Archive for January, 2009

Effective Job Search Strategies: then and now

January 26, 2009

A popular television game show has contestants looking at the price of some products and guessing if the prices are then or now (then being a few years ago). With a bow of appreciation to The Price is Right, let’s play the same game with job search techniques and strategies.

My colleague, web analyst Ann Poritzky, and I have compiled a list of job search elements for you to determine if they are best described as then or now:

  1. A perfectly-typed resume on high-grade bond paper,
  2. an in-person interview of someone in a field you’d like to enter,
  3. a firm handshake upon meeting,
  4. a stylish, but unobtrusive dark business suit,
  5. a search of anything written about you,
  6. a hand-written thank-you note right after an interview,
  7. careful research of the job situation in your area,
  8. pre-interview research of the organization, its trends and major issues.

Ready to check your answers? Keep reading:

1. More then than now, because of the immediacy of email applications. But don’t forget that follow-up hard copy!

2. Then and now. Never underestimate the power of a face-to-face meeting.

3. Then and now. It’s an unbeatable, unchanging way to make a good impression.

4. Then and now. Your old sweat suit will do when you are home surfing, but a professional appearance ultimately matters.

5. Definitely now! A search takes just a few seconds and can be a real eye-opener. You have to assume that your potential employers are doing it.

6. Then. Ever since the anthrax scares, major organizations are screening their paper mail, and no one can tell you when that letter will be delivered. Regretfully, I grant that email thank-yous meet the requirement of speed and courtesy.

7. Then and now, but now is better, more urgent, and more thorough. It is expected that you will have done some basic research before an interview, and will be able to discuss the employment situation in your county or region.

8. Then and now, but now in more depth than ever. When you go for an interview, you will be expected to have explored the organization’s website in depth and be able to discuss what you saw there. Compliments about ease of navigating will be appreciated, by the way.

I’d love to add to this list. Have you encountered job search techniques that have either stood the test of time or needed updating? Please let me know. My readers will be happy to learn from your insights.

Do you feel that your job search techniques are a bit behind the times? I’d love to speak with you about the possibilities of bringing you into the twenty-first century. Please visit my website at www.anneheadley.com for contact information.

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Online Resources for the Job Search

January 24, 2009

At the annual conference of the Maryland Career Development Association, held on January 23, 2009 in Columbia, MD, facilitators and participants contributed the following web resources in a discussion of contemporary ways of enhancing the traditional processes of career development. I am attaching the suggested resources in hopes that you will find information that is useful to you. The lists are organized according to a traditional approach to career assistance:

1. Know Yourself:

2. Do the Research:

3. Make a Decision

This is not the time for internet research. This belongs to you – you can think, pray, visualize, and in every way absorb the information from the previous stages. Then choose a direction!

4. Conduct the job search:

5. Follow up

I have not personally examined each of these sites, but a remarkably savvy group of people contributed to this list.

A few questions for you:

  • What are your experiences with these sites?
  • Are there sites that you think should be on this list?
  • Are there blogs that we should know about?

My colleague, web analyst Ann Poritzky, MBA, and I wish to thank the contributors to this posting. We could not have done it without you and we look forward to hearing about your experiences in online research.

King, Obama, and the rest of us – More than Ready for Change

January 19, 2009

It’s a week-end filled with reminiscences, grainy black and white film, and interviews with people, most of which are saying something like I can’t believe it.

I can’t believe it either.

We have observed Martin Luther King’s holiday today. As we inaugurate a new president tomorrow, I am delighting in the shining eyes and big smiles of so many who have come to Washington, DC. History is not only grainy, black and white film footage, but also optimism for the future.

I have a dream is not only for yesterday, but for tomorrow.

A step toward Dr. King’s dream of equal opportunity for all has been reached, although total fulfillment eludes us. The audacity of hope has won a decisive presidential election.

As we allow ourselves to smile, to feel hopeful, to believe in the possibilities, I wonder what this means for the wretched economic state we are in. Our questions surely must be:

  • What will the stock market do? Will it reflect our optimism?
  • Will the lay-offs end? Will people spend money again? Will more of us keep our jobs?
  • Will those of us in the field of career development be able to infuse our work with the optimism of those visitors to Washington?
  • Will we look at our clients, smile confidently, and say, yes, you can! ?

