Hey, I can help with that!

So, you’ve been out of work for some time; you’ve exhausted your network (you think); you’ve applied for every job you can find; you regularly attend one or two job clubs; and nothing is working!  I know it is an incredibly frustrating feeling.  Maybe a solution is to try giving rather than taking…

An excellent way to spend some of your now available time is to give some of it away.  I suggest you consider four categories of volunteer work:

Based on your profession – find ways, possibly through the local chapter of your professional association, to use your skill set to benefit a not-for-profit.  Find a local social service agency where you can relate to their mission and ask if they would be interested in some free professional assistance (I can almost guarantee they will be). If you are an HR person volunteer to conduct an HR audit. If you are an IT person volunteer to install computers. If you are a marketing person volunteer to help them with social networking. You get the idea – give them what you really want someone to pay you to do.

Based on your community – find a need in your community and see if they need some additional workers.  Regardless of your professional training you can most likely pick up trash, serve at the reception desk at your local hospital, read to children at a Head Start, or help direct traffic for a local 5k run.

Based on your passions – find a need with an agency that does what you love. If you love animals volunteer at an animal shelter. If you want to be outdoors volunteer at a nature sanctuary. If you love art become a museum docent.

Based on your faith – find a need at your house of worship that fits you. You can teach Sunday school, lead a mission trip, coordinate a community garden, or paint the nursery.

The bottom line is that there are better places where you can spend your time other than on the couch watching soap operas or surfing the net hoping to stumble on a new job posting.  Volunteering does wonderful things for you.  Volunteering can help you keep your skills sharp, meet new networking contacts, or maybe uncover new job opportunities.  Just as importantly, volunteering can meet the needs of others and help your community be a better place.  Volunteering keeps you keep busy and both physically and mentally active.  Finally, volunteering helps you feel good about yourself and provides energy to help you sustain your job search.

If you can’t find anyone to hire you yet, get up and find a way to give away what you have.  Others will benefit, you’ll feel better, and it just may help you find that next opportunity.  If you are struggling, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Today is 9/11

I had a good post ready for today, but it will have to wait until next week.  As I was typing today’s date, it hit me. Today is 9/11.  Oh, I was aware.  I attended a memorial event yesterday and I’ve been thinking about those events all week, but until I typed the date, it didn’t really hit me. Today is the day.

20 years ago, I was working as the HR Director for a retailer.  We had an all-hands meeting early in the morning, and during the meeting a job candidate came in (he was scheduled for an interview immediately after the meeting). I greeted him and we stood at the back of the room while the meeting wrapped up. 

He turned to me and said that he was listening to the car radio before he came in the building. The news reported that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, but he didn’t hear any details.  We both shrugged and assumed it was a small Cessna or something similar. That kind of thing had happened before.

When the meeting was over, I escorted him to his interview and went back to my office.  I turned on the TV to see if there was more to the story, just about the time the second plane struck the towers. Everything changed.  My staff joined me, and we spent the rest of the morning glued to the TV. 

I know that almost all who were alive at the time can tell you how they learned of the event, and how they were changed by it. I have similar memories of the Challenger explosion and my mother has told me about how she learned of President Kennedy’s assassination.  These seminal events become seared in our brains.

My point this morning is not a history lesson, it is about today.  I want you to find a new job and build a successful career, and I want to help you with that. But, I also want you to not ignore the world that is revolving around you.  Do not to forget the events that shaped our lives and brought us to this point in time. Never forget or discount the sacrifices others have made so that we can enjoy the lives we lead.

Step away from your job search today and spend some time reflecting on the events of 9/11. Regardless of your politics, too many lives were lost that day. We must honor those who ran toward the danger, without concern for their own safety, only to try to help others.  We’ll get back to working on your job search next week.


Happy Labor Day

It’s another holiday weekend – the end of summer.  On Monday we’ll celebrate labor, honoring the contributions the workingman has made to America. If you are unemployed, you may feel left out of this party.  But fear not, the right job is coming toward you as we speak. The economy is growing. The pandemic is waning (ever so slowly) and there are help-wanted signs everywhere. If you need a job, you can find one. 

It’s not just fast food and warehouse jobs that are open. The total “Quit Rate” in June (the last month that data is available) was almost 3.9 million people which equates to 2.7% of the workforce.  That is almost a full percentage point over June of last year.  Without any facts to back me up I going to assume that the vast majority of those people quit because they found a new and better job.  I’m also going to assume that companies then sought to fill virtually every one of those jobs.

There is a lot happening in this job market. If you want to be a part of it, and be able to rightfully celebrate Labor Day, jump into the pool.  Start networking.  Work on a killer resume and elevator speech.  Apply for jobs, and I bet you can be working in a manner of weeks.

If you are struggling, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Save the Words!

In my quiet time, I worry about odd things, and one of those is that the English language may lose three important words due to lack of use.  Unfortunately, these are words that we all know, and could, and should, use every day; but somehow we’ve stopped.  Those words?  “Please” and “you’re welcome.”  (Okay – one of those words is really two words, or really three, but give me some literary license, please.)

Let’s take these on one at a time.  I’ll bet that when you were a toddler, your parents told you multiple times every day to say please and thank you.  Somewhere around the teenage years you probably started dropping the please – and maybe the thank you.  As I interact with business professionals all day, many of them make requests of me.  They ask for information, for assistance, to be hired for a job, etc.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times someone included “please” in that request so far this month.  While please may still be common for toddlers, it seems to be slipping from the business vernacular.

As a side-note, “thank you” is not endangered – at least not from usage.  I hear “thank you” and “thanks” all day long.  Granted, many of them are perfunctory or insincere, but the word lives on.  I am concerned that all too often its use is insincere.  What bothers me most is when someone writes or types “Thx.”  Really?  You want to show your appreciation, but you don’t have enough time to use three more letters?  And how about saying the full “thank you” once in a while?  Wouldn’t that be nice to hear?

