Free online courses can help you improve your basic knowledge and skills

free online coursesYou’re just getting out of prison or jail and eager to boost your knowledge and skills to be better prepared for the job market. Maybe you started your educational endeavor while still incarcerated by getting a GED or learning various skills from classes that were offered. Or possibly you even earned a two- or four-year college degree.

No matter what your situation, however, you can usually upgrade your skills and marketability. Whether you want to improve your basic knowledge in math and English, prepare to enter a community college program, get tips on how to search for a job or just learn about a subject that interests you, there are a multitude of free online courses available free of charge.

These are not the super sophisticated MOOC (massive open online courses) offered by universities through the likes of Audacity, Lynda and Coursera. Rather, for the most part, they provide more basic education for those who need to catch up.

Best free online courses for basic knowledge and skills

Here are a few of the best examples:

Khan Academy  — As a nonprofit organization, Khan Academy has helped educate thousands of students around the world with its online courses in math, science, computer programming and other subjects. The instruction is done by using videos, which have been viewed more than 1.6 billion times. Need to improve your knowledge of math? There are  courses in types of math, like arithmetic and geometry. In addition, math is taught by grade level, from kindergarten through high school.  Khan Academy even has a section on careers with videos of people who work in those jobs, what they do, how much they make and other details.

YouTube Learning – It’s still just a year old, but YouTube Learning is building its connections to educational channels and offers a growing number of courses that include technology and digital skills, how to get better at math, launching and running a business, and career advice.

Google Digital Garage – If you would like to become up to speed on Python programming, or learn the basics of code, the fundamentals of graphic design or other things digital, head for Google Digital Garage. While at the garage, you can also check out career courses on such subjects as landing your next job or business communications. While many of the classes are just one-hour long, some are 20 hours or more.

Learn my Way – For those who have no computer experience, the British website Learn My Way includes a comprehensive course with many lessons on how to use one. It includes tutorials on everything from how to use a mouse and creating documents to using search engines and keeping your personal data safe.

California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative – Want to enroll in junior college but feel your basic knowledge of math and English could use improvement? The California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative has created an excellent list of resources for underprepared students. This list includes videos on improving grammar, how to evaluate the validity of a website for research purposes and understanding various mathematical principles.

Microsoft training – Those not up to speed on Word or Excel, two programs that most businesses use on a daily basis, can get free training at the online Microsoft 365 Training Center. Brief tutorials teach users how to create and edit documents and perform other functions. There is also training programs for PowerPoint and other Microsoft products.

Although there are other educational sites out there, these are the best free sites we know of to get you started. Hopefully they will help you improve your basic skills and provide knowledge that will give you the confidence to go out and get a job.

How to get things done — and find a job

How to get things doneA job search for many is not just a full-time job. It can be a monumental task. There are so many things that need to be done that at times it may be difficult to determine how they will all be completed.

With a little bit of planning and the use of various techniques and practices, however, you will be able to develop a way to get things done effectively and efficiently – and find the job that’s right for you.

Here are some of our favorites. The most important ones for an effective job search are the to-do list and personal kanban, and we suggest you employ those for sure. After that, pick those items from the rest of the list that you feel will be most helpful.

Create a comprehensive to-do list for your job search

Include everything that needs to be done. Take items off that list as often as necessary for your short term to-do list, and as you accomplish the tasks cross them off.

Set deadlines

As part of your to-do list create deadlines for when the tasks should be completed. These deadlines may need to be flexible, but they will give you guidelines and help to keep you on track.

Put together a to-don’t list

This will include all the things you shouldn’t be doing as you search for a job, like playing video games, watching television, spending time on social media, surfing the web mindlessly or whatever else you may like to do but shouldn’t.

Employ personal kanban

This unique form of visualizing and processing your work was inspired by a Japanese technique that was created by Toyota in the 1940s. It makes sure you don’t tackle too many things at once. Here’s how it works: Create a white board or bulletin board with three columns “To do,” “In progress,” “Done.” Decide what tasks you need to work on and post them on cards or sticky notes in the first column. Move no more than three of these to the “In progress” column and concentrate solely on them. When complete, move them to the third column. This process helps you visualize what needs to be done and concentrate on the one, two or three tasks you want to work on at any particular moment.

