Sunday, May 24, 2009

You’re Gonna Need GPS! (Part 2)

Because our job-search journey probably involves many aspects that are unfamiliar to us, I am recommending we use that all-important travel device: GPS. And if you read the last entry (and why would you not?), you’ll know already that it’s not an actual electronic gizmo that will get us a job (Don’t we wish?), but it’s important elements we should consider incorporating into our employment expedition.

Patience is a virtue (and persistence is victory)

Those who live comfortably in a microwave-in-a-minute, I-want-it-now mentality will have some difficulties with job searching in this economy. (Unless they are one of those annoying people with some kind of fairy godmother who makes sure they get the first job they apply for! They are probably the same ones who sell their house in the first week.) But for us who live in the real world, it takes lots of time. It takes a willingness to work hard at getting work. And after a full day of NOT getting a job, it takes the diligence to get up the next day...and do it all again.

We will meticulously craft our resume, but when we find it’s not getting us noticed, we must be willing to tear it apart and put it back together again. We will search the job boards and research the companies posting jobs. We will contact old friends, former colleagues and hound our family for referrals and references. And tomorrow, we will do it all again.

I had a friend recently ask me about my tenacious attitude in job searching. He asked: “Isn’t finding a job a lot like finding a date? You are more likely to find one when you stop looking so hard.” Huh?

The obvious answer, of course, is NO. Both may be tied to my self-esteem and self-worth (In my case, one is tied to self-preservation, since my spouse frowns on me dating.), the results are very different. My creditors are not interested in who/if I’m dating, but they are adamant about getting paid. Finding a date just won’t meet that glaring financial need. (Not taking into account the possibility of a Sugar Daddy/Sugar Momma, that is.)

Life in the fast lane?

One final point. Even when you do manage to make some kind of contact with hiring companies (e.g., interviews), they might tell you they are in a hurry to make this decision. But that’s rarely the case. Or, their idea of “hurry” is different than mine. I’ve been in a couple of interviews where I was told, “We need to make a decision as soon as possible.” And like an anxious teenager waiting by the phone for that call, I finally figured out that “as soon as possible” is open to interpretation.

This would be a great place for me to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, since it’s probably the perfect illustration to highlight my point. Not to mention how it would dazzle you with my extensive knowledge of disciplines outside the general knowledge I received in college.

Alas, I’m a PR Professional, not a physicist. I’m not absolutely sure I understand relativity, much less could explain it. (And I’m reasonably sure my theories of Star Trek’s application of the space-time continuum would be out of place here.)

Let’s just say this: time seems to move at different speeds, depending on the person and/or the situation. I believe hiring managers want to move fast. They intend to move fast. The need is there for a new team member. But let’s face it, they are short-handed, hence the need to hire someone. (Wish I were there to help them. LOL!) So, we learn to wait. And while we wait, we continue our search.

During the search, when I’m are told they will get back to me shortly, I now compare it to the timeline given by contractors: no matter how long they say it will take, it usually takes longer. That’s why patience is essential.

Friday, May 22, 2009

You’re Gonna Need GPS! (Part 1)

A journey without a clear destination is not considered a wise investment of time, energy or resources. This is not like those pleasant drives on a warm Sunday afternoon, just to put the top down on the Miata. (Remember?)

However, on our job-search journey we don’t always know the precise destination or our timeline, just a general idea of where we want/need to go. (i.e., I want/need to be employed!) And for most of us, we’re traveling in unfamiliar territory.

There will be some detours, bumpy roads and possibly even a couple of U-turns along the way. And because this trip is less like that casual Sunday drive and more like rush-hour gridlock on a busy LA freeway (i.e., there are lots of other folks also looking for jobs), it’s easy to get lost in all the traffic. So I recommend you make sure you have an essential tool to help along the way: a GPS. You will need this system to effectively maneuver your way to a successful completion of the job search journey.

Seek Guidance

Turn up the radio and hear that classic song playing: “That’s What Friends Are For” (Dionne knew I was going to say that!)

Our friends and colleagues are a great resource when we are looking for a job. Statistics show that more jobs come from networking and referrals than from job boards. They become our extra “eyes” and “ears” to scope out potential jobs for us. Don’t be afraid (or ashamed) to let them know about the job search. Encourage them to alert you when they learn of something in their organization. And if you find something in an organization where you know someone, don’t be shy—contact them and ask for a referral. Anything to get the “gatekeeper” to look at our resume in that huge stack of candidates is helpful.

