Getting Civilly Served: Jobs in Your Local Government Offices

I get these questions pretty regularly, like, “How do I ‘get in’ to working for the city – government – my local municipality?”

The short answer: apply to jobs with an amazing cover letter & resume filled with experience relevant to the position, and take civil service exams appropriate to your experience and what you’d like to do. Civil service jobs are generally long term careers that may take weeks to years to obtain – but then they tend to be the kind of jobs you can stay in until you retire.

I’m not saying due to the current financial state of the US government & related jobs are all secure – but no jobs are.

To see exam info check the website of whatever area you want to work in (posted a few months in advance of offering date, be sure you’re free!) or there are some that are walk-in. Usually exams tend to be offered on Saturdays, but you can have it moved with a  letter from a religious leader if needed (I’ve done it a bunch of times). Then they push it off to the Sunday following the exam generally.

For all US: http://www.usajobs.gov

For a pretty large list of local NY State government exams, see: http://www.labor.ny.gov/stats/cslist.shtm

For NYC DCAS Exam info & online application are here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/employment/civilservice_exams.shtml

Town of Hempstead, Nassau County: http://toh.li/civil-service-commission/examination-announcements

Suffolk County, Long Island: https://apps.suffolkcountyny.gov/civilservice/Efiling/Default.aspx

*Working smarter tip: If you plan to apply to numerous exams for jobs, save your job responsibilities & info to a word or excel doc you can cut & paste from. When you apply to additional exams it does not save your info (yes even though you need to make a login), and it will save you a lot of unnecessary typing.

Each position has minimum requirements that you must meet, some may be physical, experience, education or residency requirements of a certain length when you apply for the position – otherwise you’re out your registration money. They don’t generally refund you if you don’t qualify and will notify you by mail a few weeks later  – or they may just not put you on the list, even if you’ve taken the exam.

Exams vary in cost, but I believe they’re all under $100, which is an incredible investment if you can do well on a timed multiple choice test, since one year after appointment you get “permanency” which is more job security than you’ll get anywhere else. The salaries aren’t the most incredible, but are strong for non-profits, and the benefits & early retirement are great. 55-60ish retirement with a pension? You won’t find that too many other places nowadays.

What if you have disabilities? They offer a lot of accommodations, so don’t be alarmed about the test part, look into if they can accommodate you or if you can get an exemption to get on a list without an exam.

What if you can’t afford the fee? If you qualify for certain government benefits, you may be able to get the fee reduced or waived.

Where do I find New York City jobs listed? Don’t expect to memorize this website:

http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.c000402d63e84407a62fa24601c789a0/index.jsp?cf01pg=1&cf01sz=10

What are the next steps?

The lists of people who passed the exam are ranked (first by score, then by last 4 digits of your social security #). Then when there are vacancies agencies will call you when they have an opening for an interview. Expect very short notice, usually a few days in advance. You’ll be asked to bring a lot of ID, degrees, proof of employments potentially etc. I believe this is all part of the interview process. If you can’t get your act together quickly, you’re out the opportunity.

The lists can take years, generally about 2, until they are released & names get called, so this is a plan to get a long term permanent career – not the way to go if you need a job next week/month.

Good luck!

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What’s in it for YOU: 5 Gains of Helping Others Find Jobs

Filtering to Gain Social Network Value

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

Even though most of the time people don’t even say thank you for sending them a job (unless they get it), and even more often they won’t actually apply – take a few minutes a day when you see opportunities for others and forward them on or share them with your social network.

Although this has always been an obvious one to me, there are a lot of benefits of helping others in any capacity – but for today let’s focus on helping someone find a job or better job than they currently have. I’m sure every person reading this knows at least one person, if not many who are out of work or who are underemployed currently.

Also, especially those out of work: while you’re surfing job boards, when you see interesting jobs that aren’t for you, why not take 30 seconds to send it to a friend or to tweet them to bring them to other people’s attention? I’ve helped countless people find jobs this way.

Let’s review a few of these perks so maybe you’ll feel encouraged (or guilty enough) to help someone else.

1. Financial benefit. Many companies offer referral bonuses, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Generally this comes a few months after the person is hired & passes a ‘probation period’, but usually you’ll see a check at some point for helping that friend of a friend get a job in a different department at your place of work.

*Always check your company’s policy – some require that you submit a resume before a person does on their own in order for you to be credited, so don’t tell them to apply online until you know how you can gain from their potential hire.