Break a task down

If you’re doing something that seems overwhelming, break it into smaller steps. Make a list, and as you do each of them, you’ll accomplish the larger task.

Tackle the things you don’t want to do first

Maybe you dread making cold calls to hiring managers at the companies you’ve included on your list of potential employers. You decided to call 10 a day, so do that first.

Try doing just one thing

Multitasking is overrated and doesn’t make for efficiency. Concentrate on a single task and put your full attention to it.

Perform a one-minute or two-minute task

Some people like to do a one-minute task, while others a two-minute task. Either way, the point is to just do something quickly. And if it doesn’t work in a minute or two, figure out how to do it differently or ask someone for help.

Refuse to be distracted

Resist the urge to check your personal email, texts and especially social media feeds. These things can be incredibly distracting and take time away from your more important job search.

Handle email efficiently

Read it, respond to it and/or add anything that needs to be taken care of to your to-do list. If you need the info for reference, file the email away.

Get seven or eight hours of sleep every night

Go to bed early and get up early, so you will be ready to tackle the day.

Take breaks

Do something you like to do, like take a walk, have a snack or make a quick call to a friend. These activities will revitalize you and help you be more productive.

Don’t break the chain

Do like Jerry Seinfeld did and keep a paper calendar. Each day you accomplish what you set out to do put a big X through the day. Don’t cheat, and don’t break the chain.

Create a vision poster

Take a piece of poster board and cut out pictures from magazines or print them out from online websites. Pictures of a house you might be able to buy if you get a job, the beach vacation you might be able to take, a picture of your significant other or your children. Anything to inspire you. Put this in a place where you will see it every day as an inspiration and a reminder of what can happen if you reach your goals.

Learn how to say no

Don’t overcommit yourself to socializing with friends or doing everything they might want you to do. “No” is a very effective word, and will help you stay on track with the things you really need to do.

We’ve listed a few of the things you can do to make sure you accomplish what you need to in order to conduct an effective job search.

Maybe you have some others that you’d like to share with our readers. We would love to hear from you.

 

How to negotiate the salary or wage you think you deserve

negotiate the salaryOne of the most important steps in a job interview comes at the end when it’s time to negotiate your salary or hourly wage. The last thing you want to do is to accept a job and then discover later you should have been getting paid more.

To be confident you’ll be paid a fair rate for the particular job you’re accepting, the first step is to do a bit of homework before the interview.

Research pay ranges

First check out two or three websites that will give you an idea of what sort of salaries are paid for particular jobs in various locations:

  • Glassdoor.com allows you to just enter the type of work and the location, and it brings up a graph with the average salary for that job, adjustable by size of company and other criteria.
  • Payscale.com asks for additional information, including your years of experience, what type of businesses you have worked in, your level of education and the name of the college you attended, if any. It then gives you a chart of the salary range for that position.
  • Salaryexpert is another site you may want to try.
  • The American Job Center offers an hourly wage calculator by occupation and local area.

You can also check out similar job titles on online job boards like indeed.com or careerbuilder.com. Another tactic, although it may be a bit more difficult, is to find someone who works inside the company and ask them about wages paid there. Or just speak with other people in similar businesses to find out the industry standard for the type of work you’re looking for.

With this information in mind, you’ll have an idea of what you’ll be able to aim for in terms of pay.

Negotiating salary is essential

Although not everyone negotiates salaries – according to salary.com, 18 percent of the people it surveyed never negotiate their salary – it’s important to do so. Otherwise you might miss out on money you wouldn’t get if you didn’t have the confidence to ask.

If the hiring manager asks what salary you’re looking for early in the interview, tell them that you’d like to get to know more about the job and its requirements before discussing salary. It will work to your advantage if you take this approach.

And if they ask your salary history, you should be honest and tell them. But then you should also make your case that with your skills and experience, you think you’re worth more. Answering their salary question directly can also show that you’re candid and have integrity.

