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TGIF!

Hello and Happy Friday!

Hope everyone is well and that you had a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend. It was an interesting one here due to this:

Good news: Nobody died, and very few people were seriously injured (remarkable given that bridge handles 70,000 vehicle trips a day).

Bad news: There’s no interstate highway connection between Northern WA and British Columbia for some time (a temporary span is estimated to be in place by mid-June). This in large part severs the major transportation, commerce, and tourism conduit for BC and WA. Not great news during peak tourism time for either WA or BC. (Heading to Vancouver? Take Amtrak.)

Worse news: There are at least three other bridges of the same design on Interstate 5 between the OR and BC borders. (I drove over all 3 of them en route home from OR on Monday.) According to the American Society of Civil Engineers recent report card, 759 bridges in WA state have worse sufficiency scores than the bridge that collapsed.

I was on I-5 at the time of the bridge collapse. Fortunately we were about 90 miles South of Seattle–this bridge is about 60 miles North. It’s still unreal to me that something so many take for granted each day as part of a daily commute, an interstate long haul, or holiday trip could be destroyed so quickly.

Otherwise, Memorial Day weekend was excellent. As I mentioned, central OR is a very different place than Western OR/WA. This is looking due S/SW from Pilot Butte in central Bend. Pilot Butte is an extinct volcano (as are most of the hills you see in the distance here), in effect a cinder cone. It sits at about 4,100ft above sea level.

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This is driving down into Warm Springs, home of the Warm Springs Indian reservation. It’s a beautiful location with the rugged rock formations capping the surrounding hills and the Warm Springs river running through it.

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You climb out the other side and very quickly pass between open range land into forest land as you start climbing the East side of Mount Hood. 

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(Clearly, I didn’t take this photo from the car. I managed to capture it en route to Palm Springs a couple of weeks ago. Wish we’d been sitting a row ahead so the engine nacelle wouldn’t have taken up so much of the photo.)

We returned to rainy skies and a lawn that was easily 8″ tall.  I couldn’t mow it until the rains stopped, which they did yesterday (briefly). I nearly filled the yard waste container mowing it, and probably took a couple of years of life off the poor electric lawn mower. It’s done good things for the veggies, though:

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As you might imagine, I’m eating salad at least 2x/day this week trying to keep ahead of the growth (and the arugula trying to bolt). Supposed to be 70 and sunny this weekend, so hopefully I can do a bit of yard work (as well as getting the convertible out of the garage).

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Made it past the phone screen? Avoid these interview killers

In a prior post, I detailed a few things that can get you rejected from consideration in the resume submittal process.

Let’s say you paid attention and avoided any of those potential land mines–and got invited to an onsite interview. Congrats! Now–don’t do the following:

