Tag Archives: Job hunting

Make your choice

Finally, the month of October is here. I realize that the month is almost over. But I must say that it is my favorite month in my favorite season of the year. One of the things that I like about this month is that the leaves on the trees are turning those beautiful colors of yellow, orange, brown, or bright red. I don’t like having to rake them before I mow our lawn, but I do like that this means that the end of the lawn-mowing season is near.

October brings with it, of course, Halloween. It also brings with it, at least in even-numbered years, this thing we call an “election”. It is true; elections for political office actually take place during the first week in November. But since the month is October, it means we are in the midst of an election campaign season. What this really means is that on or about November 10 we will not be receiving any more of those campaign ads (or, as we might call them “handbills”) in the mail. It also gives us hope that we might not be receiving, on our answering machines, those robocalls telling us to vote for this candidate, or against that one, by Thanksgiving.

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“Vote, and the choice is yours; don’t vote, and the choice is theirs”, is what I remember hearing on the radio during one of our country’s presidential election campaigns years ago. That is the point of this week’s posting. That message, years ago, was simple. You have a choice. You can choose to vote for this candidate or that candidate. You can even vote early. Or you can choose to not vote at all.

For us job-seekers, this is a kind of role-reversal. This is the one time we get to pass judgment on a candidate for a job, just like Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and Human Resource professionals pass judgment on us job-seekers when we apply to one of their jobs.

One similarity is this. They receive résumés and cover letters from us, just like we receive campaign ads in the mail. The difference here is; we don’t have to read the campaign ads before we deposit them in the wastebasket. What those who receive our cover letters and résumés do with them is anyone’s guess.

One thing we don’t do is this; we never put any negative comments about ourselves in our handbills, résumés and cover letters. And candidates for public office never say anything bad about themselves. Their competition will gladly do that.

I would like to ask this question. What if we “campaigned” for our next job in the same way that politicians campaign for their “jobs”?

Think of it. Our handbills would look like those paper campaign ads that we receive in the mail. Not only could we give reasons why a company should hire us, we could also try to give reasons why that same company should NOT hire any of our competition. Of course, since we do not know the name(s) of our competition, we would have to refer to our competition simply as “our competition”.

Or, to switch things around, what if politicians campaigned for public office the same way we “campaign” for our jobs? The content of each of their handbills (oops, I meant “campaign ads”) would be cut in half, because they would not be bashing their competition. This would also decrease the frequency of their mailings. It is something to think about.

So, are you voting, or, are you not voting? Make your choice.

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

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Number Stories

Math and numbers have never resonated for me the way that words do.  I understand that they have a practical use – at least basic math – and appreciate knowing how to use them for things like balancing my checkbook.  And I’ve always been happy to know people who really get numbers so I can ask them for help when things get beyond basic.  It has only been in recent years that I have discovered an area of numbers that really is fascinating – statistics.

 

Statistics are stories told with numbers.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?  Not story problems like why did the train go faster from station a to station b or whatever nonsense.  No, number stories – data meets the story arc.  Very intriguing.

 

Why am I bringing this up here?  Because job search is loaded with statistics, some of them quite contrary, and all of it worthy of some attention by job seekers.  We all know about the unemployment rate, at least the national one that is regularly reported on the evening news.  But there are state and regional unemployment rates.  Rates based on ethnicity and age group, level of education and industry segment (healthcare, manufacturing, service, etc.).  Oh and make sure that you know how it is calculated because that is a whole other facet of the story for this number.

 

What about the workforce participation rate?  I don’t remember ever hearing about this one until the Great Recession.  This one is the percentage of adults who are working for pay.  This number is also at an all-time (read since this has been tracked, I believe starting somewhere in the 1970s) low and seems to be dropping.  The story is in understanding better why it is dropping.  And in comparing this data to the unemployment rate – if the unemployment rate is dropping, why is the workforce participation rate also dropping?

 

photo credit: Huffington Post

photo credit: Huffington Post

Then there is the job opening ratio – the number of posted open positions juxtaposed with the number of qualified applicants who are actively looking.  This seems to be coming down a bit, there aren’t quite so many qualified applicants for each open position, but still too many for the comfort of each job seeker.  This is the number that directly affects another number – the average number of weeks or months it can take someone to land their new position.  Last year I know that this average was hovering around eight months.

