Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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.

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.

Intern for Experience: Will Working for Free Get You a Job?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

It’s the catch-22 of employment: no one will hire you unless you have experience, but you can’t get experience unless someone will hire you.

That’s not entirely true, though. As I’ve mentioned before, you can always volunteer to do some work, which will add some experience to your resume and accomplishments to your portfolio. You can also intern. An Internship from Your Couch, in today’s Wall Street Journal, focuses on internships you can take on any time, anywhere, because they are Internet-based. You can even keep your current job, if you have one, while putting in 10-15 hours a week on the side.

Of course, how much training and experience will you get by interning from a remote location? You may just be doing work for free. Check out 10 Rules for Hiring Unpaid Interns to see if someone is offering you a legitimate internship, or is just trying to use you as free labor. A paid internship may be a way for a company to protect itself from labor & employment laws, so don’t think that a meager paycheck will provide a better experience.

The WSJ references Urban Interns, which has listings in New York and Boston and features both paid and unpaid internships. A perusal of current users looking for internships show that while many are in their 20s, there are older users as well (35, 49, and even a 57-year-old with an MD and PhD!). Of course, the number of candidates dramatically outnumbered the number of internship opportunities when I looked, so even finding an unpaid internship may be highly competitive.

When should you consider an internship?

If you are still in school or have recently graduated, an internship would be a great way to get experience. If you are trying to break into a new field, an internship might also be a good way to get some experience.

How should you select an internship?

Many people select internships in the hope that their contributions to the team will be enough to secure a permanent job offer (although nothing of the kind is guaranteed). If this is your goal, be sure to look for a company that is stable and has growth potential. If you are just looking for some experience to bolster your resume, look for a company with some name recognition, or at least a good web presence that you can show off to potential employers — IBM trumps Unknown Computer.

If neither is available, at least find an internship that offers a project where you can shine–and learn something while doing it. If you can get a marketing internship with a budding company and take them from zero-to-hero during your internship, that is a great accomplishment that you can cite, even if a potential employer has never heard of the company. I saw one listing on Urban Interns for business-to-business (B2B) sales cold-calling. Admittedly, it was a paid internship with a Fortune 500 company, so it could at least provide name recognition, but your ability to call strangers on the phone and pitch a product may or may not impress potential employers. And it sounds like work, not training, to me–which may be why they are offering it as a paid internship.

What if you don’t live in New York or Boston? You can also try InternshipPrograms.com, which has listings from around the country. Most are in urban areas, so you may have a hard time finding an internship outside of a major metropolitan area. You can always create your own internship by contacting a company you like and suggesting an internship. Just make sure you have a few good ideas in mind as to what you would like to learn from the experience.

The Extended Unemployment Feedback Loop

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The Long Slog: Out of Work, Out of Hope, from today’s Wall Street Journal, discusses the growing percentage of the unemployed who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks. Obviously it is stressful to be out of work for 6 months, but as the article points out, it can make it even more difficult to find employment: employers comparing candidates with similar qualifications will most likely prefer the candidate who has been out of work the shortest time.

I suppose that makes sense: if you see a house that has been on a market a long time, you assume it is either overpriced, or there is something wrong with it.

The article focuses primarily on blue collar workers: a cable-maker, an electrician, a boatyard worker. Manufacturing jobs have moved or been eliminated completely, leaving unemployment in the vacuum. Presumably, white collar workers are feeling the same strain, although many of their skills may be more easily applied across white collar jobs. Many manufacturing sector jobs are not coming back, leaving a growing number of workers to vie for a smaller pool of jobs.

Macroeconomics defines 3 types of unemployment: cyclical, frictional, and structural. Cyclical unemployment is attributed to the ups-and-downs of the business cycle, and we’re obviously experiencing a lot of that right now. Frictional unemployment is attributed to mismatches between what job hunters want and what employers want. This may have to do with skills, wages/salaries, or even location. (Structural unemployment is similar to frictional unemployment, but is more endemic.)

As one person in the article, the boatyard worker, said, “You look for work and it all has to do with medical.” Although his initial unemployment was cyclical, his continued unemployment is frictional: he is not qualified for the jobs available in his region, and he has not broadened his job hunt beyond his region. He says he can’t see himself going back to school for 4 years at 59 [although I am taking a class on statistical analysis right now, and one of my classmates has him beat by 3 years]. He may not realize that there are, depending on his qualifications, accelerated nursing programs that can be completed in a single year.

Relocation can be hard, particularly if you own a home or want to stay close to your family and friends (and who wouldn’t?). Training and education, on the other hand, is far easier by comparison. Sure, it may not be easy to step into a classroom after a 40 year hiatus, but spending some time to get a certification or degree is a better way to explain a gap in your resume than, “I was waiting for my old job to come back.”

