Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Halloween Costume vs. The Corporate Costume

IMG_2421 - Cruella de Vil
Originally uploaded by Anime Nut

I watched the Halloween episode of The Office last night. Yes, I tore myself away from The World Series to get my weekly fix of the crazy, wacky shenanigans of the gang at The Office.

By the way, GO PHILLIES! But I digress...

When I moved to California, I worked in a major corporate travel office where business professional attire was a daily must.

As Halloween approached, and everyone became increasingly excited, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Halloween came and I realized that people really looked forward to sharing their real selves with each other...all under the guise of an office event.

Once I told my kids about the fact that people at my office dressed up, they were ecstatic that Mom should do it too. I had capitulated and gone in as Robin Hood. At 5'10" it was the only costume I thought comfortable enough for my 60 minute commute. In fact, I wore pants over my tights and finished my get-up in the bathroom at work, not daring to be seen on the road or in the business park in a Halloween costume.

I was truly amazed at the steps some of my colleagues had taken to get the perfect fit and look. Still relatively new to California, I did not realize that many of my colleagues were aspiring actors and actresses. Many had already been in paid roles or were always auditioning or waiting for the big break.

One shift manager, always the comic, came in a complete, couture bridal attire, with two "bridesmaids" to accompany him and be at his beck and call for the entire shift. One company owner, usually stoic and professional, shaved his beard and goatee and came to work, fully made up as his very pregnant wife - which was hysterical. Turns out he had grown the beard and goatee for months to add impact when he came in for his big reveal.

One supervisor, known for her abrasive manner, appropriately came in as Cruella deVil and was lauded for doing so.

What struck me about that day, as I sat in my safe, Robin Hood get-up, was the energy that went through the office. It seemed easy for people to stay in character and be what they wanted to be for the whole day. Conversations were no holds barred as shifts changed and staff came and went. People came in early and stayed beyond their schedules to hang out, eat and just see each other.

We worked in a call center, and even though our callers might not have perceived the difference, we hope, the folks in the office certainly had a blast being these "characters" that revealed much about ourselves.

When the costumes went away the next day and we went back to "normal" corporate attire, there was a palpable feeling of routine and weariness. Some of that was no doubt because many of my co-workers were hungover from going to the famed Halloween parade at Santa Monica pier on Halloween night.

Aside from that though, I think people were somewhat unhappy going back to the corporate masks many of us wear to work every day.

With the Halloween costume, we can call people as we see them...crazy, stupid, funny, back stabber, silly, angry, evil or hellish.

Not so, the other 364 days of the year. Do that and you could end up in HR or court!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't Always Blame the Resume in the Job Search

“I am not getting any offers and so I need to change my resume,” is something I hear all the time.

In fact, it is one popular rationale frustrated job seekers use if their job search isn't yielding results. Of course in some cases the resumes may be the cause of the job search setbacks, but in many other cases, some job seekers have done a pretty good job with resume writing all on their own or with the help of professional resume writers.

Once I establish that the resume is fine, I usually to ask for them to tell me a little bit more about their job search strategy.

For example, if they have been sending out resumes, getting interviews and not getting offers, the probability is great that the problem is NOT the resume. Getting the offer is more about doing an excellent job in the job interview. If a job seeker is not interviewing well, then the goal should be to work on mastering some job interview techniques instead of embarking on a resume re-write.

If you or someone you know is having a tough job search, maybe these tips can help decide if it is necessary to jump into a resume revamp or work on other parts of the job search strategy.

Keep in mind there are many places between the resume and the offer where a job search can be derailed.

1. Remember -- this is a tough economy. If you are not getting employer calls -- do not assume that your resume is the problem. A quick rule of thumb I learned from a supervisor years ago--expect a 20-30% response rate to your resume. If you distribute 10 resumes, expect 2 or 3 call backs. This will vary based on industry, profession and qualifications etc, but you should know what to expect for your search. The last thing you want to do is to keep your head down and hide away from the job market because you are rewriting your resume.

2. If you are getting calls, then your resume might be doing the job. It is possible you may be just not making a good impression on the call. Do you sound low energy or sound lost about which job the recruiter is calling about? Are you remembering to ask for the interview in the phone screening?

3. Are you aware of the potential weak points in your resume and have an answer ready for the recruiter on the phone? If you are getting calls and don't have a solid explanation, for why you have had 3 jobs in 2 years, why you had an extended absence from the workforce or why your GPA is low. These reasons can cause you not to make it to the interview. In other words, know the potential weak spots in your career history and be ready to speak to those in the initial call.

4. So you are getting interviews, but not getting offers, the problem is most likely not your resume. Think through the interview you have had. Be honest with yourself and write down where you think you may not have been strong. Get some help with that part of the process. It could be as simple as the fact that you are not selling yourself in the interview or that your interview follow up is not as good as it could be.

5. If your job search constitutes just an online strategy and you aren't using a scannable resume fomat -- it could be the reason for no call backs. Maybe without a scannable resume format, your resume is not making it to the employer in a format they can read.

