The Best Advice I Ever…

You know how sometimes things cause you to look back on what you’ve done in the past? I’ve been having one of those moments lately, for some reason thinking about the best advice I ever got (or gave) about looking for a job. I’ve lots to ponder.

And because I know some really good people who make their living helping employers and job seekers connect, I decided to expand my retrospective party and ask them the same question. This goes out to the good people in the public workforce system who give of themselves to help others define, find, and achieve their career goals: thanks for all you do.

Their thoughts and input is below. I hope you find some of it helpful. Thank you for reading and best of luck in your search.

  • Always be honest.
  • Put your feelers (network) – and don’t be afraid to let people know you’re looking.
  • There is no one best way to look for a job, but there are several good
  • Confidence is the key to a successful job search and interview. Many times I worked with job seekers that came across a job they wanted but ended up not applying for it because they rule themselves out. When I asked some of them why, as they begin to explain I could tell that their issue was a lack the confidence. They didn’t believe they could get the job.
  • It’s all about relationships/who you know and building your network- that’s not just for seasoned professionals, but for anyone at any point in their career. So many jobs never even make it to the posting stage, and for those that do, many job descriptions are either poorly written or are inaccurate. Knowing someone within an organization that can call your attention to these types of things, including advice as to whether the job would, or would not, be a good fit, is invaluable. Sometimes you just need a job, but many times (especially as you progress in your career) it’s about finding the right job.
  • Persistence and diligence – if you stay at it long enough, stay positive, and position yourself for success, good things tend to happen.
  • Keep at it, it’s a numbers game. For every 100 jobs you apply for, you’ll get at least 1 interview per month. Up the odds by applying for more positions. In other words, treat the job search as if it were a job.
  • The interview begins with the first interaction you have with the company. You need to demonstrate good communication, customer service, and decision-making skills as well as initiative every time you encounter anyone at the company. You can be sure that if you treated someone poorly or acted inappropriately to the receptionist or even when you were a customer not looking for work, word will likely reach the hiring authority.
  • Be the most informed job seeker you can be. Learn about the types of jobs you want, what they do, what skills are required and what skills are desired, what the job market looks like for those skills and jobs, what they pay, who hires those jobs, etc. It takes time but the more informed you are up front, the more you’ll be able to control your destiny.

A Good Lesson

Most people know Mike Rowe. Even if his name doesn’t ring a bell, say the “dirty jobs guy” and everyone knows who you’re talking about.

Mike is a very interesting guy. Reality TV show host, son to working-class parents, a former opera singer, and champion of the cause of teaching kids that good jobs don’t only come to you by way of a 4 year college degree.

But his mention here is not to talk about him. Rather it’s to let him, in his own words, tell the story of his chance encounter with an average employee at an average business and the simple but powerful lesson that came from that. Enjoy.

I left my hotel room this morning to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and saw part of a man standing in the hallway. His feet were on a ladder. The rest of him was somewhere in the ceiling.

I introduced myself and asked what he doing. Along with satisfying my natural curiosity, it seemed a good way to delay my appointment with gravity, which I was in no hurry to keep. His name is Corey Mundle, and like many who work in tight spaces, he recognized me and we quickly got to talking.

“Well Mike, here’s the problem,” he said. “My pipe has a crack in it, and now my hot water is leaking into my laundry room. I’ve got to turn off my water, replace my old pipe, and get my new one installed before my customers notice there’s a problem.”

I asked if he needed a hand and he told me the job wasn’t dirty enough. We laughed, and Corey asked if he could have a quick photo. I said sure, assuming he’d return the favor. He asked why I wanted a photo of him, and I said it was because I liked his choice of pronouns.

“I like the way you talk about your work,” I said. “It’s not, ‘the’ hot water, it’s ‘MY’ hot water. It’s not, ‘the’ laundry room, it’s ‘MY’ laundry room. It’s not ‘a’ new pipe, it’s ‘MY’ new pipe. Most people don’t talk like that about their work. Most people don’t own it.”

Corey shrugged and said, “This is not ‘a’ job; this is ‘MY’ job. I’m glad to have it, and I take pride in everything I do.”

Personal responsibility…there is no substitute.

Thanks, Mike; for noticing small things that make all the difference but too often go unnoticed. And thanks, Corey; for owning it.

Looking for a Few Good People

Do you know WIT? Do you know TWIST? Do you have experience helping job seekers and employers connect? Have you ever worked in the public workforce system? If so, you might be just who we’re looking for.