The first word/phrase I think we might lose is “you’re welcome.”  I rarely hear this anymore.  Instead I hear, “no problem”, “okay”, “no biggie”, “any time”, and other phrases that suggest that whatever they did for me was insignificant and not worthy of being thanked.  In my mind that is plain rude.  If someone is going to tell you that they appreciate what you’ve done for them – presuming that appreciation is sincere – then the least you can do is acknowledge the receipt of that appreciation by saying “you’re welcome.”

So, the purpose of this manners rant?  I wrote a post a while back about the importance of making a good first impression.  You can enhance and sustain that impression by being polite.  When you ask for an interview, say please.  When you get that interview, say thank you.  When the interviewer says, “Thanks for coming in today,” say, “You’re welcome, and thank you for the opportunity.”

Incorporating all three words/phrases into your everyday conversations will not only improve the quality of your relationships, you’ll also be saving these words from extinction.  Thank you for reading this blog. If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Get the Shot!

The last 18 months (at least as I remember them) …

February 2020 – there are growing concerns about a new virus.  A major outbreak in the Seattle area.

March 2020 – like a lightning bolt, suddenly we are on lockdown. Only essential workers can go to work. Most business closed and everyone working from home or out of a job. Surely this can’t last too long, can it?

 August 2020 – Life is better.  Masks, social distancing, testing. Schools are opening with many virtual learning.  Zoom is the big thing.

March 2021 – the vaccine is available, things are getting better, we’re going to be okay. We can start to take off our masks.

Present day – What has happened?  We barely have half of the eligible population vaccinated.  Governors are outlawing requirements to wear masks or get vaccinated. The hospitals are again reaching capacity. Cases and deaths are increasing.  Masks are back.  Is another shut-down looming?

There is a lot going on in society and business that we can’t control. But there is one thing we each can control. So, if you are looking for a job, get the shot. If you have a job, get the shot.  If you choose not to work, get the shot.  From a job-search coach’s perspective, here are three reasons why:

  1. Simple practicality – Being fully vaccinated will allow you to work for the growing number of companies that require all workers to be vaccinated.
  2. Your own heath – the vaccine is safe and effective, and you are much less likely to get the virus, or get seriously sick, if you’ve been vaccinated.
  3. Everyone else – Being vaccinated means that you are less likely to contract COVID-19 which means you are less likely to spread it to others who are not able to get vaccinated.

This is not about politics. This is about public health, personal responsibility, protecting yourself, and making yourself more employable.  GET THE SHOT!  If you are struggling with other aspects of your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Test Yourself

As you sit down to write your elevator speech, or practice your potential interview questions, one thing you have to be clear on is: who are you?  You need to know yourself, what you are good at, where you need to improve (you don’t need to tell others that), and what you want to do.  One thing I highly recommend is that you learn, or confirm, these things by taking some tests.   Here are a few of my favorites. There are many, many more on the web.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.  This is a great little book that explains what emotional intelligence is, provides an excellent online assessment of your emotional intelligence, and then provides exercises to improve.

Strength Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath. Strength Finders is an outstanding assessment that helps you find out what you are good at, so you can do more of that.  This book by Tom Rath explains the assessment, has a link to an online test, and then helps you better understand your top five strengths and how to make the most of them.

DiSC – Since the ancient Greeks men have been creating personality assessments that evaluate your personality relative to four components.  The Greeks used water, wind, earth and fire.  My favorite simple assessment is the DiSC profile which stands for Dominance, influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.  You can pay from $0 to $100 for a DiSC online.  While you may take the same test, the more you pay, the more information you generally learn about yourself.  I’ve included a link to one quality vendor – there are more.

Enneagram – the Enneagram is a very different form of personality assessment that may help in day-to-day living as much as in the workplace.  Check out the Enneagram Institute for lots of information.

o*net Interest Profiler – this is an online career interest assessment offered by the US Department of Labor.  While it will take more than just a few minutes to take the test, it may help you identify a career area you had not been considering.

Take some time, assess yourself, learn to talk about your strengths and passions. They will lead you past your next job and into a satisfying career.  If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


Changing Careers

When my parents went to work after college they could reasonable expect to work for one company for their entire careers, and they did for 42 and 54 years respectively.  When I graduated college, it was assumed that my generation would work for 2-4 companies over our careers, predominately in the same field.  But as my children entered the workforce, it was predicted that they would have 3-5 different careers over their lifetime.

Organizations are much better today at recognizing strengths and transferrable skills.  The best organizations look past your specific experience and instead focus on talent, skills, and fit.  Do you have the ability to do what they need?  Do you have the skills required to be successful in that organization?  Do you fit with their culture and their team?  Those things, in that order, are way more important than where you worked or what you were responsible for.

On your resume, spend the most energy on your accomplishments.  What did you get done and how did that impact the organization?  If you did it for them, you can do it for the next company too.  Update your Summary and Accomplishments sections for every job you apply for, and tailor them to that job at that company.

And don’t be afraid to look outside your field and/or industry.  Sell your talent and skills, not your history.  Work where you find passion.  I know two people who had good, successful careers, and dropped them to attend coding bootcamps and both are now successful coders.  I started out as an Industrial Engineer, and now I’m a human resources guy.  Don’t plan for your career to move in only one direction.

The bottom line is that you should not define your job search looking backwards at what jobs you’ve done.  Direct your search towards what you are good at, and what you are passionate about.  Be prepared to talk about your strengths and skills, more than your former job titles and responsibilities.  You’ll find a job that will be more satisfying and fulfilling.   If you are struggling with your job search, this might help.  https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/


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/