You Might Need a Makeover

In continuation of our discussion of how to combat ageism, we will also continue our homage to Jeff Foxworthy.

• If you recognize your favorite work outfit on a rerun of The Nanny, you might need a makeover.
• If your glasses make you look like Aristotle Onassis, you might need a makeover.

But seriously folks, whether you like it or not, today's young people (read that, hiring managers) are very image conscious. It is pervasive throughout our society, and doesn't indicate a weakness on the part of a specific hiring manager. It's just how society works today. The best way to combat this is to work within it -- you'll get a job more quickly if you play within today's rules, rather than fighting against them.

Therefore, to combat ageism in person, you must be image conscious.


• If you haven't changed your hairstyle in 5 years, you need a makeover.
• Hairstyle, part deux, if the third of your hair farthest from your head sports a different color or different texture than the third closest to your head, you need a makeover.
• Hairstyle, part trois, if you have a standing weekly appointment with your hairdresser for a wash and set, you need a makeover.
• If you haven't updated your eyewear in 5 years, you need a makeover.
• If you have not recently experienced a total and spiritual transformation in your makeup application, you need a makeover. (No need to mention the dark lip liner faux pas.)
• If relatives mention how much you're looking like your mother, you need a makeover.
• If you wore a slip during your last 30 days of employment, you need a makeover.
• If you pride yourself on how comfortable and sensible your shoes are, you need a makeover.

Tip: Your clothing should be modern, fashionable and age-appropriate.
Extra Tip: No thick red claws at the interview.


• If you have a comb-over, you need a makeover.
Seriously, if you have a comb-over, you need a makeover.
• If your belt has started riding north of your belly button, you need a makeover. (If your belt acts as an underwire for your moobs, you need a makeover.)
• If your idea of an interview outfit involves a suit vest or a wifebeater-T, you need a makeover.
• If you wear cologne to work, you need a makeover.
• If you wear a bracelet or a pinkie ring to an interview, you need a makeover.
• If you wear suede shoes to an interview, you need a makeover

Tip: A buzz cut looks much more youthful than a comb-over.
Extra Tip: Shoes and belt should match, pants and socks should match.

Good luck with your Re-Image!


Ageism begins at 40

While the concept of ageism is fairly well known (and believed)(and accepted???) in the corporate world, my experience is that most people believe it happens to everyone else, but won’t happen to them. I’m going to bare my soul and lay it out that, yes, ComputerRecruiter herself has fallen victim to these face-saving, self-preserving delusions.

Oh, not me, I work out, have groovy glasses, skillfully camouflaged hair, and spend gazillions on facial salves and poultices. I can win the hiring-infant over with my hip-ness and my nimble use of a smart phone.

Yeah OK, that may work in person. The hurdle lies in landing that in-person audience. You need to make sure that nothing raises the ageism hackles before you come to the interview.

Here are some tips to help you nip that in the bud. Nip it, nip it, nip it!

• Have your resume reviewed by a young person – you want to use the latest in fonts and format, while keeping in line with the tone acceptable in your industry. Make skillful use of Word – to make the resume visually attractive, and signal that you are MS-Office-literate.
Remove the dates from your education. Unless it is a new degree.
• Show at max 20 years of work experience. Drop the prior assignments – leave them off unless they are the only things on the resume that make you qualified for the job at hand.
• Scour your resume for old words – data processing, supervisor, COBOL, programmer, etc.
• Get yourself a personal email address that does not include your birthday information. (OK, I don’t want to be cruel here, but the hiring-infant has been computer savvy since birth. They are used to ‘code’ – and appending your birth date onto your name was allegedly started by Fred Flintstone and definitely doesn’t meet Navajo-level security. Don’t blow the chance of an interview because You Are Not Smarter Than a Second Grader – who can quickly subtract 1961 from 2009 and come up with 48.)

Remember, we know that with age comes maturity that is invaluable in business situations. But all they know is that you may not have a command of the technologies they need you to use. So why waste time on a candidate with red flags right on the resume. Make them work to find a reason to reject you!

Next CR-time, deflecting ageism in person!


Stories of pain... and success

I receive an eNewsletter each Tuesday from Nick at www.asktheheadhunter.com. I had to share today's topic with my readers. Please, reach out to an unemployed friend in need!

Stories of pain... and success

Over the past few months, I received a string of e-mails from the wife of an Ask The Headhunter reader in Hawaii. Helen started writing to me last August when she found a collection of Ask The Headhunter columns and articles on her husband Greg's desk. She told me how Greg, in utter despair over a career crash and the inability to land a new job after a lengthy job search, just up and disappeared. Walked out the door and never returned.

Two weeks ago, Helen wrote me that Greg's body was found on a mountain hiking trail, an apparent suicide.

I've gotten to know Helen as best one can get to know anyone thousands of miles away via e-mail. Her story is just one of many that play themselves out on the ebbing and flowing tide of our economy. Some fare better than others, and some just can't survive. It's not easy to know what fortune will come to whom—or who can make it through these trials.

Read the rest of Nick's newsletter.


Really? DC?

I found this blog posting and thought it was interesting. I know that many mainframe developers are currently assignment-shopping -- perhaps stimulus projects are the Holy Grail. Full text reprinted below.

Looking for a job? Look for it in D.C.

The increase in government spending and the stimulus package are turning Washington, D.C. into a place to look for a job.

In many big US cities unemployment rate is a two-digit figure reaching as high as 17% in Detroit. However, there is an exception: Washington, D.C. (also including Northern Virginia, and parts of Maryland). Stimulus spending caused a boom in government jobs and has kept the unemployment rate down to approximately 6%, which is among the lowest in the country.

In the beginning of the recession, the D.C. metro area was considered the top place for job seekers to avoid due to manufacturing and construction industries that have been severely affected by the downturn. But Washington’s leading industry is the federal government expansion, which actually has to expand to remedy high unemployment and slow economy.

The expansion includes the fastest-growing homeland security division, which didn’t exist just a few years ago. And the recent stimulus package that Congress passed in February, helps to create a great number of new federal employee positions to oversee infrastructure projects spending, renewable energy grants, and many other things.

The more money is spent by the government, the more federal oversight needed to ensure it gets spent accurately and responsibly. It also means more academics to think it over, more policy-makers to create new policies, more lawyers to resolve conflicts, and more reporters to write articles about it, etc.

Of course, D.C. hasn’t been entirely unaffected by the downturn. The unemployment is slowly growing, but at a fraction of the rate of other metropolitan areas.


Does your email address warn 'Don't Hire Me!'?

You've spent dozens of man-hours researching prevailing resume trends, identifying your most impressive and marketable experiences, and polishing the language in your resume and coverletter until it sings. Maybe you've even dropped a few hard earned rupees on a resume expert and some career counseling.

You're networking, you're LinkingIn, you're working the job boards and the corporate boards until your carpal tunnel feels like a New Year's Day hangover.

So why are you negating all this effort by continuing to use your privatedancer@hothothotmail.com email address on your profiles and resume?

Is your email address sending a red flag, or at least a raised eyebrow, to the recruiter and hiring manager?

It's very easy to get a free email address with some facsimile of your name at gmail or hotmail or yahoo for professional use. Actually for less than $10 per year you can buy your own domain with at least one email box to use in your job search and for other professional needs.

Wouldn't john@johnquincyadams.com at the top of your resume send a much more appealing message to a future employer than ganjagary@yahoo.com?


'Tis the Season

We're off! We've just left the starting gate of this holiday season, there are four weeks until the New Year's finish line, and maybe even another 2-4 weeks beyond that before hiring cranks back up to our current 'normal' rate. But this doesn't mean your job search has to bolt.

Now -- winter break -- is actually the perfect time to do a little housekeeping that you have probably not been able to get to while treating your job search as your full time job. Here are some suggestions.

Update your resume. During your job search you've spoken with dozens of recruiters who have given you their expert opinion about how your experiences and skills should be displayed to best attract favorable attention from hiring managers. You may have received examples of resumes which have been successful for your recruiter. You may have even agreed with the suggestions, in theory, at the time, but didn't have adequate time to work on your resume. Now you have that time.

Update your online profiles. Once your resume is current, revisit your profiles online -- resume repositories, corporate sites, all of them. Upload your shiny new resume, ensure your profile includes the skills you want to highlight for potential employers. Ensure your canned searches are targeting the types of positions you're interested in. An updated profile resets the timestamp, giving your resume greater potential for being found in a search.

Enhance your LinkedIn profile. Include a robust and creative description of (a minimum of) the last 15 years of your career experience. Connect with everyone you've ever ridden an elevator with. Write glowing recommendations for connections -- chances are many of them will reciprocate. Join groups -- alumni groups, business focus groups, etc. -- and search these groups for connections you may have missed. Let your connections know that you're looking for your next assignment.

