Q: Could you tell me how to go about finding employment in the Boston area when you live in the Midwest? I live in Chicago. I do not want to come to Boston without a job.
A: Finding a new job from afar is a challenge. However, you can be successful with a plan. Some recommendations:
1. Connect with any area Boston contacts that you may have including friends, family or other professionals. LinkedIn is a great way to jumpstart these connections. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete and includes a photo and recommendations. Add new contacts daily. On LinkedIn, you can join Boston-area groups that are related to your profession.
2. Most of the job boards allow you to fine-tune your search by geographic area. This will be especially helpful to you since you are focused on a Boston-area search.
3. Find out if your college or university has networking events in the Boston area.
4. Research professional associations in the Boston area.
5. Make sure that you clearly communicate that you expect to relocate at your own expense. Sometimes hiring professionals see an out-of-state address and assume that a costly relocation might be required.
6. Consider securing a phone number with a local area code.
7. If possible, consider planning a trip to the Boston area and plan several face-to-face meetings during these visits.
8. Don’t rule out temporary or contract roles. Often these roles lead to full-time employment opportunities.
9. Be responsive to emails and phone calls placed to you. You should try to respond to all of these inquiries within 24 hours.
10. Use Twitter to follow job hunting experts and companies. There are quite a few related to job hunting (and even specialized industries) which are Boston-centric.
11. Never say no to an introduction. When you are introduced to a new contact, you are also introduced to that individual’s entire network of contacts.
Finally, write a quick thank-you note (by email or mail) to anyone who has been helpful to you during your search.
Q: Are there community career services where people can go to talk to someone about their career options? This is for someone who has been working for over a decade, does not have a college education (so no alumni career services), is employed (so I don't think he can go through unemployment services), but is extremely unhappy in his career. He needs to talk to someone about how his skills can transfer to another field, but he doesn't have money to throw at a fancy boutique service. Any suggestions?
A: Great question. One major point to clarify: the Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers are an option. These centers primarily assist job seekers who are unemployed but their services are also available to those looking to change jobs. They have offices throughout the state and run a variety of workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills and even using LinkedIn during a job search. Attending some of their workshops and events may be a challenge for a working person because many are scheduled during the day. However, there are services available through their website. Check out www.mass.gov/lwd/employment-services/.
Additionally, many public libraries, including Newton Free Library, offer free workshops which may be more convenient for a job seeker currently employed. Tammy Gooler Loeb, career and executive coach and contributor to the library’s career development series, explains, “The Newton Free Library offers a monthly Job Seekers and Career Development Series, free to the public. Upcoming programs include Interview with Confidence in April and Social Media and Your Job Search in May. The library offers many resources for job seekers, including a reference librarian who specializes in career services. For more information on this series and additional events at the library, visit www.newtonfreelibrary.net/events/talks.asp. Reading Public Library has a similar program. On Wednesday evening, May 8th, I will be speaking as part of the Job Search Skills series at the Reading Public Library. For more info, visit www.readingpl.org.
Lastly, explore www.boston.com/jobs. There is a wealth of relevant and contemporary information for job seekers. Under “advice,” there is even more information on job-related topics, including common resume blunders to a discussion of what occupations are expected to grow. Thankfully there are quite a few resources available at low or no cost.
Q: It's been more than 2 years since I was last employed. Should I change the chronological format of my resume to one that highlights my work experience (35+ years) rather than show the gap in employment? I have already deleted the second page of my resume because it was no longer pertinent to a background in mechanical drafting.
A: Great question. Let me share the advantages and disadvantages of both the chronological resume and the functional resume.
The chronological resume typically has an objective or summary at the top. Then, the candidate’s work history is detailed starting with the present role and working backwards. The education section is at the bottom sometimes along with special skills, certifications or relevant training.
Most employers and hiring professionals are familiar reviewing this type of format.
It is easy to follow for the reader, perhaps because the chronological resume is more commonly used.
This type of format highlights the candidates’ most recent experience, which is often the most relevant. It is also easy to follow a career progression with this type of resume.
This format can accentuate gaps in a candidate’s work history.
It may not be the best format for career changers or those re-entering the workforce.
The functional resume groups together common skills. As an example, there may be skills headings like management/supervisory skills, technical skills, sales skills or scientific skills. A candidate’s work history is provided toward the bottom of the resume. Education, certifications, and special skills are often detailed at the very end of this type of resume.
Advantages:The format can help a candidate highlight capabilities and skills which are transferrable, which is good for candidates changing careers.
A functional resume can de-emphasize short stints within a career. This format can also minimize the focus on periods of unemployment.
This type of resume is a bit more difficult to review, from the reader’s perspective. Many hiring professionals are taught to look for gaps in a candidate’s work history. This format tends to make this process more challenging.
The focus is more on transferrable skills but sometimes the employer’s names are hard to find if this format is used.
Finally, you may want to using a functional resume and comparing it to the chronological version you have been using. One final tip for your resume: if you have 35 plus years of experience, consider dropping the months off of your chronological format. Instead of May, 1991 – November, 2011, consider 1991 – 2011. This tip may also help take the focus off of your recent period of unemployment.
Q: I am a frustrated job seeker with about ten years experience in my field. After being laid off last summer, I took a few months off to travel and visit with friends and family. I thought I would have an easier time landing a new job in my field but now I am really nervous. My search has been harder than I expected. Every week, I am sending out about 10 or more resumes but I am getting very little response. When I do talk to a company, they say that I am overqualified. What effect does my period of unemployment have on my job search? Do you think I should eliminate an advanced degree from my resume? Perhaps I should consider changing fields too?
A: I think many job seekers have experienced similar challenges. It is ok to enjoy travel and some freedom for a period of time. However, as you discovered, weeks can turn into months very quickly.
Consider developing a disciplined plan and stick to it and hold yourself accountable. A few key steps of your plan should include:
1. If you are not receiving calls interviews, ask a few trusted colleagues and/or family members for feedback on your resume. Your resume should be crisp, legible and error-free.
2. Network and then network more. I once had a successful job seeker explain that their professional network has been their only insurance against prolonged unemployment.
3. Build a profile on LinkedIn. Linkedin is an online networking tool that can only help your job search. You can connect with former colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc. Career-related groups are also available on Linkedin.
4. Use job boards but don’t spend your entire day behind your PC. Spend about 75% of your time building relationships, contacting former colleagues and attending networking events. The remaining 25% of your time can be spent behind a PC.
Finally, I would not recommend deleting an advanced degree from your resume. For some roles, an advanced degree may be preferred and it could differentiate you in a positive way. I think you would have more success remaining in your current field unless your field is one that is shrinking. Good luck with your search. Remember, a job hunt is often a full-time commitment.
- editing expertise provided by Ms. Sloan's 6th grade classes, Hopkinton Middle School
Q: I am a recent college graduate from Arizona State University who is looking to relocate to the Boston area. I graduated with an art history degree and a minor in anthropology and I have a vast background of customer service experience. I have been applying for jobs in the non-profit, marketing and arts sectors in the Boston area but I am still confused as to how I find a job in a place where I have never lived before. I have a ton of skills and am willing to learn but how do get my foot in the door and find an employer that can trust somebody with entry level experience?
A: Your job search in the Boston area will be a greater challenge but one that can be successful. A few tips that will increase your success:
1. Use social media to your advantage. Create an account on LinkedIn. Learn how it works. Join groups on LinkedIn that further your connections in Boston. Create a Twitter account. Begin following job sites and Boston-centric sites. If you are targeting specific employers, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.
2. Research alumni connections and associations in the Boston area. Talk to your professors about contacts that they may have in the Boston area.
3. There are several job posting sites that have a focus on non profits jobs. Idealist.org is one to think about visiting frequently. Check other sites as well.
4. Think about buying a cell phone with a Boston-base phone number for job hunting.
5. Be clear that you don’t expect a prospective employer to pay for your relocation. The thought of a relocation expense may scare them off. Let them know you could relocate quickly.
6. Make sure that you have video chatting capability in case they invite you to interview using this type of technology.
7. Like other job seekers, you should ensure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well designed. Your resume should not exceed one page.
8. Also make sure that your resume includes key words which are desirable for your target industry and/or target employers.
9. If possible, travel to Boston and try to fill that time period with a jam-packed schedule of interviews and/or networking meetings.
10. If you know where you plan to live and can use that address, begin using that address on your resume. A local address conveys that you are serious about relocating.
Job hunting from a distant location can be daunting but not impossible.
Q: I am looking for a job in just about any field. I have a degree in English and have worked in many fields including brewing and cell phone repair, as well as customer service. I can learn exceptionally quickly. How can I convey to potential employers that I can learn anything and put forward 100% effort without sounding self important?
A: Great question. Former co-workers, colleagues and managers are an excellent place to start. People that have worked with you in past roles probably know you work hard and produce quality work. Begin connecting and re-connecting with these contacts on LinkedIn and in person. Your contacts can refer you to companies with the following message: “This is a strong candidate. Strong work ethic. Learns quickly. Willing to do what it takes.” It is easier for a professional contact to refer you to another professional in their network especially if that former colleague has observed your work firsthand. It is also less awkward for a professional contact to give you high praise.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask some of your former co-workers and managers to write recommendations on LinkedIn. These recommendations can share “real-life” examples of your work ethic and your ability to learn a job quickly. They can also endorse your skills and expertise in specific areas like customer service, graphic design or business development (whichever apply to your career). Employers are often checking a LinkedIn profile before they even invite a candidate in for a live interview.
Make sure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well-designed. I think sometimes English majors are held to a higher standard!
During an interview (either via telephone, video chat or in person), weave some of these attributes in your responses. As an example:
Q: Mary, tell me a little bit about what your manager at ABC Company would say about your performance in your role as a Customer Service Rep?
A: Mike Smith was my manager at ABC. I really enjoyed working for him. I am a high-energy quick learner and he allowed me to learn new skills that were not even part of my formal job description. As an example, I developed a knack of using some of the unused modules available in our software to better troubleshoot customer complaints. I was able to train others on how to use these modules and features. I think it helped us resolve customer complaints more quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, if a cover letter is requested, include some of these attributes in your cover letter.
I am an introvert by nature, and not at all comfortable with putting myself into networking conversations. I know networking will help me get a new job so I really want to overcome my fears. Do you have any tips on networking for introverts?
You are not alone in your anxiety about networking. Many extroverts cringe at the idea of meeting strangers and striking up conversations where they will have to talk about themselves. But, there are plenty of shy people who master the skills of networking by practicing and then using specific assets to their advantage.
Assess your strengths. Introverts often are often good listeners, which helps to build deep and meaningful relationships. This quality is an enormous asset relative to developing strong networking skills. Think about how you can use it to your advantage as you talk to people about who you are, what you have to offer an employer, an how you might help them.
Next, think about a larger networking strategy. You may be more comfortable starting with a one-on-one strategy rather than utlizing to networking events that attract hundreds of people and may be overwhelming.
To get one-on-one meetings, create a list of places where you can find people with whom you would like to network. This list could include alumni associations, professional associations, health clubs, family and friends. Categorize each group or person on the list by connections that are easy, moderate or challenging to make.
Give yourself goals - develop a networking plan that details who you will call and email, how many people you will contact per week and how you will approach the request for a meeting. Research and create a list of specific contacts and start with the easiest people on your list. They will provide great networking practice in addition to being helpful for your search.
Before making other calls, research the person’s professional credentials and connections. Develop a “want” for each contact so you are clear on what you want to communicate about your professional history and goals and about how they can help you succeed. Prior to each meeting, script a list of questions you want to ask, so you can get the conversation flowing and calm your nerves.
During each meeting, give the person your 60 second professional statement to set the context for the conversation. From there, you can ask for their feedback on your resume, their perspective on industry or market trends, and advice on your job search strategy. Also, ask them about their professional path and what they have learned from their job search processes.
Use every opportunity to build rapport. If the contact mentions something you feel is a mutual interest (professional association membership, leisure activity of interest, family, etc.) use that as an opportunity to further the conversation based on those common interests.
Finally, towards the end of each meeting, ask for recruiters and other professionals they recommend you meet and see if they are willing to make an introduction for you. You can offer them a few company names or names of people you’d like to meet to make it easier for them to make referrals.
Thank them for every offer of help or suggestion they provide, even if you already know the contact or have tried what they have suggested. Most importantly, differentiate yourself from others by offering to help your networking contact by providing a “give” from your network.
Networking can be stressful, but with a little practice you may even come to enjoy it, or at least the success it brings.
Q. My company is challenging my unemployment claim because I did not stay in my position for the two weeks they requested upon learning I was being laid off. Is this legal? I was a salaried employee.
A. Unemployment assistance was created by Congress during the Great Depression in 1935 to provide temporary assistance to workers who had lost their job through no fault of their own. To receive benefits an employee must be capable of working and actively seeking work. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is the state agency that administers the unemployment assistance program in Massachusetts.
