Girl Talk Career Blog

June 20, 2010

Academy Award for Bizarre Interview Candidates

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 9:40 pm
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There are tons of blogs out there offering valuable advice about how to get a call for an interview then how to nail that job interview and walk away employed.  Many of them are written by HR recruiters so they must know what they’re talking about. 

My hunch is that the following candidates have not perused any of these articles.  Or perhaps they have since the utterly bizarre behaviours these candidates displayed were not mentioned in any of these blogs (understandably).  Hopefully the majority of people job hunting have never committed these gaffes and never will.

Now on to the awards.

Weirdest Email Application  …  and the nominees are … 
A woman submitted a link to her personal website where she posted nude photographs of herself. 
A man submitted his email name with the address
And the Award goes ….. to the woman with the nude pics.

Weirdest Apparel … the nominees are …
A gentleman showed up for a job interview dressed from head to toe as a clown.  A clown.  Fright wig, makeup, the whole scenario.  His reasoning?  He moonlighted as a clown at children’s parties and without having time to change he went straight from a party to his interview. 
A candidate stood up in the lobby to greet the HR recruiter and his pants fell down to his ankles.
A very attractive blonde woman showed up wearing a blouse with several buttons undone and a tight mini-skirt.
A male candidate wore an open shirt that revealed a hairy chest, wore a medallion and strong cologne.
A woman showed up in her housecoat and slippers.                                                                                         
A candidate wore a jogging suit to an interview for CEO.
And the Award goes to … the gentleman dressed as a clown.

Weirdest Hygienic Behaviour …  the nominees are …
A gentlman clipped his fingernails during an interview (at least he didn’t pull off his shoes and clip his toenails).
A gentleman smelled his armpits as he walked up the hall with the HR recruiter to the interview room.
A candidate admitted he wasn’t used to wearing dress shoes and proceeded to showing the HR recruiter the “bloody big blisters” on his feet.
A candidate wet himself.
A candidate vomited on the recruiter’s shoes.
A candidate removed his shoes and socks and applied medicated foot powder to his feet.   
And the Award goes to … the gentleman who applied foot powder to his feet.

Weirdest Comments … the nominees are …
A gentleman was asked why he was the best candidate for the position and he slammed his hand down onto the HR recruiter’s desk shrieking “because I get the job DONE!”
A candidate recited poetry.
A gentleman admitted he was terrible with numbers. He was applying for a job as an accountant. 
A candidate wanted to know how many young women worked at the organization.
Another candidate admitted s/he was not wanted in that state.
A candidate admitted he was fired from his last job for beating up the boss.
Another candidate challenged the recruiter with “I’ve never heard such a stupid question.”
A candidate discussed a conflict with a former work colleague and admitted the resolution was that they were both fired.
A candidate told the HR recruiter that she’d only had sex once in her life and the result was her 10-year-old son.
Another candidate asked the HR recruiter if she could pick him up for work in the event that it rained since he didn’t have a car.
Perhaps this was that candidate’s cousin but he asked the recruiter if she could drive him home after the interview.
A candidate asked the HR recruiter if he wasn’t hired could he take her out sometime.
A candidate asked the recruiter how much they paid her for doing the interviews.
When asked why s/he was leaving their current job the candidate revealed quite happily “I s–t my pants every time I enter the building.”
A candidate asked the HR recruiter if she could take a 10-minute break every 15 minutes as she worked.
A candidate told the recruiter that she often overslept and had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. 
A candidate admitted s/he went to jail for domestic violence but they wouldn’t get angry with the recruiter (unless they weren’t offered the job probably…I have a feeling the recruiter didn’t tell this person that to his/her face).
When asked when s/he could start the candidate stated they would have to ask their mom first.
A candidate asked the HR recruiter what the recruiter meant by “two weeks notice” since s/he had never quit a job…s/he’d always been fired.
A candidate admitted he didn’t have a fixed address since he lived in a gypsy camp at an airport.
The candidate wore her walkman during the interview telling the HR recruiter she could listen to both at the same time.
The candidate said her long term goal was to replace the interviewer.
A candidate offered the interviewer $5,000 for the job.
A candidate offered to have sex with the interviewer if she was hired. 
A candidate offered the HR interviewer cocaine.
And the Award goes to the candidate who admitted that he “s–t himself” whenever he entered his organization’s building.

Weirdest Overall Behaviour … the nominees are …
A candidate went into the corporation’s cafeteria after his interview and helped himself to a sandwich, then sat there and ate it.
A candidate asked the HR recruiter if he would meet for a drink afterward.  Since the recruiter was a man I wonder if the candidate was a woman? What the heck, if you don’t get the job maybe you’ll get a husband.
A candidate challenged the interviewer to an arm wrestling match.
The candidate fell and broke his arm.
The candidate ate a hamburger during the interview.
A balding candidate left the interview for a moment then returned wearing a toupee
A candidate fell asleep during the interview.
A candidate sang the national anthem.
A candidate tried to sell the HR recruiter a car.
A candidate did a Ben Stiller impression.
A candidate answered her cell phone then asked the HR recruiter to leave her own office because it was a private conversation.
A gentleman stared up at the ceiling the entire time he was interviewed.
A candidate did yoga during the interview.
A candidate stretched out on the floor to fill out an application.   
A candidate wouldn’t get out of the chair unless he was hired so the recruiter called the police.
A candidate tap danced around the HR recruiter’s office.
A candidate took out a copy of Penthouse and looked through it.
A male candidate’s brief case fell open and an assortment of ladies’ panties and perfumes fell out.
A candidate told the HR recruiter there was a bomb in  his brief case and if he wasn’t hired he would detonate it. He flipped the switch and ran.
And the Award goes to … the gentleman with the fake bomb in his briefcase.

