Category Archives: Job Search Research

Are You Selling What They Want?

Are you selling a product that an employer will want to buy, and do you have enough of what that employer wants?

Allow me to switch gears here.

Have you ever been to a major-league baseball game? If you have, did you ever notice those people inside the ballpark who carry those trays in front of them with all sorts of food and snacks to sell? (We often refer to them as ballpark vendors.)

I’ll bet you’re wondering why I would be writing about ballpark vendors in a blog that is to be read by job-seekers, especially when it’s October and the regular major-league baseball season is over.

Here is my analogy. You, the job-seeker, are a ballpark vendor, and your target employers are the fans at the major-league baseball game.

Vendor_02

There are some differences here. First, ballpark vendors usually will have only one or two different items in their tray, while a job-seeker can have many skills that he is trying to “sell” to a potential employer. Second, on any given day, a vendor’s “target market”, can number well into the hundreds, or even the thousands. I doubt that most job-seekers have a list of “specific” target companies that is more than one or two hundred. Third, we job-seekers research companies before putting them on our list of target companies. The ballpark vendor does not have to do this; to him, you become part of his potential target market just by showing up at the ballpark. Fourth, when researching potential target companies, we job-seekers attend various networking meetings and use our networks to find out information about those companies. Ballpark vendors simply yell out what it is that they’re selling, and leave it up to you, the prospective buyer, to decide if you want to buy that item.

Finally, when a vendor runs out of an item, that person simply goes and gets more of that item. On the other hand, we job-seekers have to learn new skills that potential employers may be looking for.

Let’s go back to the items being sold. The ballpark vendor is simply trying to sell something which can be consumed. You, the job-seeker, are trying to sell your “skills”. If the potential employer does not need someone with your skills, you are not going to be able to sell anything to that employer, just like the vendor will not be able to sell a customer anything to drink if that customer is not thirsty.

If that same employer is looking for someone with a skill that you have, but wants someone who is “more experienced” with that skill than you are, or who has other skills that you don’t have, you also will not be able to “sell” to that employer. A ballpark vendor will not be able to sell one-half of a hotdog to someone who wants a whole hotdog.

So, if your skills stack up very well to those jobs that you are trying to get, then you have something to sell to your target companies. Go out and network to try to get into those companies. If not, you have two options. Add to your skill set, or change your career direction.

Now, do you have enough of the skills that your target employers want?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

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High-lighting the Important Information

These days it is inevitable that job-seekers, like everyone else, will spend time looking at web pages. Web pages, like the other things we read, can be informative. Unlike most other things that we read on paper, web pages can also be very colorful in the way that information can be displayed, or high-lighted.

But remember, the information the author thinks is important, as well as the way that information is displayed, may be different than what the reader thinks is important. How that important information is displayed in the text, no matter what that text is on, might not be perceived as important by the reader.

Here is an example:

An instruction manual for one of my recent projects used black text on a gray background to emphasize something important. Since it also used black text on a gray background for titles and sub-headings, I gave it about as much importance as one gives a footnote in a novel or history book. In other words, I did not give it much attention at all. Big mistake! Fortunately I caught this mistake soon enough, and was able to correct the installation within a couple of days, at a cost of about 6.5 hours.

How do you determine which information is important, and which information is not important, when you read text books, installation manuals, job postings, or web pages?

Do you simply go by how differently (either in bold or in italics) the information is displayed on the page? Or does something in a larger (or smaller) font size, or a different color, catch your eyes?

One of the things I like about reading the blog posts on this website is that the color of the text is black, and the background color is in white. The only color variations are the titles, which appear to be in the “teal” color, (and larger, too) and the pictures.

I have to admit to being “old-fashioned”, having learned to read books whose printed text was black on white, and also, somewhat visually challenged, wearing trifocals. The glasses help, but I still have to make frequent use of the “ctrl” & “plus” key combination in order to make the text large enough, even when I read text on any website. However, I am not to the point where I have to ask for the large-print bulletin at church.

Have you noticed that some web pages display text in print that is hard to read because it is too small?

I’m not sure if this is because they are trying to put as much text as possible on the web page so that you don’t have to scroll down much in order to read the entire page, or, if it is because they don’t want you to read those items that they feel obligated to put on the page (also known as a disclaimer, or “the fine print”).

When I first started using the internet, I naively thought that from that time on small print would only be found in the classified ad sections of newspapers, and in legal documents. Unfortunately, that is not true.

