Tag Archives: Skills

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

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Remembering Stone Soup

By Cynthia Simmons

Driving to work one morning, I heard someone on National Public Radio talk about Stone Soup — one of my favorite children’s books. She was a consultant for executives attending the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

That made total sense to me.  Because… Stone Soup is the story of three soldiers returning home from a war, trudging on foot across unfamiliar territory, and stopping to stay the night in a town where they are not welcome. They try to persuade someone to sell or give them food. Apparently there is no extra food in that town, not for those three soldiers.

The magic of the story is that the soldiers had carried a big empty kettle with them, and when there was no supper to be had, they fill the kettle with water from the river, light a fire, and then place stones in the boiling water to give it flavor.

Someone becomes curious at the sight of  the soldiers sitting around their fire with their kettle full of boiling water. Someone comes up and asks, “What are you cooking?” The answer is “Stone soup.”

Then the question, “Well, may I have some?”

The response, “Well, yes, of course you can have some. It’s not quite ready. But it would be even better if we could add a potato or two.”

And the response to the response, “I have some potatoes for the soup.”

The rest of the story continues predictably with the questions and the answers, as people from the town become curious and find themselves offering to contribute to the soup. With the individual contributions the soup becomes a feast.

The lessons are, “People who are not interested in helping you in your job search may decide to help when you share a common interest.” and “Think carefully about how you approach strangers for help.”

(The version of Stone Soup that I know was written and illustrated by Marcia Brown. I first read it many years ago.)

 

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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

Centering

By Cynthia Simmons

Centering is a word now commonly used to describe achieving harmony with one’s own personal values. For someone working with clay, centering is an active process. It is creating a physical  relationship with a lump of clay. As an action, centering is how a potter work begins to work with clay. And the importance of centering is that it requires your complete attention and your complete focus.  Because in that instant when you stop paying attention, the clay will be as honest and true as your best friend, and it will begin to fight you. There will be a struggle where before there was harmony. Centering is about preparing a ball of clay to be shaped on a potter’s wheel, slapping it down on a potter’s wheel, making it evenly smooth and moving the weight of the clay so that it’s perfectly distributed, with the weight radiating out from the ball’s center.

Blog photo - thrown bowls - mine (08-2000) - cropped - smaller

My porcelain plate, minutes after being thrown.

Centered clay has great potential… If it has been well kneaded to remove any small pockets of air, there will not be air bubbles to fight against the even spinning motion of the clay. It means everything is even, and there are a more limited number of forces to cause the clay to sag or move off center. Centered clay is balanced clay. It knows where it is centered. It respects the core and seeks to maintain its shape evenly.  It acts purposely. With intention.

After the clay is centered, the clay can be opened up, to begin to shape a bowl. Pressure is applied to the center of the mound of clay, first directly down, and then in subsequent movements, the clay is pulled out, up and away from the center and a wall rises.  The clay still requires that you know how to move with it. If you stop paying attention, if you stop acting with your full attention, the weight will shift and your bowl will start to knock toward/against one hand and away from the other one. There may still be adjustments you can make to go back to center. Or this lump of clay may not become a bowl today, but instead go back into the bucket of clay recycling into new clay after some time.

After a bowl is thrown, it is cut off the wheel head using water and a wire. The water will allow the bowl to float after the wire cuts the bowl loose from the wheel. Then your hands, or perhaps a helping tool, will lift up the bowl to place it on a shelf to dry. Later when the bowl is dry enough to hold its shape, it goes back to the wheel, inverted/upside down, and extra clay is trimmed away. A pattern or border may be carved into the clay. The clay still remains faithful. If at any point in the process, your attention wanders, the clay will fight you and the shape may become damaged.

Blog photo - thrown shape - master class (08-2000) top - cropped contrast smaller

Porcelain pot, thrown and incised by a master potter.

When I work with clay, I know exactly what I am thinking. If I remember an angry remark, the even force of my hand alters. I can see exactly when that anger held my attention.  Lines or shapes record emotions on the clay. So as I keep centered with the clay, I am myself centered.

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional. © 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

Can We Trade?

