The Job Search

Think Before You Ink

tattoos at workDo you remember the episode of Friends in season two when Rachel and Phoebe get tattoos?

It was Phoebe’s idea and Rachel had second thoughts, but then follows through and gets a heart tattoo on her hip. Phoebe is scared of the needle and only gets one pin-prick sized blue dot. It’s referred to as a tattoo of the world (from very far away).

At the time Rachel and Phoebe got their tattoos their characters were 26 and 29 respectively. With 29% of the lead characters having a tattoo, the 1996 show was a snapshot of American society 11 years later.

A recent study by the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology sited that 25% of U.S. adults age 18-50 have tattoos. One-in-three (35%) adults age 18-29 have at least one tattoo.

According to a 2006 U.S. appeals court ruling, Rachel and Phoebe were wise to get their tattoos in easily-coverable areas. The court ruled that police officers do not enjoy First Amendment protection and can be subject to department uniform rules, which required that tattoos be covered.

Employers are beginning to take a hard stance on excessive body art. Companies hire individuals who match with the company image and culture. If that doesn’t include visible tattoos, those who are noticeable inked may be out of luck.

In many parts of the country police officers must wear patches or winter clothes year-round to cover tattoos. Some police forces even turn away applicants with visible tattoos.

Even Uncle Sam is taking a stand on image protection. The Air Force prohibits tattoos that cover more than 25% of exposed body parts and any above the collarbone.

Tattoos are a part of American culture and are firmly entrenched in our society. But your body has a lot of canvas to work with. So, you might want to hold off on that flaming skull tattoo you were planning to get on your neck. I’m certainly glad I wear my art on my back.

What’s the tattoo culture like in your workplace? Have you experienced tattoo regret? What have you done about it?

Baby Boomers Keep On Truckin’ in New Careers

baby boomers jobsBaby Boomers are shaking things up again. While they may not be protesting in the streets or picketing outside schools, their influence is still redefining cultural expectations.

An article in this week’s Newsweek magazine focuses on Boomers who are choosing unexpected career paths. According to the article, an increasing number of the 50+ crowd are saying goodbye to corporate jobs to seek the freedom of the open road as truck drivers. Data in a 2005 study for the American Trucking Association showed that from 2000 to 2004, the number of truckers age 55 to 65 and older increased by about four percent.

As a personal example, over dinner last week, my architect father-in-law told my husband and me that he’d like to drive a truck when he retires in two years. He’s driven Chevy and Dodge trucks for years, so I guess it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to be out on the road in a big rig.

The Boomer generation is sometimes referred to as the first workaholics and is often associated with aggressively climbing the corporate ladder to get ahead. But, it seems after a lifetime of structure, org charts and board meetings, many Boomers are ready for some freedom.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, what are your career plans for the next five or 10 years? Could you see yourself traveling the country as a truck driver?  Even if you’re not a Boomer, does a desire for a change of scenery tempt you to leave your current job?

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Who’s Facebooking You?

The social networking site Facebook is now the most used people search engine on the
Web according to data reported by Inside Facebook, an independent blog dedicated to Facebook news. And, according to Wikipedia, the site is now the 7th most visited site in the U.S. and has 30 million registered users.

What does all this mean to you? That friends, acquaintances and employers could be searching Facebook for information about you. If you have a Facebook account, the thought of your boss or a random neighbor perusing your profile may not sit well with you – depending on what you have posted there.

The content on Facebook profiles has created career hiccups for some. For example, Miss New Jersey was recently involved in a blackmailing fiasco that threatened to end her reign as a result of some questionable photos on her Facebook page. 

According to CBS.com research, about 20 percent of employers are routinely scanning the Facebook profiles of applicants. When employers stumble upon racy or questionable content on applicants’ profiles, it can do serious damage to the applicants’ chances of landing an interview, let alone a job.

But just because employers are browsing social networking sites for information on candidates doesn’t mean you should delete your Facebook profile. Online profiles can actually be used to your advantage. For one, they give employers an inside look at your personality, interests and creative abilities – all of which can help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re actively applying for jobs and you have an online profile, consider including some of your career strengths and interests on your profile in case a recruiter finds you online. Or if you have content on your profile that you don’t want prospective employers to view, make your profile private.

