Advertising Jobs: The Bait and Switch

In the last few months, I have heard from clients and friends that the jobs for which they applied and the jobs for which they were called to interview ended up being very different jobs. One person told me she applied for a full-time, benefits-eligible job with invoicing and social media marketing duties. During the interview, she was told the job was part-time with no benefits and the invoicing and social marketing duties had been eliminated. In addition, the hours were during the evening when she did not have access to transportation.

In reading the job description, two factors came to light: 1) the hours were described as part-time/full-time and 2) the position was clearly a mix of front and back office duties.We’ve all been there: suddenly being asked to do something that was never listed in our original job description. Employers cover themselves by adding something such as “and other duties as assigned” to their job descriptions. But this trend of changing the job BEFORE a person is even interviewed and hired is disturbing because it indicates that employers still feel that it is an employer’s job market and that they can do what they like. Yes, employer needs do change, but how do you prevent an employer from wasting your time before you are even hired?

One way to help yourself is to read the job description carefully. The lack of specific hours in the above example should have raised a red flag. In this case, the employer knew the job had a high turnover rate and wanted to get a better pool of candidates, so they added full-time to the description as bait. When the person interviewed, she realized that there was no way the job could be full-time for one person, and it would be impossible to do invoicing and marketing duties while acting as a receptionist and checking in clients.

Once you have carefully read a job description and decide you want to apply for the job, make note of any inconsistencies in the description and keep your notes handy. If you are invited to interview, you can confirm the job details when you confirm the interview date in an email which serves as a written record of the information. The person in the above example could have confirmed the interview in a short email and asked the interviewer to confirm that the job was full-time. She would have then realized that the job was not a good fit for her because it was only part-time.

Confirming job duties can be a bit trickier. Job descriptions can be pages long, and trying to confirm all of that in an email isn’t practical. However, if there are 1-3 must-haves in the job for you, try to confirm those duties in an email. There is no sense in interviewing for a position if the duties do not interest you. Another red flag is when some key job duties are not mentioned in the interview. A good interviewer will ask you questions to determine if you have the skills for the job and if you will be a good fit. You are usually given a chance in an interview to ask questions, so ask about any duties that were in the job description that haven’t been mentioned in the interview. If they are duties you really want to do and the interviewer tells you they have been eliminated or tabled for now, this is your chance to show your ability to do them and make a case for reinstating them. Sometimes duties are eliminated because employers have a difficult time finding candidates who can do all of the desired duties.

The same goes for unadvertised jobs. Conventional job search wisdom indicates that a vast number of jobs are never advertised. They are either filled within the organization or by word of mouth.  If you interview for a position such as this, get a job description in writing and verify everything in the job description. The job search process can be long and stressful enough. Protect your time and manage your stress by pinning down hiring managers on the details.




Redefining Your Career Dreams

If you are pursuing a career in the creative arts, you’ll probably get at least one well-meaning person giving you this advice: “If you like anything else besides (music, art, acting, etc.) do that instead.” There are also those people ( some who may be your parents) who will tell you that if you aren’t “successful” in your chosen career by age 26, you need to go back to school for something else. Before you get discouraged and scrap your career dreams, maybe you need to redefine them instead by asking yourself a few questions:

  1. How are you going to define success? This is a two-parter question because your definition of success depends on what you want out of life. Does success in your career mean that you are famous and live in a mansion? Does it mean you get to use your talent and are able to pay the bills too?
  2. What are you willing to sacrifice? We all initially give up some earning power when we go to school full-time to pursue a degree. But what are you willing to give up short-term and long-term, say, like, forever? I met 40-somethings in LA who happily lived in small studio apartments while occasionally landing bit movies parts. For them, success was being able to have some connection to acting while having a day job and living in an area of the country with a great climate.
  3. What makes you happy? Will you only be happy if you have a career as a musician? Are you willing to put up with family and friends who ask you “when will you get a real job?”
  4. What else does interest you as a career? I also met a nurse in LA who had a solid acting career. She went to nursing school after acting school and then set up her nursing jobs to take the hours that no one else wanted, often earning time-and-a-half and overtime. She built up her savings and reputation so that her employers were willing to let her come and go when she got cast in movies.

