Archive for January, 2011

Career Gleanings from the State of the Union

January 27, 2011

I imagine that all of us who watched President Obama’s State of the Union address the other night watched for a variety of reasons.  We all have our opinions, our passions, our hopes for this country, its policies and its direction.  Many job-hunters and job-changers were watching for a word of hope, a fact or two that tells us things are getting better – or will be getting better.

My colleague in the career field, Nolu Crockett-Ntonga, shared a few thoughts with me which I’m passing on to you:

  1. “The rules have changed and have transformed the way we do business. The world has changed, the competition for jobs is real. Innovation, creativity and imagination must be encouraged if we are to Win the Future. We MUST reinvent ourselves.”
  2. “We must train for new jobs and new careers.” He gave a shout out to a 55-year old woman who is earning a degree in biotech after working in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. Those furniture jobs are gone but she wants to inspire her children. As Kathy said, “I hope it tells them to never give up.”
  3. “We must stop expelling immigrants who can enrich this nation.”
  4. “We must rebuild faith in the U.S. government…we will not relent or waiver…From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future… We’re a nation that says, I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will. We do big things. Our destiny remains our choice.”

Nolu heard about hope, imagination and creativity.  And change (as in point 2).  She heard reference to the people who have ideas and then pursue them.  She heard about doing things in a different way, such as listening to immigrants and what they have to offer.  She heard reference to the greatness of the U.S. system of government which supports our ability to dream and to change.

And Nolu lives that life. Born and raised in Chicago, she had the opportunity to live and work in Africa.  When she returned home, she established a support group for job seekers.  With this enhanced perspective of the world, she and her peers share information, hone their skills, and support each other in the process of finding good jobs.

Congratulations, Nolu.  You possess the ability to seize inspiration where you find it and share it with others.  I wish your group much success – and soon!


Networking opportunities all around us…

January 25, 2011

A career client just related a strange (and welcome) happening to me.  She is unemployed, is very willing to work at temp jobs until something more permanent comes along, but even the temporary placements have dried up.  Very discouraging.

Yesterday, she contacted her supervisor at a former temporary assignment to get some information for her taxes.  And what do you know – she got a call today offering her some more short-term work at that place!

She is delighted, and so am I.  I think this story reminds us that one of the successful strategies in your job search is to remind key people that you exist.  So find an excuse to make contact – like requesting your w2, or asking when it will be mailed, or whatever you can come up with.

If you feel stuck in your job search and would like to brush up on your job-hunting strategies, why not be in touch?  You can go to my website ( and contact me.  I know a few things, and all those wonderful clients who have shared their tips for success have enlightened me further.  Let’s talk!

Finding your way in the Recession

January 22, 2011

How does the Recession hurt your business?  I’m not referring to the usual stories about loss of revenue and subsequent lay-offs, but rather how tough times might cause people to lose sight of their goals or even change them in uncomfortable ways.  Today’s blog posting is by a guest, who wishes only to be identified as design studio principal in Baltimore, MD. In DSP‘s words,

“The year 2008 was the best year, in terms of revenue, for my award winning design studio.  2009 was 30% down from 2008; and, 2010 was 50% down from 2008.  During the heyday of 2008, I was too busy to reflect upon whether or not I was fulfilled by my work; and, I was distracted by the inflow of money.

My first response to the Recession, which I began to feel in June 2009, was to join a small business owners’ group so as to apply some conventional business strategies to my design studio.  For example, I redesigned my website to make it more “accessible” (read “commercial”).  This was a mistake.  The quality of commissions since 2009 fell dramatically.  Clients were no longer going with our best work; they were selecting the most banal options and “dumbing them down” even further.  We stopped entering competitions.

By autumn of 2010, I was becoming desperate, thinking of abandoning my practice and returning to school for a doctorate in architectural history and theory, or some other less reasonable pursuit. It had taken me 18 months to realize that I was simply bored with the content of my work, and that even if revenues increased again, I did not want to continue doing what I had been doing.  This was a significant turning point.

One thing I knew was that I needed a process to tame the wildly divergent thoughts going through my head.  I called Anne Headley after an internet search for a career counselor, and took the aptitude tests she recommended.  By the time we met, I felt like I was getting back onto more solid ground.

