Tag Archives: job search

Presenting: You

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us – a day of family and feasting, football and the potential for another famous game: question dodging.  I hope that even in the midst of job search everyone within reach of this post can make a list of things for which they are thankful.  (Writing this sentence has reminded me of the simple prayer that was used to start each job search meeting at a faith based group that I attended last year.  The prayer was non-denominational, but made a point to remind each job seeker to be aware of the things that are going right in their life.  I really liked that.)

 

The idea for this post came to me as I was searching the newsfeed on Yahoo and came across a Mashable article.  I like this article because it is succinct and also has some concrete information – Mashable: Cover Letter Keywords – even though it still doesn’t reduce the subjective nature of the whole job search process.

 

Job search is smack in the middle of self-promotion territory – a place that many of us feel very uncomfortable visiting.  Add in the pressure of family members kindly or salaciously asking for a status update at the Thanksgiving table and, well, yikes.

 

public domain image

public domain image

The descriptive words that this article suggests makes the self-promotion more of an exercise in self-description.  I am capable, I can do this and this and this.  Here are examples of times that I did these things.  Say it with me, I am capable.  I can think of things that I do well.  I can think of things for which I am thankful.  I can enjoy the opportunity to see family and have a great meal at Thanksgiving.

 

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

Advertisements

Even More Than Witches

The skills most recently used in your last role – the ones that are first in people’s minds when they hear of you- may not be the skills sought by your next employer.  Make sure you represent your full set of skills and abilities.

 

I grew up near Salem Massachusetts. (Yes, the ‘witch trial’ city of Salem.)  During that time, Salem seemed challenged to appear more appealing, welcoming, and friendly, as “The Witch Trials” tended to contradict that ambiance.  Starting in the 1980’s, Salem decided to invest in its underutilized waterfront (and other areas of the city), and emphasize its large, rich role in early American history.   For over the last 20+ years, tourism has boomed.

 

Salem offers more than witch history  National Park Service Photo (Public Domain)

Salem Offers More Than Witch Trial History
National Park Service Photo (Public Domain)

 

The Witch Trials were not the only noteworthy happening in Salem’s history.  Before New York City superseded it, Salem was the main trading port to Asia.  Many Revolutionary War events occurred in Salem.  The National Guard was founded there.  Evidence of these events had been available, but they became much more visible, and easier to appreciate, after the town decided to emphasize these other historical aspects in its advertising and renewal.

 

For individuals, being without a job can seem so all-encompassing, that it can be awkward to separate your personal identity (and personal sense of value) from that employment status.  While you are in transition, are you refreshing your other skills and abilities that may have been under-appreciated?  Make sure that you are able to advertise all of your previous experiences and skills, and not just the one or two skills that may initially pop into people’s minds.  You may be surprised at the warm reception you receive.

 

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

I finally had enough of passing by the messy pile of job search stuff gathering dust on a shelf in the living room.  Ten months’ worth of people’s handbills, flyers, presentation print outs, notes, book summaries (and a couple of self-published books hawked by authors that I met), and seminar ephemera.  Thankfully I had already done a first culling at the time of collection and anything deemed unhelpful had been put on the recycle pile.  If I hadn’t made this initial determination, one shelf would not have been enough.  There is a lot of information out there about job search.

 

I didn’t get rid of much this time around.  Some of it could be useful to me to generate a post or two here.  Or I can pass on other bits to people I know.

 

public domain image

public domain image

When there is so much information to be found on a topic, how does a person decide what is useful (wheat) versus what is unhelpful (chaff)?  When it comes to information, it isn’t as simple as threshing wheat.  All a person needs for wheat is an understanding of what parts are edible.  Information culling or threshing requires effort in advance.

 

What is wheat for me might be chaff for others and vice versa.  I have to know what I am looking for, at least a bit.  I have to know at least how to recognize something useful.  To do that, I have to have an idea of where I am going.  But I can’t narrow things down too much or I might realize that I got rid of something potentially useful if I change course.  Hence the pile of stuff.

 

How do you decide what might be useful in your quest?

 

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

Idea Well Run Dry

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, I felt bad about it but my idea well was dry and feeling bad just dried it up further.  Until I decided to look at the problem from a different angle – there are plenty of times in job search when the well runs dry or threatens to do so.  (Ah-ha I could write about that, although there was a scary moment when I sat down and tried to retrieve this whole thought string and it wasn’t coming back to me.)

 

When job seekers gather they often fall into business buzz speak, so the question of what is in their pipeline is bound to come up.  What prospects are you working on, what might be close, what new things are going in to your pipeline?  All of the activity seems to run in cycles, and sometimes the previous cycle seems to be closing down without anything new coming along.  The well (or pipeline) is getting awfully dry.

thinking

What to do to fill it up again?

 

Just like my idea problem, worrying about the problem just makes it worse.  I have no ideas, why don’t I have any ideas, when am I going to have another idea, I really need to have another idea…  Not exactly productive thinking.  I pushed all of this to the back of my brain, enjoyed the splashes of fall color for a few days and a thought wandered in that dry spells occurred all too frequently when I was in job search and did I remember how I handled them?

 

Obviously nature helps me to reframe my thinking.  A brisk walk is good for a lot of what ails us.  Increased blood flow and a little green therapy create new brain flow.  There might have been leads that come back to mind that you might have intended to follow a bit further, say.

 

Trying something new might get you through the dry spell.  A seminar, networking meeting, informational interview that someone suggested that didn’t spark your interest at first.

