Using new skills to re-enter the workforce

“I took 4 years off and started a business. It has been fun, but I want to get back into a real job. I programmed on the old mainframe computers. I don’t want to spend my money getting training. What do I do?”

Strategy, Chess, Board Game, Win, Champion

It is not hard for skills and tools to become obsolete in 4 years. There are a couple things you can do:

  1. Keep looking for a job that wants your legacy skill set
    1. Start at beginner level wages and learn a new skill set on the job
    1. Pay for your own training

Depending on what you do, the first option could be a sure thing or a miracle. ColdFusion programmers? That might be hard. Cost accounting? Easy enough. If you’re stable enough to wait a long time, go for it.

If you know how to market yourself, number one gets easier. Keep in touch with the companies that you’d like to work for if your skills aren’t used as much anymore. Talking to the hirers on LinkedIn in those companies every month is an easy way to keep yourself aware of any opportunities.

Number two is totally fine. If you’re okay taking the time to get up to your previous level, you will get there eventually. Learning new skills keeps boredom at bay.

Paying for your training will get you the most pay over the next several years. I’ve had people tell me “I’m not going to learn a new skill unless my employer pays me to learn it!” and then wonder why they never get a raise. Taking your own time to learn new skills and get updated certifications will get you a better job faster than other options.

Something To Do Today

Write a plan. What would you do if you were struck with an illness and took three years to recover?


What is a skill you’d like to learn to help you in your job hunt? Research classes to help you learn that skill.

Why I don’t care when you say you’re a fast learner

Two easy reasons: No one is ever going to say they’re a slow learner. Second, if you’re needing to learn to do the job, you’re not properly qualified.

That’s not to say being a fast learner is bad. It’s incredibly useful. But, it’s not going to get you a job unless you learn it to use the tools you need for that job.

Race, Track And Field, Running, Sport, Sprint, Olympics
The first person to the finish line is the person holding it

Instead of saying “I can learn quickly”, show what you learned, or what you will learn. If you can really learn quickly, it won’t be an issue to learn something to show. “What did you learn” is a lot better than “what can you learn” because a hirer doesn’t want to have to teach you to do a job.

“I’m a fast learner” is an easy save when the employer asks about a qualification or experience you don’t have. It’s almost expected to hear it. It’s so average they won’t really hear it when you say it.

So… don’t say it. “I don’t know much about that, but I’d love to spend a few days learning what I can and write a brief report on it for you. It seems incredibly interesting”.

That’s an engaging statement. “I can learn quickly” is a boring statement with no development. Better yet, it encourages them in the interview to talk to you again in a few days, further securing a second interview.

42% of people never read another book after graduating college. Read books and learn. It’s better to be a steady learner than a fast learner. Pick up new skills and knowledge every year, or the industry will move on without you, leaving you wondering what happened and why no one offered to train you.

Go and learn for yourself. It’ll help you more than being a fast learner. Once you learn the skills, you’ll get that raise or job you want.

Something To Do Today

Write what advanced or unusual skills you have picked up on a piece of paper. Learn the list well. If any are outstanding, put it on your resume. Keep track of any new skills you learn to brag about them.

Bonus points: pick up an educational book. Read it cover to cover.

How to job hunt in recessions, panics, and disasters

The best advice for job hunting in a recession is to not go job hunting. That’s not always going to be an option.

Unemployment has been near record lows for the last several years. The quit rate (leaving a job without another lined up) was near record highs at the same time. Is this going to turn into a recession? Maybe. We’ll find out over the next six months. That’s not what I know.

What I do know, is how to job hunt in recessions and panics like this.

  1. Try to find jobs where someone quit or was fired so there is an active, painful gap in the company
  2. Avoid openings that are looking for expansion, or are always open like a general low-level sales position
Success, Business Woman, Career, Jump, Risk, Reach, Job

It’s not necessarily bad to look for expansion positions or the like. However, they *will* waste your time if they’re not actively hiring. They might set up a couple interviews just to keep you warm and never hire you. If you’re truly an amazing candidate, they may still hire you.

Additionally, budget cuts and savings are going to be especially attractive on a resume for obvious reasons. Anything you have (even minor) in regards to that should be on your resume.

Last thing: Be prepared for things like background checks. Employers get far more nervous during a recession. This is doubly true when they’re not able to do in person interviews due to something like COVID19 shutting everything down. Employers want to be protected from a bad hire as much as possible.

Something To Do Today

Prove that you’re the best value for their buck. What shows that you would save them money compared to another candidate? Put that front and center on your resume.

How they determine your starting salary

“I won’t tell you what I am earning now. I want to be paid according to what I’m worth. You get me an offer and I’ll tell you if it is high enough.”

I always reply, “No, I don’t work that way. I have to know what you last earned. I never make an exception for anyone.”

Entrepreneur, Idea, Competence, Vision, Target

Most people think that there is a chart in the hiring manager’s office he uses to determine the pay rate of a new hire. The skill level is carefully matched to years of service and a scientifically determined salary is offered.

