Sticking with It Print E-mail
I was reading an article today about Michael Jackson and his financial woes. It seems that the animals in his menagerie at Never Land are being repossessed or at least relocated to new, adoptive owners who can afford to take care of them. The article also mentioned that the employees at Jackson's ranch/kiddy trap have not been paid in nine weeks and that many are looking for second jobs. Well, hello? I think if I had not been paid in nine weeks, I wouldn't be looking for a second job but rather for a NEW job. In fact, knowing the state of his financial affairs, I would have been out of there when the first paycheck didn't arrive on time.

These employees are taking employer loyalty a bit far, don't you think? Unfortunately, many people stay with employers long after they should have hit the road. People stay in bad employment situations for various reasons. Sometimes it is the typical employer loyalty situation where the employee feels obligated to the employer or feels the employer deserves his fealty. Often in this case, the employee has a long history with an employer and remembers the good times when things were pleasant. The employee stays with the employer because he/she hopes the good times will return or feels leaving the employer would be detrimental to the overall business.

Another common reason people delay leaving a job is out of fear of change. No one likes change. Sometimes a bad situation seems less scary than a potentially better situation that requires a change to attain. Job search itself can be scary and no one likes to do it unless they absolutely have to. That fear of change or upheaval, even if the result of the change would be good, can prevent people from leaving a bad situation.

Financial obligations can stand in the way of employees leaving a bad employment situation. I'd leave, but I need the job is a common sentiment. Such a situation is one that must be judged by the individual but there is usually a different job somewhere in the market. In my entire career, I've only run into a situation a couple of times where there was only one job in a local market and in both situations the local market was a very small town and the job was a very specialized one. Many people who think they are limited in their options simply haven't looked at other potential options.

Regardless of the reason for sticking with a bad employer, it's important to consider all aspects of a job and have courage to make a change when necessary. Stress generated by a bad employment situation can lead to serious health issues, marital and family problems, and poor work performance. The question should be asked Is it worth it? Often the answer is No! The next question is What can I do about it? Engaging a good career coach to help you through the transition that will be required is a good first step.
Who Is Your Representative? Print E-mail
Have you ever been in the doctor's waiting room toward lunchtime or at the end of the day when the pharmaceutical representatives start coming in with their PDAs and pull-cases? I'm sure you have. If you have paid attention, you'll notice all these representatives (salesmen) are physically attractive, expensively dressed, well-educated, experienced, well-spoken, and generally drive decent cars. Pharmaceutical companies aren't stupid. They field sales reps who meet certain criteria that have been determined to support positive results.

In the job search, you have a set of things that serve as your representative. The first and most effective representative are your network contacts. Job search results are much better if you can network your way into a job. With a network contact, you have someone on the inside or in a place of authority representing you as the perfect candidate for the job. He/she is an advocate or sales rep for you with the employer.

The resume also serves as your representative. For most job search efforts, the resume is the first contact the employer has with you. Every single word, error, bit of information, number, and character that appear on the resume represents YOU. Just like the pharma reps, it needs to be attractive, dressed well, well-educated, well-spoken and experienced. It must make a good impression on the employer without you being present.

A secondary representative in your job search is the executive recruiter. A recruiter is only a secondary (or even tertiary) representative because a recruiter does not work for you, the job seeker. Instead, he/she works for the employer. Where the recruiter has vested interest in your job search success is in the salary issue and in the finalization of your placement. For contingency recruiters, the salary which you command in the new job dictates the recruiter fee. It can be up to 1/3 of your annual salary. It is in the best interest of the recruiter to negotiate the highest salary possible for you.

Further, the recruiter does not get paid unless he places a candidate in the position. It is beneficial to the recruiter to work on your behalf to sell your candidacy to the employer. Remember, though, the recruiter works for the employer. It is possible the recruiter has been asked by the employer to provide more than one good candidate for the employer's review. If that is the case, the recruiter is fielding other candidates beside you for the same position. In that case, the recruiter has significantly divided interests.

The final representatives you have in your job search are your references. References are very important in closing the deal for job seekers. Most employers will make initial offers contingent on a clean background check, drug test, and good references. Any of those three factors can sink what you thought was a done-deal. Make sure your references are well-vetted and secondary references will also make the grade.

