Aug 25 2014

Partners In Wellness

Who are your partners in wellness?  Surely your doctors, their nurses and support staff.  But do you also consider your local pharmacist a partner in your wellness?  After all, “Ask your pharmacist about …,” is one of the most oft repeated phrases in advertising because the manufacturers of prescription drugs and over-the-counter health goods know that their products should be purchased with some knowledge and forethought.  And the responsibility to guide the customer (you!) to make the right purchases is on the shoulders of your local pharmacist.

Like many other professions, over the years, the job of pharmacist has changed.  Once upon a time pharmacies were locally owned and operated and were the quintessential “mom & pop” operation.  The pharmacist/owner knew everyone by name, knew their families, and knew their health issues.  And when you consulted with the pharmacists, you were confident about with whom you were speaking because they were your neighbors.  Their children went to the same schools as your kids. They grew up learning customer service working behind the counter or stocking shelves with sundries. Their family matured with yours.  But today, most pharmacies are owned by giant conglomerates, chain and franchise operations, and you can also get prescriptions filled in big box stores and supermarkets.

And the evolution of the industry has brought about other major changes, particularly the way prescriptions are sold.  There are certainly far more federal laws and restrictions concerning prescription medications than ever before, including volume limitations and documentation about product distributions.  And instead of actually mixing up potions and poultices behind the counter as the mom & pop stores once did, the local pharmacist is (with the aid of pharmacy technicians) mostly counting, weighing, measuring and labeling pre prepared meds that have arrived to their location in bulk.

The primary role of the pharmacist is still to put doctor ordered medications in the hands of the patients who need them, and provide confidence, along with relevant and knowledgeable details that customers/patients can understand and follow. Therefore their job still requires a great deal of study, knowledge retention and continued learning.

At the very least, to be successful as a pharmacist one must have much more than an elemental grasp of medicine and dentistry, chemistry, biology, law, governmental regulations, regulatory agency policies and rules, in addition to good language and communication skills, customer service, administration, counseling and a broad array of computer and software skills.

Those pharmacists who work behind the counter need to be aware of so many small details, not just about the drugs themselves, but also about their interactions with other medications a patient may be taking.  They must have an awareness of possible side effects and a patient’s reactions to various meds based on other health information at their disposal.  And this is a herculean task because of so many variables.

Additionally, pharmacists are responsible for inventory management and controlling the volumes of medications they must stock, or be able to quickly acquire.  And as the pharmacology evolves, so must the pharmacists’ knowledge base and inventory.

While we tend to think of pharmacists as working in a predominantly retail occupation, there are many drug stores where those “mixing up the medicines” may not deal with the public, except for the occasional consult with a patient about their meds.  But opportunities exist for pharmacy professionals in other, albeit mostly related industries.  Insurance companies hire pharmacists with special knowledge about the drugs and medications their patients use and monitor their outcomes.  Pharmaceutical companies are constantly developing new drugs, prescription and non-prescription – and need knowledgeable pros to help them in that process.  Medical and testing laboratories also need people with pharmacological backgrounds and training with increasing numbers.

In addition to all the knowledge of the prescriptions they handle, the pharmacists must also have a working and up-to-date knowledge of a vast array of over the counter, non-prescription medications and health aids, as well as vitamins and a wide variety of related sundries.  When you think about the diversity of products available in a drug store these days, you realize how much learning and attention to detail must be managed by these dedicated professionals.

So, even though the size and ownership of the neighborhood drug store has changed, and the role of pharmacist has evolved, those who are filling these positions (and your prescriptions) are still worthy of your trust.  Pharmacists are still your neighbors and a part of your community.  The road to being a pharmacist may not be an easy one, but the position is still one of respect and trust.  Pharmacists continue to be your partner in wellness.

