Going on Vacation

It’s summertime, time for vacations, right?  But, if you don’t have a job, should you be taking a vacation? Well, like the answer to most good questions, it depends.

I strongly encourage you to treat looking for a job like a full-time job.  Get up at the same time every day, shower, get dressed, have a cup of coffee, and get to work.  Then, spend the next 8 hours looking for a job, every weekday.  Work some on the weekends as needed.  While every day might not be jammed packed, you should be able to fill the majority of every day with search activities: looking for jobs, researching companies, working on your resume and target list, practicing your interview questions, and filling every other minute networking – setting up, attending, and following up on meeting new people.  Finding is a job is hard work, and you won’t find your dream job just watching TV or playing video games.

But you need balance.  You need to make sure you are taking care of you.  Looking for a job probably has a more flexible schedule than a regular job, so take the opportunity to exercise more, lose some weight if you need to.  Do mindfulness exercises to reduce your stress and improve your mental health.  If you have extra time, don’t wile it away on the couch, invest in in yourself, your family and your community.

And, like with a regular job, you need a break every once in a while.  Depending on your finances, if you can afford a vacation, take it.  If you can’t afford to go away, take a staycation.  Work on projects around the house, take the kids to the zoo, or just go play in the park.  Handle it just like you would if you were working.  Plan for it.  Use the out-of-office message on your email.  Maintain your disciplines just like you were working a full-time job, but get away, relax and recharge.  Then, come back refreshed and get at it. 

Throughout the job search process, you need to take care of yourself so that when you land that new job you can be at your best, not exhausted and worn out.   Work a vacation into your plan.  Rest and recharge, then hit it hard when you get back.   If you are struggling with your job search, this might help:  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


The Background Check

To get a good job you’ll probably need to go through a criminal background check, a drug screen, and maybe a check of your credit and/or driver’s license.  It is a perfectly legal and extremely common practice to run background checks and/or drug screens on either all applicants, or at least on the finalist, for many, if not most jobs.  You need to be ready and to recognize that your past behavior may affect your employability.

Typically, a company requesting a criminal background check is looking for evidence of violence or theft.  If they are an organization that deals with children or youth, they are specifically looking for crimes against children.  A credit check is typically only used for those people who might be handling finance or accounting.  They want to know if you can manage your own money before they let you manage theirs.  And many jobs involve operating a motor vehicle (yours or theirs) on company business, so you need to have a valid drivers license and not have a history of multiple accidents/tickets/etc.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a perfect record.  We all make mistakes, some just bigger than others.  If you believe your background could make it hard to get a specific job, you have two good choices and one bad choice.

The first good choice is to simply not apply for jobs you know you can’t get.  If you are a registered sex-offender, don’t even try to work at a school.  Bank robbers won’t get jobs at banks.  Huge debt or multiple bankruptcies may keep you from being a CFO.  Those are pretty cut-and-dried.

The other good answer is to be up front.  Let’s say five years ago you got in fight in a bar and were convicted of aggravated assault.  Be up-front about it.  Before you give them permission to run the criminal background check, tell them what happened.  Help them to understand the situation, hopefully that was a one-time thing and what you learned from that.  Admitting that there could be things on your record is way better than the recruiter being surprised to see them there.

The bad choice is to lie, deny, and deflect.  Blaming someone else for your bad behavior or trying to explain to a recruiter how you were a victim of circumstance, or of poor law enforcement, is probably not going to help you get the job.

So, if you have things from your past that might show up on a criminal background, credit, or driver’s license check, be up front about them rather than letting the hiring manager be surprised.  Honesty really is the best policy.  If you are struggling, this might help https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/.


Going Up?

First things first, right? Let’s think backwards from when you start your new job. What steps did you have to take?

1) Pass the background check, 2) Interview (several times), 3) Apply for the job, 4) Find the job, 5) Network, 6) Write Elevator speech, 7) Work on Resume, 8) Get fired…, okay – that’s far enough.

