Book Review: Workplace Poker

This book is about workplace politics and other common obstacles to employees’ career development and how to better achieve the latter by learning how to master the former.

what’s holding back my career?

Having worked with many training and coaching clients and observing their career trajectories, Dan Rust concludes that it is rarely people’s actual work performance that determines a successful career or quick bounce back after job loss. Therefore, he wrote this book for those who “are talented, ambitious, and hardworking but feel your career just isn’t accelerating as fast as it should” as well as for those who “have been frustrated to see others (less talented, who don’t work as hard as you do) achieve rapid professional progress”. He wants to peel back the layers of corporate politics, put them out in the open and help the reader to successfully navigate some of the pitfalls of corporate America. Corporate politics is one hurdle but there are more hurdles to career advancement that usually lay within each individual. Rust identifies those as well and helps the reader steer through the common obstacles working life puts up. His insights are derived from more than 30 years in the corporate world.

structure and layout

The book is divided into 9 chapters, each addressing a particular workplace issue that often derails employees’ career advancement. The topics addressed are:

  1. how to observe and read colleagues
  2. navigating office politics
  3. taking responsibility for one’s failures
  4. strengthening one’s career by increasing physical, emotional, and mental energy
  5. how to deal with personal rejection
  6. strategic self-promotion
  7. creating personal rapport and how to influence others with it
  8. making effective career decisions
  9. bouncing back from adversity and setbacks

how can I overcome my obstacles?

Rust’s primary goal of the book is to provide practical skill development to his readers. He wants to drive home the point that talent, ambition, and hard work are integral to any career advancement, but are often not enough, because employees’ career trajectories get derailed by the obstacles outlined above. Chapter by chapter and obstacle by obstacle Rust details how to overcome them. Each chapter contains a number of real life stories from his training and coaching experience. Rust concludes each chapter with a call to reflection and action. “Think Now” contains prompts to reflect the chapters’ content in relation to the reader’s own career situation. “Act Soon” outlines actions that can be taken quickly and “Long-Term Thoughts and Action Points” challenges the reader to more long term planning and thinking about the specific issues addressed in the preceding chapter.

general thoughts

This book contains a lot of good information and practical advice. That is its pro and con at the same time. If read like a novel or in one sitting it is easily overwhelming. This is a book best taken in bits and pieces. The best approach would be to either use it as a work book and, taking one’s time, work through it chapter by chapter taking full advantage of all the prompts and exercises at the end of each chapter. Or the reader can just use it a chapter at a time. With this book it would make perfect sense to just pick out the chapter(s) that are applicable to the reader’s current issue or situation and maybe come back later to work with the rest. Overall this book represents a good toolkit and go-to resource to address specific workplace and career advancement issues.

Written by Anne Nowak

Cool Careers Kick Off!

The Career Center’s Cool Careers Summer Series is a set of weekly career exploration seminars. Its goal is to expose teens and young adults to different career options so they can determine what they’d like to do for a living. Each free seminar features guest speakers who are experts in the chosen field. Our 3rd annual series kicks off tomorrow! Here is the complete schedule:

May 29, Finding and Getting College Scholarships: College is getting more expensive by the year. The good news is, there are hundreds of scholarships out there that can help you pay for college without getting expensive loans.  Come and learn how and where to research the right scholarships for you and how to successfully apply to get them. Our guest presenter for this session is academic counselor Meagan Davenport.

June 5, Careers in Louisiana Film, Entertainment, and Digital Media Industries: Louisiana consistently outperforms the South and the U.S. in creating jobs and economic opportunities for its citizens. Louisiana Economic Development is the leader in job creation and development. Chris Stelly, Executive Group Director of Entertainment & Digital Media, will be here to explain the many opportunities that available in these creative mediums.

June 12, Careers in Aviation and High-Paying Skilled Trades: Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance’s Connie Fabre will inform us which industries are in-demand and the paths one can take to become a skilled tradesperson.  Learn all about high-paying jobs which require less than a year of formal education. Baton Rouge Community College’s Aviation Department will share information regarding the many rewarding, in-demand and well paid careers available within the Industrial Field such as Airframe Mechanics, Powerplant Mechanics, and Aviation Maintenance.

