Thursday, December 31, 2009


It's traditional to think about a new job at this time of year. Sometime toward the end of the first quarter the job outlook is really going to improve, so my headhunter friends tell me. Then, I expect that a lot of people will make a lot of new moves. That's going to free up more jobs and encourage more movement in the job market. More job opportunities!

But a career is based on more than just a succession of jobs. So make a point of adding to your skills and your professional network in 2010. Here's an interesting article  from the Wall Street Journal on jobs of the future; it might give you some ideas on what skills you may want to learn:

HAPPPY NEW YEAR! 2010 is going to be great.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Take the Time to Volunteer...

...not just this time of year, but all year round. There is a reason why more and more companies are sponsoring volunteering programs for their employees. Choosing to volunteer not only helps the people and organizations you are serving, but can help you a lot, too, in very practical ways.

If you are working and you volunteer for a company-sponsored activity, you can meet and work with people from other parts or levels of your own organization, a real exposure bonus. One of our clients made a very successful proposal to a senior manager a month after she had painted a day care center with him. He knew her, and she knew him, which made the presentation much easier to do and much easier to receive.

If you are working and you volunteer on your own, you will get to know a whole new organization with a new cast of characters. That can broaden your own skills and abilities and even show you a new career direction. One of our clients ended up a leader in every organization she volunteered for. She used that experience to move into a very successful management career.

If you are NOT working, volunteering can make a huge difference to you. It will get you out of the house. It will give you some recent accomplishments to put on your resume. It will give you something new to talk about in an interview. It will broaden your personal network. The important thing to remember is to volunteer your professional skills when you can. Several of our clients who are looking for work in this recession have added impressive volunteer activity to their resumes. If you can't find such an opportunity, ask your professional association. Many sponsor volunteer activities for their members.

You may seem to be doing something for someone else when you are volunteering, but you are also doing something important for yourself! Add volunteering to your New Year's resolutions!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays,


Monday, December 14, 2009

New Jobs Now

Usually, this time of year is very quiet. New jobs rarely come on the market between now and January. Not only have our job-seeking clients at Career Strategies remained active in the job market, but they are finding new jobs to interview for.

Two traditional post-recession trends have reappeared. First, there is an increase in temporary jobs. This is a great opportunity in Massachusetts where we have health care available. Here, people can afford to take a temporary job and hope it will become permanent. The second is that the hiring process is very slow. Organizations don't want to make a mistake, so they are very careful, requiring multiple references, many interviews, and a lot of time to pass between first meeting and final offer. That can now take as much as six weeks.

But the big news is that the Federal Government has decided to make some of its contract jobs into permanent jobs. At Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts, there will be 800 people hired between now and June. Here is their website:

And there will be more investigative accountants hired by the IRS next year. Don't overlook Federal Government jobs in 2010. They have great benefits and good training.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Post-Recession Reputations: Winners and Losers

Many reputations have been battered by this recession. Wall Street, AIG, Bank of America, General Motors - all those companies that received a bailout are losers. They will have to work hard - and it will take a while - before they are trusted again.

Small companies, universities, hospitals have become winners. Now,  it  looks as if it is safer to work for yourself than to work for a big company.

Even my own profession of Human Resources has taken a hit, both for laying people off and for being insensitive to those looking for work. The latest George Clooney movie is about someone whose job is to fire people - and he's not a hero.

Why does reputation  matter? Reputations create career decisions. People working for bailed-out companies tell me they are ashamed to say where they work. Those people will move on when the economic outlook changes and won't speak well of their company or its products. Hot-shot MBA graduates aren't going to look at investment banking or even financial services the way they did two years ago. The brightest and the best are going to look to start their own organizations or join their friends in much smaller enterprises or purpose-driven companies.

All these changes are a good thing. They will create energy and opportunity in the job market. 2010 is going to be a great year!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Career Success Tip #4: Don't Stop Learning!

There is an unfortunate temptation if you have been in the same company and the same job for a while to stop pushing yourself to learn something new. Your job may not require it. Your boss may not want to pay for it. All your colleagues think you are great. Your reviews are great. So why spend your own money on professional development?