Wait a minute.  Number 6 – Write Elevator Speech?  What’s that?

A key component of networking is to be able to tell your story.  You need to be able to do that quickly and consistently. That story should be rich and compelling.  It needs it to make people want to learn more about you.   Nancy Collamer does a fantastic job of describing how to develop this 30-second gem in this blog post, so I don’t want try to top her. Read her post – twice!

I’ve said before, you should customize your resume for every job you apply for. To an extent you should be prepared to do this with your elevator speech as well.  Point out your skills and accomplishments that best fit the job you are applying for or the industry you are interested in.

Being able to tell your story in around 30 seconds is critical to your job search.  Learning how to write and deliver a good elevator speech, is a fantastic skill that will help you throughout your career.  If you are struggling in your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Independence Day

Happy Independence Day! This weekend we celebrate the 4th of July, the day that the United States declared independence from England. We’ll have barbeque and fireworks. Bands will play and families will gather. A great American holiday. Hopefully, we’ll also take some time to reflect.  If it were not for the women and men of our Armed Forces, we wouldn’t be celebrating Independence Day.  If not for their sacrifices, and their willingness, when necessary, to give their lives for our freedoms, we would live in a very different county. If you are member for our Armed Forces, a veteran, or a family member, thank you for your sacrifice. We can never adequately repay that debt.

But, many can also to celebrate independence from more than just England.  Maybe you’ve broken the grip of chemical dependency.  Maybe you’ve left a toxic relationship, or a really bad job.  Maybe you’ve finished your formal education (at least for now) or maybe your last child has moved out of the house, and you are an empty-nester.  Independence is phenomenal. The ability to do what we want, when we want it is one of the greatest gifts you can be given.  An effective job search can help you find the right job and that job might put you one step closer to independence.

But, with independence, comes responsibility, to assist those who have not yet achieved independence.  Look around you and find those that need your help.  I believe it is that willingness to help others that has made our country great and will continue to propel us into the future.

Enjoy Independence Day, for whatever you are now independent of.  If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Corn Hole Anyone?

Later this afternoon I will be competing in a Corn Hole tournament. For those of you not familiar with the sport, it involves trying to toss a 1-pound bean-bag through a 6-inch hole that is about 30 feet away.  To be clear, this is a charity event. I’m not any good at corn hole, in fact I’ve only played three or four times.  But, I support Rebuilding Together – Kansas City, a fantastic organization that repairs homes for those who cannot afford to pay for repairs.  I fully expect to lose big and lose early, but I also expect to have fun.

I’ve been thinking about this game and this tournament, and how I can relate it to job search. I’ve think I’ve found a few parallels.

  • Corn hole involves repeating the same process over and over.  You might throw as many as 40-50 bags in one game, depending on the skill level of both you and your opponent.  Networking is like that.  You need to keep meeting people, telling them your story, and asking for their help by referring you to others.
  • To be good at corn hole (which I am not) you need to practice and you’ll get better (which I am).  Again, the same holds for networking. The more people you meet, the easier it is to tell them your story and to ask for help.
  • Corn hole utilizes cancellation scoring. For each inning you add up the total score for each team, subtract the lower number from the higher number, and the net is the number of points the team scoring the higher number gets.  Interviewing for a job is like that. In the end, it does not matter how applications you submit, or how many interviews you have. It only matters that for at least one job, you have more successful interviews than the other candidates, and you get the job.
  • Corn hole is a social game (especially at my level).  Competitors talk, laugh, have an occasional beer, and get to know each other.  Networking should be like that as well.  While the end result is to find a job, the process is about getting to know people, making new friends, and personal growth.

I understand that some of this may be s stretch, but I think they hold together.  Have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously, enjoy meeting people, stretch yourself, grow a little, and you’ll come out on the other end, not only with a new job, but being a slightly better version of yourself. If you are struggling with your job search, try this: https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/.


Practice, Practice, Practice

There is an old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  The answer, “Practice, practice, practice.”  The same is true to the question, “How should you prepare for an interview?” but it’s not as funny.