In some states it’s no longer legal to ask your past salary. In fact, a new Massachusetts law that went into effect on July 1, 2018 makes it illegal for any employer in that state to ask about current or past salaries. They must also publish pay ranges for all job openings. A similar bill has been passed by the California legislature and approved by Governor Jerry Brown.

Pay negotiations come last

The salary negotiation should come at the end of the interview – or during the last of a series of interviews – when the hiring manager is ready to make a job offer.

But be careful if they ask for your salary requirements. You may name a number that is too low, thus shortchanging yourself, or an amount above the company’s budget. Instead, say something like, “What is the salary range you have in mind for this position?”

If they tell you, you can say (if you agree), “Well that’s the range I had in mind. Are you willing to offer (name the amount at the top of the range, if you feel comfortable doing so).

And if the range for this particular job is lower than the average salary or pay that you’ve found through your research, you can reply with, “Based on the research I’ve done on jobs similar to this one in the area, I was hoping to receive a bit more. Are you willing to be flexible?”

If they only mention a single number, that “$60,000 is what we’re offering for this position,” for example, it could just be an opener for a negotiation. You can answer with, “Would you be willing to consider a slightly higher starting salary of, say, $65,000? Based on my research, this is the average for this type of work around here, and I’m confident that you will be happy with the skills and experience I will bring to the job.”

Keep in mind that it’s usually easier to get a higher salary before you accept a position than to wait for a raise that may or may not materialize. If the hiring manager insists that you start at a certain pay level but will get a raise in “x” amount of time, try to get it in writing. Sometimes verbal promises made during the hiring process are later forgotten.

Also keep in mind that with taxes figured in, the differences in various salaries may not be as great as you think. Benefits, including health insurance, vacation and sick pay can outweigh extra pay. You need to be realistic about income, especially if it’s your first job after being incarcerated. As long as it’s a living wage, you should be satisfied.

Take time to decide

The hiring manager may say that they’ll look into it – or they may say that’s the final offer. If it is the final offer, you need to decide whether to accept the job offer or not. And it’s best to take some time to think about it, so make sure to ask how long you have to make a decision. Not only do you appear more professional with this approach, but it will give you time to think about and weigh the options. Giving an applicant a few days to make a decision is common practice among employers these days.

Keep in mind that a negotiation is a discussion of pay and shouldn’t be adversarial. You and your potential employer are attempting to come to an agreement that, hopefully, will make you happy and will fall within the department’s budget for the position.

And ask for the salary offer in writing, especially if it’s a small company. If the hiring manager doesn’t typically do this, you may want to write an email confirming the fact that you are happy to accept the position, mentioning the salary that was offered.

Determining the cost of living

Especially for those who are just getting out of prison or jail, it could be useful to determine the cost of living in the place where you’d like to settle. That way you can determine if you can afford to live there or whether you might need to consider taking on more than one job. And you can find out the cost of living by using the MIT Living Wage Calculator

Just select a state and a county from the list on the website, and you can find out the living wage for 13 situations ranging from 1 working adult to 2 adults (1 working) and 2 adults with 3 children. The calculator also includes a list of typical expenses: food, childcare, medical, housing and transportation, as well as the required annual income before taxes, so people will know how much they will need to earn.

For some in reentry and just returning to the workforce this very useful tool can be shared with the hiring manager, if needed, to influence a pay rate that is at least in line with a living wage.

From the editor: Bringing notes to your interview is considered acceptable by most hiring managers. Not only do your notes help to calm your nerves during an interview and offer a reminder of the key points to cover, they can also serve to express your preparedness and professionalism to the hiring manager. Bullet points and short phrases as reminders, and questions to ask can all be useful. Asking good questions can also help to make a favorable impress with the hiring manager, and having them written down makes for less that needs to be remembered.

Driving a garbage truck can provide good pay, benefits and steady work for ex-offenders

driving a garbage truck

Kamarlo Spooner is putting together a nonprofit to help people coming out of prison become garbage truck drivers.