The Workforce Development Division at Texas Workforce Commission is looking for a few good people with public workforce system/local office experience to help support and improve workforce applications like WorkInTexas.com, The Workforce Information System of Texas (TWIST), Adult Education & Literacy (AEL), Apprenticeship, Career Schools and more…

These positions are generally described as Computer Systems Analysts or Business Analysts but don’t let that scare you. Those titles don’t exactly tell the whole story.  We need two or three people who know and have used these systems on a daily basis to provide services to job seekers and employers. People who know how they work, and don’t work, to help make them better. So while computer/analyst experience is great, it can also be taught. Having walked in the shoes of our front line/service-delivering staff cannot.

Learn more about the jobs  

How to apply

[Assuming you’re registered with WorkInTexas.com, logged on AND on the Contact Instructions page] Select “I’m Interested” and click SAVE. Your State of Texas application will automatically be submitted to TWC for consideration for the position. If selected, TWC will contact you directly. TWC encourages all applicants to apply via the process above. However, if you wish to submit in person or via postal mail, please direct your application to: Texas Workforce Commission, Human Resources Management Department, 101 East 15th Street, Room 230, Austin, TX 78778-0001, RE: Posting ###### (one of the #’s listed above).

Thanks, and good luck!

A Different Approach

I read an article the other day about jobs for creative-minded people that really hit home. Not because the jobs they highlighted weren’t obvious, but it was the different way of thinking about career choices that caught my attention. We, the public workforce system, generally approach career selection and planning from the standpoint of titles and standardized job coding methods. And it makes sense: It’s standardized; It’s repeatable; It’s relatively easy to explain. But with recent changes to public workforce system-enabling legislation that puts great emphasis on career planning, it’s important for us to remember that’s not the only way to think about it.

To say it a different way, we tend to categorize people by job titles rather than job skills. Helping people understand what it takes to become a nurse or an engineer is very much in our wheelhouse. Helping people understand what they can do if they’re creative-minded, not so much. And it’s not because we can’t, we just normally don’t. Skills, particularly soft skills like creativity, are squishy and harder to define. But that effort, at least for some customers, might be a better and more relatable way to help, giving everyone a better result in the end. It’s just a different approach to solving a problem.

Have a read and see what you think.

Pictures Tell Great Stories

For this post we’ve opted just to share a few charts and graphs we’ve come across recently. They probably won’t directly solve job search or recruiting problems but they might give insight to determine best solution-path. At the very least we hope they provide some perspective and insight into the job market.

  1. Job Losses & Gains – A few years ago as the great recession was winding down someone put together a great chart that showed the significant job losses the U.S. experienced from 2007 – 2010. To say a picture was worth a thousand words is to say the Grand Canyon is a just a gash in the ground. Fast forward a few years and our friends at Theory Into Practice (TIP) Strategies have put together an even more comprehensive map. One that shows both job loss AND job gain. Since 1999. And it’s fascinating. Blue is good, that’s jobs gained. Orange is bad, that’s jobs lost. Check it out.
  2. Job Salaries by State – There are many of these salary exploration tools around but I like this one because it’s easy to use. Want to know what a specific job in a general occupational field in any state pays? Select a state and mouse-around the graph to find out. Each box represents the relative size of the labor pool working in that occupation. And if you just want to see which jobs really pay, slide the dot on the income salary bar around to find out.
  3. Under-Employment – Unemployment rate is a standard indicator of economic stability. But as that improves (gets lower) the conversation tends to focus on the under-employment rate. Generally you want just enough skilled workers to fill all the skilled jobs. Underemployment means there are more skilled workers than there are jobs for them so they have to work at jobs that require less skill than they possess and thereby earn less than they otherwise could. For example, in this graph you’ll see that Austin has a ton of skilled labor but not enough jobs for all those people, whereas Odessa has a ton of skilled jobs but not enough people to fill them. And why does this matter? Because part of what the public workforce system does is connect skilled labor with skilled demand. Charts like this help us better understand local situations.
  4. WorkInTexas.com Job Seeker Supply – We often get questions (usually from employers) about what job seeker skill sets are available in what parts of the state. This information is very helpful to companies looking to open new or expand existing operations. This is another topic for which there are many tools, but years ago we developed some very simple pie charts to help graphically show the labor pool the Texas workforce system has available to it through WorkInTexas.com. Have a look.

Have You Ever… The Re-Entry Landscape

Have You Ever… The Re-Entry Landscape

Getting back on your employment-feet after a criminal conviction isn’t easy. And trying to help someone who is can be just as difficult if you’ve never walked in those shoes.

