Monday, April 16, 2012

Reservations Not Accepted

Getting a coveted interview with a great company, for a position that is well-advertised, for which one seems like a very good fit: a bit of a golden ticket, eh?

Well, I thought so. A lot of us have been there. Fast, positive feedback on the resume and phone interview. A half day filled with several interviews in succession, including both execs and a hiring manager. Kick it all off with an HR download, org chart, maybe sort of testing if that's what they're into. You've come armed with list of questions, because you've done the prep work suggested by the staffing company presenting you. Receptive people. Good answers. Until a few days later when the most important answer turned out to be "no," they'll pass. They just didn't get the right impression.

That smarts. We can do our homework and try to stack the deck in our favor before interviewing, and we should, but we can't win them all. Actually, in today's job market, it can be tough to win any at all.

But remember, each of us only needs to win one--the right one. The best one for us. And for our new employer, too. So when I ran across the U.S. News article linked below and its list of fantastic questions to ask prospective employers when on an interview, I felt like I had a winning lottery ticket in my hands. Not only do I wish I'd asked some of these questions about positions I didn't get, they also will prompt the type of answers I wish I'd had for jobs I'd actually taken the past.

Almost everyone I know wishes they'd have thought to ask a future boss this, at one time or another:
  • How would you describe your management style?
There's a huge difference between a supervisor who says they're basically hands-off and will try to trust their team to work together to get the job done, versus one who says they are exacting and demanding, but will always reward the highest achievers. We don't all thrive under either style.

In any future interview, I will now do my best to ask this question before I leave:
  • Are there any reservations you have about my fit for the position that I could try to address?
If they do have a reasonable doubt that I find I can't really address, maybe I'm not a great fit after all.

If there is a mistaken reservation about me, based on a vibe I've given off without realizing it, or a comment heard the wrong way, now is my chance to correct the wrong impression. I came armed with a sheet full of questions, for example. Does that come off as overly prepared, or not confident in conversation. Or, what about this blog and my tweets? Could it be I seem unwilling to focus on one informal, social kind of writing, only? None of that is true, so this question lets us discuss my confidence, preparation and ability to focus on one style of writing when needed at work. A win-win.

Here's the full article to read:

The Right Questions to Ask At Your Next Interview
by Alison Green

From it, I learned I've likely made a few mistakes by not probing a little deeper into the nature of the positions I've interviewed for. I now know to ask what it will take for me to succeed not just as a candidate for the job, but as an actual employee day-to-day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Pros of Job Seeking

When it comes to job seeking, are there really any pros? Mostly it seems like a lot of cons, right?

By pros, I mean Professionals--no, not the chronically unemployed who manage making a living at looking for work (huh? Nobody does that, silly). Professional Job Seekers are the recruiters and staffing experts of the world. See, they are employed in the field of finding jobs--for you and me. Better still, they also find the people to fill the jobs (again, you and me) for employers.

What wonderful matchmakers they can be, taking so much of the pressure off either side of one of the most important interactions in business: putting people to work, trusting people to perform for your company, finding the place and the people with whom you will spend a third of your life working side by side with, trusting people to deliver the conditions, the pay and the benefits they said they would for the work that you've done for them. It's no game, matching employees with employers, for either side.

That's why Pros can make such a big difference. If you feel at all amateur about your job search, consider working with a recruiter or staffing service. I truly believe there is someone for everyone.

Job seekers can benefit from the remarkable strengths of Manpower, the worldwide Fortune 150 Company with a 60 year history and over 400,000 job-providing customers. Originally a temporary staffing service, now a sophisticated employment services organization, Manpower offers training programs at every career stage and placement services in numerous fields, from industrial to professional. And despite the name, they help women, too.

For 20 years the recruiting and staffing pros at Paladin have been making matches in the creative, marketing and communications arenas. They work both ends of the transaction, and develop in-depth relationships with their clients and the talent they represent. If you are a job seeker in advertising or marketing, either client-side or agency side, you might want sign on with a placement agency to help get you in front of hiring managers. I myself have just done so—with Paladin, so here is my nod to them. The website has a job posting section as well as the useful advice in the knowledge center, linked below.

IT remains a hot field for employment, and you don’t have to be a programmer, consultant or engineer to take advantage of all the hiring opportunities, either. Data entry personnel, switch technicians, cable installers, even phone center staffers can find positions listed at this #1 ranked technical staffing and services company. Of course, if you do happen to speak Oracle or Java…well, the next question might be, where would you like to live?

Where to Find Work
Here’s a simple idea that just about anyone could find interesting: according to the website, you can “get local jobs delivered to your InBox, free.” Sound good? A free service that has put thousands of people together with new positions sounds good to me. Signing up may be a good thing To Do.

Note: Look into staffing and recruiting agencies  based firston the number and type of opportunities the company can offer you, and second, the actual person/people you will be able to work with. There are plenty of good recruiting agencies out there, but it’s key for you feel your job interests and requirements will be addressed, and that you form a good connection with the pro who will be going to bat for you out there in the market!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The 6 Stages of Non-Wages

Have you heard of the stages of grief, sometimes called the stages of loss or mourning? It is said to be a universal pilgrammage for grieving people; and so it seems to be a healthy thing, to move through these stages, and get "stuff" out of one's system so healing can take place and life can progress. I guess it also makes sense, that when you "lose your job" you might go through something similar to a mourning period. It's not a person that is lost, so I don't want to make as dramatic of a statement as grief, per se, to describe some of the feelings we go through being unemployed. But hey, if the act fits, maybe I should stage it.

According to experts, the five or seven stages of loss tend to range from the initial shock and denial, all the way through anger, bargaining, depression, and usually the experience is said to end at acceptance. We can see how some of these natural responses would be likely in the realm of the recently laid-off worker. For someone who had worked a very long time in a certain business or for a certain employer, I'm sure the effects are harder still to deal with. Many people truly love what they do, and they center a good portion of their life around their job, and spend a lot of time at their company and/or with the people at their company.

However, in the case of the unemployed, we have to be very careful about how long we catch ourselves lingering in some of the stages of grief. Because, unlike mourning the loss of a person, being unemployed isn't really a permanent situation. A job, unlike a person, can be replaced. Maybe not exactly the same job, but for all intents and purposes, one can resurrect one's work life.

So, for example, let's tread gingerly around the depression stage, shall we? If you feel the blues set in, that's understandable, but get some help, pronto, because you need confidence and energy to get out there in order to solve the cause of the depression stage in the first place. Meaning, you need to put your best foot forward to be re-employed. And if you're unemployed long enough to get to the acceptance stage, well... hmmmm. This is a bit perplexing. You must accept the loss of the old job, yes. That's all there is to it, though. Not to be harsh, but the fact is, it's gone. When it comes to employers, we're making room for the new.

I started this blog using the analogy of zombies and the scariness of being re-animated once bitten. You know, I gotta admit, zombieland has almost happened to me here over the last couple of weeks. The old fleece robe I banished two months ago has re-appeared as of late, sometimes remaining on my body until mid-afternoon. Loaded with cat hair. I noticed this as I sat here by the computer recently.

Actually, "noticed" is rather gentle. I kind of panicked. Because, I mean, I know I've gone mousy with my blonde, but really, has joblessness turned me this gray, this fast? Plus how much hair am I losing now? Turns out the "good news" is that it was gray cat hair all over my robe, not mine, in bad lighting, which made it so I couldn't tell for a minute there. Yet, I didn't really...get up. You know, to look closer. Until later. When I got food.

Eww. So, fortunately for me, I'm managing my stages fairly quickly. Like that Lazy/Crazy Stage I just passed out of. I washed that hair right out of my robe, and that grey right out of my day, and by that afternoon I had been called for a really great job interview.  Funny how that works. Making room for the new.

Here's how I've found my Six Stages of Unemployment to be--all bearable, very natural, and quite usable for strengthening and self-improvement. Remember, we're kicking ass and finding inner peace this year. That's not a stage, it's a promise!

Stage 1: Chin Up I was optimistic and had a lot of energy to make the most of things. I set out to be a model of how to be laid off and still be okay...better than okay, actually: to thrive.

Stage 2: Sad I missed people I worked with, even though I knew them less than a year--I missed the idea of knowing them longer. One gal just got married and she sent pics. I cried over her happiness and wished we worked together during this, since we were there for her engagement, etc.

