Some Achilles Heels to Think About in Your Job Search

When I first started this blog, I went over some points that I wanted to impress on my readers. Points that I believe are necessary to getting the most out of a job search and, more than that, a career. Over the past few months, I have encountered several individuals who have the right amounts of vision and drive, have the capabilities and qualifications necessary to obtain the positions they desire, but are having trouble with something else. It took me a second to really pin down what I was seeing, because it manifests differently depending on the person, but the underlying issue is the very first point I made a little over a year ago: “be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations”.

Uncomfortable is not meant to be a sought after condition. Uncomfortable means the chance to fail, uncomfortable means uncharted territory and the unknown, but uncomfortable also means growth is taking place and that with persistence you will become a better-rounded person, with more skill in a greater variety of areas. I have made a life of doing things that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’m sure I have mentioned a few, but in addition to my professional forays into door-to-door sales and telemarketing, I have also embarked on journeys that took me to places 3,000 miles from anyone I’ve ever known and without a lifeline. I have been the one whose voice in speeches and at karoke started with a quake, but ended in a belting vibrato! I don’t enjoy all of these instances. Some of what I have done still scares me, I still have to fight my instinct to tear across a room toward the nearest door underneath a sign marked “EXIT”. The reason I still fight however is because each time I do I learn a little more about what I can do and about this weird world we’re all spinning around on. I also learn that it didn’t hurt as much as I expected, that it wasn’t worth all the anxiety and effort to avoid.

Avoidance is the best word to describe what’s holding the individuals I’m referring to. While the ability and capability may be there, the willingness to expand that capability and grow their ability are lacking. For some it is the willingness to step outside their warm market and cold call a potential employer. After having exhausted friends, family, and acquaintances, the only viable way to make new contacts is to start fresh by talking to someone you haven’t before. Networking and getting along with people should be a subject all through high school and into college. Networking is one of few things that you have total control over and is one of the most likely ways to get a job. Yet, some job seekers are incredibly adverse to cold-calling, to writing letters of inquiry, and to meeting someone new on the street.

Another folly that some job seekers have is a need to be right and the inability to talk to others as equals or superiors, or they are unwilling to drop correcting someone who doesn’t want to believe that they are wrong. The war is almost always more important than any single battle along the way. If you were to concede a point, concede your superiority to someone who knows less, or do things in a way that is less efficient than the way you would like, but you received a job offer because of that concession, would it be worth the blow to your ego? Overwhelmingly people would answer, “Yes!” In practice though, we all are guilty of stumbling over that fine line between showing expertise and disrespecting someone else by implying they know less. It rarely feels good to be wrong, but in some cases it may make a world of difference.

 

A part of what I addressed week before last is the inability to keep up with the times. For some of us it is the sheer discomfort of leaving what we knew behind. Life is continual change, but we can choose not to change with the rest of the world. These people fall behind, far more than those who front-load the little bit of effort it takes to figure out what a “Tweet” is and to try and “Skype” someone. The change doesn’t only take place digitally though. As early as 10 or 15 years ago a combination or skills-based resume might draw some funny looks, yet now they are the standard. As little as five years ago  a job seeker was able to simply send out (paper) applications to the companies that they wanted to be employed with and then wait for a response, not so anymore! Sometimes attempting something new produces a worthwhile and lasting experience or tool, and sometimes nothing is accomplished and it may feel like a waste of time. It feels like the older we get the more we want to see the results of our actions and the more we want those results to be only favorable. The truth of the matter is that life is a series of mistakes and successes (not one or the other) and those who are willing to put effort into trying new things with earnest energy are more likely to find more of both.

Lastly, I have seen job seekers with the best interpersonal and social networking skills, and humility and social graces to surpass the expectations of the Franklin Myth, but then fall short once it comes time to ask for help or impose even the smallest burden on someone else. As sociable creatures, we need to ask for help, it is a virtue to know your limits, but find a way to succeed at a task beyond you with the help of others! Some people are more than willing to help, but find it vastly uncomfortable to accept the same assistance.

Each of these situations is easily overcome through the same action: by being able to place oneself into potentially uncomfortable situations we are able to grow and become more well rounded individuals. The risk for loosing yourself is very slim (most likely non-existent). As many things as we make a mistake simply because it is more comfortable, we can create that many opportunities for more stability, happier relationships, to know more, to make more money, and to be more successful overall by taking a chance and trying something new in our job search.

I’ll look forward to seeing if anyone has stories or questions relating to this one!

See you in the Cloud!

