Monday, October 31, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Of course, most want ads get hordes of applicants but most of those don't stand a chance: They're jargon-filled, generic, utterly undistinguished. I'm certainly not advocating silly ploys like including a jar of jalapeno preserves saying, "I can get you out of the hottest jam."
In applying, if your resume is unlikely to be top-of-the-heap, for example, you're a career changer or have a gap in employment, consider substituting a bio. That allows you to highlight only what you want. A resume is a tool to help employers--it lays all of you bare. As with clothing, most of us look better with some parts hidden.
Your cover letter and resume should be devoid of clichéd job-seeker language such as "I'm a self-starter seeking an opportunity with a dynamic company." That leaches all chemistry and credibility from your application: The employer will feel s/he's reading from a job-hunting book not from the candidate. Do tell PAR stories: a problem you faced, how you approached it, and its positive resolution. Choose stories that would impress your target employer. That's a key rule: Everything you do in the job search should be subjected to this test: "Would this make this employer more likely to hire me?"
Do put your Mensa membership on your resume. The right employers will like it; the wrong ones won't.
If possible, with your application, include one or more pieces of collateral material . One of my clients applied for a sales job with a government contractor. He included a list of 50 federal decisionmakers he'd call if he got the job. Another client, a career changer, to show the employer that he knew a lot about hospital management, wrote a three-page White Paper called, Keys to Effective Hospital Management in 2012 and Beyond. He did the research for that paper just as he might have a term paper in school: by synthesizing articles he found on Google.
Of course, at least half of jobs are obtained through a connection. List the people in your network. Twenty-five is good, 50 is better. Next to each name, decide if it's best to just email them, invite them for coffee, dinner, to a party, visit them at their office, etc. When you contact them, ask if your resume makes them want to hire you. Then ask if they know of anyone you should talk with. If not, ask if they'd keep their ears open and if you're still looking in a month, would they mind if you followed up. That recruits them as a scout--they're more likely to hear of something during the month than just when you contacted them.
If your network is paltry or used up, you'll need to expand it. Could you volunteer somewhere you'd have face-time with potential employers, for example, on a non-profit board? Get active in a church? Join a service club such as Rotary? A hobby group such as an investment club or dog-owner's meetup? A political organization? Of course, go to more Mensa events--Hey, even the Intelligencer Peel-and-Stick party might help!
Importantly, even in a lousy job market, it's important to vet potential employers. During the interview, ask questions such as, "Why is this position vacant?," "What kind of problems would you most hope I'd solve?," "What would you hope I'd accomplish in the first 90 days that would help my boss get a gold star?" After being offered the job, ask to visit the workplace. There, assess the vibe: Do most employees seem content? Hang out in the break room. Ask questions like, "What should I know about working here that might not appear in the employee handbook?
Especially in this job market, there sure are no guarantees, but those are my best bets for landing a good job in a bad market.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
John, I've noticed that your reports (or whatever) haven't been great. Anything I can do to help, or is there something I need to understand that explains it?
Friday, October 21, 2011
- With your networking contacts, use a one-page bio rather than your resume. The bio allows you to highlight your strengths. Your resume lays too much bare for everyone to see.
- Like most geek types, indeed most men, you've put all your work effort into working and into getting more skilled, and no time building what alas seems more required than ability: a network. So rather than continue only to tap your existing network, which you describe as having already been queried enough, you must take the time to build a new network, which includes, not just formal networking events, joining clubs, taking positions on small boards, etc, but making conversation with people you meet everywhere, from the supermarket line to the people waiting at the barber shop.
- Having limited experience in your aspired-to job, you must do some reading and informational interviews with respected people in those positions. That way, you'll be able to discuss how the job is well-conducted. For example, as an operations manager, you should be able to richly discuss the ways in which you'd manage upward and downward, your approaches to getting buy-in on technical implementations from the not-very-technical people who will be using it, etc.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
The son is a new college graduate with a BA in psychology from a reasonably regarded but not prestigious state university. He's tried to land a job for a year but can only land something he could have gotten with a high school diploma. He asked if I had any advice. I suggested he try one or more of these strategies:
- Identify one company, govt office, or non-profit at which you''d most like to work. Read up on it and then talk to one, or better, two or three people there, explaining why you'd love to work there, and what are some of his better skills and abilities. If necessary, it could be an internship or low-pay job as a launchpad.
