Starting a Job Search? You Now Work From Home. Tips for Working from Home.

November 29th, 2012

On Careerealism there is a post with 14 tips for working from home (here). I was going to link to it and say go read it, but it is about working from home for an employer.  It is a great read, if that is what you are doing, but I want to submit my own tips for job seekers who work from home.

A surprise in my job search was that I changed from a structured environment where I had a system and expectations to a lazy boy chair and laptop, and not much else.  I wasn’t sure where to start, how to fill my day, and what to expect to have accomplished by the end of the day.  With that in mind, here are my tips.  I would love to hear yours, in the comments.

  1. Have a PURPOSE. My overall purpose was to get a new (and better) job.  But I didn’t break that down into the steps to take each day/week/month.  My purpose was too big, and I got lost in the ambiguity. My daily purpose should have been bite-sized, acheivable goals, like “contact three people from target companies” or “follow-up with three people I contacted 30 – 60 days ago.”  Not having a short-term purpose meant I never accomplished my long-term purpose.  People, I put this as #1 for a reason!
  2. Prioritize. Okay, you have a purpose.  Make sure you do (a) the most important, or (b) the scariest things first.  If you do all of the easy, comfortable stuff first, you will not get to IMPORTANT.  If you don’t know why that is important, brush up on 7 Habits (the four quadrants). My business coach talks about doing Three High Value Activities every day.  Honestly, if I do those three, I am “done” for the day.  Everything else is gravy.  I have peach of mind that I’m doing the most important stuff with consistency.  I can do it all by 8:30 in the morning… of course I continue to work, but I feel GOOD about moving forward (and, I see results!).
  3. Create a system. I heard this from a professional speaker (Kathy Loveless) and was blown away as she described her system.  Now, here’s my caution.  Don’t spend too much time creating your system.  Do your High Value Activities and then work on your system.  But yeah, get a system.  This might include when you get up, showering and getting dressed, personal study time, cleaning and eating, etc.
  4. Honor the system. This was the second part of Kathy’s presentation.  Once you create the system … DO IT!!  Actually do it!  Give it a chance!  Don’t tell me all the reasons why you can’t do it.
  5. Create boundaries. This is the low-hanging fruit, obvious list item.  But not having the right boundaries will kill you.  My young kids new when to leave me a long (when the door was shut, or when I was on the phone, or something like that).  Create boundaries and help people know what they are.  People will respect that.  My wife, as a homeschool mom, had a boundary that she would not answer the phone before 1pm.  She either turned off the ringers or let it go to voice mail.  This was a powerful boundary that let her get through school without getting any outside distractions.
  6. Exercise. I neglected this and I dearly paid for it.  This doesn’t have to be intense, heavy metal, profuse sweating.  Consistency is your friend. I have grown to love WALKING and doing what I call “stairs push-ups” (push-ups on an incline – I have a bad back and weak abs – there, I’ve said it!). The physical benefits are awesome.  The peace of mind from being proactive is awesome. And heck the endorphin brain thing is awesome.  It doesn’t take that long (20 minutes?) to knock this off your daily list.
  7. Eat right. My idea of eating right was way off.  Here’s a thought: are you eating to feed your cells (nutrition provided to your body) or to feed your belly (to make you feel full, or take the hunger away)?  Much has been written about eating, so I won’t go into it, but I love that phrase/question.
  8. Get out of the house. I was “so busy” online doing a job search that I didn’t go out much.  That was NOT good for my wife, for my personal hygeine (why do it when you don’t have to?), and for my sanity.  Please get out regularly, and see real people.  If nothing else, go to the mall and people-watch.  Get out… get fresh air!  Go to network events, go the library, and try and get lunches/breakfasts set up with people you need to network with.
  9. Avoid internet distractions. It is so easy to just look at the news… and then two hours later get back to real life.  Sure you might “deserve a break,” but don’t let those breaks become how you spend your day.  Distractions are abundant online (even LinkedIn Signal can be a major distraction).  Go back to the first point in this list and make sure you spend your time on your purpose.
  10. Give yourself a break (in Career Realism, this is #9: Understand your work style).  If you haven’t figured it out yet, you are probably different than other people.  Some might be very disciplined in X, and you are disciplined in Y.  Some are awesome at networking, others at organization, others at ____. Don’t compare yourself, and beat yourself up.  Understand who you are, how you work, and focus on your purpose with your strengths, instead of beating yourself up because of your perceived weaknesses. Here’s a life tip: the people you think are awesome… they have weaknesses, and many times see your strengths and wish they had them.  Stop comparing, give yourself a break, and move forward.
  11. Stay organized. Use JibberJobber to organize your job search.  I can’t tell you how many people say “I wish I would have known about this last week,” last month, etc.  Look, the reality is your job search will either be long, or you’re going to have a lot of data (network contacts, where you applied, follow-up needs, etc.).  You can try and monkey around with other systems (Excel, etc.) but when you are ready to get serious about your career, get on and use JibberJobber.  And make sure to jump on a JibberJobber user webinar. The peace of mind you can get from feeling like you are in control of this data can be priceless.
  12. Don’t hide from your job search (by being overly organized??). When I worked at the FBI as a clerk I remember days where I would “organize my files.” I was bored out of my mind and the only thing I could do was go through, again, my file cabinet.  It was a useless exercise.  As a job seeker it’s easy to revert to something that kind of makes you feel productive, but in the end, provides no value.  Don’t waste time on activities that are not helping you with your purpose!  I see job seekers do this by applying online too much, by tweaking their spreadsheet, and many other things.
  13. Each night, plan for the next day. I have learned that if I take a few minutes to list what I need to accomplish the next day (even listing my High Value Activities for the next day), my next day goes much, much better.  If I don’t do that, and try to figure out what I’m going to do in the morning, I find most of the morning gone, unproductive, before I really get started.