I consulted with Attorney Valerie Samuels, an employment attorney at Posternak in Boston. Ms. Samuels explains, “Generally, a Massachusetts employee will be eligible for unemployment benefits unless one of the following applies:
a discharge as a result of deliberate misconduct in disregard of the employer’s interest, or due to a knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly enforced rule or policy of the employer. The violation must not result from the employee’s incompetence; or he left work voluntarily, unless the employee establishes by credible evidence that he had good cause for leaving due to a situation created by the employer or left for a reason that is of such a, compelling nature to make the separation involuntary; or because the employee was convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.
Your employer is likely challenging your unemployment claim under the theory that you voluntarily left work, which is only true with respect to the two week notice period. Attorney Samuels notes that under typical circumstances, leaving work voluntarily may disqualify you from eligibility for unemployment benefits. Whether you were paid on a salary or hourly basis is irrelevant when considering your eligibility for unemployment compensation.
The answer to this question depends upon DUA’s interpretation of the word “voluntary.” Under Massachusetts law, a separation from work is not voluntary if for “urgent, compelling and necessitous” reasons caused by circumstances beyond the employee’s control.
An employee may leave work due to sexual, racial or other unreasonable harassment but only if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment. Even if the employee left due to urgent reasons, he must have made a good‐faith effort to remain employed. The employee also will be deemed to have good cause to quit if the reason for leaving work was due to domestic violence such as needing to relocate or fear of domestic violence at or on route to work.
In this situation, you were informed of your imminent separation and asked to continue working for two weeks. While you could have remained during the notice period, your ultimate departure from work was involuntary. As a result, DUA will likely find that you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits but you will be disqualified for the two week period when you could have remained at work. Even if you were to receive unemployment benefits for the notice period, it is likely to be less than your regular salary.
Given that good jobs are hard to come by nowadays, if you receive notice of termination, remain at work until the termination date in order to continue to be paid and not jeopardize your unemployment eligibility, unless you are leaving to join your new employer.
Q: I am looking to re-enter the job market after being a stay-at-home mom for five years. My problem is that I don't know for what jobs to apply. I worked construction before I left the job market and would like to return working with sustainable living. I am 47 years old and haven't been on an interview for over 15 years. I feel my age and lack of experience interviewing may hold me back from some jobs. I need resources to help me interview, write my resume, and find the right job.
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce. Let’s first start with addressing your resume challenges. There are many resources available to you. One place that offers helpful information is http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/. Check out the section called BEGIN YOUR JOB SEARCH. This section has information on how to create and build a resume, what occupations are on the rise and information on salaries for a wide range of occupations. This information is all free and available to you 24 hours a day. You could also consider hiring a job search coach. However, this is usually not free.
The state of Massachusetts also provides residents with career centers located across the state. http://www.mass.gov/lwd/employment-services/career-services/career-center-services/find-a-career-center-near-you-1.html. These offices offer a wide range of services from creating a resume to networking.
Before you jump into the workforce, reflect on your skills. Are you a whiz on the computer? Are you good at planning events? Do you enjoy the details of accounting? Are you an especially good writer?
Start your job search with an open mind. There are probably many positions that you would enjoy and would also capitalize on your skills. Especially since some of your experience is dated and competition for jobs is fierce, you should be flexible with respect to the roles which you might consider.
I would suggest becoming an active networker. Start telling others you are re-entering the workforce. Talk about what you are good at and what might work for you in terms of a job opportunity. Neighbors, friends and former colleagues are all good sources of job leads. You should also consider joining LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an online networking tool. Once you create profile, you can begin to connect with others. You can also join groups on LinkedIn. There are several groups whose focus is on sustainability on LinkedIn.
Resilience is important in a job search in this economy. You will probably encounter more “Sorry, we’re not hiring” than “Can you interview on Monday?” Keep swinging though. There are opportunities for flexible and resilient job hunters.
Q: I recently applied for a job and listed my education as having a bachelor’s degree. I completed all the course requirements. I participated in the graduation ceremonies in May, 2012. I received a letter several weeks ago from my college. They are now saying that they will not release my diploma because I have several unpaid parking tickets. I am afraid that this will hurt my chances of landing a job. Have you ever heard of this happening?
A: Colleges and universities may withhold a transcript and/or diploma if there are outstanding debts owed to them by a graduating student. Some examples include unpaid parking tickets, reimbursement for property damage repairs or unreturned items loaned to a student (e.g., library books, CDs, laptops, etc.).
Often colleges and universities will include this information in their student handbook. It is a common practice since it is often the last opportunity that your undergraduate college can collect monies due to them.
If you believe the parking tickets were given to you in error, you probably should have appealed the ticket(s) when you received them. Usually the appeals process and time frame are explained on the ticket.
It sounds like the parking tickets you have received may have been legitimate. If that is the case, it would probably be smart to pay the tickets so you can proceed with your job search. If a prospective employer checked your academic background, your college would likely state that your graduation requirements have not been met and/or are incomplete. This is not the way you want to begin a new position with a new company.
My advice is to contact your college. The Bursar’s Office is probably a good place to start. Explain that you need for your transcript and diploma to be released. They will likely accept a credit card for any outstanding financial obligations.
If you are a finalist for a new job where they are likely to check your educational background, you should move quickly. You may be forced to reveal your situation. If this is the case, you should explain that you are in the process of resolving the matter as quickly as possible.
Q: I have to raise a complaint about the "attend networking events" advice. When I was unemployed I was told this all the time, but the only "networking events" I could find were through my college alumni association, and after a few you've met almost everyone there. I would go to the occasional conference or symposium if I could find one for free, but I found them to be very poor for networking purposes. Plus there aren't events every day, in fact the opportunity is rare, so you start to feel unproductive on a day-to-day basis. It feels like you should be going to a "networking event" everyday when in fact that's impossible. Maybe there are more "networking events" for other professions, but overall I found it to be a frustrating strategy.
A: Networking can be frustrating. A job hunt can be frustrating. But prolonged unemployment is far more frustrating.
Networking works! I have received several inquiries recently like yours. Almost every job seeker is told to network. However many of you are now asking, “Where do I find these events?”
Let me share some very concrete networking events:
- Yes, your college alumni association is one option. Professional associations also offer networking opportunities.
- Visit www.meetup.com. Plug in your zip code and search for a group that might work for you. There are groups for web developers, business developers and those that just want to network.
- The Acton Networkers group is a great group of very active job seekers who meet weekly. Check out www.actonnetworkers.com. Hopkinton Networkers is an offshoot of Acton Networkers. Both meetings are well-run and members exchange job leads and landings. A donation of $1.00 is requested at the door to cover the cost of refreshments. The Acton Networkers are on LinkedIn under groups.
- Temple Emanuel in North Andover and Temple Emanuel in Newton both have vibrant professional networking groups. Both of these groups have active LinkedIn groups as well.
- Public libraries in Massachusetts (and other states) are offering job search resources for free. I know both the Reading Public Library and the Newton Free Library have job search resources, including networking events.
- Visit www.job-hunt.org. You can view networking events by state. In Massachusetts, there are over 40 networking events listed.
Some of these groups may put some meetings or live events on hold for the summer. However, I think you will find that many of the live events begin to “ramp up” in September.
Q: I am a graphic designer with 10 years of experience and have applied to 119 jobs since moving to MA on Jun 3. I have had zero interviews. I tried doing some follow-up phone calls, but those only resulted in rude "they'll call you if interested" or instances where I had to just leave a message. No one ever calls back. Please keep in mind that I only apply for jobs that I am 95%+ qualified for. What am I doing wrong???
A: Great question. Your current job hunt strategy is a popular one. As you have discovered though, it is probably not the most effective job hunting strategy.
Your approach to job hunting can sometimes be successful with luck and in a strong economy. However, I would suggest that you revise your job hunting strategy immediately.
Here is what I would suggest:
1. Develop a Linkedin profile. Several years ago, boston.com published a great “how to use Linkedin” article. I still share it with job seekers. Here it is: http://www.boston.com/jobs/bighelp2009/september/articles/linkedin_tips/
2. Use Linkedin every day to expand your network. Join Linkedin groups which are affiliated with your profession and your desired geographic location.
3. Network, network and then network more. Connections lead to job opportunities. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. should all know you are looking for a new opportunity.
4. Attending networking events in the area.
5. Consider attending a meetup group. Visit www.meetup.com.
6. Connect with an employment agency with expertise in the placement of graphic designers.
7. Don’t dismiss contract or temporary opportunities. These opportunities often lead to longer term full-time roles.
8. Never say no to an introduction. If a friend refers you to a former colleague who runs a marketing agency, meet that person. It does not matter whether they have an appropriate opening or not. They may know of an opportunity or put you in touch with another colleague who is hiring.
Finally, firing off resumes to online postings should be one part of your job search strategy. However, developing contacts should be the focus of your job search.
Q: After four years of teaching, I've decided to change careers and head into human resources/training. I thought I'd have a bit of time on my side, but I've been unemployed since December. The possibility of securing an entry-level position in that field is a no-go so far and my fears of gaining any sort of employment grows with each day. I do have a background in recruiting, so this isn't a change that is completely unrelated to my experience. What are the steps that I should take at this point?
A: How exciting and frightening, all at the same time! A few positives on your side: you have previous experience in recruiting and you are still early in your career. However, a challenge that are probably encountering is the competitiveness of the employment market. You are likely competing against candidates with more HR/training experience. Additionally I have observed that training budgets continue to be tight. You may want to re-focus your search within HR. You may want to consider a generalist role or a recruitment-focused role (to capitalize on your recruitment experience).
In terms of your search, you should be networking extensively. You should be active on Linkedin, Twitter and other forms of social media. Be careful not to spend too much of your time behind a computer. Using technology should be part of your search but take the time to connect with colleagues, former co-workers, friends and neighbors in person as well.
Consider using the career services office of your college or university. Also consider joining professional associations within the world of HR. Many professional associations also post jobs and offer assistance with job searches. The Northeast Human Resources Association (www.nehra.com) is a good resource for your search.
You should also consider temporary or contract roles. Many employers, who might be skittish in the economy, will fill an HR need with a temporary employee or contract employee. If the need continues, often the temp or contractor will be converted to a role on the company payroll. There is less competition for the temporary and contract roles too since most employed job seekers would not consider a temporary or contract role.
Lastly, make sure that you are keeping current with your HR skills and knowledge. Professional associations often offer free or low-cost professional development opportunities for members.
Q: Can you suggest a good career counselor in the Boston area? I need one who charges reasonable fees.
A: Finding a good career counselor can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you navigate your search for a reputable career counselor:
- Before searching for a career counselor, think about what you want from that counselor. What are your goals and expectations? What do you hope to achieve after you have worked with a career counselor?
- Think about logistics. How far you are willing to travel? What times and dates are you available to meet with your career counselor? Are you willing to do some of your meetings and communication on-line or virtually?
- What is your budget?
- Word of mouth referrals are often a good place to begin. Ask around.
- Visit the Association of Career Professional International at www.acpinternational.org. There is a search function that might be helpful.
- If you attended college, you also may want to research options that might be available through the career services office.
- Visit the websites or the Linkedin pages of your possible career counselors. Ask for a few minutes on the phone with a few that seem promising. Share your expectations and goals and ask how they would best meet your expectations and goals. Ask about their experience in your industry or industries that most interest you. Ask about fees up front.
- Check references before you make a final decision.
- Ask for a complimentary in-person meeting before you sign any agreement. You want to ensure that a rapport can be built. You should treat this as if you are interviewing them for a job. You are!
- Read the fine print. Make sure you understand what you are buying and receiving.
- Lastly, be ready to invest the time. A career coach will most likely not place you in a job. They will instead make your job search skills more effective.
Q. I took a new job, after being asked to relocate by my former employer, which I could not do. This job was described as challenging, but once I began, I realized it was clerical and not what I signed on for. I spent my days filing and doing data entry, which I am overqualified for. I was disappointed and misled by the false job description.
After performing the clerical tasks for eight months, I found a contract opportunity where I could use my background, education and skills. I took the contract opportunity and hoped it would lead to a permanent situation. The contract ended after nine months leaving me unemployed. Since I was a contractor, I was not eligible for unemployment benefits from this company. They went back to my prior company where I was a regular employee and held them responsible.
The company appealed the claim saying I left voluntarily to pursue another job. I soon will have a claims appeal call. Any idea how to approach it? I cannot afford a lawyer and would have to pay back 3 months of unemployment if the employer wins the claim. I'm very nervous about this appeal.
A. You have a lot going on in your question, and I can see why you are concerned about the unemployment claim appeals call. An important point employees must understand is that the Division of Unemployment Assistance makes the determination of eligibility for benefits, and not your former employers. DUA also makes the determination on your status as a “contractor” vs. that of an employee. I consulted Watertown based Attorney Christina L. Montgomery, (www.clm-law.com) who specializes in unemployment appeals. Attorney Montgomery notes that “ In Massachusetts the unemployment law has a strong presumption that the work someone does is “employment” and not “contracting.” Just because the company calls a worker an independent contractor does not make it so.”