Your Jobsmith

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R.I.P. the Resume

Earlier this week I came across an interesting article, a couple actually, which stated that resumes as we know them are fading away. The authors use euphemisms that remind me of how someone describes what became of the dinosaurs. It’s interesting to think that social media has or will move business beyond the list of accomplishments, work history, and education. The belief goes that by foregoing a resume in the hiring process businesses can gain a deeper understanding of the candidate, save money by not sorting through resumes and cover letters, or winnow candidates out from a larger labor pool in times of high unemployment. Many employers are now requiring videos, web pages, publicly-visible twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles, Reddit posts, and foursquare check-ins.

As a job seeker, should you be concerned? Do the hours you spend perfectly aligning bullet points and quantifying accomplishments mean nothing?! While the job search has never been easy, this newest development doesn’t necessarily mean a complete shift in how you should prepare to look for work. I would argue that it merely means that employers’ expectations have risen to a new plane. The new assumptions being used to judge potential employees now include much more than a resume. The “new jobseeker” now has an entire toolbox of documents, skills, and procedure that they must be proficient in to truly impress some hiring managers.

In addition to the old resume, cover letter, follow-up, interview, thank-you’s now comes a virtual presence, both active consumption of the latest opinions and statistics, and a production of materials to be consumed by others. This digital age did nothing to destroy the resume, but rather added to it. Some companies may have given up on it entirely, in lieu of a LinkedIn Headline, Summary, and Experiences, many more companies are simply adding that search to their standard requirements. In addition to a Google search employers now expect you to proudly present your online presence, just as you would have presented your reference page years ago.

While some companies may be resume-less, most companies want to see how you present yourself, both personally/socially and professionally. To do this, it may require a video, a LinkedIn, or a professional blog, each one of these will be a little more of your social side, but with a professional twist. While these tools are important, they still don’t tell the whole story of what you have done and what you can do for a potential employer like a resume can.

The take-away from articles like these are that your skills should never be stagnant, your effort should never decrease, and that knowing is half the battle. A job seeker shouldn’t stand still for too long, for that matter, someone employed shouldn’t let their skills stale with time. You should constantly be expanding your knowledge and ability base and working to stay ahead of the curve. In addition, getting a job when you are 16 years old may be the easiest you’ll ever have it. With age and time it is a good sign if more is demanded of you, and you have to work harder than ever to reach the next plateau. Lastly, being able to apply critical thinking to emerging trends, to scrutinize new data, and evaluate advice will help you direct your energy and skills so as to make sure that it is not wasted.

It feels good to be back to writing and I’ll be looking forward to hearing what more of you think in the coming weeks and months, but until next time, I’ll see you in the cloud!

Sincerely,

Your Jobsmith

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10 Buzzwords that are Dead

Sorry for being MIA for so long. My month long hiatus was due to the time it took to teach myself HTML and CSS and the work I have done on a couple of  draft websites. Hopefully, you will all get to see those skills shine through here, and I’ll be able to show off my upcoming work very soon!  I am going to try posting more often. I will still be posting a longer article once a week or every other week, but you should be able to expect more frequent updates from me.

My post today reviews a Time.com (http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/12/13/ten-buzzwords-to-take-off-your-linkedin-profile-now/) magizine article about the top 10 buzzwords that you should leave out of your LinkedIn.com profile. I am guilty of some of these, but I will explain when and where I use the taboo’s later. For now, lets analyze the article.

The 10 buzzwords that they say make the “Overused” list. These are words to avoid for sure, but there are times that can warrant their use. The words, in no particular order, are: Creative, Dynamic, Communication Skills, Problem Solving, Effective, Organizational, Innovative, Motivated, Extensive Experience, and Track Record.  Even more than the author, Katy Steinmetz, mentions, all of these words have something in common. Each of the words in the list is quantifiable. Every single of those traits above can use a story, numbers, examples, or references to explain them better.

There is nothing wrong with saying that you are a creative individual, but you have to let an employer know how if you want it to be a positive factor about you. For example, my friend Paul can create a new song on demand from almost any genre of music if you give him a guitar. That’s pretty creative, but I wouldn’t hire him to help get my company out of a slump by creating a new marketing campaign. Every time you are doing something career oriented, whether you are looking for work or at a business meeting, you should be selling yourself. That means you are consciously projecting yourself as useful to someone else.

