Getting Back to Work

It is not uncommon for people to take a career break. But whether you stop out due to maternity leave, a layoff or family illness, sometimes it can be a challenge to return to work. You may think you are guaranteed to get your old job back, however, this is not always the case. Business factors can change quickly, leaving you scrambling for a job.

One option is to start your own business, whether it is providing goods or services such as consulting on a freelance basis. The Small Business Association – SBA can help you get started. The career services or alumni offices at your alma mater may also have classes – you may have to pay for them – on re-entering the workforce or starting your own business. If you opt to freelance or consult, check for state or career organizations that can help you such as NYS Freelancer’s Union. Finding and following such organizations on social media is also helpful.

Another option if you are in good financial shape is volunteering your services. Look for businesses or non-profits who can utilize your skills and provide you with opportunities to learn new ones. This can help you transition into a new job or career, but be aware that the Fair Labor Standards Act, put in place to protect workers’ rights to fair pay, can make volunteering and compliance to the law tricky.

Perhaps a better option would be to pursue an adult internship designed to help you re-enter the workforce. These internships are paid, last from 10 weeks to a year and can bridge the gap in returning to work. You will get a chance to update skills, to build your career network or perhaps to test drive a new career. There are many options out there, especially in the finance and legal sector. iRelaunch, a career re-entry resource, provides a list of internships as well as higher education re-entry resources here. This list includes opportunities at financial institutions such as Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and MetLife. OnRamp Fellowship is another career entry resource aimed at lawyers looking to get back to work.

If you do not see an adult internship program for your career field, think about creating your own. Come up with a strategy by identifying your skills that can help an employer. Define what you want to learn and do and how much you would like to be paid. This process is easier if you can write up your proposal as a contract. You can use your alma mater’s career services or the career resources at your local library to target companies. Use your career network to get your proposal in front of prospective internship sponsors. You may have to contact many companies before one agrees to an internship. Don’t get discouraged. When I worked in sales, the mantra went, “It takes 17 no’s to get to one yes.” It may take you a lot more than that, but an opportunity to get back to your career or gain entry into a new one will be worth it.

 

Advanced Searches Can Save Your Sanity

If you have ever been laid off, you may have had well-meaning, albeit misinformed, relatives and friends tell you to shop your resume around to local offices and employment agencies. Thankfully, this time-consuming and tree-killing way to job hunt is no more. Enter the job sites and job aggregators on the internet. Job sites are exactly what they sound like – sites that list all sorts of jobs. Job aggregators are like search engines that search job sites to bring you all the jobs in which you may be interested all in one place.

As a career consultant, I have witnessed job hunters give up on the job search before they even really begin because there are so many positions out there to which to apply. While some would debate whether or not all of these jobs are real jobs, the bottom line is that the quickest way to apply for a job is online. Time is critical when you have been laid off and you need that next job.

Boolean searches are one of the best methods to cut through the plethora of job postings and to find the ones you need. Don’t let the word Boolean make you nervous. It just means using some limiters in your search to make the results manageable. Most search engines, job sites and job aggregators have an advanced search function and how to use it to help you save time. Here are a few limiters that are easy to use:

*Double Quotes: Double quotes help you find listings with an exact phrase in them. For example, if you are looking for a position as a science editor, try “science editor” in your search. Not using double quotes might bring up something like science writer or business editor instead.

*NOT – The word “not” is a very useful limiter for those of you looking in career fields that have common job postings that are not quite what you want. For example, if you are interested in working in publishing, want to explore that field and know you do not want to do sales, try publishing and not sales as a search. Another way to weed out the publishing sales jobs is to use a job aggregator like simplyhired.com with an advanced search function that lets you list words you do not want in a job posting.

*Root and Stem Words – There are many titles that consist of various forms of root words. You can capture all different forms of root words by using a single asterisk.. For example, if you are looking for all job postings that list the words editor, editorial, editing, try edit* as your search. A stem word search uses two asterisks to bring up alternate word forms. Write** might bring up written, wrote or writing in a search. Another way to run this type of search is to use a job site such as monster.com which allows you to do an advance search listing different forms of a word in the title and keyword fields.

