Unemployment at highest level in years

November 17th, 2008

With the rate of those unemployed growing every day, competition for jobs and even interviews is becoming more fierce.  In these difficult financial times it is very important that job seekers polish their resumes and put their best face forward.  Gone are the days when somebody hunting for a job could simply send out a few resumes and expect a job to fall into his or her lap.

If you’ve spent a good deal of time working on your resume but you’re still not having much luck getting interviews it may be time to take a step back and assess the situation from another perspective.  In times like these it is important to have a clear game plan and to stick to it.  You need to identify specific companies that are currently hiring, find out what they need and what you have to offer them, and to let them know how it is your skills will add directly to their bottom line.

Customizing your cover sheets and even your resume on a per employer basis is a very good idea.  Where you may have had 20-30 people competing with you for each job you applied at before, even a 1% increase in the unemployment rate can make that number jump 5 or 10-fold.  Instead of standing out among a couple dozen applicants, you may be competing with 200-300 now.  This of course depends on your industry and your location, but there are almost no sectors of the economy which are not being impacted by the recent downturn.  While the financial and automotive industries are being hit the hardest today, the loss of that many jobs at one time will have a domino effect.  All those unemployed will quit buying products and services that they did previously, which will impact all areas of the economy.

Now is the time to invest in your resume.  Go to the library or bookstore and find some books on resume writing. Tighten your belt, actively network among friends and professional acquaintances, and make sure your resume is as awesome as you are.  Jobs are more difficult to come by right now, so a positive attitude and determination are more valuable than ever before.

Do you really want a job?

November 17th, 2008

Before you start looking for a job you should examine your motivations and goals. This may seem like an exercise in futility, but if you go through your whole life without thinking about what you’re doing you may eventually feel as if you are on a hamster wheel with no end in sight. The rat race, as it’s called, is what people with no goals compete in.

Motivations for getting a job

  • Material needs and desires
    1. You need food. If you don’t have money for food, you can’t buy food, and as a result you won’t be in possession of food to stuff in your face and chew on, swallow, and subsequently digest.
    2. You need a place to live. If you don’t have a job you won’t make enough money to pay rent or afford a mortgagee.
  • Philosophical reasons
    1. Why not? That’s just what you do. You go to school, you graduate, you find a job, and you go on with your life just like everybody else.
    2. As a person who has mooched off of the system your whole life, you now feel the need to pay your keep.

An anecdote

An old man and a young man are sitting on a bench at a bus stop. The old man has perfectly groomed hair, wears an expensive suit, and carries an ornate cane and a briefcase made of alligator skin. The young man hasn’t bathed or shaved in days, is still slightly intoxicated from the night before, and is listening to noise on his iPod.

After waiting for more than 20 minutes, the young man pulls his headphones off and demands the time from the old man. As the old man pulls back the cuff on his left wrist to reveal an expensive watch, the young man pulls out a pack of cigarettes. “9:27,” answers the old man as he studies the countenance of the young man. The young man grunts and lights his cigarette.

“What are you doing with your life?” the old man suddenly asks.

Taken aback, the young man becomes defensive and scowls, “What business is it of yours, old man?”

“I’m making it my business,” the old man immediately responds, with an unwavering and calm voice. He then strikes the young man’s shoulder with his walking stick. “Show some respect. Do you know who I am?” he queries.

As the young man recovers from the blow to his side, grasping his arm, he shrieks and begins to cry. The old man looks on with disgust. The bus arrives shortly afterward and the two seat themselves far apart from each other once they board the bus.

The following day the two men find themselves perched on the same bench. They ignore each other. For weeks the two men find themselves at the same bus stop, but never utter another word.

One day the two of them board the 9:30 AM bus to find that it is full, save two seats in the back. The young man, having jumped on the bus before the old man, seats himself next to the window in the rear of the bus and looks out the window. The old man, with but one choice, eventually finds his way to the back and seats himself next to the young man. They briefly look at each other, but the young man breaks his gaze and looks out the window for the next ten minutes.

“What are you doing with your life?” the old man again asks.

“What’s your problem, old man?” the young man immediately shoots back. “What are you doing riding the bus if your life is such a success? You’re as old as my grandfather and you can’t even afford a car.”

The old man’s eyes begin to twitch, and soon thereafter he begins to weep quietly but uncontrollably. His body heaves as he gasps for air between his quiet sobs.

When the bus arrives at the young man’s stop, he pushes the old man’s knees out of his way and hops off the bus. The old man looks out the window as the young man trudges down the sidewalk. The young man turns his head and glances as the bus at it accelerates away. The old man waves to the young man, who is quite taken aback. The young man can see that the old man’s face is stained with tears as he catches one fleeting glimpse.

The following day the young man arrives at the bus stop to find it empty.

The end

What does this anecdote mean? Why did the old man begin to weep? Why was the old man dressed well but riding the bus? Was he formerly wealthy only to have bad luck or tragedy befall his successful life?

I have no idea. That’s the whole point… the anecdote doesn’t mean anything. I just made it up and despite it taking up a few minutes of your time, it was ultimately without any meaning at all. You just took for granted that there was some important nugget of knowledge or something interesting to be gleaned.

This is the problem people make in their careers and in lives

Most people live their lives with aimless determination. They never take the time to examine existence or what their purpose is. They get a job and bring home a paycheck every couple weeks. They buy food and eventually a home, start a family and then suddenly find themselves aged and confused.

How can you avoid feeling like you’ve missed out on the opportunities of life?

  1. Have goals.  This seems like a no-brainer, but despite its simplicity it is very important.  If you just have some vague idea of success but you have not mapped out points along the way, you will never be successful.
  2. Audit yourself.  If you start to slack off or become lazy, and you are never any closer to achieving your goals.  You need to have set days each week, month, and year when you gauge your progress and adjust your goals.
  3. Work hard.  There’s no way around working hard.

    Should I put my picture on my resume?

    May 9th, 2008

    Are you good looking? No, really, are you? In most cases there is no justification for putting your picture on your resume, unless you intend for your appearance to aid in getting a job. Whether this is an acceptable intent or not depends on the type of job you are applying for and what country you live in.  It is acceptable to put your picture on your resume if you are a model, actor/actress, or the like. When you’re selling your looks, no picture on your resume would be just as bad as leaving your contact information off of it. Your face is your qualification.

    For most other professions there’s really no legitimate reason for an employer to see what you look like. In many countries it is illegal to discriminate in hiring based on the race or gender of an applicant, so many employers would actually rather you didn’t include your picture as it can lead to allegations of impropriety. Because of the social norms that determine whether or not a picture is acceptable, employers may actually be suspicious or turned off by an applicant who feels their picture will help them get a job. It seems superficial, and many employers would rather have an average looking, hard-working employee than a good-looking, lazy employee. The fact that you felt your picture was relevant may give the impression that you need to use your looks because your skills are lacking.

    While this limited picture policy is the norm in most countries, there are exceptions elsewhere. In fact, in some parts of the World it is not only acceptable to put your picture on your resume, but encouraged. In these job markets, unfortunately, good looks and the “right” race can make all the difference.

    Despite all this, it’s easy to imagine the curiosity of an employer as they read a resume. Sight is the strongest of all our senses, and it plays an important role in forming a first impression. Most of us use a person’s appearance to help gauge their trustworthiness, character, hygiene, and other important factors that an employer is very interested in. These impressions may not be the most accurate, but they are something we rely on heavily.

    While your picture probably doesn’t convey much of importance about you, it’s definitely something that human nature drives us to have a curiosity about. If you put your picture on your resume, the employer will look at it. Whether it plays a role in you getting an interview or not depends on the employer.

    This brings us back to the original question. Should you put your picture on your resume? The long answer: only if you’re applying for a job where it would be appropriate, or if you look like a super model. The short answer: no.

    If you do decide to flaunt your visage on your resume, you’ll be happy to know that the MyResume resume builder allows you to attach images and other documents to your resume! Register for your own online resume now!

    Why can’t I get an interview?

    March 21st, 2008

    If your resume is in good shape but you aren’t making much progress in the “getting a job so I can continue to eat” department, perhaps it’s time to step up your game. Getting interviews is a numbers game; the more resumes you put in the hands of hiring managers and human resources departments, the better. If you already have plenty of resumes out there, then it’s time to find out what you’re doing wrong.

    Problems with your resume

    • Double the contact information on your resume and cover letter. If you put the wrong phone number or email address on there, you may be missing out on some job interviews. Correct this immediately unless you don’t really want a job. This is the awesome type of advice you come here for!
    • Make sure your resume is in tip top shape. If the calls aren’t pouring in after you’ve distributed several resumes, it might be that you’re not selling yourself effectively.
      • Read it again. If it has been a few weeks since you last revised your resume, you probably forgot what’s on it. Your mind will have cleared and you might pick up on some errors in grammar or, more importantly, things that just don’t make sense or seem appropriate. When you read through it put yourself in the shoes of a potential employer. What’s your impression of yourself based solely on your resume? Why wouldn’t you want to hire this person?
      • Small things can make a big difference. While a misspelled word or two probably isn’t the reason for your silent telephone, little things you unintentionally reveal about yourself can.
        • Their / There / They’re: If you’re not certain which means what, you need to have somebody proofread your resume who does. Some people are really bugged by this.
        • The same goes for other commonly misspelled and misused words. Your / You’re and It’s / Its are a couple other biggies. If your transposing these words and contractions it reflects poorly on you’re resume. If you’re a little hazy on these or any other words or grammar for that matter, you should definitely have somebody else look your resume over. Even if you don’t take it to a professional resume writer, having somebody with a strong handle on the written word help you edit it can do wonders for its readability.
    • Is there too much fluff in your resume?
      • If your resume is too long or too descriptive, busy managers may not want to tackle it. They’re generally busy and want things in easily digestible chunks — especially if they are reviewing hundreds or thousands of resumes for the position you want.
      • Remember, the purpose of a resume is to get an interview. If you leave out some of the specifics but give the employer enough to make them interested in hearing more, you may have more luck getting an interview than if you tell them everything up front.
    • Did you lie on your resume?
      • Just because your resume is well written, that doesn’t mean employers believe everything in it.
      • If you told some fibs in your resume, they may be costing you a job that you might have gotten if you were honest.
        • Remember that there are other fish in the sea — because that’s what employers are thinking when they read your resume. If you sound too good to be true, they may not want to take the time to find out. Don’t toot your horn too much unless you absolutely deserve it.
        • You don’t have to get every job you apply for — just one. You don’t have to impress everybody beyond their wildest dreams. You are looking for a job after all, not a life partner.
    • If you sell yourself too well, employers may not think they can afford you.
      • As you well know, you never want to be the first party to name a salary. Don’t boast about previous salaries or invent previous job titles that typically command salaries far higher than you can realistically get.
      • Because your resume is generally the only information they have before interviewing you on phone or in person, they may weed you out if you sound like you think too much of yourself.
      • This is also one reason why it’s generally unwise to lie about your previous salaries once you get past the initial interview stage. They may call your bluff.

    Applying for the wrong jobs

    • Applying for a job as an accountant won’t do you much good if your degree is in nursing.
    • Even if you are open to a wide variety of jobs, it’s best to have a resume that shows focus.
    • You may consider writing two or three versions of your resume with each focusing on a different type of job (so long as you are qualified for each of them).
    • Be realistic. Everybody has to start from the bottom; if you’re a new graduate or are changing careers, you can’t expect to start out half way up the ladder. Don’t spend all your time applying for jobs that you don’t have a chance for.

    Applying at the wrong companies

    • If you’re in your 40′s or 50′s and you apply for jobs at “young” companies, you may have some difficulty getting an interview. While age discrimination may not be legal in your area, you have to be realistic.
    • Likewise, if you’re a hermit and you apply for jobs that demand outgoing personalities (sales, for instance), you aren’t going to have much luck.
    • Apply to local companies or move to your desired destination. It is very difficult to get a job, let alone an interview, if you live a long ways away from the company. Not only is it difficult to organize a face to face interview, many employers balk at the costs of flying you to their location and/or potential relocation costs.

    Other issues

    • If your resume is excellent, you’re qualified for the jobs and there aren’t any other problems mentioned above, you may need to look at some other factors.
      • Do you give off a bad vibe in your resume or on the phone? You need to woo employers with your manners and mannerisms. They’re looking for somebody to join their team, and they want to know they can get along with you.
      • Is there something bad in your history? Whether it be a large gap in employment on your resume or a police record, you need to consider these things as you try to get to the bottom of your difficulty getting an interview. Take a look at our article about how employers research you on the Internet.

      If you’ve covered all your bases and none of the above problems apply to you or your resume, send out some more resumes. The more jobs you apply to the, more interviews you’ll get!

      Keep your resume up to date

      March 19th, 2008

      Your resume is never finished; it should be in a constant state of revision while you search for a job, and even thereafter.

      Even after you land a job you should take a look at your resume from time to time, to add to it and edit it. When it’s time to start looking for a your next job you will find it is much easier to get it into shape if you’ve kept it up to date over the years. Your resume, in addition to helping you land interviews, also gives you a nice overview of your professional achievements; it serves as concise inventory of where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished and contributed in your life. Looking at it from time to time can serve as a motivational tool as you contemplate your life and set goals for the future.  Unless, of course, you fibbed on your resume, in which case it will be a constant reminder that your employment and possibly life in general are based on lies ;)

      If you’re like me, you find it hard to spend long stretches of time working on your resume and editing it to a point where you it reaches the point of perfection.  So, once you’ve brought it up to a reasonable level that you’re satisfied with, take a break.

      • Distribute a few of them.  The sooner you start handing them out, the sooner you can gauge how well others see your resume.  Interviews are a good indicator that your resume is not only “pretty good” but that it is “pretty awesome.”
      • Plan to come back and work on your resume again once you’ve had a few days away from it.
        • When you procrastinate and eventually convince yourself that your resume is “good enough” even though you know it is lacking, scold yourself and take a time out in the corner.  After 15 minutes of alone time to contemplate the disservice you’ve done yourself by neglecting your resume, return to your computer and get back to work.
        • You’ll find a renewed sense of urgency and interest in your resume, particularly because you know after the 15 minutes of deep transcendental meditation in the corner that if you don’t churn out an amazing resume you may very well spend the rest of your life working at a job you don’t like.
        • You’ll have come to the realization that if you don’t try your very hardest at this moment in your life to get the best job possible, you will one day be that old guy at the bowling alley with a huge gut and a penchant for quoting lines from Big Lebowski to friends from work who bowl a mean game but whose disappointing utter satisfaction with their current, very ordinary and mundane lives, will leave you in the throes of confusion over this very long run on sentence that doesn’t seem like it has a whole lot to do with resume writing, but nonetheless has made you very sad and given you a renewed interest in working very hard on your resume.  This brings up an excellent point — get one of your friends who is an English major to read over your resume.  You probably didn’t get an English major, and you may very well lack the ability to string together a coherent sentence.  That’s where your friends, with their English majors and unnatural repulsion to innocent but grammatically incorrect sentences will come in handy.  Despite being excellent proofreaders, don’t let your friends with liberal arts degrees give you career advice.  After all, they are probably going to end up with jobs that pay considerably less than you, which means they either lack a healthy sense of the important things in job satisfaction (enough money to enable you to comfortably ignore all the bad things about your job) or you are in fact the person with an English degree, in which case I apologize for saying what I did.  But the question is now hanging in the air like the incense that you are no doubt burning in your small efficiency at this very moment: why are you taking advice from me if you’re the one with a superior handle on the English language?  But I digress.
      • Show your resume to your friends and get their input before you reach the point of mental exhaustion.  If you’re having difficult bringing your resume up from the “pretty good” to the “totally awesome” status, and feel like you’re just pounding your head against the wall, it’s time to ask somebody else what they think of your progress.  Make sure you get input from the friends of yours who are pompous egotists.  They’ll be happy to point out even the slightest of flaws in your resume because they are not very good friends.  While they have a knack for making note of your smallest flaws, they are really empty inside and are very unsatisfied with their own lives.  You can use their keen sense of criticism to smooth out the wrinkles in your resume, while at the same time stoking their overblown egos by making them think you came to them because you think they are smart.  You will have done a good deed for the day.  But I digress.

      The next time you meet one of your professional goals or do something exceptional, you should put it on your resume right away. Even if you don’t keep your resume in a final polished state while you’re off the market, this good habit will help you document things that you might forget when you begin the search for your next job.