I’m sick of the old patterns, such as employers posting job openings and then deciding not to fill them. I’m sick of workers having their hours cut back even as their expenses rise. I’m sick of the layoffs, such as letting loyal employees go while urging them to reapply for lower-paying positions.

I hope that optimism is contagious. I hope that change is here to stay for a while. I hope that the breeze of change blows in economic growth.

What are your thoughts about this special inauguration? What connections do you see between a new president and your career situation?

If you would like to speak with a career counselor about what this change means for you and your career, please visit my website at www.anneheadley.com for contact information.

2009 – The Year of Career Possibilities

January 15, 2009

Career Possibilities? Seriously?

Yes, I’m serious. I haven’t met anyone recently who isn’t concerned about the workplace. Whether you are currently employed or not, you need to maintain the recognition that flexibility will be an essential survival tool in 2009.

The Washington Post’s columnist Kathleen Parker has a fascinating article on the rise of consulting and freelancing employment (Pink Slips du Jour). She states that the percentage of self-employed skilled professionals is rising in an unprecedented way. I urge you to read the article (The Washington Post, Pink Slips du Jour, 1/14/2009)

I don’t think it’s all bad news. Here’s a story I heard today from a client, who agreed that I might share it with you:

He’s a laid-off engineer. Possessing impeccable credentials and an uninterrupted work history, he never imagined being laid off, let alone being unable to call colleagues and garner a new job offer within a few weeks.

It hasn’t been simple. He has diligently searched for months, and has found nothing – not even a nibble.

But wait! He happens to have a passion, hitherto undeveloped (no pun intended), for photography. This was something that we had agreed would be a hobby, maybe a sideline now, and eventual work in retirement, decades away. Nevertheless, his wife’s office had a party lined up, and she said she could provide a photographer. Once on the scene, he agreed to post his photos on a website and sell CDs of the photos to any participant who wanted that.

Another opportunity came up at his child’s school. The school needed some photos, and he agreed to take them. Other parents have already approached him about covering their own private events.

Money? Yes, he will make a little right now. His portfolio will grow along with his network of satisfied clients. Will he stay with it, or get back into his original career field? I don’t know. He doesn’t know, either.

Right now, he is happy. This is what he has wanted to do for a long time (and his sensible career counselor encouraged him to practice it on the side, but not count on it quite yet!). The money is not vast, but it is coming and will continue to come.

What is going on? What can you learn from this story?

  • Recognize your passion and keep it growing,
  • Remember that you are not just your occupation, that you have many things going for you,
  • Be flexible in the way you envision your future,
  • Be creative in recognizing opportunities,
  • Turn networking into an informal job interview,
  • Be a risk-taker,
  • Allow yourself to feel happy when something great comes along,
  • Re-define success as much more than money.

If you would like to speak to a career counselor about flexing your creativity muscles and offering some really different skills to the world, please visit my website at www.anneheadley.com to set up an appointment. I’d love to hear your ideas, and contribute a few of my own!

Career Trends for 2009

January 14, 2009

January is the time for those predictions about what lies ahead, what’s new about the new year, and what we can look forward to. And now, more than ever, there’s a hunger for identifying career trends in these difficult times.

I have been reading a fascinating article, 10 Hot Professions for 2009, available at hotjobs.yahoo.com. Yes, there is insight into our rapidly-shifting economy, and yes, the old favorites are on the list. There is also a category new to the top ranks, which hasn’t seen such visibility before.

Career counseling and personal counseling are on the list. Career counseling will continue to rise in visibility as so many workers are forced to rethink their talents, and their focus. Workers will need assessment, job search strategies, and support throughout the process of changing careers. Personal counselors will continue to be needed to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety.

Related to counseling through people skills is the public relations specialist. This is the person who will be able to keep us calm in the face of bad news. What a challenge!

The financial sector lives in the top ten occupations, including auditor and something called a factor (new to me, too). Serious number-crunchers and analytical people should check these out. There will be work for you.

Health care remains on the list as usual. Nurse and health care technician are essential positions in the largest source of employment field in the country, and the opportunity is greatest for those with technical skills. If you are willing to be trained in a technical field, this is the place to head.

Engineering trends remain high, including mechanical engineering. As robots take over some tasks, remember that someone has to develop and maintain them.

Networking/system administrators and software designers and developers remain on the list. Computer networks support our business world, and people who can design, maintain, trouble-shoot, and fine-tune them remain in demand.