Quickest Exit … the nominees are …
A candidate told the HR recruiter he had to hurry and leave since he had another interview to attend.|
A candidate fled the interview because his dog got loose in the parking lot.  
A candidate fled the interview when he heard there was a drug test.
And the Award goes to … the candidate who fled after learning about the drug test.

Weirdest Interview Bluff … there is only one nominee so this candidate wins by default.
A candidate answered his cell phone during the interview and had a prolonged conversation with an HR recruiter. He hung up and told the HR recruiter in front of him that he just received another offer with a higher salary and he wanted the recruiter to match it.  When the recruiter refused the candidate admitted there was no other offer and that he made it up to bump the salary higher.

Watch a youtube mockumentary of an interview with many of the blunders listed above.


June 18, 2010

Newsworthy Networking: Tipping the Sympathy Scales

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 3:03 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


 Girlfriend, in the world of networking now I’ve heard and seen everything.  This story is utterly true.  It is a networking story that will make your head spin and warm your heart yet it happened right before my very eyes.

It all started with a few teardrops. I went shopping with a friend (“Patsy”) the other day.  We were browsing about doing our thing and finally made our way to the checkout.  My friend looked up and lo and behold there was her high school friend she hadn’t seen in ages! They were both delighted to see each other again.  It was all very Leave It To Beaver Suddenly my friend’s friend (let’s call her Nora) began to cry.  She tried hard not to.  I was stunned.  She wasn’t making any sounds but tears were streaming out of her eyes and she was red-faced.  I asked her what was the matter but she couldn’t even answer and tried her best to compose herself.  The store manager was on the ball. She came over, excused Nora very nicely, finished checking us through and we left. 

Patsy and I of course mused on that one all the way home. 

“I’m going back to see her before I go home today,” she told me.  “I have to find out what’s wrong or I won’t sleep tonight.” 

You’d better call me and tell me or I won’t sleep either!” I shrieked, which wasn’t true of course.  I just wanted to know.

Patsy later informed me that Nora was a graduate from teacher’s college who was unable to get a job. Nonetheless, she had a condominium of her own to pay for along with her tuition fees and there she was making barely anymore than minimum wage.  No wonder the girl broke down in public and at her place of work no less.  If anything will cause a person to break its got to be money

I repeated the story to my friend “Harvey” who happens to have a father who is a retired school principal.  When Harvey’s friend heard the news he felt sorry for this girl.  He contacted Patsy who is a friend of Harvey’s too and got the full story from her.  Are you still with me?  Harvey, Patsy and I are friends.  Patsy and Nora are friends with each other. Nora is making minimum wage and worried sick about paying her bills.  I’m the tag-a-long and the blabbermouth in the story.  (You know this is all sounding so much like an LSAT logical reasoning puzzle.  What the heck.  Here’s a sketch).

ME     ———-  PATSY  ————–HARVEY 
                          /                       /
                    NORA         HARVEY’S FATHER

Okay so a Venn Diagram would have been more accurate but WordPress ain’t CorelDraw okay? Anyway.

Patsy informed Harvey about Nora’s woes who informed his father who contacted Patsy and got her opinion about Nora.  It turns out Nora came highly recommended.  So Harvey’s father, being the good guy that he is, contacted Nora. He asked her if she would be interested in him putting in a word for her to the school administrator at the school where he had retired from two years earlier.  Ummm…. I don’t think Nora hesitated very long before she shrieked YES!

So Harvey’s father put in a recommendation (not a reference since he doesn’t know Nora and there is a qualitative difference between the two) and Nora submitted her resume.  Since then I don’t know if Nora got hired but I’m betting this story will evolve into Nora paying her bills and living happily ever after in her condominium.  Wow. 

True story.  What were the odds?  Things could have played out very differently.  Suppose Nora had a stiff upper lip and  didn’t break down at the cash register that day.  Suppose Patsy and I didn’t shop at Nora’s store.  Suppose Nora didn’t know Harvey.  Suppose Harvey’s father wasn’t a retired school principal.  Nora in all likelihood would have no leads whatsoever and still stressed to the point of emotional breakdowns, poor soul.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  Talk about networking with a weird twist.  Which brings me back to the beginning.

It all started with a few teardrops…

May 25, 2010

Kids Make the Best Salespeople

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 2:27 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

You’re a saleswoman. You are you just don’t remember it very well. From the time you were in Girl Scouts (or Girl Guides or Brownies), to the time when your school was selling chocolate covered almonds to the time when you were selling god knows what for some youth sports organization you have been in sales and you’ve probably been quite good at it too.  Maybe you’re still in sales and now you are stellar at it. Congrats. I’m envious. I suck at sales or at least I think I do. I don’t know because I don’t have the confidence to try it anymore, not like when I was a Brownie or selling chocolates for my school.

Even when I sold chocolates I found that usually getting through one caseof them was the best I could do. If I happened to return to school to get a second case to sell that was unusual and I never ended up selling all the chocolates the second time around. At the time I didn’t know why. But now I do and it’s one of the reasons I have enough sense personally to stay away from sales but that’s another blog entirely. Here are a few reasons why kids are great at sales and usually are natural sales reps:

  1. They’re cute.  When the doorbell rings and you open it expecting to see some bloated, decrepit neighbour and it’s a sweet little smiling face that is unexpected and it’s just cute.
  2. They usually smile at you when you open the door.
  3. They have their product held up very visibly for everyone to see, no surprises there.
  4. They let everyone know straight up they’re selling something. No b.s.
  5. They usually have no ulterior motive. Selling cookies for Girl Guides isn’t going to make anyone richer. In fact it doesn’t make GG richer either.
  6. We want them to succeed and feel good about themselves.
  7. They’re honest (at least about why they’re selling whatever it is they’re selling).
  8. They’re usually confident probably because they are new to this game and it’s exciting.
  9. They have nothing to lose. Their mortgage doesn’t depend upon their commission.
  10. They don’t negotiate. They can’t. That means you know they aren’t holding back on you to line their own pockets. They’re given a price to work within and that’s that. No haggling.
  11. They don’t sell defective products (almonds are almonds and they don’t need a warranty).
  12. They’re guileless.

