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Reinventing Yourself for Success In Today's Tough Job Market

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TV anchor and author Cindy Morrison has created a program to coach job-seekers in the task of reinventing themselves.

The dreaded pink slip.

“We can’t afford to renew your contract due to corporate downsizing” were the last words that Cindy W. Morrison, an Emmy, Peabody and Gracie Allen award-winning TV news anchor and investigative reporter with KTUL-TV, the ABC affiliate station in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ever expected to hear coming out of the mouth of her news director.

With a national unemployment rate hovering slightly above 9 percent and 7.1 percent for Maryland, Morrison’s scenario is being repeated thousands of times at businesses and industries across Carroll County and the state.  Although Carroll County’s 5.9 percent jobless rate is certainly less bleak than the national and state coverages, those statistics do not alleviate the fear and anxiety that  people associate with the prospect of losing a long-held job.

“Suddenly, after a 20-year career in the business, I found myself out of a job,” said Morrison, who was  interviewed in New York City as she promoted the release of her book, Girlfriends 2.0: Why you need to reboot and upgrade your Girlfriends NOW!, (Yorkshire Publishing). “I had no other choice – I could either lie in bed and cry or reinvent myself.”

Socialvention is the term Morrison coined to describe the program she created to coach entrepreneurs and corporate executives how to reboot, upgrade and reinvent themselves by utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Digg and other social media, in combination with branding and video exposure.

Careers are an intrinsic part of the modern life experience. Many people identify who they are with what they do. When meeting someone new, after exchanging names, the very next question is, “What do you do for a living?” Being unemployed carries a stigma and can be a humiliating experience for people who have worked all of their adult lives. And employers are even reluctant to hire people who have quit or been laid off, on the grounds that they have somehow been found wanting.

“I always thought I would do TV news until it came time to retire,” said Morrison. “My whole identity was tied to my job: what I did … whenever I was in public, people recognized me as a TV anchor. When I lost my job, I felt as if I had lost my identity.”

Westminster resident John “Jack” B. Norris IV, who worked for 17 years as a corporate headhunter and ran his own executive recruitment and placement service, says he is a “Type A” personality. Accustomed to being in charge of others, as well as his destiny, Norris, at age 74, has been looking for work for more than two-and-a-half years.

“What happens when you are over 50 and out of a job?” said Norris.  “To answer that question, I put together a presentation for Channel 19 about reinventing yourself that outlines what you have to do to survive in the market place. The gist is that you have to keep trying.”

Norris is using a multi-faceted strategy to reinvent himself. Broadening his education, he is taking classes at Carroll Community College. A 20-year volunteer docent at Union Mills Homestead, he created a tour of the historic site specifically geared for children.  At the same time, he has sought exposure through other media outlets to keep his name in the public eye, hoping that his efforts will lead to a new career.

This is one of the various strategies that can be used when an individual is forced back into the job market. Area experts all agree that going back to school to update technical skills, as Norris did, to obtain a professional license or certificate, broaden existing skills or seek training in an entirely new field, is one such strategy.

“We need to constantly go out and increase our skills,” said Wanda Smith of Symphony Placement and Resume Solutions, based in Timonium. “What I have found with more mature workers is that they feel they have paid their dues. They became complacent and failed to keep up their skills.”

When a company falls on hard times, it evaluates its labor force to decide which employees stay and which have to go, said Smith. The company’s decision is based on dollars and cents, not on loyalty. Long-term employees, earning a higher salary than those with fewer years of service, may be the first to go, especially if they have failed to keep up with technology.

Flexibility, determination and persistence, combined with realistic expectations, are key components in “reinventing yourself” for the job market, said Smith. In many cases, flexibility means being open to applying for jobs that are not in the same field as one’s previous career and accepting a lower salary, if necessary.

It is important to have realistic expectations, said Eldon C. Watts Jr., of Pleasant Valley Life Coaching in Westminster: Research more than current job openings. Study the company profile, its products or services, its market, its reputation, its stability and its longevity. Use face-to-face networking and contacts with prospective employers, in addition to career websites and social media.

