The downside of being linked in

16d5bbfMarch 15, 2015 – Dear LinkedIn:

I realize that as a professional networking tool whose purpose is to help people like me locate and establish business contacts, you thrive on recommending people to add to my social network.

Normally, I appreciate your recommendations, and have taken advantage of some of your suggestions. However, lately, I have found you a bit insensitive. The last few times I signed on, your suggestions consisted of people who I’ve interviewed with over the past several years and didn’t hire me. So, you’re recommending people who have rejected me. Nice.

At first I was puzzled by how you connected us, the same way a waitress may be puzzled by a customer who calls her by name, only to realize that she is wearing a name tag. In my case, the recipient of my resume most likely searched for me on your network when they wanted to learn more about me. I likely did the same when they called me to schedule an interview. Now, we are forever linked in cyberspace thanks to your algorithmic methods, even though we will have no need to contact each other again.

Perhaps your algorithm should consider that if I looked up a profile two years ago and didn’t link with them then, I’m not interested.

Sincerely,

Jane McMaster

Are you missing a crucial step in the interview process?

imagesAugust 29, 2014 — Today marks the last official day in my current job. Next week, I begin a new chapter and a new position (with same company), a move I have wanted to make since I started almost three years ago.

To say I am happy about the job is an understatement. You might even say I am twice as glad to be given the opportunity because when the offer was made, I learned I almost didn’t get it. The hiring manager thought that perhaps I was no longer interested because I didn’t follow up with him.

The interview process is never as quick as we’d like. I applied for the job, and weeks went by before I interviewed with a representative from HR, and then another few more weeks passed before I had the chance to meet with the hiring manager. In both interviews, I expressed my interest, I expressed it again in a second interview with the hiring manager, and in the thank you notes I had written after each round.

Before the verbal offer was made, however, the hiring manager asked if I still had interest in the position. A few more weeks had passed by this point, and by not following up after a few days, I gave the impression I may not be interested, and that I lack motivation. I had the wrong attitude, believing that the ball was in the hiring manager’s court, and it almost cost me a great opportunity. If he is interested in me as a candidate, I thought, I would hear from him. Following up seemed intrusive on his valuable time. 

“Following up on a job interview is crucial,” says Susan Adams, a career journalist at “Forbes”. “Even if you blow the interview, it pays to get in touch after the fact.”

A good way to tackle the issue upfront, according to career coach David Couper, is to ask at the end of the interview how he or she would like to stay in touch. It shows you are a professional.

Some career experts believe that the follow-up is more important than the interview, and how you follow up is key. You don’t want to become a burden and stand out for the wrong reason. Follow up tastefully. If, for example, the hiring manager tells you he or she is looking to make a decision within a week, it is proper to follow up with a simple e-mail message after that week has passed with a note asking for an update.

Since the follow up is a step in the hiring process that I never took seriously, I’m grateful this happened, that the hiring manager voiced his concern, and most of all that he didn’t hold it against me. I consider it a good lesson learned.

Graduates question whether a degree is worth it

graduationAugust 23, 2013 – If you are a student or the parent of a student heading back to college, here is something to consider.

A recent online poll indicates a whopping 65% of college graduates believe their education has had no impact on their job situation. In other words, what they learned in college is not helping them in their current jobs.

The poll also says that while 25% of respondents believe a college education is an appropriate training program for their career, only 10% believe it is “very effective” at preparing graduates for the working world. Chances are those 10% work in industries where higher education is necessary, such as engineering or medicine. Still, considering that most people go into serious debt to earn a college diploma, these are eye-opening statistics.

The poll sponsored by the University of Phoenix and conducted by Harris International, surveyed 1,600 employed adults in April. I am not sure that the survey indicates college is not important, but it strongly suggests higher education practices should adapt to the current needs of the workplace.

Count me in as one of the 65%. As an adult student, who went back to school after more than 20 years in the workforce, I often wonder if it was worth it. On a social level, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the friendships I created with my fellow classmates. I also took classes that led to great discussion and opened my mind to possibilities. Yet, if you pressed me to name something specific that helps me in my day-to-day duties as an internal communications manager, I would not be able to answer easily.

Granted, the degree may have helped when I began my job search after a layoff from a company that employed me for 23 years. I may not have the job I have now without it, or I may not have had much response for interviews during my job pursuit without having mentioned the degree on my resume.

It seems that ultimately, I paid to say I have a degree. That is not very comforting when I pay that student loan every month.

