Tuesday, January 31, 2012

KGO's Ronn Owens Probes Marty Nemko...And You Can Call in For Free Career Advice

For the past 25 years, every three months, I do an hour guest spot on KGO Radio's iconic Ronn Owens Program. (He's pictured above.)

My next appearance is this Thursday, Feb. 2 from 10:00 am to 11 am, Pacific time.

The talk show industry's publication of record, Talkers, named Ronn Owens one of the 25 greatest talk show hosts of all time.

I'll be trying to answer Ronn's questions about under-the-radar careers, where the jobs are, and how to land them in this tough job market. Plus you can call in to the show and I'll try to help you with your career problem.

Throughout most of the West Coast, you can hear it on 810 on your AM dial, and of course, worldwide on the Internet at kgoam810.com. The show will be archived for a week on THIS page of KGO's website.

A Plan for the Long-Term Unemployed to Find Work

You're long-term unemployed and perhaps scared you'll never work again, at least not at the level you used to.

Here's a potent plan for moving forward and finding good work:

1. Do a personal audit. Sure, some people are long-term unemployed just because of bad luck, but the pool of people who are long-term unemployed, is, on average, not as bright, knowledgeable, hard-working, reliable, and enjoyable to work with as is the pool of employed people.

So imagine that all the people who know your work well were in a room. For each of the above attributes, what would be the average report card grade they'd give you. If you're not sure, ask people, perhaps anonymously, perhaps using www.checkster.com. In light of that feedback, do you need to make changes in yourself to avoid being quickly fired or laid off again? To become prouder of yourself?

2. Contact your existing network. They're the most likely to be willing to hire or give a good lead to a long-term unemployed person.

3. Cold-contact realistic employers. A brand-name company or a company in a popular field, for example, fashion, entertainment, or the environment, is too unlikely to have to hire a long-term unemployed person--they usually receive plenty applications from the currently well-employed. You may eventually get to work for a highly selective employer but, as a long-term unemployed person, you probably should, for now, focus on landing a job at a company with less stringent hiring requirements. Here's how:
  • Make a list of 20-50 less-competitive employers: non-sexy industries, smaller companies, temp agencies, etc. Don't worry whether an employer lists an appropriate job opening. You're mainly trying to get a job/project created for you so you don't have to compete with hordes for an advertised job. HERE are some sources of employers.
  • Find the name and contact info of people with the power to hire you: by Googling, databases like Jigsaw, the company operator, etc.
  • Phone those employers, or even walk in. Leaving voice-mail is okay. Don't send your resume unless asked--The resume of a long-term-unemployed person highlights that ugly gap in your employment.
4. Consider starting your own very simple business. If I were long-term unemployed and broke, I might, for example, start a shoeshine stand on a busy downtown street. I'd have prominent signage with a catchy name like Shine On, Rise and Shine, Dianne FeinShine, or So Fine Shoe Shine. Once I learned the art and business of shoeshining, I'd set up a trusted friend with another shoeshine stand, asking for a small percentage of sales. I'd keep cloning that business until I was making enough money. Then I'd sell the business and use the proceeds to start another simple business, for example, a soup cart chain called Souper. As a long-term unemployed person, in the above situation, I'm likely to more quickly and probably enjoyably make a middle-class living or even get wealthy doing that than if I tried to convince an employer to pay me a middle-class salary.

5. Go back to school to prepare for a new career. A community college training program can give you a fresh start. Already have a degree? Remember that many people with bachelor's and even graduate degrees return to a community college for practical career training.

But most important, could your being long-term unemployed be a needed wake-up call? What should you do differently on your next job to avoid being dumped again?

Monday, January 30, 2012

My #1 Tax Reform Idea: Replace income taxes with a sales tax

My just-published Atlantic.com column answered the question, "What one change would you make to our tax system?" I'd replace income taxes with a sales tax.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Report from a U.S. Auto Manufacturing Plant Floor

I just got home from a party at which I talked with a guy who worked on an assembly line at a U.S. car manufacturing plant.

