Shane Schmutz of Veterans Passport to Hope to Appear on Bruce Hurwitz Presents

Shane Schmutz

Tomorrow morning, February 3, at 8 AM Eastern Time, Bruce Hurwitz Presents! relaunches with a live interview with special guest Shane Schmutz.

Shane is the Founder, past President of the Board, and past Executive Director of Veteran’s Passport to Hope (VP2H) – a non-profit founded in order to help our nation’s veterans. Shane currently lives and works in Utah after having moved back to his home state in 2013. Shane brings a wealth of experience to the VP2H team having had various roles in the private sector to include: Medical Device sales, Private Wealth Management, Private Jet sales, and Software sales. Before joining corporate America in mid-2008, Shane was a Captain in the United States Army. As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, Schmutz served three combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during which he received the US Army’s Bronze Star. Shane continues to serve as a board member with VP2H and is very involved in the day to day activities of the 501c3, the non-profit symposiums, and the grant awards.

VP2H has three primary missions:  Raising awareness about the issues facing Veterans; raising money for Veteran friendly non-profits; and acting as a rallying point for other Veteran friendly organizations.

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Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.

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March Career Counseling Special

With the impact of the Affordable Care Act becoming a daily reality for job seekers, it is important for everyone in the Career Counseling industry to do what they can to help job seekers.  I call on my fellow career counselors to join me in reducing their prices in the coming month:

During March I will be discounting the price of my full-service career counseling package by $100.  For only $150 clients will receive:

  • A 2-hour face-to-face or Skype consultation (depending on their location)
  • Career evaluation/Job performance assessment
  • Job search plan review
  • Networking assistance
  • Resume critique
  • Cover letter critique
  • Interview preparation and review
  • Unlimited phone or e-mail consultations UNTIL YOU GET YOUR NEXT JOB!

To book your session visit http://www.hsstaffing.com/special.html.

And don’t forget, if you have a question about your career or job search, call in to Career Counseling Live! on Bruce Hurwitz Presents, every Sunday morning at 9 AM Eastern.  The phone number is 646-478-3302.

I’m too old! They’ll never hire me!!

And you are one hundred percent correct.  No one is going to hire an old, depressed, whiner.  And if that’s you, I can’t help you.  No one can.  You are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No joke.  A woman comes to my office as a candidate for an executive assistant position.  She has 20 years experience, lives within a commuting distance from the employer, and has everything he’s looking for.  But, she’s been unemployed for two years.  She complains to me about how difficult things have been for her.  I tell her to put that all behind her because I think she’s perfect for this job.  I tell her they need someone who is an independent thinker and problem solver.  “No problem,” she reassures me.  “By the way,” I say, “first impressions are important and when I first saw you I noticed that you were carrying three bags.  You don’t want to come across as a ‘bag lady.'”  “I have to have three bags!  One’s for my shoes!”

For those of you unacquainted with Manhattan office fashion, women walk around the street in sneakers and when they get to their appointment they change shoes.  Why they just don’t get a comfortable pair of business-like walking shoes, I don’t understand, but it really does not matter.  What does matter is that this candidate was telling me that she was set in her ways and could not change.  The idea of putting the shoes in a bag inside of a bag did not occur to her.  A problem solver she was not.  Argumentative she was!

But that’s not all.  When she mentioned that she would need to buy a skirt for an interview, which I told her I could arrange for the next day, I reminded her that she was sitting in the heart of Manhattan’s Fashion District and there were discount stores everywhere.  She said she had to be very selective because she had to watch her money and did not think she could find something so quickly.  I told her that if she got the job her financial problems would be over, or on the way to being over.  She then told me that it really did not matter, no one was going to hire her, but she would go and find a skirt and just return it if she didn’t get the job.

So now I knew that (a) she was not a problem solver and (b) she was not the most honest person on the planet.

Finally, when I could not take any more of her whining about her age, I asked her if she wanted to interview for the job.  She told me she did not know but I could submit her resume and in the meantime she would be discussing it with her career counselor.

I told her that I would find it hard to believe that her career counselor would object to her interviewing for a position.  And then I raised the question with her of whether or not she was spending her money wisely on a career counselor who had not gotten her a job in two years.  She told me that they had become friends.  I wanted to tell her that she did not need a friend, she needed a job, but I decided not to.

Before she left I told her I would not submit her until she told me that she was really interested in the job and would, if all went well, accept an offer.  That was a Monday.  On Wednesday I interviewed a woman more than half her age, with very little experience, but a great personality.  She was hired that Friday.  The other candidate called me the following Monday to tell me that she had thought about it and was not interested in the position.  I reassured her that that was alright and told her the position had been filled.

Now what would have happened if she had had a positive attitude?

Last week I closed an IT search.  Two candidates.  One in his mid- to late-twenties, the other, probably in his early sixties.  The former had a one-page resume, the latter a seven-page resume.  My client wanted to see the older gentleman.  He did OK but there were no sparks.  The younger guy did a lot better, but his references were not great.  Not than anyone said anything bad about him, just that one was a relative and another a personal friend.  So the older guy got a second chance.  He met with someone else at the company and it was love at first sight.  His references checked out.  Everyone described him as “brilliant.”  He got the job.

Did I mention the fact that the young guy had a devil-may-care take-it-or-leave-it attitude and the old guy had an I-can-do-this-and-will-be-great-at-it attitude?

