Archive for May, 2008

Negotiating time off on a new job

May 29, 2008

On being asked how to negotiate time off when accepting a new job, I surprised myself by the annoyance I felt at the question. Times are tough! I work with people who really, really want to get a job. And it sounded whiney to even suggest that by the way, I always go to the beach in August.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is now normal to lay conditions on your acceptance of a new position. And I think some upcoming travel is normal, necessary, and reasonable to deal with. Here are some occasions that seem entirely okay to me:

  • Getting married and going on a short honeymoon,
  • Returning to a former residence to settle on the sale of your former home
  • Caring for a relative after surgery,
  • Taking your teen-ager on a long-promised college tour.

Beware the tone of entitlement! Few will hold a job for those who:

  • always spend a week at the beach with friends,
  • yearn to see the Eiffel Tower,
  • just might want to attend a family reunion.

A very balanced discussion on this point can be found in the Washington Post’s Jobs section for June 15, 2008. The author, Susan Kreimer, has interviewed a few specialists (including me) on this topic. Each person approaches it from a different perspective. Do track down the article, available through The Washington Post online site.

A good guideline to keep in mind is that every request or condition you make might make it easier for the potential employer to choose someone else. Think very carefully about the conditions you are presenting. Is it worth the risk? Only you can answer this question.

I’d love to hear your stories about negotiating time off. What has been your experience?

Your Future Career: what did you do for it today?

May 25, 2008

Think about the activities and events of the past twenty-four hours. As you replay your day, try to notice if your activities, thoughts, and feelings were oriented toward the past or the future.

  • Exercise? that’s an investment in the future.
  • Phone a friend? if your conversation moved past complaining, you may have offered encouragement as you made plans to get together – definitely the future.
  • Sorted through that box of old photos: if you left them as is, you were rooted in the past. If you wrote labels, discarded duplicates, set aside some to send to your cousin, you were taking some steps toward the future.
  • Paid bills? a great step for your future.
  • Updated your resume? Signed up for a class? Read a professional journal? These are steps toward your future career that indicate you will be competitive and prepared when an opportunity presents itself.
  • Finally met your new neighbor? It’s a possible investment in your future, because you know by now that networking is almost everything in a successful job search.

I am indebted to a wonderful book called The Art of Growing Old by Carroll Saussy for being reminded of the essential quality of mindfulness. Saussy suggests the inventory of a day’s activities to focus on the present moment and prepare for the future.

I think an inventory of your day’s activity can also be revealing in a career sense.. This analysis of your time can tell you if you are productively looking toward the future or if you let yet another day go by without taking positive steps. Wake up!

If you would like to talk to a career counselor about your approach to your productive future, please visit
my website at for contact information.

Careers for these troubling times

May 21, 2008

Today’s news is grim. Airlines will be charging for checked luggage. Truckers can’t afford to fill up their tanks. Student loans. Milk prices. Etc. You know the list.

So what does a career counselor think about this? I have a similar reaction to you. The first thing I feel is helpless. I do cut back. I do consolidate car trips. But it doesn’t seem to change much.

I also feel grateful. Grateful that I will survive: tough times call for choices, but I’ll be okay.

What do I say to clients? How do we focus on an effective job search? Here are a few thoughts:

  • If you have a job, hang on to it.
  • Get control of your finances – NOW.
  • Network as you never have in your life. Go places. Call old friends.
  • Learn one more new skill this year. Your competition is very sharp. Be ready.
  • Accomplish something. Have a dazzling success story to tell when that interview finally happens.
  • Be involved in current affairs. The more you study national and international affairs, the more you will know how to position yourself into your next job. There is a connection, you know.
  • Study history – both globally and personally. Tough, turbulent times are always, inevitably, followed by better times.
  • Stay optimistic and let your co-workers and friends see you that way. Being a pessimist in today’s world may make people avoid you, and that’s not what you need.
  • It’s a cliche, but true: an attitude of gratitude doesn’t hurt.

To discuss your job search in these turbulent times, please visit for contact information. And please, share your survival strategies with other readers.

When are you too old?

May 15, 2008

Is there a magic number, beyond which you are too old?

It used to be 50. An invitation to join AARP around one’s fiftieth birthday has been considered an all-American tradition for several decades. That venerable organization must have had a reason for establishing the age of 50 as a benchmark, after which one must be prepared for employment discrimination.

But some will tell you that 40 is the point after which your chances lessen at being successful in a job search.

40, 50, 55, 60, 65, etc. At some point, every individual bumps up against a birthday that signifies (or might signify) a death-knell to career advancement.

What do you think? What have you experienced? What do you fear about age?

Let’s distinguish between your own fears of advancing years and the job market out there. Yes, there is age discrimination. Yes, you might be a victim of it. Yes, it’s extremely hard to prove in court, so this blog posting is not going to address that option.

What can you do? You can:

  • stay current in your field,
  • offer one more skill than your competition,
  • keep a sense of humor and a sensible perspective,
  • listen more than you speak,
  • keep your network alive and active,
  • decide that your chronological years do not need to dominate your state of mind.

If you would like to discuss a concern about age with a career counselor, please visit for contact information. Together we can revisit your resume, removing irrelevant information, we can develop current interview strategies, and we can identify ways of finding new associates and colleagues who will welcome your experience.

Career assessment: feedback and possibilities

May 4, 2008

Remember being in the seventh grade when someone handed you a test to complete? I do. I was totally into music, and the report form of the test said I should work in a music store. I was crushed. I had no ability to think critically, to remember that the test had no measure of talent, that I was free to question and even reject the results if they didn’t suit me.

I find that most people remember similar experiences: being told they “should” be an undertaker, a lawyer, a dentist, a farmer. a homemaker. We joke about these findings now, but we took them very seriously at the time. What were they thinking?

Tests are different now, and you are different. If you are an adult of any age, you will still be interested in your test results, but I hope you will not allow a print-out to change the course of your life if you don’t like what it says. Here are a few observations I’ve made after going over many, many assessment results with people ranging in age from college-bound to retirement planners.

  • They hope to see something they are dreaming of,
  • They are afraid that there won’t be anything of interest to them,
  • They are afraid of being labeled mediocre,
  • They are afraid of being found to have enormous potential,
  • They will have to adjust their thinking,
  • They won’t understand the results,
  • They will have to explain the findings to the people in their lives.

A good interpretation should allow plenty of time for you to receive an adequate explanation of the results. You might like to know how the test was developed and normed (established statistically), how stable the results will be in your life, and how to implement the results in your educational and work life.

A client recently found validation of a strength she had not considered and didn’t particularly want to go into. She just told me that although her new job is in the field she wanted, it will also contain the possibilities of being more focused on this newly-discovered interest. She therefore approaches the new job with a curiosity and willingness to go in that new direction. It is possible to use your test results to build up your willingness to learn something new.

Whether you are taking a test online, in a class or a training program, or with a qualified career professional, remember these tips:

  • keep a light touch about it,
  • be willing to explore new possibilities,
  • be open about the ideas you’re considering,
  • be willing to laugh at yourself,
  • remember that assessment is only part of career decison-making.

If you would like to discuss career assessment or take a test or two, please visit my website at to schedule an appointment.