What Are You Afraid Of?

Written by Jennifer Bowden, Training & Workshop Coordinator

After years of working with job seekers, I see that for many people what holds us back isn’t our external circumstances – the job market, the economy, etc. – but our internal ones. Yes, there are factors we need to consider; child care, transportation, education, geographic location, and yes, the job market and economy are just a few.  But the internal landscape presents much more daunting obstacles:scared

Fear of change

Fear of getting stuck in a rut

Fear of leaving

Fear of staying

Fear of success

Fear of failure

Fear of what others think

Fear of starting over

Fear of rejection

Fear that you’ve “lost your touch”

Fear of looking stupid

Fear of making a bad decision

Fear of something new

Fear of things always being in upheaval

We start internal conversations and psych ourselves out of taking risks before we even have a chance to get started. “I wasn’t very good at school when I was a kid. What makes me think I’d be good at it now?” “That’s a big commitment. I probably shouldn’t even start.” “I’ll just go back to my old job.” “I have to do this because it’s what I went to school for.” “I don’t know what my options are.”

Why do we let our fears make our decisions for us? Writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (who certainly knows a thing or two about walking away from a situation) wrote in Walden:

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Why are you in your current situation, whatever that might be? Is it where you want to be? I love quotes – so here are some famous people giving insights on how to get unstuck and stop letting your fears rule.

“Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” – Walter Anderson

Is your fear of change holding you back?

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” – Maimonides

Do you think you have to be perfect?

“A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

Do other people think you have to be perfect?

“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

You really can do this.

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The effort will be worth it, even if you don’t reach your goals in the way you expect.

“You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try, you don’t take the risk.” – Rosalynn Carter

There are so many quotes about risk and reward and adventure; I’d like to close with one of my favorites:

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” – John A. Shedd

Set sail!

 

 

Advertisements

Back to School?

Back-to-School

By Jennifer Bowden, Training & Workshop Coordinator

Job seekers often consider going back to school, either to update their skills or train in a new field,  especially if they’ve been working in an industry that had a significant downturn or has changed a lot in recent years. It can be tempting to look at one of those lists of jobs that are expected to be in demand and decide to make a radical shift for the sake of job security.

I’ve completely changed careers myself, and I’m the last person who will tell anyone they need to stay in a field that doesn’t work for them. But having met a lot of people who trained for new careers – only to continue to struggle in the (new) job search, discover they didn’t like the new job, be unable to live on an entry-level wage in the field – I think it’s well worth taking a step back and considering what you’re about to get yourself into. Even if your education or training is being paid for by someone else, it represents a huge commitment of time and energy on your part and you should go into the process with your eyes wide open. Here are some things to consider:

Are you making a change for the sake of making a change?

If you’re frustrated by your current job search, it can be tempting to think that starting over will be a solution. Take some time to consider the skills and abilities that you most enjoy using, either at your last job or in another setting. Will you be able to use them at your new job? Are you genuinely interested in learning something new, and how hard will be it to be the person at the bottom of the totem pole? No matter how well-paying or fast-growing a field may be, you don’t want to make a change only to find that you don’t really care for your new line of work.

What do you really know about the job?

It may be tempting to use that list of “Hot Jobs” or a review of job postings to make the decision about a field, especially if there are a lot of jobs available and the pay looks really good. Keep in mind that no matter how well-paid you are, you still have to actually do that work – and if you dislike it, that paycheck may not feel like compensation enough after all. If the idea that you should enjoy your work sounds frivolous, there’s plenty of research – and plenty of employers – who will confirm that fit is a huge component in getting and keeping a job.

If you’re considering a change, talk to people who currently work in the field, preferably in a variety of settings. Read newsletters or websites of professional organizations and attend a meeting or two if possible. Use your network to meet with new contacts in the field – LinkedIn is great for this. Learn as much as you can about the skills, experience, and qualifications that hiring managers really look for, instead of relying solely on job postings. See if internships are available, or if you can do some volunteer work to learn more first-hand.

Is education or training needed to get into the field?

Depending on how big a change this is for you, you might not need an entire certificate or degree program to make a change. Some schools offer short-term programs specifically intended to help job seekers transition from one field to another; don’t assume you have to take the long way around, especially if you have related experience or education.

