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Career-Life Times, Issue #4 -- Time for a Change?
May 10, 2004
Hello

I think you'll enjoy this issue, particularly if you are considering changing careers.

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Issue No. 4, May 10, 2004

"Get Hired - Get Noticed - Get Ahead"

Welcome to the fourth issue of CAREER-LIFE TIMES! I hope you find it to be informative, useful and entertaining!

If you don't like it, there's an unsubscribe link at the end. But instead of doing that, please tell me how I can make it better! My email address is at the end. I greatly value your ideas and suggestions. After all, this newsletter is FOR YOU.

In This Issue

* The 100 Best Companies to Work For
* Handling the Dreaded "Why Did You Leave?" Question
* Entry-Level Opportunities Improving for College Grads
* Seven Steps to Making a Successful Career Change
* What To Do When Your Boss Is a Butthead
* How to Save More of Your Paycheck When Buying a New Car
* Worth Quoting
* Just for Laughs
* Random Rants & Ramblings

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100 Best Companies to Work For

Fortune Magazine has a published a list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. I've included the top 25 below. I've never heard of most of them, but they must be doing something right to make the list! If you're job hunting, consider applying at some of these "best" companies. For the complete list, information on how they were chosen, and links to the companies, go to www.Fortune.com

1. J.M. Smucker
2. Alston & Bird
3. Container Store
4. Edward Jones
5. Republic Bancorp
6. Adobe Systems
7. TDIndustries
8. SAS Institute
9. Wegmans
10. Xilinx
11. CDW
12. W.L. Gore
13. Quicken Loans
14. Third Federal S&L
15. Genentech
16. Milliken
17. Vision Service Plan
18. Plante & Moran
19. JM Family Enterprises
20. Synovus Financial Corp.
21. Bronson Healthcare
22. Pella Moderate
23. S.C. Johnson & Son
24. REI
25. Microsoft

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Handling the Dreaded "Why Did You Leave?" Question

If you left your last job under less-than-ideal circumstances, you probably dread the "Why did you leave?" question that almost always comes up at job interviews. Here's how to handle it.

First and most important, never lie. If you were fired, don't say you quit. It's very easy for companies to do background checks that will reveal this lie; it will probably come back to haunt you. Besides, you don't want to start off your relationship with your next employer with a lie, do you? Admitting to being fired is not such a big deal these days; see my article, '"You're Fired" Isn't the Finale,' in last month's issue (there's a link to back issues at the end of this newsletter).

KISS. No, I'm not referring to the ancient rock band or kissing up to the interviewer. Keep It Short and Simple. Tell what happened--you were terminated, you quit, your job was eliminated--whatever. Do not go into detail unless asked.

Don't say anything negative. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your departure, don't say anything negative about your former boss, coworkers or company. Any negativity, frustration or anger you express will only reflect negatively on you. Stay positive!

Tell what you learned. If they want more details about why you left, tell them what happened and what you learned from the experience. This will give you the opportunity to say how you turned a negative into a positive, and how you will handle similar situations differently in the future. For example, if you were fired for violating a company policy, you could say something like, "I was terminated for violating a company policy that I feel wasn't communicated to me clearly. I should have taken the responsibility to read all of the company policies and ask questions about those I didn't fully understand. That will be the first thing I do in my next job." Employers love to hear stories about how employees take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes.

Practice your answer. You should do this with every anticipated interview question. Develop your answer and practice, practice, practice!

Offer proof of your abilities. Confidently tell them that you can provide references or letters of recommendation to verify that your job performance is normally above par, that you usually get along great with your supervisors, etc. Make sure they understand that what happened to cause you to leave your last job was the exception, not the rule.

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Entry-Level Opportunities Improving for College Grads

Are you looking for your first job? Suffering from job burnout? Lost (or never had) the passion for the work you do? Looking for something different?

If you're starting out or starting over, here's some good news: according to CollegeGrad.com, there are more than 120,000 entry-level job openings available this year (for college grads). While that may not be a huge number, it is a 12.9% increase over 2003, so things are looking up. A list of the top 500 entry-level employers is available at this link: www.CollegeGrad.com/TopEmployers

Employers looking for entry-level workers include Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Lockheed Martin, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the FBI. (I've fantasized about working for the FBI ever since becoming an "X-Files" fan several years ago! I'm too old to be a new recruit, though. Oops, I'm getting distracted... on with the article!)

"Entry-level hiring is taking a very positive turn in 2004," said Brian Krueger, President of CollegeGrad.com. "We are seeing a large increase in the number of entry-level jobs available in nearly every discipline. While the market is still very competitive, the jobs are there to be found for those who take the time to do the research."

