BAN the BOX: EEOC in Action

During a recent showcase/job fair, I had the pleasure of meeting K-Duck who was released from prison nine years ago. He was convicted for possession of three ounces of marijuana. Needless to say, his one mistake as a teenager has been a haunting presence on every step.

K-Duck asked about the best way to deal with the employment application question: Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

No doubt, honesty is the best bet, even if it lessens the odds of getting hired. With this, I quickly remembered what former President George W. Bush said: “America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”

Could America be the land of second chances and forgiveness?

When it comes to individuals who have been arrested and/or convicted, the rubber does not meet the road as former President Bush passively blew hot air toward the general masses. Ando how we all breathed it in.

Given the unequal ratio between the races, all talk and no walk leads to frustration and eventual revolution. Then again, it appears most of America leans heavily on social inebriation and an “I don’t give a flying ____” attitude when it comes to giving chances to those who have slipped and now need help. Consider the alternative: 50% of those released remain unemployed and a result that half return to prison within three years. Think this has something to do with the lack of support on all ends?

Is this the America, the land of second chance, President Bush was referring to?

Employers legally discriminate by using “The Box” employment application question. According to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, 92 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on some or all job applicants, up from 51 percent in 1996 and more than two-thirds of states allow hiring and professional-licensing decisions to be made on the basis of an arrest alone.

This is worth a repeat, arrests can be used to deny professional licensing.

K-Duck, and the millions like him, will continue to struggle unless legal and societal change happens. Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently (last week) issued an updated guidance on employers’ use of arrest and conviction records when making employment decisions. For those not knowing what “The Box” represents, here’s the scoop: it is a hiring policy used to exclude anyone (and everyone) without contest. In this case, the blanket hiring ban targets those with an arrest/conviction.

Why would the EEOC get involved and tell employers who they can or cannot hire? Boiling it down to a single factor, “The Box” violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by actively banning minorities. Then again, don’t take my word for it, let’s get a few facts on the table:

  • An estimated 65 million United States Adults have criminal records
  • One in 29 adults in the United States was either incarcerated or on probation or parole
  • While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group, the figure is one in nine

    According the latest EEOC statistics, 1 in 17 white men are expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime, compared with 1 in si6x Hispanic men, and 1 in 3 African-American men. Going one step further, banning based upon an arrest effects minorities disproportionately… fair or not, the truth is the truth.

    Bottom line: the EEOC recommends that employers should not disqualify a candidate because of an arrest or conviction. Employers still are within their right to perform background checks but they should consider the “nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job” when making a hiring decision. Kudos to putting pressure… now it’s our turn to level the employment field.

    Think one voice can’t change the world? Think again, the EEOC recently settled with Pepsi over their use of a blanket exclusion policy and is currently investigating more than 100 claims of job discrimination based on criminal background checks.

    Fair or not, those individuals who have slipped and are planning to secure a job, know that getting beyond a blanket ban will be difficult. But it can be done. Think about the company and the many values you bring. Recognize that employers are looking for candidates who can get the job done and those who can be trusted. Being loyal, committed to company goals, and going above job responsibilities will push you toward career advancement.

    First step is to develop material that portrays your skills, knowledge, and abilities as an asset. There are effective ways to present you well, even under challenging circumstances. We will review some of these methods but would like your know about your challenges and how best to overcome the blocks standing in the way.

    Going back to K-Duck’s question about what to do: don’t mislead any potential employer. If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination, document and take your concerns to the proper authorities. Your voice can be heard and can make a huge difference not only for you but for millions in the shadow.

    If you have questions and would like career-related insight or books including, “Overcoming Career Barriers: Mission Possible, visit our website (www.edu-cs.com) or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).

    For additional assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com.

    Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
    www.educationcareerservices.com
    Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

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Career Breakout: To Bump or NOT to Bump

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking part in a mock interview workshop. Students from a local college had the opportunity to engage in a real-life setting as they prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation in June. Not to worry, what I have to say will hit home, student or not.

