You Gotta Earn It Before You Can Save It — Job Search Tips

Job Search Tips — (1) Your Resume Should Tell a Story

Job seekers often overlook the importance of creating a relevant and convincing story-line for their resumes. A resume should never be just a listing of degrees and accomplishments any more than a newspaper article should be merely a listing of facts and quotes.

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The person making the hiring decision wants to be able to put the listing of degrees and accomplishments into context. She wants to be able to say to herself: “I see what this person was doing in her career at each stage of it and it appears to me that moving to the position I now am trying to fill would be the perfect next step for her.” Why? Because the job candidate who is taking the perfect step for herself is going to be an effective worker and a happy worker.

Too many candidates get caught up in the details of resume writing. The purpose of the details included is to support the story being told. It is usually the power of the story being told that has the greatest influence on whether the jobseeker is asked in for an interview. The role of the details is to support the career advancement story being put forward.

Job Search Tips — (2) One More Reason Not to Lie on Your Resume

We laugh when the middle-aged guy tells Benjamin in The Graduate that the key to a great future is getting involved in plastics. There’s nothing wrong with plastics, of course. It’s just that choosing a career to invest ourselves in is not as simple as choosing a stock to invest in. We are people. We are more complex than the plastics advice suggests. We don’t have careers, we have lives.

We all are at times tempted to engage in plastic-like behavior, though. To lie on a resume is to let the bad stuff life dishes out get to you and to take one step in the direction of turning yourself into a commodity.

You know the feeling you get when you tackle a difficult assignment and do a good job? The result is a surge in self-confidence. Even if the result is not what you hoped for (you don’t get the new account), you know inside that you did good work, and that knowledge makes you better able to succeed in future endeavors.

The opposite happens when you lie on a resume. Even if you are not caught by others, you are “caught” by yourself. You have allowed the pressures of the workplace to cause you to compromise your integrity, and that brings on a drop in self-confidence. Even if the result is what you hoped for (you get the job), you know that you did not have what it took to get the job honestly and that knowledge makes you less able to succeed in future endeavors.

You need to think that you are special, that you have something to contribute that no one else can contribute, that you are worthy, that you are something fine. You need to really believe these things, not just to mouth the words. You need to be absolutely confident that you are different, that you matter. Lie on your resume, and you will have a harder time convincing yourself for some time to come.

Telling lies on resumes is the sort of thing the bad guys do. Your edge is that you are not one of the bad guys. Don’t play their game. Don’t let them pull you down.

The bad stuff can be scary at times. But it cannot beat you unless you let it have power over you. Lie on your resume and you are letting it have a power over you that you should never let it possess. You’re better than that and you need to try hard to remain in character at all times.

Job Search Tips — (3) Personal Branding

The Job Search

There’s a good chance that, the next time you apply for a job, the person doing the hiring will google your name to see what sorts of things you have been saying on the internet.

The line between public life and private life is becoming increasingly blurred. It’s a disturbing development, for numerous reasons. But it is not all bad news.

The fact that employers are checking out our internet personas means that we have a new means of distinguishing ourselves. Things that turn one employer off can turn another employer on.

In the old days, there was one persona that every employee wanted to be perceived to possess — safe, competent, no-nonsense. The worker hoping to advance in a field in which that sort of persona is still required needs to be careful about what he or she says on the internet.

Today, there are new sorts of job positions for which new sorts of personas are acceptable or even desired. Today’s worker needs to be thinking of personal branding issues from an early age.

Job Search Tips — (4) You Need an Emergency Fund

A recent article in 3M Stemwinder (a bimonthly newspaper for St. Louis/Minneapolis 3M employees and retirees) argues that “Smart Savers Create Emergency Funds.”

Here’s the text of the section of the article that quotes my views:

” ‘I would want an emergency fund to cover expenses for at least three months,’ said Rob Bennett, author of Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work. ‘My personal preference would be to have enough to cover essential spending categories for six months. It is not hard to imagine a job search taking that long, for example,’ Bennett said. He added that, because the home mortgage is the largest fixed expense for most people, those who have paid off their mortgages or who live in less expensive homes do not need as large an emergency fund.”

Four Often Overlooked Considerations:

1) The emergency fund needs to be big enough to cover only fixed spending (such as spending on shelter or groceries). Variable spending (such as spending on vacations or on improvements to the house) need not be covered;

Personal Branding

2) The increase in the size of the emergency fund needed with an increase in pay is not proportionate to the size of the pay increase. This is because more of one’s income goes to variable spending as one earns more;

3) Those who have a good amount invested can take a chance on not having an emergency fund. In the event of a setback, such a person might need to sell stocks to cover living expenses. So there is a risk in going without an emergency fund. The other side of the story is that putting the money in a safe investment (such as a money market fund) might cause reduced investment returns. For those without significant savings, there is too much risk in going without an emergency fund. For those with significant savings, it is more of a judgment call.