Beyond those we know, we would do well to consult the experts in the field. (I know I’ve poked fun at them in earlier posts, but for most of us, job searching is not our area of proficiency, so we need their guidance.) I recommend lots of reading. Scan the Internet for articles about all aspects of a winning job search: writing a good (perfect) resume, cover letter samples, online resources, interview tips. Our job search should hold HIGH priority and we want to make the very best impression, so all of the time and energy we utilize will see a return on that investment.

I also suggest reading “success stories.” Find those who’ve already navigated the road and arrived at their destination. Learn what they did and how that could apply to your search processes.

There’s a couple of other “g” words I could also mention. As far as attitude is concerned, some essential elements would also include: Gracious (you’ll encounter some difficult times and even more difficult people), Gutsy (out of our comfort zone) and just a little bit Grandiose (we have to sell ourselves).

Next time, we’ll continue our examination of the GPS, and I’ll share another element to help us get to our destination—a job!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Found Anything Yet?

Everyone who’s involved in job search has heard the question from caring friends or family: “Have you found a job yet?” It’s nice that they’re interested, and I try to be gracious and kind when I respond with the simple: “Not yet.” (The question is akin to the one we discussed earlier "Are we there yet?" It's about the destination!)

But that question deserves a more accurate response. Truthfully, I’ve found lots of jobs. Finding a job is not the problem here! Getting the job seems to be more of my problem.

When I first began this search, I would get so excited—almost giddy, if I can use that term and maintain my macho image—when I would find something interesting and intriguing in my field. But getting the job has proven more elusive. (Obviously!)

Personal Note: Honestly, there have been times during this job search that I’ve thrown out my ideals and gone after jobs that really didn’t interest me or that were not in my career field. As the search drags on, it takes on the quality of a singles’ bar. I’m no longer looking for the hottest hook-up in the place; I’m just ready for anyone who’ll take me home. I’ve lowered my expectations from “Mr. Right” to “Hey, you!” (Hmmm. And because the need for an income dictates my motives, does that makes me…well, we won’t go there!)
Finding a job is almost totally dependent on me. There’s effort and energy involved that must come from me. And if it’s important (which my bank account tells me it is!), it involves an abundance of extended attention. Finding a job = my job. If I'm lazy or passive, it will be apparent: I will remain unemployed!

I have to do the daily searches. When I find potential jobs, I must research the sites and the companies who post jobs. I revise my resume to highlight my skills for that open position and I craft the most appealing cover letter known to modern literature that compliments my point-on resume. I do the networking with those who can point me to the right place, position or person. I read the articles online (better resumes, guaranteed interview techniques, improving the cover letter, using social networking, etc.). This is one of those areas where I can truly say “It’s all about me!”

I’ve been doing this for a while now and I have yet to experience any kind of miraculous intervention. Job finding is the burden of the job seeker. Though I’ve posted my resume on the major (and minor) job boards, no one has called me to make an offer just by the passive presence of my resume. I know there are personal shoppers, but I haven’t found personal job seekers who’ll do all the work for me. (Hey, would that be a possible entrepreneurial option?)

Side Note: I am not taking into account all the spurious invitations I get from those who scour the job boards to make bogus offers to the naive (or desperate) seeker. When you are job searching, be wary of those who contact you because they saw your resume on the Internet. There are many scams out there. I get regular emails from those who claim that my resume stood out and they want to offer me (one of the chosen few) a wonderful opportunity. I’ve also had the offers to join a team with a lucrative income, just as soon as I complete a required training…which I would pay for as proof of my commitment. (FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!) And I’ve gotten a couple of messages from the former finance minister of an obscure province in Africa. Since I am in need of income (but an obviously deserving person), he will gladly send me several million dollars...if I will just provide my bank account information.

Getting a job is much more...fluid. I can have that bullet-proof resume combined with stellar cover letter and still not get an interview. I’ve had two occasions where I was in the final candidates, but still didn’t get the job. The decision of getting a job is not so much mine as it is those who do the hiring. I can do everything right, and still not be the one chosen. That doesn’t mean there isn’t always room for improvement—and I always recommend an honest self-evaluation afterwards—but the ultimate decision is not mine. Some things, much to my frustration, are beyond my control. (Not that I have control issues!)