Network. Networking is hands down the most effective way to find your next assignment. Your connections who are currently working can be a wealth of information about opportunities and a conduit directly to hiring managers. And it's been my experience that these days connections are open to helping friends. Work these valuable connections!

Learn to fully exploit tools available to you. Various job search engines have functionality to run automated queries against multiple databases and deliver the results directly to your inbox. Work smart, not hard. Take this time to implement process improvements to make your job search more efficient.

Start fresh. Take the last week of the year off from your search -- a real vacation -- and start the new year with a newly stated goal and a new attitude about the search -- Career Search Resolutions. Revamp your daily routine, get dressed and have breakfast, work out. Work your LinkedIn, work your connections, and read online tips to add life to your efforts.

Good luck!


Employers digging deep on prospective workers

I will not say that I've spend 30 minutes speaking with a former manager checking a reference, but I can agree that we ask more than name, rank and serial number. Do not give a reference before confirming your status with them. Also, touch base with former managers, just to make sure you haven't burned bridges.

See this information in its natural environment here.

Employers digging deep on prospective workers
Many calling unauthorized references, grilling former bosses and colleagues

By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor

Checking references seems more like guerrilla warfare lately. Hiring managers want to find out everything they can about you before they offer you a job, and conventional tactics don’t seem to be enough.

Many managers are reluctant to give recommendations because companies are worried about being sued if they bad-mouth a former employee. And many employees are stacking their reference lists with people who will only say glowing things about them, even omitting employers from their resume who may have negative comments.

To combat this, hiring managers have a cadre of maneuvers. Many are now using social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to dig up dirt. Others are calling references you never OK'd. Still others are grilling past employers on your reference list in the hopes of getting them to slip. Some firms are also asking job candidates to sign waivers promising not to sue a former boss if he or she says bad things about you.

“They’re going above and beyond, and they’re going underground,” said Julie Bauke, a career expert and owner of Cincinnati-based Congruity Consulting.

During tough economic times, employers want to make sure every hire is the right one, making reference checks more important than ever.

Some employers have only a few open positions, so they want employees who can best help boost the bottom line. The cost of a bad hire is even more painful when there’s less money to go around.

“Three years ago, if you had a live body and no one really hated them, then they were hired,” said Peter Engel, senior recruiter at New York-based Cantor Executive Search Solutions Inc. “Now they’re really looking much more closely.”

Alan, an unemployed marketing professional, had one of his listed references call to say a hiring manager grilled him for more than a half hour about his job performance.

Digging deeper
Alan, who is looking for a position in New York and did not want his name used for fear of jeopardizing his job search, said: “The HR person was almost trying to trick my reference into saying something negative. They were asking, ‘What are Alan’s weaknesses? What can he improve on?’ and on and on, beyond what was expected. It was like the third degree.”

Hiring managers are looking to get beyond the name, rank and serial number approach used by so many employers that have told by their HR department not to provide too much information, said Maryann Donovan, president of recruiting firm Impact Personnel in Norwalk, Conn.

It’s also getting harder to just leave an employer off your resume if you’re afraid they’ll give you a bad reference, Donovan added, because some employers are now asking for proof that you did what you said you did during those gaps on your resume.

To check off-list references or figure out what a candidate's career path was really like, recruiters are turning to social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Functions such as the recommendation option on LinkedIn can immediately show a hiring manager if former bosses or underlings liked working for them.

But too many recommendations on any of these sites can seem disingenuous, Donovan warned. “I had one client call me recently to tell me they were about to make an offer to someone but were worried because the person had 50 recommendations on LinkedIn. The client wondered why they needed so many,” she said.

Unauthorized references
Despite some issues, LinkedIn is a “godsend” for Andy Dunn, CEO of men’s apparel site Bonobos.com. “It enables me to make an organizational chart within a company,” he said, giving him a way to find individuals who may have worked with an applicant.

Dunn is looking to hire six people right now and makes a point of calling six off-list references for each applicant he’s seriously considering.

He also puts the onus on a job candidate if a former boss claims they can’t talk about an applicant due to company policy. “Ultimately, if a candidate can’t convince or persuade people they worked with in their career to take my call, then that’s not the right person for the job,” he said.

Some employers are asking job applicants to sign a waiver stating that they won’t sue a former employer if someone at the company says something negative about them and they don’t get the job. “It’s a more litigious society than ever,” said Paul W. Barada, author of “Reference Checking for Everyone.” “But you can’t hold a reference liable for telling the truth.”

There’s nothing illegal about asking job candidates to sign such a waiver or hiring managers contacting former colleagues you didn’t OK in advance, said Shay Hable, employment attorney for Bryan Cave.

Prepare for scrutiny
So it seems many of these practices may be here to stay. Your job as a job seeker is to be proactive so you stand up to the reference scrutiny.

Think long and hard before you connect with friends on social networking sites. More hiring managers are relying on these sites for information about job candidates, so your contacts should be people you trust who will give you a good recommendation. Also, use the privacy settings if you don’t want a potential employer to know who your connections are.

Be careful not to over-coach your references if you know a hiring manager will be calling them, said Barada. “You don’t want references overstating what you can do, saying ‘She walks on water,’” he explained. “That’s a red flag.”

Call your references ahead of time and make sure they know what type of job you’re applying for. Also, make sure they support what you say about why you left your last job, said Congruity’s Bauke. And warn all your references that they may be grilled so that they’re prepared with facts.

If a hiring manager tells you they are going to contact a former boss or subordinate not on your list and you know that person will probably give you a bad review, it’s time to 'fess up, added Barada. He suggested saying something like: “I don’t mind you calling Mary but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t give you a glowing report. We just didn’t hit it off.” (Resist bad-mouthing anyone.)

Unfortunately, sometimes prospective employers won’t give you a chance to defend yourself if an off-list reference ends up dogging you.

Carolyn Thompson, author of “Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job” and president of executive recruiting firm CMCS in McLean, Va., recently had a client’s job offer collapse after an off-list reference check.

The job seeker was an executive in the accounting industry and had worked for a manager seven years ago who essentially demoted her because she was married and wouldn’t date him.

The woman did not get the job and has hired an attorney, Thompson said.

Eve Tahmincioglu writes the weekly "Your Career" column for msnbc.com and chronicles workplace issues in her blog, CareerDiva.net.


Learn networking skills for next job

Great information from a local blog:

"Imagine this scenario. You're at a social or civic event and you see someone you think could help you land your next job. Are you too nervous to go up and say hi? And once you're there, how do you leave them with a positive impression of you?

This week, there's a workshop at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte geared toward helping you build better relationships while searching for work.

Everything is people skills. The repeated advice we hear is network, network, and network. In order to make that successful, every conversation has to be successful," said Susan Green, who founded the Church's Economic Downturn Support Ministry earlier this year. Since then, Green has helped coordinate 15 different workshops. The latest is set for Tuesday and features David Kirkpatrick, a consultant with Dale Carnegie Training.

Kirkpatrick will teach job seekers a seven-step process to improve communication skills. "The point is when someone is searching for a job all of the focus is on them. Through this process, our goal is to put the focus on the other person so that when you're having the conversation it is not so much about what you say, but what you hear from the other person," Kirkpatrick said. "When you have a relationship like that, they are more willing to help you toward your goal and that is the key."

Tuesday's workshop is free and open to anyone. And you do not have to register to attend. Myers Park Baptist Church is at 1900 Queens Road. Look for Heaton Hall behind the sanctuary. The event gets under way at 7:30 p.m. in room 250.

For more information, check out the church's Web site at www.mpbconline.org or call 704-334-7232.


Let your network work for you!

As a recruiter I am constantly looking for creative ways to locate valuable available candidates.

Posting an ad on a major job board has plenty of positives – and probably just as many negatives once you factor in the cost and the usual onslaught of resumes bearing no resemblance to the job description posted.

I have branched out and am trying to use low- to no-cost options, including various Social Media Networks (or SoMNs -- pronounced psalms). LinkedIn is the ultimate professional network, and has a nice search facility (within my Three Levels of Separation network, plus the connections of mutual Groupies). It’s really pretty easy to find people who meet my selection criteria.

In today’s market there are lots of available consultants – and most employed people are not making rash decisions to jump ship. So I prefer to reach out specifically to candidates who I know are available and looking for their next assignment immediately. I click through my LI search results looking for candidates who a) match my specific needs; b) are currently available. Meaning, I look for LinkedIn profiles where there is no Current employer listed.

But LinkedIn appears to not be a good place to find available resources because most people aren’t advertising their availability on their profile pages! And I am so confused by this because we network so that we have a ready selection of colleagues who can help us professionally, but no one can help you if they don’t know you need help. The power of LinkedIn is not just that you have a repository of email addresses of folks you can contact – you can store that in gmail – but that you can post a tiny notification and have it blasted out to eleventy-million people, one of whom you don’t currently know who can help you land your next gig. One tiny change can prompt strangers to contact you.

