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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Don’t Panic – 7

Job hunting requires a modest amount of preparation. First things first, you need to get organized. Acknowledge your feelings about the transition from one job to the next. Assess your skills, interests, and goals. Establish a search strategy and develop measurable goals that will help you focus and stay motivated. Then get out there and meet people. It’s a process, but it’s manageable.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

7 – Be Prepared to Network

Preparation begins with research. Look at employment trends, like where the “hot jobs” are. Seek out companies that match those trends and exist in your area. Most of that information is easily accessible online, in reports from major news sources. Target specific companies/industries that interest you. Don’t just look at big companies; consider the small, local business equivalents as well.

Job searching is competitive, but easy when you know how to go about it. The four main methods to effective searching are Networking, Recruiters, Advertisements, and Direct Company Contact. Networking is the by far the best method to find a job, and you should focus more of your time on this strategy. The other methods have a lower success rate because everyone else uses the same channels. Be prepared to network and connect with people to find a good job.

Employers like to hire someone they know personally, or through an employee reference, especially when a position is not publicly announced yet. Many jobs exist in what’s called a “hidden job market,” and many never get publicly announced. Don’t panic! You can access these jobs through networking. The strategy for you is to connect with people, ask questions, and gather information from them. Networking does not mean asking for a job. It’s a professional “give-and-take” process that leads to a mutually-beneficial relationship. The key is to grow your network until you expose available positions in the “hidden job market.” Keep them aware of your presence, and make an effort to network in person, rather than over email and phone. Eventually, you’ll meet someone who can put you right in the hands of a hiring manager.

Networking can be laid out in six steps: create a contact list, a target company/industry list, set up networking meetings, prepare, conduct, and follow-up those meetings. Aim for a couple dozen contacts initially. Look for people within your professional, social, and familial networks. Don’t filter anyone, and follow-up with everyone. Target the companies/industries you’re interested in, and use your networks to make a connection. Consider the people you already know, and consider any companies they work for (or with) that could use your talents. There may be people within those companies you want to meet. Do your research; check out annual reports, news articles, and websites. Use that information to develop a rapport with your business contacts.

Setting up a networking meeting is easy. Half the time you won’t have to set them up – they exist already, and can be found through social media networks. Join them – it’s a great way to practice. You’ll first need to create a “Networking Profile” for your contacts (upon request) that will offer a concise outline of your qualifications. Title it as such, lest it be confused with a resume. Resumes are usually received as applications, and that can work against you when it comes to networking. A profile, although similar to a resume, doesn’t include details of your career history. It should clearly define your goals, as well as the companies you’re researching. It should include an overview (3-4 sentences), core competencies, accomplishments, target positions, and target companies.

With a prepared Networking Profile, you can show your contacts how they can help you. Start over the phone, confidently, and work towards an in-person meeting. Be persistent. Make your calls early in the day. Plan ahead with notes, and seek outcomes, like interviews, referrals, and answers to questions. If certain contacts are unavailable, try them back. Some have receptionists, and you must work with them to get through to your contact. Avoid leaving voicemails, and avoid leaving your number. Try to get the names of contacts with hiring authority, or the contacts in fields you’re interested in. Keep your target company list on hand, and refer to it during meetings. Contacts may know people at companies on your list. Draft a script so you know what to say. Ask questions, and create a rapport. Consider exploratory questions that create some dialogue. What do you want to accomplish?

Ultimately, your referrals will either become a personal contact, a professional within your target company/industry, or a decision maker within your target company/industry. Keep your contacts updated on your progress, and send thank you letters shortly after meeting them. An effective networking strategy goes a long way in not only discovering and getting a job, but in developing relationships with professionals you’ll want to grow with.

Don’t Panic – 6

Resumes are a tricky subject, but nonetheless essential in your job search. For anyone unfamiliar with what they are, you have some work to do. Essentially, it’s a summary of your career history. It’s the professional outline of your value in the workforce, and it has to be perfect. Don’t panic. With a little help, you can sharpen your resume enough to cut through the hundreds and thousands of other competing applicants. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

6 – Sharpen your Resume

Your resume should contain a Background Summary, your Education, your Employment History, Accomplishment Statements, and Core Skills that are relevant to the job(s) you’re applying for. Some optional sections may include an Objective Statement, Honors received, Professional Associations you belong to, and any Publications you’ve contributed to. Each section should aptly support your resume. If it’s not relevant to your job search, don’t include it.

Before you create your resume, you really should assess yours skills. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to check out chapter three of “Don’t Panic” to find out more about doing a self-assessment. This will help you identify skills, needs, and values you want to focus on the most. It will also help you better address what employers are looking for.

