Apr 14 2014

You Think You Have It Rough?

Published by Hank under exploitation, immigrant

No matter how frustrating your job search is/was, if you think you have it rough, imagine being an immigrant, landing in the United States, speaking little to no English and trying to find a job.  Believing that America is the land of opportunity and the home of the free, thousands of people flock to our shores daily in search of better lives for themselves and their families, only to be forced into working conditions most of us would find completely unacceptable.

Sadly it is not uncommon for new arrivals to be taken advantage of.  There are many who see opportunity in the exploitation of those who come here. This is especially true when there is a broad language barrier.

Whether the immigrant worker comes to our country of their own free will or to free themselves from oppressions in their native homeland is almost beside the point.  Seeking political asylum or not, there are a limited number of work visas issued annually, and not everyone who applies for a work visa gets one.  Those seeking skilled and professional occupations must get their Green Card, and they will have a much better chance of earning more than a minimum wage. But those are in the minority.

Not all those who come to our shores have the skills for the specialized visas, and many get turned down for their Green Cards.  Immigrants without legitimate work authorizations or formal sponsorships must find work “under the radar” and are frequently forced into indentured servitude for twelve or more hours a day at less than minimum wage because these are the only jobs made available to them.  Even with a Green Card many find themselves working for little more than minimum wage, and often in degrading conditions.

In cities around the country, there are employment agencies that specialize in finding work for documented and undocumented workers, within the restaurant and hospitality industries, and as manufacturing and construction laborers. And the average job seeker won’t find these agencies in their local phone directory; the immigrant frequently knows who to seek out through word of mouth, in their native tongue.  Job seekers queue up for brief interviews and document verification.  Then, if the candidate is lucky s/he could be sent to another state to take a menial job at an eatery or hotel, and without hesitation, s/he will get on the next bus or train and head to that job in a place that is equally unfamiliar and unfriendly.

And to make matters worse, if that’s possible, these agencies operate under the radar, without licenses, so even when there is a legislated minimum wage, there is no compliance by these agencies or many of the employers.  And many of the immigrants feel like they have no power to control the situation, afraid they will not be assigned work, be fired, or worse, deported, for speaking up about these injustices.  And their concerns are legit because without proper work authorizations the threat of deportation is real.

Regardless of how you feel about immigration laws, ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement), the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, or any other legislation concerning the rights of new arrivals to our shores, you can’t deny that the wholesale exploitation of workers from other countries is shameful. Our country can do better.

Certainly there is a need for employment agencies that specialize in finding work for new arrivals! But I believe such agencies need to be regulated the same as any other employment agency, specialized or otherwise. And the work found for the clients of these agencies should meet the federal minimum wage and safety standards.

Many of the underappreciated immigrant workers will fulfill jobs and tasks that are already familiar, having performed them before coming here.  But many other workers will be taking steps backwards in their careers, taking any opportunity, even a menial one, to be here and start a new life.  And let’s keep in mind they are filling jobs that many of those who have been here their whole lives will not do!

Those who are willing to do the jobs others won’t do, are owed a debt of gratitude) by those who won’t do those jobs!  And it starts with insisting on fair employment and pay for all.  So, be grateful for the choices you do have in your jobs and job search and the conditions under which you will most likely be working.  You have it a lot easier than you might think.

For more ideas on your job search, career development and other topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Mar 31 2014

Going Back; Going Forward

Recently a friend told me she was returning to her former place of employment.  “Why would you want to be going back there?” I asked. “I thought you wanted to be going forward in your career?” The idea of her returning to that employer was a bit of a surprise because when she left her job with that employer she was not happy.  She had resigned after working there for several years and on many occasions had conveyed being miserable working for that company, the managers and alongside several coworkers.

So what was the motivation to return?

She loved the work.  She loved what she did and missed it while doing other things in the interim before returning. But she admitted to thinking long and hard about returning to the employer that made her life so difficult.  Among other reasons, one of the supervisors who she thought demeaning, had departed the company, and a former coworker who was not doing their job had been fired.  My friend felt the environment would be far less toxic and far more productive.

But there were other reasons for her to return as well.  In the time she was away from the company, she discovered there were not as many places as she’d thought where she could apply her hard-won skills.  Not wanting to waste her education and training on positions unrelated to her background left her feeling like she had little choice but to return.

Another motivating factor was money.  The employer wanted her to come back, and made her an offer that was hard to ignore, offering her a substantial bump in salary, and a couple of perks to sweeten the deal. My friend admitted to me that while the monetary offer was enticing, doing what she loved to do was far more important, and she would have returned without the raise in pay. Her time away from the job changed her perspective on the value she felt she brought to her department and the people she worked with, fortifying her confidence that she had more to accomplish and felt going back was going forward.

Job satisfaction, engagement, feeling like you are making a contribution, and enjoying the environment you’re in for 8+ hours a day are not factors to ignore in the initial acceptance of a job, or when facing the opportunity to return after a personal hiatus.  Certainly a lot of skills may be transferable from one type of job to another, and may even afford opportunities for new successes.  But there is a level of comfort that comes with the familiar; not just the surrounding environment but the functions and actions that are part of that daily endeavor that make returning seem like the right choice.

But having time away from that employer can also provide different perspectives, and perhaps heighten one’s understanding of the things that drove them crazy on the job and the reasons why they wanted to leave in the first place.  Maybe there were policies you didn’t like, or unavoidable personality conflicts, lack of recognition for contributions, or the distance and time of your commute.  Remembering and assessing why you left and trying to find out how much, if anything, has changed for the better or not, should be fully acknowledged and understood prior to committing to return.  If you don’t thrive in chaos and the place remains as it was, going back will likely be the wrong move.

Returning to a former employer is not the right move for everyone.  Sure, you can go home again, but will doing so add to your happiness and appreciation for what you have?  Only you can determine if going back is the right move for you and your career.  Going back, or moving forward?  If there are enough personal and professional incentives for returning, then maybe going back (if the opportunity is there!) is going forward, and the right thing for you to do.  But if after a thorough assessment you believe returning to a former employer will not net you the satisfaction you seek, your best course of action is going forward … to another employer.  Going back or going forward, I wish you the best.

For more ideas on maximizing your efforts going forward or going back, your job search and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Mar 17 2014

Making It Personal

In this age of social networking that reduces much interpersonal communication to the news feeds from various social websites, people tend to forget the value of making it personal through real face-to-face networking.  Nothing replaces looking someone in the eye, sharing a handshake and a smile.  Have we become too content with mere electronic representations of relationships?  There is little that comes close to the power of establishing a real interpersonal connection.  But sadly our use, and, in many cases dependency of, online social networking, has dulled our skills when it comes to establishing meaningful in-person interpersonal relationships.

Even if you’re out and about all the time, making contact with strangers to make real connections and build relationships (professional or personal) isn’t always easy.  To begin with, talking with strangers is easier for some than others.  If you’re not comfortable meeting new people, making connections becomes hard work, but it is still something worth pursuing.  And not all of our surroundings are conducive to openly making new acquaintances. Meeting new people and getting to know them a little can open us up to new ideas, perspectives, opportunities, and friendships; it can stimulate creativity, as well as professional and/or personal growth; and it can foster new beginnings.

After meeting someone, then what?  Will you follow up?  Will this new connection remain predominantly a stranger who you are minimally acquainted with, or will a deeper functioning relationship be established?  If, for whatever reason, you want to build a relationship with that new person, don’t wait for them to make contact with you.  Be assertive and communicate your interest in building on that introduction.

If you only make contact with one individual, your chances of recalling important information about who they are and what they do is a bit easier than if there have been several introductions at one time or at the same event.  And retaining introductory information can be difficult for many people.  For those who find it hard to remember names and faces, and for the shy and introverted, I heartily encourage finding a way to improve your networking skills using tools available in books found at your local library or through websites and online forums.  The ability to meet new people, retain names and associate them with faces conveys a sense of real connection with the other person.  Recalling another’s name is polite, it’s flattering; it demonstrates respect, and the perception of interest in the other person and what they do.

The ability to make another person feel like they are remembered, welcome and respected is an important trait. This is especially handy when you run into someone in an unexpected situation that is out of context from where you might usually see this person.  For example, bumping into a sales rep you know from work at a concert or non-work related social event, or the supermarket.  Your recognition might make another feel better about themselves.

Certainly there will be times when you can’t recall the name of someone you run into, or hear from online.  But when face-to-face, I believe it is important to admit your shortcoming, and ask the person to remind you of their name. Asking now can save you the embarrassment when someone else in the room asks for, or expects an introduction to the person whose name you can’t recall.  If you’re contacted online by an old acquaintance whose name doesn’t ring any bells, at least you can do some quick research about them using the usual online tools, and hopefully there will be some triggers to help resurrect your associations to them.