4) Those who have a spouse working full-time (preferably in a different industry) can afford to get by with a smaller emergency fund. In those cases, one spouse can rely on the other spouse’s earning until he or she finds new employment.

Job Search Tips — (5) Unrequited Job Love

The Juneau Empire recently published an article offering advice on what to do when you suffer the pains of unrequited job love.

Here is the text of the section of the article that quotes my views:

“Rob Bennett, Purcellville, Va.-based author of Passion Saving (The Freedom Store, $24], says that the job rejections that hurt most are the ones where you come closest to getting the job. Bennett says that, in this case, the best thing to do is turn the loss into a positive.

” ‘Do this by writing a brief note to the person who rejected you saying that you enjoyed the process and learned from it,’ he says. ‘That person may be sufficiently impressed to reconsider you if the person who was chosen over you does not work out.’

“A great way to turn a rejection into a positive is by trying to learn from your mistakes. If you’ve been turned down for a job, try using the rejection as an opportunity to analyze your interviewing skills. Bennett says another thing you can do is to make a list of the things you’ve learned about yourself and about the job market.

” ‘You met people doing the work you want to do,’ he says. ‘What is it about them that appealed to you? Focusing on that may help open your eyes to appealing options that you hadn’t given much consideration to before.’

“You also shouldn’t shy away from taking a break to recharge. ‘Take a vacation from your job search,’ says Bennett. ‘If your job search is being conducted in a healthy way, you should have ongoing projects in your life that aren’t related to the job search, such as hobbies or exercise routines. Devote some extra time to those activities for a few days until you recover.’ ”

Job Search Tips — (6) Risks of Relocating

Bankrate.com has published an article entitled “When Does It Make Sense to Relocate?”

Here’s the text of the first section of the article that reports on my views:

“Rob Bennett, the author of Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work, says usually ‘it’s not a good idea to make a move just because one particular job position sounds promising. If the new area offers [employment] opportunities outside the job being taken, it makes sense to make the move.’ ”

Here’s the text of the second section of the article that reports on my views:

“Bennett agrees. ‘There’s a big cost involved in relocation. The cost of the move is only a part of it. There is a need to make an emotional transition to a new place, and to make new friends, and to find new places to shop and eat out, and so on.’

Unemployment Rate

If I wanted to pursue a career in lobbying, I would jump at a chance to make a move to the Washington, D.C., area. Even if the job that caused me to make the move didn’t work out, there would be lots of opportunities to find other jobs that could get me on a good path.

But what if I were already living in the Washington, D.C., area, and working in lobbying, and were offered a lobbying position in St. Louis that paid a good bit more? I would be cautious about taking that position. The promising opportunity might fall through for reasons beyond my control and I would be left looking for a new lobbying job in an area that does not offer nearly as many opportunities in that field.

The most important compensation you are paid for the work you do is often not the cash you are paid, but the opportunities you are offered to advance yourself to new positions over time. All else being equal, a lobbyist is better off working in Washington, D.C. For an employer in St. Louis to entice you to move, it should have to offer a big salary premium, enough not only to make the move worthwhile but to make the loss of future-day opportunities worthwhile too.

Job Search Tips — (7) The First Ten Seconds of a Job Interview

The first 10 seconds of a job interview determine the result. So some say. Is it so? To a greater extent than you would intuitively expect, I think the answer is yes. I don’t think that this is entirely the case, however. There are things that can happen after the first 10 seconds to alter the result.

Interviewers fill job openings much in the way movie directors cast their movies. They imagine scenarios in which the job is being performed well and create in their minds images of the person doing the job. The more the interviewer does this, the more specific and concrete his or her image of the star employee becomes. Inevitably (but not generally consciously), interviewers develop lists of desired physical characteristics and personality quirks and speaking patterns that they need to see in the winning candidate to feel confident of the choice made. So there is indeed a sense in which the first 10 seconds (in which these things are often revealed) can be critical.

That said, all is not lost for the bald job candidate applying for a position which the interviewer envisions being filled by someone with a full head of hair. The Story Method of filling job openings (used because it quickens the process of sorting through factors too numerous to be examined “rationally” in the time in which the position needs to be filled) is a flexible method. The job candidate needs to say the right words or make the right gesture to cause the interviewer to switch to a different story, one in which he or she can plausibly play the star role. It’s hard to change the story in the mind of the interviewer at the time the interview starts, but it’s not impossible to do so.

