Strategies to Help Unemployed Friends and Colleagues

It’s a New Year but national unemployment is still hovering around 9.4 per cent. And, the unemployed will continue to face unusually harsh economic conditions when looking for new jobs.

Recent surveys indicate that of the 15 million unemployed Americans, greater than 40 percent have been jobless for six months or more. Further, older Americans who may have worked 20 to 30 years for the same or several companies— and were recently layed off—face the prospect of competing with lower paid younger workers and the realities of “age discrimination” (yes, it does exist in the US even though Federal law prohibits job discrimination for persons aged 40 years or older). Finally, long term unemployed workers are likely to experience emotional and psychological problems like depression more than others.

I am certain that many BioJobBlog readers are either experiencing long term unemployment themselves or know others like them. So, how can employed persons help their unemployed friends or colleagues? Phyllis Korkki, who writes “The Search” feature for the Sunday NY Times Business section, offers some very good ideas and suggestions in her article entitled “Offering Help (Carefully) to Jobless Friends.”

As the title of the article implies, helping unemployed folks must be approached with an enormous of amount of discretion and sensitivity. Offering off-the-cuff remarks like “Have you sent out any more résumés?” or “Have you called any more people?” is likely to be unhelpful and often counterproductive. In fact, Korkki suggests that experts she interviews note that “Expressing worry is a way for friends or family members to deal with their own anxiety over the situation and often serves to transfer anxiety to the jobless person.” As a person who has faced unemployment more than once during his career, I concur with all of Korkki’s observations!

There are small signs that 2011 is likely to be better than 2010. Nevertheless, unemployment in the US is expected to remain high for the next three to five years. To that end, learning to help friends and others deal with unemployment is a good idea. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in that position some day and it will be comforting to know that there are people out there who are willing to help.

Until next time...

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

Five Ways to Improve Your Curriculum Vitae
I have been professionally critiquing curricula vita (CV) for scientists for the past 10 years or so. While some are better than others, they all tend to suffer from the same problems and mistakes. This is mainly because scientists, unlike many other jobseekers, are rarely taught the “ins” and “outs” of resume writing.

Like anything else, resume writing is more of an art than a science and it takes many years and lots of trial and error to discover a format that works. That said, I found an article written by Charles Purdy, the Editor of Monster Hot Jobs, that offer would-be resumes (CV) writers some useful tips.

In the original article, Purdy offered eight tips for resume writers. However, some of the original eight were not germane to science CV writing. To that end, I pared the list down to five and added my own titles and commentary.

1. Customize the wording of your CV

An easy way to make sure your resume gets you in the door for an interview is to echo or parrot the language in a job post in your CV. This is because a resume reader—whether human or software-based —will be screening them for so-called “key words.” Failure to include key words in a CV will likely mean that it will be placed in the not interested pile.

Look for ways to creatively use keywords throughout your CV. And yes, for those of you who may be thinking ahead, this means that a new CV will have to be created for every job applied for! You cannot be lazy if you are seriously looking for a job.

2. Insure the accuracy of CV content

There is a saying among professional recruiters that goes something like “they all lie.” This means that there is a general consensus among recruiters and HR professionals that most jobseekers include “little white lies” in their CVs to bolster their changes of landing a job.

While this practice may have been tolerated in the past, the advent of social media, online background checks and increasing competition for jobs suggests that person who knowingly include false or misleading information in their CVs will suffer the consequences for lying. Nobody is going to hire an individual who has the propensity for not being forthcoming or telling the truth. So, keep it real and honest; or you may find yourself unemployed for a very long time.

3. Objective statements are passé

Honestly, I never truly understood objective statements; especially if they said something like, “to obtain a position as a laboratory scientist.” Well...duh....we know that you want to be a laboratory scientist because you applied for a laboratory scientist position at our company!

Instead of an objective statement, I highly recommend CV contain a section (at the beginning) called “Summary of Qualifications” or “Personal Profile” This provides jobseekers with an opportunity to tell perspective employers who they are, what they bring to the table and why they, rather than their competitors ought to be considered for the job. It also allows jobseekers to generously incorporate as many keywords gleaned from the job post into their CVs.

4. Keep the verbosity down and use exciting and laudatory language

Scientists tend to wax romantically about their work and in many cases are overly verbose when it comes to describing what they have done and where they have been. On the other hand, hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters don’t have the time or patience to read dense, wordy and often times redundant CVs.

The key to success is to clearly, cogently and boldly express your skill sets, talent and other assets that you will bring to the table if hired at a company. This requires a substantial amount of thinking, time and word-smithing to get it right. In other words, you will have to spend more than 30 min throwing together your CV.

Also, it is vital to construct a CV using action verbs and flowery, laudatory adjectives to sell yourself to prospective employers. Writing in the passive voice is tedious and quite frankly boring. Prospective employers want to hire people, who are confident about their abilities, demonstrate the ability to take control and face challenges without flinching.

Further, I know that we scientists are told not to promote or say exemplary things about ourselves but it is time to get over it; the rest of the job-seeking world does it and we are no different than other persons!

5. Appearance does matter!

Let’s face it: nobody wants to read a densely-packed CV written in 10 pt font. While it is true that content is the most important thing contained in a CV, the way information is presented can influence whether or not a CV is read by a prospective hiring manager or employer.

I generally recommend an open, inviting design that allows a reader to easily find all of the pertinent information about prospective employees. Truth be told that when I was working as a professional recruiter, I tended to not even look at dense, visually unappealing CVs unless I was desperate for a job candidate.

While I am sure that I missed a few things, these tips will help to improve your CV and possibly lead to gainful employment. Let me know your thoughts!

Until next time...

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!