Unfortunately, too many people can’t be bothered to introduce one person to another!  Yes it is harder, perhaps even a bit awkward if you don’t know everyone you’re speaking with by name.  But one of the most courteous and respectful things you can do in any live professional or personal social situation is to make an introduction.  In doing so you are demonstrating respect, appreciation, a sense of welcome and more for others in the group, and particularly for the person being introduced. Introductions breed good will, interest in others, the deepening of existing connections and the broadening of each participant’s sphere of connections.  The depth of any new connections that may be established is not necessarily the responsibility of the one who makes the introductions.  And there is nothing wrong with being flattering or complimentary in the course of making introductions.  Just don’t “over-hype” the other person.

So, go ahead, be assertive.  Put out your hand and introduce yourself to someone new. Be polite and courteous, and by making it personal, you are conveying an interest in that other person. And in the process you make the world a better place!

For more ideas on maximizing your networking efforts, job search and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Feb 17 2014

Your Butt Could Get Bit

It is no surprise to employers that many applicants have experienced some legal issues in their lives.  Formal job applications still ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime, and you typically authorize the employer to perform a background check when you sign that form.  But just because you satisfied the courts’ requirements, the offense happened a long time ago, or you think the statute of limitations make the details irrelevant, your butt could still get bit from your past actions.

Many erroneously assume that arrest issues can no longer come back to haunt you in your job/job search after fines and restitution are paid, jail time – if any – has been served, and the matter has been cleared up to the courts’ satisfaction.  Not true!  An arrest, regardless of a conviction, becomes part of the public record, and the companies that perform background checks will likely have no trouble discovering your past.

If an arrest does come up from that authorized background check, you will need to convince the employer you weren’t trying to hide anything by not revealing this information in your application, and that the matter is no longer relevant, fines were paid, your record was cleared or expunged.  It also helps to stress that your behaviors have improved and similar events will not happen again.  However, major or minor offense, felony or misdemeanor, if you have been arrested, it is truly best to reveal your circumstances in a private meeting with the employer.  Even if you believe your record was cleared, or you were arrested and never charged, honesty is the best policy. Remember the employer just wants to be confident that you can be trusted to do the job you’re applying for and that you will not do harm to yourself or other people or their property.

For better or worse, thanks to the internet, arrest records and mug shots can be easily searched.  So if a background check paints an image of an applicant the employer does not like, it can keep you from getting hired, it can halt a promotion, and it can get you fired!

Complicating matters further are the internet companies that profit from the reposting of public arrest records and mug shots of arrestees, without their knowledge or permission. These websites mostly operate legally using content curated from public records, and they charge a hefty fee to remove an arrestee’s image.  To me, this is tantamount to holding one’s reputation hostage!

The existence of a mug shot does not prove that a person committed any crime, and people get arrested without being formally charged.  A mug shot should not be the cause of an applicant being denied employment, nor an employee to be terminated.  But it happens too frequently!

If there is an upside to this, when information is accurate we can learn more about the people in whom we put our trust and safety; like research our children’s teachers, the baby sitters, those running for public office, and do background checks on prospective employees.  But by itself, this information only paints a partial picture and should never be considered gospel.  Always get additional and current substantiating information to back up any claims, or fears, before making accusations or harsh judgments.

But if you’re the one with the mug shot, especially one that portrays you inaccurately and dishonestly, you need to take action.  In addition to possibly suing those who deliberately posted inaccurate information about you, you have some other responsibilities.

Talk to a criminal attorney about how best to proceed.  Laws on this subject differ from state to state, so it’s best to talk with knowledgeable professionals. There are legal aid services and agencies that specialize in working with ex-offenders who can provide information and referrals for your situation.

You may have to pay to have those photos removed from websites, and this could get very costly as there are multiple sites that post mug shots.

Get letters of reference from former employers and coworkers going back to the time of, or before the arrest that attest to your achievements, contributions and responsibilities.

Get as much substantiating evidence as possible to prove the inaccuracy of the posted records.  The more evidence you can present to prove your innocence or the inaccuracy of any charges against you, the better.

Be honest with your (prospective) employers.

Stay out of trouble!

Contact your elected representatives to express your concerns if you believe companies shouldn’t be allowed to deliberately post defamatory, inaccurate and incomplete information and profit from others’ hardships and mistakes.

As has been said in this space before, protect your privacy and your personal information, and be vigilant about tamping down any misleading information about you.  It really is the best way to keep your butt from getting bit.

For more ideas on job search, overcoming obstacles and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Feb 03 2014

For Your Benefit

While talking with a couple of Gen X’ers the other night, they questioned if it was a good idea to find new employment in hopes of bettering their benefits?  Certainly a good benefits package is among the reasons people accept particular jobs.  But if all you want to do is improve your benefits without trying to improve the quality of your work life and the value of your impact, switching jobs for better benefits is not a good idea.

When your decision to transfer employers for better benefits becomes known to the employer – and they will figure this out – it will kill your chances of getting hired.  While there is nothing wrong with wanting better benefits, as a prime motivator to switch jobs you will look shallow, arrogant, and selfish; not the traits most wanted by employers.

There are many factors that determine the actual dollar value of your benefits, some more easy to calculate than others, so switching jobs based on benefits is not clear cut.  Your personal lifestyle, costs of living, location and familial needs will contribute to that valuation.  If you live in the heart of an urban area, your need for certain benefits will be different than if you commute from the suburbs.  Workers with spouses and families will have different benefit needs than those of a single individual.

The cost factors of some benefits are partially based on the total number of employees in the entire firm, not just your office.  In a large company with multiple locations, the actual dollar costs to the employer may be less per worker than in a smaller firm with a single location and fewer people to insure for the same benefits enabling the employer to offer more diversity in their plans.

Benefit program rates charged to the employer may in part be influenced by location, average worker age and other actuarial and demographic factors.  Not all benefits will be employer-paid.  And not all employers in the same industry will offer exactly the same benefits packages, despite claims of “competitive salary and benefits”.  And even if a plan is fully paid for by the employer, it may not be perceived as of equal value.

Some benefits will seem more important or attractive than others, depending on your own needs at the time of hire.  Unfortunately there is no guarantee the employer will be able to keep up the same level of benefits as time goes on.  Company liquidity, stability, debt, acquisitions, size, the economy and other factors will influence their ability to offer and pay for your benefits.  Circumstances could change after you’ve been hired necessitating the company no longer make the same payments toward employee IRA accounts.  Stock options may seem very attractive but if the company doesn’t have the success they hoped for, those options could end up being worthless.

Employers are not obligated to offer any benefits! Those who can afford to pay for benefits do so because it helps them attract, hire and retain candidates they hope will be motivated to do good work.  Some provide these incentives in hopes that doing so will free up the employee to concentrate on their jobs with less distraction.  Employers recognize that most workers do expect good benefits, so they try to offer as much as they can, when they can.

Certainly if you’re unhappy with the level of support you feel as a worker from your employer, and you feel you can do better elsewhere, then switching gigs is something to consider.  If you’ve outgrown the gig and feel like you’re stagnating, make the move.  Otherwise, think about staying put.

Yes, sometimes you may be able to find “greener pastures” to work in, but don’t forget to weigh all the factors: the actual work you’re doing, the people, your output, personal recognition, your commute, daily expenses and the myriad other reasons you took that job in the first place. If you are unsatisfied, you need to figure out why, and then react.

Better benefits alone are not reason enough to change jobs in my opinion.
Talk to your employer or HR representative and ask about any improvement to the benefits package that appeal to you and other employees, and ask if anything can be done about it.  Speaking with the right party on these issues is important when you have the job because these aren’t fully appropriate discussions for when you are seeking a job.  Silence and complacency do not encourage change.

Stay put, or make the move.  Do whatever is best for your benefit.

For more ideas on job search, benefits negotiation and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Jan 20 2014

You Gotta Serve Somebody!

With the largest segment of the population reaching what many thought would be their retirement years, it’s not always clear if the Boomer generation will settle quietly into non-work mode, or continue to seek out new employment opportunities.  Certainly for some, retirement is the plan; no work, just trying to find ways to explore their later years.  But with so many of the Boomer generation still having a lot left to contribute, there is no shortage of mature adults seeking work.