The purpose of the hearing according to Attorney Montgomery is for the review examiner to determine the employment status and if the claimant's separation was for a disqualifying reason. Unemployment appeal hearings are fairly informal one hour procedures. The hearing is recorded and is under oath. The review examiner uses a three part test to determine if an employee is a contractor or an employee. Attorney Montgomery explains the employer is required to prove all three parts in order to prove that someone is an independent contractor: (1) the worker has been and continues to be free from control and direction in performance of the service; (2) the work is performed either outside the usual course of business, or outside all of the places of business of the enterprise; and (3) the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established business of the same nature as the service performed.
The review examiner will ask direct questions of each party. Focus on the question, and use this time to answer each question accurately. The opposing parties also have the right to cross-examine each other. A decision is not rendered at the hearing, but is mailed to the parties, usually within a few weeks.
You don’t mention what the work was, but there is a chance you were not actually an independent contractor and the employer should have made contributions on your behalf. If you have been “misclassified” your eligibility for unemployment should be based on that separation.
Montgomery also addresses whether or not your separation from the first company is disqualifying. Workers who leave their employment are ineligible for unemployment unless they can show that 1) he or she had good cause for leaving attributable to the employer (or its agent) or, 2) had an “urgent, compelling and necessitous” reason which made the separation involuntary. Examples of good cause could be a change in your employment circumstances such as a significant pay, harassment on the job or unhealthy work conditions. Examples of urgent, compelling and necessitous reasons could be your own or a family members’ illness, change in childcare circumstances, basically a deeply personal reason that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the job. Explain the relocation offer to the examiner as well.
In some limited circumstances an employee may be eligible for unemployment if they leave a job that is “unsuitable” –this is generally limited to jobs that the employee does for a very short while and leaves once they determine that it is unsuitable.
Q: For the first time in two years, I won't be reading your chat on Monday. I wanted to share what landed me my new great job: my thank you note to one of the individuals with whom I interviewed. In my note, I committed to helping the company achieve one of its most important goals. For some reason, that commitment totally sold them on me. So my advice to job hunters is never underestimate the power of the thank you note.
A: When I read your submission to the Job Doc column, I had to read and re-read it again. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t ignore or miss a question.
After I read it several times, I wanted to do a dance in my office. After my urge to dance subsided, I wanted to stand on my chair and yell “I told you so people, I told you so!” I decided both responses were a little too juvenile but I should share with you that I thought long and hard about doing both.
Thank you for sharing your experience and your success. Thank you notes are critically important to a job search. They can “make it or break it” for a job seeker. You are living proof.
Even if a colleague, a contact or someone has spent time with you, a thank you note should be sent or emailed. Even if you have been rejected and turned down, a thank you note should be sent. Several job seekers have recently shared with me a common interview experience. The job seeker is a finalist but ultimately another candidate receives the offer. Although sometimes incredibly disappointed, the candidate sends a thank you note and maintains a relationship with the recruiter. Weeks or months pass and the recruiter contacts them for another opportunity. Finally, the job seeker receives an offer.
I truly appreciate you sharing your experience. Thank you for writing. Best of luck in your new role!
Q: I’m looking to move to Boston in the near future. What are your tips in finding a good job for a young professional with a Bachelor’s degree and how to go about marketing yourself? Are employers willing to deal with a potential employee not in the area yet?
A: Welcome to Boston (almost)! You can do some job hunting from afar. Some recommendations:
1. Get on Linkedin and start connecting with colleagues, friends, neighbors, alums, etc. Join some groups on Linkedin. When joining groups, look for Boston area groups. Also try to join groups that are geared to your profession. There are also quite a few groups for young professionals on Linkedin. Look for an alumni group in the Boston area on Linkedin.
2. Find out if your college has alumni networking events in the Boston area.
3. Connect or re-connect with any Boston-area contacts that you may have.
4. Search the job boards. Many job boards allow you to restrict your search to a certain geographic area.
5. When you write your resume and cover letter, you should explicitly state that you plan to re-locate at your own expense. Often times when a recruiter reads a resume with an out-of-state address, there is a question of whether this candidate would need relocation assistance.
6. Consider buying a Boston-based cell phone now and listing this number on your resume.
Although you can do some job hunting from afar, in-person networking should also be part of your job hunting plan. Linkedin is a short cut but it does not replace having a cup of coffee with a former colleague or meeting a fellow alum for a bagel.
If possible, plan a trip or two to the Boston area. Try to schedule several face-to-face meetings during these trips. Check out www.meetup.com. This website lists gatherings, of all types.
Lastly, send a thank you note or email to everyone who is helpful to you during your search. Don’t burn any bridges. Be persistent without stalking.
Q: I was fired from my last position for poor performance. I had returned to finance after 12 years and found out just how much the industry had changed. I went to work for two brokers with $1B under management. It was a nightmare. I was in over my head. Long story short...how do I present this in an interview without sounding completely incompetent?
A: You may not believe me right now but you have learned some valuable information because of this experience. Being terminated can take an incredible toll on your self-esteem. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself.
You have learned what you can do well and what you can not do well. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You probably understand some of your weaknesses now (e.g., recent changes in the brokerage world). But what did you do well? You may have very strong PC skills. Or you might have very strong client relationship skills. Think about what went well and also what when wrong in your last position. This information can only help you in your next role.
You are right to ask about how to best explain your termination. You always want to emphasize the positives and minimize the negatives. Your explanation could be something like this:
In my early career I worked in the finance industry. In 2011, I landed a job working for two brokers with $1B under management. I really liked the work environment and my team members. One of the areas that I also enjoyed was the service side of my job, especially resolving client problems. What I underestimated was how much the industry had changed over the years. I am eager to return to the workforce.
Additionally, never “bash” your former employer. This will only make you sound bitter and negative. Make sure that you can select one or two positives from your recent job. Talk about these positive experiences in an enthusiastic way. It might be related to a favorite client, a special project or a special skill which you acquired.
Q: I've been unemployed since last May. I have posted for many jobs, interviewed for some, and I usually hear I'm over-qualified for what they are looking for. How can I best over come this to land my next career move?
A: Your question mirrors several that we have received for this column over the past year or so. These are frustrating times for job seekers. Many employers are trying “to make due with less.” In short, they are trying to hire fewer employees, pay them less and still remain competitive. It is a difficult balance.
Here is what I can share. If you have been called in for interviews, your resume is probably in good shape. My advice:
1. Networking is incredibly important. Invite a former colleague for a cup of coffee. Schedule a quick chat with a neighbor who is connected. Never say no to an introduction.
2. Get on LinkedIn and expand your contacts. Join groups on LinkedIn. Join groups that are related to your career and/or your education.
3. Don’t spend your entire day at your PC. Attend a Meetup event. Join a networking group.
4. Consider re-writing your resume. Some job seekers have several different versions. If you have been receiving feedback that you are overqualified, consider only showcasing the last 10 or so years of experience on your resume. Try to keep it to one page.
5. Consider temporary, contract and consulting roles. These roles can often lead to full-time roles.
6. Make sure that you have a one-minute pitch about who you are as a candidate. Include your professional history and your career interests. This pitch should be succinct, authentic, enthusiastic and polished.
7. Thank everyone. Any contact who meets with you, send them a thank-you note or thank-you email. Be gracious and appreciative.
8. During networking events, dress for the job you want, not the job you last had.
9. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are living a healthy and balanced life. Your appearance matters now probably more than ever.
10. Even if you have not received a job offer, leave every recruiter and hiring manager with a positive impression. They may call you for another role in the future. A thank-you note (even if you did NOT receive an offer) differentiates you in a very positive way.
11. Be reasonable about expectations, especially around compensation. You may have to re-set your expectations to get your foot back in the door.
12. Be resilient. Dust yourself off after a setback. Think about what you could have done differently.
Keep swinging. A door will open.
Q: I lost my job in December 2011. However (after reminding my previous employer), I was not reimbursed for my unused vacation time until January 2012. The check for the vacation time shows a pay period of 12/5/11-12/19/11 and the date of the check was 1/18/12.
Today I received my W-2 in the mail and the check for my unused vacation time was not included on it. Because I have not worked there in 2012, and these monies should have been disbursed in 2011, shouldn't it be included on the 2011 W-2?
A: When an employee separates from a company, there are often many loose ends that need to be addressed. Often times, many employees have questions about final paychecks and benefits. Questions about vacation payouts for unused but accrued vacation time are common as well. Company policies can vary on vacation usage, how vacation time accrues and how vacation time is earned.
I consulted Dan Mayton, District Manager of Paylocity. According to Mayton, "All payroll reporting (including data for W-2s), is based on when the employee is actually paid (or the check date) for the wages, not necessarily the period in which the wages were earned." Because you were paid in 2012 for your unused vacation time, it makes sense that you received a 2012 W-2 for these wages.
Mayton adds, "If you were terminated, you should have been paid for all wages owed to you (including unused but accrued vacation time) on your last active date of employment. However, if you resigned, your wages would have been due to you on the next regular pay day."
I have made two assumptions: 1. that you were employed in Massachusetts and 2. that you were terminated because you state that you "lost your job." Your former employer should have paid you for your unused but accrued vacation on your last date of employment. However, it sounds like you did receive an accurate check in mid-January of 2012. It is unfortunate that you had to remind your previous employer about these monies owed to you. From what you shared in your question, I have assumed that your former employer did send you a check for the full amount that you expected to receive.
If you wanted to file a wage claim against your former employer, you could certainly explore that option with an employment attorney.
Q: Hi! I am frustrated and hope you can help...I was laid off 2 months ago from a toxic job, but still have not found employment. I have had a few interviews, but nothing has panned out. My most recent interview has me stumped - it went great (I thought), and at the end, the HR rep gave me her card, told me to call/email her any time for an update, and told me things about the 2nd interview. I sent her a thank you letter by email immediately. Then I received a rejection letter in the mail. Any ideas??
A: You raise a common situation that I think many of our readers have experienced during their job hunts. Let’s discuss the positives first.
• You are no longer in a “toxic” job.
• You have had a few interviews.
• There was some initial interest in bringing you back for a second interview.
• You understand the importance of sending a thank you note quickly.
What this tells me is that you are probably applying for appropriate jobs for which you are qualified. Your resume is also probably strong. You have an understanding of professional etiquette and have demonstrated that by emailing a thank you note quickly.
I don’t know what happened in your specific situation. I can offer several educated guesses but they are guesses and I can not be certain that any one of these reasons apply.
Some of the plausible reasons include:
• The employer hired someone else for the position. Another candidate could have been stronger. An internal candidate may have raised their hand during the selection process.
• The company did not fill the position. Or the employer has delayed the filling of the position.
• There was something about your thank you note that was not well received. Either the content or perhaps a glaring typo?
• Perhaps the qualifications or requirements of the job changed? After a hiring manager interviews several candidates, this can happen. After gathering intelligence from candidates, sometimes a different skill set is identified.
HR Reps sometimes have difficulty having these conversations with candidates. While there are candidates who welcome honest feedback, other candidates can become very defensive, even argumentative or belligerent.
Don't let this single outcome impede your search. Dust yourself off and keep swinging.
Q: I'm a well-educated professional with 20 years experience in my background. I've been trying to find a full-time job for the last three years with no luck. Is it possible that some employers find me overqualified or that my salary will be too high and they would rather hire a more inexperienced candidate?
A: Thanks for your question. You raise a very important point. I have received a lot of questions like yours. These questions have been asked of me through the Job Doc live chats (check boston.com for when these are scheduled, usually on Mondays at noon), through the Job Doc column and even from friends, colleagues and family.
Most candidates assume it is their age. Candidates will say, “Employers don’t want to hire me because I am 52 years old.” Or, “The hiring manager was 30 years old and seemed intimidated by my 20 years of experience.” Certainly age discrimination does exist. However, sometimes is not simply the age of the candidate.
I have found it is sometimes assumptions related to more experienced candidates. Very often employers see a 10, 15, 20 years of experience and assume that the candidate will request a very high salary. And of course, the employer would like to get the best “bang for their buck” so they look at lower experience levels. Sometimes it is not age, but a perceived “price tag.” Or sometimes it is the stereotypes that many of us may associate with a more mature candidate. We can not change your age or your years of experience but we can counter these stereotypes.
Here are some ways to better compete with less experienced candidates:
1. Demonstrate flexibility. Explain that you are flexible with respect to working conditions and job responsibilities. Avoid comments like: “At my age, I am not driving to Boston. When I was younger I would have, but not any more.” Or, “I don’t want to sit behind a phone and make 100 calls per day. I did that 20 years ago. I want to focus on higher-end selling.” Candidate don’t realize it but sometimes they are offering limitations when they are interviewing.
