Ready to begin that search? You sure? (2nd in a series)

March 16, 2009

Now that you have your resume complete, you’re ready to begin your job search in earnest, right?

The answer to that question depends on several things. Ultimately, are you ready to start searching for a job? The search for a new position is very much a job in itself and you have to treat it as such for the best chances of success. The various job websites would have you believe it is as simple as posting your resume, but much like the picture of a juicy hamburger on a restaurant menu that somehow doesn’t arrive at your table with the cheese and fixings neatly hanging off the side, the job boards’ claims are a misrepresentation of reality.

In order to really be ready for the job search, you need to know a lot about yourself and what your objectives are, not to mention your limits. In a difficult economy and job market, those employers who are hiring, are more selective than usual and have a bigger pool of candidates to choose from. You have to remember that not every job is going to be right for you. Easy for me to say as I have a job I love. And for anyone currently unemployed, the prospect of a paycheck makes almost any job look good. But pull up the covers and take a really good look at yourself.

There are countless factors you have to consider in self-preparation:
> What am I good at?
> What do I want to do? What don’t I want to do?
> What will I do? What won’t I do?
> How far am I willing to commute?
> Will I relocate? Will I travel?
> How stable is the company?
> Is the compensation in line with my needs?

The list goes on and on. Granted, many of these questions will have to be answered (partially or in full) during an interview process, but you need to decide, before you begin searching for jobs, what the acceptable answers are to yourself. If not, you will spend a tremendous amount of time applying to jobs that ultimately are not right for you and will only further exasperate the situation you are in.

Let’s take a closer look at the hot topic issue right now – compensation. What you are paid is clearly the biggest question for candidates and employers alike. But each and every one of us is in a different financial situation and therefore your answer to yourself will be completely different and unique from anyone else. Many of your colleagues are openly dismissing many of the questions I pose above and even negotiating to take less pay than in the past, just to get back to work. Is that the right strategy for you? What if the offered salary of a position is the same as you are making now, but the commute is twice as far? What range of salary is acceptable to you?

Maybe the biggest question regarding compensation you need to ask yourself is if your expected pay is realistic right now? You may very well be worth $100/hour, but if equally qualified candidates will gladly take $75/hour right now, how flexible are you?

I can’t answer that question or any of these questions for you – and I will not even attempt to do so because these are deeply personal issues that you need to decide on. But decide you must and as you seek out a new job, know what your flexibility limits are when it comes to pay and every other possible variable. Once you have given ample thought to these questions, and you have a clear vision of what will and will not work for you, the real work of searching for a job begins.

In the next article of the series, we will discuss the job search itself. From websites to recruiters to networking, I will help you navigate the crowded roads on your search for a new job.

Are you looking for an IT job? Visit Axis Technical Group to learn more.
Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com

(See previous post “Looking for a job? You’re not alone…really you’re not”)


Feeling “blah”? Try the power of “Hello”

March 13, 2009

It’s been one of those weeks. We all have had them, and in these times, I suspect more of us have them more often. You know what I’m talking about – you just feel kind of “blah” – tired, rundown, unmotivated, unhappy for no reason in particular. Call it the weather, call it the economy, call it whatever you want, we have all been there.

Driving in to the office yesterday I was thinking back to one of the greatest trips of my life. In the summer of 2000, Solly (one of my 2 best friends) and I left on a journey together that covered Arizona and Nevada. For different reasons, we both needed to get away, we both were feeling the “blah.” This trip not only became my true introduction to the passion that is driving in a convertible (another story for another day), but it was a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Trust me when I tell you nothing compares to the feeling of wind rushing through your hair, and brushing by your face, at 75mph on the open road.

After a night in Phoenix, we cruised about 2 hours to Sedona. If you have never been to Sedona, Arizona, plan a trip. It is one of the most beautiful, serene and truly spiritual places you can ever visit. From the majestic red-rock formations (take a Pink Jeep tour to be amazed), to Devil’s Bridge (not a well-known tourist stop, but a definite must-see & must-hike) to the Church of the Red Rocks (it looks like this church was created right along with the rocks, not built later – truly incredible), you will find yourself at an inner peace you didn’t know existed.

But this is not about a trip I took. It’s about a journey – a journey that started on our first night in Sedona. We stayed at Solly’s cousin Cheryl’s house – Cheryl was the epitome of Sedona – peaceful, spiritual and carrying around a pure calmness. Her house was set against some mountains – LOTS of open space. Great to just peer up to the heavens at night and stare at stars. Well as we settled in that first night, I needed to find something to read for a few minute break (yes, that kind of break). I picked up a little book – it was about living a life of peace, and finding inner happiness. Of course I scoffed –after all 9 years ago I thought I knew it all.

But when I turned to the first page, the message struck me. It simply said, when you are out and about doing your daily business, shopping, taking a walk, filling up at the gas station or dropping a letter off at the post office, just look and smile at everyone you come across and simply say “hello”. Never before did I realize the power that a 5-letter word could have. The rest of that trip, and when I got back home, I made it a habit to smile and say hello to almost everyone I came across. Sometimes I got a “hello” back. Sometimes I got a look like I was from another planet. And sometimes I just plain got ignored. But for those people who did reply (either with a “hi” or a simple smile), the payoff was priceless. Maybe I brought a brief moment of joy to someone. Maybe I reaffirmed the belief in someone that not everyone in this world is cold and unfriendly. Maybe, just maybe, I made someone’s day a tiny bit better.