So let’s all show our availability in our profiles.

At the top of your profile in a blue box there are categories: Current, Past, Education, Recommended, etc. By editing your Current, un-checking the “I currently work here” box, and adding an ending date, you move your most recent employment from Current to Past.

In this same blue box, above the Current, Past, Education, etc. there is a 140 character what-are-you-working-on-now box. While you are seeking your next assignment, update this box daily with tweeterisms on how you are seeking your next assignment, updating your profile, returning home from an interview, meeting with a networking group, yada-yada. Update this everyday, and people will notice.

And maybe, just maybe, some stranger in your Three Degrees who sees your tiny little notice will reach out to you!


Pre-Qualify Your References!

I cannot add anything to this blog by Brad Remillard.

Know Your References Well

We often do one-on-one job search coaching with candidates. This is a three month program where we cover all aspects of a person’s search, and work weekly to ensure that everything is being done to expedite their search. We cover issues that might arise before they arise, discuss areas of conflict, develop a marketing plan, perform interviews, review resumes and tough interview questions, compensation negotiations and check references. It is very comprehensive, and often hidden issues that would keep the candidate from getting an interview or job are discovered and addressed before they become an issue. Too often the candidate never finds out why they didn’t get an interview or offer, when a little up front work would have solved the problem before it became a problem.

As part of this coaching, the candidate develops a complete set of references. The candidate always assures us that the reference has told them “They would give me a good reference.” A CEO I was working with had a board member as one of their references. I called to talk with this reference and make sure that all was well. It didn’t take long to realize that the reference, although not bad, was only average to barely passing. This is not something the candidate would want a company to hear. We went back to candidate and asked to talk to the other board members (at least two). They both had great things to say, and in fact, one was going to recommend the candidate for another position. It turned out the first person had a grudge to bear against the CEO. These two board members then became the references. Had we not done this, the candidate would have never found out why he didn’t get a particular position.

I don’t believe we were deceiving the company in any way. They asked for one board member and instead we offered two. We did not prep the references in any way. All we did was try and get the real picture of the CEO’s abilities without bias or from a person with a grudge.

This is just one of many very easy things to deal with before they become a problem. Do you pre-qualify your references before you give them out? You should.
When talking to a reference it isn’t always what they say, but how they say it that counts.


Outside of the Box!

Read this story online.

David Rowe's sandwich-board job hunt
by Matthew Jones

David Rowe's sandwich-board job hunt - In a pinstripe suit, silk tie and polished shoes, David Rowe has all the trappings of a successful London city worker, except for one stark difference -- he is wearing a sandwich board that says "JOB WANTED."

As he walked down Fleet Street, home to legal firms and investment banks, the 24-year-old history graduate showed the human face behind the "lay-offs" and "recession" headlines.

"The first 20 paces are the hardest, you feel very conspicuous, but you just steel yourself to get on with it," he said, starting a slow trudge toward the Law Courts before turning toward St Paul's Cathedral.

In previous economic downturns it was manufacturing and heavy industry that were worst hit. Now in Britain, and much of the West, white collar jobs have been culled in the financial crisis -- marketing directors on six figure salaries, IT specialists with 20 years experience.

That makes it especially hard for young men and women like Rowe trying to start professional careers. For many the corporate ladder has been pulled away.

They are left with the prospect of low paid unskilled work, if they can find it, and large debts.

"I have debts of about 20,000 pounds ($32,400), and that's not excessive compared with how much some students owe when they graduate," Rowe told Reuters as he took a break from his one-man advertising campaign.

"My dad bet me I wouldn't do this (walking with a sandwich board), that I wouldn't have the guts."


Rowe was facing a tough market even before the downturn. Britain has seen explosive growth in the number of university and college students, but there has not necessarily been a comparable rise in graduate-level jobs.

Twenty years ago about 17 percent of 18-30 year-olds were in tertiary education against a figure of 43 percent in 2008, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. The Higher Education Statistics Agency said about 220,000 graduates joined the job market in the 2007-2008 period.

Add that mix to an economy in trouble and it makes uncomfortable reading for people like Rowe.

Latest figures from High Fliers Research Ltd, an independent market research company, found graduate vacancies at one hundred leading employers in 2009 had been cut by 28 percent against 2008 and more than 5,500 vacancies canceled or left unfilled.

Rowe is one jobseeker who is not downhearted. Just hours after he started wearing the sandwich board that offered his services free for a month with the option to then "hire or fire me" he struck lucky.

Gavin Walker of international recruitment firm Parkhouse Bell liked Rowe's initiative and decided to interview him.

"I liked the fact he had thought out of the box. I was impressed by that. I was even more impressed after the interview. He's very employable, so much so I offered him a job to work with me."

Rowe, who has amassed a growing collection of business cards, says he will think carefully about the job offer.

"I told myself I'd do the sandwich board for five days and I will follow through on that."

© Copyright 2004-2009 by Post Chronicle Corp.


All I'm Saying is Give Consulting a Chance

I have to say, as I’m sure I’ve said before, I really don’t understand some candidates’ partiality to Full Time Employment, to the exclusion of even speaking with recruiters about consulting assignments.

I understand that the norm in the consulting world has changed a lot since I was on assignment – with client sites implementing Vendor Management systems and seeming to value finding the lowest cost resource over finding the best qualified resource. The consulting firms chosen as ‘primary’ must offer universe-wide toll-free 24-7-365 customer service in English, in addition to cut-rate labor in English. I appreciate that an attempt to squeeze a fatter slim margin will require providing only the most basic and government regulated services to the Cost Centers (contract employees). Leaving project professionals, who are used to full corporate benefits and PTO, facing the insult of being asked to take pay cuts plus being paid hourly with no benefits or time off.

Additionally there is the indignity of being pimped out to the client site, with never a call or a kiss, until the day your assignment comes due – maybe you were notified, maybe not – and you’re unceremoniously escorted from the building. Then, after providing a consistent income stream for the life of your assignment, you aren’t even sure if the firm is working to land you another assignment, during which they would continue make money on you while providing no evidence of support.

I understand the ugly truth prevalent in the market. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

In my own experience I was brought on as an FTE of my consulting firm, with benefits and PTO -- salary plus paid time after 40. When my assignments were 45-ish days from complete I was marketed throughout our client sites as a consultant with strong skills and good work ethic. I had very little downtime, I took vacations, I had my teeth cleaned. I felt like an FTE because I was an FTE. My former teammate who brought me to this company was on multiple assignments – in the same client corporation – uninterrupted for 14 years. That is stability – and that is loyalty.

We still operate that same way. And other firms, smaller firms with surprisingly good customer service and employee relations goals, still operate that way. We’re out there.

Maybe the candidates are still glutted from the generous severance package they received from their most recent former employer. Maybe they believe that these severances will continue to be the norm. I can’t see how that can possibly be true.

We’ve all watched the economic news over the past year. Banks being bailed out and obliged to accept oversight. Other corporations are accepting government money. Companies are failing. The trickle-down effect is weakening downstream business. And the layoffs and RIFs and outsourcing continue. Profits are way down.

Corporations will soon reach a point where they can’t afford to provide severance for laid off workers who’ve only been working there 25 months. If they could afford that, they would just keep you.

So, if you’re going to be looking for a job every 24 months anyway, why not be a consultant and have someone else look for you a new assignment every 18 months. Especially when good consultants with great work ethics can often find interesting assignments in consulting even in bad economy. I can honestly say over the past 12 months we have had dozens of consultants in our office have had to choose between multiple consulting offers.

I don’t know, maybe I haven’t made a strong enough point. But I am convinced that consulting is the way this economy is going. And maybe some candidates should try to be a little more open minded about the possibilities.


How social media can hurt your career

Read this article on CNN.

Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

As social media becomes the latest branding strategy, networking technique, job seeking tool and recruitment vehicle, it's also becoming the latest way for people to get job offers rescinded, reprimanded at work and even fired.

Everyone has "my-job-sucks" moments, but it's probably best for your career not to have them online.

It's happened so many times -- publicized and not -- that one would think we could learn from others' mistakes. (But, if that were the case, I wouldn't have anything to write about, now would I?)

A recent Tweet by a potential Cisco employee, for example, turned ugly when he decided to tout a recent job offer:

"Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."

Unfortunately for "theconnor" (the handle for the would-be employee), Tim Levad, a "channel partner advocate" for Cisco, saw the tweet and responded with this:

"Who is the hiring manger, I'm sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web."

Terrible tweets

Everyone has their "My-job-sucks," "I-hate-my-co-workers," or "Give-me-more-money" moments. But, they seem to forget that as employers increase their online presence using social networking sites as recruitment and branding strategies, it might be best for their career not to have these moments on the Internet.