A tip of the proverbial hat to those who spent their lives working and paying taxes who now choose to spend their days pursuing leisure activities.  Whether they worked into their 70’s, or cashed out early and started playing with their nest egg in their 40’s, if they are lucky and blessed enough to move forward without current employment income, they should enjoy that opportunity,

But there are too many older adults who do not have the security of a large cache of stashed savings from which to sustain themselves through their retirement.  This situation has forced many who thought they would retire “on-time” (63-65 yrs) to keep working.  And there is no question that looking for work gets harder and harder as one matures.

Most mature adults who want to work aren’t anxious to take a minimum wage job dispensing burgers at a fast food joint or as a greeter in a big-box store.  And while such jobs may appeal to some, those who wish to continue working are probably looking for something more stimulating and satisfying, both financially and psychologically.  And the good news is there really are some decent opportunities for older workers, especially those who have been blessed with good health and vigor.

Of course to get one of those jobs, one still must go through the same process as any other job seeker of any age.  Get a decision maker to recognize your ability to do something they need done, and you’re in.  (OK, so that’s an oversimplification, but I frequently provide details of how to get hired in other posts, so no need for it here.)  But because older workers have more contacts with whom to network and have often developed relationships within diverse communities, making connections with decision makers may come a little easier than for a younger job seeker.

If a mature adult decides to continue working, what they choose to do for employment will likely be different from their previous vocations.  Referred to by a variety of names, including “second act,” “second stage,” “third age” and others, at that point in their lives people are looking for a different kind of fulfillment.  Ideas of where they want to work will evolve, and thankfully those pursuits are often in the name of service to others.

Yes, there are many public and private sectors jobs that can and should be filled by older workers, but it is in areas of service to others where many older workers choose to focus their efforts.  Engaging in work that enriches the lives of others provides great levels of both personal and professional satisfaction for the worker, and contributing to the betterment of humanity has rewards beyond measure.

Today, the observance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is a national day of service.  We are encouraged to dedicate our time and efforts in service: to our communities, to those less fortunate, to those who need to be uplifted, motivated and supported, to help others, and to do something meaningful.  Thankfully, for many older and younger workers, every day is a day of service.  It is a meaningful way of life.  And it is in great part because of this new breed of older worker, every day can be a day of service.

So, mature job seeker, or not, think about how your skills and experience can be applied to the betterment of your community.  Not just volunteering for a day of service, but committing your working life to the same goals and ideals held by those who fought for our freedoms, who struggled to gain rights for the oppressed, and who created change for the common good of all.  As more people focus their efforts in service to others, the better our whole planet will be.

For more ideas on how service to your community can lead to meaningful work and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Jan 02 2014

Top Ten Things NOT To Do In Your Job Search In 2014

It’s hard to believe that the year 2013 is over.  It went by quickly and hopefully productively for you.  If not, like many, you are still looking for that right employment situation that matches all your needs.  Well, hopefully with this list, you’ll remind yourself of a few things not to do, and move forward to an employed new year.

Here now is my list of the Top Ten Things NOT To Do In Your Job Search In 2014.

10.  Send out/post cover letters, resumes, professional profiles without proof reading them first, and double checking them for accuracy.

9.  Ignore the need to practice and get comfortable telling others about your strengths, experience and goals.

8.  Send out old or out-of-date documents that do not reflect your most recent experiences and newest skills.

7.  Staunchly avoid attending networking opportunities in favor of sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring.

6.  Forget to notify your old contacts that you are still using them as references, and not give them any idea of what you need them to say if they get a call requesting information about you.

5.  Do no research on the companies where you want to work or their executives believing the less you know up front, the less jaded you’ll appear during your interviews.

4.  Send out hundreds of resumes and inquiries scattershot to companies you know nothing about instead of targeting specific companies and individuals.

3.  Drop in unannounced at companies requesting on-the-spot interviews.

2.  Speak rudely to employers, their gate-keepers and their staff, or leave rude messages for hiring managers saying they are crazy if they overlook your qualifications and industry knowledge and not hire you.

And the number 1 thing you resolve NOT to do in your job search for 2014 is:

Resolve to NOT give up, and to keep plugging away, networking, targeting appropriate employers and always demonstrating your best commitment to getting hired.

Here’s hoping you enjoyed your Holidays, and I wish you a Very Happy, Healthy, Safe, Employed and Prosperous New Year!

For more information on getting hired and keeping your job and other career development matters, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Dec 16 2013

Back On Track

What does it take to get your career pursuits back on track after your plans get derailed due to a major health crisis?  How do you come back after years of recuperation?  Battling a major illness and recovering from a severe injury are among life’s most difficult challenges.  But after all the physical healing is done getting back on track requires more hard work and a lot of patience.

If, at the time of your illness/injury, you were well established in your career, it may be possible for you to pick up where you left off.  If there haven’t been major developments or changes you could be welcomed back with open arms.  If your abilities have changed as a result of injury/illness, a former employer who knows your dedication and commitment might eagerly find you a new role appropriate for your current circumstances.

The same kind of major health events that can curtail a full blown career can just as easily derail the promising future of a recent or soon-to-be university grad with only dreams of what lies ahead.  Active military personnel who have experienced injuries also may have also had a professional trajectory before their service.  They too need help finding their way back on track.

For some, returning to work will require great changes and challenges.  It may mean pursuing goals different from what was targeted before getting sidetracked.  You may require new skills, new certifications, or going back to school before you can attain those new goals.  Some may be able to resume chasing those dreams while recuperating. Having a new set of goals can be a motivating factor in one’s recovery, helping them to achieve focus and provide purpose.

So how can they get back on track?

First, ask yourself:  Do I still want this career?

If “yes”, proceed!  If not, choose something else, then, proceed!

If you were in school, confirm that you had the credits to receive your credentials, diplomas, degrees, etc.  If the sidetracking occurred close to graduation, no further classes may be necessary, but sometimes additional work must be completed before the school can issue the declarations.  Start needed course work as soon as possible.  If necessary, contact the school’s disabled students department for accommodations now needed, including distance learning or other alternatives available to assist you.

Make contact with degree-related instructors, department heads, dissertation reviewers and/or career counselors with whom you had associations and who’ll recall your promise and potential.  Network face to face whenever possible to renew relationships and strengthen bonds.

Next, contact the alumnae groups from your schools.  It’s a good bet that even after a lengthy interruption to one’s career pursuits, the school’s alum will be glad to assist “one of their own” to move forward with their vocations, especially those who graduated from the same departments.

Current academic staff and former graduates are excellent resources who can frequently provide job announcements, info on internships, and personal contacts to help with the re-entry process.  If a planned internship was missed because of those heath issues, make contact with the same employers (or their competitors) to ask if they would still provide you a chance to prove yourself?  You can’t find out if the employer is willing to extend that opportunity unless you ask.

I would also encourage the reading of industry-related trade publications – online or hard copy – to catch up on recent trends, changes, movers and shakers.  Industry specific publications frequently have job listings and other contact information that can prove useful in one’s return after being sidetracked.

Returning job seeker should spend some time in a good business library, or a library with a well-developed career resource center.  Yes, a lot of resources are online, but getting assistance and direction from a knowledgeable librarian who can help you to identify and research local companies worth targeting could prove invaluable.  Don’t hesitate to ask a librarian for assistance!

I also advise returnees that they need to be open and honest about their individual situations during networking and interviews.  Traditionally, employers are not supposed to ask about an applicant’s illness or injury!  And if the injuries/illness does not impact one’s ability to do a job, they shouldn’t be revealed to an employer prior to an offer of employment.  An open discussion with an employer about your career interruption will give them a better understanding that the gap on your resume didn’t alter your commitment and dedication to be successful in your chosen field.

The best way for a careerist to get back on track after a long derailment is to commit to your dreams!  Find the faith in yourself and seek out the needed resources.  And don’t let your fears keep you from going after your dream jobs and careers!

For more information on getting back on track, your  job search and career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Dec 02 2013

Too Far Or Not Far Enough?

In this age of political correctness, I often wonder whether attempts to maintain sensitivity to all things has taken us too far or not far enough.  Have we gone too far in our attempts to be politically correct (pc) about just about everything?  It has changed our language, our communication and our own sensitivity to the world around us.  What was once acceptable is no longer so, in the name of that inoffensiveness.

One common example of this can be found in many restaurants.  Waitresses routinely use the words “dear,” “sweetheart,” “sweetie,” “hon,” “honey”, or “darling” with little to no concerns over potential repercussions from the use of these words when addressing customers.  However, in a corporate office environment, use of these and similar expressions might have their user brought up on sexual harassment charges.  Replacing those terms with “sir” or “ma’am” may be pc, but they are also polite and appropriate.

