Holiday season can be one of the best times to search for a job

Santa Claus Using LaptopWhile on the surface looking for a job during the holidays may not seem like a good idea, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Many job search experts say that the period between the first of November and the end of the year might be the best time to find a job. And here are the most important reasons why:

  • Many people, especially those who have been looking for a long time, decide to take the holiday season off. That means there is less competition for the jobs that are open.
  • A lot of companies are finalizing their budgets for the next year, and some may also be in the process of hiring to meet their beginning-of-the-year staffing requirements.
  • The trade show season is over and few organizations schedule conferences during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so people are more likely to be around.
  • Since the atmosphere tends to be more relaxed and festive at the end of the year, the hiring managers are likely to be in a good mood.
  • Departments may have money left over in their budgets at the end of the year that must be used or they will lose it, and in some cases this can be applied toward a new hire.

These are the reasons to maintain or even increase your job search efforts during the holidays, but there are some things to keep in mind – and actions to take – that will improve your odds of finding a job at this time of year.

Make sure to keep up what you’ve already been doing. Continue making the number of cold calls you’ve decided to make each day. Check the online job boards. This is a particularly good time to do that, because fewer people are out looking during the holidays. Call your list of contacts.

On top of that, send holiday cards to any hiring managers you’ve interviewed with recently or even those you talked to on the phone or met at a networking event. Write a short note stating that you really enjoyed meeting or talking to them and that you’re still interested in the possibility of pursuing employment at their company.

If you can’t afford to send paper holiday cards, you might want to try e-cards, although they’re less effective, since they might be deleted without being opened.

Either way, the effort of a sending a card will help them remember you and maybe reconsider your qualifications. Also, there probably aren’t too many people doing this, so it will set you apart.

You might want to include on your holiday card list anyone who has given you a referral or a recommendation, thanking them once again for doing so.

Attend as many holiday parties as you are invited to. You never know who might show up at your cousin Jeremy’s open house or your friend Suzanne’s holiday brunch. Get to know new people at these parties and reconnect with old friends to let them know you’re looking for a job.

Take seasonal work. Places like retail stores and UPS hire lots of extra help during the holidays. Although by now some of these places have already hired, you may want to check in with them, since temporary holiday workers can be unreliable, and opportunities may open up. While many of these places hire directly, temporary agencies also often have an increase in requests for workers by employers at this time of year, so you might want to register with one of them.

Working on a seasonal job will not only give you some money to put away but will also give you something to add to your resume, new contacts and potentially a lead to a future job.

No matter what else you do, however,  make sure to to look for work in the coming weeks, because landing a job just might be the best present you receive this holiday season.


Jobs for felons expert’s four-step process improves interview results

166ded9Dennis Jarmon, Sr., an employment specialist with the Criminal Justice Resource Center of Durham County, North Carolina, has developed a four-step process that ex-offenders can use during their job interviews.

Here’s how he explains his four-step process that is built on what he’s learned in a more than two-decade-long career that included working for an employment agency, as well as being a corporate trainer and teacher. He’s used this process with many of the formerly incarcerated job seekers he counsels in his current position and says they have found great success with the method.

Step 1: Answer the question about your record. When it comes to answering the question about their criminal background, most people go into a story about this is what happened and end up giving an answer that makes them look like a criminal. Either they don’t acknowledge anything and just say that they made some mistakes in their past or they run down a laundry list of what they’re convicted of.

Instead Jarmon recommends that applicants acknowledge their entire criminal background but only refer to the most recent conviction. For example if your last conviction was in 2012 for a misdemeanor break-in, you could say, “My background is both misdemeanor and felony convictions with the most recent conviction in 2012 for misdemeanor break-in.”

You only give the year, unless it makes a difference. For example, if the crime occurred early in the previous year, specify the month. If it was early in 2012, say January, February or March, because it is further in the past.

Step 2: Explain the reformation process. At that point you should mention anything that you’ve done to improve yourself that puts you in a better light. Any community service, any classes you’re taking that shows you’ve tried to make yourself a better person. That’s what you should talk about next.