Stage 3: Settled I felt I should enjoy this time and maximize the heck out of it, undertaking many projects, being domestic, working on writing a novel, reading, getting taxes done, lunch with friends and family, cooking more and being more present with the home life and personal goals. Good.

Stage 4: Cranky I began to have my nose out of joint a little, with the low response to my resume submissions. Why are they not calling me back for interviews? Don't they realize/I'm doing every thing right? Increasingly hurt inside and irritated outside that I'm hardly being given a chance.

Stage 5: Lazy/Crazy Onset of zombieland syndrome; hairy robe sightings (went out to mailbox in said robe one afternoon), online job search efforts less frequent aka "not worth it," daily plan to do yoga and work on novel and update this blog consistently ignored. Greek yogurt spoiling in fridge.

Stage 6: Nervous ... but Sane. This is the honest stage, where I come back from the brink of zombieland to tell you the truth. I haven't been unemployed long enough to feel desperate, but I can see how that could become Stage 7. I also don't have small children, or elderly parents I must support, and my husband still has his job and insurance. But I need to work, plain and simple. I need wages. We have obligations we must meet and goals we feel strongly about, as well. And there's a guilty feeling in all this, too, even though I know it's not "my fault" my company laid me off.

So, yes, I'm grateful we have family and a home to help us through when we need it, if it comes to that. I've said it before: I'm a lucky jobless person. I have enough for food, a computer, electricity, etc. However, I'm still nervous. I'm owning this stage. Just know this: I'm not letting this stage own me!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thinking Outside the Jobbox

Being unemployed has required due diligence for weeks now. There has been plenty of time for filing of papers and keeping of copious notes. The first real payoff of any kind comes today, as I head out for my first interview since I was laid off in early January.

Whatever vigor I had a few weeks ago has admittedly waned a little since then. The job market is tough and the responses to my job applications and resume submissions have been slow to almost none. I am well-assured that is far from my fault. But I don't rest assured, if you know what I mean. Now that my unemployment benefits have kicked in, it's hard not to focus on how small of a payment those checks really are. And for me it's only been less than two months... gulp. After what I saw about the long-term unemployed on 60 Minutes last Sunday, I've felt an urge to swallow, hard.

That could be me. They were quality people with great resumes. They, too, had felt they had done everything they could. But they had been trying for a lot longer now. Still, this conversation shouldn't drop down too far--the segment showed there is hope. These people were getting through with innovative help and by thinking outside the box. For example, a man in his fifties was taking on a job as an intern, with a chance to earn his way to a full-time position. Well, why not, right? When you're jobless, internship is a job. He was happy as a lark, having something to do, a reason to get up and go somewhere every day. I guess there's a big employment benefit that's often overlooked: being productive and feeling useful.

I learned from the show that being jobless for a long time does seem to sap a certain amount of zest from even the sparkiest of folks. I don't want that to happen to me, or anyone I'm trying to be a cheerleader for. So while I do think it's best to keep at it, nose to grindstone and all that, I also think we need to maintain some side doors to other possible lands of whimsy and hallways of wonder. Would you ever consider going back to a job of your youth and starting over as an intern?

Maybe you have way more potential now. What about moonlighting--ever done it? Can it become a stronger possibility, now that you're unemployed? After all, you have time on your hands. You can give something a go, when you could never find time To Do it before.

I have some back roads and less trodden paths identified for myself. I also look around at other parts of the country, just to see what the cost of living would be like, if I worked for less in a place where it costs less to live. I've thought about having two part-time jobs instead of one full-time. Maybe there's room to grow a position along with a company. Even this blog was a seedling of an idea for potential income in the future. I don't know how, affiliates?

The point is, if jobs were boxes, you've kind of been dumped out of your old one, yes? No need to only search for the same kind of box to hop right back into. If you ever had a cat, you know how to do it. Fit yourself in there, even if it's sort of the wrong shape, go ahead, give it a squish and a squeeze. Or tip that other big box over and crawl inside the back corner real cool-like, cuz, yeah, you meant to do that.

Look, maybe you could work for a celebrity!

Maybe you could get a job in the Caribbean!

Or maybe you could just get inspired, scratch a couple ideas together, and think outside your jobbox for a while. What might you do if there wasn't much holding you back? Be curious, like a cat. Tell your iPhone to call you Whiskers.

Just remember to change that when you go on your next job interview.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Places to Go, Jobs to See

At the very least, job seeking is an opportunity to learn about what other people do for a living. If you're open to looking around enough, you can run into all sorts of occupations that you might never have know existed. Companies and industries, too. There are websites that sell that? What, you mean there are actually people with those qualifications? Wow, who knew there was an entire industry devoted to serving just those people, and they're will to pay how much? And so on.

If you're open to considering new avenues for your own employment, this post, as well as the next several, are meant for you. I've run into some vertical veins of information for job seekers that could lead to a whole new view on where to look for work doing what you do, but in a new industry. For example, government work, which I'll focus on in a moment.

I've also discovered great sources for quick and easy leads for work in specific areas of the country, if your dream job is more about where and when (here and now!) than what. If you're into reinventing yourself, improving your odds, or reading success stories of others who've been where you're at and found happiness in new jobs, there are resources for all that, too. In short, there is no shortage of fine links with which I'll be linking us up. Bookmarking, then, may be an important To Do.

So here's something most of us might not have ever thought of: government work. We hear a lot about government jobs, but other than politics, the DMV and the post office, what does working for the government mean really?

There is a TON of information on this topic at a giant website for job seekers, This is a free portal to many directories and websites covering all sorts of job search resources. A one-stop shop if you will, but the information on federal and state employment is what drew me in. It sure is comprehensive: Government Job Search Info

I wondered what kind of work a writer or marketing professional such as myself could do in a government position. A look at the directory descriptions gave me some ideas:
  • Directory of Employers by State - links to over 8,000 employer recruiting pages (government, education, hospitals, banks, companies), job sites, job support groups, and more
  • Directory of Government Employers - links to the recruiting sections of US Federal, state, and local employer websites plus links to associations of government employees, and articles on how to apply for these jobs

I realized that employer recruiting pages for state and federal facilities could include the same types of positions that private companies would feature--banks and hospitals need marketing and educational materials created, and employee communications and websites exist in all these places. This will also apply to other job seekers. "Government" job listings could include everything from housekeepers to accountants to pilots to security guards to professors at state universities. So my vision of working for the feds in a trench coat and really conservative 2 inch heels, while kinda cool, turns out to be not really accurate or necessary.

Job-Hunt has links to tens of thousands of sources and pieces of advice to aid you in your job search. You can follow this resource on Twitter, too: @JobHuntOrg

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mad Job Lady. With Cats.

I have a friend who lives in another country who recently wrote to me that he has been reading my Don't Hit Snooze posts, and feels he "would go mad" before he could attempt to get a job over here.

Hmm, thought I. I must be giving him quite the bad impression, with all my resource scouting and advice sharing, dos, don'ts, how-tos, etc. I thought this to the point of not blogging here for a couple of days. Maybe it's just been too much. From my first post when my position was eliminated, I decided to make writing my way through this journey a daily discipline of sorts. Well, I can tweak that plan. But being a new job seeker myself, and new to the feelings of being suddenly unemployed, I have to say I'm about as opposite as I can be to what my friend said--I'm literally attempting to get a job over here before I go mad, like I feel I could.

I've worked since I was 14, so sure, I feel a pressure there. Not in a workaholic way, but in that's what I do for income way. The region and the social class in which I was raised has contributed to how I've worked, too--meaning I've work for others. But not on a farm or in a field, not for rich parents, and not in a crime ring. Just regular ol' pouring coffee and serving eggs, writing headlines and teaching exercise classes, clocking in, collecting wages, going home to family afterward types of jobs.

Sure, I've worked for myself some. Yeah, I have a novel in the drawer. I tried to be a choreographer that one year when I was 20. I'm trying to get freelance jobs right now. Regardless, one needs customers. I need them to have an interest I can capture and monies to pay me. So, really the same rules apply to all of those independent endeavors as to everything I've been blogging about getting a job.