2. Moral benefit. You just did something good for someone else. You’re not a terrible person at this second for a tangible reason. Now pat yourself on the back and do it again. Do unto others….as they say.

3. Reciprocal benefit. A recruiter once told me something along the lines of that recruiters never have trouble finding a job & always know about new opportunities before others. Why? Because people remember that you helped them, and oft will return the favor one day. While yes it’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of act to do, you never know when you’ll end up on the beneficial end.

4. Social benefit. It’s a great way to make friends. Networked with someone new? Help them find a new role and you just may end up friends (at least on linkedin) for life.

Your child’s best friend’s father was just laid off & will have to relocate the family if they don’t find a job. You help them find a local career, and voila, you just saved your child’s social life and a whole lot of family drama.

Don’t have kids? Perhaps if you find a job for someone within your community or within a cause you both support they’ll be able to contribute more to the cause which will benefit you (because hey, what cause or community doesn’t need money nowadays?)

5. Brownie points. While not a tangible thing necessarily, HR will remember you as that person who helped them find someone for that really hard to  fill role. Referred someone to work for a nonprofit you saw was hiring online? You never know when they’ll look you up to thank you or offer you to join them as well.

So these are just a few of the benefits, and I’m lucky enough to have gained them all from helping various people over the years. It’s even how I found my current job. Try it to today, and share what you gain by it. You have nothing to lose.

The Paranoid Resumes of Paranoid Candidates

FBI Badge & gun.

Image via Wikipedia

I know I’m always telling people what not to put on their resume. Now I’ll focus on what you do need on your resume not to appear a paranoid candidate – or like you’re more interested in protecting yourself from identity theft than getting a job.

Use your discretion on sites where you upload your resume. Depending on their security, amount of access the public or shady employers have to your info might limit what you want to include.

Thanks CareerBuilder, but when I uploaded my resume I did not want to be recruited for 1) The US Army 2) Shady work from home scams or 3) Commission only entry level sales positions.

  1. Full name. Yes, I’ve seen resumes with just a first name. It’ll make people wonder what else you’re hiding.
  2. Email address – you will appear out of touch with technology if you don’t have one.
  3. Phone number you’re at during normal business hours – cell ideally – some companies still always call candidates first – so if they can’t get in touch with you easily, they’ll find someone they can reach.
  4. Home address is a debatable one. I recommend it especially if your phone area code is not a local one or if you most recent position was out of town/state/country. Otherwise I don’t think it’s necessary. No one is mailing you anything. I personally do not keep my address on my resume, but were I to move to a swanky prestigious building I’d add it then 😉
  5. Sterile information – your job responsibilities should not sound like anyone could have done them anywhere. Unless you worked for the FBI or in a similar level of confidentiality, you can’t be discreet about what you did. If you can’t disclose where you did it, list employer as, “Confidential, USA” or similar. If you legally can’t even mention what you did, you’re probably better off leaving the position off your resume, and for the years employed there, note that it is confidential – don’t try to make it sound like you did ‘important things, somewhere’.  Same goes for university – yes it’s fine to be polite and refer to your attendance at Harvard at social events as , “I went to school in Boston,” so as not to come across as pretentious, but on your resume is not the time to be humble.

Components of a ‘Talent’ Profile

So what does the known ‘Talent’ pool have on their resume that you may not?

Now I know this all must sounds cynical, and you’ll probably roll your eyes at half of these. I’m not saying even one of them is necessary to be a talented worker or leader – these are just some of my observations of what I see most valued in the business world.

Have most of these, and recruiters will be banging down your door begging to make a commission off of you.

  1. Advanced degree(s) from top school(s) with honors or top GPA (btw, rumor has it that Brown & Dartmouth are out of style, albeit ivy)
  2. Political experience of some kind – even internships are valued
  3. Accomplishments galore in monetary terms, with exact impressive figures
  4. Management of huge (million to billion) budgets
  5. Impressive do-gooder credentials from when you did your B.A. or right after (i.e. peace corps, americorps, red cross, teach for America, unicef, UN work, humanitarian aid to 3rd world country, etc.)
  6. Design major programs or initiatives that people have heard of
  7. Consultant experience. Not the kind that was between jobs like, “Principal of Sharon’s Consultancy.” I mean some time at a top consulting firm (Bane, McKinsey, BGC, Parthenon…)
  8. Progressively impressive titles (i.e. analyst, project manager, special asst. to someone in a very high place, deputy director, director, etc.)
  9. Posh extra curricular’s & hobbies – polo, marathon running, ballet, triathalons, international backpacking
  10. Old money neighborhood or trendy address ideal
  11. Awards/fellowships: specific ones in your professional arena, fullbrights, broad scholars, etc.
  12. Study & travel abroad, preferably somewhere prestigious
  13. Professional affiliations – may be required depending on field
  14. Impressive buzz words in proper context, not just in white font for SEO on applicant systems: organizational strategy, dedicated, managed, financial analysis, advisory board, researched, pioneered, chaired (or at least co-chaired), strategic planning,  gates, dell or other large donor procurement, implementation, process improvement design, blah blah blah…
  15. Impressive companies or foundations to have worked for – big names make people happy