You were all those things once and maybe you still are in some ways. If you are in sales however you know that isn’t true. If you aren’t in sales then you probably can check off about 10 out of 12 of those items on the list as your personal characteristics.  Adults aren’t as impressive in sales and not in terms of their commission obviously. But as soon as someone tries to sell me something I am immediately suspicious and annoyed. I know if I want something. I know if I want your help. You cannot and will not talk me into anything I do not want. My mind is made up as soon as I look at whatever it is you are selling. Seriously. I’m a Virgo and man we are stubborn. 

When I walk out of a change room after trying on a dress that makes me look pregnant and the salesgirl says “how did you do?” I have learned to say quite blatantly and loudly enough for every woman in the store to hear “I love the dress but I’m too fat!”  Do I give a rot? I mean seriously by the end of the day I will have forgotten about the dress, the store and the salesgirl anyway and I’m sure it is entirely mutual. I’m not a person to her I’m a commission. I understand. She has a job to do and a mortgage to pay. That’s why I am not influenced by her (or him) since clearly her opinion has to be biased and false. She has to lie in order to make her money. Kids don’t. They never try to get you to change your mind. If you say no thanks they say okay and they leave. Why don’t adults do that? Oh right I know.

Sales rep training is all about persuasion and getting a person to see why they need something in spite of their instinct to say no. It’s all about breaking down barriers and natural resistance, in other words treating people as if they are stupid. How do I know this? I’ve been trained in sales. I was good at it. I hated it. I didn’t like selling a product even though I was totally honest about it and my trainer never once said to lie or b.s. anybody or work against their natural resistance (I didn’t do any cold calling).

But as I trained I went along with a woman who did try to do just that not once but twice with the same man who was gracious (or stupid) enough to allow her to come back onto his premises. He insisted he felt the product “wouldn’t fly” and that he wasn’t interested. After we left she said to me “he’ll buy.” I wondered what meeting she had been at that I apparently had missed. Personally I wouldn’t have let her back on the premises when she returned the second time, let alone a third time if she ever went back. (Incidentally the client was right – the product didn’t catch on and he saved himself a bit of money).

Adults ought to learn to do the same thing as kids if they want to sell a product. Really. Consider some of their silly sales tactics as if we, the feeble public, don’t get what it is they’re doing:

  1. Don’t say ‘sign’ the contract. Say ‘authorize’ since ‘sign’ sends up a warning flag to people.
  2. Find out what that person’s weakness is personally and prey upon it.
  3. Ask the client questions about her needs before you begin then plan your sales pitch around that.
  4. work under the principle of the 7 reasons why people buy stuff:
     1. Make money
    2. Save money
    3. Save time
    4. Save effort
    5. Improve health
    6. Increase pleasure
    7. Elminate pain

Personally I find it creepy when a person gets all kinds of contrived, psychological sales training to read my needs and mind and try to sell to that. I hate being treated like a marionette and the sales rep is the puppeteer. There are people who disagree with me of course but that’s usually whenthey refer to using children to make adult sales. Not the same thing at all.

 I bought a car in February this year and I am in love with it. However no one sold me the car. I went to the lot armed with the knowledge that this was 90% likely the car I would buy. I found it on the internet, I checked out the price and the appearance, the mileage on it and the year and I drove down to the lot to take it for a test drive. As soon as I saw it I knew it would be mine. The salesman didn’t say a word to try to sell it to me. He didn’t have to and he seemed to know that. Mind you his company sells only used cars from Enterprise Rentals and all of the cars are in great shape, given an inspection before they are sold and of course with the law being what it is in Ontario now sales reps have to be forthcoming if a car has been in an accident or not.

I would have bought the car that day except the colour I wanted wasn’t on the lot. The next morning I went back and purchased it and four days later I drove it home. No joke. He didn’t sell me and it would have been to his detriment if he did. I would have just shut him down anyway. I think the reasons I bought the car that day are because a lot of things happened there that paralleled sales transactions with children:

  1. I liked the product.
  2. I wanted to buy it.
  3. There was no pressure on me to buy.
  4. I already knew I wanted it before I even got there.
  5. He was guileless.
  6. He had nothing to hide and he had to be very forthcoming when we asked about the car’s history. It was also easy to trace it.
  7. I went to him so clearly it was obvious he had something to sell. No surprise there.
  8. He was pleasant. He smiled a lot.

I bet he sold a lot of Boy Scout cookies when he was a kid.

May 22, 2010

Hired! The Old-Fashioned Way

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 1:16 am

To give the devil his (her?) due there are several pieces of fairly modern advice a friend of mine (we’ll call her Cassie) used in order to secure herself a new job as a sales rep in an IT company.  You’ve heard them before:

  1. Tailor your resume to appeal to the position.
  2. Do your homework. Research the organization and make sure you go into the interview as fully informed about “them” as you can.
  3. Ask questions about the position you are looking for at the start of the interview before the interviewer begins querying you (interview the interviewer).
  4. Dress for success. Wear a pantsuit in a neutral colour, rather than a skirt suit and don’t wear a dress.
  5. Arrive 10 – 15 minutes early.
  6. Bring a copy of your resume preferably in a briefcase or another professional bag, a notebook and a pen. Nix the purse.
  7. Know and rehearse answers to tough interview questions such as “what is your greatest strength?”
  8. Follow up with a thank you card or an email.