Step 3: Emphasize your skills and work experience. You should include the work experience you had while  incarcerated, because it’s utilizing, developing and enhancing skills that are relevant in the outside world. I had a gentleman who came into this program who worked in water management for three years in prison. He didn’t want to include it on his application, because it would show that he was locked up. But the experience he had was applicable to jobs that he could apply for. He got interviewed by three managers at one company, and he’s now been there for five years and has been a supervisor at that company for the last two.

Step 4:  Make an affirmation statement. This is a closing statement. You should say something like, “Hopefully you will consider all of these things while you’re evaluating me for employment with this company.”

The importance of rebranding

Jarmon also recommends that ex-offenders rebrand themselves.

“There are stereotypes that exist for people who have been incarcerated. Regardless of age they have to reinvent themselves so that they’re not ‘the typical criminal.’ You can say no to a criminal, but it’s harder to say no to a human being who has a record. When ex-offenders get into the employment game they have to know the rules and figure out what they have to do to fit into the mold. How are they like everybody else and this is the value-added person that they are. What makes them stand out,” he says.


Using prison experience to sell yourself in employment interviews

John Leonardson, executive director of MentorCare Ministries

John Leonardson

John Leonardson, executive director of MentorCare Ministries in Bedford, Texas, has been working in various prison-related ministries for more than three decades. He gives the kind of straightforward advice that can compel ex-offenders to take a second look at who they are and what they can accomplish as job seekers.

Leonardson has done work that included everything from preaching and plays to marriage seminars in prisons throughout Texas and in places as far afield as Cuba, Brazil, Jamaica and Latvia. He’s also written several books, including “Preparing for Success on the Outside,” because he says, “inmates weren’t making plans to get out – they just counted the days.”

When he deals with inmates, Leonardson will ask them, “What advantage do you have in the job market over someone who has never been to prison?” Of course their response is that they have no advantage whatsoever.

But then he’ll ask the same question again, and again draws blank responses. And so he explains to them, “Most of the people out there don’t know how to really work. They just want a paycheck without doing anything for it. You on the other hand really want that job and are willing to work hard for it.”

“Plus, if you have survived prison and are now about to get out, you have overcome more stress, more challenges, more impossible odds than just about anybody… You have worked for impossible bosses and handled crisis situations and proven that you can handle it. You have probably done extremely hard work for little or no pay, and developed abilities that most people can never even get close to. The very fact that you have been to prison equips you to be a great employee!”

And not just a great employee but also a potential leader. “You’re up against some Momma’s boys who have been coddled all their lives. You know how to live in a tough place with all kinds of negative pressure. So you are strong in ways that can eventually make you a leader. If you can overcome your anger and get socialized, you’ll have major advantages over weaker people.”

Once what he’s saying sinks in, they begin to look confident. “Yes, some people won’t hire you because you’re an ex-con, but some people wouldn’t hire you anyway,” Leonardson adds. “We don’t worry about the no’s because you will be hired, and there your light can shine.”

In his 33 years of experience, Leonardson tells them, he’s found that no ex-con who really tried couldn’t find a job. “Some employers actually ask for more ex-cons because they are more motivated and work harder,” he says.

They now get it. Being an ex-offender can actually be a way they can sell themselves in an interview. The inmates he talks to suddenly have a new approach – one that just might work.

One way to help make that work is a technique recommended by Larry Robbin, a nationally known expert in the area of workforce development. He advises ex-offenders to prepare what he calls a “turnaround talk,” which means to be honest and tell the hiring manager in your interview that you’ve been in jail or prison but also explain what you have done to turn your life around. This talk is designed to make sure that the interviewer will understand where you’re coming from, be empathetic to your situation and, hopefully, ultimately offer you a job.

In addition, you should put together a “turnaround packet” that includes such things as training or school certificates, letters of reference, examples of any volunteer work you may have done and pictures of accomplishments. You can show this packet, which should be neatly organized in a three-ring binder, to the hiring manger to reinforce the idea that you are turning your life around.

This, along with what Leonardson recommends, should help improve your chances of gaining employment.

To learn more about Leonardson’s work and the books he’s written, visit


Instead of resume use JIST card to highlight strengths, downplay gaps

If you have gaps in your work history or if you want to set yourself apart from other job seekers, think about creating a JIST card and using it instead of a resume.

JIST stands for Job Information Seeking and Training and was coined by Michael Farr, a career expert and author. He also came up with the idea of the JIST card, which is like a mini-resume, and you can use it to highlight your strengths without including any information that might be detrimental to your job search.