- Ask relatives, friends, parents of friends, etc. Usually only people who love you will--especially in this job market--give you even a strong lead on a good job. Be sure to tout your transferable skills--for example, the leadership and organizational skills you acquired as your fraternity's activities chair.
- If you've tapped out your network, you must build a new one. Volunteer at places likely to give you face time with people who could employ you. Create deep connection: listen to them, offer to help them, tactfully teach them something, be pleasant.
- Start a low-cost, simple, non-trendy business, replicating a successful formula, for example, a coffee/dessert cart in the lobby of a large hospital or office building. Status is the enemy of contentment. After the first cart is successful, establish a second one and hire trusted people to staff both. Keep expanding until you've netted $200,000 a year. More than that and the quality control often goes down or the workload expands too much. $200,000 is more than enough to live well on.
- What Career to Pursue
- Top Careers for the Coming Decade
- Developing Drive
- Finding a Good Job in a Bad Market
Saturday, October 15, 2011
I've devoted particular effort to developing this article because I'll be using it for three purposes:
- as the basis for the speech I'll be giving at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral this Monday,
- as the demo class that The Great Courses has asked me to do. Indeed, you'll notice that it is written as if it were a lecture for The Great Courses.
- as the basis for my NPR-San Francisco radio show a week from tomorrow, Oct 23.
Friday, October 14, 2011
I present it here to increase my likelihood of making these things happen, and to encourage you to create your own list.
- Dinner at Fleur de Lys restaurant in San Francisco. (when I've lost the 20 pounds I want to lose.)
- A world-class, nurturing (but not sexual) massage
- Attend a concert by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band.
- Get my book manuscript, How to Do Life: What they didn't teach you in college, published by a respected publisher.
- Extend my forthcoming five-part Washington Post series, "What's the Big Idea?" into a continuing column.
- Teach courses for The Great Courses. They've asked me to do a demo class. Hold a good thought for me.
- Present my blueprint for reinventing education to Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Schools and his cabinet (which includes my wife, Barbara Nemko.)
- Fund an annual prize for the most promising research toward ethically enhancing human intelligence.
- Write a column in the New York Times
- Host a show called Honest Conversations about Race.
- Write a screenplay that gets made into a movie about a wise person whose views and way of being are out-of-step with the times.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
The Revolution May Indeed be Coming: Why the student protests and "Occupy Wall Street" must be taken seriously
- Demographics. Because of differential birth rates and immigration, an ever higher proportion of the population will be left-leaning.
- The U.S. economy is in deep trouble, with many more people underemployed than the government's statistics indicate.
- The gap between rich and poor is increasing. The middle class is shrinking.
- Society's main mind molders--the schools, colleges, and media--are ever bolder in making their messages leftist rather than truly "fair and balanced."
- The recent precedent set by the overseas protests--the "Arab Spring," riots in France and England, etc.
- Our short memory. Memories of the liabilities of living in, for example, Communist Russia and Eastern Europe, are fading.
Of course, there are countervailing forces:
- Except among hard leftists, ardor for The Revolution is tempered by the collapse of the Greek economy, the tottering of other socialist countries, and Scandinavia's, Germany's, and France's now questioning the wisdom of a generous cradle-to-grave welfare policy.
- The American citzenry's long-standing valuing of capitalism.
- The already leftward movement of our government,. Of course, the 2010 election was a pivot rightward but I believe that a fair-minded look at U.S. policy over the last 100 years demonstrates a clear leftward trend. What the media and politicians call "conservative" today is more leftist than would have been considered "conservative" just a half-century ago. For example, no conservative politician today would dare argue even against such redistributive "justice" programs as No Child Left Behind, in which the vast majority of educational effort is redistributed from those with the greatest potential for excellence to the lowest achieving students. The government's move leftward reduces the need for revolution to what may well be soon done without the pain of revolution.
Going yet further out on the limb, I predict that within a decade of The Revolution, a move back rightward will begin. Logically, to me at least, the core principle of The Revolution dooms America in the medium to long-term, to, net, more misery. The Revolution's core principle is Marx's exhortation to redistribute from those with the most to those with the least, without regard to the people's merit, their previous or likely contribution to society. Viscerally that's appealing, especially because the media has conditioned us to picture that redistribution as mansion/yacht owners giving up much of their ill-begotten wealth to honest, oppressed people living in squalor.
