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Posts Tagged ‘career change’

Photo Credit: Offbeat Photography @Flickr

Photo Credit: Offbeat Photography @Flickr

They’ve been out of the job market for years.

Parents mean well, but they can give a lot of useless advice to their kids.

Especially when it comes to job searching. If your parents have been at the same place since you were in high school – they most likely haven’t had to actively look for a job in quite some time.

That being said, when they gripe at you about not finding a job – their perspective is referenced from a job market that existed 1o to 15 years ago.

Of course, they’ll bring up anecdotes about that time they were unemployed for a year in 1983 or how they had to look for a job in the bubble of the 1990s – it still won’t compare to your job search.

Why? Because they haven’t had to look for a job now.

Their contacts are in the same boat

If your parents are in the same boat as this guy – their connections may not be as strong as they once were. Since older job seekers entering the market haven’t had to look for a job in ages, they’ve probably become a little lazy and insulated from the necessities of keeping a fresh (and relevant) network.

Despite building up powerful contacts – there’ s no guarantee that your Baby Boomer parents can capitalize on them like they could several years ago.

And, by the time your Mom or Dad hits the job market – their contacts may have dwindled (if not disappeared).

The same places that won’t hire you will hire your parents

Nowadays, employers are taking advantages of the blood fest going on in the job market. Seizing upon the opportunity, they can now doubly trade in on getting cheap experience – even if it means hiring baby boomers to work at a fraction of what they could really make.

So why hire you when cheap labor comes at a better price by hiring an applicant that has twice the experience?

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Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Narrowing your scope – keeping your eyes on the (stupid) prize

Instead of broadening your vision for the future, you’re worrying (a bit too much) about finding your next job. Obviously, if you have bills to pay and mouths to feed – your sense of urgency is more immediate.

Yet, even with (or without) those things, the unemployed rigidly stick to making it next to the hurdle. Remember: it’s only during the breaks and stop gaps that we get to recoup, reinvent and restabilize where our career and life are heading.

In the end, a job is what you want – but that narrow focus can cause you to miss other opportunities that may not present themselves again. The problem is not finding a job – it is keeping yourself sane (and satisfied) while you look for one.

The trick: Remembering what you like to do when you actually had this much time on your hands

Expecting more of the same (over and over again)

In other words, your Plan A is also your Plan B, and C and so on. As a seasoned job hopper, I’ve always been able to bounce back. I’m not going to blame the economy or my (lack of) willpower (OK, maybe just a little).  Instead, the disease of my indifference to job hopping  can be a suitable scapegoat for this scenario.

Job hopping is not always hopping up – sometimes you need to slip a rung or two if you want to add to your skill arsenal. If you jump from one professional venture to the other without much forethought, you may doom yourself to unrealistic expectations of the job market (and your place in it).

This is tricky territory because job hopping has a mixed bag of positives and negatives. In this case, if you have been job hopping within an industry in a downturn –  reasonably tweak your expectations. If you are looking for a career change, be prepared to make broad exceptions.

Question to answer: Is it time for career change, industry change or a change altogether?

Embracing Agoraphobia – in a big way

Some of the (un)expected side effects of joblessness is the amount of freedom and time that is suddenly thrust upon you. Nonetheless, you haven’t left the house in days. Maybe, like most job seekers, you are patrolling Internet job sites, mass emailing potential employers, contacts and God-knows-who else.

You’re glued to your computer looking for opportunities that might not be there. Yet, a lot of this activity is solitary in nature and only compounds the reality that you are not in an office or surrounded by other people. 

Life becomes radically different when the usual 8 hours is not dictated by someone else. It feels liberating… at first. Yet, for some, the sheer velocity of trying to maintain and create a centered routine can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself the task of being active outside your home as well as within it.

If you go somewhere as prosaic as a coffee shop and read The Onion – that’s fine. Immerse yourself in an environment where there will be people, voices, noise and activity.

If you are introverted (like me) you’ll only leave as soon as you get there to relieve yourself of the stress of being in a crowded environment. Don’t. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with the world outside your home.

Don’t sequester yourself from it.

Today’s Task: Leave the house. Immediately.

You aren’t working for free

Unemployment doesn’t mean unproductive. When given 8 hours to do whatever we see fit – the monkeys start to escape from the cages.  Volunteering while you are out of work can be your saving grace. You already know that the best job development comes at the highest price: your time.

So, don’t waste hours in front of a Monster job board when you could be learning something you always wanted.