So, again, how do you determine which information is more important, and which information is not important, on each of the various items that you read?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Different problems, different people, different solutions

This past weekend, two of our appliances broke down. They were our lawn mower, and our gas grill. Two different people, myself, and my wife, had to make “spur of the moment” decisions on how to proceed with our different tasks. No, my wife was not attempting to mow our lawn; that is my job. Needless to say, her task was to cook two steaks, which she had hoped to use our grill for.

 

She had opened the valve to the propane gas tank, and was attempting to ignite the burner when she noticed a flame coming up along the outside of the front of the grill. She quickly closed the valve to the propane tank, which extinguished the flame, but not before it melted one of the two ignition knobs.

 

The immediate solution to her problem, that is, cooking two steaks, was simple; turn off the gas, take the steaks inside, cook them on our stove, and then tell me what had just happened.

 

The immediate solution to my problem was more complicated.

 

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The problem with the lawn mower was that the lower handle broke while I was actually mowing the lawn. The handle broke where it is connected to the upper handle, making it necessary to try to apply a quick fix so that I could complete the job. My first attempt, “plan A” if you will, was to cut the neck off of an empty plastic bottle, slip it onto the two parts of the broken handle, and clamp that assembly to the end of the upper handle. It fell off after about 3 feet of mowing. For my “plan B”, I used duck tape (remember the MacGyver television series?) instead of the clamp. That tape held up for most of the rest of the job, so my “plan C” was to put a thick, heavy glove on my hand, and physically hold those parts together while I mowed the last 20 feet of the lawn.

 

There were two different appliances, two different problems, and two different people, each with their own unique way to solve an immediate problem in order to complete a job.

 

In a way, both job-searching and networking are similar to the situations I just described. The tactic that works for those job-seekers who are in one line of work, say healthcare, might not work for those who are looking for a job in construction. This can also apply to those looking for jobs within the same line of work, because some may have more current skills than others.

 

Even though the long-range solution of a job search is to get employed, there is no “magic tactic” that will get you your next job. If there was, every job-seeker would be using it, and eventually, it would get overused, and job-seekers would have to start looking for another “magic tactic.”

 

Just like in a job-search, the long-range solutions for my two appliances both involve one thing: replacement. But that is the only similarity. The gas grill will be replaced, and maybe by one which uses charcoal. On the other hand, the replacement part for the lawn mower has been ordered, and should arrive next week.

 

So, for our two different problems, we have, again, and two different solutions.

 

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

A Subjective, Conditional Experience

Who knew when finally settled into a career trajectory that some decisions would have to be revisited?  If the original trajectory came about by happenstance or coincidence, as is certainly true for many of us, then a restart can be extra challenging.

 

What are the concrete, objective truths in job search?

 

First you need a new job, one that will pay enough to cover your current obligations and hopefully leave something to allow for new ones.  But from there it gets highly subjective – a new job on the familiar trajectory (same title, different company), or go in a different direction?  How to go about looking?  And so on.

 

You need to create a resume.  Dig in and it again becomes subjective – chronological or functional format?  How far to go back?  Dates or no dates?  LinkedIn profile?  How about a picture?  And so on.

busy office

Each person that you talk to assures you that they are sharing the absolute truth.  I could list off what I like to see when I am reading resumes.  I could tell you what I think has been successful for me.  But so can everyone else, and many answers will exactly contradict a previous one.

 

Some offer professional advice.  They have found a job through the sheer volume of job seekers.  What are their qualifications?  Do they have a list of references?  This area is fraught with fraud, unfortunately.

 

But the truth is complicated and highly individualized.  What turns out to be your truth can be just the wrong thing for someone else.  And the opposite as well.  Job search is a subjective and highly conditional experience.  Which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep your eyes and ears open for some nugget of useful information.  It does mean that you will have to develop your own vetting process for all that information, all that truth from others.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Mistakes

It might have been a mistake for me to spend some of my time Monday fixing the lower part of a gutter downspout that had decided to separate itself from the rest of the downspout, and our house. After all, when we are looking for a job, since that is our job, we really shouldn’t be doing things like this on a weekday.

 

Perhaps the mistake was when I searched 4 local stores, between Saturday and Monday, looking for a replacement part which matched the size and color of the part I was trying to replace (none of the stores had any).

 

Or maybe the mistake was when I checked the local weather report on Monday to find a 30% chance of rain for Tuesday, and decided to reattach that bottom piece in order to avoid the consequences of not having completed the repair job in time.

 

Normally, making repairs like the one described above is something that gets done on a weekend. The reason this did not happen has nothing to do with the fact that this past Sunday was Father’s Day. Choosing to delay this repair for a day or so may have been nothing more than an error in judgment on my part. Or maybe I was hoping to be able to put it off until next weekend.

