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Classifieds Classic: Networking Basics

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010; reprints previous original material published in this section.)

For every career professional, most especially entrepreneurs, networking is a skill that is definitely indispensable. In this fast-paced modern world where people often need to work together in loose partnerships in order to achieve their goals at the soonest possible time, the ability to know, develop, and maintain a network of and positive relationships with business contacts is surely a more important pursuit than ever.

Professional networking is defined as meeting and connecting with other people and getting to know their abilities and interests in the hopes that this may help each other acquire mutual benefit especially in the business aspect. To put it simply, it means talking to people who can help you get things done.

People who know the value of having not just broad but strong networks get things done more quickly and effectively. They learn from each other’s different knowledge or experience which help them do better in their careers. For those who are still in the process of building a new career, they are able to use their network as they seek to move on — whether it is a planned switch or brought about by a sudden career crisis.

Fortunately, networking is not that much of a hard task as long as you are patient. As a part of your professional progress, it can be one that is both enjoyable and rewarding if done properly. You might even be a part of numerous networks already without realizing it. It is only a matter of identifying the mutual benefits that can bring both parties and building from that point on.

So, how do you begin creating this much-needed asset? Here’s how to start and pump up your professional network.

Make a list of people whom you can talk to. People in your list need not necessarily be a personal friend or an acquaintance. They could be anyone who you believe you have enough of a common interest with to be able to initiate a conversation or someone whom is friends with someone you know. Keep in mind that all you need is a connection that would allow you to call and say who you are, obtain a nod of recognition and approval that there is indeed a connection between the two of you, and ask for specific details, information, and introductions.

Your possible contacts may include the following:

* Personal contacts – Your friends, acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, church members, classmates, professors, club or organization members, alumni or former schoolmates.

* Professional contacts – Your employers, supervisors, managers, colleagues, subordinates, clients, customers, fellow association members.

* Internet contacts – Any personal and professional contact that you might be able to get in touch with through electronic mail. Subscribers to mailing lists you participate in can also be included.

* Online social network contacts. Social networking such as Friendster, Multiply, and Facebook is a trend nowadays. You can definitely make use of your online contacts as long as you know that they are trustworthy in handling the transactions you need.

* All the people your contacts know. Just as you have hundreds or even thousands of people connected in your network, so each person is also connected to others. In case you need to get in touch with a contact of your contact, you can easily do so through referrals.

Maintain a give-and-take relationship. Probably one of the biggest flaws you can commit in your networking pursuit is to constantly ask for help or expect something in return every time you interact with them. Furthermore, avoid making it your initial point of contact whenever you meet or talk to someone for the very first time. For example, you do not directly approach someone and ask for a job; rather, you should seek for advice, leads, and suggestions.

Build your network ahead before you need it. It is important to invest in your network even before you actually need it. Building a beneficial professional network may take a lot of time. After all, you do not easily gain other people’s trust especially when you come to them and ask for something. Therefore, even before the situation calls for it, it would be more advantageous if you know that you already have someone whom you can turn to and assist you in times of career-oriented needs.

( Get more networking tips next Sunday: learn how to build your network even if you’re shy!)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Out of the Box Job Search Strategies

(Originally published on Sunday, July 11, 2010)

Been rejected over and over? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong places

Not everyone who began a job search last February has a job now, and chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve been rejected, or want to find a better job than the one you have. We looked over the Classifieds’ archives over the past two years and picked out the best strategies for you that go beyond the usual job search strategies.