This is as close a paraphrase of the essence of what he said as I can remember:

"Quality control is a joke...We smoked dope a lot... Our welds were okay--usually. (He laughed.) My cars didn't squeak--usually. (He laughed.)... And we'd put coke cans and dead rats into the axle to see if QC (quality control) would find it. They never did." (He laughed.)

An Alternative to Couples Counseling: "The Ten-Minute Miracle"

This deceptively simple strategy is from my new book, How to Do Life: What they didn't teach you in school.

Your relationship is doing poorly. Before heading to couples counseling, you might try what I call The Couple's Council.

It has helped a number of my clients, and frankly, my own marriage. One of my clients called it "The Ten-Minute Miracle."

Step 1: Perhaps over dinner, you propose one specific thing you'll do during the next 24 hours to improve the relationship; for example, your partner is tired of your procrastination, nagging, or being a pig. So you propose that you will not nag him about anything for a week. Your partner agrees that would at least modestly improve your relationship, or s/he asks you to propose something else. You keep proposing changes in your behavior until s/he okays one.

Step 2: You reverse roles. In other words, this step is completed when you agree that something your partner proposes to do would at least modestly improve your relationship.

Step 3: During the next 24 hours, when each of you sees your partner doing the desired behavior, for example, getting something done when s/he'd otherwise likely procrastinate, the person gets a thumbs-up. Each screw-up gets a thumbs-down but no lecture, no recriminations.

Step 4: 24 hours later, each of your rates him/herself on how well s/he did in improving on the agreed-on behavior., Then, you decide whether, in the next 24 hours, you want to just work on the same behavior or add another one.

Repeat the process until enough improvements have been made, or you decide you should see that couples counselor after all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

THE Key to Losing Weight....Really

THE key to losing weight is STAYING conscious from the moment you're thinking about eating until the moment you've moved on to other tasks. During that time, KEEP thinking about how NOT eating is your reward: you'll look better, be healthier, have more energy, etc.

Your motivator can even be something one wouldn't expect. For example, a time-conscious person might eat out less by reminding himself, "It will take less time for me to grab something at home."

Remember too that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognize you're no longer hungry. So eat little and move on to some other task, rather than eating until you no longer feel hungry, let alone feel full.

I suggest you tape a sign "STAY Conscious!" on your refrigerator and another one on your dashboard, to remind you when you're out. Read it aloud often to lock the concept into the forefront of your mind.

And if, despite staying conscious, you choose to eat something calorific, it's probably okay. You've made a conscious choice that, at that moment, the pleasure was worth the calories.

I'd love to know if this little post ends up helping you.

Why the Career Advice: "Write a book" is Usually Bad Advice

Yesterday, I received one of the countless publicist pitches I get touting a career "expert" who has just written a book. Most of those authors fit into one of two categories: "I have a cool career and I can help you get one too," or "I'm America's Best Career Coach and I can help you land a dream job."

Candidly, I feel sorry both for the authors and consumers of such books. I've written elsewhere, for example, here, about why "find your dream" career advice is largely snake oil. So I'll just touch on that here. Here's just one reason: The author tells what worked for him in landing a job and asserts it will work for the reader. The problem with that is that what works in landing a job for a person with the ability and perseverance to write a published book is unlikely to work for more typical job seekers.

For example, many articles and books have been published on how to land a job at Google. A Google search on the term "Land a Job at Google" yields 89,000 links. One of those links takes us to the book, Get a Job at Google: Craft a great resume, network effectively, and ace the interviews. Fact is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, Google receives 2,000,000 resumes a year and hires only 7,000 people. That's 3 out of 1,000, a far lower ratio than admission to Harvard. And many of those Google jobs aren't great---for example, screening those 2,000,000 resumes!

And most of the non-temp, interesting Google jobs go to people currently employed by a prestigious firm doing work similar to that in Google's want ad, with a strong recommendation from their boss, a degree with high grades from a designer-label college, who has been personally referred to Google's hiring manager. Like I said, "how to land your dream job" advice is pretty snakey oil.

