September 21, 2016

Disrupt The Under Employed Cycle



College is just a memory. You have a job, a job that has nothing to do with the career you desired, and the pay, well the pay is sh*t! To make matters even worse the media keeps reiterating how corporations can't find enough skilled workers to fill their open position which really ticks you off.  If this story sounds vaguely familiar then guess what, you are a member of the Under-Employed Army. Now let's focus on how to disrupt this cycle.
 
To disrupt the Under-Employed Cycle you must first understand how this cycle operates.  The basic Under-Employed Cycle is calendar dependent and it usually begins in the second quarter of the calendar year.  In the second quarter a major event occurs, most college seniors graduate and begin to look for jobs.  Companies are aware of this event and hire as many new graduates as they can absorb. Usually there are more new graduates then job positions and a pool of unemployed new graduates is created. Over time this pool of unemployed graduates will find and accept jobs beneath their skill sets to earn money to pay for their living expenses. Finally, many of these Under-Employed graduates will STOP looking for that professional job that they had prepared for during their educational journey. Is the Under-Employed Cycle finished? Not yet, you see just about this time companies have now processed the first batch of new hires and are looking to fill new positions. However they are unable to find candidates for the second business cycle hiring wave since many  new grads have given up looking and taken a job that Under-Employs them in lieu of the one that would fit their degreed skill. Next companies complain to the media about the lack of skilled workers and then they wait for the second quarter in the new business cycle. What I've just described is a macro view of a global cycle that occurs yearly.

Next determine what business cycle(s) that your career field utilizes. Some career fields such as education have only one major hiring cycle which usually runs from June through the end of July. However some business cycles in other fields occur two or three times yearly.  Establish what type of business cycle your career field operates under. If you are unclear about the whole business hiring cycles then do some research on your field. Go to the library and check out some books for free to acquire a deeper understanding of your career field.  If you want some current inside knowledge of how your career field is functioning, cruise the digital book universe such as amazon.com where you can locate and download digital books at very attractive prices. The authors of these career specific books can provide you with a wealth of insider knowledge about their particular career field.  Research efforts like I have mentioned above can help you figure out your career field's hiring cycle(s) and the key skill sets that that the employer is seeking to fill their open positions.

Finally, when you obtain a job interview don't hide the fact that your previous job Under-Employed you. Instead point out the Core Employee values that you now hold like showing up on time, dependability, tenacity, and communication skills or leadership skills that have prepared you for your next job. These are skill sets that all employers desire in their staff and the fact that you already have these skills really does matter.  Make sure that you have examples on hand that can be discussed during your interview. Being a member of the Under-Employed Army does have its privileges. Also remember that the US labor market has been tightening in the first three quarters of 2016. That means many companies may need to include an additional hiring cycle to meet their headcount goals. So don't stop looking for a career position because you believe that all the good jobs were taken after graduation, they weren't. 

There are many strategies for disrupting the Under-Employed Cycle including doing nothing to change and hoping to win the Lottery each week. But if you don't feel lucky, then follow some of the tips above and get ready to check out of the Under-Employed Army.

July 12, 2016

Looking for a job, try USAJOBS.gov



Baseball, hotdogs, parades, picnics and plenty of fireworks celebrate America's Independence Day, July 4th. Following the July 4th theme, I decided to dedicate a job post to finding and applying for government jobs. USAJOBS.gov is an official website of the United States Government. Think about it, the US Government has job positions in agriculture, archeology, the arts, banking & finance, information technology, communications, human resources and general management just to name a small basket of potential jobs that the government wants to fill so it can operate at full capacity.
   
OK, you are looking for a job, is this job search site worth taking the time to look at? Good question. Let me take you on a quick journey through this site. First, the entry page to  USAJOBS is designed to be efficient.  Besides the normal global search field options the USAJOBS site has a nice time saving category.  Four predetermined job position search groupings are hot linked below the search button. These groupings are Individuals with Disabilities, Veterans, Students and Recent Graduates, and Senior Executives. Just a side note, if you are looking for an internship or know someone that is, the Students link contains government internships.

Below the job category links is a banner called Spotlights, don't skip over this banner section as it can contain some really valuable information. Do you want a job by the end of July? In the banner section there is an announcement that the Department of Homeland Security is having a Job Fair on July 27-28, 2016 in Washington, DC.  The banner also explains how to garner an expedited interview. If you apply online by July 20th, 2016 and receive from the DHS an invitation to the job fair with an interview time slot, you could go to the interview and if you get selected for the job after the interview, you can be granted a conditional job offer on the spot. Again, nothing is guaranteed and you would have to travel to Washington, DC but who knows, you may end up with a job offer by the end of the month. However, for the DHS job and all others job positions, you must be a US Citizen. I mention this because a number of readers of my blog are from non-US countries.