  1. Don’t let panic overwhelm you. If you allow yourself to develop a negative mindset—no one will hire me, I’m not qualified, I’m not good enough—then you condition yourself for failure. You need to prepare yourself for success, mentally and physically.
  2. Use your head! Too many jobseekers blindly send resumes everywhere without any thought for what they’re doing or any aim in mind; we’ve received our fair share of misdirected mail at the Classifieds, resumes from people who think we can find them jobs. No one will find a job for you; do it yourself. Also, do an intelligent job search: read job ads in the Classifieds, online, in flyers, and in brochures carefully. Nothing gets your resume tossed out faster than not following directions; in fact, some companies give complicated directions to weed out those with poor reading comprehension.
  3. Leave no stone unturned. Jobs won’t come to you. Search everywhere, use your network, advertise yourself. Make your Facebook or Multiply work for you; let people know you’re looking for a job. Scour the Classifieds (naturally), haunt Internet job listing sites, look at trade websites for your chosen career field, and check out the “Careers” section of the websites of the companies you want to work for. Just look for that hyperlinked word usually seen at the top or bottom part of the website that says “jobs” or “career” and click away. If you don’t know how to use the internet, you should learn now, because that’s a crucial skill if you want a good job. Just be careful as to what you post; if your Facebook has racy photos or questionable comments, open a ‘clean’ account for jobseeking. Sometimes, it’s not only the people you already know but the people you get to know. Public transportation is a good place to find opportunities. Weird as it may seem but you might be sitting next to your future employer. All those long journeys can lead to conversations and those conversations may lead to job offerings. Plus, some employers post job ads in the MRT, in jeeps and in buses; be sure to be ready to take these down.
  4. Put out the word. Tell these people about your job search or ask them if they know of available jobs: online social network friends (Facebook, Friendster, etc.); your school career counselor and alumni office (even if you are a graduate!); parents, friends, and relatives; “orgmates,” fraternity brothers or sorority sisters; former teachers; and the company you did an internship for.
  5. You want a job? Get more aggressive. There are hundreds of fresh graduates, thousands who were laid off, and those looking to change careers competing with you. Revise your resume; visit companies personally; do your research.
  6. Be prepared to walk a lot and move. Attend job fairs; there’s usually one going on in malls and schools every week. Some companies prefer to see the people who apply for them and can be better inclined towards those who’ve taken the time to apply in person. Be sure that while your clothes are comfortable, they are also presentable enough just in case you’re interviewed on the spot. Be sure to bring a towel and a change of shirt/blouse.
  7. Keep an open mind. Be flexible enough to accept a job offer outside your chosen field; say, if you want to be a call center employee, and you get an offer from a small firm, remember that your chances of upward mobility are higher in a small firm even though the pay may be smaller. You can use that job as a stepping stone to what you really want, or create your dream job from there.
  8. Be polite. A lot of jobseekers get their resumes tossed out when they act like prima donnas (“You be careful with my resume ha?” said in a condescending tone to a recruiter) or are just plain rude (“Hoy, dito ba ang HR? [Hey you, is this the HR department?]” asked of the HR receptionist). First impressions last, and there is no excuse for behaving like a brat at any point in your career—whether jobseeking or when you’re already in a job. Say “please” “po” and “thank you” whenever necessary—those simple words go a long way.
  9. Make sure you are available. Keep your phone on; check your email daily. If you ignore a text message or an email from an employer, remember that there is always someone more eager than you who won’t.

10. Look in the places people don’t normally look for jobs. These include your barangay hall and church bulletin boards. Even if jobs are not posted there, they often have free seminars you can take advantage of to improve your skills.  (Compiled and edited by C. F. BOBIS)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C.F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Tables 3 & 4: Checklists for Jobseekers

(Originally published on Sunday, June 20, 2010)

By C . F. BOBIS

A Job Search Checklist

Job search coach Brian Bowman says, “The job search process involves a lot of planning and attention to detail, so it’s no wonder that many people quickly feel overwhelmed and even a bit out of control. The best way to avoid this is to organize your job search so that you have a clear strategy outline and a structured schedule to keep you moving forward.”

To help you get started, here are job search checklists for you:

Job Hunt Materials:

  • A notebook you can carry around
  • Pencils, ballpens, erasers, red markers, highlighters
  • An envelope where you can store advertisements/want ads you’re interested in
  • Scissors, paste
  • Printer; if no PC or printer at home, USB flash drive for storing resume, cover letters, and other vital documents
  • Current photo in office attire
  • Copies of my resume in a waterproof envelope

List of Job Search Strategies

  • Check the Manila Bulletin Classified Ads every day
  • Check job sites and company sites on the internet, and deposit resume in sites you like
  • Announce to family, friends, and connections on Facebook and other social networking sites that you’re looking for a job
  • Other:

Action Plan (Use one checklist per potential employer)

  • Resume
  • Cover letter tailored for company
    • Find out contact person
    • Submit resume and cover letter
    • Notes: (List here if they’ve called you, asked you for additional requirements, etc.)

My Daily Job Hunt Schedule

Date:

  • Touch base with a family member, friend, or other contact via SMS or the Internet to catch up with them and let them know I’m looking for a job
  • Check the Classifieds for free training sessions I can attend
  • Check the Classifieds for job openings I’m interested in
  • Do research on companies I’m interested in
  • Customize resume and cover letter for target companies
  • Other:

Target Company File (One page per company)

  • Name of company
  • Address
  • Contact number
  • Background data
  • Contact person/s
  • Job opening/s
  • Resume and cover sent?
  • Interview?
  • Additional notes

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Creating Opportunities in Adversity

(Originally published on Sunday, June 20, 2010)

By C. F. BOBIS

Make your own good news by adapting your job search

If you’ve kept an eye on the news, the April 2010 Labor Force Survey (LFS) recently released by the National Statistics Office tells us that the unemployment rate has increased (see charts included with this article). But remember that there is always a way to turn things to your advantage.

Take the LFS results. If you read carefully, you’ll see that the jobs are in the services sector (making a culture of good customer of vital importance—something we’ll tackle). They will tell you that you have a better chance of being employed as a full-time laborer or unskilled worker at a private company, and if you’re a woman and/or you have a college degree.