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

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Aug 11 2014

Both Sides Now

Let’s look at both sides of the job seeker – employer equation.  When you think about where you want to take your career, one of the first considerations is the kind of work you want to do, and the industry in which you want to grow.  But an equally important consideration should be your understanding the needs of the employers in your chosen field.  You can start by asking yourself, “What do I really need to know, and what skills must I be good at, to be successful in my career?”

If you attended college or university with a particular professional goal in mind, you hopefully attended a variety of courses that provided you with – at the very least – a basic understanding of that industry and the hard skills required to effectively pursue that endeavor.  Your instructors and professors tried to give you the rudimentary – and perhaps advanced tools that you hoped would prepare you for a job in your chosen field.

Then, after graduation, if not before, you started a dedicated and focused job search, and uncovered the reality that employers are looking for different skillsets and knowledge than you are ready to bring to the table.  You learned, possibly the hard way, school can only provide you with a relatively limited perspective on what employers really need. Even if you are/were lucky enough to have instructors who are currently working professionals in your industry, each employer has their own particular needs, and ways of doing things.

So, how do you find out what employers are really looking for in your field?

It starts with some clarity about your goals.  “A career in ….”  Not sure?  Pick something related to your deepest interests, and follow through!  It’s not a slow or easy process, and it will take time and effort.  Take small steps.  Anything you uncover will likely lead to other usable information.

Research the companies and industries that you want to pursue.  Go to LinkedIn, or other business-focused or industry-specific website and identify the people whose jobs are closest to your goal.  If they are active using professional networking sites, it should be fairly easy to reach out, do some online networking, and ask to start a conversation.  Remember, your objective is to learn how others fulfilled their employers’ needs!

Careerists with extensive and focused work histories should have some insight into knowing what employers want, especially if they are currently employed! Even those recently unemployed may have a perspective worth hearing.

Write a polite email requesting to connect.  Be upfront that you want to learn, and ask a few questions.  You may get turned down, but I believe those who are willing to share a bit about their personal experiences are far greater in number!

Making contact online really is the best way to initiate an informational conversation.  Then, after initial contact you can ask if they are willing to talk on the phone or possibly meet in-person.  Promise to minimize any intrusion into their day and respect their schedule.

If you’re not comfortable making contact with strangers and asking them for their insights, use the net and learn as much as you can about the professionals and companies that interest you.  From reading their profiles, you will find out more about their skills and accomplishments, shedding more light on what employers are looking for.

Don’t ignore the value of reading industry-specific professional publications.  Frequently you’ll find interviews and profiles of the movers and shakers from that industry.  The content may or may not provide specific information on what employers are looking for, but you are sure to uncover information that will motivate and energize your search.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re having difficulty finding the information you want.  The results you’ll get from an internet search can frequently be overwhelming, so it is important to have some perspective on what is, and is not, truly relevant.  And a good place to get that help is your friendly neighborhood library.  Don’t underestimate the value of this resource and the people who work there.  They can help you filter information to find the most relevant and important leads to what you want to know.

At the very least, understand that no matter the industry, most employers are looking for the same basic characteristics in all their employees.  They want to hire people with the right combination of drive, ambition, knowledge, a willingness to learn, who have passion for their work, and who work well with others.

No matter your career choices, when looking for work your job is to convey to the employer how your skills and experience meet their needs and that you are willing and know how to do what needs to be done.  Now you know both sides!

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

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Jul 28 2014

Competition

Competition:  It drives innovation.  It fosters change. It motivates.  It can instigate growth and development.  And it can encourage.  But it can also bring about fear, trepidation, feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and irrelevance.  Yet every day in the world of work, whether on the job or looking for one, we face some form of competition.  Serious or light-hearted, competition is there, and coping with it and thriving from it can contribute to one’s sense of accomplishment and success.

There are many obvious examples of competitive behavior at work.  It may be as straight forward as trying to best a coworker in the number of sales completed in a given amount of time, how many lines of code can be written, or how many boxes can be assembled.  There doesn’t need to be anything formal, contrived or antagonistic about these kinds of competitions. They are usually friendly and can foster team building and productivity.

