Tom McAlister started looking for a job in marketing and communications at the end of 2008, about the same time the economy really started falling apart.
He sent out resumes, just like everyone else. He monitored the jobs boards, just like everyone else. And he always tried to write snappy cover letters, just like everyone else.
That’s when he decided he had to do something to set himself apart. He came up with the idea to create a comic book strip with himself as the superhero, Brandman.
The strip was funny, innovative, but it wasn’t necessarily for hiring managers. It’s main use was to reenergize the key people that could help him land a job — his network of friends and former colleagues. (more…)
I know I may be asking a lot on this first Monday of the New Year, but if it’s at all possible you should take the endless economic forecasts for 2010 that will be pouring out of your radio, TV, newspaper and computer today with a grain of salt.
The many prognosticators will be telling you what to expect out of the job market and the economy at large, but the reality is that few if any know for sure what will happen. Already this morning I’ve read a handful of conflicting reports on what to expect. (more…)
I’m going to be a little cold and hard this morning.
Getting back into the workforce after time away can be very difficult in any economic environment. But if you’ve chosen this economy to make your comeback in a beloved career after a multiple year hiatus you’re basically screwed.
In August, there were 758,000 discouraged workers, down slightly from 796,000 in July but nearly double the 381,000 a year earlier. The July level was the highest since the government began tracking the statistic in 1994, according to James Walker, labor analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor.
I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to go out there, get doors slammed in your face and feel bad about yourselves. It’s just a job-hunting reality right now and if you accept that you’ll have a better chance at beating the odds. (more…)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten emails and an earful lately from irate job seekers who are sick and tired of companies not responding to the endless resumes they send out.
Many of you have asked me for a surefire way to get hiring managers to at least acknowledge they received your resume. Career experts are lying if they say, “this is the sure-fire way.” Alas, nothing is sure-fire.
I actually hate that word, sure-fire. Definition: certain to succeed.
I want you all to look in the mirror this morning and decide whether it’s a good idea to put a photo of yourself on your resume or to create a video resume.
How do you look, sound? Are you witty, or boring?
Be critical now. Don’t hold anything back. This decision could make or break your job search.
Also, I want you to consider if the industry or company you plan on applying to for work is heavily weighted with a certain type of person. Maybe there are few women or minorities.
Even though employers aren’t allowed to discriminate against you, your mug on your resume could tell a hiring manager what race you are, your age, or even religion, if you’re wearing a headscarf, for example.
A resume they could toss aside. If they call you in for an interview and then realize you don’t look like them and they’re uncomfortable with that, at least you’ve gotten your foot in the door and you can prove yourself in person.
I know, an employer can probably find a bunch of photos of you if the Google your name and search under images. But sending them a photo or video of yourself quickly takes the mystery out of the process.
I’m telling you this because you all need to be realistic if you decide to put together a visual resume with photographs, or a video resume. I think they’re good ideas and I write about them in my MSNBC.com column today, but they are definitely not for everyone.
Career experts have been debating the multimedia resume for some time now, and many have advised people to bypass them. But in this competitive job market anything that can set you apart today is helpful. Especially if you’ve sent hundreds of resumes out to no avail.
Just be tough on yourself when you create these things and make sure you’re really putting your best foot forward. Ask a friend you know will offer a critical eye. You know the type, the one that tells you if you have a booger hanging from your nose, or tells you honestly if those jeans make your butt look big.
Here are some video resumes I found on the Internet. You be the judge. Would you hire any of these folks?
UPDATE BELOW Did you ever notice the hordes of people that congregate around a free food station at the grocery store? No one seems shy as they shovel tiny bits of food in their gullets.
Why don’t people approach their careers in the same way?
Suddenly we’re too shy to ask for help or take advantage of low-cost or free stuff that could help us when we need it — when we’re unemployed and low on money.
First off, if you get laid off and you work for a large company, and even some smaller firms, you probably were offered free career advice/training by your employer through a third party company. If you were too angry, or proud to take advantage of that when you got booted, I would call the HR department at your former employer and find out if it’s not too late to get some help.
Also, almost every state offers free job training through state department’s of labor, so head over to your local DOL and find out what’s offered. Here’s a link to help you find yours.
Believe it or not, some local universities and community colleges are offering free, or reduced tuition; and some will even let you sit in on courses for free as a way to see if it’s a subject you want to pursue.
If you’re over 55 and meet certain income requirements you can take advantage of free training offered by the AARP through its Senior Community Service Employment program that “helps job seekers improved their skills, obtain training and find a job. The goal of the program is for participants to gain the skills they need to find and sustain employments in the workforce.”
For those pondering a career switch into technology, Microsoft is offering some free stuff through its Elevate America page.
Some non traditional ways to get career help include volunteering folks. If you’re pondering a career change, you may want to volunteer your services to a local nonprofit and do jobs that may be related to something you’d like to pursue.