There is also the perception that if you do not “make it” in your chosen career, you can always pursue something related. For example, you can always teach or pursue arts administration instead of being a musician. This thinking sometimes leads to career trouble, however, because you need other skills in addition to musicianship. Can you actually teach? Do you have the patience because many of your pupils are apt to be kids who will need your patience as first-time or maybe even reluctant learners. . Do you know how to manage personnel, fund raise and take care of facilities as a budding arts administrator? Do you even WANT to do that?

One of the key things I’ve learned especially in working with creatives is that career dreams aren’t necessarily an end, a finite goal. It is often a long, rewarding process consisting of periodic redefining, tweaking and maybe even scrapping some parts of those goals.

Last question: Are you willing to commit to this process to create a life you can love?

You Need a Career Time Capsule

One of the things I liked best about Mac computers is an app called Time Machine. It lets you back up your computer so you can see which files you had on any given day. You can revert back to a day on which you knew you backed up a file and were sure it wasn’t corrupted or had the wrong information in it.

A career portfolio can function as your own personal career time machine and capsule. Many of us who use career portfolios to showcase work, our resumes and our projects update them on a fairly regular basis, often deleting earlier incarnations of the career portfolio. However, these old career portfolios do have significant value.

One piece of career advice that career consultants give is to tailor your resume and portfolio to the specific job for which you are applying. This means you are often adding or deleting valuable information about yourself. Creating a master career portfolio or time capsule ensures that you will not lose the information about the project you did five years ago. You may not think it matters all that much now, but there may be a future job for which you will need this information. Computers crash, and resumes and projects get lost. Continually updating a master career portfolio may seem like a chore, but you will be relieved to have it when you need it. And you will need it.

Recruiters are always on the look out for passive candidates, those candidates who have a job, are not looking for a new job and have up-to-date skills. Their goal is to place you as a passive candidate in often hard-to-fill positions. While there should be a good fit between you and the job, your career goals are not always going to receive top consideration.  This process can be an intense situation. Time is of the essence for both the recruiter and the company.  They may give you the hard sell and rush you into applying for a job and accepting an offer, one which you did not even know yesterday that existed.

This means that it is up to you to know what your current career goals are. Your previous career portfolios, along with a master career portfolio will remind you of your career goals and accomplishments along your career path. Armed with this information, you can calmly decide whether a job offer is right for you. Is one of your career goals still to have less travel days and more days with family? Then will the job that offers you a $10k raise in return for 150 more days of travel be worth it to you?

You also need to know and be reminded of what your past accomplishments are. Does this current job offer you a chance to build on past accomplishments, or merely to repeat them? Can you clearly define what the trade offs are going to be if you accept a new job, and whether will they be acceptable to you and your family?

A current master career portfolio reviewed with a series of saved previous career portfolios can save you time and stress when it comes to taking that next career step. This process puts you in control of your career and can make it easier to respond to and work with recruiters.

10 Reasons Why This Job Isn’t For You

You have been looking online for that perfect job and now you think you finally found it. You have the education and skills required. It looks like there is enough meat to the job to make it interesting, and there’s room to learn new skills. What’s not to like? You may just find that out if you are invited into the company for an interview. Here are 10 signs telling you when to pass on a job:

1. When the interviewer is late for the interview. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. However, the demeanor of the interviewer can tell you a lot. Does he apologize profusely or act like lateness is par for the course? If you as the candidate are not allowed to be late, then neither is the interviewer.

2. Your potential supervisor is not at the interview or you are only allowed a short time with her. Another red flag is an interview on your itinerary with only the supervisor and then showing up to the interview to find the supervisor’s supervisor is there as well. Are they afraid she will say something wrong?