Though there are many issues needing attention, for the sake of time, I am going to address two common interview pet-peeves: shoes and the fist bump.

The topic of shoes was not openly discussed or appeared to be on anyone’s mind. Actually this was rather obvious as most of the students seemed to misplace the importance of what goes on the foot. To be blunt, shoes do play an important role in your appearance and can be a factor in NOT getting a second interview invite.

For the ladies, shoes should be professional and conservative in nature. There are hiring executives who will not look favorably on five-inch heels sporting poorly painted nails. As one who has interviewed many over the years, one of the first things I notice happens to be what covers the feet.

Make sure the shoes match the outfit and if you are wearing open-ended shoes, complete the package with a nice pedicure. You definitely don’t want dirty toes to leave a dusty impression.

Career tip: If you don’t want the job, wear slides or tennis shoes.

For the fellas, you have no choice. Business shoesnothing else will do. Don’t even think about loafers, tennis shoes, or boots. Your business shoes must match the suit (yes, you will be wearing a suit). Wearing brown shoes with a dark blue suit will not do. Speaking from experience, those who bear dusty or non-polished shoes may be axed before three steps in the door.

At the end of several mock interviews, the topic of a hand shake or fist bump was brought up. I have one word for those considering a fist bump: Really?

At the conclusion of any formal meeting, the appropriate gesture remains a formal hand shake. The hand shake should be firm (not overly aggressive unless you are interviewing to be a wrestler and not too loose unless you are interviewing to work in a carnival as the person handing out creepy feelings).

Make sure the firm hand shake is not laced with sweat and lasts about two seconds. You definitely don’t want to make the other person uncomfortable with a sloppy five second shake that seems to last an hour.

Career tip: If you bump, you lose.

The mock interview session confirmed that many people simply do not know how to interview effectively. Unfortunately for those qualified, simple mistakes can ruin the chance of a job offer. Ultimately if you have questions and must make a choice, choose on the side of conservatism. Always be professional in what you do, what you say, and what you wear. Nothing could be simpler, yet few follow.

If you have questions and would like career-related insight, including how to ace the interview, ECS offers cutting-edge books and workbooks designed to give you a competitive edge. Throughout the pages, prepare yourself with hard hitting questions, truths, activities, samples, and proven strategies to improve your career station. For additional information, go to our storefront page on our website (www.edu-cs.com) or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).

For additional assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Career Breakout: Shy? DON’T PANIC

We recently received a question from Keith who is having issues getting the word out. He is worried that his introverted nature is holding him back from a professional career. Granted, shielding yourself in the background can be detrimental to your progression, but it’s not the end all. Besides, there are ways to get noticed even the shyest can overcome.

“I’m an admitted introvert who has trouble speaking and acting natural, am I out of luck?”
Keith Mazoni

First step in any direction is defining key terms and then finding solutions to the any blocking issues. With that in mind, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), introverts:

  • Enjoy time alone
  • Consider only deep relationships as friends
  • Feel drained after outside activities, even if they were fun
  • Are often good listeners
  • Appear calm and self-contained
  • Think then speak or act

Looking at the list and you probably see yourself having many (or all) of the characteristics. After all, who doesn’t think before speaking or acting out (Dwight Howard excluding) or consider themselves to be a good listener? Guess, by definition, we are all introverts (to an extent).

Now let’s take a quick moment and look at the list below. Do you recognize any of the people on it. Make sure to keep count for yourself…

  • Albert Einstein
  • Al Gore
  • Bill Gates
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Warren Buffett 

The above are all famous introverts, so there’s no reason to feel like you have no chance at owning a successful, professional career; unless, of course, you limit yourself from having one.

While introverts are just as hirable as extroverts, the latter are more inclined to the two most important aspects of a career search: networking and interviewing. Because both are intended to be highly social activities, you may feel uncomfortable or even frightened to participate in either.