The problem with socialism and its even more radical cousin Communism is that the pool of wealthy individuals and corporations is simply smarter, yes smarter, than the pool of the poor. Society's "Haves," may have some ill-begotten wealth but compared with the poor, they, on average, I stress, on average, are more likely to have created jobs, cured diseases, not to mention invented, manufactured and distributed critical products at a price that even low-income people can afford, everything from an aspirin to a refrigerator, a telephone to Google.
Of course, I cannot be certain of my predictions; too many forces can affect America. For example, just one vial of mutated biovirus released in a U.S. international airport lobby could change everything, in unpredictable ways. But I believe that as we do our strategic planning, as individuals, companies, and government, we'd be wise to at least consider the possibility that The Revolution indeed may be nigh.
If I had a teen or adult child with special needs--for example, mild cognitive impairment and wheelchair-bound--I'd certainly want them to work. And here's what I'd to do to help them become employed:
I'd convey to him (or her, of course) that work is a must, not an option, and that work is wonderful: It keeps you stimulated, makes you money, and importantly, makes you a productive, contributing member of society. I'd also often tell my child how proud I'll be when he gets a job and especially when he does a good job at it.
I would try to identify community resources that help special needs people find employment, for example, Stepping Stones, but if I felt those wouldn't do a great job for my child, I'd take matters into my own hands:
I'd help my child identify jobs he might do well and reasonably enjoy. Examples of jobs that some special needs people can do: clerk, custodian, basic repair, load trucks, or other manual labor, supermarket stockperson or carry-out assistant. People with normal intelligence but with a learning disability, even with an accompanying physical disability, depending on their abilities and limitations, may succeed as, for example, a receptionist, graphic artist, or bookkeeper.
I'd demonstrate to my child how to interview: how to walk in, say hello, describe who you are and what you can and can't do, answer typical questions, and ask for a job. After each demo, I'd have my child try it. I'd give feedback as encouragingly as possible. After he was doing pretty well, I'd video it and use that to provide additional feedback.
I'd buy my child a new interview outfit: the clothes he'll feel most confident wearing that also would be appropriate for an interview.
I'd have him write a resume with my help. I'd be sure that both his abilities and limitations are fairly described.
I'd call everyone I knew telling them I'm trying to help my special-needs child find a decent job, one with a kind boss. I'd fully describe my child's abilities and limitations. I disagree with the conventional wisdom, which is to hide from employers the disability as long as possible. Rather, I agree with the axiom on damage control: Get the bad news out up-front. Yes, many potential employers will be turned off but the right employers, the ones likely to hire my child and be kind to him when the inevitable mess-ups occur, will not be unduly deterred. Apart from the poor ethics of deferring revealing the disabilities, when they're finally revealed in the interview, the employer will feel deceived that they weren't disclosed up-front.
If my network didn't generate a good job with a kind employer, I'd make a list of target places of employment. Schools, colleges, nonprofits, libraries, businesses serving the disabled, senior centers, animal shelters, and bookstores may, on average, be kinder to a special-needs job applicant than would private-sector employers. Once I assembled my list, on a map, I'd put an X on the location of each employer and would drive my child around to them.
I'd walk my child into each of those places of employment and to any other good prospects I noticed along the way. I know that conventional wisdom is that the job applicant should go in alone but I believe that whatever negative effect would accrue from my walking in would be outweighed by my enthusiasm and by my answering questions on behalf of my child. Also, it would be harder for an employer to turn down an impassioned parent than a special needs job applicant.
If appropriate, I'd tell the employer I'd be willing to be my child's job coach: help train him for the job, before or after he was hired, at home, or even on the job to ensure he was doing a good job.
After the inevitable rejections that all job seekers suffer, I'd explain to my child that job seeking is a game where you only need succeed once--you can get rejected lots and lots of times and still win. Where possible, I would be a cheerleader for my child but, where necessary, a loving taskmaster.
When he gets hired, I'd call the employer after the first few hours to ask how things are going and if there's anything I could do to help ensure my child's success.
All things equal, I'd prefer my special-needs child to be employed by someone else rather than to be self-employed. I want him out in the world, experiencing other people, other things. Too many people with special needs have too-small worlds. They often don't realize how much richer a life in the world can be, even if they find it challenging.