2. Consider deleting early or irrelevant experience from your resume. You can summarize your early experience as “Other Experience” and exclude dates and details.
3. Explain that your compensation expectations are reasonable. In this “new normal” economic environment, many employees are making less than they were just a few years ago. Focus on the total offer, not just the base salary. The commute, the benefits, the role, the company's mission's and the work environment are all important factors.
4. Be diligent about follow-up. Ask for the job.
5. Present yourself in a contemporary way. Ditch the 10 year old suit. Talk about current trends and technologies in your industry.
Good luck in your search. I do predict an uptick in hiring in 2012.
Questions about unemployment are often presented to The Job Doc. There are a full range of complex situations and circumstances that need to be evaluated individually. The best place for anyone to learn more about the services for unemployed individuals can be found on the Massachusetts Government website.
To access the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance website, visit www.mass.gov. Using the search bar on the right hand side of the home page, search the phrase “department of unemployment assistance”. Several options will appear. Click on the first option which reads “Department of Unemployment Assistance – Labor and Workforce”. Here you will find information on filing new and reopening old unemployment claims. There is also information regarding health insurance, training sessions, links to career centers, and answers to frequently asked questions.
I consulted with Judi L. Cicatiello, Director, Department of Unemployment Assistance who also encourages anyone with questions about unemployment insurance benefits to contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance TeleClaims Center at 617-626-6800.
Additionally, Judi offered her expertise on the following situations:
Q. I am a teacher who only works during the school year in a preschool. During the summer I collect unemployment for this position. If I am asked to substitute teach in another one of the classrooms running during the summer, can I still claim my unemployment? The question is what is considered "denying work"?
A. Because you were offered substitute or part-time work teaching during the summer, you can and should accept the position, especially if the position offers comparable pay. Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance law allows for a 1/3 part-time earnings disregard. For example, if your weekly benefit amount is $400.00, you can earn up to $133.00 and still receive the full benefit payment. This encourages unemployment insurance benefit recipients to accept part-time work. Every $1.00 earned over the 1/3 part-time earnings disregard, $133 in this example, results in a dollar for dollar reduction of the weekly benefit payment. If you earn $140.00 in a week, your weekly benefit amount will be reduced by $7.00 to $393.00
Unemployment Insurance benefit recipients cannot refuse suitable work. In this example, a substitute teaching position would generally be considered "suitable", especially if the pay is comparable.
Q. I have a seasonal job at a golf course and was hired to mow grass on the course. My employer is doing everything he can to stop me from collecting unemployment at the end of the golfing season. He now says he has a day or two during the winter doing maintenance and painting in a cold barn. If I do not accept the offer can I still draw unemployment?
A. Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance Law provides penalties for individuals who refuse suitable work. Every refusal of work is addressed on a case-by-case basis. Many things can make the work offered unsuitable. To be considered suitable the rate of pay must be comparable to other jobs of similar type and the work must be within the skill range of the worker. The law does allow for the payment of partial unemployment benefits to individuals who work on a part-time or occasional basis and it encourages jobless workers to accept such work while still retaining eligibility for unemployment insurance benefit payments.
Q. I have started a new job, and my new employer pays in arrears. For example my start date at the new job is September 5th, 201. I will not receive my first check until September 30th, 201. When should I stop filing unemployment?
A. Once a jobless worker begins new full-time employment, he/she is no longer eligible for unemployment insurance benefits regardless of when the employer issues payment for services rendered. Therefore, in this scenario where the work begins on Monday September 5st, the last week this formerly jobless worker is eligible for and can legally claim benefits is the previous week ending September 2nd. Because the employer must report the new employment to the Department of Unemployment Assistance, if the individual continues to collect unemployment insurance benefits after the week ending September 2nd, cross matches with the new hire databases will identify this individual as working while receiving unemployment insurance benefits and the law requires the Department of Unemployment Assistance to establish an overpayment, recoup overpaid benefits and assess additional penalties.
To get more answers on these types of questions and also on unemployment insurance benefits, contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance’s TeleClaims Center at 617-626-6800.
Q: I was terminated from my job at 5pm on a Friday right before I was ready to leave for the day. I think the supervisor planned the termination for the end of the week instead of telling me earlier in the week. Should I have been given notice? Am I entitled to severance or other types of additional pay? Is this legal? I was told that I was terminated for tardiness and being unreliable.
A: I am sorry that you were terminated from your job. Unless you have an employment contract or a member of a union, your employer can terminate your employment for any reason, including concerns regarding tardiness and unreliability. Most workers in the US are “at-will” employees and can be terminated at any time for any reason.
Assuming you are an “at-will” employee, your employer can also change your duties, salary or benefits as well. Unless you are a union member or have an employment contract, your employer does not have to provide you with any notice. In Massachusetts, employees who are terminated or laid off, must be in full for any wages due to them. These wages should be paid in full on the day of the lay off or termination. This would include any wages due to you for the hours worked, including the day of your termination. You should have also been paid for any unused but accrued vacation time. Severance pay is not required unless it is specified in an employment or union contract. Assuming you were working in Massachusetts, your employer should have also provided information to you on unemployment benefits. A copy of this information can be found at http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dua/0590a_508.pdf.
Although you might disagree with how and when your supervisor communicated this information, based on what you presented), it sounds like your termination was likely legal.
Q: After nine years of service, I was laid off by a large Boston-based company in January, 2010. I have picked up some contract and consulting work for short periods of time through friends and colleagues. However, I can see from the interviewers’ faces that I need to work on a response to one question. I am tired of the question, “why do have such a large gap in your employment history?” I want to say, “because I was laid off…. isn’t that obvious?” These interviewers are so callous and don’t understand that being unemployed for over one year takes a toll on a person’s self-esteem. So Job Doc, how do I answer this question? I will follow your advice. I just need to know what to say.
A: Thank you for submitting your question. This question could have been written by hundreds of job seekers who share your frustration.
Let’s start with the positives. It sounds like you probably enjoyed a stable work history prior to being laid off. This is important information to convey and highlight during any interview. Also, you have secured some consulting and contract roles. These roles should be included on your resume and mentioned during the interview.
And that question, about the gap in your employment (however it may be phrased), should be expected. You will get that question again. Expect it, prepare for it and don’t let it irritate you. An interviewer is trying to find out what occurred during that gap. It could have been that you left your last company because you were tired of travel. Or you left your last role to care for a sick family member. Or you left because you were fired after you were linked to embezzling company funds. All three are possible reasons and all three reasons are very different.
Here is my best advice. When “the question” is asked, don’t get emotional. Expect it. Prepare for it. This part of the interview may play out like I’ve described below.
Interviewer from XYZ: So John, you have been out of work for over a year. That’s a long time. Tell me about the circumstances of when and why you left ABC and tell me what you have been doing since you left ABC.”
You: Jane, thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain. First, I should point out that I was with ABC for nine-plus years. I started with ABC right out of college and then was promoted three times. Like a lot of companies, they struggled financially in 2008 and 2009. I survived three layoffs but finally in early 2010, I was laid off too. As you probably recall 2010 was a tough year and a lot of Massachusetts-based companies were not hiring. Fortunately, through networking, I have been able to secure quite a few consulting roles with several small- and mid-sized companies. What I have learned is that I thoroughly enjoy working in smaller, entrepreneurial environments, much like XYZ.
In short, what you are communicating is that you:
1. have had a strong professional work history and that the lay-off was an aberration and due to the overall economic climate, not your performance
2. you are not bitter or angry but you are looking for your next opportunity with a positive outlook and enthusiastic demeanor
3. that you were proactive and an effective networker which enabled you to land several consulting roles
You have woven in many positive comments about yourself and your work history. Your final comment is linking your abilities and preferences back to the opportunity being discussed.
Every question asked during an interview is an opportunity. Don’t run from it or take offense! Instead prepare by crafting a response to showcase your abilities, skills and relevant experience.
Q: I am in my mid-50s and feel like I am being discriminated against in job interviews. How do I show to a potential employer that I could outwork any 30 year old with the same skill set? This employment market is difficult but even more difficult if you have a few gray hairs. Please don’t give me legal advice, just practical advice.
A: Unfortunately, discrimination does exist. And it may be impacting you personally in this job market.
But let me offer some practical counsel on how you can move an interviewer from thinking about your age to focusing on your capabilities. There are stereotypes associated with more mature job seekers. A short list of some of those stereotypes might include:
- being inflexible or rigid
- having outdated skills or work style
- being slow to pick up new ideas, concepts or skills
- working more effectively in a traditional, hierarchical environment (rather than a collaborative, open environment)
Knowing that these are common stereotypes, how can you demonstrate that these misconceptions don’t describe you as a candidate?
1. Dress and accessorize in a current way. Leave your 20-year old suit home. (Or better yet, donate it!) Walk through an office park or office building and observe how professionals are dressing. There is some variation between industries for sure. Ask a trusted colleague for candid feedback on your professional dress. Be willing to accept it and adapt if needed. Carry yourself in a confident and energetic manner. A 2010 www.boston.com article on the topic might be helpful - http://www.boston.com/jobs/galleries/interviewdress2010/.
I recently had to accept some difficult criticism from a family member regarding my style of casual dress. On a recent daytrip, I was told, “Ditch the fanny pack. It makes you look frumpy.” Hmmm… that feedback was hard to take. However, I no longer wear the fanny pack!
2. Be able to demonstrate that you have current skills. Talk about current technologies and trends in your industry. Don’t remember and recall days of the past when mainframes, live operators and little pink message slips were commonplace in most business environments. Avoid comments like: “I remember using a typewriter!” Although experience is helpful, employers are also looking for forward-thinking employees.
3. Provide examples where learning a new skill or talent was exciting. Weave into your interview real-life examples from your work or even personal life which show that you are vibrant, enthusiastic and energetic. I have a 60-plus year old sister who has both a bike and a kayak. She is the epitome of good health and energy. If you have similar interests, mention them in a casual way. (“Oh yes, I know exactly where your office is located. I enjoy the bike trail that runs behind your building almost every weekend in the spring.”)
4. Share examples of when you worked in a high energy, collaborative and unstructured environment. (“When I worked at ABC Inc., it was a high energy and very casual environment. It was an incredibly fun place to work. There was a group of us who took night classes at XYZ College right down the street.”)
If you knock down early age-related assumptions about you as a job seeker, an interviewer is more likely to re-focus on your skills, capabilities and potential as an employee. Discrimination does exist, no doubt. Neither one of us can eliminate it in the employment market. You can, however, be mindful of the common stereotypes, and try to re-direct the focus to your professional work experience and capabilities.
Q: In April, I had an informational interview scheduled with a friend of my cousin. I rarely drive into Boston and it causes me great anxiety when I do. I left plenty of time that morning but probably not enough time. Because of rain and highway construction delays, I never got there on time. I just turned around and came home. Now what do I do? I am so embarrassed that I really don’t want to admit what happened. Is it too late to send a note of apology? My cousin is irritated that I did this after he referred me to his friend.
A: We have all had those mornings when traveling to a location seems to be filled with hurdles, delays and hiccups. Here are some thoughts about how to best handle this in the future:
1. Think about scoping out the location, the route and the parking beforehand. Some people will even “take a dry run.” This means traveling to the location before your appointment to ensure that you know the area, the potential setbacks, parking options, etc. While this is often smart to do, you can not always anticipate traffic or weather delays. You should build in extra time for delays however. I often will use the 2X rule. If I expect a commute to take 30 minutes, I plan for a 60-minute commute.
2. Consider public transportation. Sometimes the stress of finding a parking spot, traffic delays, etc. can cause more hassle than the convenience of driving may be worth.
3. Don’t rely solely on a GPS for a new destination. I usually use both a GPS and a printed map.
If you are running late, it is a professional courtesy to call the person and ask if he or she can still meet. If not, offer another option.
In your specific situation, you should have called the person and explained that you were running late or needed to re-schedule. It is unacceptable to be a “no show” especially since you were referred by your cousin.
I would suggest apologizing to both your cousin and the person you were scheduled to meet. You made a mistake. I think it is important to acknowledge the mistake. You will have to decide whether it is worth it to reschedule this appointment. The other person may not give you a second chance. And if traveling to Boston provokes such feelings of anxiety on your end, it may be better for you to schedule conference calls with contacts in Boston.
Q: I was laid off nine months ago. I have had great success with landing interviews. However, I seem to be a finalist but never receive an offer. I am getting frustrated and discouraged.
During a recent interview, I had a hiring manager ask me why I have been unemployed for so long. His tone of voice and body language made me feel horrible. I felt very defensive and know I did not respond in the appropriate way. I babbled some answer that I can’t even accurately recall. I thought I knew all the toughest interview questions but this one really stumped me. What is the best way to answer this question? I felt like screaming a response like “This has been the worst recession in 30 years…. Have you read a newspaper lately?”
