Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Americans Can Help Bring Jobs Back to America

The high unemployment rate is here to stay unless consumers help to bring jobs back to America. If you think the overall unemployment rate of 9.8% is bad; wait until you break the numbers down across various American demographic groups. It gets worse.

This last unemployment report for November 2010 had really very little good news and all major worker groups saw an increase in their rates of unemployment. The unemployment rate among African Americans went up from 15.7% to 16%. Within that group, the unemployment rate for black men was up to 16.7% from 16.3% and for black women up to 13.1% from 12.7%. Whites saw an uptick of 0.1% from 8.8% to 8.9% and Latinos had a bigger jump, up 0.6% to 13.2%. Rates among American teens were overall at 20.9% for whites, down from 23.6% and an astounding 46.5% for African-Americans. This actually was down from 48% and 30% for Latinos, a 1.6% drop from the month before. The rate of underemployment which looks at the unemployed, marginally attached and those working part-time for economic reasons was unchanged at 17%.

I looked hard to find the bright side, but couldn't -especially when I know that many of the jobs lost in manufacturing and construction sectors are not coming back to the America. Not that I don't want them to come back or think they can't. I think some can; especially those in the manufacturing sector.

I think that until Americans really begin to take notice of what they consume and what they buy, there will not be enough pressure on politicians to do the right thing and impose tariffs that will make American made products more attractive.
The next time you are in your favorite coffee shop waiting to pick up your $4.50 latte, wander over to the shelves adorned with mugs and assorted tea-drinking or coffee paraphernalia. Where are they made? What percentage of them are made in America? 

I guess the question would be, what exactly is the reason that they can't be made in America? I suspect it has something to do with tax incentives to ship jobs overseas, lobbyists and politicians who really don't care what voters think.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tips To Fight Age Discrimination in the Job Search

I spoke with an older employee who had recently lost a spouse and was looking to go back to work. She was fearful of her chances of finding employment.  "Nobody wants to hire old people anyway and with all these young people looking for work, I feel bad trying to take a job from them.  They have families."

I reminded her that she really needed to put her best forward and not show hesitation in her search.  Not only did she feel most employers would not want to hire her because of age, she also felt that those who would, were not willing to pay what her experience deserved.

I shared with her the following list of tips Ishared to help her fight any age discrimination in employment.

1. Stay cheerful and high energy for all phone or in-person job interviews
2. Speak to the benefits of experience, professional maturity and expertise
3. Keep resume content current and stick to relevant information. Read 50 Hot Resume Writing Tips.
4. Speak to the long term value you can bring to the company
5. Tell stories about outstanding outcomes in prior assignments
6. Consider using a functional resume
7. Use cover letters to focus on relevant, recent experiences
8. Speak to your ability to collaborate and work with everyone from Boomers to Millennials.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pennco Tech: Let Career Training Turn your Hobby into a Career

Pennco Tech has been offering Automotive Technology programs in the state of Pennsylvania for decades. The first time I heard about the school was when my nephew applied to the Bristol, PA location in the early 1990’s. He had just graduated high school and the US economy was sputtering as the country slowly rebounded from that recession. He continued to tinker with cars to earn extra money as he decided on his next step.

Now, almost two decades after graduation from Pennco Tech, my nephew is a successful auto mechanic and entrepreneur managing his own shop now for almost 15 years. Despite the bad economy, his business has grown steadily. Primarily, I think, due to ongoing professional training for himself and his staff, and the early commitment he made to providing excellent customer service. In addition, the very nature of the bad economy we are experiencing seems to drive his business as well. People who are looking to increase or preserve the value of their automobiles are choosing to repair and routinely maintain their vehicles.

It is often said that one of the surefire ways to recession proof one’s career is to get serious about additional training. My goal today is not to tell you about my nephew’s success, but to encourage you to explore opportunities for learning and new careers even in a down economy. Or maybe I should say, especially in a down economy. Experts widely believe we are living in a "knowledge economy" and the more committed we are to lifelong learning and new training, the more recession proof our careers will be.

