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The Terrain – Guiding the Graduates

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 11, 2012 in Executive Coaching, Job Search

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I remember it like it was yesterday:  crossing the stage, shaking the Dean’s hand, smiling for the cameras, and feeling ready to take on the world.  Now, I see my friends’ children taking part in the same ritual. These graduates will come home after their graduation parties and beach vacations to find jobs, but will instead find that they are woefully unprepared to navigate the competitive job terrain that holds their fate in its hands.

A recent article in the Huffington Post stated half of college graduates won’t have a job offer upon graduation.

Most people are average.  Average grades with average income potential.  That’s where the term average comes from, right?  It’s the middle of the exceptionally talented, or those with really high GPAs compared to those who may have prioritized the social aspects of college over the academics and may have even worked their way through school. Perhaps they didn’t get to take advantage of the career center prior to packing up and leaving campus.  Within the average pool of people, there are still exceptionally talented people waiting to be plucked into their destiny of success.  Hard work does pay off, and finding a job after college is hard work.

If your recent graduate didn’t have summer internships relating to their studies, or part time work to offer them a glimpse of what professional life would be like after obtaining their degree, they are probably going to have to pay their dues now, as painful as that might be for you to watch.  Recent grads often feel their education should preclude them from starting with an entry level position, but the fact remains, a job with a reputable company is a great starting point for anyone. 

Whether the business is large or small, publicly traded or privately held, full or part time, they need some work experience. They need to prove to an employer they are reliable, dependable, organized, have good communications skills, can follow direction, and that they can work both independently and in teams.  The basics.  They need to take any job they can get and make it their own whether as an assistant manager at a drug store, or as the administrative assistant in an office.  They need to build the list of references that will vouch for them in the future.

For many grads it’s too soon for them to really know what they want to do long term or where their career will take them, so encourage them to just get started. They will learn more about themselves while working than not working and you can learn something from any job, good or bad.  Some of the most valuable experience can be gained in the most unlikely situations. 

Many times the amount of rejections the grads face is overwhelming and they will retreat back to school for more education. Here’s the skinny on that:  Unless the profession they are choosing (like nursing, law, etc.) requires the education to get started, they are going to be in the same boat a few years down the road if they don’t combine that extra learning with substantive work experience. It’s better to obtain that additional degree in combination with some practical application of their studies. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or special executive on site MBA programs that employees who are positioning themselves for promotion can take advantage of. Developing a healthy balance of education and experience is the most strategic and effective way to optimize your value to current and potential employers.

Telling all of this to your grads isn’t the easiest task, so you might want to consider hiring a coach to work with them.  Through the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/) you can search for coaches in your local area that offer career services.  The investment there will be well worth your time if you properly vet the coach you choose as someone who has successfully worked with others in the same situation in the past.

Teach your grads to network.  Currently, 80% of all jobs are found as a direct result of networking and utilizing personal connections. Ask your friends who work in your grad’s field for help. You’ll be surprised at how willing these personal connections are to help a young person and how quickly a small network can expand with just a little help from family and friends.  Encourage your job seekers to make a list of companies they are interested in so you can easily see if you have contacts there that may be able to assist them.  Having a well thought out job search strategy they can execute is important.  Setting timelines for follow up and evaluating results can’t be achieved if you don’t have a list to work from.

You might also want to take a look at your grad’s online profile because future employers are looking as well.  Their Facebook page and LinkedIn profile should be clean and professional.  Encourage your grad to remove any photos that may give future employers the wrong impression of their character.  Keeping a diligent eye on their online presence is very important and can be a deal breaker.  Just last week someone in our office pointed out that a person’s wedding website noted they had yet to graduate when the resume they presented to us stated they had completed their degree. That person was due to complete it this year in December but they are looking for a job now. 

Lastly, they can always do volunteer work to obtain more experience.  Many companies and non profits need help so don’t forget to consider those channels as well.

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The Fire Aftermath – Emerging From the Ashes of Getting Fired

Posted by admin on Feb 14, 2011 in Interviewing Skills, Job Search, Thinking Positive

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Wildfires are unexpected and devastating to the forest but recovery is never impossible. Twice in the past week two people I know very well were fired from their jobs. In both cases, they were told it was for cause and due to performance, or lack thereof. However, neither person was on a “work plan” or hadn’t been given any sort of formal warning. Both are now left nursing unexpectedly shattered egos and holding a bag of bills to be paid.

