Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jobs Too Good to be True

Ho, ho, ho! I just gave out my bank account number and routing number, the PIN number to my debit card, passwords to my online banking arrangements, and paid a fee of $1,000 to this guy who called me to tell me he would find me a job--guaranteed, or my money back!

Obviously, you're not going to do that. Times are tough, and the crooks are getting tough too. I've gotten calls that tell me my Microsoft Windows computer is infected with malware; that I've won an all-expenses-paid trip to Jamaica; that I need a security system to protect my loved ones at home; that I can reduce the rates on all my credit cards.

If you are on the job market, be aware that advertisers and direct marketers may not always be offering a legitimate job. Following are some websites that give  you the warning signs.

If you get a phone call, and the number is displayed on your caller ID, try googling it; just type the number (no hyphens, parentheses, etc.) into your browser search box. Very often, scam callers' numbers will return a list of forums including discussions about what's behind the number.

Finally, if you are contacted by a scammer, consider reporting it! Here is the US government location, including violations of the "do not call" registry, job scams, and more: Yeah, I report them, and the calls just keep on coming. But at least I'm providing a papertrail; maybe their karma will eventually catch up with them.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Don’t be Responsible!

At least not on LinkedIn. It’s one of 2013’s “most overused buzzwords.” When you describe yourself as “responsible” (among other things), the response of a prospective employer is likely to be glazed eyes, according to LinkedIn’s blog post here:

“OMG!” you say. “I’ve used this in my LinkedIn profile!” Okay, don’t worry too hard about it. LinkedIn compiles a list of overused buzzwords at the end of every year. It’s an attention getter, a bit of filler-fluff that even Time magazine picks up as soft-core “news.” (Link here: And guess what—it’s a great marketing strategy for LinkedIn, which gets free publicity for its brand.

So two take-aways:
  • First, it is possible to use the same word as everybody else, until it becomes meaningless. Write fresh copy. You’re an English major, for pity’s sake—you’re marketing yourself as being able to do creative, fresh things with language.
  • Second, notice how LinkedIn has gotten itself free publicity in very widely-read, prestigious sources. That’s the power of networking: produce something interesting and memorable, and people will like you for your wit and your savvy contribution. (And if you’re a person, rather than a company, they may hire you, or recommend you for hiring to a colleague.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hidden Treasure

If 80% of the job openings out there are never advertised on any of the websites, listings or career fairs you might have access to -- how the heck do you find them? Clearly, somebody is finding them; if they hadn't been found, they would have been advertised!

Here's a great article that describe strategies you can use to find the hidden jobs. Many of them involve people and networking--keeping your ears open, stating your purpose to folks you come in contact with, joining a LinkedIn group.

A few you might not have thought of: set up a Google news alert. I've used these alerts for some time; you do have to pick and choose your keywords carefully, but you can get up-to-the-minute information on companies and their new initiatives that are likely to need new employees.

And: try contacting a prospective employer directly. Clearly this isn't going to work if you have your eye on a mom & pop operation--a company with all of three employees, two of whom are the offspring of the CEO. But if you have your sights on a few companies with 50+ employees or so, then (a) it's likely there will be turnover in the ranks within the next few years (and you know that's how long job-searches take these days); and (b) small companies are likely to be entrepreneurial, up-and-coming, and looking for a go-getter like you to boost profits and efficiency!

(Thanks and a tip o' the hat to Joyce Tesar for forwarding me this article!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Get off the "Meh" List

You would never use the following sentence in a cover letter or in an interview:
  • I am a resourceful, resilient, confident, coachable, versatile, loyal and principled person.

Bleah! All buzzwords and no substance.

Today's link is to an article that explains how to demonstrate you have those qualities, rather than merely proclaiming you have them. As in creative writing: show, don't tell. Give the story, the example, the evidence, rather than the trite and overused adjective.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Resume: Don't be Boring

It seems like a no-brainer: don't write a boring resume or cover letter. But it's a lot harder to do than to talk about.

On the one hand, you want to present yourself as unique. You stand out from the competition as the best fit for the job. You are the most accomplished, best skilled, and serendipitously attuned in temperament to the demands of this particular position.