As experienced automotive technicians retire, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting that opportunities should be very good for those who complete postsecondary automotive training programs like that at Pennco Tech. If you are thinking about your next career step and not sure where to start, look around your own city for training programs that could help you turn your hobby into a successful career like my nephew did.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When the Problem is a Lack of Problem Solving Skills!

I was sitting on my porch today watching three squirrels get the better of a bird feeder.
The feeder, of course made for birds, is big enough to support one squirrel if he perches on the edge of the feeder while clinging to the porch screen. It is a difficult angle, but this squirrel was making it work. 

When a second and third squirrel figured out what this other squirrel was doing, they wanted to join the party.
The problem was – all three could not fit on the feeder, no matter how hard they tried. After all three fell to the ground, two immediately went back to trying. The third stayed on the ground when he realized he could still get a belly-full of the seeds falling from the agitated bird feeder as the other two struggled for ownership of the feeder.

While the squirrel on the ground ate, the other two continued to struggle to stay on the very thin ledge of the feeder. As they rocked the feeder back and forth, the squirrel on the ground continued to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Very quickly, one of the other two figured out that the ground position was worthwhile as well and decided on that option. By then the first squirrel had walked away – full.

The two remaining squirrels figured out they could take turns agitating the feeder to push more seeds to the ground where they could eat in relative comfort. While one agitated, the other stayed below to guard the spoils from the birds and other squirrels.

I smiled at their team work and collaboration as they enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

It was not the first time I had seen squirrels or other animals come together to solve a problem. What fascinated me was not that they did it, but the speed with which they realized –alternative solutions were necessary and available.

It seemed to me that the squirrels, in my yard at least, had mastered problem solving.

I started to wonder why more of us in the workplace don’t solve problems like squirrels do?

How many teams have you worked on where learning to problem-solve should have been the first assignment? I have been on a few teams where individuals, completely competent on their own, failed to achieve outstanding outcomes together with team members.

Put the HR concepts of storming, norming and performing aside. Lets face it, some people aren’t familiar with that process and don’t want to hear about a workable process for problem solving.
Many want to act and act now. Many people, I find, are well meaning and want to just “jump in” and they confuse action with progress.

Many think that any result is a good result if we all just "pitch in". This seems to be even more prevalent in today’s workplace where everyone wants to show their value by appearing to be busy and active. In instances where employees view projects as high value or high visibility there is a rush to add input, regardless of the ad hoc nature of the process.

We all know the mantra –“there is no “I” in team”.
Well sometimes there has to be. If you find yourself on one of these flailing teams where fuzzy input is guaranteed to bring fuzzier outputs, YOU have to put the “I’ in Team.

To keep your own workplace stress under control, you may have to be the “I” that says, “We are all trying to fit on this bird feeder when we know it can only hold one of us at a time. I’ll be happy to jump off. What can I do on the ground to keep the seeds safe?”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do you have an Escape Hatch at Work?

Everyone’s buzzing about Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who took flight down an emergency hatch, beer in hand, as he presumably quit his job.

I say presumably, since now that cooler heads prevail, he seems to want his job back.  Not that you can believe everything you read!
If the internet buzz and office cooler conversations are any indication, Slater seems to have become the hero of working people everywhere, who, on the down low secretly wish they could jump out of their jobs the way Slater apparently jumped out of his.

For a little while, I imagine, employees everywhere dared to dream of the exhilaration and sense of freedom that must come from being able to get on an intercom system and vent about your company, your boss, your co-workers and / or your customers…before making a grand exit.

Many are thinking.."Wow! How empowering that must be."

That is, until you wake up the next day and like the characters in the movie The Hangover, you try to retrace your steps and figure out what really happened. Yes, of course the world might on your side during your 15 seconds of fame, and that may make you feel really good.  Then slowly it might set in... I don’t have a job AND there is a 9.5% employment rate AND I now have a not-so-nice reputation in my own industry … making it hard for me to go back to the work I claim I love.