That said, if my child could not find a job, even in a sheltered workshop (Today, often obfuscatingly called "work center,") where he could succeed, that was reasonably pleasant, and with boss and coworkers that treated him with reasonable respect, I would work with my child to create a home-based business. Depending on his abilities, limitations, and preferences, my child might make homemade crafts, jewelry, or soap (sold to the disabled community?), package and ship items for eBay sellers, or even tutor children with disabilities.
No matter what, I would often tell my child how much I love him and how proud I am of his efforts to land and succeed in a job. Even if his job was just to sweep the floor, wash dishes, clean toilets, or dig ditches, I would indeed be proud. All ethical work is of real value. A side benefit to society: It can be inspiring for coworkers to see a disabled person doing a good job--"If they can, then certainly I should."
Monday, October 3, 2011
The topic: Potent Ways to Replace Procrastination with Motivation and Willpower.
It is a free event.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
- teachers and professors, people who have opted out of the real world. Compared with the pool of successful people in the real world, teachers and professors are more out-of-touch and less efficacious. Despite protestations to the contrary, there is some validity to the overgeneralization that those who can, do; those who can't, teach.
- members of the media. This is another group with minimal real-world experience, whose opinions have been too heavily influenced by their theory- and ideology-rich but practicality-impoverished professors. Most journalists today, egged on by their new-style, ideology-driven journalism professors, believe they know how the world should be changed and thus have the right to forgo their near-sacred responsibility to present intelligent perspectives from across the full range of the ideological spectrum and, instead, manipulate the public into believing their own solutions are the correct ones. From Rachel Maddow to Rush Limbaugh, the New York Times' Bob Herbert to Fox News' Sean Hannity, these are people driven far more by ideology than by wise circumspection.
- politicians. They are too driven by saying what will get them elected rather than by what's best. For example, for decades, the research has been unequivocal that Head Start yields no enduring benefit, but politicians continue to tout it because the public likes the concept, even though it ends up costing the taxpayers billions of dollars and wastes enormous toddler and parent time.
- public intellectuals. I am less concerned about this category of influencers. After all, these primarily are thinkers. But the (liberal) media, by definition, creates public intellectuals. And it disproportionately anoints leftists--think Robert Reich, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Malcolm Gladwell. And to stay on the air, those public intellectuals must keep their messages liberal so as to please the media's gatekeepers. Another weakness: public intellectuals, by definition, spend a larger percentage of their work hours on promotion rather than creation than do private intellectuals.
Most troubling, public opinion on policy matters and political candidates may be most affected by:
- people in the creative arts: filmmakers, actors, rock stars, etc. Of course, there are many exceptions, but people in the arts are likely to be longer on offbeat creativity than on intellectual rigor and discipline. They are less likely to be emotionally well-balanced and more likely to be in and out of rehab, literally or figuratively. Do you doubt that the parents of those in the creative arts are more likely than average to deem their kids "misfits", "poorly adjusted," or downright "weird?" Isn't it absurd that our public policy views are less likely to be affected by circumspect thinkers than by drug abusing, convicted of assault Sean Penn, punk rocker Bono (both pictured above,) Michael Moore whose career is spent criticizing capitalism while holding onto an eight-figure net worth he created via capitalism, five-times-married, violent-tempered James Cameron (Avatar, Rambo, The Terminator) comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, crooner Barbara Streisand, even the hosts of The View for God's sake?!
More and more money pours into election campaigns, heavily from special interests. That enables ever-more sophisticated Madison-Avenue types to concoct truth-obfuscating messaging to manipulate us. Today, nearly every sentence spoken by major politicians is dial focus-group tested.
As troubling, those special interests wouldn't be pouring billions into campaigns unless they were confident that it would result in politicians doing their bidding rather than what's best for us all. The following would ensure we elect far better and less-corrupted leaders:
- All campaigns would be 100% publicly-funded. This has been proposed and rejected in the past as a denial of free speech. I believe that abridgment is far outweighed by the benefit to society.
- All campaigns would be just two weeks long. That would control cost and only minimally reduce voter knowledge: Most voters have long forgotten what they heard months earlier about the candidates.
- The campaigns would consist only of one or two broadcast debates. Those would be followed by a job simulation: running a meeting.
- A neutral body such as C-Span or Consumers Union would post each major candidate's biographical highlights, voting record, and platform on key issues.
Such a system would reduce candidates' corruptibility while increasing the quality of information voters would have about the candidates. As important, better candidates would run, knowing they needn't run an endless, expensive, press-the-flesh, beholding-to-special-interests campaign.