Resumes come in three formats: chronological, functional, and hybrid. Each reflects your traits and skills in a particular way, so figure out what works best for you. Chronological resumes are good in most cases, since employers usually want to see what your most recent job was. It also helps when you’re last job relates to the positions you’re applying for. Functional resumes highlight your skills and areas of expertise; it lists your achievements by category at the top and summarizes your employment history at the bottom. It’s particularly good for those trying to change career paths. A hybrid, in essence, is a combination of the two.

Background summaries set the tone for your resume. It’s a statement about you, your professional areas of expertise, as well as your knowledge, strengths, and attributes. Whatever follows in your resume will simply enhance what you put in the summary. An example would start by saying something like “Project coordinator with seven years experience in fast-paced environments…” What follows should highlight your marketable skills. Sell yourself, enough to get the attention of readers.

Your education and employment history are straight forward statements. Education statements should include your highest degree earned, your major, the school, and location. Employment histories should include your title, the employer, the location, and the dates of employment. Keep it clean and simple. Capitalize the company names and educational institutions to add visual appeal.

Accomplishment statements are critical components of your resume. They indicate your abilities, and give employers an idea of what you can do for them. Describe instances when you made a difference for previous employers. Don’t panic – start by brainstorming. What did you do in your previous jobs? How did you add value? What challenges did you overcome? Address a problem, explain your action, and highlight the result – that’s called a PAR Statement, and it helps you develop an accomplishment statement (use the “action” and “result” sections). When possible, quantify your results.

Core skills, in my opinion, belong just after your Background Summary. While statements work, I found that listing your skills with bullets is easier on the eyes. Sample skills may include: MS Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, Word or Data Processing, HTML/CSS, Customer Service, Accounts Payable, Content Development, and Search Engine Optimization. Be as specific as possible, and be honest with yourself. Limit your skills to between six and eight to save space. Whatever you end up adding, ensure they belong in your “core” set of competencies. Employers look at these, and may ask you to demonstrate or explain them.

Outstanding resumes are visually appealing. They’re also concise (i.e. one page long) unless there’s a need to expand on optional sections. Follow up each job description with a couple accomplishments, bulleted, and begin them with action verbs. Avoid flare, embrace white space, and keep things in the third person. Also, when it comes to saving it, Word Documents and PDF files are the preferred file formats. When applying to jobs online, you may have to copy/paste your resume into a textbox, so I recommend reviewing it in the textbox before submitting it. What you see, they’ll see.

On the Train – 16

El Paso, TX
2/22/2011

Sunset

I don’t think my uncle wanted me to leave. I think he would have benefitted greatly if I stayed a couple months and helped him cope with loss, and possibly expand his business. I’m confident that my brief stay showed him that he has family that loves him in more places than one, and that he’s capable of so much as a bachelor. The sexual element of his freedom is not important; the prestige of independent success is worth fighting for. Again, he will do what he must to reconnect with his family. I’m but a catalyst in a post-divorce return to society, and he welcomed the gift of my presence as much as I welcomed all the things he taught me. Like a ripple effect in a great body of water, he and I made motions that would have never occurred if I didn’t take this journey. The need for our entire family to reconnect has never been more paramount. I left around 5pm, and ate a home-made burrito as the sun went down over New Mexico.

Written by Zucker

August 10, 2011 at 8:00 AM

On the Train – 15

El Paso, TX
2/21/2011

Stranded in the Parking Lot

My uncle was well enough to work while I drove around El Paso. He suggested the main strip by UTEP, the University of Texas, El Paso. I took the CR-V (he bought two identical models, one for him, one for his ex-wife) on a brief jaunt through back roads that all looked the same. When I reached the UTEP district on North Mesa Drive, the advertising orgy was well underway. Franchise after franchise blocked my view of scenic panoramas. It jaded my experience because nobody seemed to care. The roads and parking lots were full of trucks and sport-utility vehicles and customized muscle cars and hot-wheels. The sidewalks had an occasional young professional or student couple visually swearing off consumer trends. Everything was Spanish; the shops, the colors, the street names, the murals, the music, the food, the fashion.

Obscure Likeness

Kids here adopt a cultural vibe from Mexico, and while their families try to inherit the American Dream, they rebel with tattoos and piercings in tattered clothes and vibrant tributes to gang mentality. In this way, they are breaking the barriers, much like the physical barriers a few miles away. No matter where you go, people will talk about the battles against normalcy while drinking coffee from Starbucks. The great battle of El Paso is advertising your oasis in the desert. If it weren’t for that beautiful Thunderbird mountain with its beautiful colors watching over the valley below, I would lose myself in the expansive pavement terrain of suburban sprawl.