The best jobs on earth

dream-job 2June 17, 2013 – It’s Monday and we’re back to the old grindstone.

Whether you’re sitting at your desk with your mind wandering, or behind a cash register wishing you were in another profession altogether, you’re not alone. Most of us dream of a perfect job, and usually it’s much different than the one we have.

Here are some of the coolest jobs on earth as voted by Ranker.com participants. I have agree with those who named chocolate taster, beer taster and fortune cookie writer, among the best jobs. I want to live in a world where you get paid the big bucks to do that type of work.

Now, here is a little dose of reality.

According to April 2013 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the ten most common jobs in America:

1. Retail sales persons (4.3M)
2. Cashiers (3.3M)
3. Food preparation workers (2.9M)
4. Office clerks, general (2.8M)
5. Registered Nurses (2.6M)
6. Waiters and Waitresses (2.3M)
7. Customer service representatives (2.3M)
8. Laborers (2.1M)
9. Janitors (2.1M)
10. Administrative Assistants (2.1M)

Additionally, here are the top ten least common jobs, according to the bureau:

1. Prosthodontists (310)
2. Patternmakers, wood (770)
3. Fabric menders (770)
4. Industrial-organizational psychologists (1,030)
5. Farm labor contractors (1,030)
6. Timing device assemblers and adjusters (1,140)
7. Mathematical technicians (1,150)
8. Mathematical science occupations (1,220)
9. Model makers, wood (1,270)
10. Radio operators (1,280)

Happy Monday!

The great debate: education vs. experience

educationJune 14, 2013 – Who has it easier when searching for a job, a college graduate, or a well-experienced worker without a degree?

This is an age-old question asked by many potential job applicants, whether they are fresh from the college classroom, or wise with experience from years spent in the workforce.

Recent graduates may believe they have it more difficult, and often cite their lack of experience as the reason. Still, experienced workers without higher education noted on their resumes often feel fewer doors open to them when looking for a job.

Employers seem just as puzzled by this question. A recent survey shows they say they value a bachelor’s degree more than they did five years ago. Yet they claim a degree has become the new high school diploma, which almost devalues it.

College degrees are more common today than ever, so there may be something to the claim they are not as highly valued. Perhaps that is because many believe the propaganda that college graduates earn a million dollars more in a lifetime than high school graduates do. Not only is this figure grossly inflated, but also it based on information found in studies funded by colleges and universities who want to market their schools to potential students.

Those same employers who say a degree is more important than experience also say they have trouble finding qualified graduates to fill vacancies because they lack basic workplace skills. So, what is the true answer?

It depends on the industry and the job, of course. Students desiring to become doctors, lawyers and engineers, for example, must have a degree to pursue a career in their chosen field. Money spent on that type of education is often a good investment. You may be wise, however, to think twice about going $120,000 in debt for a degree in women’s studies.

Still, experience often proves more important in other fields. In technology, for example, a field that boasts a few big names that are famous for not having a degree, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, experience and keeping up with the latest advances on your own may be more valuable than classroom time.

Higher education is always the best option if you can afford it. The problem is most students cannot go to college without the help of student loans, the amount of which is a growing problem for the United States. Students graduate with enough debt to see their monthly payments equal a mortgage payment in many cases. That often means moving back home after graduation and putting off buying your first home for several years, which hurts the economy.

Another solution is to gain both experience and a degree. If you’re starting out and can find an entry-level job somewhere, you can work during the day and obtain a degree at night. Many larger companies have tuition reimbursement benefits that help workers achieve this goal.

There are also colleges, like Philadelphia’s Drexel University, that has co-ops or internships, often well paid, built into the degree program. Drexel is a five-year program because of the co-ops, but the student gains valuable experience in the work force, along with a degree.

Times have changed for both the recent college graduate and the experienced worker. The job market is quite different than it was prior to 2007, and fewer jobs available. It is best to find a sensible solution that works for you, and realize that taking on a huge debt isn’t always the best answer.

It’s risky business for companies looking to hire the right employees

hire-talentMarch 26, 2013 –You wowed them at the job interview, handled every question with ease, and received a call back for another interview, yet you still didn’t get the job.

It’s frustrating, but new information available indicates it might not be too late to land that job, after all. According to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder, nearly seven in 10 companies have new hires that don’t work out. It also means if you come across an interesting job that’s already been filled, send a resume anyway. It may pay off in the end because that company may be looking to fill that position again in the near future.