Will education and UNrelated experience be enough to get you hired?

It’s frustrating to put in the time, effort, and expense of getting an education only to realize that you still don’t have the qualifications to get hired in your field. This is why doing your homework before you choose a program is so important. Admissions staff are professionals with a great deal of knowledge about the programs and offerings at a particular school – and part of their job is to help convince you that their program is the best one. It’s not the school’s responsibility to find or guarantee you a job upon graduation, and saying “when I signed up they told me there were plenty of jobs” is no excuse.

Have you chosen the right program?

Choosing a training or education program that fits your needs is important. Check that the program or institution has appropriate and current accreditation. Does the school have a good reputation in your new field or industry? Does the program teach what you want or need to learn in order to get the job you want? While the core classes may be the same in every program, schools may specialize in one or more areas; look at the places recent graduates have been hired and talk with employers in your field to get some insight on this.

Are you ready to go back to school?ready for back to school

Last – but NOT least – are you ready to go back to school? Education is a significant investment of time, money, and energy. Are you prepared to put in the effort to make it succeed? If you have a family, they will also be affected by your decision to go back to school; in addition to the time you spend in the classroom, you’ll need to spend time on homework and other projects. Are you willing to give up other activities and commitments to dedicate time to school? And finally, realistically consider whether you are academically ready for success. If you haven’t been in school for a while, it may be wise to take a refresher course or two so that you’re feeling more confident in your ability to tackle the coursework.

Education is often a key element to successfully changing careers, but it’s not a magic bullet. Take the time to consider your goals and choose a program that will help you along your path to career success.

 

Get Up and Take Action!

By Heather Coleman Voss, Business Services Coordinator

The most startling thing about experiencing a lay-off is that time stretches. What you used to accomplish in four hours now seems to take days. One minute it’s 10:00 am, and the next it’s 3:00 pm – and suddenly you realize you haven’t gotten dressed, or done a load of laundry, or sent out a resume yet. You may not even have been aware of the passing time.

I understand. I was there once myself.

This phase of working through the reality of a lay-off is normal. You may find yourself feeling physically weak, unable to cope with formerly simple tasks like sending an email or making dinner. Outwardly, it may look like you are simply sitting in front of the computer or the TV, but inwardly your mind is whirling with emotions and thoughts. It may feel like you are frozen.

Take this to heart: You will not be in this space forever. You are working through one of the top 5 most stressful events people experience in a lifetime. You are in the midst of the grieving process. It is important to work through the stages of grief – taking a few weeks to process through this time is important.

Then, even if it feels forced, you need to get up and take action.

My suggestions on how to make this happen are as follows:

1. Change your verbal and internal language. You are not “unemployed” – you are in a “career transition.” See the difference? How you speak about yourself will make a huge difference in how you see yourself – and how people react to you.

2. Set your alarm for 8:00 am every single day, Monday – Friday. Get up, shower and get dressed in business casual clothing. Put on your shoes. I know it may sound silly, but your routine will establish your activity for the day. How you feel is how you will act.

3. Set up a schedule. In the schedule, include 8 hours per day of active job seeking, broken up in a manner that suits you. Checking email and social media sites for professional networking and job opportunities may be one way to begin your day.

4. Get out of the house. Head over to the nearest coffee shop with WiFi and start updating your resumes and cover letters. (Remember, each resume should be geared to the specific position to which you are applying). If you don’t have a laptop or tablet, head over to the local library or Michigan Works! office, where you can utilize their computers free of charge.

5. At least twice a week, attend a networking event. Be open to meeting people! If money is an issue, search the internet for local free networking events – they are everywhere. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce – most chambers allow you to visit once without having to obtain a membership.

6. Attend or create your own in-person networking group for job seekers. Schedule a meeting once a week. People who are currently in career transition still maintain most of their professional contacts. After all…you never know who knows someone you should know.

7. Search the Internet for workshops and seminars geared toward current employment trends, resume writing, interviewing, creating a career action plan, social media for career seekers and more. Many low cost to no-cost workshops are available. Again, your local Michigan Works! office is a great resource for excellent workshops. Even if you consider yourself a pro, you will pick up great tips and meet people who are well-connected.