Then I realized… My “blah” was gone. The world – my world, was all of a sudden just a little happier of a place.

Yesterday was my 4th day of being in a “blah” rut and I kept thinking about that one night in Sedona that changed my life. It had been a while since I was saying hi to people on the street. Everyone in this world right now is stressed; pressure on people is immense and the entire “friendly” quotient is down measurably (and obviously) to anyone who spends time in public.

So as I walked out of a hospital yesterday (visiting a friend who just had a baby), and my “blah” was in full effect, I decided to say hello. First to the elderly woman confined to a wheel chair being pushed down the hall of the hospital. She said “hi” and smiled brightly back at me. Then I met another woman in the elevator down to the lobby. Clearly, she was not having the best of days. I said hello to her as well and got that look like I was from another planet. How dare I say hello. Then lastly, in the parking garage elevator, I said hello and tried to strike up a conversation with an elderly man sharing the ride with me. He smiled but couldn’t say hello. He motioned that there was something wrong with his throat and couldn’t really talk. I made a little joke about people wishing I couldn’t talk sometimes and he chuckled. The elevator doors swung open to the cold, dreary cement of the parking structure, but suddenly I felt like I was in a sunny paradise. The man patted me on the shoulder, with a huge smile, and though barely audible, forced out “have a great day.” And you know, from that point on, I did. No more “blah.”

So as you venture out in your life today, tomorrow and the next day, and whether you’re feeling “blah” or not, say “hello” to those you pass. People may ignore you. People may look at your funny. But some may say hello right back. And if we all did that, wouldn’t our entire world be a happier, less “blah” place?

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com


Looking for a job? You’re not alone…really, you’re not (1st in a series)

March 9, 2009

Read the news online any day and you are bombarded with stories about unemployment levels in the United States reaching and surpassing record numbers. I venture to say most of us whose jobs have not been directly affected by the economy at least know someone who has lost their job due. Many people still employed are nonetheless dipping their job search toes in the water as they worry about their current employers’ viability.

On a daily basis I am introduced through my network to numerous technology professionals who are amongst the jobless, each seeking some silver lining in what is clearly a stormy job market. What I offer each of them is the plain, un-coated truth of what they can expect and what they need to do to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. Often, this is not what they want to hear, but understanding what you are facing in this job market is important if you are going to be successful in navigating through it.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will share some of that plain truth with you, and offer some of the tools, information and tips that will help you pilot your own successful job search. The series will be geared towards the Information Technology (IT) industry and job market, but really can apply to any job search. The perception in the IT segment of the market is that there are no jobs out there. The reality is quite the opposite as there are still numerous opportunities in IT, but they call for specific skills and expertise, not to mention offer lower salaries and the chance to compete with a stampede of candidates  vying for the same position. Every candidate is facing increasingly stiff competition from other highly qualified individuals and it is those people who are best prepared for the job search that will ultimately find success.

For truly the first time in a depressed market, technology jobs and spending is not the first to go on the chopping block. Clearly budgets have been slashed, and people have lost their jobs. But when you look at the IT marketplace, you see companies realizing that in order to make money now and in the future, technology is the force that is driving improvements in daily workflow, process, and productivity. Therefore, organizations that are cutting back across the board are looking to their technology team last and with a less severe cut than other areas.

So, as a job seeker, what can you do to get the right job for you? Let’s start with your resume.

The Resume

Your resume is your business card; it is your introduction to prospective employers, and certainly should not be your autobiography. It is meant to be representative of who YOU are and there are countless services out there who will prey on your belief that you have to have the world’s greatest resume. They will charge you an arm and a leg, and sometimes your first born child only to produce something for you that looks and reads great, but isn’t you. DON’T WASTE THE MONEY!

Writing and updating your resume is a deeply personal journey that anyone seeking a job must undertake, as it will help you better understand who you are professionally and what you offer prospective employers. What you find out about yourself in this process is also typically the answer to the “tell me about you” question in interviews. Plus, read on and you’ll learn how you can have multiple professionals critique and sometimes help edit your resume for FREE!

Format

What should the resume look like? There are plenty of templates available on the web, or ask a friend or colleague to see their resume as an example. There are many different formats that work well so find one that you are comfortable with. I highly recommend you do not use templates that are built with spreadsheet-like cells and tables. Many companies, and most of the online job boards, use automated software for uploading your resume to internal systems and most can’t recognize tables and sections.

When printing out your resume, use normal plain white paper. You don’t need fancy paper or colors to get someone’s attention. Maybe back in the day of stamping an envelope and mailing your profile to a company this worked, but now I look at such resumes and see someone fluffing and trying to draw attention away from their actual skills and experience. Choose one font (Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana all work well) and do not mix & match different fonts in the resume. You can utilize font sizes to subtly distinguish between different sections of your resume if you choose, but this also can be accomplished through the use of bold and underlined lettering.