Is it less maddening to not try to get a job, and to instead just have less to pay for? YES it must be. But that's not my life. So getting a job is for me, no matter where I live, about my choices. There are many other choices here, but I just haven't written about them. Yet. However, in my country, being now unemployed means I could also head down to the Florida Keys or out to the Colorado Rockies and just camp mostly, and not have a real job at all. I could be like that guy with the cats on Mallory Square, or the like the painted man that looks like a statue. Or I could invest in a bike with a basket on both front and the back and run people's errands for them in a well appointed ski village. I'm a cute older mom, it's clear I know a ripe avocado when I feel one, people would totally trust me with their grocery lists.

Maybe if I didn't raise a family? Honestly, I could have ended up a beach bum, a mountain mama or livin' la vie boheme. I do have a feeling though, that still I would have been very organized about it. Oh, I would have journaled it for sure. There would be lists. If I could have been the best one of the beach bums, you know, had the largest crowd for my cat tricks...or came up with a web ordering system for my bicycle delivery service... I'm sure I'd have enough material to blog about every day, too. Like, people need tips on how to deal with the business of getting city permits for public entertainment with animals, and what about the safety hand signals for riding a bike across one way mountain roads?

My friend had pointed out how he would make something and sell it, or charm a stranger instead. I guess to avoid the hassels getting a job, like I'm going through? But wait--I think that's kind of the same thing. I'm making something, when I write my pitches to potential employers. I create the plans for what I'm making when I research places I'd like to work and the jobs I'd like to do there. And I'm definitely charming strangers throughout this whole process. Or trying to, anyway.

Over here, we have access to a multitude of helping voices and cool tools, just a few keystrokes away, to make getting a job before we go mad a little more possible. I just uncovered a mother lode of those tools on alone. Depending on what you're looking for and where you live, you can get new jobs and recruiters and other related links scrolling across your screen every few minutes all day long if you like. You don't have to, but you can, and that's what's important.

There is so much help for you out there, if you are trying really hard to use every asset the internet, industry, and our government has to offer. If you really want to get yourself to work, so you can start getting a paycheck, getting insurance, getting into a field you have a passion for, whatever your motivation for getting a job is, hang it there.

No, it's not perfect. Especially in the most urban and rural environments. Especially in the most competitive and underfunded fields. But I do think it's makes a certain amount of sense. We might need to be continually adjusting our expectations in this country, though. I myself might be pouring coffee or teaching exercise classes again one day soon. I'm making peace with that. In fact, if I decided to get either of those jobs right now, most of what I talking about on this blog wouldn't be necessary for me to be doing.

But for now, if you're in the U.S., and you have access to Twitter, and you're still thinking getting a job is the sane way to handle your unemployment, check out @TweetMyJobs. Or you can visit them online at It's the number one social recruitment network matching job seekers with employers. Employers can quickly and simply post what they're looking for on the website, and TweetMyJobs will distribute the need via the social network on Twitter, boom!

That's so easy it can't possibly make people go mad, right?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From Their Mouths to Your Hiring Offer

I found a really neat resource online for job seekers. It's an easy-to-read booklet in pdf form:

100 Job Search Tips from Fortune 500 Recruiters

Published by EMC2 and dated December of 2009, its content remains current enough for our purposes now and for a long time. It is filled with advice from the very people who will be scouring our resumes, conducting telephone interviews with us, and in many cases, hiring us.

The organization of the tips is so concise and very useful. Also very telling. Each page contains content under the same headings: Top 10 job search strategies, Top 3 common mistakes that job seekers make, My top recruiting sources, Favorite recruiting story, and Final words.

A quick scan of the Top 10 strategies has shown me that networking appears to be number one, or close to it, on most recruiters' lists. Looking at their Top 3 recruiting sources shows me it's absolutely the right thing for me to be spending so much time on LinkedIn these days. Based on the mistakes we job seekers tend to make most often, I think I'll look into more information on preparing for interviews. It is cited as a big problem, and I must say I never thought much about interview prep before.

I hope you enjoy this little gem of a read. Don't miss the list of recommended resources at the back, either! I plan on tracking down this book's producers and thanking them for making it available to us. (Turns out, sending thank you notes is still a good thing for job seekers To Do.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Little Help

I recently learned that the author of "The Help," Kathryn Stockett, received about 60 rejections during the five years she tried to get a literary agent to represent her manuscript. Reading into that story, I found out it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for most of 2009, all of 2010, and I just looked to see that, sure enough, it's still there at the start of 2012. Number 3 on the big list, and first on the paperback trade fiction list as well. The novel was adapted to a screenplay, too, and in 2011 it was a hit in theaters, scoring 4 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Nice story, but what does it have To Do with job-seeking?

When I read about Kathryn Stockett, I thought about all her rejections, and all the other famous books and authors who received a notorious number of rejections before finally being picked up by just the right person, at just the right time. And the rest is history.

Stephen King's first novel Carrie, was rejected dozens of times.
16 rejections for The Diary of Anne Frank. One noting the girl had no special feeling.
Dune, 20 times. Gone with the Wind, 38.
George Orwell was told, with an Animal Farm rejection, that animal stories don't sell.
Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul received over 130 rejections!

As difficult as it is to write an amazing story, it is even more difficult to be published for most people. There are many factors at work, not the least of which is perfect timing. In fact, the world might not have ever known a young wizard named Harry Potter if it was not for the eight year old child of a CEO at a small London press, who got the book after a dozen other big publishers had already rejected it. He going to do the same, but that kid begged her dad to print it instead... thanks, kid!

The hugely successful and influential children's author Judy Blume says she was rejected for "two years straight" before finally getting published. She cites "hard work and determination" as what made the difference for her. Is it really that simple?

For us job seekers, perhaps it is. After all, more people get employed than get published. That alone should tell us to take heart--and take a cue from Judy Blume. We have our talents, our experience, our skills. Plus, we even have our special ways of verb-loading our resumes and key-wording our cover letters and job applications. But still, it's our hard work and determination that will the stack the odds in our favor. The more we try, the more we improve the chance for our story to be in the right person's hands at the right time.

Oh, and there's one more thing we need to make sure we have.


Friday, January 27, 2012

P.S. Don't Do This!

I've been writing more cover letters than usual lately. Maybe you have been, too.

In my case, all of them have gone out digitally, none printed and mailed. These letters are not always letters, actually, some of them have been only notes. But all of them have been one of the following:

  • attached to an email
  • attached to a job application
  • inside the body of an email
  • inside a text box as part of a response on a website

Today's topic, cover letters, will address the types of cover letters as listed above--the kind that most often accompany our resume submissions, position inquiries and job applications. We'll talk about the way you're sending them, how they are presented, plus how they present you.

The ideal cover letter will do three things:

1. Make the desired impression
2. Serve the desired purpose
3. Prompt the desired action

In some ways, your cover letter can be considered a small piece of sales literature. First, it should make the desired impression. In all cases, even for the most creative positions, it should be professionally presented. Everyone says it, everyone agrees, but so often we mess this up, despite all the warnings. So it bears repeating: No typos. No grammar errors. Get the person's name right.

Another thing about making a professional impression: know your audience. Do your homework. Don't phrase a cover letter to a recruiter as if she's the company founder. And don't gush over your passion for a certain product line when in fact the company sold that line off two years earlier. Check your facts before making statements that you intend to make an impression with.

Now, about the purpose of your letter. You do want it to inform (about you, what you're sending, and why the reader should care). But it won't have time to educate. How long can your letter be? Well, that depends. If it's a typed document, formatted like a traditional business letter that you attach to your email or job application, great. You have more leeway there to sell yourself and provide evidence that matches you to this position beyond what your resume can do. By more leeway, I mean one page at most, comprised of two to three short paragraphs surrounded by address, date, salutation, closing and all the proper spacing. But if you only have a small text box, you'll have to pare down to a couple of really important sentences. A cover note, if you will.

The purpose of a shorter cover note is to highlight the most important reasons the reader should examine your application, and/or what you believe they will find exciting about your resume as it matches this position. Basically, tell them what you want to tell them more about, in a personal interview.

By the way, the type of position you're applying for also makes a big difference in how long your letter should be, and affects the purpose of it, too. If you're applying for a copy editor job, you probably want a pretty short, succinct letter. If appropriate, you might write it in close to the same tone of the type of publication or materials you'd be editing. If you're applying for IT management position but previously only held highly technical programming jobs, you might use your cover letter to communicate your soft skills in the human language HR folks can read.