It all comes down to attitude.  You can be a very old 20-something and a very young 60-something.  On my radio program I interviewed a 75 year old math teacher who had just received her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.  Listen to the show and tell the truth:  How old would you have thought she was if you had not heard me ask her at the beginning her age?  Here’s a woman with more energy and a greater positive attitude than most people I know who are a quarter or half her age.  She’ll never have a problem finding work.  She wouldn’t permit it!

Beware Diploma Mills

For my BlogTalkRadio program I am looking for Ph.D.s to interview about their research.  The idea is to inform, enlighten and educate the general public about research that is being conducted at institutes of higher learning.

Today I received a response from a woman claiming to have a Ph.D. in “Natural Health.”  Not exactly a topic that interests me but, the purpose of the program is not to interest me but rather listeners.  Health and wellness are topical subjects, and “natural” is very popular.  So I asked her to send me her research proposal and I also asked her where she received her doctorate.

She wrote me back that she did not do her own research but rather researched other people’s research.  That might actually be legitimate, but the fact that she wrote “I did not do my own research,” set off some alarms.  Regardless of how she did what she did, all colleges require students to submit research proposals explaining what they want to do, how they are going to do it, and what the expected results are.  Something did not sound right.  So I Googled her school, Clayton College of Natural Health.  Take your time, I’ll wait.

So you saw the lawsuit.  You saw that the website no longer exists, except for one allowing graduates to order transcripts and diplomas.  And you saw Wikipedia’s first paragraph, “The Clayton College of Natural Health was a non-accredited American distance-learning natural health college based in Birmingham, Alabama, offering classes on natural health. It was founded in 1980 by Lloyd Clayton, Jr. According to its website, the school at one point had more than 25,000 students and graduates. Before 1997 it was known as the American College of Holistic Nutrition  The school and some of its more notable graduates have been the subject of controversy.”

When I e-mailed her back to explain that because her degree is from a non-accredited college I felt uncomfortable having her on the program, she politely replied that she had a friend from Stanford who just got his Ph.D. and she would tell him about my program.   She did not respond to the issue of the college’s accreditation or lack thereof.

What’s sad is that she goes around the country speaking and uses the Ph.D. openly.  On her website she even mentions Clayton.  She is hiding nothing.  It’s all out in the open.  Wasn’t it Sherlock Holmes who said that the best place to hide something is out in the open?  Need to hide a book?   Stick it on a book shelf.  Her degree is out there.  I Googled her and did not find a single reference to the fact that her Ph.D. is illegitimate.   In fact, on one of her websites, she states that she has attended programs at Harvard and at the National Institutes of Health.  I know for a fact that they do not require a Ph.D. to participate in Harvard or NIH programs.  But one would think that someone would have picked up on this.

The point, my friends, is that if you attend an unaccredited college or university, you may get away with it.  But you may not.  And if you get caught, by an employer who only hired you because you qualified – in other words, you met the minimum academic requirements – when it becomes known that your degree is from an unaccredited college, you could very well be fired.

A couple of years ago I had an incident with a candidate.  He had a Bachelor’s from a State college but a second Bachelor’s from another school and ten years later got a Ph.D. from that same school.  The first thing that was strange was that he had two Bachelor’s.  It happens.  But he did not have a Master’s degree.  Again, plenty of Ph.D.s don’t have Master’s.  A friend of mine, now a professor at Yale, went to the London School of Economics.  He was accepted to their Master’s program.   After maybe a year  they told him, with British humor, that he was being kicked out of the program.  They waited long enough for his heart to stop and then told him they were putting him directly into a doctoral program.  It happens.  But I decided to check.

Google “Glendale University.”  Did you notice the link at the bottom to “Glendale University diploma mill?”  If you visited the Glendale website, it looks impressive.  They claim to be accredited by the National Distance Learning Accreditation Council.  If you visit their website, they have a long list of schools that meet their “minimum requirement and standards.”  But it does not say that those schools are actually accredited by them.  Want to know why?  Because they aren’t.  The University of Phoenix, which they list near the top of their list,  ” is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.” They are legitimate!

But look again.  Notice that some of the universities are highlighted and some are not.  Click on “Suffield University” and go to their accreditation page.  They don’t even try to hide the truth.  They make it clear that their degrees are not recognized.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Cheaters never prosper.  Don’t waste your time buying a diploma.  Do it the right way.  Just think about how embarrassed you will be if someone publicly asks you about it.  My Clayton Ph.D. claims to be a sought after speaker.  What will happen if one day someone questions her Ph.D.?  The rest of her credentials may be legitimate.  She may actually know what she’s talking about.  She may even be good at what she does.  But whose going to take the advice of someone who claims to be something she is not?  True, she claims to be a Clayton Ph.D.  But the inference is that that is a legitimate Ph.D.  And that’s where the cheating comes into play.

I do career counseling.  I have a Ph.D.  My Ph.D. is in International Relations.  It says so on my website.  When clients come to me they are coming to me for my expertise learned on the job, not in the classroom.  They know it ahead of time.  Nothing is hidden.  Why?  Because I never want anyone to questions my credentials, my ethics, or my credibility.  I’m not perfect; I make mistakes.  But I’m right about this.  If you are thinking about “cheating,” don’t do it.  Get the degree the right way.

WORD OF WARNING TO VETERANS:  If a college is going to give you credit for your military work, check them out.  My guess is that they are a diploma mill.  Don’t let them take advantage of you.

