Thinking Of A Return To School?

So the job search has become a long, frustrating experience of being rejected over and over. You’re over-qualified for some jobs, told you’re not who they are looking for others, and then there’s the ones where they say you were great but they decided to go with someone else. In the end, it’s all the same – no job. So now you’re so frustrated with the entire job search process, you’re thinking of going back to school instead.

A return to school would give you current academic credentials; a big upgrade on your mid-1980’s degree or diploma. Surely some current education and your life experience would be a winning combination! Well the short answer is yes. However, it’s important to consider a number of factors when you’re weighing the option of upgrading your education.

First of all, are you going back to upgrade your education in the field you’ve worked in all along or are you venturing into another field altogether? If it’s something new to you, think now – before you pay any tuition, if and how what you’ve done in the past can in any way be leveraged to help strengthen your job interviews after you graduate. So if you graduate with a Police Foundations Degree, how will your 15 years of Engineering work help? Will you be able to draw on transferable skills or will you have a different kind of answer when they ask why you’re taking this U-turn after looking at your work history?

There’s nothing wrong with changing direction in your life. It is a wise and courageous person indeed who isn’t afraid to stop pursuing work they can no longer do or be hired to do, and venture out in some new occupation. It can be invigorating and liberating to learn a new profession and it can fuel you with energy and enthusiasm if you’ve felt stuck in a rut. Pity the poor person who has come to no longer find joy in their line of work but who pursues it because it’s all they know and they feel they can’t risk going back to school and taking on more debt.

Ah yes debt. That’s one way to look at things of course; going back to school and graduating with a degree, diploma or certificate that costs you tens of thousands of dollars. You might be reasoning that while your out of a job now, at least you don’t have the added burden of all that debt on top.

There’s another way of looking at the money part however, and I always encourage people to see any costs associated with returning to school as an investment. An investment in what though? The answer is yourself. And what can you invest in that is of greater importance and benefit than yourself? Whatever you learn in school, you’ll take with you for the rest of your life. Oh sure you won’t recall some specifics, but you’ll emerge changed and better educated. School changes how you view things, and if you’re like many, you’ll use what you learn in school daily. It’s not so much that you apply a formula to a problem, remember some passage in a book or quote some theory. It’s more about how you think with a broader perspective and interact with the world in a different way when you graduate.

Now if you’re going back to learn a trade, I applaud you. People who have experience and recent education in the trades are not only in short supply, you’ll pick up skills you can use not only in your professional life, but your personal one as well perhaps. When you don’t have to call an electrician or auto mechanic for minor repairs, you’ll save money and feel empowered too.

School isn’t for everyone granted. What is? This doesn’t mean however that because you heard from a friend that it didn’t work for them that it won’t work for you. It can be a welcomed change to a frustrating job search to be connected with other people in a classroom who are interested in what is being taught just like you. You’re also likely to find that it isn’t as bad as you first imagined either. You wake up and you’ve got somewhere to be, at a certain time, and it’s motivating you to get into a good routine. You’re likely to apply your earlier work and life experience in the classroom too, and your marks might just be higher than you ever thought possible.

When you do finish school, you’ll emerge with something new and something current to stick on that résumé of yours. You’ll feel confidence like you haven’t in some time too because your education was rather dated prior to school. Now if you did your homework before you even started by asking some questions, you picked a course of education that has an upswing in employment. There are jobs out there and you’ll feel optimistic about your chances.

Oh and should you be deciding to upgrade your current education in your field, how can that do anything but help you? Now you’ve got extensive experience and learning of best practices, latest trends and you’ve got credentials once more.  Remember, education is never a bad thing, and the investment you choose to make in yourself will stay with you, unlike a purchase you make in a car that loses its value the second you drive off the lot.

Frustrated With Online Applications? GREAT!

Suppose your skills are in the area of general labour. You’re used to working in factory settings, maybe assembly line work and computers aren’t your thing. And by that, I mean you can only use one finger on each hand when using the keyboard, and you have to look at the keys as you do so.

This is exactly the situation two people I’ve been helping to get a job recently find themselves in. In both cases, we’ve had to create new emails, learn and practice how to attach resumes, and of course how to find jobs online. Each one of these people had something happen to them yesterday that was one of those teachable moments. If you are looking for work and hate having to do it with a computer and apply online, read on and take heart!

Let me tell you about Susan first. She found a job she wanted to apply for and at the bottom of the posting it said applicants must apply online. So we went to the website together and it requires applicants to first register with the company prior to applying. That registering part means creating a profile where you literally fill out a form with your contact information, add your resume, create a user name and password for that one specific employer, and answer some questions. With her basic computer skills, it took an hour to get through it. That user name and password are only going to allow her to login when she visits this one company. Anytime she applies online with a new company, they may want her to repeat this entire process, and she’ll need a new user name and password for it.

In order to apply for this job, Susan had to first make some changes to her resume. Not big changes, but changes nonetheless. These changes meant she had to save it after making the changes, give it a new name after changing it so she could locate it easily, then upload it to the website. Spelling is a weakness of Susan’s but she go through it with some help from me and her great attitude.

Mike found that he too wanted to apply for the same job. He has spelling issues too, and he keys in things to the computer slower than Susan. Mike somehow lost all his information and returned to the blank application not once but twice during his attempts to register and apply for the job. What took Susan an hour to complete, took Mike 2 1/2 hours to complete.