Lots of decisions are made pursuant to The Story Approach. We employ some form of it whenever we need to act too quickly to work through a rational analysis of all the factors at play in some matter being considered. We employ it when we make decisions to spend.That’s why you need a saving goal that excites you to achieve your financial freedom goals. It’s almost always easy to come up with a story-line that justifies spending. You need one that argues in favor of saving to have any hope of achieving a balanced money-management result.

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Most decisions are not the product of reasoned analysis. They are the fruit of stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we want to be and how it is we are going to become what we want to be. The “I want to be able to retire when I turn 65” story is not a compelling one. We all need to come up with something a lot more exciting than that to save effectively.

Job Search Tips — (8) “Toot Your Own Horn or the Same Shall Remain Untooted”

There was a judge I knew a long time ago who used to offer that advice to young lawyers. He’s got a good point. Still…

You can’t toot too loudly without turning people off. The question of how much to toot is a particularly touchy one in job interviews. In a job interview, you are making a pitch, and the item being pitched is you. The point of the exercise is to sell, but it goes against all that you have learned about good manners to sell yourself too hard, does it not?

I was responsible for hiring for a writing center of a large accounting/consulting firm for a time. So I have been on both sides of the job interview table. My tip is to aim to find indirect ways of tooting your own horn in job interviews. Interviewers understand that a certain measure of bragging is required. Still, it doesn’t sound right when someone is too obvious in singing his or her own praises. When this is done in the wrong way, the interviewer can’t help but wonder if the job candidate is too self-absorbed to be successful working with others.

The solution is for the job candidate to put forward illustrations of how he or she performed well as part of a team (along with a limited number of accounts of personal triumphs, of course). If the candidate says “The four of us at first didn’t see how it would be possible to complete the project in three days, but we all felt a sense of elation when we walked out of the building at midnight of the last of the three days knowing we had done good work,” the message conveyed is–this person has a success drive but also appreciates the contributions made by others.

Job Search Tips — (9) You Know It’s Time to Make a Career Change When…

1) A friend you haven’t seen in a long time pays a visit. When the conversation turns to the question of what you do for a living nowadays, you find yourself making an effort to change the subject;

2) You are working on a project and an obstacle comes up that you can solve in one of two ways: (a) you can provide a quick fix, which leads to bad long-term results; or (b) you can go to the extra effort of doing the job right. You’ve always been a person who took pride in your work. But this time you find yourself wondering whether it is really so wrong just to provide a patch since probably no one will ever know that that is what you did;

3) You feel envious of several people making less money than you; and/or

4) You become annoyed when people compliment you on your success.

Job Search Tips — (10) Girls Rule, Boys Drool (In Today’s Workplace)

Career Advancement
We’ve got Glamour!

The March issue (the one with Sarah Jessica Parker on the cover) puts forward in an article that begins on Page 266 “Seven Reasons It’s Great to be a Woman at Work Now.”

The seven reasons are: (1) Women know how to build relationships; (2) Women play fair; (3) Women are diplomatic; (4) Woman do it all…at the same time; (5) Women trust their guts; (6) Women aren’t afraid to show their feelings; and (7) Women know there’s life after work.

Asked “What about being a woman makes you great at your job?” Best-selling Personal Finance Author Suze Orman argues that: “Our vulnerability and ability to say ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I was wrong,’ and ‘Could you help?’ Words like that make me 10 times better at what I do.” I very much agree with Orman that there are a good number of men (and a good number of women too, of course) who would benefit from a little self-improvement effort in that department.

Here’s the text of the section of the article that quotes me:

“Today, intuition is as essential as e-mail. ‘Many ‘male’ skills, the kinds of things learned by doing calculations or by planning, are now being performed by software programs,’ says Rob Bennett, author of Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work. ‘The ‘female’ skills are the ones employers most need to hire humans to perform.’ ”

Women in general possess stronger relationship and intuitive skills (the sorts of things learned by reading or by talking) while men in general possess stronger analytical and sensory skills (the sorts of things learned by doing calculations or by planning).

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A problem for women is that the skills in which they are strongest are not the ones that were most in demand by successful employers in earlier times. Thus, most employee assessment tools in use today downplay the importance of the skills possessed by woman.Women need to sell themselves by showing the value of the intuitive skills they possess but packaging those skills in a way that does not seem threatening or off-putting to those doing the hiring and promoting, who often learned what to value in employees in an earlier era.