Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Where have I been?

I know, it's been a few days since I updated here. Last week LinkedIn opened up their "publishing platform" to me; it's sort of my blog for LinkedIn. I've posted a few posts there, which I've also posted over here, and, honestly, they seem to get a great deal more exposure and activity in LinkedIn than they do here.

I think what I'm going to do is leave this blog for the more personal entries, and use the LinkedIn platform for the posts that relate to jobseeking advice and questions.

What does that mean, in real terms? I think it means I'll probably post once a week on LinkedIn to start. That way I can gauge the audience, and if it looks like the response would support more frequent posts, I'll expand to twice a week, or more.

Meanwhile, I'll post here on a more irregular schedule.  It might be twice one week, every day the next week, and three times the week after that. Whenever something strikes me as worth writing about.

In any case, however, there won't be any posts anywhere during the week of 9-13 June. That's the first week of summer vacation for the kids, and we've got a little Disney World surprise vacation lined up for them. Shh... don't tell.

Monday, June 2, 2014

How Does This Apply to Me?

The internet is full of websites offering advice on how to conduct a job search. LinkedIn is packed with job search coaches, recruiters, mentors, advisors, interest groups, and resume writers. They don't always agree, but I've noticed they all have one thing in common.

They all target their advice toward "executive" types. They envision the hiring process as a series of interviews with increasingly senior management, ending with a meeting where a hiring manager says, "We'd love to have you on our team as Director of Frabulation; here's our offer," as she slides a folded paper across the table.

I admit, that's the kind of job I'm looking for. This advice is helpful to me, because I have a skill set that could lend itself to jobs ranging from front-line worker to upper-middle management or more. Clearly, though, not everyone has that luxury. It's a simple fact -- there are more low level workers than upper level, just as there are more low level positions than upper level. If you're looking for work, and all you've ever done is, say, sell dish washers and TVs at Store X, you're probably not going to get that job as Regional Marketing Director at Store Y without something extra special in your resume, something extraordinary. You're probably going to be looking for a job in Washer/Dryer and Air Conditioner Sales (but you'll take Appliance Department Shift Supervisor if it's available).

That said, some of the advice I see offered around the web seems a bit ... superfluous. Yes, have a perfect resume. Yes, ask questions at the interview. But honestly, do I need to have watched Bloomberg News so that I can ask my interviewer, "So, I see that Store Y has landed a new contract to sell lingerie in Alaska. How do you see that affecting long term washing machine sales in general, and specifically in this store?" And if I do, does that hiring manager (a) really care that I've asked the question, and (b) have an opinion anyway?

Is it because lower level jobs really are a matter of "read the want-ads, go in and fill out an application, wait for a call with crossed fingers?" That can't be true. I'm sure you're more likely to get the Washer/Dryer sales job if you know the Toy Department manager, so the advice to use contacts is helpful across the board.

Are we to assume that every job that asks for a resume should be approached the same way? I get it; if I'm applying for a fast food job, the application is going to be enough. But these days, everyone wants a resume for anything more than a minimum wage job. I recently saw a job posting for a part-time hotel night clerk that wanted a resume and cover letter, with a "required qualification" of 3 years' experience and a "desired qualification" of a bachelor's degree. What advice do you offer the potential candidate for that job?

A few weeks ago, I asked if there were ever a case where an employer might be willing to overlook a typo in a resume, and whether a candidate is justified in judging a company based on the typos in the job posting. The comments were almost unanimous. First, any resume that is in any way less than perfect deserves to be round-filed, and second, it's not a candidate's place to judge a company, it's the company's place to judge them.

Fair enough, I suppose. Always do your best. Always go above and beyond. If you're going to be a janitor, be the best damn janitor in the world. I get that. But when I'm applying for the janitor job, should I expect to wear a suit to the interview and answer questions like, "Tell me about a time when you janitored especially well," or "What's your biggest weakness?"

Does anyone out there have any specific advice for those of us in the middle?

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Fool me once, shame on...shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." --George W. Bush

Well, I nearly unfollowed someone on Twitter today -- a company, actually.. I'm not going to say who, but I am going to say why, which means if they read this blog they'll know it's them (but no one else will, I think). Sorry.

Everyone likes a good inspirational quote; the internet's full of them. You've probably shared a bunch of them yourself. On Twitter, with its 140-character limit, they thrive. But I've mentioned in previous posts that I have a knack for trivia. That doesn't just mean that I remember lots of otherwise useless information. Oh, no, if only it were that innocuous. When I learn something new, I have to be sure it's true. That means if you tell me a rule, I will pull out the rule book. If you assert an odd fact, I will google it. And if you quote someone, I will look up the source. It's not that I don't trust you, it's just that I'm going to want to use that bit of trivia myself, and when I do, I'm going to want sources to back me up.

