Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ON THE FRONT LINES

I will be working the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Traditionally, it is the slowest week for employment in the public employment office. The majority of my staff will be on holiday leave. Most employers are closing out the year and all the anticipated extra help for the holidays is in place. Most people will be going to parties, spending time with family and friends, experiencing the holiday spirit. The people who come into the employment office are in a much different place. I will be there to hear their words. Anytime a counselor can help ease the pain of another human it is a gift to both.

When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable. Thich Nhat Hanh

These are indeed extraordinary times for employment counseling. We have record numbers of people coming into the One Stop Career Center. People are struggling and fear is all too pervasive. Often displaced emotions are directed at the front line staff. We have no control over hiring and firing. We did not make the unemployment system nor do we determine whether or not someone is eligible to collect benefits. We are however, one of the few places of direct public contact. I discuss customer service at every staff meeting. I ask the staff not to take verbal attacks personally, but I also do not want them to take abuse. When they cannot handle a customer, they know my door will open.
Every day I encounter expressions of frustration and anger. I am experienced enough to shift most customers into a better state of consciousness. Some are not in a place to receive my guidance or acknowledge possible blame and consequences. Whether I like them or their decisions, I accept it is their counseling session. Sometimes I can do no more than listen and I have to trust that the experience will be therapeutic for both of us. Other times people open up and tell me their story and we are able to transcend the despair. And sometimes it seems like magic when we find a solution that really feels right. I do my best to offer an honest, caring and encouraging environment.

It is through our compassion that we care for the dignity, well-being and integrity of every person around us. Our capacity to embody this quality, simple as it may seem, is the strength that can change the world around us. Thich Nhat Hanh


On a global scale we are clearly in a time of great transition. Communications and the availability of knowledge have made our world “smaller.” When we think about renewable energy in the “green” revolution, let us not forget about the human resources. Counseling is about helping, healing and at its best, renewal of energy. I invite you to visit the Charter for Compassion website and perhaps add your signature.

http://charterforcompassion.org

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Blog Executive Job Searcher?

“… as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism.” ~ Andrew Sullivan

We are in the 21st Century in a period referred to as the “Age of Information.” Communication is instantaneous, worldwide and flowing through a myriad of forms. The potential customer who used to look in the yellow pages to confirm business legitimacy is now “Googling” a name. There is a library of information at our fingertips and people are “talking.”
Scarcely a decade ago, getting your words printed and read, depended upon a publisher’s blessing. Today we have tools that have opened fairly sophisticated self publishing venues to virtually everyone. One of those, the Blog (from Web Log) is gaining in popularity. You are reading mine which I started on June 25, 2009 at 14:40 pm. I like the idea that I am able to store my “thoughts” so easily, by date and time, on-line, with the ability to access from any computer. I chose “Employment Counseling for the 21st Century” because that is what I do and I know I need to continually research to keep in tune with my profession. Creating a piece helps me organize my thoughts. And web presence is becoming the standard. If I am going to help people find worthwhile jobs, I need to learn as much as possible about the electronic world. This is especially true when helping dislocated professionals who are pursuing a well paying opportunity.
The percentage of employers researching an individual’s web presence before making a job offer appears to be moving upward. If nothing is found on the internet the aspiring employee might be viewed as out of touch with modern communications. Careless remarks made on lets say “Facebook” might be viewed as inappropriate, suggesting caution before posting anything in a public forum. On the other hand, written communications are highly prized in the upper echelons of supervision and management. Publishing words on a subject we know helps build an image of expertise. So why Blog? It just might be the ticket into an executive suite.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Anguish of Unemployment

A Green Economy is beginning to emerge as growing numbers of companies embrace environmental policies and investors pump hundreds of billions of dollars into cleaner and renewable energies.
United Nations Environmental Programme Yearbook 2008.