Finally, there is the call to action. Even if you are only writing an informal letter inside the body of an email, to, say, a friend of a friend that you don't expect much from and don't want to come off too stuffy with, you still need one of these. You MUST tell the receiver of your letter what you want them to do, now that they have gotten it.

They might not do it, of course, but call upon them to do so, or risk making the impression that you really don't care, that there was no real purpose to your inquiry. Imagine,


I'm pleased to submit my resume in response to the job posting for the Fantastic Leader position at The Best Company in The World. I have also attached a separate document listing many of the industry clients I have worked with of interest to The Best Company, including key competitors Second Best and A Little Better. I believe you will find this experience relevant to your needs for a Fantastic Leader. I look forward to continuing to develop new market opportunities in the industry, like the Giant Profitable Product Launch I did for Second Best in 2009.

Thank you for your consideration.

Someone Who Assumes You Will Call Me (I mean obviously, if I didn't want an interview, I wouldn't have sent in my resume and this letter. Do I really have to ask you to please call me to discuss further? Do I really have to tell you I'd like to talk with you in person about this opportunity?)

YES. As with many things in business, in writing, in etiquette, in life.... it might seem unnecessary, but it's more of a crime of omission if you don't. So do.

But one thing not to do, is include a P.S.. There was an old school direct marketing/sales letter "technique" that used to go around a lot, and it probably still does, in fact I know it does because I still get a little junk mail from the people that want to lure me back into their write books for children and win the poetry medal of honor schemes. This old technique called for putting a P.S. with the most compelling call to action at the bottom of your letter. Because people might not read the rest of your letter, but their eyes will naturally be drawn straight to the P.S. --and you know what that means. They will do whatever it says.

I suppose it works as well as anything, depending on how many free Shirley Temple commemorative statues the P.S. has to offer. But not for our purposes here. It's just cheesy so don't do it.

P.S. Don't use a P.S. in any serious business letter, especially a cover letter for your resume! Also don't use exclamation points! You can see how awful they look now in this context. Triple check your spelling and facts. Have someone else proofread if you're not a grammar guru. But don't panic. The letter needs to be well done, that's all. Not a limited edition work of art--that's you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Work, with a Side of Money

In Illinois, to receive unemployment benefits (unemployment insurance payments), you must do something called "certify" your eligibility. I assume this is similarly required in all states. (I just did an informal search of requirements for Michigan, California, Texas, Nevada, Massachusetts and Florida, and found a certification element existed in each of those cases.) Basically, you need to regularly assure the state, before it sends you the next payment for the period of unemployment you're receiving benefits for, that you are:
  • still unemployed
  • willing, able and ready to work
  • actively seeking work, and
  • not turning down work that could be getting you out of the system and back into the workforce
A series of straightforward questions that took about five minutes to answer was all that was required of me yesterday for me to certify my eligibility to receive what will be my first benefits payment. I think I'll be getting it in the next couple of days. I had already signed up for direct deposits to be made into my checking account, so payments will be quicker and easier to receive. Otherwise, the state offers a bank debit card, which is loaded with the amount the unemployed person receives in their payment. That debit card can be used at merchants for purchases, or even at banks to receive cash back.

One of the questions I was most interested in was the one about having worked during this time period I was certifying for. I wondered how it was phrased, and if it seemed like a complex problem were you to answer "yes, I worked." I saw that if you did answer yes, you then had to answer more about receiving pay, and you also had to say if you were laid off or let go from that job. That part threw me, because it doesn't speak the right language to address my situation as a potential freelancer.

To pick up side jobs as a writer, I will be taking on a individual and intermittent projects while still technically being unemployed. I wouldn't be laid off each time I did that. Just because I worked doesn't mean I was hired. The language of this certification process speaks more to a temp worker or a tradesman. And, I won't get paid when I accept a gig, either. It could be 30 or 60 days at least till the project is completed and billed. What about that?

It wasn't easy to find answers to these questions. I eventually did, but first I found many other questions, and interesting answers, which might be even more pressing for some other folks reading this blog. Again, these topics originate in Illinois for my discussion, but some relate to federal laws and are common issues in most if not all other states. For example:

You can be eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance Benefits even if you are still working. Benefits are not only for those who are tragically and completely out of work, they are intended to help offset significant loss of income. This can come from reduction of hours and pay cuts. Even quitting in some cases, if working conditions can be shown to be intolerable.

You can work part-time and still receive benefits in some cases. In fact, you could have your hours cut by your employer and file a case for benefits against that same employer, while you are still working part-time for that employer, and get them. It happens.

You can take side jobs, own your own business, have investment income, etc., and still be okay. It's not against the rules to make money while receiving unemployment benefits. There are limits to how much you can receive and for how long, during what time periods and under what conditions. Just continue to be honest with every form and question, and the state will determine if you're eligible.

If you take a side job that takes your full-time attention, or if you get really sick, report it. The state wants to know if you were available for work every day that they are certifying your eligibility. I didn't think about this...till I thought about it. If you had been called into work and could have made money, you'd have to report that money and possibly not have been eligible for benefits. But if you were in the hospital with a broken arm, you couldn't work. They need to know that. Should you be paid by the state for sick days now? Will you be? I'm not sure. But tell them. Also, if you took an out-of-state consulting job, you were unavailable. You should report that. And that leads us to this:

If you do make money, due to working, freelance gigs, side jobs, anything, you have to report it. I know the unemployment benefits are not a lot of money. They only are enough to help you eek by and stay fed and warm. But the system is set up to bridge a gap and not let you starve, to give you a leg up and not a hand out. It does that by trying to making sure everyone can only receive payments of so much for so long, so we don't run out when other people need it, too. Surely we don't want employers to go broke paying out insurance payments; we need them to be there to hire more people in the future. Well, that's the idea anyway. But actually, I'm not saying you should report it from high moral ground.

I'm saying report it from the ground that is outside of a fraud case, the ground that is all level and green and not muddied with penalties and payback amounts. Because if you don't report it, and you have to continue to collect, especially if you eventually reach the limit of benefits you are eligible to receive, and later the state learns of your additional income while collecting those benefits, income that you didn't report, you're in big trouble. They will want their money back and then some.

Besides, what you want now is work, and money from working. And wait, let me guess, a little good karma and some lucky fairy dust wouldn't hurt at this point, either. So let's not mess with the blessings of the system. Especially not when people can even work part-time and still receive benefits. That's pretty amazing, isn't it? The universe wants us to make it, I'm convinced.

When you report your income, you might not get a reduction in your benefits payment. Or you might be docked a little, or you might have a payment withheld completely, depending on your situation, your benefits and eligibility formula, and what you made. Okay. But you got this other payment instead--which is the whole idea, right? You're trying to be paid for being employed. And you did it! Yay you! String that into a bunch of weeks then months, and we're back in business.

About my concerns over delayed completion of projects and billing someone later, and all that. It hasn't happened yet, but when it does, I'll report when I am unavailable to work, and again I'll report when I get some money paid to me. Until then, I'm so available and without income. I only have to certify, online or via automated phone system, every two weeks. That's ten minutes a month to answer a few questions. Now that I know I only have to tell them the truth, it seems even easier still.

Thank you, web of bureaucracy, for such a breeze of a ToDo for any day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AHH! I Hit Snooze.

Not really. I got up, usual time, with the alarm.

I did tons and tons, starting right away in the morning. Some demanding stuff, too. I'm telling you right now, I did NOT slack yesterday. That's not why I didn't publish a blog post. I fully intended to.

I was going to make it short and sweet, talk a little bit about picking up work on the side and what that does to unemployment benefits (it can reduce them during that period but it's okay; I'll cover that later this week). I also was going to tell you about how I actually did wash my kitchen floor after all, back on Monday when I said I was skipping it to do other things, because I'm just kooky that way sometimes with all my lists and To Dos. But nope, didn't write it, no Tuesday blogging. Not a word.

I CAN'T BELIEVE I SKIPPED IT. Not only that, I totally forgot about it!

Why? How? What task could obliterate what has been my most beloved hour of the day, every day, since the day my position was eliminated almost three weeks ago? What To Do for Yesterday made me Not Do the one To Do I love To Do every day? I'll tell you what...