6. If your entire job search strategy is on-line, you may want to broaden your horizons and develop an "on-land" job search strategy as well. You old times, you may have to attend job fairs, open houses or participate in networking events. "Pounding the pavement" again so to speak, will help put YOU behind your resume. In many cases, resumes by themselves won't do the trick in a tough market.

So, before you hunker down for a resume rewrite or throw out the one you have, take a few minutes and honestly evaluate where your job search strategy may be going awry.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Fit for Life; Become a Personal Trainer

If you are considering a new career path in the growing personal wellness industry, have you thought about the following reasons to become a Personal Trainer?

Emphasis on Health and Wellness
There is no topic today garnering more air time and public debate than healthcare. Listen carefully to the dialogue and you’ll hear conversations about a healthy new focus on wellness and preventative care. If a lot of clinical work is not appealing to you, but you love the concept of helping people live healthier lives, consider becoming a Personal Trainer. It is definitely a way to enter the increasingly important healthcare industry.

Projected Need for Personal Trainers
The US Department of Labor projects that the need for Personal Trainers will grow much faster than average over the next several years. As the self-help industry grows, more people are turning to independent professionals like Personal Chefs and Life Coaches to help them keep their lives on track. Personal Trainers will have the same ability to support individuals, families and organizations create and maintain healthy habits.

Evolution in the Occupation
In an interview with WebMD, Fred Klinge, chairman of Health and Registry Board at the American College of Sports Medicine spoke of how the scope of personal fitness trainers had broadened. "It's not just about weight lifting and cardio work anymore…it's more about assistance in developing a healthy and fit lifestyle."

Chance to Start a Business
Self employment is an increasingly attractive option in this tough economy as people look for ways to “recession proof” their careers and create multiple streams of income. If you are already committed to your own personal fitness routine but would love to motivate and support others to reach their goals, consider working towards a new career as a Personal Trainer.

As with all career decisions, due diligence is required. Start your research by exploring personal training programs like the one at Bryan College, offering flexible, online classes which can lead to a certificate in about 60 weeks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Handling Rejection in the Job Search

I wanted to write about the 9.8% unemployment rate, but didn't want to say all the negative and scary things we already all know. So I decided to share again something from one of my fellow career bloggers - Working Girl - who always has a funny insightful way to handle things.

Here are the first 5 things in her list of 20 ways to handle rejection in the job search.

1. Pout. Go into a room by yourself, feel miserable, and cry (keep this activity to under 20 minutes). BullsEye thinks in this economy..24 hours is fair...

2. Treat yourself. A massage, an evening out, a new pair of earrings. Only stuff you can afford. BullsEye thinks if you can't afford any of these, buy a scented candle...

3. Throw a fit. Allow yourself a lovely little tantrum. In private. Beat up some pillows or sofa cushions. Let ‘em have it. BullsEye reminds you to not hurt yourself in the process...

4. Get yerself some love. Talk it out with a close understanding friend, family member, or loved one. Let them comfort you. BullsEye agrees! This can work wonders.

5. Vent. Write it out in your journal, on your blog. If you’re a songwriter, write a song. If you’re a poet, write a poem. If you’re a painter, paint a painting. BullsEye wants to remind you not to vent too much on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. You don't want to destroy your online persona with too much online ranting!

There are 15 more quick points from Karen at Working Girl to help you manage rejection in the job search! Read them here and share with others who might need to smile or laugh today!

You will have to imagine the BullsEye thoughts for the others....

Monday, October 5, 2009

Five Reasons Not To Change Your Career

I read this article today and thought Graham Hart, had a good perspective on some of the career myths that guide our decisions as we ponder changing careers. He sarcastically titles the piece, "Five Reasons Not to Change Your Career."

Reason 1: I am too old for a career change!
The article reminds us that Ray Kroc didn’t start McDonalds until he was 52 years old and Henry Ford was in his forties when he started Ford Motor Company. The fact is there is still projected a significant global talent shortage over the next few years and so there may still be opportunities.

Reason 2: No time to study!
Changing careers definitely takes additional training - sometimes! In many cases this one is about motivation rather than time. In other words once the decision is made, people find the time - especially since education is increasingly accessible online.

Reason 3: I'd change; but I don't know to what!
As Graham says, this is one of those circular arguments that hold us back. The kind of argument we play over and over in our minds - 'I would change careers, but I don't know what to change to and as soon as I find out, I will make the change." Here is the issue, most people do not take the time, take the steps or use the tools to find out. Tools like career assessments such as the Skills Profiler mentioned, career coaches, mentors and research can help.

Reason 4: I am stuck because there is nothing else I can do!
The tools I suggested before in the previous answer - career assessments, career coaches, mentors and research - are all ways to help you discover where else you could be great.

Reason 5: I can't afford to change!
This is a tough one! Sometimes you have to think about whether or not the stress of being in the wrong job or career is tolerable. In other words - for your next career move, think about how you would feel if you were stuck in that role for a long time in a recession. In other words, can you outlast the recession in your existing role, especially when you don't know how long the recession will last.

Additional career article - Are These Career Myths Holding you Back?

Graham Hart is an Executive Coach and runs