So I thought that while we continue to live vicariously through Slater all of us should have our own escape hatches at work, with much with less drama, of course.

Here are some possibilities for when workplace stress is getting the best of you:

1. Leave the office and go get an ice cream cone or yogurt or something “not-so-good-for-you”. Sometimes all we need is a taste of childhood to feel adult again.
2. Have a buddy at work, on whom you can rely to talk you down off the ledge. A quickie phone call or hallway meeting may be all you need.
3. Keep a copy of your child’s college tuition bill taped inside your top drawer. An orthodontics or summer camp bill could work as well as a mortgage statement or a photo of the new car in your future. Whatever your motivation, now is the time to remember it.
4. Take a few minutes, and go outside if you can.  Go sit in your car. Listen to your favorite station - Music, sports or talk radio. Whatever floats your boat!
5. Finally, as my mother would say, and this has worked for me in the past, pull down your glass curtain and squeeze your toes in your shoes…and release. Aaahh! No one but you will know that you just took a mental vacation. 

You might find any little activity like these may be all you need to do to gain some perspective.

The goal of course is to find out what works for you in those tiny moments when bad judgment, if unchecked, could get the best of you.

I caution you, of course, that this is not a long term solution and unchecked workplace stress can cause irreparable damage. Steven Slater knows that first hand. Then again, you never know, this might be just the time he needed to work on his bestseller – A Beer and an Escape Hatch; How to Keep your Career on Cloud 9!

Read more about Workplace Stress!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Secret Weapon to Manage Job Interview Body Language

Some experts believe that body language communicates in three specific ways:

1. Acts as a replacement for words
2. Acts as a reinforcement of our words when we gesture to emphasize speech
3. Acts as a mirror of inner emotions and attitudes

Here are some of the more common body language messages recruiters might be getting from job seekers in the job interviews: (Of course recruiters are human too and could definitely be misinterpreting what they are seeing)

- Fear and insecurity – You aren’t making eye contact
- Bias – You are staring at only one interviewer and ignoring the others
- No confidence – You have a weak handshake
- Disinterest – You are slouching or hanging over the arm of the chair
- Arrogance – You are leaning back in the chair
- Nervousness – You are gesticulating wildly and relying on your hands to do all the talking
- Discomfort – You are fidgeting with tight or ill fitting clothing

It's hard to recognize when body language might be failing you in the interview.  It's harder yet to modify behavior and movements on the fly, while you are in the interview.  The best time to fix body language concerns is before the real interview, by doing a mock interview.

Doing a mock interview, or practice interview is a great way to check on what your body is saying.

Ask a friend to help and set up a video camera and I guarantee that you will see yourself in a whole new way. Ask for feedback and take notes.  A mock interview is a great way to invest an hour and get immediate feedback to help bring your body in line on your next job interview.

Monday, June 28, 2010

General McChrystal gets Fired! Career Lesson Learned

If you have been a regular reader of my career blogs for the last four years, you probably know that I write about public career blunders in the headlines.

Whether it was Blago whose recorded conversations ousted him from the Governor's mansion; Elliot Spitzer, caught perpetrating a crime he would probably have prosecuted someone else for, or the former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, recently sentenced to five years with 10 felony counts. This phenomenon is not just limited to politics either. Consider Michael Vick, sent away at the height of his career for animal cruelty or Plaxico Burress who accidentally shot himself in the career when he got two years for accidentally shooting himself in the foot.

The latest, most publicized career blunder comes to us courtesy of General Stanley McChrystal, whose letter of resignation was recently accepted by President Obama, for a story featuring comments from him and his aides published in Rolling Stone Magazine.

This story, as with the others, can make one wonder what drives these very public, high powered, professionals to exercise this kind of poor judgment leading to career meltdown.