When considering work after prison, driving a garbage truck might not be the first job that comes to mind. But maybe you should consider it. This type of work can provide excellent pay and an opportunity for union membership with all of its benefits. And in many cases it might mean a schedule that allows time for other interests and commitments.

Just ask Kamarlo Spooner, who worked his way into a garbage truck driving job after being incarcerated and hopes to help others like him get a similar opportunity.

Spooner actually started seriously preparing for employment during his three years of imprisonment for drug sales and firearms convictions.

“In the prison, they had different programs. I got really good in carpentry, welding and auto mechanics. I wanted to prepare for a job,” he says.

Spooner found truck driving more suitable job than carpentry

Spooner used the carpentry skills he developed while incarcerated to land an apprenticeship position with a builder. But he was only making $12 per hour and needed more money to support his family. So he picked up the handbook for commercial truck driving, studied it during his lunch periods and managed to pass the test for a Class A permit.

Without a license yet, Spooner couldn’t get the type of job he wanted. “I finally found a company that would give me a job. They allowed me to drive Class B trucks, and I had a certain amount of time to get my Class A license. I would have to join the Teamsters Union. They let me practice on the company truck when I wasn’t working. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I went in at 2 a.m. and practiced driving the commercial vehicles. I taught myself on the weekends and on weekdays went to work on 10 hour shifts,” Spooner says.

His pay went from $12 per hour as a carpenter to $22 per hour with benefits at the truck driving job, He worked there for three years and at another truck driving company for another three years, before applying for a job with Waste Management in a San Francisco suburb, where six years later he’s still employed.

A typical day for Spooner? He reports to work at 5:15 a.m., sits in on a brief safety meeting, then does a pre-trip walk around the truck to make sure everything is OK. Then it’s off on his route to collect recyclables, using a joystick to operate the arm that picks up the garbage containers on the curbside and dumps their contents in the truck.

Spooner makes more than $100,000 per year. Although he likes his job, that’s not what he ultimately wants to do.

Wants to help others have opportunities driving a garbage truck

“What I really want to do is to get paid to get out and encourage other folks – basically, what I do now for free,” he says.

During the time he was incarcerated, Spooner decided that when he was released he would go back and help inmates prepare to get on their feet when they get out. But the prisons he talked to weren’t interested. Finally, the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, Calif., where he was incarcerated for almost two years, allowed him to come in and talk to the inmates.

That was the beginning. Spooner has continued his education. He now has five associate degrees and speaks to formerly incarcerated individuals as part of Peralta Community College District’s New Degree program to encourage them to go to community college.

Plans to create nonprofit to train garbage truck drivers

Beyond that, Spooner is in the process of putting together a nonprofit that will help previously incarcerated people get their commercial  driver’s license (CDL), train them to operate a trash truck and create a pipeline of qualified drivers to offer trash companies.

And how exactly does he plan to do this? His idea is to recruit formerly incarcerated individuals who are living in the many homeless camps in Oakland and other parts of Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He will help them get their commercial license and GED, train them to drive a garbage truck and pay them while they’re doing it. The garbage truck will pick up trash from the various homeless encampments. Spooner also plans to work with the city of Oakland and Alameda County to have his trainees clean up areas where protests have taken place.

“After a couple of years, they’ll be trained on how to operate a commercial truck, have a GED and get a commercial truck driver’s license,” Spooner says. “If these individuals do well at my organization, I’ll have a pipeline so after two years they can get a job at another company.”

While his nonprofit is still in the planning stages, Spooner has already been approved for tax-exempt status as a nonprofit by the state of California and is in the process of filling out the federal forms to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Kamarlo Spooner Foundation.

U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Women’s Bureau offers web portal for women seeking higher paying work

Women's BureauThe Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Labor has created a very useful website portal, Women Build, Protect & Move America, geared toward women who wish to find higher paying careers in construction, transportation and protective services.

The site includes occupation info from the Occupational Outlook Handbook for those specific industry sectors. Each entry covers:

  • The sorts of things people do to perform that specific job.
  • What it takes to become a worker in that field.
  • Pay scales.
  • Employment numbers and wages per state.
  • Job outlook (growth in number of jobs in the future).