Paul Wilson, a freelance/corporate Web marketer and blogger, found several of such moments on Twitter, a social networking and micro-blogging site, and posted these "Top 10 Tweets to Get You Fired" [sic'd]:

1. "hate my job!! i want to tell my bosses how dumb they are and how meaningless this job is, then quit, and be happy!"
2. "So my job was to test all the food at the new resturant, can I just say, ughew. I'm going to taco bell then twistee treat."
3. "Workin... This job sucks worse then the economy!"
4. "I'm going to work! Walmart! Must find better job! I hate it when chicks there have a deeper voice than me and refer to me as foo!"
5. "Also I'm really bummed that I'm working today, i asked off so i could study but my boss is a ******* **** ***** ***** who can't read."
6. "Coworker smuggled out a chair for me. Currently being paid to SIT around and listen to John Barrowman on my iPod. I don't hate my job today!"
7. "having sex dreams of people you work with makes for an awkward day."
8. "smoking weed at work is so [EDITED] great :)"
9. "It's bad when you overhear the n00b programmer say "I used to work at McDonalds with him" and you wonder if he is talking about the CEO..."
10. "Huh, with my boss on twitter, maaaybe I should take down that sexy picture of her... but her reaction will be priceless!"

Facebook fired

Twitter is not the only culprit in career self-destruction. Facebook, a popular social networking site, has housed its fair share of user firings:

Kimberly Swann, a former employee for Ivell Marketing and Logistics of Clacton, U.K., thought her job was boring -- and she said so on her Facebook page, according to an article in The Daily Telegraph. Swann was called into her manager's office and handed a letter that cited her Facebook comments as the reason for dismissal:

"Following your comments made on Facebook about your job and the company we feel it is better that, as you are not happy and do not enjoy your work we end your employment with Ivell Marketing & Logistics with immediate effect."

An MSNBC article remembers Kevin Colvin, the legendary young intern who e-mailed his boss, claiming a "family emergency" would keep him out of the office around Halloween. His co-workers (and Facebook friends), however, saw a photo of Colvin dressed as a fairy at a Halloween party time-stamped on the same day of the "emergency." Colvin's boss responded to him with an e-mail CC'd to the entire company, firing him and including the incriminating fairy picture.

In March 2009, the same MSNBC article cites Dan Leone, a Philadelphia Eagles stadium employee, who was fired after slamming the football organization for trading a player in this status update:

"Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver. . .Dam Eagles R Retarted!![Sic]"

Two days later, the head of event operations said they needed to talk about his Facebook status; instead, he got the boot.

Social networking don'ts

If you want to use your profile to get hired or -- or at least not get fired -- here are three basic rules to keep in mind:

1. Don't announce interviews, raises or new jobs
As exemplified by "theconnor," how you talk about any of these sensitive topics on your social networking site is key. If you're unemployed, writing "Interview today -- wish me luck!" would be OK, or if you got a job, something along the lines of "So excited about my new job!" is totally acceptable. If you're currently employed, however, I don't think your boss would be too happy to see something like, "Trying to con my boss into giving me a $5K raise. SUCKA!"
2. Don't badmouth your current or previous employer
Just like in an interview, keep your rants about your boss or company to yourself. If hiring managers see that you're willing to trash a colleague online they assume you'll do it to them, too. Plus, there's always the possibility of getting fired if someone sees your negative comments.
3. Don't mention your job search if you're still employed
If your boss knows you're on the lookout for a new job, feel free to advertise it in your status. If you're keeping your search below the radar, however, don't publish anything, anywhere. Even if you aren't connected to your boss online, somebody can get the information back to him or her.


Bosses check Facebook

It may be time to do a little weeding on your Facebook page -- especially if you're in job search mode.

Here is the link to the article below, from the Straits Times.

NEARLY half of US employers research the online profiles of job candidates on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn, according to a new survey.

Forty-five per cent of the employers surveyed for CareerBuilder.com, the largest US online job site, said they use social networking sites to check on job candidates, up from just 22 per cent in a survey conducted last year. Another 11 per cent said they plan to start using social networking sites for screening.

'As social networking grows increasingly pervasive, more employers are utilising these sites to screen potential employees,' CareerBuilder said in a statement.

It said job seekers should 'be mindful of the information they post online'. CareerBuilder said that of those who conduct online searches as background checks on job candidates, 29 per cent use Facebook, 26 per cent use LinkedIn and 21 per cent use MySpace.

Eleven per cent search blogs while seven per cent follow candidates on micro-blogging service Twitter. Thirty-five per cent of those surveyed said they have found content on a social network that caused them not to hire a candidate, CareerBuilder said.

Examples included 'provocative or inappropriate photographs or information' or content about drinking or using drugs. Other reasons cited were badmouthing a previous employer, co-workers or clients, poor communication skills, making discriminatory comments, lying about qualifications or sharing confidential information from a previous employer.

Information found on social networking profiles was not always a negative factor in finding a job. Eighteen per cent of employers said they have found content on social networking sites that caused them to hire the candidate, CareerBuilder said.

Some profiles 'provided a good feel for the candidate's personality' or supported their professional qualifications while others demonstrated creativity or solid communication skills.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, recommended that candidates 'clean up digital dirt' before beginning a job search by removing photos, content and links which could hurt their chances.

The survey of 2,667 hiring managers and human resource professionals was conducted by Harris Interactive between May 22 and June 10. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 1.9 per centage points. -- AFP


Hourly vs Salary

A trend we’re noticing in our office indicates a seismic shift may be occurring in the manner in which consults are compensated. This is worth taking note.

Whereas the FTE (employee) on the project team is invariably a salaried employee – and therefore expected to work as many hours as necessary to complete the project at hand with no pay for hours considered ‘overtime’ – consultants have always billed on an hourly basis and have usually been paid for every hour they work.

Increasingly we have noticed client corporations requesting that consultants work on a ‘set fee’ basis, or on a salary. This could prove a big hit to the bottom line for many consultants, especially those who have historically worked lots of over-40 hours on implementations or production support.

Be aware, if you are unwilling to work under these constraints you may be limiting the clients you can work for. Keep this in mind when speaking with recruiters.


Networking Super Powers: Activate!

I’ve been attending a series of webinars on the effective use of Social Media Networking .

While my initial interpretation is that a full frontal attack with a layered media tactic is time-consuming and probably best suited for a service-oriented business or sole proprietor, ongoing contemplation leads me to think that individual consultants can also make it work in marketing themselves for their assignments.

Ultimately the goal of any consultant is to find their way to the next assignment, The Emerald City, and as I’ve recently noted, in today’s market your network is the Yellow Brick Road.

As good real estate agents know, even your friends and former clients need to be constantly reminded that you are a hungry agent who would kill to help them in a wide array of real estate transactions. Which is why they send you emails, calendars, football schedules, and all kinds of things with magnetic backing that can be displayed on your refrigerator until next Spring Cleaning season.

The same is true of hiring managers… Except in this case, you are the one who should be reminding everyone you know that you are a fabulous consultant and you are available.

So here is how you can institute a multi-pronged Social Media attack. I know that you’ve Linked, Friend-ed and Follow-ed everyone from your career past. Edit your online profiles so that they each point to all the others --use the special ‘web site’ links where available. And, reference your URLs in the text of your profiles. You have now tapped into the Super Power of Social Media Networking -- Triangulation.

Networking Super Powers: Activate!

Update the “What are you doing now?” boxes. On LinkedIn, update this once per day – Facebook, 5X; and Twitter, 10X. And if you have a blog, update it at least three times a week

Now, your Links, Friends, Followers and Readers – and anyone who links to you from somewhere else – knows you’re available for your next assignment.

Additionally, this is where the Networking Super Powers comes into play, search engines love the smell of fresh content. So, in a web search, the pages about you that are most recent and most flattering will miraculously float to the top.

And rising to the top of the Google, can be a big help in landing your next assignment.


Larissa's Story

Over the next few weeks I'll be hosting guest authors in this space -- professionals from the technology section who are job hunting, professionals who have recently landed new opportunities, and job search experts.

"I need a job!! I’m saying it, my neighbor says it and so does the guy in line in front of me at the grocery store! We are all trying to follow the proper steps to find that all elusive gig that will provide for us financially and, with a bit of luck, make us blissfully happy too! Okay, so scratch the bliss part and just find me a regular paycheck!

In this economy, the job search is not such an easy task. It requires focus, diligence and maybe just a tiny bit of self-study. What do you want to be when you grow up? I ask this of myself each day I troll through the online job postings. Each day I could get a new response too!

Scary, right? It IS scary. If you’re the breadwinner, then you’re probably feeling an enormous amount of pressure. Find that job, get out there and work so you can feed & clothe you’re family. Talk about pressure!