What is sad to me, is that no matter how committed General McChrystal has been to tasks, how stellar his professional reputation, or how solid McChrystal's resume, people will remember him for this very public lapse in judgment. A lapse in judgment, so egregious, there seemed to be no option but to relieve him of his assignment.

Whether they believe he should have been fired or not, no one with whom I have spoken about it, hasn't expressed empathy for McChrystal's situation.


Who among us has not wanted to express our less than positive opinion about a workplace issue, a boss or a co-worker?

Who among us hasn't wanted to unload about work, bosses or colleagues on anyone who would listen?

Who among us hasn't had that day when we wished we could just say exactly what we thought about company, boss or manager...and just let the chips fall where they may?

I know I have.

What stops us? For the last several days I have been thinking about that. Here is what I came up with.

Is it possible that the higher you go in your career and the more power you assume, the greater the conflict between power and basic common sense.

What stops many of us from venting or spewing, is the fact that we may, in fact, want to move up the proverbial ladder within a company. When it comes right down to it...our basic common sense guides us to know that speaking or behaving negatively when representing the organization, is not the way forward. What if you have made it through the ranks, and have all the power you think you need...does the ability to think rationally about the basics go out the window?

In General McChrystal's case, it seems --not only could he not stop himself from making statements that challenge the very foundation of civilian control of the military...the people who surrounded him, were so drunk with their own proximity to him, they could neither stop themselves, nor, stop McChrystal.

The lessons here are many, but I see two important takeaways:

1. Make sure that as you climb the ladder of career success, you stay connected with others -- mentors, sponsors, friends or family -- who aren't afraid to tell you when you are going overboard.

2. Be careful who ends up in your inner circle in the workplace. Look for people who can exercise good judgment even if, or especially when, you have a temporary lapse.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

3 Tips to Keep Job Search Emails Professional

Data shows that 183 billion email messages are sent every day.  That's about 2 million per second. Since about 70% of the emails might be spam and viruses, Recruiters, like most email users, are very quick to decide what's relevant and what should go.   

These 3 tips will help job seekers keep job search emails professional in a tight job market.  

1. Grammar and punctuation still matters.  Too many people spend a lot of time getting a great resume and cover letter together, only to send them to an employer attached to an email that is poorly written.   Everyone makes errors, but proofreading your email before sending will increase the chances of your resume actually being seen. 
2. Make sure the email subject line includes your name and the document attached. Eg Joe Jobseeker – List of References.  Since 70% of emails are spam or viruses, many suspect emails with attachments do not get opened.  Increase your chances by having a clear subject line.  The email marketing industry actually suggests a strong subject line of about 5-7 words.

3. Think seriously about not adding a quote to your professional email address for the job search. If you chose to add one, think about whose quote you use and what the recruiter might think about you when they read it.  The quote WILL inadvertently say something about you.  There will be time for them to get to know you after you are hired.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How to Use a Resume to Augment your Online Job Application!

I hosted a job search workshop at my local library last month and was still a little surprised to see that more than half of the participants did not have resumes.

Many of the job seekers present felt that at a time when they are being directed to hiring kiosks and online applications, there wouldn't be any need for a resume. One job seeker was particularly frustrated as she talked about trips to two major retailers and a local supermarket where she was directed to an in-house computer screen and given very little instructions except to -- "Read the screen".

Of course employers are inundated with applicants in a recession. However, I shared with the group that one of the ways that hiring managers screen through a mountain of applicants, is by connecting with the one or two candidates who go the extra mile. So let's assume you visit your big box retailer knowing you will get sent to the kiosk.

Why not take a copy of a well written resume, in an envelope to hand to a store manager?

If you know they will refer you to the online process, take care of that before you visit the job site. Get help in the privacy of your home or at your library and complete the application on line. Go to customer service, ask to see a manager, introduce yourself and hand them an envelope with your resume. Let them know you have already filled out the online application.