A section on training, scholarships and recruitment incorporates a variety of programs by various agencies and organizations around the country.

Programs to help women enter nontraditional fields 

Building Pathways The Action for Boston Community Development’s six-week program that prepares candidates for a career in construction.

Transportation Alliance for New Solutions (TrANS) A training model sponsored by the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation I-94 North South Corridor Project to address the shortage of women and minorities in highway construction.

Rosie’s Girls A one-week summer day camp operated by Vermont Works for Women for middle-school girls to teach them carpentry and engineering skills.

Lady Truck Drivers A website dedicated to women who drive trucks or would like to and includes a directory of trucking companies that are interested in hiring women truckers and women in trucking related jobs.

Women in Transportation A program of Los Angeles Trade-Tech Community College that prepares women for employment in the automotive, heavy equipment and collision industries. Participants must be a member of one of three categories to participate, including being a previous offender (on probation or parole) – the other two are being unemployed or failure to graduate from high school or attain a GED.

Apprenticeship info is among other resources the website offers

Other resources at Women Build, Protect & Move America include a guide to nationwide and local apprenticeship programs offered by agencies, unions and nonprofit organizations. Among these are Chicago Women in Trades, Independent Electrical Contractors Fort Worth, Puget Sound Electrical Apprenticeship, University of Iron, and Mass Building Trades.

The site also has a section for employers who are looking to fill jobs by recruiting women from outside their industries.

Anyone interested in employment in nontraditional work or companies that would like to hire them should tap into the resources on the Women Build, Protect & Move America website. And always remember to check your local American Job Center to find out if there might be other programs in your area.

For more information on opportunities for women, check out:

Together We Bake

East Bay Community Birth Support Project

Nontraditional Employment for Women

 

How a job search support team can help you find work

job search support teamLooking for a job can be lonely, and you may get easily discouraged. But it’s not something you have to do entirely on your own.

You can get some help from others and improve your chances of finding employment by creating a job search support team.

What is a job search support team?

It’s pretty much exactly like it sounds. Put together a team of carefully chosen people who can support you in your efforts. Doing this can help you dramatically expand your reach and find more opportunities. In fact, the late Richard Bolles author of What Color is Your Parachute? states it is one of the four best ways to hunt for a job.

This team will be your troop, your eyes and ears on the ground as you scour the landscape for potential job opportunities. Members can support you in many ways, from hearing about job openings and connecting you to their contacts to reading your resume and critiquing your elevator pitch.

The group should have no more than 10 members – but even one or two could make a viable team – and you should choose them carefully. Make sure that they are people who would likely be willing to take the time to help you achieve your goal of finding a job. Ideally, one or more of your team members should be working at the type of job you want to do, because they will be more likely to hear about openings that are appropriate for your talents and skills.

Create an action plan

Put together an action plan, or outline of steps, focusing on how you will approach each potential member. The best way is face-to-face. Call them up and invite them for coffee, if you can afford it. If they happen to be a hiring manager, make it clear when you call that you just want guidance. You won’t ask them for a job.

When you get together be very specific about the type of work you’re looking for and why you are good at it. Ask them, “Do you know someone who might know someone who might be looking to hire a person with my experience and abilities.Having your JIST card to share with them could be very useful.

If they say “no,” ask them to let you know if they hear of any opportunities they think you would be interested in. And also ask them if it would be OK to check in with them in a month or so. Since these are people you’ve chosen because you sense they are the supportive type, they will no doubt agree.

Once you’ve assembled your team, make sure you keep a record of when you talk to each of them and what they told you. You can use a file box with index cards or a pad of paper. First write each person’s name and contact info at the top of the index card or piece of paper. Then make a list of the dates of your discussions and what you talked about. If you have a computer you can do the same thing using a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet.

You’ll also want to have a calendar, so after you talk to each person you can schedule a time to call them again a month later.

Creating a job search support team will take time and effort, so don’t be concerned about having one in place before you start your job search.  But the assistance of its members should help to provide you with extra confidence, contacts and encouragement that may make a difference.