Or, if you find the right opportunity, you’re developing the “defining moments” of your career. Usually, this means giving yourself the incentive to move on to something else while working on something new.

Semantics vs. Perspective: Think of it as a job sabbatical

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What's your bankability?E! Online’s Answer B!tch featured a question regarding Nicole Kidman’s mainstay in the public (and cinematic) eye. Someone wanted to know why the “tired” Kidman was able to bank much bank from Hollywood studios.

In short, Answer B!tch retorted that Kidman can maintain her popularity because she ranks mile high on the Ulmer Scale.

Essentially, the Ulmer Scale is a very handy database that tracks the bankability of all the major Hollywood stars. Bankability is narrowly defined as the degree to which an actor or director’s name alone can raise 100% financing up-front for a film. It, ultimately, determines whether or not a certain someone headlines a film (or not).

In other words, how many butts in the theater seats can say, Nicole Kidman get in versus Tara Reid? Will you make more of your money back by hiring Brad Pitt or Ashton Kutcher?

Who knew? I got to thinking about the bankability factor for us regular Joes in the non-Hollywood world. While, Joe and Jane Employee (or Jobseeker) doesn’t have access to a list that literally determines their employable worth translated into dollar signs – you can still track your professional bankability, if you pay a little attention to what employers are looking for.

Bankability = money. Here are three simple routes that can get you to the same place.

Money, time and knowledge

Money is the obvious factor, but not necessarily so for some. If you directly handle money (through budgeting, accounting or some other measure) than your influence is clear. Money is saved through proper budgeting and careful spending. But, let’s say you are the guy/gal who is in charge of ordering office supplies. You don’t have much say (if any) in how money should be spent, but you may have say in when it gets spent.

Before you were hired, the office employees would order supplies willy nilly whenever they wanted. This drove you nuts. Therefore, you implemented a rule that allowed office supplies to only be ordered once a month. In doing so, you cut down shipping costs and evened out the supply budget.

Food for thought: Think of your bankability in the steps you took to have business procedures make more sense not necessarily more money.

Time is precious. Are you saving your employer time? Maybe you create ways for the workplace to be more efficient or you provide services that decrease your co-workers overall all workload. What’s being done to keep your employer from wasting his/her precious time? If you perform work quicker, smarter or better (or, wonderfully, all three) – than you bring valuable time management to the table.

Ideally, good time managment brings a sense of immediacy without losing quality in your work.  How can you recognize that? Do you meet deadlines (or beat them)? Can people count on you to strategize work  priorities in a timely manner? Organization is key when factoring in (saving) time for an employer.

Food for thought: Think about your bankability in terms of how you are a time strategist as well as a time saver

Perhaps you are in a business that’s heavily leveraged on relationship building (hmmm…aren’t they all?). You have a large Rolodex (or a knack for creating one). Perhaps you have specialized experience that breathes new life into how a business operates. You are a game changer – and employers value that. The catch-22 with knowledge is that it is powerful, but if you don’t know how to wield it, you will be another dumb cog in the machine. What you combine in various types of knowledge (read: experiences) is translated into a highly specialized skill set.

For example, I once got a contract job specializing in arts public programming (think event planning for the masses). Having mainly worked as an administrative assistant for various financial firms throughout the city, you could say I seemed to be more on the path to working in finance. Before that, however, I completed a few internships that focused on developing cultural events.

I convinced my employers that my unusual skill combination would prove beneficial because, overall, they were looking to hire someone with an understanding of the arts as well as someone well-versed in keeping track of expenses, budgets and the businessof event planning. Nevertheless, my skills  provided a great foundation for handling the hijinks of public programming year round for over 100,000 people and was one of the best job experiences ever.

Food for thought: Think about your bankability as your unique transferability that would be beneficial to any potential employer.

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ice-hockeyHello Readers,

This post is the first of a series titled, “You’re not Succesful, You’re Just Lucky.” This series is devoted to exploring Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Below is a short synopsis and commentary of Chapter One:

Malcolm Gladwell begins the chapter, “The Matthew Effect” detailing the processes of how Canadian ice hockey players are chosen.

Throughout the chapter, Gladwell makes the case for how those lucky enough to be born earlier in the year reap the benefits of physical maturity over younger players in terms of additional practice and training.

A self-fulfilling prophecy emerges because players are picked with the false notion that they are the “best,” but through additional training, they become stars, therefore initially proving the false assumption as “correct.”

Gladwell surmises that cut off dates hugely figure into whether ice hockey players progress to proceeding leagues, or spend it on the bench, prematurely swapped out because of their weaker, underdeveloped playing skills.