 

We all make mistakes in our daily lives, and the job search is no exception. The mistakes mentioned above really are nothing more than judgment calls. When we make these judgment calls, and they turn out wrong, it’s not like we’ve broken some law, such as missing a stop sign or driving through a red light. The only penalty here is missing out on some opportunity; it is not the end of the world.

 

Sometimes, the bigger mistake just might be to not do anything. In that case, something needs to be done. One response to certain mistakes might be to choose a separate course of action, for others, just improvise.

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And don’t forget, sometimes the other guy makes mistakes. I witnessed this in a job interview I had a long time ago, where both the Human Resources Recruiter and the Manager that I interviewed with completely misread the qualifications I listed in my resume. I went through with that interview, because I wanted the practice, but the interview was only about 15 minutes long. Their penalty; who knows? My penalty that day might be called a penalty in reverse (I didn’t have to work for them).

 

The stores’ penalty was that they did not get to sell me something on that day; there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, stores are run by human beings. And one of the items in the job description of a human being is to “make mistakes”.

 

Mistakes are here to stay. You are going to be making errors in judgment sometime. When that happens, simply learn from these errors. You will be better off because of those experiences.

 

Oh, and by the way, there was no rain Tuesday. It came on Wednesday. So whoever created that weather forecast, they also made a mistake.

Dave Vandermey is a Web Developer

On the Social War Front – Employer Reviews

By Cynthia Simmons

Recently I had a concern about an agency… Something that I was told was “The Plan” suddenly changed.  I felt very disappointed. And while I was feeling disappointed, I considered the whole process I had gone through and my relationship with them. These days, reputations and expectations are built up very quickly. And may also disappear quickly. When I first decided to sign up with them, I went to Google and found worker reviews on Yelp. The reviews were very positive, even glowing, for my area of the country. I looked at the agency website and I liked what I saw.

But recently, as part of my re-evaluation, I decided to go to the website GlassDoor.com to check the employer reviews. What I saw was interesting. The agency was rated highly by the reviewers (current or past employees) when averaged out.  But I did note that most of the positive reviews came from current employees.

Expedia - screen shot (05-05-2014) crop

That caused me to write this blog post, because I asked myself whether the data  was skewed. Was this a covert PR campaign, and had the agency seen a few bad reviews and decided to raise the overall ratings by having current staff post very positive reviews? Probably.

In the past, I had trusted the Glass Door website because when I was employed by another company I had read those company reviews, and they seemed very truthful. They mirrored what I had seen of that particular corporate culture and events over the ten years while I was employed there. But now, I read the employer reviews asking more questions and looking for patterns.

Anonymous - Employee Reviews (05-05-2014)

The Glass Door website has three other sections: job listings, salaries, and comments on the interview process. I still highly recommend this website overall.

 

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

When It’s Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer

(I first wrote a version of this post on my original personal blog: Practical Business: When Its Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer)

 

You know that you are supposed to research the company before the interview.  You know that you should ask questions.  But for the life of you, you really aren’t sure what to ask because your main question is ‘When can I start?’.  Hopefully this list gives you some good ideas of your own because it is always a pet peeve of mine as a hiring manager when a promising candidate doesn’t have any questions for us at that stage of the interview.

 

So here’s my argument to convince you that it is wise to ask questions – you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you.  Questions on your part prove that you have thought beyond getting a job, any job, to getting the right job and can picture yourself working at the company.  Picture yourself becoming a successful member of their team.

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I have put together these questions from various sources, including some that I have been asked by candidates.

 

Questions to ask at the first interview:

  1.        Is this a new position, or would I be replacing someone?
  2.        Where does this position fit into the company’s structure?
  3.        What is your time frame to fill this position?

What are you looking for in the answers to these questions?  You will start to find out about the company culture and with the last one you can start to build a framework for follow up.

 

Questions to ask during the interview with the hiring manager, pick a handful that apply to your situation:

  1.        What are the qualities of your ideal candidate?
  2.        (If you found out that you are replacing someone in the first interview) What differences/similarities are you looking for in comparison to the previous person?
  3.        What is a typical day like?
  4.        What are the biggest challenges facing this department?
  5.        What are the best qualities of this department?
  6.        How much interdepartmental interaction is there with this position?
  7.        What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
  8.        What are the common attributes of your top performers?
  9.        What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
  10.    How is performance measured in this organization?

These questions continue in your quest to understand the company culture and how it impacts the department where you would be working.  You can start to formulate a picture for yourself whether this culture will suit your ideal environment for your success.