But first you have to make that foreboding three-note descending run that precedes bad news:

duhn duhn dunhhhhnnn.....



*gags a little*


And I've only barely gotten started on them. Just to put some framework around this, because you might be saying So what Faith, how bad can it be?: Last year, I not only owned my own fitness studio business, I also liquidated some of it and closed it, but maintained some personal training clientele, as well had as a freelance writing and marketing business in my home. I also had a regular job. Plus there's our kid in college who needs to go back in time and un-become our dependent, and also become a resident of another state for a retroactive college tuition refund... This, fair reader, is a helluva lot of numbers. Of which I'm not a fan. And forms and records, and almost all the worksheets, I think.

I typically learn many words that end with "-eciation" and "-ization," and participate in explorations that usually provide me with new education on concepts like "limits" and "not allowable."

I do this all myself, because for me it's still easier (so I say), with a couple of great computer programs, than gathering all these myriad of records which requires me to do all the legwork anyway, packing up the totals and categories, and bringing them all to someone else to put into their computer. So what Faith, how bad can it be?

Well, on the bright side, I guess it would all be much worse if I had any serious money to deal with. Or to hide. So, there's that.

Also, I must admit that this year it would be all be much easier if I had entered one receipt, payment or expense into the system at any time throughout 2011, instead of just putting hard copies in files with notes on them. Leaving them as To Dos.

That is all I have to say about that.

Except that I have perhaps stumbled upon a valid reason to be happy I am unemployed with these extra hours at my disposal, at this time. I didn't just say that.

Yes I did. It's the little things. The big things, too. Finding Peace. And all that jazz.

Speaking of jazz... and blues, and soul... The great singer Etta James died several days ago. I'm a longtime fan of her voice, her style, and her bravado. Here's five minutes of oxygen usage that shuts me right up about boring stuff like taxes and whatever else I was saying. Don't miss a moment.

Something's Got a Hold On Me

Some people channel stuff and there's no denying it. I love the internet for letting me be a witness. I love wondering why she's wearing that sweater, too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Say Yes to Nimbleness

Monday starts out with a different plan. But then something better comes along. You slip into routine, it seems wise, and it is, much of the time. Then you notice a chance to get a jump on something else, perhaps unexpected, but hey, there it is. Maybe, if you're as engaged and always interested like me, it's partly because oh look, something shiny!

But then again, maybe not. Let's give us highly-engaged people with a surplus of energy some credit, even if our honorary Native American names would be along the lines of Dances with Projects and Files in Moonlight. Maybe you did slip from your set plan for the day right into another one, but for a really good reason. Maybe the new thing was just way better. Or more urgent. A shorter-lived opportunity. More interesting and you were ready to act. Well-timed, it just so happens. Perfectly convenient. Efficient to do so. Supremely entertaining.


That's right, maybe it felt good. It just looked good and it really got you going. Maybe you had an instinct about it. So, that's not a bad thing at all. Self-motivation is an issue for plenty of people, especially anyone feeling in rut about being unemployed. The verve and confidence to take initiative is a very favorable trait to find among job-seekers. Think about it: it can be tough enough drum up that kind of oomph on a paid and employed Monday, or any day, for that matter. There are plenty of days where you will tackle all the routine tasks at hand. On some other days, a few things will simply be way better To Do . So today I want to make sure we don't worry too much if we take a detour from our planned tasks every now and then as we govern our own time while out of work.

Yes, this is what I did today. I went off-track. But I had a really productive day and wouldn't have missed it for the other Monday I had planned. Sorry kitchen floor, gotta wash you tomorrow. Sorry errands and calls, you have to wait, too. A really nice writing job needed me to apply for it, I was on a roll with the research I was doing, and I got some twitter followers, too! When we have days like these, they not only show the initiative I spoke of, they also demonstrates a couple of wonderful "soft skills" our future employers might very well appreciate: responsiveness and adaptability. Aka...


As we learned from good ole' Jack (of the Be Quick family), jumping over the candlestick requires nimbleness, lest one get one's bottom burned. Today your nimbleness might bring you the same protection, if you can put it to good use jumping over the follow-up call you had planned in order to reach out to a new contact you see instead. Or, maybe like me you jumped over a big chore that will still be there tomorrow, so you could check a few more interesting To Dos off your list. Feel better?


Don't underestimate the value of nimbleness. It will carry you through rough spots in body, mind, spirit, work and relationships. You know, I used to own a fitness studio besides working in business, plus I had all these kids, plus I've been married like a million years.  I promise this advice will help protect you, when suddenly faced with jumpy times, crazy oh-no-now-there-is-a-burning-candle-right-in-my-way! times, like the uncertainties of being unemployed. As you seek inner peace in 2012:

Stay bendy.

Flexibility literally helps prevent injury (avoid the burned bottom). Looseness keeps you ready. The older you get, the more you lose all that naturally, so you do need to attend to it. Inside and out, I find. Keep a flow. Avoid rigidity in body and mind, as well as in life habits and world views.

If you get stuck, try to find someone like a surfer to rub off on you a little bit. If that won't work, please let me know. I'll do my best to find out how to help. I'm decent at that sort of thing. And I'm happy to change my plan to incorporate answering questions, or conversing with friends and readers.

Until next time, when oh, look, something shiny! And I'll be talkin' about my floor.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sharp Edge, Soft Center

I decided to do some research on what employers want these days, just to make sure I have what it takes to increase my chances of getting hired, faster. If I do posess highly-valued qualities and skills, I want to make sure I'm saying so in my cover letters and on my resume. If I don't, then that gives me some ideas for what to work on while I'm unemployed.

The first thing I surmised via my research was no surprise: technical skills are very much in demand. This can mean anything from basic computer skills, to IT savvy, to literally having abilities in software programming, hardware configuration or other stuff. By other stuff I mean things I don't have the technical skills to describe off the top of my head. By top of my head I mean right above the inside of my brain where a cartoon bear playing cymbals is dancing with a monkey in a conductor suit right now because of the possibility of more technical talk.

So we see where things shake out for me in the area of technical skills. Really quite good with the computer skills, given my trade. I speak the language of typing things and presenting them on paper and on screen, and even in design, I recognize the programs. I'm usually a PC but I've been a mac and can be one again, would welcome it. Totally down with the internet. Get the engines and all that. I blog, I tweet, I fb. After that enters the dancing bear.

Watch this space to learn how I add to my edge with technical skills while I am unemployed.

The best news I found via my research was that soft skills are still very much in demand by employers, and will be highly sought after for those hiring in 2012. In a recent report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), findings from a job outlook survey of 244 employers showed that they will be looking for evidence of these top five skills on a resume:
  1. Teamwork
  2. Leadership
  3. Written Communication (hooray!)
  4. Problem-Solving
  5. Work Ethic
I'm going to go over my resume yet again, and make sure my soft skills really stand out. I suggest you do the same as your ToDo4Today. Starting sentences with action words like, Led, Collaborated, Wrote, Reported, Served, or Built Consensus can make a difference in no time. Use those computer skills and click on thesaurus! See there, that's written communication and problem-solving both in one shot. More each day I realize, we truly are candidates of gold.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tru Dat Tom Petty

It's been two weeks since my position was eliminated and I began this busy shuffle to escape the potential horrors of a life lost in jobless zombieland. So far, so good, I guess. I mean, to be honest, reports from the front aren't the rosiest you ever did want to hear about, but I'm not here to dwell on that. Not yet anyway. Believe me, if this blog is still going on a couple months from now, there might be a shift in tone when it comes to the business of getting me a job. For now, though, all is well. There are opportunities, and I'm locating them, and people are helping me with referrals, and I feel fine. Things are cookin', as they say.

Like the soup I made yesterday. Split pea. It always takes a while before it comes together in all its glory. During the early hours, when those peas are still hard and the flavors haven't been fully summonsed from the ham bone, the bay leaf, the mirepoix, etc., it's a lot harder to get excited about that soup. Will it ever be done? Not looking too good... But then, once those carrots are soft, and the peas transform into the creamy, sweet broth you were waiting for, and you ladle it steaming into your bowl on a frigid Chicago evening, on your favorite TV night--the night of Bravo's Top Chef--then you remember. Then, you make a note of that feeling... of comfort.

