that PBS needs to play ball with Arnold if they want him to pay the full grant. So much for PBS being the voice of the “liberal media.”
What really bothers me about this story is that we have in Arnold another “poor” billionaire who wants to strip working people of their retirement security. Why can’t billionaires be happy with their money and leave the little people alone? Maybe they’re chess addicts who see the working and middle class as pawns that must be sacrificed. Thanks to David Sirota and others who have reported on this story, we have the chance to see the game they are playing and understand its consequences.
Think twice before you give to PBS or NPR. They have billionaire friends and well-endowed foundations who can pay to keep the propaganda coming.
P.S. Sirota updated his story with one from the New York Times that PBS will return the $3.5 million given by Arnold’s foundation. Will they keep spreading his message? That’s the real question.
Know your worth. This statement is especially true when it comes to looking for a job. People who are worried about finding a job target positions that are is below their experience and skill level. This approach results in two problems for the worried job seeker. First, many employers will consider this type of candidate “overqualified.” Second, employers who hire candidates that are will to sell down their skills will pay them less. In the current economy, income is more of a challenge than employment. A step down will make it even harder to earn what you deserve in the future. Stepping down to get a job can be very expensive in the long run.
How can you know your worth? First, take an honest inventory of your skills. List everything that you know or can do that you think an employer needs. The next step is to test your list. Gather a good sample of ideal job posts (I’d suggest at least 8-10), and make second list of what employers are looking for. Finally, compare the two lists and align your skills with employers’ needs. Once you’ve done that, you have the profile you need to earn your maximum value. Beware of selling yourself short – the price is too high.