Archive for February, 2009

Learning to recognize job opportunities

February 26, 2009

Just when I’m sick of the evening news with its daily portrayal of 5,000 people in line for the local job fair, I sense a change in the air. Today, there are more features about new trends in employment. Combined with what my own clients are telling me, here’s a list of where one might find work:

  • shoe repair.
  • auto repair,
  • health care,
  • security,
  • temp agency placements,
  • short-term government contracts,
  • mid-size restaurants,
  • academic administration.

There are real-life stories behind each item on the list.

Yes, they take special skills. No, they aren’t for just anybody. They aren’t highly paid jobs. But they offer the people wise enough to apply and lucky enough to be chosen an opportunity to earn experience and income.

You may have a special skill or two of your own. Or you may be willing to be trained to do something new. I hope you are willing to keep your options open for the opportunities of today. If you would like to re-think your job search, or if the old approach of job hunting isn’t working, please contact me. You can visit my website at for information on how to get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you and helping you bring your job search techniques into the twenty-first century.

The job interview: one more thing

February 24, 2009

Have you ever been asked to write something at a job interview?

If you apply for a job in at least one place I have heard about, you will be asked to write the response to a question or two. Why?

Try one of these answers:

  • Did you remember to bring a nice pen or pencil?
  • Did you bring your reading glasses?
  • Can you use appropriate grammar and spelling?
  • Are you literate in English?

Please think about this when preparing for an interview. Pack a pen and a pencil that you’ll be proud to be seen using. Pack your reading glasses if you need them.

And tuck a basic pocket dictionary into your purse or briefcase. You might draw a blank on a word that you normally spell perfectly. And even if you have to look up a word, remember that you look like a careful person who wants the job done right.

If by chance you are not literate in written English, now is the time to acknowledge that. Follow the statement with what you are doing about it.

I’m currently enrolled in an ESL class.”

“I’m attending classes in GED preparation.”

If you have been surprised by unusual interview situations and would like to speak about them with a career counselor, please visit my website at to contact me. You might also leave a comment here and get the reactions of some other readers.

Good morning: what risk will you take today?

February 23, 2009

We live in distinctly uncomfortable times. As a career counselor, I think/hear/worry/contemplate the job market on a daily basis. I cling to success stories (yes, I hear them) and am beginning to avoid the tragedies on the evening news because I don’t want to get overwhelmed.

Jobs, money, homes, retirement funds are at risk. If you seek comfort by pulling the blankets higher and retreating for the day, your fears will mount and your sense of helplessness will increase as well.

Here’s a thought: go out today and do something risky. No, obviously I do not advocate driving while under the influence, going without a coat in the cold, or taking the remainder of your savings and buying lottery tickets.

Good risk, however, gives you a good story at the end of the day. Here are some examples:

  • meet the new neighbors,
  • learn a new skill on the job,
  • telephone someone you’ve lost touch with,
  • pick up a different book at the library,
  • express gratitude for something/someone you have taken for granted,
  • clear out a bookshelf of things you will never need again,
  • follow a new recipe for vegetable soup,
  • speak with a co-worker you’ve never known very well,
  • mail the package that has been sitting there staring at you reproachfully.

Does this get you a job? or secure the one you have?

No, I don’t think so. But these small steps clear out some cobwebs and allow new ideas to form. You can network in low-key ways that make people smile (including yourself).

The conclusion will be that your world will be a bit broader or cleaner or neater. Think of it as clearing the decks for the next stage.

What strategies do you have for brightening a day that might not look so promising in the morning?

New Interview Question: what would you say?

February 16, 2009

Here’s a true story: a friend just got a job, and it’s a good one. Yes, it happens in 2009. Along with congratulations, I asked him if there were any unusual questions in the interview process.

Well, yes, do you have any pets?

What would you say?

  1. No,
  2. Yes, but the cat takes care of herself,
  3. No, the jobs I’ve had are too demanding.
  4. I’ve got a dog whom I enter in annual shows,

Here is what happened to my friend: the interviewer mentioned his own dog and whipped out a picture. My friend was wishing that he had a picture of his dog to share. Just as he was assuming that this was a question designed to establish rapport and create a relaxing environment, the interviewer revealed that one needs to have a dog walker on call because the job involves long, irregular hours.

This friendly-sounding question reminds me that some interviewers are highly skilled at arriving at what they want to know… and the more relaxed you are in the process, the more personal information you will share.

Unless your answer to the pet question is 1, 2, or 3, be careful. The time to share those time-consuming interests is after you get the job. Keep in mind that the interview should be focused on your job performance.

My friend got the job despite acknowledging having a pet. He now knows that he had better make plans for having someone walk his dog when the schedule demands it.

Have you heard an unusual interview question?

Job Interviews: what’s new?

