January 27, 2003 Program Summary

"Personal Marketing and Creative Approaches to Finding Work" was the first event in a two-part series called "2003 Career Kickoff," designed to launch the year with an inspiring strategic jump-start! A summary of this event follows.

SLO STC Audience Gets Sound Advice from Two Experts
by Michael Raphael

"Find a need, before they need to advertise, and they are going to love you," advises Jim Howland to people who zero in on a specific company they want to work for. "And get to know everything you can about that company," he says.

Jim Howland & Carol ChristenThe Cal Poly technical communication program professor, one of two speakers at the Society for Technical Communication San Luis Obispo chapter program on personal marketing and creative approaches to finding work, says to ask yourself the question, "Why do I want to work here?" because your prospective future employer very likely will, and you need to have the answer ready.

"Know what the interviewer notices," said Carol Christen, an Atascadero career consultant and advocate of the premises of What Color is Your Parachute? "Shake hands. Don’t fidget. Make eye contact," she said. Fifty-five percent of what an interviewer considers when evaluating a prospective employee is non-verbal, 38 percent is voice quality, and only 7 percent are your words, she said, according to a UCLA study.

Words of Wisdom on Job Seeking

Technical communicators and others who gathered at KCBX.net for the January 27th program were offered the following advice and information by Christen and Howland:

  • Use your network to find jobs -- that’s the best way
  • 75 percent of the jobs are not advertised
  • There are still jobs out there, just not as many (Howland)
  • There is no such thing as a permanent job (Christen)
  • Big companies are losing jobs, small companies with 100 employees or fewer are adding jobs
  • What you want to look at are companies with 20-200 employees that are growing 20 percent a year (Howland)
  • Web searches are absolutely marvelous as long as you're doing something else (Howland)
  • Only 1.4 percent of the people who used monster.com found jobs (Christen)
  • It’s important that you use more than one type of job search
  • There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all job search (Howland)
  • There is no such thing as permanent employment (Christen)
  • You should be job hunting four hours a week even if you are employed (Christen)
  • You should work at the work of finding work 5 days a week and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. if you're unemployed (Christen)
  • Whether a company hires you, whether there is a job or not, depends on what you "show" you can do, not what you "tell" (both)
  • The "name of the game" for resumes has changed - now resumes should be tailored to each company, with the name of the company and employer, and worded in that company’s terminology (Howland)
  • It shows you’ve done your research when you "name names"
  • Resumes are not designed to get jobs but rather to get interviews
  • Most important: Know what you are looking for (Christen)

Digital Portfolios Create New Opportunities

Technical communicators were also advised to create electronic portfolios, and to see the January 2003 issue of the STC magazine for an article on creating such portfolios. A portfolio can show a prospective employer what you do, Christen said.

Creation of digital portfolios has become a requirement for students in the technical communication certificate program at Cal Poly, so that graduates can compete with people who complete similar programs at other colleges and universities, Howland said. "Everyone will have one." He also described his "shoe card," a business-card size package of information, printed on both sides, showing what he can do. "It works for me," Howland said, clearly indicating that other people who seek work might benefit from the use of shoe cards.

Look for the Ideal Fit

Drawing our door prize"Every job is temporary," Christen emphasized. "Ten jobs (in a career) is standard. To be employable is to be secure. To be employed is to be at risk." The person who gets the job is not necessarily the most qualified but is the one who is the best at getting a job. "You need to work because you love it. People have to figure out what excites them. That makes them competitive employees. As we age, we have less energy, but excitement creates energy," Christen said. She advises people to be excited in interviews: "Enthusiasm is contagious!"

"Embrace what you are," Howland counseled. Ask yourself, "Would I do that for free if I could afford it? Absolutely!" Howland emphasized that it's important to find the right fit. In an ideal job search, "talk to a lot of folks, get a sense of the workplace," he said. "A lot of employers hire on a non-rational basis. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about finding a fit." He suggested that doing contract work before hiring on as a regular employee can provide an ideal way to assess the work environment.

Christen also advises job hunters to connect with people at a company they have chosen to find out all they can about that company, as preparation for applying for work and to find out if they want to work there. "Know what is the best work environment for you," she said. To increase your chances of getting that job by 20 percent, simply say, "I would like this job." She also suggests that the employer may want to know what you think a fabulous employee would be, what his/her aspects and characteristics may be. "They may still be deciding what they want in the job," she said.

"It’s important to know your skill sets and point them out during the interview," Howland concluded. "And show them ways they can make money, and save money. Create value. That leads to offers."


Editor’s note: There is a lot more that can be said about current methods of finding careers and jobs, and both of these people have much more to offer. If you have questions or comments, please direct them to Jim at jim_howland@hotmail.com and to Carol at parachutefirstaid@hotmail.com.

Photography by Mary Meyer.

"Personal Marketing and Creative Approaches to Finding Work"
Date: Monday evening, January 27, 2003
Speakers: Jim Howland, instructor in the Technical/Professional Writing Program of the Cal Poly English Dept., and member of the SLO STC board of directors; and Carol Christen, career consultant, columnist, and expert in the "What Color Is Your Parachute" career guidance process.

"Personal Marketing and Creative Approaches to Finding Work" focused on unusual and inventive ways to seek technical work in today's challenging economy. Regardless of what your career aspirations are, the burning question you should be asking yourself is:

"How have I evolved my job search strategies to keep pace with the changing demands of the workplace?"

Many current job seekers are finding out the hard way that new, counter-intuitive truths and shifting rules of the game have displaced yesterday's conventional wisdom. For example, today's job search requires:

  • Looking under a whole new set of rocks, and abandoning outdated approaches.
  • Understanding the differences between how employers and prospective employees seek each other out. If you don't learn how this process works differently today, your attempts to connect with employers will look like cars heading in opposite directions on the freeway -- with no way to get across the median divider.
  • Using networking in ways you may not have considered before -- a key element of your new strategy!
Door Prize: "What Color Is Your Parachute?" (2002 edition) by Richard Nelson Bolles.


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