Archives October, 2009

30 October
Chris Arends

Those of us in Texas, few will forget Lena Guerrero who lied on her resume saying she was a University of Texas Grad.  Whoops.  The sad thing is when someone lies on their resume they can be blackballed, fired or even prosecuted. Yet when the employers write job descriptions often they are as much fantasy as Harry Potter or StarWars.

Some times the fiction is intentional.  By over stating requirements companies hope to reduce the number of applicants to a manageable level.  For others it is about trying to get Jesus to come work at their company because not only must the candidate walk on water they must make coffee. Finally there are those requirements that are listed just to take up space.

Some of my favorites include:

“10 plus years working with social media” – Unless you were a founder of MySpace or Facebook no one meets that requirement.

“Must have a history of exceeding quota”. – Okay, unless its an entry level position isn’t this one assumed? The problem is that really good sales people have found a comfortable home and have no intention of leaving unless the comp plan changes.

“Excellent PC Skills” –  Hey, I sent you my resume on a computer doesn’t that count? Besides, unless you are applying for Executive Assistant job, who is going to ask? 

“Integrity and Professionalism”. –  Since there is no such thing as a perfect match isn’t every job candidate lying when they say they meet every requirement for the job? 

“Ability to multi-task” – Means we can overwork you and you know you can’t say anything or we will give you more work

“Exceptional communication skills”.-  Note to men, never list you your wife as a reference.

“Self Motivated and Proactive” – What? You mean I can’t just show up and collect a check?

Just like writing a good resume,  writing a good job description is more of an art than a science.Today’s no job joy is for the creativity required to hire and get hired.

26 October
Chris Arends

I remember more than once when I was growing up and not feeling well my Mom saying “go out and clean the hog house. The fresh air will make you feel better.”  Any one who has ever been in a hog house knows the air in there is anything but fresh but who is going to argue with their mother. I think she was trying to make sure I wasn’t faking it.

When people are sick they often and for good reason try to keep away from other people.  This is to help keep others from getting sick and often to help recover. Staying home, watching TV and not getting with friends is usually a good idea. And if you are a man you will avoid going to the doctor at almost any cost.

The thing is sometimes people who are unemployed get the same way.  They want to stay at home, watch TV and not reach out to people who might help them.  Just like with a disease, some time alone can be good if it is used to help you “recover”  from being unemployed such as self assessment, organization or learning new things. But when we get to the point where we are staying at home because you don’t want to bother people or are afraid to let people know you are sick (unemployed) for fear of pity that is a bad thing.  Just like not going to see the doctor you aren’t going to get any better if you don’t get help.  

At the end of the day, after cleaning the hog house,  I usually did feel better, not necessarily cured but better.  Whether it was from the sense of accomplishment or just getting off the couch and moving around like I was well it usually helped. Being unemployed is the same way. Getting up and doing something will not only make you feel better but it will get you closer to recovery than just laying around.

23 October
Chris Arends

When you first are unemployed most people go through some kind of self evaluation. Most of us go into some “What If?”  questioning but usually apply a bit of reality and come back to something somewhere close to where we came from. 

This isn’t necessarily bad depending on your goals.  If you need to have cash flow or really loved your job its okay. But if you didn’t have either of those conditions what would you do?  How crazy would your ideas get?  What would happen if we didn’t apply the dose of reality and just asked “What would it take?” and did it?

Would we end up in the Peace Corp?  Start a Non-Profit?  My guess is what ever we did, we would end up doing something we love and doing it better than anyone else doing it, because we would be passionate about it.  It’s been said “do something you love and you will never work another day in your life”. The more I look at job descriptions the more I think this is true.  While I haven’t found my perfect job yet I am still looking for what I want to be when I grow up.

Will you have to make sacrifices? Probably but if you really love it you will make the change.Do these changes get more complicated with a spouse and kids and college tuition? Absolutely.  But they will never get any easier and there will never be a “right” time.  In five years will you be in a better place or just five years older.  That is the difference in looking at whats possible.

Today’s No Job Joy is looking at what’s possible.

23 October
Chris Arends

Those of us looking for our next job understand that employers are looking for the “best” candidate.  This usually means someone who has the exact experience in the exact industry. The safe choice.  It often doesn’t mean the one that is going to give the best effort, have the best ideas but the one that is the safest. They have experience doing things the way they have always been done and get safe results.

The challenge for job hunters is that we have to choose to either be the safe choice or the right choice. This can be hard when changing industries or roles and are up against safer choices. The comfortable thing to do is try to be what they want, not what they need.  Given the option most companies will take the comfortable way out. This means lower risk but also typically lowers the reward as well. 

The thing is if you are changing jobs or positions you won’t win head to head with someone who has been in the industry or done the same role. Right now there is typically at least one safe choice interviewing for every job. You have to be different to stand out and to help yourself become not the safe choice but the right choice and there is a wide difference in the two.

