Tech Talk: Learning Express Job and Career Accelerator

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library recently acquired a new resource to assist jobseekers: the Job and Career Accelerator service of the Learning Express database.

How to Access It:

The Learning Express database is free to anyone with an East Baton Rouge Parish Library card. Go to the library website, then click on The Digital Library. Choose to search the “A-Z List”, then find “Learning Express 3.0” which takes you to the Learning Express database. Now click on “Job and Career Accelerator”.

How it’s organized:

There are six sections to this resource.

Find a Career Match: These assessments can be a good career planning tool for people who don’t know where to start. The Interest Matcher asks you about how much – or how little – you are interested in doing certain types of tasks.  The Skills Assessment is similar, except it asks about what skills you already have.  Each assessment will, based on your answers, provide you with a list of professions and types of work which match your interests or skills.

Explore Occupations: This tool provides detailed information about 1000 different careers.  There are several different options for how to search and narrow down results. For each job title, the database gives information on job description, average salary, projected demand, education needed, skills preferred, and more.

Search for Jobs and Internships: This takes you directly to job postings and internship opportunities on Indeed.

Tools to Get Hired: This section provides samples of job search-related documents, including resumes, cover letters, networking letters, and post-interview thank-you notes. There is also a how-to-interview tutorial and a resume-building tool.

Career Library: This section has in-depth guides on how to start a career in several common fields, including healthcare, teaching, paralegal, police, and culinary arts. There are also specialized guides for how to change careers and how to use social networking in the job search.

School and Scholarship Finder: The Scholarship Finder helps you search among 24,000 different scholarships to find scholarships for which you might qualify. The School Finder helps you locate a school that meets your educational goals and needs. It includes a Quick Match tool that helps you find schools that might be a good match for you.

What do we like most about this resource?

One-stop shop: This database brings together a lot of resources for different aspects of job searching and career planning under one roof. You can take an assessment, choose a career, write a resume, apply for jobs, and find a school, all under one roof. That can be very convenient.

Good information: There are lots of tools here to help you become a savvy jobseeker. For instance, the sample letters in the Tools to Get Hired section are helpful examples. And the guides in the Career Library are extremely informative, if there is a guide for your chosen career.

Resume Keywords: This was our absolute favorite part of the database. The Resume Builder contains a list of Job-Specific Keywords which you can use to plug into your resume. For example, if you look for “Accountant”, a long list of keywords and skills related to accounting and finance will come up. You can then choose some of those keywords to fill out the “Skills” section of your resume. This is a great way to make sure your resume bursts with the key skills that will grab a hiring manager’s attention.

What do we dislike most about this resource?

Derivative: This database has very little in it which is original. The job postings come from Indeed. The career information comes from ONET. And the general structure of the resources comes from Career Cruising, another career database which we’ve discussed extensively.

Resume Builder: We know, we seem to be contradicting ourselves. We said that we loved the Keywords section of the Resume Builder. And that’s true. But we found the rest of the Resume Builder inflexible and hard to use. It uses a one-size-fits-all formula for the resume template, making it difficult to tailor a resume to suit your specific skills and audience. We much prefer referring our patrons to our own resume templates, which are 100% customizable.

Written by Richard Wright and Lynnette Lee

New Career Center Books

One of the most difficult workplace skills to master is the skill of getting along well with people. Not to worry, though: the Career Center is here to help. Our newest crop of books from the Harvard Business Review features several guides focusing on people skills.

The Harvard Business Review is a paragon of helpful and accurate career advice. Each guide in this series is written by subject matter experts and crafted to give readers a step-by-step plan for achieving the goal at hand. Whether you need help with handling conflict, leading and managing groups, or general emotional intelligence, these books can be a great place to start.

HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence
How well do you know your own emotional intelligence? This guide aims to teach you to determine your strengths and weaknesses, manage your emotional reactions, make smart decisions, and bounce back from difficulties.

HBR Guide to Delivering Effective Feedback
Do you want to ensure that you’re giving your employees the right kind of feedback – for both positive and negative performance? This guide aims to help supervisors fairly assess performance, motivate top achievers, handle defensive employees, and create individualized development plans.

HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict
What are your methods for handling workplace conflict? This guide aims to help employees identify causes of conflict, explore options for handling disagreements, manage emotions, and develop resolutions.

HBR Guide to Leading Teams
Could you use some help in getting your team to work together and achieve things quickly? This guide aims to help managers choose the right employees to build a cooperative team, set clear goals for employees and groups, hold people accountable for bad behavior, and keep the team focused and motivated.

HBR Guide to Coaching Employees
Would you like to mentor, inspire, and empower your employees? This guide aims to help supervisors create realistic growth plans, engage employees in development, teach employees to problem-solve, and give effective feedback.

All of these books are available for checkout from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

Written by Lynnette Lee

The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 7

This is the seventh post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

7th deadly sin: not negotiating salary

You read our blog posts about the first six deadly sins of job searching  and pulled off a top notch search. You reap your reward and have an offer for a great job on the table. They offer you what seems like a fair compensation package. Now don’t commit the 7th deadly sin of job searching and accept the package without negotiating!