Marketers, business owners, even entire industries have numerous names for the people who procure their goods and services.  What association do you get when you hear/see:  “Customer”; “Client”; “Consumer”; “Public Partner”; “Supporter”; “Patron”; “Affiliate”; “Fan”; “Shopper”; “Buyer”?   These words all share the idea that goods and services are changing hands, usually for money or trade.  But in spite of that commonality, some industries insist the recipients of their goods and services be only referred to in one way.  With the exception of the word: “Patient”, usually referring to one who receives medical services, most of those words could be used interchangeably!

Typically we think of a “client” as one who receives legal services or counsel.  But the legal profession shuns the use of “customer” or “consumer”.  Non-profit agencies that provide services to job seekers seem have taken to referring to the people they serve only as “consumers” rather than “clients”.  Weird because the former most frequently refers to those who receive goods rather than services.  The word “consumers” further implies the exchange of money for goods, yet in most cases services provided by those agencies are not paid for out-of-pocket by the end user; it’s usually the responsibility of a third party/entity, like insurance companies, and state agencies such as departments of rehabilitation.  (Do they service clients or consumers?)

Does the name of a professional sports franchise, need to be pc?  Is the proposed change of the Washington Redskins football team motivated by the NFL’s or the team’s interest in being “more pc”?  The team name is symbolic of a group that has a long and proud history and fighting spirit?  Is the name inappropriate because the team isn’t comprised of all or mostly Native Americans?  Is it because they were mistreated for so many years?  If that’s the case, then teams shouldn’t be named after animals that are frequently hunted or on endangered species lists.   Is the name “Redskins” really any more pejorative than “Cowboys”? Is the Dallas football team comprised of any guys who rope cattle and ride horses all day?  Uh, no!   Does inclusion of the word “devil” in a baseball team’s name (now the Tampa Bay Rays) infer Satanic worship?  No!  In some areas I think we really have gone too far.

But I applaud some of the language alterations that have come about in an attempt to be more respectful and generate positive images.  “Disabled” or even “physically challenged” are certainly better words than “handicapped”. But I particularly like the word “handi- capable” for its implications of ability and overcoming obstacles.  When a vocabulary can improve negative perceptions everyone benefits.  Maybe we haven’t gone far enough.

Sports, or in any industry, how you communicate – the sensitivity and accuracy of your words and actions – will influence others’ responsiveness, acceptance and respect toward you.  If your industry’s typical style is pc, then by all means you need to adapt to those protocols.  If the linguistic style is more colorful and less “corporate”, you still need to be respectful of where you are and how you communicate with others!

The bottom line is: The language that you use should be appropriate for the environment you’re in, and the people you are with.  If you are rude and crude with your friends and such usage is common to your group, fine.  But be careful to not let that part of your style show in the workplace where non-pc communication can get you in trouble with co-workers and/or management, and could get you fired.  Others may not share either your humor or perspective.

On the job (and in job search) it is always better to demonstrate the language and attitudes that are prevalent in that environment.  No matter the setting, always try to behave professionally, courteously and sensitively.  With that combination you can’t go too far!

For more information on  job search and career development, and navigating political correctness in your job or job search,  please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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Nov 18 2013

Putting Veterans to Work

Published by Hank under transitions, veteran

In honor of last week’s observance of Veterans Day, I thought I would dedicate a little space to issues surrounding putting veterans to work.  Sadly, unemployment of returning military personnel is too high, hovering around an average of 8%.  Certainly there are a variety of factors contributing to this high number, not the least of which is the generally high unemployment rate in our country right now.  But there are some signs of hope that those returning from their military service will face (slightly?) better employment opportunities.

It’s a sad fact that many employers resist hiring veterans.  Some business owners fear that returning service people will not fit in to their corporate culture, that they are requiring too much structure, that they’ll bring the emotional baggage of their service to the job, and a bunch more poor excuses.

And the excuses for not hiring veterans are all poor.  The fact is that veterans make some of the best employees across the board.  Military training has taught them the importance of following rules and instructions, working within a designated structure, taking orders, thinking on their feet, and how to handle emergencies without panicking.  Service personnel also understand the hierarchy of command and reporting to superiors, working with limited resources, and taking ownership and responsibility of their actions.  These are all laudable work traits, regardless of the type of work or location.

Obviously, not all veterans are immediately ready for employment upon their return to civilian life.  In fact, for many returning from service this is a tough transition.  Many vets do not see civilian employment as having the structure they have become used to, and see “regular” employment as too unstructured for their comfort levels.  While this is somewhat true, it isn’t always the case. Many employment opportunities have formalities and disciplines similar to those in the military.  Not just limited to jobs as first responders for police, fire and emergency services, lots of other jobs require great discipline and maintain hierarchal operations.  Highly regulated environments such as banking, health services, insurance and other professions present numerous job opportunities where former service personnel can thrive.

Unfortunately, some service personnel can not immediately return to the civilian workforce upon their return from active duty.  Those who return with severe physical injuries have a long road in front of them for healing and rehabilitation.  But a larger percentage of returning service personnel experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and overcoming its affects, even without physical injuries, face uncertain recovery times because the affects aren’t as clear as the physical ones.

Compounding the situation, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) is overwhelmed from the high volume of vets they try to serve, and they are unable to provide the level of ongoing treatment needed by those with physical injuries and PTSD.  Yet, the VA is typically the first place returning vets should seek services, but it is by no means the only resource available to those coming out of military service.

There are countless programs that specialize in helping veterans return to the civilian work force. Some are nationally known like Swords To Plowshares, but many employment development departments (unemployment offices) around the country are making it a priority to assist service personnel in finding meaningful work. And although many employers are making efforts to find positions for returning service women and men, more business owners need to step up their hiring of veterans.

And another bright spot for returning vets are the opportunities being created and supported in the franchise world.  Many of the nation’s top franchises have instituted programs to help returning military personnel establish businesses of their own through dramatically reduced franchise fees, specialty loan programs and other options.  Franchisors recognize that those with military backgrounds have strong leadership and team building skills, and are able to follow the regimented protocols of franchise ownership, making franchises a good fit for those vets who want to own their own businesses.  Entrepreneur Magazine publishes a lot of useful information for veterans seeking to start their own businesses, franchises or not.  Go to:  http://www.entrepreneurmag.com and enter “veterans” into the search box for a list of relevant articles and resources.

And of course the VA publishes a long list of veteran support agencies that can be found at: http://www.va.gov/vso/VSO-Directory_2012-2013.pdf

To those who serve and who have served our country – thank you for your service!  Every day should be Veterans Day!  Our service personnel should be honored, respected, appreciated and supported every day, and any employment opportunity created to help these dedicated men and women return to productive civilian lives and build livelihoods is a blessing.  Putting our veterans to work must be a priority!

For more information on  job search and career development, veteran or not, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Nov 04 2013

Stress

Published by Hank under attitude, stress, work/life balance

Whether you are looking for a job or have a job, you will experience some stress.  It will happen! The degree to which one is affected by stress will differ due to individual circumstances; overall emotional state, daily pressures from work or job search, and attitude.  Even the healthiest, well paid, mellow, chillaxed individual will occasionally experience some form of stress.  How you choose to handle that stress can make a big difference in your attitude and your health.

Do you find yourself getting angry at little things that don’t ordinarily impact you?  Have you been raising your voice at inappropriate times?  Do you often feel hesitant, anxious and apprehensive?  Are you finding yourself ineffective at tasks that you do regularly? Does everything you attempt feel like a miserable chore rather than comfortably routine?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you are stressed.
In order to combat stress, you first need to understand its origins in your life.  Try to identify and isolate the cause of your stress.  Can it be segregated, at least analytically, so you can gain some perspective on why you are experiencing that stress?  You may not be able to immediately extricate yourself from the actual cause, but understanding and recognizing why you are stressed is the first step to coping and combatting the situation.

Are the causes of your stress internal and self-generated, or are they coming from external sources?  For example, being stressed from the pressure you put on yourself to complete a project on time is combatted a bit differently from stress caused by a boss or manager with unrealistic expectations who tightened your deadlines. Stress that originates internally must be dealt with and understood. We aren’t always conscious of the pressure we put on ourselves to get things done, be someplace on time, keep commitments.

If the causes of your stress are externally generated, you must also look into their causes and address them.  Are the daily traffic snarls of your commute getting your days off on the wrong foot?  Find a new route, telecommute, ride public transportation or car pool.  If deadlines are getting hard to meet, then make sure that procrastination isn’t the cause, talk to your supervisors to explain the importance of more lead time, and tell them how much longer you believe it’s going to take, including maybe even a little extra time to give you the leeway you really need.  (Something not considered by the Canadian firm that was building the healthcare.gov website!)