February 9, 2009

Tough times means increased competition for jobs. It is reasonable to expect that any applicant should put more than minimal preparation into the big event:

  • your attitude must be positive,
  • your appearance must be appropriate to the new situation,
  • your thoughts must be focused in order to discuss your qualifications,
  • your research of the workplace must be complete and current.

But you know these things. What you (and the rest of us) don’t yet know is how this economic downturn impacts the content of job interviews. I’d love to hear what you are learning as you go.

Here’s what my clients have been told:

  • we’ll keep your resume on file until we can hire,
  • we’re looking for someone with a combination of skills,
  • we’re looking for someone who is fluent in another language,
  • we’re looking for someone who is free to start right now,
  • we checked you out on the social networks,
  • a reference told me….

Are you ready for the offbeat, surprising questions or remarks? Would you like some help in interview preparation? It might be the best hour you ever invested in yourself.

Please visit my website at for contact information.

And meantime, what is the most unusual interview question you’ve been asked?

The Elements of Luck

February 5, 2009

I’ve never before written a review of a book review, but something so interesting caught my eye that I’m risking doing it.

On the website of the National Career Development Association, there is an article by Millicent Simmelink ( called Getting Lucky: A Simple Approach to Successful Transition. In it, she reviews a book by Robert Wiseman, The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles (Miramax, 2003).

Dr. Wiseman (great name!) has identified four traits shared by lucky people that he has studied: They all

  • expect good fortune,
  • increase chance of good things happening by creating, noticing or acting on opportunities,
  • trust intuition,
  • cope with bad luck by looking for the good in any situation.

This is so fascinating to me that I’m going to get the book, but most of all, I’m grateful to NCDA’s review by Simmelink that brings it to my attention. And I’m passing it along to you.

The lucky people of this study might well look at today’s tough job situation by reflecting that they wanted to make a career change anyway, that tough times are followed by better times, that new training opportunities are available at the nearest community college, that free workshops and support groups are springing up where they did not exist previously.

Are you lucky? Are you going forth to have a lucky encounter? No one is suggesting that luck comes to meet you. Just as state lotteries remind us that “you gotta play to win”, I think you have to step out of your comfort zone to become lucky.

If you would like to speak with a career counselor, please visit my website at for contact information. And meantime, get out there and increase your luck!

Maintaining Perspective as Unemployment Rises

February 3, 2009

Is the evening news getting to you? It features truly frightening and sad stories about job losses. Losses are all around us, and it’s very scary. To make matters worse, captains of industry are telling us that we may have a worse year ahead.

  • Are you looking for a job?
  • Are you unhappy in your present work?
  • Are you trying to fine-tune your career direction?

You are doubtless bombarded with advice from friends and family: sit tight, don’t make waves, keep what you have, go along to get along.

Actually, that’s not bad advice for difficult times, but it is incomplete. Of course, you’ll keep your day job. Of course, you’ll hunker down, do your own job as well as acquiring a new skill or two, of course you’ll enhance your reputation as a problem-solver.

Remember that the same processes that effective job hunters used in the past are still valid. Even/especially in tough times, you can:

  • keep up your network,
  • volunteer in the community to meet new people and learn something new,
  • use your imagination to envision yourself happy in a new field,
  • reach out to others and offer to help them in their job search,
  • keep reading and researching in your field,
  • make your after-hours count in a meaningful way,
  • troll for job openings in the usual places as well as through informal conversations.

Along with bad news on tonight’s television news, the reporter did mention that as usual, there are job openings in healthcare, information technology, transportation, and education. These are fields that head almost every “top ten” list of fields to enter, anyway. Hang on to those nuggets of good news!

Remember, all you need is one job. If you would like to speak with a career counselor about job-hunting in tough times, please visit my website at for contact information. I will be happy to help you structure your job search in a way that keeps you focused on your goal (or even help you set that goal!).

The Arts: frills or necessities?

February 2, 2009

A massive stimulus bill is being debated in both houses of the U.S. Congress this week. There is honest debate about what constitutes honorable use of the taxpayers’ money, and then there is political posturing.

Did you catch the remark by a politician who thundered that there had not be a penny for the arts in that bill?

I was shocked at the ignorance of our history and the role that visual and other arts play in society. Of course, there are luxury elements therein, and we are dependent on watchdogs to keep us from subsidizing box seats at the opera.

However, consider how the WPA projects of the New Deal enriched our nation even as it provided employment to artists along with bridge engineers and builders, vocational educators and adult literacy teachers. .

  • The city center of Greenbelt, MD has its captivating statue of a mother holding a child who is holding a carton of federally-paid milk.
  • Many artists of the 1930s and 1940s earned annual contracts with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

It seems that art was just part of the employment scene, nothing special. And those artists enriched public buildings from post offices to schools to hospitals with art that today provides a rich look at the world of that time. Frills? Not really. I yearn for the time when artists, musicians and dramatists were considered workers, part of the eight million Americans who survived during those tough times by doing what they knew how to do.