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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My Resume is a Worthless Piece of e-Paper

I’ll get personal today because a lot of career issues are common. Many people are unemployed, and stuck that way.

I hate my resume. I mean it is pretty, thanks to fabulous layout. I’ve done tons of interesting things. I’m on top of all new technologies, innovations, social media, and business news; and I’ve started two successful consultancies.  But that doesn’t necessarily get a person an interview request when you’re only submitting to the best places to work along with hundreds-thousands of other people.

I’m  always telling everyone – here’s what your resume should say, how it should say it, and what the overall feeling you get from it should be. But when you don’t like your resume?

You can’t always write a career summary that would explain your situation positively or in a way that would put you ahead of the person who majored in the right areas in school or who obtained and advance degree in an area you want to enter, who then went on to have only progressively responsible positions in your field, and has been in it for 10 years – not too many more or less.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do the job better that above said person – but on paper it’s obvious who gets chosen for the interview.  You haven’t managed large budgets? You haven’t managed large teams? Don’t have ‘accomplishments’ to brag about that don’t sound like, well, bragging?

What’s a candidate to do when they want to work at google or apple? Or some other fabulously innovating company that values and develops their talent – when you don’t have it on paper?

Different people handle this situation in different ways – but here are a few I’ve seen:

1. Have a simple resume, get a job in a company at the bottom of the ladder (i.e. unpaid internship, administrative assistant, etc.), and work your way up. This if fine for the young, patient, and ambitious. Especially the males, they statistically do better with this method. Women who attempt this generally stay towards the bottom of the career ladder.

2. Volunteer either in or outside of work for large-scale projects, so you have those accomplishments to put on your resume. This is great if you’re unemployed or don’t have a lot of obligations, as that it’s time consuming – but for someone trying to manage a career, long commutes, and family or other obligations it’s not always practical.

3. Lying. People figure into the recruiters-are-ditzes stereotype and hope their exaggerating what and where they’ve done it won’t be seen through. Ethics aside – people figure ‘everybody’s doing it’, which is unfortunately accurate for a lot of people. Ewwwwwwww.

4. Humor. I’ve seen a woman returning from being a stay at home mom have on her resume, “CEO of Smith Household.” Or, “Executive Director of Childcare.”  You can throw in a few things that might help your personality come across to recruiters. I know that whomever is reading my resume is probably sick of looking at resumes, especially ones that all sound the same – so a little fun with it, tastefully, might help get attention.

Unfortunately, as you can guess, lying generally gets people the furthest into the interview process. Depending on the employer, often the liar may even get the job. Some jobs you only have to ‘talk the talk’, and it doesn’t matter if you ever did or ever will ‘walk the walk’. But for other positions, actual skills and experience are necessary to do a job appropriately. Once you’re figured out you’ll be back on the job hunt again, bringing you back to the beginning of the cycle where said evil people belong.

So what do you do first?

You be patient. You network. You continue to improve your resume. You follow the places you want to work, be on top of their openings that you’re qualified for. You attend events to meet people who work for these companies. If you have time, offer to volunteer or intern for them. You do everything in your power to set yourself apart from the herd appropriately in all of your social media profiles. You follow people and companies on linkedin. You join industry groups on linkedin. You ask others who were in your boat who’ve succeeded how they did it. You You You…it’s all about YOU, and what efforts you are willing to put in.

And then hope that one day it’ll all pay off, as you sit enjoying the view from your corner office of the company of your dreams. Sigh. Dare to dream.

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

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.

Networking vs. Applying to Advertised Jobs

Trumpasaurus Sculpture + Sign for monster.com ...

I have never, ever gotten a job through an online job ad.

I once had an interview for job I applied to online, but the eventual offer I received was half the salary that was advertised. Next.

I always see so many jobs advertised. I advertise the jobs I recruit for myself. I’m guilty of applying to jobs I see online.

When my friends & clients need jobs, I look to online ads.

But what’s it worth?

I think this really hit me when I got my first full time consulting job. I heard about the position from someone I met with who suggested I might enjoy recruiting instead of career & life coaching. Once I got the job, I was given access to the pool of candidates where I saw around 350 others had applied for the job I was given. I was so astounded that so many people took the time and put in effort to apply – yet I was chosen, and even dared to ask the hiring manager who selected me why they picked me (because hey, I’m blunt and do things like that. Do not try this at home *ahem* work kids).

So, why Sharon? Networking. I had been highly recommended from a key talented employee for the role. My résumé had experience related to the position, but not an exact match – but I matched my qualifications to those required for the position.

Blindly sending out resumes all over to interesting positions, especially if you’re looking to change careers or industry, generally will not get you far. You’ll more likely get burnt out than get a job (but I applied to 20 jobs this week! You say) and you’ll start to look and feel desperate.

So when do online job applications work?

Scenario 1: Let’s say you’re a business analyst. You’ve been one for 10 years in a few different settings, and have a degree (or 2) from a top school. You apply for a job as a business analyst. You have a pretty good chance of getting an interview call.

Scenario 2: Let’s say you’re a business analyst. You’ve been one for 10 years in a few different settings, and have a degree (or 2) from a top school. You apply for a job as a director of business analytics. You probably will not get a call.

Most hiring managers nowadays want someone who already has had the title or a very similar one for a different company. No companies are looking for people they have to train or teach management skills to. They’d probably promote someone internal to the job if they were open to training.

So what’s a candidate to do? Network & apply to online jobs.

Limiting your search only to online applications is just that – a limited search. Networking is great, but at some point in the job process your resume will be requested – the employer will want to see that you’ve walked the walk – the one you claimed you walked when you met them.

Networking alone can work for some people – but it generally takes 2 essential elements: people skills – and people.

Certain personalities connect well with strangers better than others – as well, it’s just as important how strong of a network that you meet who are interested in helping others.

Even winners won’t get far networking with a network full of losers 😉

So Happy 2011 Y’all – Now stop reading blogs and get yourself the career you deserve!

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5 Basic Reasons Your Resume Wasn’t Even Viewed

Cool Blog Sociale - 10 July 2008 - Creative hi...

Image by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr

 

Of course as usual recruiting should be an objective science, but as that it’s humans and computer systems combined trying to figure out if they want YOU or someone BETTER than YOU to work for them, you might get knocked out of the pool quickly with these simple issues.

1. You saved your resume in a non-standard format (i.e. docx, wordpad, even occasionally pdf’s get tossed). Stick to a basic word format – you have nothing to lose.

2. You have an immature or inappropriate email address. Yes, this includes having your age or the year you were born in your email, not just sexykitten@hotmail.com – when you’re TimSmith88@yahoo.com, We know you’re 22ish, and probably don’t really have the 10 years of experience on your resume.

3. Your name. I would personally never discriminate, but I heard this from a coworker who did a large study in her masters program: 2 applications were put in for the same job, one with an ethnic name, one with a ‘white sounding’ name. The applications with the ethnic names were disqualified first.

Now I’m not saying to change your name, but if you have a more American sounding nickname or middle name, it might be worth trying to see if you get a better response. Just correct them at your interview, unless you always want to be known by this “American” name.

4. You applied to every job the company had posted on the website. Some job sites have spam guards that will think you’re a bot spamming them (when in reality you’re a human spamming them – because applying to every job IS spamming) and will delete your application.

Stick to only applying for jobs you’re qualified for and really want. There’s no way you want to be an engineer, custodian, hairdresser and an IT person – so don’t apply for them all.

5. Your cover letter is lousy, looks like it was written by someone else, or could have been written by anyone. It had spelling/grammar mistakes, or perhaps the company or recruiter’s name misspelled; it had clichés like ‘My skills and experience would be an asset to your organization’. If someone can’t take the time to cut and paste in the company name and title of where they’re applying for, then perhaps another ‘organization’ who doesn’t mind laziness will hire you!