 

Setting a challenge for yourself is a good one, I find.  I pick something that is just outside my comfort zone – this is how I went to my first networking event.  Or I have reviewed the way that my most recent prospects came in and pick a method that I haven’t used to find a new prospect.

 

How do you get through a dry spell?

 

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

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.

Rise and Shine

Someone I know just told me that she lost her job and is now in job search mode.  We are making plans to meet so that I can show her the ropes and offer encouragement.  Her announcement got me to thinking about whether there is one thing that is universally helpful to all job seekers.

 

Everyone needs a resume, but how to put it together becomes much more complicated.  No, I am thinking much simpler.  Working provides a set structure to our days, our weeks.  We have to be at work at a set time on certain days.  Even if you work from home, you still most likely have to follow a schedule of some sort.

 

I decided early on during my time in transition that I would set my alarm every day at 7am.  This seemed like the perfect time – not as late as I would like to sleep because I am not a morning person, but not too terribly early.  I left my alarm on every day of the week even though when I am working, I turn it off on the weekends.  I wanted to keep myself on a standard schedule.

 

public domain image

public domain image

This decision gave me focus, it kept me from staying up late on a whim to read a book or watch a movie.  It got my days started and I settled into a routine that gave me purpose.  I had a mission to be productive every day in some way.

 

Now my friend has school age children, which automatically gives her days structure, and requires her to rise and shine to get them up and out the door for school.  But she will need to be careful to refocus her days on pursuits that will help her to achieve her goals once the school bell has rung.

 

That alarm is a call to action every day – rise and shine and meet the day.  Get ready for work, for school, or for activities that will get a person back in the workforce.  One of the best things about getting back to work was that first weekend when I could again turn off my alarm and sleep in Saturday morning.

 

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

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

When did you complete your college degrees?

So, in what year did you earn your latest degree?

Both this question and the title of this post assume that readers are likely to have more than 1 college degree; that is why I am using the plural and the superlative here.

Here is my reason for opening this post with that question. Shortly before a recent job interview, I received an email from that prospective employer in which they stated something like this; “You do not have graduation dates on any of the education you have listed”, and subsequently, they asked for that information.

I must point out that I did not include the years that my degrees were completed on the resume that I had sent them, because I had been advised some time ago that it is better to leave the year that a degree was earned off of the resume if it was not recent. No need to shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t have to. (I realize that this may send up a “red flag” to a prospective employer, but to me, the main purpose of a resume is to help a job-seeker get a job interview, and not disqualify that person from one.) But because they asked for that information, and because I did not want to appear to be un-cooperative, I gave it to them in my reply to that email.

Picture_01

Within 2 days of that interview, I received an email informing me that they had selected another candidate, who probably was more qualified for that position than I was.

I am not complaining here; I’m just using this as an example to prove that leaving the year a degree was completed off of a resume may actually help a job-seeker get a job interview. I still believe that it’s impossible to get a job without first going through the interview process.

Back to the advice I mentioned earlier in this blog post. First, the word “recent” needs to be defined. Some people may draw the line between recent and ancient at the 10-year mark; others may draw it at the 5, or even the 3 year mark. This assumes that the most recent degree is relevant to the job that a prospective employer is trying to fill.

Second, as far as I’m concerned, there really isn’t much difference between a degree that was earned in the 1970’s and that same degree earned after the year 2000. There are some exceptions to this. One exception would be a degree in history, since it’s always being added to. Other fields whose degrees and qualifications could change over time would be the technical fields, such as Information Technology, and health care.

Others may disagree, but in my opinion, a liberal arts degree is a liberal arts degree, no matter when it’s earned.

Now again, in what year did you complete that last degree?

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

Pushing Through

That moment when you realize that you are really an adult might just have something to do with motivating yourself to do an unpleasant task.  We think of being an adult as finally getting to do all of the things that we were prevented from doing as kids.  If I thought at all about all of the things that require prompting to do, I assumed that adults didn’t need that external push.  I found out soon enough that I was wrong.

This topic is coming to mind because I’ve had to make myself write this post.  Bleh.  Normally I love to write, but it just isn’t there right now and I don’t have a safety post ready this week.  Nothing I could think of countered the obstinate little pouty kid who shouted ‘you can’t make me’ over and over in my head when I tried to think of post topics.

My sister used to have a friend who went to the trouble to run the vacuum throughout the house without turning it on in an act of defiant compliance.  Even as a kid I thought that defied logic – if you are going to go to the trouble to run it over the carpet, how hard is it to turn it on?  But I also get the defiance, the dig your heels in contrariness of the act.

Archival Stock WWII Footage

Archival Stock WWII Footage

Sometimes even as adults we need to have someone else make us do something – hence the need for many laws – things that will give us great benefit like eating healthy, saving for retirement, getting our teeth cleaned.  And plenty of tasks at work.

There must be a solid evolutionary reason why we are so obstreperous at times.  I have found myself splitting into two minds – one is being terribly unruly and the other is consternated not only by the childish stand but also by the choice of the fit.  Why-ever have I chosen to cling to this particular cliff?

There is plenty about job search that brings out that ‘you can’t make me’ feeling, isn’t there?  And what’s worse, there really isn’t someone in authority, like a boss, to push you past that feeling.  Oh, plenty of people to nag at you, but that isn’t the same.  Deadlines are mostly self-imposed, as are most tasks.  If self-motivation is flagging or absent trouble can build pretty quickly.

How about you, what prompts do you use, positive or negative, when you’ve dug your heels in?

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