3. Try for an interview in the supervisor’s office. One time I interviewed with a supervisor whose desk was piled an impressive foot high with papers and books (it was – I measured it while waiting for him). The mess might have been impressive, but the hairy chest the guy sported because he had left his shirt buttons undone from his collar to his belt was not. There’s creative messy and then there’s I’m-blaming-you-when-I-can’t-find-your-report messy. And the hairy chest thing was just icky.

4. Group interviews where members interrupt each other and cannot agree on priorities are always a fun bet. If they cannot agree on goals and objectives in an interview, you can bet they cannot agree in department meetings either. You are not going to be able to do this so-called perfect job if all members cannot arrive at group consensus.

5. The interviewer complains about companies or experiences on your resume. I have had these interesting interview experiences: higher education interviewers complain about industry recruiting experience because recruiters are too “mercenary” and don’t have the students’ best interest at heart. Recruiters complain about higher education experience because it is “too ivory tower,” not real world enough, and the work pace in higher ed is too slow. If this happens, you can elaborate how these experiences will help you do the new job. However, it is bad form for the interviewer to complain instead of inquiring how these experiences relate to the job at hand.

6. Keep a close eye on your interviewer’s behavior. Does he go from calm to red-faced rage in .2 seconds? Do employees avoid eye contact with him and quake in his presence? If the interviewer is comfortable showing this behavior in front of you in an interview, you may be his next emotional punching bag. Definitely take a pass on this one.

7. Group interviews where the group acts very bored, tired or disinterested are a sign that these people do not work well as a team. Granted, group interviews can be time consuming and boring, but they should not only be interviewing you, but conveying that this is a great place in which to work.

8. The interviewer purposely asks an illegal question and carefully watches you as you respond. As novice interviewer, I occasionally asked the wrong question. However, questions about protected status such as religion, veteran status or parent status are illegal, and an interviewer should not be asking these questions. If you get asked an illegal question, you do have the right to refuse to answer it.

9. Group interviews can be difficult to schedule, as everyone is busy and time to do them is in short supply. However, if the organizer repeatedly asks you, the candidate, to hold open dates because he cannot get the group together, take a pass. I’ve seen groups refuse to agree on meeting dates when they either do not support the organizer or do not have buy-in on the candidates. This type of passive-aggressive protest behavior is not something you want to get involved in.

10. Most interviewers will ask you if you have questions, and yes, you should have some as this shows your interest in the job and knowledge of the field. However, there are some interviewers who will evade answering your more pointed questions or have already decided you are not the right candidate and will barely answer your questions at all. If you ask questions about the company or local area, and the response is a brochure thrown across the desk, the interviewer isn’t doing either her company or you a service. You can find better.

So Why Teach Music?

I used to work at a college that started out as a music conservatory. The college now has a music school well-known for pedagogy and foundations in music performance. Many of my music students were so excited about what they were learning and the skills that they were acquiring, that they could not wait to graduate to go out and find jobs as performers. Performing, not teaching. However, most of us career professionals know that there are far more gifted performers than there are jobs out there for them.

One alternative career or supplement to performing is teaching. Those students who were so excited about performing weren’t always so enthused about teaching. But teaching can provide a steady income, whether through a community school, K-12 school, college or an independent studio. It can also give musicians different insights on a piece of music, how people learn differently and help them increase their professional network. A larger professional network can lead to more paying gigs. A portfolio career, one where you hold two or more jobs in a given career field, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can earn money doing one job that can lead to making even more money in another job in your portfolio career. The money keeps rolling in, and you keep developing your career.

You are also helping your music students in several ways. You are passing on knowledge about music that your students may not be learning in school. More school districts are cutting music from the curriculum. However, that is not an excuse to skip teaching music. It is a very good reason to consider teaching. Studies have shown that learning music also helps improve students’ reading, math and foreign language skills. Learning music also gives students a way to express themselves and to describe the world they see around them through singing and playing instruments. You also develop future audiences when you share your music knowledge, thereby keeping music performance alive. Teaching music is a way to participate in that village described by Hillary Clinton — as in it takes a village to raise and educate a child. In short, it is a way to give back to your community and to “pay” your knowledge forward by sharing it. 