  • Arriving late. This seems simple–but you’d be surprised how many candidates do it. There’s few things that make a recruiter/recruiting coordinator feel more desperate than a candidate who is 5 minutes late and isn’t answering your calls/texts/emails.
  • Talking poorly about your current/prior employer. Some people have legitimate reasons to have grievances against a prior employer; they were hired for one position–and started the job to find out they’d be doing something entirely different. Were moved into a job they didn’t want. Had a manager from hell. Had been told they were a ‘high performer’ and then were laid off the following month. Whatever the circumstance may have been–you have to learn how to speak about it in a constructive way that doesn’t sound like you’re using the interivew to work out your anger/frustration/sorrow/whatever. It immediately makes an interviewer think you’ll do the same in their role.
  • Asking about pay/benefits in the onsite interview. This isn’t the place to negotiate; you should address that question with the recruiter (most recruiters will verify your current/desired salary is in range before you get to this step). It sends a very poor message to the interviewer–that your primary focus is on money, not on the opportunity.
  • Talking too much. Interviews are abnormal situations; we may be very good at what we do–but we’re not good at self-promoting. Therefore, for many people, it causes nervous anxiety. And that can lead to talking too much during the interview. A typical example of this is someone who answers the same question 2 or more times. Take a moment to think through your answer; articulate the answer to the hiring manager; then pause. If they want you to continue or clarify, they’ll ask for it.
  • Being afraid of silence. Our natural inclination in an interview is to fill silences. DON’T DO THIS. You’re giving the interviewer a lot of information which they need to process and think about what follow-up question that may lead to; this may mean they are quiet for a second. As I stated above, the temptation in this scenario is to keep answering the question. That makes you look less confident.
  • Saying too little. I recently had a candidate in for an onsite interview. All of the interviewers in the loop stated that they burned through all of their questions with the candidate in 1/3 the time it took with other candidates we’ve interviewed. Why? The candidate gave very short answers without any examples or explanation. Attempts to draw the candidate out met with no success. Even if this is your normal communication style, it won’t work well in most interviews. Practice interviewing–especially on video–is essential to better understand your native style and how you may need to modify it in order to be successful in a face to face interview.
  • Not doing your homework. I’ve talked a lot about this already so I won’t dive deep here. But if you can’t recall details about the position, don’t know what the company does as a whole or how it’s doing financially, etc–that can be enough to have you judged a No Hire.
  • Not having questions for the interviewers. It’s important that you ask with whom you will be interviewing (name/title) prior to the interview day, and then develop questions unique to each of them. But also plan to improvise–if something comes up during your interview dialogue that you want to follow up on, do it!
  • Not being engaged in the conversation. There’s only one person with whom your attention should be focused 100% during a 1:1 interview; the interviewer. I don’t care if space aliens are landing out the window behind them. If you’re not engaged, it is immediately evident.
  • Having your phone ring during the interview. This happens not infrequently. My recommendation: When you go to the restroom for that final outfit/no food in the teeth/breath check when you arrive, TURN YOUR PHONE OFF. (I shouldn’t have to tell you that answering a call/texting/tweeting/Facebooking during an interview is grossly inappropriate and grounds for immediately ending an interview loop, should I?)

Long-term unemployment and job search, Part 2: Taking action

In Part 1 last week, I highlighted recent studies that show we have a growing problem in the United States with both long-term adult unemployment (and potential employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed). Also that we have a growing problem with youth unemployment.

I’ve been unemployed for an extended period–7 months–in 2009. Part of that time was by choice (I chose to focus on studying for a professional certification), but at least 4 months of that time was active job search. I know how frustrating and desperate it can start to feel; what will people think when they see this employment gap on my resume? At what point do I cease to become relevant to prospective employers? Is moving out of state to an undesirable location in order to find work my only option? I was lucky–through my network I learned of an opportunity with a phenomenal organization, was able to apply my unique abilities, and worked for two of the most world-class leaders of my career. I was also extremely fortunate in that I had a lot of support from my personal and professional networks and had been very fiscally conservative (I thankfully avoided buying a house in 2006–not for lack of trying) so I wasn’t in dire straits financially.

I think about that period as I work to grow my network and skills in the hope that I don’t ever have to go through that again.

So what can we as employers do about this? One, don’t automatically disqualify someone just because they’ve been out of work for a period of time. Each resume is a unique story about someone–and it speaks to more than their career, as your personal and professional lives cannot be fully divorced. If a recruiter sees someone with great experience who has a long break in service on their resume–reach out and ask why.

Regarding youth unemployment? My advice is to get involved. Find a local program that works with high school non-completers or at-risk high school youth and see how you can help. I spent the better part of a decade working with such a program on a volunteer basis; we provided high school dropouts with essential skills, GED completion, and–if they met specific benchmarks–the opportunity to be sponsored into a technical/vocational training program at a local community college. There are programs like this in many communities; find one and volunteer. If you’re an employer, research how you can get involved in providing critical on the job training or co-op work experience for youth.