For many people, in a wide variety of occupations, the pressures caused by their jobs – internally or externally imposed – a state of (near?) constant stress is their “normal.”  Predictably, and not, some career paths are more stressful than others!

Being constantly in that stressful state can generate vicious cycles that are hard to stop.  The pressures lead to rapidly changing priorities, the fear of missing an important step or commitment, that brings on stress that leads to loss of sleep and focus, that leads to worry and mistakes, that lead to more stress that leads to further sleeplessness that leads to ineffectiveness that leads to exhaustion that leads to health issues and medical bills and even more stress.

As workers, maybe we need to encourage management to have more realistic expectations on the time it takes to do a job or perform a set of tasks.  Yes, many employers want you to believe that everything is a priority and it all must be completed yesterday. But we know this isn’t possible!  When bosses set realistic deadlines and expectations, there is far less stress in the workplace.

Combatting stress in your life is essential for achieving a healthy life-work balance! The examples cited here are simplified solutions to a complex and potentially debilitating malady that affects millions.  Exercise, relaxation, meditation, yoga, etc., are all important and useful in fighting off some of the effects of stress, but they aren’t the solution to understanding and minimizing the causes.  Employers need to be more attuned to recognizing and addressing stress in the workplace, and employees need to be vigilant in their efforts to minimize its occurrence and mitigate its causes.

An easy way to combat stress is to focus on all that is good in your life, spend time consciously thinking about all the things that make you feel good about life and about yourself, and breathe slowly and deeply (clean air whenever possible).  Do everything you can to combat and defeat the stresses in your life.  You’ll live longer, happier and healthier.

My friend, Maui-based nutritionist and owner/chef of Conscious Quisine, Jessica Qsar created a bumper sticker that expresses the best state of being, and I agree!

(PLUG)  For your very own “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” bumper sticker, ($3 each or 2 for $5), to Jessica Qsar’s Paypal account is:  jessicaqsar@gmail.com Include your mailing address in the notes.  Or contact Jessica at that email to make other arrangements.

For more information on fighting stress in your job search and on the job along with career development and job search planning, please search this blog, visit:  hanklondon.com or get in touch.

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Oct 21 2013

The Path Taken

Published by Hank under attitude, transitions

It is not uncommon that I talk with folks who are surprised at where they are in their jobs and careers.  Not necessarily unhappy with where they are in life, but recognizing that the path taken has turned out differently from what they started out to pursue.  Some aren’t sure they are where they are “supposed” to be, and others have found great satisfaction in their work lives.  This “redirection” of worker dreams and aspirations happens for a great many reasons, both positive and negative.   For some, it happens by accident; for others it is either an unavoidable or chosen detour.

If you started out pursuing a career different from where you are now, ask yourself a few questions.

Are you happy where you are?

Do you like what you’re doing?

Are you “making a difference” in the work you do?

Are you making a value contribution?

From where you are now do you see opportunities for growth?

Did you get where you are by “mistake” or “divine intervention”?

Is your original goal gnawing at you and something you still want to pursue?

What might you do to transition back to the direction you originally wanted to go?

Are the skills you currently use relevant to your other goal?

How much training would now be involved to return to your original path?

By asking yourself these questions, you’ll get a sense of either your comfort level or dissatisfaction with what you are presently doing, and how much you lament not following that original path.  You may already be tuned in to this but on a day-to-day basis we might be too busy to give these considerations much thought.  Taking a little time to assess how you got to where you are, and your acceptance of that place may help to ease many insecurities over the direction your work life has taken.  Or you might fortify your desire to make a change to do something else that inspires you, old path or new.

If you are not where you thought you would be, but are happy where you are in your life, this is a good thing.  But as we think about those paths we’ve taken, in our careers and our lives, what else has been affected? Think about your family and social life.  Would you be in the same relationships?  Would you have the same set of friends?  Have you developed interests in areas that you otherwise might not have had exposure?  Have you traveled for work to places you never imagined visiting?

Perhaps you went to school, got all the advanced degrees that you thought would make you the best at what you were striving for, and when you achieved that goal, you were unhappy in what you were doing and walked away.  I’ve known accomplished doctors and lawyers who decided the sacrifices to their family and personal lives were too great and in the long run not worth the efforts it took to attain those goals, so they set out on new paths very divergent from the ones on which they started out.

Along any path taken there will have been sacrifices, some more significant than others.  While pursuing and waiting for that dream job that maybe never happened, many people took positions they would have otherwise never considered.  Bills had to be paid, food put into bellies, so that little course change became one from which you couldn’t veer.  Getting caught up in the daily grind, there may not have been time to pursue that original path, so you stayed the course and took care of your responsibilities.  And maybe you found joy and satisfaction in what you wound up doing.

Whatever path you have taken, whether it’s your original or alternate, what really matters is that you are doing the best job you can do.  It may not be perfect.  You will make mistakes.  There will be frustrations.   There may even be fear.  But there should also be motivation.  Know that you will gain confidence and you’ll experience personal growth.  You will learn new skills.  And there will also – in time – be achievement.  So, whatever path you choose, give it your best shot.  Just don’t sit still.  Move forward on a path and goal that motivates you.

For each of us, some paths are better than others.  We hope we choose wisely.  But as long as you are sincere in your pursuit of your path, the path taken will always lead you to where you need to be.  Whatever path you follow, know that I wish you a successful journey!

For more information on finding your path,  job search and career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Oct 07 2013

Time Management

When you are working, there is a lot of structure to your day. You generally know how long it will take you to get out of bed and out of the house, the length of your commute, and what you might be doing on your job.  But when you are looking for work, constructive time management is of the utmost importance. Not managing your time wisely can sabotage an otherwise effective search.

Do  job search activities take any less time today than they did just a few years ago? It wasn’t that long ago when you grabbed a local newspaper and scoured the want ads for announcements of jobs you could do.  After identifying jobs of interest, you would make necessary adjustments to your resumes and cover letters to make them relevant to the jobs you were applying for, and email or fax them out.

These days we scour job announcements that come directly to us.  Some have been tweeted by companies and personal contacts we select, or they are sent to our inboxes from registered subscription listings that we have solicited.  Newspapers offer fewer and fewer job announcements, and many jobs never appear on the big job boards. (But you should still spend some time with job boards that specialize in listing jobs from your field of interest.)

But today you can respond to job announcements much quicker; it’s easier to research the companies where you apply; and you might not have to leave home for your interview.  In these cases, there is some time savings.

A job search should be as efficient as possible.  When clients ask me how they should structure their days, I make a few basic recommendations.

Don’t be frivolous with your time.

You can not effectively concentrate on your tasks if there are too many things competing for your brain’s attention.

Find a reasonably quiet place to work and let your family know that you don’t want to be disturbed for a specific amount of time.  If you can’t work from home because of too many distractions and disruptions, go to the library or a coffee shop.

Turn off all unnecessary input.  No TV, radio, MP3 player, streaming media device etc.

Only check your email a 3-4 times a day.

Ignore text messages unrelated to your job search.

Let incoming phone calls from your friends go to your voicemail and return the calls later in the day.

Sign out of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.  “I’ll just respond to this one message,” can turn into long sessions that eat up your day. If you use Facebook or LinkedIn for your job search, by all means continue to do so, but don’t allow your social networking to become the time-suck that keeps you from accomplishing your goals.

Spend at least half of your time looking for appropriate job leads and researching the companies, their management and staff, and key projects to which you might contribute.

Invest however much time it takes to send out the best versions of your resumes, cover letters and applications you possibly can.

Schedule some time each week trying to personally reach employers and the people who make hiring decisions. It’s better to leave a voice mail than make no contact at all.  Use LinkedIn or other professional industry-specific networking site to find names and contact information.  Trade publications are also a good source of relevant information.

Networking should also be a major part of your agenda.  Try to attend at least one networking event a month or more.  Your location and industry will frequently determine the availability of events to attend. These should include live lectures, job fairs, conferences and other occasions where you can become personally acquainted with decisions makers and thought leaders.

Lastly, and equally important, is scheduling time for exercise and other mentally and physically stimulating activities that have nothing directly to do with your job search.  This isn’t to say that your participation in recreational pursuits can’t become networking opportunities, because they can.  But you should tune out the search for part of day because constant obsessing over your search will only cause depression and a lack of effectiveness, which you want to avoid at all costs.

An effective job search does take a lot of effort, but it does not have to be a full time job!  If you give your job search a minimum of three to four honest, uninterrupted hours at least three days per week, you should be reasonably effective at getting your applications in front of the right people.  And this will also increase the likelihood of positive responses to those submissions; meaning a job offer.  That is the ultimate goal of your time management. Right?