A: Let me begin on a positive note. Your resume and professional work history must be impressive. Why do I believe this? You are being interviewed and rising to the top of a probably very large pool of talent. There are many (sometimes hundreds!) talented candidates who are vying for every available position – both employed and unemployed candidates. With each and every interview, you have gained valuable experience. This can only work to your advantage.
When asked a tough or unusual question, I advise to first take a moment to think about it before formulating a response. You can even respond… “I don’t think I have been asked that question during my search. Let me give it some thought.” A short response like this can buy you a moment or two. It is best to respond in a factual, open yet positive way. One way to respond might be:
I don’t think I have been asked this question during my search. Let me think about your question for a moment.
First, I should point out that prior to this period of recent unemployment, I was gainfully employed for 22 years. I began as a marketing intern during my senior year of college and then ultimately rose to the director of marketing role. I am thankful that I can pursue a passion for a living. I really enjoy the field of marketing. I was very effective in the areas of web analytics, customer acquisition and retention metrics as well as selling sponsorships.
As we have discussed, I was laid off, along with 57 colleagues, in the summer of 2010. As you know, the economic climate has been a challenge for job seekers. There are so many strong candidates applying for every available position. Fortunately, I have picked up some contract work over the past several months. I was hoping that the contract roles would lead to a full-time role but that has not been the case.
I am searching for a full-time marketing role.
A job seeker should answer a question completely and honestly but also capitalize on the opportunity to showcase the successes and strengths. It is fine to begin with a short response that buys you a bit of thinking time. Then, highlight some of your strengths – your stable work history (before this bout of unemployment), the upward trajectory of your career, your areas of expertise in your field, etc. Additionally, if you have worked as a consultant, contractor, point this out! And consider including these contract roles in your current resume to help fill the gap. Lastly, end on a professional and encouraging note. Avoid being defensive or irritated. Being defensive, annoyed or irritated at one question can diminish your ability to advance in the process.
I am thrilled that you didn’t yell “This has been the worst recession in 30 years…. Have you read a newspaper lately?” Sure, I can understand why you would want to respond in this manner. But it doesn’t help you land a job.
Keep swinging. Don’t let an interviewer’s question get under your skin and rattle you.
Q: Why would a potential employer cancel an interview later in the day after scheduling it stating that it has been put on hold indefinitely? Does that have something to do with me?
A: There could be several reasons why an interview may be canceled. It may not even be related to you as a candidate. Some of the possible reasons could include:
1. The position is no longer a valid position and the employer has decided not to fill it. Perhaps they have realized there isn’t a need to fill the position and they can operate with the existing staff. Companies are constantly evaluating headcount. Employees are expensive!
2. The position has been filled by an internal person. Sometimes an internal person has raised their hand and expressed an interest in a role within the company.
3. The company knows of an upcoming acquisition and/or merger. The company may be reluctant to hire employees because of the upcoming change. Or the company may be planning to relocate to another geographic area. This location change could also force an employer to re-assess and perhaps delay hiring needs until the move has been completed.
4. The company had decided to hire another candidate. Perhaps they have sourced another candidate with stronger qualifications.
5. The hiring manager may have assumed that they had the authority to hire a replacement when, in fact, the vacancy has not been officially approved.
I could continue listing possible reasons and some may be related to your candidacy or qualifications and some may be completely unrelated.
In short, it would be smart to stay in touch with this employer. Email a note to your contact at this company thanking this person for their time and requesting that they please consider you for future openings. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a true professional. Who knows? This company could contact you again in the future. After all, they expressed initial interest in your resume. However, you also need to continue your search. You can not rely on this vacancy becoming available again.
Q: If an individual who is entitled to severance pay later accepts a new position with another company, is he or she still eligible for severance pay? Or is the severance pay terminated?
A: The purpose of severance pay is to provide a terminated employee with some continuation of income after the employee is no longer employed. In Massachusetts, employers are not required to provide severance pay to most terminated employees. There are some exceptions however. Being a member of a union and/or having an employment agreement with a severance clause are two examples of situations where severance payments may be required. Another reason why employers offer a terminated employee severance pay is to limit the company's liability. Additionally, an employer might request that the employee leave the company in a professional manner and refrain from speaking negatively about the company. Often severance pay is given only if the exiting employee signs an agreement where the employee agrees not to sue their former employer.
Most employers determine their own severance policy. Policies can vary widely. Severance often varies depending upon the employee’s level within the company and their length of service with the company. Other factors can also be taken into consideration as well.
Some companies offer severance payments for a specific length of time. An example may be 12 weeks of severance. Another company might offer 8 weeks of severance and then if the former employee lands a comparable job during that severance period, the individual can collect the remaining weeks at 50% but in a lump sum payment.
In short, an individual must review the severance and/or separation agreement that was likely signed prior to leaving the the employer. This agreement should provide detail on the specifics of the "terms and conditions" of receiving severance. If in doubt, you could contact your former employer.
In my experience, most companies would terminate the severance pay if the terminated individual began a new role that was comparable to the former role that they held. However, some companies do offer the 50% lump sum payment too.
Over the past few years, there has been a bit of discussion with respect to severance and what constitutes a “comparable role.” In particular, what if the new role is a part-time position? Or a consulting role? Or a temporary role? Is that a comparable position to the full-time position that the employee had prior to being terminated? It is best to clarify how a comparable role is defined before signing any agreement.
Q: I was recently terminated and am unclear of the reason. In fact, when I asked why during my very abrupt termination meeting, I was told “we think it is best to part ways.” What does that mean? Am I eligible to collect unemployment? I have never had this happen to me before. How are reference checks usually handled when an employee is terminated? Signed, Confused.
A: I am sorry that you were recently terminated and are now confused as a result. I can not provide your employer's reasons on why you were terminated. I think only your employer can provide that information. It is unfortunate that you are not aware of the reason. Companies usually will provide this information but they are not required to provide a reason. In Massachusetts, and many other states, employment for most of us is “at-will.” What this means is that the employee can leave a position at any time and for any reason. And conversely, the employer can terminate the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all.
Assuming you work in Massachusetts, you should have been provided information on how to collect unemployment assistance. I have attached a link to the information. http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dua/0590a_508.pdf. You can contact the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) by phone or by visiting them in person. Before contacting them, you should have specific information ready and available to provide to them. This information is outlined in the link that I have shared. Usually most Massachusetts workers that are terminated are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. However, the DUA makes the final decision with respect to eligibility.
Each employer handles references checks on former employees differently. You may want to contact your former employer to ask them about their specific policy. More and more companies are providing only a confirmation of the following: whether the former employee worked at this employer, the specific dates of employment and perhaps the job title(s) held by the former employee. Sometimes the former employer will provide more information. It is important for you to know this information before you begin your job search. You will want to learn this information so your explanation of your separation is plausible and understandable by a prospective employer.
Q: I am an engineer with over 14 years of experience and was laid off one year ago. Since then I have been studying computer programming as a career change. I decided not to go back to school, but instead teach myself.
Any advice on how I should tailor my resume or cover letter so potential employers overlook the fact that I don't have a computer science degree?
A: There are typically two basic ways to present an employment history in a resume. The first format is the chronological resume that most employers prefer and are somewhat accustomed to because it is the most common format. The chronological resume provides an overview of a candidate’s work experience beginning with the most recent and working backwards through the different roles and positions that a candidate has held. Dates are usually provided as well as a short summary of what each role entailed.
The second format is the functional resume. This format is less commonly used. A functional resume groups similar job responsibilities together. A functional resume often omits dates (which is sometimes frustrating for the reader). So as an example, one section of a functional resume may be focused on sales experience while the next section might be on management experience.
Most employers are more comfortable with the chronological resume because it is used more frequently and it is an “easier read.” By that I mean, you can determine length of service at each role or company and find gaps in a candidate’s employment history. Functional resumes tend to minimize gaps in a candidate's work history.
With 14 years of experience in one field, you may want to consider a chronological resume. My recommendation assumes that you had a steady employment history with just a few employers.
Some employers will strongly prefer a computer science degree. And there may be no way around that. You can not fabricate a degree. However, you should be certain that your educational achievements are detailed on your resume. Some employers would prefer a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. What your challenge will be is how to get a prospective employer to put you in that “or the equivalent” bucket. Detailing your academic credentials and any specialized training will be critical for you.
I must admit that I am strongly in favor of a attaining a college degree in most circumstances. College graduates almost always fare better in the employment market, but especially in the field of engineering. We all hear of the very successful college dropouts like Bill Gates. Bill Gates is not the norm. Most college graduates fare better in both strong and weak employment markets. In September of 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published some very persuasive data. For US workers, 25 years and older, the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college education was 10.0%. For US workers, 25 years and older, the unemployment rate was 4.5% for those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Although the numbers have bumped around slightly for many years, this trend is pretty consistent.
Lastly, if you are Massachusetts resident, you should take advantage of the career services offered by the state. The Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers have a variety of resources and services available to unemployed Massachusetts residents. You can download a brochure entitled The Resume Guide by visiting http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dcs/1865_508.pdf.
Q: I have 20 plus years in banking industry. I was laid off because of budgets cuts last October. What jobs are out there which do not require a college degree or a long commute? I am a former data entry keyer.
A: I am sorry that you have been impacted by the consolidation in the banking industry. Just 20 years ago, there were several larger regional banks that provided employment opportunities for many workers at all levels. Many of these larger banks have been acquired by national or even international banks with headquarters outside of the Boston area. There are still financial services firms in the Boston area, but many are facing challenging times.
According to research conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Employment and Training, the Massachusetts economy should continue to expand at a rate of 6.3% by 2016. Technology will continue to have a strong impact on the jobs forecast.
Health care and information technology are both expected to grow. Fourteen of the 20 fastest growing occupations will require an associate’s degree or higher. The fastest growing occupations include network systems and data communication analysts, personal and home care aides and computer software engineers.
According to this report, one growth area that you may want to consider are the office and administrative jobs least affected by office automation. Customer service clerks, receptionist, billing/accounting clerks are all roles that require significant contact with other humans. By 2016, these jobs should expand by 11%. Individuals with strong computer skills tend to fare better when applying for these jobs. The area of office and administrative jobs would likely be the best category for you to further research since some of your skills may be transferable. Some of the jobs may require further training and schooling but many do not require a college degree.
One resource to explore is the Labor and Workforce Development section of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ website (www.mass.gov). There is a wealth of information on career services, seminars, job postings and other helpful job hunting links. When I searched data entry jobs on their site, several opportunities appeared to be a match for an experienced data entry candidate. Additionally, there are One-Stop Career Centers across the state for residents of Massachusetts. To print a listing of these centers, visit http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dcs/2066a_508.pdf.
To view the full report entitled The Massachusetts Job Outlook through 2016, visit http://lmi2.detma.org/lmi/pdf/careermoves/CareerMovesJOBoutlook.pdf
Q. I am an RN and I left a job I had for 3 years at a health information company to accept an electronic medical record training position with a major healthcare organization, reporting to the SVP. When I arrived to start my new job, the job description and my report to manager had changed. This was all a surprise to me. After five weeks, I was released by my newly assigned middle manager, with no documented reason, other than being told I was still a probationary hire. This is a first for me! How do I handle presenting this to a new employer and what about on my resume?
A.Presenting the job on your resume and developing a public statement on a very short job can be a challenge. You might decide not to add the job to your resume to eliminate the immediate screening from a resume review. You have a good story to tell in networking meetings, or interviews, and hopefully you can articulate some of the actions you took with your former employer to understand what had happened.
The original agreement, and the reason you chose to leave a stable job was for a specific role, and to report to a Senior Vice President. Change happens in organizations, and we can understand that. At the same time, you should have been given the opportunity to try and understand it, by being prepared for the changes prior to your first day. What should have happened is the SVP, the person who hired you, should have called you to explain the organizational changes which needed to occur on both the reporting structure and the responsibilities of the new role. You would then have had the opportunity to discuss these changes in greater detail, register any concerns, and make arrangements to meet with your new manager, in addition to a face to face meeting with the SVP.
You deserved the opportunity to accept this new “offer”, to reject it, or to work out some kind of understanding about what your future would hold. Five weeks seems very fast for any action to be taken, especially being separated from the job.
There are so many questions to ask, which in hindsight may have altered the outcome. Did you talk to the SVP? Did you talk to a human resources person? What did your original offer letter say? Did you have an offer in writing? Some people would suggest you had an opportunity to talk to a lawyer if the written offer was not honored as it was written. Were you offered severance based on the separation, and the initial circumstances?
People have accepted offers, and changed their minds, or received better offers. Companies have made offers and then withdrawn them based on changes in the economy, or other circumstances. These situations do happen, and when both sides work with integrity and honest communication, facing responsibility for their own actions, fair resolutions should result.