I can almost guarantee that if the manager scans the resume for 30 seconds and sees something they like, they will actually go into their online database and find your application. Of course they can't hire if they have no jobs, but if you want to improve your chances, this is a strategy that can work!

I have seen this approach work.

By the way, this is a great strategy for teenagers hoping to find summer employment.

Get help with resume writing in these other articles.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's Never Too Late: The Benefits of Adult Education

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities accredited . She welcomes your comments at her email Id: .

By now, nobody needs convincing that the economy has seen better days. Although some experts are predicting a bit of bounce-back from the recession in coming months, many Americans are still out of work or struggling to make their jobs worth more. No matter what category you're in, you might want to consider going back to school.

I know what you're thinking. Those of you with degrees think it's a waste of time to go back to school, and those without them think it's too late to do anything about it. But you're both wrong. Whether you're supplementing your current education with a graduate degree or you're a worker looking at getting the bachelor's degree you never achieved, going back to school as an adult can be a smart career choice.

For starters, adult education is a good way to add to your skill set. If you've got a bachelor's degree in business or finance, expanding on it with a master's of business administration or something similar can open more doors for you and make it easier to rise through the ranks of your career field. By the same token, adults with years of working experience but no actual degree can get a lot farther by proving they have the drive and determination to finish their education as well as pursue job opportunities.

Going back to school as an adult has an added bonus not available to younger students: You're still able to work full-time while attending classes at night or in your spare time by earning a degree online. That level of flexibility is what makes it possible to avoid having to choose between staying employed and going to school in the hopes that your degree will get you your old job back or a new job right away. What's more, your employer might be willing to participate in a tuition-reimbursement program if your schooling is related to your job in a specific way. Talk to your manager or human resources department about reimbursement opportunities.

The most important thing to remember about adult education is that it's never too late to make the smart choice for your future. Whether you've always wanted to get your degree or you're looking to step up a level in your schooling, you're never past the point of improving your education.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Working Overseas is Possible!

Anita Santiago at The Workforce Connection offers 5 great resources for an international job search.

Here is what Anita says:
"The key to success in the international job market is defining your career goals and matching those goals to the right opportunity.Whether you work for the U.S. Government, a foreign government or private corporation, an international job may be the path to career advancement and success. International jobs also create unique opportunities to live and learn about others in the global community."
Check out the 5 resources here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 - Even in a Recovery, Some Jobs Won't Return

"Even when the U.S. labor market finally starts adding more workers than it loses, many of the unemployed will find that the types of jobs they once had simply don't exist anymore." So says, Justin Lahart in an article for the Wall Street Journal today.

Lahart continues that some of the "lost jobs will come back. But some are gone forever, going the way of typewriter repairmen and streetcar operators."

Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz concurs by saying, "The tremendous amount of economic activity associated with housing, I can't see that coming back...That was a very unhealthy part of the economy."

The article highlights that some jobs were on the decline anyway and just accelerated by the recession. For example the Department of Labor cites that in November 2009, there were:

-36% fewer people working in record shops than two years earlier
-23% fewer people working at directory and mailing list publishers
-46% fewer people working at photofinishing establishments

The phenomenon of jobs and careers disappearing forever is not a new one. What is new, is the speed at which jobs and careers move towards obsolescence. Certainly technology is playing a major role there. Just look at the 3 examples mentioned here - record shops, publishing houses and photofinishing services. In the case of photofinishing services, it seemed like just yesterday, some of us who are photography buffs, were really loving the idea of the 1-hour photo mart. Now with printers and digital cameras, we are doing things at home.

Here are some previous postings about declining careers and jobs that offer insight as to what to do if you think you are in one of these declining professions:

-Is your Career Going the Way of the Pontiac?
-Occupations with Declining Employment

Also, read the entire WSJ article and learn more about 6 real people faced with readjusting career expectations. It is possible to regroup and rebuild and for some people the time is right to look at new longer term options. Link to article.