For more information on time management, your  job search and career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Sep 23 2013

Greener Pastures

Do you ever contemplate relocating to another part of the country, or another part of the world?  Do you wonder if greener pastures are on the other side? Are there new, different, more exciting opportunities for you someplace else?  It certainly is possible that something different, maybe even better, awaits you in another location.  But the real questions revolve around whether you’re ready to make that kind of move and how doing so would affect your personal and professional life.

If you already work for a large corporation with an international presence, you may already have an opportunity to make a change to different location.  Network with some senior people at your company and ask about existing or planned domestic and/or international operations.  An employee with a solid record of responsibility and achievement might be just the right person to fill a needed vacancy in another location, domestic or abroad.

Five years ago an acquaintance casually mentioned he was restless and wanted a change of venue for a while. I encouraged him to speak candidly with his bosses.  Smartly, he sat down with his supervisor to talk about how he was feeling, that he was restless, and that he was even thinking about quitting.  Since he was already a trusted and valuable employee, the supervisor, made a quick call to one of the corporate executives, and by the end of the business day the guy was set to open a new company office in Rome.  Since new offices in multiple European cities were already in the pipeline, his timing was excellent.  He has now opened offices in Rome, Sweden and Barcelona, and his employer is very appreciative.

It didn’t hurt that this fellow spoke fluent Italian in addition to his native English. Anyone taking on such a move would benefit from being multi-lingual or be able to quickly learn another tongue.  However, adapting to a new language doesn’t come easily to many people.

Comfort and acceptance of different cultures and ways of doing things will also be important.  Immersing yourself into a totally new environment, even if you do speak the language, can be very stressful, confusing, lonely and frustrating.  But it can also be rewarding, challenging, enlightening and inspiring.  But the immersion of a long-term stay is different from typical vacation travel, where, at best, you’re only getting a little taste of what it’s like to be a local in those new surroundings.

Here are some other things worth your consideration prior to making a big move.

How much do you already know about where you’ll be moving to, and are you willing to do some research in advance?

How well do you assimilate with new people, situations and relationships?

Will you be distracted by all the things that are different in your new location?

Will you have any special requirements; things such as dietary needs, medical supplies, transportation, or specialized equipment?

Will your work be centered around your new location and time zone, or will you need to work odd hours to accommodate the needs of distant offices or clients, and telecommuting at 3:00 A.M.?

Will you be able to adjust to local weather, climate or altitude conditions?

Will you be able to maintain your lifestyle on the salary of a new location?

What will you do with your current residence?  Give it up? Rent it out? Sell it? And what about any ongoing expenses “back home” while you’re living elsewhere?

How much assistance will your employer provide in finding housing, directing you to important local services, relocation expenses, acquiring work permits and visas?

Will you have buy-in from your family and significant others?

Will the company defray the cost of relocating a spouse, domestic partner or children?

This is just a sampling of considerations.  The questions you must ask yourself before relocating will be mostly about your own needs and wants for comfort and managing your work and personal life in a different place.  Any familiarity you already have with the new locale is a bonus; you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll be getting into.

If you don’t work for a large corporation with offices scattered domestically and/or abroad, that’s ok. If you are seeking greener pastures, there are many opportunities for you in other cities or countries.  Be honest with yourself about your skills and where you want to be.  Do a ton of research about employment in your desired location, maybe contacting the economic development office of your target locale, or the individual companies where your talents can best be utilized.

Relocation can be difficult, but it can also be an experience like no other.  So if you’re looking for greener pastures, start investigating your options and interests. A new start may be just what you’re looking for.  Happy trails to you.

For more information on surviving relocation, job search and your career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Sep 09 2013

Time To Take Inventory

In the last installment Watch Your Q’s and A’s, we talked about the differences between skills, qualifications and accomplishments.  Now it’s time to take inventory of those skills. Taking stock of what you know how to do and where each skill can best be applied enables you to tell employers you have what they need to solve specific problems.  The more ways you can describe what you do, the better you can address those employer needs and improve your chances of getting hired.

Start by making a list of the skills you know you have, including both hard and soft skills.  Hard skills being the ones you learned and mastered; soft skills are your basic and everyday skills like interpersonal communications and other skills you have used your whole life.  (For a slightly more in depth look at your soft skills, go to the Nice n Soft blog entry.)  It may not be necessary to list all your skills on your resumes or reference them in your cover letter. The ones you actually use will depend on the kind of work you’re looking for and your time in the work force.

The more skills you list, the easier it will be to address the needs of a particular employer and position.  To help you in deciding which ones to use, look at the job announcements you are responding to and look for some of those same words from your lists in the announcements. Those key words are often used as filters, either by electronic resume scanning systems, the human eyes of recruiters, or both, in the employer’s attempts to identify who can do what they need done.  Your use of those key words in your documents lets the employer know you are able to tackle those needs.

But another reason for identifying your skills, is so that you become comfortable verbally discussing what you can do.  For many people, face-to-face social networking can be just as nerve wracking an experience as interviewing, especially if you’re meeting decision makers who can put you in a job of interest.  In circumstances like these rattling off what you know how to do coherently may not come easily.  But if you have refamiliarized yourself with your lists, you will be more comfortable talking with others about what you can do for them in the workplace.

And as you look at your skills lists, don’t hesitate to include the finer points and specifics of your skills.  For example, saying that you “write code” is a good start, but specifying the particular computer coding languages you are strongest in, and the types of applications to which you contributed, gives a clearer picture of what you can do.  Saying that you are a teacher is a pretty broad statement, but explaining that you are a  specialist with an emphasis in early childhood educational development paints a more specific picture.  And your comfort with these concise descriptions will also help you formulate your Accomplishment statements.

After you’ve compiled your full list of skills, prioritize them.  Create one list that puts your skills into an historic perspective, with your most recently acquired skills at the top, and your oldest skills last.  This kind of list helps in your resume creation because the items in each resume category are presented in reverse chronological order (most recent first).

Another way to prioritize your skills is by their importance and the likelihood you will use them on your next job. This enables you to find items in your list that satisfy employer wants as stated in job descriptions and emphasize the most relevant and important.

The exercise of creating a skills inventory improves your retention of both the larger and smaller details about your skills and how you have applied them in the past, so that you can more readily and strongly address employers’ needs, both in networking and for your job search documents.  How often should you take inventory of your skills?  That depends on how many new skills you acquire and have become comfortable using.  But doing so once a year, is a good idea.

So whether you are looking for a new job or a promotion, now is a good time to take inventory, rediscover your work history and gain a renewed perspective on what you’ve done and what you can do.

For more information on skills identification, job search and your career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Aug 26 2013

Watch Your Q’s and A’s!

Without minimizing the importance of being able to answer tough interview questions with concise answers, today’s column is about the other Q’s and A’s: Qualifications and Accomplishments.  Qualifications and Accomplishments are the resume headings misused most frequently during job search document preparation. This happens primarily because the information revealed by both these and other headings can often be similar.  However it’s the way you state the information that differentiates where you should place your content.

When reviewing resumes, employers expect to see orderly and easy to decipher information that reveals something about the skills of the applicants.  That’s one of the reasons the information on a resume is separated into categories.  Skills are sometimes called Skills, and other times referred to as Qualifications.  The difference between these headings is a fine point:  Typically, a list of Skills will include only mentions of functions and talents used in the execution of a candidates work history.  A list of skills alone does not provide detail about how or where the skill was used, nor how the skills relate to the position being sought.

When Qualifications are stated, they convey skills relevant to the job being applied for, and something about the way those skills were used.  Think of your Qualifications as a group of statements that succinctly describe your most important skills and major successes that specifically identify How You Will Do The Job for which you are applying.  Qualifications state your ability to perform the tasks of the job, and what you have done prior that makes you qualified to fill a particular position!

Some examples of Qualifications:

  • Ten + years in management and supervision
  • Superior diagnostic and analytical skills
  • Write and compile computer code in 24 different languages
  • Accurate documentation and communication of details to supervisors
  • Concise translation of technical information into comprehendible lay terms
  • Proficient using MS Office, Photoshop and other productivity software
  • Effective communication with all levels of staff, management and customers
  • Extensive successful experience closing sales and increasing revenues

Stated merely as Skills, they might read like this:

  • Supervisory experience
  • Diagnostics and Analysis
  • Coder (Code Jockey)
  • Detail oriented
  • Read technical schematics
  • Computer literacy
  • Communications
  • Sales

Accomplishments are succinct descriptions of the best and most relevant experiences you had on previous jobs that convey your strengths at performing functions typical of a particular position, your achievements and successes. Sometimes referred to as PAR Statements (Problem, Action, Resolution), your accomplishments can convey not just the what, but the how of your experiences. As always, accomplishment statements should be directly allied to the position you want to fill.  Accomplishment Statements are formulated by using Past Tense Action Verbs to detail specific actions you’ve taken on previous jobs, illustrating how you solved problems, created solutions, took successful steps to make things happen, and completed your tasks.