I encourage you to communicate with a senior leader at this firm about a positive public statement which supports your job search. Your conversations with potential employers should be using the same statement showing your understanding of the organizational changes which led to your departure.
Q. I have been working for a temporary agency for the last 6 months, but I am unhappy with their performance. If I ask to sever my agreement with them, will that be considered "quitting" by the unemployment office? Can I just not respond to their offers of work, or is that considered "refusing"? The temp agency is only offering me jobs at $4.00 per hour less than I asked for (after me repeatedly asking them not to), and they often make errors getting job info and hours wrong, never giving me the person I ask for, etc. I don't want to lose unemployment, but I don't want to be a slave to these people either.
A. Temporary work can offer job seekers financial benefits and the opportunity to build experience. The structure of how temporary agencies work with temporary employees and the employers who hire these employees comes in a few formats. Some temporary agencies put employees on the agency payroll so the employer is actually the agency, though employees work at another company site. Other contract or temporary agencies place employees at companies, for a fee, and the company pays the employee directly.
In both instances, you are not obligated to accept an offer of a position from an agency, or work for wages you believe are unfair. Review the contract you have with the agency. Most contractual arrangement are for one position for a specific duration of time. They do not automatically extend or commit you to other jobs.
If you are not happy working with this agency, there are many others to consider. The compensation offered will depend on your skill set, and the kinds of opportunities the agency can present to you. You can work with multiple agencies and take the offer which appeals to you most, based on whatever criteria you have.
There is a great deal of information offered about whether or not you can collect unemployment after working at contract or temporary jobs. Review what the contract says will be provided in terms of benefits and review your pay check for contributions the employer has made. Unemployment benefits accrue based on these contributions over 52 weeks and not from employee deductions.
There is a comprehensive list of Q's and A's about eligibility for unemployment at www.mass.gov. The home page lists specific locations for related answers. Answers specific to personal circumstances are only determined after a claim is filed, which is also explained on the site.
Q. I took some time off from my career to care for my mother before her death. Initially, I took a leave of absence under FMLA (the Family and Medical Leave Act). Then, I left my job knowing that my employer could not hold my job for me indefinitely. My company reorganized and had lay-offs during the time that I took care of my mother. I have re-applied for my old job (which I really loved) but I don't think they will have an open position for a very long time. I need to return to work. I am working through the grief and I have a pile of bills to pay too. Do you have any suggestions for how to return to the workforce? How should I explain this period of unemployment? I am reluctant to discuss the details of my mother's illness, hospitalizations and death.
A. I am very sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one is not easy. You were wise to utilize the support FMLA provides, which is up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth, adoption, or care of a child, or the care of a spouse or parent with a serious health condition, or a serious health condition of the employee him/herself. The Department of Labor website has a full description of FMLA at www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla.com.
One of the challenges people face when a family member becomes ill, is communicating with others. Many people feel this information is private. They prefer not to share the details of the impact of the illness, or their own plans and need for time to support the family member. They may not be prepared to make any commitments to their employer, especially when they do not know what the future holds, and have limited insight into any timetable.
Sadly, this is when communicating with an employer can be the most valuable, especially as it relates to retaining your job. You say you left your job, knowing that your employer could not hold your job "indefinitely". Was this at the conclusion of the FMLA leave, or prior? I consulted Attorney David Conforto, founder of Conforto Law Group, P.C. a Boston-based boutique firm concentrating in all aspects of employment law and dedicated to the representation of employees. Attorney Conforto explains “Under FMLA, upon an employee’s return to work, the employee must be returned to the same position or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, status, and other terms and conditions of employment."
Most likely you needed longer than the 12 weeks of FMLA job protection, as many people do. I encourage them, and you, to communicate as much as you can with your employer about the circumstances. Companies have their challenges to run their business, and many are highly sympathetic to the circumstances of personal situations, particularly with highly valued employees. I have seen great flexibility to support returning employees.
I do hope that even though your past employer has had reorganizations and layoffs, that you are communicating with human resources and previous managers about your potential for re-hire. Face to face and live conversations remain the most effective methods. In uncomfortable situations, many people choose to use email. Try to move past that discomfort. The experience communicating live will also serve you well as you approach prospective employers.
Your return to the workforce should be supported by your former colleagues. This network will be able to make introductions to companies, and may even be able to make introductory phone calls for you, where they tell the story of why you had to leave the organization. Though this will help, you will still need to be prepared to discuss the difficult time, your personal choices, and your current readiness to return to work. Life happens, and your reluctance to discuss your mother’s passing is understandable. At the same time, I believe you will find supportive people who understand the situation, and are more focused on the skills you bring to the job and your work ethic.
Practice a concise explanation: "After 6 years with Company Name, my mother became ill, and I chose to take FMLA leave to care for her. After a very difficult 6 months (or whatever the timeframe was) she passed away. My former employer went through some financial changes during that time, and eliminated a number of positions. My manager assured me if they could have held my job open for my return they would have, which I appreciated hearing. So this is the reason I am looking at new opportunities like yours."
This answers the basic questions of why did you leave your organization, why didn't you go back, were you a good employee, and are you ready to return to work. You don't need to expound unless questioned further, and remember to keep bringing the focus back to the job, and why you make the perfect candidate.
Q: I took some time off from my career to care for my mother before her death. Initially, I took a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Then, I left my job knowing that my employer could not hold my job for me indefinitely. My company reorganized and had lay-offs during the time that I took care of my mother. I have re-applied for my old job (which I really loved) but I don't think they will have an open position for a very long time. I need to return to work. I am still working through all the grief but I have a pile of bills to pay too. Do you have any suggestions for how to return to the workforce? Also, how should I explain this period of unemployment? I am reluctant to discuss the details of my mother's illness, hospitalizations and death.
A: I am very sorry for your loss. I can personally empathize with your loss. Losing a loved one is a devastating event. Quite often, after a loss, we are expected to dust ourselves off and return to our daily lives. This is easier said than done.
If you feel like your grief is overwhelming, you may want to consider therapy or joining a support group. Either or both could be helpful. The hospital that provided care for your mother before her death may be a good source for information and referrals. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship may also provide counseling or referrals to appropriate resources. Discuss your grief with your physician to make sure that he or she is aware of your loss. Your physician may also refer you to counseling for your grief.
If you have not conducted a job search in the last few years, you should spend some time researching job search strategies. A job search today is much different than it was even five years ago. Boston.com has an entire section devoted to jobs. Visit www.boston.com/jobs.com. A few quick tips:
- update your resume, be truthful about your dates of employment and make sure that it is crisp, polished and professional
- develop a 1-2 minute "elevator speech" about who you are, your background, your qualifications, education and what type of role would be of interest to you (see a sample below)
- begin re-connecting with former colleagues, co-workers, friends, neighbors and others with the intent of letting them know you are looking for work
- use social media tools to help jumpstart your search (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can all be helpful when used effectively)
Your elevator speech should be authentic, truthful and succinct. Without knowing you or
your work history, I have developed an initial draft that you should review and edit. It should contain accurate information and sound like your voice, instead of mine.
I am a seasoned Human Resources Representative. I have worked with a number of well-known firms including ABC and DEF. I have more than ten years of experience in all facets of HR including recruitment, employee relations, benefits negotiation and administration as well as compliance. I enjoy working on the most complex and unusual HR questions and resolving them efficiently. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from LMO University. Most recently I was employed at XYZ in Boston, MA where I was an HR Rep for the entire eastern region. I absolutely loved my job at XYZ. I left XYZ in late 2009 to care for my seriously ill mother. Sadly, I lost my mother this past spring. I am now eager to land a new role in HR. I am looking for a role similar to the role I had at XYZ. Every day at XYZ was a challenge and I enjoyed my role there quite a bit.
With the sample elevator speech above, my goal is to be factual and also demonstrate the enjoyment that you mentioned in your most recent role. If you have a degree, it is often helpful to mention that information. Notice I discussed your mother's death but I didn't focus on it or provide details. Instead my last statement brings us back to your career interests and enthusiasm for your work.
Realistically, you will have to practice your own elevator speech several times before it is ready to be used in your job search. Practice in front of a few trusted friends or relatives. You will also want to make sure that you can speak candidly about your mother's death without losing your composure (another one of those "easier said than done" things). It may take time, but with practice, your elevator speech will become smoother and more authentic.
Why is an elevator speech important? It is a critically important component of a job search. When you have the opportunity to talk to a former neighbor, someone that you run into at your niece's soccer game or a hiring manager that picks up the phone when you call, you want to be prepared with a succinct and clear message. Most people give anyone a few minutes of their time. You want to make the most of that time and be able to communicate your message quickly and efficiently.
In 2002, my mother died after a lengthy illness. My mother, who raised seven children, used to give me very good advice when I faced a daunting challenge. Her words were simply, "YOU can do this!" I encourage you to take my mother's advice with regard to your job search -- "YOU can do this!"
Q: There is an article on the web saying unemployed people looking for jobs won’t be hired because companies only want to hire employed people. I’m unemployed, and I need a job. Is this true? What else can I do to make sure I can get hired?
A: There is an article circulating on the web titled “Out-of-work job applicants told unemployed need not apply”, by Chris Isidore. The message suggests organizations are only looking to hire people who are currently in jobs, and not active job seekers.
In recruiting terms, there are only two types of people – active candidates – those publically looking for jobs who may be employed or unemployed, and have gone public with their search activity; and passive candidates who are not actively seeking a new job but might consider a new opportunity if they were approached by a recruiter – and the offer was attractive enough.
Many recruiters do find that they have client companies who make this situation a reality. The client company will engage the recruiter in a search, and will say they don’t want unemployed candidates; they are only interested in considering the currently employed. This is a disheartening message to many job seekers, and a message which needs to be considered carefully. There have always been employers who are looking for employed candidates only, and I see fewer and fewer of those hiring criteria.
What’s important to point out here is that many of the experts quoted in the article are retained or contingency recruiters and jobs filled by recruiters only account for somewhere between 5 and 9% of job openings – depending on your source. With so many candidates available, companies choose to use recruiters for a few reasons, including having very specific criteria involving specialized skills which are most often not easily identified. They also choose to use recruiters with expertise who can sort through volumes of paper representing resumes of candidates eager to apply for a job they may not be ideally suited for. However, job openings are filled, more often than not, through non-recruiter methods.
Recruiters typically charge between 25 and 30% of the first year’s cash compensation for finding the successful candidate. Some companies believe that a recruiter only earns that fee by generating the research to identify perfect passive candidates, and to convince them to interview. They may find it hard to believe that the same research and the same influence needed to get a passive candidate to consider the opportunity is exactly what is used to source and recruit an active candidate. Recruiters work for the company paying the fee, and do want to make sure they are seen as adding value – value worthy of the fee. They may believe an active candidate is an “A” candidate, but if the company has discussed their passive requirement, recruiters will work to meet the company request.
So while this information is true for some jobs, some companies, and some recruiters, all data says the significant majority of jobs are filled through networking. You asked what you can do to increase your chances of finding work, and networking is the best solution to this challenge. Do not rely on search firms, job boards, or ads. All these methods of job search will play a part in your job search – but less than 25% of your time should be spent in all three of these areas with at least 75% dedicated to developing a strong, diverse, and supportive network.
Q: My brother-in-law is a smart, savvy guy who did very well in the venture-backed internet space several years ago. He has been unemployed for over two years now and is "waiting for the right opportunity." He has an undergraduate degree from a prestigious school. He has an MBA from an Ivy League school. He seems to be so full of pride that it is getting in his way of landing a new job. I am not sure if he will ever make the money he made several years ago. He seems unrealistic. I know his job search is creating a lot of stress between him and my sister. She has just returned to work as a teacher but the money is not great.
A: The world has changed for many employees that were involved in the tech sector in the last decade. Venture capitalists have pulled back on funding (especially new ventures) during this past recession. Without financing, fewer companies are being launched. This is slowly changing but it is a gradual process. Additionally, many technology companies have moved some of their work overseas, where labor is significantly cheaper.
Many have had to re-adjust expectations in terms of career goals and aspirations. Many of the jobs that existed, even five years ago, have not returned.
I consulted Jon Carson, CEO of BiddingForGood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Carson is a serial entrepreneur who has lead four technology-based start ups in Massachusetts and has enjoyed a successful track record of returning cash to investors. Carson offers, "We are beginning a giant reset on economic expectations in this country. The winners will be those that level-set first." It may take some time for your brother-in-law to realize this, but it is likely true.
Technology is an ever-changing field. Even one year on the sidelines can hinder a candidate's marketability. Some candidates are able to re-enter the job market quickly while others are able to keep skills sharp with consulting roles during challenging economic times. Carson agrees and explains, "skills are a perishable asset if they are not kept up to date." There is a "shelf life" for skills, especially for those candidates in technology roles.
