Depression to Recession: How Companies Are Getting By

    Today, in the 21st century, the Great Depression is generally used to illustrate how far the world’s economy can decline.  It was not only the United States that suffered.  All countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, India, North and South America suffered.  The calamity of the First World War depleted and left bankrupt Germany, left France and England crippled and set the stage for what would eventually evolve into The Second World War – the greatest and most terrible war the world has ever seen.  The domino effect was felt everywhere – for example, Latin America had invested heavily in U.S. commodities and exports.  When these businesses collapsed, Latin American countries found themselves scrambling to recover and eventually collapsed also.

 

If you are in your 30s or early 40s then you may have a living grandparent or grandparents that remember growing up during the Great Depression.  My grandmother, who is 84 years young, can remember clearly going without and consolidating to make ends meet – and her family, her town, her area in northern New Jersey was relatively unaffected.  Her father, my great-grandfather, had emigrated from Sweden in 1917 only to be sent right back to Europe in time for the First World War.  He came home and worked at the Ford Motor Company straight through The Great Depression and then stayed on to help the new war effort in the late 1930s as Ford switched its focus to military vehicles, mostly to be lend-leased to Britain and The Soviet Union.  Of course, the period after World War Two is known as America’s Golden Age – yes, civil liberties were almost non-existent for non-whites and racism was terrible but this refers to technology advances, prosperity and a sense of national pride we haven’t had since probably The Vietnam War.

 

The way most families coped during The Great Depression was “make do with what you already have and make that last.”  These Depression-era children, of whom so many would be forced to grow up quickly in war, carried these values with them and tried to impart them to their own families.  The reason they failed is because they were teaching restraint and discipline during a new era of plenty, when everyone had work and food and medical care and a car.  Their values had worked well to help them survive their childhood but did not apply to this new world of surplus.

 

It is, therefore, interesting to see that this Depression-era mentality emerging in today’s small and large businesses.  The web manager of a medium-sized New Jersey printing company explained to me, when asked if he needed additional staff, that they were “making it work with the resources they have.”  This made an impression on me and, in fact, led to this article.  It is true, though – many companies are simply dealing with the staff and resources that they have.  When they must, they reach out for consultants or employees – which Staff I.T. can provide quickly and painlessly :-) – but for the most part try to make their way with the staff they have on hand.

 

It is because of this new/old mindset that consultants, especially I.T. consultants, must bear this in mind and be as marketable as they possibly can be.  If you can, try to market yourself as a progressive candidate that has several areas of expertise.  If you are a developer, for example, but have a background in database migration or knowledge of SQL then market that.  A growing trend among companies that hire consultants is to bring on board those consultants who are talented in many areas – it is like having two or three consultants for the price of one.  If you are good then chances are you will be invited to stay on full-time!  You become an asset to them.  This gives you leverage when it comes time for salary negotiation and gives you a far greater level of job security because the last thing they want is to lose you.

 

It is therefore doubly important that you work through a staffing agency (like Staff IT ) when possible.  A staffing agency can represent you and secure the very best terms for you, whether you are working as a consultant, in a “temp to perm” situation or are being hired permanently.  Unlike the want ads in the classifieds or even websites like Careerbuilder, staffing agencies tend to have many clients with needs and, if a home is not found with one client, a home is often found with another.  This increases your chances of landing a great job so that you do not have to “make do with what you have.”

 

Good luck!

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What is the hiring manager thinking, anyway?

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We have all been in the interviewee’s seat before.  It can be nerve-wracking, especially when you do not really know what the hiring manager’s thinking as they speak with you.  Do they like you?  Are they just going through the necessary motions, giving you your equal and fair shot before standing up, eyes unfocused, shake your hand limply and say, “We’ll be in touch, thanks” only to never call you again?  Are they already envisioning you in the role?  Hiring managers are like everybody else – they conceal what they actually mean, very often to see what you’ll do.  The trick is to be prepared.  No, I cannot help you learn how to read minds (I wouldn’t be writing a blog if I could do that).  However, I will impart a couple of tips to help you swing the interview in your favor.