I’ve learned (or am learning) that’s it’s essential to only take responsibility for my part in the process. I can beat myself up that I didn’t “get” the job, or I can channel that emotion into the continued process of “finding” another one—which I might actually get.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Still Traveling!

Traveling our Interstate highway system offers lots of ways to determine location and measure distance. There are numbered exit signs and those tedious mile markers, ticking away at the side of the road, showing how far we’ve gone or, depending on the direction, how far to go until we reach the next milestone—a new state. Very difficult to forget how long we've been on the road.

Next week, I begin my seventh month of job searching. Actually, that’s not exactly true; I was job searching before I left my last position, knowing my (intense) desire to leave. Let's say I’m now six full months unemployed. Or, to make it more accurate, it’s six months of extremely motivated job searching. (That's the difference in job searching when you still have a job and the same process when you are unemployed! Kinda like the difference in a walk on the beach and the immunity challenge on Survivor!) And no job yet.

I left my last position just before Thanksgiving, knowing the following six weeks—the holiday season—was a really bad time to conduct a job search. But I was okay with that; there were things I wanted to do in that down-time. (Like recover from the last job!) I was optimistic because I also knew that the first of the year was historically a really good time for job searching, since companies were rolling out their shiny new budgets, focused on lofty new goals and looking for energetic new stars to achieve those goals.

Boy, was I wrong! If only I’d had that magic crystal ball to let me know that in those months around those holidays, the entire economy would crash and burn. It was never my intention to bring down the house of cards known as our economy, but it coincidently does seem as if my lone decision to change jobs was somehow the final straw on the proverbial back of that over-burdened camel.

Suddenly, the companies that I’d hoped would be utilizing their freshly approved budgets to hire talented people like me…were closing their doors instead. The ones who were able to stay open had to reduce their work force. And all these former now-unemployed employees hit the job market like Shrek doing a belly flop in the wading pool. Now I had lots of additional (unwanted) competition for the ever-shrinking job listings.

Of course, everyone also cut back on holiday spending, which apparently only served to deepen the problems in the economy and increasing the number of eager job applicants. (Again, not completely my fault. I just couldn't find the wisdom in buying that Wii if I couldn’t pay the electric bill to power it.)

Side note: I want to once again emphasize that looking back, I still believe that leaving my last job was the right thing to do for me. I just regret it had the un-anticipated effect of taking the entire country down with me!

We know that a journey is not just about marking time (how long we've been traveling)l it's also about making progress (how far we've come). So, today I’m acknowledging the time—half a year on the job search journey. But I have to remind myself that I’ve made some significant progress in that same period of time.

I’ve passed scores of exits—those jobs that I didn’t get. (Granted, that was not always my choice, but I’ll list it in the “progress” column nonetheless.) I’ve worked on polishing some of my skills and even learning some new ones as well. For example, I didn’t know how to Twitter last year, now I can Tweet with the best of them. I’ve even had folks who “re-tweet” some of my chirping gems! I have a killer LinkedIn profile and my Facebook page is very active. I’ve read numerous books (Not just mindless novels!) that I hope will give me a greater understanding of social media, which does appear to the topic du jour in my career field (public relations/communications). I started my own blog, not just for the therapy it provides me, but also to highlight my talents as a writer/thinker and my ability to be relevant in this environment. It’s like getting a skill-set tune up.

As fulfilling as all of that has been, I want to go on record: it's not enough! I'm trying to make the most of my time, but unlike the Zen-ish cliché, this journey is not the destination. Unemployment is not my occupation. I’m ready for that sign on the highway that reads: Your job is ahead. Exit now!


How have you managed to fill the time during your job search?

What are you doing that's productive to your career?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stay in your own lane!

Perhaps I’m a bit naïve, but I believe that a job interview, like highway driving, is a two-way street. It should be less about an interrogation of the candidate and more like a dialogue of potential team mates.

But like I said, that could be just my simplistic perception.

