Archive for October, 2009

Following the Jobs: Relocating for Work

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Monday’s Brazen Careerist blog had a post with 6 Tips for doing a long-distance job hunt, which is helpful if you you plan to be part of the increased number of job hunters relocating for work.

Relocating for work is a big step, even for someone who is young and relatively unattached: it can involve leaving behind a network of family-and-friends, and all the familiarity of a place you know well. For others, pulling up stakes could also mean selling a house, taking kids out of school, and possibly looking for two jobs in tandem. When does this decision make sense?

If your job skills are still in demand, but the demand has moved elsewhere, relocating might make sense. For example, if your experience is in the pharmaceutical industry and you saw Pfizer leave Kalamazoo, and later Ann Arbor, Mich., relocating to pharmaceutical hubs like Philadelphia or Boston might make sense.

On the other hand, if your job skills aren’t in high demand anywhere, like many manufacturing jobs these days, a better idea might be training and education that will prepare you for the jobs that are in demand in your area. A second career may also be more fulfilling, less disruptive, and frankly, less intimidating than moving.

You may have the misfortune of a double-whammy, where your skills are not in demand and your city is suffering widespread economic decline, such as cities like Las Vegas, Nev., or Fresno, Calif. In which case, you may want to check out 10 Cities for Job Growth in 2009 and see if any of those places sound good to you. If big cities aren’t your cup of tea, according to the August 2009 Unemployment Report, Montana and Iowa seem to be faring pretty well. Who knew?

As the Brazen Careerist article mentions, unless your skills are both rare and greatly in demand, applying for jobs in another city could be tough. No one wants to spend the money to fly you out for an interview if local talent is available, and companies that have relocation policies may not want to pay the extra up-front costs to move you. Pulling up stakes without a solid job offer, though, is an expensive and risky proposition.

Dress for Success: What to Wear to an Interview

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Kat at Smashing Pennies suggested I write about what to wear to an interview. This is an interesting topic and clearly one that is up for debate. For example, when I told my wife that open-toed shoes are definitely out for job interviews, she said I was crazy. I stand by my claim.

Of course, I read in the Wall Street Journal a year or two back about one executive who said he would never hire anyone with rubber-soled shoes. Perhaps that’s above my echelon, but I personally have never owned leather-soled dress shoes. If my Rockport wingtips are dressy enough for weddings and funerals, I hope they should suffice for a job interview.

Men: Neckties

Men, these are required in my opinion. Unless you are applying for a job as a bouncer at a dive bar or a rodeo clown, a dress shirt and a necktie is the minimum. Even if the job you are applying for doesn’t require such attire on the job, you need to show the interviewer that you are serious and not wasting his or her time. Get out your favorite silk noose and refresh your memory on the Half-Windsor knot.

On a side note, one nice thing about a necktie is that, in many scenarios, it can transform you from business casual to interview-ready in a few twists and turns. This can be helpful if you are rushing to a job interview directly from your current job, where your boss may be suspicious of your newfound interest in wool suits.

Men: Suits

This is a tough call. I would say that a suit is generally a good idea. Obviously, if you are in sales, in law, or work in the financial sector, a suit is a must. In other industries, there are some risks. If you are applying for a job in a very casual work environment, a suit might make you seem too stuffy. If you are applying for an entry-level job, the interviewer might think you are putting on airs.

On the other hand, some years ago when H. Ross Perot was running EDI, I heard that even their call center employees, who never interacted with a client face-to-face, were required to wear suit-and-tie every day. Not even blazer-and-slacks, but suit-and-tie. That’s definitely not a place to show up for an interview underdressed. Understanding the culture of the company should give you a good handle on this; I’ve often asked the receptionist at companies where I’ve interviewed what the dress code is like to get a good sense of this.

Women: Hosiery

This is a topic that, as a man, I know very little about. However, I recently ran across an etiquette survey in the October 2009 issue of Real Simple in which one of the questions was “Do you need to wear panty hose to an interview?” 23% said yes, but 67% said it depends on the workplace. I think this falls in line with men & suits — knowing a little about the company should go a long way in informing your opinion.

Women: Skin (& More)

Perhaps this goes without saying, but dress conservatively. Décolletage is out. Short skirts are out. My wife disagrees, but I say even open-toe shoes are out. Makeup? Conservative. Jewelry? Conservative. Unless you are applying for a position as a cocktail waitress, conservative is the rule.

At the same time, be yourself. If you wear something that isn’t like you at all, you may feel less comfortable–as interviews can be stressful for many people, you want to minimize that as much as possible.

