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Family Leave a Growing Reality Print E-mail
Caring for aging parents has become a workforce issue with which many of us are dealing. While caring for aging parents is as old as time, the dynamics of our modern society have changed and now make it a significant issue in many lives. Fifty years ago, most women were still in the home full-time and families weren't as geographically separated as today. Daughters and sons were closer to parents and had more time to spend in their care. Elderly parents either lived down the street, next door, or even in the back bedroom of the extended family home. If a parent was ill or needed assistance, it was simply a part of life.

Today, both men and women are taking leaves of absence to care for aging parents and then facing the hurdle of getting back in the employment market when their duties are done. It can seem like a daunting prospect.

A common question we receive is How do I explain this on my resume? The simplest and best answer is Tell the truth. Time off to care for an aging parent is becoming a relatively common occurrence among workers and employers are accustomed to seeing applicants who have taken time off from their careers to care for their aging parents. A small descriptive blurb on the resume is appropriate to explain the time gap, something like:

Leave of Absence May-December, 2004
Took extended leave in order to care for aging mother and see to her final needs.

Beyond that, nothing is needed. If the employer has any questions about it, he/she can bring it up in an interview, the correct forum for giving more details concerning your familial responsibilities. Most employers won't consider it a black mark against a candidate and the honesty of covering that period in the resume can actually score points for candidates.

But what if you need to continue working while taking significant time away from work to care for a parent? Talk to your present employer and explain the situation first. It is possible that you can alter your schedule to fulfill both your needs and the needs of the employer. Maybe a work-at-home situation would be appropriate. Possibly a job-share situation could be created where you work part-time and share your employment responsibilities with a co-worker with similar scheduling needs. There are a great many scenarios that may be worked out to accommodate both your needs and the employers'.

If your current employer can't or won't work with you, make sure you have a great resume and that you are prepared to be clear with prospective employers about your situation and what your requirements will be. Do not accept a job and then blind-side the employer with your need for time off or flex-hours.

Remember, employers are people, too. More than likely they are facing concerns with caring for their parents or they see that concern on their own horizons. By being up-front and honest with your employer, you will be more likely to come to a satisfactory arrangement where you can work and take care of Mom and Dad.
 
Do What you Love Print E-mail

Today is Sunday and all over America people are ironing their clothes for tomorrow, setting their briefcases by the door, and fixing their lunches for tomorrow. Tomorrow, as people all over the country drag themselves into their cubes with coffee in hand, they wonder to themselves “What other job is out there for me?” The average American changes post-college jobs at least seven times in their lifetime and changes total career fields at least three times before retirement. Eighty percent of college graduates never work in their major field of study. Just because you start out as a widget-maker doesn’t mean you’ll retire in the same field. In fact, odds are that you won’t!

 

Gone are the days of thirty-year careers in one field culminated with a retirement party and a gold watch. Corporate loyalty to employees is nonexistent and employee loyalty only extends as far as the next bonus check. Career changes are common occurrences these days.

 

I was reading an old edition of Mental Floss magazine and there was an article about previous careers of famous people that I thought was very interesting. 

 

Did you know:



  • Dr. Ruth used to be a sniper for the Israeli Defense Forces?

  • Sylvester Stallone scooped poop at the Bronx Zoo?

  • Whoopi Goldberg worked in a funeral home as a make-up artist? (I guess she had no dissatisfied customers.)

  • Liam Neeson drove a forklift at the Guinness brewery in Belfast? (Now THERE’S a job!)

  • Elvis Costello was a computer programmer for Elizabeth Arden?

  • John Malkovich drove a school bus?


Everyone changes careers. Life is too short to do something that makes you miserable. The key is to find something that you love and meets all your other requirements (like the mortgage). I have a young twelve-year-old friend who attended a demonstration over the weekend on the rehabilitation of raptors (eagles, hawks, etc.). He became so excited about the thought of working with these magnificent animals that he volunteered at the end of the demonstration to travel to the rehab center to clean cages, change water bowls, and handle dead rodents (food for the birds) on his Saturdays. Working on Saturdays meant giving up baseball, a sport he had played since he was four years old. He asked me if I thought he could make a living working with wild animals because he was thinking of becoming a falconer. I told him, “Do what you love and you won’t make a living – you’ll make a life.”

 
Data Dumpiness Print E-mail
There is a prevailing belief among many job seekers that a resume is simply a repository of all work experience ever obtained, no matter how old, how unrelated, or how meaningless. Just throw it all in there and call it keyword richness. Let the recruiter figure it out. It's one reason that so many self-written resumes don't work. I call it the data dump method.

The mentality behind the data dump is usually good intentions. The job seeker knows he/she should get the important information in the resume but isn't sure exactly what is important and what isn't. To the job seeker, everything is important and has some sort of emotional connection. Not mention the fact that you were the winner of the state spelling bee in ninth grade twenty-five years ago? Unbelievable! That was a big moment in your life! In the interest of safety, the job seeker just includes everything and hopes for the best, hanging onto past trophies for dear life. Unwittingly, by throwing everything in there he has just killed the resume. Recruiters do not have time to wade through tons of information in search of nuggets of gold. They need the key information right up front and speaking to their needs.