So how can you increase your chances of getting a good job? Over the two years the Classifieds have been around, here are the best tips that have appeared on these pages:

1. Finish your education. Though over 40% of those unemployed have college degrees, remember that the survey includes fresh graduates. The jobs with higher starting salaries and greater room for promotions are most often open to those with college degrees.

2. Approach your job search differently and learn to be both flexible and creative. Be prepared to have to do more to find a job, and be willing to take a long hard look at your options. Remember, if you aren’t flexible and creative, there’s always someone else out there who is willing to be, and who will land the job ahead of you.

3. Now is the time to network. Why not let your Facebook, Multiply, and/or Friendster connections know you’re searching for a job? (Just be sure your account isn’t filled with photos and/or comments that make you look silly, unprofessional, or cast you in a bad light.) Don’t forget alumni associations for your school, past bosses and colleagues, even the people you interned for in your last year of college. Just two things to remember: Make a personal connection; be prepared to help the other person in turn, and be sincere.

4. Be armed. Improve your resume by updating it with job-oriented achievements instead of a mere list of work experiences, and reformatting it, if necessary. Ask for letters of reference now, and inform other references that you have listed them as such. Tailor your cover letter to specific companies you’re applying for, the better to show your suitability for a particular job. And why not get your employment requirements now? (See list of pre-employment requirements below.)

5. Be willing to work outside your comfort zone and to train in new skills. The good news is that new jobs in different growing fields, particularly in the BPO sector and in IT, are opening up to those who are willing to work outside their comfort zone and learn new things. Richard Nelson Bolles, author of “What Color Is Your Parachute?’’ He advises jobseekers to be receptive to the idea that in the future they may be working “in the service of new technologies,’’ he said. To prepare for this, why not take advantage of free training offered by institutions like the Philippine Trade Training Center or PTTC hold free training sessions (the last Friday of the month, and it’s listed in the Classified Calendar) to upgrade your skills?

5. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude. Consider jobs you weren’t sure you wanted to apply for. Take a few risks. Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer for Adecco, a staffing company, suggests that jobseekers make a list of what you need to do each day (see the sample list on this page), and “try to keep your emotions separate from the tasks of the day… This is not the time to say, ‘Well, there aren’t any jobs out there, so I won’t look,’ ” she says. Bolles adds that with the right attitude, job seekers “can often turn this crisis into a real advantage for themselves” by moving their life in a new and more fulfilling direction” so that they can look back and realize that “this is the best thing that ever happened to me.’’

6. Be willing to go outside your comfort zone. Don’t just look for the same job over and over. Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer for Adecco, a staffing company, advises jobseekers It is time to think harder about transferring the skills you have or acquiring new ones to move into a new type of job or industry.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Proof of Professional Qualifications

(Originally published on Sunday, June 13, 2010)

Tell employers you are the right candidate, with a certificate

by PATRICK GLENN O. ACORIN

Looking for a job and have finally decided where to apply? You’re probably getting ready for the interview. But remember that more important than being prepared for the interview is being prepared for the job itself.

Are you really qualified for the position you are applying for? How qualified are you? For a single position in the company, there could be tens or hundreds of applicants. How do you stand out from the crowd?

If you’re just applying for a job to have a job, then nothing you do will truly qualify you for the job, and that’s what will work against you. What really matters to employers when hiring people is that they find the right applicants – applicants who have, aside from the knowledge, the right skills to survive and succeed in the workplace. This has been a problem for many companies in the country – there is a need for a credible indicator of a person’s job skills.

Now, two organizations have partnered to solve the problem of providing people the credentials and certifications that are reliable indicators of their skills. Servicio Filipino, Inc. (SFI) CareerCenter, provider of innovative solutions aimed at enhancing the skills of the Filipino workforce, and ACT, an internationally recognized assessment and research company, launched recently the International Career Readiness Certificate (ICRC) program.

The main purpose of the ICRC is to create a common language for workforce development. This program serves as a common language that helps educators and employers communicate in terms of skills.

For jobseekers, this program helps them to know what exactly their skills are, what jobs they are qualified for, and how they can improve their own skills to qualify for better jobs.

For employers, this program is helpful in screening employees. This has also been proven to help increase a company’s efficiency in training – allowing the company to train people on more specific job-related tasks and not on foundational skills. Basically, this program helps the company increase the overall bottom line: helps improve overall productivity, reduce turnover, overtime, and waste, and reduce training time. This program can also help employers to assess their current employees’ skills – to determine what skills they have so far and what additional training they would need in the future.

For educators, the ICRC serves as a tool in better aligning curricula through increased and improved communication between the education and industry sectors, making each of the graduate fit for work anywhere in the world.

ICRC is a work-related skills credentials developed by ACT that complements traditional credentials such as the diploma. This certificate serves as a proof that a job candidate has the skills critical in the workplace and demonstrates the person’s level in each of those skills. This program is powered by WorkKeys Foundational Skills Assessments (or WorkKeys).