Just like creative, I use the following words in my LinkedIn profile which are not on the list, but they should be: Driven, People Skills, Leadership Skills. I do this for a couple of reasons. Both people and leadership skills are mentioned as translational skills which are the only reasons for me to put down a previous job. I worked in a warehouse years ago, it was temp work and it had nothing to do with the work I want to be doing or the work I am doing now (coincendentially they are very those last two are very similar). I have it on my resume so I can talk about one of the best examples of leadership that I have: within six weeks of working in that warehouse I was given supervisory duties as well as management passwords to trailers of merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars. Point of the story, I’m trustworthy and I am a natural born leader.

The only other time that something quantifiable shouldn’t necessarily be quantified is if there is a space restriction and the skill/trait can be better explained later. I use the word driven in my summary which I refuse to make longer than three or four lines long. I say driven because it is one of the most useful traits my employer can harness. My drive is what causes me to produce as much as people who may have more experience than I do, it causes others to want to follow me, it is the reason that I haven’t found a problem I couldn’t over come yet. I have stories about my drive, they just don’t fit into my summary, so I’m hoping that someone asks me about it!

Thank you all for reading. I’m so excited to be back pressing articles and smithing jobs for you, but until next time: See you in the cloud!

Your Jobsmith,

Brian

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Took the Words From My….

I don’t think that I could have said it better myself. In my next posting I will break this down a little and provide New York State resources as well as more national resources, but as an overview of ADA protection I’ll direct you to the link below:
http://blog.govdelivery.com/usodep/2011/09/career-connection-series-what-are-my-employment-rights.html

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Assumptions in the Application: Making an ___ of Employer and Employee

Welcome back to Fistful of Hired! Ithaca’s weather started taking a turn toward Winter, but that doesn’t mean the job market is looking dour. We ‘re still plugging along, getting folks jobs, and here’s hoping you’ll be next! I think that this post will be one of the more useful for everyone in this series. It will be especially helpful for people with disabilities who may have a little more trouble than others finding a job, but everyone is bound to enter a vocational rough patch in their life and this is all about over coming how others perceive that.

Resumes and cover letters hold the same basic purposes in your job search no matter who you are. Their looks may change slightly though, depending on certain protected status’. It is important to remember that you do not have to put everything you’ve done on a resume or cover letter. You should include up to 15 years of work history (preferably without any gaps of more than 6 months), and include any experience, skills, or education that is relevant to the job that you’re applying for, whether that experience was paid or not.

I haven’t talked in depth about the three major reasons to change one’s resume: you, the potential employer, and the potential job. These three factors become a round-robin of considerations you must process. How are you matched well for the employer, and how do you sell yourself best to them? What is this particular employer looking for in this particular opening and how can you show you are capable of fulfilling their needs (and that you have done your homework)? Lastly, do you address the match between your skills, education, and experience with what is asked for by the job posting (will you make it through the initial cuts)? All three of these questions are applicable to everyone, but some of them require more consideration give your particular situation.

Last week I talked about making sure that you could and would want to do a particular job. This is taking it a step further in that you could easily envision yourself in a position, but the reason you want to hold that position could still be left unanswered. Matching yourself with the job description is answering whether you could and would want to hold the position. Matching yourself to the employer goes miles toward answering the why behind your application. Employers want to know that you are not just applying to every customer service job that pops up on Monster.com. They want to know that some other business offering $2.50 more an hour isn’t going to give you reason to quit.

The possibilities for why you would want to take a specific job are endless. Maybe you want to support the local industry (and stay local yourself), maybe you appreciate the employer’s corporate responsibility with regard to the environment, or maybe this employer is particularly understanding of job seekers with particular demographic considerations. Whatever the case may be, it is important to be more than just an application, it is important to be human.

For individuals with disabilities, it may be particularly difficult to come up with a strong work history. There may be gaps when you had to take a break from work, or you may not have too many years of work history to begin with. One solution that works for everyone is to volunteer. By volunteering you can add “employers” under a “Relevant Experience” section, slightly different from your “Work History” because it may not be exactly paid-for experiences, those experiences do not necessarily have to have dates, or if they do, they do not need to emphasize them. A “Relevant Experience” section is meant to highlight the combination of skills that you will bring to the job you are applying for and where you acquired those skills. With this mind set you are able to showcase all of your talent without making your short or the gaps in your work history obvious.

Another option is to highlight, either in your resume or cover letter, what you did with your time while you were not working. In some cases you were taking care of a home, or an elder. Even if you are not working and couldn’t take care of someone, you may have been furthering your education or providing some consulting for a friend, or volunteering part-time. Don’t think that your activities are insignificant or that they aren’t “good enough” for your future employer. It is always better to be doing something, even if it is something small, than to say that you have done nothing at all.