 

Question to finish up:

  1.        Are there any areas where I haven’t given you enough information?

 

If this helps you to come up with any questions of your own, I would love to know what they are.  Or if you have a favorite question that you like to ask that I haven’t covered here, please share.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

“Maybe?” — Another Way to Consider Job Descriptions

By Cynthia Simmons

Perhaps I should start this blog post by saying what I do professionally: I’m a content professional. I write, edit, research, acquire, and assemble content. To produce information that is clearly structured, consistently treated, and predictable. Predictable means the reader can easily access, find, and understand the information.

 

As I look at job descriptions online, I make copies of ones I like. Some I mark as “Apply.” Others I mark as “Almost.”

But more light-hearted for me are the jobs that I put in my “Maybe” folder. They are jobs that call to my heart, but which are impossible because… I don’t have degrees in archeology, art history, chemistry, or….

You know, the paths not taken somewhere in my past. The decision points for those was long ago. My degrees and professional certificates are in other fields.

But if I could go back in time, would I have made some decisions differently? Maybe. Probably.

(For those of you who are now frowning, let me state that when someone tells me, “That’s history, get over it!” I say back, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!” And I am in very good company.1)

So instead of being grumpy or regretful, I cherish things that I am not but which I can imagine being. Instead of scolding and telling myself that I am wasting my time to stop and read, I save a copy in my “Maybe” folder and later I can look again. To see what it was that called to me. And to still keep on schedule with my goals for the day.

My recent “Maybe’s” included job descriptions for a digital catalogue designer at an art institute and an architect/epigraphic artist taking photographs and making precise line drawings of tombs at Luxor, Egypt.

For me, it’s about balance. There is work to be done, a job to be found, and all of the related, surrounding, and sometimes congruent tasks. But there is also the noting of things to be dreamed about, later.

  1. Some notable references to repeating history may be found at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/doomed-to-repeat-it

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

Informational Interviews and Job Search

Every job search is a highly personal experience.  One unifying aspect is the opportunity to learn, and there is plenty to learn about while seeking gainful employment.  Where-o-where to start?  Deciding on your main direction is a good broad stroke start.

 

Is there plenty of opportunity in your industry and within your job title?  Does this area still have meaning for you?

Capture

One of the methods that you can use to explore new companies in your same industry or possible new industries is the informational interview.  We’ve all heard plenty about the job interview – an important step to an actual, potential job but informational interviews aren’t as well known.  Yet they can be very useful.

 

Think it would be great to work for a particular company?  Well, maybe someone you know can put you in touch with someone who currently works there who would be willing to answer questions that you have about the company.

 

Think that you might be able to transition to a new job title?  What better way to find out more about the requirements than to have an informational interview with someone who already holds the title?

 

The main difference between a job interview and an informational interview is that you are not going to talk about a specific job, or even ask for a job – you are gathering information to help you to clarify your plan for your main direction.   You are also getting the potential to become known or better known to the person that you are interviewing and also by the company.

 

For this type of interview you don’t need to know the answers, but to craft useful questions.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Getting It Wrong, and Then Getting It Right.

By Cynthia Simmons

We all hear the tips, tricks, networking secrets, expert advice from executive recruiters and job coaches. And, yes, from our friends, former co-workers, relatives (mothers, parents, older siblings, younger ones), and any authority figures in our vicinities – be they geographically proximate, or daily electronic companions communicating from afar. We are getting a superabundance of help and advice. A superfluity of advice.

Having only one pair of eyes, we can look in only one direction at a time. And we can walk in only one direction at a time. But if we are constantly turning and defying our physical limitations, are we turning in circles? Maybe even standing still? Perhaps even, stuck?

So, today, I am addressing some ways in which the job search can fail. How you can fail your job search.

Here’s how to fail:

  • Not apply for jobs.
  • See a job and sit and think about it until you feel inspired enough to write a convincing pitch letter to send as your cover letter. Wait several days… a week, a month?
  • Not send a cover letter at all with your resume.
  • Write your resume, cover letter, and application, bless them, and send them out into the world, alone, and then never follow up.
  • Never call to find out the hiring cycle. Never even take the time to hunt for someone who knows someone who knows… the hiring manager, or at least some person at the company you are courting.

Speaking of courting—job search is a courtship.

Know that.

And know that, like the reasons that fellow never called you or that girl wouldn’t give you her number, you may never know why you weren’t hired or even called for an interview.

dancing-shoes-v8 crop

St. Valentine’s Date Night Shoes

Your best choices are to gather up your confidence, put on your dancing shoes, and be ready to dance with someone else.

Maybe you feel like a wallflower. That no one will ever ask you to dance. Are you dressed to dance? Is your head up and are you smiling? Do you look like you’d like to dance?

It’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t let some stupid old job break your heart.

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.