WorkKeys is a battery of ten skill assessments that are related to work. These ten skills that are associated with the WorkKeys test are Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, Applied Technology, Locating Information, Listening, Observation, Writing, Business Writing, Workplace Observation, and Teamwork.

The ICRC is based on three WorkKeys skill assessments. According to ACT’s database of 17,000 jobs profiled in the US on key workplace skills, three workplace skills stood out as the most important, and therefore most required in jobs:

Reading for Information – This assessment measures a person’s ability to understand workplace documents in performing his or her job. These documents include memos, manuals, letters, notices, and bulletins. This skill is important regardless of profession because in any workplace, documents are a way of life, whether electronic or printed. Many critical errors stem from miscommunication. Mistakes cost companies, and the fewer made, the better.

Applied Mathematics – This measures a person’s mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Employees need to go beyond basic mathematical operations and be able to analyze situations to create solutions when needed.

Locating Information – This test measures how well a person can work with workplace graphics. In an era of information overload, employees (and job applicants, for that matter) should have the ability to glean information and process it in a way that helps a company do its work better and more profitably.

ICRC certification tells employers that you have the necessary skills critical to workplace success. The certificate has four levels (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum) which also help employers determine which jobs you are qualified for. For example, a Bronze certificate signifies that you scored at least level 3 in each of the three core areas and are qualified for 35% of the jobs in the ACT database. A Platinum certificate is the highest of its kind, given to highly skilled individuals who scored at least Level 6 in the three core areas and signifies that the holder is qualified for virtually all of the jobs in the ACT database.

For inquiries on the International Career Readiness Certificate, email info@sficareercenter.com.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Patrick Glenn Acorin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

In the Business of Hospitality

Who says jobs in the tourism industry are limited to tour guides and translators?

Not Department of Tourism (DoT) Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, OIC for Tourism Promotions Sector and OIC for Planning, Product Development and Coordination Sector, who says, “There is no better time to be in the industry than now. I can’t imagine of any other industry that has so many opportunities and within that industry you can move from one place to the other; we have people starting as reservation clerks and in the end they end up in the PR department. It is a (growing) industry, so it cannot fail. If you know your calling, grab it now and go for it.”

Jarque says passion is necessary for any career, particularly one in tourism. Without it, he says, no amount of preparation will help. Having your heart set on a career in tourism also makes things easier. He urges those looking for a career to consider tourism as “Opportunities are everywhere.” Jarque reveals an interesting problem: tourism has many jobs unfilled because people don’t know of the vast range of opportunities available in the field. One problem may be the misconceptions about jobs in the industry. “(We tend to say), ‘tour guide ka lang (you’re just a tour guide)’ (even though) abroad, (it’s) a profession.”

To upgrade the quality of professionals in the industry, Jarque was among those who started the Mabuhay Guide program, in which applicants must pass screenings by panels and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), and learn under industry experts and national artists. The DoT is gearing up to train another batch soon. So are there opportunities in the tourism industry for those who didn’t finish their studies? Of course, Jarque says. You just “have to have the right attitude and you have to love people. First, you have to know yourself, your capabilities, and all that. (Opportunities) are everywhere. Come to the DoT; we can give you a list of hotels, tour operators, the shipping lines.” You can also keep your eyes open by looking for listings in the classified ads, he adds. “But you must realize that travel and tourism is not all glamour. It’s hard work, it’s 24/7.”

“When you love your job, you’ll never have worked a single day in your life. At this stage of my life, I still look forward to the mornings, dying to come to work,” Jarque says. “But when it’s work, it’s work. They can call you any time of day,” especially if there is an emergency. Don’t expect an 8-5 job in tourism because it’s a calling,” he adds.

What about career shifters? Jarque has good news for them too; he tells the story of a butler at a hotel in Boracay who was a medical representative who knew nothing of the hotel industry. But, “He was willing to be trained; so he trained. Now, he is one of the most popular butlers in (his hotel).”

Attitude is key, regardless of where you are in your professional life. But Jarque cautions, “Don’t go (into tourism) for the wrong reasons. You have to study yourself. And if you think you got it, go for it. And it’s never too late to start anything. Some people that I have known who are in their autumn years of their lives are into travel writing now. You can really shift. There are so many facets now of travel. It’s a way of life.” Jarque believes that traveling is a way of expanding horizons, and those in the later years of their lives can make the best tourism professionals. “There is no age limitation for tourism jobs. You can be a tour guide. The best tour guides we’ve had are the people who have lived life, who have seen the world, and they have read so much. People love having those tour guides.”

Even better, a person can create his or her own opportunities in tourism. “Even people who are obsessed with their bodies, they end up as lifeguards. People who surf all their lives – some people call it a bum, but no, they call it a way of life…you just bring yourself to surf destinations and you can become a teacher. You just have to look for (an opportunity) and make something good out of it; (this is always) possible in the industry. It’s within us, to take care of others. We take care of people because we want the tourist to come here, stay longer, and spend more to keep the tourism industry going. And you just to be an important part of the picture. The tourists (we take care of) should not be limited to international travels. We are tourists of our own country. Everybody is travelling now.”