The good thing is that as a free agent you have the time and perspective to come up with new and different ideas of how to do things.  You are not constrained by the status quo.  You have the opportunity to see things from a different perspective and translate them in to new ways of doing things. These ideas can come from webinars, different industries,  cultures or just your own creativity. Now I am not saying you need to suggest something crazy that will get you laughed out of the interview.  I am saying you have the chance to be anything you want.  You have the opportunity to show how a little risk now can deliver bigger results by doing things in a new way. 

Yes it takes a lot of work and some skill to take over an interview show your ideas. A few things you have to do. Use your unique experience and ideas to show that you have the right ideas for the position you are interviewing with.  This will require some research and a lot of preparation.  You have to show that you know how things are done now, then formulate a plan that is different than what they are doing today that can add value to their business and make them successful.  If you can make some one be more successful than the other guy you have just become the right choice.  That doesn’t mean that you will always get the job.  Some people are just too comfortable to risk the right choice over the safe choice but if you do it right you will end up with a better company doing something unique and likely be more successful than being the safe choice.

20 October
Chris Arends

Have you ever been around your friends and you feel like they are ignoring you or being very careful about what they say around you? If you are currently looking for a job, that is the elephant in the room.

While I am not or doctor nor do I play one on TV, I just want to clarify something or those of you with jobs. Losing your job is not contagious.  That doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you, it just means that you can’t get it from talking with a jobless person. Treat us like we are your friend.

Just like with a disease, some people are afraid to ask how things are going?  Have you found a job yet?  So the elephant appears. While it is nice of them to be concerned about our feelings most of us know that our current condition is temporary.

One example of the elephant in the room is when  friends don’t talk about work around you.  They don’t want you to feel bad that you can’t contribute or they feel guiilty complaining about something at their work knowing it really could be worse. Hey we all realize if it was all fun they wouldn’t call it work so having a beef about your boss or a customer is not a big deal.

Most of us looking for a job are not going to bring up our situation to avoid seeming needy or to avoid bringing down the conversation in a social setting.  This is how the elephant in the room gets bigger. If we as job seekers don’t work it into our conversation we miss an opportunity. No I don’t mean another chance to complain about the economy or that jerk of a hiring manager who couldn’t see you were the best person for the job. What I mean is that the person you are talking with might be able to help you and doesn’t know you are still looking and may need their help. I am not saying make the whole conversation about you but try to add in the fact that you are looking at new opportunities.

To help make things easier, here are a few things both sides can do.

When talking with someone you know is looking just ask  “So how is the job search going?”  or “I know you were looking, is there anything I can do to help?”   These are non judgmental and supportive ways to get the elephant out of the room.

The job seeker can help by not forcing the conversation to being all about them and their search. Just talk to your friends like they are friends.  You don’t want to sound desperate, or obsessed.  This will make the elephant grow even larger the next time you run into that friend. One way to bring up the topic is mentioning a recent success or new opportunity you are working on. This keeps things positive and you can still ask for help if you need it.

While there is a time and a place for venting about the ups and downs of job searching, make sure you do it with the right friends and at the right time because cleaning up after an elephant is a messy job.

15 October
Chris Arends

On Facebook, my high school fan page had poll asking who was your favorite teacher which usually means which on was the most fun.  It was interesting to see how the responses varied.  I wonder if the results would change if the question was which teacher had the most impact on you as a person or which teacher did you learn the most from. 

At the risk of offending teachers who were important to me in different way I want to talk about a couple that really stood out,  Mr. Tam and Max Whitlock.

Mr. Tam taught advanced math and computer science back in the day of the Apple II. He made learning interesting but was also a tough teacher. He challenged us and made us earn his respect and our grades.  You might think that because he taught advanced math that we didn’t have  fun. Mr. Tam had the amazing ability to be writing on the chalk board (yes I am dating myself) and if you were talking when you weren’t supposed to he could break the chalk, throw one piece at you (and hit you 9 times out of ten) catch the other piece of chalk and keep writing with out turning around to look at you. He also invited his Sr. Advanced Math Class to his house every year for dinner. For the reason mentioned above I think most of my classmates enjoyed these classes because these teachers lead us into adult hood where respect was earned and given in both directions.

Another teacher that I think a lot of my classmates underrate is Max Whitloch.  While I’m sure that being a legally blind band teacher had many challenges but knowing music and kids weren’t among them for Max. He knew all the pieces we played to the note for every instrument. One of the things I don’t think we appreciated about Max was how much he loved music and wanted to share that love with his students. It was a big part of his life and teaching a love of music to high school kids was what he did and did very well.  Max could sit down at the piano and play just about any song you could name by ear.  We played tough music especially when you consider we were a small school and almost everyone in the school was in band so Max had a wide range of talent to work with.  Despite the talent mix, Max often had more musicians in the All State bands than most schools several times our size. One things I am glad I had the opportunity to do was after graduating coming back for a concert and introducing a march that was commissioned in Max’s name so that his commitment to music and teaching high school kids would be remembered.  