That would be nice, but it is totally wrong. What you will be paid at a new job depends mostly on two factors: what you were earning before, and how well you interview. Your last pay rate is critical because it shows what someone who worked with you daily thought you should be paid. If you convince your hiring manager that you are underpaid, you will earn more. If he’s convinced you are overpaid, you’ll earn less. There is no magic, just gut feeling and guesses.

Your job interview is critical. In sales and managerial jobs you must show your ability to deal with people. In more technical positions you might be paid well even if you can barely speak, but still get the point across that you can do the job.

Your resume gets you an interview. Your interview and previous pay determine your pay rate.

Something To Do Today     

In a separate page in your job journal keep a list of what you earn each year. Track your raises. Bonus points if you compare them to inflation.

Post-it Note Goals

Making a goal a constant irritant is critical. Anyone can set a goal and then forget it. An effective tool for making goals a constant irritant is Post-it notes. Write a single achievable goal on each note, then:

  1. Post your achievable goals on the bathroom or bedroom mirror
  2. Carefully read them when you get up and when you go to bed
  3. When you accomplish a goal, paste it in a permanent record

All three steps are critical. You have to use them as an irritant and as a reminder that you can meet the goals you set. You’ll find that you want to put up goals you are going to meet.

The most common pitfall is going to be glancing over the note and ignoring it. Stop and stare at it. Take 15 seconds at least. Moving the note, rewriting it, and changing the wording can all help.

Remember the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: the mere act of measuring changes the thing being measured. Putting those goals on your mirror, measuring yourself against them, then cataloging your successes can change your life.

Something To Do Today

Take a pad of Post-it notes home. Write achievable goals on 3 of them. Make at least two of them very short term. Create an archive where you can keep all the Post-it note goals you achieve

When looking at the results changes the results

A biologist told me, “One chipmunk was trap crazy. That’s a technical term. Every time I set out an array of traps that one chipmunk ran right into one of the traps.” Wildlife biologists have to deal with the strange changes that happen when they measure something.

The mere act of measuring changes the thing being measured. That is the basis of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Tracking performance alters what happens. For instance, I worked on one set of computer programs where the programmers were paid per line of each program. Those were the longest programs I have ever seen.

As a salesman I was once rewarded for each call I made. I made a whole lot more calls but sold no more of the product. I was gaming the system. I was winning the contest and losing my job.

So how does this get you a new job or a raise?

Bosses want performance. They use reasonable, useless, and ridiculous metrics to decide what your performance was. That is true whether it is a hiring manager at a job you want, or your present boss.

First: Figure out what is the most important measuring stick

Second: Figure out what will keep your boss (or hiring manager) happy.

You should know and care about every measurement of your performance that your boss takes. It is absolutely critical to decide which are the actual critical measurements. Most fall into one or more of three categories.

  1. Metrics that your boss cares about
  2. Metrics that a future employer would care about
  3. Metrics that are measured and essentially useless

Be prepared to fail on the minor measurements to win a spectacular success on the critical measurements. Keep a record of how well you do on the most critical measurements.

Try to find how to turn your metrics into something your boss cares about or a future employer would care about. Sometimes this is changing the language to being more generally applicable. Other times, it’s showing how useful having that metric is.

What YOU decide to pay the most attention to will change how you work. You have to concentrate on the measurements that will get you to your end goal. Again, the mere act of measuring will change the thing being measured. That is the basis of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Figure out how to use that to reach your goals.

Something To Do Today

Do you know what you want out of your job? Money, a promotion, free time or a place to hang out? Write in your job journal what the most critical measurements are to help you reach that goal.

Showing awesome customer service on your resume

I’m almost a broken record here. You can serve the consumer better than anyone else in existence and no one will notice. People notice numbers because it quantifies how good they were.

Image result for peter drucker quotes quality

What have you done that a customer is willing to pay for? What did you do that went beyond those expectations?

Big killer: what did your company get out of it?

Customer service is great, but you have to be able to show what it did for the company.

  1. It kept a customer around that was considering leaving
  2. It got a customer to recommend the company, getting new clients
  3. It got a customer to increase their spending with the company
  4. You were able to charge more for the service
  5. Cut down wait time for customers (increasing worker efficiency)

These are just a few. Make sure you attach a specific numeric value to each of these. Exact numbers catch eyes on resumes. If you started a change in the company that led to any of those, include that as well. Take credit.

Whenever you make a change or improvement, record it. When there’s a problem, write down how you fixed or improved the situation. Even if you’re only following what others suggest, take credit.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal, track screw ups and how you improved service. Report it to your boss.

By the way, have you been giving reports to your boss? Go back over last week and write a report of how well you did and turn it in. Now do that every week. Your boss will appreciate getting information he can use to show how well his team is doing.

How to show increased revenue on your resume

The CEO of an internet marketing company told me that he can give detailed reports of how successful his campaigns are. He offers the reports to all the marketing managers who hire him. Often they say, “We don’t want your reports. Measurable results don’t matter. We are going to spend the money and get long term results you can’t measure.”

Profits, Revenue, Business, Income, Finance, Growth

I think those marketing managers are really saying, “I’m afraid to report how much I increase revenue because I’ll be fired if it is too low.”