Content

The resume has essentially 3 sections: Summary, Experience, and Education/etc.

The “Summary” section is a brief description (2-3 sentences) of who you are professionally, followed by a list of your technical skills and abilities. This entire section really should be no more than a half page.

Next is your “Professional Experience.” Trust me, no hiring manager or recruiter wants to see 4 long narrative paragraphs about each job and/or project you have worked on. It might very well be interesting reading, but no one has the time to read through it in detail and if we wanted to read a novel, we would go to a library. Instead, briefly describe your role and responsibilities and what your employer does/makes/sells/etc. (2-4 sentences). Then bullet-point your specific accomplishments and achievements (I recommend no more than about 5 such items). If you worked with specific technical skills on a project or projects, you can then list that technical environment as well.

Following professional experience, highlight your “Education,” including college and any other programs/courses that would be of specific help in the job you are seeking. Also, list certifications and other accomplishments outside the realm of your work experience that would be an added benefit to prospective employers.

Lastly, your contact information at the top of your resume is extremely important. DUH! But many people make the mistake of over or under doing it. List your home address (at least city of residence), along with the best number to reach you at (don’t list multiple phone numbers) and one email address. That email address should be something simple that includes your name. If your email address is something like fridaynitepartier@anymail.com, you might want to get a new email address for your job search.

The Review

After you have a draft of your resume, go back and re-read it. Then do it one more time and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. Nothing turns an employer off faster than someone who couldn’t be bothered to spell-check their resume before submitting it. It also tells the employer you are not someone who pays attention to detail.

Once you are satisfied with your resume draft, ask friends or family to review and edit it – you’ll be cross-eyed from looking at it yourself so many times that a fresh set of eyes will notice any grammatical or other errors you and your computer missed.

Now you have your resume but would like a professional to look at it. Go ahead and post it on a few job boards, and in no time, you’ll have recruiters contacting you. We will talk all about recruiters in a later posting here, but recruiters work with resumes every day so who better to know what does and doesn’t work? Pick a recruiter or two that you trust (better yet, get a referral for a good recruiter from a friend or colleague) and most of the good ones will review your resume and offer you strong constructive feedback. In some cases, recruiters and headhunters will actually offer to rewrite your resume for free!

Check back soon as we discuss marketing yourself in a jungle of job seekers, recruiters and websites all promising to get you that great new job.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com


Haven’t you ever changed your mind?

March 4, 2009

First, I cannot even believe that this is what I’m writing about. Second, I openly admit that I watched the first season of “The Bachelor.” Yes it’s true. I may even have caught a few episodes of the second season. But, I haven’t watched a single minute of the show since – why would I when train wrecks like the Bret Michaels Love Bus (or whatever it’s called) and those other wacky VH1 shows (how can you not love the “ikki twins”??) are so much more entertaining?

Ever since last night all I have been hearing and reading about from friends and family alike, is what a schmuck this guy on “The Bachelor” is. (And thanks to my friend Sara for explaining to me how the Bachelor himself, during the reunion show last night on National TV, broke up with the woman he proposed to on the show’s finale, only to then turn around and profess his love for the woman he originally spurned on that that same. Got all that? (It took her a couple of explanations until I did).

So what’s all the broo-ha-ha about anyway? My sister says she “hates” the guy. Others have called him an idiot, a loser. But WHY?

OK, granted, maybe national television isn’t the most appropriate place to break up with a woman on. But isn’t that the WHOLE point of the show? All of these women, and men, know exactly what they are getting in to and the exposure they will face. And, considering anyone going on fantasy dates in places around the world would fall in love (or think they did) under the false pretenses that all these dating shows offer, isn’t this exactly what they should expect? Isn’t it exactly what all the viewers should expect? Isn’t this exactly what happens on every soap opera-like show on TV?

And from the guy’s perspective, I say good for him. Bravo – if you’re going to go for it, go big.  So he broke the woman’s heart. She’s a former Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader for crying out loud – she will not have a problem meeting someone else, under real-life circumstances. The guy (OK I checked, his name is Jason) was undoubtedly under incredible pressure, both self-imposed and nudged upon him by the shows producers. Of course the producers and ABC wanted a dramatic proposal for their finale. And of course they wanted fireworks on the reunion show that started all this hooplah in the first place. Should this guy just stay with a woman for whom his feelings have changed so that America loves him?

And does it even matter?

This show, like every single show on tv, is about one thing. Money. The producers don’t care if someone’s heart gets broken. Are you kidding? They WANT hearts to get broken. They want them shattered. Stomped on. Chewed up and spit out. After all, it makes great TV, especially to all the same people who are all over the Internet ripping this poor guy a new one because he actually is trying to be true to his heart. Good for him.

And while you’re all chastising the guy, the producers are sitting in their office thanking him, and counting their money. Good for them.

So it seems to be, in “reality, everyone got exactly what they deserved for doing these shows in the first place. Good for everyone.

Got something to say to me? russellwolf.blog@gmail.com