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Archive for May, 2010

Keeping Your Job….

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Staying employed is as much about attitude as talent.

Virtually all of us have been affected by the current unemployment situation. If we haven’t personally lost a job, taken a pay cut, or ended up on reduced hours, we have friends and family members who are dealing with any and all of that. Keeping a job has become a far more serious concern of late. Be sure you aren’t setting yourself up to loss yours with your attitude.  Here are three things to think about:

Are you excusing yourself from doing the work?  Yes, all this doom and gloom is demoralizing, but that doesn’t give you a free pass.  The longer you are in a job, the easier it is to tell yourself “I’ve done this a long time, I deserve to throttle back a little.”   You don’t have to go full bore all the time, but you do have to do the work.

One of the most frustrating comments I hear from employers about older workers is that “they don’t want to work.”  We’re talking real estate professionals and scientists with graduate degrees here–at least in terms of where I’ve heard the comments lately.  Deciding that you’ve earned the right to slow down is okay of you take less pay to slow down.  But if you are still holding the same job and claiming the same salary, that “right” you think you deserve could land you in the unemployment line.

Are you part of the solution?  It makes no difference if you are eighteen or eighty, you have things to offer that can help the company thrive.  The probability that those talents have become highly polished skills increases with experience.  Use yours with intelligence, grace, and collaboration.

This is not a case of insisting that the old ways are better.  This is a commitment to dealing with the current challenges well by bringing everything you can to bear.  In particular, learn to build alliances with those who understand what you don’t.  The difference you can make working together will be huge.

Are you gobbling benefits?   Just because the company offers health insurance doesn’t mean you need to head for the doctor’s office every time you get a cold.  Many of us have gotten far too accustomed to solving our problems with pills.  The resulting skyrocketing health insurance costs has become a horrendous burden to most employers.  This is big piece of why “older workers are more expensive.”  Keep yourself healthy instead of expecting doctors to do it for you.  (They can’t anyway.  They just figure out why you are sick–sometimes–and spend a lot of your employer’s cash in the process.)

The same is true for taking more than you really need as sick days.  It’s wiser to stay home if you have something communicable, but taking a sick day to coach a baseball game?  Really?

For those of you grumbling about how miserable your job is, here’s one last bit of advice.  If you don’t want it, someone else would be ecstatic to have it.   Suck it up, turn on your smile and give it your best.


Resumes for 50+ Job Seekers

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Some resume advice given to those of us over 50 is misguided-and wrong.

At an AARP job fair I volunteered at yesterday, several job seekers told me stories of situations where they had ideal qualifications for work they were applying for, but they didn’t include it, because it was more than ten years in the past. They were under the impression that hiring supervisors were death on seeing anything but their most recent experience.

This is ridiculous. The strongest thing someone over 50 has to offer an employer is the breadth and depth of their experience. It means they know how to show up for work on time, solve a problem without creating a new one, soothe an irate customer, and so on. Negating that by limiting what you can talk about to the last ten years is lunacy.

This suggested strategy is probably stemming from a misunderstanding of advice that you include only the last ten years of experience on your resume to reduce the chances of ageism. There is some legitimacy to that. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention relevant experience at all. It just means you don’t need to list every job you ever had. (Remember when we didn’t have experience and we were desperate to list anything that looked like a job?)

If you are looking for work and have been in the workforce for a while, you need to be both creative and attentive in what you tell a prospective employer about what you can do. A key piece of a good resume writing strategy is to separate your achievements and strengths from the chronology of your work experience in how your format your information. That way, you can mention that you successfully owned and operated a car repair shop, even if it was twenty years ago, for example.

The most important thing to do with your resume is to give the person to whom you are sending it a clear idea of your experience at solving the problems they are trying to address. When you learned that skill isn’t anywhere near as important as that you have learned it.

Experience is GOOD. But knowing what part of the vast amount you have applies to the job you’re seeking is critical. Telling everybody everything won’t work. But neither does not telling the person who needs to know, simply because you did it more than ten years ago.  Use your head on this and stop  following arbitrary rules that well-meaning but misguided unemployment counselors offer.


REAL Networking

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Bad assumptions about networking mean a lot of us get less than we could from it. Far less.

Real networking has nothing to do with business cards or methods of organizing them. It has nothing to do with “getting ahead.” It has nothing to do with “meet and greet” events billed as “power networking opportunities.”

Real networking—the kind that will make a difference your career and your life—is about getting to know people who are focused on what you want to be focused on and relating to them authentically.

No phony “Let’s do lunch” or “I’ll call you next week” stuff that never happens. More like “I thought you’d appreciate this article, given our conversation last week.”

Let’s get one thing straight right now. You do not network with people you don’t know. First you meet them, then you get to know them, and THEN they become part of your network. And they do so because you like them, they like you, and both of you have a common interest. It may be that your kids are on the same hockey team. It may be that you are both trying to create a better version of a fuel cell. Either way, the bond and the value to each other is built on interaction and mutual respect.

A lot of career development seminars and job search advice books tout “networking’ as THE solution to all your professional needs. And that is very close to the truth. But what they suggest is typically not anywhere close on how to create a network.

It is not done with cold calls to a bunch of people you need favors from. It‘s done via on-going engagement in what you believe in. When you are on target with your values in the way you reach out, people of the same persuasion tend to show up in your life. You meet people who are not only interested in what you are interested in; they are also folks you want to know personally. They won’t all be “BFF” material. But they will be meaningful players in your overall Game of Life.

Waiting to create a network until you need help is like waiting to put on your life jacket until after you’ve been thrown out of the speed boat. Your network should be a lifelong effort and should include people from all aspects of your life. Branch out. If you do different things with the same people all the time, you might be more comfortable with the crowd, but your network is going to be a lot more limited. The more far flung your contact base is, the more likely it will be contain what you need when it comes time for that network to serve you.

But that time should be a long way down the road. A good network is built on friendship and service. Giving any way you authentically can is the quickest and smartest way to foster its development. That might be forwarding a cogent news release, letting a friend know that another friend is looking for what they have to sell, or just calling to say “how ya doin’?” when things have been difficult. Real networking works because it’s a shared effort to live life well. It’s genuine and benefits both parties.

The “synthetic networking” that’s often recommended for job seekers is just another form of cold calling—a strategy that’s long on rejection and short on results. Cold calling to ask a very busy person for an informational interview might work, but asking a friend who knows that person to set up that call will make it work a whole lot better. (And that friend will want to help because of all the help you’ve given in the past.) The fake version is better than doing nothing at all, but it’s not anywhere close to the effectiveness of the real thing.

Networking is a time-honored life skill. Our moms did it with the neighbor women about great casserole recipes. Our dads did it with other Scout Leaders or fishing buddies. Real networking is like populating your own virtual city with great people who have all the skills, insights, access and resources you need. They may live 2000 miles away, but you still know you can count on them.

Networking enriches your life. The fact that it helps in your job search or developing your client base or finding someone to date is secondary. Build it for the long haul and build it for real.