Click here to post your resume

The Parlour ~ The Poppen Project Archive (Sep '02)

| Book Search | Bookstore | Games | Music | Index | Book Forums | What's New?Parlour (Fun Stuff) | Articles & Essays

The following articles are copyright © 1998 to 2000.  All rights reserved.
They are reproduced here by permission of the author.

Job Related
Web Resources ~

Help Sites:
Jobsmart: California Job Search
Peterson's Education Center
Riley Guide
UC Berkeley Career Links

Human Resources


Job Postings:
College Recruiter

Resumé Listings:

Free Resume Bank
Resumé Rabbit
Resumé Distribution Service

Self Employment Help:

Terri Lonier's working solo
U.S. Small Business Administration
Yahoo! Small Business

Work at Home:

  Homeworkers Union & Small Business Association

  Employer's Job Posting:

  Post Your Job To Over 4,000 Job Sites In One Click

Find your next employee inexpensively. Post a Job on


Sports Careers


We Adapt

September 10, 2002

Over sixty-five percent of employees are satisfied with their jobs. Most of the people I know are definitely Not working at their dream job in their present incarnation as 'satisfied worker', so what gives with stats like these? I think it comes down to an important thing to remember about humans.

We are very adaptable creatures.

We make do, given our circumstances. Employees assess the nuances of our everyday work life, and figure out how to get to quitting time with the least amount of hassle possible. Drawn by the path of least resistance, we generally put forward enough mental and physical effort that will be stamped by our supervisor as 'acceptable'.

This is not to imply that today's workers are a lazy group, per se. Or that they take a minimalist approach to the whole concept of employment, work ethic, and quality of work product. Er, maybe I am implying that a little. The point is, workers will attempt to put the best face on the situation they're stuck in. Might as well have fun, since we're going to be here for the next eight hours.

Since you know you'll pretty much adapt to whatever your next job is, your primary concern as a Job hunter should be taking the time necessary to find a Job that best suits your inner desire. This is your Calling, your Vocation, even following your Bliss. How much time you can afford to use in your Job hunt is a function, generally, of money.

It would be great if everyone could figure out exactly what they wanted to do with their life, and that perfect dream jobs would manifest themselves at the proper place and time. Since this event has less than a fifty-fifty chance, accept the fact that your 'Calling' will probably keep calling through a number of Job and Career changes.

Try to find a working environment that suits your skills, temperament, and centers on ideas that touch your heart. But when crunch time comes, take the best package offered. You'll be moving on to something else before long, anyway. Shortly after graduating from college, I remember asking my Dad (just shy of his eightieth birthday), what I should do with my life. His reply? "I don't know, Son. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of mine."

Mark Poppen


If at First...

September 11, 2002

On occasion, I search for Jobs that might match my previous Job experience. I have a BA in Philosophy, an AAS (Associate of Applied Science Degree in Paralegal Technology), an MPA (Master's in Public Administration), a Certificate of Aquaculture Training, and ten year's experience as a bartender. I tried Career Mosaic last week to see if they had any Jobs listed in the San Francisco Bay Area that might match my educational and experiential background. Here are the results:

Bartender 0
Paralegal 1 (requires 10 years experience)
Legal Asst 0
Fish Farmer 0
Trout Farmer 0
Asst City Mgr 0

This was neither heartwarming nor promising. However, when I repositioned myself as an 'Administrative Assistant', there were fourteen Job listings, eight with one company. Internet searching is still hit or miss. If you can think of different ways to label your skills, try those titles for Job openings.

Some of the better directories to find extensive listings of Job Titles are the "Occupational Outlook Handbook", the "Directory of Occupational Titles", and the "Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance". These and other updated Career Information is available at your local library. I have recommended Jobsmart and Riley Guide before, here are two more good help sites: and UC Berkeley Career Links . Finding a Job is a study in problem solving - use as many paths as are necessary to get to your goal.

Another good site is: Peterson's Education Center, an information services company, the leading provider of information on US-accredited educational institutions and special programs found around the world. Peterson's books, software, networking services, on-line activities (About Us), and special admissions services are the most widely used channels of information dissemination about American schools, camps, colleges, universities, and other educational opportunities, reaching students, families, guidance professionals, researchers, and other interested people around the world.

Peterson's information covers elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, professional degree programs, study abroad, executive management programs, distance learning, financial aid, internships, summer programs, and career information. It provides wide-ranging services to academic administrators in support of admissions and retention.