Why you should always try to negotiate

Higher salaries compound over your lifetime. Let’s look at a theoretical example: If you start working at 21 and retire at 65 at a starting salary of $20,000 and you receive 5% yearly raises, this makes for lifetime earnings of $3 million. If you had negotiated 6% yearly increases instead, your lifetime earnings would be $4 million. In this example, negotiating translated into a $1 million difference (you can find this example and others in Jim Hopkinson’s very good book Salary Tutor).

Surveys of hiring managers show that 84% of employers expect applicants to negotiate!

Some ground rules

Timing – Salary negotiation is the last step of the interviewing process. It should only take place at the very end of the hiring process when you have been offered the job! If a potential employer or their HR representative asks you for salary requirements early on in the interviewing process, they only want to see if your requirements broadly fit with theirs. This is not the time for negotiation.

Preparation – Never ever go into a salary negotiation unprepared! Lots of variables go into the compensation equation, so do your research.

  • First of all, you need to be aware of your own requirements. Establish: 1) the minimum you need and are willing to work for, 2) a realistic salary for the desired position, and 3) your “slam dunk” number.
  • Your numbers have to be grounded in good information: Employer variables are: level and seniority of the position, size of company (large companies often pay better than small), industry (an investment bank will pay its administrative assistant more than a hospital or university), location (a job in Louisiana will pay less than the same job in California) Your variables are: education, length and relevance of experience, special certifications or skills.
  • The following websites will help you in your research of realistic salary ranges: www.glassdoor.com, www.salary.com, www.payscale.com . As always, your best source of information is from a contact that already works for your desired employer.
Compensation is more than just salary

So, what if you scored your dream job offer, but the money is not what you would like it to be? You are negotiating, but the company is maxed out on salary and can’t go any higher than what it already offered you. In this case, it’s time to get creative. There are other benefits that can be negotiated. You could ask about any of the following if applicable: sign-on bonus, yearly bonus, performance and salary review after 6 months instead of 12, guaranteed minimum number of hours, health benefits, car allowance, tech allowance (phone, tablet, laptop), vacation days, tuition reimbursement, training, stock options, payment of professional association dues, paid conference participation and so on.

“My industry doesn’t negotiate compensation”

That’s unlikely. You can try to negotiate in any industry. We have seen clients successfully negotiate salary or other benefits with government employers and hourly retail positions, both not known for their flexibility or generosity. Of course, there is no guarantee for success, but you owe it to yourself to try.

Additional Resources

Salary negotiation is difficult and uncomfortable for most people but there are a lot of resources that can help. Some of our favorites are:

  • Stanford University professor Margaret Neale, her negotiating advice is great overall but especially for women who still face special hurdles in this arena. Look her up on Youtube.
  • Jim Hopkinson’s book Salary Tutor is excellent, especially in explaining negotiation techniques.
  • Last but not least, any book in the GetFive (formerly 5 o’clock club) series is good, including Kate Wendleton’s Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game.
  • Of course you can always schedule an appointment at the Career Center and we will help you one-on-one with your salary negotiation strategy. Call us at 225-231-3733.

Written by Anne Nowak

The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 6

This is the sixth post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

6th deadly sin: going it alone

You read our blog posts about the first five deadly sins of job searching, and have all your ducks in a row. Your resume and social media presence are top notch, and you are well prepared for job interviews. You are staging a great search. . .and yet, after a few weeks, no success. You are starting to doubt yourself. Are there any jobs out there? Are you good enough? Yes, you are! But job searching takes time and patience. The higher your desired position and salary the longer your search will take. The longer the search takes the more demoralizing and discouraging it can become. Don’t commit the 6th deadly sin of job search and try to go it alone!

The best antidote to the job search blues is community

Not feeling needed anymore is one of the prime stressors after job loss. Build a support system that shows you are not alone in this and that makes you feel needed and appreciated. What constitutes a support system will look different for everybody depending on their individual needs. Support systems are often drawn from:

Family – If you have a supportive family that listens and encourages you, perfect! If they make you feel needed, even better. Unfortunately family members often, mostly unknowingly, add to stress with well intentioned but unfounded advice and pressure.

Religious/Spiritual groups – If you have a religious or spiritual home you can fall back on, this can be invaluable. Being involved and helping others can make you feel better about your own situation.

Sports teams/hobby groups – Physical activity is very important for emotional wellbeing. Again, helping others by coaching or leading groups will make you feel better as well!

Job Search Support Groups – Jobs search support groups or job clubs are groups of job seekers that meet on a regular basis and bring job seekers from different backgrounds together for mutual support, networking, accountability and job search tips. Research shows that job club participants on average find employment faster than seekers who go it alone. They also report better wellbeing due to being able to help other group members with networking leads or other advice. You can find these groups in most larger cities and they are often sponsored and run by churches and community organizations. Here at the Career Center we are big believers in this concept and have facilitated weekly job club meetings for years.

If you are a job seeker in a professional career and are interested in joining our job club, you can find more information here or give the Career Center a call at 225-231-3733.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.

Written by Anne Nowak

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