A whopping 69 percent of companies reported in the survey they are unhappy with a bad hire in the last year – and for good reason – it costs them up to $50,000 per hire.

What defines a bad hire? Employers reported several reasons including quality of work, failure to work well with other employees, a negative attitude, attendance problems, complaints from customers and failure to meet deadlines. Employers say they account for bad hires because they needed to fill the job quickly, had insufficient intelligence, had fewer recruiters to help review applications, they failed to check the applicant’s references, or they just made a mistake.

CareerBuilder’s survey confirms something we’ve known all along. Hiring a new employee is a difficult decision, and every decision is risky and unpredictable. With most people putting their best foot forward during the interview process, it comes down to intuition for those hiring.

For instance, I’ve heard recruiters and managers say they know within a few minutes if the person they are interviewing is right for the job. That’s gut instinct, and the survey results prove that isn’t always accurate.

It’s also difficult being on the other side of that equation. As a candidate, you wrack your brain trying to figure out what a hiring manager is looking for, and the survey results may indicate that those in charge can be just as clueless. It appears that hiring managers are now discovering what job seekers knew all along. Finding the right person for the right job cannot follow one specific formula.

That sort of levels the playing field, doesn’t it?

10 jobs that play hard to get

March 8, 2012 – Spring is on its way, which means that college graduations are close behind.

While the job market is expected to be a little better than it was over the last few years, here are 10 jobs graduates may want to avoid applying for since they are ranked as the hardest jobs in America to land, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and collegetimes.us.

  1. Astronaut – There’s a time during the lives of many children when he or she dreams about becoming an astronaut. But what little Billy or Betsy may not realize is that the chances of actually achieving that goal are 12,100,000 to 1. Why? Because NASA hires only a small number (about a dozen or so) each year.
  2. Astronomer – Like astronauts, the need for astronomers is relatively small – only about 50 a year land the job. This means that for most stargazers astronomy will most likely be a hobby and not a career, unless you want to forget it altogether and use the telescope to spy on your neighbors.
  3. Model – It looks like an easy way to make a lot of money, and attract attention from admirers, but the Bureau of Labor statistics report that although more than 1,500 individuals are employed as professional models, only 80 positions usually become available in this field each year. Note to grads: choose another path and eat that sandwich!
  4. Professional Athlete – Professional athletes can linger in childhood longer than anyone else, and they are overpaid to do so. Who wouldn’t want to play a game for a living? Still, chances are slim of making it to the show – 24,550 to 1 to be exact. Your best bet is to get a corporate job and join the company softball team.
  5. Professional Referee – If you can’t play, referee. It’s the next best thing, right? Believe it or not, it’s even more difficult to land a job as a ref than as an athlete. I suppose that’s because there are fewer refs needed, making opportunities not readily available. Still, you can always buy a striped shirt and a whistle, and play ref when you attend sporting events. I’m sure it would go over extremely well with the people sitting around you.
  6. Mathematical Technician – If you ask me, a job in math sounds positively dreadful because I’m terrible at it. But there are math geeks out there who stay awake at night dreaming of making it big in this profession. Not a great idea though, since through 2016 the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will only be about 40 job openings in this field.
  7. President of the United States – Why anyone would want to be president is beyond me. Not only do you have to be on duty around the clock, you end up with half of the people (or more in some cases) around the world hating you. Also, candidates who run for office must at least 35 years old, so graduates will have to wait a few years before they pursue this dream.
  8. Prosthodontics – Yes, I had to look it up, but one who is employed in prosthodontics makes dentures, crowns and bridges for dental patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are less than 400 people across the country that have this skill, which sounds like a good thing. But through 2016, the field is not expected to expand by more than 30 or so positions. Odds are just not good enough to consider a career in prosthodontics.
  9. Geographer – Years of extensive study and high intelligence are just two of the requirements to become a geographer. And like the occupations above, there is a small pool of practicing geographers, with a smaller amount (40 or less) hired each year. Take up camping and practice on the weekends instead.
  10. Forest Fire Inspector – All of you Smokey the Bear wannabes be warned. Most jobs in this category are with government agencies, and come along with a difficult screening and selection process. Also, it’s predicted that only 38 specialists in all will be required in this field through 2016. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires, but purely for pleasure and not for a living.

Unimaginative buzzwords, and how the workplace is changing

December 26, 2011 – Looking for a job in the coming year? No doubt that social media will play a part in your search.