Mark Poppen
(link revision rpw 020911)


Jobseeker, Hire Thyself

September 12, 2002

I live just north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, CA. In Marin, Job Seekers do not refer to themselves as 'unemployed'. Instead, they describe themselves as 'Consultants'. Oddly enough, and if done with sufficient panache, they seem to pull it off. Personally, I could never get away with this kind of BS with a straight face. I referred to my periods of Joblessness as 'being self-unemployed'.

Consulting is often little more than recognizing that you have learned a few things (in and out of various jobs) that can be re-packaged and put up for sale. Most of us perform as sales people day in and day out, regardless of our Job titles. And a lot of what passes for Job Hunting is better described as Candidate Selling. You are selling your services for (what you hope is) the highest bid.

For some people, consulting is just a stopgap solution to a cash flow problem. They are really looking for a steady paycheck from the accounting dept every two weeks. Others like the independence and freedom from the forty (to fifty!) hour 9-5+ grind that defines the majority of the work world. If no one else appears willing to hire you right now, maybe you should step in and hire yourself. There are some great websites that assist those considering self-employment, such as:

SBA (US Small Business Administration)

Terri Lonier's working solo® (site for entrepreneurs)

Yahoo! Small Business (the one place for business needs)

What do you know how to do that piques your interest and aptitude? What hobbies do you enjoy - what do you think are some of your saleable skills? You could tutor elementary or high school students in some subject. Or do odd jobs (landscaping/mowing/etc) for your neighbors. Many businesses can use part time clerical help, owners are always drowning in their own paperwork. Frequently these early efforts at entrepreneurship blossom into small successful businesses in their own right.

One of the most beneficial experiences that arise from consulting (and running your own small business) is learning what being a boss involves. Few things better prepare you for a hiring interview than having been in an employer's shoes, even if on a much smaller scale. On one hand you will learn self-discipline in your work habits - your customers will demand it. On the other hand, watch a prospective employer's eyes light up when you describe how you felt when the slacker you had to pay out of your own pocket wasn't doing their fair share of the work.

Everyone appreciates, and is drawn to, others that can evoke (and empathize with) their own situation.

Mark Poppen


Courting Your Employer

Sepember 17, 2002

Jobs exist in the context of relationships.

Beginnings and endings are difficult, whether they occur in your personal or professional relationships. Jobhunting involves many of the same pitfalls as dating - one minute your hopes are sky high, the next everything comes crashing to the ground. Progressive failure is an integral part of courting, whether you are courting for fun or profit.

Rejection is a shock to your self-esteem. While 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger' has a comforting ring to it (albeit somewhat masochistic), the reality is this idea is promulgated by people who are not suffering from any adverse conditions now. The 'strength through adversity' crowd is always talking about events in the past tense. What they have developed, via distancing themselves from their rejections, is perspective. You can have a long term perspective as well.

Talk to others in your position - commiserate with other Jobhunters about what went wrong in the interview process. Exchange your Jobhunting horror stories. It is hard to be objective about your own performance during the interview, so dig around a little. If you didn't get the Job, ask why. Did you lack some particular skills, or did the hiring manager perceive a lack of some key qualities (e.g. initiative, assertiveness, confidence).

Remember how awkward the first few weeks (and last weeks!) on your last Job were? You're constantly walking on eggshells trying to avoid stepping on anyone's toes, or turf. The trick is to recall the ease and confidence that came as you nestled into your role with the company. Approach your date with the hiring manager on this level - because that's the comfort level that both of you are desperate to attain. Your prospective employer craves someone to bring the company stress (and workload) level back down to the comfort zone.

During the mating dance between you and your prospective employer, they will be trying to find out if there is a good match between the two of you. They will be thinking:

  • "Is this the Job you want (or will you leave me as soon as something better comes along)?"
  • "Am I asking the right questions to find out if you will make my (work) life better or worse?"
  • "Do you have sufficient skills to do the Job (or, are you good enough for me?)

Your answers need to address your prospective employer's fears of getting hitched to the wrong person.

Mark Poppen


Changing Uniforms

September 18, 2002

Are you re-entering the civilian workforce after a prolonged absence from it? Thousands of veterans struggle with the shift to civilian employment. In fact, the unemployment rate for veterans is 7%, compared to 4.5% for the overall population. More often than not, the problem is a hiring manager's discomfort with a veteran's mannerisms. The general rule (no pun intended) is: Like hires like - and people fresh out of the military often behave in ways that the rest of us are not used to seeing.

Overcoming this difficulty may not be as easy as it should be. Humans are creatures of habit, and the military is notorious for grinding away at personal idiosyncracies and putting their generic stamp on people. Some traits that might be seen as positive work habits (e.g. curt, abrupt answers; forceful politeness; responses given only when asked) may actually be disruptive in a workplace where sarcasm and playful creativity are the norm. Veterans can benefit from recognizing this bias and proactively adjusting their mannerisms to fit into the hiring manager's comfort zone.