Every single one of us has a tool kit of skills.  Let me just say that first part again for emphasis – every single person.  It is sometimes entirely too easy to forget that our skills are valuable, to forget some of the skills that each of us has as we go through everyday life.  Job search helps people to actively think about all the skills that they have accumulated.  It is a good time to take out each skill from that tool kit and polish it up.

 

Job seeking is a lonely task, a singular experience that each person does in their own way.  Finding a group of people who are in transition at the same time can be hugely beneficial.  Now the task is still uniquely individual, but there is information sharing and support.  Plus the chance to create something stronger through a trading of skills.

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

There is so much that fellow job seekers can offer each other – understanding of the difficulties faced every day, information, contacts, and skills.  You can help me to refresh my skills in pivot tables while I can help you to update your resume for one example.  I can introduce you to a person that I might know while you can do the same for me as another example.

 

The possibilities for trades are endless.  And each trade reinforces skills, knowledge, team work, and creates a shared purpose where there was a lonely haul.

 

A favorite interview question is often some version of what have you been doing recently, while not working; how great would it be to pull out a host of SARs about using your skills to help others meet their job search goals?  Win-win as the buzz speak goes.

 

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

More than Our Past

Being in the midst of job search is quite the experience in the current job market, especially in comparison to the last time most of us found ourselves in this position.  Thankfully, most of us are very different too.  We have each other to help us keep our capabilities in mind and brainstorm alternatives.

 

We each bring something unique to our interactions, our own perspective, which is based on how we internalized experiences.  Plus how well we are able to communicate the means in which our experience and perspective will enhance the interaction.  For many of us, our skills would translate into a variety of jobs with the potential for different titles.

 

The root issue today, with the incredible stretch that most working folks have had to endure to fit all necessary tasks into the same eight hour day, is the loss of creative thinking.  Well, one of the issues – but my focus in today’s post.  Creative thinking is necessary on the part of the job seeker as well as the company hiring manager in order to match the right multi-talented candidate to the job.

 

phones have come a long way since this was a cutting edge model (public domain image)

phones have come a long way since this was a cutting edge model (public domain image)

Rote thinking, the opposite of creative thinking, requires that the candidate is only considered for a position if the candidate has already held that exact, equivalently titled position in their most recent role.  Rote thinking is very dangerous because it may not set up the candidate or the organization for growth.  Rote thinking has a high probability of dismissing excellent long-term potential for immediate concerns.

 

Now creative thinking is not entirely absent, just in short supply.  And there are certainly instances when rote thinking is advisable – I don’t want a doctor who doesn’t have the degree plus experience necessary to perform a procedure, and I imagine that I’m in the majority on this – credential checking is very important for certain jobs and skills.

 

This wholesale reliance upon box checking to ensure correct fit is not beneficial to business in the long run.  (8 years’ experience in XYZ software-check, 5 years’ experience in supervisory role-check, BA/BS in XYZ discipline or commensurate experience-check, Salesforce CRM experience required-missing…this one goes in the toss pile)  Wait a minute in that rote thinking, that box-checking mentality because Salesforce CRM is an easily learnable skill.  And of the requirements that I listed out, simply the least important.  It is understandable that there is no resource available to train right now, but the successful person will require some training in processes specific to the organization.

 

If you are reading for a solution to this issue, then there are plenty of other places to find as many solutions as there are people offering them.  Your solution will be applicable to your individual situation.  My ultimate point in writing this post is to make each of us aware of when we are applying rote thinking in an attempt to gloss to a simple solution and to make us stop and question the validity of that application.  It is most often a stop-gap to a short term solution that will be unrealistic in the long run and in light of our true intentions.  Parsing through all the parts of a situation and weighing the import of each segment takes time and energy – and certainly shouldn’t be applied in every case (i.e. finding the perfect parking spot means driving around and around and takes longer to do than the errand within the establishment) but is vital in certain circumstances.

 

If you encounter rote thinking in your activities such as job search, it can get you thinking.  If this thinking is endemic within the organization, then this is not the place for me.  Or if it is specific to some portion, then how do I get around it to my real target?  If you are engaging in rote thinking, ask yourself if it is really serving the purpose that you intend to address.