Now this was the scenario that followed:

Cassie admits to using some of this advice and she said it gave her a lot of confidence and seemed to work in her favour (obviously because she’s the one who got hired). However she didn’t use or need the majority of it. Interestingly she happened to have the chance to check out her competition before she went into the interview. Here is a post-mortem of how Cassie found and landed her dream job:

  1. Cassie she dressed in a navy, 2-piece pantsuit with very conservative jewellery. She was also early. The other young woman interviewing for the position before her seemed to have arrived either early or at least on time for her interview. However she wore a skirt and blouse and carried a purse, no resume in hand and no notebook in sight.
  2. Cassie felt a little nervous going in but she also knew she had done all she could do to prepare for her interview. She made sure she got the 2 interviewers names and used them occasionally during the interview (good for business).  When the interviewer asked her if she knew anything about the company Cassie was able to sing out “yes I looked you up on the internet,” saving the interviewer a fair amount of time explaining the organization to her. Later that evening she emailed the interviewers thanking them for their time. It was obvious Cassie had done her homework since she had a chance to show off her knowledge of the corporation during the interview.
  3. She followed up with a thank you email.

Apparently her research, business attire, additional copy of her resume, note-taking, and questioning along with her own personal and professional qualifications must have made an impression because within 2 weeks she was hired. She admits to feeling a little sorry for the other woman later.

“It’s crazy. I wanted the job but I felt bad when she was passed over for it. Does that make any sense?” Well yes it does because Cassie is a nice person but to be sure she would have felt worse if she didn’t get it, I’m quite convinced of that. Now that is the advice Cassie followed to get herself an interview and a job. Here is some additional advice Cassie didn’t follow or didn’t need to get herself the job:

  1. Network.  Cassie didn’t know a soul connected to this position.
  2. Forget about classified ads. Only 5% of people are hired this way. Cassie should run out and buy a lotto ticket then because apparently she is in that 5%.
  3. Make sure you are the last person interviewed because hiring managers remember the last interviewee. Cassie was 3rd on the list. There were more interviews to be held after lunch. She knows that for a fact because the interviewers let that one slip as they walked her out.
  4. Study while you wait. In other words look around the office walls for certificates the company has earned or check out their literature. There were no certificates posted on the walls and the only literature in sight was Chatelaine magazine, not exactly corporate reading material.
  5. Debrief. After the interview write down your thoughts and impressions, where you thought you could have improved and where you did especially well. Cassie debrief mentally but she didn’t write anything down. She turned it over enough times in her head that she already knew where she was a little weaker than she would like to have been but overall she had a very good interview.
  6. She asked a couple of questions up front before the interview got underway in order to glean information about the position. However she didn’t find the information especially helpful and she didn’t emphasize any of it during the rest of the interview. Interesting.
  7. Cassie studied 7 tough interview questions and memorized answers, preparing to frame her answers around the interview questions she asked at the start of the interview but those tough questions weren’t forthcoming. Not one. 

Let’s see now out of 15 pieces of job hunting/interviewing advice Cassie only found herself needing 4 (research the company, dress professionally, carry a copy of your resume in a briefcase and arrive early). Yet she landed the job. The one piece of advice that really staggers me is in regard to networking. Network is the primary word on everybody’s lips today when it comes to job hunting yet Cassie answered this ad and was hired within 2 weeks without knowing a soul. Who knew?

Sometimes you just have to take the plunge. Defy the odds where you have to, follow sensible advice when you can and hope for the best. In the end you might prove a lot of the HR gurus all wrong and land that dream job anyway Girlfriend.

May 19, 2010

The Value of You in Your Organization

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 6:54 pm
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I’m a fan of the written word, especially when it’s arranged into checklists (you can tell by reading some of my previous posts). Lists just seem to help everything come together visually and you don’t miss any vital information that way. What could be more vital to you than you?  That’s what you need to convince your company so you can remain employed.

You may also wish to get a promotion (more money, more status, more interesting projects, who doesn’t want that)?  If you’re going to get a promotion or even remain in the seat you’ve got now without worrying about being replaced you need to start a checklist of things you currently contribute to your organization that are above and beyond your general job description.  Here is a sample checklist you might wish to work with:

Now that you have accounted for your accomplishments thus far, use the sample template to create another list of ways to add even more value to your work performance. There are a plethora of ways to do this. Consider:

  1. Look for ways to cut costs.
  2. Increase efficiency in your department in some manner.
  3. Troubleshoot for any potential conflicts with clients, co-workers, software systems etc.
  4. Learn much-needed computer hardware skills and put them to use.
  5. Communicate in writing and verbally with co-workers and higher ups so everyone is on the same page.
  6. Initiate employee morale boosters. Once I interviewed with an organization where the floor manager brought in a gorgeous vase of flowers every Monday. Employees voluntarily signed up to bring in some sort of treat for the staff during the week, for instance a coffee for everyone, and by the end of the week the gorgeous flowers went home with him or her.
  7. Check your bad attitude at the door!
  8. Make a long-term career plan and work towards it in short steps every month.
  9. Become the “birthday rep” for your department. When it’s someone’s birthday, get the staff to pitch in a buck or two and go buy your colleague something.
  10. Don’t use company computers for personal use. Keep your emailing and googling for after hours or do so on your Blackberry during your lunch break.

There are lots of other ways you can brainstorm to add to the list. The list is endless. Have a look at these links: – for managers  – for senior employees – for sales reps – for any employee

Here is an example of what NOT to do in order to add value to your organization. Certainly maintaining PR for your organization is significant.  Here is how NOT to achieve this goal.

You’re valuable Girlfriend, so make sure the company knows it.  Document, document, document! Your notes will come in handy during your annual review (think salary increase). They will also increase your odds for a promotion when one opens up. And your efforts and proof of your efforts will increase your odds of staying off the unemployment line, definitely a place where a savvy woman like you doesn’t need to be.