Pharmaceutical Fornication – Part I

We’re being screwed!  It’s as simple as that.  If you did not get the chance to listen to my interview with Dr. Jeffrey Lobosky, you missed a fascinating discussion about the pharmaceutical industry.  Here are some of the highlights, or perhaps I should say, lowlights!

The $802 Million Controversy

Following World War II the pharmaceutical industry took off.  The cost of drugs began to rise, especially for seniors.  Seniors have always been a powerful lobby because seniors vote.  Congress threatened to regulate the pharmaceutical industry.  So the industry held a conference and explained, and this is true, that in the development of medications there are very few successes.  Research and development (R & D) did not guarantee the creation of new medications.  If the price of drugs was regulated, so they claimed, there would not be enough money to develop new drugs.  Everyone backed off and the matter was dropped.

Well, not everyone backed off.  The editor of the New England Journal of Medicine decided to research the claims made by the pharmaceutical industry and, specifically, the claim that it cost $802 million to develop a drug.  What she discovered was that in their calculations they neglected to deduct the cost of R & D which is tax exempt.  Moreover, their research focused on the 68 most expensive drugs that were developed in the year on which the research was based.  Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry factored in what is called the “Cost of Opportunity” which means the money that the company would have made had they invested the money in, for example, the stock market, and not used it for R & D.  (Feel free to read that sentence again.)  For her part, the good editor looked at all of the drugs produced in the same year and, deducting the cost of R &D and ignoring Cost of Opportunity, she came up with the price of $260 million for the development of a drug.  A lot of money, but far less that $802 million!

The Price of Drugs and Medicare

The grandparents are going to love this one!  The price of drugs is determined by the manufacturer, the insurance company and the pharmacy.  The more bodies the insurance company can deliver to the manufacturer, the lower the price.  Good ole’ fashioned capitalism at it’s best.  However…

The largest health insurance provider in the country is Medicare with 50 million members.  Medicare is forbidden, by law, to negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies.  According to the Prescription Drug Act which passed during the second Bush administration, not only is it illegal for Medicare to negotiate prices, but it is also illegal to import less expensive drugs from Canada.  And it gets worse…

When the Republicans took over Congress after the debacle of the health care insurance attempt of the Clinton Administration, Representative Billy Townsend, a Democrat from Louisiana, switched to the Republican party.  When George W. Bush was elected president, he picked Townsend to shepherd the Prescription Drug Act through Congress.  Townsend worked closely with the pharmaceutical industry and, after the law passed, he resigned and became the head of the pharmaceutical industry lobby at an annual salary of $2 million.   (Don’t scream yet; I’ll tell you when I’m finished!)

When Senator Obama was running for president, he used Townsend as the example of what was wrong with the system.  When he became President Obama and wanted his own health care legislation passed, he sent for Townsend.  They came to an agreement.  The pharmaceutical company would agree to give back $80 billion over a 10 year period to Medicare and to sponsor ads supporting the president’s health care plan, and Medicare will still be forbidden to negotiate prices.  The problem is that it is estimated that if Medicare could negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies the price of medications, they would save between $70 and $100 billion annually!  (You may now scream.)

The Bayh-Dole Act

Historically, if research was conducted at a public institution using public funds, the results of that research were in the public domain.  In other words, if the research resulted in a new process or a new substance, a private manufacturer would not be able to get a patent if it were to commercially develop the substance.  In 1980 Senators Bayh and Dole sponsored legislation that enabled researchers to obtain patents on their discoveries and to license those patents to private industry.  In other words, tax payer money goes to a team of researchers at a university who develop a new drug.  They get the patent and license it to a pharmaceutical company that then manufacturers the drug at the normal high price of a medication that the company develops on its own.  So not only do tax payers pay for the research, they don’t benefit monetarily from the fruits of that research – they pay full price and the pharmaceutical company makes huge profits.

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

Before 1997 only New Zealand allowed pharmaceutical companies to advertise.   Then the US joined them!  Between 1997 and 2006, with the birth of television, radio and print advertising of medications, the average price of a drug went from $30 to $68 and the average amount of money spent annually for medications rose from $72 billion to $300 billion.  The advertising budgets (and this would be a component in the price of a drug) rose from $780 million to $5 billion.

Academic Journals

Pharmaceutical companies have formed a relationship with medical journals.  It’s really simple:  the pharmaceutical companies pay for ads and the journals publish articles that downplay side effects or exaggerate the benefits of certain drugs.  It’s a clear conflict of interest.  Questionable science is being supported by major advertisers forcing editors to choose between staying in business or academic/scientific credibility.

Ad-Induced Diseases

Because of the ads seen by the public, mild medical complaints have become diseases.  Simple maladies are now complex conditions.  Heartburn is now acid reflux.  Instead of just taking a couple of Tums, people were prescribed Tagamet.  When Tagamet’s manufacturer lost their patent, the new drug was Prilosec.  And, of course,  each new drug is more expensive than its predecessor.  But it’s not just heartburn.  A runny nose is now allergic rhinitis requiring Claritin.

Managed Care

Physicians are now in the hands of the insurance companies.  When the new system began, if they wanted the insurance companies to send patients their way, the doctors had to agree to lower fees.  In order to make up for lost revenue, that meant they had to increase volume.  So they hired physician assistants and nurse practitioners to see patients, or they simply sent patients to the emergency room.  And when they do see a patient, and the patient asks for a drug they have seen advertised, it takes less time to simply write the prescription than to explain to the patient why the cheaper generic alternative is just as good.