Many companies create a competitive atmosphere in an attempt to boost efficiencies and output, upping there bottom line and to maintain employee engagement.  There may or may not be rewards for the worker who bests her/his colleagues, but the employer benefits by keeping staff focused on tasks, sales levels and schedules.

But this same kind of competitive atmosphere can become toxic.  Some workers take their competitiveness too seriously.  What starts out as friendly can turn adversarial, resulting in negative attitudes and behaviors that disrupt productivity, and become too personal.  Staff can become so caught up in their attempts to one-up their co-workers that group efforts get undermined, derogatory comments are made, feelings can get hurt and reputations can get damaged.  This can destroy relationships, disrupt efficiencies and create a hostile work environment.

Throughout the day, we may be competitive without even realizing it.  Hailing a taxi, scurrying to get a seat on a commuter bus or train, trying to get the best spot in line at the supermarket, looking for a parking place, or even buying tickets online for a concert, are all competitive acts, even though we may not think of them that way.  And frequently we are competitive as mere observers.  Whether rooting for a favorite sports team, participating in fantasy sports leagues or office betting pools, we exhibit competitive behaviors.  Of course, no matter how much we yell and scream, as non-participants we cannot affect their outcome.

There’s an aggressive attitude that underlies competitiveness that can be both positive and negative. That aggression can lead us to work harder, try new things, and stretch our limits both physical and imaginational.  It can also cause us to undermine our own efforts.  We can become so lost in being competitive that we can lose track of the goals we have set and the importance of completing tasks because we become too caught up in who or what we are trying to best.

And when it comes to job search, we always hear about how competitive the job market is, or how much competition there is in some fields more than in others.  And while there may be a lot of other people vying for the same job you are trying to fill, the truth is you’re not really in competition with anyone – but yourself!

There are too many unknown variables that make it difficult to fully assess whether you are really in competition with one or more other candidates for the same job.  You may have the same degree, have gone to same schools, even have the same number of years of experience. But factors such as cultural and industry exposure, attitude, communication skills, personal demeanor, and more, are what separates one applicant apart from another. In the eyes and mind of the employer, no matter the similarities between you and another job seeker, what the interviewer sees, senses and feels toward you, and their belief in your ability to do the work they need done are what get you hired.

Yes, there may be lots of other people trying to get the same job as you, but you cannot alter your focus from the task at hand, which is to make yourself the best candidate for that position you can possibly be.  Do not concern yourself with the alleged skills and qualifications of others; focus only on how you will convey to that employer that you have the skills, experience, attitude and personality that will comfortably fit in to their workplace to tackle the work they need done, in the way they want it completed.

There will always be others hoping to fill the same jobs that interest you.  But they are not your competition.  They are just job seekers, like yourself.  Compete only with yourself to be the best at what you do.  That’s the best way to win!

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

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Jul 14 2014

Passing Inspection

Sheila was well established as an architect long before we met over 20 years ago.  She had received numerous accolades for her home and building designs and worked for prestigious companies.  Having not heard from her in a long while, I was unaware that she was making a transition into a new, albeit somewhat related field.  After some training and certification, she had become a building inspector.

Her impetus for making the career switch came when she was buying a new home.  During the inspection phase of her home purchase, she realized that as one who designed buildings from the ground up, she should have known more about problem areas that got discovered.  While the problems that were uncovered during the inspection of her own new property were surmountable, she believed her architectural background would enable her to help others make informed decisions when purchasing new homes.

Sheila didn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur or independent contractor, preferring the security and predictability of working for a specialized inspection firm as an employee.  She also felt confident that as a woman, she had a slightly different perspective than her male counterparts, and was able to address concerns of both women and men home buyers with more sensitivity.

After receiving her inspector’s certification from her state, she found an internship, accompanying other inspectors on their home tours, learning the ropes in the field with seasoned professionals.  This allowed her to ask questions and see how the other inspectors delivered difficult information to trepidatious homebuyers.