Unisex: An Eye on the Time

Wear a wristwatch, if you have one (and it looks professional). I know we all keep the time on our cell phones now, but wearing a watch implies that you are a punctual person, and to punctual people are attributed a great many other traits, deserved and undeserved, such as: strong work ethic, attention to detail, highly organized.

These are just my guidelines. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and remember: you are trying to impress people. Wear the dressiest thing you can imagine wearing on that particular job (e.g. meeting with an important client or giving a presentation to the CEO).

My wife says that most of these rules would be ridiculous in Hawai’i (neckties?!). Think I’m way off base? Or know of a case where erring on the side of caution backfired? Say so in the comments.

Community-Based Job-Hunt Help

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Communities Band Together for Work (ABC News) describes several ways in which communities are helping their local job hunters:

  • Companies with empty desks are opening up as ad hoc coworking/collaboration spaces, facilitating new business ventures and partnerships.
  • Churches track Needs (people looking for work) and Leads (job openings) in a database to help match their congregants with open positions.
  • People are starting local job clubs to provide support to their job-hunting neighbors.

What kinds of activities have you seen in your communities to support job hunters?

The Psychological Impact of Long-Term Unemployment

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

A story on NPR this morning, Jobless Benefits Exhausted, Still No Work (audio), does not paint a pretty picture: more and more people are still jobless after 39 weeks and their unemployment benefits are ending (26 weeks of unemployment benefits + 13 weeks extended unemployment benefits).

Unemployment Duration - 53% less than 5 weeks, 39% between 5 and 26 weeks, 8% greater than 26 weeks

Unemployment Duration - 53% less than 5 weeks, 39% between 5 and 26 weeks, 8% greater than 26 weeks

Fortunately, most people do find work long before their unemployment benefits run out: according to the Congressional Budget Office, only 8% of unemployment spells exceed 26 weeks (PDF). And many states have extended unemployment benefits beyond 39 weeks.

How the Long-Term Unemployed Can Find Work, in yesterday’s US News and World Report, touches on the negative psychological effects of long-term unemployment. Work (as much as we may sometimes complain about it!) is a tremendously important part of our lives and our identities. The US News article offers some tips on how to combat those effects.

Some of the tips for combating unemployment-related depression listed in that article are the very things that Foxsuit wants to help job hunters with. Look for new features on the site in the coming weeks to help you keep you your spirits up and your job hunt on track.

Bad Job References? Crossing a Burnt Bridge

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The Seven Deadly Myths of Job References discusses some common misconceptions about an important component of your job hunt: what your past employers will say about you.

I hope that you have had nothing but great employment experiences and that you are on good terms with all your old bosses. That’s my fortunate position–I would gladly work with any of them again, and I believe they would say the same about me.

However, I have worked with plenty of people who did not feel the same way and did not leave their jobs on good terms.

There is one point, perhaps obvious to most, that was not explicitly mentioned in “Seven Deadly Myths” and that bears repeating:

  • Ask Permission

Ask your former manager if you can use him or her as a reference. This alerts them to the fact that you are looking for work, and a reference check won’t come to them as a surprise. They may even decline, if they feel that their honest opinion won’t help you.

Use references that think highly of you and can speak well of you! An enterprising prospective employer might make a call or two off your listed references, but in many cases they will stick with the people you list.

Are you worried that someone might be passing along a negative reference? Maybe you have had dozens of good interviews that never pan out? offers a service to check your references for you

Is it worth $79 per reference? Only you can decide. But it’s safe to say that it pays not to burn your bridges.

Knife-Thrower Seeks Juggling Position

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

There’s a good article, Gaping Gap? How to Plug Holes in Your Work History, on Careerealism today with advice on how to deal with gaps in your employment history.

One of their suggestions is to omit a job or two–if your employment history is long enough, you can just list other positions held, without dates, in a summary labeled previous experience.

Masking a gap, in my opinion, is not the only reason to omit a job from a resume. In some cases, I don’t even know if a previous experience summary is all that helpful. So long as you have sufficient work experience in your field, there is no reason to dig back to your summer jobs during college or high school. Chances are, no one cares that 12 years ago you worked briefly a sales associate at Target, or that you picked up some extra cash one summer at the Baskin-Robbins.

Focus on the jobs that are relevant to the position you are applying for, and focus on the skills you demonstrated there that are most relevant to the position you are applying for.

After all: You might be an excellent knife-thrower, but if the circus is looking for a juggler, who cares?