A year ago our One Stop Career Center was flooded with people seeking unemployment insurance claims. In New Jersey after a decade of downsizing we had few unemployment insurance representatives available in the local One Stops and not enough in our regional call centers. On my best days I had only three people with full access to the UI system. Customers could only establish a claim using a computer or the telephone. Unfortunately the sheer number of claims was more than the system could handle and the situation got worse each time a new federal extension came into being. Mistakes on the computer cut off the process and the people were directed to the telephones. While we have direct lines to the regional processing center, people were often on hold for over 20 minutes. The system was dropping calls before thirty minutes. Not only were people having difficulty starting claims, mistakes on the telephones for those with claims, stopped the claims. We had long lines of people each morning extremely frustrated. During this transition, I had my most senior employment staff at our reception desk as we devised a local process to help our stressed out UI representatives and frustrated, angry customers.
Eventually the computer and telephone “glitches” were fixed through a painful trial and error process and stimulus money allowed the hiring of new unemployment insurance representatives.
The flow of worried unemployed people has not stopped. I think it is fortunate that a professional employment counselor manages our one stop. I profess customer service, listening with empathy and optimistic creative problem solving. My door is always open, especially for the most difficult customers. We have listened to a lot of stories and that in itself is therapeutic. We have done our best to make the system work as well as possible. We have offered encouragement and fostered a belief that this too will pass. This is a time of great transformation and we must believe that a new stronger and greener economy will emerge.

Available for a free download, the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development has just published “The Anguish of Unemployment”

Green Job Today tells us how creating a strong green collar workforce will save America.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Defining Green Jobs

There are many definitions of what is the green economy. Van Jones in his popular book The Green Collar Economy talks about energy, transportation, water, waste and land management. In a blog, Carl Burkett adds green buildings to the list.

Geographic Information System (GIS) analyst made the top ten on the Green Jobs List of the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada. I mention it because our local community college is offering a course of study. GIS was not in my vocabulary before a conversation with the college president at a recent Workforce Investment Board Meeting.

I like what the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Background Paper on Green Jobs stated in 2008.
http://www.unep.org/labour_environment/PDFs/Green-Jobs-Background-paper-18-01-08.pdf

“Greater efficiency in the use of energy, water, and materials is a core objective. The critical question is where to draw the line between efficient and inefficient practices. A low threshold will define a greater number of jobs as green, but may yield an illusion of progress. Given technological progress and the urgent need for improvement, the dividing line between efficient and inefficient must rise over time. Hence, “green jobs” is a relative and highly dynamic concept—in other words there will be “shades of green” in employment.”

Indeed, “greenwashing” is a fairly new term applied when marketing comes into play without a substantial set of corresponding actions. And of course there are websites that will measure the sincerity of each claim to being Green and clearly there is a movement to be on the green bandwagon. www.greenwashing.com

On the good side I place companies like The New Belgium Brewing Company in the Green category and not just because they are the first wind powered brewery in the United States. They are employee owned and spout values about being less wasteful, more efficient, reusing and recycling, being fiscally transparent and personally responsible. www.newbelgium.com

Of course I have heard the rhetoric from the champions of oil and the call to drill at home. And I have listened to the ethanol debate. Despite “green marketing,” I have heard that the cost is still too high, that we use as much energy to produce ethanol as we get and that gas mileage drops. All this while world hunger is further exacerbated by a corn shortage. It was a joy to my heart to watch the video about Valcent’s closed loop algae growing system that is suggesting a real 21st century alternative. Companies Researching Biodiesel Algae

EMSI (Economic Marketing Specialist Inc.) in "A Look at Green Occupations" suggests that it is results, not the type of efforts that define work in the new economy. The consensus among those economists who address these issues is that the designation “green” turns not on the specific tasks associated with an occupation, but rather on the specific outcome of an occupational effort. Accordingly, green jobs result in green investments. Green investments aim to drive households, companies and governments to act in more “environmentally stable” ways (e.g. reduce pollution, increase energy efficiency, curb carbon emissions, improve air, soil and water quality, etc) www.economicmodeling.com

So the building designer, the accountant who get financing, the electrician and carpenter who do the installation and the helper who does caulking and insulation all get to place “green” in front of their title if the building is solar powered. Obviously many people already have the technical skills necessary to participate in the green economy. It is the shift in consciousness that needs to fully take place.