Now let’s make those same qualifications into Accomplishment/PAR statements:

  • Managed and supervised multiple departments for over ten years resulting in increased productivity and lower turnover rates.
  • Diagnosed test results and analyzed samples to achieve maximum accuracy.
  • Designed and coded XYZ Co.’s ultra HD photo/video manipulation and finishing software using 15 different coding languages, boasting the broadest range of frame rates, imaging formats and their convertibility on the market, delivering release version three weeks ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • Provided accurate documentation to supervisors and clearly communicated findings to insure proper follow-up actions were taken.
  • Translated technical jargon into lay terms for use by marketing department that was subsequently included in product documentation and promotional materials.
  • Used a wide variety of office productivity software to prepare documents and images for marketing presentations and hand-out literature.
  • Communicated effectively with all levels of staff, management and vendors to cultivate strong relationships, increase collaboration and improve pricing.
  • Closed sales and increased revenue for 7 consecutive quarters breaking company-wide sales records, and improving company recognition in the marketplace.

Yes, accomplishment statements are longer and more wordy than merely indicating skills, but they allow you provide greater detail of your actions and their results in the course of performing your job.  Of course some of those details come from lengthier work experience; a more tenured employee should be able to provide more detail about their capabilities.

It’s not a bad idea to build an arsenal of strong accomplishment statements.  Every job seeker should have at least ten that they can plug-in to represent the breadth of their careers and work history.  Optimally, a batch of 20 or more accomplishments affords greater flexibility to convey the finest points of one’s abilities. How many you choose to use is mostly dependent on the length of your career, and the number of jobs you’ve had.

So start examining your career, and separate your Qualifications from your Accomplishments, and watch your Q’s and A’s.

For more info on avoiding job search pitfalls and succeeding in your career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Aug 12 2013

Katrina Rides New Waves

Recently, I heard from Katrina, a French-born marketing assistant living in Ohio, who has spent most of her life in the United States.  She has lived in many diverse locations around the globe, has traveled extensively, and considers herself industry-wise because of her world-wide exposure to her field.  Katrina told me she attended college in Ohio, studied business for over three years but attained no degrees or certificates.  When she isn’t working, her passion is surfing.

On a return flight from Europe (coincidentally, a good places to do some networking), late last year, she met a gentleman who said he was in the earliest stages of building a global marketing company for textile manufacturers.  Since marketing and textiles were of personal and professional interest, Katrina made sure to get the gentleman’s contact information, and started corresponding with him about his goals for his new company.  She also did some sleuthing to verify that her new acquaintance was who he claimed to be, and that he had a verifiable and reputable background.  I was impressed with her proactive due diligence.

Within a couple of weeks of returning from her trip, Katrina heard that the man she met was indeed moving forward with his plans, and hoped to start identifying key staff and find suitable applicants within about 6 months after all the proper paperwork for establishing his business had been filed.  Although no formal ovations about employment had been made to Katrina, she got excited believing she had an inside chance for a position in this new firm; and possibly, found a mentor who could help her build her career.

When she believed the time was right, Katrina wrote a cover letter, accompanied by a proposal for her to fill the very involved position of corporate liaison in the Sydney, Australia office; a far different assignment than what she had previously discussed with her fellow traveler.  She presented him some fairly good arguments as to why she should fill this important opening.  Katrina identified housing and accommodations, schools, shopping, medical and hospital services, and appropriate Sydney-based business leaders, among other necessities typically required for transplanted or visiting staff.  The proposal also included cost analyses, budgeting formulas and other details that she hoped would demonstrate her understanding of what she would be doing, and what would be needed for her to be effective in this position.  She had done her homework!

Katrina felt confident that she touched upon enough major points for success in the liaison role, but the textile marketer wasn’t convinced.  And he told her so.  In fact, he was put off by her changing direction from what they had originally discussed, and said he felt like she had misrepresented her real aspirations.  It made him question her honesty and sincerity.  Ouch!

Feeling like she had blown an opportunity to find a good position and build a strong professional bond, Katrina waited a few weeks and again contacted the executive.  In her assertive yet not pushy note, she apologized for presenting a limited picture of her own interests and goals. She also stated she never felt limited to only apply for the same or similar positions and not look to advance her career or change her objectives.  She said that doing so would be stagnating.  So, to further her defense (not that she really needed one!), Katrina sent the executive an extensive portfolio representative of the projects where she had made significant contributions, and enumerated the diversity and scope of what she did on each one. This package contained for more materials than the content of her earliest follow-up notes.  And she was also able to present some additional references to support her claims of experience, each with expressions that Katrina was more capable than the position allowed her to be, and with encouragement for future employers to look beyond her work history.

Several weeks passed after Katrina sent off her defense materials, and she heard nothing.  Not wanting to be any more aggressive, Katrina left well enough alone, and decided to not pursue the matter any further.  However she did continue to follow his LinkedIn postings and Twitter feeds.

Three months after receiving her packet, the executive called Katrina.  He realized he had been quick to judgment, and unfairly categorized Katrina as too full of herself, and hadn’t fully explored what she could do.  The entrepreneur finally did his own research on Katrina, and checked out the references who shouted her praise, to make sure they knew Katrina .and her work well enough to vouch for her expertise and motivation.  He was suitably impressed enough to contact Katrina and formally discuss her filling the corporate liaison position.

This could have gone either way.  The executive could have dismissed the materials and Katrina as no longer worth his time for her “misleading” him.  Or, as it turned out, taken a new and objective look at Katrina’s proposal, applauded her tenacity and confidence, and encouraged her to keep moving forward.  Which he did!  Katrina is packing to move Down Under, leaving in September for her new corporate liaison job which begins a week after her arrival.  We hope Katrina rides these new waves to great success and happiness.

For more ideas about making your own career waves, success stories about job search and career development, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Jul 29 2013

Longevity

Published by Hank under attitude, retaining employees

When Leonard Nimoy as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock first uttered the words “Live long and prosper” in 1967 he was not referring to the length of one’s career.  Although by extension, longevity in one’s chosen profession isn’t a bad thing to wish on anyone.  And when the original series aired, the supposition was that most people would stay with one employer and career for the majority of their working lives.  But this hasn’t been true for over a decade.  In fact, it is becoming less likely that an individual will stay with the same firm for more than 3 or 4 years, and just as likely they will change careers 5 or more times in the course of their working lives.

Yet many people are inclined to keep working for the same employer for the long haul believing that staying put offers better long-term job security and opportunities for advancement, especially in positions that have tenured status.  Important considerations in our current economy! Others stay put because of the familiarity with the work being done, the surroundings, and the chance to accomplish things with the same people whom they have known for many years, when coworkers become friends.  These factors contribute to social interaction, work-life balance, and the building of community.

Here are some numbers:  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of January 2012 the average time workers spent with a single employer was 4.6 years.  And twenty one percent of all workers 16 years and up had a year or less with their current employer.

The trend currently is for workers to spend fewer years with the same company. Gen Y and Millennials seem to be keeping this trend moving forward, although the latter group doesn’t yet have a long enough employment track record to prove if this trend will continue.  Younger workers seem to believe that leaving one company for another ensures them of salary increases, better benefits, faster advancement, and other perks.

Regardless that some employees have delusions of grandeur and erroneous perceptions of their own value, most employers don’t appreciate the turn-over trend, believing that employees leaving one company for another before establishing a track record of accomplishments and experiences, is premature.  Quick employee departure provides no real benefit to the worker or to the company, and eliminates any potential return on the employer’s investment in that hire.  HR people often refer to those who don’t stay in one place too long as Job Hoppers, and will frequently ignore applications from those who don’t have a minimum of two years or more with one company.

Some industries are notorious for high turnover rates and rapidly revolving doors.  Few are lucky enough to stay with one employer for ten years or more.  In fields such as radio and television for example, one’s longevity is determined in great part by ratings and fickle management whim.  Lengthy single station stays (15, 20, 25 or more years) are rare.  Those with lengthy careers have likely worked for multiple stations, but possibly maintained employment with a single corporation.  That’s no small feat these days in any industry!

Give props to those who start out in low end entry level positions, slowly gain experience, demonstrate their skills and work their way up to top management positions with the same company where they started.  Longevity of this nature is increasingly rare, yet it was once what almost every worker strived for.