8. Spend time every week fine tuning your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and G+ accounts to reflect your career interests. Post articles and start conversations about your areas of expertise. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s new blogging platform – or start your own WordPress or Blogger account where you can showcase your career passions. Employers will search for you – make your profiles attractive to future hiring managers. Spend time in groups on Facebook and LinkedIn growing your network and learning about current career opportunities.

9. Use a free online calendar and apps like Evernote and Any.do to keep you organized and motivated. Remind yourself to follow up with employers, send out specific resumes, attend events and workshops. You may not have a job – yet – but you are working!

10. Every day, update a spreadsheet (I use Google drive) with the positions to which you’ve applied, the contact information of the employer, the title of the position and any other pertinent information. You will feel very accomplished when you can actually see the work you are doing. Additionally, this is a great way to be prepared for the employer to call you – simply check the spreadsheet for details during your conversation.

11. For chores around the house, I recommend creating a short and reasonable checklist. No more than 5 items that can be accomplished throughout the day. The point here is to be busy and proactive, not to overwhelm yourself. Create situations daily for your success.

12. Schedule in some “me time.” If you’ve set up a serious career seeking schedule, you are working. You still need time to relax and re-energize.

Bonus tip: Create business cards with your name, areas of expertise, social media links, email and mobile phone number.  Be prepared to hand out your business cards wherever you are – always carry them with you. Remember, how you present yourself is how you will be received. You are a professional.

Many local printers will print business cards for a very reasonable price. Otherwise, check out this article for free and low cost suggestions: Digital Trends – Business Cards.

**If you live near Ferndale, Michigan I recommend places like Chazzano Coffee Roasters, Java Hutt, Ferndale Michigan Works! workshops and resource center and the Ferndale Public Library as destination spots during your job search. If you are interested in networking with a local Chamber, definitely visit the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce.

 

Advice from a recent graduate

Written by Adriana (Ana) Hofstadter, PATH Case Manager

Ana is the newest addition to the Ferndale Michigan Works! team. As a recent college graduate herself, she can really relate to the challenges that grads and job seekers face when they first leave school, and was kind enough to share her advice for getting through the job search. 
Ana and her brother at graduation
Ana and her brother at graduation

Congratulations on finishing your degree! You have made a giant step to bettering yourself and our world. As a recent college graduate myself, I wanted to share my experiences and give some advice to help you along your journey. I hope the following words help you through this roller coaster called life.

I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in May of 2013 with a BA in Family Services.  During school, I discovered a passion for helping those dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault. I began volunteering at a local agency my sophomore year. I continued to volunteer for three years, as well as completing my senior internship there. After I graduated, I received a short term job offer. The job was to last three months and I would be helping them transition into closure since we lost funding and would not be open as of September 2013. During that time, my boyfriend moved to Michigan after getting a job at GM. In October I moved to Michigan and spent seven long, cold, depressing months unemployed before receiving an offer to work at Ferndale Michigan Works! in April 2014.

One of your biggest challenges will be putting your degree and yourself to work. Finding a job in today’s market is very daunting. One thing I did when looking for a job was to take time for myself. It is very important to keep your emotions high and yourself motivated. Take breaks, allow yourself to enjoy the weekends. Look for jobs from 8-4 or 9-5. You won’t hear back from most of the jobs you apply for or you will hear resounding “no’s”. This happens to everyone! Just keep moving forward. I also researched my field. Since I was new to the area, I needed to know what kinds of jobs were out there and whether I was able to do them or not.

I hope most of you can find work close to home, this way you can maintain or grow the relationship you have with family and friends. It is so important to have a support system when you are first starting out. I call my mom all the time for advice on cooking, cleaning, what I should do at work, etc. She is more than willing to help even though I am an “adult.” Finding new friends in the adult world is always hard. In school, you are surrounded by people your own age who share your interests. Making friends could be as easy as breathing. Now you will need to start putting more effort into building your network and support system. I try my best to get to know my neighbors. If nothing else, they are close by and can help with the small things. I also started volunteering right once I moved. I found a local animal shelter and have made several friends and have had many rewarding experiences. I have also found a few clubs around town for people who share my interests, like a board game club once every Friday.

