Welcome to … The Holiday Zone

For those of you old enough to remember this – imagine some twinkling music in the background and Rod Serling’s voice saying …

“Job seeker, you’ve noticed something has changed – there are fewer openings – no one returns your calls – everyone seems distracted. It’s because you have entered —— the Holiday Zone.”

I don’t have any factual data to back up what I’m about out to tell you, but I do have 30 years of experience. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a frustrating time to be a job seeker. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it is reality.

From an organization’s perspective, now is not the time to try to fill a job. They know that people who have jobs, stop looking for new jobs during the holidays. They know that they have spent their recruiting budget, and wont’ be buying any new advertising or creating any new jobs until after the first of the year. Everything slows down until January.

The same is true for the employed job seeker. They will spend their weekends and evenings shopping, wrapping, and attending holiday parties, not looking for jobs.

So, if you are unemployed, what do you do? Just put your search on the shelf for a month? No, you keep working, but you work smart.

Use holiday parties as networking activities. Meet new people, tell them your story, and ask if you can connect after the first of the year to exchange information and contacts.

Take this time to do some more intensive corporate research. Look at the local news websites to find which companies are in the news for charitable giving or other social outreach; then add them to your Target list and make plans to contact them in January – and when you do, mention how you support their good works.

Volunteer to work for a community organization that helps families over the holidays and do some networking with other volunteers. If you do schedule a networking meeting, take a few holiday cookies as a thank you gift.

Spend some time on your resume, maybe its time for a complete resume makeover; reorganize, rewrite, and refresh.

The point is, you can’t control the calendar, you can only control how you respond to it. You can curl up in a ball and wait for January, or you can spend your time productively. You won’t see as many postings, and you won’t get as many interview, and people won’t be as available to network; but that does not mean you can’t keep looking and making yourself better so that come January 1, you are ready to knock their socks off.

Enjoy the season, recognize your blessings, and get ready for a fantastic 2015.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

Happy Anniversary!

Wow, how time flies. I just checked and realized that my first post on this blog was in October, 2013. Now, 13 months and 56 blog posts later, here we are. Hopefully, if you are job seeker, you haven’t been reading since last October.

This is Thanksgiving week. Take a break from your job search and reflect on the things for which you can be thankful. In my many searches, I have been blessed with a supportive family and friends, the generosity of my networking contacts, and the confidence that I would find another job and continue to build my career. I am confident that you will too.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

One Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

In this digital world in which we live, this adage has never been more true. This phrase was first written in 1918 about a pictorial magazine about World War I. At that time, no one could have conceived the number of images we are bombarded with every day. Managing your image is important for the job seeker. The right image, or the wrong one, can tell a recruiter all that s/he wants to know.

There are places you where you absolutely must have a picture of you, and some places where you probably shouldn’t. Here are three suggestions:

Resume – NO – Do not put your photograph on your resume unless you are applying to be a model, a performer, or some other position where you will be hired based on your looks. I like to talk about enablers and limiters on your resume, and photos are almost always limiters. Rarely will all but the most stunning photo improve your chance of getting an interview, and often a poor quality photo can land your resume on the reject pile.

LinkedIn – YES – you should have a good quality professional looking photo on your LinkedIn profile. A lack of a photo suggests (at least to me) that you don’t follow through on things. It appears that you set up a LinkedIn profile because someone (like me) told me you needed one, but you didn’t finish the process. Keep in mind, LinkedIn is a professional networking site. It is not Facebook. Your LinkedIn photo should be a head and shoulders picture in professional attire with a pleasant smile. You want to covey professionalism. Put those other photos on Facebook.

Facebook – YES and NO – If you are going to have a Facebook account, you need to make a decision; is it public or private? If you leave your site unrestricted, you need to realize that many companies will look for you on Facebook to learn more about you. Pictures of you in “unprofessional” situations, drinking, smoking, or what-have-you, might be fine for your friends, but is this how you want your future boss to see you? Assume anything you post on an unrestricted Facebook page is the same as posting that same image on your resume. I suggest you lock down your account to just friends, or you make sure to keep your page Sunday-School appropriate.

Yes, one picture can be worth 1,000 words. As a job seeker, make sure those 1,000 words say “here’s why you should hire me.”

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day. I hope you will all join me in extending a personal thank you to those who have served in our armed forces. If you are not a veteran, sometimes it is easy to overlook or downplay what they have done for us. Granted, not every veteran went into battle, but collectively, if they had not done what they did, I might not have the freedom to sit in my home office and write this blog post about anything I want to write about. I might not have the choice to travel as I please, to worship as I wish, to work where I do, or so say just about anything I want to anybody who wants to listen.