What’s been your experience with Facebook and other social networking sites? Have you searched co-workers, applicants or employees on these sites? How would you feel if you knew a recruiter had looked at your profile?

That’s a Good Question

I’ve been on my fair share of job interviews. Now that I’m a manager, I appreciate the importance of a good first interview. Committing to a long-term relationship with a relative stranger can be intimidating for the interviewer and the applicant alike.

Yesterday, I counseled a colleague who is re-entering the job market after a six-year departure to raise her son. She was looking to improve her interview skills.

I shared with her the top three things I look for in a successful interview. If a candidate can demonstrate aptitude in these three areas, there’s a good chance there’ll be a second interview.

Problem-solving skills. Creativity and thinking logically are only part of the equation. What I look for are concrete examples that prove a candidate can solve problems by providing workable solutions. This gives the applicant a chance to provide real-life experiences of past successes or how obstacles were overcome.

People skills. I actually had a candidate for a receptionist position tell me that she didn’t really like people. That interview ended about three minutes later. You might not have a job that interacts with clients, customers or suppliers, but every job has some level of personal interaction. You need to be able to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy, accommodating and a team player. I’m especially interested in a candidate’s listening skills, which are as important as speaking.

Follow through skills. I look for people who possess follow through and can get things done. This is another opportunity to share a story of how you closed the deal or completed the project. In the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” there is a line that refers to the ABCs – Always Be Closing. It is important that you can demonstrate that you can complete projects and not just move from project to project.

When you are asked questions about your skills, try to focus your responses in one of these three areas. What do you think is important to convey in a job interview? What question do you dread being asked?

Plan to Change the Plan – Career Surprises Reward the Flexible

Some people have a clear plan, a timeline with goals and strategies, to get where they want in their careers. They’ve laid out how they’re going to get there in a year, or 5 years or ten years and are moving forward in that direction. These are the type of people that more spur-of-the-moment people, like myself, often admire. We look at their spreadsheets and to-do lists and wonder how they got it all figured out.

At the same time, there’s something to be said for flexibility and going where life takes you. While I’m not saying it’s a good idea to have zero career plans, I am wondering about the value of having a more liquid idea of the future.

Instead of focusing on a particular job or career path, I generally think about my strengths and what I’m most passionate about. I don’t have a concrete 5- or 10-year plan, but I do plan to be using my strengths in a field that I’m excited about. This type of plan may not sound as impressive, but it’s worked out pretty well for me so far. It also seems to have worked out for Eric Nakagawa.

On the USA Today blog, Small Business Connection, blogger Jim Hopkins posts about how former software developer Eric Nakagawa became an “accidental entrepreneur” when he posted a humorous picture on his website of an overweight cat.

That picture became the catalyst for the “I Can Has Cheezburger” blog, a site featuring photos of animals with comedic captions. The site now garners about 200,000 visitors a day and thousands of advertising dollars. It’s unlikely that Nakagawa had a five year plan that included: “Start successful blog featuring cat photos and bad grammar.” Being flexible when there’s a fork in the career road gave Nakagawa the opportunity to do something he probably never planned for.

Do you have a 5, 10 or even 20 year career plan? Or, are you taking things one day at a time? If you have a plan, have things turned out the way you expected? If you don’t have long-term plans, how has that affected your career?

Does Your Job Have Staying Power?

Bug breeder. Road kill collector. Catfish noodler. Alpaca shearer.

Those are a few of the positions Mike Rowe lists on his résumé. Rowe is host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, a show that exposes people to all kinds of jobs that they don’t necessarily see in the classified ads each week.

If you asked 100 elementary school children what they wanted to be when they grow up, I’d bet no one would mention any of the jobs that Rowe has tried out on his show. But doctor, teacher, politician and artist would probably rank high on the list.

Those four also showed up on list of occupations that will “stand the test of time,” according to CareerBuilder.com. Also included on the list of professions there will always be a need for:

Barber
Construction worker
Farmer
Law enforcement officer
Mortician
Religious leader
Scientist
Soldier
Tax collector
Waste disposal manager

Can you think of other jobs that are necessary and will still be relevant in the future? What about your job?

I love my career, however I’m not sure my position will be around in 50 years. But then again, I probably won’t either.