Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Monday, December 29, 2008

Setting Up a Job Seeker's Work Bench, I

So why would a job seeker want or need a work bench?
  • To avoid making mistakes that could cost us a job or a better job offer.
  • Because details make some of us crazy.
  • To make the whole job seeking project more manageable.
  • To leave time for lots of networking and creative effort—and others areas of life that will keep us healthy.
What facilities must a work bench include?
  • Calendar for recording networking calls to be made, appointments, deadlines, not to mention public holidays and personal obligations.
  • An email client for submitting job applications and other correspondence.
  • Word processing program for preparing resumés, covering letters and other marketing documents.
  • Simple contact management system for recording information about networking contacts, recruiters, supervisory and other personnel in potential employers, people who might provide references, etc.
  • An organised place to store job advertisements and all items that have been sent in response to those advertisements.
  • A place to store a few versions of one's resumé for use in responding to any given opportunity.
  • Web browser.
  • RSS feed reader (yes, really).
  • Printer for making networking cards (optional).
Additional desirable facilities
  • A place for storing an ePortfolio would be great. It would replace, or largely replace a cache of alternative resumés. However, that discussion is beyond the scope of this first blog item.
Assumptions for subsequence articles(s) in this series
  • Windows platform
  • Basic skills on the part of job seekers: email, word processing, file selection and so on.
  • No grand expectations about software capabilities on the part of job seekers such as sales personnel might have for their contact management programs!
  • These suggestions are meant to be very down to earth.
Please tell me if they are not.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Marketing Job Seekers, III

It's been some time since I dipped into Seth Godin's marketing principles at What do you know? My long-time readers will know that I like looking at these because many are so applicable to marketing job seekers. Let me look at two again this time.

Marketing begins before the product is created.

If you need to earn a living, or will need to do so, then this is for you. When you enter or re-enter the job market what "product" or "product package" will you be? (And I don't mean how will you fake it!) How will you choose goals for yourself so that the person you become, with all of the experience and qualifications that you gather, will constitute a marketable product?

Doing the research and thinking that leads to reasonable answers to that question is the marketing to which Godin is referring. You need to do it with your career too.

Fundamentally, will there be jobs in the occupation that I favour? If there will be then will certain special or additional qualifications render me more appealing as a recruit? Are there any things that I might do that would eliminate me from competition? Having taken some decisions early on I would remain open to information that would help me to weigh course corrections.

Marketing is the way your people answer the phone, the typesetting on your bills and your returns policy.

About a year ago I took on the task of hiring an English teacher for people who had been injured at work. It's possible that I could have asked someone to make the job interview appointments for me but I like doing these things for myself.

First impressions are amazingly strong—right or wrong. One or two candidates made it quite difficult for me to consider them seriously by displaying so little vigour during initial telephone conversations. The moral is simple: when you have job applications in process—or at any time really—you're marketing yourself. Try to be bright and cheery.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Perhaps so. However, an increasing number of social psychological studies have shown that we human beings mimic one another automatically. Still, when we do mimic others, not only does this increase empathy it can also yield actual monetary payoffs. (For a summary see van Baaren et al.)

What's in this for job seekers? Well, although I cannot cite empirical evidence it does seem quite possible that these social psychological results support the advice that is commonly given to those being interviewed: to wear attire that is approximately like that likely to be worn by their interviewers. Clearly the idea is to mimic the visual appearance of those to whom you want to appeal.

Beyond that, when we as career developers are trained to interview clients we are told to try to adopt the clients' language as a way of increasing rapport and in the hope that this will make it easier for clients to present all that needs to be discussed. Most of us find that attention to posture and other forms of mimicry also help.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hosting an "Open Weekend" at KnowCoach

Having spent a long time working in IT I am aware of the vast breadth and depth of information available to practitioners in that arena of work. In contrast, although much guidance is offered for people who want to create resumés or to prepare for job interviews (say) there is almost nothing for those of us who want to become better career development practitioners.

I believe that a partial answer to this knowledge vacuum involves more frequent active sharing of information and ideas and, just as important, the recording of this stuff for re-use.

