Career Management

Posted: February 8, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Many people feel better about the labor market and are looking for a new job.  Others went to work today only to learn that they have been laid off.  Whether you are welcoming an opportunity or wrestling with a challenge, the key is be prepared to start your job search: 

  1. Have your documents in order:  Be sure that your resume and list of references is updated and ready to send out.  Take a minute and look at your LinkedIn profile to be sure it is showing you in your best light. 
  2. Prepare a networking list:  Identify at least 20 people you can notify regarding your job search.  Don’t simply ask them to hand off your resume.  Start by letting them know what kind of job you’re seeking and ask for their advice.  If they mention a specific company or person, then ask for them to put in a good word for you (along with your resume). 
  3. Get ready to interview:  Answer this simple question:  Why should I hire you?  The better you can articulate your value to an employer, the more likely you are to get a job offer. 
  4. Start and don’t stop:  Too many people kill their job search by starting and stopping.  They don’t get a call back from the “ideal” job, so they don’t send a resume out for two weeks.  A third interview doesn’t lead to an offer, so they take a month off to get over hurt feelings.  A job search is all about steady activity.  Once you start, don’t stop until you get an offer.

Finding a new job is never easy.  However, it’s important to be ready to react when opportunity knocks or when your blindsided by unexpected bad news.

Posted: February 3, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

The job numbers for January are very good, nearly a quarter of a million jobs added in one month.  Hopefully, this news is a sign of an economy that will generate more jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.

What does this news mean for individuals?  It will motivate some dispirited people to look for work, which is a good thing.  However, finding a job is always hard work.  Rather than focus on a floating unemployment rate, follow the 100% rule: Do I have the job I want?  Am I working?  Those two simple questions are all that matters. 

You cannot control macroeconomic factors like the unemployment rate.  You can manage your career.  If you are unemployed, stay focused in your job search.  If you’re unhappy at your current job, identify what makes you happy and look for that kind of work.  If you’re happy at your current job, you have won the 100% rule game – enjoy your good fortune.

Posted: February 1, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Seth Godin challenges his readers to think about their career as a matter of difficult – but achievable – choices.  Read this great post and take its message to heart.

Posted: January 21, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

A client told me an interesting story today.  Her company reorganized departments, and she got a new boss who decided to put a manager over my client who had no experience in her field and limited skills.  He was taking care of a friend who lost a job.  My client did something that was brave.  She went to HR and protested.  HR set up a meeting between her and her new boss’s boss.  She stated her case clearly and professionally, no threats or accusations.  Her boss notified her in writing that the new employee would not be her supervisor.  She took a chance and won.

This is a good story, but a rare one.  Most companies don’t give employees an opportunity to protest unfair practices.  In many companies, HR is seen as a means for the employer to control employees, not to listen to them.  Not all companies follow this model.  My client and her company are doing the right thing, treating each other with respect and listening to grievances.  May more companies follow this model of mature employee relations.

Posted: December 26, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

One of my clients is pursuing a major promotion in his company.  He told me that one of the forces motivating him was advice he had gotten from a senior manager: “Don’t limit yourself.”

What does this advice mean?  It means that a real professional always does more than a job requires.  She stays late and motivates others by her example.  It also requires ambition and the ability to take professional risks.  A person can apply for a promotion and not get it.  Or she could get the position and not be able to handle the responsibility.  However, if she doesn’t take the chance, she’ll never know how high she can reach.  In the words of my client’s mentor, she will be limiting herself.

Don’t limit yourself.  Take on extra responsibilities, and, when the time comes, look to climb the ladder.  If your current employer won’t give you a change to move up, that’s a good reason to look for a new job.

Posted: December 4, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, this blog looks at intersections of work and life in “Sabbath.”]

Mis-judging a Book by Its Cover

A few years ago I was in a bookstore browsing titles in the career section when I first saw The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.  I found the title over the top, too cheeky.  To make matters worse, the book was designed as a graphic novel, a sure marketing gimmick.  I put the book back on the shelf and forgot about it. 