Because no job is secure, and no company is secure, as this recession has shown us, again. Because learning something new will energize you and boost your confidence. If you are in marketing and you don't know how to use the social media, your career is limited. If you are in human resources and you don't know the latest about FMLA, you are behind the times. If you are in finance and you don't know the latest in FASBs, you may actually seem out of date. Just the way you seem out of date if you are still wearing what you wore in your college days.

If you don't update your wardrobe and your technical skills in your chosen field, you will be left behind. So, join that professional organization you think is so great, whether or not your company pays for it. Take that course or class you think will really help you. Spend your own money, if you must. Invest in your career. It is always worth it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Career Success Tip #3: Earn Colleagues

Since your managers change a lot, as I said last week, who really knows if you do good work or not? Two kinds of people: your customers and your colleagues. One of our clients was asked in an interview last week, "What would your colleagues say are your greatest strengths? Your greatest weaknesses?" While that's a nasty question to ask in an interview, the emphasis on colleagues is a good one.

Good work colleagues are invaluable. They can help you learn a new job or new skill. They can help you solve problems or manage your manager. They can help out when you are stuck or cheer you up  when you have lost your motivation. Now that mentoring rarely occurs any more, a group of colleagues can be a wonderful substitute. Even Kathy Kram of Boston University, the guru of mentoring, agrees.

In school and in college, rewards come to the most competitive academically. It may look like that in corporate America, especially in a career like sales, but over the long term, it's your colleagues that help you advance or find a new job or deal with a difficult manager. Earn their respect. Share what you know. Help out when someone is overwhelmed. Volunteer to lend a hand - and don't ask for credit.

If you develop a reputation for being a great colleague, you will never have to worry about not having a network to use when you are out of work!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Career Success Tip #2 - Manage Your Manager

Your manager can have a huge influence on your career. But everybody's ideal of a mentoring manager who develops you and gives you great opportunities to grow is pretty hard to find in a recession. One reason is that manager jobs are now more vulnerable to layoffs than the jobs of the people working for them. Clients of ours have had two or three managers in the last year, as their companies have reorganized and reorganized. People  who haven't the time to get to know you and are afraid for their own jobs don't make good mentors.  But managers who don't know you can still have a  huge negative impact on your career, just by giving you a mediocre reference.

Too many people working now are angry at and disappointed in their managers. If you are one of them, think again. In the course of your career, you will have many managers, good ones and bad ones. Screamers and micromanagers. Visionary leaders and collaborative entrepreneurs. If you want to be successful in your career, you have to learn how to manage all kinds of managers.

Before you growl that you don't know how, think of your manager as a very important customer for your work. You've probably already had to deal with upset customers, customers who didn't understand what you were doing, customers who were frightened or demanding, and many others.  If you are so young that you haven't had a lot of customer experience, you've certainly had to manage a wide variety of teachers or professors. You've got the skills, really you do. Just think customer (or teacher.)

Instead of hiding when she is angry, wait for her to calm down and try again. Instead of going nuts when he micromanages you, think about what you could do to establish his trust. You might even try saying something like, "You can be sure that I will complete this on time." Experiment. Get good at managing different kinds of bosses, and your career will be golden.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Career Success Tip #1: Exploit Your Current Job!

Most people look ahead to their next job, not at their current job. Don't do it! You'll miss some great opportunities. During a recession like this one, if you have a job, it may be easier to look for opportunities in your current job than it would be to look for a new job. Recessions don't last forever! What will you be prepared to do when this on is over?

If you consider a series of jobs the same thing as a career, you are making a big mistake. Your career actually depends upon the growth of your skills and abilities. Some people think that only happens when you change jobs. Not so. One of my long-term friends in Organizational Development had the same job title for fifteen years. But it wasn't really the same job, because her company grew and changed, and the programs she developed grew and changed with it. What she was able to do - not her job title - is what mattered. From that "job", she did was to exploit every opportunity to expand her skills.

You can do that, too. OK, if you can't move up in terms of a job, how can you move up in terms of your skills? What can you learn? What can you volunteer to lead? What course can you take, either using tuition reimbursement or your own money? Who can you learn from? Take charge of your career. Exploit the opportunities of your current job, until there are more job opportunities out there.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Money and Real Life

Surprising as it may seem to those who are carrying on about the compensation programs for senior executives on Wall Street, money isn't the key motivator for most people. Career Strategies has used  the same assessment instrument to determine the motivators for our clients for over fifteen years. How people answer has been pretty consistent through good times and bad.