Other ideas to fill the employment gap in a resume:

  • Volunteer (preferably in a position that uses your job skills)
  • Take consulting/freelance jobs

If nothing else, it will show potential employers that you are keeping your skills honed and that you have no lack of work ethic.

The Strategic Job Hunt

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

In the article If You Need to Work Better, Maybe Try Working Less, Sue Shellenbarger argues that scheduling yourself some time off forces you to improve your work habits. If you know you have only until 5 o’clock to get something done, you’ll work more efficiently–either by spending less time on inconsequential tasks, or perhaps by finding clever and time-saving solutions.

This applies to the job hunt too. How many times have you heard the expression “unemployment is wasted on the unemployed”? Everyone else is stuck at the office, and you could be out hiking the AT. But that’s not your mindset–you’re worried about how long it may be before you see another paycheck. When you are out-of-work, you can spend entire days fretting, perusing job sites, and revising cover letters. To stay sane, you need some balance. Get out of the house, go for a walk, pursue some hobbies. There is plenty of time in a day for job hunting.

I would say spending more than 4-6 hours a day job hunting would drive a reasonable person insane. Stick to a sane schedule. Spend some extra time at the gym in the morning and go job hunting from 9 to 3, with a lunch somewhere in between.

Most of the tips in “Try Working Less” can be adapted for the job hunt. Setting the goal is easy: finding a dream job. (Maybe not so easy–do you have a clear idea what your ideal job would be?) Then you need to set some weekly priorities and plan how you are going to meet them.

Weekly priorities might be:

  • Identify 20 job openings (or, if there are no posted openings, places where you would like to work)
  • Send out 10 resumes
  • Follow up on 10 contacts from the previous week
  • Attend a networking event

Find a way to meet those goals in 20-30 hours a week, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to, if not completely relax, at least live a balanced life.

Lost Job? Don’t Panic!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

When faced with unemployment–or continued unemployment–it’s easy to panic. Panic can lead you to apply for jobs that really aren’t right for you. Two anecdotes:

Aiming Low (and Missing)

I have only interviewed for one job that I was not offered. In 1998, after a month of unemployment and faced with dwindling savings, I applied to work at Espresso Royale, a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, Mich. I had been previously employed as a team leader (e.g. a line manager) for a technical support company that is listed on NASDAQ.

The manager who interviewed me rightly identified that I was not going to be happy working at a coffee shop for very long, and that my application there was an act of desperation. They don’t want to train someone who is only going to stick around for a month until a better offer comes along.

Indeed, a month later I got an offer from a rising dot-com (and one that is still going strong).

Holding Out Against the Odds

About 5 years ago, one of my friends had been unemployed for at least 6 months. It was a frustrating time for him. One day he revealed that he had an offer for a contract job. The pay was more than I was making at the time, but as he pointed out, the job was only for a year or two, and did not include a benefits package. “I think I’m going to hold out,” he told me, “for a job with a base salary at least $10,000 higher than that, with a decent benefits package.”

At the time, I thought he was crazy. 6 months out of work, he gets an offer with decent pay, and he’s rejecting it?!

A couple months later, though, he did get an offer with higher pay and a benefits package. Although it required relocating, he accepted.

The lesson? Aim high, don’t settle, and most of all–don’t panic.

Will Starting a Blog Help Your Job Hunt?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I’ve seen a lot of articles lately suggesting that one way to boost your job hunt is by starting a blog (How Blogs Are Changing The Recruiting LandscapeHow a Blog Can Help Your Job Search). I am skeptical that blogging will help every job-hunter–the marketing professional stands to gain more by blogging than, say,  the accountant–but here are 3 ways blogging can help, even if web 2.0 and social media aren’t keywords on your desired job description: (more…)

Free Services for the Job Hunter

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Companies are offering free services, from career counseling to computer software, to job hunters according to The Wall Street Journal (Helping Out-of-Work Clients). LexisNexis offers access to a variety of tools for laid-off lawyers (LexisNexis Lend a Hand), and Autodesk is offering networking sessions for unemployed designers as well as free students licences of its software (Autodesk Assitance Program).

I  saw an offer for a free copy of Adobe’s Flex Builder 3, a tool for building web applications with rich user interfaces, for unemployed software developers.

These offers benefit both job hunters and the companies: job hunters can use the networking and career coaching to find prosepctive employers, and learn new skills with the free software offers, and the companies get future loyal customers and a larger userbase of knowledgeable users.

What free offers for job hunters have you seen recently?