Confidence plays a role in choosing a career in tourism. Jarque advises, “You have to know your value, and then you have to go for it. Knock on doors. They will see through you (especially if you have) what it takes. Don’t overplan. You just have to be honest to yourself: Is this for me? You have to make sacrifices. Some people do a fantastic job of juggling family and career, especially the ladies. They have mastered it. So there is no reason that we’ll be running out of [job opportunities]. [Tourism] is the biggest industry in the world. And with our proficiency in the English language, we should be able to work here and outside [the country].”

You’d be surprised at the fields that involve tourism in the Philippines: medicine, dentistry, and cosmetic procedures cater to tourists, as do English language schools. Jarque says, “We wish there are more qualified tour guides. We wish there are more qualified taxi drivers; we hold seminars here for taxi drivers, (teaching them) how to be friendly with tourists. You just have to have a little bit of imagination, creativity, innovativeness, adaptability…all these things.” (C. F. Bobis)

For more information, visit the DoT website at http://www.wowphilippines.com.ph; to find out about their training programs, click on the “Business and Investments” header then on the “Tourism Training” link.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Best Careers in Human Resources Part 1

Published on Wednesday, June 2, 2010

By Jhoanna Gan-So

There are two types of jobseekers: Those who know exactly what they want, and those who have no clue as to what career to pursue, even after years of studying.

If you belong to the first group, good for you!  All you have to do is follow the direction that your heart takes you in, and you’ll be on your way to finding the career that you desire.

But for those who are not sure, those who have not yet zeroed in on a particular career, and those who are still searching, don’t worry.

Here’s another Career Guide that can help open your mind to more options and opportunities. For this month, I will focus on Best Careers in Human Resources. (If you are interested in other career options, check out past issues archived in my blog http://worklifenow.blogspot.com)

A CAREER IN HUMAN RESOURCES

Contrary to popular belief, HR is not just about paperwork and payroll processing. There are many facets to this exciting career, stimulating issues to challenge your mind, great rewards, and benefits.

First, let’s discuss what the requirements are if you want a career as an HR professional.

In terms of educational requirements, most four-year college degree-holders are sought for HR entry level positions. There is a preference for psychology, behavioral science, organizational communication, industrial relations, sociology, and humanities, but many companies are quite open to other general courses as well, since there’s really no “College of HR.”

In terms of attitude and skills, companies look for people who are good with people—meaning, good communication and interpersonal skills are must-haves if you want to pursue a career in HR.  Other wanted skills are organizational skills, records management, and leadership.

Many HR practitioners start out as HR assistants and administration officers, learning the ropes along the way and gaining knowledge as they work in this field. They are usually sent by their employers to HR seminars to arm them with the knowledge and skills necessary for the job. Many are trained on different HR functions such as recruitment and interviews, training and development, compensation and benefits, labor law, and employee discipline.

So if you are a new graduate or if you are thinking of shifting careers, HR is a field that’s quite easy to get into as the requirements for entry level positions are general. HR can be learned on the job; it will also help if you acquire additional knowledge through HR seminars and books (for more information about courses you can take, visit http://www.businessmaker-academy.com).

HR GENERALISTS & SPECIALISTS

As an HR practitioner, you can either be a generalist or a specialist. There are companies, usually SMEs, who look for generalists—HR people who can do all the functions of HR, sort of like jacks-of-all-trades. But there are also companies, usually those with big and compartmentalized departments, who look for specialists—HR positions where the job entails only a single but specialized function (ex. recruitment officer, training officer, payroll officer).

Being a generalist or a specialist has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are just starting in the field of HR, you may want to experience the different functions of HR to get a feel for the field, to find out where you are best suited and what you like the most.

My suggestion is to learn as much as you can about human resources. Get as much experience as you can with the different functions, then carve out a good stable career for yourself.

HR CAREER PATH

Like all careers, many HR practitioners start off as HR or administrative assistants. These entry-level positions usually come with entry-level (or a little above it) salaries.

As you gain experience, your salary and responsibilities rise. After a few years on the job, you may be promoted to HR supervisor or executive. You may have a generalist or specialist function, depending on the size of your company.

When you’ve got about 5 to 10 years experience, you may become a manager.  That’s where you gain more influence in your company, create programs that affect all employees, and get to work strategically with top management. Salaries at middle to top management levels are usually pretty good, as you are climbing the corporate ladder. Once you’ve proven yourself, gained extensive experience, and have stayed with your company long enough, you may reach AVP-VP levels.

BENEFITS OF THE JOB

A career in HR can be very rewarding. The financial rewards are usually commensurate to the work that you do, your knowledge and expertise, and your position level in the company. But aside from this, there are other perks to being part of HR.  Let me share some of them:

Influence with People Matters. As an HR practitioner, you will be in a position to advocate programs that will fill the needs and benefits of all employees in your company. You can directly make a difference in everyone’s lives and work relationships.