Gang Graffiti

Written by Zucker

July 24, 2011 at 8:00 AM

On the Train – 14

El Paso, TX
2/20/2011

Backyard Sprawl

El Paso is an expansive suburban sprawl. Between mountains and valleys are ubiquitous mini mansions built with palm wood, stone, and red clay. The opportunity for unique, independent, interior design is lost in the faceless repetition of homes. Lawns with burnt-yellow grass are redeemed by epic Italian pines that seem anything but indigenous. Everything is spaced out and requires transportation. The roads are unrestricted playgrounds for billboard signage. Driving down I-10, there are as many ads on the highway as there are on the internet. Couple that with aggressive drivers who drink while driving, and I’m not surprised to hear how high the driver-fatality rate is.

Italian Pine Trees

But that’s just El Paso and its massive roads. The heart of my experience here belongs to my uncle. While we drive, observe the scene, and see the evolution of his achievements, he is coming to terms with divorce. He talks of mistakes that feel like opportunities left to wilt. Quotations from a former life begin to resonate with us, such as “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and I get the feeling he would give it all up to show his family how good a father he is. Instead, he now belongs to a community of bachelors who have a fringe-like influence on their children.

“You got to teach them how to shave,” I tell him as we drive away from the park where his ex-wife and kids are hanging out with other single mothers and their kids. He and I brought them doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Minutes out of the day belong to bonding experiences shared between him and his two young, impressionable sons. He doesn’t blame his ex-wife. He blames himself. His work and his hobbies filled a void that family simply couldn’t. That was before he realized how important family is. In the absence of love, he would likely say, there is a void. To fill a void, you need a vacuum.

Written by Zucker

July 12, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Don’t Panic – 5

If you’re unemployed, and you’ve been out of work for more than three months, you should start considering temporary (short-term) job opportunities. Even if it’s not your ideal profession, you need to get back to work. The job market is competitive, and your best strategy is to simply take what’s available now. In time, you’ll find the right role for you.

Don’t Panic! – A Working-Class Guide to Unemployment

5 – Take what’s Available

It’s a known fact that people out of work begin to lose their technical skills over time. The remedy is to simply get back to work, and while that means taking a role less than perfect, your mantra should be “work while you look.” Hiring managers, recruiters, and staffing consultants agree that a professional background without breaks looks more appealing than one with; unless of course you can justify it (i.e. I went traveling for a couple months). No matter what your desired career path is, you can find the right job while working elsewhere temporarily.

Temporary employment opportunities are extremely popular right now. Companies are interested in “trying before you buy” additional staff, and the unemployed should embrace this. Don’t panic – there’s no guilt when, after one month of employment in one place, you decide to take a better offer elsewhere. Companies anticipate that, and if you’re worth holding onto, they’ll extend an offer, and you can leverage that to negotiate a better salary. Until then, take what’s available, earn a steady income, and get a feel for the industries you’re interested in.

People grow comfortable with jobs that pay well. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Getting that perfect job requires a personal strategy that involves assessing yourself, networking with people involved in what you’re looking for, and communicating your interest with tactful persistence. While you may have to spend months to accomplish this, you’re better off working while you move forward. It shows initiative, motivation, and a genuine interest that employers like to see. Don’t give up on your ideal job, but don’t auto-pass on what’s available either.

Written by Zucker

July 6, 2011 at 3:45 PM

On the Train – 13

Valentine, TX
2/19/2011

Empty Morning Gray

Oceans of brush and rivers of sand exist everywhere out here. There are small dirt roads for dune buggies and motorbikes, but nobody rides on them. A mist covers the land all morning, and the cacti feast and make the most of it. Down the car, a mother scolds her child with threats of punishment that make me sad. There is a road following our train, and outposts every so many miles. Little towns exist near every outpost. A small, malnourished cow eats from a small, withering shrub. Everything misses the water. A small group of cows with visibly tough skin watch our train go by from a distance. There is no farm in sight, and no signs of domestication beyond the ubiquitous wire fencing that follow us on the left.

Sand Mountains

So many hills surround us on all sides. I imagine a grand body of water once existed here, and those hills were the islands that fostered primitive life. Now, they are the first thing to feel the sun’s hot kiss. Another small group of skinny cows gather around a small cement trough. The beauty in this vast open landscape is lost in the fact that, like a desert, it exists without end. The presence of water is very much like the hope of finding sustainable life. What you may find out here is more insular that you can imagine. A livelihood in the dry brush is a test of endurance. The air is thin, and I can see for miles, and all I see is an empty canvas for artists to paint in red.

Before arriving in El Paso, we stopped in Valentine, Texas. The conductor made a point to tell us Valentine has no grocery store, and yet it has a Prada outlet store. I shook my head in disbelief. You can’t buy food, but you can buy thousand-dollar handbags and designer shoes on a whim. There’s a mattress under a leafless tree nearby, and homes look just as run down as the ones I saw in Baltimore. We would soon move on to richer pastures. There is an abundance of tumbleweeds along the way, and I wonder why they choose to tumble alone when they go so well together.

Town from the Train

Written by Zucker

June 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM

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