And don’t be shy to ask people you respect in your community to mentor you if they have time. That could mean a cup of coffee or a phone call now and then, or even just emailing an individual questions from time to time could be a godsend when you’re trying to figure out your career direction.
I want all of you to Google “free job training” today and look at the endless offerings available to you right now. AND PLEASE, BE SMART ABOUT YOUR SEARCH!! There are an endless amount of scams out there right now, so make sure the free help you’re looking into is from a legitimate company or organization or government group.
This past holiday season, Alison Doyle, a great career writer, asked a bunch of career experts if they’d offer to help a reader. Many of us did, but I never got anyone to take me up on the free career advice I was offering. OK, maybe no one really wanted advice from me, that’s a possibility; but you would think I’d get at least one email with one question, no?
And speaking about free, last week, FedEx Office offered consumers free resume printing. I wondered how many took advantage of that. I contacted FedEx this morning and I haven’t heard back yet. I’ll update this blog when I get a comment.
UPDATE: A FedEx Office spokeswoman got back to me saying 1 million copies were made as part of the free-resume-printing offer. Love that many of you said “yes” to free.
Bottom line though, none of the free offers will help if you don’t walk over to the table and take a sample.
If you get a chance, tell us about any free resources that are out there. Also, share your story about getting free, or low-cost help in this economy.
I’ve been asked to review some resumes recently and I was amazed at how sad and uninspiring they were.
One resume included the fact that the job seeker was laid off recently, and that they organized a manager’s files. Another said the person answered phones and acted as a sales clerk. The resume also included a temporary and permanent address.
First off, no one wants to know the soap opera of your life in your resume. Leave off the layoff story and the variety of addresses. Pick one address for god’s sake. And come to think of it, don’t include your address on the resume at all. Your phone number and email address is just fine.
Secondly, you need to juice up the descriptions on your resume. ‘Answered phones’ isn’t going to cut it in this job market.
You need to stand out people, not put the hiring manager to sleep.
Am I advocating lying on your resume? Not quite. But let’s put on some rose-colored glasses and describe what you did in more flowery terms, even if you were bored to tears while you were doing your job.
Remember the character Dwayne Schneider from the 1970s sitcom “One Day at a Time”? He called himself a “custodial engineer”, aka, janitor.
Here are some examples of flowering up your resume:
“Organized a manager’s files” could read: “Office organizational expert”.
“Answered phones” could easily transform into “information and communications disseminator.”
And “acted as a sales clerk” should be trashed for “handled hands-on customer interaction and boosted company sales.”
You get what I mean, right? No lies, just a bit of fine tuning.
I’ve also seen many of you using numbers on your resume when they actually work against you. Don’t say you worked on three projects, or wrote ten stories. This does not sound great if you’ve been with a company for some time. Leave out the numbers unless you can say something like, “I managed a staff of 500″ or “I saved the firm $3 million by revamping the communications system.”
In a recession, any reference you can make to saving a company money will get you moved to the top of the resume pile.
It’s time to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. Will your resume bore him or her to tears? Come on, read it closely right now.
I went online this morning and applied for a reporter’s job via a job board. I picked Monster.com just because that seems to be the one many of you use.
Don’t worry. I haven’t been fired from MSNBC.com. I’m conducting an experiment.
I’ve gotten so many emails from you guys lately about how lame you think jobs boards are that I decided to get on one of these sites and figure out what, if any, benefits they provide.
Full disclosure here: I’m not in the habit of lying so when I sent the email to the hiring manager I told her who I was and that I was sort of conducting an experiment. I also asked her how many email responses she receives; if she’s able to respond to them all; and what she has to see in an email or resume before she schedules a phone interview?
I hit the send button on my email at around 8:54 a.m. EST. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.
I know, it’s not the same as you all sending a random resume out into cyber space. But it may give us some insight into the frustrating process.
That’s a great, half-full phrase from one of my favorite workplace academics, Ben Dattner, a New York University adjunct professor who teaches organizational development.
Basically, intra-employed means you’re between jobs, he says, and that’s a positive spin on a negative situation — being out of work.
“I think as hard as times are,” he explains, “one can always frame things positively.”
Exactly! I’m trying to be more positive.
Recently a colleague and branding expert I respect, Dan Schawbel, told me my blogs about the recession and skyrocketing joblessness have been too negative lately. So, I’m putting on my positive hat.
In fact, I’m even singing this morning.
Always look on the bright side of life.
That’s a line from a song from one of my favorite movies, Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” –
I know, I know, the guy is on a cross, and what’s positive about that. Well, he’s looking on the bright side. If he can, you can damn it!
No matter how hard it gets out there in the unemployment trenches folks, you’re better off than these guys.
I was speaking on a Michigan radio show called Barnaby & Friends this morning about layoffs and how, for most people, getting fired from a job always turns out to be the best thing that ever happened.
I’m serious about this. In my 20 plus years covering labor and workplace issues I have never met anywone who said, a year or more after being let go, that the layoff wasn’t the best thing that ever happened.
