Thursday, September 8, 2011

Disturbing Statistics on Unemployment

I was reading up a bit on the current economic situation and the impact of employment, and saw an interesting blurb that is at the heart of one of the rules I outlined earlier.

The article discussed the plight of the underemployed, and the unemployed who could not find work.  The writer made a very clear point that in many cases of the long term unemployed, it takes so long and costs so much too conduct a job search, that eventually people stop looking for employment because they cannot afford to search any longer.

Although the article did not delineate the types of jobs that these job seekers had been after, or go into details of the costs incurred, it doesn't take much to be develop a reasonable approximation of the situation it speaks to. 

The job hunt in an economically-constrained environment, where companies are slimming down and cutting costs, becomes naturally more difficult if companies stop flying candidates in for interviews, or even reimbursing the candidate for a cost like gas.  Companies are more likely to leave vacant positions gapped, as opposed to back-filling it with a full-time hire, or may settle for a part-time hire.  Where there may have been job opportunities galore five to six years ago, the pickings are getting slim to none, forcing the prospective job seeker to cast the net farther, in turn incurring considerably more expenses in the process as they travel to multiple distant locations (often at the extreme corners of the country).

It is now more important than ever to save towards your job search, on a recurring basis, and set the funds aside so that they are secure, readily accessible, and in sufficient quantity. 

For that interview at a Fortune 500 company within 50 miles of your current location, you can probably get away with the cost of gas money and a meal or two for the day.   If you are luky, lunch mght be charged to some hiring manager's expense account, but even those perks are getting slimmed down or axed as companies seek to cut costs and improve profits.

For the interview with a potential employer who wants you to interview at the manufacturing plant in question, you should expect to cover the cost of airfare, cab/rental car, hotel room and meals, as well as incidental expenses such as miscellaneous tips.  You'll need to account for a trip of at least two days, with the first day set aside for travel, and the second day reserved for the interview(s), possible tour of the facility, and hopefully salary negotiations once you beat the competition and land the job.

Because you should assume that every job interview could result in an offer of employment by the end of the process (or why else would you take the trip?), it may be prudent to lengthen your stay, adding time to the front end so that you can scope the area out, figure out where you might want to live, and begin to build a cache of resources to facilitate your move and transition to the area.  More importantt thatn anything else, factor time in to the front end to ensure you can get to your interview on time!

Nothing can be more stressful than trying to coordinate the start of a new job, and synchronize it with finding a new place to live, while dealing with the headaches of moving companies, pets, forwarding your mail, etc.  I have moved my family seven times in the last 19 years, and each iteration throws a new wrench or two at my family, who are pros by now at the process.  Reduce that stress by conducting a little reconnaissance while you are already in town to dazzle the company with your background.  Additionally, be prepared for the company to make an offer before you leave.  That is not the time to be indecisive, especially if you aren't getting nibbles on the remainder of the resumes you have out there.

Okay, so you folks don't catch a case of the downers with this post, try on some Muse - Map of the Problematique.

Then again, Bellamy is singing about a lot of loneliness, so I don't know...

PS. Remember to share your personal stories folks, and provide feedback on how this blog is doing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

To anyone following the current situation in the armed forces, and the expected drawdown to manning levels that pre-date 9-11 levels, it should be obvious that the job market is going to get considerably tighter for JMOs who plan on getting out within the next one to five years.

The Marine Corps is offering bonuses to officers who decided to leave early and sign up with the Selected Marine Corps Reserve, and options for prospective candidates to even join the Marine Corps are getting slimmer as the accession numbers drop and fewer junior officers are required.  

This all means that there will be more folks in the job market than otherwise normally encountered, and where the job market might have been hungry for JMOs three or four years ago, the increased supply is going to allow the market to be more selective.

Salaries can be expected to stagnate a bit as well, and it will be even more important for JMOs to work their salary requirements strategy and stick to it when they come to that phase in their job search, and certainly understand that what they might have commanded then might not be the case now.

All this go back to rule #10 from the inaugural post of this blog.  JMOs have to have a plan for extended unemployment that could run into months, or certainly under-employment until they can land the job they rate relative to their skills.

Save money while you can, stay the course, and continue to network.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So what are some really practical tips to help with the job search?