 

There are plenty of other statistics, but you get the idea.  These numbers aren’t just for the media and politicians to bandy about – there are lives behind each one.  Stories of individuals affected, but also of how the information is collected and applied.  The statistic isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning.

 

It comes down to your number story, which is quite simple.  Back to basic math; one person who needs one suitable position.  At least knowing some of these number stories can give you discussion points with Aunt Betty the next time she asks you again why you don’t have a job.

 

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

Does the “Glove” fit?

I’ll start with this question. Do your winter gloves have to fit perfectly? I’m sure you are wondering why I am asking about gloves, and winter gloves at that, during September, when it is still summer. I’ll use a job-searching experience to explain.

At one point during a job interview in a previous job search, my interviewer made an unsolicited statement that went something like this: “what I am trying to do is to see if the ‘glove’ fits”. In my opinion, what he was saying might have been something like this: “what I am trying to do is to see if you would be a perfect fit with our department”. I don’t remember if his comment was the prelude to the “skill” or to the “behavioral” questions part of the interview. Incidentally, that interview occurred in either September or October.

I will answer the one question which I think you might be asking now. I did not get that job.

Sometime after that interview, I thought up this hypothetical situation. Imagine that you are about to go outdoors in the middle of winter, and you know that it is freezing cold outside. You know you will need to put on a pair of gloves. But because you do not have a pair of gloves that fits perfectly, you have to choose between two pairs of gloves. One of the pairs of gloves is too small for your hands, and the other pair is too large. Now, which pair would you choose?

Gloves

The survival instinct within me would tell me to put on the pair that is too large, and never mind waiting for a pair of gloves which fits perfectly to suddenly materialize from somewhere. Or, just stay indoors, unless I want to have frost-bitten fingers and hands.

In our job searches, we often have to settle for a job which does not have us using all of the skills that we would like to use. In addition, we often find ourselves working for an employer that does not quite have 100% of the characteristics that we would like our ideal employer to have. And for those jobs that we do not get, we have to graciously assume that we did not have enough of the skills that the prospective employer had on its wish list. Therefore, occasionally we have to make some adjustments.

This is normal, because, after all, we are human beings. In our job-searches, we sometimes have to pretend that we are like most species of chameleons, and change the color of our parachutes (a.k.a. our objectives and our tactics). This is especially true if our financial situation dictates that we do so.

On the other side of the coin, or rather, the interview table, what are the employer’s options when they cannot find that perfectly-fitting “glove” for their department? Since I neither worked in Human Resources, nor made their hiring policies, and am not a mind-reader, I can only speculate about what those options might be. I’m sure their options dwindle when they get desperate, as does the likelihood that they’ll use the “do nothing” option. But then again, that is only speculation.

Maybe that “larger glove”, in the form of an “over-qualified” person, just might be a better fit for a company after all.

Again, the question, “Do your winter gloves have to fit perfectly”?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

What to Expect in Job Search?

It has been nearly a year since our group started this blog.  Much has happened, and some things have stayed the same.  An anniversary can be a time to reflect, so I am looking back at my first post here and giving it a slightly different twist.

 

People want to inspire when they tell others that life is what you make of it.  Responses run between ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ to the person for whom those words hit just the right spot at the right time.  But it is so common to say and to hear because it is true.  In life and in job search.  Whether we want to hear it or not, whether we embrace it or not.

 

What to expect in job search, then?  Well, we all have to find our own way – sometimes parts of the way can be shared with others and sometimes the way is lonely and challenging.  Good stuff happens, but it can be missed because it isn’t the good stuff we are expecting – that perfect job offer.  Bad stuff happens, plenty of it, and rejection too.  But we each have to find a way around it or through it.

 

Medieval scene of workers (public domain image)

Medieval scene of workers (public domain image)

I’ve been back at work for almost a year now as have some of the friends that I made in my job search groups.  A few are on their second and third jobs in the time frame.  A few are still looking.  A couple are stepping out to do their own thing.  Same root issue, so many different expectations and outcomes.

 

Some people get their new position and close the door to the whole job search experience.  I have found some great new relationships and I want to hold plenty of the things that I experienced and learned close.

 

Have you found what you expected in job search?

 

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

Experience Equates Credibility?

It is hard to know which demographic is having the most difficulty in this job market that is said to be picking up.  Is it those just getting started who have little practical experience?  Is it those who have experience but who are purportedly winding down on their careers?  (There are other ways to slice and dice demographics – level of education, region in the country, etc. – but I’ll stick to age group because just that view is a big topic.)