Additionally, I get anxious when I hear that a job seeker is "waiting for the right opportunity." No one should be waiting for the phone to ring or the email to arrive in the inbox. It usually does not happen that way. Usually job seekers receive job offers after lots of hard work and the development and execution of a rigorous job search strategy.
I have a colleague from business school who summed it up best. After almost one year of his job search, he was at the end of his rope -- emotionally, financially and spiritually. His confidence was at an all-time low. He was tired of the rejection time and time again. Honestly, it was beginning to show. He felt like he had "come close" to several job offers but nothing materialized. Yet, he really was committed to his job search campaign.
In early 2010, he was re-contacted by a company with whom he had interviewed in late 2009. The HR person explained that their top candidate (who had accepted the job and worked for the company for several months) had abruptly given notice and was relocating. My colleague was offered the job and began this new role in the spring of 2010. He realizes how smart it was to remain professional and poised even when you have been told that another candidate will be the candidate receiving the job offer. My colleague had also kept in touch with this company through occasional emails. When I asked what he attributed his job search success to, his response was clear and concise: "I left no stone unturned. Not one." I think his comment sums up the work required in a job search better than I ever could.
Q. I know executive search firms use video to interview so they don’t have to travel, and more people are video chatting, and people work virtually, but I am having a hard time understanding the virtual job fair concept. I need a job so I’ll do what it takes but is this for real? I’m not so sure about the ads I read for people who will help you get a job. Tell me if this is “spam”.
A. You are right about technology encroaching on many aspects of the traditional job search, and not just from the candidate’s side. Using LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, blogs, and job boards are now standard for hiring managers and the use of video interviews are no longer limited to retained search firms. They are used by human resource executives interested in expanding their pool of potential candidates.
The combination of all these technologies combined with companies seeking great candidates and job seekers looking for great jobs comprise a virtual job fair. These multi-media based recruitment platforms started with avatars representing the job seeker and the recruiter – not exactly at the level we see with today’s avatars. Many companies considered these a costly activity with a cost of hire was too high to make these events worth while.
There are a number of organizations. , like Career Builder, producing virtual career fairs. They are real, and each fair needs to be assessed based on the value they provide, the cost, and the amount of access to companies.
I asked Lindsay Stanton, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategy for Job Search Television Network (JSTN) to explain more about the services. “A JSTN video virtual career fair is a video based event allowing company clients to use their Video Job Reports and Company Profiles and candidates to connect with the opportunities on a dynamic level and see an inside view of the organization.” Through the JSTN television network, channel 62 locally, strategic partnerships, and web advertising, JSTN attracts active and passive job seekers from recent college graduates to executives.
Lindsay also points out “We have partnered with colleges and universities around the country helping alumni access the services and we are partnered with disabledperson.com and JOFDAV.com (Job Opportunities for Disabled American Veterans).
At the virtual job fair, candidates can create a 20 second video introduction by using their web-cam for only $5.00. Recruiters can view these, chat live if they are interested, and save them to refer to after the event. During the live chat recruiters and candidates can interact by exchanging an application and resume. Candidates also have access to career consultants, and expert advice on the JSTN site and at the virtual job fair.
To register for JSTN’s next virtual career fair visit, http://www.myjstn.com/vcf/ad/keyston_partners
As a candidate, you need to be prepared to answer questions quickly, make a positive impression, and have a strong resume which you can speak to comfortably. Looking good on video and knowing what you want to highlight is also key. Professional attire is a must. I recommend practicing on your own video equipment if you have it! Video gives you the opportunity to make a great impression, or to land at the bottom of the pile. Develop these new job search skills to be the most effective candidate you can be.
Q. I am totally distressed. Looking for a job is a horror show. I can’t even seem to get to the point of rejection – I can’t get an interview, no one wants to network, I don’t even believe the jobs on the job boards are real. They say the market is improving. It doesn’t seem that way, and my unemployment is on the last extension. I don’t want to do this anymore. I just want to work.
A. This isn’t easy and all the statistics about job loss and job growth don’t show the personal impact for people trying to get back into the work force in an economy like this. The emotional impact of a job search can’t be minimized. The stress you are faced with everyday is taking its toll, and many job seekers have a very similar outlook.
A job search can trigger a lot of fear and anxiety – fear of never finding work again, financial fear, fear of rejection, fear of losing everything you have worked for. Is that extreme? Yes; these fears are very powerful, and part of a successful job search is managing these fears so they don’t become self sabotaging.
Build a positive outlook - Many people will tell you to try and have a good outlook or to think positively. This takes action. Building a positive outlook involves creating a support network. Identify multiple places, people, groups and methods of cultivating support. Most people need more than one person to lean on.
Are you working with an outplacement consultant? Use that one-on-one time wisely. Have you joined a job search support group? Many local community groups and religious organizations run weekly groups for job seekers, and this kind of commitment to a group and the shared experience can be invaluable. Are the Employee Assistance Program services of your former employer available to you? A counselor, a religious leader, and a circle of friends can all offer support, and having as much as you need is not a sign of weakness, but a key strategy to build success.
Stay healthy – “Exercise is medicine”, says a current TV commercial. At a time when we need it most, many of us can’t generate the emotional energy to move. I’m not suggesting you become a marathon runner (unless you want to) but can you capture some positive attitude endorphins by walking or bike riding or swimming, or using your Wii fit? A buddy for this kind of commitment can also increase your chance of success. Keep the eating and drinking in check, and try to ensure the right amount of restful sleep.
Take a break – Are you suffering from job search fatigue? Most job seekers recognize that looking for a job is a full time job, but that doesn’t mean 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Schedule your job search time in appropriate increments. If you plan on a 40-hour job search week, dedicate half that time to networking. Divide the remainder of time to becoming an expert user of LinkedIn, reviewing job boards, connecting with placement professionals, reviewing ads, researching companies and all the follow up activities that need to be completed. Now schedule your time off. When will you relax, rejuvenate, exercise, meet with support people, make dinner, socialize, and just live? You need that time.
Establish multiple goals - Finding a job can not be your only goal. You will need many incremental goals so that you can build success into each day. A reasonable goal might be to write a great “30 second commercial” about who you are and what you are looking for in a new role. Maybe you want to develop a strong summary statement for your resume, or develop a list of 25 target companies. A great goal would be developing goals for each day and each week of the job search, just as you would for a large project on the job. Create small wins and celebrate each one. The job search is many steps, and the energy to keep moving forward is self generated.
Help others – You might be surprised to find out just how much you have to offer to others in similar situations, or entirely different situations, but in need. Can you help an elderly neighbor? Volunteer at the Food Bank, or Cradles to Crayons or the Special Olympics. You can make a one-time offer, or longer term commitment. This kind of giving can help you lift your spirits, and reinforce the value you bring to many different situations. Job seeker is a short term title, and you have many other ways to be defined.
Review your strategy – Once you are in a more positive state of mind, and have created a way to maintain it, review your search activity. Identify what works, what doesn’t and keep your expectations reasonable. This is an intensive process with lots of rejection, many dead ends, and a boat load of being ignored. If you know that going in, you may be able to focus on getting closer to success with each small step.
Q: I know someone who was laid off in January and has had no luck in getting a new position. He has been collecting unemployment. If he were to get a temp job then obviously he wouldn't be collecting unemployment. But what happens when the temp job is over? Wouldn't he be ineligible for any more unemployment payments then?
Taking temporary roles while unemployed can offer experience, an introduction to a company, the opportunity to learn new skills, and perhaps an advantage in a “temp-to-perm” hiring situation. What it also offers is great confusion about the impact on unemployment insurance benefits. To help sort out the issues around temping and get the answers to our questions I consulted with Judi L. Cicatiello, Director, for the MA Division of Unemployment Assistance.
All the details do matter when eligibility decisions are made, and Judi explains “You haven't indicated the potential duration of the temporary job and that can be important. When an individual files a claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits, the claim is generally good for a one-year period. In the example you referenced the claim would be good from January 2010 to January 2011 at which time it will expire. Assuming the claim has not expired at the point the temporary job ends, then the claim can be reactivated and the individual can resume receipt of any remaining benefits.”
There are other special circumstances that can affect eligibility, and Judi offers her expertise on two additional areas of which applicants need to be aware. Eligibility for benefits is always based on the reason for unemployment at the time benefits are claimed. “If this individual accepts temporary work and then quits or gets discharged prior to completion of the job, his eligibility would be subject to adjudication.” If you quit a temp job, regardless of the reason, you may no longer qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits.
Jobs obtained through temporary agencies carry special provisions regarding unemployment which they are required to inform you about right up front. Judi explains, “Once you accept an assignment with a temp agency you are obligated to check with them for additional work upon completing each assignment before reactivating your Unemployment Insurance claim. By law, failure to contact them for additional assignments is considered "quitting" and can be disqualifying.”
Q. I am a radiation therapist. I was laid off and am looking for a full time job. I was offered per diems, and would like to take these as a way to get my foot in the door. What happens to my unemployment benefits?
Taking per diem work offers job seekers similar benefits to taking temp roles. According to Judi, unemployment allows for partial benefit to individuals who work part-time jobs after losing their primary employment or who obtain part-time or per diem work while receiving benefits.
Judi offers the following example. “Individuals can earn up to 1/3 of their weekly benefit amount and still receive the full benefit payment. Any earnings over the 1/3 limit result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the benefit payment for that week. For example: With a benefit amount of $300.00 per week an individual could earn up to $100.00 and still receive the full benefit. Earnings in excess of the $100.00 limit would result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the benefit payment for the week. If the individual in this example earned $300.00 in a week, the first $100.00 is ignored because it's under the limit but the remaining $200.00 in earnings over the limit results in a $200.00 reduction in the $300.00 benefit for the week and this individual would receive a benefit payment of $100.00.
When working on a per diem basis, the earnings will likely vary from week to week and the amount of the benefit received will also fluctuate if earnings exceed the 1/3 limit.”
Judi also offers information on extended benefits currently available. These benefits are payable after the expiration of the individual's benefit year provided the individual is not able to file a new claim. Individuals who accept temporary or part-time work during the benefit year may earn enough to be able to establish a new claim when the benefit year expires. Often the weekly benefit amount available on a claim based on temporary or part-time work is substantially less than the weekly benefit payable on the original claim. Federal law requires individuals to exhaust the benefits from their new claim before they can resume receipt of any extended benefits that may be available on their original claim. This can pose a financial burden on individuals who qualify for benefits on new claims because they accepted temporary or part-time work while receiving benefits.
Q. I am trying to be thorough in my job search and have prepared different versions of my resume to address the potential needs in a few different roles. I have been told I have exceptional experience and academic credentials, and I believe I could realistically pursue several career tracks. How would you suggest I market myself to retained search firms? Many firms today have a place on their website where you can upload your resume to be considered as a candidate for positions for which they are sourcing candidates. Since I have different versions of my resume targeted to different industries and/or positions, how do I approach them with the best chance of getting a response?
A. Retained search professionals are seeing the market for their services improve, and after a dismal 2009, first quarter of 2010 offers a promising outlook for the rest of the year. Many job seekers have been overlooking these resources, and your efforts with these recruiters are much likely to pay off.
For an insiders look into how to successfully access retained forms, I consulted with Joe McCabe, Vice Chairman of CT Partners (formerly Christian and Timbers). Joe offers two suggestions when approaching retained search firms. First, get your “generic” resume in the firm's database by applying online to give you access to everyone throughout the firm.
Also, research the consultants on the firm's website to see which ones have a search practice most closely aligned with your career experience. Send that slightly tailored version of your resume to the most relevant consultant first. So if you have financials services experience than send that version to the consultant who handles that vertical market. McCabe cautions that the content should be fundamentally the same with different highlights, but it must not contain any inconsistencies in the core content.
Often people with multiple resumes consider various formats. Most retained search professionals prefer the traditional layout of Company, Title, and dates employed, as opposed to resumes challenging the reader to identify where responsibilities were performed or when someone worked at a particular organization.
Retained firms, and contingency firms as well, have functional or industry specialties and if your areas of expertise do not fall into those areas there will not be a response to your unsolicited emails or calls. Focus on accessing firms who are looking for people with your area of expertise. Remember the firms do not need to be local to the area of your search. A west coast firm may be doing an east coast search, or the reverse. And only one retained firms has an individual search.
If you are right for a job, search people will be eager to talk to you. If they do not think they can present you to a company they will not meet to network, or to hear why you want to make a career change into the role, or industry. I say this because job seekers often forget what search specialists are responsible for finding the right candidate for a company not the other way around. They are compensated by the hiring companies so they will always remain priority for them, not the job seeker. Remembering these hard facts will hopefully make some of the rejection that comes easier to handle.
Q: I was terminated in March of 2010. I am not sure how COBRA works. Do I have to contact my former company's benefits office to enroll? How do I know if I am eligible? I hear the rates are horrible. How can an unemployed person pay COBRA if they don't have an income?