If you've bought a copy of "Knock 'Em Dead", some of these pieces of advice will be obvious, but because I am hearing over and over again from a variety of sources that some folks just don't get it, I thought these simple tips and pointers would be relevant to helping you clean up your act and ensure prospective employers don't knock you out of the race for stupid reasons.

1.  Do a scrub of your "virtual footprint".  Practically everyone, even my mother, has left an imprint on the world through the internet.  The tracks may not run deep, but if you have a social networking account, post to blogs using your name, have written an review with your name, etc., you have left an imprint that can be found by someone who bothers to query it with a simple Google query.  If you've made, for example outlandish comments about a product or service from company X, and stuck your name to it, then company X's HR department could easily pull it up with some basic research.  How many companies do this?  Good question.  The point to this is that you might want to run your name through a few Google queries to see what pops up on the first five or six pages of hits.  If you have a silly, provocative, or otherwise arousing avatar, you would be smart to pull it down and replace it with something more conservative.  I'd also hold off on replying to any friend requests from possible strangers.  What better way to peer into how a future employee thinks and acts than to gain access to their Facebook page.  Even after you are hired, there's no need to tempt drama by maintain a high profile on any social networking site.  It's just asking for trouble.

2.  Refresh your personal greeting at your voicemail and make it professional and basic, and take that silly music off of it that plays instead of a basic ring tone.  Nobody wants to call you to let you know that they would like you to come in to do an interview, and listen to half of the silly crap that I hear most days.  And this includes the super-moto oohrah and hooah crap, or the notes of reveille .  You are an adult.  You should already be acting like it.

3.  Along the lines of ensuring your voicemail is a reflection of the desirable applicant you are trying to portray, you need to be ready to undergo the unexpected phone interview.  On more than one occasion when I was working through my own transition years ago, I received a phone call at an unexpected hour, from a company I had put a resume in with, and the call turned out to involve quite a few questions directed at the hiring process.  You need to treat every form of contact with company X as part of the interview process, so keep the HR reps and the companies they represent straight in your head.  You don't want the awkward and painful moment to occur like this: "Oh, absolutely Mr. Johnson, I can be there tomorrow for that interview downtown. Mmmm..what company do you represent again?"

4.  Clean out your car. heard me, clean out your car and keep it clean.  I've heard from more that one person responsible for hiring with their organization that they deliberately waited for a hiring prospect to arrive for an interview, and they sent a manager or such out to their car to wander by and take a look inside.  It's one of those first impressions things, and if your car looks like crap, you just might be missing out on a great opportunity.  There is no need to leave last week's lunch leftovers sitting on your passenger seat.

5.  Clean up your wardrobe.  This is another area where I am hearing from a number of people who are interviewing, that they are arriving at workplaces alongside other interviewees, and finding that not everyone is wearing a suit!!!  Look, if nothing else sticks with you from this list, invest in a decent, subtle, professional suit or two so that you absolutely have something ready to go when the time for interviews comes around.  Many places for menswear have a sales rep or two who know how to dress someone professionally.  Ask them for some pointers and take what they say into consideration with your own personal style.  More importantly, if you know you are going to submit an application with company X, there's nothing wrong with stopping by that company during either the morning rush hour or quitting time, to gain an appreciation for how the staff dress, professionally.  It's called reconnaissance, and shame on you if you don't do it.

6.  In the same vein as conducting reconnaissance on what the employees are wearing to work, you'd be smart to figure out how to get to that company X in the first place and drive the route during rush hour, so that when you get that oddly-timed request to come in for an interview, you can get to it on time.  And if you have not be a practitioner of it before, start following the rule that if you aren't ten minutes early, you are ten minutes late.

7.  In your dealings with civilians who are certainly not inside your chain of command, start practicing the use of their first name, or Mr./Mrs./Ms. and their last name.  You'd be surprised that there are a good number of people who think that you and I are fairly robotic because we refer to someone in a position of authority as "Sir" or "Ma'am".  It can really weird some people out, so start working now to break yourself of the practice.  Don't go overboard and expect that you can greet the CEO with a "Hey Bob," but try to cut out the military customs and courtesies until you get a better lay of the land.

8.  Maintain a fresh haircut and a clean set of fingernails.  It's simple, but something quite a few folks ignore, to their detriment.