A unique approach to handling a job interview over lunch

job interview over lunchA while back Shankar Vedantam, NPR’s social science correspondent, had an interesting segment on scientific research proving how eating the same food can bring people closer together. And it’s something you might want to consider if you’re having a job interview over lunch.

He interviewed Ayelet Fishback of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She and a colleague ran a series of food-related experiments, including one in which a group of volunteers playing union members and managers were negotiating hourly wages.

The two members of each pair were either both given candy, both given salty snacks or one received candy and the other salty snacks. It turned out that when each was eating something different it took twice as many rounds of negotiations to make the wage decision than if they were both eating the same thing.

The researchers admit that the process is probably unconscious. They don’t exactly understand how it works but suspect that eating the same food creates trust and fosters cooperation.

This may be something to keep in mind when you get together for a job interview that involves a meal.

Important tips to keep in mind for a lunch interview

But then there are also many other things to do:

  • Prepare as you would for a normal interview, although often an invitation to a meal is the second or third interview, so you may have dealt with all the ordinary interview questions previously.
  • Either way, taking you to lunch is a chance for the employer to observe how you act in a social situation and get to know you informally. Make sure you plan ahead for some interesting things to talk about (along with the usual answers to typical interview questions). Try to stay clear of anything controversial, including political subjects. Also keep the conversation professional and be careful what you say in general.
  • Research the restaurant ahead of time to get an idea of the ambience and location. Study the menu and think about what you might like to order (in case you don’t want to order the same thing as the interviewer, although we suggest you do when possible). Also, if there’s something interesting you learned about the building it’s in or the food it serves, you can use that as a topic of conversation.
  • Arrange a meeting place preferably in front of the restaurant, so you won’t have trouble identifying the person you’re meeting with. And if you’ve never met them look for their photo online so they’ll be easier to recognize.
  • Dress professionally appropriate to the job you’ve applied for.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
  • Practice a power pose to boost your confidence.
  • Turn off your cell phone and don’t check it – not even once – during the meal.
  • Try to relax and enjoy yourself.
Make sure to mind your manners

Practice proper etiquette:

  • Don’t order the most expensive – or the cheapest – item on the menu.
  • Don’t order alcohol, even if your host does. Alcohol tends to loosen inhibitions, and you might say something you didn’t intend to.
  • Order something easy to eat.
  • Be polite to the waitstaff.
  • Wait until everyone receives their meal before you begin to eat.
  • Eat slowly, and don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Make eye contact with the person interviewing you and others if more than one person comes.
  • Don’t forget your manners. Say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Try to eat everything, if possible, and never ask for a doggy bag.
  • When finished, put your knife and fork on the plate and carefully fold your napkin and place it beside the plate.
  • Let the host pick up the bill. You were invited.

Follow these rules, and your interview should be a success.

And don’t forget to follow up with a thank you note.

 

How to get an interview by offering to help hiring managers solve their problems

Get an interviewAs many jobseekers have discovered, contacting HR (human resource) departments or applying online – where resumes also tend to end up in HR – are rarely effective job search techniques.

In fact, the primary purpose of HR departments is to screen people out. We recommend avoiding HR and instead contacting the hiring manager of the department you want to work in. If it’s a small company, that person might be the owner or president.

And when you contact them, there’s a unique approach you may want to try.

A very unique process for getting an interview

To carry out this approach you should first create a list of companies where you might want to work. A good way to find these companies is by using CareerOneStop’s business finder database. Include as many companies as you can within whatever specifications you set, whether it’s the distance from where you live, the size of the company, the products it produces or the services it offers, or whatever.

Then the real research begins. Decide which department would use your talent and skills, and find out the name of the hiring manager for that department.

You may be able to find them on the company’s website. Or you might try using the “advanced search” function on LinkedIn and entering the company name and a variety of manager titles, which could bring up the name of the manager you’re looking for and their correct title. You can do the same thing by doing a general internet search – Google a manager title and company, and see what comes up.