We cannot underestimate that freedom, but we can put a price on it. That price is the 850,000 soldiers who have died in battle and the 433,000 others who died while on duty. The cost includes the 2.7 million soldiers that have been wounded. It also includes the 38,159 who are still missing (source). That is the true cost of our freedom – and for that we are eternally grateful.

Here are some other unfortunate statistics about Veterans. First, according to the BLS, the civilian unemployment rate for non-veterans as of October 2014 is 5.4%. The unemployment rate for all Veterans of all ages is 4.5%, but the unemployment rate for those ages 18 to 34 is 8.6% which is slightly higher than the rate for non-vets of the same age (8.0%). So, while veterans are holding their own in the job search market, more could be done. In almost all categories, the percentage of unemployed veterans is higher than the comparable population of non-veterans and our younger veterans need the most help.

On a sadder note, while veterans make up about 8.8% of the total population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, they make up about 12% of the homeless population and the majority of those suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or both. Finding, and keeping, a job is key to a veteran staying clean and staying off the streets.

So when someone calls you for networking, help them. If you learn that person is a veteran, help them again. You would not be where you are without them – and they need to know that you appreciate them for it.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

What Are You Accountable For?

Many people list their former job responsibilities on their resume. I suggest in lieu of responsibilities, you list accountabilities. Unfortunately, that often causes quizzical looks.

I believe that the term accountability has gotten a bad rap. These days, about the only time you hear “accountable” is when something has gone wrong and there is a call to see who will be held accountable. In other words, who will be punished because they didn’t do their job right? Or, maybe they are the leader of an organization that was not successful and regardless of the circumstances, it was their fault. Accountability is used a bit like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland shouting “Off with their heads.” If being accountable means that if you fail you are punished, why would anyone want to be accountable?

According to Andy Wood and Bruce Winston, accountability is much more than that. Accountability is a combination of the individual’s willingness to accept the responsibility, her openness in relation to her actions, and the understanding that she will be answerable to her constituents. From an overall business perspective, there is much more to accountability than punishment for failure, but let’s take this back to your resume.

A responsibility statement only states what you were supposed to do. An accountability statement says what you did do. A person typically won’t be punished for managing a call center. A person might be held accountable for managing an outbound call center with 25 operators making 10,000 calls per week and generating $35 million in annual sales. The accountability statement combines the responsibility – managing the call center – with the expected (or even better yet, the actual) results. Now that responsibility has context and scope.

Here’s another example. A Restaurant Server might be responsible for taking customer’s orders. But, he might be accountable for taking order from 37 tables per shift with an average daily revenue of $4,400. This accountability statement says so much more about the amount of work that was completed, and about the person that completed it.

Update your resume and make sure you are not just talking about what you were supposed to do. Instead, proudly state what you were held accountable to do – because if you did that for another organization, you can do that for the next one too.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.

What Makes You a Unicorn?

Recently a friend was told by a recruiter that the reason his job search was taking so long was that every recruiter was looking for a unicorn. The economy is rebounding from several years ago, the number of workers is going up, and the unemployment is rate is going down. But that does not mean that things are going back to where they were before.

In the rescission, companies learned to do more with less, and that is a lesson they learned well. They may be adding staff, but they are doing it more selectively than before. They are looking for people that have exactly the right skills, knowledge and abilities that they need; and because the pool of unemployed workers is still large and diverse, if they wait long enough they can find their unicorn.

Now, you’re looking in the mirror. Only two feet, no glossy white hair all over your body, no long flowing tail, and especially no long pointy horn protruding from your forehead. You scream in anguish “I’m not a unicorn!” But I say, yes you are.

Every job seeker has a unique blend of knowledge, skills and abilities. And the great thing about people? They can be taught! If there is something you don’t know that you ought to know, learn it! If you can access this blog, you have access to a wealth of learning opportunities.

But, maybe your issue isn’t what you don’t know, it is that you’re not telling anyone. Maybe recruiters don’t know that you are the unicorn they are looking for. This is the primary reason you want to update your cover letter and resume every time you apply for a job. Make sure to highlight the skills and experience you have that fit the requirements they are asking for. Show that you do have four feet. Don’t just have one elevator speech, have 10; each one showing a different perspective on the glossy white coat and flowing tail. In the interview, answer the questions in such a manner to throw light on that long white horn.

For most of us, there are some jobs we want, but we really are not the unicorn they want. But for lots of other jobs, we are just what they want – they just don’t know it. We just need to work a little harder, polish up your horn, throw back your head, and make whatever noise a unicorn makes. Be the unicorn and make sure they see the unicorn in you.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.