*Compound Boolean searches – Once you are comfortable using simple Boolean searches, you can move on to using a combination of these searches to save you even more time. For example, the search “science writer” and chemistry may bring up just the chemistry abstract writer positions for which you are looking.

Advanced searches can save your sanity and time, freeing you up to prepare for those job interviews you landed by using Boolean searches. Good luck!

What the Recruiter Sees

CLICK. And another job application gets sent out via the Internet. If it is this easy to apply for a job, why is it still so hard to get one? The pace of hiring is picking up, but being in a hurry and these sloppy mistakes can cost you the job. 

This is what I see every day as a recruiter on the job:

  • Generic resumes – please do not send a software engineer resume for a mechanical engineer job. And while you are tailoring EACH resume to the job for which you are applying, nix the wordy objective. You only need an objective – a short one – if you are entering a job field with little to no experience, or if you are trying to switch from one related career to another.
  • Stop using “see resume” on the application page. I often find myself scanning hundreds of applicants for one job. If I had the time to open your resume while qualifying applicants, I would. But I don’t. So increase your chances of getting a shot at a job by filling out the work history section of an application. Correctly. With the right dates. 
  • Do you have a job now? You need to list it, even if it is unrelated to the job for which you are applying. Leaving off three years worth of jobs looks like you haven’t worked in three years. Not a good thing when I, as a recruiter, like to submit applicants who are already working. Working applicants are employable candidates.
  • Reason for leaving – entering “fired” or “terminated” in this field is a guaranteed pass over. If you were asked to leave, come up with a succinct explanation and move on. BTW, entering “personal” here doesn’t cut it either. It raises an automatic red flag about you as a candidate. You’re secretive and you have something to hide. Like maybe you got fired.
  •  Job requirements – here’s a surprise: Many applicant tracking systems (ATS) will automatically disqualify your application if it does not indicate that you have the stated requirements. And don’t lie. If I call you and I ascertain you do not have the requirements for the job, I will disqualify you. And if you get it into your head to reapply for the same job after you have been disqualified or to set up another profile? Don’t. You will automatically be disqualified. Again.
  • Truth in advertising – If you are going to list “excellent communication skills” in your Skills Summary, then do not have poor grammar, odd punctuation, weird texting spellings or typos on your application and attached resume.
  • Phone numbers – Pay your cell phone bill. I call applicants who have disconnected numbers, full voice mailboxes or no mail boxes set up all the time. Why go through the bother of applying if you are not going to be reachable? Find another way to screen out the bill collectors and make yourself reachable. Your cell phone should be listed as your primary phone so that you do not have to wait to get home to find out someone is considering you for a new job. 
  • Do not hang up on me because you don’t know who is calling or because you do not want to talk right now. If you want a job, take the call. You can always politely request to schedule a phone interview when you have more time to talk. And don’t confuse a scheduled phone interview with an in-person interview. Not sure which one I want? Make sure by asking. It is embarrassing for you (and me) for you to show up at the company when all I wanted was a short phone interview.
  • If you have to return my call, don’t do it three months later after you finally found your “lost” cell phone. Chances are that the job will no longer be available. Or you may be in luck, having waited so long to call that the job becomes available again. 
  • Portfolios – not just for “creative” types. More employers are asking for portfolios of applicants’ best work. They don’t add the adjective “best” to be wordy. They mean it. Employers don’t want to see a hastily thrown together portfolio of your work that you put together because you suddenly realized there is an application deadline and you panicked. Add your best pieces to your portfolio as you create them. Then take the time to edit your portfolio according to what employers want to see. It is just like tailoring your resume to the job for which you are applying.

Happy job hunting!

Career Freebies/Discounts

So I was on Facebook the other day, scrolling along and I saw this: Free Pixar Renderman Software. This is great news for the animator wanna-be’s out there. But like most things free, there is a caveat: Renderman is a rendering engine. You still need a rendering application to use it. Get the FAQs to learn more.