In the Know. Since you are the one hiring, processing the payroll, and recommending promotions, you will be privy to confidential information. This knowledge will allow you to benchmark your own position against those of others and you can negotiate well for yourself.

Being in the Loop. You will know what’s happening in the company, whether it be events, employee movements and management policies. You may even be tasked to lead most of these matters.

Last Ones to Go. During retrenchments, HR people are usually the last ones who will be let go. This is due to the practical reason that they are needed for the actual retrenchment process.

These are just some of the perks of being in HR. It’s an exciting field because you get to touch people’s lives directly. (To be continued on Sunday, June 13. For Part 2, I will discuss the different positions you can try or apply for in the field of human resources.)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Jhoanna Gan-So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Classified Cubicle: Choosing Your Direction – The Importance of Career Paths

(Originally published on Sunday, May 9, 2010)

Career advice from those who know careers best

By C. F. Bobis

Too often fresh graduates overlook a valuable resource offered for free in their schools: the career counseling office. Rather than being a place where one goes when one is disciplined for various offenses, counseling offices in universities offer services that allow students and in some cases, even alumni, to find out if they’re on the right path when it comes to a career.

Far Eastern University’s Counseling and Career Office Director Christine “Chit” Vicencio sat down recently with the Classifieds to talk about what career counseling is and how it can help a fresh graduate. In essence, career counseling delves into an individual’s strengths, interests, abilities, and aptitudes, balancing these against his or her various liabilities in terms of aptitudes, interests, and abilities. Typical career counselors have a background in psychology, particularly vocational and/or industrial or organizational psychology, and are trained to use and interpret various assessment tests on someone who approaches them for career counseling.

Aside from willingness to listen and the ability to remember the details of a person’s case, what makes a good career counselor? “It is always the passion, to make sure that you are guiding your student on the right career path. You can’t be a career counselor by just listening. You have to have materials (assessment tests and the like) to support and to validate that ‘this is you, this is your personality, this is your interest, if it’s going to work out if you try your passion,” Vicencio says.

What is the importance of career counseling to a jobseeker? “When we talk about career counseling, we talk about career ‘pathing’,” Vicencio explains. And this begins as early as when a student chooses a college course. “At the start, (when students are) freshmen, we have to make sure that the personality of the student and the course s/he are taking match. There is such a thing as a ‘mismatch’. The reason why a lot of students are not successful in their field of work is there is a mismatch.” Such a mismatch can lead to a graduate being unable to stick to a job after graduation.

Well-meaning parents can sometimes contribute to the tragedy by forcing offspring into ‘vogue’ courses such as nursing. The danger of choosing a course that is currently popular is that its popularity will eventually wane; ISD president and founder Levi de Mesa, in an earlier interview with the Classifieds, pointed out how the deployment of nurses abroad has slowed down as a result of economic crises in countries that used to hire nurses in droves. Vicencio cautions parents to stop pushing children into jobs they do not love, as she believes this can set up a child for professional failure.

She’s got support from many experts; various Classifieds columnists and interviewees from top corporations both here and abroad agree that if a person only has a job, that person won’t succeed. A career that’s a person’s life choice often sets people on the road to success and personal and professional contentment. Vicencio explains, “When you say ‘life choice’, it’s your passion. You put your heart, your mind (into it). And when you say it’s your career, career and my life, it’s just one. When you say job, it’s about (what’s) monetary. (When you say) ‘I have a job,’ (you mean) ‘I have to earn money to support my parents, my family, or my lifestyle.’ But when you say ‘I have a career,’ [what you’re really saying is) it’s your life. That’s why every time I introduce myself, I say ‘I am a guidance counselor’ because this is my career, this is me.”

Why should students take advantage of career counseling services in school? “It is important for them to know if they are doing the right thing,” she says, comparing career counseling to consulting a doctor about an ailment in order to be guided towards informed choices.

How then can a student or a fresh graduate get started on a career? Vicencio says good resumes are the key. Then send the resume out. “People don’t know you, and if you want to have a career, even if you are passionate about it, if you’re not going to send out your CV, it’s nothing.”

Then she cautions jobseekers to present themselves well during job interviews, and to quit the games. “(In) HR, we know if people are bluffing, if they are just playing with us, even (if the cues are) non-verbal. We can identify right away if the jobseeker is going to be successful in our company, if s/he is passionate (about) getting the job. (We look at their) line of questioning, if (they are) attentive, the eye contact, (the) body language. Those are the important things to consider.” Finally, doing research on the company is non-negotiable. That way, a jobseeker can “ask the right questions.”

She also lists the mistakes jobseekers often commit: Acting bored during an interview. Showing up for an interview when sleepy. Bad dressing. Bad behavior.