At the conclusion of her internship Sheila was not offered a position with the inspection company and felt let down, so she proceeded to look for a paying position with other inspection companies.  With an active real estate market, she felt confident that would be able to land a position in a reasonably short period of time.  With her strong, relevant background in home building & design and recent inspection certification, she never expected to encounter the rejection she experienced.  And that’s when she got in touch with me.

Sheila suspected she was being rejected as a woman in a field predominantly occupied by men.  During her internship she showed no hesitation performing inspections in tight, filthy spaces, crawling on her belly and back to check foundations, plumbing connections and other issues, right alongside her male supervisors.  Those same supervisors applauded her willingness to get down and get dirty to get the job done right, as well as for the accuracy of her inspection assessments.

I asked Sheila if she had procured letters of reference from her supervisors, and she had not. So I suggested she contact each of the supervisors individually, and ask each one for a letter expressing her competencies, accomplishments and positive attitude.

Reviewing the requested letters, they were all positive, but not one of the supervisors addressed her attitude, and we both considered this a red flag.  In an effort to learn more about why this wasn’t addressed, Sheila asked me to call one of the supervisors for a reference to see what would be said.  The person I contacted was forthcoming with praises about Sheila’s efforts and knowledge, and the shortcomings he experienced working with her directly.

Apparently, a couple of the supervisors concurred that Sheila didn’t respond well to feedback she received on the job.  Specifically, it was pointed out that she took feedback too personally, and demonstrated negativity when things were pointed out that could be improved upon.  The supervisors felt Sheila behaved like a know-it-all, and wasn’t really interested in learning how to improve her knowledge and execution of the job.

Ouch!  Sheila failed her own inspection.

And when Sheila and I went over her job search documents, I learned first-hand what the supervisors had experienced.  Sheila responded negatively to feedback about her documents, taking even minor criticisms too personally.

I reminded Sheila about the importance of taking in feedback without becoming defensive, and that those providing input are trying to provide her with information from which she might benefit.  The feedback Sheila received from her supervisors was about the work, and not about Sheila the person; she began to see the difference.

Negative work feedback can be constructive, especially if you realize it’s coming from the employer’s needs perspective; not a reflection of the person, but about the tasks.  Before reacting negatively to feedback, stop, think, and recognize that others’ opinions about your work don’t make you a bad person. Taking it in, graciously, and knowing that it is about the tasks and not about you can mean the difference between passing inspection (getting the job) and not.

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

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Jun 30 2014

Go Team!

Published by Hank under jobs, teamwork

You can’t deny the impact that a professional sports organization has on jobs and the local and regional economies.  Whether it’s football, baseball, soccer, hockey, basketball or tennis, there’s no question that professional sports are big businesses.  Die-hard fan or casual observer of any of these or other sports,  we sometimes don’t even realize the size and scope of the reach of your local team.

In some parts of the country the financial impact of the sports economy is far greater than it is in other areas.  There are regions of the United States where collegiate and professional sports dominate the leisure time activities and the attentions of their citizenry along with much of their disposable income.  In the lousiest weather and even when their favorite team’s ability to win falters, stadiums fill up with fans.  Not to take anything away from those on the field, but it takes a far greater number of people to make the experience of attending a sporting event a good one than just the relatively few who are competing, although a winning team helps.

There are so many people involved in the presentation of live sporting events, the actual numbers are staggering.  The organizations behind the teams are staffed with all kinds of professionals, many of whom you never know are there.  Most obviously are the owners, managers, trainers and coaches, medical staff, outfitters, procurement specialists, statisticians, a long list of media professionals who document with stills and video every move of every player of every practice session and game.  There are performance analysts, travel and transportation people, those who handle logistics and fulfillment, sales, promotional and marketing staffs, graphic arts and radio, tv and in-house production departments.  And we can’t forget the ticket sellers, groundskeepers, merchandise and food vendors, and dozens of others who make a day at the game an experience beyond what happens on the field of play.

