Monday, 9 April 2012

Avoid looking like an A**.... just ASK!

Was inspired by a Charles Adler radio show discussion earlier this week about older workers and the difficulty many are having finding good jobs. I wrote this in response:

As a self-proclaimed Career Matchmaker, my favourite work revolves around helping people reinvent themselves and, ideally, find really enjoyable and rewarding work (whatever that means for them!  Everyone is different).  As luck would have it, I developed a very strong speciality working with transitioning workers when I became the first civilian Career Transition Counsellor at CFB Esquimalt, where I worked for 8+ years with retiring (40-50 something) military members.  Many of those folks created their own beliefs around why it would be hard for them to find jobs when they left the military, but most of those beliefs could often be banished with the right information and an open mind.   

As a result, I have many stories of clients who thought they were experiencing age discrimination.  And, often, with some perspective shifting and by pro-actively seeking feedback after (or before) their interviews, this misconception could also be turned on its ear.     

·         One of my newly IT-certified career changers tried and tried to get a job but to no avail and he was feeling pretty hopeless.  He was certain it was because of his age (and he was all of 45!).  Not that he’d ever actually asked anyone but, still, he was convinced.   I encouraged him to check out this assumption during his next interview (with a little coaching as to how to ask a possibly delicate question).  As it turned out, there was another unchecked assumption happening in the busy HR manager’s mind.  And, indirectly, it did have something to do with age.  Or more correctly, my client’s numerous years of experience.  The interviewer assumed he would be bored because their job was an entry level position.  Once he knew this, he was able to address the unspoken question and quickly got a job which was exactly what he’d been looking for. 

·         Another client had applied to Canadian Tire for a bookkeeping job that he felt he could easily fulfill.   After he received no reply to his application, he did go and ask why he hadn’t been shortlisted, as he was certain he had the skillsets required.  He was told that they didn’t bother calling him because they took it from his resume that they wouldn’t be able to pay him what he was used to.  Again... assumption city!   

Communication and clarification of expectations is a critical piece that is often left on the curb by both the job seeker and the interviewer.  Therefore, I teach my clients how to ask these types of questions and I attempt, whenever possible, to anticipate objections before the interview.  Cover letters can also go a long way to heading assumptions off at the pass.     

A resume overhaul is often a worthwhile endeavour, as well... because job seekers can get kicked off the top candidate pile merely because they haven’t downshifted their resume to match the career requirements of a lower-levelled job.  Many feel they have to include EVERY job they’ve ever had.  And they show levels of expertise far and above what is being asked for.  This doesn’t always work in their favour, and leads to many disappointments.   

Just to add another perspective, many older workers lack certain modern workforce skills and, sadly, some tend to resist updating those skills.  Often, the company they were employed by for many years neglected to offer them upgrading, too, which is unfortunate.  I encourage all my clients to invest in themselves and keep their skills ‘pumped up’ so they can compete with the more techno-savvy younger generation.  You don’t have to Tweet every hour of the day, but you should be conversant enough with the concept of social media to ‘sound’ like you understand it.  There are oodles of free online tutorials on the web that you can teach yourself everything you need to show you’re ‘in the know!’   

Attitude is everything!  And keeping abreast of the times (ie. in technology and a few other basic modern workplace skills) is also really critical for older workers to be seen as viable candidates for more jobs.   

In closing, here are a few of my favourite news stories on people working happily and well into their  ...

A year or so ago, I spoke at a conference on this subject.  Here’s an abridged version of the PowerPoint presentation I gave in case you want to delve into it deeper. 

Stay tuned for more specifics on how to find work by thinking “outside the box”!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

How to Figure Out What Job You Want!

For Career Seekers, Changers & ReInventioneers … but these tips work for any job researcher!

5 Ways to Catapult Your Job Choice Research to the Next Level!

1)   The obvious but not always overly effective methodNational Occupational Classifications (NOC)… it’s a starting place but it’s not the be all and end all of career and job research.  For every one of the 40, 000 jobs listed in the NOC (and goodness knows how many in the US version:  Occupational Outlook Handbook), I’m convinced there are another 40+% more jobs that are not listed or for which the titles can convey a dozen different job descriptions.  And I think I’m underestimating there, it’s just we’ve never really had anyone do the stats on it so it’s anyone’s guess.   

a.    Alberta’s Learning Information Service (ALIS) is a great resource for occupational research and many other fantastic career reinvention information.  Sure, it has some specific Alberta only related info, but tons of it is universal to any career development question.  Check it out!

2)   Use job search sites to find out about jobs!   Read job descriptions in your area of interest, current industry and all around the edges of anything else you’d like to align your talents to.   Monster, Workopolis, Indeed/Wowjobs or any other targeted sites you like.  And, what better place to go look for the requirements of any number of jobs than the job posting, itself.

a.    Don’t forget that companies you’re interested in may NOT post on job search sites;   many of the biggies don’t feel they need to or they may have a longer job posting on their own site, so always check those out, as well.  And create a bookmarked/favorites list to monitor them and track their jobs, even if the job doesn’t seem to be a fit for you… you can gain valuable insights from watching similar, not just exact job matches.

3)   Ask!  For every job you see advertised, when they have a contact listed, follow up and ask them for a more detailed job description.  Any client that I’ve ever encouraged to do that has met with an easy way to really tailor their resume to match the job.

4)   Read Resume Writing books!  Yes, Virginia… that’s what I said.  You’d be shocked (well, I am!) at how many people never think to go read a How to Write Resumes kind of book.  There are usually dozens in most public libraries.  Amazon and all the other usual suspects have oodles to choose from.  And they can be delivered right to your door!  Re-sellers like Abebooks and the amazing Powell’s in Portland, Oregon (one of my favourite spots to pick up my own career related resource books) have them in great shape at greatly reduced prices! 

a.    Proviso:  not all resume books are created equal: IE. have excellent well-developed, “give you a hope in h-e-double toothpicks of getting an interview” samples.  And career change resumes are really hard to find viable samples of because the chance of you finding one that is similar to what you want to do is around slim and none.  That’s why I recommend hitting the library.  You can photocopy the ones you want and take them home. 

b.    Remember, most Career Changers have more to prove than someone who is already in the chosen profession!  I haven’t written a career change resume yet that wasn’t more densely packed with details and specifics and accomplishments than one I wrote for someone already on that career path.

5)   The Horse’s Mouth … a tried and true approach for finding jobs, but it’s also amazingly helpful for figuring out what kinds of jobs might be out there for you and how to make the switch. Since many folks decide on a career change while they’re still ‘in’ a job, that old “networking” thang is still one of the best methods of doing research. As much as we all know we should network regularly, few of us do.  So, to find out about actual jobs, this is a necessary evil.  But do the other homework above first, so that you aren’t wasting time.  And then, once you’ve shortlisted your career path research down to 3-4, plug into your network to get an information interview so you can find dig down deeper.

Of course, there’s more involved in this process (It’s such a hub and spoke kind of thing, career development and change.  You do a few things over here in research, then you play with your resume, then you do some informational interviews, then back to research again, and so and an so forth.  It’s like lifting weights.  You do some reps on one machine, then switch to another and another and then start the circuit all over again, but maybe in a different order.)

Another great resource for finding out about jobs and their specific requirements is good ol’ LinkedIn (LI).  Stay tuned in later posts for more effective ways to do Passive Networking (yes, it means you don’t have to cold call!) with people you find in cool jobs on LI.

If anyone you know needs help with any of the aspects of ReInventing themselves, please check out my website!  I look forward to helping you find a more rewarding life at WORK!