Conferences and Certifications

I just got back from a National Resume Writer Association (NRWA) Conference that was held in Charleston, SC. I love Charleston: the gardens, the history, the food, the beach and harbor. The shrimp and grits, spanish moss, sweetgrass baskets, andcamellias. All these make Charleston one of my favorite places.

But that is not what I want to discuss. I really enjoyed going to the conference. We had sessions Wednesday through Saturday, and I have to admit my brain was full. The sessions covered topics that I am very interested in and applied directly to the job seekers that I work with. Conferences provide an opportunity to learn up-to-date strategies and best practices that other people in the field are using. They also provide you a chance to hear from experts that you are not likely to meet or hear from in other ways.

But the biggest reason I enjoyed the conference was the people that I met. We were able to discuss at the table how our work and lives are going with others who really understand. There were also opportunities to interact with each other between and after the workshops. I found these discussions to be very valuable and revealing into the industry. It is one thing to read about what someone does, it is another to speak with others who do the work you desire.

It is interesting to see how different the peoples’ jobs and employers were. Many writers were self-employed or worked for small companies. Some worked for government agencies. But usually there was a desire to help people, sometimes even at the detriment of the business.

Resume writers are a diverse group with wide differences in ability, experience and professionalism. Being a member of an association does not guarantee expertise, but is does usually suggest a high degree of caring about doing their best.

A new development that we are beginning to see with conferences is that some are going to be virtual. They will be like a series of webinars or group chat rooms where you can attend from the comfort of your home. Since travel and gas cost are rising, as well as our lives seem to be getting busier, having conferences on line is a very attractive idea.

I do see some negatives. First, we are already having less face-to-face contact with other people, especially peers. Many resume writers work from home and often interact with their clients online. There is a big advantage to interactive with people who share an interest.

Another negative is that by going to another location you can better separate yourself from the distractions that bombard us. Yes, most of the attendees were still tethered to their smart phones /notebooks / laptops, but they were still better able to focus on their reasons for coming.

I hope that we can take advantage of both types of conferences. Seeing the virtual conference as a way to complement the conferences that are more costly and inconvenient can allow us to increase our knowledge and best practices.

I strongly advise you to find an association in your industry and become a part of it. Many of them allow you to earn a certification that will provide additional training and verify your abilities to your clients. It is important to do your research; all certifications are not the same. I found that a good way to determine which certification to get is look at your peers and see what they have. Then ask them (Yes, actually speak with them. Okay, you CAN email them but since my whole post is about meeting people, who don’s expect me to advocate email, do you?) if the certification was worth it.

We are in a period where who you know and what you know are both important.  Our jobs, technology, and our world are all changing at an ever increasing pace. Conferences and certifications are two ways we can stay up to date in our fields. Good luck in your growth.

Who Do You Listen To?

Too be successful, you have to start with good information. Good information for the local community is hard to find. This is hard to believe since we seem to be overwhelmed by noise, digital information and publications at every coffee shop. However, most of the information we get is national information or as deep as a bird bath. Even our local paper is half US News Today. For the local job seeker, you get rehash from CareerBuilder, One of the purposes I started this blog is to connect sources of information to people who are interested in furthering their businesses and careers.

One helpful source that I have found recently is the GSA Business that covers Greenville, Spartanburg, and Anderson. It comes out twice biweekly and concentrates, of course, on the local economy.

The last edition came out September 10.

One theme that I notice throughout the paper is the proliferation of new on engineering. Both USC (for this blog, USC is The Carolina Gamecocks) and Clemson. Both of these are having record numbers of freshman in their engineering programs. I like how USC let all the engineers have the same classes the first year and then they can decide where they want to specialize in. When I started Clemson, moons ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into. I just knew I wanted to go to college. And blondes are cute. (Yes, I am shallow.)

I also liked the push that the colleges are giving to retaining the engineering students while in school and to keep them in South Carolina. Greenville has many selling points and that is why it is important that the schools have a presence downtown. The more people are involved in our community, the more likely they are to stay.

Rant warning: Our schools are having a great period of successful football squads. Clemson is coming off a championships season. USC is in the top ten and are primed to have a special season. We are nuts for our teams in normal years, this just adds to the fire. Each team is followed by dozens of blogs and reporters and kids who have not played a down is the talk on radio. We give all this attention to something that entertains us for just a few hours 14 times a week. Yet the people and programs involved in engineering labor in anonymity. Now I am not saying the need cheerleaders, bands, and chicken calls, but I am saying when you look at who will have more impact on your lives over their lifetime, our dollars, and a lot of them, may be supporting the wrong programs. Rant Over.

Attention engineering students, the list of engineering firms that GSA has is worth the price of admission.

Another source of local information is Ten At the Top. Ten At the Top was started to increase collaboration with the ten counties in the region. Their goal is to gather information and make successful connections to help people throughout the region.

Greenville has a committed business community and people who are willing to help others reach their goals.  I hope you will find these sources of information helpful. Please let me know if you have a source of information that you have find useful.

Carpe Diem

In the last post we explored some situations that many of us are finding ourselves. One group that I feel that is often overlooked is those who are working in jobs that are either part time or have become complacent where they are. If there are no jobs, then I will just stay here and make the most out of it.

One article I read today talked about how the average income of the middle class has come to a halt and even retreated for the past decade. We do not have time to wait for a better economy, We have to develop ourselves now. So what does this mean? What are some steps that you can do now to be prepared for the right time?

First, realize that people are starting new jobs and changing careers everyday even in this economy. But Tim, the news / papers /TV / Fox News all say that there are no jobs. Each month 4 million new jobs are started. Yes, it is more competitive but there are jobs out there. And the great news is you only need one.

Then, decide what you want to do. I worked with many people who wanted to get out of manufacturing and get into healthcare, the jobs won’t be shipped to China and it looks easy. After taking training, we had one lady say she couldn’t do CNA because she hated touching other people. A waste of time and money.

Do your research. What jobs are you qualified for, what skills could you use in another way that a company would pay for, is there training that will help you make the transistion?

Now get out there and talk to people. Network. Over 80% of the jobs that are filled are not advertized. I never fail to be surprised at how many people think they can job search solely by job boards. Less than 6% of jobs are found on job boards. Yes, I am talking Monster, Career Builder, Indeed and the other 400,000 job boards that are out there. They can be used to find leads, but it is still meeting and speaking with the right people.

Get on LinkedIn. But Tim, you just said not to get on the internet. No, I said job boards. LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch with former coworker, classmatess and friends. Your profile is often one way that a prospective company will get to know about you. Be sure to put your picture on it, a headshot. It is a social network after all, professional but social.  To other tools that LinkedIn gives you are groups and following companies. Groups are great because you get to follow poeple in your field, make connections and show your knowledge.

Update your résumé. Make it current and up to date. Ditch the objective, your hobbies, and make it suitable to modern tracking systems and to compete with the 300 other résumés they will get.

If you are changing careers, volunteer or find contract work. But Tim, I am working. I don’t have time to volunteer. Volunteering can be only a couple of hours a week. Ask your present employer if you can crosstrain. Often they can be a great source of moving into other fields and developing new skills.

I do believe that companies are doing less training of employees today, but that does not mean you cannot be the exception.

The main thing is to take ownership of you. I am reading a book called The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn. You take the reins and guide your wagon to where you want to go.