And the financial influences extend well past the confines of the sporting arena.  Bars, restaurants and other retailers who operate independently from the sporting operations are tied to the attendance and pedestrian traffic moving in and out of these events to expand their bottom lines.  Certainly the stadiums would prefer that attendees spend their money inside their venues, but many prefer to meet and eat before or after the sporting events.  And then there are the countless other establishments who cater to the sports enthusiast, selling licensed merchandise, and those that display the cable, satellite and network broadcasts on large screens throughout their businesses so the fans stay connected even when they are shopping or eating, and their favorite teams are on the road.

These days, we must also include the reach of social media professionals who keep fans abreast of what’s happening with their home town heroes and their competitors even when they can’t be tuned in via more traditional means.  Most teams have their own smartphone apps, as do the leagues and the networks that transmit their games.  So these endeavors include not just the content writers, but the coders and graphics designers who make these apps viewable and useful.  This further applies to the creators of sports oriented video games, fantasy sports leagues and all the other technology and entertainment oriented to the enthusiast.

Of course there are many non-athletes who love to watch sports, both from the stands and from the comfort of their homes.  But those who seek to professionally align themselves with their team or particular sport have opportunities to work inside by applying for any one of a wide variety of diverse positions in almost every discipline, none of which require a great throwing arm.  You can be successful in sports without being a great athlete.

If you know your strengths, have a good idea of where your skills fit in, and work well in a team environment, you might have a chance of being hired by a professional sports organization.  There’s no question there will always be a lot of competition for these off-the-field jobs, just as there are for players’ positions.  While the pay won’t be as astronomical as those on-field gigs, you might earn good wages, and be able to work almost alongside the players you admire.

So, go ahead, and give professional sports a shot.  You never know until you try.  And if you’re not interested in working within the world of professional athletics, don’t forget to get outdoors, get some exercise and fresh air during the warmer months.  Throw the ball or Frisbee around and play just to have fun.   Go team!

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


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Jun 13 2014

Fading Film Industry in California

Published by Hank under California, industry, jobs

Like almost every other industry around the country, the film industry in California has suffered financially.  Sure, box office revenues may be high, but the cost of producing films in the Golden State has become increasingly prohibitive, even for the big studios.  And in Northern California, where not that long ago five to ten feature films and several television series were filmed annually, producers have found other locations to make their movies.  Out of the 54 big-budget feature films of 2012 & 2013, only one was shot exclusively in California.

Those impressive shots of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge being decimated in the recently released remake of Godzilla were created on sound stages in Texas.  Even as film budgets become even more astronomical, dollars that might have been spent by those who worked on that film didn’t get to spend their money in California.

When a major motion picture is filmed, there are a lot of industries that benefit.  Among those businesses that see some of that movie money are: restaurants, caterers, transportation companies, taxicabs and limousines, hardware stores and lumber yards, makeup artists, hair stylists, lighting technicians, electricians, set designers and builders, and of course, local acting talent.  And when each of those people working on a film get paid, they usually spend a good deal of their money locally.  Move that film production to someplace else, and all that money goes to that other location.

It’s not just the cost of production that keeps going up.  Local governments have made things increasingly difficult for film makers to procure the proper licenses, permits and insurance that are required by each municipality involved with a shoot.  And in areas like California where the cost of daily living is pretty high to begin with, these rising costs eat into production budgets pretty quickly.  It costs a lot of money to block off streets, pay for extra security, and pay the higher salaries of all the laborers and production crews.

Other states have decided to compete for California’s film business by offering tax breaks and other incentives that make taking productions elsewhere an attractive proposition.  But the California production community is putting up a fight to keep all those jobs and dollars at home.  And because my columns are about work and job search, and the film industry and its allies comprise a large chunk of the state’s economy, I think it’s important to promote the following:

If you know anyone involved in film making or any of its ancillary industries, or are a film fan and want to see more productions shot in California, please attend the Northern California Rally for Film Incentives, Sat., June 14th, from 10 am to noon at The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.  In attendance will be a number of well-known actors and advocates, along with members of the various unions involved with film making, and legislators who want to help support the industry and keep these jobs in California.

