Archive for the ‘Career Survival’ Category

Lack of Jobs Got You Discouraged? Don’t Halt Your Job Search!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

If the lack of entry-level jobs has discouraged you to the point that you have stopped looking for a position, snap out of it. Now is not the time to roll up your resume and escape on that cross country camping trip you’ve always wanted to take. At least, not if you want to find a job before 2014.

Mick building the tent!

According to Barbara Kiviat* in this week’s Time magazine:

Were the economy to magically start regenerating jobs at a healthy clip——say, 200,000 a month——it would still take 3 1/2 years to return to where we were [before the recession started in Dec. 2007], never mind the jobs we need for new entrants into the workforce.”

So what does that mean for you? Only that delaying your job search in favor of camping until the US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes some more attractive job market numbers means you’ll be living in a tent for 3.5 or more likely 7.5 years (my personal estimation).

Tent completed.

Here’s why. Two reasons.

#1. The economy is not going to recover for awhile, so don’t wait until the media announces that it’s out of rehab.

Professional and management jobs in business are disappearing faster than tickets to the new Harry Potter World at Universal. But the good news is that the need for work to get done isn’t. There are jobs out there.

There is an explosion of microenterprise in this country. And all of these entrepreneurs need help…the kind of help that a recent college graduate is likely to be able to provide. This includes accounting, web design and development, PR, marketing, and all sorts of contract assignments in other fields. Just check out Urban Interns if you don’t believe me.

[Sidebar:] As a small business owner myself who meets with several other small business owners regularly, I know this to be true. In fact, I make it a policy to hire only recent college graduates because I believe that not only are most of them smarter than me, but they work super hard if given the chance.

And the reason I felt compelled to blog about all this at 10:30 pm is because I feel a huge disconnect between what college students are currently telling me, and the way the economy is going. Several students have recently told me that they would rather turn down contract work in favor of waiting for the economy to recover. What?! Contract work builds your resume, lets employers know you have the ability to work independently, and it could potentially lead to your starting your own business. It did for me!

#2. The competition isn’t going anywhere either!

Even if you abhor the idea of contract assignments now, it’s a myth that the competition for the few entry-level jobs that are available will be less fierce in a few years. Companies are going to use these next few years to figure out how to do more with less. My advice is to suck it up now, and approach the job search as if it were your full-time job. It is no fun working on one resume all day for a single job application, and writing cover letters is about as fun as cleaning the toilet, but it’s worth it when you finally get that employment contract in the mail.

On the other hand…if you’re like my doctoral student friend who speaks five languages, owns a beagle and knows how to make food out of dirt – and who can actually survive in the wilderness with only a beagle and a bear for company – by all means go camping! You just might make it in this crazy new economy without a “real” job after all. (Yes, Mick, I said real job.)

It is a damn nice tent!

*Source: “How to Create a Job”, by Barbara Kiviat. Time Magazine (March 29, 2010, pg.19)

Taylor Swift Would Receive Poor Performance Review

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Kanye’s latest signature “protest” at the VMA’s against Taylor Swift’s win of Best Female Video Award was inappropriate. Without a doubt. But I find it even more interesting that no one is surprised by Ms. Swift’s reaction.

Ms. Swift, at the age of 19, has quite an accomplished career as a performer. She is paid quite well for singing, talking, and performing in front of large crowds. It’s her job. Yet, something unexpected happens during an on-air appearance, and she looked as though she had never been on a stage before.

Let’s admit it. Kanye’s “rant” was mild. He did not directly attack or insult her, he definitely disrespected her moment to shine, but it wasn’t exactly out of character for Kanye. Ms. Swift, on the other hand, was totally unable to recover. She just stood there with her mouth wide open as if she were going to faint.  And here’s the problem I have with that.