 

Reading from those in the Talent Acquisition Industry:

Lou Adler’s: Define the Job before Defining the Person

 

 

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

Moving at the Speed of Thought

By Cynthia Simmons

It’s Friday midday, and I have sooooo many things on my mind.

Top-most, there is a job that I want to apply for, but my skill set has a couple of gaps—software apps that I’m not familiar with.

I’m pretty technically literate, so I think to myself—how difficult could it be to fast and dirty scope out the apps? Can I find out what they do and basically how they do it, and then start to learn some of the commands to use.

From Morgue.com

From Morgue.com

I’m on the hunt at my computer.

I’ve been carrying around this target job in my head, asking people questions, and yesterday someone told me that I could download a demo. Yesterday I started my research. I watched a dozen short demos, and today I get a phone call from a sales rep. I ask her questions, but unfortunately she doesn’t work with the exact app that I need.

I go back to the mother-ship website, target the app I’m hunting, looking for white papers, demos, comparison charts. I get to this place called “The Hub.” It lists forty small apps that do small individual functions—plug-ins or subroutines for those of us with longer-term memories.

Interesting. I try to get an overview—hunting, hunting. Is there a master list, a way for me to sort and catalog, to cast my net and then to look at the sizes and colors of the fish I bring in?

I do something simple: select the whole list of images, titles and links, then copy and paste them into a Word doc—to make them slow down.

The images are scalable and dynamic; they fill up whatever space there is. I don’t have room for notes. I can’t get them to stop moving.

So, I grab one and pull it into Excel, but it’s still self-scaling and dynamic. And the link still works. It bounces me back to their website, but this time I get to a white paper, very flashy and beautiful, with a file type of PDF. I like that. PDFs are stable. I download the PDF and that stops me from moving from link to link.

I see there isn’t a lot of text. It’s mostly beautiful pictures.

Now we are getting somewhere. Behind the hype and beautiful images, and the multiple category tags for a single product (to get multiple hits), there is some clarity of what this particular thing actually does.

Now I can slow down and consider, puzzle and put the pieces together. I’ll get the demo a bit later, when I’m ready for it. I needed a context first. Not just what is does, but why it does what it does. Why it may have value.

My hunt isn’t finished, but it’s starting to make sense.

 

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional, with certificates in editing and copyediting.

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

Staying Relevant

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

An important task for the long-term unemployed is staying relevant.  If you’re out of work longer than a year you’ll eventually start hearing comments – “can’t get you an interview because of no recent experience”.  This can be extremely frustrating, especially as you get older.  A common initial reaction is incredulity – how can years of experience be dismissed so quickly by some potential employers?

Remember the Hiring Manager’s perspective.  There are usually other candidates without an extended out-of-work period.  All other things being equal, one can hardly blame the Hiring Manager for going with the other candidate.  It’s a harsh reality, but at least somewhat understandable.

Don't become the next Flip Phone.  Public Doman Image.

Don’t become the next Flip Phone. Public Doman Image.

To avoid this problem there are some things you can do to stay relevant.

1)      Write a blog and/or post to your LinkedIn groups.  Obviously that’s one reason I’m writing this blog.  Even if few people read it you can direct a potential employer to your blog to show one way you’re being productive while you are in transition.

2)      Volunteer.  In some fields this is particularly helpful.  It’s possible to gain experience in tasks that will be important in your next paid position.

3)      Read trade literature.  This is essential for technical professionals.  One can even to some degree combine 2 & 3 by volunteering for a technical professional organization, which often has reduced annual fees for members who are in transition.  Volunteering at your professional organization’s local trade shows is also a great way to expand your networking opportunities.

4)      Get a certification or do some other training, including free on-line courses such as Coursera.  Certifications can be costly, so check out WIA grants to defray that.  This is obviously not a concern for free courses, but that does not mean such courses are less worthwhile.  Many have top-notch professors.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

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

I Have an Example

Storytelling is hot right now – it has become clear that the ability to tell a compelling story is an indicator of potential success for businesses, the media, politicians, and the list goes on.  This is true for job seekers as well, and there is a name for job seeker stories: SARs.  SAR, in case you haven’t already stumbled upon this in your research, stands for Situation, Action, Result.