#1 Be prepared to explain gaps in your resume

First impressions are generally the last, also.  A good method to cover any short-term gaps in your resume (those that are one month or less) is to simply list your dates of employment in a month/year format without listing a specific date.

However, things happen.  Layoffs do occur, many times unexpectedly.  Even the best of us have probably been fired at least once in our lives.  With the jobless rate higher than it has been in decades it is not that uncommon to see gaps in resumes.  Hiring managers know this.  They are also eager to attract and retain the best employees so expect a certain level of vetting, especially in this climate.  Employers are now in a position to be choosy.

BE TRANSPARENT. BE SPECIFIC.

If you were, for instance, a member of a company’s sales force and you were laid off with several other people because business was dead and the company was trying to shore up its expenses then you might have a couple of months of inactivity showing on your resume, but it can be easily explained and should not be held against you – most recruiters and hiring managers will understand and be able to differentiate between circumstances that are not your fault and those in which you were terminated for performance issues, et cetera.  The bottom rule and general rule of thumb here is to be as transparent as you possibly can.  

Be prepared to answer questions like, “I see you were employed from June 2005 to August 2010 and then you didn’t work from August 2010 to May of 2011.  What were you doing during that period?”  If the answer is that you chose to take the opportunity to complete college coursework for a degree that will help advance you in your field then that is your answer.  Don’t just say, “I went back to school.”  Offer details: “Oh, well, during that time I enrolled with the University of Phoenix and earned my bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Management – focus on security and data management.”  While both statements are true, the second one makes you seem much more credible.  Being prepared with reasonable, truthful and detailed answers will help you overcome gaps in your resume.

#2 Do not speak badly of your former or current employer

This is considered a rule of etiquette for interviews but exists also in sales, too.  Don’t bash the competitor!  If a client asks about a competitor, Sales 101 tells you to reply with the stock answer: “Mr. Client, XYZ is a great company.  They have a good product.  However, most of our best customers were using XYZ and they chose to come over to us.  Can I tell you why?”  

The same principle exists with interviewing.  A hiring manager may not say a word if you say that your former or current employer is a horrible company that’s only open when it’s dark outside and raining and your boss is the devil himself – but they will make a note of that, I promise you.  It is bad decorum to do this and is a great way to shoot yourself in the foot, figuratively speaking.  I immediately suggests to the hiring manager that, if they were to hire you and things went awry, you might one day say that about them, perhaps even to a competitor!

DON’T BASH YOUR BOSS.

Refraining from badmouthing your boss – even if he deserves it – is a sign of professionalism and maturity.  I have heard many applicants say to me that they had a “difference of opinion” with their manager.  How this sounds when you say it: “I had a difference of opinion with my boss.”  How it sounds in a hiring manager’s head: “I can’t work with supervisors well.”  To repeat a line from the beginning of this post: “First impressions are generally the last, also.”  A good alternative is to say, “My former/current employer is a good boss and I like/liked the company.  However, I am moving in another direction.”  Even expand on this and say this is because you are seeking more room for professional growth.  The goal is to appear professional and mature.  

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The national unemployment rate is dropping.

Let’s help get you back to work now.

Visit our website to see our available jobs! 

 


 

 

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Happy New Year 2012!

Prospects for the New Year seem rather dim according to polls – merely 43% of Americans saw a successful 2012 for the country and less than that for the world as a whole.  The economy seems shot, unemployment appears to be going down and then we learn it’s because less people bothered to apply for unemployment insurance, prospects for President of the United States in 2012 seem dim (if you are Republican) and gas prices are STILL over three dollars a gallon!  Oh, and lest we forget, we now may have an argument with Iran in the near future about oil.

Are you still reading?  Good.  Then I can tell you that all is not as terrible and horrible as it may seem.

Consistently over the last three years, Yahoo.com has listed Information Technology as the Industry Least Likely to be Affected by the Recession.  This stands to reason.  Working with key executives in many of New York and New Jersey’s largest companies, I can see that one area of their business that they are actively growing is Information Systems.  They are hiring!  Some companies are updating existing systems, some are creating new divisions, many are turning to the Creative Services (3D rendering, illustration, media, interactive design and especially mobile design) as they revamp and re-tool their marketing departments.