In a “real-life” non-celebrity situation, more is expected from our young professionals. If a young employee (giving a presentation) is unable to swiftly deal with unexpected rants by more established members of the the company, he or she will not get very far. A thick skin and the ability to respond to naysayers are prerequisites for success in the business world. And in the real world, you don’t have managers and PR people telling you what to say, do, wear, and how to act. You have to think for yourself and react quickly to situations that are always changing. For that reason, I am disappointed in Ms. Swift. I thought as a professional performer she would have been more poised. I think she blew what could have been an excellent opportunity,  to show her younger fans  – who are more likely to accept an office job than a Video Music Award – how to handle pressure on the job.

10 Mistakes to Avoid at Work

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

#1: Not Asking for Help
Many entry-level professionals are reluctant to ask a boss or colleague for help because they fear they’ll appear inexperienced; but asking for help is not a sign of incompetence, or inexperience. To the contrary, it is a sign of maturity and will send a signal to your boss that you can be trusted to speak up when you are in trouble. People expect you to need help along the way, and you will do yourself a favor by asking for help when you need it. Ultimately, this will inspire confidence in your abilities and you’ll move up much faster.

#2: Trying to Show Up Your Boss
Younger workers often believe that in order to be a star at work, you must outshine your boss; but constantly trying to show up your boss is one of the biggest mistakes you can make at the beginning of your career. Unless your boss is corrupt in some way (which is rare), you have a lot to learn from this person. Don’t compete with your boss: it is in your best interest to make him or her look good. In addition, your boss can be your champion because he or she is in the best position to recommend you for bonuses, raises, and promotions.

#3: Not Showing Up On Time
Punctuality is not only expected of you at the beginning of each workday, but at every meeting and company event you participate in as well. Showing up on time is especially important for entry-level hires because you need all the “face-time” you can get: your company doesn’t yet know what you’re capabilities are, and you don’t have a track record or work history to point to. Not showing up on time makes a bad first impression, and unfavorable first impressions are hard to shake.

#4: Not Learning From Your Co-Workers
Sometimes the information you need to succeed is only a desk away. Unfortunately, opportunities to learn from co-workers are often overlooked due to competitive work environments or personal insecurities. But, rather than looking at your colleagues as competitors for the next promotion, why not search for ways to build professional relationships with your co-workers, and learn as much from them as you can? In doing so, you’ll get the added bonus of creating a more enjoyable place to work.

#5: Being Afraid to Make Mistakes
Let’s face it: everybody makes mistakes at work. It’s inevitable. If you plan to work for more than a day over the course of your lifetime, you are going to make a mistake at some point. You don’t want to be so scared to make a mistake that you’re paralyzed at work. To make a good impression and have an impact at work, you must show initiative, and that’s impossible to do if you’re too worried about messing up. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are a good way to learn something you aren’t likely to forget.

#6: Not Admitting You Made a Mistake
This one can really come back to haunt you, especially if someone else discovers your mistake and outs you before you come clean. The best policy is to admit a mistake right away and offer up a solution to fix it immediately. People make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Accept responsibility for your mistake, fix it, and move on.

#7: Not Being Able to Handle Feedback
You must develop the ability to process constructive criticism, or feedback that may be difficult to hear, in a productive way. The worst thing you can do is become defensive or shut down. The person who is trying to help you (most likely your boss) will realize you can’t handle feedback, and he or she will stop giving it to you. People who take the time to offer you constructive criticism do so because they see potential in you and they want to nurture it. If you are getting emotionally overloaded with what you are hearing, simply say, “Thank you. I hear what you’re saying, but I need some time to digest all of this.” You can always go back to the person later and ask some clarifying questions.

#8: Having a Bad Attitude
Aside from making you a miserable person, a bad attitude is going to make you very unpopular with your co-workers. You may not be trying to win a popularity contest, but getting along with co-workers is crucial to your success. Colleagues can help give your ideas and initiatives momentum. They can pick you up on a rough day. If you don’t want to alienate your colleagues, it is vital to have a positive attitude at work.

#9: Engaging in Office Gossip
Too much focus on what others are doing means less time to focus on your own job performance. What others do is not your primary concern. Focus on you and your job. Don’t gossip. Listen if you have to, but don’t repeat anything.