<rant ends here>

30 January (Friday) through 1 February (Sunday) : come and join me and other career developers, this time for an ...

Exchange of Information About Online Assessment Instruments
  • Share advice and information about free and commercial online assessment instruments.
  • I will demonstrate a novel approach to the creation on online cardsorts that can be applied in a wide variety of contexts that you might find interesting (or not)—that doesn't use any cards.
  • Let's try to accumulate enough information to begin building an article in Wikipedia!
Just register on KnowCOACH.ca if you have not already done so and then register on this Open Weekend. You can drop by at any time from noon (PST) on the Friday through noon (PST) on the Sunday. Bring something. Take something. Ask a question. Whatever.

London & Windsor (Ontario) Added to Indexed Job Bank Pages

The listings of jobs from the Job Bank that I word-index on title and present in NOC-sorted order now include listings for Windsor and London. (Someone who has been using the pages that have been in existence for a while is still looking, I regret to say, and asked me to add these areas.) If you have never taken a look at these just follow the link that is listed to the right labelled "Job Bank Ads ..." and let me know what you think.

I have also had to modify the codes that produce these listings because the format of some of the Job Bank pages changed. If you notice mistakes in the listings I would be obliged if you would inform me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Spiffing Way to Display eResumes & ePortfolios

What you see here is just a small image of the resumé. If you click on "Open resume in its own page" though you'll see a version of the document big enough to read. The item you offer can contain photos and other images, graphs—anything that you can put into a PDF. And nowadays since you can make PDFs from practically anything that's printable (I use PDFCreator to do this) you can put almost anything into one of these documents.

This is issuu.com and it's free.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wanna Make a Cardsort on the Web?

This video clip shows a web page based on the "Personal Values Card Sort" of W.R. Miller et al, of the University of New Mexico (2001). These authors indicates that their "instrument is in the public domain and may be copied adapted and used without permission".

Anyone who plays Solitaire/Patience or Freecell on his computer knows that software capable of providing animated card sorts on the screen is nothing new. What some folks may not be aware of is just how easy it has become to produce many different card sorts and to provide them either on stand-alone computers or via the web.

To come straight to the point what you see here was adapted from code I found at Graphics by Greg. Greg's code is based on fabulous Javascript libraries called prototype and scriptaculous. Oddly, I encountered his stuff and then read a certain amount of the scriptaculous documentation before realising that his script would make most of the card sorts that career developers might need. But there's more power in reserve, in scriptaculous, if we need it.






Making new card sorts involves more tedium than head scratching because it's mainly a matter of changing column headings and column widths, and of course the items that we want clients to sort. If you know how to use (say) macros in Microsoft Word or, better still, some form of scripting language you can make your life much easier.

Oceans of client head space to explore!

PS: I used Wink to make this little video. Fantastic software product.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chat Session on E-Portfolios Tomorrow (18 Dec)

Dec 18, 2008, 3:30 PM PST: E-Portfolios (1 hour)

The e-Portfolio group, led by Lynne Wolters, will host a discussion of the definitions, process, benefits and uses of e-Portfolios [on Tapped In]. An e-Portfolio is a digital collection of artifacts (texts, videos, images, audio, etc.) which a student (or teacher) assembles and presents to reflect on and publish as a demonstration of learning. Please join us to discuss what you've done, thought about, planned, or heard of in the field of e-Portfolios. Experienced users, exploring beginners, confused learners, all are welcome.

Note: that's Pacific Standard Time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Constructivism in Teaching vs Career Development: One Point of Comparison

Constructivist teachers aim to help their students to learn how to learn as well as to master various curricula. Constructivist career developers have parallel goals. We want each client to make meaningful choices for the immediate future and we also want the client to take away the ability to continue making choices that will be meaningful for them. The strategies that career developers and teachers employ must differ somewhere, however, and here's why.