If neither of these work, you can call the company’s main telephone number and ask the person who answers the phone to give you the name of the manager in whatever department you’ve decided would be the right one.

Once you have the hiring manager’s name, you’re ready to begin this process, which is different than any other we’ve ever heard about it.

The idea comes from Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace in Boulder, Colo., and author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want & Career You Deserve.

Determining business pain is the key

This technique is all about business pain. In other words, you have to figure out what challenges and problems the hiring manager may be facing and let them know how you can help solve them or “lessen their pain.”

Once you’ve zeroed in on the companies you want to work for, do some research on them and others like them to see what kinds of problems they or their industry are facing. If ideas for these problems aren’t obvious from what you already know, search the internet, check out LinkedIn and read local business publications.

If you live in a city with a Business Journal or Business Times (search by using “name of city” and business journal or business times), you have an excellent resource. These newspapers provide invaluable insight and most can be searched online. While some of these are independent publications, many belong to a group known as American City Business Journals, which has publications in 40 cities across the U.S.

If you’re looking for blue-collar work, think about the challenges and problems you’ve encountered in the type of work you do and how you’ve created ways to deal with – or solve –  them.

Now comes the creative part. You’re going to write what Ryan calls a “pain letter.” Instead of promoting your talents and skills like you would in a normal cover letter, you address the issues your potential next boss may be facing.

How to write a “pain letter”

Your brief pain letter should begin by complimenting the hiring manager on something the company has recently accomplished, whether winning a new award, releasing a new product, discovering a new way to operate or whatever.

The next paragraph, according to Ryan, should be a “pain hypothesis,” something you think might be troubling the hiring manager and that you know about from your previous experience.

­

For example, you might write, “I can imagine that you sometimes have trouble because there aren’t enough people scheduled to work on your manufacturing production line, and it could slow down.”

Then tell what Ryan refers to as ­­­­­­a dragon slaying story, how you had this problem and solved it in a previous position.

For example, you might write, “When I was the production supervisor at Excellent Technologies, I instituted a new training program for the 30 assemblers on the manufacturing line that trained at least two people for every position. That way if a person was absent, there was always someone else to take their place. And slowdowns became a thing of the past.”

The letter should be as brief as possible, and all that remains is the closing.

For that you might write something like, “If production line slowdowns or stoppages are something that your company is challenged with, I would love to talk to you when you have some time. Sincerely, Jack Rogers”

Once you finish your pain letter, Ryan suggests printing it out along with your resume or JIST card and mailing it to the hiring managers you’ve targeted. Yes, you read it right. Snail mail. That way they’ll surely see it when it lands on their desk. If you don’t hear back in a week or two, she recommends changing the date on the letter and sending it again.

Still no response? Pick up the phone and call, but do that before or after hours. That’s when you’ll be more likely to reach the hiring manager. Don’t leave a voice mail message, Ryan warns. It’s better to keep calling until you get them on the line. Then you can have a conversation and tell them verbally what you wrote in your pain letter. And if they think you can help alleviate “their pain,” the end result will be an interview.

This is a rather revolutionary technique, and it might not always work, but it sure beats submitting your resume on a job board and having it disappear into the black hole.

 

 

Son of What Color is Your Parachute author Richard Bolles expands his father’s work with eParachute

eParachuteAlthough Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, passed away more than a year ago, his book continues to be published and his work continues to be honored by his son Gary.

Bolles operates the website eparachute.com, which, like the book which inspired it, can help you learn more about yourself and what you’d like to do with your work life. You will be able to discover your strengths, explore hundreds of career paths and see how well certain careers match what you most love to do.

The site, which costs $4.95 per year to access, will take you through a series of exercises that only take a few minutes to complete. You will choose:

  • The type of people you’d like to be around if you were at a party
  • Fields you love – from building and construction and sales and marketing to geography and public safety and security and many, many others in between
  • Skills you like to use

After completing the exercises, eparachute will give you a list of featured ideas for possible types of work. You can explore each of your chosen fields, skills and people types for more work ideas.

