Job-hunting blog an interesting read

Remember life before the Internet? Me neither. Today, though, you can jump on the Internet whenever you’re feeling glum about your own life and find someone’s life that is in far worse shape.

Or, if you’re out of work, looking for a new job or just not satisfied with your own career, you can always search the Internet for tales from other folks whose careers are giving them massive headaches, too.

A good place to start if you’re into the “misery loves company” thing is the Career and Job-Hunting Blog run by The blog itself is quite informative, filled with, as its name suggests, job-hunting tips, statistics on the labor market and recent hiring trends.

It’s these last two parts, the statistics and the hiring trends, that fits in the “misery loves company” angle. For instance, by logging onto the blog you’ll find that the number of U.S. residents filing claims for unemployment insurance has just surged to its highest levels since 2001. There’s the by now old news that 1.2 million U.S. jobs had been lost as of November of this year.

And this is just the beginning. I know we’re in an “official” recession now, but I sure didn’t, and I’m sure you didn’t, either, need any officials telling me that the job market’s been in the toilet. We just needed to look at our bills, our paychecks and our 401(k) plans — not to mention the blogs out there — to know that.

Entering the unproductive season?

Thanksgiving is behind us. That means we are in the full grip of the holiday season. For some this is the merriest time of the year. For others? Well, there are a lot of Scrooges out there.

But what about in the workplace? Does work suffer during the holidays? After all, the holiday season is filled with days off. There are holiday parties. Christmas music on cubicle radios. Online shopping. Today is CyberMonday, when everyone’s supposed to click away a few dollars on holiday doodads.

Surprisingly enough, there have been studies in the past that suggest that workers aren’t really any less productive during the holidays. But, just in case you’re managing an office and feel that your workers are too busy ho-ho-hoing instead of type, type typing those business reports, visit this Web site  for some tips on maintaining productivity during the holiday season.

I won’t list the tips. They’re pretty self-explanatory. But I will say this: The holidays should be a time for productivity to dip. We work hard in the United States, taking less vacation time than do workers in European countries. It’s no crime to let down just a bit during one month of the year. Don’t be too hard on your employees if you catch them doing a little online shopping. Who knows, they may even be buying a gift for you.

Women still fighting for workplace respect

It’s unfortunate that this story still needs to be written. But the Wall Street Journal last week ran a story on how women can “hold their own” in what is still a male-dominated working world.

I’m not a woman. But I’m a bit amazed that a story like this still needs to be written. Maybe I’m naive. But women shouldn’t have to worry about being treated any differently than men in the working world.

My wife tells me, though, that, unfortunately, women always do have to worry about this. She once worked at Montgomery Ward’s before the retailer went out of business. (Quick story: My wife designed children’s apparel for Ward’s. About three months before the company went out of business, Ward’s sent my wife and five other apparel employees to Singapore and Thailand on a long, and costly, business trip. Is it any wonder that the company went out of business?)

My wife told me then that she and the other women with whom she worked had to work three times as hard as the men to earn the same level of respect. I found this hard to believe back then. Unfortunately, it seems to be true today, too.

That’s one of the reasons that I prefer working largely for myself. My wife does, too. There aren’t unfair barriers when you work for yourself. There aren’t corporate politics and gossip and silliness. Sure, there are tons of other aggravations. But at least you know you start on an even playing field.

The Wall Stret Journal story I linked to above has some good advice for women. I just wish it wasn’t necessary.

The unemployment lines are getting longer everywhere

You can do a simple Google News search on “employment” to quickly ruin your day. I did it this morning, and one of the first links that popped up was this one, reporting that unemployment in Oregon has gotten bad enough that the state’s employment department recently had to hire more people to handle unemployment claims.

The department added 43 people to handle the quickly growing amount of jobless claims. In even more depressing news, that addition isn’t enough; The department plans to add 20 more people by the end of this week.

This happy little story ran on the Web site of The World, a newspaper serving Coos Bay, Oregon, on Thanksgiving morning. Happy Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately, I think we’re all going to have to get used to these kinds of headlines. Unemployment isn’t going down anytime soon. Many workforce analysts actually expect 2009 to be even worse than 2008 has been.

Keep your resume’ current, always keep an eye out for new job opportunities, keep networking and don’t get complacent. In today’s economy, the “stable, steady” job is becoming a rarity.

How many of you are taking a real day off today?

It’s Thanksgiving today. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate with family and friends, a day to give thanks for the blessings in our life.

That’s all well and good. But I wonder: How many of us really take the entire Thanksgiving holiday — or any holiday, for that matter — off from work? I know I don’t. I’ll snatch moments here and there to work on assignments that have looming deadlines. I’ll do some editing work. I might even spend an hour working on the layout for the real estate magazine that goes to press in early December.

And I know I’m not alone. We can blame it on computers and the Internet. Even when no one is supposed to be working, we’re all sending e-mail messages, viewing online reports and adding last-minute touches to that big report due the first week of December. Computers and the Internet make it so easy to work from home, we sometimes don’t know how not to work when we’re supposed to be off.

There’s no use fighting this, unfortunately. It’s part of the new reality of the working world. But, don’t forget that today is supposed to be a holiday. Do that work you’re itching to do. Just do it quickly and then get back to that family of yours. They’re pretty important, too, you know.