On the other hand, you don't want to seem like a freak. You wouldn't go to an interview dressed like a circus clown (unless you're applying to Ringling Brothers); nor would you put together a resume that screams "oddball!"

How to achieve a balance? Here's a handful of websites that can give you ideas about how to pitch yourself. Of course, don't forget to apply your own good judgment about what "goes" and what is "kooky-looking" in your industry. For instance--the last website I've included from Pinterest has some eye-popping graphic resume examples. But if I'm hiring someone to teach in the English Department, I would be skeptical that the pretty pictures cover up some fundamental lack in the candidate.

Two websites that show you how to get rid of boring text content:
A website with oodles of sample resumes and cover letters for various kinds of jobs, from entry-level to CEO; mostly text-based, some examples better than others:
A website with eye-popping graphic resumes:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What's YOUR Secret Super Power?

English majors have a special Super Power, not to be taken lightly: the ability to tell a story.

You know about how to develop engaging characterization, why and where to ratchet up the suspense to keep your audience reading, when to drop in a whiff of foreshadowing that will make the ending so much more satisfying, and under what circumstances to deny closure.

In short, you have one of the top business skills of all times.

Here's a story of how one executive seeking funding from a top company learned to include more story. And a follow-up letting you know that big companies are  teaching their employees the skills you already have.

There's a good template for how to organize a business story. You may be more interested in getting a job than in getting funding for a specific project--but story is relevant to you, too! You can use it to engage a prospective employer, as one of the most effective ways to showcase your talents and abilities. And you can market it as one of the skills you can bring to the table.

Lest you pooh-pooh this article as mere in-house English-major puffery: it comes from The Wall Street Journal, the Big Serious Business newspaper. Names dropped are also no "bit-players": Procter & Gamble, FedEx, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

LinkedIn is NOT Facebook!

I have been fairly disengaged from Facebook for a number of years now. I don't like the targeted advertising, the insistence that everyone in the world but me is playing "Candy Crush Saga," or the encouragement to complete my profile so that the world knows the size and location of every mole and birthmark on my body.

But LinkedIn is not Facebook. (Thank God.) It's a professional networking tool that can be one of the most effective resources for your lifelong career development. Notice that I don't call it a "job search" tool, because it's about cultivating an ongoing presence and set of connections, rather than a one-shot wonder.

Here's a great article, written with flippant panache, with the basic strategies you can use to make this resource work for you.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wanted: PAID Peer Tutors!

Are You Prepared?

Employers don't think you are ready for a job. Their job. You personally? Well--no. But you in general--the job-seeking public.

You don't know what skills and experience they want. You don't know how to network. You don't have a mentor. Here's a link to an interesting article, a recent blog entry on a "helping you find a job" blog, about exactly what candidates for jobs seem to be lacking:

What was most interesting to me: the complaints seemed to be less about what qualifications you actually have, and more about the skills, abilities and strengths you say you have.

If you want more information about how to fix your perceived deficiencies, you can read the original materials at the Career Advisory Board.

This stuff is pretty dense. I'm not claiming that it's scintillating reading matter. But it's presented with lots of colorful graphs and layout--which suggests somebody thought it was worth putting that much time and energy into. And if you read it closely, you just might get a sense of how to tweak your self-presentation to give you an edge over the masses of other people looking for the same job you want.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finding the One Job With Your Name On It

Here's a great posting with reverse-engineered job-boards!

You know, of course, you should network, network, network. But while networking, you don't ask for a job. Rather, you build relationships, connections, and do good for others. Eventually, "What Goes Around" will eventually "Come Around" back to you.

You know, too, that reading job-boards is a fool's errand. Public job boards get a gazillion eyeballs looking at them (because unemployment is high). For every job posting, there are many applicants. You're looking for a needle in the haystack, with plenty of competition.

Grrrr... so how are you supposed to find The One Job with Your Name On It?

There's hope! The ten online services described in this link use existing information: info about you (LinkedIn, Facebook, your resume), or about employers (internal job boards, a meta-index of job postings). Then, they narrow down the range of information, and do some of the work for you of selecting and winnowing through the ton of data, presenting you with a more useful slice of the options out there.

Consider trying some of the new Big Data alternatives to job boards to help jump-start your search!