According to Gladwell,

We could easily take control of the machinery of achievement, in other words – not just sports, but, as we will see, in other consequential areas as well.

But we don’t.

And why?

Because we cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the rules in which we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.

Basically, you are screwed if you are a Canadian from an ice hockey crazed family and weren’t born in the first half of the year.

I say, count yourself lucky, move to America and play basketball instead. Gladwell uses Canada’s ice hockey system as a frame to explain the inefficiencies in using cut off dates in context to our educational system.

It’s somewhat of a slim example, at best. Gladwell claims that older children will always outpace younger children in sports and academia because of the advantage of advanced maturity (if, even only by a few months).

Duh!

And while Gladwell’s conclusion is wholly obvious, it’s extremely “hidden” as well. Such differences do create unfair advantages – Gladwell thinks one way to overcome them is to fine tune the age groupings.

He believes that once that is done, the playing field would be further evened out.

Would it be that simple?

There’s a lot more to account for than just making sure all the 5 year olds born between October and December get an even playing field by being grouped together.

Individual intelligence and parental involvement contribute quite a bit to a child’s development in school. Surely, Gladwell can’t merely suggest that administrative changes in school policy could solve the problems of our nation’s school performance?

Well, Gladwell claims he is just beginning to set the stage – I hope he brings more to the party.

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gift1Bad News: Massive Layoffs have pushed Unemployment to 6.7%
Good News: 93.3 % of us still have jobs

Are you helping anybody else find one?

The news of additional job layoffs is especially disheartening around the holidays.

Spread some goodwill by keeping on the lookout for jobs in your industry or company and connecting them to others in need of employment.

When we work to help others, we inevitably help ourselves. This is no time to be selfish, hunker down and hope to ride out the storm unscathed.

Link others with opportunities so you strengthen your connection to the investment pool of goodwill. In doing so, you’ll discover the ROI will be tenfold.

And besides, at this time of year – the best gift is the one that keeps on giving.

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burning-houseSome time ago, I dated an idiot. And yes, all women date idiots some time in their lives. But this idiot was special, because I was in love with him.

For the sake of honesty, my former beau, Eric, was not an idiot all the time – just during a crisis. What bothered me, however, about Eric, was his inability to function during a crisis.

Which, in his case, seemed to be a never ending saga of professional dramas akin to that of the less murderous episodes of Melrose Place.

Granted, everyone handles upsets differently, but I’m sure if there was a way to patent Eric’s special brand of professional dysfunction, he’d never have to worry about a career ever again.

Anyway, at some point in our relationship, Eric was having trouble navigating his professional pitfalls. He had come to a realization that his job (as a teacher) was not giving him the personal satisfaction that he hoped it would.

He held three different teaching jobs in the span of five years – always leaving under some sort of duress.

The stress of trying to keep him “afloat” was beginning to wear on me.

I was unsure if it would be fair to bail on someone when they were going through a “tough period.” I began to feel responsible. When you are in love, sometimes (in a misguided way) you think you are obligated to suffer emotional trauma because you feel it serves as a sort of “bonding mechanism” for you and your partner.

I also didn’t think I had the stamina to keep someone emotionally buoyed at the time, especially since I was having my own issues as well. I was embarking on buying my first home and officially planting my feet.

Eric spent his time looking for other jobs (some teaching jobs, some not) and struggling with coming to terms with his career.

We were both in “uncharted” territory.

So, back to Eric’s crisis.

Taking a cue from my own distress, I told Eric I was going to get some much needed relaxing done and spend a few days with my Mom. We agreed we would see each other some time next week.

The next day, Eric’s condo unit was burned up in a fire.

Or, at least that’s what my Mom told me. Instead of calling me about the incident, Eric called my Mom to let her know that his condo was burnt to a crisp. 

Eric’s unit and all the contents there in were either burnt, smokey or ruined by some other means.

I am fairly confident that the only reason why Eric delivered the news via the cushion of my Mom was because he was sure I’d have a fit about half my wardrobe being sent 75 miles away to a cleaners specializing in smoke and soot.

This is, of course, a fit I’d have after I learned he was OK.

(No, the fire didn’t spread through the building, it was just in Eric’s unit only – and no, he wasn’t home at the time)

At first, however, I thought Eric had something to do with it.

And yes, that’s a horrible, terrible thought to think someone would burn up their own home. But, what’s more telling is that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was the actual truth.

Do I sound ridiculous? Maybe.