Those are my tips.  What would you add?

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Job Search Discrimination Exists – Now What???

November 28th, 2012

Want to read something disgusting?  Check out this article: Unemployed Black Women Pretends to Be White, Job Prospects Dramatically Increase

From the article:

“Two years ago, I noticed that had added a “diversity questionnaire” to the site.  This gives an applicant the opportunity to identify their sex and race to potential employers. guarantees that this “option” will not jeopardize your chances of gaining employment.  You must answer this questionnaire in order to apply to a posted position—it cannot be skipped.”

Monster guarantees the option will not jeopordize the chances of getting a job?

How can they guarantee that?  And, if it cannot be skipped, it’s not an option!

This is maddening.  It’s crazy that it is anywhere on Monster’s page.  It should not be on there.  I’m guessing some HR knowitall asked for the breakdown in races for their equal opportunity reporting.

Monster should have stood up and said NO.

Alas, where does this leave us?  Folks, discrimination exists EVERYONE.  In your job search, in careers, in education, in stores, in parking lots, … everywhere.

How do people discriminate?

Let’s reword that.  How do people judge you?  How do people decide if they want to (hire, be around, recommend, etc.) you?

  • Height
  • Body shape
  • Hair (lack of, color, style)
  • Tattoos (which is more your choice than many of the others on this list)
  • Clothes
  • Handicaps (not sure what the latest PC way to say that is) – limp, canes, wheelchairs, blindness, etc.
  • Religion
  • Race (of course)
  • Language (accent, stutter, slur, lisp, etc.)
  • Ability to spell (sucks for dyslexics, doesn’t it?)
  • Work history (job hopper?)
  • Voice (too deep, to high, etc.)
  • Age
  • _____

There is no end to how people will make a 1/2 second judgement about you.

Because the person who does it is, well, human.  Susceptible to mood swings, prejudices from parents and community, misinformation (the media is a horrible advocate of racism and prejudice, in my opinion).

It is illegal, of course.  But tell that to people on the comments where I found the story.  They say the Justice Department is just as prejudice as companies are.

