Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another Perspective for Career Developers

Working with unemployed job seekers made me sharply aware that some of them experienced this as a kind of loss, perhaps somewhat akin to bereavement. With this in mind I have been familiarising myself with ways of supporting clients during this experience and I have made some progress. To be entirely forthright, however, what I might well need to be more ready to work with specifically are the client's dramatic feelings of upheaval. This has been called crisis counselling. (And, given one or two of my other interests, I don't know how I could have missed this.) When (and if) I find interesting stuff that seems applicable to career development work I'll pass it on here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Do You Call These Neighbourhood Services?

I'm referrring to dog walking, house sitting, envelope stuffing ... work like that. Whatever they're called, my colleague, Jane Harnodek, knows how to market them to local customers. Here's a sample advertisement.

Folks that earn money in these ways must keep costs down, and this implies producing advertising themselves. That doesn't mean it can't be eye-catching and effective though. First of all, in Jane's work the colour stands out and it's clear that the recipient is meant to look inside.

The entire message is printed on the two sides of a single 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper that is folded to form an envelope. The opposite side of the envelope reinforces the message that something worthwhile is offered inside.

Jane makes a likely principle benefit to the customer clear: freedom to travel. (And, writing as someone who shares a household that includes several cats and dogs, I can say that that is one of our main concerns about planning trips.) She also provides a cut-out business card that will make it much easier for customers to keep her contact information. The whole package is down-to-earth, inviting and friendly.

Jane, thanks very much!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Bogus Information Interview

Writing is tough, I have to tell you! Sometimes weeks pass and nothing useful flits from one neuron to another within my thickly bone-encased noggin. Then I encounter an article like 'The Bogus "Informational Interview"' and my heart swells. Today at last I have something to which I can respond. (Mind you, whether it's something worth reading or not, you must be the judge.)

The article makes the following claims about informational interviews for newcomers to the job market:
  1. they are encouraged as a means of exposing oneself to potential employers;
  2. hiring managers will not grant them because they lack the time,
  3. the job seeker's time would be better spent speaking to those who might actually hire her.
First of all, career developers discourage job seekers from using information interviews as a way of pimping themselves to employers. In fact, we know that doing this is a well-proven way of provoking well-deserved annoyance on the part of the employer. No, use informational interviews in your cycle of adjusting and re-adjusting the course of your career over time, not just when you desperately want a new job. Use them to obtain the information that you need now. That's why they're called informational!

Should you present yourself to a hiring manager in any way that discloses that you're actually praying for a job offer rather than information and that exchange will come to a quick conclusion. However, make it transparent that you really want information, that you will consume only the agreed interval of time for the interview, and that you do not want a job from the person you are asking to meet at this time then your odds of success will improve. I won't go into details about how you might do this now. Prod me forcefully in a month or two if I forget.

Which reminds me, why limit your research efforts to 'hiring managers' anyway? Informational interviews are about the entire topic of your career. If you think you might want to be a nurse then ask a nurse what it's like to be a nurse. If you want to know what it's like to be a hiring manager then ask one of them.

When you reach the point where you know you want a specific kind of job in a specific industry in a specific geographic location, when you know what employers expect of people who are seeking jobs like that, and what such jobs pay, and where such a job might lead as part of your own career, and so on—are your there yet?—skip the rest of your career research project for the time being. In other words, if you know everything needed to be able to find and respond well to the appropriate job advertisements, to job offers, and so on then of course there is no need for you to gather information. You have what you need.

When you do need information again—and unless you hate conversation—then the informational interview is one source of information that you can consider. Be prepared for the wonderful possibility that a conversation with someone in a field that you are considering will yield ideas and perspectives that you might never find anywhere else.