May 17, 2010

Why You Should Work for Google

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 6:47 am

Aside from the money, Girlfriend, there are lots of reasons why Google is a seriously work-friendly place for women.  Of course the majority of employees (but not all) are 20-somethings but there is a fair number of 30-somethings. The Google atmosphere is often likened to a “college campus“. Why so young?  Nope not age discrimination. As you are keenly aware by now, the young Gen Y set is all about, you got it, Information Technology. They practically built Google. So if you’re a seriously IT kinda girl (no not the “it” girl of Hollywood, I know you’re one of those)  then you should give it some thought.

Let’s scroll down the incredible list of reasons of why you should be working for Google, Girlfriend.

  1. I am so not kidding you when I say they are nothing but a luxurious and fun environment that encourages rest, relaxation, recreation and esthetically beautiful surroundings. Why? Because the Google powers that be are savvy enough to know that people who can’t wait to get up and get to work where they have time to work hard and play hard are probably amoung the most productive people on the planet.  Seriously is it one of their corporate statements:  Work and play are not mutually exclusive (their quote not mine). Imagine going to work where you can take an hour’s nap and then make it up at the end of the day without getting fired?  You can probably even schedule it into your work day, unless something urgent or a meeting comes up. Wow. Sign me up.
  2. Google spoils its employees rotten with benefits and perks that everyone should have but alas, only few people in the work place do.Think you could handle a day’s work at Google? Check this out
  3. Google is included in the list of the 100 Best Companies for Women to Work for 2007
  4. Women are included in all of the corporate experiences as men, from social activities to serious administrative decision-making.
  5. Don’t even worry about re-location. Google has offices worldwide but if you need to relocate I’ve heard it said that Google will pay all your expenses to get you to where they are.
  6. Alternatively it wouldn’t surprise me if Google was pretty flexible about allowing its employees to work from home.
  7. Google has a professional group for women only aptly named Women @ Google  Cool.
  8. People bring their dogs, pets, and kids into work. No joke.
  9. Casual dress environment. You know all those rules I outlined for you about how to dress for a job interview and to go to work?  Toss them out.
  10. Great maternity and paternity leave benefits. Paternity leave. Need I say more?
  11. The number one reason to work at Google: they truly respect women. You deserve that respect, Girlfriend.

Don’t all women?

May 15, 2010

Jump Ship Before You Have to Build a Raft

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 9:05 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Bear with me on this career redundancy thing Girlfriend. My first post about this topic was Are Secretaries Doomed to Obscurity? (no). Are there any careers out there that are fast becoming obsolete? Yes. There are many, a legion of them in fact. Hopefully you don’t occupy any one of them but if you do you should by now be able to see the change coming and of course that means you’re already planning for it. Let’s take this in stages.

How to Figure Out if Your Career Path is Redundant

That’s an easy one. Research the Canadian or U.S. Labour Market stats and find out where the current job market is headed for the next decade. Since I live in Ontario I went under Job Bank Canada and found information about the Ontario job forecast. Having done my homework (teacher, remember) here are certain careers that are pretty much guaranteed not to end up on the redundancy list. Now this list is so rudimentary and simplistic as to be hilarious but I’m not going to blog the entire Canadian Labour Market here. Although I did include a link (above). I also referred to Career Builder which, although certainly not a government document by any means and therefore not something I would put as much stock into as Government Labour Market stats, it seems to have pretty thorough coverage of lots of professions and trades.

That said, here is a brief, simplistic list:

  1. Teachers.  Well, who knew? That includes college and university professors of course, ECE teachers and teachers of skilled trades. One thing every generation needs is knowledge and transferring knowledge never goes out of style.
  2. Mental Health Workers. Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. Sadly most people’s stress and addiction levels are higher than ever. Happily for the mental health professionals they will likely always be in demand.
  3. Medical Health Professionals. Nurses, (RNs, RPNs) doctors, surgeons, etc. For obvious reasons we need those folk to stick around.
  4. Environmental Sciences Workers. All kinds of environmental jobs exist nowadays. The trick is to find a career path where your skills remain current and transferrable, possibly from one environmental industry to the next, not an easy thing to do.
  5. Law Enforcement. Cops. Enough said.
  6. Firefighters. For obvious reasons.
  7. Politicians. It’s debatable whether or not we need them even in a democratic society but since there’s no getting rid of them suck it up, buttercup and learn to live with them. The only thing about life as a politician is that you are easily voted in and easily voted back out again, Helen Guergis and Michael  serve as beautiful examples of this phenomenon. I suggest an alternative career path to fall back on. How about becoming a secretary?
  8. Administrative Assistants. No kidding. This is why I really tore into Cynthia Norton in my blog Are Secretaries Doomed to Obscurity? (no). There is a steady, predictable growth rate in this area for the next decade so don’t be afraid to invest in an education and a career in this area.
  9. Accountants. This includes CGAs, CA, investment bankers, mutual funds brokers, bookkeepers, you know all those people who know a thing or two about taxes and legal stuff to do with money. In other words a career I will never understand.
  10. Informational Technology Workers. Okay that was a no-brainer. No, not the occupation, the fact that this one is on the list. There is always going to be a huge global market for this one so if you are computer-minded and you like this career area, go for it.
  11. Mechanical Engineers. On my list that includes mechanics, people who can fix autos and trucks and so on, who make auto and equipment parts and then fix them when they break.
  12. Manufacturing. We need people to make our goods.
  13. Trades jobs.  Plumbers and electricians and millwrights fall into this category.
  14. Logistics. And we need drivers, pilots and ship captains to get them here. I remember a truck driver tell me that a number of drivers he knew complained that there weren’t any jobs. He said that was nonsense and there were plenty of jobs if the drivers were willing to take short-term and long-term work and consider long haul, which apparently some drivers aren’t too keen on. That was 20 years ago. So far as I can tell there are still plenty of trucks on the road today.
  15. Professional and business services and sales. Wow. That covers a lot of careers. I’ll let you dig into that one yourself if that’s your interest.
  16. Research and Development. Well duh. If we don’t have people working to cure cancer, diabetes and everything else that shortens and reduces the quality of life we’re all going to lose hope.
  17. Religious/Spiritual Leaders. Hey, you gotta have faith in something beyond the material world. Of course I’d hardly call a spiritual calling strictly a career. You also need to have that thing they say is a “calling” and it seems to be that very few people genuinely have it.