Here's what one source says about constructivist teaching:

'For example: Groups of students in a science class are discussing a problem in physics. Though the teacher knows the "answer" to the problem, she focuses on helping students restate their questions in useful ways. She prompts each student to reflect on and examine his or her current knowledge. When one of the students comes up with the relevant concept, the teacher seizes upon it, and indicates to the group that this might be a fruitful avenue for them to explore.' [Concept to Classroom in What is Constructivism?]

In a subject like physics the teacher does (almost always) know the answer and can discern if a student has offered a relevant concept. In contrast, although there are career developers who think they know what would be best for their clients we do not know "the answer". That is to say, we do not know what would be best for the client. Indeed it is solely within the the client's ability to determine whether they have found an acceptable solution to their problem

(I have been looking for websites that might be valuable to career developers wishing to offer constructivist support to clients. As part of this I have been looking at sites for teachers.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No One True Reality

"There is no one true reality - rather, individual interpretations of the world."

I just read that quotation from the work of Clements & Battista at "Constructivism. Putting the social into e-learning". In the context of career development I would say that there is no one true occupation, or set of true occupations, for any individual. Rather it is for the individual to navigate a life career that has meaning for her or him, taking into account both work and all other aspects of life.

The entire article is well worth reading. However, what really caught my eye was the author's proposal for a personal learning environment (PLE), especially as it was supported by a good video. Wendy Drexler's video sketches a PLE built up of the current technological tools, notably RSS readers. In the area of employment I have been working on the clear parallel to PLEs like this, where various RSS feeds and other resources are made conveniently available to all so that they can configure their own career exploration environments. In this constructivist model part of the role of the career developer would be to support clients in using the tools as well as with using the techniques already associated with constructivist practice.

The recent blog about making an filtered feed for retiredworker.ca was just about the nuts and bolts of this enterprise.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

retiredworker.ca: Making a Better News Feed

My main complaint about this job site is the one that I have about all of them (except the Job Bank). It is that it's search facilities are not nearly as good as they could easily be. retireworker.ca does have one advantage over a few other sites though: it offers an RSS feed listing available jobs. The principle shortcoming with the RSS feed is that it covers all of the jobs that this site has for Canada. How many of us want to read through all those headings in the feed?

One of the great things about RSS feeds is that they can be manipulated by software, and various developers have started creating products for doing that which require only limited software skills for simple applications. One of these products is Yahoo! Pipes.

Again, our objective here is to overcome some of the short-comings of this site. When we sift through jobs we look for suitable occupations and reasonable travelling or commuting distances. Here I've copied the retireworker.ca RSS feed URL into the Pipes "Fetch Feed" widget for processing and so that I could see what fields the feed contains. I had been hoping that the feed might indicate the city and province for each job. It doesn't so I will be content with limiting the output stream to jobs in just one province, Ontario. (I could limit it further with more advanced techniques.) I need to look for the word "Ontario" in the "title" field. If it is present then I will accept the job; otherwise, I will omit it.

At least this reduces the effort required on the part of the person reviewing jobs. Note, too, that most of us would be following more than one jobs feed. It is thus very worthwhile making each feed somewhat more compact as a source.

To complete the "pipe" I add the "Filter" widget which accepts only those jobs that mention "Ontario" in the title and the "Pipe Output" widget that makes this RSS feed available to the outside world.







Finally, add the feed into your favourite reader and watch for jobs. Here's how the feed looks in Newsgator.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting Enough Stuff to Read, II

Have a look at the Ebooks search engine. Being ever so slightly compulsive about finding sources and ideas about career development, my first search on this site was for "career". Apparently this engine makes no attempt to provide exhaustive results: this query returned only 30 items. Nor does it filter duplicates. However, I did find some attractive items.
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See my first post in this series for another approach to the vexing problem of Getting Enough Stuff to Read.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Job Ad Counts for November 2008

The table summarises advertisements that appeared on the Job Bank in November for Brantford and area, Hamilton and area and Niagara and area. From now on it will be published with the indexed Job Bank listings to make it more convenient for job seekers. I am also putting a link to those listings in the righthand column of this blog.

My thanks are definitely due to Ken Walker of John Howard in Hamilton for this suggestion.