Salespeople and people who work for customers at an hourly rate can all figure out exactly how much money they bring in for their company. Most do not track the figure over time.

They worry about getting paid and then throw away the information.  Every dollar they generate should be tracked, recorded, reported and bragged about in the long term.

Even if you are not in sales or directly billable, go about your day thinking about how your actions generate money. An accountant who suggests expanding a line of business has generated revenue and should take credit for it. A clerk who gets slow customers to pay up has generated revenue.

Have you given leads to salespeople? Did you assist in sales presentations? How many people did you sign up for the new marketing program? Many people bring in revenue and never think about it. I would hire the guy who says, “I HELPED bring in $180,000 last year”, over the one who says, “I worked really hard”.

Remember, big numbers sell resumes.

Make sure and write down what you did to bring in new revenue. Every month, quarter and year you should report it and put it in your job journal. Estimates are fine. And put it on your resume. It will set your resume apart. It may just be the thing that gets you an interview.

 Something To Do Today            

Spend a full day noting down the ways you help bring in money. The projects you work on and the individual things you do all count. Take credit for your team’s accomplishments too.

How to show cost cutting and budget savings on your resume

Shopping, Spending, Till Slip, Purchase, Retail, Shop

How much did you save at your last trip at the grocery store? I’ve got no clue what I saved either. Maybe you can look at the bottom of the receipt where it says “Total savings: -3.46” before your total.

Even that’s not the way to show savings. What was the budget when you went to the store? If you had $50 budgeted and spend $40, that’s 20% below budget.

Better than money: TIME

How much time did you give yourself to go to the store? An hour? If you make it back in 15 minutes, you just saved 25%.

Ask your manager how long it’s supposed to take each person to finish a project. Find out how much you and your team are saving on each project by completing them early. Make sure your boss knows it. Put it on your resume.

As a network technician you know that last year the network was down 110 hours during work hours. This year it was only down 10 hours. You cut network down time by 100 hours. You also kept 120 clerks from wasting 100 hours.

In other words, you cut wasted clerical time by 12,000 hours as a network technician. Report the hours and estimate the savings of a bare minimum of $120,000 to your boss. He will want to brag about it to his boss too.

Does that sound impressive? It should. That’s why you want it on your resume.

You suggested and/or made a programming change that allowed the company to reassign 3 people to new jobs. You saved the company the wages of all those people. Figure it out and take credit for every dollar.

Is it $30,000 x 3 = $90,000 or is it $60,000 x 3 = $180,000 ? If you tell your boss how much you saved, he may change the number a little, but he will certainly report the savings to his boss. You should put it on your resume.

Big numbers stand out more than percentages. Say $12,400 instead of 8.3%. They’re more impressive and seem more real. Even if you have minor savings, it shows that you know your numbers and know what you’re talking about.

Something To Do Today

Look for ways to prove you save time and money. Ask for the budget and timeline from your boss. Then beat it.

How to show ability on your resume

How to show ability on your resume

Experts, above average people, and even those below average, all have abilities that are valuable. You have to know how to show off those abilities. Listing education, training, and courses taken always helps, but there is more you can do.

Are you a superstar?

I’ve known an expert to finish a job alone quicker than 5 competent technicians working together. In most organizations with 5 salespeople it seems that one of those salespeople always accounts for over half the total sales. If you can prove you are one of those superstars, you will find it very easy to get a job. So, PROVE IT.

  • Use numbers and facts, ratings and percentages, to prove you are an expert.
  • 3 short bullet points proving your contributions are better than 3 pages of paragraphs.
  • Put enough proof to force hiring managers to call you.
  • Make that proof the first thing they see under each past job.

Your resume is supposed to get you an interview. Give the necessary information. Don’t hide your expertise in droning paragraphs.

Are you average but valuable?

Let’s take a step back from the lofty pinnacle of being the best. An above average worker is always in demand. That means you are better than half the people you work with. There are ways to prove that.

  • Again, numbers, statistics, facts and figures will do the job. Presentation is critical.
  • Put total output figures instead of saying you were 13th out of 35 people.
  • Mention projects or teams you lead that were on time and in budget.
  • In sales mention how often you met quota. It may only be above average, but it is still impressive.
  • Mention awards, contests you won, and other things that prove you were a valuable average.

Can you prove you are valuable if you are below average?

If you are a below average performer there is still hope. You need to prove how much you are improving.

  • Have you improved your output or speed by 20%?
  • Is your group finally on track?
  • List training you have taken.

Just the desire to learn makes you better than some of your competition. If you are below average you have to prove your good attitude and your willingness to improve. Don’t just say, “I want to do…”, say what you did to prove what you “Want to do”.

There is a way to prove your ability no matter what level you are at. Numbers, figures, awards, accomplishments, learning, attitude, and personal output.

Showing your ability in your resume will get you interviews.

Something To Do Today

Use this resume planner.

Prove your ability on your resume. Don’t just show your responsibilities. Show how well you did. At the very least, show you are doing better.