Careers Without Futures
Now that solid career growth is out of the way let’s have a look at careers that are quick to get downsized and may even face complete redundancy over the next several years:

  1. Journalism. Dying industry. Yes social media is a big fad right now but that’s not what I’m referring to. This is the old-style type of journalism where people are still writing for paper productions in an increasingly paperless world. There are journalists who still aim to get their own columns in newspapers and the like and some will. The lucky few always do. Newspapers and magazines will always be around but as far as journalists go well they’re pretty much indispensable and the market is simply inundated with them.
  2. Public Relations. That one has pretty much been swallowed up by media relations and communications. Now that is a much broader and more technologically advanced area than you might think. Like everything else PR/Communications has become multi-faceted and requires advanced computer knowledge, as well as ongoing software acquisition. If you’re an expert with advanced knowledged in a specific niche that is hard to fill (such as science and technology) then you’ve got yourself a keeper especially since academic and professional requirements for that role are usually quite superior. If the PR doesn’t work out you can easily move into something else. But if you’re into marketing just not at that advanced level, you’d better start looking elsewhere.
  3. Museum/Art Gallery Careers. To be sure there is usually a need for curators, who are business administrators and tend to have MBAs. People with PhD’s are well sought after and generally have secure jobs in museums but not necessarily in galleries. The problem with anything artsy and cultural is that these institutions rely so  heavily upon government funding that a recession hits them hard and layoffs are serious. Which departments are hit the hardest? PR and education, believe it or not even though museums are all about public education. But both of these organizations also rely heavily upon volunteers and volunteers they have aplenty. Hey if someone is willing to work without pay and still do a reasonable job wouldn’t you be more likely to use that person than paying someone for the same or similar work?
  4. Sports careers. (Except sports medicine which is a medical career and OT or occupational therapy).Layoffs abound in this industry. Unless you’re a superstar you’re in one day and out the next. It’s just not the most stable profession. Sports are an integral part of any culture but even the 2010 Winter Olympics had some difficulty getting funding on Canadian soil this year. Yikes.
  5. Anything that depends solely upon government grants. Often these grants are pretty limited and from year to year you never know if you’ll get one. Even serious research and development laboratories (which are actually on my list of good careers) can have problems in this area.
  6. Auto Assembly/Factory Workers. How many times has Chrysler and Ford tanked in the past 10 years and closed its doors on thousands of employees? Enough said.

Now here are some careers I’m on the fence about. Decide on these ones for yourself.

  1. Motivational Speakers. Usually these people have real jobs behind these speaking engagements. That’s because they’ve spent 20 or 30 years building up their expertise in a certain area. Often they have diplomas or advanced university degrees. Then they put their professional and academic knowledge together into a public-friendly speaking package, typically littered with amusing anecdotes and voila! Instant motivational speaker. It’s not usually a career unto itself especially for women. Why not for women?
    I was transcribing an audiotape not long ago and a woman with a PhD in Chemistry was asked to give a motivational type speech about the field to a live audience and to be videotaped at the same time with the intention of selling the tape on a website whose name I can’t remember now or I would post it. After they paid for her travel costs and hotel stay and after her presentation they actually told her it wasn’t likely they would feature her video on their site after all. Why? They told her straight out that “women scientists aren’t perceived to be as believable as men” so people are “less likely to buy motivational or informational videotapes with women speakers“.  OMG. Girlfriend if you’re looking at a career as a motivational speaker keep that one in mind.
  2. Beauty Careers. Yes we need hairstylists, but do we need or just enjoy spa workers and estheticians. As soon as that recession hits Girlfriend where do you tighten your purse strings?  On the little extras like manicures, pedicures and facials.  Sure you need a haircut every 6 weeks but even then you can always go to a cheaply priced franchise such as First Choice Haircutters rather than paying $80 for a half inch trim, can’t you?  Oh, stop already!
  3. Telemarketers. No, no, Girlfriend I didn’t say you had to like them! But are they becoming obsolete or not? More frequently I answer the phone to an audiotaped telemarketer, not even a real person and I end up telling a recording to go to hell. Can you imagine?

Where Do You Go from Here?
If you’re finding yourself in a future-less career or an iffy career or in a decent career hit with a poor demographic right now you have a few options.