Not long ago, I was in an interview, fielding the standard questions from a potential employer. Actually, at this point, I’d been through a telephone interview with the recruiter, another phone interview with the HR Manager and filled out the employment application. I had already granted permission for a background check and supplied them with my references. I’d been told they had narrowed their search to the three candidates and I was the first of the “final three” to be interviewed by the Hiring Manager. (Visions of American Idol rushed to my imagination!) In my understanding, this was the last of the interviews before a hiring decision was to be made. I was now talking with the person I would report to once (if) I was hired.

She was very pleasant and personable. We looked at my extensive (and impressive ) portfolio of writing samples. We talked about the various organizations I’d worked for, the kinds of projects I’d been involved with and the accomplishments of my career as well as some of the challenges. I even felt I had been able to effectively communicate why some of my past positions had not been long-term. (e.g., Sometimes, working for charity will satisfy the soul, but not pay the bills! and Because I value my family, consistently working 70-80 hours every week is not something I wanted to continue.) I was feeling very good about how it was going.

Suddenly, she looked at her watch and then launched into verbiage which experience had taught me meant the interview was winding down. “Thank you so much for coming in. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and your background. We will be making our decision very soon. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch with us.” She stood to shake my hand.

I could tell by her hurried delivery that the last sentence was not an invitation. “Actually, I do have some questions," I responded. "Is there a time we can continue our discussion?”

She sighed audibly. (Yeah, that made me feel comfortable!) “Well I do have another appointment in a few minutes. What kind of questions do you have?” Her tone was clearly agitated.

I wanted to be polite and respectful of her calendar, even though I wasn’t sure why a decision this important to the company (not to mention ME) was sandwiched in between other appointments.

“You’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about me," I said. "I would like to have the chance to learn more about and your team. Since we all might be working together, I want to make sure this is a good fit for me and the team.”

She sat back down and invited me to ask my questions. (I felt rushed, to be sure.) They were standard questions I’d acquired from the traditional job boards like Monster or CareerBuilder. (e.g., How would you describe your management style? What are the biggest strengths of your current team? What are some weakness? Was there someone internally who wanted this position? Why was the decision made to hire from outside?) More than that, they were questions that I wanted answered. It was information I felt I needed to know.

At one point during our ensuing discussion, she glared at me and said, “You’re very intrusive.”

I was stunned. That certainly was not my intention. But I firmly believe that our work situation is a major relationship in our life. We spend more time with the folks at work than just about any of our other relationships. Compatibility is essential. Open communication is non-optional. No relationship (marriage, friendship, employment, etc.) can flourish without those elements.

The irony to me was obvious. This position was for Communications Director…for a Corporate Communications department. If I wasn't free to have this kind of discussion prior to employment, what does that say about the environment “inside” the organization.

I offered a perfunctory apology. I thanked her for her time and said I looked forward to their decision.

In my heart though I knew: there would be no call back…and I would not be unhappy about that outcome.

Both predictions proved true!

Do you have an interview story to share?

What do you think about my insistance on dialogue in the interview process?

Please give us YOUR thoughts.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Should You Even Be Driving?

Not long ago, we had to take my Mom’s car keys from her. She has dementia and her health is failing. Believe me, she was not happy. But for her protection, and the protection of others, we felt it was necessary.

There are times I feel that’s how I’m perceived in this job search market: like a vintage old-timer browsing the lot for a new-fangled sports car: too old to drive, too forgetful for the innovative controls and a potential hindrance to others on the road.

Trust me, I’ve been in interviews with “Senior” Vice Presidents (who look like they just stepped out of High School Musical) and I’ve picked up on their tacit assessments: I’m antiquated more than accomplished; venerable instead of valuable. A job more in keeping with my current status might be a museum, either on staff or as an exhibit.

Now legally, we know that age discrimination is forbidden. Regardless, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that last year, the number of age discrimination cases reported increased by nearly 30 percent.

However, we also know that perception is reality. A little gray in my hair and some hard-earned “etchings” on my face make it easy to assume I’m an out-of-touch antique. In the mindset of corporate recruiters (often young), the stereotype is that I’m incapable of learning new technologies or resistant to new techniques. Worse, there’s the mistaken notion that I’m just looking to “wait out my time” until retirement…like some AARP version of “Senior-itis.” (If they could see my 401K lately, they’d know that’s not likely!)

