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Opinion Editorials

What does it even mean to get creative with your job search?

(EDITORIAL) There are often times people give advice that may not always be a match in your job search. Now is a good time to try new things so get creative.

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get creative job search

Do you remember in 2008 when people were wearing sandwich boards outside of train stations that read “LOOKING FOR A JOB” or handing out their resumes on busy expressway turn offs? Some of them even ended up in the local news. Check out One Sandwich Board Guy Gets a Job.

That was creative. And also, not for everyone.

How do you get creative in your job search? What does that even mean? Why do people toss that advice out like it’s a fix all?

Creative has a variety of definitions on Merriam-Webster whether you’re looking at it as an adjective or noun and synonyms are clever, imaginative, ingenious, innovational, innovative, innovatory, inventive, original and originative.

I believe this is a time to get creative but in the sense of ALL OF US opening up our minds to new avenues and ways of working (looking at a variety of job boards – including Remote Job Boards, consider contracts or temporary work, exploring new industries or non-profits, finally starting your business, reaching out to small business owners to see if you can help them with anything).

You still shouldn’t skip the basics as mentioned in this article from Ask a Manager like tailoring your resume to positions or really doing the work up front in your resume and LinkedIn profiles to show your strengths as a candidate. The heavy lifting is still on the job seeker to update your materials and clarify what you are searching for.

You cannot send a generic message “Hey, I’m looking for something!” It needs to be genuine, thought out and tailored “Hey friends! I know these are tough times for everyone. I’m looking for Project Manager roles within Tech companies or suggestions of places you know that are hiring in (CITY).”

The tried and true ways to obtain a new position are to apply to positions with sincere interest and intention and do whatever you can to get your credentials to a human being over a bot and/or applying online. This may be more challenging in COVID-19 times as we see such high unemployment rates but there could be some simple approaches:

  1. Some of the creativity for you may be opening up to your friends and family to let them know that you are looking or could use some help or an extra set of eyes out there for you. This can be a point of vulnerability for some but ultimately, your network is familiar with you and may have some great ideas or leads (or terrible ones, that you can ignore).
  2. Consider signing on with a staffing firm and/or work with recruiters. You may have had your stereotypes in the past, but these folks can be additional eyes and ears for you and connected to companies that are currently hiring. Here are some positive examples.
  3. Optimize your online presence – and I don’t mean you have to build an entire website or start a blog (but that could work). Try updating your LinkedIn, ask for recommendations, add some work samples, reach out to former colleagues, Follow Influencers, consider a LinkedIn Learning Certification course to help strengthen your profile. Consider refreshing any of your social media channels that you feel still represent you professionally and show a side of your personality and interests.
  4. Reach out for informational interviews so you can gather insights that you just cannot find by googling for companies or positions. These can be with people in your network (or out if you are really courageous) and just see if they’d be willing to do a 15-20 minute phone call to share more about their work and company. These are not meant to be so you can pass along your resume but sometimes they lead to that. These contacts can help with unique information like job boards they recommend, professional organizations or even networking (that likely has moved virtually for now).
  5. Is there a position that you’ve always wanted to go for but just never did? Is now the time because really, do you have anything to lose? Always try to get in touch with a real person that works there and even write an intentional and sincere cover letter (sometimes they don’t read it, but this is a time where we are all looking for creativity and genuine people to bring on our teams).

It is tough to give people exact direction because some of this is what you are personally comfortable doing. It does come down to connections and hopefully you have done a good job of truly connecting with people and have a network that you can utilize. If not, maybe some of the above will help like staffing firms and LinkedIn. Technology is wonderful – but it doesn’t replace human interaction and get creative.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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