It is not right.  But it might be one of the worst problems in job search, career management, our life.

So then, what do you do?

Can you fight it?  How?

Can the issue ever go away?

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JibberJobber, Unemployment Insurance, Staying Organized in a Job Search

November 26th, 2012

Check out this very cool email I got from Carolyn in Minnesota:

[JibberJobber] is wonderful. It helped me organize my job search quickly and I was ready when summoned to the unemployment office to show that I’m doing everything I can. She said no one ever comes in having done so much in just four weeks. I brought my jobs report and told her about JibberJobber.

JibberJobber users… more organized, more productive.  That could lead to a bit of “peace of mind,” don’t you think?

If you aren’t using it yet, or don’t feel like it’s a significant part of your job search, sign up for the next user webinar (we do it every Wednesday).

While there, sign up for the Ask the Expert webinars – they are all free, and all awesome!

(Please tell your workforce services person about JibberJobber… many don’t know about it, but they should!)

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How To: Tags vs Custom Fields

November 21st, 2012

Today we got an email asking how to track something on a Job record.  Liz (who many of you have met online) responded saying to use Tags.

Tags are… awesome. That is, A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

But sometimes Tags are not the solution.  Sometimes you want to use Custom Fields.  Here is how they differ:

Tags are like a label.  Just like you use on Gmail (aka, labels), Flickr, etc.

Custom fields have two parts.  Think of it with this example:

Job Number: 123124

When you set up a custom field you put in the NAME of the field… in this case, Job Number (this might be what HR or the recruiter refers to).

Every time you add a new job record you can choose Job Number from the custom field drop down (since you already added it).

The value of the custom field for that job is “123124”.  The next job you put in might have a different value, like “EMC097345”

When would you use Tags, and when would you use Custom Fields?

I would use Tags when I wanted to GROUP or CATEGORIZE people… for example: hiring_manager, recruiter, high_tech, friend, family, etc.

I would use Custom Fields when I wanted to have a new FIELD on the Detail Page (of Contacts, Jobs or Companies), and each record could have a different value.  Think of this the same way that you have Last Name as a field, and different last names for each record.

So, two great ways to add more information to each record.

NOTE: For more information on Tags, check out this post: How I use Tags to organize my Contacts, Companies, Jobs

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Ask The Expert: Karen Huller: I Have a Resume – Now What???

November 20th, 2012

This is the second in our Ask The Experts series.  The video with Karen Huller is below.

The first Ask the Expert was with Kim Mohuiddin, and it was all about your resume.  You can watch it here.

Here are the next Ask the Expert webinars – sign up at the links (all webinars are listed here):

Dec 5 – Why your elevator pitch is stuck: The Zen of Personal Branding: Jon Sosa (9am MT) [register]

Jan 8 – Career Management 2013 with Jason Alba (that is me :p) (9am MT) [register]

Feb 5 – Non-traditional Jobs, Alternative Income Streams: Tim Tyrell-Smith (9am MT) [register]

Mar 5 – Want a Job Where You Can Make a Difference – and a Good Living? Consider the Association Industry: Charlotte Weeks (9am MT) [register]

Apr 2 – Ask The HeadHunter ANYTHING: Nick Corcodilos (9am MT) [register]

Here’s Karen Huller’s November session, enjoy!

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Dave Ramsey and FlyLady and Jason Alba… ??

November 19th, 2012

This is not an announcement.  Although it would be really cool if it was.

This weekend I watched the first video in Dave Ramsey’s personal finances program.  It was very entertaining and I walked away thinking “I could do that.”

When I watch someone who makes a living doing presentations like that I put on my “speaker goggles” and critique their presentation.  Dave is a master at presenting.  Pure awesome.

I wondered how I could create a system like Dave Ramsey … a multi-step process to help people with job search, or more importantly, career management.

Should I do something like that?

The problem with “career management” is that the average person, if they are working, doesn’t care about it.  It is like the vitamin vs. the pill problem (awesome read here).