Staff I.T. happens to have an excellent Creative Services division within its suite of services and we have the pleasure of continuing to work with massive publishing and marketing firms as well as smaller companies as they begin or end projects and continue to grow and develop despite a poor economy.

There are many jobs available, make no mistake.  However, unlike in times past, companies can now afford to be very picky when they choose people to hire.  They can do this because of the unusually large number of applicants.  What is making this especially difficult for candidates, especially younger ones, is that they are up against candidates who have over a decade of experience that, because they have been out of work for whatever reason, are willing to take a pay cut and are the most sensible choice for an employer because of their experience.  Before, if a company wanted to hire such a candidate, they would have to pay a higher rate to get them.  This is not always the case these days.

That is why, especially for younger professionals looking for work, it is best to turn to a n IT staffing agency like Staff I.T.  There are many benefits but the one benefit that emerges here is you will have a team of professionals doing the legwork for you, finding applicable jobs and submitting you to employers likely to hire you.  Furthermore, the folks at the good staffing agencies really do have your best interest at heart – they get paid when you get hired, too!  It is in their best financial interest to get you working again!

In closing, I think it is safe to say that the successful candidates will be the individuals who can adapt and who are willing to use every tool at their disposal.  Good luck!

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Sooooo…. where exactly are the jobs…?

 

  

While the above comic strip is certainly silly and poorly drawn it also brings to light a valid concern: Where are the jobs?  Young people are emerging from college to find a job market struggling and completely inundated with older, more experienced professionals competing with them for the same jobs.  Young college graduates have always filled the entry-level positions in the job market; i.e., the roles that require little to no industry experience, only a college degree.  However now, thanks to a global economy in trouble and a national economy in the same straits, young college graduates are discovering that older, seasoned professionals with at least ten years more experience than they have are taking those entry-level positions!  This can be understandingly frustrating, especially since after a grace period of six months the college student must begin repaying his or her college tuition loans.

This is a situation tailor-made for the staffing agency.  Just as an actor, musician or model will hire a talent agency to find them work and represent their best interests, so too can you work with a staffing agency to help you find work and represent your best interests.  Enter Staff IT, Inc.  This boutique tech and IT staffing firm provides talented professionals to mid-market and Fortune 1000 companies, helping with project needs as well as permanent placements.  The advantages to working with such a firm are many, but the top three reasons are that the agency will negotiate the best possible salary or rate of pay for you, will bring to bear all of its search capabilities to find the work you were unable to find and they will do the leg work for you.  All you will have to do is make yourself available for telephone or in-person interviews.  For some advice on how to be terrific in an interview, look at our blog “The Art of Interviewing.” (http://tinyurl.com/5tg9lzz)

Yes, the jobs are there.  They may be more difficult to find and certainly more difficult to be selected for. However, they are there so you have that in your favor.  Be your best and commit yourself to success no matter what and when you finally look up you will be in a better place.

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Working From Home – Growing Business Trend

Dan Schrotter – Staff IT, Inc. (dschrotter@staffitinfo.com

Regina Lewis, AOL’s consumer advisor, said this morning on CBS’s The Early Show that “working from home is more prolific in America than ever but to be alert for scams, more so than ever before.” Regina is right, as usual. American business is finally beginning to follow the model of Alpine Access, a customer service and support solution provider. This little company realized just how much money could be saved by eliminating the need for an office – with an office you must pay rent, heat/cool it, have insurance for the office and also pay its utility bills. Alpine Access began allowing all of its customer service and administrative staff to telecommute! The hourly wage is probably a bit lower than if you were at a traditional office, but then the morning commute just became walking down the hall from your bedroom to your home office.

Many large companies are starting to see the benefits of operating remotely.  Many more work from home opportunities are available to the job seeker – AOL themselves have quite a few of work-from-home opportunities. But the job seeker must be tech-savvy. This is not the time to allow your printer to run dry of ink or to not have a dedicated landline or fax application on your computer. The operative word here is “seamless.” You want to make your experience working from home as similar as possible to working from a traditional office. Success is when someone says, after a length of time working with you, “I had no idea you were working from home!”