There is a California State Assembly Bill -  AB 1839, The Expanded Film and Television Job Creation Act -  working its way through our state legislature, but it is by no means a done deal.  You can support the passage of this bill by attending the event at the Fairmont on Saturday, and if you live in California, you can contact your local State Representatives and encourage them to support the passage of this bill.  There’s more information of the event at:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1417420091861570,

And for more background on the bill and the proposed legislation, check out these sites:

http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=2735, and
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1839

Let’s keep film making and these jobs in California.

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Thank you!

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

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Jun 02 2014

Teachers!

Published by Hank under collaboration, education, teach

Now that it’s the end of the school year, a lot of people will be experiencing major changes to their lives.  Congratulations to the graduating classes of 2014.  I wish you much luck and success!  Your lives are about to change!  Big time!  But at the moment, I’m more interested in the opposite side of the classroom equation: the teachers, no matter what education level or subject they teach.  The end of the school year marks a point of change for our educators.

Before going any further, let me acknowledge that teachers are among the most valuable and underappreciated asset we have as a society!  Those who dedicate their lives to helping others learn deserve far more credit, recognition and pay than they receive.  The devoted few who pursue instruction as a career do not typically do so expecting to get rich; they do it because (we hope) they want to help others learn and grow!

Tenured instructors leave the school year fairly secure they’ll have a job to return to when the fall semester starts.  Provided their university or school district doesn’t suffer major financial meltdowns, their confidence isn’t overly misguided.  But the very fact that so many educational institutions are suffering financially is leading to a great deal of trepidation among teachers rightfully concerned that they may not have jobs in the fall.

But by the end of the school year, many teachers are burnt out.  After coping with overcrowded classrooms, combative and underperforming students, frustrated parents, underfunded budgets, a lack of supplies, and administrators stuck in the dark ages, for many teachers the school year ends with unfulfilled promises, exhaustion and an erosion of their motivation to help students achieve.  They ask themselves, “Why do I do this this?” They wonder if the seemingly dwindling rewards are worth their efforts.

When students succeed and thrive, teachers feel more fulfilled and satisfied they have made tangible contributions to their students’ lives.  But with budgets so tight, benefits and retirement plans in jeopardy, and teachers regularly spending money out of their own pockets for supplies resulting in less money to live their own lives, it is easy to understand why teachers waver their interest in retuning to the job.

And there is another wrinkle causing teachers to question whether to return to school. Violence on school campuses – primary, secondary and institutions of higher learning – have all seen a sharp upturn in violence this past year.  These incidents are not limited to inner cities.  Shootings, stabbings and physical assaults are taking place on school grounds regardless of location or economic conditions, putting teachers, faculty and students in harm’s way. When you add in the increasing number of parents and others who go to campuses to threaten students and teachers, there are plenty of reasons for teachers to not return to the classroom.

I don’t have all the answers to these problems.  Part of the solutions lies in the need for stricter gun control laws. And another part of the solution lies in the responsibility of parents to teach their children more about nonviolence, respect and responsibility.  Parents and teachers need to unite to and stress that violence against others, in any form, whether through the use of weapons, verbal or physical abuse is wrong. And schools need to be better aware of who is on their campuses so that those out to do wrong can be spotted and hopefully stopped before trouble erupts.

But I also worry about those who are thinking of making instruction their own career.  Will all the violence and insecurity of the job dissuade potential teachers from entering the field?  I hope not!  I hope that future teachers will recognize that there is a far better chance for a teacher to positively influence a growing mind than there is they will directly encounter the horrors that we have seen in the news.

I don’t buy into the old adage: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach!”  Wanting to instill and further someone’s curiosity, help foster ideas and creative thinking are not incompatible with success in the work place.  For some, the desire to share their knowledge and training to help others grow, learn and experience is a powerful draw. There’s a lot of beauty in watching someone’s passion be ignited, and many teachers contribute to that daily.

