Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 3rd annual job hunters workshop - pt. 1

[The following is the script I wrote to prepare for the job hunters workshop I ran at work.]

Welcome to Poplar Creek Public Library’s 3rd annual job hunters workshop! Thanks for coming. With luck, hard work, and what tips I can give you today – though, really, through luck and hard work mainly -- maybe everyone here will see some improvement in their employment status soon. If nothing else comes of getting you here tonight, at least I got you into the library. Because my secondary goal, after helping you find jobs, is to introduce you to what the library can do for you while you’re job hunting. The public library is the perfect place to come, whether it’s to apply for jobs online, type up your resume, read about the careers you’re interested in, or just to relax and read something good.

I’ll tell you up front that I am not a professional career counselor, job hunting coach, or have any kind of certification. Yet. What I’ve done is read a lot of books and articles on the subject of job hunting over the last three years and attended a lot of workshops that everyone here could have gone to. One thing I’ve found is that not all of this material agrees with each other! I have done my best to pick what I consider the best advice for you tonight.

Now, I have lots of material for us to get through tonight and my prepared remarks will take up about the first hour. And here’s what we’re going to cover. One, self-assessment. This is you getting yourself ready for job hunting. Two, preparation. This is you preparing the material you’ll need, like cover letters and resumes. Three, execution. This is you going out there and networking and interviewing. During all three steps, we’re going to talk about resources you can use, both here at the library or online from home. And after them, we can open the floor to Q&A, go over people’s resumes, spend more time looking at these online resources, or whatever you’d like to do with our time.

The average job search can take roughly 6-13 months in today’s work environment. Where did I get that range from? Basically, it’s a rough average I’ve had to make myself from the conflicting estimates I’ve been reading. And it’s necessarily such a wide range because there’s so many unknowable factors involved. But it’s still a better average than I was able to project last year, even if it’s not very good yet. HR departments are still overwhelmed with hiring options. You heard about Google getting a record 75,000 applications in one week for only 6,000 jobs? Yeah, not every place you’re applying for is like Google, but you’re still going to have to expect stiff competition for any job you try for. Some factors you’re going to have to consider when you’re seeking a job is if you’re moving to a new company or looking for a new position in the same company, whether you’re changing job function or not, whether you’re changing industry or not, if you’re looking in a new location, if you’re looking to move to a bigger company, and if you’re going to be looking for more pay. Each of these factors is going to make the job search longer for you.

Just yesterday, I was reminded that there is a difference between a job and a career and what you really want is a career. Unfortunately, I’ve practiced this presentation so long saying job I don’t think I can train myself to say career now. So just keep in mind that when I’m saying “job”, I really mean “career”. So what are you going to be doing with yourself during these 6-13 months you’re not working? The first thing you’re going to be doing is self-assessment.

Self-assessment is largely common sense type stuff, and yet too many people skip this step entirely. Identify your skills. Identify how you want to use your skills. Identify how far you’re willing to travel for a job and how low you’re willing or able to be paid. Think about who you are, what you’ve accomplished – both at work and outside of work, and how you wish to contribute to the future. Out of this self-assessment needs to come the following things: a positive attitude about you, a sense of your own brand, a sense of how accessible you are to people who will need to be in touch with you, a good evaluation of your financial situation, and a sense of your own qualifications.

The first is the simplest, to explain at least: you need the positive attitude because it’s going to be up to you to sell yourself. You are your own product now and any good salesman believes in his product. That might be hard for you if you’ve been out of work for awhile and there can be real grief associated with job loss. The best advice I can give, not being a counselor or therapist, is to keep busy job hunting.

You need to brand yourself because it’s going to give you the focus you need to know how you’re going to sell yourself. Are you a go-to person who gets things done? Are you a people person who has great rapport with customers? Are you an on-time, under-budget kind of guy? These are the sorts of one-line tags or clichés you need to consider whether they apply to you or not. It’s okay to make a hirer think of you as one of these clichés, since it will help him remember you. But you won’t actually use these one-liners. You’re never going to say you’re a “people person” or any of these other clichés, but you’re going to get the idea across by the examples you give about you in your resumes and interviews.

You’re going to evaluate how accessible you are, both to hirers and to others. You’re going to keep your ability to contact others organized, with phone numbers and contact information in your journal or a notebook or typed up on a computer instead of on loose notes or business cards that can get lost. Use a professional-sounding e-mail address. If you have an e-mail account with kind of a silly address or anything not professional looking, then make a second account and use the second account only for job hunting. Also use a professional-sounding voicemail message. But don’t leave that important call back from an employer up to an answering machine if you can avoid it. What if you go out of town for a week and get a phone call from a potential employer on day one of your vacation? And then it takes you 6 days to return the call? How is that going to make you look? So make sure your contact information includes a cell phone number and carry the phone at all times and return those calls quickly if you do miss them.

I’m going to make a bigger deal about this than I did last year because so much of the job advice I’m seeing is about being accessible online and maintaining a professional online presence. We’ll talk again later about specific online resources for networking, but in general, you’re going to establish as wide and professional-looking a presence as possible. You’ll have profiles on multiple sites that employers might check. You can be active, in a professional way, on social media. And be online at all times. Obviously you’re going to sleep at night, but leave on Facebook, Yahoo Messenger, or whatever you use to connect to your contacts and references so they can leave you important messages at any time.

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