For most people, money is not a big motivator. Even for people out of work. Even for people who work in financial services. What does motivate people is: doing a good job and being recognized for it, making a difference by their work, and learning and growing.

In our experience, people start focusing on pay issues when there is something else going on, like a micromanaging boss, an abusive culture at work, or obvious unfairness. Then people feel they "deserve" more money to make up for what they put up with.

Senior financial services people have certainly been kicked around in the media for the last year. They might be feeling that they really deserve the money as a payback or as a sign that the crisis is over.  My guess is that even for these financial services executives, money is really a measure of how well they are doing in relation to their peers. It's not the money itself; it's competing and winning.

It this is true, it's a good thing. If executives are motivated by winning not money, maybe we could dial back executive compensation so it looks a little more like executive compensation in Europe. In Europe, they don't seem to have any trouble filling executive positions with good people, in spite of their different pay structure. And there would be far less wrath directed against executives and  regulation of their pay in the United States.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Boy in the Balloon and Job Loss

But the boy wasn't in the balloon; he was hiding in the garage! That's the point. By six, most kids aren't that stupid. And it was reasonable for the police to pull out all the stops. But the news media, anxious for another white SUV to chase, took the most hyper approach to the story. It hasn't even taken a couple of news cycles for the story to expand. Maybe the family will be suspected of perpetrating a hoax. Maybe they will sell the film rights for millions. After all, this family is used to living in front of the camera.

The point is that the story wasn't true, but the media made a big deal of it without checking its veracity or reasonableness.

This  is one of those times when what is happening in the media and what is happening in real life are two different things. So, even if you are out of work, don't crawl under the bed covers and cower in fear because the media is going on and on about job losses. Your real situation may be entirely different. Your job specialty or grographic location may actually be doing well.

Forget the media. Talk to your friends. Learn what is actually going on at local organizations. Just as I predicted in September, temporary and contract jobs are starting to show up. The "job market"(see my very first blog) isn't as awful as it is portrayed and will be even better in January. As one of our clients said only two weeks after he was laid off, " The job market isn't that bad for me. I'm going to do OK. I never should have worried so much."

Don't let worrying get in the way of your job search, no matter what the media say!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quick Tip: Job Applicants Needed!

Headhunter friends of mine tell me they are starting to have new jobs to fill in greater numbers, but the people they call about the openings are unwilling to change jobs. Time to drop a resume on your favorite head hunter!

Also, what I predicted in September in the Metro (see link on the right) is starting to happen. Contract- to-permanent and temporary-to-permanent jobs are starting to appear. This is great news for people who are not employed! Find out which are the temporary/contract placement firms in your specialty, and call them!

Go for it!


Friday, October 2, 2009

People Really Want to Help...

It's true. Most people want to help those who are affected by this recession, whether they are looking for work or trying to advance their careers. Sure, some people won't reply, but don't let that prevent you from asking for help. In this recession, the percentage of people who respond is the highest I've seen it - around 50%. And since organizations are swamped with resumes, it really makes a difference if someone puts in a good word for you.

So, ask the people you know for help. "We all get by with a little help from our friends," to quote the Beatles.

But there's a catch. You have to follow up on what they recommend. If you don't, they aren't likely to help you again. Have a look at this email I received last week:

"Why don't people take the help you offer to them? I did all the job research for this one woman - found several positions here that paid well, with great benefits. She didn't apply for a single one! I just don't get it. I can't stand people who ask for help but don't take action. Do they want a job or not? Why don't you write about that in your blog!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire!

Why do corporations lie to their employees? It always comes back to bite them.

That’s what happened to the Hyatt hotel company in Boston when it laid off 100 of its housekeeping staff and “outsourced” housekeeping to a company in Georgia. For sure there were savings: the Georgia company can  pay lower wages and limit benefits. Hyatt can even say, “Oops! We didn’t know,” if the Georgia company hires illegal immigrants.

One lie was allowing current employees to believe that the people they were training were substitutes for  vacations and holidays, not cheaper replacements for their own jobs. Hyatt employees were laid off with one day’s notice and no benefits or help with the job search at first – that is until the Boston Globe got a hold of the story.

