So You’re NOT Going to Train Me?

One of the toughest trends to get used to in this economy is that companies are no longer spending a great deal of time and money on training new employees. You are more likely to land a new job if you can hit the ground running. But what do you do when you run into proprietary software, or software written specifically for your company, that no one is willing to train you on? Unfortunately, this is a problem that can affect your productivity, and these types of programs are often not very intuitive, making it difficult to teach yourself.

Before you have to pester co-workers with a ton of questions, try these things first:

*Look for a Help menu. You may find the answers to your basic questions here.

*Call up a record or transaction similar to the one you need to complete. Notice how each separate field is filled in and which ones are left blank.

*Search your computer’s desktop for a Help or Tips file for the program. While computers are often wiped clean after employees leave, sometimes these files are kept as an aid for new employees.

*Scan your own Help file that you may have created for a similar program in the past. Proprietary software often follows certain programming protocols and templates that are common across programs.

*Get to know the people on your IT Help Desk. Familiarize yourself with the program as much as possible first. Then have a conversation with these people, showing you know something about how to use the program BEFORE you ask them for an unofficial tutorial or their “insider tip sheet” on how to use the program.

*Share your knowledge. You are probably not the only employee struggling with this type of program. Once you get more comfortable with proprietary software, help out other workers when you can. They may return the favor and give you tips that you did not know beforehand.

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What Recruiters Want on Your Resume

The recruiters in my network with whom I have recently spoken have told me, yes, they are still getting a flood of resumes for very few jobs. When I asked them how they chose resumes for the candidates they wanted to interview, they told me there are crucial resume sections that must stand out in order for those resumes to be chosen. Here are some of those crucial resume sections and what you can do to get your resume noticed. Remember, your resume does not just land you the interview, but it is also the tool that recruiters use as a guide to interviewing you. It must provide a concise, clear snapshot of your career history.

*Contact information. Your name, address, number and email must appear at the top of your resume. Creative types like to list this information on the sides, bottom or even the back of the resume. However, the applicant tracking systems (ats) that recruiters use are set up to pick out this information from the first 20 resume lines. Most recruiters are careful in uploading your resume to an ats because your resume is valuable to them. Some, however, will not check that your resume parsed into the correct fields, so while your resume is in the system, it may not be retrievable by your name and is, therefore, now useless to both you and the recruiter.

*Relevant work experience. A recruiter should be able to tell by your current job title if you are working in the industry in which the job is. You will not be automatically rejected if you are not. Precise employment dates may still keep you in the running if you have worked in the industry. Make sure your dates are accurate. You can even highlight your industry experience by leading off your resume with a relevant work experience section. So, for example, if the job is in higher education, and your previous jobs were in higher education, you may title this section, Higher Education Experience. List your current job under “Other Work Experience.”

*Skill sets. Your skills either qualify you for a job or they don’t. A skills summary helps the recruiter determine at a glance if you are a good fit for a position. A skills summary should list those skills required in the job description. Most job descriptions list required skills in the order of importance, and your skills summary should do the same. Even if your resume ends up in the system without your name attached to it, this is your second chance to get noticed, as the ats system will also index your skills. Recruiters are able to search for your resume in the ats by skills as well as by name.

*Accomplishments. Back up your skills summary by listing accomplishments, rather than just duties for each job you held. If you can quantify an accomplishment, do so, but be aware that when recruiters contact your references, they may well ask these people if you really did achieve these accomplishments. So if you increased business as your previous employer by 50%, put it on your resume, and make sure your reference knows that you did.

*Education. Create a section for your degrees, and make sure it is easily findable. Education is one of the key criteria recruiters use to weed out resumes. If you do not have the required degree listed, even if you do hold it, you may lose out on an interview.

It is tempting to embellish your resume and use the same one over and over again when you have been job searching for a long time. However, listing skills and accomplishments you do not have is lying and can get you fired from a job even after you have landed it. Using the same resume for every job also does not cut it because all of these critical resume sections must address the specific needs of each job.

When Performing Hurts

Pretty much any job comes with the risk of getting injured while working. However, performers, whether they be dancers or musicians, run the risk of debilitating injuries from repetitive movements or continuous use of body parts. What makes these types of injury particularly pernicious is that regular practice and performance is vital to honing skills, and constant use of a performer’s body does not permit much downtime. This lack of rest can eventually result in cumulative career-ending injuries.

Typical performance injuries can include carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve impingement syndrome, vocal nodes, torn tendons and ligaments and severely strained muscles. Treatment plans may include forced periods of rest, physical therapy and even surgery. However, there is good news in that Feldenkrais and Alexander Techniques may prevent repeated injuries.

Both techniques teach participants how to use their bodies in the most efficacious way to reduce pain, remove limitations on movement and to prevent injuries. I found Feldenkrais clasees to be a bit too strenuous when dealing with a nerve impingement syndrome. The Alexander technique classes were more simple, less painful and consisted of re-learning basic movements such as piano keyboard skills, typing, reaching for a phone, standing up, sitting down and walking. The objective is to learn better use of your body to eliminate pain. Both techniques and physical therapy may eliminate the need for surgery.

However, if you do need to see a doctor for a performance-related injury, the Performing Arts Medical Association, has a referral service online. While this service is not exhaustive, it can get you started with finding help and also provides counseling referrals that can help you deal with the stress of injury.