Take a deep breathe, don’t panic. Now that summer is winding down, kids are heading back to school…what is there to do? Don’t spend the entire day scrolling through posting after posting trying to make that intangible job appear. You have skills, you’re an expert in your field; now could be the time to volunteer! Organizations love free labor and remember you’re an expert! You never know what volunteering can do for you and how it can connect you to someone looking for your experience.

If it’s not to be found through volunteering, consider writing that novel you promised you would do ‘some day’. Freelance yourself! If you spent anytime traveling, consider reaching out to travel and leisure magazines and offering your tourism knowledge.

Do not define yourself by what you’ve done over the last five, ten or twenty years. You have other capabilities and now is the perfect time to tap into that unused portion of yourself. Bring YOU back to life by getting creative.

One thing can certainly lead to another; quite possibly opening up a whole new world of opportunity you never considered as a viable, paying job for yourself!"

Larissa is currently working on taking her own advice, while she stalks the elusive, bliss-inducing new job.


…it’s Who you Know

As cliché as it may sound, I become more convinced each day that – in order to land a job in this industry, in this market, in this economy – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

In the past 5 business days I have learned of two separate women who were out of the corporate world for 3+ years – raising children, selling Real Estate, etc. – who were able to quickly land assignments (one as a Project Manager, one as a Business Analyst) by connecting with former managers and co-workers who knew of their previous successes.

In my own job I have noted multiple instances over the summer where highly sought after, well paying opportunities went to consultants who were directly sourced by the hiring managers – who had worked with these consultants on previous assignments.

From my perspective as a recruiter who slogs daily to place just one of the throngs of consultants applying for these opportunities, it is very important that this point be acknowledged. In the US today, people are doing what they can to help their friends.

So, reach out to your old managers and co-workers. Beef up your LinkedIn connections. Join groups. Friend people on Facebook. Tap into your work connections, your college connections, your church connections, your gym connections, your kid's school connections, your bowling league connections, whatever!

Get the word out that you’re looking for a job. Put out a new posting about your job search every day. And don’t be afraid to ask people for help. From my perspective, they're giving it.


Using Social Media Networks

I’m currently attending a 10-session webinar series on utilizing Social Media Networks. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic presenters are convinced that their “committed, consistent, and constant” use of a combination of blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and various niche services, is responsible for the exponential growth of their businesses.

I’m still working out how to use various networks in pursuit of my business – locating high quality candidates perfectly suited for consulting opportunities. I search LinkedIn and reach out to people I find – if they’re not available, perhaps they know someone who is. I’ve joined LinkedIn groups and posted opportunities in the Jobs tab. I’ve even started experimenting with posting my needs on Twitter.

I’m curious about how candidates in my network, in my industry, in my geographic area are using Social Media Networks in their job searches.

So please, leave me a comment. Tell me where you are and what kind of IT opportunities you look for. Tell me which networks you’re using, how you’re using them, and which techniques are bringing you results. I want to understand how real people are using these tools.


Knowing your interview audience

I happened upon this bit of wisdom on another blog (http://passages.typepad.com/my_odyssey_blog/2009/04/index.html) and really wanted to share it.

It is critical to present yourself according to the needs, objectives, position and technical understanding of the person interviewing you. At some point you will probably interview with someone from HR. The HR person is probably interviewing for multiple positions within the company. He/she will be interviewing you followed by an accountant and then a sales person. His job is to evaluate:
• Your personality; Does it fit with the other members of the team?
• Your career aspirations and goals; Do they match with what the company offers? Will you be satisfied?
• Your compensation requirements; You do not commit at this time but she will try.
• The stability of your work history, career progression and why you are looking.
• Are you a team player and can you site examples?

That is 95% of the HR interview.

5% will deal with technology yet technology is the core of the IT professional’s skills and experience so we want to talk about it. Our instinct is to talk about it a lot.

The HR / generalist interviewer will ask very specific technical questions that he was given by the hiring manager. He has been told the answers to look for. Keep your answers short and direct. This is not the person with whom you spend fifteen minutes discussing Java concepts.

After you answer a technical question ask if you satisfactorily answered the question or would he like more detail.

NOTE: If you are working with an outside recruiter who has not prepared you for points 1-5 as they relate to what the interviewer is looking for, fire him. Do your homework. Ultimately it is your responsibility to learn something about the person you are interviewing with, the position and the company.

TIP – Early in the interview it is appropriate to ask the interviewer about her technical background. This will tell you how much technical detail the interviewer can handle.


Your Career: Top secret jobs at the CIA

I’ve shamefully copied the following article from MSNBC at

If you were one of the thousands to receive an e-mail recently listing available jobs with the Central Intelligence Agency, you may have thought it was just another cyber scam.

Well, it turns out the e-mail wasn’t spam after all but part of the agency’s beefed up efforts to recruit new employees.

“We’ve really focused on upping our outreach,” says CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, about the agency’s recruiting strategies. They include e-mails, TV and radio campaigns targeting college students, former Wall Street workers, and anyone with foreign language skills, especially Middle Eastern languages.

The CIA was plagued with low morale after failing to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and then providing crummy intelligence that led to the Iraq War. But the agency has seen a bit of a bounce back in its reputation recently despite a report questioning its interrogation techniques. People seem to be clamoring to join. Last year, the agency received 120,000 job applications online and expects a 40 percent to 50 percent increase this year.

In the years following the Sept. 11 tragedy, the agency has hired about half of its overall work force. Currently, there are open positions in 90 different occupations from psychologist to software engineer.

Susan, a covert officer in the CIA who cannot even disclose her real name, applied for a job at the agency online last year while she was still in graduate school studying neuroscience. “The primary thing that attracted me was the impact I could make,” says Susan, who is in her late 20s. “It puts you close to the forefront of the nation’s defense.”

She was hired in June of 2008 as a research scientist doing work on “biological issues” in a department that is similar to the gadget lab of “Q,” the character in the James Bond movies.

More than just undercover agents
Indeed, a job at the CIA may conjure up images of spies in overcoats or 007 on a speedboat in Monte Carlo, but the majority of the jobs the agency is looking to fill are a bit more mundane. “We’re looking for everything from analysts and operations officers to linguists, engineers and accountants,” Harf says.

Becoming a CIA employee, especially if you’re undercover, is not your typical suit-and-briefcase gig. Choosing such a career can be a difficult on you and your family — not to mention the hurdles you’ll have to clear to land a job.

First off, if secrecy is not your thing, forget it.

No one knows Susan works for the CIA except her parents, and agency officials asked that she not disclose her exact age or anything about her background that could identify her. She’s thought about the secrecy issues that could arise if and when she gets married and has kids and concluded she could live with it. “It’s sort of exciting because I know it’s for a higher purpose,” she says.

Unfortunately, the life of an undercover agent can be tough on some families.

“You’re asking your children to carry a heavy burden of secrecy and shame,” says Martha Finney, whose father, Richard Finney, was an undercover case officer for the CIA throughout her life.

“I found out when I was 16, and then I had nightmares,” explains Finney, author of “Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss.”

Her family moved once or twice a year, and Finney says living in places such as Mexico City or Berlin was incredible global exposure. But, she adds, the isolation her family felt ended with tragedy.

“My mother died of alcoholism at 42, and it was primarily because she couldn’t reach out for help because it would have compromised my dad’s career,” she says.

For workers who are not undercover, balancing work and family may be easier.

Jane, a 34-year-old employee at the agency who started in May 2008, was a stay-at-home mom before she applied. (Despite not being undercover, CIA officials did not want her real name used because when she travels abroad she may sometimes be undercover.)

“The CIA is very family friendly, offering flex schedules, and very accommodating if a child has an illness,” explains Jane, who went to Harvard graduate school and spent 10 years in the military.

She’s now a CIA military analyst covering Africa, preparing reports for the intelligence community, and she travels abroad two to three times a year. “I have a good family support base, and my husband has been excellent about being a single dad a bit,” she says.

If you decide the CIA is right for you, expect a grueling interview process and lots of competition, especially in this economy.

All interested job seekers have to apply via the agency’s Web site, www.cia.gov, and you must be a U.S. citizen. Most jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, but higher degrees are sought after.

If you make the initial cut, you’ll then have to go through an exhaustive screening process over many months, since ultimately all CIA employees, no matter what department or level, require a government clearance.

Federal employees, or those coming out of the military or working for federal contractors, may already have such a clearance, says Evan Lesser, director of ClearanceJobs.com. But there are different levels of clearance, and what you need depends on what you will do.
A top secret clearance takes about a year, and a secret clearance averages about six to eight months, he says, adding that 70 percent of jobs at the CIA require a secret clearance or above.