I can’t speak for the rest of my elder colleagues, but for me, nothing could be farther from the truth. So, I’ve peppered my resume with references to my hands-on involvement with new technology in order to dissuade any preconceptions about my inability to exist in the new millennium. I teach classes in Microsoft Office products. I not only have my own Facebook page, I have an entire website that I designed. I have a Twitter account, with followers. (Granted, I’m not a threat to Ashton Kutcher, but at least his marriage proves that he doesn’t have an issue with age!) And I’m a blogger! That’s right, I’m cutting edge.

The cliché “you can’t teach an old new tricks” is difficult to defeat. But don’t expect this old dog to roll over and play dead. I may not be able to chase a car or catch a Frisbee (staying with “old dog” metaphor), but I have acquired skills that come only with experience. You don’t get “over the hill” without learning some valuable and useful lessons along the way. (Yes, that was a change in metaphor, further proof of how adaptable I am.)

Truthfully, I know I have much to offer. Younger employees may have an education, but I can mentor them with experience. School can teach all the new technologies, but only time can instill the skills to relate to people. Work ethic, loyalty and integrity build over time, and they should be modeled to a younger generation and valued by the employers.

It’s true, I may not be a GenY’er, but there’s still plenty of bang left in this boomer, baby. Can’t you look past my wrinkles and see my potential? Won't you ignore my age and welcome my vast experience?

Don’t make me hit you with my walking stick, young’un!

ADDENDUM: This article came to me today after I'd put up the original post. It's a sad solution to the problem discussed in today's post. This may need to be a totally separate posting!

ADDENDUM2: Here's a link to video that illustrates the points made in this post. It's a scene from the TV show "Desperate Housewives."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Directions Along the Way (Part 3)

Note: We’re continuing our examination of the advice given by the job search experts. This is the final in the three-part post. I thought it was better in bite-sized chunks rather than one really long rant.

If Martha Stewart were giving advice on how to do a resume, she would surely tell us: It’s all about presentation! And while the “experts” agree that presentation is important, it often seems that’s the only thing on which they can agree.

We’re continuing our examination of the advice given by the job search experts. We all want help in our journey, so we turn our attention to those Messengers of the Employment Gods, the Recruiters and HR professionals who write the articles, post the blogs and send the Tweets. However, sometimes the counsel we receive is a bit conflicting. (I see it as somewhat like the basic plot in the Akira Kurosawa film, Rashômon. Four people witness a horrible crime, but when asked about it, they all give very different accounts of the events.)

It would be easier to confront these troublesome inconsistencies if the experts presented their opinion as options to consider rather than "absolute truth" which must be obeyed. And there's always the implied warning that disregarding (or worse, disobeying) the authority of these anointed job-granting leaders will bring instant judgment. Even the smallest of insight must be obeyed. “Thou shalt not use a San Serif font on thy resume, lest ye receive the recompense of continued residence in the wilderness of unemployment.” (Did we learn nothing from our Bible lessons about Moses, Mount Sinai and those divine edicts from the Ultimate HR Power?) We offfer our song of willing submission. "We Beseech Thee, hear us!"

However, since the experts can’t come up with a unified position, we’re left with the responsibility of putting all the information into some kind of workable, practical and individual package of compliance. Hopefully, our fervent intent to follow the “spirit of these lawgivers” will be seen as worthy of providential light on our job search journey and grant us the favor of the hiring deities.

Like a wandering evangelist myself, allow me to share what I’ve what I’ve learned:

Objective. This is the part of the resume where I affirm my career goals. It’s a statement (or a couple of statements, depending on which expert you believe. Who knows?) where I tell the potential employer why I’ve sent this document to them and what I want to do with my career.

When it comes to the “Objective” statement on resumes, I’ve learned four solid pieces of advice from the experts. (1) Always include an objective statement on my resume. (2) Never include an objective statement on my resume. (3) The objective statement should be detailed, targeted to the specific job I’m seeking. And (4) The objective statement should be vague, applicable for any job in any market.

Got it!

Length. Does size matter? Apparently, what matters is opinion. Some feel strongly that no resume, regardless of emplo yment history, should be more than one page. Others are just as convinced that two pages are acceptable, if I have the experience and job history to merit the expansive length. (Most do agree that sending a resume the size of the NYC phone book is not a good idea.)