Vicencio has a word of caution for graduates who grab high paying jobs for the monetary rewards, saying that while such jobs are tempting, the time to ‘pay the piper’ always comes. “If it’s not your interest or passion and you are just doing it for the money, you give yourself five years (then figure out what you want to do, to stay or move on).”

Her office also handles teaching students financial management. “It is important to understand investment and handling money because if you are in (for example) the call center (industry) and you don’t have an idea of what investments are, you are going to spend your money.

She shares some tips for fresh graduates on blending in with the existing workforce on their first job, especially if everyone else is older: “You just have to blend in. (If they talk) you have  to listen to what they are saying because those things will help you in the future (as these are their) experiences. Sometimes they talk about marriage, family…they will help you, so it is important that you listen. As long as it’s not violating your rights, your values, then I don’t think there is a problem. You have to adjust and listen to their pieces of advice, see if it’s going to help you, most especially in your career. But if it’s not, then you don’t have to (listen).”

Conversely she also has advice for forty-something jobseekers who are competing against fresh grads. “I always say you have to prepare for the job just like the fresh grad. Prepare a good resume. Don’t be boastful. You have to look at your objective. ‘Why am I applying for this position? Is it for the money to support my family or this is like a second career for me?’ I suggest that you think of the way fresh grads present themselves (and tailor your job search accordingly).”

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis 2010. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Efficient Job Searches

(Originally published on Sunday, May 2, 2010)

Tips and tricks on how to perform and manage your job search online

While summer traditionally means vacations, it turns out that many Filipinos take advantage of the season to look for jobs. A quick look at Google Insights for Search (www.google.com.ph/insights/search), a tool that enables people to know more about what Filipinos search for on Google.com.ph, reveals that searches for jobs in the Philippines typically spike between March and May, likely due to the large numbers of fresh college graduates trying to find their first job.

Filipinos are also the top searchers for job hunting worldwide, which may partially explain the country’s relatively low unemployment rate of 7.5%.

The latest Job Availability Index, using data from an online job portal, shows a 4.7% increase in job vacancies posted online between January this year and the same period last year. With so much competition for jobs, it becomes more important than ever to be a tech savvy job-hunter. There are many web tools out there that can help you find—and land—your dream job. Here are a few tips:

1.      Search smarter

Use search engines wisely and make sure to be as specific as possible when doing job-related searches. Search engines allow you to look for geography-specific information, such as for pages from only the Philippines, and even to those that are written in Filipino only. It helps to define the function and area you wish to target, so for instance, “IT jobs Cebu City” will be more useful than just the generic term “jobs.” Take advantage of suggested terms that search engines provide which may help narrow down your search results. Operators are also a great way to narrow your search. For instance, use double quotation marks if you are only searching for a specific word or phrase (“freelance jobs”), or the minus sign “-” if you wish to exclude a specific word associated with your search (ex. freelance jobs -manila, if you’re not interested in job listings from Manila).

2.      Remember the good ones

Once you’ve found web pages, blog posts, and forum discussions that contain the job hunting information you need, save them as bookmarks in your Internet browser and arrange them in folders for easy access.  Keep your information secure and make sure to sign out of your web accounts and clear your cache especially when in Internet cafes.

3.      Keep yourself posted

Get regular emails on job listings by signing up for job-related alerts through an alerts tool that most news aggregators and search engines offer. Select keywords you’re interested in (e.g. “sales manager Manila”) and have these alerts delivered directly to your inbox or your RSS feed reader, so you can beat out other job hunters when it comes to applying for these jobs immediately.

4.      Check your email regularly

Email is now the primary method of communication between recruiters and candidates, and yet many of us still forget to check our emails regularly. Make it a habit and allocate a specific time to check if there are any responses to your applications. Acknowledge receiving these emails with a short confirmation, and after the interview, send a quick email thank you note to your interviewers as a matter of etiquette.

Also, while you want your personality to be remembered by companies, you don’t want to be notorious because of an unprofessional-sounding email like hotchick345@email.com. When in doubt, just use your given name and surname as your email address.

5.      Get some help

Managing job applications can be daunting, and it may help to use an email program that is very good at managing the flow of information. Gmail, for instance, has Gmail Labs, which are features you could use to customize your job hunting experience online. Useful features include the Forgotten Attachment Detector, to ensure your resume is always attached, Quick Links to your bookmarked pages, Superstars to identify job-related e-mails, and even Undo Send in case you accidentally forward a NSFW (Not Safe For Work) email to a recruiter. To access Gmail Labs, sign in to your Gmail account and click the Labs icon beside the Settings tab on the top-right corner.

6.      Update your resume and write your cover letters

Your CV is your first step to being noticed, and there’s nothing more off-putting to a recruiter than getting an outdated one, or a cover letter that’s addressed to the HR head of a competing company. Getting a second pair of eyes to proofread your CV and cover letters is essential. Make sharing easier by uploading them onto a web-based document editor like Google Docs (www.google.com/docs), an online word processor that enables real-time collaboration between several people on the same document. With every change and comment you make automatically saved, you never have to worry about managing multiple versions of the same document again. And while you’re at it, you might want to try your hand at video resumes, another way for you to distinguish yourself from the job pool. Watch some and then upload your own to YouTube (www.youtube.com).