The question of how the public workforce system can help came up in a meeting a few weeks ago, so to get some insight I reached out to a colleague who’s been helping folks in these situations for years. As expected, he had some good perspective.

Assistance

  • Successful reconnection to the public world generally hinges on four factors: 1) stable housing; 2) sobriety; 3) social support (family, friends, etc.); and 4) a job. And like a four-legged chair, remove any one leg and it tips right over.
  • For the first three, there’s not much the public workforce system can do beyond guiding individuals to groups that do provide those services. But for a job, there is MUCH we can do. We can address education needs, get you into occupational training programs that develop in-demand skills for growing career fields, help complete applications and build a resume, provide good job leads via WorkInTexas.com, and even provide assistance with bonding, tax credits, and licensing and certification questions that might help you overcome some employment hurdles.
  • And maybe most important, we can help answer, on applications and in interviews, the tough questions when asked to disclose or explain any difficult past situations. There is no silver-bullet answer but there are certainly things you should know and do to improve your chances for an interview, and a job.

Advice

  • Having a criminal background doesn’t make it impossible to get a job; it just requires more effort on your part to find one. It’s easy and understandable to get discouraged, but looking for work is a function of numbers. Keep at it and it your effort will pay off.
  • All employers look for certain core attributes in those they hire. Show you have those and that can go a long way to help an employer see past other maybe not-so-good things. These include motivation, ability to take direction and learn work processes, get along well with co-workers and customers, and a willingness to learn and do.
  • Remember, many available jobs are never posted anywhere. These “hidden jobs” are filled by family, friends, or acquaintances of employees at the job site. Talking to everyone about who and what they know is one of the best ways to find a good job.

Myth-busting

  • Looking for an “offender friendly” list of employers? Don’t. Most employers today take a situational approach to hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds. Categorizing that into a list of who will and who won’t just can’t be done.

Find a workforce office near you.

Good luck.

Using “Keywords”

“Keywords” are one area of WorkInTexas.com for which we get a lot of questions, from all types of users. And while some seek to understand how and why they’re used, more often questions are about what types of things that make sense to be listed as keywords. And this is especially important if you want to ensure you get the best possible job matches.

The Thing

“Keywords” in WorkInTexas.com allow you to provide additional detail about individual and specific criteria and skills that you as an employer want or you as a job seeker have. These keywords are not automatically pulled from the job description. Instead, these are intentionally entered by employers and job seekers to help narrow job matches to more accurately meet the other’s expectations.

Computer programmer, mechanic, project manager, nurse, and others all have small but significant differences in skills sets and requirements that quickly make them good or bad matches. The specific skills for these types of jobs (.net, java; diesel engines, ASE certified; PMP, agile; RN, LVN) can make all the difference if added to your WorkInTexas.com posting or profile.

The Catch

Keywords don’t always fit. Customer Service and Good Communication are certainly skills, but are subject to interpretation as opposed to hard skills and recognized licenses, certifications, and the like.

Also, listing specific types of desired knowledge creates a hard match, particularly for job seekers. As an employer, you might value someone who has knowledge of the “Workforce Investment Act” and perceive it as a skill. However, would a job seeker know what that is, and would they think of it as a skill, or would they be more likely to think of it as a program for which their skill of Policy Analysis applies?

In a nutshell, the best results are achieved when listing specific terms that represent tangible things.

The Tips

  • Format matters – “C+” is not the same as “C +.” And “payroll” is not the same as “pay roll.” Enter keywords in the industry-standard format, to the extent there is one. If there’s not and it’s important to you, enter it twice (both ways).
  • Employers can include up to 10 keywords on a job posting AND have the option to require job seekers match one or all of them.
  • Keywords can be a max of 20 characters long so think concise. “Early Childhood Prog” probably won’t get you what you want.
  • Use the “View Examples and Top 10 Keywords” link. This will help you understand what others have entered and what you might expect based on what you’re entering.

Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions.

As always, good luck.

The Workplace of the Future

We’ve all heard about the non-traditional workplace provided to employees of Google, Rackspace, and others. The question is, will all employers look like that in the future?

Recently Kieron Monks gave journalist and trend forecaster James Wallman a shot at answering this very question. His insights and perspective are nothing short of fascinating. That conversation is summarized below.

Wallman sees the future holding a place for three different work-environment models.