Sure, a teacher’s work continues hours after students and they leave the classroom; there are papers and tests to grade, the associated administrative tasks, and not everyone is always appreciative of the work you they do. But you do get summers off.  So, if you’re one of those special people who want to nurture curious minds and help others appreciate the importance of learning, then you need to teach.  The world needs you!  Heed the call!

For more ideas on teaching as a career, or any other career, job search, career development and related topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.

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May 12 2014

When Do You Start Your Internship?

Talking with some imminent graduates the other day, I asked, “When do you start your internship?”  The quizzical look on their faces spoke volumes.  One said, “Once school is over, I will start looking.”  Another said she hadn’t given it any thought, believing that her newly minted degree would assure her a position in a prominent firm.  I hope she’s right!

For the record, the best time to look for pre- or post-graduate internships is before the conclusion of one’s junior year of school.  Getting a foot in the door of a company that does work relevant to your degree and/or chosen profession before graduation gives students a better shot at post graduate employment.  And finding an internship before senior year provides other advantages too.

Primarily, after graduation the competition for jobs will be much more intense than it is before.  This isn’t to say procuring an internship isn’t competitive; it most certainly is!  But finding an internship the year before graduation allows the candidate to “try out” the industry of interest, and maybe even explore multiple positions within an industry to have a better understanding of where one might fit in after graduation in their chosen profession.

More importantly, through an internship you can demonstrate your value to an employer and demonstrate some of the contributions you can make, developing a much stronger likelihood of having a place to go after graduation.  Prove to an employer that you have the skills they need and the ability to succeed in their industry and you can almost guarantee the beginnings of a sustainable career.

Not all internships are created equal, nor are all candidates that want to fill them.  Some businesses will provide more opportunities for their interns to learn and offer them opportunities to make real contributions, while other employers will hand out “busy work” that could bore you to tears.  And there are interns who will approach these positions with vigor and interest, being open to ideas and methodologies, who will listen to instructions, take criticism and really learn something.  And others who believe they already know everything, think the pay and tasks are beneath them, are biding their time and just looking for something they can use to pad their resumes.

When there is synchronicity between a company and an intern, there is a kind of magic.  These are places and circumstances that nurture personal and group creativity, and provide encouragement of independent thought and the development of ideas.  This in turn leads to new products and better ways of doing old tasks

About now, you may be asking yourself some questions, like:

Aren’t internships low paying or no-pay?

Sometimes.  In many cases interns receive what amounts to a stipend; enough to pay for the commute to get there.  But the experience one can get during an internship should have value and merit far beyond the minimal monetary incentives.  You take out of it what you put in to it.  Experience, resume and network building are just the start.

Why shouldn’t I just get a job in my field and forgo the internship?

Good question!

  • Internships are meant to provide some experience and make you more job-ready before graduation.
  • After graduation you are competing with both experience and inexperienced job seekers.
  • A job will come with higher employer expectations about your skills and performance than will an internship.
  • Knowing that you will stay on the job only a couple of months before returning to school does not provide a great deal of incentive for an employer to hire you.

OK, so how do I get an internship?

  • Start looking as early as possible. Now’s good!  But late winter or early spring may be best to minimize the competition. Filing dates may differ for each internship.
  • If your school has a career planning department, make use of it to the fullest extent possible. They may know of specific internships and provide contact and referral information.
  • Contact the alumni office and ask them for help in identifying former grads who work for the companies or within the industries of interest and ask to meet with them to learn of internship opportunities where they work.
  • Research the companies and industries of interest and find out who offers internships.
  • Use websites like: internships.com; internmatch.com; and even the big job boards to find relevant internships.

Finding an internship can be just as daunting as finding a job.  You must put in the time and effort to find the right situation.  You must be willing to put your ego in your back pocket and demonstrate a willingness to “learn by doing”.  You’ll discover more employers to be open to the contributions you can make.