Of all these representatives, the one over which you have the most control is your resume. It is also the most widely used job search tool. Unfortunately, many people don't understand the importance of making sure that tool is top-quality. It's easier or more expedient to take a slap-dash approach to the resume and hope for the best. Poor attempts generally bring poor results. Make sure your resume is representing you well.
Ruts in Writing Print E-mail
The brakes on my car need to be replaced. They are starting to screech and set my teeth on edge. It's not surprising I need new brakes since I have almost 100,000 miles on my little car. They've lasted a long time and done their job but they are at the end of their lifespan and it's time for a fresh set. What's more, they don't work that well anymore. Hopefully, they won't fail me when I need them most.

Word choice in resume writing can be like my brakes-they get worn out and need new words put in place because they no longer do their job. Words used over and over get worn out and lose their effectiveness. What may sound really good, punchy, and hard-hitting to you may be trite and overused to the reader.

Hiring managers and recruiters see hundreds of resumes a week - hundreds! Because of this, they see the same phrases over and over. These phrases no longer have any meaning to the hiring managers so they totally ignore them or don't even see them. Phrases that the job seeker feels perfectly describe his soft skills or abstract qualities can be totally ineffective.

Take a look at your resume and see if you spot any of these overused, worn-out phrases:

Proven track record (by far THE most overused of all phrases)
Demonstrated strengths/ability
Seasoned professional
Proven ability
Successful experience
Dynamic leader/professional
Highly adept
Accomplished professional
Innovative thinker
Technically savvy
Broad-based experience
Strong analytical skills
Outstanding interpersonal skills
Highly organized
Pro-active problem-solver
Pro-active professional
Highly skilled
Dedicated professional
Good communicator

Most of these phrases are used as modifiers. For example, Detail-oriented Chief Financial Officer Detail-oriented modifies CFO. Poor resume writing is heavy on modifiers. Sometimes, modifiers will be strung together like pearls on a necklace: Detail-oriented, pro-active, team-oriented manager. Ugg! And job seekers who write their own resumes aren't the only ones guilty of such weak writing! Professional resume writers get into ruts writing this way, too.

A remedy for writing that is full of trite phrases is to go back through the resume and mark out the overused phrases. Does it still make sense? Were modifiers really needed in all locations? Are there other words or phrases that can be used that are not trite and might actually provide a better, more accurate description?

Writing with trite phrases in your resume is like me driving on poor brakes. It sets your teeth on edge and it may fail you when you need it most.
Religion on the Resume Print E-mail
There was an interesting article recently in Fortune Small Business about Christian business owners that run their organizations according to Christian principles. While the article was quite interesting, the side bar section on the legalities of mixing business and religion was quite educational on the do's and don'ts of religion and employment.

Basically, the side bar article stated that religion and work do mix, only religion cannot be a condition of work. The article states Civil rights legislation bars employers from making any employment decision based on religion, but it covers only firms with 15 or more employees. Smaller companies are free to use religion as a reason to hire, fire or promote an employee - as long as they're not located in a state whose laws cover smaller businesses.

As most people know, religion or faith are off limits topics in a job interview just as questions concerning marital status, sexual preferences, age, and children are banned by federal law. Many job seekers don't realize, though, that including information in the resume that alludes to religion could cause the resume to be rejected by employers. Most employers are extremely cautious these days about litigation and put all kinds of safeguards in place to protect themselves from lawsuits. One of those protective actions is to reject resumes that contain any information in them that alludes to these off limits topics.

We work with thousands of job seekers every year and I see a lot of self-written resumes that are their own worst enemies. I always try to advise my clients that including certain information might put their candidacy in jeopardy, but I always leave that final decision up to them. For example, I reviewed a resume recently of a man who listed his involvement as an elder in his church. We discussed his choice to include this piece of information and he was adamant that he wanted it left in the document. He felt it added to his leadership qualifications. He also felt strongly that if an employer rejected his candidacy because of it, then that was an employer he would not want to work for anyway. He used it as a filter. We left that piece of information in the document at his request.

The argument this fellow used - that an employer was at fault for rejecting the resume due to the inclusion of information alluding to religion - is set on a false premise. The premise this gentleman had was that rejection was a result of bias against his particular faith. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rejection of the resume would be based on federal law and a highly litigious society. Sure, some employers might not want a evangelical Christian or Muslim or Buddhist on staff, but for most it doesn't matter. What matters is whether the employee can do the job.