  • The “Hotel California” model: “A workplace so good you’ll never leave.” The lights are on 24/7 because there is so much there that it’s as much fun as life outside of work, and with better food. Here, coworkers are friends, where work and play have become the same and work is something they want to do. A strong sense of mission is key for companies operating this model, in order to capture the hearts and minds of employees: Appealing to shared values in order to recruit, keep and motivate a sophisticated workforce. And more and more social benefits now come in to play, where management must sell intrinsic value rather than just a living to a generation of employees that have come to expect more.
  • The “Martini” model: defined by extreme flexibility, inspired by the classic TV ads which promised “anytime, anywhere.” Wallman notes personal relationships with someone who trades stocks from the island of Mauritius, and another who runs a restaurant, located in South London, from Bali. The attraction of course being that they can operate their business at their convenience, from wherever they want, without having to work around fixed hours.
  • The “Third Space” model: for people who enjoy the freedom of the Martini model but also appreciate regular human contact. Wallman points to the rise of relaxed co-working spaces for freelancers of all disciplines that combine games rooms with stable facilities, such as the Fueled Collective site in New York City.

Looking even further ahead, Wallman notes the possibilities available via automation to give workers even more freedom, including permanent disruption of the five-day week. However, as with all social trends, the shift must work its way through the early adopters.

But Wallman believes these trends will rapidly become a universal touchstone, offering value for businesses and fulfillment for employees. “It may seem like fantasy” he says, “but the standard of living changed incredibly in the 20th century.” And Wallman predicts that will continue in the 21st century. “When we go to work, it will be to enjoy ourselves.”

Definitely something to think about.

The Seinfeld Strategy

I recently read a story about Jerry Seinfeld and what the author titled “The Seinfeld Strategy,” essentially a personal formula for success.

The story was about a young comic who had a chance meeting with Seinfeld in a club. The young comic, acknowledging how Seinfeld had managed to remain relevant and successful for so many years, asked for any tips. Seinfeld replied “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes. And the way to create better jokes is to write jokes every day.”

“Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. Next, get a big red magic marker. Then for each day you complete your task of writing, put a big red X over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain. Keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. And then your only job is to not break the chain.”

Probably the most important thing in all that is what’s not said: nothing about results, just don’t break the chain. And by not breaking it, you’re creating good habits that should serve you well, even with something like searching for a job.

It’s but one of a hundred different personal success strategies, and not all work for all people. The point is that structure can be a positive thing. And everyone can benefit from some positive structure when searching for a job.

The Seinfeld Strategy is a three-legged structure-stool:

  • Stop procrastinating. Searching for a job is hard, but you can’t put it off just because you don’t want to do it. Part of searching for a job is simply being at the right place or on the right website at the right time. And creating a consistent task-pattern to follow day after day will help you not put things off, but also help you get back up the day after one that maybe didn’t go so well.
  • Mastery follows consistency. Task-patterns are practice sessions. The more you practice, the better you get. And as you get better but keep practicing, you being to develop a mastery of that skill. Again, telling jokes or looking for a job, it doesn’t matter. You simply want to be the best, most-prepared, most informed you can be and the rest will fall into place.
  • Pick tasks that are meaningful but also realistic. Making 5 solid contacts a day is probably doable. Getting 10 interviews a day probably isn’t. Whatever you’re doing, be honest with yourself about what you can and will do and then create your tasks (and set your expectations) accordingly.

Best of luck.

Want To Be An Engineer?

BAE-InfographicNew_10-2014If only my high school counselor had told me I could be weighing multiple $150K/yr job offers in 20 years, oh what I might have done differently.

Engineering wasn’t anywhere on my radar at 17, but there are a lot of people and a lot of efforts happening to try to make sure that isn’t the case for the workforce of tomorrow. I’d have had to work much harder in math and science, sure. But with a 6-figure payoff, cool job opportunities and exotic locations in which to do them, I might have listened: Who knows. The point is, for high school kids today, lack of access to information about career options and opportunities shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Ken Cohen, the VP of public & government affairs for Exxon Mobile, recently posted a good article about what it means to be an engineer. It’s an easy read and he nails the point in just a few words. It’s a great share for kids thinking about what they want to do when they grow up, but also for adults thinking about their own career options.

Engineers build snowboards and water-parks and roller coasters, design and launch rockets, and are testing ideas most of us haven’t even considered. But all occupations offer similar cool-factor opportunities depending on your interests. And in today’s world where data on everything is just a few clicks away, no one should ever have to look back and say “man, if I’d only known.”

Of course engineering is not for everyone, but for most who are willing to put their minds to it, doing what you want/something that rewards you in the ways you wish to be rewarded is not beyond the realm of possibility. The catch is having the information to understand and make informed decisions, at any age and at any level. A few different tools to help you do just that are provided below.

Career Exploration Tools

Also, for those looking for engineer jobs or to hire engineers, here are a few helpful links.