Job Application Etiquette

You are about to send your 100th resume, haven’t heard back from any companies and are getting discouraged. It is tempting to send out yet another generic resume, but don’t. Recruiters can tell when you have the same resume for every job because the resume really does not say very much about you and your experience. Here are a few tips on making the most of your resume submission and what will get you remembered.

*Tailor your resume to the position. If a skill is a requirement, make sure that it is TRUTHFULLY on your resume. Do not make up skills or experiences that you do not have.

*Follow the application instructions. Yes, you need to send a cover letter if one is asked for. Make sure you include the information the employer has asked to see in your cover letter. Check that you have signed your cover letter even if you are emailing it. A generic signature will not do.

*If you use an applicant tracking system to apply for a job, keep your username and password somewhere safe where you can find it again. Chances are good you may need to access the system to check on your application status or to apply for another job. You will not have to fill in many of the fields for the second job application if you know your login. You will also not have to call the company’s HR to check on your application progress or to ask for login help.

*If you are asked for letters of reference and/or transcripts, follow the instructions for obtaining them. Do not just send a reference contact list or leave off required documentation. Either of these mistakes can irritate the hiring manager and push your resume to the bottom of the pile or off the desk entirely and into the trash.

*Stay in contact with the potential employer. Withdraw your application by calling HR if you decide to take another position. Call instead of emailing, as this is one way to get feedback on whether the company is interested in your resume and in pursuing you in the future. Keep your options open. You never know; the job you just accepted may end up not being a good fit for you.

*If the hiring manager calls or emails you to inform you that you did not get the position, do not be a sore loser. Thank the manager for his or her time. You can ask for feedback; however, you should frame it positively as in, “What else would you like to see on my resume or what should I be working on that would make me a valuable future hire?” Instead of, “Why didn’t I get the job?”

Finding your next job is a numbers game, so listen to what the hiring managers tell you and keep applying!

The Dreaded Behavioral Interview

If you are preparing for an interview, you may want to think about preparing some answers to what human resource professionals call behavioral interview questions. These types of questions are designed to find out how you would respond in certain situations and how you react under stress.

Some behavioral interview questions include: Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor; tell me about when you had to fire an employee; describe a project where you had to work as part of a team; how do you handle complaints your employees have about other co-workers; describe a situation where your work goals were set too high.

While you cannot prepare answers for every single behavioral question out there, it is important to think about what skills the question is addressing and to tailor your answer to show you have that skill whether it is adaptability, team work, listening and problem-solving skills or communication skills. The interviewer is looking for answers that show you have valuable skills that the company can use.

A behavioral interview can be a good tool for ferreting out a candidate’s skills and work behavior. However, it does not always help a candidate determine if the company is a good fit for him or her. The interviewer can purposely come across as unfriendly and hard-to-read, making the interview a stressful experience for the candidate. If the interviewer is also going to be the supervisor, this can give a candidate second thoughts about accepting the job. A behavioral interview also does not give a candidate a good idea as to what type of supervisor the interviewer is going to be. Therefore, it is up to you as a candidate to make sure you ask your own questions to ensure that the position is a good fit.

Some of those questions may look like: If I am hired for this position, what is the most important thing I can accomplish for you in the first 60 days? As a supervisor, would you rather I interrupt you as I have questions or would you rather set aside dedicated time each day for questions? How do you handle front desk coverage during breaks and lunch?  Do you want informational updates via email or in person? Will I be collaborating with you on projects or just reporting back to you with status updates?

Think carefully about the job description and what interviewers are likely to ask. Also think about how you will go about carrying out the duties listed in the job description and your ideal interactions with the supervisor and co-workers. Then formulate your own answers and your own questions for the interviewer accordingly.