It’s not easy, speaking to people you don’t know. Come to think of it, I must also be a classic introvert… Look for me at the next networking event; I’ll be the one standing alone in the corner, hiding.

I won’t beat around the bush, you have to make networking and interviewing two of your chief skill sets, especially considering they may make you nervous or frightened. I won’t lie; it’s going to take a lot of work and practice on your end, so let’s get started.

Career Tip: You need to participate in networking.

Networking involves creating and maintaining a list of contacts with other career professionals in your industry. Ideally, these professionals who can (and will) help you identify job opportunities, keep up-to-date with current trends and changes in your industry, and even be used as references. As an introvert, this may seem like a daunting task, but the key is to start small and build up.

Social/electronic networking is ideal for the introvert. With sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, the ability to meet and introduce your skills and many valuable contributions can be done without leaving the house.

Career Tip: When going the electronic route, professional courtesy rules.

As for interviewing, it’s all about being prepared and having plenty of practice. When in doubt, practice answering basic interview questions in front of the mirror or with family members. One of the most important interview questions that set the stage is: “Tell me about yourself.” Here’s a clue, the person asking does not want to hear about your personal life, he or she wants to know the many benefits you offer.

Candidates tend to get nervous during interviews because they go in unprepared. Research the company, any competing companies, the products, and always know the company mission statement. Knowing the basics proves you done your work… a great advantage over the majority of candidates forgetting the research step.

Going back to practicing and being prepared, ask a friend or family to conduct a mock interview with you, asking questions directly related to the job posting and company. During your mock interview session, don’t just think about what you would say… say it. The human brain works in such a way that routine activities are recalled more naturally than foreign ones (ever heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect?”).

To directly get back to Keith, you’re not at a disadvantage at all by being an introvert. Think of it as a challenge that will better ground you as a career professional. Are you ready to put the work in? Besides, look at the crowd you happen to be in… a crowd of extremely successful introverts who are forever remembered for their many contributions.

For more articles on how to handle networking and the interview process, visit Education Career Services at edu-cs.com, search Amazon (Danny at ECS), or follow us on Twitter @dannyatecs.

Written by Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services

Career Breakout: Artistic Representation and the Sell

Though on the surface the resemblance may be unclear, the connection tying the selling of art is directly related to career management. Professional relationships between buyer and seller or employer and employee, involves a great number of factors. What happens when disconnects occur, morphing positives into negatives?

Artists Square’s member Rhonda Newhook expands on the concept of undesirable persuasion in artistic transactions by responding to the following questions asked by a member of our audience.

“As an artist, is it easy to deter someone from buying a painting that they love by your actions or words? If so, how do you think an artist should represent themselves or their work?”

Persuasion in Transactions

As an artist who paints not just for herself, but to share her inner visions with the world, the necessity of actually selling my work has become an experience which brings a commingled sense of joy and tension.

On the one hand, I find myself thrilled that this person whom I have never met is interested in actually paying money for the privilege of owning the fruits of my brush. On the other, I have come to realize that I cannot help but ponder upon the reasons why they are desirous of the purchase in the first place, and by extension, wrestle mentally with the possibility that I might not approve of their intentions towards my work once it becomes their property.

Career Tip: Accepting a job offer means accepting the corporate culture, attitudes, ethics, and intentions. In other words, make sure you don’t join a team that goes against your moral and ethical principles.

Perhaps I am not being too clear upon my meaning here. You may be wondering ‘how does one have undesirable intentions towards a piece of art?’ It would seem a valid question, and it comes with an answer which is only fully understandable when it is your own creation to which the price tag is attached.

Imagine pouring your heart and soul upon a canvas to create a vision of which you are proud to offer for sale, and when a serious buyer offers up the desired amount you are told the painting was intended to serve as an art-class example of what a painting ‘should not be’. Or worse yet, they want to add their own “finishing touches” to your completed work. I have seen both happen, but not to me personally.