This got me to thinking that there must be other free/discounted resources you can use in your career or career exploration. So I got back on the Internet, and this is just a small sample of what I found. I will add more as I find them, so check back.

* Free Shipping – While technically this isn’t “free stuff,” shipping is expensive, especially when you are working in small, rural areas where you can’t get to, say, a medical uniform store to shop. A1Scrubs will give you free shipping on orders over $100. Not a nurse or med tech? Search free shipping or supplies for your career in your favorite search engine and see what pops up.

* Search Engines – Bing – Search engines have jumped on the freebies bandwagon. Bing Rewards is a bonus point program where you earn reward points for searching with Bing. You then trade in your points for stuff like Starbucks and other restaurant gift cards that you can use for business meals or just to keep you fueled throughout your busy work day. Bing rewards will also allow you to trade your points for one free year of 100GB of OneDrive storage. This can come in handy if you use several mobile devices like a laptop and tablets to stay connected to the office. This offer ends June 31st.

* Search Engines – Google – Not a fan of expensive Microsoft Office? Then try Google Docs for free. It also has free Drive storage for the documents you create. Keep an eye out for other free cloud storage. Apple will give you 5GB of iCloud storage for your documents too.

* Teaching Tools – There are a plethora of teaching tools out there for all age groups. If you are a music teacher, a student, or a musician, Chromatik gives access to free sheet music. If you are a high school or college opera student in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Merola Student ConneXion Progam will give 40 students complimentary tickets to their events, but you must apply by May 4th.

* Career Discounts – You may find discounts on resources related to your career or on every-day items like food, drink and air fare. One example: Search military discounts online and you will find thousands of them. Not in the military? Try searching under your professional associations.

* Directories – Directories are useful for finding business contacts or for researching a career; however, the print versions are often expensive and out-of-date by the time they are published. Look online. Need to contact media talent? Go on over to AIR’s Talent Directory. The site also gives info on how to contact talent not in the directory.

*Start-ups – Thinking of starting your own business? The Small Business Administration – SBA has tons of free info, including funding options and the deal on capital and angel investors here. If you need to find an investor, Chubby Brain’s Funding Recommendation Engine will hook you up with capital and angel investors, financial institutions and grant sources. You need to request an invitation code, but it is free.

* Job Training – Free job training programs do exist. For example: if you want to break into hospitality and food service, read Magdalene Chan’s blog, Job Search Central. The blog entry is from 2012, but the phone numbers should still be current.

*Libraries – Libraries often have career centers with free information and workshops. Try your alma mater’s career and academic libraries, as well as the public library. Not near a central library? Check your public library for e-membership  programs like the one at NYPL.org. It is free, and you can borrow anything in the library ebook database or in-person at the many city libraries. You must live in NY state to take advantage of this program, but other states may have a program like this as well.

*Career Help – Some career associations will provide limited free career coaching. Check with your college career center too.  State or county career programs are another option. One resource is the Science, Industry and Business Library – SIBL in NYC which provides limited pro bono/free career coaching.

Obviously, this post is not an exhaustive list of career freebies, and you have to read the fine print so you won’t be disappointed. It is meant to give you some ideas on how to find the resources you need. And, hey, searching is free, right?

 

 

 

Creativity and Problem Solving: If You Could be Any Toy…

I was always amazed in my over two decades of higher education experience at how difficult it was for college students to make the transition from accumulating knowledge for building a knowledge base to learning knowledge in order to problem solve. Some examples:

One day, a work-study student came into my office for his work shift, and he was completely enraged. He had just handed in an economics problem-set in which he was sure the answers were all correct. The professor then proceeded to divide the class up into groups and had them work on a case study related to the problem-set. The student was enraged because “there was no one right answer.”