9.  Don't let the stress of looking for a new job put you off of your fitness routine.  Your overall resiliency will depend on how well you manage to make time for a workout on a regular basis.  Don't put it off.

10. Learn some business etiquette.  Here are a few resources:

This one is a clutch video semniar:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I hope the readers of Army Times were not surprised with the results of this poll...

Poor leadership is driving soldiers to leave the Army, reinforcing the service’s push to make leader development a top priority. The results come from a survey by the Army Research Institute that showed 26 percent of sergeants and staff sergeants and 23 percent of lieutenants and captains surveyed planned to leave the Army after completing their current service obligations.

Of those, 35 percent of enlisted and 26 percent of officers cited the quality of leadership at their duty stations as a reason for leaving.

Poor leadership was the top reason selected by the active-duty enlisted survey participants and the third-most popular reason among the active-duty officers surveyed. Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.

“Leadership has always been the most important factor in determining whether young officers will remain within our ranks or not,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said in an email to Army Times. “The pace of operations over the past 10 years has placed added pressure on leader development, and although they add to our versatility, our modular structures have altered the traditional pattern of senior and subordinate relationships. We’re doing well, but never good enough in this important aspect of our profession.”

Dempsey said he has not seen the survey. But in his first week on the job, Dempsey blasted the pace of promotions, suggesting that it puts people in leadership positions before they are ready.
“We’re promoting 95 to 98 percent of captains to major, 93 or 95 percent of majors to lieutenant colonel. We shouldn’t be satisfied … because 98 percent of captains don’t deserve to be promoted to major. Statistically, that’s an infeasible percentage. And we’ve got to do the same thing on the noncommissioned officer side.”

Too many soldiers are promoted based on seniority instead of merit, said Sgt. Kevin Doyle, in response to a query posted on the Army Times website. He wrote that he will be leaving the Army after he completes his current service obligation.

“I’ve seen good NCOs and officers who should be wearing one or two stripes or bars led by men who’ve simply served longer,” said the two-tour veteran of Afghanistan. “Instead of promoting those who create results, we keep in dinosaurs that meet an easy standard and continue to slide under the radar.”
Doyle also said he has seen an “almost total lack of concern” on the part of company commanders and first sergeants for their soldiers.

“During my last tour soldiers went without serviceable uniforms for months, incorrect pay for the entire tour, and were abandoned during [demobilization] by the organic leadership of my unit,” he said. “This is inexcusable. I was taught that I would stay with my soldiers until the job was done, not split when the going got tough or problems developed.”
Sgt. 1st Class Erik Wilkins, a senior maintenance instructor at Fort Hood, Texas, explained why many of the soldiers who come through his classes plan to leave the Army.

“The Army lacks leadership, it lacks leaders who have compassion to understand that they have to do their job as leaders,” he said. “I understand we all want to go home at night, but if a soldier needs you, you drop everything because most of them don’t have anyone else.”

Wilkins said the problem stems from promoting soldiers to E-5 before sending them to school.
“Even if you’re going through all these deployments, you still have to take the initiative to know what your duty is as an NCO,” he said. “You still have soldiers looking up to you.”

A 30-year career in the Army is not a right but a privilege, said Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, who has also put his focus on quality leadership.

“Part of shaping the force is shaping the leadership, and what that means is if you have poor leaders, they need to be gone,” he said. “I tell [soldiers] it takes time, but I’m doing everything I can to identify where we have poor leadership and get them out of the force.”

Sometimes good leaders are just worn out, Stultz said, but there are those who don’t want to put in the effort.
If you are “a mediocre leader… you need to leave,” he said. “When you’ve got a person who’s not meeting the standards, who’s not performing, you as a commander owe it to your soldiers to bring this person in and counsel them, and if they don’t improve, you need to write that person up. I can’t afford to have a poor commander leading soldiers in combat.”

The Army has had several high-profile firings. Two brigade commanders and a battalion commander were relieved of command; another was criticized for neglect that created a climate of misconduct within his brigade. In addition, nine officers were reprimanded for their failure to detect and report problems with the accused Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan.

For the past 10 years, the Army has been focused on meeting the demands in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Charles Allen, a retired colonel who is now a professor of cultural science at the Army War College.

“The biggest concern I have is we’re putting people in positions of responsibility, in some cases, where, if they had the education and the school environment, they could be better at the skills that are required to be successful in the jobs they’re assigned to,” he said.