Here is an even more radical approach to reinventing the way we choose our leaders: Our government officials would be selected, not by voting, but using passive criteria. For example, the Senate might consist of the most newly retired of the 10 largest nonprofits, a randomly selected CEO of the S&P Midcap 400, the Police Officer of America's Cop of the Year, the national Teacher of the Year, the most award-winning scientist under age 30, etc., plus random citizens.
Of course, both of those reinventions of our electoral system are subject to the criticism, "The incumbent politicians would never allow it--the foxes are guarding the hen house." I'd address that by working with the media to urge the electorate to support candidates that would vote for a fairer electoral system.
Another objection is that the U.S. Constitution requires our political leaders to be elected. While amending the Constitution is a huge undertaking, it has been done 27 times.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
In decades past, networking was merely a few-minute conversation at some gathering that ended with an exchange of business cards.
But that was correctly viewed as ineffective, so today, the advice is: Develop long-term relationships with a dozen targets with power to help you. That approach, which I call, The Give-So-You-Can-Get-More Ploy, was touted in this exhortation to the Thiel Fellows. Yes, some people do give for generosity's sake but too often that's not what's operative.
Ever more in recent years, I have been a frequent target of the Give-So-You-Can-Get-More Ploy. Typically, the networker emails me articles and at some point starts asking me for help, help that would benefit them much more than their effort cost them.
Like many targets of this ploy, I dislike it. The help the networker gives me is usually trivial, indeed often a net negative: I end up feeling obligated to read the articles they send me, stuff I'm usually not that interested in--I have better uses of my time. If I want to learn something, thanks to Google, on-target articles are just clicks away. Alas, despite my not appreciating users of The Ploy, as a human being, I haven't been able to restrain myself from feeling obligated to them because it is possible they were just trying to be nice. So I end up doing them favors, in one case, losing money: After a career counselor said she needed money to put food on the table, I referred some prospective career counseling clients to her that I'd otherwise see myself or refer to another colleague.
Worse, when I, for example, help Ploy users get a job, I feel I'm helping a person who likely isn't as competent as those I'd otherwise advocate for. On average, the people who take all that time to do that modern-day networking are less competent than others. If they were that competent, emotionally together, etc., they're less likely to have needed to spend all that effort selling themselves. It's the same way I feel when a job seeker shows me a glossy presentation packet instead of a resume. If they were that good, would they have need to spend the time and money on that gift wrapping? I wonder, "Are they gift-wrapping a bad product?"
One person bombarded me with articles for months, literally daily, interspersing ever more requests for free advice. Finally I asked him to stop. He responded by emailing me this cartoon mooning me. I guess he was frustrated that the Give-So-You-Can-Get-More ploy didn't work.
There are many ways to implement the Give-So-You-Can-Get-More ploy. A current version is to get active in or start a LinkedIn or Facebook group, and/or Google+ circle, and help solve group members' problems. Then there are traditional approaches: business networking groups such as Business Networking International, joining the Chamber of Commerce or a service club (e.g.,Kiwanis, Rotary), where you invest your time until you feel you can cash in.
Despite what networking's proponents claim, much networking is manipulative--you're not being kind to be kind, you're being kind as a way of getting people to do things for you they wouldn't otherwise do. For example, instead of hiring the best person for the job, the target hires the networker because the networker did nice things for the target, even if it's just listening to the target complain. Ultimately that hurts the target: They would have been better off having searched for the best employee.
Even the networker ultimately suffers from spending all that time cultivating their networking targets. That's time the networker could better spend improving skills, creating something, or yes, the old-fashioned applying for advertised jobs. That's the ethical way to land a job: An employer needs to hire someone, you make your case that you're worthy of being hired, and the employer selects the person most appropriate, not the person who most savvily networked him.
Of course, if networking is bad for the networker and for the target, it thus is bad for society. Society is worse to the extent it reallocates time from productivity to schmoozing. And alas, its impact is ever more negative today as people reallocate productivity time to networking time. Especially in these tough times, America needs to spend more time on steak, not sizzle.
It's heretical to assert, but I believe that muchnetworking is unethical and ultimately deleterious to all.
I must admit that, as a career counselor, I do teach people how to network effectively. It is often effective. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder how ethical it is of me to continue to do so.