All kidding aside, here is what I encourage you to do.  Find a list of the most common, or the best interview questions.  You can Google it, or there is a list of my favorites in the back of my book.  For each question, write our answers. Really. Don’t just think about them.  Write them down.  Work on your answers until you like the way they sound. Then, and here comes the strange part, say them out loud, over and over.

Several things are happening.  When you read the question and think about your response you being to create a short-term memory.  The more you roll that answer around in your head, the more you are likely to remember it. But, if you then write it down, the writing part engages different parts of your brain because now it’s not just a thought, now, you have to cause your hands to move in relationship to the words.  FYI the research supports that hand-writing is even more effective than typing so tell that to your student who is taking notes on their laptop.

Now you’ve thought about that answer, and written down so you’ll have a better chance to remember it.  The next step is to practice saying it.  The act of speaking the words out loud will do two things. One, as you hear what you wrote, you will probably find that you need to change a few words so it sounds like you.  More importantly, you’ve now engaged more parts of our brain and that answer will locked in concrete. The more your practice, the more comfortable you’ll get.

It is very unlikely that an interviewer will ask you exactly the questions you have prepared answers for, but you will know the material well enough that you’ll easily be able to put things together on the fly.  You will come across as thoughtful and well spoken. You’ll be ready for any interview.

This is all about the power of practice – not just thinking about things, but writing them down and then really practicing them out loud.  Your dream job is out there and waiting for you. Get ready for it by practicing.  If you are struggling, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Working Remotely?

Recently I was reading a magazine article and was blown away by concept.  I live in the Greater Kansas City Missouri area.  Located in the Midwest, our labor market has been shielded from much of the craziness that seems to happen on both coasts. Our cost of living and cost of labor are much lower.  From an HR perspective, this is good news.

Then, the pandemic happened, and everyone learned that they could work from home and be just as productive.  Unfortunately (at least for me) organizations learned that they no longer have to hire staff in their geographic area. Now we have companies located on the coasts who are recruiting in my lower-wage labor market for employees who want to work remotely. These companies are able to offer higher salaries (because their cost structure is based on a different labor market) along with the ability to work from home, while you continue to enjoy our lower cost of living. Yikes!

Okay, as a Midwest employer this is bad for me, but this is great for you, the job seeker, wherever you are.  While you are looking for jobs in your area, also spend some time looking for jobs in your chosen field, but with firms located in higher cost of living areas like Chicago, New York, California, Washington D.C., etc. who are offering remote work. In job-search engines, use “remote” as a keyword.  As a test, I looked on indeed.com and searched “Human Resources Remote” for Chicago and got 179 hits.  For New York I got 367!

Remote work is not for everyone. You need a higher level of focus and discipline.  You need to have a place where you can work, be organized, and have good internet access.  But, if you are able and interested, the pandemic just opened a new door to your job search. Don’t be afraid to walk through it – after you get vaccinated.

If you find that opportunity and need help with your resume or interviewing, this might help,   https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Are There Jobs Out There?

I am not sure anyone really understands what’s happening with the economy or the labor market. I have a PhD in business and 35 years of experience in human resources and much of what’s happening does not make much sense to me. 

According the May unemployment report form the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is hovering around 6.1%. There were hopes that it would have dropped more, and lots of talking-heads are suggesting why it hasn’t.  But, here is what bothers me.  In February 2020, before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5% and there were 152.5 million people who had jobs (this number excludes military and farm workers).  That means that the total workforce (working plus unemployed) was approximately 158.1 million workers.

The May, 2021 numbers (6.1% unemployed and 144.3 million working), indicate that the total workforce was 153.7 million workers.  Where did the 4.4 million workers go?  If unemployment should drop to a pre-pandemic level of 3.5%, there will still be over a 4 million workers who appeared to have disappeared.