There were other teachers who were just as dedicated and maybe more fun. All the teachers I had in school were important in one way or another.  Thanks to them and every teacher like them who make an impact on kids.

13 October
Chris Arends

Job searching is a very personal ordeal.  You are constantly putting your self out there to be judged by complete strangers as to your worthiness for a job. Because of the rejection we are always judging ourselves and are very focused on what we are doing right or wrong as we look for that next job.

This can make one anything from paranoid to narcissistic.  I don’t know about anyone else but when I get excited about an opportunity I tend to ramble on, bounce ideas off of, second guess and other wise verbally gush any random thought to my wife. 

What we as job searchers forget is that there are often others who are helping us along the way.  No I don’t mean headhunters or network contacts. I mean our family.

I am lucky that my wife is willing to listen to my ramblings and my schizophrenic ups and downs as I go through this process.  I am even more fortunate that she understands my non verbal signals as well.  She can tell when I am stressed and really need to go for a ride and helps me to work that in our schedule. She also helps keep the kids off me when I need some extra space. She does all this with out judging me and still accepts who I am and know that she loves me not my job. Her words not mine.

So today I am thankful for the people who listen, support, encourage and give hope to those of us looking for our next job.

12 October
Chris Arends

Being unemployed shares a lot of characteristics of a serious disease. I am in no way making fun of people who are truly sick or those who help them. I am just trying to show a lighter way for people to relate to their friends who are looking for work.

With the disclaimer out of the way on to part one.

One good thing about being unemployed is that just like when you are sick most people want to help you.    What ever their motivation everyone wants to be there for you.  The bad thing is just like being sick, unless your friends are doctors or have a job for you, there us usually little they can actually do for you.

First, there are those who want to help and don’t know you or how to cure you.  They are a lot like a quack doctor with a miracle cure.  They have a friend who is making $3000 a week at home stuffing envelopes and they can hook you up.  Or they think that just because you helped them plug in their computer once you are a computer genius.  To them you are qualified for any job that is vaguely related to computers from a programmer to a Best Buy sales person. These people have their heart in the right place but they are not going to help you solve your problem

Next is the support system. Just like with a disease you need a strong support system. Those who want to help but can’t really do anything tangible for you but are there for you anyway.  Its not that they don’t want to help they just don’t have the resources/connections so they do what they can. These are accountability groups, family, friends, and others.  They offer you moral support and encouragement. They can relate to you because they know you well and have been or are in the same place you are now.   These are important people for you as they can give you good advice, let you vent when you are frustrated and help pick you up on those days when you got rejected for the 10,000th time and are about ready to start delivering pizza.
Finally there are the doctors and nurses.  These are the people who can really help you.  They come in many forms.  Friends, family, former co-workers, friends of friends and sometimes complete strangers.  These are the people with jobs or connections that can get you closer to employment and being cured. There are generalist – people with a lot of connections that can help you narrow down what you want to do and how to get the job you want.  There are also specialists – headhunters, executives and others with connections to the right people to get you hired.

No one wants to be sick or unemployed and we are all thankful for the help we get. Keep on helping even if you don’t think you are doing any good. 

9 October
Chris Arends

Twelve years ago today I became a father.  It is pretty cool that my oldest son is playing football, loves to read and is starting to have a sixth grade interest in girls. But am I really old enough to have a 12 year old? 

I will spare you the it seems like just yesterday line.  I am looking at the reality part.  The good news is that in 10 years he should be done with college and off my pay roll.  Then I just have to worry about his younger brother.

Catching up with people from high school and college I have found friends who have kids getting married and having kids.  Which seems really weird for me to imagine some of those people as parents let alone grandparents. Maybe I suffer from the “forever young” syndrome or maybe its because I haven’t been back to any of my high school reunions and have really only been back to my home town once in the last 15 years but somethings won’t change in my mind.

I guess this is a good thing if you subscribe to the “you are only as old as you feel” philosophy.  That means I will always be about 35 in my mind with the benefit of experience.  Though every time one of my kids has a birthday,  I will get a subtle reminder that yes I really am that old.

8 October
Chris Arends

Kids learn more from their parents than we ever imagine.  It always amazes me when my kids are in the next room and I am talking with my wife about something then a week later they will ask a question about a conversation we were having, assuming they weren’t listening.  

There are two lessons to learn from this.  First is your kids are always listening even if they don’t respond. (yes this applies to when you ask them to pick up their socks and you get no response)  The second is they learn a lot from us even when we aren’t teaching.

As anyone who has read this blog before knows I am all about having a positive attitude. This is one of the things I am trying to pass on to my kids. Being unemployed has given me a great way to teach my kids some tough life lessons. Things like saving for a rainy day is more than an expression,  money isn’t everything and family is, personal responsibility and faith. . This isn’t the way I wanted to teach some of these lessons but I have the chance to show my kids through my actions how to handle life when the unexpected happens. Chances are I will learn a few things in the process, I just hope I am setting a good example for them.

Today’s joy is the chance to teach my kids real life values.