The War for Talent Has Lazy Soldiers

Cover of "The War for Talent"

Cover of The War for Talent

Well for those unfamiliar with the ‘War for Talent’ – start with this wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_war_for_talent.

Next – how and why I disagree with the overall idea that ‘Talent’ is really limited to so few people.

I’m not going to say that everyone is competent at their jobs, willing to always give 100%, go beyond what is asked of them, and lead others well – but I also don’t believe that everyone with this potential has been discovered already and only those at the management level of top of companies have it.

Lots of smart talented people are always looking for work. The issue seems to be that companies feel there are only ‘so many’ talented people, and they are the coveted platinum of hires that everyone wants.

But that’s known talent. Those are the stars with perfect resumes who have already been discovered. It’s easier to poach another company’s rising star than it is to find someone with executive potential that hasn’t had senior level roles yet, one who went to an average college or who took time off of work for a few years to raise her children. If someone has a lackluster resume when applying to a position, they get deleted. Hiring managers and recruiters aren’t losing sleep at night thinking, “Did I delete potential talent from the candidate pool today?”

If talent is defined by brains, flexibility, dedication to company mission, and willingness & ability to exceed expectations – who says that you don’t have it, just because you haven’t used it for a company yet?

No one, I suppose. Do you think you have that undiscovered talent the business world is looking for? I think I do, for one. And those that I meet networking often feel the same way when they ask me to consider working for their company. But as soon as they ask me to send over a resume, I know I’m pretty much finished if they’re not desperate to hire.

So how does one become recognizable talent from their resume? Stay tuned for a later post, I’ll try to chart out office superstar resumes as a whole – what they have that you (and I) are lacking.

What Not to Wear to Work

Bill Gates in business-casual attire.

Via Wikipedia - Gates in (Nerdy) Business Casual

I recently remarked to my husband that I wish I could wear PJ’s to work or something equally as comfortable. He said the only socially acceptable way to do this is if we move to Staten Island or New Jersey. But what about all the other people in the office who are wearing things I wouldn’t paint my house in?

I’m not saying my office per se, but in general lines have blurred when it comes to what’s appropriate to wear to an office. I think the suits-only companies left are few and far between – primarily high-end law & accounting firms. I’m sure there may be others, but generally most offices have taken the ‘business casual’ or plain old ‘causal’ workforce attire.

Casual

Anything goes, and if you wear a suit people will assume you’re going for an interview somewhere else after work – unless the head honcho is in town. That doesn’t even apply if you work for a start-up or trendy DUMBO place – the CEO’s there probably are wearing their hipster faded jeans too.

Business Casual   

The ultimate of gray areas. When people ask me what that means at interviews, I generally say, “No jeans, sweats, sneakers, t-shirts, large logo’s, or workout wear – and anything else goes.” What does it really mean in an office environment? It means 3 people in the same exact position & salary – one will be in a collared shirt, tie and slacks. The next guy will be in flip flops, shorts, and a t-shirt. The third person will be in a head-to-toe ed hardy or similar design/logo-covered sweat suit with expensive sneakers. Depending on where you work is how much will fly causally.

Business Attire

AKA suits. Or at least a shirt and tie with a jacket perpetually on the back of your chair. The ladies get to mix it up with either pencil skirts or pants. It is expected that your clothing is tailored to fit you. You should look and act like a professional.

Dress-down Fridays?

I’ve seen the flip flops with shorts in one department of a company on a Friday, where a different department a supervisor remarked, “I couldn’t help but notice you were wearing jeans on Friday…” When in Rome…even if there is a dress-down policy in some departments, it may not apply to all. Take a hint from what your supervisor wears. Also if you have an important meeting on a Friday, that’s a good reason to dress well anyway.

Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have

This is old advice that many have lived by, and I’ve seen it work successfully. It may come across as awkward if you have a large divide in what the next level of administration up from you wears, i.e. if you’re level dresses casually as call takers, but the supervisors wear suits, it might seem weird if you walk in suddenly one day and going forward in suits. I suggest taking it up one step, but never over-dress. If the boss doesn’t wear a tie or suit, you shouldn’t either. It doesn’t mean that you have to go casual. Wear sleek, classic styles that would make you stand out from the jeans crowd, but not peg you as someone trying too hard.

Dress = Atmosphere

Business clothing brings with it the ‘business’ atmosphere. You wouldn’t yell out, “Who wants to come for pizza with me for lunch?” in a business environment. But if everyone’s dressed casually, why not? I saw an article featuring a start-up that had clothing for the start-up CEO. Yes, I’m serious. It was basically very overpriced durable hipster suit jackets to be worn with jeans and collared shirts. The craziest part? All the comments left on the article were either commending the company – that it’s so hard to figure out what to wear when you don’t want to overdress – but also don’t want to be the brunt of ‘Zuckerberg’ jokes because he’s still wearing sweats with flip flops a few billion later.

Then women got in on it in the comments section – like how men don’t need $400 suit jackets to wear with jeans – women do! That the men are all wearing collared shirts & jeans – but what do the women wear to look put together but casual, and still get taken seriously?

The women were jealous and were hoping this company would do a women’s line. Wow. All I could think was that uniforms are great. That high-paid executives, even business owners, have trouble presenting themselves with clothing – and wouldn’t it be easier to take out all the guessing?

Even if the uniform is black suit, light colored shirt, at least you won’t have to spend hours guessing what’s appropriate for work that day!

So in conclusion  –  know that whatever you wear will be judged in your place of employment. It may never be expressed to you, but the overall impression your coworkers and superiors have of you will be largely based on your appearance. Yep we’re that superficial, now you know – don’t pretend you don’t.

Wearing beach clothes to work is fine if you’re in a dead-ended job and plan to burn your bridges with them on your way out – but if you even think you might want to use them as a reference for your next ‘real job’ – dress up a bit more.

You have nothing to lose except a little comfort. Go get into your t-shirt as soon as you get home, pop open a cold beer, and return to being the unprofessional sloth you really are deep down inside. At least this way no one at work will ever be on to it, and you’ll have a professional reputation!

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Top 10 Things to Never Put on Your Resume

Resume infographic

Image by Bart Claeys via Flickr

 

  1. Age, date of birth, words like young, youthful. Nothing can be gained by sharing this info other than giving the hiring manager a laugh.
  2. Marital/family/partner status. Sharing this info can make the employer uncomfortable and afraid to pursue you as a candidate as that they cannot take this into consideration legally.
  3. What year you started your degree. It doesn’t matter how many years it took – just the date you finished or anticipate to finish – unless you graduated over 15 years ago – in that case remove graduation date too.
  4. Social Security number or other confidential info if not asked for. You don’t want your resume to be thought of as something that has to be shredded or an opportunity for identity theft.
  5. Current or past salary & benefits. It looks tacky, no matter what the quantity of money made was. If an employer asks for it, include it subtly in the cover letter.
  6. Pictures or physical characteristics. Unless it’s a response to a shady ad or for modeling, it shouldn’t be requested either. Studies have shown very attractive can actually hurt your chance of getting a callback.
  7. Anything negative. Your resume should be a showcase of what amazing things you’ve done, and what amazing things you can do. Especially important not to have anything negative about past companies or coworkers.
  8. Why you left your job(s). Again, if asked, put it subtly in the cover letter. This emphasizes leaving companies, not an impression you want to create.
  9. Explanations for breaks in your resume. Highlight what you did in those breaks if substantial (include relevant volunteering or education breaks perhaps) but in no way should anything about personal issues or economy be brought in. Do not indicate you were sick, caring for a sick family member or took a child leave, do not say you were laid off and couldn’t find anything for three years. You want to give a positive feeling, and an impression that work is your #1 priority at all times.
  10. Grammatical or formatting errors. I know word does a lot for you, but no one will be as impressed by collages as they are by college. Not that patchwork isn’t pretty…but you need to carefully comb your resume for errors and print it to see how it looks formatted.