So, when do you start your internship?

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

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Apr 28 2014

Celebrating the Administrative Professional

Published by Hank under administration, administrative

Did you know that last week was the annual observance of Administrative Professionals Week?  Sorry to say that this observance got past me this year. Usually I’ll hear mention of it on radio or television, or see in in fine print on a calendar, but this year I heard and saw nothing.  And it’s shame too, because the administrative professionals of this world keep business moving forward and deserve far more recognition than they usually receive.

Originated by the head of the National Secretaries Association, Mary Barrett and the president of the Dictaphone Corporation, C.K. Woodbridge, to promote the need for skilled office labor, the idea floated around and appealed to the executives at the Young & Rubican advertising agency for a National Secretaries Week back in the early ‘50’s.  The first official observance was in 1952.  Secretaries Day was usually observed on a Wednesday of National Secretaries Week.

Much has changed in the last 62 years.  For one, we hardly use the word “secretary” any more. Daily functions once performed by secretaries are no longer a requisite for an administrative position.  Today, a boss dictating a letter or memo to someone using shorthand to capture the content is very rare.  “Taking dictation” has mostly been replaced by digital recorders with variable speed playback and speech recognition software for ease of transcription into formal documents.  And, back in the ‘50’s it was mostly women who performed secretarial work.  Today, millions of men fill administrative roles.

But among the things that have remained consistent in the evolution of the administrative assistant position, is the need to excel in organization.  Whether as a personal admin assistant or as a general admin, the need to retain information, know where things are in both the physical and digital realm, and providing clarity amidst chaos, are traits that continue to provide value to the position, and to the staff and management they assist.  The best admins are almost intuitive, having information, resources and tools at the ready before being asked.  They perform myriad tasks in the background – routine and extraordinary – to help their bosses shine.  There isn’t an executive out there who would accomplish as much in their day without the aid of their administrative assistants.

And administrative assistants put up with a lot of B.S.  Aside from working for the occasional task-master who wants everything done yesterday or has other unreasonable demands and expectations and demonstrates no gratitude, admins are frequently called upon to be gate keepers.  They are expected to provide a shield between the executives and everyone else.  Screening calls and taking messages is only a small part of the gig.  Admins are often asked to buffer their superiors from distractions and interruptions.  They also filter out the wheat from the chaff, providing necessary detail, prioritizing messages and activities, and omitting the mundane and irrelevant.   And the volume of tasks they regularly perform could never be fully outlined in a job description.

While positions in administration don’t always seem the most glamorous, productive or creative, some admins do get to do business with high profile professionals and celebrities.  And admins who excel in their roles are often in a good position to move up the corporate ladder.  Having access to, observing and learning from top executives, gives the admin a chance to be a sponge, to absorb information, methodologies and protocols that aren’t taught, but can only be acquired through observation and participation. And admins who work for good bosses are encouraged to learn, stretch out beyond their comfort zones and prove their mettle, tackling assignments and tasks that demonstrate their growth, the knowledge and skills they have acquired and their ability to exceed others’ expectations.  Admins who build a track record of success and maintain a good network will become the ones who move forward and eventually have others working for them.

Admins deserve encouragement and recognition to grow.  And while not everyone is cut out to be a leader or executive, many office workers have discovered through their admin positions, abilities and passions that they didn’t know they had until they were encouraged to move forward, to reach a bit higher, to learn and try new things, and to use their skills in new and different ways, building confidence and new opportunities.

So if you’re a boss, be the one who encourages your admins to move forward, to try things differently, to create and accomplish, and do so by giving credit where credit is due.  And if you’re an administrative assistant, strive for growth in every way you can.  Be assertive without being unnecessarily aggressive; be thorough and thoughtful, and reach beyond the role you’re in now and prove your worthiness for something better.  Because the executives of tomorrow are the admins of today!  Let’s keep celebrating the administrative professionals.

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

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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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