Category Archives: HR Interests

Skill Upgrades That Pay You Back

Recently, I read the typical spring article on home upgrades that add value to our homes.  As I read the article, I realized, it depends on the location and the amount of money we spend on the upgrade.  For example, a below ground pool may not be the best add-on for a home in Iowa, but it is a great idea for Florida.  More insulation may be a perfect upgrade for Maine, but not for Southern Alabama.  Same goes for jobs.

The closer we get to retirement, investments in skillsets requires careful consideration.   Not only can training and education be costly compared to the return, they can be extravagant.  Extravagance is not something we can afford in an economy that does not value seasoned employees.  There are a few skills that everyone can use, regardless of age or impending retirement, but where will we get the most value?

My rule of thumb regarding skills is to revisit old skills first.  Keeping up-to-date on skills that serve us well is more important, in my mind.  We need to stay current in our areas of expertise, or get left behind.  Think of it in terms of home repair and must-have upgrades.  If we want to sell ourselves, we need the current upgrades.  It doesn’t mean we have to undergo a complete redesign, just a refresh.

Other skill sets are important, for example communication, but if training budgets are limited, go with your areas of expertise.  We cannot be everything to everybody, and if we try, we will fail to be what we are needed to be most at critical times.  You’d also be a better resale value.  This is not to say avoid training and education in other areas, but consider more cost-friendly options for additional skill sets.

Many public libraries, colleges and universities subscribe to online learning sites like and, and they are free with your membership.  You don’t have to attend a public institution to get a library card in most places.

Believe in yourself, and thanks for ‘listening’.


Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Appreciate Our References

When was the last time you checked in with your professional references?  Regardless of your employment status, we need to keep in touch with the people who impact our careers – our lives.  If they are not friends, they are at least good contacts.  I love reaching out to my references throughout the year.  I consider them friends, and I am grateful for their efforts on my behalf.  Perhaps I can be of assistance to them as a way of showing my gratitude.

So, today’s activity is to reach out to your professional references.  Ask them how they are doing and offer your assistance.  Unemployed or employed, it is a nice break in the day and a great way to lay down tracks to keep moving forward.

Believe in yourself, and thanks for ‘listening in’.

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Life Reimagined

This is a great program provided by Life Reimagined through AARP. I strongly encourage you to consider joining AARP to access this and many other programs that can help provide direction in your life, especially if you’ve been unemployed for a long time.  If you need financial assistance, contact the AARP Foundation first.

Life Reimagined helps us make better decisions about relationships, work, purpose, and our general well-being.  You could join them directly for a fee, but your best bet is to join the AARP first to gain access to other programs and discounts.  Either way, the program takes you through a decision-making and exercise process, one step at a time. 

I recently started the program, Get an Edge in Your Job Search, and it provided access to an abbreviated version of the Strong Interest Inventory.  This tool enables a person to compare their interests (strong interests) to others who have high job satisfaction in their field.  For example, if I am someone who likes research, analyzing, and calculating, I may be a good candidate for a job in science.  If I really prefer writing, design, and helping others, I’d probably be a good candidate for a job in communications.  There are additional tools as well, so I’ll be going back to complete them soon.

Combined with new techniques in neuroscience, these are powerful tools, so please give Life Reimagined through AARP a try.

Life Reimagined Institute

Photo courtesy of Modern Farmer, Picturing Women Farmers by Audra Mulkern

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Trust Building as a Job Applicant

Trust is an important part of our lives, including at work.  We need to be able to depend on each other to be successful.  Recently, I reviewed a course on, Building Trust, by Brenda Bailey-Hughes of Indiana University, to check out new material, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The presenter suggested an exercise, which I pass along to you here; write an action plan to build trust. 

In the case of job hunting, the plan is to establish the beginnings of trust during the interview.  We can do this by being prepared to present business cases that support our qualifications and professional experience. 

Of course, it goes without saying, but I will, to:

  1. Be honest on our resumes.
  2. Demonstrate honesty during the interview, especially when it comes to weaknesses and responsibility for failures that show how you’ve grown and learned from the experience.
  3. Present a demeanor that shows you are dependable – despite what you see on the tube, shenanigans are not the order of the day.

Back to the script.  It should be tailored to the job requirements.  If the posting indicates the applicant needs to be ‘quick on their feet’ or ‘tech savvy’, this indicates the need for urgency and ability to make decisions as well as to work with technological tools.  It does not necessarily indicate you need to be an IT guru or leader. 

A good business case example for the script if you were in manufacturing (this is also a good answer to the question, what did you do at ABC company?):   I was accountable for quality control on the first assembly line, ensuring defects were caught before they arrived at final assembly.  I was required to safely operate the MAG54 punch and post unit by ACME company.  I had X number of defects pass through my line in five years, and I received a Quality Award for my performance.

This may be an idea for a sales job:  Follow-up customer service was my primary responsibility with ABC company, and I was required to ensure all customer complaints were resolved before final billing.  ABC trusted me to make decisions to resolve issues quickly.  I had to work with the IT department on a daily basis at times to keep on top of installations and updates and explain these to the customer. 

The idea is to be specific to their requirements.  As you move through each new script, customized for each job interview, you will find just how qualified you are for the job, gaining confidence in yourself and the ability to sell yourself at any interview.

How to Get Your Job Application Noticed Every Time

If You Want A Great Job, Tell a Great Story

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: Early Morning Odd Jobs

Start getting up earlier, at least three days a week.  Get a jump on the day and tackle those few odd jobs needing to get done.  It is an accomplishment.  Being unemployed can get us down, so we need to do whatever it takes to get us up, even if for only a short time or to generate more good mojo.  The more mojo, the better!

What odd jobs do you like to tackle in the early morning hours?