A: I am sorry that you were terminated and are confused about Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and your benefits options. Most employers are required to offer COBRA to employees upon termination or resignation. There may be some exceptions. If an employee is terminated for "gross misconduct," then the former employee can be denied COBRA rights. Generally however, employees that were enrolled in an employer's plan(s) have specific rights to continue those benefits for both themselves and their qualified beneficiaries.
COBRA only applies to companies that employ 20 or more employees. In Massachusetts (and many other states), there are "Mini-COBRA" laws. Mini-COBRA provides the continuation of health benefits to employees of small businesses (2-19 employees). Mini-COBRA laws are similar to COBRA but there are variations between states. For more on Massachusetts Mini-COBRA laws, visit www.mass.gov/doi.
If your former employer is required to comply with COBRA and you are eligible for COBRA, you should have been mailed information regarding your COBRA rights. You should have had the opportunity to review the information carefully. If you wish to continue your benefits, you are required to take action. You may want to contact your former employer to ensure that they have your current mailing address.
The Department of Labor provides both a general overview of COBRA as well as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on their website. COBRA is a bit tricky but it a worthwhile option for many. You can learn more by visiting http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm.
COBRA rates can be expensive. Your former employer can charge you 102% of the premiums. While you were actively employed, your employer may have been contributing a significant portion to the costs of your medical and/or dental benefits. Your former employer will likely discontinue their portion of contributions so the financial burden can become a challenge. You may want to evaluate other options if they are available to you. You may want to consider a spouse or partner's benefits plans at this time. These may be less expensive options than purchasing benefits through COBRA. Additionally, COBRA is a valuable benefit for many who have lost coverage, but it is temporary coverage. The maximum period of time that you may participate in COBRA benefits is usually 18 months. Extensions are available but certain conditions must be met.
You also may want to research The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), as amended on March 2, 2010 by the Temporary Extension Act (TEA). In short, these Acts offer certain individuals a substantially reduced COBRA rate if the eligible employee was involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010. Certain conditions must be met for a former employee to be eligible. Your employer is required to provide information about the subsidy to you if you are an eligible individual. For more information, visit www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html.
Q I am an 'employee at will' for my current employer. I was recently put on a Performance Improvement Plan that says that I need to meet certain requirements or "actions will be taken including termination of employment." I am working my hardest to achieve these items, but also need to plan for contingencies. If I am indeed terminated for not meeting the requirements, am I still eligible for unemployment and COBRA benefits?
A: Most of us are employees at will. What this means is that our employer can terminate us at any time or for any reason. Additionally an employer can change the terms and conditions of our employment for any reason, including our work hours, location, job responsibilities or benefits.
Although difficult to receive, a performance improvement plan (PIP) is often a sometimes a helpful communication vehicle. It signals that there is a performance concern. Additionally, a well-written PIP clarifies what requirements need to be met for continued employment. I am pleased to hear that you are working your hardest to meet the expectations outlined in your PIP.
I agree that a contingency plan is prudent. Most employers are required to offer COBRA for eligible workers and their dependents the right to continue health care coverage. COBRA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees. Some states, including Massachusetts, require smaller employers (those with 2-19 employees) to offer “Mini-COBRA.”
Health care coverage rates are generally more expensive for COBRA participants than the rates offered to active employees. In part, this is because the employer often pays part of the monthly premium for active employees and their dependents. COBRA participants are often charged the entire premium plus a small administrative fee. Even though COBRA rates can be expensive, the rates are often less expensive than individual health care coverage premiums.
For an employee to be eligible to extend benefits through COBRA, one of the following events often occurs:
1. Voluntary or involuntary termination of employment for reasons other than gross misconduct
2. Reduction in the number of hours of employment
In general, if you are terminated for not meeting a performance goal (and there is no “gross misconduct”), you should be eligible for benefits continuation through COBRA. You would be eligible for the benefits that you had before your termination. For example, if you had individual coverage for medical and dental, you should be offered individual coverage for the medical and dental benefits as an individual (the same benefits that you had when you were an active employee).
If you are terminated, you may be eligible for a reduced COBRA rate (or subsidy) under the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Currently, the subsidy is only available to those involuntary terminated between September 1, 2008 and February 28, 2010. The US Department of Labor provides a lot of information on COBRA at http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm.
In Massachusetts, unemployment benefits are available to workers that are unemployed through no fault of their own. Recipients must be available to work, willing to work and looking for a new job. Unemployment is temporary income protection for those residents who have lost a job. Most individuals who are terminated for performance reasons are eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if your former employer is able to demonstrate that you were terminated because of misconduct of a violation of a company policy, you may be disqualified. Visit www.mass.gov/dua for more information about unemployment benefits in Massachusetts.
Q. I'm a trucker driver. Or I was, for over 15 years. Now I am not because I got laid off over a year ago. I enjoyed some time off, collected unemployment, and figured I’d have a job by now. The unemployment extensions have kept me above water, but just barely. I have been looking for a job, but all the job search stuff you write about doesn’t seem to work for people with my kind of job. Plus, all the online applications ask for my social security number. That doesn’t sound right. Is it a scam? It’s time to make some money, and get back to work. Do you have advice for regular jobs?
A. Looking for any job from truck driver to human resources professional to company CEO is a challenge in this economy. Believe it or not, most of the job search methods are the same for any type of job, and there are some adjustments which might make the process more effective.
First, identify all the resources available to you for job search help. You will need to use all avenues including online job boards, industry and networking events, etc. for your search to be successful. Many job seekers choose to use one method at a time, and then see what happens. You need to follow multiple paths to make things move ahead.
You have filed for unemployment insurance, so you are getting financial support. Have you used their services and support to write a detailed resume? In your line of work, the information around dates, certifications, and any awards for attendance, or safe driving all matter. Ensure the accuracy of this information. I am sure you are aware that you can buy a copy of your Department of Transportation Records for about $40 online. You need to make sure all information matches.
Be careful with your social security number. This information is used to identify your driving record and proceed with caution on how you use it. If you find an organization which feels like a scam, or presents you with placement opportunities they want to charge you for that, don’t pursue it. I also encourage you to file complaints with the Better Business Bureau if you feel mislead.
Were you part of a union in any of your jobs? Unions can often help current or former members to find new opportunities. Even if you were not a member of a union, these connections can support your job search. I encourage you to meet with leadership and other members. They will have a host of information, and be able to introduce you to other people who may have lots of information to share about job leads and other professional connections.
Many people think networking only applies to senior business people, but it is vital to every job seeker's success. Networking is connecting with others to learn more about what the marketplace looks like, and to see who else you should reach out to. It applies to you.
Make sure you network, use Craigslist, look at the job boards, and talk to everyone you know about others they know in the transportation business.
There are many kinds of driving jobs, paid in many different ways, and in this market, it will take perseverance, and plenty of referrals to get you to the right hiring organization.
Q. Maybe this isn’t the right question to ask the job doc, but it is a work question. We have been through one layoff here, and it was horrible. Everyone knew it would happen but no one thought they might be the person affected. So they were shocked. Then no one knew what to say to them while they were here packing. A few of us were talking about what the right thing to do is – so what is the right thing to do?
A. Layoffs are tough on all involved, and I really appreciate the fact that as “survivors”, you care about the people affected. One of the challenges of lay offs is making the decision on which positions will be impacted. Management is charged with the task of identifying positions based on business needs, which can be eliminated. The painful part comes when there are real people in those positions. Companies with solid business practices create very concrete selection criteria for which positions will be eliminated and how decisions will be made when there are multiple people in similar if not identical roles.FULL ENTRY
Q. My job search is now coming on 5 months, and I don’t understand where the offers are. I am doing what everyone says, I network, I use the job boards, I have as good resume, I am told I interview well. The big bases are covered. Everyone can improve something (I do know that) but am I doing anything wrong or is this just how it is?
A. The job search in this market can be a frustrating, challenging process. Everything you do in this public forum does matter. Each interaction counts, and how you present to every person becomes part of your story. People do talk about candidates within companies and between companies, and you want to make sure what your story is represents you as positive, professional, and an asset to any organization.
We know of situations where people have lost offers for being rude to receptionists, condescending to wait staff at lunch interviews, or because their etiquette was lacking. We know people who ask for a networking meeting and then don’t offer to pay for coffee or lunch. We can start a collection of worst behaviors exhibited by job seekers – feel free to send me your examples and experiences. There are many stories about people who hurt their candidacy by ignoring what they think are the little things, and when it is an employers market, the little things add up.
I’m not saying this is the case for you. The job search does take months and you need to use all methods, and probably with a lot more diligence than most people expect. The challenge is each of these many activities needs to be completed effectively, leaving a positive impression with each person you reach.
You have the big bases covered, so let’s review the “little things”.FULL ENTRY
My job was eliminated this year. I have been looking for a new job for months. I want to move to another state with warmer weather and a better job market. I don’t want to jeopardize my unemployment compensation though. Can I collect unemployment compensation if I leave the state?FULL ENTRY
If I were laid off from my job and decided to go back to school or participate in a training program, should I still file for unemployment?FULL ENTRY
Q: I've been collecting unemployment and have finally found a new job but I won't start for three weeks. Can I continue to collect my unemployment for those three weeks? Do I need to provide the Department of Unemployment Assistance with any paperwork?FULL ENTRY
Q. If I were to be laid off, I want to extend my job skills to make myself more appealing. I have always been administrative, but would go into medical coding and billing as they have more job potential and less competition. How does that work if you are laid off? You can go to school and collect your benefits from what I understand, however, does unemployment pay for school, or help pay for it?
Q. I had a job I didn’t like very much, and I was laid off, so it was OK. I have been collecting unemployment and looking to start a job at a place I liked. My old work called me back, and I declined because I will be starting a new job in 4 weeks. Can I still collect unemployment benefits until I start my new job?
A.While this question seemed pretty straight forward to me, I didn't find that to be the case. Unemployment determinations are made by The Division of Unemployment Assistance following the collection of information from the prior employer.
Understanding unemployment, starts as so many things do, with the concept of following the dollar. I consulted Edward T. Malmborg, Director, Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) to explain this situation. Mr. Malmborg explains: "It is important to understand that your former employer is ultimately responsible for the benefit costs associated with your claim and receives a monthly statement of charges from the Division of Unemployment Assistance. Your former employer will likely protest benefit charges for any period of time for which they were willing to provide you with work and your eligibility will need to be determined at that point."FULL ENTRY
Q. I was recently laid off and received severance pay, which I reported to the state unemployment office. In early 2009, I then received a Christmas year-end bonus from my former employer. Does this affect my unemployment claim and must I report it?
A. I am sorry to hear that you were laid off and suffered a job loss. I am thankful though to learn that you received severance pay. Not all companies are providing severance pay to laid off employees.
In Massachusetts, unemployment compensation is typically available to workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own. Right now, unemployment compensation has been extended and is available up to a maximum of 59 weeks because of a federal extension of these benefits. The state makes the final determination regarding eligibility for unemployment compensation. The current maximum weekly amount is $628.FULL ENTRY
Q: I lost my job about 4 months ago. I was a Director of Marketing at one of the financial services companies that is really hurting right now. I have networked my heart out, searched every appropriate job board, met with a few search firms and answered any ad that I thought was a fit. Nothing has materialized. I need to bring income into the house. I have a family of four to feed and take care of. How bad will it look on my resume to take a job at a supermarket right now just to bring cash into the house?
A: It sounds like a very responsible thing to do in my mind. Many laid off workers are taking less responsible and lower paying jobs right now so they can bring money into the house. When the economy improves, there should be no problem explaining this digression in your career path. You are simply doing what you must do for your family.FULL ENTRY
Q. I recently got laid off because I was not fast enough with my data entry. I know I could use a brush up on some of the software packages, as well as improve my data-entry speed. Got any suggestions on how I can pay for this since I am not working right now?
A. Since you were recently laid off, you are what is known as a "dislocated worker." There are some training funds available for dislocated workers but you need to follow the rules established at the One-Stop Career Centers throughout the state. I would recommend visiting the One-Stop Career Center in your community. To find the closest One-Stop Center in your community, visit this link on the Mass.gov website.
Be aware of two things:FULL ENTRY
Q. I got laid off, and I am thinking of going back to school. Should I still file for unemployment?
A.The range of benefits provided by the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) extends far beyond a weekly check, and I encourage you to look into all of the benefits that may be available to you.
The process of opening a claim can be frustrating, and the DUA has taken steps to make it easier to file, with WebCert and TeleCert. Check www.Mass.gov/dua/webcert for the basic steps to register for online services . You can also call TeleCert at 1-617-626-6338. For assistance in using the services, you speak to a TeleClaim representative at 1-877-626-6800, or 1-617-626-6800. The phone are busy and it can be difficult to get through. Insiders say to access services Sunday between 1 and 7 p.m. to have a speedier experience.FULL ENTRY
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.