Diving into the Students and Recent Graduates job positions there are a broad set of career options. Of course the job positions list changes week to week, however the current job openings are looking for individuals with the following skill sets during the week of July 4-8, 2016. If you have an educational background in the following you may want to take a look this site:   librarian, archeologist, realtor & real estate, forestry, education, environmental studies, engineering, statistics, information technology, finance, project management, or human resources; positions for all these were currently being listed on-line.


USAJOBS.gov offers an entire range of job openings that has opportunities beginning at student internships and ending with senior executives, it is worth checking out. You may also want to check out my blog for past posts on additional job related topics. Finally, check out my kindle ebook if you are looking for some extra advice on how to compose your skill sets in a manner that will maximize your chances to get an interview with the people who have the need for your talents. I realize that government jobs may not be exactly what you were looking for but it is a great place to learn some practical skills, make some money and beef up your resume. Who knows, you may even like your job and spend your career within government. Good luck and have a great month of July!

June 28, 2016

Tips for the Faceless Interview


Remember all the years that you had to wear braces on your pearly whites? You did it for that perfect smile right? So now you have your first interview and it’s over the phone. What do your smile and a phone interview have in common? Put simply, they have absolutely nothing and everything in common. How so you ask, that is the focus of this post.

Until recently interviews were always done in person. The interviewee would be asked questions from one or a team of interviewers. The same thing happens today so what is the big deal you ask? Think about it, what is different? The key change is that the non-verbal job indicator called body language is missing.

Remember that perfect smile? What does it tell the interview team? It may tell the team that you are excited to work for their company or maybe it tells the interviewer that you are proud of a certain accomplishment that you just presented. Body language can speak volumes.  It can help you greatly during an interview but unfortunately you don’t get a choice of what kind of interview you will have when you get a call or text that you have been selected for a faceless interview, aka the phone interview.

A phone interview is tough for both the interviewer and interviewee. When you answer a question you will not have the luxury of seeing how your answer registered with the interviewer. Did he/she smile, nod approvingly, slightly frown, or laugh? Nope, just blank space and the next question. However there are some techniques that you can employ to give you an edge in these situations.

During a phone interview dead space appears to be amplified. That is, if the interviewee takes a while to answer a question, it seems like forever to the interviewer sitting on the other side of the phone. To combat this perception, prepare for the interview. Have some a couple of short answers to standard questions ready to spit out as soon as the question is asked. Quick answers give the sound and feel that the job candidate has really prepared for the interview.

Another technique is what I call doing the Hollywood. The Hollywood technique is to practice your interview talking into a mirror.  It’s not easy and it feels pretty weird but it should help you with your delivery of the conversation. What do I mean? Remember that no one can see you during the interview, you are faceless. Key body language signals are muted, so focus on what you have, your voice! Your voice can sound, excited, happy, motivated, wise or monotone, nervous, unsure, and anxious. Practice interviewing yourself using a mirror or just talking to the wall. However focus on your delivery. Can you sound excited when appropriate? Also, listen carefully if you begin to fall into a monotone trap on a long response. Your voice and delivery of your answers will leave a positive or negative image of you to the interviewer and it is all that you have to offer during a faceless interview, aka the phone interview. Good luck. 

June 15, 2016

Where are the 2016 Jobs?

There are many ways that you can search for a job. The most common approach is to look for a job opening that matches your college training in job search engines that gather open positions from all across the United States. This is not a bad approach but sometimes you may get overwhelmed with trying to read, tweak your resume, and apply for each opening. An alternative way to search for employment is to use a focused approach of searching by state or by college major.

Searching for employment by state has some great upfront time savers automatically built into the process. For example, when you decide to look by state you will consciously or unconsciously make some lifestyle decisions such as deciding whether you want to live in the Sunbelt states to avoid the winters in the Midwest states. Let's take this example a little farther and say you are using the common search approach to look for a job everywhere and anywhere. You find a job opening and it's in Denver, Colorado. You hate snow. Should you apply for the job  or not? That's your call, but my advice would be if you are going to be miserable living in a location that you don't like, you will probably will not be happy at work even if you really like the job. There is a lot more to life than work.