A JIST card basically includes your name, contact information and a summary of your experience in a paragraph. You can use this paragraph to highlight the work you’ve done and the skills you’ve developed. Since there is no list of the jobs you have held, a JIST card doesn’t show any periods that you weren’t working or even the names of the companies you worked for.

The beauty of a JIST card is that not only is it unique, but it also has nothing that can be perceived of as negative, and you can send them out with a cover letter instead of a resume.

Like a resume, a JIST card is just a key to open the door to a face-of-face meeting or interview and in many ways might do it better than a resume. According to some studies, resumes only get a cursory glance of a few seconds each, which is hardly enough time to really see what a job applicant has to offer. In the same amount time, a hiring manager can see a snapshot of what you have accomplished from a JIST card.

In order to create a JIST card, sit down for a brainstorming session and write down your best examples of job experience and skills. Then write up a paragraph describing them, as in the example below. Since your JIST card is just a quick summary, be sure to only focus on the things that you think the hiring managers will find most impressive.

JIST cards are usually 3”x5” but can be any size. You can get perforated card stock divided into 3”x5”-sized cards from an office supply store and print them on your computer then tear them apart.

Another way to make JIST cards is to set up a template on a computer and get them printed and cut at a copy shop. If you don’t know how to create a template, get help from someone who does.  You’ll probably want to make at least 100 to begin with, but you can always do more later. While some people recommend printing them on pastel-colored cards to help them stand out, like in the case of resumes, white is more professional. Just the fact that it is a JIST card will make it distinctive.

Once you print you JIST cards, you can:

  • Send them out with a cover letter instead of a resume.
  • Leave with the receptionist or better yet the hiring manager, if you walk into a company without an interview.
  • Give them to local businesses that might have contacts with suppliers.
  • Hand them out to family and friends.
  • Email employers with your card as a PDF or Word attachment.
  • Include two or three cards with each hand delivered application.
  • Take them to job fairs.
  • Send them out with a cover letter instead of a resume.
  • Bring extra cards for in-person interviews to leave with the interviewer.
  • Include one with each employer thank you note you send.

Although there are different layout styles for JIST cards, here’s what the text of  one could look like:


Jack Pierson

Position: Carpenter’s assistant

Phone: (xxx) 825-3765


Four years of experience in a variety of home construction and remodeling projects, including window and door framing, cabinet work and appliance installation in projects that included kitchens and bathrooms. Experience with a wide range of hand and power tools, skilled in reading blueprints, able to communicate effectively and an excellent problem solver.

Hard working, reliable, honest and cheerful.


Although there is plenty of information online about JIST cards, you may also want to read a book about them. Here are several books that include information on JIST cards that can be ordered online or possibly found in a library:

The Very Quick Job Search Activity Book

The Next Day Job Interview: Prepare Tonight and Get the Job Tomorrow

Same Day Resume


Power pose can help improve your job search and interview odds

MP910220673If you were a hiring manager, which would you prefer? Would it be the candidate who shrinks back into his chair with arms folded looking like he’s timid or nervous, or the one who sits up straight and looks you confidently in the eye?

Although you may identify with the first example, it only takes a little practice until you  become the second, according to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School social psychologist, who has done research on the subject of power poses. You can go beyond the old saying “Fake it till you make it” to “Fake it till you become it” – and become the powerful, confident person who will get the job.

Look around and you will see examples of power poses, whether it’s the confident executive with hands on her hips – the so-called Wonder Woman pose – or the athlete who raises both hands above his head to celebrate victory after crossing the finish line.

Cuddy and research partner Dana Carney of UC Berkeley Haas School of Business did studies of students to measure their theory. In an experiment they had one random group of students do a two-minute hands-raised-above-the-head power pose and another group do a low-power pose, before asking members of both groups if they wanted to gamble on a game of chance, and the results were quite amazing.

Not only did the researchers discover that only 60 percent of the low-power pose group decided to gamble compared with 86 percent of the high-power pose group, but the hormone levels in each group changed in a direction that depended on which pose they had assumed. The high-powered posers saw their testosterone level go up and the cortisol level, which measures stress, go down, and the low-powered poses experienced the opposite.