See, the soup was always going to be okay, even when it was a dried up leaf floating on yellow stock with a lumpy hock in the middle and the peas wouldn't budge.

Tom Petty had it right: The waiting is the hardest part.

Carly Simon had it right: We may never know about the things to come, but we think about them anyway.

Henry Ford had it right: You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.

What? What's that last one doing in there? Well, I'm a fan of Henry Ford, especially his quotes. I collect quotes, and that guy had a lot of useful things to say. Pretty impressed with how he came up with the car and everything, but it's his quotes that really wow me. Anyway, I included this one, because of the soup. And the anticipation of how good it's going to be. And the waiting, while it goes through its necessary stages to get to its best outcome. And the business of getting me a job.

Follow me: when we eat the soup, we all know I'm good at cooking it, because of how well it turns out. Then I should know, I don't have to worry anymore in the process, about if it will ever be done or if it's not looking too good. So, you see, both my soup and my work reputation are built on what I have already done. And both depend on what I'm doing right now. You can't get to eating up the results of the future until you're there.

Yes, I'll enjoy that feeling of comfort when I do get hired, but Henry Ford's quote reminds me that when this happens, I'll know then that my employment was always going to be okay. Even when I saw some lousy unemployment figures, even when I was submitting my unique qualifications to be scanned by computer programs, even when my resume was being forever versioned so it wouldn't be ignored.

Right now was always going to be the way we have found it to be, too. The best thing we can do is keep it on simmer, check and stir it often, and add more seasoning or liquid as needed. Till done.

PS: Want my split pea soup recipe? Comment below. If I get a couple requests, I'll be happy to share my method, which is pretty yummy, if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I enjoy Wednesdays. They have always been a good catch-up day for me. I like the idea of looking back at Monday and Tuesday to see what I didn't finish, and looking ahead at Thursday and Friday to see what I still have time to complete. Wednesday gives me a chance to make up for time that got away from me lately, and it also gives me hope of carving out some time to do what's important to me in the coming days. That is all good.

If you like this idea for your Wednesdays, please take it and put it to good use, starting now. You don't have to relegate this to just this one specific day of the week as I tend to. Maybe twice-weekly, biweekly or monthly catch up makes more sense for you. But an occasional day for review, planning and checking off a bunch of quickies can be a very good thing. Clears the head and the calendar, so I do recommend. Some of my Wednesday Odds & Ends:

  • There was a bill being passed around Congress today, and an effort to stop it, regarding censorship and protection of rights to creative material on the internet. It was nicknamed SOPA and I didn't learn much about it, except it seemed to be written all wrong and many of my favorite and most-used websites were against it, so I felt after a little reading, I was against it too. That was an unexpected To Do for Today--usually I don't plan to research a bill or petition against it. But, check, got that done.
  • Actually came to the SOPA info by first visiting On craigslist I found out that job searches there are much easier than the larger sites I've been spending my time at. Only a couple of possibilities for me this week. Hey, that's plenty: just the right one will do the trick. So, check, learned something important and now I'll visit there more often.
  • One of the job postings on craigslist sounded really neat, so I pulled together a cover letter with linked samples to send with my resume, within an hour, which brings up another bonus to local job listings. They are often posted by actual people, requesting a resume sent in direct response, and as such, are easier to apply for than most of what I'm finding on larger online sites like, and Check, cool-sounding gig applied for.
  • Made sure I saved time for a little yoga practice. Wrote it down for Monday and Tuesday, never did it. Boooo. It's important to me. No excuses for that, I'm in charge of my own time now!
  • Made sure I save time for a little personal/hobby writing. Wrote it down for Monday and Tuesday, never did it. Boooo. It's important to me.... --you get the idea.
  • Called in a prescription and am now going to pick it up. Tomorrow it will be 0 degrees around here, so why not enjoy the luxury of choosing to get it a day early, when it's a balmy 20 something?
  • Started some split pea soup in a big pot. Stock is stewing with veg and herbs and that bay leaf smells fantastic. Good day for soup....brrr.
  • Set aside time on Thursday and Friday for more craigslist, yoga and personal/hobby writing. Will surely enjoy leftover soup and my warm home. I'm grateful for it. I know many jobless people aren't as lucky as I am, with a home, and a heat bill they can pay, and spouse's income that will help them survive for long with this measure of comfort. So, I also set aside time to reflect on, and write about, that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beginner Peace

New vistas, when you're presented with them, can be good and bad. Like all things. Starting with the word "new." Right there, you might be on some shaky ground. If you've been at the same thing for a long time, in a routine at work, working for the same company, in the same industry, etc., new isn't always good. We like to romanticize new, especially when we've been hangin' out with old and familiar for a while. We imagine it as all shiny or sparkly or super clean and easy-to-read with flashes of aha! I just knew new was like that.

But then it turns out, when you're presented with new, it can look a lot like what the hell is that? Or umm, I don't see anything. Like Mary Worth, if you ever played that game at a sleepover. (Sorry guys, maybe this was just a girl thing.) Also, there was the other game you played at sleepovers: Stiff as a Board; Light as a Feather. You'd all try to levitate someone using only two fingers each underneath them. Inevitably, certain people would be convinced it happened. Sometimes it probably would, because there were eleven of you and everyone was sneaking more than two fingers under that body, plus the kid only weighed 60 pounds, so it's feasible.

Anyway. Stiff as a Board; Light as a Feather can be something like the way you feel after you settle into the view of the new vista you're presented with when you're recently unemployed. Whether or not you enjoy the concept of "new," vista is another thing altogether. Vista is expansive, vista is far-reaching, vista is full of hills and valleys and days and nights. New doesn't really last very long. Vista goes on and on and the only way to avoid it is not to look. That's enough potential to make some people freeze up a little bit. Go Stiff as a Board, maybe. But it's also enough intrigue to free some people up quite a bit. Get Light as a Feather, perhaps.

That seems like a lot and it can be. Good news is, you don't have to decide right away everything you feel about, and everything you're going to do about, new vistas, right when you're presented with them. So don't worry about freezing up a little, or not knowing exactly what you're looking at out there. But for goodness sake try not to look away from them or close your eyes to the view, either. Even if it seems overwhelming at first. Just go slow. Peek. It's okay. It's yours to explore. Take some time to see your future--your day--with these newly opened eyes.

I've just learned how important this is, but not because of losing my job. It's because of my mom, who is an ovarian cancer patient. She's still in treatment, still surviving after four years of ups and downs. The previous sleepover analogies came to me today after a conversation I had with her yesterday. She was thinking back, regretting that she was too much of a clean freak to let us have friends in for sleepovers when we were young. She mused, "What was wrong with me? Who does that? What did I think--" I cut her off. "Mom, it's okay. We survived. We grew up to let our kids have tons of sleepovers, and we moved on."

She said she knew that, but still, if she could only change some of the decisions she made back then... See, she was kinda stiff as a board. Stuck on that. I'll tell you, it's been one of the biggest struggles for her since her cancer diagnosis. I think it's fairly common. Probably a vista most people will struggle with looking at, right--my life as a cancer patient facing my mortality? I told her I know we all have regrets, but then again, we couldn't be where we are right now without having been through every point we were at in the past. "So what's wrong with right now, really, mom? Here we are, having this great conversation, which matters much more to us at this point in time than any sleepovers."

Suddenly, I swear she levitated over the phone. She was light as a feather. We talked for a long time after that, about a bunch of other great stuff, and it was the most freedom and confidence I'd heard in her voice in a long time. Actually, ever. I realized this morning, something had happened, I think she finally opened her eyes and looked at the day, and her life, and future, and disease, and self, and saw it as the new vista that it was. That it Is. And so I was thinking, heck, there are probably a lot of people who find themselves out of work, and don't know quite how to face all the newness and possibilities, the good and the bad, and so they miss out on a chunk of the good, because they don't look and see all that's out there for them.

If we're going to find inner peace, I guess we should start somewhere. And the Beginning is always Very Good place to do it. Today, I hope you will at least look in the mirror and see a new sparkle, your hint of what's possible for you to conjure up.
I mean, who's afraid of Mary Worth anyway?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Keeping the Books

His name was Mr. Pepper. He taught my English class when I was 16. It was the class where you wrote your required research or “term” paper. On the first day of class he told us he was going to school at night to get his doctorate degree in English, so in the future his students could call him Dr. Pepper. I laughed out loud at this, above just a few groans from the rest of the class. So you can imagine I might have had a fan in Mr. Pepper from then on, as he had in me, for that semester.