Prior to leaving military service, military personnel should check out the section of their particular service's personnel manual where jobs and tasks are cross-coded to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. You will need to rename your skills relative to the occupation you are seeking. Commanding a platoon becomes 'Managing Director' for cross functioning project teams. Couch your military experience in terms that the person that can hire you can relate to immediately. Often they are looking to fill a position by screening out anyone who doesn't fit into a very narrow range of abilities. This tunnel vision approach to hiring often eliminates veterans who are qualified, but haven't taken the time to tweak their named skills into the proper form. focuses on helping veterans make the transition from military to civilian life. A generation or two ago, companies were eager to hire veterans - it was a badge of honor and responsibility. Today there are a lot fewer ex-military personnel in the workforce, so employers and colleagues may have a subtle and subconcious tendency to feel uneasy around their more pronounced differences. This is unfair. And it's also the reality of the situation. Moving from one subculture to another requires a willingness to change.

Employers are looking for adaptability - employees who can innovatively adjust to changing work demands. Show them you are this type of employee by transforming your drab military garb (and habits) into whatever fits at your target company.

Mark Poppen


Not Your Job Search

September 19, 2002

Job hunting, for most people, is not a pleasant experience.

You will face rejection, suffer disappointment, and feel pangs of anxiety. And those are the good days. Friends will remind you that adversity builds character, but you'll feel more like your character has been assassinated. So, take a step back from your frustrating position, and regain your perspective. A few simple reminders will help.

You are not your job.

This is a hard one to remember when everyone begins introductions with "Hi! I'm Joe Blow, Programming Analyst with HP." We tend to project our Identity as a function of our Job. Unemployment often feels like a loss of Identity. Respond to the question "And what do you do?" any way you like, but practice separating the two concepts, Job and Identity.

Most people work because they have to - no one else is going to pay their rent, buy their food, cover their car payment, or erase their credit card debt. If you're living from paycheck to paycheck, you'll tell prospective employers whatever you think they want to hear to get the job. You might even endorse Reaganomics as something other than voodoo Economics, if you see a smiling picture of Ronnie on your new (hopefully) employer's desk.

You are not your Job Search, either.

Job hunting is not a one-time prospect. Studies now guesstimate that, on average, you will hold eleven different positions in your productive worklife. I tend to be suspicious of studies that predict what will happen in the next twenty plus years or so. I mean, who's going to check on what some bureaucrat or policy analyst wrote over twenty years ago to see if they were right? By the time you can find out if long term prognosticators are accurate, they've retired to their mountain homes or Beach houses.

Personally, I've discovered that the average lifespan of any one job is about eighteen months. I realize this is not entirely scientific, but the bottom line conclusion remains the same: Learn Job hunting skills this time, for they will serve you well again. Like on the Job training, job hunting involves trial and failure. The old adage 'Live and Learn' is a recommendation, not a promise. You'll make tons of mistakes, and have the opportunity to learn from them each time.

Also, some of your failures in Job-hunting are simple mismatches between your abilities and the job requirements (or employer's bias). People generally surround themselves with like-minded people. The Good Old Boy network is a function of our embedded social relationships. Take heart - if you're willing to believe that you are employable, then some of your interviewers will believe it as well.

You will work again. And you will be unemployed again. Both events will occur many times in your life. Hopefully the next few times will come about more from your own choice than your employer's.

Mark Poppen


Internships in Accounting

September 24, 2002

A couple of years ago, the Economic Policy Institute published a report indicating that worker's wages had not kept pace with inflation over the previous decade.  Since 1989 then, our buying power (the difference between pay increases and price increases) has declined. If we are in a prolonged Economic Boom that is a paradise for workers, how is this possible?

The shortage of workers is severe in some areas, but not in others. While low skill, minimum wage jobs go begging for workers, you'll still have to compete for the decent paying jobs. So, while some of your friends may be getting comfortable for the relatively short time that they'll stay in their new job, you need to do something to set yourself apart from your contemporaries. Consider giving yourself a competitive advantage by learning on the job through an Internship.

Check out KPMG is one of the 'Big Five' Accounting firms, and uses Internships as one of their primary recruiting tools. They offered positions to over 90% of the 450 Interns that worked for them last year, and Interns were paid an average of 90 to 100% of the wage that comparable non-Interns earned. KPMG (and similar firms) screen their potential Interns very thoroughly. Their goal is to reduce potential employee problems (or attrition) as early as possible in the hiring process. Interns go through a one week training program, and attend conferences and staff meetings while completing their Internships.