#10: Not Understanding Generational Differences
Today there are four generations working side by side in most companies: Matures, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. And each of these groups has very different ideas about the most effective way to work. It is these generational differences, in addition to misunderstandings about them, that often leads otherwise intelligent people to engage in petty office politics instead of focusing on how to work together to move company initiatives forward. Anytime you are seen as part of the problem instead of the solution you lose credibility. Get off to a smart start early in your career and seek to work with people from all generations in an effective and respectful way.

FREE Webinar: A Career Stimulus Plan for College Grads

Monday, March 16th, 2009
Join me for a Webinar on April 2
Space is limited to 100.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/112957037
This is a 30-minute free webinar, hosted by Anne Brown, author of Grad to Great: Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career. The webinar will cover career planning topics geared towards college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates. We’ll discuss why career planning is critical and what nobody tells you about it (especially now). We’ll prove or bust the five myths of career planning, take the resume quiz, and reveal interviewing secrets. This webinar will also help college graduates learn how to answer the question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” There will be time for Q & A at the end, and prior to the webinar, attendees can submit a question (through the online registration form) that they want answered during the presentation.

As an added bonus there will be a special offer for  everyone who attends the webinar, and a free gift for the first ten people who register.

Title: A Career Stimulus Plan for College Grads
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2009
Time: 9:00 AM – 9:45 AM CDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista
Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer

Jobternships: An Alternative Job Search Strategy

Monday, March 16th, 2009
It’s true that college students who are graduating this year are facing a horrific job market. On the other hand, the recession can be viewed as an opportunity for grads to take some risks and explore positions that offer real-world experience in fields that interest them, but that may be paid – or in some cases – unpaid. I like to call these “jobternships”.  They could also be termed “workternships” or “careerternships”. You get the idea. Great experience, but not always salary and benefits.

The person who takes the “safety” job as a cashier or barista will make a few extra bucks in the short-term, but in an interview situation, “marketing intern” will be much more appealing on a resume than “barista.” Ultimately people who have a job are more successful at finding one; so if it comes down to serving coffee or nothing, then certainly serving coffee can’t hurt.  You never know whom you might meet over a latte.  But if the choice is between a paid job serving coffee and a non-paid job offering relevant industry experience, think about which decision will ultimately help you reach your long-term career goals.
UPDATE: Beth and I were recently asked by the Washington Post to offer some tips for creative job search strategies. We briefly discussed and introduced our jobternship concept in this article. There are other great tips too!

Chris Matthews Offers Sage Advice to Gen Y

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

chris-matthews1

This past Friday on MSNBC’s “Hardball”, Chris Matthews bequeathed the first ever “Hardball Award” to the new Illinois Junior Senator, Roland Burris. Matthews said the award was in honor of Burris’ “moxy” for showing up on Capitol Hill and demanding to be seated by the U.S. Senate. Photos of Burris standing in the rain after being turned away from the swearing in ceremony were splashed across the television screen as Matthews applauded Burris for having the guts and the courage to show up and demand what Burris believes is rightfully his. Matthews went on to say, “This is what I tell people, especially young people. If there’s something you want, show up and demand it. Make the [other person] tell you no. Don’t you say no for them.”

I wanted to share Matthews’ comment with Gen Y and anyone else looking for a job right now because I think we often have a tendency to let our fear of rejection hold us back from asking for what we truly want. And when people don’t know what you want, how can you expect them to give it to you?

In Grad to Great we talk a lot about being authentic, not only in your interactions with others, but with yourself as well. Because if you know what you want to do, if you know what job you want; there’s no reason to be intimidated by the gatekeepers. Ask for an interview: ask to be introduced to someone that works for the company you want to work for: ask for the job. Don’t be meek; be confident, but never cocky. By directly asking for what you want, you put the pressure on the other person to come up with a reason to say no to you. If you have the qualifications for the job and if you have played by all the rules, then like Roland Burris, hopefully it will only be a matter of time before someone says yes.