For them, and for the other readers out there who were recently fired, I thought I would jot a few pointers on how to take some of the burn out of getting fired:

1 ) Give yourself a day to grieve. Let’s face it, this is a shock and you’re mad about it. It’s not fair and you were treated poorly. Once your day of grieving is over, it’s over, and you are moving forward. You and only you can take charge of your destiny. It’s easy to get sucked into negativity so make a conscious effort to not wallow in your misery. Focusing on what you liked about your work and what you are looking for in your new job is a great way to overlook the negative aspects of what just happened.

2 ) Ask yourself what you could have done differently. You have all heard me say this a million times, but the root of all conflict is unmet expectations. What expectation of your former employer were you not meeting? And be honest! There are two sides to every story and if you were fired for cause there is something you did (or didn’t do) that didn’t meet their expectations. Figure out what you could have done differently so that you don’t make the same mistake twice. But don’t beat yourself up about it. Just recognize that might be an area of personal growth and work on it so the same situation doesn’t happen again.

3 ) Get your resume together and show that you are available for work immediately. As unemployment continues to drop, contract and temporary opportunities are on the rise so make sure people know you can start a project or full time job right away. If you need help with your resume, grab a copy of TEN EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT RESUME from Amazon. It will really make the process a lot easier for you.

4 ) Find someone to be a reference for you from your previous job. A lot of people get fired and find out it was a blessing in disguise since they end up moving on to much better positions. The best reference is always a former supervisor and when you’re asked to leave, a former supervisor who has also left is a great person to use as a reference. You can also reach out selectively to people with whom you had good working relationships and ask if they are willing to serve as a personal reference. Many companies have a firm “no reference” policy if you can’t identify an ally who is willing to verify your talents, skills, and employment in your list of former co-workers. How about a vendor you worked with or supplier that you serviced?

5 ) Post your resume on line and make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with a status update stating you are looking for work. When you are working with recruiters, it’s important that you don’t displace your personal pressure onto them to perform miracles for you. Maintaining a positive story with as little drama mixed in will make your recruiters work harder for you in the long run. They don’t want to hear another sob story so focus on your strengths and what you want to do so they can really help you out.

6 ) Make a list of companies that you are interested in working for that hire people with your skill sets. A little Googling goes a long way here. Search skill sets, certifications, and industry experience in addition to job titles. This will open up a whole new list of companies you wouldn’t have discovered if you only search for job titles. This and other tips are discussed in TEN STEPS TO FINDING THE PERFECT JOB.

7 ) Start networking. Go through the companies on your list. Know your two sentence description of who you are and what you are looking for so you can let anyone who will listen or read know what your abilities are. 80% of jobs are obtained through networking so get out of your comfort zone and meet people. LinkedIn is an amazing tool that you can reach out to people through. Ask politely for selected professional referrals. Don’t connect with people you are about to interview with or have just interviewed with – that can be uncomfortable for them. Still look them up and see what you might have in common with them so you can discuss it when you meet.

8 ) Prepare for your interview by practicing your answer to why you left your last job first. No one wants to come out and say, “I was fired.” How about, “Unfortunately, my role had evolved and my former employers’ needs changed from when I started so my skill sets were no longer a match. I was sad to leave but I’m glad that it opened a door for me to be able to meet with you today about new opportunities.” It’s imperative that you turn the negative situation into a positive step into the future. It’s ok to admit you have things you are working on to improve and the self realization in and of itself is a step in the right direction.

9 ) Set a schedule to keep yourself busy. Don’t change your routine drastically because you lost your job. Just replace those hours you would have been working with your job search. Keep up your gym schedule, kids schedule, etc. as much as your finances will allow. Use every opportunity you can to network with people asking professionally for referrals.

Listen, many of us have been in this position, so know that you’re not alone. Apply for unemployment and create an executable job search strategy. I know you feel you’ve been treated unfairly but think twice (or three times…) before considering legal action against your former employer. Most states are at will and the only person who gains from suing your old employer is your attorney. Unless you have the financial ability to front 50K in legal fees, just move on because the employee rarely wins.

And one last thing…what goes around comes around. The people that let you go will likely get let go themselves someday and probably be unemployed a lot longer than you now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your success!

Check out these links for more useful tips:

http://jobsearch.about.com/od/salary/a/fired.htm
http://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Job-After-You’ve-Been-Fired

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