Religious affiliation information on a resume generally does not support the goal of the resume, thus, providing another reason to eliminate it from the resume. All information included in the resume should in some way support the candidacy of the job seeker. If it doesn't, it needs to be removed. That is why we generally remove job experience that is older than ten years - it doesn't support the current candidacy of the job seeker in today's market. Religious affiliation information generally does nothing to support the job seeker's position as the best candidate for the job. True, in the example given, the elder position was a leadership position but this bit of experience was totally eclipsed by the job seeker's employment-related leadership experience. The elder position added no weight to the resume.

Always consider each and every bit of information that goes on the resume for value in achieving your goals. Evaluate value of the information in proportion to the risk of including it. Then make your own call. After all, it's your job and your life.
Are You In Love With Your Job? Print E-mail
Tomorrow is that big-stressor holiday - Valentines Day - where hopes flourish and worries abound. Did you get the right present for your honey? Does the present send the right message? Should you go with the funny card or the mushy one? Decisions, decisions, decisions. One decision you should be comfortable with is your job decision. Are you in love with your job? Are you cheating on the side just to get some job satisfaction? Do you sit and stare at centerfolds of college catalogues dreaming of that perfect, airbrushed career? Do you speak the love-language of your true career?

I have been fortunate in my career history to always have had the ability to work in something that I love. I've also turned hobbies into work so I could have fun and earn a paycheck at the same time. Unfortunately, I meet so many clients who come to our firm because they are unhappy with their work. They are stuck in a career field in which they've lost interest or into which they were railroaded by external forces. They are in work environments that are unpleasant or unhealthy. How can these people find the work they love?

Here are some tips to find your true career love:

Ask What did I want to be when I was a kid? Okay, that's pretty simplistic but it works. As kids, we weren't concerned about issues such as income potential, promotion opportunities, or relocation requirements. We were just looking at the fun side of jobs. Many of us wanted to be superheroes or firemen, doctors or teachers. What was it about your childhood career aspirations that appealed to you? Was it helping people? Was it being in charge? Was it excitement and glory? These are the underlying motivations to our careers. Look at these things when searching for your career love.

What are your hobbies? Can you turn what you like to do for fun into a career? I have a friend whose son is twelve. He has started volunteering at a raptor rehabilitation center on the weekends where he feeds and cares for hawks, owls, and kestrels. When he turns fourteen, he plans to apprentice with a master falconer to become an apprentice falconer and learn to train hawks, kestrels, and falcons. Six months ago he wanted to be a fighter pilot, but now he is considering working in wildlife management, even though the glory is not there or the salary.

Apprenticeship is something that has largely gone by the wayside in employment these days. In the earlier part of our history, and up until the middle decades of the last century, most people in our country learned their trade through apprenticeship. By learning a career at the side of a mentor or master journeyman, workers often get a better education in a craft, trade, or art than if they went through formal educational channels. If you have something that interests you, make the effort to learn about it from experts. You might be surprised at the options that are open to you for building a true career out of what you thought was only a neat hobby.

Follow your natural talents. A mathematician will likely never make a happy writer. A talented writer will rarely like dealing with numbers. Some people are good in situations where public contact is demanded while others work best alone. Teaming works for some, and for others it's a huge anchor weight on creativity and leadership. Be honest enough with yourself to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and work toward your strengths. Square pegs are never happy squeezed into round holes.

Appreciate what you do. I had an acquaintance who recently took on a part-time job at Chuck E. Cheese's to make a little extra money to pay off medical bills. She intimated to me that she was embarrassed because she felt many people she knew looked down on her for working in such a low end position. When I asked her if she liked the job and if she felt she was doing a good job, she enthusiastically replied Yes! I love working with the kids and seeing their faces when the birthday cake comes out!

Well then, there's nothing to be ashamed of! You are doing something you enjoy, something at which you obviously have a talent, and something that brings joy to others. It's a great job! I replied.

If you can form your career to fit your wants, needs, and desires in regard to fulfillment, financial requirement, and lifestyle, you will never work a day in your life. Life is too short to hate your job. Go out and find your true career love interest!
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