Blog Archive - August 2015
Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste."
Too often job seekers are in a hurry to make things happen. They want to write their resume in one day. They want to receive a job offer after one interview. They accept the first job that is offered to them. Listen to Wise Old Ben. Take the time to get things right. This doesn't mean taking forever, or using "getting it right" as an excuse for doing nothing. Have a plan and a schedule. In most cases, this means a few days, not weeks or months. Review what you have done, and ask for opinions from people you trust. It's good to have a sense of urgency, but career management is all about making strategic decisions that will affect the rest of your life. Take some time to make those decisions.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that the National Labor Relations Board is holding large fast food companies responsible as “joint employers” with franchise owners. This news is major. Employees will have more power to unionize and bring claims against global corporations who have denied responsibility for working conditions. Hopefully this is one more step toward giving more rights to hard working people who are paid too little.
Recently, I met with Jake (not his real name), a mid-career sales professional, who said he wanted a basic resume. Jake told me, “The facts speak for themselves.” It’s not that simple.
I want to be honest in representing clients, but it’s important to do so in a way that highlights each individual’s qualifications and strengths. The resume also needs to show qualifications for the job you are applying for. Too often, clients have given me resumes that are very detailed – very factual – about jobs they want to leave behind. A good resume will demonstrate what you can do for your next employer, not the last one.
I worked with Jake, and together we produced a strong document that will speak to the kind of employers he wants to work for. Because we’ve called out some of his strongest selling points, we’ve taken the facts and made them show Jake’s value over other applicants. If you can do that, the phone will ring.
I admire former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’ ability to take complex ideas and present them in language that should be accessible to most working people. Citing the coming of Labor Day, Reich reflects on the “shared” or “on call” work models that are becoming more and more popular as ways to staff and manage employees. He cites studies that say 40% of Americans can be working under such conditions over the next five years.
From the employer’s standpoint, this model makes sense. Why pay people to work when they are not needed? The problem with this business model, as Reich points out, is that it gives the loyal no security. They don’t know when or how they will earn their next dollar. The worst part of such a work schedule is that it leaves works panicked about their future. We need to respect labor and have laws that limit employers’ ability to offer “uncertain” work.
I was helping a client prepare for an interview recently. Her biggest worry was that she gets so nervous during interviews that she has problems engaging employers. Sometimes her nerves are so bad that they hurt her ability to understand and answer questions. This client has great experience and education. None of that helped her.
I asked what she was thinking about that made her so nervous. She said, “I just want the job so badly, and I’m afraid that they won’t hire me.” At that point, I showed her a different way to play the interview game. Start with your strengths. If you know what makes you a valuable employee, you will have something positive to tell the employer, a way to sell what the employer needs. Most importantly, I practiced interviewing with my client so she understood that she has power in the interview process. She now knows how to ask questions, negotiate salary, and turn down a bad offer.
Interviewing for a new job, especially one that you want, will always bring some feelings of nervousness and anxiety. The challenge is to control them. The best way to do that is to know your strengths and demonstrate how they will help a prospective employer. You feel better during interviews, and you’ll be more likely to get the offer.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently wrote an editorial that contrasts the few workers who get good benefits and the rest who are “replaceable.” Reich notes that Netflix and some other large companies are offering better work-life balance to their employees. However, these employees are considered “talent,” people who are hard to replace. Reich says this about the rest: “Employees treat replaceable workers as costs to be cut, not as assets to be developed.” Rather than work-life balance, these people endure what Reich calls “work as life.”
Reich is not referring to low wage workers. Instead, citing a recent story in the New York Times, he is talking about Amazon and similar companies that ask employees to give up family and personal interests in the name of professional advancement. He notes that Sheryl Sandberg can advise young women to “lean in” because it makes sense from her privileged status as an executive. Some do enjoy good benefits. For most workers – even some with high incomes – the workplace generates stress and anxiety, offering little chance to live a balanced life. Once again, Reich helps us look beyond the headlines and ask critical questions about how we can manager our careers and our lives.
Of course, things could be even worse. Jan Mickelson, an Iowa talk show host, has suggested that any undocumented worker who does not leave the U.S. should become “property of the state of Iowa.” He adds that these people would be an “asset.” Was Mickelson joking? If so, the joke was vulgar. It further shows how some Americans have no respect for hard work and the people who do it. Work should be paid, not as Mickelson puts it, “compelled.”
A mother called me regarding help for her son who graduated from college in June. She asked if I was a recruiter and could find a job for her son. I explained what I do as a resume writer and career coach. Then I cautioned her that few recruiters place new college graduates. Those who do usually recruit on campus before graduation. The mother then told me that she and her son wanted to find a recruiter because that would be the easiest way for him to find work.
I’m sure this mother loves her son, but she’s doing two things that are not helping him. First, she’s pushing him to follow a passive job search. That path doesn’t work for most people. It’s especially hard for new grads. Worse still, she’s the one making the calls and trying to find a job for him. That’s his responsibility. What she is doing may be an act of love, but it is one that will hurt her son’s career. He needs to do the heavy lifting and take charge of his future.
Martin Luther King is a great model for anyone who wants to change careers. King was a minister and could have stayed in his church. He would have done good work and helped many people. However, he had a higher calling. The minister became a champion for civil rights, and he changed history.
King's own words are invaluable for anyone looking to change careers or make any major change in life: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
I changed careers when I turned 40. That was 14 years ago. There were plenty of starts and stops, interviews that felt like a waste of time. Finally I found a place to start my new career. Several of my clients have had similar experiences. As Dr. King said, "faith" is the key. If we believe in ourselves, we'll see the "whole staircase" and find our new path.
I have a client who is very anxious to leave his current job. He works 60 hours a week and is grossly underpaid. He called me this week to discuss his job search. His problem is not uncommon: How can I find time to look for work?
In addition to his professional duties, my client and his wife have three young children. When he’s not working, he’s often driving a child to some sporting event or a sleep over. He also helps his wife with upkeep of the house, cleaning and cooking. He feels trapped and sees no way out.
I worked with him to set up a schedule for his job search. It’s not set in stone from day to day or week to week, but the target is to devote 10-15 hours each week to finding a new job. Some weeks he many only put 5 hours toward his goal. Other weeks, it might be 20 or even 25 hours. We also set a goal of 5-10 significant actions per week. This means applying for jobs, networking calls, or networking at industry events.
In most cases, the job won’t find you. It takes time, effort, and patience to make the transition, especially if you’re going to find the kind of job you really want. Hold yourself accountable. Track your time and what you are doing. If you are consistent and focused in your job search, your chances of landing the kind of job you want are very good. The first step is to manage your time and make it work for you.
Few people changed American popular culture more than Walt Disney. From Mickey Mouse to his theme parks, Disney could be said to be as creative in his field as Steve Jobs was in his. What was the secret to his success? Disney himself might have captured it best in these words:
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
Disney's words should be taken seriously by anyone looking for a new job or trying to change careers. It's important to make plans before we act. However, too often making plans becomes a substitution for doing something. If you want to make a change, follow Disney's advice -- "begin doing."