The divergent opinions also extend to matters such as Format (Chronological versus Functional) and Gaps in Employment. (Should I explain that six-month hiatus when I visited all the Civil War reenactments?). In addition, there’s little consensus on Standardization: do I use the same resume for all jobs, or do I have several (or many) versions. Or, should I customize the resume for each position?

Job History is another discussion altogether. How many jobs should I include? (What about those eight back-to-back positions in the month when I was dodging my crazy ex?) How far back to go? Five years? Ten years? Should my lemonade stand be included?


The dilemma and my decision: Not sure if it will help, but I’ll share how I’ve taken all the guidance and incorporated it into my resume.

I’ve decided not to include an Objective on my resume. As a writer, I do think it’s nonessential fluff (I work in PR, making people sound gooder is what I do!) Besides, it takes up valuable space on this all-too-important document. After all, is there any doubt why I’m sending my resume? I want a job! I need a paycheck! (And btw, if you ask me in the interview “Where do you want to be in five years?” I will answer in a similar vein: I want to still be employed and still getting paid.)

I’ve also chosen to go with the task-focused Format, highlighting my awesome skills and amazing abilities with key words and phrases. This is because most of my positions have basically involved the same function so I want to spotlight my acquired (and vast) skill-set. It's less about what I've done in the past and more about my CAN DO abilities now!

And I don’t confront the reality of my Employment Gaps in print, but will bring it up in the interview. (One was family crisis, so not easy to put it down on paper!) As for Job History, I only go back about ten years. (I get that my position with Slate Rock and Gravel Company would be pushing it!)

Finally, I don’t have a Standardized resume; I have several: one page, two page and variations of both adapted for the specific position/industry (i.e., for-profit company, nonprofits, public relations, communication, etc.) I have resumes that emplasize my experience in the religious arena and those that hightlight my work with charities. In fact, I have so many resumes in my folder it resembles the IN BOX at the unemployment office.

After lots of research, weighing the options and much soul-searching, I believe this is absolutely, positively the right method for me and my career field. My mind is made up and I feel completely confident in my approach. I am secure sending out my resume, clearly designed to please even the most capricious divinity.

But...what if I’m wrong?

Dammit! It's like having Sybil as my Job Search expert!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Directions Along the Way (Part 2)

I’m going to assume you’ve read the first part of this blog post. (Hey, I’m going to also assume you’ve read all the previous posts. And while I’m living my hallucination, I’ll also assume you’re recommending this blog to all your friends and that you will eventually make comments in the provided fields. A guy can dream, right?)

This is a continuation of the obvious, but useful resume elements and interview skills culled from scores of experts in the job search field.

  • Don’t make mistakes. Typos will not be tolerated. Don’t use text-message lingo or abbreviations. The hiring manager may in fact be ROTFLMAO…but that won’t help me get the job. BTW: this involves more than just using Spell Checker, which can miss what we in the writing world call "homonyms," which are not songs sung in a gay church! Rule of thumb: It's just plane smart too get it write the first time, or yule never get another chance. (Note: All the words in that previous sentence are spelled correctly, but what a horrible impression I'd make!)

  • Pay attention to what’s in Cyber Space. While I may not remember that weekend in South Padre, those picture of me in the grass skirt (commando!) will never be forgotten once they’re posted on my Facebook page. Twitter is fun, but telling the world that I am an “anarchist in training” could hinder my employment chances. The video of my “natural” pool parties on YouTube? Not helpful. (I sometimes wonder if this Blog will come back and bite me on the ass...oops, no profanity! I'm a communications professional.)