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Seven Steps to Making a Successful Career Change

My first job was secretary to Moses. Having to transcribe and make 2,430 copies of the Ten Commandments convinced me I was on the wrong career path! OK, maybe I'm not quite THAT old. But I did start out as a secretary. While I didn't mind the work, eventually I decided it wasn't very satisfying. I often felt like a "tool" that helped others contribute to the organization's success. I wanted to make my own contributions, to find creative ways to make a difference. It took me about 12 year to come to that conclusion, decide to do something about it, and change my life.

If you are not happy in your current job, perhaps it's time to think about making a change yourself. Here's what you should do:

1. Determine why you're not happy. Are you really unhappy with the work you do, or just upset with your salary, boss, coworkers, or the office environment? There's a difference between hating your job and hating your work, and realizing that will help you decide what course to take.

2. Find your passion. What do you love doing more than anything else? List your top three favorite activities. Try to be a bit realistic here and choose activites that you might be able to earn a living with. For instance, if your three favorite activities are sleeping, eating and watching TV, your career options are somewhat limited. But do include hobbies and activities one doesn't always associate with work.

3. Evaluate your strengths. What are you good at? Consider more than just your technical skills. For example, do your prefer leading or following; analyzing or simplifying; working alone or with a group?

4. Do research. What career fields would allow you to use your passions and strengths to earn a reasonable living? Here are some great online resources that offer tools to help you do a self-assessment and then find careers that match your interests and skills:
Analyze My Career
Life Coach
Futureproof Your Career
JVIS

5. Consider alternatives to jobs. Some people go into business for themselves when they become fed up with their jobs. If you think simply switching careers isn't enough, look into that alternative and others, such as... marrying a millionaire, becoming a beach bum, winning the lottery, writing children's books, painting and selling pictures, doing consulting work... the sky's the limit!

6. Create a plan. Once you know where you want to go, figure out what steps you must take to get there. Determine exactly what you need to do, how much time it will take, and what it will cost. It's probably best not to leave your current job until you're ready and able to start earning money with your new job/venture.

7. Get help. You'll be amazed at how helpful people will be when you tell them your plans. Talk with family, friends, professional associates, club members; participate in topic-related online forums; NETWORK as much as possible! Achieving great goals is always easier when you have others cheering you on and helping you out.

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What To Do When Your Boss Is a Butthead

I've never worked for a boss I didn't like or respect. Sure, some were better than others, but I never considered quitting my job because of a bad boss. Unfortunately, many employees aren't so lucky.

If your boss is a total butthead, someone you'll never get along with, admire or respect no matter how hard you try, there are a few things you can do.

Wait. Is your boss close to retirement or promotion--or even better--termination? If so, try to bide your time and wait until that happy event happens.

Bite your tongue. Keeping anger and frustration bottled up inside is not healthy, but neither is complaining about your boss at work. So if your family can tolerate it, vent at home instead. It'll make you feel better even if it does nothing to help your situation. It may be tempting to complain about your boss at work, especially if coworkers are talking about the same problems. But resist that temptation! If your boss finds out that you are complaining about him, he'll have a legitimate reason to take appropriate action against you and make your life under him worse than it already is.

Continue to work hard. Regardless of how your boss treats you, it's in your best self-interest to continue doing your job to the best of your ability. Stay focused and think about how your efforts are helping the company as a whole. If you do a good job, you may get noticed by your boss's colleagues or even his superiors. Maybe a better opportunity will arise.

Try to improve your relationship. If your boss is a complete butthead, this may be impossible no matter what you do. But if he's only a partial butthead, perhaps it would be worth your time to try to make the situation better. After all, this person may have control over your advancement up the career ladder. And while quitting may seem to be the easiest thing to do, searching for another job, having to explain why you left your last one, and struggling to get a decent reference from an ex-butthead-boss may make leaving a difficult option for you. Instead, swallow your pride and try to understand your boss's management style and personality and adapt yourself to that. For instance, if he's a micromanager, give him constant updates and details on what you're doing (even if you think it's a waste of your time and he should just trust you to do your job). Effective communication is very important, and it works both ways. If your boss is unclear in telling you what he wants, ask questions until you know exactly what's expected. During performance evaluations or one-on-one discussions, ask him what you can do to meet his expectations.

Go over your boss's head. This is rarely a good idea. But if you've tried everything else, and you feel that your boss is making serious mistakes that affect the company (and not just you), consider talking to his superior. If you take this route, be prepared with specific examples and proof, not just accusations. And realize that this tactic may backfire on you (especially if your boss's boss is also a butthead).

Leave. This may be a difficult decision for you, especially if you like your work, benefits, coworkers and company. But you must also consider your sanity (and that of your family to whom you vent). Carefully weigh the alternatives and if you decide that leaving is your best option, do it right. Don't yell "I quit!" during a heated argument. Plan ahead--update your resume, start consulting with your network, look for another job. Your goal, if possible, is to have another job lined up before you tell your boss you're leaving. And even then, resist the temptation to tell him off. Try to leave on the best terms possible and don't burn your bridges. You never know when and where that butthead boss might show up in your future!