Robert Torricelli

Torricelli used to be a senator from New Jersey.  (He decided not to run for reelection following a campaign finance scandal.)  In 1999 he was chair of the Senate Democratic Reelection Committee.  It was his job to raise money to get Democrats reelected (or elected) to the Senate.  The manufacturer of Claritin was going to lose its patent on the drug.  They went to the Senator, gave him a check for $50,000, and the next day he introduced legislation extending their patent.

You have my permission to scream again!  And you are invited to listen to my next program on the pharmaceutical industry, on Monday, June 27 at 2:00 PM.  My guest will be Tom Loker, author of The History and Evolution of Health Care in America: The Untold Backstory of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Why Health Care Needs More Reform.

Conducting an Effective Job Search

The following is the text of my June 14 broadcast on Bruce Hurwitz Presents.

Welcome to Bruce Hurwitz Presents, I’m your host, Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

Today’s broadcast is the second in our Oral Essay Forum and I’ll be discussing how to conduct an effective job search.  If you have any questions feel free to call in.  The number is 323-792-2978.

For those of you living in metro-New York, or who may be visiting on August 10, I’ll be giving a talk at The New York Public Library’s Science, Business and Industry Library at 6:30 PM on today’s topic – but in more detail.  Visit my website, www.hsstaffing.com, and click on the link on the home page to get the details.

The most effective way to find a job is through networking.  “Networking” means establishing relationships.  It does not mean exchanging business cards.  The goal of networking is to get someone to endorse or recommend you.

Let’s take a simple scenario.  You attend a professional networking event.  You chat with someone and exchange business cards.  She likes you, or rather doesn’t dislike you, but it is doubtful she would let you use her name when contacting an employer who is looking to hire.  And she knows of one.  Or she might know of one in the future.

So how do you turn a business card exchange into a networking situation?  By asking her, the woman with whom you want to network, what you can do for her.  Networking is all about giving, not getting.  Once you give, you’ll start to get.

A more modern way to network is over the Internet.  The best networking website is LinkedIn.  It is a professional networking website.  Everyone with whom you are in contact should, ideally, be in your LinkedIn network plus everyone who is willing to join your network.  For example, right now I am just shy of 20,000 first degree contacts in my LinkedIn network.  That means there are potentially 20,000 individuals whom I can contact to tell about positions I am looking to fill.  That also means there are 20,000 individuals who can contact me directly, through LinkedIn, to tell me that they are looking for work.

There are job boards on LinkedIn.  Now is not the time to go into detail but I invite you to watch my podcast for The Learning Annex on June 22nd at 3:00 pm.  The link is not yet active but you will be able to find it at www.ustream.tv/learningannex and click on Business & Careers.

In addition to networking, of course there are traditional ads.  They work.  The proof is that employers advertise job openings.  If ads didn’t work, they would not spend the money.

Of course, when networking and ads fail, or when an employer simply does not have the time, they may use a recruiter as should you.  Find recruiters who service your industry or profession and send them your resume.  Most recruiters do not advertise.  Advertising is counterproductive.  Let’s just say I have a search, I place an ad and I find the right candidate.  Well, that candidate may very well inform the client that I found her through an ad.  The client will then say to himself, “If Bruce found Cathy through an ad, why would I hire him in the future to conduct another search?  I’ll just place an ad myself!”  So by connecting with recruiters you can learn about non-advertised positions.

Regardless of how you discover the availability of a job, the following rules apply:

First, you need a good cover letter.  “Good” means short, sweet and to the point.  The recipient of the cover letter will take 10 to 20 seconds to read it.  A two-page treatise on your phenomenal career will wind up in the trash can.  You have to be focused.  The purpose of the cover letter is not to get you a job, it’s to get the recipient to look at your resume.  So get to the point.

In the first paragraph you announce that you want to apply “in confidence” for whatever the position is.  The reason for the “in confidence” is to protect you if you are presently employed.  While no employer should ever contact a candidate’s present employer, or anyone else for that matter, without the candidate’s permission, it could happen.  If it does, the “in confidence” line will make it easier for you to sue the employer if that employer contacts your boss and you get fired.

Continuing the first paragraph, state where you heard about the opening.  That’s important because it shows the employer that you understand how the game is played.  You recognize that the employer wants to know what he is doing that is effective.  So by telling him, for example, the name of the newspaper where you saw the ad, he knows where to advertise in the future.

Of course, if you are not responding to an ad, but are writing at the suggestion of someone in your professional network, here’s the place to mention their name.

Now you may be responding neither to an ad nor to a suggestion by a friend.  You may just want to work for the company.  In this case you should explain the reason.  Write something like, “I read in The Post that you are about to launch a new initiative that seems to be identical to one for which I was responsible when I was with….  I would like to offer my services in making this initiative a reality.”

The second paragraph is your elevator pitch.  It’s that one sentence that is going to want to make the recipient of the letter look at your resume.  The best example I have was a candidate of mine for a vice president of Human Resources position at a nursing home.  Nursing homes care about two things: the care and dignity of their residents, and keeping the union out.  Keeping the union out would have been the vice president of Human Resources’ primary responsibility.