Another nice benefit of narrowing your job search to the state level is again saving time by searching those states that have the largest employment needs. In the world of job creation, size matters! Large states like California, Texas and Florida will have a bunch of job openings even if they are in a sluggish year. Finally, with a little research on your part, you can determine that certain industries are located in certain states and then focus on those states which would need to hire your skill set. I will list a few states with some of their key industries latter on in this post.

A different way to narrow to 2016 job search is to use focused search engines. What is a focused search engine? It's a search tool that only looks for jobs in your skill set. Say you are a Fine Arts major. The New York Foundation for the Arts has a site http://www.NYFA.org/jobs that has a listing of employment needs for those who have Fine Art degrees. If you are  Finance Major or Data Scientist, don't look here. This site is looking for artists, theater majors, stage managers, etc. The California Arts Council also has its own search engine for finding and posting employment needs for those with Fine Art degrees. The California Arts Council site is http://www.cac.ca.gov/opportunities.

Where are the 2016 jobs by state? Below is a small listing of states and job skill sets they may need. As you will see most of the pairing of states with skill sets involves some common sense. This list is not all inclusive, it's purpose is to demonstrate how to approach narrowing your job quest by state. Good luck.

Texas - finance, scientists, engineers 
New York - marketing, advertising, finance, banking
California - technologists, data scientists, life sciences
Florida - tourism, healthcare
Nevada - chemists, engineers (Tesla is building a $5 billion battery plant near Reno)
Delaware - sales, business majors, (Delaware is the national hub for credit card companies)

Deciding which approach to find jobs in 2016 is just one of many factors that are needed to land a job. If you found this post helpful you may want to take a look at my book, "Steps to Finding a Job After College"  where I have compiled many more key tips with additional detail.

June 10, 2016

Personality Tests aka I just got a Job Nibble



After lots of hard work sending out applications for jobs, you finally get a positive response. The response looks like it came from a computer and it is asking you to fill out a personality test. Fantastic, all you need to do is click on the enclosed link, take a few minutes to fill out the online test, and finish the slice of pizza that you are eating. Super easy right? Wrong!  

Be super careful. Personality tests are another way to screen you out of an interview with a real person. Treat taking these tests as seriously as you did while creating your digital resume.  Why should you? Quite simply, these tests are a second verification of your digital resume. Your resume passed the first layer of job position screening. The personality test is a way to validate that you're not just a great resume writer, but you actually have the skill sets and passion that are typical for this particular job position.

The best way to pass one of these job specific tests is to really get your head around why they are asking you each question from the employer point of view. Let's use a couple of examples to explain this concept. The job is for a sales position. The personality test will be focused on sales traits. A question may show up that states, "At a party you like to___ a) meet everyone, b) meet some new people, c) hang out with your friends, d) sit by yourself". How would you answer this question? Before you answer remember the key purpose of this test, to validate your resume with the job position. Now let's dissect the question above. Clearly answer 'd' is a fail.  Selecting answer 'd' could be interpreted that you are shy. Being shy is not the best trait for a job in sales. In real life you may actually like answers 'c' and 'b'. So is the best answer between 'b' and 'c'? No, it's actually answer 'a'. Why? Remember the purpose of this test is to validate sales personality traits not what you did at your last party. Answer 'a' can be read that you are a extrovert who loves to meet and interact with people, new or old friends, clearly a win if you picked this answer. The hanging out with friends selection would score pretty low since it does not demonstrate the key personality traits of an outgoing person. Meeting some new people at a party could show some outgoing behaviors but not as strong as answer 'a'.

Let's do one more question to drive the point home on what these tests are really asking you. This is a seemingly trivial question but beware. Here goes, "How would you rank yourself___ a) above average, b) average, c) below average".  Before you answer this question you should be thinking to yourself what are they asking me. Are they asking about my GPA? Are they asking about my class rank? Are they asking about my job experiences? Notice, the question did not ask for any specific criteria, it only asks how would your rank yourself. If you graduated with a 3.0 GPA you might select 'average' but this is not a question of rank or grades, it is a confidence question! Remember, think from the employer point of view. The employer does not want to hire average people. They want Above Average hires. Never, Never, Never, answer a question about yourself on a job personality test by selecting Average as the answer.

The best advice I can hand to you on this topic is to read each question twice and think through what are they asking, why are they asking it, and what answer would benefit the employer the most. Finally remember that passing usually will only get you to the next step in the hiring process, the INTERVIEW.  Entire books have been written on how to pass the interview, but to get an interview many times you need to first pass the personality test. Hopefully these tips may get you to that next step.