 

These short stories are your chance to explain how your experiences will be just what this potential new employer needs to solve their pain points.  You want to show that you know your stuff and you can apply it to help them to meet their goals.

 

For instance we all know that money is a big driver – this is what we are pursuing and what keeps the doors open at the business where you are interviewing.  Have you found ways to make or save money at your past employers?  Polish up those stories, they need to be told.  And told well.

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's The Storyteller

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s The Storyteller

 

How do you tell the story well?  Remember back to your school days when you were taught story structure – beginning, body, conclusion and marry this to situation, action, result.  Set the stage briefly by sketching out the situation, tell what you did to create your solution, and end with a strong emphasis on the results.

 

Write it down, yes seriously.  Read it out loud to yourself until it sounds smooth and natural.  Then find a family member or friend to tell it to.  Practice is as much an important part of the SAR as deciding the right story to tell.  As a hiring manager, I can’t tell you the number of people who have sat across from me and couldn’t come through in telling a compelling SAR for even the most straightforward question.  This wasn’t even about research for my company, this was about identifying their own pertinent stories to share with me and getting them ready to tell.

 

I’ve barely skimmed the basics here, but even with just this little bit you will be ready in your next interview to say confidently, ‘I have an example’.

 

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

Skills – Everyday and Job Search

In the theater we talked a lot about being a triple threat – act, dance, sing – and how to wow in the audition.  We talked about people who came through in the audition and couldn’t perform in the role.  Of course, for me this was all in college and amateur theater because I moved away from that life before taking my bow into the real, adult world.

But I learned certain things that have come in handy.  We talked a lot about how to handle rejection because for professional theater people, auditions are a regular occurrence that people in business can equate to an interview which they expect to be infrequently necessary in comparison.  Business people are advised to keep their interview skills honed, but skills rarely needed can get rusty.

skills

Too, just like the actors who can wow in the audition and blow the role once achieved because there are differences in requirements between getting and keeping the role; hiring managers may not understand that someone with marginal interview skills might actually be a great fit for their open position.

As the interviewee, you can’t control what the hiring manager perceives, but you can understand and assess your own skills – the everyday ones that you need to do the job you are seeking as well as the ones that you will need to develop to gain that position.  Sometimes these skills dovetail nicely and sometimes they are quite dissimilar.  But that shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to understand them and make sure that you highlight yours to their best advantage.

Imagine being able to show everyone at your target company that you want this job, are so well suited for this job, that you honed skills that you barely knew you had to be great in the interview process.  At the same time that you find ways to expound upon the skills for your chosen craft.  What a double threat you can be – skilled in the ways of the interview and ready to get performing on the 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

Bad Cursive & the Job Search

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing my Christmas cards.  I sign each with a holiday greeting.  Every year I’m reminded that I don’t think my cursive is very legible.  It’s especially true when I write similar things repeatedly; I seem to get careless.  Even if my perception about my cursive is correct, I think there are lessons for one’s job search.

Sometimes I come out of an interview second-guessing the answers I gave to some of the questions.  Most of the time, in retrospect, it turns out to be a waste of mental energy.  We are naturally anxious to make a good impression, and interview questions are generally open-ended.  There are countless ways one can answer open-ended questions; the important thing is communicating that you know how to do the job.  I am confident of that most of the time.  It’s a bit like a short Christmas message in bad cursive; most of your friends can figure out what you’re trying to say.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Also, don’t get hung up on things that are losing their value.  So you once were a master of some obscure computer application no one seems to use anymore.  The important thing is you demonstrated your ability to master a skill and can repeat it for applications that matter today.  Perhaps a better analogy is fretting over something that has been all the rage but you haven’t used very much.  For example, I never use Twitter.  If I found a value in it, I certainly would use it.  I do understand it has a value to others that I may not fully appreciate, but I also remember when MySpace was all the rage.  It’s a bit like fretting over bad cursive – many school districts don’t even teach cursive anymore!

Stay focused on the things that really matter.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2013 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved