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How do you stay focused and positive after a year? March 24, 2010

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Well I have been unencumbered by employment  now for 1 1/2 years.  I have heard of people giving up, I have heard of people changing careers, I have heard of people loosing focus and taking anything, I have heard of people that have gone from focus to the shotgun approach.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures. Do they really? Or is that a cop out statement?

When they talk about people over 40 they always mention career transition like after 40 you have to seek a new career. What was wrong with the one I was in?  It is still around and I still like the work so why do I have to transition?

I might be an enigma. I have worked in the same industry for a number of years. I still have a lot I can contribute. I still have the time to do it also. I really like my industry because it is constantly changing and you get to learn new things all the time. I have worked with some great people and I have worked with some real pain the asses.

I have hired people and I have fired people. It was just part of the job.

They tell you in these times to surround yourself with positive people who will support you. People who have been out this long have a hard time staying focused and being positive.  I have my ups and downs but I try hard to have more ups than I do downs. When you start having a down day it can drag you down fast. You have to be aware and not let that happen.

How do you stay focused? I know  what I want to do. I know that I can do it very effectively. I know there is a position out there for me. I just have to find  it . So I keep looking for it and nothing else.

I know I have hurdles that I have to overcome. Knowing what these are gives me the advantage to address them in positive ways. This allows me to stay focused and up beat because I know that I can jump these hurdles with ease.

Staying positive is hard especially after all this time and then loosing my last 2 extensions because I worked a part time gig for a friend of mine.  I have stopped watching TV there was nothing worth watching anyway except maybe the DIY and NAT GEO channels. Not listening to bad news everyday helps you stay positive. I would get my information online in daily emails from the business journals and the tech wires. This allowed me to be selective on what I read especially if it related to my industry. I could see if my target companies received a contract or bought another company or merged with someone.  It kept me informed with what really mattered.

Getting into discussions and answering questions on LinkedIn helped a lot for me to stay positive because it provides a sense of worth. Especially when you get voted best answer or someone in a discussion gives you kudos for your part.

Writing this blog helps me stay positive as it has been my hope to help others who are job seeking. I have received good feedback from other seekers thanking me for it.

I guess what it really comes down to is the person character. Do they have the discipline to keep themselves focused and upbeat when the world is crumbling around them? Do they have that dogged determination required to go the distance to achieve what they desire or are they going to throw in the towel and take what ever and be miserable until something better comes along?

If you have been unemployed for a year or more please tell me here what you have done and what you do to keep focused and keep going. I would like to know and I am sure it may help others who read this blog.

Whats with Unemployment and Career Centers? March 17, 2010

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Here in Massachusetts there is a growing concern about a particular issue. That concern is about your UI benefits and extensions when you hit the one year mark in your endeavor to find gainful employment.

The career centers are encouraging you to find part time and contract work. They will tell you upfront that you can only make X number of dollars over your unemployment before it has an effect on your weekly UI check.

What they neglect to tell you is what effect it will have on your UI benefits if you are still unemployed after a year.

The eligibility amount is $3,500 to get UI benefits. I only worked a 3 week part time gig for a friends company and only made $2,300. When I went to file for my next to last extension I was told I was not eligible due to the fact I only worked 3 weeks in 2009 and did not make sufficient monies to collect. So now I am at zero income and no safety net left.

What others in Massachusetts are finding out is that there benefits are being greatly reduced because of their part time work. I know of a number of people who have gone from the maximum to $94/wk because of part time work. This places a further financial burden on these people and myself. It makes it many times harder for us to job search when we cannot afford gas to travel other than an actual interview. It hampers our ability to network as we cannot afford to buy the contact a simple cup of coffee much less the gas to get there.

So if you are starting or have been on unemployment and are working part time and /or contract I would suggest strongly that you go to your UI office and ask how this will effect your benefits down the road. The job market is going to be slow to recover and many of us will be unemployed or underemployed for years to come.

Volunteer work while unemployed. What does it get me? March 14, 2010

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Volunteer work will provide you some benefits that may or may not advance your career.

One it provides a sense of worth that you lost when you lost your job.

It allows you to keep your communication and interaction skills honed for that interview.

Then there is the networking aspect of it as it broadens your network and allows you to meet interesting people.

Depending on the work it can maintain, enhance, or hone your skills. It may add new skills also.

Where do these volunteer opportunities come from?

You can search them out or they may present themselves in chance ways.

My latest work is based on a chance encounter at the local Post Office. It was based on my former volunteer work and the fact that I was wearing an old uniform jacket with  embroidery.

I ran into Al who is running the Ram Island Restoration Project off of Mattapoisett, MA.

The project is to fly dirt out to the island to fill in 2 erosion spots, add planting and make it ready for the nesting season of the Common tern and the Roesetta Tern (endangered). 1/4 of each population nest on this island to breed.

The project uses 3 helicopters to fly the dirt out using mud mats that carry 750lbs of dirt at a time. so it takes many flights. We have moved 650 yards to date.  We have another 3 -4 days hopefully to finish the dirt move.

The pilots requested a water safety aspect in case they go into the water. This is where I come in having performed underwater recovery for 20 years I have the experience to train, plan and execute such an operation.

So my leadership and operation skills are in use once again. The operation provides me a feeling of great worth and responsibility. It has put me back on my game. Something that I have been missing this last  year.

It has also provided me with a new skill — navigation. I navigate us out through a narrow and obstruction avoidance  from the marina to the island and back. I also have to select the anchorage point daily for optimum response.

I hopefully have 3-4 more days of doing this before my part is completed.

This has helped me exercise my leadership skills and get me back on game.

I hope that all those volunteering are finding it helpful. To those who are thinking about it I hope this gives you that push to go for it. It is rewarding and will help you in the short and long term.

Seekers we still need humor! February 26, 2010

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I was establishing a network contact today. It is a stretch in that I am trying to go to a 4th degree.

My 1st degree knows his 1st degree ( my 2nd) knows someone (my 1st 2nd and his 1st 1st) at a company that I am interested in. Did you follow all that?

So my 1st send me a note about the introduction to his 1st about his 2nd. Then he tells me to be patient.

Here is the funny part;

I reply that I learned patience from my volunteer work performing underwater recovery.

He replies, “That’s funny it is a trait that I was born with”

I reply, ” Then I guess I have a weakness to talk about in an interview”

______________________________________________________________________________

Okay! since I am loosing my mind about loosing my last 2 extensions my mind has warped!

So I am thinking about misleading job postings. You know the ones that get you excited them let you down.

For example here is the title of the job: Engagement Manager or even Sr. Engagement Manager

For us who know what that is it is a really good job and position.

Now here is the company: E-Harmony.com

Now just think of your own ad here! It could be hilarious!

Responsible for ensuring that our matches based on 39 points of compatibility get engaged to boost our standings in the matchmaking industry. Allowing us to grow market share and put Match.com out of business.

________________________________________________________________________________________

I saw this on Twitter today it is a cute one.

What would you have if everyone bought a white car?

You would have a white car-nation!

I told you I was loosing it didn’t I warn you. LOL

_________________________________________________________________________________

I know why Obama has big ears! It is from his parents and friends grabbing him by the ears and banging his head into a wall to get his attention!

Do I hear any takers America????????

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Add your jokes to this post  to help us keep our sense of humor during these trying times.

JOB BOARDS Need to be revised February 20, 2010

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Job boards! We all now them Monster, Hot jobs, Careerbuilder, Dice and the others.

They are like the relative you can’t stand, but have to invite to the party to keep the family happy.

Are the effective? I guess that depends on the position you are seeking. But all in all they only represent about 5- 6 % of the jobs being landing. If I turned in numbers like that at work I would be fired.

They offer some advise and it is the same advice you get everywhere else. Then on Monster every time you click on a posting you have to go through the DO YOU WANT OT FURTHER YOUR EDUCATION screen. Which I find highly annoying. I wold like to see a box that I can click on that says never show this page again.

I did an experiment the other day. I went on Careerbuilder and updated my resume. Low and behold with in minutes I started receiving those form letters. You know the ones, We have read your resume and wish to invite you to be an insurance salesperson or a financial advisor. Really because I have been an engineer most of my life and my resume says right on it that I am looking for and Engineering Manager position. I have no sales experience nor I have I ever worked in either industry but they think I am highly qualified for a position when other companies would think I am under qualified. I know these are probably automatically generated and I feel sorry for the ones that actually have someones name and email address on them because I do send replies of thanks but no thanks and can you comprehend what you read.

The other problem I see with job boards is that the let recruiters post non jobs so as to build up their data base. They also let companies post adds for positions that do not exist just because they want to go fishing or is that phishing to test the waters for when things turn around.  So we as job seekers deligently do what is required to apply only to never hear from anyone.

Then there is the issue of a real job gets posted and then it gets filled but it remains on the boards because the company paid for 30 days and by god we are going to give them their money’s worth. So again they waste our time. I guess they think like others that we have all this free time on our hands (see my post “Since your not busy SAY WHAT!”).

Lets talk about job alerts on the boards. What a joke these are! I received an alert today that I have set up for engineering manager positions. I am gong through the list and what do I see an opening for a cook! Now in my book that is a heck of a stretch for the criteria that I placed. Maybe I should have looked at the posting to see if it was a chef/cook for an engineering manager who negotiated it as part of his compensation package.

I have a job alert on Twitter called TweetMyJob. It provides me with engineering manager positions. The only draw back that I see is that it does not allow me to be industry specific and engineering title cross many industries. Therefore, I have to sift through the posting for other industries. At least I am not wasting my time sifting through cook ads.

So when people ask me if I use the major job boards I tell them yes but I do not put a lot of effort on emphasis on them. I have found that my best placed energy is on LinkedIn and Twitter for opportunities and to research target companies and network.

So if job boards want to be helpful they need to update and refine their job alert search engines so that we only see the jobs we are qualified for and want to apply to and not the plethora of anything that remotes matches any word we have in our search.

The other thing is if you are going to provide resume critiques, they should be done by people who understand the industry and language of the industry that I work in.

Job seekers if you want to have fun, I mean we aren’t busy right?, send your resume to one job board for a free critiques. Makes the suggested changes and then send it to another board for their free resume critique and look at the results.  Ok don’t it is a waste of time. I have already performed this task and it was fun for me. It is like asking three recruiters to comment on your resume and getting three totally different answers. Sorry to spoil your fun.

Volunteer Work and your resume February 16, 2010

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This question gets asked a lot. Should I put my volunteer work on my resume?

Your volunteer work shows that you have interest outside of work that is considered life-balance. It shows the type of person you are by what you volunteer for. It shows that you can handle certain things better than others.

I was at a networking meeting the other day and this question came up. I was discussing how I have been told that my volunteer work (underwater recovery) should be on my resume. I was saying how I leave it on there. I am the Assistant Dive Chief and help run the operation or I am in charge of the operation. Since I have been on the news a number of times I asked when you see divers on the news do you know what goes on when they are there? No one had a clue.

The following is a typical operation that I would run;

I get a phone call between 1AM and 4 AM that there is a drowning (usually in the quarry). I have to figure out the risk involved and then pick from 139 fellow volunteers those that have the skill set to get the job done. I also have to support personnel for each diver so I have to call others. I then have to get the truck and report to the scene. Once on the scene I have to secure an area for my divers, find the Officer in Charge of the Scene and get filled in on what the story is. I have to interview witnesses. Then after assigning a few tasks I formulate the plan and pick my first team of divers to get in the water. I hold a brief press conference for the media that has shown up. Then it is back to running the operation. I debrief the first team of divers as to the conditions they encountered. I call all divers to a meeting to let them know whats ahead for them. Then the next set goes in. Each team of divers get a debriefing on exiting the water so that I can revamp the plan if required. In the middle of the operation I call another press conference to update them and to let them know what conditions we are diving in and to give them an estimate of how long I think the operation is going to run. At the end of the operation I give the last press conference. I give a final report to the Officer in Charge of the Scene.

So to break that down into skills that I go through; team building, logistics, relations(public and media), planning, risk/benefit assessment, leadership, crisis management(at times), communications and politics(on occasion).

After explaining this to the group I was told by one person that I was running an Agile operation. I said we run as a paramilitary organization in that we have one person in charge and one voice to the outside world. They said that is Agile. So I guess you could say that I understand how Agile works.

You could also say that I understand LEAN also. Think about it! I have limited resources to work with( I do not call out everyone for a dive) and I have to do the best job I can and get results that lead to a successful completion of the operation.

You could liken an operation to a project; I have a start and end I have dependencies and interdependencies and milestones.

So you can see that my volunteer work needs to be on my resume as the skills that I use (all at once) are beneficial to the company that I work for.

I am sure that your volunteer work may not be as involved as mine but I bet you have some great transferable skills from yours.

The other thing about volunteer work is that you may interview with someone who also volunteers to that organization or is interested in it. It will provide a talk point and relax the interview as now you have a common point.

I have been out for some time should I start my own business? February 10, 2010

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The outlook still looks dim and finances are getting stretched to the breaking point. Benefits don’t last forever.

The appeal of being your own boss in your own business is growing stronger. It should be easy I have all these skills and experience.

Before I start I strongly suggest SBA and SCORE as 2 organizations to look into.

For the uninformed that is the Small Business Administration and the Senior Corp of Retired Executives.

Starting a business can be as hard as seeking a new job!

There are a number of things you must do before you even start a business.

1.) What kind of business will it be? Consulting, service, contract…

2.) Where will you be operating this business?

3.) Who is your competition? How long have they been in business? How much market share do they have?

What will differentiate you from them?

4.) How will you fund this business?

5.) Do you have a mentor? Do you have advisors?

6.) Have you ever written a business plan? Have you ever written a financial plan?

7.) IS THERE A NEED FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

8.) How will you market your business?

9.) Are you willing to pour your heart and soul into getting it started and running it?

10.) Can you manage others? Can you handle irate customers? Can you handle stress? Can you handle a crisis?

The SBA can help with the business and financial plans. SCORE can provide a mentor and they can help guide you through the process. I suggest to have more than 1 mentor. I received conflicting reports from the 2 mentors that I had.

Do you want to go this alone or do you know good people to go into business with. They have to be as enthusiastic as you are or it won’t work.

I have been doing sweat equity for a possible technology start up as a technical advisor. I think the founder has lost his vision which is too bad.

Well if you decide to go this route I wish you luck. I have connected with a few people in LinkedIn and we are talking about starting a business. Should be fun.

Start of a new year and it looks like more of the same January 18, 2010

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When you have been out of work for more than a year things can start to look very dismal. Some markets are picking up but very slowly. Other markets are still stagnant. The management of some companies are still trying to figure out their next move in this uncertain economy.

Wall Street and the big banks are claiming they are back and healthy while a large number of small banks are going under.  We do not know what to believe anymore. The unemployment numbers are going down but then what is that based on and who does it include or exclude. There will be another graduating class in a few months and the outlook for them is bleak. They could go back home but then their parents may still be unemployed and it would just increase the burden.

The government is slow at doing the right things to energize the job market and what they have done so far hasn’t worked. Tax incentives for businesses has historically never created the number of jobs it was intended to. But the government, never being one to learn anything from history, will do it again. The monies promised to small business or to start-ups is either non-existent or disguised so that it is very difficult to find it.

I am optimistic that I can find a job. I will once again look over my resume to see how I can make it better. To better sell what I can do for a company. My expertise is in new product introduction (concept to market) and streamlining efficiency. I am very good at finding ways to reduce cost, implement cost saving initiatives, and make processes run better. One would think that in this economy I would be the one person that companies would seek out to help them.  In this economy it is the perfect time to have someone like me working for you. But alas it has not happened. I guess I am not selling it correctly on my resume.

I also will be working on a better branding statement for myself.

For the rest of my fellow seekers I suggest you do the same. Take time to analyze what is working and keep it. Analyze also what is not working try to understand why. It may need a tweak or the effort put into may need to be reduced. It may also need to be discarded as it will never work for you.

We must practice our pitch, our networking skills and interviewing.

We must  persevere!

Perceptions Fact or fiction? January 8, 2010

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We all develop perceptions of things or situations based on a number of inputs. Some of the information is based on facts some on hearsay, some on what we trust to be true.

So lets look at some job seeker perceptions and try to examine both sides based on what I know and what I am purely speculating about. That out to make this more fun and open it up to good replies and more controversy.

I have dealt with this topic in other posts but it still needs to be included for obvious reasons.

HR and Recruiters have no respect for job seekers!

This perception can be easily drawn by the lack of common courtesy by both these groups. But as I have stated these groups have also suffered in this recession and most HR Dept. are cut to the bare bone. As I have stated before this is not an excuse for their lack of common courtesy and disrespect.

We are not hiring because there is a lack of qualified candidates out there!

This is not something that has come about in this recession. This is the spin that was put out years ago so companies good live with their decision to hire cheap foreign labor for the sake of shareholder equity over that of the moral obligations to the people who help build the company to what it is.

To me this is just bunk! Do companies really believe this ridiculous statement? Has the management in this country gotten that convoluted that they now believe their own lies?  Has management been reduced to mere slaves of greed and power that they are blinded  to their own short comings?

Companies place job postings for candidates that do not exist and if they did wouldn’t work for that company anyway because of the salary they expect this person to jump at being highly thankful for the opportunity.

Maybe it is time that we get agents like the major sports players have. So we can have the BS line that it is about the love of the  job not the money! While my agent lands me a multi-million dollar contract for 3 years. That package would include a sweet exit deal where I get paid the same no matter if I produce or royally screw up like CEO packages today.

The Recession is over!

What world are the idiots who came up with that line living in? Unemployment is still growing, homes are still being foreclosed on, people are running out of UI benefits because they have been out that long, and companies are not planning on hiring until mid 2010 MAYBE! They must think we have all become blind followers and that we are mindless zombies that will believe nay hype that is out there.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working!

Wow! Here is a waste of tax dollars and the whole premise was a great idea but the execution is nearly impossible. Let me take a number of autonomous departments (CIA, FBI, Secret Service, etc.) who have been like top competitors with each other and tell them that now they have to play nice and share with each other.

Like that worked on the Anniversary of 911 in 2009 with the Coast Guard having a live gun exercise on the Potomac River right across from where the President is having a gig. The other agencies claimed they knew nothing about it. Is the head of the Coast Guard still in office? If so that would be a bad move to have such a moron in a place where he could conduct such a thoughtless act.  The panic and the cost that he was the cause of would be sufficient grounds to have him join the ranks of us unencunbered by employment.

Who was the moron that made the statement that the TSA security is working when a known terrorist on a watch list can even board a plane for America. No to mention that this person also had explosive materials on his body. The fact that this person father even notified the government that he thought his son was up to something. Do they really expect to have us feel relieved and feel safe? I for one will never feel safe with DHS unless the can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they really know what they are doing and that the premise is really working. There have been too many slip ups since the start.

Job Boards are still the best place to find a job!

…………..Sorry I had to stop laughing so I can type. Job boards according to statistics only account for 5% of the jobs being landed. Job seekers who are performing due diligence in their search have found that many jobs do not exist, that some are just phishing expeditions, some are just so recruiters can get their hands on your resume and boost their number of candidate numbers. Then there is Craiglists where most jobs are scam covers.

So these perceptions, how much do you think is based on facts and what is conjecture?

OK time to tackle resume critiques and writers! January 5, 2010

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Let me preface this post by saying I am not against critiques and writers like every other profession there are good ones and bad ones. So buyer beware!

Ok we are unemployed are funds have become limited some of these services are offered through the major job boards and the other has some steep charges to it.

So what do we do. I have had the same  resume critiqued by 3 different job boards and received various results. The major critiques was the format I used, it wasn’t chronological, I was missing a Objective statement, hello that is so old school, and then the content, I am not even going there what is wrong with skills and accomplishments.

Being the curious type I wrote back to these “experts” and asked how much they knew about the electronics industry and how many resume they had written for engineers? Only one replied and try to explain that the industry didn’t matter that there were rules and formats to be followed and thats what they critiqued to get a full critiques would cost me a few hundred dollars. Hello! I am unemployed!  To me that was the wrong answer. It is our resume and as such we know that there is certain industry jargon that must be mentioned in our resume somewhere, preferably up front at the top.

We are constantly barraged with “companies want to know what you can do for them” a list of your past responsibilities does not cut it in todays world. You need to list skills and accomplishments with percentages and dollars permeating these.

Now to get to the heart of the matter. Your resume is your’s and it is up to only you to perform due diligence on it.  It is a dynamic document in that it requires constant change to make it fit better to every situation you use it. You are the master of it. So if you fall into the free critique scam then take the results with a large grain of salt. After all it is a ploy to get you to spend the money you do not have to get a full critique. If they didn’t get the free critique right in your book why would you want to pay for a full critique by people who do not understand your industry.

I was at my local career center and a woman, who is paid by the state, tells me she is a registered resume writer. So I ask how many resumes have you written for Engineering Managers? NONE Okay well how many have you written for electronic engineers? NONE Well then how many management resumes have you written? NONE So exactly how can you help me write my resume if you do not understand my industry or know the jargon? Well I can write you a resume and then you will need to modify to fit. Hell, I can do that with a Word template!

If someone wants to critique your resume first ask if they have any industry experience and is it recent. Where do they get there information from (hopefully the hiring managers not HR)? Do they fully understand the industry jargon? If you are satisfied with all the answers then let them critique your resume. Again it is your resume so you have to totally buy in to their suggestion before changing your resume. Discuss the proposed changes and ask what the advantages and disadvantages are.

Resume Writers:

Yes there is a certification for resume writers. I would seek these people out as they have to meet certain criteria to maintain their certification.  This does mean that any certified resume writer is okay to use.  There is where your due diligence has to be top notch. Find one who has recent experience in your industry and at your level. Ask for references. You want to know if what they wrote is working or not. Interview them as you would any business dealing to make sure that it is a right fit and that you will get value for your dollars.  The writer should be asking you many questions about your past experiences, skills and accomplishments. Make sure they have a thorough understanding of who you are and what you can do before they put ink to paper.  You will want to carefully proofread there work to make sure that it matches you and all statements are factual. The really good writers should hit it on the first try if their questioning was accurate.

I know it sounds like I went on a tirade on resume critique’s and writers.  As I prefaced this post I am not against these people they have a job to do and are looking for clients constantly. What I am against is people claiming to be something they are not or performing a task they are not qualified for. As people are unemployed for lengthy periods of time they become more desperate. There are people that will use this desperation to feed on the  masses for their own prosperity. These are the people I am against.  Shame on us for not doing our homework/due diligence.

The saying goes a fool and his money are soon parted! Job seekers let’s not be foolish but smart in our quest for our next career.