Looking at all of my options, I realized that I could improve the intellectual content of my work within the framework of the design studio I had built.  This subtle shift in thinking has opened up a lot of new possibilities that I am actively pursuing by networking with cultural and not for profit institutions and giving myself the time to initiate projects that focus on the subjects that interest me.  In a sentence, the Recession—albeit through a painful process—led me to get into better touch with my core values and to make better use of my time going forward.”

AH here: thank you for sharing your insight.  If I understand you, you are saying that when you compromise your goals, you lose enthusiasm, creativity vanishes, and the business you do attract doesn’t do a darned thing to restore what you had before.  Wow!

I cannot say that there is anything wrong with adjusting your message to accommodate to the Recession, but clearly you gave up a focus that was very important to your mission.

I’m so glad that you woke up, that the aptitude assessments reminded you of your gifts, and that you have recaptured your energy.  Thank you for being willing to share this story.  It’s not something one hears every day.

Staying hopeful in tough times

January 17, 2011

When you feel that:

  • nothing works,
  • nobody’s hiring,
  • my skills are out of date,
  • no one wants to network with me,
  • I never get a break,

how do you keep going?  How do you dust yourself off, throw cold water on your face, tell yourself to grow up and stop whining?

Whatever your answer is to that question, it’s important that you have an answer.  Because if you stay in that mindset, you become that self-fulfilling prophecy – a failure.

Harsh but true.

Because the sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow is another day, and a new opportunity is right around the corner. Revoltingly cheerful, but success belongs to those who go out to meet it on the road.  Yes, there is truth in all those cliches.

This pep talk is dedicated to A, a faithful reader who is down in spirits and feels that nothing works.  He feels he has exhausted all his possibilities.

Sorry, my friend, I don’t share your conclusions.  And I am concerned that you are mired in sameness.

Idea! Get yourself a copy of John Krumboltz’s book, Luck is no Accident.  It’s a primer in changing your circumstances to maximize the luck factor, which of course, you are creating for yourself.  When I leaf through that book, I’m reminded that each day has more opportunities than I can realize to make an impression, to show a skill or two, to make a name for myself.

A, read it and tell me what you think.  The same for the rest of you.

The Worst Career Advice

January 15, 2011

What’s the worst thing someone advised you to do for a living?

A friend of mine who is a gifted career advisor, was meeting with a senior university career person, who said, “well, I supPOSE you could get a master’s degree, but it’s doubtful that you could get a PhD.”

My friend was devastated.  She had scored in the 99th percentile of the whole test battery, and was looking for guidance in finishing a long-delayed bachelor’s degree.  Years later, she realized that this dreadful feedback set her back for years, assuming that this “expert” had seen something significantly limiting in her.

What’s your worst story? Add a comment.  Tell an outrageous tale.  Get your revenge on those people who did not see the potential that you carried within you.

Cell Phones + Job Interviews = are you kidding?

January 12, 2011

Someone told me today about a tidbit overheard on the radio:  there’s a study published in the Chicago Tribune  (1/12/11) reporting  that 71% of hiring managers say that the biggest blunder a job applicant can make is taking cell phone calls or text messages during the interview.

Seriously?  For real?  Someone does that?

Whenever I think being a career counselor is hard work, I need to remember that there are people who need to be reminded of the most basic information.  (The study also stated that wearing a hat that reads “take this job and shove it” is not a very impressive move.)

Okay, readers, let’s focus.  No cell phones.  No texts.  No stupid hats with slogans (in fact, no hats indoors, please).  Also no chewing gum, no bad attitudes, no eating your lunch, and no eating all the candy in the candy dish.  No hugs at the end.

These pointers are brought to you by actual hiring managers, who must experience more than I ever imagined on the job.

The job interview – not for new territory!

January 11, 2011

Have you ever been asked an unusual question in a job interview?  Have you shot back an answer without reflecting?

If so, you were probably being interviewed by a clever person, one who planned the interview process creatively.

Here are some things I’ve heard:

  • How did you get that suntan?
  • Do you have a dog walker?
  • What is the name of your autobiography?

A colleague once blogged here that the job interview is not improv, by which she meant (I think) that this is not the place to float a new idea, a new anecdote, a new possibility.

Why?  Because you don’t really know what it is going to sound like.  Because you don’t know how the story is going to end, or how long it is going to take.  Or how someone else takes to it.