Job search is an immediate problem that needs an immediate solution (a PILL).

Career Management is a long term concern that needs more of a proactive, preventative approach (networking, personal branding… the VITAMIN).

If I were to do something that people cared about, I think it would have to be the PILL solution, and I’m frankly not that interested in putting that together, for various reasons.

I’ve also been thinking about FlyLady, aka Marla Cilley, and her amazing following she’s grown over the years.  She introduces a YOU CAN DO IT system to help (mostly) overwhelmed moms with housework.

FlyLady sends reminders to help you DO her system.  She is all about baby steps (funny, Dave Ramsey is about baby steps, too).

FlyLady knows her audience very, very well, and helps them move in the right direction.  You simply plug into her daily system, do what you can (which is very easy to do), and if you miss a day or mess up, you pick it up later.

Should I do/offer something like that?

A system for networking?  Or using JibberJobber?  Or personal branding?

… I’m not sure if that’s my purpose, role, or calling.

But I’ll be thinking about that over the next few months (I’ve thought about it off-and-on for the last few years).

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Controversy Alert: Unions Close Hostess (who is the Ding Dong?)

November 16th, 2012

In school I read The Jungle.  This was an awesome, eye-opening book.  If you haven’t read it I suggest you get it and read it over the holidays.

This book showed me why unions exist.  To battle the atrocities of what a big, abusive company did to employees.  From wages to working condition, unions swoop in to solve problems.

Unions had a very important purpose.  But many have questioned whether that purpose is now in the past, and ask if unions have grown too abusive?

I know a guy who didn’t join the union at the U.S. Post Office.  He left work and the union boss drove after him, harassing and threatening him like a crazy man.

What the heck is that??

I went to school with a guy who was a prison guard in Denver.  He said the union would protect other guards who came to work drunk or high.  They would not ever fear losing their jobs, because the union was there to save them.

That the heck is that??

And today we read that Hostess is saying, because of failed negotiations with multiple unions, they will pull the plug, and 18,500 people will lose their jobs.

My guess: Another company will buy all of the assets of Hostess (patents, trademarks, factories, etc.) and continue production, and hire a lot of people back… but there will be people hurt because two groups (Hostess management and the multiple unions involved) could not come to an agreement.

It sounds like Hostess is saying “Look, we’re hurt.  We’re wounded.  We’re not as financially healthy as you think we are.  We just can’t pay the wages you are demanding.”

And the union is likely saying “Get over yourself.  We know you are rich and wealthy.  We want “fair” pay!  Our union members work really hard for this stuff!”

And Hostess probably says “Competition has taken market share and eaten into our profits.  The cost of goods has gone up.  We simply don’t have the money to cover what you are demanding.

And the union says “We don’t care what you say, and we aren’t willing to work things out.  It’s all or nothing.

And Hostess must have to say “Well, there is nothing there to take from.  We’re done.  We have no choice.

Who loses?  The people.  What about the people who *had* pensions.  If Hostess closes, will anyone who acquires them continue or honor those pensions?  If not, did the unions just make a whole lot of retired people lose everything?

We don’t need another 18,500 people on the streets looking for work.

Unions have got to figure out how to stop bullying companies (and members and non-members).  It seems like right now they act like the spoiled kid who demands more than his parents can give him.  Maybe instead of playing the entitled kid role, the union should play a partner role with the company.

But then again, is it the obligation of the company to share equal footing with unions, who don’t seem to have the long-term, sustainable health of the company in their interest?

A sick company that pays higher-than-fair wages is not sustainable.

This is a lose-lose-lose situation, and I think you can tell where I place the blame.



Email2Log – How To Log Just Part of An Email

November 14th, 2012

I got an email yesterday from a power user in Pennsylvania.  He asked how to avoid posting an entire email thread (which can get very long) into a Log Entry.

To put this into context, my favorite feature in JibberJobber is the Email2Log feature, where you can send an email to someone, and BCC the JibberJobber server, and the message becomes a Log Entry in JibberJobber.