Visiting our local One Stop Career Center we have people worried about paying their mortgage and feeding their family. They are scared, looking for answers. I cannot afford to be one of the individuals spreading negativity. I feel the need to understand the changes that are taking place and do the research necessary to help both employers and employees move in the directions necessary to participate in the new economy. Everyone sees the economic crises. Our environmental issues are glaring. We have mismanaged dreadfully and the clock is ticking. I choose to believe that now is the time to move forward, embrace further education and help create the shift in consciousness.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three Major Steps in the Job Search Process

The Job Search Process in the 21st century has changed. Human emotions have not. Those unemployed feel the pain of not enough money and the fear associated with rejection and a labor market in chaos. While unemployed claims have reached staggering numbers and the length of eligibility has reached modern day records, the labor market is reflecting uncertainty and the whole population is clearly “soul searching.” It seems as if everyone has a close friend or relative or has been personally touched by the global economic crises.

There is a battle of wills that takes place in my job seeking groups. I let people vent. I acknowledge their experiences. I engage the audience. It is their group and we address their concerns. I empathize, sympathize and facilitate an honest interaction. My job is to dispel their negative misconceptions and move them towards a legitimate feeling of hope.

We can reduce the job search process to three major steps. First of course is self assessment. To sell a product, get an employer to pay for your services, you must have a thorough understanding of what you have to offer. I refer my customers to O*NET, the “nation’s primary source of occupational information,” sponsored by the US Department of Labor. http://online.onetcenter.org/ It is in the public domain (no cost) and is continually being updated. One of the first exercises I suggest is searching every occupation or job one has performed. O*NET fully describes the positions, tasks performed, tools used, knowledge and skills displayed, abilities needed, work activities, work content, work styles, work values and related occupations, et cetera. I have seen many different “paper and pencil” assessment tasks that ask people to identify specific job skills or transferable skills. O*NET facilitates the process and can be used like an “open book” exam. I find this section of O*NET to be equally valuable providing the words for people to construct the first draft of a resume. The bottom line is know as much as possible about your product before you begin to sell.

The second major step in the job search process is researching the labor market or potential employers. The average job seeker may spend a lot of time searching newspaper want ads or job bank postings. The value of these sources decreases as the labor supply increases. Low paying jobs and employers who do not take care of their workforce will recruit using these methods. Experts agree that better positions with the best employers are generally filled through personal contacts. That is why we teach people how to network. http://mlazarchick.com/50cent.html . I recommend every job seeker to make a list of everyone they know and contact them for leads. If someone you know sends you to someone they know, the trust factor is in place and you are closer to the job than anyone following a want ad. The value of speaking with people you know, about who they know, and what they know about the labor market, increases with the number of contacts you make.

I often suggest “shopping” for an employer. The Bureau of labor Statistics provides a broad range of information, which may provide clues to help us decide where to look. http://www.bls.gov/ . Debbie Flanagan has created a nice tutorial that explains the process of researching companies on line. http://www.learnwebskills.com/company/ . I advise job seekers to spend some time each day on Google http://google.com using various keywords to locate employer web sites or articles written about potential employers. The bottom line is to learn as much as possible about an employer before asking for a job.

The third major step in the job search process is marketing. The job seeker has fully analyzed the product and the potential employers. Now the task is to enter the employer’s consciousness and to do so while creating a favorable impression. We are being judged all the time, everywhere we travel and now in the 21st century we have added the electronic highway. Have you “Googled” your name? Do you have a Facebook, Linked-in or other networking site? Do you have your own web page? What messages are you sending out to the universe? Perhaps the most important component is faith in one’s product. I end each of my groups reminding participants that they are unique individuals. Marketing is about creating a need for our services and communicating our messages with confidence and enthusiasm. http://mlazarchick.com/marketing2009.html