I wish the employer could have been sitting in the back of the room as these two went about applying. What the employer would have seen is two people who have experience on a factory floor, but who struggle to complete their application using a computer; a skill the job description doesn’t indicate is required. But what they would have noticed is that neither of them got exasperated or upset. They just kept trying because they want the job bad, know they can both do it and do it well, and they both have a great attitude.

And there is one thing I told them both that helped them I think. I told them both that the people they are competing with for this job, may, like them, lack skills in completing an online application. They also may not make the changes on their resume to match up with the job description, because that after all, requires more work. And if like Mike, they get booted back to the start of the application not once but twice, many of them will pack it in and forget it out of frustration.

And as anyone who is job searching in a competitive market will tell you, anytime your competition packs it in, that’s fewer people you are competing with for work. That’s what’s great! I was genuinely proud of both them for sticking with it and finishing their applications. Just after completing her application, I joked with Susan that the employer was sitting stunned as she read her application, and was working up the nerve to contact Susan and offer her an interview because her application was awesome and such a perfect match for the job. Turns out I wasn’t far from the truth as her phone rang within the first hour after she had hit the ‘send’ button on her computer application. She has an interview today.

Now Mike didn’t get a call that I’m aware of yesterday, but that’s because we only finished his application minutes before we left for the day. For all I know he got a call or email shortly after they departed, and may tell me he too has an interview.

This is a good illustration of why it is important to learn some basic computer skills even if the job you want doesn’t require you to have computer skills. Being able to make and change your own resume without help, match it up for the job you are applying to, and then apply for the job on a company’s website is a required skill in 2014. If you have to rely on someone else to do all this for you, you’re in trouble.

I kept telling them yesterday – especially Mike – that while they were finding it frustrating, I was proud they didn’t show it. But more importantly Susan’s phone call proved it was well worth the effort where others would quit. All the best in your online job search!

Applying For Jobs And Getting Ignored

A major source of frustration for some people is firing off a resume to an employer, waiting for the phone to ring and hearing nothing. I hear this complaint quite often from job seekers I speak to.

My normal response to the people who tell me their frustration with this situation is to request a look at what they are sending the employer in the first place. Sometimes it’s obvious to me within two minutes or less what the real problem is. I start off asking to see the job posting to see if they kept it. Without it, I’ve got nothing to gauge how much or little they’ve matched the resume to the job.

Next I ask to see the resume they sent. If it’s a general one they’ve sent off that’s actually been saved under the name, “My resume 3”, I’m right on to the problem and it isn’t at the employer’s end. And then I ask two remaining questions: 1) Can I see the cover letter you sent it and 2) What follow-up did you do after you applied? Again if there is no cover letter, and they’ve done no follow-up, the problem isn’t with the employer, it’s 100% the applicant’s issue. Yes 100%.

Are you taking issue with me blaming somebody whose already out of work and seemingly hitting them when they are down? That couldn’t be farther than the truth. It’s critical to determine what the problem or problems are with someone who never gets a response from employers in order to best assist them in changing those results. If it’s clear to the employer that you’re putting out the barest of effort in applying for a job, that translates into you’ll put out the barest of effort when on the job if hired.

But what about people who do target their resume to specific jobs, write cover letters and still get no reply? Identifying issues here needs a closer look. Some basics are to make sure the cover letter is addressed to the specific person where some effort on their part could produce a name. Then the cover letter needs a review to see if it would prompt the reader to be interested in reading the resume. The resume itself must address the employer’s needs. Does it tick off all the boxes for the employer or is it just regurgitating worn out standard resume statements that list your past responsibilities in past jobs?

Perhaps the most significant piece of data a helper however is the answer to the question: “Did you follow-up and if so, how?”

You’re either applying for jobs where you’ve identified the employer, or you’re using ads or temporary services where the employer is not immediately known. Play detective and ask yourself what you could do to find out who the employer actually is. Some people put out no effort at all and defend a lack of action by saying the employer doesn’t make it easy to find out who they are for a reason – they don’t want contact with applicants. That’s partially true. They do want contact with qualified and talented applicants however.

In years past, employers sent out a form letter to all applicants who didn’t make the interview stage thanking them for their interest but rejecting them. That cost money for envelopes, stamps, and the time someone had to go to in order to address and mail the letter. That money is no longer being spent. Hence the ads often say, “We thank all who apply but only successful applicants will be contacted”. I think we can all understand that polite way of saying it costs too much time and money to reply to everyone who might apply.

Following up on a job application is one of the best things you can do in order to pursue a job and show your enthusiasm for the position you are applying for. Now someone can hear your voice if they receive a call, they can see you and get a strong first impression if you walk through the door, or they can see your dogged determination and professionalism if you follow-up with a thank you note for an interview, inquire after your initial application etc.

Of course it works the other way around too; they can hear your poor verbal skills on the phone, get a weak first impression if you walk through the door, and hear guess your apathy if you do no follow-up at all.

Some ads specifically ask you not to contact the employer. So don’t walk in their door and bug them. But what if you walked in the door and just stood there soaking up the atmosphere. When someone says, “Can I help you?” you say, “Why thank you but no. I’ve applied for the position of __________ and it was clear no follow-up contact was desired I decided to drop in to just get a feel for the atmosphere, check dress codes etc. but I don’t want to jeopardize my application by asking to see anyone.” What could happen next is someone takes your name, buzzes your through to meet someone based on your availability and theirs, or at least takes your name and comments on how smartly dressed you were. Why you could even get an interview. Hey, it happens. How might that compare with the results you’re getting now doing it your way?