Insulting to think of, is it not? What would you do in such a situation? I know what I do. I call it negative persuasion.

Career Tip
: Working environment plays a huge factor in your psychological state; in order to increase job satisfaction, ensure mutual respect is part of the environment.

Negative persuasion is a technique I use in order to talk a potential buyer out of a potential purchase of my art.  I do this when I do not feel right about letting that particular person obtain a small shard of my soul in the form of my art. Maybe I feel uncomfortable about their intentions toward the piece, (as aforementioned), or sometimes even when I just get a negative vibe from their personality and judge that they are not worthy of my work, regardless of any offered remuneration.  Negative persuasion is my saving grace when their money cannot purchase my peace of mind.

Career Tip: If you feel an intense sense of negativism during interviews, you may want to reconsider the desire to be part of the company; after all, rough estimates claim that over 75% of all employees are not satisfied with their current job… if possible, prevent yourself from being in that number.

When it comes to selling art, the process of not accepting the offer is both simple and difficult to teach and employ. In essence, you are changing their mind, or ‘talking them out of it’. How you do this, though, will by necessity be different in each arising case. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is very difficult.

The trick is to not make your desire to change their mind too obvious. To do it well, you must make them think that it was they themselves, and not you, who changed their minds about the purchase. I guess that the easiest way to explain it is that negative persuasion is an art unto itself, and like any incarnation of art, it must be practiced to be mastered.

Career Tip: Don’t burn potential bridges by being rude or discourteous. If offered a position you don’t want to accept, reply with a professional letter informing the hiring manager of your decision. Doing nothing at all or ignoring an offer may come back to haunt during your job search.

Submitted by: Artist’s Square Member Rhonda Newhook. View her work at:
http://artists-square.com/m/photos/browse/album/RhondaNewhook-s-Visual-Art/owner/RhondaNewhook

Thank you Rhonda for your helpful insight.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Follow me @DannyatECS

Career Breakout: Returning to the Job Market

“For the last 8 years I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. It’s been so long since I’ve been in the job market. How can I get a job? Help!”
-Jill DeLano

This week we received a question from Jill that is common in career management, chances are you (or someone you know) is in the same situation as Jill. Years ago you decided to start a family… but now that your kids are older, how can you get back in the swing of things?

There is a process to returning to the job market but realize a great deal of research, self-analysis, and preparation forms the core of a successful career reintegration.

You are not alone, don’t get frustrated, and never give up or lose a positive attitude. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are over 5 million stay-at-home parents present within our country. Many women–even men–elect to put their career on hold to start a family. The trick to reentering the job market when the time comes is no different than when you first entered it… you have to be able and ready to show employers your value. It doesn’t matter how many years it’s been since you’ve worked, as long as you can prove your qualifications.

Career Tip: Though the world has changed (dramatically), concentrate of the VALUE you offer a company.

Can’t get around the fact you will most likely be asked about your gap in employment history during an interview. Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy, but don’t get too chatty and spill potential employer concerns.

Taking the initiative and desensitizing possible hesitations typically works in your favor. When applying for a job, use the cover letter as a means to address the gap. Take a moment to imagine what an employer is thinking: Can I count on this potential new hire to come to work as scheduled or will at-home responsibilities and issues prevent this… for example, a youngster with a fever equates to a no-show. In order to convince the hiring manager, project confidence in your career decision to stay at home with your children but also ensure your dedication to the workplace.

With that being said, there are methods to lessen the severity of an employment gap. Many professionals opt to construct a chronological resume that lists employment history by order of date… this is not for you and, in general, not the most effective format for any job seeker. Instead, learn how to construct a skills-based resume that highlights your skills, experience, and accomplishments before you had children.