June 19, Careers in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation: We welcome Claire Shepard from Monroe’s Louisiana Delta Community College’s Forensic Science and Technology program. This intriguing program offers an exciting look into crime scene investigations and the technology used to solve mysteries, reconstruct crime scenes, analyze various incidents and document evidence as presented in a case file.

June 26, Careers in Animal Science: A favorite of the Cool Careers Series, Louisiana State University’s Veterinary School wildlife program will be here.  Several veterinarians will give an overview of the many career opportunities caring for animals and introduce us to some birds of prey they are currently caring for.

July 10, Careers in Private Investigation and Criminal Justice: We welcome Bossier Parish Community College’s Dan Cain, with the Criminal Justice program. Professor Cain will inform us about the varied paths to success in this high demand field, including all the things you can do with a criminal justice degree besides police work.  Expect some great success stories from this speaker. Chris McCullough, a private investigator, will share his story of conducting background investigations for the Federal Government.

July 17, Careers in Broadcasting and Video Production: Stuart Poulton, CEO of Stuart Poulton Video Production Company, is a dynamic and innovative entrepreneur who creates video and other digital content that advertising agencies, businesses, and entrepreneurs use to market brands, products, and ideas. He will share his experiences in the exciting industry of video production and its related fields such as lighting, audio, videography, and editing. LaTangela Sherman, a native Baton Rougian, the Production Director of Cumulus Media BR, and leading on-air personality for WEMX-FM, will be here to share with us how she began her radio career as a teenager and as the host of a teen talk show.

You can register for any of our Cool Careers programs here or by calling 225-231-3733.

Written by Cynthia Payton

The Hidden Dangers of Tables and Text Boxes in Resumes

Common Scene in the Career Center: A patron is trying to revise or update a resume. He/she tries to add or delete a line or section, or tries to change some of the formatting, but it does not seem to work right. The formatting and spacing get thrown off, and we are not able to fix it. We see this happen when a resume is formatted with tables or text boxes.

Where tables and text boxes come from

There are 3 reasons why your resume might contain tables/text boxes:

1) You are using a resume template that includes them. Some resume templates, in Microsoft Word and other sources, use tables and text boxes to lay out the structure of the resume. These formatting structures are usually invisible unless you specifically look for them.
2) You used a website to build your resume. Some websites that say “just enter your information and we will build your resume for you” use tables and/or text boxes to lay out the structure of the resume (assuming that you downloaded your resume from the website in Word format).
3) You put the table or text box in yourself.

Why you should avoid using tables and text boxes in your resume

Why do people like to use tables and text boxes? They look great because they give structure to the resume template. Tables are very useful for laying out a document in certain ways. Cells and rows and columns work well to create “sections” for different kinds of information. Text boxes can also work well for creating a “block” or a section. One advantage of text boxes is the freedom to move them around to different locations in the document. They can be useful for creating a header or a “left column” section.

Nevertheless, the Career Center still recommends against using tables and text boxes in your resume, for the following reasons:

1) They can “get in the way” when you want to revise your resume or change the layout.

  • Let’s you want to add an item to your Work Experience. You think “just add a new line and type information.” But if your resume uses tables, the layout is not the same as the rest of that section. Using Enter to create a new line in the same cell/row will not look the same. To be consistent you would need to create a new row and/or cell in the layout table. Unless you’re savvy with creating and editing tables, this may be hard for you to do.
  • Similarly, deleting something from your resume is difficult if the template uses tables or text boxes. Often, there is a bunch of empty space that will not go away. Why? Because now you have an empty cell and even empty cells take up space.
  • Tables and text boxes can get in the way when you try to change the margins.

2) Websites that import information from your resume have trouble “reading” information that is in tables or text boxes.