Soon to be amplified by the fact that, for my research paper I chose the topic “Meditation in Eastern Religions,” and it turned out Mr. Pepper had been a practicing Zen Buddhist. (Hey, totally within the range of reasonable for the times. Think That 70s Show.) So I suppose I hung on to a lot of what he had to say. I believed what he was teaching in our English Composition class to be 100% true. And it was.

Because it was the 70s after all, I don’t remember many details after that, except for this bit. He gave us a lot of advice about how to approach the large and long-term task of the research paper. He must have drilled the importance of the process into our heads, or given us a long list of items that had to be included with our final turn-in, that would show we adhered to a specific, smart process. I remember numbered, coded note cards were required for an A. And I remember this quote:

Take copious notes.

Part of that sticks with me because it’s my first memory of not knowing the meaning of a word an English teacher was using. I had a brief moment of silent panic, silly young geek that I was. Copious? What does that mean?...copious… It must mean many…or detailed. Or good. No, he'd never say take “good” notes, that’s stupid….

Naturally, I looked it up later, and now that’s the other part that sticks with me. My first instinct was right—copious means many, or abundant or plentiful. Great advice. Starting with Mr. Pepper, and carried on by me, over time I concluded this was a secret to success not just in long-term projects, but in all of writing, school, business, home, everything.

I can’t tell you how many times copious notes have saved the day, proved me right, made studying uneccessary, got me a refund, showed I am not in fact a crazy person but instead yes we did indeed discuss that and decide that we would in fact do it this way by this date, and this is who I spoke to on that day and what they said they were going to do.

People who say they aren’t good at note-taking, and think it’s too much trouble, have it backwards. You get better at everything, and life is soooo much easier, when you take copious notes. And getting through unemployment to find a new and better job will be, too. So please, be a Pepper. Here’s how my notes looks since I was let go from work:

I started a simple diary-date-style record, handwritten on paper. I prefer legal pads for my notes, but I’d say use a spiral notebook, an old journal, your scheduler if there’s room, whatever works.

For those collecting unemployment benefits, you need room to jot down what you do about looking for work and who you contact when you apply for jobs. In Illinois, it’s suggested your records contain the following: Contact date, name/address of contact, person contacted, method of contact, work sought and results.

Every time I do something related to my old job, unemployment benefits through the state, or a new job, I jot it down with the date noted:
  • If I have to register for something online, I write down the website I went to, my username, password and secret answers, right there on that date.
  • If I call someone, I write down the number I called, who I spoke to or if it was automated, what I pressed, and the answers I got or my next actions to take.
  • If I didn’t do something, or an action failed for some reason, I write down why.
I keep track of some general things that would help me retrace my steps later, if I would want to come back to this time period and put together details. For instance, I took note of when I started this blog, and what my intentions were for it.

I don’t keep track of every action each day like an actual diary, which is a different kind of journal. However, some of those details are actually making it into this blog! But they aren’t for this kind of project-oriented note-taking.
  • I don’t write down each morning, “wrote job-seeking blog.” If something is obvious, like, you shower and dress before a job interview, please, no need to put it in your notebook. People might think you’re insane if they ever get their hands on that thing.
  • If something is applicable, like gas mileage to go on job interviews (job search & interview expenses might be tax deductible), I put it right in there on those days. Bring the notes with you, jot down your odometer before you leave and when you get back. Simple.

Speaking of simple, that’s a good thought to end on with a ToDo4Today. We need to be keeping the books, but we need to be keeping them simple. Otherwise, they start to feel like more trouble than they’re worth, and they most certainly are not. Copious notes are worth every pen stroke. I learned how to research like crazy in Mr. Pepper’s class, and I have the notes, and the eventual writing career—and the fond memories of him—to prove it.

Still working on the meditation, though. (See subtitle to blog… c’mon inner peace, ohmmmm, and all that Zen…)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lucky Friday

One cool thing about being unemployed is that I get to keep coming up with more things to add to my list of cool things about being unemployed. I figure it’s easier for most people come up  with what stinks about losing your job. But I’m naturally drawn to what might be more of a challenge for others: taking notice of the unexpected good stuff...
  • Right away I noticed how it’s really great to be able to stay in your jammies in the morning, and wait to shower till you feel like it.  
  • Loftier, but still important, there’s the chance you have to pump yourself up and play up your strengths as you go for the new job you want and deserve.
  • Back down closer to the pj level is how you can keep in touch with former coworkers, but you don’t have to be as guarded now, or as “on.” Maybe they can know you swear.
  • You can get things done that ran the risk of stressing you out or getting blown off before, when you had your job. Doctor. Taxes. Summer sandals away. I mean Christmas decor.
  • You can meet people for breakfast or brunch.
  • You can take a day off without telling anyone. Name your Snow Day. Call it Friday.

A while ago, I thought I had to take today off, because I had three appts. to keep—two doctors and a dentist. When I told the doc that just now, he said, that’s too bad, now it’s sort of the other way around… as in, I have to spoil my day off to go around to all these appointments. I didn’t even think of it that way! But it’s Friday, and he was “stuck” at work, and there I was, with no job to be at. And it’s the 13th  --to some, maybe I’m the lucky one, eh? Like I always say, perspective is everything.

And that changed my perspective for today. I have one more appointment this afternoon. Otherwise, I’ve decided I’ll just do a quick little job searchy with the state of Illinois to see what’s new out there, and that’s all for “work.” I’m going to make a fire in the fireplace, catch up on some personal To Dos for Today, and say TGIF.

I’m spending Friday, my way. When I’m back to being at work somewhere, maybe I can keep this idea going in some fashion. I can plan my Fridays to be filled with cool things about being employed. All week longs, I’ll take notice of all the unexpected good stuff about my better new job, and then on Friday, I’ll make sure I enjoy them.

Today, at work or at home, I hope you do the same!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How He Bot the Job, Part II

Johnson Case Study, continued.

When we last left our unemployed case study friend, Johnson, he was reading up on ways to help his online job applications and resume stand out in the scrutinizing eyes of the robots who pre-scan them for the hiring managers. That is, stand out in a good way. Johnson was also learning to avoid the pitfalls of uploading with formatting problems or hard-to-find critical information.

In the articles linked in yesterday’s post, Johnson learned about including key words and phrases in his online profiles, cover letters and resume versions, to attract positive attention to his job history and qualifications. Some of the ways your documents might be scanned for words and phrases sought after by employers (and the programs designed to help them sort through and select the best candidates via their online applications) are:

  • Names of companies in the same or similar industry as the company with which you seek employment. It can be downright fantastic if you’ve worked for or with one of their competitors.
  • Names of companies used as vendors, or businesses aligned with, the company with which you seek employment. You want a job in paper sales. You once sold copiers that prefer that paper. Good one.
  • Names of products or services from your experience that matter to the company with which you seek employment. E.g., rewards points program you worked on for one client that this place would love to have.
  • Results. Phrases that demonstrate results are highly valued. Choose “Improved consumer perceptions in marketplace in a six-month initiative and reduced media expenditures by 20% in the same period” over “Led research and media buying teams charged with improving consumer perceptions and reducing media expenditures.”
  • Actions. Words that demonstrate strong, positive actions you took (or take, if you’re writing in the present tense… which is an option many resume-writers employ to describe job duties, and a must if you’re still employed). This is important, if you don’t have clear, or good, results. (Hey, it’s hard to improve consumer perceptions in six months when they slash your budget. What if you inherited a lackluster team to work with, or your boss insisted you put bad policies in place? It happens.)

Positive action words should be sprinkled throughout your documents, and you should version your resume to include a few phrases that address (not mimic) some of the actions and job responsibilities your potential employers list in their postings. In Johnson’s case, he noticed his resume repeated a lot of the same tasks under each of his past jobs, wasting an opportunity for him to include more action words specific to the better kind of job he wanted now. So he swapped a few out, like this one:

When a position called for someone to “manage tight budgets and multiple project deadlines,” he included this phrase as a highlight (bullet point) for his last position: “supervised nine channel partner accounts in 2011, and launched four new sales incentive programs on unexpectedly reduced budgets, in the race to meet organization’s fiscal year goals.”