“A lot of people make the mistake of blindly sending out resumes,” said Watts. “It’s not professional … you can develop a reputation almost like a spammer. Statistics indicate that 95 percent of jobs are found through network contacts.”

The first step is to establish the parameters of the job search, said Watts. Identify the industry that has openings for a particular career specialty; determine what specific qualifications are sought, such as education, experience, skills, licensing, certificates, security and background checks. Review the duties and responsibilities inherent in that position: What are the hours, wages, other forms of remuneration: benefits, perks, etc.?

“The resume, (qualifications brief, curriculum vitae, etc.), is the most critical first and piece of information that introduces you to an employer,” said Denise Rickell, manager of the Carroll County Business and Employment Resource Center, Westminster. “You want it to stand out, which does not mean putting it on bright, neon paper or sending a singing telegram. It means getting your qualifications in front of the person who is responsible for scanning resumes.”

What many people do not realize is that increasingly, human resource departments charged with reviewing hundreds of resumes are relying on sophisticated visual recognition screening software that looks for key words and phrases. The National Resume Writers’ Association notes that more than 80 percent of resumes are searched for by job-specific key words. Based on the parameters, the software tags potential candidates and eliminates others before human eyes ever grace the document, said Watts.

The software includes various modules, including one that extracts data from resumes.  Another is a human resources or talent management system that analyzes the extracted data and ranks qualified candidates. Using algorithms, it extracts names of candidates, addresses, telephone numbers, education, experience, years at each previous employer, etc.

Resumes tagged as potential candidates are then processed through the talent management database, which ranks candidates by how closely they meet the job parameters. In addition to ranking candidates by education, work experience, etc., the software searches for specific keywords and phrases – jargon and “buzzwords”. The more keywords matched, the higher the ranking, Watts said.

Those phrases and keywords often include action verbs followed by descriptive nouns. For example: Conducted cross-functional management for initial and follow-up contact; developed marketing campaigns and special events; supervised risk management review of potential liabilities; and coordinated procurement and resource management, etc.

Although there is no one source to identify the buzzwords, many can be taken from sources such as The Occupational Outlook Handbook or directly from the job description posted by the company. Career recruiters are also a good source for identifying keywords for specific career channels.

There is an ongoing debate among career recruiters as to which method is the most effective to ensure that an applicant’s resume will receive the highest ranking, Watts said. Keywords can be embedded within the text – and “well-written resumes will have those keywords.” Others frontload a list of the keywords at the top of the resume.

Being successful in a job search in today’s market is vastly different than it was  a decade ago. Competition for vacancies is fierce. It takes more than sending a cover letter and resume to a company to land a job. The days of going into a personnel office, filling out an application by hand and being interviewed on the spot have gone the way of the Dictaphone.

Creativity, effective and comprehensive use of resources, meticulousness, professionalism in presentation, research, clarity, determination, persistence, optimism, drive and courage are required for a successful career quest. Through creative reinvention, rebooting, networking, packaging, as well as marketing and promotion strategies, today’s job seekers can maximize their likelihood of finding a job.

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To learn more about Morrison and Socialvention, visit www.cindywmorrison.com. For information on Norris, www.carrollhistory.org/ccr.html or his presentation on reinventing yourself for the job market at www.carrollmediacenter.org. For information on the Carroll County Business and Resource Center, www.carrollworks.com; Pleasant Valley Life Coaching, contact Watts at eldon.watts@juno.com; Symphony Resume and Placement Solutions, www.symphonyresumesolutions.com.

For more information on continuing education, visit Carroll Community College at www.carrollcc.edu/courses/noncredit/default.asp, and for graduate course information, visit McDaniel College at www.mcdaniel.edu/4654.htm. For information on identifying keywords for resumes, visit www.quintcareers.com/identifying_resume_keywords.html and www.career.und.edu/CareerServices/ResumeKeyword.pdf. For more information on unemployment or employment opportunities in Maryland, www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/.

For more information on unemployment or employment opportunities in Maryland, www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/.

You can also find expert advice about job-hunting strategies on the Carroll Magazine web site: www.carrollmagazine.com.


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