This is profound.  It can mean that you never need to go to JibberJobber….. simply BCC the server anytime you send a message you want to log and associate to a Contact… and we do the rest.

BUT, what if you go back and forth and back and forth in email, and the email gets longer and longer… you don’t want the very long emails to be logged each time, do you?  I know I don’t.

In June of 2011 we remedied this…. here’s the post explaining how it works: Email to Log Entry Just Got BETTER!!

Basically, you put in a string of characters for your Log End line in the email.  I have put this at the beginning of my email signature, like this:

Here’s a great tip from my power user: if you want, make the Log End line in your email WHITE TEXT.  In the image below, the Log End Line is in white text, but you can see it only when I select all the text around it (that is why the background is blue):

That way, no one will see it, but the server sees it.

I love ideas like this… thanks Jonathan, for the tip :)

NOTE: You want the end line to be a series of characters that someone won’t put in their email … If they do, THEY will truncate what goes into your Log Entry.

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What’s THE Problem? What’s Your Problem?

November 13th, 2012

Last night I was at a fundraiser event and I asked a board member of the orginazation “what is your biggest board challenge?”

She said “raising money.

I knew that was the problem because that is what all non-profit organizations are challenged with.  I asked what I was more interested in:  “What is the next greatest problem?

I had no idea how she would answer, but her answer made sense.  (see her answer below, upside-down).

As I asked questions, and the right questions, I found out what her problems were.

You know what?  Problems = Opportunities.

If you can understand your problems, or your target company’s problems, you might help alleviate the pain.

You have an opportunity to solve a problem.

Problem solvers bring value.

Here’s a thought for today: What is the biggest problem you are facing?

Maybe this is the wrong question.  Or maybe the problem is not the right one… and you need to ask what the next biggest problem is, or ask a question that is more specific to your area/expertise.

But consider this: when you learn what the real problems are, you have the OPPORTUNITY to solve it.

Seize that opportunity!

Job seekers: what is your problem?

Here’s a thought for today: What is the biggest problem you are facing?

My biggest problem was that I didn’t have a job (an employer, a steady paycheck, etc.)

That masked the problem that I wasn’t getting interviews.  I was trying to solve the big problem (I need a job) and ignored the step to get there (I need to get interviews).

I was focusing on the wrong problem, and should have laser-focused on the real problem.

The problem I was told last night, by the organization board member:  ˙sɹǝǝʇunloʌ ǝɹoɯ pǝǝu ʎǝɥ┴ ˙ɹǝʍoduɐW

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Have you felt inspired to “do something” in your job search?

November 12th, 2012

This last weekend I’ve been reflecting on feeling inspired to do things.  Specifically there are two things I’ve been inspired to do that I will act on, but haven’t yet:

  • Writing in a journal. In my church we’ve been taught to keep a journal, but as I get older I am learning all the reasons why this is an amazing exercise. I thought it was because we could leave a rich history to our kids and posterity, but there is additional benefit.  I have learned from a therapist that the exercise of journaling could have profound impacts on your brain, specifically your ability to recall, remember and concentrate.  Those are three things I would love to improve on, and if all it takes is some concentrated journaling, count me in!
  • Practicing my oral Spanish. I practice Spanish a bit, but I really have felt inspired to read outloud for 30 minutes a day, in Spanish.  I know I’ve lost a lot of my speaking ability, even though I do okay… I want to get back to fluent, and back to sounding fluent :)

I bet you have felt inspired to do something… I have no idea what that something is. It could be something like calling someone on your chicken list.  It could be getting your finances in order and going through them to find a hole somewhere.  It could be getting a new shirt… I don’t know… but I am guessing you’ve felt inspired to do something and have put it of.

So here’s my challenge/invitation to you. Today, write down what you’ve felt inspired to do.  This is simply a brain dump.

Then, this week, start to work on that list.  Get it out of your head, then get it off the paper, and be done with it.

You might benefit more than you could imagine by just doing it!

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