Sometimes, you may have needed a personal break. During a break in your work history, there was nothing that furthered your career, but I am sure that you did not do anything. Let your future employer know, through a follow-up call or briefly in your cover letter that you needed a break, but that you are more than ready to go back to work and how excited you are for the opportunity they are providing. No need for a huge story, simply put your explanation should take up a sentence, perhaps two. Your cover letter is meant to be the human introduction to your resume; it is the part of your application where you can explain special circumstances or extenuating situations. Don’t let an employer’s assumption about a work history gap determine whether or not you get a chance to explain yourself.

I hope that this covers most of the main points of the application. Next week we’ll get into trickier stuff: disclosure, reasonable accommodation, and undue hardship. If you have a question, please let me know, but until next week, I’ll see you in the Cloud!

Your Jobsmith,

Brian

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Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean…

As I’m sure many of you know the market for jobs out there is tough. It’s even tougher if you have a disability; if there is a chance that you can face discrimination in any way. Even though there are challenges, there will never be a silver bullet to overcome every obstacle in the way. There are some things that cannot be helped and in some parts of our lives that we have to let go of the belief that we have control over. That doesn’t mean that you should lose hope, quite the opposite, the belief that we cannot control everything in our lives means that we have a charge to work harder in the areas that we do have control. We must do everything possible to form the best opportunities for ourselves as we navigate the paths we travel.

Each person has the chance to travel their path, and fight for where they want to be. Everyone is able to contribute to others in some way. Many times a different perspective or approach reveals a better way of doing things. That is exactly what Walgreens (http://www.dol.gov/odep/categories/workforce/readyable/readyable.pdf) found when they undertook an initiative to hire more people with disabilities and create two distribution centers which were wholly universally accessible (meaning people without and with disabilities could access work in and utilize every part of the facilities). At each distribution center, Walgreens attempted to create a workforce of which 30% had a disability. While Walgreens and their partner organizations provided reasonable accommodation, they held all of their workers, whether they happened to have a disability or not, to the same standards. When Walgreens compared those universally accessible distribution centers with other similar distribution centers, they found that the centers were 20% more efficient and that their employees with disabilities cost approximately $500 less per case in safety claims and had lower absenteeism that employees without disabilities.

If one has the ability to work and perform above expectations, getting a job offer should not be an issue, but finding an appropriate match for individual skills, interests, and tolerances without causing “undue hardship” on the potential employer may be an issue. I will discuss both “undue hardship” and “reasonable accommodation” in a later post, but for now I want to talk about easy ways to pick a job/career that’s right for you.

Of the things to take into account as a person with a disability is whether or not you are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. In other words, can you do what the employer is asking for if you had some equipment, assistance, or minor changes to the work place? If you are able to perform the job, the next question is will you enjoy the position? In addition to your personal satisfaction, there may be environmental or social concerns that need to be taken into account.

Http://www.do2learn.com/JobTIPS/index.html is excellent for outlining questions and concerns to take into account when narrowing one’s job goals. In its “Determining Interests” section the website breaks down basic concerns into four areas: Social Skills, Interests, Environmental Demands, and Job Descriptions. Do2learn provides printable forms for both the job seeker and a second person who may be able to provide a different perspective of the job seeker’s abilities and interests. At the bottom of the post I have listed a couple other useful websites which will help you assess what you can and want to do in order to better refine your job search, training goals, and networking. Jobzone and Careerzone provide job descriptions along with personality and work interest tests which may help you narrow the jobs you are looking for. Onestops Info has a couple of assessments and articles that you may find helpful and AbilityLinks has some questions that everyone should answer before they consider applying for a job.

Next week I will get into the job searching process for individuals with disabilities, including resumes, cover letters, job search techniques, interviewing, and knowing your rights and responsibilities with regard to employment.

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and posting even more often! Let me know if you have any topics that you would like me to discuss and I will get back to them ASAP. Until then, see you in the cloud.

Your Jobsmith,

Brian

https://nyjobzone.org/jobseeker/login.do?url=%2Fjobseeker%2Fportfolio%2Findex.jsp

http://nycareerzone.org/cz/assessment/index.jsp

http://www.onestops.info/article.php?article_id=85&subcat_id=1

http://www.abilitylinks.org//jobseekers/forms.aspx?PageID=567

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Are You Aging Like Wine or Vinegar?

Hello and welcome back! I’m back from my vacation, and it is everything I could have hoped for, lots of fishing, great food, and some of the best company as well as making some new friends. But alas, all good things come to an end and its back to the other good things I fill my time with: old friends, late nights, and helping job seekers! Sadly, you won’t get to hear about my evenings or my friends (much), but I do have a brand new post for you job seekers out there.