Your boss really could be killing you

We’ve all worked with bosses we hate. But according to this story I found in the Chicago Sun-Times, those very bosses we despise might actually be sending us to an early grave.

A new study says that emloyees whose managers are passive, inconsiderate and uncommunicative are more likely to suffer from heart attacks. Those who had a better opinion of their bosses were less likely to get heart disease, the Sun-Times story reported.

I’ve always thought that some offices and companies took years off our lives. Now there’s proof.

My advice? If you find yourself going to the doctor on a weekly basis, maybe it’s time, even in this terrible economy, to look for a new job.

Like him or hate him, at least Obama seems like he understands

You may not have voted for Barack Obama in early November. You may still be pining for the McCain-Palin administration that never will be.

But you have to like the fact that at least our incoming president seems to understand that many, many U.S. residents are suffering these days.

This story highlights Obama’s recent calls for Congress to take quick action to revive the U.S. economy. Obama was scheduled to address the issue again today in his his second news conference in as many days. Obama is asking members of Congress to set aside their differences to come up with a new economic stimulus plan that will be ready as soon as Jan. 20 so that the new president can sign it on his first day on the job.

All right, I’ll admit my bias here. I can’t stand George Bush. Can’t stand him. Besides his horrific decision to start a war for no real reason — costing thousands upon thousands of lives — I think he and his administration, while not at fault for the economy’s slide, did absolutely nothing to at least cushion the blow for U.S. taxpayers. You may not like Obama’s ideas, but at least he has some.

I’m hoping that the economy will turn around now that we have new leadership at the top of the country. Eight years of the mumble-mouthed, flat-footed leadership of the Bush administration brought us nothing but war, a shrinking economy and rising unemployment. Time for something new.

Sad stories of the unemployed weigh even on career coaches

You’d think an executive recruiter or a career coach would be jaded enough to not feel much emotion when a client comes to them for help in finding a new job.

But in today’s tough economic times, the job seekers are coming to these advisers in such great numbers that their worries and fears can’t help but strike an emotional chord even with the professionals trained to deal with unemployment numbers and tough job searches.

This story in the Career Journal, the online career section of the Wall Street Journal, says that career coaches and executive recruiters are in greater demand than ever as the nation’s unemployment rate soars.

The story mentions a high-school student who quite his extracurricular activities to save his family money. Other clients are telling their career coaches that if they don’t find a job soon they’ll lose their homes.

As one coach quoted in the story mentions, it’s hard not to get a lump in your throat when listening to stories like these.

As the unemployment rate soars, be thankful if you have a job, even if you have one that drives you crazy at times. It could be worse. It could be far worse.

New M.B.A.’s to steer clear of big-finance?

Yesterday, I wrote about the tough job market for recent college graduates. Well, let’s go one step worse: How would you like to be the proud owner of a new M.B.A., one that cost you loads of money to earn, only to enter the job market when the big financial firms are going through what may be their worst crisis?

This story in the Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal Web site, focuses on recent M.B.A.s who are now rethinking the careers in investment banking they had been planning on.

Of course, the M.B.A.s aren’t alone in re-thinking their career plans. I write often about real estate issues, and that industry is taking a hit that’s at least as big as the one the big-finance companies are suffering. Because of this, several people who once saw real estate as the ideal career, one that they could work part-time and still make solid money, are reconsidering. The membership of the National Assocaition of Realtors now stands at more than 1.24 million members. That’s a lot, but in November of 2006, that membership stood at more than 1.35 million. It’s been dropping since.

This really isn’t that unusual, though. Workers have had to adapt to changing times since the concept of work was invented. Think of how our parents had to adapt to the introduction of computers. How we’ve had to adapt to the growing use of the Internet. Today’s job seekers have the tough challenge of adapting to an economy that may be changing from one based on credit to one based on actual, real cash.

Like I said, change is inevitable in the work world. Those workers who accept this and constantly brush up on their work skills will thrive.

New grads entering the job market at the wrong time

I graduated from college in the early 1990s. At the time, I thought it was a terrible time to enter the job market. The country was in the midst of a recession. I knew it was going to be tough to find a job.

As it turns out, I didn’t have it so badly. I did find a job — albeit not one that paid very well — and began my illustrous career in journalism. My days of covering waste management and stormwater utilities were right around the corner.

Today’s graduates, though, have it far worse than I ever did. How’d you like to be entering the job market today? Unemployment is at a 14-year high. In October, 240,000 people across the country lost their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You can read this story in The Orion, serving California State University, that details the fears college students nearing graduation have regarding the job market. As it turns out, no one’s particularly thrilled with their chances of paying off those college loans any time soon. Many are even considering staying in school longer to earn a more advanced degree. One student is quoted as saying that a bachelor’s degree isn’t worth all that much these days.

These students, though, do have one advantage. Most of them can afford to take a low-paying job without having to worry about supporting a family.  They can work their way up the ranks to a better-paying opportunity. It just may take a bit longer than it once did.

For students just entering college, I have some advice: Get some real-world job experience. Acing your classes is great. But tackling real work looks much more impressive to potential employers. I worked most of my college years on a small newspaper, filing what I thought were immensely dull stories about the college board of trustees or the latest robbery at the local convenience store. But the experience I gained helped me land my first real newspaper job. Honestly, my employers didn’t care much about my grade-point-average or the volunteer tutoring I did.