  • We have tested this with several different Automated Tracking Systems (ATS) such as Workday, Taleo, and Brassring. We found that they could “read” or import most but not all of the information in your resume. Some websites, such as job-posting giant Indeed, cannot import resumes with tables at all.
  • This is a big deal. You want websites to read correctly the information in your resume. For one thing, this saves you time and effort typing information on a job application. (Job application websites “read” your resume and use the information to fill in many of the boxes.)
  • More importantly, these websites might have trouble reading your work experience and qualifications. That means they might not recognize key words and information and not “flag” your resume so that a hiring manager will take a closer look and perhaps contact you for an interview. If the software can’t properly read your resume, due to tables and text boxes, then it may never get seen by human eyes.

How to Recognize Tables and Text Boxes in MS word templates

Usually they are invisible and can be hard to spot (as in the example below).

However, usually you can see a little square (with four arrows inside) in the top-left corner of a table and/or text box. If you cannot then click on an area inside the document – or move the cursor over the top-left area – and the little box should appear. Right-click on the little square. This makes a little menu appear.

Click on the Borders icon (which looks like a 2 x 2 square). And then choose All Borders. This will change the Borders setting for the table and/or text box so that the border(s) become visible.

And there is your table! Of course people usually want tables and text boxes to be invisible (no borders) so that they do not show up when printing the resume (and a person reading the resume does not see them). But in this case, you want to know that they’re there – so that you can choose not to use a template that has them.

What are other ways to format a resume?

  • If you are laying out your resume yourself, you can use tabs, justification settings, and indents in order to provide structure. These can all provide results that look similar or identical to what tables and text boxes accomplish. Although they can take a little more effort, the result is a document which you can edit as much as needed, which can be easily read by ATS.
  • Use a resume template that does not use tables or text boxes. This can be tricky because, as noted above, tables and text boxes are often invisible. One thing to look for is blocks of text next to each other in neat columns (as in the first example in this article). Or a section of text that seems to stand by itself and is not part of any paragraph.
  • Easiest method of all: Use one of our Career Center templates! The Career Center website has several different resume templates. They follow current “best practices” for resumes. They are well laid out and space efficient without being cramped. Click here for our resume templates.

Written by Richard Wright

New Career Center Books

The Career Center has received a huge influx of new books. Several of our newest titles touch on the theme of finding satisfaction in your career – be it from identifying your passion, changing careers, or even just learning to be a little bit more authentic. Enjoy!

How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do: Born for This
by Chris Guillebeau
Guillebeau offers a practical guide for finding the perfect job at the “intersection of joy, money, and flow”, either within a traditional company (by making a job work for you) or by striking out on your own. Guillebeau shares stories of real people, along with tools and exercises, to guide the reader through career options and discover (or shape) a job perfectly suited to you. Each chapter covers a different tactic for achieving an objective, such as: choosing the winning ticket to your career lottery, having both money and life, mastering the right skills, becoming indispensable, and so on.

50 Ways to Get a Job: An Unconventional Guide to Finding Work on Your Terms
by Dev Aujla
Aujla, CEO of the recruiting firm Catalog, spent three years with a team researching and experimenting with different methods for getting a job and talked with thousands of people. In this book Aujla outlines a “better way” to manage the job search process. Emphasis is placed on finding not just any job, but one that “feels natural, rejuvenates you, and isn’t motivated by stress or fear”. Chapters cover how to start, finding your purpose, how to cope with feeling overwhelmed, learning new skills, networking, what to do when stuck, applying for jobs, and interviewing.

Harvard Business Review Guide to Changing Your Career
by Harvard Business Review
Considering a change of career can be confusing and frightening. Perhaps you feel stuck or frustrated in your current career, you have discovered a new passion, or you simply feel ready for something new.   This book tackles directly different challenges involved in preparing for a change in career. Chapters are by a different writer (or writers) and are organized into sections that address: understanding what is going on, understanding and imagining what you want to do, recognizing when a career change is right for you, how to investigate a new career path – and perhaps reevaluate your current one – and how to be motivated for a career change or having at least two careers at the same time.