The process includes a polygraph, psychological testing, medical evaluations, and credit and criminal background checks. Also, agency personnel will interview your friends, family and maybe even your neighbors.

Background checks go back seven to 10 years, Lesser adds, so anyone applying should have at least 11 years of history ready, including places you lived, names of employers, divorce papers or bankruptcies.

Internships at the CIA are a good way to get your foot in the door, he says, because younger people don’t have as much history and can often get clearance more easily.

Life at the agency
Even if you get hired, the probing into your life won’t end. “CIA officers undergo periodic security checks throughout their careers, which also may include a polygraph,” Harf adds.

If you want to join the CIA to get rich, don’t count on it.

“The starting salary for incoming agency officers is based on the education, work experience, and specialized skills that they bring with them,” says CIA spokeswoman Harf. “Starting salaries generally range from about $40,000 to $100,000. Incoming officers can receive a hiring bonus of up to $35,000 for foreign language skills.”

Steve Lee, who worked for the CIA as an analyst in the mid 1990s, eventually left because the pay wasn’t enough and he was sick of the bureaucracy.

While he doesn’t regret the stellar training he received at the agency, the exposure to the latest and greatest technologies, and the prestige his CIA experience has brought to his career, he stresses that anyone who decides to join the CIA definitely has to have a calling.

“Everyone that works there is going to go through intrusive investigations, and you have to be ready to live up to that,” says Lee, author of “Super Secret Bungling and Crookery: National Security Drone,” who blogs and writes under the name Frank Naif. “Young people ought to know, casual drug use will no longer be part of your life. And you have to watch who you associate with, in particular, foreigners.”

For Lee, it wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted to have.

“It’s probably not a whole lot different than a lot of other federal workplaces, very Kafkaesque,” he says. “A lot of absurdity.”
Undercover analyst Susan, who loves her job and says it’s just what she expected, doesn’t see it like that.

“If the opportunity is there, I encourage anyone to apply,” she says. “The CIA has always been my first choice. You need to have the skill set, and you need to have that commitment to want to do the right thing.”

Eve Tahmincioglu writes the weekly "Your Career" column for msnbc.com and chronicles workplace issues in her blog, CareerDiva.net.


A Lot of Bunko

I just finished reading a book that I think could change my life, and I wanted to give the readers of ComputerRecruiter the option of changing yours.

For the past 6 – 8 years information technology has undergone a major upheaval, an overhaul, and now looks as similar to the career I first inhabited and loved as a weekend in Charleston compares to a month in Bhopal.

In the downtime between assignments that inevitably comes to IT and other project professionals, many of us have a lot of time to plan and train and think and dream about the perfect job. But far too few of us actually do anything about migrating to that perfect job we envision. With good reason as, unlike IT or regulatory projects, there is no corporate sanctioned methodology designed to achieve this particular implementation. Until now.

“The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, The Last Career Guide You’ll Every Need” by Daniel H. Pink could very well be the methodology (or anti-methodology, as they case may be) you need to make this move.

In this Manga-style graphical book, author Pink walks us through a series of simple, almost intuitive points intentioned to give the reader license to choose the career path best suited to his talents and interests. Simple yet radical, as his vision leads us to question the guidance we’ve received from our elders our entire lives.

A brief overview filled with plagiarism from the book:

There is no plan – Most successful people, most of the time, make decisions for fundamental reasons – because they believe it is inherently valuable, regardless of where it may lead. They choose a job or a company that will allow them to do interesting work in an enjoyable environment, without consulting a plan.

Think strengths, not weaknesses – The key to success is to steer around weaknesses and focus on strengths. Successful people don’t work on improving what they’re bad at; they capitalize on what they’re good at.

It’s not about you – Successful people use their strengths to serve their clients. They improve their own lives, by improving the lives of their clients. They make their managers look good, they help their teammates succeed.

Persistence trumps talent – Persistence is like compound interest – a little persistence improves performance, which leads to greater persistence and greater performance. The people who achieve the most are often the ones who stick with it while others don’t. And intrinsic motivation – choosing enjoyment over expected reward – leads to greater persistence. And the cycle continues.

Make excellent mistakes – Time spent avoiding mistakes and failure leads to not trying anything, which ultimately means never doing anything. Avoiding failure is not the way to achieve success. Successful people have high aspirations and give themselves permission to fail, as a way to become better. On their way to trying something that nobody else has done.

Leave an imprint – Truly successful people ensure their lives have purpose – they use their talents to leave their companies, communities, and families better than they were before.

(My apologies to the author if my summaries have missed the mark.)

This book could prove valuable food for thought during your next downtime. The philosophical foundation that we are each different, with different talents and interests, and therefore could be successful by following our own hearts is one I wish I had heard much earlier in life.

But I believe it’s never too late for me, nor for you! Perhaps it’s time for you to explore making the transition to a career you love – and achieve success as part of the move.


What is really necessary?

Project consulting seems to run parallel to the Real Estate industry with regard to the condition of the economy determining the slant of the market.

When the economy is great, business is going gangbusters, and there exists a Seller’s Market for Project Consultants. You can hold out for the absolutely best project, the best pay, the best benefits package, the best perks – and there may even be a bidding war for consultants with exceptionally hot amenities.

At the other end of the spectrum – as many of you are painfully aware – is our current market, a Buyer’s Market. In this scenario it is the hiring manager who has the power, who can hold out – for a 99 44/100% match to the job order, for a consultant who is prepared to accept a substantial reduction in rate, for a consultant who matches the personality of the team, and (sadly) a consultant who looks the part. A Buyer’s Market does not allow for the gluttony of a Seller’s Market.

Today we are in a Buyer’s Market – them’s the facts. And this Buyer’s Market, based on historical data, will continue far into verifiable recovery.

If you are seeking a new assignment during this Buyer’s Market, you may be well-served to determine which of your standard Seller’s Market expectations are really necessary to you today. And adjust your negotiations accordingly.


Face it!

(This article shamelessly plagiarized from The Charlotte Observer at www.charlotteobserver.com/business/story/711391.html)

Photographer takes a shot at helping unemployed folks

A Charlotte photographer is offering free portraits for job-seekers this month.

Southern Light Photography of Charlotte will take the portraits from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, 3:30-6 p.m. Thursday and 3:30-6 p.m. May 22. The head shots, which usually cost $100, can be passed out with resumes, business cards or online applications to help job-hunters stand out from the crowd, studio owner and photographer Jeff Carsten said.

The recession has slowed business at Southern Light. For Carsten, the portraits are a way to pass the time – and help people who are looking for work, he said. He calls the event “Saving Face for the Unemployed.”

“I've been unemployed twice in my life, and it was demoralizing,” Carsten said. “If we can raise people's spirits and give them a leg up in the job market, I'm in favor of it.”

Job-seekers interested in the free portraits should come to the studio, at 2331 Crown Point Executive Drive, Suite A, during the portrait times. Photographers will use a standard studio background, retouch, color correct and crop photos and burn them onto a CD.

Carsten recommends professional attire. No appointments are necessary.


Don't Take That Vacation!

In 2005 when ComputerRecruiter was laid off, I decided I would take a couple of weeks off before starting the job search. I wanted to sta-cation, do some home improvements and spring cleaning, work on my tan and my mani-pedi.

I’ll start looking in a month, I thought. How long could it take for someone with my stellar skills to land a fabulous new assignment? You don’t even want to know the answer to that question!

Let me just state a fact – it is worse today than in 2005. And my advice to you – don’t take that sta-cation. Take time to grieve over the weekend, and begin your 40-hour-per-week job search at 8 am Monday morning.

Search the job boards, network on LinkedIn and Facebook, search the Careers page at local corporations, check your local/regional Business Journal for business information, find and attend local networking groups, check out telecommuting opportunities (such as http://www.flexjobs.com/), seek out expert resume advice (do not limit IT resumes to two pages!!!), and make phone calls. Every day.

You can paint your bathrooms and power wash your exterior siding on the weekends. You can sleep when you’re dead.

Especially now, when it feels like we’ve hit rock bottom and are trying to pick up the steam to begin a slow ascent back to solvency – I think I can, I think I can – it’s important that you not be lulled into a delusional complacency about finding your next assignment.


Your Career: Time for extreme makeover?

(This article was shamelessly plagiarized from MSNBC.)

While ComputerRecruiter agrees that the following may be morally unjust, it is reality.

Stephen Staffieri of New York always considered himself pretty stylish, but he started to wonder about his look after several job interviews led nowhere.

Out of work since he was laid off in August from his job as a campus recruiter for JPMorgan, Staffieri, 28, knew he had the credentials to find another position in human resources. But something seemed to be holding him back.

He sought advice from David A. McKnight, an image consultant he met through a mutual friend. Staffieri’s appearance is now more polished — and his confidence level has exploded.