June 02, 2016

Employment Tips & Solutions to Win at using Job Databases


Now that you have your degree are you ready to find a job? If so, then the odds are that you will be using a Job Database in your search for employment. Let's start with the basics first, a job database is a collection of open job positions that are pooled into one big data pond. These jobs can be sorted and searched using a variety of key words, geographic locations, industry types, etc. New job openings are added and filled while old job openings are removed. Some job databases even allow you to post your resume so employers that are seeking your skill set can view your resume for a potential job that has not been posted online. But wait there's more; the best feature is that these fantastic job enablers are FREE. 

To Win at using Job Databases you must realize that not all are the same. To help drive home this point let me use an illustrative example. Let's say you are looking for a needle (your job) in a large haystack (a job database), and even though that haystack is composed of all possible jobs, remember that your skill set only fits the needle's skill set. Is bigger really better? Just remember that you will need to search through all of those jobs which you are neither interested nor qualified for in order to find your job (the needle). That requires a lot of time and effort.

Other Job Databases can be more targeted say just focusing on government, medical or technical career openings. The haystack is much smaller and more focused. This can save you some time and effort in your search efforts. However, you may miss out on some openings since these databases are so focused.

Finally there are some hidden gems of company specific job databases that can offer a huge array of job openings. Here you may find some job positions that have not been listed on the other Job Databases or they may be listed on the company sites before the masses get a chance to look at them when they are posted to a larger audience of job seekers.
 
A major tip that can help you solve which Job Database to use is to sit down and plan what blend of databases would give you the best overall selection of job positions for the skill set you embody. Then follow your plan and redo weekly as the job positions get refreshed. Also remember that as you apply for these positions the need to tune your resume for the ATS systems that will screen your resume, see my blog on "A Checklist for a Digital Resume Tune-up" for more information on that topic or check out some books that really focus on how to pass the ATS screening systems.

There are a ton of Job Database sites for you to check out but here are some of my favorites.

Large national job focus:

1.       MONSTER.com
2.       indeed.com
3.       Job.com
4.       LinkedIn.com (resume only but recruiters do search through this site)

Job Sector focus:
1.       Government
1.1.    USAJOBS.gov
2.       Healthcare & Science
2.2.    Medzilla.com (healthcare, pharmaceutical, & science careers)

Hidden GEMS or mega company focus:
1.       Disneycareers.com (ABC, ESPN, Marvel, consumer products, & theme parks)
2.       NBCUNICAREERS.com (NBC,MSNBC,NBCSPORTS, SyFy, USA & theme parks)
3.       Google.
com/about/careers (technical, sales, plus many companies under the parent Alphabet Inc.)

Good Luck in Your Job Quest After College!

May 13, 2016

The job selection dilemma, post graduation!

You got the degree, now it's time to get the dream job.  You have a lot of motivation to find a job. Let's do a quick motivation countdown. How about family pressure, add in some peer pressure and finally the bill collector for your student loans, does that sum up your motivation? If it does, then you are about to experience one of your first post-graduation decisions, the job selection dilemma.

What is the job selection dilemma?  It is the crossroads of waiting for your dream job or taking a stepping-stone job that will eventually move you towards your dream job. So what is one to do? Should one wait or take something that is not exactly what you spent at least four years of your life preparing for the day you would start dream career?  So what is the correct answer? Unfortunately there isn't one, or as I call it, this is a job selection dilemma.

The dilemma is, should one wait for their dream job or take a reality starter position. Some individuals will wait for their dream job. In the fine arts universe many theater majors will wait tables and take on other similar jobs while they audition for roles in major theaters. Weeks, months, even years go by before some get their break and their dream job. The theater process is a good role model for almost anyone who is waiting for their dream job. One must be willing to sacrifice and keep the dream burning to grab the ultimate brass ring.

How do you know if you are trying to land a dream job? Use some metrics and not just gut feel.  If you apply for one hundred open job positions and you have zero interviews, then you are looking for a dream job. Many times you will not be qualified since the open positions require six to twelve months experience.  Does one wait it out for a job that requires no prior experience or should one take a stepping stone job? It's a dilemma, both ways work. However, be aware that if you choose to wait, you really must fight the big D, Depression! After awhile one may begin to wonder why they don't have the job they studied for and paid good money to obtain a degree so they could qualify for employment in the field that they love.