This week I’ll start by asking the question, “Are you getting better or older?” In my research for this post I came across many websites designed for older workers that claimed, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better” but just like wine, people can age into something great or turn to vinegar. I think that the phrase isn’t so much a statement as a question. If you don’t want to turn to vinegar, you had better keep up to date and improving your skills to ensure that you age well. Make sure that as the years pass you maintain a healthy knowledge of current trends in your industry as well as the new technology that is coming out. No one is asking you to be an expert at everything, but you should have a good understanding of what skills and proficiencies are necessary in your field (especially if you didn’t use the latest and greatest in your last position) and be using the new programs, websites, and devices that young professionals are. You are never too old, unless you deem it.

Those are very general and useful recommendations, but even by staying current, you still may face discrimination. Much of it will be stereotypes that are not true or not true of you and much of it will go unsaid or unaddressed. It is your job to get good at sensing the motive behind the questions and portraying yourself in a way that truly doesn’t fit the mold the interviewer may have for you. Before you ever get into the interview though make sure that every point on your resume and cover letter fits the job description and that you do not have dates of any kind from more than 15 years ago. Your work history should show that you have dependability and that the companies that you have worked for wanted to keep you around. You may want to include an “Work Experience” section in addition to your “Work History” section so that you can pull skills and accomplishments from jobs that you had over 15 years ago without giving the dates (“Work History” gives dates). Another way to go about this is to create your resume in a way that highlights skills as much as your Work History. In either case, you want to showcase your recent and directly applicable skills and accomplishments. Make sure that your recent learning and energy are apparent.

Once you have tailored your application materials, you want to make sure that you have answers to questions like: “Aren’t you overqualified?”, “How old are you?”, “What is your experience with social media/new technology?”, and “Why are you applying for this position?” While some of these questions seem innocent, they may be an attempt to get at some deeper concern that the interviewer has. If possible, try to vanquish as many fears as you can right up front by not talking about your age, but instead mentioning your energy (that you row every morning or hike on the weekends) and your ability to learn (you started a blog, you were part of or led a webinar). When asked one of these questions, be sure to have a response prepared that will deal with the question and also any underlying concerns that may be present as well.

I’m sorry to say that you cannot eliminate your chances of being discriminated against completely, but it is possible to reduce them through preparation and research. Make sure that the companies that you are applying to are older worker friendly. A list of such businesses can be found at www.aarp.org. Similarly to your preparation and research, your attitude can reduce the amount and degree of discrimination you face. You can and should expect success doing this will bring about a couple of benefits that may never be obvious: 1) Being positive will increase your chances of getting hired (https://fistfulofhired.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/interview-statements-and-their-answers-pt-2/) and 2) Being positive will change how you are looked at and what people want to be around you. You should want to attract other positive people and by doing so you will expose yourself to more opportunities in the future.

It took me sometime this week to weed through the references I wanted to present because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t include any which promoted a “can’t-change-the-status-quo” attitude. I think that change is possible and is something that we should be working toward. I realize that situations will never be ideal, but it is always better to work for changes in the things that you can do rather than what you can’t. I hope I these sources promote what you can change to improve your work search.

Before I sign-off, I want to give a special thanks to Jacqui B. for always being a resource to me no matter what my question might be and for providing the second set of resources used in this post. Jacqui, your hard work, experience, and knowledge is always appreciated.

Next week I want to start a series on employment strategies for job seekers with disabilities, but until then, I’ll see you in the cloud!

Sincerely your jobsmith,

Brian

http://blogs.forbes.com/danschawbel/2011/06/30/how-older-job-seekers-can-get-back-to-work/

http://info.6figurejobs.com/Blog/bid/58691/Overcoming-Age-Discrimination

http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/age-discrimination-screeners-objections

http://www.bestthinking.com/articles/business_and_finance/human_resources/employment_discrimination/steps-for-overcoming-age-discrimination-in-the-workplace

http://www.ehow.com/how_7707840_overcome-age-discrimination.html

http://www.experis.us/Job-Seekers/Research-and-Insights/Career-Center/Overcoming-age-bias.htm

 

www.aarp.org

www.encore.org

www.retiredbrains.com

www.workforce50.com

www.retirementjobs.com

www.dinosaur-exchange.com

www.seniors4hire.org

www.enrge.us/

www.execunet.com

www.greyhairmanagement.com

www.agelessinamerica.com

www.wiserworker.com

www.theboomergroup.net

www.jobsover50.com

www.azmatureworkers.com

www.quintcareers.com/mature_jobseekers.html

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