There is also the journal, Medical Problems of Performing Artists which includes scholarly studies and information on performance injuries in both music and dance.

Recovery from a performance injury is not easy. However, you will be more likely to heal quickly if you recognize that a combination of medical help, allied therapies and rest are critical to regaining optimum performance health.

Telecommuting — Making the Case

Several companies such as Yahoo! and Best Buy have pulled their telecommuters back in-house in the last few weeks, causing a stir on the Web. While you may think now is not a good time to approach your supervisor about working from home, there are a few things to consider that can strengthen your case.

*Examine your job. Not just your job description, but what you actually do. List everything that you can do from home: phone calls, generating reports, database searches, etc. List the tasks that require face-to-face contact and how you plan to meet those needs. Make sure you understand the technology that allows you to do this.

*How will telecommuting benefit your company? Does it free up an office and computer for someone else? Are you willing to work at home outside normal (8-5) hours?

*Show your boss how your work can be monitored. This can include posting a report in process on a shared network, teleconference or Skype calling or, if you are willing, traveling to the office or to a cafe for meetings.

*Plan for emergencies. What will you do if your Internet goes down or the company network crashes? Have a contingency plan of tasks that you can still work on.

*Take a test run. Try taking a personal day and telecommuting from home before you approach your supervisor with your request. Work out the kinks in your telecommuting plan in advance.

*If your plan meets with resistance, suggest working from home one day or two per week at first. If this works out, you may be able to increase the number of days working from home.

*Keep track of your time. It is easy to take more time out of the day to run errands. After all, there are fewer people to contend with because most people are at work. However, you still need to put the time in to complete your work and meet your deadlines.

Unlocking Your Education

The current thinking is that going back to school is the thing to do during a recession. However, just graduated and in large amounts of debt is not the place to be in this slow economy. Students and parents alike are taking a long, hard look at return on investment in college and are not liking what they see. Some people think perhaps trade school or even no school may be the way to go. While this is an interesting idea, employers are still looking for educated candidates, and no degree on your resume may mean no access to the jobs that are out there.

So what may make you stand out as a future job candidate? Unlock your education to get the most out of it. Go beyond what is required and innovate. Consider some of these strategies to unlock your education before you really need it in the work world:

*Go big or go home. Candidates with an MBA are pretty commonplace, so your MBA alone is not going to get you that job. If you can get in and afford it, enroll in one of the top MBA programs. These programs still have great name brand value, and this plus stellar experience may get you noticed in the work world. If you cannot land a slot at a top-tier MBA school, make sure that your work experience and internships really stand out, are innovative and are related to your career goals.

*Be an overachiever. Do more than just fulfill your degree requirements. Get out there, and use your time in college to innovate. Currently at an art and design school? Then find an engineering school near you and collaborate on projects with the students there.

*Network. Find other students, faculty and alums at your school who are interested in what you are doing. Is there not a venue for this at your school? Then organize a fun event and invite people from all of these groups to participate.

*Get a mentor/Be a mentor. Mentors give you access to information that you would not ordinarily get through your coursework. A mentor can be a faculty member, an alum or even a person in the community who shares the same career interests with you. Consider mentoring a younger student as your knowledge base grows. It increases your network while giving someone else a leg up.

*Find a problem/Solve a problem. While learning in education is often based on passive intake of information through readings and lectures, the work world values people who can problem-solve. Look for a problem in your classes, on campus or in your career field, and come up with a way to solve it. For example: when I was doing a career counseling internship at a college that had a large music school, I had several music students come to me who were afraid their music careers were over due to performance injuries. I set up a separate independent study to work with these students to help resolve their problems and get their studies back on track.

Unlocking your education means taking control. It involves going beyond the basic degree requirements, figuring out what you want to learn and do, and then finding a way to make that happen. The more proactive you are, the better prepared you will be for the world of work.

Command Performance — Coming Back Into the Fold

The CEO of Yahoo! shook up the telecommuting world this week by requiring everyone who works for the company to come back into the office. No more working from home. Creative types, introverts and working moms alike are outraged. Some see it as an attack on feminism, while others think it will decrease productivity.

But here’s a dirty little secret about telecommuting: once you have telecommuted, you feel entitled to this work option, and it seems like it’s your decision. Except that it isn’t. Yahoo! sorely needs to reinvent itself, and that is not going to happen until everyone comes together and re-innovates. Sure, the company may lose workers between now and June when the edict takes effect, but those people who jump ship probably weren’t all that loyal, all that dedicated to Yahoo! anyways. And yes, it will be a shock for those returning to the office. But the creative spark that occurs when people meet up to work together may well be worth it.

Another dirty little secret about telecommuting: It not as fun as it sounds. The line between work and personal life begins to blur when you work from home. You are “always at the office.” There’s “always one more thing that needs to get done.” Work is vying for your attention when you walk by your home office even when you are not on work time. And while cubicle co-workers can be annoying, sometimes it is that interaction that pushes you out of procrastination or your writer’s block.

Maybe a combination of telecommuting with periods of mandatory office attendance can keep companies from getting stale and workers from being bored. The ban on telecommuting at Yahoo! probably won’t last forever. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.