Another option is to take a starter position in a related field.  This will not be your dream job. The pay may not be at the same level as your dream job but you can gain some valuable experience. You may even turn out to actually like the starter job even though you didn't think you would like it when you took the position. Starter jobs can be very important even if they have a very remote link to your dream job. One can learn some key generic job skills that every employer desires.  Basic skills like timeliness, communication skills with your peers and management, and work ethic under both normal and deadline conditions. One can also develop contacts in your dream field if you can find a related job. If your job is not in a field that is related, then you can still develop contacts in your dream field during your off hours. A key factor to remember in following the related field strategy is that you are making some money while you work at pursuing your dream job.

The following is some advice when dealing with this dilemma. First, stick to your vision. It may take a little more time than you thought but your dream job is your passion. Test out both options and use metrics to determine your odds of securing the job you desire in a timely manner. Always have a fallback plan.  If option one isn't working try option two. Believe. Believe that your dream job awaits you but you haven't found it yet. Don't fall into the trap of thinking about what's wrong with you. Resist temptation of taking any job, especially one that you know you will hate. Be flexible and open to learning new ideas or jobs. Don't panic and keep in touch with your college career center. The career center may have some advice or opportunities that they can share with you post graduation. Finally, use a job quality check. Glassdoor.com provides employee feedback on the working conditions of many many businesses. You can learn if the job is a sweatshop or a nurturing organization.


Good luck and remember that you are not the first nor the last to face the job selection dilemma.

May 09, 2016

A Checklist for a Digital Resume Tune-up

In today's wired world the vast majority of large and medium sized corporations use some form of automated resume screening. Even small firms may purchase resume screening services from vendors who will collect, sort, rank and reject or select their resume applications. A generic  name for this automated software is Applicant Tracking System or (ATS). This type of software automates resume screening  and other processes that are related to the job recruitment process.

You can be confident a corporation is utilizing an ATS system  if you are directed to load your resume and it is parsed by a computer to auto-fill in many of the requested informational questions on their digital job application form.  The job application directions may then tell you to review the data fields that have been filled by auto extracting data from your resume.  Not all ATS systems use the technique listed above, some just parse the data and if you created your digital resume correctly, the key fields will be filled in and if not, then most likely you will receive a rejection notice.  Finally your completed digital job application form is screened by a computer against the employer's desired education level, work experience,  skills and keywords.  All job application submissions for the job you applied for are ranked then compared, with the highest ranked moving forward to have a human review the trimmed down list of the top ranking job applications.

Now that you know who will be the first one to read your resume, make sure you compose your digital resume for that audience.  The following checklist can help prevent your resume from being screened out for  simple things like formatting or the lack of job specific key words.

Checklist for a Digital Resume

1. Don't submit a generic resume. Tailor each resume to each open job position.

2. Use the key words or phrases that match the job position description.

3. Avoid using graphics, the computer is blind and can't see the pretty  colors.

4. Keep away from submitting your resume as a PDF. Errors may result from the ATS software's inability to convert the PDF format correctly.

5. Keep to the basics. Use terminology like "Work Experience"  instead of "Career or Professional Experience".

6. Avoid putting a date at the beginning of the sentence for your work experience.  Help the computer screener by listing the company first, your title and then the date or date range.

7. Pass up on the use of fancy or non-standard fonts and don't use the smallest font size to squeeze in more information.

8. Steer clear of using headers or footers. At best the screening software will ignore them and worst case,  reject the entire resume.

9. Don't try to hide key words, it is an old tactic that is not looked on favorably. The old trick was to insert key words into your resume using  a "white" font color which would make them invisible to a human but not to a computer.

10. Review each requested piece of information on your job application before submitting.  One blank field is enough to create a rejection.

Hopefully by following the checklist your digital resume can make it past the automated screener and into the hands of a human.

April 04, 2016

When Should You Begin Your Job Search?

One of the first decisions a job seeker must make is when to begin your search. Does it really matter when you start? Actually it does.

Let me use an analogy you may relate to. Say you want to go to a rock concert and have good seats. The concert's date has been published. Tickets go on sale two months before the day of the concert. Who will get the best seats without paying for a last minute premium? We all know the answer don't we, in fact if we procrastinate until the day of the concert it may be sold out.

Searching for a job has many of the same characteristics as the example above. If you wait until you graduate to begin applying for jobs you will be joining tens of thousands of new graduates who are looking for a job at the same time. If you start well before the rush, your resume will compete with fewer job seekers applying for the same job.

The first step in getting a job is to have your resume selected. Since many corporations use technology to screen resumes for job applications, beating the flood of applications is an important technique that will help position your resume for selection. However the content contained inside your resume and job application are also vital to get selected for the next round of the job selection process but that is content for another blog.