  1. Career Change. That’s a big decision but then again it can’t be anymore difficult than becoming redundant. Mind you there’s a difference in switching careers out of boredom and dissatisfaction and a career change due to low salary or a fear of job redundancy. Make sure you change careers for the right reason and that you do so slowly with sensible planning. One thing I will say about the boredom and dissatisfaction link to Penelope Trunk’s blog is that I agree and I disagree with her on a few key points on that one.
    Yes recalling what you did as a kid is fine in terms of what motivates you and inspires you but that doesn’t mean those traits necessarily make for a solid career path now. Of course Penelope isn’t saying that if you liked to draw as a kid you should be an artist. Her suggestion is more abstract (pardon the pun) than that. Instead she sizes up personality traits and suggests you apply those to your future career path. I still have a problem with that one. Personality traits and careers don’t always match and in fact they seldom do from what I’ve seen yet for the most part people adjust and they are grateful just to have jobs and be making money. And that counts for something too. Remember in a recession or anything approaching a tight economy you can’t afford to be obsessed with career satisfaction. I should think it’s far more unsatisfactory to be unemployed due to “boredom” than to have a job and be able to pay the bills no matter how you do it.
  2. Alexander Kjerulf on the other hand tends to agree with Penelope. In his very interesting article where I provided a link he discusses finding a career you love and how to do it. I like the way he also cautions employed people to take their time and make a career move sensible and of course to do so whilst still employed.  But in the same article he argues against a good salary. Say what?
  3. Career Skills Upgrade. If you’re lucky and you work for an organization that offers skills upgrading to its employees or that offers educational incentives, take it. Often technological education is included in these programs and that’s indispensable nowadays. If your corporation doesn’t offer anything of that ilk then pursue ongoing education on your own, even if it’s part time and you need to get a student loan to do it. Just make sure you invest in an upgrade or a new career path that has a good future forecast in terms of hiring in your geographic area and relevancy in the global market.
  4. Become an Entrepreneur. Now this one you have to approach with care. First you need to be able to offer a valid service that is high in demand. You also need a good business plan that includes access to startup money. Virtual administrative assistants abound these days but the problem with that career is you don’t know if your client will stiff you and you then you don’t end up getting paid for your work. There are a lot of scam “clients” around and they can be pretty slick. You also have to have the stuff to be an entrepreneur, a go-getter who can market and sell your product or service. Is that you?

So there you have it Girlfriend! Do’s and Dont’s and Maybe’s for your Career Path.  To your continued success!

May 14, 2010

Writin’ A Rockin’ Resume

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 11:36 am
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Where do I begin?  Just about everything that can be stated about the importance of a great resume and how to write one has been done.  However reiteration is important.  How do I know this?  As a teacher I know for a fact that seldom do we learn something by having it stated once and then repeated once.  Usually it takes a few times for new facts to sink in. When they do and we change our way of thinking about something or at least adjust it in a significant manner that’s known as assimilation.  I got that info from a psychology information series on  Cool.

At any rate today Girlfriend you and I shall examine some oft repeat truisms about writing a rockin’ resume just to recap.  Resumes matter.  They really do.  In fact once I learned a few tricks of the trade about resume writing from reading HR mags and watching youtube videos I adopted a few resume tips including one about a functional resume. This clueless HR administrator insisted that a functional resume, unlike a chronological resume, didn’t have to list jobs by most recent to last. So I took that advice and an HR recruiter contacted me to tell me my resume confused her.  She couldn’t tell if I was employed or not by the way I laid out my resume. Yet she took the time to email me and ask me to clear up the confusion and re-send it.  Incredible! I argue that my error caused this woman to contact me just to see if I was from Neptune.  That said, I have decided to put a spin on writing a rockin’ resume. I shall make up my own rules and Girlfriend it is entirely your call as to whether you intend to heed or ignore my ….er…. unique advice.

Thus far here is my own first unique rule for writing a rockin’ resume: confuse the HR manager.  Leave her scratching her head and thinking “huh?” Not in a grade school kind of way mind you. Don’t have an entire page of typos and lame grammar. That’s just overkill.  Use enough confusion to make that person stew over your information until she needs to pop a tylenol and go to bed early. 

Loads of people insist that a great resume uses key words from the job description in order to catch the recruiter’s eye and make it stand out.  Now it has occurred to me that if I’m taking this approach so is everyone else. How does that make your resume stand out?  It doesn’t. It makes it blend.  Hence have a thesaurus handy and come up with as many infrequent and non-keywords as possible.  For instance take this generic job description I happened across on David Alpin Recruiting the other day:

  • Reception including answering, transferring all phone calls, voicemail
  • typing,
  • coordinating meetings,
  • creating presentations
  • Invoicing
  • Filing
  • Copying/scanning/faxing documents
  • Ordering office supplies
  • Sorting mail daily

In response, unique rule number two is to include as many foreign, non-keywords in your resume as you can. In the meantime, let’s just see if I get a bite from David et al:

Reacted to people, including  come back and relocating and giving a ring, engaged in typography, synchronized summits, crafted productions, dispatched notes, maintained dossiers, duplicated and scrutinized manuscripts, bid for administrative centre sources and classified transmissions day by day.  PHEW!

I shall keep you posted.

Speaking of vocabulary another valuable yet in my opinion questionable piece of resume advice is to ban certain cliches from your resume vocabulary.  If you’d like to see the entire list, click here.

So here we go with unique rule number three.  Whatever you are supposed to ban from the resume, go ahead and ban it. However you must argue the opposite with all your heart.  To wit:

  1. I’m a team player.  Replace with  I’m terrible at team playing. I suck in sports. In fact physical education was my worst subject in school. I was always picked last and I am still traumatized over it.
  2. I have great communication skills. Replace with I can’t communicate very well at least that’s what my marriage counsellor said. That might be why my husband and I decided to split up again although personally I think me passing that STD to him last week might have had something to do with it.
  3. I have a proven track-record. Replace with Here we go with the sports thing again. Lookit, I told you I’m terrible at sports. The only proven record I’ve got is criminal.
  4. I’m a problem solver.  Replace with I’m a shit disturber.
  5. I assisted in X task. Add to it  and botched it all up.
  6. I have a strong work ethic. Add to it when anyone’s looking.
  7. I’m bottom-line focused.  Add to it  but I’m also a breast man.
  8. I’m responsible for X.  Replace with I’m supposed to be responsible for X but so far have managed to elude this responsibility.
  9. I’m self motivated.  Add to it when my boss insists on it.
  10. I’m accustomed to a fast-paced environment.  Add to it  I used to drive Formula One race cars.