For me, the biggest thing which kept me going was people. As soon as I put myself out there, things became easier and easier. Your situation may be different. I encourage you to find that one thing that keeps you going. Once you find it, make sure to maintain it! Have one thing under control in your life will make this transition so much easier.

Social Media, Students and Careers

Written by Heather Coleman Voss, Business Services/Social Media Coordinator

Young people with the goal of applying for their first jobs, college, or beginning their career need to start utilizing social media with a “brand” in mind. Even high school students have the opportunity to begin this positive branding process while still enjoying social media platforms for social interaction.

Here’s the thing: Employers are Googling applicants every day. They are checking out Facebook Timelines, Twitter profiles and posted photos via Instagram. Why? They want to get a feel for the personality, communication skills and interests of applicants. Times are different. Employers and college admissions representatives are not using social media to turn a candidate down as much as to find reasons to recruit you.

This is very good news. Becoming an attractive candidate is as simple as sharing blog posts, interesting posts and tweets from organizations, your community and companies. Publicly sharing content which showcases your upcoming professional interests, and joining in discussions where your voice is heard on these topics, can be a key factor in your future success.

I reached out and asked some local experts their opinions on this topic. Here is what Samantha Bankey, Marketing Coordinator at HelloWorld (@HW_inc), shares:

Samantha Bankey
Samantha, a 2013 Ferris State Grad, was hired via Instagram the summer after graduation (see photo above).

“It’s important to brand yourself as soon as you enter your undergraduate. Who do you want to be noticed by, and what do you want them to think about you? That’s your personal brand. Your personal brand defines who you are as a professional and a potential employee, so it’s important to realize that your social accounts really do reflect you. Do you have a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, etc.? Be sure it’s cleaned up. You have a few scrolls down your page to make an impression, and you control whether it’s a good or bad one. 

I always encourage others to not be afraid of social media, but to use it to their advantage. I think it’s totally silly to have a personal Twitter page and a professional Twitter page. Your character shouldn’t be two separate identities. Show your personality and your interests, but don’t go over the top by sharing too much information or by being offensive. You should be able to be 100% yourself with your future employer, not a completely different person. An employer is going to look at your character as a whole, not just your skill sets.

You have to find a way to make yourself different from the other applicants and other students in your field. What makes you unique? For example, when I had my interview at HelloWorld (ePrize at the time), I gave every single person I met that day my personalized business card and resume, all decked out with my logo, contact information, and website. That made me memorable (and landed me an internship, turned job!).”

Social media is hugely beneficial to those who understand how to use it for both personal and professional networking. Emilie Mecklenborg, Recruitment Media Strategist at Alexander Mann Solutions (@WeAreAMS), advises:

Emilie Meck
Emilie’s effective use of Twitter was key to opening a new door into a satisfying career.

“How you manage your online presence is critical for new grads and job seekers whether they are in college or as early as high school. It helps establish your personal brand which will differentiate you from the competition. Social media can be used as a 3D resume showing your strengths, talent and accomplishments. Your social media presence is like your credit history, it will open or close doors for you depending on how you manager your online presence.”

Additionally, many professionals have embraced social media as a way to interact, network, build authentic relationships, crowd source and collaborate across all platforms.

To underscore the importance of the connection between social media and your career, consider carefully what Joseph Gacioch, Chief Innovation Officer of the City of Ferndale (@FerndaleMich), advises:

Joe was promoted from Assistant to the City Manager to Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) within one year of employment at The City of Ferndale.
Joe was promoted from Program and Grants Coordinator to Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) within one year of employment at The City of Ferndale.

“Establishing and managing a social media presence should be an important focus of young graduates and professionals. Sites such as Linked In and Twitter have granted young professionals the opportunity to engage in networking with peers and organizations in locations of their choice. Your soft skills, interests, and opinions are a unique and valuable brand that should be contributed to the ongoing digital conversations.

Linked In and Twitter have often replaced my business cards in context of professional networking at conferences and industry events. Linked In empowers me to continue a conversation and establish a connection where a business card cannot.”

Interested in learning more on this topic? Join the #VZHRchat I have been invited to host on Wednesday, June 25 at 1:00 pm!

Additionally, we have several outstanding career and social media workshops to choose from. Find our calendar on our Facebook page, and call us to register!  We’d love to see you on Twitter: @FerndaleMIWorks