 

My son made a great point the other day.  He is in job search mode and also in the 18-24 year old demographic that still has some hefty unemployed percentages.  He has varied experience: warehouse/receiving, food service, car care come to mind.  His ‘research’ – attempts to get a permanent position – backs up all the articles online and elsewhere that keep saying companies are unwilling to train.  He has found again and again that even entry level positions require 1 to 2 years of experience.  Exact, specific experience not similar or mostly similar.

 

public domain clipart

public domain clipart

On the other end, I know plenty of people with plenty of experience who can commiserate with my son on how demoralizing the search can feel.  They are on the other side of the experience sweet spot apparently.

 

All this focus is on experience because that is, on the surface, measurable.  Time on the job, an equivalent job, is equal to experience.  Purportedly.  Experience means less training in a new position.  Purportedly.

 

But I happen to know people who spent plenty of time on something without seeming to gain any experience.  Nothing stuck, or very little.  They asked the same questions, of different people, each time they had to perform a particular task.

 

Credibility – the quality of being believable or worthy of trust – is really what employers want.  But how do you measure that?  A person who is handy can be equally handy within many trades, with a chance to learn.  A person who has developed critical thinking skills can apply them in plenty of professional situations, with a chance to learn the nuances of each situation.

 

How do you show your credibility?

 

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

What’s the Hold-Up?

How long does it take to make a decision, anyway?  Don’t they know they have you on pins and needles?  Even in 1999 when the job market was much more in my favor as a job seeker, it took about 3 weeks from first interview until the offer was made.  Not surprising then, that now that the job market is in the favor of the employers – and they have probably already waited too long to fill this position – that it can take 8 or more weeks to get the final thumbs up or down on a position.

 

Why is that?  Let us count some of the ways:

  • Hiring manager doesn’t have the time for the process/doesn’t allow enough time, same with others at the company involved in the hiring process
  • Trouble getting all good candidates scheduled for a stage in the process
  • Definition of the role changes during the process
  • Funding for the position changes during the process
  • Departmental objectives change during the process
  • Issues in other parts of the company affect the process
  • Meetings, vacations, etc. of the team involved in the hiring process
  • Challenges unrelated to hiring come up in the department, taking time away from the process

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Big Ben

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Big Ben

I could probably go on, but that isn’t necessary.  Time passes differently for the people at the company who have to carve out time from their regular tasks to attend to the hiring process and you.  Your primary focus is the job search, while filing the position is somewhere down the list for the hiring team.

 

We humans are generally not very good at estimating how long it should take to do a certain activity or task.  (This makes for interesting project management discussions when it comes to estimating time for a whole project, but that is a different topic.)  Add in any anticipation and our ability to estimate is further eroded.

 

Not fun to hear, but the only thing that the job seeker has control over here is how to handle the wait time.  How do you fill the time?

 

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

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

Alternative Avenues to Search

We all know about networking, LinkedIn and job boards as regular methods to seek out a new job.  Plenty of people are making these rounds.  One person at the last networking event that I went to, which I mentioned in a previous post, reminded me of these two alternative avenues to test out.

 

Twitter is mentioned daily in connection to this or that celebrity which makes most of us see it as a light entertainment directed venue.  But there is more to it, once you start to look into this particular social media format.  Plenty of companies have jumped on this band wagon and some have started to use this as a means to search out new talent.

 

public domain vintage image of 5th Ave by Karen Arnold

public domain vintage image of 5th Ave by Karen Arnold

Now you don’t have to be out there tweeting away, you just need to set up a profile that sketches out the most pertinent of your skills.  You are ready to start searching for company tweets of job postings.  Oftentimes these jobs haven’t been shared with other mediums yet because the companies are testing social media savvy of candidates.  You can get a jump on the pack by having a presence on and searching this arena.

 

(It is also a great place to research a company by checking out their Tweet feed.)

 

Toastmasters is an international group with local clubs that helps people to foster speaking and leadership skills.  Many larger companies have set up corporate clubs which are closed to outsiders, unless you are a Toastmaster.  As a Toastmaster member of your own local club, you can ask to be a guest at any other Toastmaster club.