I am grateful for the information provided by hotjobs.yahoo.com. For more descriptions of these ten occupations including average salaries, I hope you will visit their site.

As a career counselor, I am proud to be on this list. If you would like help in examining your skills, education, and work history in order to make good decisions for the future, I’d love to speak with you. Please visit my website at www.anneheadley.com for contact information.

New on the Job? Take your Time!

January 7, 2009

More advice on how to behave in your first thirty days on the job comes from Sarah, a federal government employee.

  • Listen to what goes on around you. You can learn a lot by watching your new co-workers do their jobs and interact.
  • Find your niche. This can mean personality fit as well as the parameters of your position.
  • If you see an improved way of doing something, think carefully before presenting it. The old way has worked fine for all those other people, and you don’t want to upset them. Keep doing it their way and lay the groundwork for change. You have plenty of time.
  • Friendliness is a good thing. You can’t go wrong extending it in all directions, because you don’t yet know who will be helpful to you. Don’t write off anyone.

The first weeks go by quickly. The cliche that you never get another chance to make a great first impression applies here. You don’t need to change the universe today.

So what have you learned in your working experience? If you have a piece of advice or two that could be of use to others, please feel free to leave a response below. Or you could contact me through my website at www.anneheadley.com .
I’d love to hear your ideas. And you can be sure that readers out there will benefit from your insight.

Success Strategies for the New Employee

January 5, 2009

In response to my previous posting asking for advice for the first weeks on the job, I heard from a friend who is new to her government position in mid-level management. This is what she has learned:

  1. Keep your eyes and ears open.
  2. Keep your mouth shut most of the time.
  3. Ask questions and listen to the answers.
  4. Read background documents.
  5. Be polite to everyone.

Here are a few specifics.

Because my friend is in a relatively new position, there weren’t people to tell her exactly what her responsibilities should be or how to proceed to do them. So she asked her boss for background information on how the position came to be created. She asked once, somewhat apologetically, if she was bothering him with all these requests, and he said not at all, that he was delighted she was interested.

Be polite to everyone. Not only is this a key to providing excellent customer service (and who doesn’t want that?), you never know who will turn out to be helpful to you. You don’t yet know whose information is valuable or who has an ax to grind. You certainly don’t know who is a loose cannon or who is the office gossip.

What do you think of these strategies for success? You have your own ideas, based on your work experience. I hope you will be willing to share a few.

And if you would like to talk with a career counselor about your own career, including adjusting to a new position, please visit my website at www.anneheadley.com for contact information.

New on the Job: Survival Strategies

January 5, 2009

After a successful job search, you face another challenge: that of settling into your new position. After a welcome and introductions, after a formal or informal orientation, what’s next?

Most of us look back on past positions and shudder at the mistakes we made, whether it was trusting the wrong people, listening to the wrong advice, or asking too many/too few questions.

I am offering an opportunity for my readers to offer nuggets of advice about how to succeed in your new job. I will review all contributions, edit discreetly, change any identifying features you wish, and happily publish any material of use to my readers.

Some questions I’ve heard recently:

  • How do you decide whom to trust?
  • What do you do when people start sharing gossip with you?
  • How do you decide your place in the office hierarchy (and act accordingly)?

If you can answer any of these questions, or pose other ones, I look forward to hearing from you.

Job Hunters: Open your eyes!

January 1, 2009

If your New Year’s Resolutions include getting a new or better job, I have a suggestion for a tool that can help.

It is frighteningly easy to blame society, politicians, bankers, and CEOs for the policies that have brought job growth to a halt. But this tool I propose is one for which you have total control. Read on…

The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust, novelist (1871-1922)

New Eyes! What a resolution that one is! How will your job search change if you approach it with new eyes?

  • Your talents are broader than you had previously seen,
  • You know more people than you thought you did,
  • You have more to offer than the accomplishments on your resume,
  • Your unique God-given gifts are what someone is looking for,
  • You will be able to recognize a growth opportunity.

You don’t need the vision you may have been using in recent months. You don’t need discouragement, negativity, or the defeatist vision you may have been using. Try Proust’s suggestion of using new eyes on your own journey of discovery.

I’m indebted to the wonderful people at A Word A Day website for presenting this quote. In fact, you might check it out and subscribe as another effective new year’s resolution (wordsmith.org/awad).

Happy New Year, you with the new vision! I hope you see wonderful opportunities in the coming year.