My candidate wrote that he had successfully fought 12 union elections, meaning that the unions lost each time and the homes where he was working were not unionized, and that he lowered average annual employee grievances from 50 to zero.  When my client read that, she stopped reading, called me, and we set up an appointment.  Find the one thing that will impress more than anything else and put it in the cover letter.

The third paragraph answers any questions the employer may have asked in an ad – assuming you are responding to one.  For example, if a writing sample was requested, and they asked about salary, here’s the place to refer to both.  Mention that the writing sample is enclosed and tell them what you are earning.  You are not conducting salary negotiations.  In the end you will get what you negotiate.  All you are doing is answering their question.  If you don’t answer it, they probably won’t consider you.

In the final paragraph reference the enclosed resume.   Next, thank them for their consideration and state that you look forward to hearing from them.  And on that note, make certain that your contact information appears on the top of the letter.

Some people do not like to provide an address.  You should, but don’t have to.  But you should at least include your city and state of residence.  The area code of your phone number means nothing since the number most people use today is their cell phone number which they can keep for life.  The area code may be in Texas, while the person may live in Maine.  Make certain that your e-mail address is not cute, and that your voice mail message is not silly.

For sake of argument you have written an excellent letter and the recipient now wants to look at your resume.  That being the case, the letter was a success.

How long will the person, on average, spend on your resume?  About 10 seconds, if you are lucky!  So you once again have to grab the recipient right away, just like you did with the cover letter.

Begin with your contact information.  If they can’t find you, they won’t call or e-mail you.  And, yes, I have received two or three resumes that had no contact information on them, just the word “Confidential.”  They certainly were that…

The important thing is to start the resume with a section called “Selected Accomplishments.”  This section will contain about five bullet points of successes that differentiate you from your competition.  The first bullet point will be the example of your career success that you used in the cover letter.  Then give a few more.

Remember one thing: Don’t lie on your resume!  If you lie on the resume you can be fired, for cause, at any time.  A colleague of mine once placed an internal auditor at a non-profit.  The auditor did not have to be a CPA.  Her candidate wrote on his resume that he was a CPA.  He was working there a week or so, doing a fine job, but for whatever reason his boss decided to check.  It turned out he had not taken the exams but only the courses.  He was fired on the spot.  Don’t lie on your resume!

If you are just starting your career, after “Selected Accomplishments” should come “Education.”  Include the college you attended, the degree awarded, the year it was awarded, your major and your GPA.  After your first “real job,” your education is no longer that important.  It might qualify you for a job, but it won’t get you one.  A Harvard MBA, fresh out of school, should not have too much trouble finding work.  After all, she’s  a Harvard MBA.  But after that first job, she has to rely on her work record.  So if she’s a lazy and unproductive Harvard MBA, and her competition is a hardworking innovative community college MBA, guess who’s getting the job?

The next section, or the one before “Education,” is “Work Experience.”  List jobs going back 20 years.  Give your title, the name of the employer, the dates or years of employment, and a short blurb about the employer so that the recipient of the resume will know what type of business it was.  Then use bullet points to list your main responsibilities and accomplishments.  Do not repeat what you wrote under “Selected Accomplishments.”

Now comes the fun part.  Everything up until now is pretty much what everyone else will do.  So now you really have to set yourself apart from the crowd.

List any media citations you have.  Not many people have them.  Sign up at www.helpareporter.com and become a source for reporters.  Then you can say that you are “a recognized authority in your field.”  I’m a source and in the past 13 months I have been cited in over 165 articles in print and on the web.

Next list any publications that you have.  After that comes “Awards.”  This is a way for you to show that other people think you are great, not just you and your mother.

Have a section entitled “Languages and Special Skills,” if you have any.  Foreign languages are a great asset to any candidacy, so list them all.

And finally, “Volunteerism” or “Community Service.”  This can be problematic.  You want to show that you are involved with your community and like to help people in need, but too much of a good thing can be bad.  Don’t overdo it.

So let’s summarize:  You found out about a job, sent a cover letter that resulted in the recipient reading your resume.  And it’s a good resume.  So she wants to invite you in for an interview.  That’s the point of the resume, to get the interview.  Does she pick up the phone?  Nope!  She Googles you.

Everyone potentially has two Internet presences.  The first is the one you create for yourself.  It’s your LinkedIn profile, comments you’ve place on other people’s blogs, maybe things you have written on your own blog, or possibly your own website.  All of these need to be professional.  What else needs to be professional are your FaceBook and Twitter accounts.  Persons have lost interviews and job offers because of the foolishness that they have posted, especially photos, on FaceBook and the nonsense that they have tweeted about.  Clean up your FaceBook and Twitter accounts.  Make everything private and, if you can’t, take down whatever makes you look foolish.

The second Internet presence is what other people have placed on the Internet about you.  Be aware of it, but don’t worry about it.  There’s nothing you can do about it.  Complain, and the person just might make matters worse for you.  Most employers will ask for an explanation, or simply laugh it off.  I know of no one who has lost a job offer because someone on the Internet said something bad about them.  It’s not worth losing sleep over.

For sake of argument, you passed the Internet test.  Your phone rings and you are invited for an interview.

The preliminary interview will be the initial phone call.  All the person will want to do is to set up a time for a real phone interview – although they might invite you in for a face-to-face meeting.  But let’s say they want a phone interview.