So in answer to that offbeat inquiry, it’s better to hedge a bit.

  • What a fascinating question!
  • I’ll have to think about it.
  • Could you say that again?

And here’s a thought – if you cannot come up with much of an answer, I’d suggest that you consider it fodder for the second paragraph of your thank-you letter.  It might begin “I’ve been reflecting on your question about….” and write a coherent sentence or two.

The recipient of your letter might be complimented that you have given that question some thought.

Snow is forecast: a career caution

January 10, 2011

I heard a scary story the other day from a friend and colleague who is a highly-experience human resources director.  She just finished hiring an assistant after some unnerving conversations with applicants.  Here’s one thing she heard:

Snow was forecast.  Now please understand – this is the Washington DC area, when the word flurries can cause chaos at the grocery store and gridlock on every major road.  True, we overreact around here.  (Readers in Minnesota may now snicker and roll their eyes.) And the forecast was for a light dusting if that much.

So imagine the applicant for the hr position calling to reschedule because “the kids might need to be picked up at school”.

Seriously.  My friend started picturing what life in that department would be like if supermom worked there.

When the applicant asked to reschedule for the following week, the answer was a firm no.

Please, please don’t be your own cause for rejection.  No one is asking you to risk life/limb by driving in unsafe conditions.  But the forecast of a dusting of snow is truly not a reason to cancel the interview. Rethink your childcare plans.  If you are serious about the job, you should be at the interview.  If the flurries turn into a major event, you can always cancel close to the time of the interview.  Be on time or early. Make the point that meeting commitments is important to you.  And you really want this job.

Facing fear – what if no one is out there reading?

January 7, 2011

It was suggested by the good people at that bloggers in the 2011 challenge write about facing fear.

Isn’t that redundant?  Isn’t blogging by definition scary enough?

Here’s what scares me – what if no one is out there?

I suppose that crosses my mind every single time I check the stats for this blog, and the fear hasn’t been realized in at least a year. You’re there – on Christmas, on Thanksgiving, on July 4, on any day one can name.  One person (or 12 or 18 or 83)  is/are  perusing the web for hints on resume-writing,  interview questions, where the jobs are, challenging reference situation, and various other career topics.

Bless you!  And thank you for visiting my blog, whenever you do and wherever you are.  You have no way of knowing how relieved I am on a daily basis that readers exist, that you even come back for more.

So,, thank you for posing the question.  It forces me to acknowledge how out-of-date my fear is, that what might have been true once is not so now, and hasn’t been for a long time.

This is also true for those in the job search.  It’s scary to go on interviews, it’s scary to contact former friends and co-workers with whom you haven’t been in touch, it’s scary to think about discussing unemployment.  But I ask you to consider if your fear is still valid today, or is a fear you’ve dragged along for too long.

If you would like to meet with a career counselor to explore shedding the fear that is holding you back, please contact me.  You can leave a comment below or visit my website at for contact information.

A communication quiz for jobhunters

January 5, 2011

The good people at, the ones who host this blog, are vowing to post daily suggestions for blog topics, so I just checked out today’s idea.  Here it is:

Do you prefer to talk, text message, or a different communication method?

First, dear friends, your statement is not grammatical.  You’re missing something in that last part.

But that’s not the point.  I guess this is a real question, although I laughed when I saw it.  Let’s put ourselves in the context of a job interview:

I think I’d hurt my chances by laughing, then (at length) going on about the virtues of talking face-to-face.  I’d probably offend someone younger, hipper, and more tech-oriented than I.

I imagine that the right answer in an interview is to acknowledge that different forms of communicating have their strengths, and that speaking, texting, and that elusive other method are the best for certain tasks and personalities. I’d try to provide an example of the advantages of each communication choice.

That said, I am concerned about the lack of decent spoken communication I see around me.  Store clerks who mumble, career clients who answer in monosyllables and who don’t amplify their answers, those who keep an eye on their cell phones while speaking with someone, have no idea how they limit interactions.

I believe that in most cases, the job will go to the qualified candidate who can be fully present in the interview, with cell phone silenced or turned off.  Eye contact, appropriate conversation, a good sense of give and take in the dialogue, and an ability to focus on another person are still considered winning traits.

How would you answer this question?