So, what does it take to achieve longevity in almost any job or career?

It starts with the Desire to stay put, and the Tenacity and Commitment to make it work for you.

An ability to Cooperate with management and coworkers.

The Demonstration of Leadership and the ability to Coordinate resources.

Continually proving the Effectiveness of your skills and their value.

Continuous Professional Development, Skills Enhancement and ongoing education.

Adaptability and Flexibility to change on a dime and do what needs to be done.

Effective Communication with all levels of staff, management, internal and external personnel.

Being a Team Player willing to go to whatever lengths to see that projects are successfully completed.

Learning and understanding the processes of all areas in the company.

Support and encouragement from those higher up than yourself, who want to see you succeed and grow.

But a wide variety of factors including personal satisfaction, achievement and professional recognition will also influence one’s ability to achieve longevity on the job and in their careers.  Unhappy, unmotivated, unengaged workers are more inclined to switch jobs more frequently.

Will your job and career be one of longevity?  It starts with your desire to pursue one thing, and your commitment to keep at it, sometimes in the face of adversity.  You won’t know what you can achieve unless you commit for the long term.

For more ideas about career longevity, your job search,  career development and answering the tough interview questions, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Jul 15 2013

Contingency

What happens when the conveyance you depend on for getting to work or looking for work is not functioning?  Do you have a contingency plan for such situations?  Have you given thought to how you would get around if your personal vehicle or local transit system wasn’t running?  Last week in the San Francisco area, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART), a regional commuter train, went on strike.  Judging from the snarled freeways, bridges and tunnels and congested city streets, it was obvious not too many people – employees or employers – gave much advance thought on how to cope.

In situations like a strike, announcements are usually made to the media from both management and the labor sides, indicating that a work stoppage is imminent.  In fact, the press had mentioned the likelihood of a strike 5 full days before the walk out, giving commuters a chance to make alternative arrangements for getting to/from work. These announcements apparently were not heeded, nor taken seriously, as most people could not or did not make alternative arrangements.

Part of the issue was poor (lack of?) planning on the part of workers and their employers, but if everyone whose job was not dependent on them physically being in a corporate office telecommuted, the traffic issues would have been nearly negated.  Certainly not everyone can telecommute to do their jobs, but in this case too many employers still insisted their workers show up to the office, and denied everyone the flexibility telecommuting would have afforded.

Thousands of workers lost valuable productivity time being stuck in traffic snarls that could have been eased by employers enacting a variety of contingency plans.  Enabling more employees to telecommute, vary their work schedules, arranging ride sharing, or providing alternative transportation options, would have all been plausible for lessening the headaches cause by the strike.

But labor stoppages from commuter rail systems aren’t the only reason for employers and employees to have contingency plans for getting to/from work.  Road closures due to weather conditions, heavy storms or broken water mains, gas leaks, downed power lines and fallen trees, fires, mud and rock slides, etc. may not affect as many people as a rail strike, but they can create commuter hassles for the immediate communities and far beyond.

To illustrate the point: A few years ago, coastal communities 18 miles south of San Francisco endured 40 mile detours for almost 9 months due to the collapse of a coastal hillside during a rain storm.  And that wasn’t the first time!  The rerouted traffic caused snarls on other major arteries, slowed public transit, and impacted more than the commuters from the coast.

Situations like these should open the eyes of employers and employees alike, to give thoughtful consideration to find alternatives that will accommodate the continued operation of offices and businesses.

Telecommute plans need to be readily enacted to maximize the continued effectiveness of the business, to keep staff productive and off the roads when conditions are less than optimal. Employers and managers need to be open minded and explore ways to keep business moving even when the roads are blocked.

Some large corporations already provide staff transit to and key regional locations.  In some instances, multiple ultra-modern buses equipped with wi-fi and powered electrical outlets, enable many workers to be productive and creative, with their gadgets fully charged, even when stuck in horrendous traffic.  Additional vehicles could be leased as needed to accommodate more locations and personnel.

Flexible work schedules should be instituted rapidly.  The functions executed by many staffers don’t all NEED to be done between 8am and 5pm.  Management and staff need to agree that work will continue if some people are willing to work unusual hours, i.e. coming in at 6pm and working until 2 or 3am.  Or coming in at 4am and working until noon.

Obviously under extreme circumstances such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and tornadoes, more extreme measures will need to be put into place to keep business moving forward.  But life and limb take precedent over commuter, transportation and earnings issues.  The contingencies required to get through such large-scale catastrophic events are beyond the scope of our discussion here.

Regardless of your work, or the company you work for, pride and loyalty to your vocation, along with the need to earn a paycheck, prompt your need to keep working. Thoughtful contingency plans – individual or corporate – allow things to continue, maybe not “as usual”, but they will at least be operating.  Yes, things may be inconvenient and different for a while, but a little thoughtfulness and creativity can keep businesses afloat and staff earning wages.  What are your contingency plans?

For more ideas about developing contingency plans, your job search,  career development and answering the tough interview questions, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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Jul 01 2013

Analysis

This week, I wanted to talk a bit about the analysis of your interaction with prospective employers, and their response to you and your efforts to gain employment.  There is no hard-and-fast science at work here, though there are some very workable theories for the analysis and understanding of employer responses to your submissions.  However, unless you’re a really good mind reader, getting an exact read on what an employer is thinking may be near impossible.

As each individual’s job search is different from another’s, there are a huge number of variables at work in the hiring process, from both the employer’s perspective and from the job seeker’s.  Interviewers vary in style, and interviewees vary in their ability to sell themselves and answer questions appropriately. But there are some indicators that enable you to analyze why things may or may not have gone your way.

Keep in mind hat the employer is looking to hire someone, so it might as well be you. The sooner an appropriate candidate is selected the better for all concerned.  The employer would love to be convinced that you are the right applicant to fill their vacancy, so it’s your job to assure the interviewer that you are the candidate for that opening.

If an interview lasted less than half an hour, the employer in all likelihood was unengaged by the applicant.  If an employer is truly considering a candidate, they will want to know more about the individual and keep asking questions.  An interview from an engaged employer should last close to or exceed an hour.  If the candidate is the one asking most of the questions and the interview still lasts an hour, the employer is either being polite by allowing the reverse inquiry to continue, or her curiosity has been aroused and your questions are relevant and on point.  The applicant must still remember to ask some questions to demonstrate his/her commitment and interest in the position, but monopolizing the proceedings is usually not an effective approach.

What if an interviewer probes more deeply into information already provided by the applicant? Typically, it means the interviewer wants more details to strengthen their understanding of the applicant’s qualifications and the relevance of the job seeker’s skills and work history.  A candidate who hooks the interest of an interviewer has successfully leapt a major hurdle.

Another observation you can try to make is the body language of the interviewer.  If the interviewer is engaged in what you’re saying s/he will be paying close attention to what you’re saying, and be making good eye contact.  If the employer is too relaxed, slouching, seems distracted, takes phone calls, and is not showing you respect, this is not a good sign.  However this may have nothing to do with you, the applicant.  Maybe the interviewer isn’t motivated, not in the mood to conduct an interview, or has too many things on his plate to properly concentrate on your qualifications.

Some interviewers are very good at hiding their emotional responses to the candidates they interview.  This makes it harder to tell if they think you’re appropriate to fill a particular position or if they are just being friendly and positive.  Even if the employer verbally suggests that s/he will see you again, does not necessarily indicatie that you’ll be invited to a second interview or be hired.  And the reverse is also a true.  A less-than-friendly interviewer does not necessarily indicate that you won’t be hired. Regardless of the interviewer’s attitude, the candidate must concentrate on conveying how their skills meet the employer’s needs, be polite and professional, and keep their fingers crossed.

One sign that things didn’t go well can occur during the candidate’s departure from the interview.  When saying goodbye and shaking their hand, has the interviewer made a slight pulling gesture motioning you toward their door?  This usually indicates that the employer is feeling pressured and wants you to exit their space quickly.  A more positive indicator is after shaking their hand, the interviewer shows you their facility, makes a couple of introductions, then walks you out with a gracious smile.

Remember, every interview is a opportunity to hone your communication skills, a chance to practice answering questions succinctly and conveying the relevance of your skills and experience.  Ultimately, a job seeker who leaves an employer with a good feeling about the interview experience and themselves is a positive.  And to be able to make that kind of analysis about the experience strengthens your resolve and fortifies your efforts. Be honest with yourself about the experience, and try to understand all the details you observed, and learn from any mistakes you may have made.  That kind of analysis gets you that much closer to getting the job!  And in the final analysis, that’s what you want!

For more ideas about job search,  career development and answering tough interview questions, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

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