It may not seem like that now folks, but I promise, you’ll look back and say, “Eve was right.”
So, on this lovely, beautiful Monday morning, (I don’t care if the weather is bad where you are, go with me on this) I want you all to create a job-seeking action plan.
I know you might not want to face this, but start out with your resume. Some of you may not have one, or have a dusty old one. Don’t look at that old one, just start fresh.
If you’ve had the same job for the last 25 plus years, I would suggest making a list of ten things you did recently at your job, i.e. projects you handled; sales targets you met; major articles or papers you wrote, etc.
This is a starting point folks. The challenge is convincing someone you are the best person for the job. Wow them with your accomplishments. I don’t care if you don’t have 12 employers on your resume.
Make your resume interesting and please, please, don’t be long winded. One page is fine unless you’re in a highly technical field or academia.
And approach your job search as if you’re just in transition.
Transition from one job to another, as Dattner says.
With potential employers and even friends you meet up with at holiday parties you can say — and maintain this as your mentality — “I’m intra-employed right now. I’m looking for something that’s right for me.”
How’s that for positive Dan?
OK, sing with me:
Always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…
If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that’s the thing.
And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…
There’s a great story in the Wall Street Journal today that sums up some of the top job-seeking/job-board sites out there.
For those of you who don’t have time or the inclination to read the Journal, I asked my intern to check out the websites the reporter mentioned and boil down what they offer job seekers, beyond job listings:
By Katherine Guiney
In these harsh times, everyone is feeling the economic strain and losing your job is nothing to be ashamed of. Even Tiger Woods got laid off. With one year left on his 10-year Buick endorsement contract, General Motors pulled the plug on the deal.
But Tiger and all you job seekers out there have more resources than ever to help you land a new gig. With the jobless rate at a 14-year high, many new job search engines have popped up and existing ones have enhanced their features in an effort to help the out of work find employment.
Where can you go?
This new job site has a resource center with overviews on interview techniques, resume writing, salary negotiation, networking and resigning.
In addition to letting you post your resume and get job alerts, CareerBuilder.com features a pop up on the right of the screen with jobs in your area, categorized by industry. In February, the site launched BrightFuse.com, where professionals can network and, coming next year, highlight skill sets and upload samples of work.
When looking for jobs on Vault.com you can search by industry or company. This site includes most job industries, but seems to focus on finance, law and consulting. In addition to samples of expert resumes and cover letters, message boards and a tab for colleges, the site offers something called “The Vault Recession Survival Package.” The package does cost, but it includes two 45-minutes coaching sessions, resume and cover letter work, and the Vault guide on finance, law or management consulting.
A salary-review and employee-review Web site. It offers salary data for positions at numerous companies, so you can estimate what a certain position should make.
The simple homepage asks you “what” want and “where” you want it, and then lists responses in a very Google-like fashion. Simple, but effective as it allows you to specify exactly what you are looking for.
In addition to the standard job search, Monster.com has information on money, furthering your education and job fairs.
Dice.com calls itself “The Career Hub for Tech Insiders” and is targeted at technology professionals. Before you even search, a list of jobs that may be of interest given your location is posted in the top right hand corner of the page.
This site is geared toward finance-industry workers. It launched an emergency toolkit in September, which contains tips and articles on networking, interviewing and resume writing for finance professionals specifically.
OK, now for the surprise job-seeking source — YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!
No, I’m not kidding folks.
Once upon a time, before the Internet, people who were out of work would head over to their local libraries to get information on companies around the country, including an address and contact information. I know this seems so Stone Age, but we used to have thumb through thick reference books instead of clicking on a computer key board.
Ever since cyber mania became the norm for job seekers, many of you have just forgotten about that big building in your neighborhood crammed with all those dusty books.
The BPL offers assistance through its Education and Job Information Center, which provides library members free job training and career guidance.
Here’s a rundown on what’s available at the BPL and many other libraries around the country:
- Assessment software (sigi) library patrons can use to determine which careers would be a good match
- Print collection of books on careers, colleges, entrance exams, etc.
- Series of programs that help assess your skills/career development training
- Proctoring for paper-based exams for students
- Learning express library software: Database allows patrons to take practice tests for college entrance exams (like CUNY) for civil servants and GED
- Skills, Training and Employment Program (STEP) offers one on one assistance with trained staff member who reviews resumes, take them through referral brochures which they can consult for training or job search help, etc.
- Offer access to Career Cruising, a Web site that patrons can utilize for free to explore different occupations. This site is not free if you try to access it outside the library.
- Provide referral guides that list recommended resources for searching out financial aid and scholarships
- Provide free access to Career Cruising, a website which people can access to explore different occupations and search for scholarships.
And the best part of the library as job resource is you get to get off your big butt and head out into the real world where you are forced to interact with human beings. You’ll need that kind of exposure if you want to be on your toes during a job interview, especially if you’ve been out of work for a while and have no one to talk to but your dog or cat.