And there you have it Girlfriend! Unique rules for writing a rockin’ resume. You probably won’t end up getting the job of course but then again, I never said anything about that at the beginning of this blog now did I?  Unless of course you want to work for Google.  Whole different ball game, Girlfriend. Then you probably should use the 3 unique rules of resume writing in this post. Happy Googling!

How Not to Interview or Negotiate

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 9:03 am
Tags: , ,

Every now and then I encounter interesting articles and youtube videos dealing with interview questions, do’s and don’ts, salary negotiation and on and on.  Sometimes I find great wisdom in these articles.  Other times it seems that much of this advice has become rhetoric. In the Dress Code and Job Hunting blog I wrote the interviewer in a youtube video I linked into the blog made the comment “don’t people know that?” about a suggestion offered by her guest speaker.  You’d think there are a lot of common sense issues people should know about interviewing yet if this information is floating all around in cyberspace then clearly people don’t.

Having said that there is a lighter side of dreadful interviewing. Take a moment to click on this.  This video is a beautiful demonstration of how NOT to answer the question “what is your greatest strength?”

As poorly as I have ever interviewed I flatter myself I’ve never been quite that bad.  In fact until I started reading HR blogs and articles it never occurred to me how it must feel to be on the other side of the interview desk. Can you imagine if you were a recruiter (maybe you are) and someone really answered a question like that?  At least it gives them something to blog about later. Consider some of these much more sensible  responses to tough interview questions instead. 

Should you get to the point in the interview where salary negotation begins here is a wonderful video demonstrating another interview nightmare but not for the interviewer (in this case salesman). It’s a nightmare for the interviewee.

And here’s some sane advice about how to negotiate salary. Just for contrast of course.

Bottom line:

  1. Prepare your (intelligent, sane) answers before the interview.
  2. Learn a thing or two about salary negotiation before money talk actually happens.
  3. Research the reasonable salary range for the position you are after and work within it.
  4. Don’t interview for a job where the organization states a salary range that doesn’t interest you. For instance if the corporation is offering $30,000.00 for a position and you want $50,000.00 then don’t bother to attend the interview. You’re wasting everyone’s time.

Now check out the Dress Code and Job Hunting blog before you head out to the interview and Girlfriend, you’re ready to go!

Companies Need Old-Timers and New Grads

Filed under: career worthy — lisalahey @ 4:56 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Think of employees in a corporation as the pieces in a puzzle.  They’re always solving things: problems, possible problems, problem wannabes.  It’s all about working and re-working solutions to make the pieces fall into place.  Consider the success of companies that resolve issues and improve their worth on the stock market versus companies that don’t seem to figure out the puzzle and tank.  Girlfriend,why is that?

One reason may be that companies who succeed recognize the need for different puzzle pieces.  There has never been a puzzle where all the pieces were the exact same size and shape, yet fit together perfectly to make a successful finished product. Puzzles don’t work that way.

Neither do organizations. Or problems. Or people. Frequently I read career articles where writers are hung up on their age. “I’m too old to get a job” or “It’s too late for me to change careers” or “People at work don’t like me because I’m younger than them.” Hogwash.  The organization who hired them is lucky to have them and these organizations  recognize this or that person wouldn’t be working there. 

The reader of a career advice column wrote in to complain that he went for an interview in his particular industry. He claimed to have all the right skills for the job and added that he had been doing a similar job for several years. Then as he waited for his interview an attractive, young woman walked into the office, was hustled in for an appointment ahead of him and he found out later that he wasn’t hired.  He complained to the advice columnist that he didn’t get hired because he was “too old” and she was “young and attractive”.

Wow. There’s a lot of assumption going on there:

  1. She is definitely the hired candidate.
  2. He thinks he’s a good interviewee.
  3. He thinks his skills are as current as they should be.
  4. He’s too old for the work force.

I don’t believe people don’t get hired or do get hired strictly on the basis of age and appearance (unless you are an exotic dancer or an actor….but that is a different type of …”work”…entirely).  There are reasons why corporations should and usually do have a whole mix of executives working for them. Consider these professionals, all of whom are at different stages in their careers:

  1. The Senior Executive – She usually has a position of significant authority.  Perhaps she’s the CEO, the CFO or the Vice-President.  Perhaps she is the regional manager of an organization. 
    What she brings to the organization:  Knowledge. Wisdom. Direction. Mentorship.  When a new fad is whirling around on Bay Street she doesn’t jump at the chance to invest. She’s sensible enough to wait and see about this trend for a few months to a year. She confers with a Board of Directors and is good at taking advice, rather like a Queen and her Council. 

2.   The Middle-Aged Executive. He’s been climbing the ladder steadily for years and if he’s got the right stuff he’s still doing so. Sure things may have slowed down lately for him, after all the incredible explosion in new technology software means he’s got a lot of learning to do. But so long as he keeps on top of that learning and stays in the loop he’s got nothing to worry about.
What he brings to the organization:  Dedication.  Drive.  Contacts. Productive years of work that still lie ahead.

3.  Charming girl-student speaks  by phone by Eduard Titov. The Rookie. She’s fresh out of college or university and has little to no experience at all in the workplace. She has her impressive degree and she’s willing to log long hours to start her climb up the corporate ladder.  She has a lot to learn and she’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way but so long as they are minor and she doesn’t tank the organization’s financial resources she’s a valuable addition to the staff.
What she brings to the organization:  Enthusiasm. Technology. Energy. Willingness to learn from a mentor.

No organization can build a puzzle with the same exact pieces. No one can solve a different problem with the same exact solution from the one before. We need everybody in an organization for it to succeed. Cloning and hiring one type of worker off an assembly line is good for one thing and one thing only:  imminent obscurity in the business world.

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