The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate
by Fran Hauser
Hauser addresses the challenges women sometimes experience in the workplace: how to be successful without sacrificing their values or hiding who they are. Chapter titles capture well the both-and balance that Frauser offers women who know what they want and wish to advance their careers: Be ambitious and likeable, Speak up assertively and nicely, Give feedback directly and kindly, and so on. The book focuses on how to reclaim being “nice” while being a strong leader who projects confidence.

You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education
by George Anders
Anders challenges those who are tempted to think their liberal arts education does not lead to good paying, successful careers when the national spotlight focuses so heavily on science and engineering. A liberal arts education – along with other skills and experiences gained along the way – cultivates traits such as curiosity, creativity, and empathy. Anders helps readers (with a liberal arts education) appreciate the strengths they already have, the new needs and opportunities there are, how to recognize and cultivate allies among employers and classmates, and finally how to tell their story – an especially valuable skill that can grab the attention of a potential employer and/or create new job and career opportunities. That liberal arts education is increasingly useful in ways that can be surprising.

If you’d like to check out any of these books, you may place a hold on them through the East Baton Rouge Parish Library website.

Written by Richard Wright

Different Types of Job Fairs

April and May are job fair season in South Louisiana. There are a number of job fairs to choose from each week. But, job searcher beware, not all job fairs are created equal. If you don’t do your research ahead of time you might well waste your time and return frustrated. Different job fairs work for different job searchers. Here is an overview of the different kinds of job fairs and who will benefit most:

College Career Fairs

These job fairs are organized by colleges mainly for their students and alumni, but sometimes they are open to the general public as well. Colleges put on general job fairs, which include a wide selection of employers and professions. Before you go and attend a general job fair, find out which employers will be present and if they are interesting to you! In addition to the general job fairs, colleges often organize fairs specific to certain professions: e.g. health care careers, engineering, media, or skilled trades. These are preferable to the general fairs since you know each employer present has an interest in hiring candidates from your field.

In general the employers present at college career fairs are mainly interested in entry-level and recent graduate candidates. Though alumni are usually invited as well, there will be fewer opportunities for mid-career candidates. However, talking to a live human recruiter or hiring manager is always preferable to just applying online. So the chance to talk to hiring managers directly, learn information about the company and making connections might make it worthwhile for mid-career professionals to attend.

General Public Job Fairs

These are often organized by local non-profit organizations, media outlets or workforce centers. They are unfocused and represent a wide variety of employers and fields. Often the majority of employers present at these general fairs are from companies or fields with high turnover jobs who need new employees frequently. These occupations are often found at the lower paying level of the world of work. If you need a job fast and are not picky, these job fairs might work for you. If you are an experienced professional, do your research and find out beforehand which employers will be present to see if it is worth your while to attend.

A drawback that college and general job fairs have in common is that some of the companies present are not really actively hiring. Sometimes they attend more for the public relations value. They want to be seen as thriving companies that are attractive to potential employees. Yes, they will still take your resume at the job fair but it will not lead to anything.

Single Employer Job Fairs

These are the best job fairs. As the name suggests, this is a job fair for/with just one employer who is normally looking to fill a number of different positions. These are the best job fairs because the companies conducting them are in need and actively looking for people. They are usually very organized and ready to interview and process applicants on the spot. This means that there is very little time between the job fair and starting a new position. Single employer job fairs are conducted by companies in all fields, from high tech and IT, to warehouse, healthcare and hospitality.

The career center can help!

The best way to find out about any kind of job fair in your area is social media. Follow any company you are interested in on social media. They will normally announce their job fair participation on their different accounts. Also follow your school’s career center social media as well as your local workforce or unemployment center, Dept. of Labor and public library. For the Greater Baton Rouge area the Career Center at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library is your one stop shop. We post all upcoming job fairs on our social media, we frequently host them, and we help you prepare for an impeccable job fair performance with our Job Fair Success seminars, like this one.

Written by Anne Nowak