The best way to show all of the above is by detailing accomplishments within a PAR structure: Problem, Action, and Result. This is a basic framework for displaying your skills and experience in a way that highlights the value you bring. Take, for example, a basic responsibility for many employees: answering phones…

     Problem: Large volume of callers, all needing to be answered
     Action: Quickly and efficiently directed incoming calls to appropriate work centers and staff
     Result: Minimized caller wait time

Now, you have a complete sentence displaying what the employer wants to know…

“Quickly and efficiently directed large volumes of incoming callers to appropriate work centers and staff, minimizing caller wait time.”

But we may be getting ahead of ourselves. You still need to find the appropriate position to apply for. Time for some bad news… finding a job may be easier if you limit yourself to the same industry and location (if possible) of your last held job.

Career Tip: Tap into your pre-existing network.

If you happen to still be friends with or kept in contact with previous co-workers, these are excellent individuals to network with. Ask them for an informational interview, perhaps over lunch. Have them explain to you how your industry has changed over the years. You’ll be surprised how many things can change over a short time span. The objective here is to prove to an employer that you are still relevant in your given industry.

If you would like additional information or assistance in any career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com. Cutting edge single topic career workbooks and complete career lifecycle books are available at our website (www.edu-cs.com) or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS).

Written By Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services

Career Breakout: Standing Out From the Crowd

In response to a common concern, Dianne Irene, college instructor, business owner, professional writer, and career expert, offers the following:

“More and more people are graduating with degrees. How can I stand out from the crowd when I have the same education as many others?”

Education is important, but remember that there are other factors to consider when marketing yourself for a position to a company. Considerations include experience, soft skills, attitude, overall presence, and how well you are prepared. Let’s break down the elements forming your total package.

Career Tip: Think of yourself a complete package of information and performance.

Experience

Experience represents a facet of your assets offering great benefits to a company. True enough, there are still some specializations that value experience over education, but don’t get discouraged if you lack years of industry-specific training. Rather than giving up, highlight your education and experience as a sign of your success with a certain skill or practice. The employer will then know you can indeed perform this skill again.

If you lack experience in a certain area, creating opportunities for your portfolio can be easier than some realize. For instance, internships allow you to practice skills and they can be completed in a short amount of time. Some internship opportunities are measured in hours or a matter of weeks. Also, volunteer work is a great way to practice skills AND put into practice soft skills that are essential to being a part of a team.

Soft Skills

Remember the last time you dealt with a business where the representative lacked soft skills. This probably left you with a negative feeling and may have also left a poor impression on that particular company. To ensure a positive impression, always conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Career Tip: Pay attention to the small details about others that you are interacting with. Watch their facial expressions, their body language, and the tone of their voice.

Attitude

A great attitude does have an effect on those who are exposed to it. Projecting a positive attitude is an essential part of presenting yourself to a company. Maintaining a positive attitude will also allow you to make yourself available to more opportunities.

Presence

Make sure that the obvious parts of how you present yourself are in order. Your hair and clothing should be professional and not distracting. However, you will want to remember the less obvious parts of your presence. Be sure to make eye contact, stand in good posture, and do not forget to smile at the appropriate times.

Preparation

Being prepared for your introduction to a company can be the difference between standing out from other candidates and blending in. When a company is required to interview many candidates, you will want to be memorable.

Do your research on the company. Know who the key people are and what the company has accomplished in the last 5 years. Be sure to research some of the areas of growth potential for the market that your company of interest is in.

Career Tip: If you are up to date on technology, market trends, and company culture then you will have the edge needed to make a memorable impression.

Conclusion

Remember that you are a complete package with many dimensions. Just having a strong education background will not be enough to compete in today’s highly competitive market. You will need to hone in on all of the aspects of what makes a great employee. Highlight your strengths and consider sharpening the things you lack before trying to make that first impression that may last an entire career.

Dianne, thank you for your career insight. The high level of knowledge is appreciated and will be taken advantage of by many of our readers. We look forward to more.

For additional information or assistance in any career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email us directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com. Cutting edge single topic career workbooks and complete career lifecycle books are available at our website (www.edu-cs.com) or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS).

Contributed by Dianne Irene