As the Army prepares to withdraw from Iraq and possibly reduce its forces in Afghanistan, soldiers may have more time and opportunity to get the professional military education they need, Allen said.

“If we are facing some sort of personnel reduction in the future, how do we retain the talent we’ve built over the last 10 years?” he said. “We have an uncertain future. We need a broader experience base among our officers.”

Leaders in the Army must have character, presence and intellect, capable of creative and critical thinking, Allen said.

“You want a young sergeant who has integrity, you want him to have the presence to lead other soldiers and you want him to be able to make decisions that are life-and-death,” he said. “The same thing applies to lieutenants and captains in a unit. And it also extends up to senior officers. You want them to be known for integrity, you want them to garner respect.”

Allen advocates sending officers and enlisted to their required PME courses but also giving them opportunities for unconventional assignments, such as working with another federal agency or partnering with industry.

“The Army is at this fork in the road,” he said. “With reduced budgets and downsizing, some hard choices have to be made. If we get distracted from leader development, that’ll be a problem.”

Leader development must be non-negotiable, Allen said.

“You could probably crank out more trucks for combat. You can probably buy someone else’s airplanes. You could probably increase the strength of your ranks in the field, but it’s hard to bring in a commander with 12 to 18 years of service to run our fights,” he said. “If we don’t develop the leaders, both [noncommissioned officers] and officers, who will be able to address the challenges of the future, we’ll put ourselves at risk and the nation at risk.”

A chief warrant officer deployed to Afghanistan, who asked that his name be withheld for fear of reprisal, said he believes the Army’s “current generation of leaders is more toxic than sustainable.”

“From the team leaders to the brigade commander, anyone affected by these persons can point out the bad leader,” he said.

The leaders today lack professional development, the chief warrant officer said.

“We move officers into a position and quickly out to check the block and make room for the next person,” he said.
Sometimes, the chief warrant officer said, some people don’t want to be leaders, nor should they be.

“What happens when you put a person in charge that does not want to be there?” he said. “You get a poor product even from their best effort.”

The chief warrant officer called for change to “improve leadership and better weed out toxic leaders.”

“We see poor and toxic leaders eliminated at the O-5 and higher level regularly,” he said. “How many people suffered in their hands up to the point of O-5? We need better assessments, we need to improve our education system, and we need to change the part of our culture that says it’s not OK to remain an E-4 for years.”

Sgt. 1st Class Ashley Moye, a senior contracting observer and trainer at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., said he has been fortunate to have had good leaders throughout his 13-year Army career, but he has also come across leaders who show a lack of concern for their subordinates and who are overly concerned about their own advancement.

“One of the things I harp on is we have tenets of leadership, leading by example, knowing your soldiers, knowing your jobs, doing the right things and setting the example for your soldiers,” he said. “Today, those things are not done. Everybody gets the impression that leadership is a trait we all possess. But it’s taught, and we’re not being taught properly.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Few Gems From Reader's Digest

My wife's aunt purchased a subscription to Reader's Digest for us this Christmas, and while I don't pay much attention to it when it arrives, the April 2011 has an excellent article titled: Get Hired, Not Fired: 50 Secrets Your HR Person Won't Tell You.

It has a good number of tips that I have seen in various other articles and books in the past, and some new ones that take into account the current state of technology.

A brief visit to the RD webpage and search will also score you several digital articles that discuss other aspects of the job, such as key indicators you are about to be fired, and secrets about your resume that a HR professional might keep from you.

Check them out.

What Your HR Person Won't Tell You.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#10: The cost of finding a job

I was fairly fortunate during the job search time about ten years ago, as the companies I interviewed with (outside of the Houston headhunter seminar) either flew me to them, or came to me in order to conduct the interview.

My only outlays were the trip to Houston, and a drive and overnight stay at a MicroTel when I stopped by the two headhunters's offices in Atlanta.  Expect that your will be considerably greater, considering the state of the economy and the cost-cutting measures companies are putting in place.

If you are like me and you have been deploying, you should have a certain chunk of money socked away.  If you are pending a deployment, you have the opportunity to sock a lot of cash away, so do it.