To avoid a data dump in your resume, you must start with a focus. One of the underlying causes of too much information, or scattered approach in the resume is lack of keen focus. Do not try to be everything to everyone. I've seen resumes with areas of expertise listed that stretched to ten or fifteen different items, many not related. Resumes such as this leave the reader confused and gives the impression the job seeker is also confused. Employers are looking for problem-solvers with experience solving problems that are similar to the ones they currently face. They don't hire people who MAY be able to solve their problems - they are looking for specialists. Employers don't hire jacks of all trades so don't try to be one in your resume.

After you find your focus, you need to very critically examine the content of the resume, and perhaps content that you originally did not include in order to identify the pieces of your experience that support your focus. This is called strategy. Most job seekers who write their own resumes don't think of strategy as a key part of a resume but rather concern themselves primarily with mechanics and format. A professional resume writer starts thinking strategy immediately - How can I position my client's experience to speak to the employer's needs? What information will support the client's goals, support the targeted salary level, and portray the client as the answer to the hiring manager's prayers?

A resume must be built around the strategy. Sometimes, a job seeker isn't sure what he/she wants to do - maybe stay in the same type of job, maybe find something in the same industry, or maybe go in a completely new direction. The indecision makes it impossible to write an effective resume because there is not a focus around which to build the strategy. No strategy results in a weak document.

Do you have a resume that's four pages long? More than likely you need to find your focus and start working on your strategy.
 
Is It Worth It? Print E-mail
In a recent survey conducted by TheLadders.com, workers said they would make career decisions based on commute time. When evaluating a job offer or attempting to gain some work-life balance, it is important to consider location of a job and not just salary. Not only does commute distance affect the amount of time spent with family or personal time, but it has an impact on the pocketbook. With gas prices skyrocketing, fuel expenses now factor into family budgets as much as rent and utilities. A shorter commute translates directly to money in the pocket.

Executives at the higher pay scales tend to have a longer commute, according to an article in the Journal of Accountancy. Highly compensated executives average a commute distance of nearly twice that of the average worker, spending 42.3 minutes in getting to work one way. The article speculates that perhaps this can be contributed to the fact that those at higher salary ranges can afford to live wherever they wish, rather than having to consider the commute distance. I wonder if it could also be a matter of being willing to sacrifice for the income.

Thus, my original question - is it worth it? Many workers don't think so. Making a decision between career and family is a no-brainer for some, with the choice definitely swinging toward the family side of the spectrum. Home offices, flex schedules, job sharing, and self employment have provided alternatives to long commutes and rigid work schedules. Employers are learning that productivity for telecommuters is much higher than for in-office workers while also reducing costs. Not only are workers making adjustments in their career lives to accommodate families, employers are too.

It's important when looking for a job to consider more than the salary. Would taking a higher salaried position with a longer commute be worth it in terms of cost in time, fuel, stress, and vehicle wear? Many a job seeker has accepted a position because of the salary only to discover rapidly that the commute is a tremendous burden. Other factors to consider when job searching or considering an offer include health benefits, schedule, work environment, comp time, days off, sick time allotment, etc. These components of the benefit package have high impact on work satisfaction and work-life balance, much more so than salary. Salary may be able to fund vacations, but if you get no time off to go on the vacations, it is useless.
 
I Don't Need a Resume Print E-mail
I was chatting with an accountant recently at a holiday party and when he asked the required conversation-starter-question What do you do? I, of course, answered that I own a resume writing firm. Well, thankfully, that's something I don't need anymore, he hastily replied.

It seems this hard-charging young man had just made the leap from working with an accounting firm to being his own employer, hanging out his shingle and jumping into the world of the self-employed. Being self-employed myself for the past twelve years or so, I recognized a starry-eyed newcomer and thought I'd see what he really knew about self-employment.

Congratulations on working on your own! I've thoroughly enjoyed being my own boss. Tell me, how are you handling client acquisition? I asked.

I brought three clients with me from my old firm, he replied confidently, They will pay the rent and keep me operating for the time being. I plan on going after some more corporate accounts in the New Year.

That's great! Do these target accounts know you personally or are you going to be going after them cold?

One I've done some work for in the past on project, but the other two I have some contacts on the inside that will help me get my foot in the door.

How do you plan on doing that? I asked, smiling inwardly to myself.

I'll get my card in the right hands, don't worry.

Well, speaking of cards - here's mine. When you realize you need a corporate resume, not to mention a bio and perhaps a CV, if you are targeting international clients, give me a call. We can help you develop your corporate presence so your clients know who you are, where you've been, and why they should hire your firm.

In my twelve years of self-employment, I have worked a great deal with new entrepreneurs who are riding the rush of making the break from the W2 and heading out into the forest to kill their prey and drag it home. I've mentored many and authored training materials for others. I've led professional organizations that provide support and guidance to the new members of the industry. I have never met one that did not need a resume. And often, the resume is just the start of the marketing materials that a self-employed individual needs to successfully market their services.

The US economy is a 95% service-based economy. That means the product that is being delivered is an intangible and originates with one person or a group of people. An accountant is only as good as his/her experience and that experience is the product that must be marketed. A resume is the marketing vehicle of that product. Sure, a resume for an entrepreneur looking to land a contract will be somewhat different than the resume for a job seeker looking for traditional employment, but it is still a resume.

So if one of your New Year's resolutions is to ditch the nine-to-five and venture out on your own, don't forget that YOU are the product and you need to sell it well.
 
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