Another lie is the statement on the Hyatt website that “As an employee of the Hyatt team, not only will you receive outstanding rewards and recognition, but you’ll also be a part of a family-friendly atmosphere consistently labeled with "great camaraderie."

Now, the CEO and the Governor of Massachusetts are scuffling in the press. It’s bad enough that Hyatt did what it did. Surely there were alternatives. But to lie about it , too?

Think about it. How many people in the Hyatt organization understood what the consequences might be? Paying attention to these issues is actually part of the job description in public relations and human resources. Where were they? The irony is that damage control will cost Hyatt a lot of money. Maybe even more than the difference in pay between their old housekeepers and their new ones!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Layoff Survivors: Too Depressed to Really Work

Do you know one? Are you one? Then, you know how it feels. People who have not been laid off feel angry, exploited, and  stuck. They feel bad for their friends who have been laid off and don’t know how to help. They may be doing the work of two or three people without reward or acknowledgement. Managers distance themselves and are afraid to communicate. Colleagues don’t make decisions because they are afraid to be wrong. Everyone waits for the next shoe to drop. In the meantime, productivity drops, and business goals aren’t met.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. We’ve had enough experience with layoffs to know better. Just look at David Noer’s book, Healing the Wounds. Noer gives lots concrete examples of how to handle layoffs well. Doug Adams and I wrote a “toolkit for managers” called The Challenge of Change for Fleet Bank in the mid-1990s, which is full of ideas for managers to use to decrease the impact of downsizing. Once I figure out how to do it, I'll post pages from it. Please help me if you can!

If you are a layoff survivor, here are some simple things you can to do to stay motivated and keep your career on track:
1. Actively manage your stress.  Exercise, meditate, get medical help if you need it. Leave work at 5:30.
2. Learn something new. Take a class or a course. Get a friend to coach you in a new skill that will give you a boost.
3. Look for assignments that expand your job. What new assignment or what can you volunteer for that will look good on your resume?
4. Take care of yourself so that as things turn around, you will be in a position to move.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

200 Resumes, 300 Resumes, 500 Resumes…

300 resumes sent out with no reply. 500 resumes sent out with no reply. That seems to be how the media measures job search effort. How dumb is that!!! Sending out rafts of resumes is not how to look for a job in a recession. It just doesn’t work.

In the immortal words of John Isaacson of Isaacson Miller, the recruitment firm, hiring strangers is much harder and much riskier than hiring someone you know or has been referred to you. In a recession, when organizations are buried in resumes – both appropriate and inappropriate - hiring managers are even more likely to choose someone who is known to them in some way.

How do you get known by hiring managers? That’s where the strategic thinking comes in. What do you bring to the table? What do you enjoy doing? What organizations are likely to need those abilities? How can you connect with people who work there or in a profession you are targeting? What’s not working in my job search? What should I consider doing differently?

Sure, it’s much harder than just clicking Send on Monster. But thinking is what people are expected to do on the job. It’s time the media started to focus on the people who are getting jobs in spite of the recession, and the strategic thinking they did that made them successful.

Friday, September 4, 2009

There is No Job Market

People ask me, “How’s the job market?” When I tell them there is no one job market, they look confused. After all, people are always talking about “The Job Market” in the media.

But there are MANY job markets, not just one. There’s a market for school principals, for nurses, for executive secretaries, for museum curators etc. etc. etc. Some of the markets are global – like the one for university professors or NBA players. Some are local, like the market for dog walkers. And there is everything in between.

The right question is, “What’s the job market like for my skills now in my geographic location?” For example, what’s the market for customer service reps in Atlanta? Or, what’s the market for commercial lenders in Houston? The answer is never a one-size-fits-all answer.

It’s your job to know the market for your skills in your geographic area. Many industries tend to cluster geographically. If you are a movie producer, your career will center on New York and Los Angeles, for example.

So how do you find out what the job market is for your skills in your area? One easy way is to belong to a local professional association. They know the area, may actually list jobs, and sometimes offer out-of-work professionals free or reduced membership.

Identify your skills first, and then do some research on which employers need those skills in the geographic area you’ve chosen. You may find that you would be more marketable in a new area or with additional skills. (More on these concepts in a later post.)