The biggest outlay you can expect to endure will be the travel expenses from attending job fairs, conferences, and (unless you are flown in by the company) flying to the geographic area where the company wants to interview you.  Multiply this across five, ten, or fifteen sorties to sit down and interview with a prospective employer, and you can guess what the total is going to come to over a very short period of time.

You may, in fact, need to save on top of these efforts in order to put more money away for other needs.  Like the 5 February post mentioned, you might need to hit your EAS, relocate (without a job in hand) and begin the search anew in the area where you think you want to settle down.  All this takes a chunk of funds.  If you are married, you will really need to sit down with your significant other and work out a budget for these outlays, so everything is above board and the both of you can understand the way ahead.  Failing to do so is only going to cause aggravation for the both of you, at a time that is already stressful.

There's not much more to add beyond this folks.  Expect your campaign to come at a cost.  Prepare for it.

And enjoy some Foo Fighters:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#9: Dream job, or crazy idea?

JMOs are going to be optimized for a certain range of jobs, so when you start your campaign towards securing one, don't be surprised if the same ones continue to turn up over and over.  While working with one of the JMO headhunter companies, it seemed as though he was deliberately referencing sales jobs for me, despite the fact that I did not want to explore that route (this speaks a bit to the motivations recruiters operate under in earlier posts)

It was almost comical on a couple of occasions.  The discussion went a bit like this:

"We have a few positions we think you might be interested in, working in regional areas close to you."

"I take it they are either service rep positions or something like sales (rolling eyes)."

"This is what the industry calls inside sales.  You aren't making any cold calls.  And these companies have already purchased the product..."

"Sounds exactly like sales, but with a slight twist."

'Well, you're not giving me much to work with right now, and this limits you..."

I had no problem being limited by not looking at sales positions as possibilities, because I simply did not want to do that at that point in my life.  I worked in sales as a teenager, and learned to dislike the rules that world lives by.  I in turn put my foot down and refused to discuss the various positions that cropped up a few times.

Did I shoot myself in that same foot?  I don't think so, because I felt pretty comfortable that I did not want to work on a commission based scale, subject to the at times helter skelter nature of market forces.  There can be tremendous gain found in sales positions, no doubt, but I just was not interested in doing what needed to be done to succeed.  Your experience, personality, and desires for financial gain may differ, so analyze those aspects and if you want to go that route, bravo!

I have a very close friend who secured his first post-JMO job at GE, working sales of industrial lighting solutions.  He has had a few other jobs in sales since then, and is now working communications solutions for mostly government contracts, and he seems to enjoy what he does.  He was open to the sales construct, and has done well with it, so I am not anti-sales.  I just think the JMO about to leave the military will still be hit with a barrage of job openings that are sales oriented.

On the note if networking, the guest poster from 5 February confirmed what I knew to be true back over ten years ago.  Networking will expand your knowledge of the various fields and jobs out there that a JMO likely knows very little about, since the intervening time between college/commissioning and the present may not have offered many opportunities to stay current with trends in their field of study in college, or their area of interest.  Go to that post to learn a few techniques he mentions that can assist you in developing a base of knowledge of the field that does interest you.  It seems you could be surprised at what happens as a result.

I'll also offer that the Internet has expanded the power an individual holds in this regard a thousand-fold.  There are a multitude of forums, groups, and even Facebook pages where you could rub elbows with people who are already in the profession you are looking to enter.  Taking their opinions with a grain of salt, you can still tell pull out a few details about the field that you might not have heard about before.  

Think of it as the ultimate career day you first experienced in elementary school.  This is where you can break away from the mold of the mundane that the JMO recruiter might have to offer, and get into the field you dream of as the perfect fit for your lifestyle, interests, and personality.  It's not crazy at all, but it will probably require a substantial investment in time to get into that field if you don't have professional credibility already established.  

There is a certain degree of never-say-never to it all though, as I know a computer animation professional who has worked on such hits as Speed Racer, who served as a Civil Affairs Soldier and was self-taught to some degree.  Same for a Marine LtCol I know who broke into computer network security after a few courses, and a self-study.  Although they embarked on a personal campaign to get to where they wanted to be, and took substantial risks along the way, they seem happy and content.

For today's music selection, here are a few live songs from a Gorillaz Demon Days Live 2006 performance at the Manchester Opera House.  A little moto and a little mellow.  Enjoy.