  • Check for dangerous “code words.” Hardcore and savvy recruiter can scan a resume to learn a wealth of information about me just from my descriptions in the document. And it may be information I did not intend them to know, so I must look carefully to determine if I’m sending “coded” messages about myself. EXAMPLES: I might think of myself as a “free spirit” while they interpret it as an inability to follow the rules. In their mind, I’m not actually “highly organized and detail-oriented,” I’m inflexible. And while I think I’m “willing to take direction,” they would see that as requiring micro-management.
Side note: Perhaps in today’s climate, I shouldn’t just stop with the obvious. If I’m really serious (and I am!), I might even consider changing my name. EXAMPLES: If my name is something like Homer, who's the first person that springs to mind? Poindexter might sound a bit geeky and Gwendolyn could be seen as pretentious. Gertrude sounds old. Bruce might brand me as…less than masculine. (God forbid!) If my name is Derrick or LaToya, some redneck might think I’m Black. Any name with a religious connotation should be avoided: Bernie, Esther or Mohammed. Don’t even think of using a name like Raul, JaSing or Ahmed. In fact, if I’m applying for any management position, it might be best to avoid all female names! (Unless I want to get paid less for the same job!)
  • Never, never, ever lie! (That includes “artistic license,” hyperbole or exaggeration.) Whether I’m applying for a position as a cashier or a CEO, my resume and interview should be presented with absolute veracity. I don’t have to mention that I can’t make change without the aid of a calculator, but I dare not boast of my advanced calculus abilities. The fact that I opted for a GED is not important, but if I include that I have a MBA from Harvard (with the corresponding online counterfeit diploma), I can get into serious trouble. (Jail time is not a great tradeoff for the tedium of unemployment.)

  • Don’t try to be cute or clever. Business is…well, serious business. I'm trying to get hired, not elected "Class Clown." EXAMPLE: One cover letter closed with the sentence "Let's meet so you can 'ohh' and 'ahh' over my amazing personality in addition to my skills and experience." It’s best to learn this important lesson in my job search now…before I’m hired: funny and amusing have no place in corporate America!

Excellent counsel, to be sure. Obvious? Perhaps.

But wait, there's more! (Did that sound like an infomercial?) In our next post, we’ll look at some of the expert insight on the not-so-obvious elements of our presentation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Directions Along the Way (Part 1)

To survive in today’s job market, we all need help. The same is true in the Job Search market, especially when we continue to hear about how just one mistake can cost us the interview, the callback or the job. So we turn to the experts!

“Help us, O great and powerful HR guru. Give us your wisdom, Master Recruiter.”

Because I want to give the very best impression to potential employers, because I want to be noticed above the other applicants, because I want to get a job (and because I’m a bit OCD), I’ve done extensive research on best job search practices. I’ve read the experts’ articles, websites, blogs, tweets and Facebook pages. I have digested their advice and share them below for your personal utilization…and amusement.

Some of the advice is obvious and could go without saying, but that usually doesn’t keep the experts from saying it anyway. (Nor does it keep me from repeating it here.)

  • Leave out any information that could be used for illegal discrimination. (Not that they would tell me that’s why I wasn’t hired.) This would include age, religion, political affiliations, and such. But I also need to make sure that I don’t include subtle clues to these areas either. Putting my date of graduation might give away the fact that I’m not part of GenY. (The fact that my student number was 00001 or that my transcript is printed on cuneiform would also be a dead giveaway!) Listing my political affiliation as Log Cabin Republican may be T.M.I. (Not to mention S.A.D.) Using a phrase like “seasoned professional” is just a subtle way to say “I’m old and out of work.” (see also, upcoming section on “coded messages”)
  • Avoid including groups, clubs and hobbies. While it could show that I’m very involved in my community or that I have outside interests, in the end, it wastes valuable real estate on my page. Not to mention the overzealous hiring manager might see it as a distraction to my indentured servitude job. (Does anyone care that I enjoy making my dog’s clothes?) If not careful, these inclusions could send the wrong signal. (e.g., What might potential employers infer from my involvement in Up With Amish, when I’m applying for an IT position?)

  • Family is important, but not at work. There’s no need to mention husband, wife or children on a resume or during an interview. I should never refer to my boyfriend, girlfriend (particularly if I’ve already listed husband or wife), significant other, partner, etc. Work-Life Balance is a great theory, but only from the viewpoint of the employer, holding it out as a carrot-on-a-stick benefit in the marketing brochure. (“We’re a great place to work because we value work-life balance.”) For the candidate under consideration to give any indication of interest and involvement in a life outside the job is tantamount to informing the employer that they might not put enough of a priority on work. After all, they know that once I get the job in the sorely understaffed department, my family will be dead to me!

Of course, there are more…but we’ll stop for today. After all, we have other important things to do…like find a job! (Notice, I said “other” because I'm certain how important my blog is!)