If you’re going to create a profile on LinkedIn or update the one you already have, here is a list of the 10 most overused profile buzzwords that you may want to avoid. The list appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of Philly Metro:

1. Creative
2. Organizational
3. Effective
4. Extensive experience
5. Track record
6. Motivated
7. Innovative
8. Problem solving
9. Communication skills
10. Dynamic

LinkedIn analyzed the 135 million profiles on its network to come up with this list. I’m guilty of using a few myself and will have to come up with some “creative” and “effective” alternatives.

Here’s another interesting list I came across on Time.com, which lists three reasons for companies to embrace workplace-flexibility programs, as desired by many of Generation Y workers. Read the article in its entirety here.

1. Gen Y workers won’t accept jobs where they can’t access Facebook. Cisco’s “Connected World Technology” report shows that more than half of Gen Y employees prioritize social-media freedom over a higher salary when evaluating a job offer. Furthermore, more than half say the Internet is an integral part of their lives. Gen Y-ers wants to be connected to their friends and families, not just their co-workers, throughout the day. Although some companies ban social media at work, other companies have embraced it as long as employees use it professionally. “We do want people to use social networks in order to keep in touch with their colleagues and contacts,” explains Gockel, whose company has no formal social-media guidelines or policies.

2. Gen Y-ers value workplace flexibility over more money. More than one-third (37%) of Gen Y workers would take a pay cut if it meant more flexibility on the job, reports a study by Mom Corps. Flexibility motivates these workers to be more productive and loyal to their companies because they feel like they are respected. An employer that allows flexibility in the workplace also demonstrates that it understands the evolving modern-day work environment, which bodes well for the future.

3. Gen Y workers are always connected to jobs through technology. Technology has made the traditional 9-to-5 model blurry — for all workers, of all generations, really. No one is ever out of touch or off the clock. When workers go home, they’re still working because who they are personally and professionally have become one and the same. Workers are always representing the company, and more and more, it seems, work e-mail doesn’t stop for anything or anyone. By no means does time away from the office equal less work getting done.

Appearing younger can help in the workplace

December 19, 2011 – There’s talk of officially increasing the retirement age to 72, as people are working longer and longer these days whether they want to or need to for financial security. But that may not be such a bad thing since studies show that working longer is good for your physical and mental health.

So, you’d think that all of the experience in motion would be a good thing for the workplace, right? Unfortunately, our youth-obsessed society doesn’t respect the old adage with age comes wisdom. And I’m not even referring to ripe old age. Once you’re over 40, especially at work, it’s hard not to be perceived as being over the hill.

So how do you compete?

Here’s some humorous and yet sound advice from the subject matter experts at theladders.com that can help. These tips won’t erase the years, but they can take 10 or so years off your perceived age, which is a plus at work or when going on a job interview.

The power of being linked in

December 12, 2011 – You’ve probably heard of linkedin.com, the social networking site that keeps you connected to business colleagues, friends and co-workers. The concept is that by associating with friends or colleagues (known as inking in), you are also associating with their friends and colleagues, widening your net for possible job opportunities.

If you’re interested in working for a particular company, for example, all you need to do is search that company and see if you have any connections. If you don’t have first connections, which are those you know directly, it’s more than likely that you have a second or third connection to that company, meaning you know someone who is linked to a person who works there, which gives you the inside track or at least a starting point.

What you may not know, however, is that even if you’re not looking for work, linkedin.com comes in handy with your current position. By joining various groups associated with your position, you can keep up-to-date with what’s going on in that particular position or industry, and gain helpful tips on projects or tasks you need to accomplish.

I belong to several communications groups, such as the International Association of Business Communicators, and various freelance writing groups and internal communications groups because we have similar interests and work in similar career paths.

When I started my new job in October, I was put in charge of the company’s intranet site, which I had managed in previous positions. But this time it was built with SharePoint, which is new to me. I logged on to linkedin.com and looked for SharePoint support groups, found one that dealt with using SharePoint as an intranet platform and joined. Not only did I find useful information about building intranet sites through the group’s discussions, but I also found where to go for free online training and help with questions I might have if I run into a stumbling block.

These groups are perfect sounding boards for any project you may be working on, and the comments and responses are usually filled with helpful commentary and ideas to help you move it along. It’s great to get feedback and look for how others have solved problems you may be experiencing now.

As you can see, linkedin.com is a great networking tool all the way around.