But, in truth, I wasn’t too shocked at having such a thought. I knew him pretty well. He could be absent minded, a little reckless and he didn’t really handle stress well (as I’ve already said).

Stranger still, I was surprised that I wasn’t surprised.

Eric insisted that the cause was a short in the wiring or some other mysterious, undetectable electrical fault.  And, even though Eric never told me what started the fire/smoke up – he insisted that it was nothing he had done.

Weird.

And yet, it sounded so familiar.

Even though Eric was at a “loss” for why his condo was destroyed – he insisted that it was through no fault of his own.

He had similar defenses about why his career was in the bucket. The school principals didn’t like him, his creative vision as a teacher was being stifled, the kids were rude, the parents were too involved (what teacher complains about that?!) – it was always someone or something else.

There’s nothing you can do about the craziness that life throws at you, and sometimes you are just a magnet for the oddities of the universe. 

And, other times you are like Eric. Even though it may be a stretch to link Eric’s career pitfalls with his condo burning up – the fact that they are strangely parallel indicates something.

The amiable “wackiness” that I found so cute in the beginning began to unravel into indecisiveness and unrealistic expectations.

Unpredictably flip flopping from one decision to the next – he fished for “answers” from friends and family. Unsure of what to do, he began to second-guess everything he did or ever decided to do. Constantly needing reassurance about everything – Eric became an emotional vampire.

And, while some people who spend their lives being clueless may not burn their houses down, their mental chaos creates jumbles into other facets of their lives.

Whether they mean to or not, people who blast chaos so willingly into their own lives don’t give a second thought about turning your world upside down either.

For example, having to drive 75 miles to a cleaners to pick up your clothes and being temporarily homeless.

It’s nothing malicious – it’s just the way they live. The difference between you and the other person is how much you are willing to have such recklessness permeate your own world.

Balance is something to be treasured – the more you crave it the more you will find it uncomplicating the webs of your life.

I am not sure if that was one of Eric’s priorities (besides hopping from one teaching job to the next).

Later, I realized that, despite his sweetness, charm and fascinating music taste – his imbalance is what broke us apart. 

It’s easy to get comfortable with chaos if you don’t crave balance but, people are also quick to blame its existence on something other than themselves.

And for Eric, he insisted that his own chaos had nothing to do with his loopy teaching career.

And, while I still think that there is a part of me that thought I could handle the wacky imbalance, the rational part of me just says, “Get real.”

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On a whim, I sent an e-mail to Penelope Trunk asking her what she thought of Paul Nawrocki. If you haven’t heard, Mr. Nawrocki really wants you to know that he doesn’t have a job. Here’s what I sent:

Hi Penelope,

What do you think people like Paul Nawrocki (the guy advertising his near homelessness with a sandwich board in NY) should do – should job seekers be as “aggressive” as he is about finding a job or is that a little desperate?

Penelope says:

I think that guy has some sort of personality disorder. He’s been unemployed for nine months, which means he could not get a job when there was nearly 0% unemployment for people under 40. To put on the sandwich board is to declare that he can no longer do anything to help himself and so he doesn’t care about his image and wants to tell people how angry he is. He’s got a problem.

OK, so finding a job is not as easy now as it used to be, but I have to admit that this guy’s attempts at job hunting are “imaginative” to say the least.

Some recruiters claim they are being pushed to their limits with the overwhelming amount of by job seekers looking for help. There are desperate people out there and some really don’t know what to do. How do you help yourself when you are feeling helpless?

Hopefully, you don’t become Mr. Nawrocki, but instead:

  1. Stay positive
  2. Develop a productive job search strategy
  3. Conduct informational interviews
  4. Network
  5. Don’t rely solely on the Internet for job opportunities
  6. Volunteer
  7. Treat yourself
  8. Take advantage of the downturn to embark on a career change
  9. Blog
  10. Twitter your way to a new job
  11. Channel your inner entrepreneur and start your own business
  12. Travel
  13. Pick up a new hobby or develop a neglected talent
  14. Learn new software
  15. Curb your spending
  16. Buy a coloring book or try this
  17. Steer clear of unemployment depression
  18. Go to church
  19. Go to a meet up
  20. Become a community journalist
  21. Hang out with your friends
  22. Read
  23. Keep yourself relevant
  24. Engage in unabashed nepotism
  25. Go to a pink slip party
  26. Go to a job fair
  27. Avoid hiding out by going to grad school
  28. Consider re-locating.

I’m sure I could think of more, but I’d like to hear what you have to say – how do you put steam back into your job search? What other ways can you avoid “recession depression”?

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