Notice this doesn’t say if the goals were met. But Johnson’s actions are positive, and it’s easy to see how even a robot will be impressed with supervised accounts, launched new programs, reduced budgets, meet fiscal goals.

When it gets past the bot to the human’s eyes, that person will be able to read further into this phrase and should be even more impressed. Nine accounts plus four new programs all at once? Ahh, the race to meet an organization’s goal, we know what that’s like don’t we?

Rob, get in touch with Johnson and set up an interview. Sounds like a good man.

Said in the voice of Mr. Larry Tate, about someone like Darrin Stevens. But that Rob, that should be the secretary’s name--however in this case it’s short for Robot. It’s important, when there are always so many to dos for each day, to lighten up once in a while, don’t you think? Well, I do. And I gotta be me. Because among the most important advice I can offer to anyone, in life (I've been around), in business (ditto), as a mom (awww), and as a writer of creative non-fiction and brand marketing copy (resumes are a form of both, make no mistake), is this:
Don't be sorry, just be true. And do whatever works.

That means, when you're writing your resume and cover letter, be honest about who you are and what you've done, and begin by taking a good look, without too much modesty, at all your best traits and accomplishments. What makes you, you? Why do people people want that? Show them you know know how to deliver it. Express your essence, and don't be shy about it.

Remember, it's work that you want, not a donation, not a tiara. You've earned the chance for an interview, so put it on paper and push it past those bots!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How He Bot the Job, Part I

Case Study
Our man is Johnson, middle senior level manager of something not too technical. Let's say he's was a Senior Project Manager, Channel Partners Development.

He perused job listings in his category online at sites like LinkedIn, Career Builder and Perhaps he should have expanded his searching, for more opportunities. Or not. Was he casting too large of a net and missing all the tasty local fish? Then again, what about government work? What about work-at-home or freelance jobs? Johnson felt the more he looked, in some ways, the less he found. He started not to know, exactly, what he was looking for anymore.

Johnson probably wasted a little too much time when he could have honed in his search approach right from the start. Here is a nice article on the topic with just enough actionable advice, so you don't end up like Johnson. I recommend you bookmark two or three of your favorite job search links, and save a couple of search terms on the sites that give you the best results. That way, you can search again the next time with a couple quick keystrokes. Also, follow a few companies you really like that list openings close to what you're interested in, but not quite. In Johnson's case, Sr. VP Marketing, Business Channels and Partners. That would be his boss, eventually. Check back on those companies for new postings each week.

Whenever Johnson found a position he wanted to apply for, he would inevitably run into the direction to click on a button that said either, "Apply Here" or "Apply on Website." Applying Here usually meant Johnson was on a site that allowed resumes to be posted, reviewed and submitted via that site. On LinkedIn, he had his entire profile, business connections, work history and more. On Career Builder and, his resume was posted and could be viewed by potential employers.

When Johnson would Apply on Website, he'd be transported to an employment application, which was sometimes housed on that company's website, and sometimes run by a robot program designed specifically for the purpose of reviewing and sorting applications and ranking the potential interest in the job candidates attached to them.  Here are a couple reads you might find useful as you approach the task of Applying on Website.

Don't Get Lost in a Database ...

Resume, Meet Technology ...The

Make Your Resume Stand Out ... 

Your to do for today might be to assemble good reading material on a useful topic. See above. And/or to give some serious focus on learning about something that will help move your purpose forward. Also see above. You have time for this now. Still, I'll whet your appetite for information with a brief overview of some things you should know about submitting an online resume, per the experts:
  • Don't provide a complex document for uploading purposes. Even if you're a creative genius.
  • Do use bullet points and put the most important results-oriented information up front.
  • Do research the company you are applying to work for. Send a resume that has been tweaked to include keywords for them, and the position you are seeking.

More on Johnson and how he changed his resume to make the bots that scanned it happy, tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shouting Down the Cyberhole

It's like Wishing Down the Wishing Well. Except not that cute.

With the prevailing mode of re-employment these days being the online seek and apply, I must say, I thought I would be, but I am not, a fan.

It's convenient, easy-to-track, and as a bonus, a perfect method for a writer and marketer like me. If you have a good resume and know how to tailor it for the positions you're applying for, you're one step ahead. If you have a great cover letter and know how to tailor it for the audience you're appealing to, you're two steps ahead. If you have a specific set of job search terms and yet some flexibility in your salary range, job title and position requirements, well, you should be a half a mile out by now.

These are the things I felt I had going for me as I approached the wishing well with my pouch full of shiny coins. Not just pennies. Bigger than that. I've invested a great deal in my job applications so far. Some of these journeys, once you click on "Apply Here," really take you on a trip which you might start to regret once you get all in there. You begin by uploading your resume, simple enough, and next thing you know it seems like they're asking you if you want the red pill or the blue pill. Two hours later you emerge with an automated form email saying they received your 5-page essay application, resume, cover letter, list of past clients and psychological test answers, but it will take them several weeks to review your qualifications along with those of the several hundred other candidates who applied from across the globe, online, faster than you, and all the internal company candidates as well, including the guy everybody loves over at the Boston office, you know him, the one with the touching stories about when he was recovering from his injuries in Iraq...

Okay, it must the water at this well because I'm being far too cynical, too soon. But I will say this. There is a LOT to learn about the online job application process, and it's best we learn it asap. There is resume parsing going on, and application keyword searching, and all sorts of other efficiencies that take much of the legwork out of the initial review process for recruiters at companies and employment agencies. It's how you get sorted, ordered, and possibly not even considered.

The worst part to me, though, is how often I'm left without a direct contact for follow-up purposes. Almost always. This, I think, stinks. I really miss submitting my resume and cover letter DIRECTLY to a PERSON who I can call to follow up with in a week or so. That person might be too busy to have even looked at my application yet, or that person might still be reviewing resumes and not ready to answer me yet, or that person might be glad to hear from an eager candidate who is saving them the trouble of calling themselves and thus reward them with an interview on the spot. This part of the job application process is something I'm having a hard time dealing without. Case in point:

A few weeks ago, over the holidays, I applied for a job I would, literally, be soooooo perfect for. I applied via LinkedIn. I heard nothing, not even an acknowledgment of receipt of my resume. I sent a great cover letter. Fraught with anxiety over the timing, and not wanting to be overlooked in the holiday hustle, I found the right contact email on the company website and followed up a couple days later with an even better (what have I got to lose?) letter saying, I really want to talk with you about this job, so please don't let my resume go unanswered. I got Nothing. Now, over two weeks later, I am wondering, do I want to work for that company, if this is how they handle their business and/or treat people who are so enthusiastic about applying for professional positions they advertise?

Except, I really do. I still am enamored with this job possibility. I can't get through to a contact, though. There are no phone numbers for corporate offices listed anywhere; everything is attached with individually owned retail outlets. I've already somewhat stalked, a little, via postings on twitter and a question on facebook. It looks like they are automated, so no response there. Perhaps I have to let go. But it's a darn shame. I felt so sure... whatever pill I took, it feels like I got smaller, and from a distance I can see myself shouting down the cyberhole where I sent my sincere and very on-point inquiries. I feel like I wasted my my biggest, shiniest penny. Hellloooooo, is anybody down theeeeerrrrrreee?

What do you think I should do? (comment!) I've looked up other people in the company on LinkedIn, and again, can find no clear way to directly contact anyone, without busting through and trying to connect, though I don't know them. I could call nearby outlets and just ask if these people ever stop in or have office numbers (it's a franchising operation). Should I give it up? My gut was telling me for days and days, they totally should hire you, Faith, you are going to help this company grow and grow with it. My intention was to nail down a clearly mutually beneficial arrangement. The position is still posted. There are two other positions in other areas of the company along with it. Could it be they are this slow and this remiss when it comes to contacting people?

Out of 10 applications since December 2, I have received 8 "We got your application" notes with no further news. I've only received 1 rejection.  I see that those 8, 6 of the jobs have been closed. That means, out of 10, I heard absolutely nothing from just this 1. My next ToDo4Today: get a new stack of coins. Meaning, reapply myself! My goal: don't take either pill. Make a sammich. Stay normal.

I'll share tips about about resume parsing and application keyword searching tomorrow.