Blog Archive - January 2015
Where’s the best place to look for a career? Technology. According to an article in Bloomberg, six of the top ten industries that hire career changers involve technology. As the article notes, these companies are not just looking for employees with technical skills. They need employees with a wide range of skill sets. The trick in a career change is to identify and leverage your transferable skills. For example, negotiation is a skill that can be used in sales, purchasing, and management. It will be used differently in each job function, but the skill will transfer from profession to profession. In some cases, a career changer will need to go back to school for a new degree or certificate. More often, if you can align your transferable skills and experience with an employer’s needs, you can make a career transition. With the unemployment rate going down, now is a great time to make a change.
Huffington Post has published a list of 25 best jobs. Such lists are always subjective. They also reflect a group of people, not one person in his or her job. I think a good job is one where you are doing the right thing in the right place with the right people. If you are happy at work, you have a great job.
Albert Schweitzer wrote: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."
If you feel unsuccessful in your career, it's time to start thinking about what kind of work would make you happy. Some career coaches recommend finding your "passion." For many job seekers or career changers, that search leads to a dead end. Passion is often hard to define. I recommend that clients focus on discovering their gifts. Think about gifts as skills and knowledge you use on the job that you enjoy. If you want to be happy and successful, find a job that lets you use your gifts.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos reports that workers in Virginia have sued a franchisee of McDonald’s, alleging sexual harassment and racially based firings. While the problem is with a franchise owner, the employees appealed to McDonald’s, which did nothing to help them.
I’m not a hater of McDonald’s. I do want the company to pay higher wages, but this case underscores the problem with franchise models. A major company’s brand can be smeared by a local owner who doesn’t follow policies. If McDonald’s wants to turn around its sales and reputation, it needs to spend less time on commercials about love and focus on treating its customers and employees better. If a franchise owner treats employees poorly, the corporation needs to step in and set thing right. We will love McDonald’s if it does the right thing.
One of my clients is making a career change. He was a senior manager, but is now looking for a lower pressure role. We were practicing interviewing skills, and he talked about problem solving, leadership, and communication skills. The problem was that he never gave any idea about how he would use those skills in the job he was applying for. I recommended that he take about ten note-cards, put a soft skill on top of each one, and then list 3-5 examples of how he used those skills. After that, he should practice telling stories without worrying about saying the same thing each time. Good interview answers should be clear and concise. They also need to be substantial if you want potential employers to recognize that you can do the job.
I saw Ana DuVarney’s film Selma last night. It is a powerful, wonderful depiction of an ugly era of American history and the heroes that fought against injustice. While Martin Luther King is central to the story, DuVarney includes a wide cast of characters that stretch from the historically famous to people with names long forgotten. She also shows King as an imperfect man who still deserves our deepest admiration. The violence depicted made me wince at points, but that is necessary to make us remember what injustice and cruelty African Americans suffered for generations – and still face too often. There is a great debate over Oscar snubs for the director and lead actor. I’ve seen several of the nominated films and agree with those who ask why this great film did not receive more recognition. Some critics charge that it is racism and point to Oscar evaluators who are predominantly white, old, and male. That may be true. But, as King showed us, good can often grow out of bad. Hopefully the controversy will motivated more people to see this film. I also hope that Selma will be shown in schools for generations to come. Ana DuVarney has given us history – complex and powerful.
Tomorrow is the day the nation honors Martin Luther King. It will be a great day to reflect on what has changed and what hasn’t
When I ask clients to name their strengths, they often point to broad qualities or skill sets, such as, leadership, communication skills, and flexibility. Too often that’s where they stop. The trick to good personal branding, networking, interviewing, and resume writing is to take this kind of strength and project it to the different audiences you interact with. For example, a senior sales professional and an office manager both need good communication skills, but they are different. Sales representatives present, negotiate, and train to sell. Office managers negotiate to buy products and train employees in job skills. They might also lead meetings. Whenever you are promoting yourself as a professional, think about the person or group you are addressing. What do they need to know about you? What is their biggest concern? Give them what they need to know, and they will give you the kind of respect that opens doors.
While this month’s employment report again showed more jobs being created and a falling unemployment rate, wages dropped. According to past trends, wages should go up as labor becomes scarcer and companies want to retain productive employees. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich analyzes this situation in a recent blog post. Reich points to factors that can hold wages down even as unemployment shrinks. Two main culprits are the global economy and automation. Companies can offshore cheaper labor, and they can find new ways to let technology replace humans. Reich scoffs at those who call these factors “efficiency.” Reich concludes by blaming both large corporations and Wall Street for holding down wages. I’d agree with him and add one more culprit: spineless politicians who serve Wall Street and large corporations. Nothing will change until our politicians and laws provide some protection for American workers. Or, to put it another way, nothing will change until American voters elected politicians who represent the interests of working people.
Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
This quotation made me think about the advice I give as a career coach. Knowledge is vital. As job seekers, we need to know our skills and strengths, our industries, and potential employers? But, to play with the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld: "How do we know what we don't know?" That's where imagination comes in. When we're stuck and don't know what else to do, that's a good time to start thinking about new ideas, time to get creative. Imagination lets us find new ways to approach employers, find job openings, and network more effectively.
Here's a simple way to engage your imaginative power. Take a blank page, give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time, and write down all the new ideas that come to your head. Don't worry about how the ideas sound or if you are using correct grammar. No one will see this page but you. Repeat this exercise whenever you get stuck. Sometimes you might end up with a blank page. That's part of the process, and you should not worry about it. If you let your mind wander and discover, it will lead you to new paths. That's how geniuses like Albert Einstein achieved wonders that no one had imagined before.
Nothing hurts worse than being rejected, and it happens all the time during a job search. Nicolle Pelletiere of Good Morning America reports on Amanda Mester, a job seeker who edited a poorly written rejection letter and sent it back to the employer. Mester says that she wanted the company to follow proper grammar rules. She also posted her message on Twitter, where some commentators said she was jeopardizing her career. I wouldn’t go that far. Some employers might see this action as an indicator of a bad attitude. Others might see it as a sign of an employee with good communications skills, attention to detail, and a sense of humor.
My problem with what Mester did is that she is looking backward. Her response to the company and tweet did nothing to move her career forward. I advise clients to give rejection letters the time they are worth: none. Getting hired is a numbers game. It takes time, positive energy, and much patience. Use your time to network and apply for new opportunities. Look back only to look forward.