NEVER Send Money

A popular scam these days is to send work-from-home hopefuls a check, usually for a normal amount such as $1,000. The scam is when they instruct you to deposit their check, keep what you have earned and remit the remainder back to them, operating much like a draw at a car dealership. You deposit their $1,000 check and write them a check from your own account for the remainder – let’s say $250. Of course, their check bounces like a tennis ball but your check goes through and you lose money. They then move on to the next person. Bottom line: You should never be the first person to spend money. If they are legitimate they will NOT have “membership fees,” a “starting kit” (or at least one you pay for) or anything where you must send them money. Remember who works for whom. This may be a bit crude but you will do well to remember the old adage – if it smells like poo it probably is poo.

Helpful Tips:

  • Utilize Google – often companies or entities that behave poorly get poor reviews from prior victims and these can be found online. Type “[name of company] consumer complaints” and see what you can find.
  • Utilize the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.com). Not only will you be able to see if the company is legitimate (if they are listed with the BBB) but also what rating they have. If their consumer rating hovers around an “F,” best to rethink working with them.
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I, myself, was nearly tricked by an unscrupulous fellow who said I was to act as a “secret shopper” and that I would be paid by direct deposit… but first I had to give a voided check so they had my bank information and sign a release. Um… no?

Good luck out there, keep your head up and remember, still the best way to fast track your being employed again is to visit a reputable staffing agency. It is always better to have people on your side, working with you to help you achieve success.

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The Internet and the Job Seeker – Yesterday and Today

by Dan Schrotter, Staff I.T.

I think we all can remember scouring the want ads in our local newspaper to find interesting job advertisements, then calling the number provided and arranging to either fax a resume or come in for an interview. Depending on what you were looking for and the variety within that given newspaper you could expect to find four to five ads to reply to. If you bought three or four different area papers you might then expect to see fifteen to twenty ads to respond to. This is not a great deal of variety. However, this is what job seekers typically did.

Since the advent and rapid growth of the Internet, however, job seekers are exposed to more jobs – and industries – than ever before. Using well-known sites such as Careerbuilder, Jobs.com, SimplyHired, Yahoo and Monster, applicants can submit their prepared resume with a cover letter to hundreds of companies per day. These sites are databases of information, storing and listing thousands of companies and their respective jobs for applicants to submit their resume to. In addition, if an applicant cares to spend a little time to learn, these career matching sites will teach you ways to write a good resume, they will teach you tips to having a good interview and especially how to most efficiently use their career match site! Applicants have more advantages than ever, and this is more important than ever given the especially challenging job market of today (see our blog post, “Getting the Interview – Standing Out to Employers in a Darwinian Job Market”).

With the national unemployment rate hovering at ten percent (remember, that is approximately 31 million people based on the 2010 census) it is understandable why the job market is so tough. In a rare reversal of roles, companies now find themselves with a bounty of qualified applicants to choose from, and believe me they do indeed choose the very best. Qualifications that might have at least gotten you an interview 2 years ago now won’t even get you a return phone call. This is part of the reason why applicants should seriously consider using a staffing agency to help them to find a job (see our blog post, “Networking: Advantages of Using Staffing Agencies”). The agency has the resources and manpower to drive a targeted search among companies that have come to them for employees, not the other way around.

With Washington recently agreeing to generously extend unemployment benefits to a struggling, suffering populace and a President doing everything he can think of to jump-start the economy and create jobs for the jobless it is a godsend that we have the Internet in its current form. With more exposure to more careers than ever, the Internet has created and then opened so many doors for job seekers that did not exist before its inception.

There is one more benefit that the Internet has brought to the job seeker that never existed before its creation: Online education. Thought by some to be a ripoff, thought by some to be a waste of time and money, online education has seen a massive expansion in the past ten years. Many people now are switching careers or are building on an existing one and a very effective way to accomplish this is by gaining an education or building upon an existing degree.