There are a few rules.  First, get dressed.  You have to feel professional to act professionally.  Second, don’t be too relaxed.  Sit in a comfortable chair but not one that rocks or spins.  You want to literally force yourself to sit up straight.  Third, if you have one, have a mirror next to the phone.  Look at yourself and make certain your are smiling.  It’s true that people can really hear a smile in your voice.  Since you will not be able to benefit from body language, you have to come across as positive.  Smiling should do it.

This will not be a long and complicated interview.  All you need in front of you is your resume.  You are being interviewed about you.  You should know the facts, but it is human nature to forget something – especially dates of employment. You don’t want to make any mistakes.

Let’s say you do a good job and are invited in for an interview.  Here are the rules to follow:

First, arrive early.  There is no excuse for being late for an interview.  If you are late, you will not get the job.

Second, dress conservatively.  And don’t wear any cologne or perfume.  Women should not wear too much makeup or too much jewelry.

Third, when you arrive you will be greeted by the receptionist.  She will be asked for her opinion of you and it will count.  Make certain you treat her with respect and professionally.  Shake hands with her.  Surprisingly, very few people do.

Fourth, when the person with whom you are meeting comes to get you, stand up, smile, look her straight in the eye, give a firm handshake and thank her for inviting you for the interview.

Fifth, follow her lead.  If she likes small talk, chat.  If not, get down to business.  And remember, body language is important.  Don’t fidget.  Be a bit animated.  Move your hands.  Smile.  Make eye contact.  Don’t look down or up when you are thinking about an answer.  Always look straight ahead.

Sixth, an interview is no time to be modest.  This is what I call “’I’ vs ‘We’.”  You want to come across as a team player, but the company that is interviewing you is not looking to hire your team; they are looking to hire you.  So I always say the following, “I worked with good people.  We were a good team.  But I’m going to focus with my answers on what I personally did.”

Seventh, open ended questions are a way for the interviewer to ask you illegal questions.  She may want to know if you have any children and will therefore need time off from work without warning.   So she might ask, Tell me your negatives.  Or, she might ask, Tell me your positives.  These are opportunities to talk about your values, morals and ethics.  For example, in the case of negatives you can say, “There was time when… but I learned my lesson and now you get to benefit from the mistakes I made with my previous employers.  The most important thing I learned was not to repeat the same mistakes!”  And in the case of positives, which could also be negatives, “I pride myself on the fact that I have never lost a day’s work because of personal matters.  I keep my personal and professional lives separate – although I do take work home with me when necessary.”

Eighth, in general, when asked any question, but especially difficult ones, tell the truth, don’t talk too much, and don’t think you have to confess your sins.  What you are concerned about may be of no interest to the interviewer.

Ninth, you have to have questions to ask.  The questions should show that you have done your homework and researched the employer.  And, if possible, research the interviewer as well.  In any case, here are some powerful questions to ask:

  • What is the company’s turnover rate?
  • What is the average tenure of an employee?
  • Do you promote from within?
  • Why do you like to work here?

The first two questions tell you if it’s a good place to work.  The third question let’s you know if you will have a future with the company.  And the last question makes the conversation personal and shows that you are interested in the person with whom you are speaking.

At the end of the interview, smile, look the interviewer in the eyes, give a firm handshake and thank her for the opportunity to be considered for the position.  It’s perfectly acceptable to ask about the next stage and when you can expect to hear from them.

If they say to call them in two weeks, call them in two weeks.  If they don’t take your call, or if they don’t return your call, you didn’t get the job.  If they say they will be in touch with you and you don’t hear from them, you didn’t get the job.  And if you don’t get the job, send a thank you letter.  No one else will.  They’ll remember it and may contact you in the future.

In any case, after the interview send an e-mail thanking the interviewer or interviewers for meeting with you.  Include any requested information.  Then, mail a hand written thank you note to the persons with whom you met.  Unlike the e-mail, the note is unexpected and will remind them about you.

Just as you did with your Internet presence, make certain that you are prepared for a background check.  If you have a criminal record, tell them about it.  If your credit is bad, tell them before they find out.  Have an explanation, explain what happened, what you learned from the experience and why it makes you a better employee, and in the case of the credit report, what you are doing about it.  The important thing is not to try and hide anything and not to surprise the prospective employer.   Employers do not like surprises when hiring candidates.

Best case scenario, you get a job offer. Now the negotiations begin.  They will ask you what you are looking for in a salary.  The answer is critical.

If you say, “What are you offering?” then they know you are not a serious professional.  If the salary range was not in the job description, then you should have some idea of what the market is demanding.  After all, it’s your profession.  It also sounds like you are playing games.  Employers don’t like employees who play games.

This is the answer.  “I am presently earning X.  To make a move I will need at least an increase of Y%, depending on benefits.”  Now the ball is in the employer’s court.  Some benefits are worth more than salary so listen to what the employer has to say.  You don’t have to give an answer on the spot.  Promise to get back to them the next morning.  If it’s a good offer, accept it.  If you want the job but need something more, explain why.  You can make one, and only one, counter offer.  For example, I had one candidate who told my client, after consulting with me, that while a $10,000 increase was totally acceptable, his new commute would cost him $5,000 a year in gas and tolls.  A $5,000 net increase was not worth the move.  They gave him the extra $5,000.

Finally, only resign once you have a written offer in-hand.  As a general rule, you should give your present boss notice equal to your vacation time.


Internships

The following is the text of my June 6th broadcast on Bruce Hurwitz Presents.