Now, here's why I feel sorry for the authors of such books.

Many of these authors have the fantasy of becoming a regular on CNN or some such, or at least getting $5K-a-pop keynote addresses, $200-an-hour consulting gigs, and/or using the book to establish enough credibility to land a job they otherwise couldn't. With those fantasies as fuel, those wannabes spend a year or two writing a book, a fortune on their wardrobe, upping speaking skills, a publicist, etc., plus many additional hours or money creating and adding SEO-optimized, traffic-building, relationship-building content to their website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, plus in-person networking with people who can help flog their book.

Alas, unless an author is already a household name, he or she is most likely to end up deriving less net income per hour for all those efforts than if flipping burgers at McDonald's. It usually takes a year or three to realize they've been wasting their time and money. By then, they're in the unenviable position of having to convince an employer to hire them over job applicants with a more germane and recent work history. Or they have to somehow convince their parents or spouse to be their permanent cash cow.

I wish more publicists, book packagers, etc., and indeed screenwriting, acting, and voiceover, and art coaches, who make their living selling the dream to wannabes were honest with prospective clients about the likelihood of non-celebrities generating a sustained middle-class income from their creative output, and honest enough to ask such questions as, "Do you really believe your expertise is great enough to tout yourself to the world as being able to help the sorts of people who buy career-help books to land great work in this lousy job market more than the zillions of other books, coaches, workshops, TV shows, articles, podcasts, blogs, columns, etc., that do the same, often for free?"

Short of that revolution, I believe that especially today, with so much free content on the Net and the ease of self-publishing, the old advice to "write a book to become successful" is invalid if not an outright scam. And more broadly, so is the industry catering to artistic wannabes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Make the Most of a Job Lead

You're meeting someone who might help you find a job: a person you know or a cold-contact you're hoping will create a job or project for you, or suggest someone who might help you land a job.

Of course, every situation is different but this template can help you get the most of such meetings:

Phone or skype meetings are okay but in-person, if feasible, may be worth the effort.

Mirror the person. Dress as s/he does. Begin the meeting with the amount and type of small-talk that works best for them. Your utterances should be at their speed, average length, intensity, intellectual level and emotional level.

When it's time to get down to business, ask whether s/he prefers you ask questions to identify if and how you might be helpful to them, or whether she/d prefer you describe how you present yourself to the job market and show your resume so s/he can provide feedback. Respond accordingly. If the person offers a suggestion, try if possible, to simply say thank you and not argue.

At the moment it feels right, ask if s/he knows someone you should talk with, something you should read, a meeting, conference or other event you should attend. When they offer one, ask, "Great. By any chance, do you have another idea?"

End by asking, "Would you mind keeping your ears open for me and if, in a month, I'm still looking, I follow up with you?" The person will usually say yes, which means you've recruited a scout, someone who'll keep the antennae out for you. The person is likely to have more leads for you during the month than what s/he has at the moment you're asking .

After the interview, write, not a thank-you note, but an influencing letter. After the obligatory "Thanks for meeting with me," that letter should include as many of these as is appropriate:
  • Say you appreciate that he was impressed with (insert the thing he was most impressed with about you.)
  • If you flubbed something in the meeting, write, "I've given further thought to your question about X. (insert improved answer.)
  • If you've identified a way in which you might be of help to the person---a project you could do, or even a full-time job--append a half-to-one-page proposal.
  • Thank the person for offering to keep her ears open and willingness to take your call if, in a month, you're still looking.
After the meeting it's often a good idea to send a personalized small thank-you gift. For example, if he mentioned that he's about to buy a new car--I'd buy him a book on the art of buying a new car. I usually buy such presents from convenient Amazon.

That approach should generate benefit in excess of the time you spend obtaining and attending such meetings. If your meetings routinely yield little benefit, you're probably talking too much, listening too poorly, not showing interest in them, and/or shooting for a too low-probability job target.