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How to Save More of Your Paycheck When Buying a New Car

When I was selected for my last job (which involved a considerable increase in pay), one of the first things I did was go out and buy a new car. Because it was going to be a long commute, I wanted a car that I would enjoy being stuck in. So I picked out a Laser Red Mustang GT Convertible with a killer stereo system. It's sweet!

I knew I was splurging when I bought it. But according to my friend, Peter, I could've saved about FIVE THOUSAND BUCKS if I'd known about the secret little tricks and gimmicks and--well, let's call them what they are--rip-offs used at virtually all car dealerships to separate unsuspecting consumers from as much of their money as possible.

I wasn't TOTALLY niave when I bought my car. I expected and successfully resisted their strong-arm sales tactics--at least the ones I knew about. The tricky thing is, there are SO MANY and they are HIDDEN SO WELL that, unless you are an industry "insider" like Peter, there's no way you can recognize and avoid them all!

Peter quit his job as a car dealership General Manager a while back because he was sick of the whole scamming industry. He's transformed himself into a Consumer Advocate and put all of the car sales industry's insider secrets into an amazing new book. I've read it, and I know I'm never going to be ripped off again when buying a new car! (One of his first tips shows you how to buy a car at considerable savings from your favorite dealer, without ever talking to a salesman! And no, this has nothing to do with buying a car through the Internet.)

If you're in the market for a new car (or will be some day), I strongly recommend that you buy this book. It's a good read, has an incredible amount of useful, eye-opening information, and really can save you thousands of dollars. Here's the link for more information: CarBuyingScams.com

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Worth Quoting

"Big jobs usually go to the men who prove
their ability to outgrow small ones."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"There are no menial jobs,
only menial attitudes."
(William John Bennett)

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Just for Laughs

LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION

Dear Employer,

Bob Smith, my assistant programmer, can always be found

hard at work in his cubicle. Bob works independently, without

wasting company time talking to colleagues. Bob never

thinks twice about assisting fellow employees, and he always

finishes given assignments on time. Often Bob takes extended

measures to complete his work, sometimes skipping coffee

breaks. Bob is a dedicated individual who has absolutely no

vanity in spite of his high accomplishments and profound

knowledge in his field. I firmly believe that Bob can be

classed as a high-caliber employee, the type which cannot be

dispensed with. Consequently, I duly recommend that Bob be

promoted to executive management, and a proposal will be

sent away as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Joe Snuffy Project Leader

-------------------------------------------------------------------

The following Memo was soon sent following "The Letter"

That stupid dolt was reading over my shoulder when I wrote the report sent to you earlier today. Kindly read every second line (i.e.. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, ..) for my true assessment of him.

Regards,

Joe Snuffy Project Leader

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Random Rants & Ramblings

Test Kitchen of Life. My husband loves to cook (and I love that!). He enjoys getting new ideas from TV cooking shows, such as "America's Test Kitchen." Here's a new idea we can all appreciate, whether we enjoy cooking or not:

"A teenager was complaining to her father about how difficult her life was. He said nothing, but took her into the kitch and set three pans of water on the stove to boil. Then he placed a carrot in the first pan, an egg in the second, and coffee grounds in the third. After a few moments, he put the contents into separate bowls and asked his daughter to cut into the carrot and egg and to smell the coffee. 'So? What's this supposed to mean? she asked.

"Each food,' he said, 'teaches us something about facing adversity, as represented by the boiling water. The carrot went into the water hard but came out soft and weak. The egg went in fragile but came out hardened. The coffee, however, changed the water to something better.

"Which will you be like as you face life? Will you give up, become hard -- or transform adversity into triumph? As the 'chef' of your own life, what will you bring to the table?"

I hope you enjoyed that little parable as much as I did.

Leadership, Supervision, Training. Failure in all three of those areas are what led to the Iraqi prisoner mess being reported (and reported and reported and reported) on the news. Of course, individual character (or lack thereof) also had a lot to do with it. But if these soldiers were given proper training, supervision, and leadership, this horrible situation would probably never have happened. Keep that in mind if you are a supervisor. Sometimes you get employees who are--well, idiots--or who have questionable motives. They can do you and your company great harm if you're not training them, watching them, leading them by example and motivating them to do what's right.

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So, what did you think of this fourth issue? Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions? I really appreciate your feedback. Please send me a note at Bonnie@Best-Interview-Strategies.com

Please forward this to your friends!

Thanks!

P.S. I apologize for the glitches you may see if you receive this as straight text. If you can receive your email in the HTML format, choose that and it'll look a lot better. Don't worry, I won't have any slowing graphics.

Bonnie
www.Best-Interview-Strategies.Com
Lowe-Commotion Publications
442 Gatehouse Dr.
Vacaville, CA 95687
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