Happy Halloween

It’s Halloween (or at least Halloween weekend). Scary movies – trick or treat – house decorations – too much candy – BOO!  Halloween can be fun, but it can also be scary.

But, you know what is really scary?  Being long-term unemployed.  Losing a job that you’ve had for a long time, through no fault of your own, and then not being able to find another one.  Now that’s scary.  How long can you live without a paycheck? Two weeks – a month – three months?

The job market is bizarre.  Help wanted signs are everywhere because there is a shortage of laborers.  If you want a job in warehousing, retail, or food service, you can get one in a minute.  At the same time the news is reporting on record quits. People are voluntarily quitting their jobs in the last few months at a record pace. I don’t think it is because those people are taking warehouse jobs, do you? And regardless of what jobs they are taking, if they are quitting, they must be creating new job opportunities from the jobs they left, right?

Bottom line is that there are jobs our there. They may not be your dream job, but they pay money and provide benefits. If you’ve been out of work for a while, you need to take stock of what you know, what you can do, and what’s important to you.  If there are no jobs in your industry or preferred field, how can your skills translate to a different one? What job could you get where you might learn new skills?

It’s an old cliché, but if you’ve been out of work for some time, you need to get out of the box and look for something different. There are jobs.  Find one that helps you move forward (and pay your bills). As you continue to network, the dream job will come along.  If you need help with you search, try this https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/.

The Curve Ball

Here’s the situation.  For some time, you’ve been looking for a particular kind of job. It’s probably much like your current or previous job and aligns with your planned career path. But then, someone gives you an opportunity that is in a wholly different direction.  Here is an example.  I know a woman who was a well-respected in-house attorney. She liked being an attorney and wanted to keep doing that for the rest of her career.  Then she was offered the chance to do fund-raising.  She took the chance, loved it, and is doing great. Maybe someday she’ll go back to being an attorney, or maybe not.

So, when you get that call, what do you do?  First, be interested. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.  Evaluate the risks and rewards of this opportunity with both a short- and long-term lens. From this opportunity can you learn new skills, make more money, broaden your network, prepare yourself for your next career move, or avoid getting RIFed? There might be lots of good reasons where making a sharp turn in your career is a good idea.  There also might be good reasons not to.

What I’ve learned is that career paths are rarely straight lines.  An old adage is that man plans, and God laughs.  While we love to make short- and long-range plans, the reality is that we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, much less next year, or five years out. We can and should set goals, but we need to maintain the flexibility to allow events to move us forward.

A big key to flexibility is self-confidence.  Unless you work in a highly specialized field, or are a professional athlete, doing something different for a few years won’t diminish your skills, it will probably enhance them.  You’ll learn a new way of thinking and you’ll be more well-rounded.  You might even find that you’ll like it even better than what you do now.

Keeping in mind, that you may also be taking a risk.  You may find that you’re not very good at this new thing, or that you don’t like it. You might leave an okay job to try this new thing, and then lose that job. But if that’s the case, you’ll find another one, and you will have learned some new things about yourself.

So, when life throws you a curveball, lean in and hit it. Don’t expect your career to follow your plan exactly.  Have the confidence in yourself to be able to make the adjustments and move forward, ether way.  Remember, you are not defined by what you do.  If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/

The Grammar Police

I recently reviewed resumes for a very senior position. I was blown away with problems of grammar, spelling and punctuation.  These were people with PhD’s!  You would think they would know how to spell and write in complete sentences.  Regardless of their qualifications, their inability to write correctly lost them the chance to be considered.

Now, in full disclosure, we all make mistakes.  I know that I’ve made some typos in this blog. I typically read every post 3-4 times before I post it, and I still make mistakes. But, I believe that you, friendly reader, are a bit more forgiving.  I’m trying to help you (and suggest you buy my book). I am not trying to get you to hire me.

Don’t let simple mistakes in your key documents derail your chance at your dream job.  Have someone else proofread your documents before you submit them.  When you read what you wrote, you know what it says, and your eyes tend to skip over the mistakes.  Make sure you are using a current version of whatever software you are using, and make sure you turn on both the spelling and grammar checking.  If you can get access to use, use a product like Grammarly, it’s phenomenal.  Finally, if English is not your native language, you need to do all of these things. Don’t miss a shot at a great job because you didn’t pay enough attention to your written documents.  Make sure the spelling and grammar are correct.  If the carpenter’s rule is measure twice – cut once, the job hunter’s rule should be proofread 3 or 4 times – submit once. If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/

The Name Game

Any Shakespeare fans out there?  You’ve heard this phrase before, but did you know it is from a piece of classic literature? “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”

This is a lovely sentiment, and when it comes a person’s given name it’s probably true.  For the most part, we can’t control the names given to us by our parents.  Sure, you could change it or go by a nickname, but your name is your name, and it’s part of who you are.

The same cannot be said of your email address.  Maybe it’s because I’m just old and grumpy, but I think if you are going to go out into the professional job market and look for professional job, you should take the ten minutes that are required to set up a professional sounding email address.

As an HR person I see lots of emails and resumes, and if Shakespeare is right, it shouldn’t matter; but I have trouble sending a job offer to kitten42@hotmail.com. I have a friend whose high school nickname was Pammy-Cakes.  That makes a great personal email address for her – or for Facebook – but not a resume.  Does it help or hurt if you apply for job with the email LovesToCook14 or GolfAddict27?

Set up an email address that is a variant of your name like bob.smith, bsmith2014, robert.m.smith, whatever.  You may need a use a number that makes it unique (there are lots of Bob Smiths) but don’t use your birth year- they don’t need to know how old you are.

I’ve written before about the importance of a first impression.  Don’t let that impression be marred because the recruiter gets an email from IHateWork@gmail.com.

BTW – The quote is from Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II – Juliet says this to Romeo suggesting that she has no problem with him being a Montague when she’s a Capulet.  Now you have some culture in your job search. 🙂 Be professional in all aspects of your job search, including your email address. If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/

Feeling Older?

I’ll just come out and say it, age discrimination in employment is real.  If you are over 50, you will have a more difficult time finding a job.  Sometimes it’s blatant and sometimes is subtle, but more likely it is completely unintentional. Full disclosure, I’m over 60 and I know what I’m talking about.

As a general rule, the longer your career, the more you know, the more varied experiences you’ve had, and that should mean that you are more prepared to solve complex problems, will require less training, and will likely be a more loyal employee. But, it also might mean that you command a higher salary and a larger title.

The other thing that sometimes comes with experience is a set of bad habits and a resistance to change. You learned how to do this task 20 years ago, you certainly don’t need some young pup (your new boss) telling you to do it differently. That’s called being a curmudgeon and is rarely a good thing in the workplace (or anywhere else).  Finally, younger workers typically have more recently been in school, are often more open to learning, know the current trends/techniques, and tend to be more comfortable with both technology and change. 

These are all generalizations, but in reality, most hiring managers are using generalizations and assumptions. That’s all they have. So, they think they are picking the person they believe will help their organization the most. 

To counter that, you need to be prepared to come out swinging.  Talk about your experience AND your flexibility.  Talk about your knowledge AND your ability to learn. Demonstrate your familiarity with current trends and technology.

If you are over 50 and a curmudgeon, you will face age discrimination, and maybe you deserve it.  But if you are over 50, and have continued to learn new skills, kept current in your field, and are open to change; well now you are a clearly better hire than those young whippersnappers that are still wet behind the ears. Don’t be a victim of age discrimination. Fight back by keeping yourself current, flexible, and open to learning and change.  If you are struggling, this might help:  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/