 

The benefits of Toastmasters then, are at least two fold – you can work on important job related skills like speaking and leadership as well as get the opportunity to personally get to know Toastmaster members at a company where you would like to work.  How great is that?

 

You never know how you will get your next job.  My own most unusual method was the time that I went to get a library card and wound up with a circulation desk clerk job too.  I just happened to have been talking about how much I love libraries with the head librarian.  I know people who have leveraged Toastmaster guest visits to turn into contract positions.

 

Additional avenues to search are a plus.

 

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

Competence and Confidence

There are so many variables in an interview, and every one of them is subjective.  I’ve been mulling over how to distill this dynamic to its most basic point as a concrete starting point for any job seeker.  Most of the variables come from things over which the job seeker has no control or influence.  As hard as it is then, if a past interview seems to have gone south due to one of these, the job seeker has to just let it go and look forward to the next one.

 

I’ve been on both sides of the table, I’ve mentioned this before.  Depending on which side of the table I find myself, I do my best to keep awareness in the back of my mind for the other side.

DSC03751

The most basic point is that this is an interaction between two people, most likely complete strangers, who both want the encounter to be successful.  The job seeker wants to land a job that will be a good fit.  The interviewer wants to get this interview process completed and get back to the regular business of the department – by finding a person who will be a good fit.  (Of course group interviews are a likely occurrence, but let’s keep this as one on one for now.)

 

Are both of the people mentally present?  The interviewer might be having a very hectic day, the team might have enough work for two new members yesterday for instance – there were plenty of interviews where I walked in and had to tear myself away from multiple problems.  As the job seeker, I hope that you took a moment prior to the interview to center your own thoughts.

 

There is going to be a whole lot of subtlety in the dynamic that forms during the interview.  The two most important traits from this basic and concrete view are competence and confidence.  This goes for both sides of the table, but since you can only affect your own focus on that.

 

Can you tell your example stories smoothly, adjusting details to suit this particular circumstance?  Do you make certain that you are answering the question that was asked and not the question that you want to answer?  This is how you exhibit your competence and confidence.  These traits are also exhibited in your own follow up questions.

 

Finding your groove in displaying your competence and confidence can take some practice.  I’d love to get some examples from any of you.

 

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

The Importance of Deadlines

Today is my scheduled day to submit a blog post. That means that I have a deadline. Will I make it on time? What if I don’t?

 

Before I started today’s blog post, I decided to find out some information about the word “deadline”, such as, when and where it was first used, its definition, and if that definition has changed over the years.

 

Since the dictionary I had when I was in grade school is somewhere in deep storage, I decided to look it up online. The website http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/, states that a deadline is “A date or time before which something must be done”.

 

According to http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/01/origin-deadline/, the word was first used during the Civil War, at the Andersonville prison camp in Georgia. It was used to describe an established dead-line inside the stockade and twenty feet from it “over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot”.

 

Since I have missed a few deadlines in my life, I’m sure glad the meaning of that word has changed since it was first used.

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When we are employed, we know that every assignment given to us by our supervisor has a deadline. Even when we are in between jobs, we still have some deadlines that we have to meet at some point in our daily lives.

 

For example, while we are searching for a job, we have to be at networking meetings on time, especially those meetings with someone who works at one of our target companies. We also have to make sure that we arrive at our job interviews on time, and, sometimes, ahead of time, in case we have to fill out something prior to the interview. Think of the job interview as being your first day on the job.

 

Deadlines usually are subjective; they can be influenced by the personal feelings of the person giving the deadline, his or her tastes, or opinions.

 

In some of our deadlines, there is an element of choice involved. A supervisor might ask you “By what date do you think you will have this assignment completed?”, or, “How much time do you think you will need?” In other cases, you do not have a choice. That’s probably because your supervisor does not have a choice. Remember, they have deadlines too. When you meet your deadlines, you also make it easier for them to meet theirs.

 

What if we miss a deadline? The repercussions vary depending on the situation, and, in the case of an assignment at an employer, they can vary with the employer. I doubt that employers will terminate an employee the first time they miss a deadline. Repeat offenders might not be as lucky. But if you are late for a job interview, you can forget about getting that job.

 

Fortunately, the penalty for missing a deadline is not as severe as it was when the word was first used. But still, our goal is to make those important deadlines while we are in our job searches, as well as when we are employed.

 

Now, I must hurry up and submit this blog post, before I miss my deadline.