In another similar experiment, Cuddy had students do power poses before participating in a stressful five-minute interview. The interviews were taped, and then coders who had no idea what had transpired – only that they were supposed to decide who should be hired – chose all of the candidates who had gone through the pre-interview exercise as power posers.

Her research proves what Cuddy believes – that nonverbal communication governs how other people think and feel about us. So if we act like we are powerful, then we will become powerful. There’s plenty of evidence that our minds can change our bodies, but Cuddy’s and Carney’s research shows that our bodies can change our minds. And two minutes of practicing a power pose can significantly change your life – and your job search.

Susan P. Joyce, chief writer and editor of and chief blogger and editor of Work Coach Cafe, offers a variety of ways to use the power pose in a recent blog post. Beyond posing for two minutes in a power position before going to a face-to-face job interview, she recommends you assume the pose before a telephone interview, before a call to a recruiter, before you get a headshot taken for social media and even before parties and family gatherings.

You can always use a boost of self-confidence to tackle any social or work-related situation. And with a little bit of practice you will, as Cuddy says, fake it till you become it.

To learn more or see the power pose in action, check out:

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk at

Susan Joyce’s blog article at


Job seeker success stories show out-of-box thinking style required

A challenging job market requires creative minds. Those who think outside the box will be the ones who succeed. And workforce development expert Larry Robbin and attendees at his workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development on March 6 highlighted the techniques and success of some of these maverick job seekers.

Here are their stories:

  • A woman went into a retail shop and bought something very cheap, like a pair of socks. As she pulled out her wallet to pay, she said that she wanted to speak to the manager. The manager appeared in an instance thinking there’s a problem with the product, and that’s the point when the woman began to talk about her job search and what she could do for the manager if he hired her. He did.
  • A young man was applying for a warehouse job, and at the end of the interview he pulled out a notebook. He told the interviewer that he’d only been out of prison for two weeks but had been to apply in person at 240 places, all of which were listed in the notebook. The hiring manager leafed through the pages and saw his local Ace Hardware store and asked the ex-offender to tell him about the store. He described it exactly, proving that he had indeed been there, and the hiring manager was so impressed he hired him on the spot.
  • A man went to a job fair looking for a printing job and ended up talking to a banker about opportunities at her bank. That position wasn’t right for the job seeker, but he asked the banker, “Who does your printing?” The banker wasn’t sure but said she would find out and let him know. That connection led to a job.
  • An out-of-work lawyer, went to law firms in the evenings and put his resume in a manila envelope which he slid under the door of each office. Why did he do this? The first person to arrive in the morning is usually the senior partner who runs the firm, and that person would see the envelope on the floor, pick it up and read what’s inside. An unorthodox way to look for a job, but it worked. The lawyer found employment.
  • One of Larry Robbin’s clients went for a job interview with a janitorial service and asked the company why they didn’t do forensic cleanup. This type of job, also known as crime-scene cleanup, is performed by services that mop up the mess after violent crimes. The employer replied that it was a very good question, because it’s good work that brings in contracts with cities and states. Everyone they hired to do it in the past, however, left because they couldn’t stand dealing with the mess. The job seeker said that he had been a medic in Vietnam and had seen terrible things.  He said “if you hire me on the spot, I will build your forensics business.” He was hired and did what he promised to do.
  • People like to do businesses at places that hire people like themselves. Take the disabilities market, for example. That market, according to Robbin, is bigger than the African-American, Hispanic and Asian markets combined. He told the tale of a guy with disabilities who went into a grocery store and told the manager that people with disabilities shopped at the competition. “Hire me and I’ll get the disability market,” he said. “I’ll do publicity and distribute leaflets to potential customers.” He was hired, and within six months 29 percent of the store’s business came from people with disabilities.

Success is finding a gap in the market and offering to fill it or be determined enough to impress a hiring manager. In the case of the warehouse, the manager had probably never seen an applicant so driven. The grocery store manager had probably never even considered the value of hiring a disabled person. The janitorial service owner had considered forensic cleanup, but couldn’t find anyone to do it. There are opportunities everywhere. You just have to find them.

What are some success stories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.



Protecting your privacy on Facebook

Facebook is facing privacy issues once again – the latest reminder of how careful you must be when dealing with social media and how important it is to think things through before you begin your job search.