7.      Put your name out there

Being tech-savvy is a plus in today’s job-hunting environment. Why not go the extra mile and create a website or a blog with your updated resume, portfolio, and recommendations? Social networking profiles are also a must nowadays if you want to get in touch with folks in your target industry. Recruiters are known to use certain social networking sites to find suitable candidates for jobs they need to fill. Get recommendations from current and previous associates and post them online, and provide samples of your work, if possible. Remember to publicly post only appropriate material that you would want your future employer to see.

8.      Make an appointment

Got the coveted interview? Make sure you’re on time by marking it on an online calendar, which has numerous advantages over the old paper organizer. You can create SMS alerts for appointments, add new entries from any computer or mobile phone and share your calendar with peers so that they don’t book you on a time slot reserved for your interview. On your calendar entry, make sure to list down the things you need to bring (resume, portfolio), the clothes you’ll be wearing (corporate or business casual), and information about the location, the interviewer, and the company.

9.     Do your research

Many candidates simultaneously apply to dozens of jobs and end up spouting generic bits of information when asked during an interview why they’d like to work for the company. That’s the surest way to failure. Before your interview, make sure you read up on the the latest news about the company lest you get caught by surprise. Find out their core and extended services so that you can sound knowledgeable and passionate about the company.

10.  Know where you’re going

Now that you know your interview schedule, make sure you know how to get to the location of your interview. Nowadays, digital maps can save you from getting lost. Google Maps (www.google.com/maps), for instance, has a very comprehensive map of major cities in the Philippines. It also lets you look up names of places and street addresses so that you can plot your route, make and print your own maps, and get exact driving directions to your interview–all from any computer or smartphone.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin 2010. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Wide World of Work – Hiring the overqualified: Special handling can pay

(Originally published on Sunday, April 25, 2010)

By L.M. SIXEL

A common complaint among job seekers is that they didn’t get hired because they were overqualified. Now it turns out that may be a good reason.

A graduate student at the University of Houston in industrial organizational psychology found that overqualified employees who aren’t given enough to do get bored and cynical.

They figure the job is a waste of their skills and education, doctoral student Aleksandra Luksyte said. That, in turn, leads to counterproductive behaviors, she said, including surfing the Internet, playing jokes on co-workers, taking company property and having long personal calls on company time.

Luksyte studied 215 psychology students who also work full time in a wide variety of jobs, including as legal assistants and in health care, fast food, retail and management.

She asked whether they believe they are overqualified and put the same question to their supervisors in an anonymous survey. There was strong agreement among managers, she said, that they saw signs of burnout.

Norman York, president of York Career Development in Houston, believes the problem stems more from a poor fit than anything else. Employers need to find the right people for the job, said York, whose firm coaches individual and corporate clients.

He finds the same burnout problem among employees who have worked the same job for a long time and essentially become overqualified for the position.

“People sort of outlive their value,” York said, and their usefulness may diminish.

The turnover issue

Employers are often reluctant to hire overqualified employees, said Luksyte, who with the help of her adviser, associate professor Christiane Spitzm?ller, is preparing the master’s thesis for a journal article. They worry employees will leave as soon as they find something better.

While that’s true — overqualified workers do tend to have higher turnover rates — they also often are efficient and effective.

The key is to give them extra duties that use their skills, such as mentoring new employees, or offering training opportunities for advancement, Luksyte said.

“Don’t avoid them,” she said. “You just have to maximize what they have.”

An exciting workplace

It’s also important to provide an exciting workplace, she said. If overqualified employees are satisfied with their work situation — they work with bright co-workers or the atmosphere is great — they’ll tend to stay.

Employers must have an upward mobility plan in mind when hiring someone who’s overqualified, said John W. Allen, president of G&A Partners, a Houston-based human resources outsourcing firm with 300 clients and 50,000 work-site employees.

They have to understand the reality that an overqualified employee will begin looking for something more challenging or a job that pays better, he said.

While it may be better to have the skills and talent from an outstanding employee for even a short period, it’s best to have a plan in place to move the employee into a better job or with greater responsibility.

Luksyte, who grew up in Lithuania, was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California Berkeley before she arrived at the University of Houston.

She got the idea of researching overqualified employees when her husband came home every night complaining about a boring project he was assigned. The software engineer was essentially cutting and pasting, and he was about to lose his mind. Luksyte also noticed that he was cruising the Internet, chatting on the phone and generally wasting time — activities that are not typical of him when he’s involved in an exciting project.

She looked up the subject in the scientific literature and found little. Now that she’s searching for a doctoral subject, Luksyte said, she’s back to quizzing her husband on what’s going on at work. (NYT-c. 2010 Houston Chronicle)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and The New York Times. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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