Sloppy attire and a lack of grooming are just not going to cut it in this economy, human resource managers say, no matter what the industry. So you may have to turn up the style-o-meter. Hiring managers already are noticing that a growing number of job seekers seem to be dressing for success.

Staffieri's image tweaks included tailoring his suit so it fit properly; getting rid of the cloth messenger bag he slung over his shoulder and replacing it with a briefcase; exchanging his comfortable shoes for a shiny, leather pair; and combing his hair to the side instead of the middle to mask his receding hairline.

“I feel like a million dollars,” he said, adding that he’s now doing better in interviews.

Many employers around the country are inundated with qualified and overqualified applicants for every job they need to fill, which means they can be pickier than ever. And I don’t mean just choosy when it comes to job qualifications.

“They have to stand out from the rest, in the right way,” said Chris Cappas, vice president of employment and training for Harrah’s Las Vegas region. That means no halter tops or flip-flops, even if you're just coming in to fill out an application. “The competition is fierce.”

Appearance can separate you from the pack, said John Haynes, human resource director for Johnson Controls Inc. in Capital Heights, Md. “It can (even) help you lose an opportunity if you don’t present well.”

Fierce competition
Miller Canning learned that lesson after she was laid off from her job doing Web strategy for a homebuilder 18 months ago. For the first time in her technology career, she had trouble finding a new gig.

“I was stunned I wasn’t getting any offers,” she recalled. “My resume is robust.”
Canning, 51, who lived in Washington and recently relocated to Charlotte, N.C., looked in the mirror.

She had been letting her hair go gray and was used to the casual dress in the technology industry. In interviews, she usually wore casual trousers and a shirt, sometimes a denim jacket.

She decided it was time for an image overhaul. She dyed her hair, bought a killer brown wrap dress and beefed up her accessories.

Her reinvented look paid off. She landed a job in e-commerce with home improvement company Lowe’s and started work on April 13.

“Competition is just so fierce right now,” she said. “You need any edge that you can get.”
I know, it’s disheartening to hear that you won’t be judged solely on experience and background but also by the way you look.

Unfortunately, that’s just part of human nature, and the tough economy is only making image more important, said David Sarwer, associate professor of psychology for the Center for Human Appearance at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
“For hiring managers, it’s clearly a buyer’s market,” he said. “They can be more selective ... not only hold out for the most qualified but the person who’s the most physically attractive.”

That doesn't mean you have to take drastic measures to improve your appearance. With so much hype about plastic surgery and job seeking lately, the reality is that the number of people choosing to go under the knife is actually on the decline. What hiring managers say they are looking for is not someone who has skin that’s as taut as a piano string but someone who looks put together and professional.

Job seekers may even want to consider dropping a few pounds. Weight Watchers has seen an influx of unemployed people signing up recently, said Aransas Thomas, who leads classes in New York. “I see people coming in who are feeling crummy about themselves because they’re out of work, and most have a reduction in confidence,” she added. The key, she said, is feeling better about you — both internally and externally.

Sadly, bias against overweight people is a reality in the workplace. “It appears being overweight can work against you, particularly women. Being obese works against both men and women,” said Patricia Roehling, professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who has studied the impact of weight among managers in corporate America.

Alas, there are no federal laws and few state laws that protect individuals who are discriminated against based on their weight or their lack of attractiveness.

And attractiveness is subjective, said David Grinberg, a spokesman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Some hiring officials may interpret such a directive to mean targeting or excluding workers based on traits related to race, national origin, religion, gender, age or because someone has a disability.” Which is, of course, illegal discrimination.

Reinventing your lookLooking fit also seems to be a selling point. Bob S., 47, a former Google manager from Saratoga, Calif., has been looking for an IT management job since June. To help in his job search, he dropped 35 pounds, thanks to bicycling; colored his hair; started wearing contacts to interviews; and now keeps his eyebrows trimmed. (He did not want his full name used for fear of affecting his job search.) “All these feel vain, but maybe they'll help,” he said.

It’s not easy for everyone to update their look or lose weight on their own. You may want to enlist the help of a fitness trainer, a stylish friend or even invest some money on a style consultant.

McKnight, who helped revamp Staffieri’s image, has gotten so much interest from unemployed New Yorkers that he started a new service for the jobless. He offers a $300, three-hour makeover package, compared to the $150 an hour he usually charges.

For those who want to go it alone, Dallas-based image consultant Kimberly Bohanon offers some simple style tips to help spruce up your look:

  • If you haven’t updated your wardrobe in several years, invest in some new clothes. Buy quality pieces that are interchangeable.
  • Your clothing should fit you well. If you are successful at finding ready-to-wear items off the rack, count yourself lucky. Often, minor alterations are needed in order to achieve optimum fit.
  • Well-manicured hands and regularly trimmed hair are a must. If you haven’t updated your hairstyle in many years, it’s time to consider making some changes.
  • Wrinkled or stained clothing look highly unprofessional.
  • For many, shoes are a go-to accessory that add class and give insight to one’s personality.

Oh, the shoes. They can mean more than you think. Dawn Gum, managing partner at Interior Architecture & Design in Research Triangle Park, N.C., recalls interviewing an entry-level applicant who had a great portfolio. She also had on a great pair of pea-green pumps with brown leather detailing. “She got the job, and we've joked with her ever since that we hired her because of her shoes,” she said.

Eve Tahmincioglu writes the weekly "Your Career" column for msnbc.com and chronicles workplace issues in her blog, CareerDiva.net.



Invest in Yourself!

While I have such a strong sense of light at the end of the tunnel, we don’t yet know if our path leads us through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (a modern engineering wonder, measuring 17.6 miles!) or the AeroDyn Wind Tunnel. This slump, though you may not be working and may be experiencing anxiety, frustration and a whole host of other emotions, could actually be a great opportunity for you to take time to retool.

Technology professionals are quick to make glib observations about how fast technology changes, yet are you really truly aware of the changes that are happening now, the changes that are coming, and how they can (and will!) affect the market demand for the skills you currently use? Reality check: in order to continue working in this industry until your (already postponed) retirement, you need take responsibility for constantly updating your skills, nimbly stepping ahead of the competition, and aggressively jockeying for the opportunity to use those newly acquired skills.

For my money, the ROI on funds used to extend your career until your (please please please) actual retirement is greater than a house on the oceanfront you were able to buy for a-dollar-two-ninety-eight. Maybe you feel the same.

I recently went to a technology symposium where the speakers discussed green energy, the technologies and roles of the future, and the need for today’s IT professionals to retool. And they gave tips on what you should concentrate on.

So, here goes:

  • Data – anything associated with data is going to be needed as our electrical grid moves into the future – mining, analysis, reporting, storage
  • Security – data security and securing the transfer of data will be very important to the smart grid.

In other reading I’ve also learned that Business Process Reengineering will be a big deal in the future – cynically speaking, because by improving the process additional layoffs will be made possible. (Hey, better them than you, right?) And I understand that there is a Business Process Engineering certification available where most of the courses are online.

Just some tips, from me to you, some things for you to think about. And be sure you invest in yourself first!


First Aid

Follow this link to see how the 2009 Stimulus package can help laid off workers with their health care insurance costs.


Navigating through the Evil Parallel Universe

In today’s tight job market, many project consultants are entering new territory – an Evil Parallel Universe where PMPs, .net Architects, and BI Specialists are not fawningly courted by employers and asked to ‘name your price’, a labyrinthine Netherworld where dark, narrow alleys leading to guaranteed assignments unexpectedly open to cul-de-sacs packed waaaay beyond the fire code limit with scores of consultants each holding more and more stellar resumes. It is indeed dark out there – and it’s time for extraordinary consultants to mount a full frontal assault in order to land even an ordinary assignment.

Warning: Those who follow their tried-and-true procedure for landing their next assignment will continue to return false-positives. It’s always worked before doesn’t work anymore.

Your job search is your job
Get up, change out of your PJs, OMG take a shower(!), and put in 8+ hours everyday – your job search is your new job. Perhaps you’re going to meetings – networking sessions, classes, interviews (fingers-crossed!), job fairs. Maybe you’re billing time creating or updating artifacts – resumes, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles. It could be you’re doing analysis – searching for opportunities and applying online, reading articles on CareerBuilder. At this moment you work for yourself -- this is your new job and those who are successful will attack it as such.

Create a spreadsheet
Thank goodness for Excel, where you can track all the opportunities you’re working on. You’ll need columns such as job number, job title, job description, company, date applied, recruiter contact info, rate, any info you can gather about the hiring manager/department, and maybe some columns to note contacts, interviews, and notification that you were rejected. Make sure if you’re working with a recruiter that you get the internal hiring manager’s job number – yes, they really can give it to you – so that you can ensure that you are not granting permission for submittal to multiple recruiters. If you leave the house print this document and take it with you, in case you get a call while you’re out. Those who prefer more elaborate tracking can use MS Project. This job search is your Six Sigma Black Belt project, and you need to ensure your artifacts are up-to-date.