What characteristics are they looking for in college students? A history of Academic Excellence combined with evidence of Interpersonal Skills. For business majors, they are recruiting 2nd semester Juniors that have successfully made the transition from Accounting Principles to Intermediate Accounting. Anecdotal evidence indicates that students who do well during their Junior year in applying the Principles of Accounting tend to excel in both their later academic studies and accounting careers.

Mark Poppen



September 25, 2002

Employers, unless otherwise compelled, follow the rule 'like hires like'.

Everyone wants to surround themselves with people they can relate to, communicate with easily, and have a shared sense of right and wrong. This is discriminatory, but it represents the real world we live in. Employers are no different. They will follow the path of least resistance and hire people that they know, or at least can be vouched for by friends or colleagues.

Successful Job Hunting is almost always more about who you know, than what you know. Given this maxim, it follows that Networking is the most crucial element of your Job search. Some career counselors estimate that fully two-thirds of jobs are filled through grapevine sources (e.g. your uncle Leo's Saturday golf partner, or your best friend's cousin's roommate). If everyone is only six degrees of separation away from anyone else on the planet, surely your next Job is less than two degrees away.

While this information may be vaguely comforting, how does it help?

Take several hours and make a list of everyone you know. Include any acquaintances you can think of, not just all your relatives and friends. Someone that one of these people knows has the ability to either hire you put you in touch with someone who can offer you a position. They won't give you a job unless you:
1) Find Them, and
2) Ask Them for the Job.

Before running around begging people you scarcely know for a Job, practice informal interviewing. Use your friends and relatives as sounding boards, and tell them what kind of Job you want, and why. Describe the type of work you're looking for in detail, and have them quiz you on what skills you bring to their imaginary company. This practice will not only prepare you for the real, and sometimes agonizing, Job interviews to come, but it stirs the creative juices of the people you know who have connections that they didn't realize were relevant to your Job search.

There are thousands of beneficial Job hunting websites (and tens of thousands of lame ones). One that I like is at This site has a very thorough section on different stages of the Job hunt, and how to successfully complete them without giving up hope.

Mark Poppen
(link revision rpw 092602)

Us Against Them

September 26, 2002

Too often the Job search feels like a battle between us, the Job Seekers, and them, the Hiring Managers. While the Interviewing process can be nerve racking for the Jobhunter, it is also tough on the Interviewer. From the Employer's perspective, hiring someone who doesn't perform well on the job is damaging to the health of the company, especially for a small business. One disgruntled employee can do a lot of damage, so employers jump through hoops to screen out everyone except the 'perfect candidate'. Plus, a mistaken hire sooner or later puts the company (and the hiring manager) back at square one - needing to fill a vacant position.

Hiring managers are people, too. They are desperate (sometimes!) to find someone who can competently do the Job at hand, and get along within the corporate culture. They are more likely to hire someone they trust than someone they don't know. There is nothing the Hiring Manager would like more than for you to convince them that you're the 'perfect employee'. Unfortunately, their position dictates high levels of skepticism. Having someone they know vouch for your character & ability is win/win for both of you.

Basically, The Job Interview is a test: The Employer is trying to find out if they can trust you with a portion of their business. And your real task during the Job search is to find out as much information about the particular person capable of hiring you, and to cultivate a relationship with them. One method is to join the professional associations relevant to your Job search. Some will offer student, or beginner's, memberships for free (or discounted rates).

Another way is to join a Usenet Newsgroup that posts information and running discussions about your field of interest. When a few people with hiring power become aware of your persistent interest and ability in their profession, you'll elevate yourself to another level beyond being just a resume in the pile. Fully 60% of jobs are filled through informal means, so your goal should be to get into the 'Word of Mouth' category. Decent sounding resumes are a dime a dozen, but personal references from someone the hiring manager knows and trusts are invaluable.

For example, it is worth checking out SHRM's (Society for Human Resource Management) website at: . Professional association websites are a great place to find contacts. These people can either hire you or know the people who can. Long term successful Job hunting is about building, and maintaining, these relationships. You will need to use them again.

Mark Poppen

Working References

Sepember 27, 2002

Often the final stage of successful Jobhunting involves proving that past employers valued your work. Hiring managers want to have others help shoulder the burden of making the decision to hire you, so they ask for your references (if they can't find a mutual acquaintance). In this way they are trying to spread the responsibility of making the hiring decision by themselves, even though they know that former employers are wary about saying anything negative. "Her last manager said she worked like a dog!" is a weak but viable defense if your work product at your new firm begins to stink.