Today’s program is the first in a restructured show.  In order to expand listenership and to offer opportunities to individuals starting their careers, I’ve reformulated the program’s structure and divided it into four different forums.

The Ph.D. Forum will introduce listeners to doctoral and post-doctoral students, giving them an opportunity to discuss what, by definition, is cutting-edge research, be it in the arts, sciences or humanities.  Starting off the Ph.D. Forum will be Jason Sole, from Capella University, who is an expert on gangs.  He’ll be appearing at 11 AM on June 21.  On June 23 at 5 PM I’ll be joined by Neal Ramer from Ryokan College.  We’ll be discussing coping with depression – something of which the long-time unemployed know only too well.  And the next day, June 24, at 10:30 AM I’ll be interviewing Christopher Morrissey from the University of Notre Dame on the influence of religion on war and peace.

The second Forum, Business Forum, will feature guests from the for-profit and non-profit sectors talking about their careers and professions.  Two guests who I have yet to schedule but who I am confident will be on, will both be discussing various aspects of career growth.  One, a Ph.D. himself, will be speaking about changing careers.  Check out my website homepage, http://www.hsstaffing.com, for updates.

The third Forum, Social Forum, will deal with current events.  The lead-off show will be June 16 at 11:30 AM.  Its focus is on health care and specifically insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry.  The impetus for the program was an incident with my health insurance provider, EmblemHealth, and their on-line pharmacy, Medco.  Suffice it to say that I have invited numerous members of Congress, as well as a representative of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to participate, along with representatives from EmblemHealth and Medco.  The title of the show, “Are EmblemHealth and Medco Fixing Prices and Violating the Law?” pretty much says it all.  I hope you’ll be able to join us for what I am certain will be an energized show.

In fact, it will not only be energized, it will be the first in a series of programs dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry.  Again, check out my website for updates.

Finally, the fourth Forum, Oral Essays, features talks by me on various topics.  Today’s broadcast is obviously the first and I’ll be discussing Internships.  On June 14 at 11 AM I’ll be speaking on conducting a successful job search, and on June 30 at 10 AM on obtaining and profiting from free PR in business and employment.  I hope you’ll be able to join me and, as always, questions from callers will be welcome.

Which brings me today’s program on Internships.  If you have any questions feel free to call in.  The number is 323-792-2978.  I’ll also be glancing at the chat room.  If you have any questions, you can post them there.   I’ll take questions at the end of the presentation which will last just under 15 minutes.

With the onset of summer and vacation season it seems timely to discuss internships.  Of course, students should have arranged their internships long ago.  However, there is much for both students and employers to keep in mind.

First, for employers, do they have to pay interns?  And second, for interns, why are internships important and how can they assure a successful experience?

So the first question is, Do interns have to be paid?  And I begin with the standard disclaimer:  I am not an attorney and employers should discuss this with their attorney or financial advisor.

But it’s a simple question.  Do employers have to pay interns?  After all, they are affectionately referred to as “slave labor.”  Since this deals with Federal government regulations the answer is simple, Yes and no.

I am basing my answer on Fact Sheet #71, titled “Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act,” put out by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.  And I must add, employers need to check on the regulations of their individual states as well.  But I’m going to focus here on the Feds.

First, the regulations deal with, and I quote, “Internships in the ‘for-profit’ private sector.”  That’s important because an intern at a non-profit will no doubt be classified as a volunteer.  Volunteers, by definition, do not have to be paid.  Before becoming an executive recruiter and career counselor I had worked at non-profits in the US for well-over a decade.  We had volunteers doing real work.  There were security guards at a nursing home.  There were seniors helping with mailings.  And there were board and committee members offering substantive advice which, under different circumstances, would have constituted consulting services.  None was paid.  None had to be.

So were are speaking about for-profits.  According to the Supreme Court, if the work being done only serves the interest of the person doing the work, then that person is not an employee.  For example, if the individual wants to learn IT administration and an IT company grants them an internship, if the owner of the company, or one of his or her employees, takes the intern along with him and shows her, the intern, what the work is like and actually permits her to do some work, under his supervision, the employer is not benefitting.  In fact, the employer is losing.  Why?  Because he would get the job done a lot faster if he did not have to explain everything to the intern.

Another example might be at an accounting firm where the intern is being trained in what she has studied in school.  Let’s keep it simple and say she learned QuickBooks.  At the accounting firm the owner is allowing her to enter data using QuickBooks.  After she’s finished, someone has to double check what she did, a step that would not be necessary had an employee actually done the work.  So, again, the employer is losing.

There are, in fact, six criteria which must apply if the employer is to be free from paying the intern:

First, even if real work is being done, the internship is similar to school training.  Thus, my example of data entry.

Second, the internship is for the benefit of the intern.  The owner of the IT company didn’t need to train an IT intern.

Third, the intern did not replace any employee but worked closely under the supervision of an employee.

Fourth, the employer gets no advantage from the internship (good PR and a good feeling aside) and may actually have his operations impaired because of the internship, for example, when explaining or checking up on the intern’s work slows a job down.

Fifth, the intern is not guaranteed a job at the conclusion of the internship.

And sixth, in the beginning of the relationship, both the intern and the employer understand – and it should be in writing – that the intern will not be paid for her work.

If all six criteria exist, there is no employment and therefore no right of payment.

Basically, if the internship is educational there is no need to pay. However, and here is where things get complicated, if the employer is actually benefiting because the intern is engaged in actual operations – even if it’s just filing or other clerical work or assisting customers – the employer may have to pay minimum wages because he is benefiting from the intern’s work.