Be available, ready, and open
Give your cell phone number as your main number on your resume, in your applications, and to recruiters you’re working with – so that you’re always available when a hot iron strikes. Return voicemails promptly. Do your mental work upfront and be ready to agree to submittal when one is offered – know what type of opportunity you’re seeking, what type of rate you need. The recruiter doesn’t have time to negotiate and cajole – she wants to get your answer and either submit you or move on to the next equally qualified candidate. (Don’t expect to be able to call her back 24 hours later to accept – that open job has been closed to submittals and the hiring manager is working through 40 excellent resumes by then!) Be open to new ideas – when a recruiter asks you to reevaluate your rate or tweak your resume – do it.

Maximize your networking
It has never been more true – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You can open an enormous can of network partners right from your desktop. Join and mine LinkedIn and Facebook. Flesh out your LinkedIn so that it is as full as your resume. Join groups on LinkedIn – former employer alumni groups are very good places to find former co-workers, or business or technical networking groups can lead you to new contacts. Update your ‘What are you working on?’ everyday, so that your name is constantly on connections’ minds. And connect, connect, connect – add connections and stay in touch! Join networking groups at churches, go to professional affiliation meetings and network there. Go to job fairs, if only to meet other people. Have lunch with former co-workers and share tips.

I feel like my postings are becoming more shrill and preachy as the weeks pass and the ticker tapes go lower. And I think I get this way because so many folks I’m working with are still in denial about our situation, or in some sort of that’s-not-for-me La-la Land.

Just to shed some light, if you find yourself wondering why your recruiters haven’t called you in a while, after you turned down the last two opportunities because the rates weren’t good enough, if you find that your two-hours per day job search tactics are not hitting pay dirt, you need to read this posting again from the top.


You Must be a Realist

In full disclosure it must be stated up front that I, ComputerRecruiter, once was a successful software developer. Lest you mistakenly conclude that I lost my tech groove, couldn’t tell the difference between < and >, and was forced to turn in my keyboard in disgrace – let me set the record straight by explaining that I dutifully trained my replacement, and was so bitter and disillusioned at the thought that any avatar with a mouse and 98.6 could replace my stellar SQL that I walked away from my beloved DB2 forever.

It was very difficult for me as I wallowed month after month, as many of you may have, thinking ‘this is not the way it should be!’ It was only when I was able to say ‘this is the way it is’ that I have been able to move on to the next successful phase in my career life.

It may be that some of you will have to embrace this Realism as well, before you can land your next assignment. You must be a realist to survive in today’s market.

  • Rates are going down. Way down. Multiple times in the past week I’ve had to call the account rep to ask “Is this a typo? Is this actually the bill rate?” Charlotte, Chicago, Richmond – and oh my gosh, Columbia. It has reached a point that I am embarrassed to call my candidates to bring valid opportunities for submittal because the rate we’re able to pay after eking out the tiniest of margins is almost insulting. Candidates are righteously insulted. And decline to be submitted. And I, as a former IT person myself, cannot blame them. However – this is reality for today. You must be a realist.
  • Jobs close at light speed. A consulting opportunity may only be held open for submittals by the hiring manager a total of eight business hours. From open to close in eight business hours. Factor in how long it took your recruiter to become aware of the opportunity, to search her database to identify valid candidates, to rank the candidates, and to begin calling, there may only be three hours left when you get the call. And the recruiter still has to put together a digital package to submit you. It is imperative that you be prepared to take calls and prepared to say yea or nay when you get those calls. No time to think, no time to negotiate. In order to land a position, you must move quickly. You must be a realist.
  • You may need to rewrite your resume. Industry wisdom regarding resumes is a rapidly moving target. Make it 2 pages, make it 6 pages, make it chronological, make it functional, blah, blah, blah. The fact is, hiring managers are looking to find a 99% match for her job – and she has to see that 99% reflected in your resume – preferably on the front page. Another relevant evil that you must embrace is that the Vendor Management people (the Gatekeepers to the hiring manager) are checking your resume for specific words – they are not considering concepts, they are not thinking ‘if he knows X, then he obviously knows Y’ – and if they don’t find those words, your resume is rejected. So, your recruiter may ask you to rapidly rewrite your resume for every job. You must be a realist.
  • Your recruiter must choose between returning calls and submitting candidates. Sad but true. While we’d love to be able to touch base with every candidate, our time is best spent busting butt when each and every job order comes out to submit as many of our deserving candidates to that job order as possible. There are so many candidates, and so few job orders. When you factor in the three points above, you can see that we have to work hard and fast to get people placed. I know I make too many commitments to call candidates which I can’t keep. But please understand that I sacrifice calling you for trying to put you (and others) into jobs. You must be a realist.

While becoming a realist will require you to relinquish the righteous indignation that comes with knowing how things should be, you’ll find that you’re able to move much quicker into new assignments when you flex and move into the reality of the moment. You must be a realist!


Employer’s Market

Over the past 10 days my office has experienced an increase in opportunities for Project and Technical Professionals. This has been manna from heaven for the recruiters in my office, and we’ve been burning up the phone lines and melting the keyboards reaching out to our qualified candidates.

Time after time perfectly qualified and available candidates declined the opportunity to be submitted for a bird in the hand, because the pot of gold was not as big as their stomachs Рor some amalgamation of clich̩ that fits the scenario.

The current truth is – clients have cut their rates. A lot. And there are tons of candidates on the market. So, when your recruiter calls you with an opportunity, think twice before passing on being submitted because the available pay is less than your ego thinks it should be. In all honesty, I don’t have money in the budget with which to negotiate, or the time to squander convincing you – my management expects me to move on to other candidates quickly, so we can submit in record time before the job order closes.

I’ve shown below the text of “Would you like a pay cut or layoff?”, originally heard on Marketplace Friday 1/23/09.

Or you can listen to the story here.
Yahoo's the latest technology company looking to cut costs. Word out of Silicon Valley today is that new CEO Carol Bartz has declared a pay freeze. That's one alternative to layoffs that a number of companies are opting for as the economy sinks deeper into recession. Not getting a raise so people can keep their jobs is one thing. Getting a pay cut is quite another, as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports from New York.

Jeremy Hobson: If you had the choice between a pay cut of, say 10 percent, and layoffs at your company, which would you pick?

PERSON 1: I would take a pay cut, because I don't want to see anybody else go.

PERSON 2: I'd take a little pay cut. I'd feel better about myself and if I was helping out the company. But I don't know if everyone's like me.

They're not.

PERSON 3: I'd prefer laying people off because I think that there are plenty of people at my firm who aren't carrying their weight.

The problem is, 39 percent of companies have already trimmed their work forces. That's according to a recent survey by the human resources firm Watson Wyatt. But Laura Sejen, one of the firm's practice directors, says for many companies, layoffs are only part of the story.

Laura Sejen: Either before resorting to layoffs or in addition to layoffs, companies are trying other tactics. So they're doing a hiring freeze or they're doing a salary freeze or they're putting restrictions in place on company travel.

Or they're cutting salaries. The Watson Wyatt survey found five percent of companies have already done so. A number that is expected to double in the coming year. Jo Prabhu thinks that's an understatement. She runs the recruiting firm International Services Group.

Jo Prabhu: In this current economy, there is no yardstick. Layoffs are happening daily, companies are reorganizing daily. Because there is no money, there is no credit, there is no way for them to pay their salaries.

Prabhu says just as home values were too high during the boom, some salaries were too high and now they're correcting.

Prabhu: Actually this happened to my son. His salary was being cut by 15 percent, and he asked me to look for other positions for him. But the fact of the matter is I advised him to stay within his current job because the possibility of him getting another job with the same or higher salary is almost slim to none.

The choice between layoffs and pay cuts isn't easy for managers either. Some see layoffs as better for morale, because everyone affected is gone. Psychologist Ken DeMeuse has been studying the workplace for decades. He says layoffs can lead to stress and guilt for employees who stick around. That means reduced productivity and higher health care costs for the company. DeMeuse says cutting pay means everyone feels the pain.

Ken DeMeuse: But it does tend to foster, how can we work together to save our company, to save our jobs, rather than creating a situation of haves and have nots.

Demeuse says research shows that for a pay cut to work, it's got to happen from top to bottom. Executives have to share in the pain.

DeMeuse: Secondly, there has to be a communication that it's temporary. That once the economy turns around, that your pay will be brought back to the level it once was and hopefully increased. Because you've shown good faith to stay with this company and now we're going to compensate you accordingly.

Whatever the payoff is in the future, experts say all Americans should brace for the possibility of salary cuts. Because right now, it's definitely an employer's market.