For those leaving prison

Bolles has some advice on how to make the most of your days in prison, as far as a future job or career is concerned:

The time in prison can be well spent by doing homework on yourself – understanding your favorite skills, knowledge, and other unique things about yourself,” says Bolles. “It’s also a great time to study new topics that can be useful to you in the work you want to do when you’re back in society.”

“Of course, society isn’t always as welcoming as we’d like to those who were formerly incarcerated, so you’ll need to be really creative in your search. Doing small projects and part-time work through various online markets, like TaskRabbit and UpWork, can provide a way to do work without having to immediately find a full-time job.”

He also recommends being entrepreneurial and possibly starting your own business. That way you can build a work track record.

“But if you’ve done your homework on yourself, and you can describe your best-loved skills, including ways you’ve used them before, you’ll be in a far better position to tell a prospective employer why you can be the one to help solve their particular problems,” Bolles adds.

Those in reentry have a very special skill

It may not be easy to find a job if you have a record, but Bolles is convinced that many of those leaving jail or prison have a very useful skill.

“Especially for those who were formerly incarcerated, it’s important to know that the world of work is changing rapidly. The people who will be successful are those who are very proactive, constantly adapting to do new kinds of work. If you’ve been in prison, you know how to hustle. Put that hustle to good use in the work you do, working hard to solve problems for the people you work for and with, and you’ll do well,” Bolles says.

But before you get to that point, you still need to figure out what kind of work you’d like to do and find employment. Eparachute is one way to jump start your job search. It’s an introduction to the process of discovering what you like to do. Those who want to go one step further can take a more extensive course on Udemy.

Note: While Bolles mentioned TaskRabbit as a way to ease into the job market, TaskRabbit does require a background check. We’re not sure what types of crimes would prohibit people from working TaskRabbit gigs, however.

You may also want to check the Gigs section of Craigslist or other part-time work opportunities. Another way to work your way into employment is to register with a temp agency, many of which are ex-offender friendly.

Consider some of these hot jobs that don’t require a college degree

hot jobs that don't require a college degreeIt is possible to find a good job that pays well and doesn’t require a college degree.

CareerBuilder, the online employment website, has released a list of hot jobs that don’t require a college degree and:

  • pay about $20 or more per hour
  • have grown over the past five years
  • are projected to grow over the next five years

“The path to success is different for everyone,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. “You can build a lucrative career through apprenticeships, post-secondary certificates or on-the-job training. There is significant demand for workers in everything from skilled trades to technology and health-related fields, and you can get your foot in the door without a formal degree.”

Here are CareerBuilder’s recommendations for hot jobs that don’t require a college degree that you may want to consider based on the opportunities they present:

Electricians:

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 11%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 5%
  • Average hourly earnings:  $26.33
  • Required education: high school diploma and apprenticeship

Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 15%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 5%
  • Average hourly earnings: $25.76
  • Required education: high school diploma and apprenticeship

Computer User Support Specialists

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 10%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 7%
  • Average hourly earnings: $25.50
  • Required education: some college

Industrial Machinery Mechanics

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 9%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 8%
  • Average hourly earnings: $24.87
  • Required education: high school diploma and on-the-job training

Surgical Technologists

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 9%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 7%
  • Average hourly earnings: $22.68
  • Required education: post-secondary non-degree certificate

Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 17%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 6%
  • Average hourly earnings:  $22.39
  • Required education: post-secondary non-degree certificate and on-the-job training

Chefs and Head Cooks

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 13%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 6%
  • Average hourly earnings: $21.54
  • Required education: high school diploma and on-the-job training

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 7%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 7%
  • Average hourly earnings: $19.96
  • Required education: post-secondary certificate

Self-Enrichment Education Teachers

  • Growth in jobs between 2013 and 2017: 11%
  • Expected growth in jobs between 2018 and 2022: 8%
  • Average hourly earnings:  $19.91
  • Required education: high school diploma

If you will soon be released from jail or prison or are already in reentry, you may want to investigate these jobs and others and discover if any of them match your skills, talents and interests. Your local American Job Center can help with your skills and interest assessment, and job search. Good luck!