That's why I'm considering unfollowing them. You see, they like to tweet quotes. LOTS of quotes. But they don't check the sources, and it drives me nuts when they misattribute them, as they so often do. Some examples:

"A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes -- The Supremes."  Oh, no. That's from Disney's Cinderella. Written in 1949, when Diana Ross was just 5 years old. The Supremes may have covered the song, but they're not the source.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again -- W. C. Fields."  Really? Nope. That's from Thomas H. Palmer's "The Teacher's Manual," dated 1840. Funnily enough, if they had just tweeted this, without attribution, I would have just accepted it as an aphorism of no particular origin.

"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching. --Satchel Paige." This one's tough, because the Satchel Paige attribution is fairly widespread. But according to The Quote Investigator website (where they've actually done some real research on it), it's much, much more recent. I'm talking 1987 recent, derived from song lyrics by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh, and performed here by Kathy Mattea.

Anyway, for someone who has an obsession with a perfectly normal appreciation for trivia like I do, this is maddening. I'm not going to unfollow them, though. Oh, no. Now, when my Twitter feed flickers and a new quote appears, I'll just take a deep breath, open up my browser to, and take the opportunity to learn something new.
By the way, the quote in the title? I didn't make that up

Thursday, May 29, 2014

You Say You Want a Revolution

There's a small revolution building in the business world, spearheaded by people like Liz Ryan of Human Workplace and Stacy Donovan Zapar of Zappos. It's a paradigm shift in the way employees and potential employers interact. In the future these two business leaders envision, the day of the job board is over, and cover letters have gone the way of the dodo. What's interesting is that they're coming at the same problem from opposite sides of the table, and arriving at pretty much the same place.

Liz Ryan approaches the issue from the point of view of the job seeker. I've mentioned "Pain Letters" before -- Liz Ryan is their creator. To that she adds what she calls the Human-Voiced Resume, aimed at taking your resume beyond a simple list of who-what-where and turning it into an accurate look at the person behind it. It's revelation she came to when an applicant for a job she was hiring for wrote on his resume, "Other: Unusually wicked sense of humor for a Finance person." [Click here for the whole story on Liz's LinkedIn page.] Liz's strategy, in short, is to avoid the hell of keyword-based "applicant tracking systems" by writing directly to the the actual boss, not the HR department. You don't apply for an opening; you tell them why having you on the team would be to their advantage. The expectation is that the boss will see the human and not the buzzwords, giving you a leg up.

Stacy Zapar is in charge of "Social Recruiting and Employer Branding" at Zappos. Why does an employer need to brand itself? That's her weapon in the hiring revolution. Zappos has done away with job postings. Instead, they've developed teams, like the Creative Services Team, the Marketing Team, or the Administrative team. They've invited potential employees to become  "Zappos Insiders," and through social media like Facebook and Twitter, the current Zappos employees and managers interact with people who've expressed interest in their teams. Everyone gets an idea of what everyone is like, and when an opening comes up, they don't post a boring old keyword-infested "help wanted" listing on a job board. Instead, the Customer Loyalty manager says, "Hey, that guy Bob, he's expressed an interest, he seems to fit the culture, and from what we've seen he can do the job. Let's get him in for an interview."

The big difference between these two is that Liz Ryan is asking a job seeker to step outside the usual comfort zone and take the risk of offending a potential employer. It is, she says, a risk worth taking. Stacy Zapar, on the other hand, has repurposed social interactions in such a way as to make the job seeker feel like they are already part of the team, they're just waiting for the hiring letter to arrive. In both cases, however, they advocate re-humanizing the hiring process, and getting back to the days when employers looked at the person first and the resume later.

This posting is also posted simultaneously on my LinkedIn space.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A really big shoe

Now I know how those variety-show plate spinner guys felt.

I say this a lot, but I'm pretty lucky; this time, it's because I know I have a fairly wide range of options in my career search. I've been focusing on writing, and looking at translation jobs, but I've been doing so to such an extent that I forgot my other "preferred" career: teaching. I'd love to be able to take these languages I've learned and pass them on to other people, and not only is it something I like to do, it's something I'm good at.

So this past weekend, as we were sitting around enjoying our days off, I was browsing through a job listing website, and I came across some teaching positions that look right up my alley. I tidied up the ol' resume and wrote a nice cover letter. I tried to make a contact before sending them off, but I don't know how successful those efforts will be. Time will tell.

But back to the plate spinning. I had nearly forgotten that teaching had been my first choice for post-military careers. Susie, on the other hand, has been doing substitute teaching, and working on getting her Florida teacher's certification. She's taken a bunch of the required tests, passed them all with flying colors (no surprise there), and is well on her way to certification in several subject areas. She got a test result back tonight, in fact, which reminded me to check out what's required for me to teach in MY subject area ("World Languages," they call it here...)

Turns out, I've already completed most of the requirements. Well, gee. No sense in holding off, then, is there? Two hours later: application submitted, transcripts requested. Once that's all sorted out, I can start applying for teaching jobs in the local area.

Now I need to look around and see if I've left any other plates spinning.