Job Clubs in Your Neighborhood

The Department of Labor established a program, Job Clubs, in 2014 to address the issue of the long time unemployed.  The program collaborates with community and religious organizations to help the unemployed find and manage new jobs.  Community organizations include your local colleges and universities or in rural areas, agricultural extension agencies.  Check with your faith-based center as well.

If you can’t find a local job club, consider starting up a Job Club through a local agency.  Check with your local economic development organization.

More information

Frustration-Free Job Postings … A Myth?

Job SeekerWhen it comes to hiring, it is important to understand and translate the necessary KSAs into a job posting.  This is more important than using keywords to create the meta tags to find resumes that may match.  My reasoning is that if we create better job postings, we will be able to accurately identify people with the KSAs we need.  My assumption is the goal is to find the best match as quickly as possible without frustration.  I don’t focus on the best talent.  There are lots of people out there who can fit the job; besides, in many cases we can’t afford the best talent.

Some think we do that now, but by far the majority of job postings still use a quick list of responsibilities and duties alone or with very little skill bullets or situational details.  If we want the best fit, we exclude a large population.  I don’t propose to remove these areas, rather I propose we get better at detailing them.  I also propose removing preferred qualifications in favor of the actual qualifications.  We use the term ‘preferred’ without qualifying what that means, creating ambiguity.  As a result, we are overwhelmed with resumes that have very little to do with the jobs we post, and that is frustrating for everyone on both sides of the process.

What about job titles?  We change job titles like changing shirts.  I don’t think we do this to get more closely aligned with the actual job, we do this to compete with other job postings, but is it working?  How are applicants supposed to find the job if we keep changing job titles? I’m confused about the logic here; it does not make sense to me.

Writing good job descriptions takes time and effort, but it is not difficult.  The ideal job posting includes lots of action words and situational details.  In the past, I inherited job descriptions that had been rehashed for years.  They included a job title and a list of responsibilities and duties.  The title often changed, but the content did not; at least not enough to reflect the job at that point in time.

Aside from a formal job analysis with the employee, I applied a bit of a project management approach to creating a job posting that works well:  identify the stakeholders, the tools and tasks used on the job, the processes and procedures required of the job, and finally the environmental factors – situational details.  Presenting the job description in this manner helps applicants to quickly and more accurately gauge their fit.  It reduces frustration for both sides, I think.

My job posting template includes the job title, company information and culture, job environment, stakeholders, tools (all of them), tasks required to be completed along with ‘other’ tasks as required, required processes (not procedures), minimum (forget preferred) professional credentials, compensation range depending on experience, and finally benefits.

Generational War or Poor Planning?

MentoringWhen did we go from workplace mentoring to generational war?  Wherever I go on the Internet to find information about employment and the workplace, the most talked about issue is millennials vs. baby boomers.  According to a recent 2015 study conducted by Harris Poll for Workfront, there is a huge discrepancy between millennials and baby boomers regarding workplace ethics and perceptions; but is this something new?  Sounds like a normal workplace to me, though with the influx of information and attention on baby boomers retiring, you’d think it was the end of the workplace as we know it … well, from my perspective, I guess it is!  Is this normal?  Yes.

This is normal workplace conflict.  The reason it makes headlines is because baby boomers have made up the majority of the workforce for so long, and companies fear their mass exodus (retirement) will wreak havoc on their business.  It is not a generational issue, it is a planning issue; or more accurately, a failure to plan issue.

Succession planning has been the HR Call to Arms for years.  I know this because I was one of those who kept preaching and hiring to replace myself.  The recent decade of recessions sped up the retirement process, voluntarily or involuntarily, putting pressure on companies who didn’t have a succession plan to engage emergency measures … boot the boomers and hire the hackers.  Not the smartest approach, but people in reaction mode take the path of least resistance, and it is too often the path to easy money.

So where are we now as a result?  We are in a world in workplace flux.  We are trying to fit square pegs into round holes (or vice versa).  The boomers who ARE left in the workplace are overloaded and under supported, with very little time to mentor new employees.  When they do mentor the younger generation, conflict often occurs because of these pressures and expectations for this tech savvy group to become the next startup phenomenon.  This environment does not breed innovation AND loyalty.  Anecdotally based on my own experiences, people want to be appreciated, so they will stay with a company who values their contributions, regardless of age.  It’s not true that Millennials are not loyal to a company; they’ve just developed different workplace survival tactics in response to what they’ve seen happen with their parents (Gen Xer’s) and grandparents.

Should and can we do anything about it?  To start, develop a balanced succession plan.  It is never too late to plan, and a balanced plan follows the adage, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  A good succession plan not only plans for the future workforce, it plans for the current working environment.  This includes training and development, benefits, flexible work hours and work platform.  Baby boomers have the tribal knowledge, the knowledge to get newbies up and running and effectively engage their talents and ideas to help transform and adapt the company for future success.  Generation Xer’s, lest we forget them, are in a perfect position to serve as the cornerstone for an organization while Millennials are transitioning into the workplace with the Baby Boomers (too many pigeonholes).

Millennials are not deadbeats looking for entitlement; they are a lost generation looking for answers in an uncertain workplace.  We raised their parents to challenge the status quo, and they raised their kids to BE the status quo.  Now we need to meet the challenge as only baby boomers can.


Boomers and Millennial Workers Trash Each Other

Millennials in the Workplace:  A Hot Topic for Comedy Writers

Daily Practicum for the Unemployed: CareerOneStop

Your local CareerOneStop is a great resource for anyone who is unemployed or underemployed. This organization has been around for a while now. I’ve worked with them on a professional basis in the past, and I see they are picking up the slack where our unemployment offices leave off. I highly recommend a visit for anyone who is unemployed. I’m off to my local office this week!