Another student left a business case interview disgusted because one of the questions before the actual case was “If you could be any toy, what would you be?” She felt that it was a silly question to ask in a “serious” interview. The career staff pointed out that this was an excellent opportunity to flex her creativity. One answer could have been Mr. Potato Head because she could be flexible and change as needed. She considered the answer and said, “Ok, but flexibility is limited by the number of extra parts in the box.” So then the discussion became, “How do you expand the options? What are the consequences of expansion?” That really is what employers are looking for: Viable problem-solving options.

I know next to nothing about the Common Core curriculum, but I wonder how it is going to prepare students to take on the role of problem solver  in school and in work life. Workplace needs are dynamic, and what was the right answer last week may not work as a solution for this week’s problem. And your concept of the “right answer” may differ from those of your team mates. What to do? I asked a recruiter from Mitsubishi, “What happens when an automotive designer’s ideas clash with what the engineers come up with? Who is ‘right?’ Who wins?” His answer: “They both have to come up with a solution that works.”

In other words, in the real world of work, it is no longer enough to memorize the textbook, the white papers or the manuals to get the “right answer.” You still need that knowledge; however, creative application of that knowledge, often in conjunction with other people, is what is needed to solve problems.

This leads to a question I often get from parents of college students and college personnel: Which is better for getting a job: a liberal arts degree or a specialized degree? Both types of degrees are useful if students acquire a solid knowledge base while understanding how to use it to solve problems.  And letting go of the idea that there is one right answer frees up the process to let creativity in, to try on what-if scenarios and examine their consequences before implementing them. People do not always like that answer because it becomes clear that getting a job is not about who has the most knowledge and skills, but who can use those knowledge and skills to adapt to a dynamic workplace and be able to provide solutions.

Using Pinterest as a Job Search Tool

You may have heard of Pinterest and may even be using it to show friends and family all the cool stuff you have found on the Internet. But did you know that you can use Pinterest as a job search tool? Many hiring managers continue to be overwhelmed with a landslide of resume submissions, and they are relying on you, the jobseeker, to make yourself stand out as a job candidate. Here are some ways to use Pinterest as a career portfolio to do this:

Designers and Artists: Showcase your work on a Pinterest board. The advantage over a physical portfolio is that not only is the storage space much larger, but you can better control the layout of your work. You can give a “whole story” snapshot of your design process — all on one board. While I’m no designer or artist, I used Pinterest to land a job offer at the Parsons New School for Design by adding the urls for my specific Pinterest boards that showed my “eye for design” when it came to shoes, evening apparel and accessories.

Teachers: Post a YouTube or Vimeo video on a Pinterest board so that prospective employers can check out your teaching style and creative use of multimedia to get your learning points across to your students.

Health Care Workers: Set up a Pinterest board that provides information on a specific health topic. You can create a video, PowerPoint slideshow presentation and links to web sites and online documents on a health topic.

Fundraisers: Share your past fundraising experiences in the form of colorful graphs. Use the Pinterest Help tools to get started.

Musicians and Actors: Post video clips of recitals, plays, movies and auditions.

Corporate Types: Post videos and pictures of what you did during company-approved sabbaticals for volunteer activities. Unpaid activities are still considered part of your overall experience by potential employers.

Higher Education Professionals: Post videos and pictures of events you planned and implemented such as career fairs, speaker panels, Greek Life events and Freshman orientation.

Your use of Pinterest as a job search tool is only limited by your creativity. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

*Make sure you include your Pinterest board urls in your cover letter and a “Social Media” section on your resume. This is the one time I advise repeating information in your cover letter that is already on your resume. Even though a hiring manager may ask for a cover letter, it does not always get read.

*You can limit your boards so that only certain people can see them. However, a hiring manager will have access to all of your unlimited access Pinterest boards, so be careful what you put on them, especially the humor and fashion boards.

*You must understand what is proprietary information before posting it on Pinterest. If your company owns the intellectual property rights or photograph copyrights of your work, you should get permission to post them on Pinterest.

*Be careful about posting pictures and videos with other people in them. Not everyone wants their picture on the Internet.

 

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!