What if you’re a job seeker who is among the long-term unemployed? As I said above, I’ve been there. It’s easy to become discouraged–I know. Especially when relationship, family, financial, or other pressures start weighing on you. But you cannot lose sight of the end goal.  You cannot withdraw into yourself. You must maintain focus and a daily routine. Exercise (walking doesn’t cost anything!). Eat right. Get out of the house 5 days a week. Go to a work search center and talk with other job seekers. Use the free resources available to you.

Most of all–you cannot give up on yourself.

TGIF and happy Memorial Day weekend

Hello all! Happy Memorial Day weekend. I’m headed to central Oregon in search of (hopefully) sunshine and reliably warm(ish) weather. This is an annual trip I’ve done with friends from college for many years now. We’re headed down there:

WP_20130510_030Central Oregon is known as the high desert. It averages 4,000ft above sea level. The area in and around bend is full of cinder cones, lava beds, lava tubes (fun for exploring–unless you’re claustrophobic). Oh, and mountains:

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That’s part of the Cascade mountain range that divides Western OR from Central/Eastern OR. Central OR is spectacularly different in climate and landscape from Western OR. It’s very arid/hot in Summer and cold in Winter. The range of mountains and smaller peaks provide a playground for rock and mountain climbing, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, etc. There is also a spring-fed river running through Central OR–the Deschutes, which is great for rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing.

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What else is going on? My garden has been loving the recent warm weather. I’ve planted tomatoes, beans, snow peas, and basil recently. Time to harvest some lettuce:

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My herb bed is enthusiastic. I cut down the Italian parsley by about half this past weekend when I made some tabbouleh, but it’s already taller. There’s also dill fighting it out with the oregano–I’m hoping it lives.

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Hope you all have a safe and fun long weekend. Next week we’ll talk more about the long-term unemployed and what we can do about it, as well as potential interview killers.

Long-Term Unemployment and job search: Troubling statistics

Recently, The Atlantic reported on results of a recent experiment at Northeastern University regarding job search and long-term unemployment. A study performed by Rand Ghayad, a visiting scholar at the Boston Fed and a PhD candidate in economics at Northeastern University, and William Dickens, a professor of economics at Northeastern University sent out 4800 fictitious resumes to employers for 600 job openings. 3600 of the fictitious resumes were for unemployed people. What they learned was that how long you have been out of work was the primary selection characteristic about whether a resume was called back. People with relevant experience who had been out of work six months or more got called back less than people with less relevant experience who had been out of work less time.

In short, this study demonstrates that this group of employers discriminate against the long-term unemployed.

And unfortunately, there are a lot of people who fit into the category of long-term unemployment. In January, it was reported that 3+ Million people were considered ‘hopelessly unemployed’–people who want a job but haven’t actively searched for one in at least a year. And that isn’t counting discouraged workers–those who are ready and available for work, who have looked for a job in the prior 12 months, but are not counted as ‘unemployed’ because they have not searched for employment in the past 4 weeks.

China Gorman, HR consultant, executive coach, and thought leader, recently touched on another disturbing trend: Youth unemployment. We have seen a 42% drop in youth employment from 2000 to 2012. And rates of employment among high school graduate, non-college bound youth dropped 25% to 45%–the lowest figure since the survey was started in 1965.

What does this all mean? One, employers are not giving people a fair shake–because in certain labor markets/sectors, the abundance of available talent means they don’t have to take a chance on someone that has been unemployed for a period of time. (There’s got to be a reason they’ve been unemployed that long–right?) Two, we are shortchanging our future by not ensuring that our youth have opportunities to earn a living wage and build skills. What do we expect to happen in our workforce in 5-10 years if we don’t provide employment and training opportunities now?

Here in Seattle, it’s easy to overlook these disturbing statistics; our unemployment rate is at 5.2% and in the tech sector is likely half that figure. However, it’s present here too.  I know people that have struggled for a long period to find a new opportunity–some are still struggling.

Stay tuned in Part 2 for what we can do about it.

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