The social media company recently contacted employers telling them not to ask for the passwords of job applicants, a practice that seems to be more common than you might expect. In the current cutthroat job market, people may be so desperate for work that they’ll do anything to get a job, even if it means giving their Facebook passwords to a hiring manager as part of the interview process.

It’s not illegal – at least not yet. On March 27, Democrats in the House of Representatives attempted to create legislation that would prevent employers from forcing job applicants and employees to give them their Facebook or other social media site passwords. They tried to insert a clause into an FCC reform bill that would accomplish this, but it was defeated.

Although potential employers can ask you for your Facebook or other passwords, it is a highly unethical practice, and you would have to seriously consider whether you really want to work for a company where the hiring manager or human resources person did such a thing.

Having access to your password and profile could provide information to employers that they are not allowed to ask about in interviews. Through your photos and posts, they might be able to figure out whether you are married, how many children you have, possibly your religion, whether you have tattoos, what your house looks like, where you’ve traveled, who your friends are and the fact that you are an ex-offender (although at that point they should already know that).

Although most potential employers probably won’t ask for your passwords, chances are pretty good that they will do a search of you online and see what they can come up with before they interview you.

National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” talk radio show focused on the privacy issues that social media raises on one of its segments this week. A listener, who works as a hiring manager for a small law firm, emailed to say that when recently hiring an office assistant and courier, she researched all of those she was interested in online before choosing which ones to interview. During her research she found that several of them had lied. One even said he had a clean driving record in his cover letter but had tweeted that he had gotten a ticket for running a stop sign. Because the job involves driving, the law firm wanted someone with a squeaky clean record.

This is a lesson to everyone to be absolutely certain that what you put in your resume and what you tell potential employers is consistent with what you put in your social media postings. You also need to check out the photos that are on your Facebook page, and make sure that none of them have the potential to offend anyone. There should be no photos of you showing off your tattoos, or, if you’re a woman, showing off your body in a bikini. Delete photos that show extravagant displays of affection, or even displays of drinking. Just holding a beer stein or glass of wine might make some employers question what you do after-hours.

In order to be safe, you may want to do what many job seekers do these days – deactivate your Facebook account. That way, you won’t get into trouble with potential employers who may not like what they see. (And you can never be sure what they might not like.) You can deactivate your Facebook account by going to “account settings,” clicking on “security” and following the directions.

Once you find a job, you can go in and reactivate your account without losing anything that was in it. You still may want to clean it up, however – and always be very careful about the things you put up on social media sites. You never know when the boss might want to check on what you’re doing outside of work. Be very wary. What turns up in a web search may come back to haunt you if you’re not careful.

What have you done to protect your online image? We would love to hear your tips and suggestions.


Jerry Seinfeld’s advice works for job seekers

Jerry Seinfeld

Searching for a job is not easy, and it can be difficult to keep up your spirits day after day. You send out resumes and never hear back, try to call people who never seem to be around or get distracted by all the other things going on in your life. These problems will not go away, and you need to develop techniques to overcome them.

One of the best techniques we’ve ever heard of comes from stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Remember him? Or maybe you’re too young to know who Seinfeld is, but he starred in his own TV sitcom, “Seinfeld,” which ran from 1989 to 1998.

When he was just starting his career as a comic, Seinfeld developed a very effective technique to help him keep good work habits. He called it “don’t break the chain,” and it can work for you as well.

Seinfeld believed that to achieve success as a comic, he had to write better jokes, and the way to do that was to write them every day. He took an oversized calendar with an entire year on one page and hung it on his wall. Every day when he wrote  jokes, he put a big red X on that day on the calendar and after a few days had a chain with all the Xs linked together.

If he decided not to work one day, he wouldn’t be able to put in an X on the calendar for that day and would break the chain. He never wanted to do that, and you shouldn’t either.

The goal of this exercise is to never break the chain. Take your job search one day at a time, and never stop. Do what you set out to do each morning to achieve your goal.

By doing this and using a calendar to record your efforts, you’ll build momentum in your job search. Sometimes it may seem that you’re not getting anywhere, but like Jerry Seinfeld, you won’t reach your goal without continuously working toward it. It’s not possible to force someone to hire you, but day by day, little by little, step by step, you are setting the stage to ensure your success.

Keep on plugging away. Don’t break the chain.