Later I read a great book about motivation, Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pink contrasts traditional theories of motivation which focused on extrinsic factors such as rewards with intrinsic motivation or what is more commonly called self-motivation.  Pink argued that great work could only come from a person who was willing to put in the time and sacrifice to do it.  I was so impressed by Drive that I looked up other titles by the author.  To my surprise, Daniel Pink wrote Johnny Bunko, which made me give the book a second chance.

Pink gives his readers great career advice.  He lays out six principles that everyone should follow (I won’t repeat them because you really should buy this book – or borrow it from a library.).  What made the book come alive for me was the narrative and the drawings, the very things I initially dismissed about it.  Pink creates real characters who make the same mistakes I have made in my career, the same mistakes many of my clients have made in their careers. 

Johnny like many people today, especially young professionals just out of college, is not happy in his career.  Through the help of a spirit named Diana, he discovers the secrets of career management.  His path is not easy.  Pink shows Johnny and his co-workers making mistakes and learning the wrong lessons.  Diana mentors them while dishing out funny bits of sarcasm.

Johnny Bunko is a great complement to the classic What Color is Your ParachuteBoth books are built around the premise that we can be happy at work if we make the effort to find the right kind of job, one that fits our strengths and gifts.  Parachute is more of a classic, how-to career guide.  It offers exercises and detailed explanations of its strategies.  Johnny Bunko takes a different approach.  It teaches by example and by making the reader laugh (though there is some humor in Parachute as well).  It holds up a mirror and lets us see ourselves in the characters. 

I made a mistake the first time I rejected this book.  Anyone who is looking for a new job or questioning his or her career path should read it. Don’t be put off by the title.  That was my mistake, judging a book by its cover.

Posted: November 16, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The great English writer and scientist Francis Bacon wrote: “All rising to great places is by a winding stair.”

Success seldom follow a straight or easy path.  Remember Bacon’s words whenever you face an obstacle.

Posted: October 7, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The 16th President of the U.S. spoke these words:

“Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well.  With the former, his heart is in his work; and he will do twice as much of it with less fatigue.  The latter performs a little imperfectly, looks at it in disgust, turns from it, and imagines himself exceedingly tired.  The little he has done, comes to nothing, for want of finishing.”

Lincoln speaks the truth.  Do what you love, and it won’t be work.  You will be proud of what you produce.  That’s a great job.

Posted: June 17, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I met a client today who has worked for the same company since he graduated from college 12 years ago.  Over that time, he has been promoted five times.  He has also built up retirement plan and vacation time.  How did he find this good job?  He looked in the Sunday paper – today that would mean looking at a job posting on a Monster or CareerBuilder.

Some experts downplay answering ads.  They say the only way to find a good job is networking.  I agree that networking is very important and should be the first priority.  But many people find jobs by answering what we used to call “help wanted” ads. Others were hired through temp-to-perm jobs.  A few even find jobs by posting their resumes online, a method that I think should be a last option because it is the least effective way of finding a job. 

When you’re looking for a new job, use all the tools that are available to you.  When one approach feels like a dead end, try something new.  The key is to stay active.  Keep looking for new ways to meet employers until one of them makes an offer.

Posted: June 13, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I am a big fan of the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. . . and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson. It provides common sense tools to help us deal with life’s small and large challenges.  One of Carlson’s lessons is: “If someone throws you the ball, you don’t have to catch it.”

Put another way, you can choose not to play the game.  One example of this is when people push your buttons and try to make you angry.  A less malicious but equally bad situation occurs when parents, friends, or neighbors give career advice that goes against a person’s gifts and interests.  Usually this involves recommending that someone look for work where “all the jobs are”: sales, administrative reports, and health care.  The motive behind the advice is good: the desire for a loved one to find work.  The problem is that the person getting this advice has a different vision for her career.  Too often people follow advice to take the “easy” path and end up in a job they hate, one they often lose quickly. 

What’s the solution?  Find and follow your path.  Don’t catch the ball.