Monday, January 23, 2012

You're Invited to What I Believe Will be A Great Experience--and it's free!

Update, Jan. 28, 2012: The seats are all gone. Sorry.

I believe the free show I'm about to invite you to will be more entertaining and inspiring than are many shows for which people pay $50 to $100.

A while back, a 40-minute version of the show got a standing ovation. The two-hour version I'm inviting you to should be much better still.

It's a one-woman show called Big, Black, and Shy. Jeffrie Givens tells her improbable story punctuated by songs from opera to show tunes to rap, from "In My Own Little Corner" to "Mean Green Mother from Out of Space" to "I Am What I Am." Funny, poignant, and inspiring, I believe you'll truly enjoy it. Of course, I'm biased, I created the show with Jeffrie, am directing it, and will be accompanying her on the piano.

The show will be at my home in Oakland, CA on Sunday Feb. 26 at 2 pm. My living room seats only 22 and, especially because it's free, if you want to come, email me as soon as possible: mnemko@comcast.net

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sources of Job Leads

In my most recent post, I reiterated the value of job seekers cold-contacting 50 target employers. One of the commenters on that post asked if I might suggest ways of finding job leads. Here are some:
  • Volunteer at a nonprofit. But be picky--many positions and organizations offer too little hope of it generating a decent job. Might you ask to join a board of directors with people with the power to hire you or give you a solid lead for the job to which you aspire? Might you ask to join the program or conference committee in your professional association? Those volunteer opportunities tend to put you working, ongoing, with influential people.
  • Go to the job ad aggregation sites: indeed.com, simplyhired.com, and linkup.com. Simply search for ALL jobs in your geographic target area, even though you're qualified for none. Lesser-known organizations with more than one job listing are likely in growth mode and thus are promising targets for your cold contacting a person there with the power to hire you. (Use the other tools in this article to find them.)
  • ReferenceUSA: 14 million U.S. busineses including four million new ones, where job openings are more likely and less competitive than in established brand-name companies.
  • Google a target employer plus a word or phrase that might elicit the name of the person with the power to hire you, for example, "vice president, marketing." If that doesn't generate contact info, Google as much of this information on a potential lead as possible: name, title, organization, area code, and the word "email."
  • Call the organization's general number. Press zero for the operator. Say, "I'm sending a note to (insert name): what's the best way to send it to him/her?
  • Members of your alma mater's alumni association
  • ThomasNet: Lists 607,000 manufacturers of products and components and 1,000 technical manufacturing White Papers.
  • Hoovers. 65 million companies.
  • Vfinance: Companies that have recently received a round of venture or private equity funding.
  • Business Times: There are 40 local editions, each of which contain information on companies in growth mode, often including the names of contacts associated with that growth.
  • A business librarian at a major public or university library can provide guidance and/or access to databases to which the library subscribes, for example, Gale Directory Library.
  • Your friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and connections on LinkedIn: Its search feature enables you to identify where each of its 140 million members work plus contact info. And with even a relatively small number of LinkedIn connections, you can directly contact incredible numbers of people. For example, I have only 126 connections, yet those link me to 5,000,000 people. Ask those first-generation connections to introduce you to their first-generation connections.
  • Oh yeah, don't forget about real friends, sometimes the source of the most useful leads.
  • Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Your Network Won't Help? Another Way to Land a Job...(Often) Fast

    It's been said ad nauseam that your network is the best source of a job. That's true but most people who are seeking career advice have already exhausted their network.

    For them, the most potent way to land most jobs may be to cold contact target employers, whether or not they're advertising a job. That's true, if you do it right.

    First, to motivate you to cold-contact, which many people find anathema, consider this:

    A job opening is born when the employer has a need but isn't aware of it. If you cold call or walk in at that point, the boss may be tempted to hire you, at least on a project basis, so he doesn't need to undertake the time-consuming standard employee selection process.