 Many traditional, “brick and mortar” schools now offer an online option for some or all of the credits needed for the degree. Even more online-only schools have emerged, having no traditional campus – their main office typically is just that, an office. Run remotely, proctors and instructors engage the students in easy-to-use discussion forums, issue e-books that are provided in PDF form and some even offer live, real-time lectures viewed as webcasts so the students can see and hear the instructor.

You might scoff and say an online education doesn’t compare to actually going to college and if you were lucky enough to do that then kudos to you. However, if you are a single mother forced to work forty hours or more a week then take care of children or if you are an adult who went to college for something completely unrealistic and now wishes to upgrade their career but lacks time to go to school then the option of attending an online college might be something to consider. You attend “class” when you have time and are given a weekly due date in the syllabus to submit your work for grading. Go to class at 11 P.M., it really doesn’t matter when. That is something you cannot do in a traditional college forum.

As with anything else on the Internet, be careful. The Internet is not a risk-free tool and it can ruin your day as fast as it can help make it. Anything promising too much or anything that seems too good to be true generally is. Work-from-home jobs are such a trap. I have only seen ONE that was a legitimate ad and that was for a terrific company called Alpine Access. The company chose to drastically lessen their overhead and now allows their nationwide customer service reps to telecommute. Yes, the pay is lower by a dollar or so an hour but then again you can go to work in your bathrobe. (www.alpineaccess.com/en/apply) Unfortunately most career matching sites like Careerbuilder list bogus work from home jobs. A very good way to tell is if they tell you that you must pay them a fee for an “application packet.” If you are dumb enough to pay then you will find you have no job still and are about a hundred dollars lighter than before.

Bottom line: Use Google (another gift from the Internet to the job seeker). See if a company or a college has received complaints and, if so, how many complaints and for what. Typically, online colleges receive complaints from dropouts who failed and are upset. College is hard to begin with – having the discipline to do it online is even harder for some. Disregard these complaints. Complaints that the degree, once earned, is not accepted by employers is a concern. Complaints about companies generally come from estranged former employees who were either laid off or terminated. However, keep an eye open for customers who take the time to report a case of misuse, fraud or abuse by the company and look at their rating with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.com).  Last, if you have a very bad feeling that persists it is sometimes wisest to trust your instincts, and in that you are using Man’s earliest fraud detection tool to navigate one of His newest tools, the Internet.

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The Dreaded Holiday Hiring Slump – What Is Really Going On

by Dan Schrotter, Staff I.T., Inc.

According to Phil Rosenberg of reCareered.com, the holiday hiring slump is by no means a regular occurrence. Quite the opposite. There are some years, yes, when companies simply are not hiring anyone during the months of October, November and December. However there have also been several years in which companies did not slow down one bit during these final three months and continued hiring people.

Why do companies do this? Some people bitterly claim it is because all of the H.R. managers, hiring managers and staffing agency people are too busy getting boozed up at holiday parties and having too much fun. I can personally attest that this is NOT the case, not by any means. If anything, October November and December are the busiest times of the year for lots of companies!

Remember, in business the year is divided into quarters. These are normally called Quarter One (Q1), Quarter Two (Q2), Quarter 3 (Q3) and Quarter 4 (Q4). Normally companies also like to complicate things further and adhere to a fiscal calendar, meaning a financial calendar, that matches no calendar known to Man. Instead it is their very own calendar that is tied into when they distribute budgets to their various departments and divisions.

Q4 normally is the end of the year for most companies – their fiscal calendar may have them ending their fiscal year on December 28 instead of the 31st – and so as a result many companies are frantically trying to close all their accounts and balance all of their accounts.  The last thing that most of these people have on their mind is hiring new people and having to train them. In addition, budgets usually are not distributed until the first Quarters of the new year! If a hiring manager has no idea how much budget he or she has to work with then how can they be expected to hire people and guarantee them a set salary?

Keep applying. Even if they don’t call in December, if you are persistent and polite enough you may find yourself with an interview in the very beginning of January!

A very happy and SAFE Turkey Day to everyone and let’s all find something to be thankful for.

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