Another way to look at it, and to become even more confused, is by focusing on the issue of supervision.  If the intern is replacing an employee, the intern is entitled to minimum wage.  Same is true if the employer would have hired someone to do the work had he not been able to find the intern.   However, if all the intern is doing is shadowing an employee and doing at the most minimal work, then it will probably be considered educational and the employer will owe nothing.  But, if the intern is supervised to the same extent as an employee, the employer may have to pay minimum wage.

Lastly, time can be a factor in determining if the intern needs to be paid.  Internships should be for a fixed period determined at the start of the internship.   The internship should not be considered a trial period leading to employment.  If the intern expects to be hired after the internship, the employer will have to pay minimum wage.  That is why, as previously noted, I highly recommend written agreements with all interns so as to clearly state expectations.

So much for employers.  What about the interns?  How can an intern assure a successful internship?

First, interns should understand why their internship is important.  What do they need at the end of the day?  They need real work experience and, most importantly, a good recommendation.  They also need to show future prospective employers that they are serious about their careers.  Having internships on a resume, as opposed to just having a good time during the summer, can differentiate graduates from their peers.  Employers take internships seriously.  They do not take college students who fool around during the summer seriously!  You need that letter of recommendation.  Or, ultimately, you need the owner of the company where you did your internship to remember you and, maybe, when you have graduated, offer you a job.  A good recommendation or a job offer are the outcomes that make an internship a positive experience.

I recommend reading a recent article by Matt Brownell from Main Street.

Surprisingly, and encouragingly, Matt quotes a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers that found that 58% of interns were hired as full-time employees.  I think that pretty much ends any discussion about whether or not internships should be taken seriously.

Here are some rules to follow that should help assure a successful internship:

  1. Act professionally – meaning dress the part, don’t talk on your cell phone, don’t be listening to your iPod or MP3 player.  Concentrate on your work.  Yes, I know that you are used to studying while listening to music.  But that’s not what the employer sees.  The employer sees someone who is listening to music and therefore not concentrating on her work.  And he also sees someone who is not going to be able to hear if a colleague calls her.  Impression is reality.  If the impression is that you are goofing off, you are goofing off!
  2. When you have nothing to do, ask people what you can do to help them.  In other words, show that you are not lazy and that you are a team player.
  3. Ask questions.  As Samantha Zupan of GlassDoor.com says, “You have to be insatiable and have to have curiosity about what you’re up to.”  However, don’t be rude.  Pick the proper time and place.  You want to be seen as someone who wants to learn, not someone who is a pest.
  4. If you have a problem, don’t be confrontational.  Raise issues in the form of questions.  But don’t ask stupid questions.  “Why was I sent to get lunch?” is a stupid question.  The answer is, “You’re the intern and we have work to do!”  You should know that.
  5. You will make a mistake.  You may even make a number of mistakes.  It’s called being human and being inexperienced.  And it’s expected.  Don’t cover it up.  When you do something wrong, own up to it.  Tell your supervisor about it.  Better he should hear it from you than from someone else.  If possible, have a proposal to fix the mistake.  Taking ownership of one’s mistakes shows maturity.  And it is a good life lesson.  The fact of the matter is, it’s rarely the crime that get’s you, it’s the cover-up.  It’s generally accepted that President Nixon would never have had to resign and President Clinton would never have been impeached had they just told the truth.  That brings up another life lesson: It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than to have to learn from your own!
  6. Follow the advice of Robin Richards of Internships.com and, when given a task ask about benchmarks.  Say something like, “I want to know that I’m doing a good job and contributing.  What’s the goal I should shoot for?”  And if during the work you have questions, ask them.  It’s better to ask than to make assumptions that will lead to mistakes.  Supervisors sometimes forget that what is obvious to them may not be so obvious to an intern – or anyone else for that matter who is doing the work for the first time.
  7. Attitude is everything.  You are not going to be judged solely on outcomes.  If Jane does the job better than Joe, but Jane is difficult to work with and Joe is a pleasure, as long as Joe has potential and is worth the investment, Joe will get the job.  It’s a lot easier to train someone nice to do a job better than to try and change a person’s character flaws.  And –
  8. Don’t try to ingratiate yourself to the big boss.  “Sucking up,” so to speak, is always transparent.  Moreover, if you are seen by your supervisor to be speaking with her boss, she’ll think you are going behind her back.  Be pleasant.  Be a team play.  Go to lunch with the gang.  But impress your supervisor with the quality of your work and the depth of your character and she’ll start talking about you to her bosses.  As I told Matt, “Once your supervisors start speaking well of you, they’re going to talk about you to the big boss.  You go over to the president and start schmoozing, that’s not going to get you anywhere.”

Finally, have fun.  An internship should be enjoyable.  You may very well be making contacts that will serve you throughout your career.  It’s the start of building a professional network.  Networking is the best way to find work.  And the more people who can say, “I knew her when…,” the better.  So enjoy and keep in touch with your new colleagues.

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Be sure to join me for our next broadcast on June 14, at 11 AM, when I’ll be discussing how to conduct a successful job search.

And remember, the mission of my company is to promote the hiring of veterans.  The most tangible way to acknowledge the sacrifice of a veteran is through employment.  So please, hire a veteran.

Thank you for listening and enjoy the remainder of your day.