    The next stage in a job opening's lifespan is when the boss is aware s/he needs to hire someone but has, at most, let insiders know. Call or walk in at that point and you're still competing only with a small number of applicants.

    Here's the punchline: Usually a job opening reaches the next stage in its lifespan--it's publicly advertised--when it requires unusual skills, no one who knows the boss wants to work with him, or it's wired for someone but HR requires the job to be advertised. In other words, when you're answering a want ad, you're more likely to be competing with the most applicants for the worst jobs.

    That's why cold contact to employers whether or not they're advertising a job, is so potent--if done well. The method of cold-contact I recommend is Phone-Email-Phone-Phone.

    1. Make a list of 50 target employers, who are not necessarily advertising an appropriate job opening. Why as many as 50? Because the odds of any one needing you is small. It is a numbers game.

    2. Phone each after-hours, leaving this voice mail such as:
    This is Jane Blow. I was a project manager at Ace Corp. and got solid evaluations but the job ended so I'm looking for work. I chose to call you because (insert a reason such as why you like the company, its geographic location, whatever.) I'll be emailing you my resume (or if your resume would not impress that employer, a letter of introduction, highlighting what would most impress her.) If you think I might be of help to you or simply want to offer me some advice, I'd welcome hearing from you. My phone number is: repeat it twice.
    3. Email your resume and a brief cover letter that reiterates the above.

    4. Phone back a week later if you haven't heard from that employer, leaving voice mail if necessary. For example:
    This is Joe Blow the project manager from Ace Corp looking for his next job. Not having heard from you, I assume you're not interested, but I know how things can fall between the cracks so I'm taking the liberty of calling to follow up. If you think it's worth our talking to see if and how I might be of help to you or simply to offer some advice as to where I might turn, I'd be pleased to talk with you. My phone number is: repeat it twice.
    5. Phone a week after that if you haven't heard from that employer. Say something like:
    This is Jane Blow. I was hesitant to make this call because I certainly don't want to be a pest but I hope that perhaps you might even appreciate my being a persistent sort. If you'd like to talk to see if and how I might be of help to you, I'd welcome hearing from you. If not, I promise I won't bother you again! Here's my phone number: repeat it twice.
    No job search method guarantees employment but my clients that have exhausted their network have found the 50 phone-email-phone-phone approach to be a potent and often fast way to land a job.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Overcoming Adversity: When a pianist loses the use of three fingers

    A while back, I developed a hand condition that rendered three of my fingers useless: I could no longer play basketball, type well, or play the piano the way I used to.

    Indeed, the doctor said, "I'm sorry you won't be able to play the piano any more." Here is an attempt to prove him wrong:

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Curing the Impostor Syndrome: Work hard then forgive yourself

    I've had the privilege of being career coach to some of the world's most successful executives, lawyers, physicians, professors, etc. And it may surprise you to know that even most of them often feel like impostors.

    It's not that they're inferior. It's that there's a gap between what even stars can do and what complete knowledge and perfect judgment would enable. It's simply impossible for a CEO to know for sure whether it's wisest to be incremental or bold, for a lawyer to be certain s/he's picked the right defense, for a physician to be sure when saying, "You're fine," Even eminent experts, those who appear in the media, according to U.C. Berkeley research, have prediction rates no better than chance!

    So after you've done what you can reasonably do to become competent and you've reached that sweet spot where yet more study is likely to only minimally improve your success rate, it's time to give yourself a break, time for acceptance of your fallibility, of humankind's fallibility.

    I heard a perhaps apocryphal story that at one of America's leading medical schools, the chief resident welcomes each year's interns by telling them, "Each any every one of you is entitled to one clean kill. A patient will enter the hospital reasonably expecting to leave healthy and you'll kill him. Sure you must learn from your mistakes but you must forgive yourself, because medical errors are part of the cost of a medical education. Your worth as a physician is defined by the net effects of your lifetime as a physician."

    Whether or not your workplace decisions are life-and-death, work hard to become competent, learn from your mistakes, and then forgive yourself. We're only human.