Rest assured, most of them are still with us.  The overall population is still growing.  The reality is they quit working and stopped looking for work.  Many are Baby Boomers who just decided it was time to retire.  Some are parents who decided to stay home with their children. Others simply just gave up.

But this is a blog about job search, not geeking out on the economy, so what does this mean to you?  It means, there are jobs. In fact, there are likely to be labor shortages in some sectors.  As “unprecedented” as these times are, the economy is rebounding, companies are hiring, and there are jobs. They may not be exactly what you were looking for, but those jobs may still lead to fulfilling and successful careers.

Bottom line: take hope, keep pressing ahead, work your network, tell your story, and you will be successful.  If you need help with your jobs search, try this  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/.


First Impressions

First, on this Memorial Day weekend, if you are member or veteran of our armed forces, please let me thank you for your service. I would not be able to ejnoy the life I lead, without your dedication and service. Thank you.

Now, I will bet that when you were very young your mother told you more than once, “You only have one chance to make a first impression – don’t blow it.” She was right, but she probably didn’t know how right she was.

Neuroscience has confirmed that we make first impressions within milliseconds, and those impressions are hard to change.  Think about it. As our ancestors were living in caves and struggling for survival every day.  They didn’t have time to interview every new person they met to decide if they should fight or flee. They developed the mental processes to immediately assess if this was someone they liked, or disliked, so they could react and keep their family safe.  We’ve come a long way since then, but we still have much of that caveman brain.

When you meet a new person, the way that they perceive you in the first few seconds will have a huge impact on their impressions of you.  It is even true on the telephone.  Scientists have found that just by how you say hello tells the caller a lot about you, including your trustworthiness.

If you really want to stretch your mind, watch this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy . If you’ve seen this before, watch it again. The power of body language is incredible and should not be ignored.  Match her advice with this.  (Sorry but I’m going to sound like your mother again).  When you go for a networking meeting or an interview make sure you are neat, clean, well-groomed and appropriately dressed.  Before you walk into the room, follow Dr. Cuddy’s advice.  Then, stand up straight, put your shoulders back, put a smile on your face, look them in the eye, say “hello” in a clear, confident voice and offer them a firm handshake (when we’re able to do that again).  If you can do those things, the rest of the interview will go much better.  If you are rumpled, smell bad, look at the ground, mumble a greeting and offer a limp handshake, then pack up your resume and head for the door.

Regardless of your circumstances, skills, formal training, what-have-you, you can be confident that you are unique. You are a person of value and a child of God.  You have worth, you can contribute, you can learn, and you can be a positive force for good in your community.  You may or may not be ready to be the next CEO, but you can be successful in whatever job you are applying for. If you believe it, they will too.

Your dream job is out there and waiting for you. Don’t let the first few seconds of your interview block your dream.  Make a good first impression.  If you are struggling, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


The Job Club

You know, job search can be lonely.  Day after day you are applying for jobs and searching the net. Hopefully, you are networking and meeting people, but those people, at least for now, aren’t people that you know personally, and you can’t really share your fears and frustrations with them.  You need people you can talk to.  Enter, the job club.

In my book, Bob visits the Lakeview Job Club offered through a local church. There he talks with a group of other people who are also looking for jobs. They share leads and success stories. But more importantly, those people get it. They provide community.  They know how Bob’s feeling and the struggles he is facing, because they are facing them too.  He has a support group which he comes to truly value.

Job clubs are usually led by someone with some experience in job search who can also give advice on resumes and tactics.  In a recent blog post Nadine  writes about a phenomenal program she stumbled across that was a job club and job training program online.

If you are looking for a job club, the US Department of Labor wants to help.  Their CareerOneStop website has some great tools to find local services to assist your job search. The Job Club Finder lets you search for job clubs in your local area and provides contact information. The site can also direct you to local community colleges, libraries, and more.

You don’t have to be alone during your job search.  Find a job club, and if there is not one in your area, start one.  I guarantee there is a need, and most likely a local HR professional who can help you get things rolling.  If you are struggling with your job search, this can also help  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/