Albert Einstein's genius extended in many directions, including how to write. Einstein gave this advice: "If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to to the tailor."
In my writing, I try to use language that is plain and direct. Too often, I read resumes that are cluttered with details that are not relevant to hiring managers. In many cases, clients use jargon that will only be understood by their current employer, the job they want to leave. How can you avoid this problem? Read what you write through the eyes of you intended audience. For resumes, that means recruiters and hiring managers. Use language that speaks to what they need and understand. Simple and clear wins the day.
I was reading a local publication in which a job coach was giving people advice on when and how to use employer resources during a job search. My approach is different: Never use an employer-owned computer, tablet, or phone as part of your job search. In many states, including Illinois, an employer can fire you if it learns that you're looking for another job. Does that every happen? Rarely -- but it can happen. More likely, an employer who knows that you're looking for work would make your life miserable and try to make you quit.
What's the solution? Never use an employee-owned device for you job search. Purchase a computer and phone that you can use for private matters. Another reason to do this is ethical. Put yourself in the employer's place: How would you feel if an employee were using your devises and paying for service that lets you look for another employer? A final thing to think about, if you were terminated without notice, what would you do to keep your job search going. You'd have to buy a phone and computer. Start by doing that, and you'll have no worries about what your employer will do.
One of my clients called me to ask about her job search. Mary (not her real name) has not looked for work for more than 10 years. One source of her frustration was the time it took to fill out applications on line. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts if you wish to apply on line. I talked to Mary about budgeting her time and not trying to do too much in one day.
Mary was also doing something that hurt her chances of getting hired. I asked her to give me a sample of the jobs she was applying for. 70% were in line with the focus of her resume, which was administrative support. The problem was that 30% were for positions that Mary was not qualified for. She has done some work in meeting planning and editing, but neither of those functions has been her primary duty. When she applies for jobs in those areas, she wasting her time and increasing the frustration that is part of every job search.
We talked about how to keep her job search focused on the kinds of job for which she is most qualified. It’s hard enough to find a job. It gets much more difficult when we begin pitching resumes and applications at any job. After Mary focused her job search, she began getting called to interviews. After about a month, she had a new job.
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.
When I’ve encountered a client who is stuck in her job search, the problem is almost always that she is stuck in the past. Rather than focusing on the future, such people frequently fixate on why they were let go from a job. For others, they are still employed at a bad job. They say they want something new, but do little to make it happen. Instead, they waste their time reliving what went wrong, imagining a world that will never be.
In a recent article in Psychology Today, Peg O’Connor, a professor of philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, points to two words that kill our progress: “If only.” When we use those words, we’re getting lost in regrets rather than looking forward and working to make things better. O’Connor does say that some people can use this word to change their behaviors. However, for most people, “if only” is a waste of time and energy. It’s a much better strategy to set a goal for where you want to be and work hard to achieve that goal. As Satchel Paige put it, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”
Yesterday’s Redeye (Chicago Tribune) featured an interesting article on the growing time between first interviews and the time a job offer is made. In 2010 the average time for the interviewing process was 13 days. Now, according to research by Glassdoor.com, the average time is now 23 days. A client who is senior HR manager told me that this process is a good thing for both companies and applicants because more time is being taken to match the right candidate to the right job. She said companies lose millions when new hires wash out in the first 90 days.
That may be true. However, from the job seeker’s prospective, this increased waiting time sounds maddening. Part of the job search now means being more patient once the interviewing process begins. It also means that while you are interviewing you need to continue looking for other jobs. Just as a company focuses on its needs in evaluating and selecting candidates, job seekers need to give themselves every advantage and opportunity. Don’t wait for an answer that you might not want to hear. Keep applying for jobs and networking. You can always tell employers that you’ve accept a position. It will feel good.
A client called today to tell me she'll be leaving a job after less than six months. She was very anxious about how this would look on her resume. For some employers, a short term job will be a very large red flag. I told her to be prepared to talk about her reasons for leaving a job after less than a year. I also recommended that she always remind potential employers that she had been at her previous position for more than ten years with a strong record of achievement. If an employer has a closed mind, no explanation will be sufficient. Most employers, I think, will be more open minded. If my client can focus on her strengths and what she will bring to the new employer, a short term job will not be deal breaker.
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.
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.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 321,000 new jobs were added in November, and it revised hiring figures for recent months to reflect increased job growth. According to Daily Kos, there are still many Americans who are out of work or only able to find part-time jobs. That’s the downside. The upside is that job growth is starting to lead to higher wages. If this trend continues, that will be the real game changer. While hiring has increased the last two years, salary has not been increasing. If you’ve been stuck at a job that has been giving you small raises or no raises, it’s time to start looking for a new job.
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