Employers tend to hire people they feel comfortable with. Part of your job during the Jobhunt is to find ways to insinuate yourself into the hiring manager's comfort zone. If you are unable to impress them or someone they know with your persistence, intelligence, & ability, your next best bet is to have their professional colleagues (your previous employers) sing your praises. Even if they are not in the same field, your former supervisors and colleagues know your work habits and abilities as well as anyone.

Prepare the people who are on your reference page before they are called. They should have an updated copy of your resume before they are contacted. There is no penalty for reminding them by phone or fax ahead of time what your job duties were, what projects you completed in a timely and successful manner, or what special recognition you earned while in their employ. In fact, they will appreciate not having to think too hard about what it was, exactly, you did for them.

If you don't warn the people on your reference page that they may be called in the next few days, then you deserve to suffer the consequences. "Gloria? Yes, I believe she worked for us for a while. She seemed fairly pleasant. Talked a lot, though. She's not the quiet type, you know!" This is not the type of succinct, crisp, positive, and detailed response you want going out as representative of your abilities.

Ask your prospective employer to call your references within a few days, as they are expecting the call. And don't forget to ask your references to give you a call after your prospective employer calls them. Find out, in detail, what kinds of questions were asked. After hearing several of these responses, see if you can pick up a pattern.

Are prospective employers trying to find out about specific skills that you may lack? Or are they focusing in on how well you blend in with peers? You may discern what hiring managers perceive as your employee weaknesses from either your resume or your interview. The answers to these questions may lead you to actually getting the job on the next go round.

Mark Poppen

Fun with Statistics

October 15, 2002

In a poll on its online recruiting website KPMG received the following responses (most of those surveyed are accounting students):

  • 65% of those responding think they will retire before age fifty.
  • 80% of the respondents think they will change careers less than four times in their life.

On the other hand, career counselors predict that the average worker will hold at least ten different jobs in their lifetime, and that most people will not retire before the age of 65.

It looks as though there is going to be a collision between workers' expectations and work reality in the near future. These kinds of polls are fun to play with, but should be consumed with a healthy dose of skepticism. An old saying illuminates the point: "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics". We're all familiar, especially in these last few weeks before mid-term elections, with the use, misuse, and abuse of polls and statistics.

Another survey of more than 200 college career center professionals who were asked to rank the importance that employers give to a series of worker attributes showed some interesting results. In order of most important to least important, worker attributes were ranked as follows:

  1. Being a Team Player
  2. Intelligence
  3. Professional Demeanor
  4. Organizational Skills
  5. Friendliness
  6. Ability to Take Orders
  7. Sense of Humor
  8. Entrepreneurial Skills
  9. Beauty
  10. Loyalty

The trend seems to be Employers are abandoning the concept that they can retain workers by building company loyalty. They are willing to hire the most competent Jobseeker now, with the assumption that they will lose that worker in the not too distant future to a better offer somewhere else. Yet a number of business analysts point out that one of the simplest solutions to hiring dilemmas involves increasing worker retention.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been spewing forth historically low unemployment numbers for several years now, hovering in the 4.5 to 5% range. This should be a great time to find a Job, yet anecdotal evidence indicates that Jobseekers (outside of specialized technical or business related fields) are not reaping much in the way of benefits from this worker friendly environment. Decent Jobs are as hard to come by as they've ever been, and there doesn't seem to be any real light at the end of the tunnel. You begin to wonder whether unemployment numbers from the BLS have any real meaning beyond their effect on Wall Street stock prices.

All of this leads me to believe that there is a significant disconnect going on between what worker's expect, what the government reports, and reality. Nothing new there, I guess, but interesting things can happen when a large group of people's expectations conflict so dramatically with the way things really are. We tend to believe what we want to believe, rather than what is.

Mark Poppen

Fudging The Facts

October 09, 2002

Let's face it, you're for sale.

Jobhunting is all about selling your services. You are the product. Getting a hiring manager to seriously consider putting you on the payroll may require some sleight of hand. At some point in the Jobhunting process you may find yourself tempted to make your work accomplishments appear more significant than they really are. For example, should you lie on your resume?


Lying is endemic in our culture. Telling the truth, exactly as you perceive it, makes people very uncomfortable. I know, I've tried it. Far too often. We are the TV generation, born and bred to consume lies, half-truths, and doublespeak. Our Politicians, Lawyers (a bit of redundancy there), and Celebrities make their living by spinning elaborate webs of deceit. They are selling themselves and a particular version of reality in which they come out smelling like a rose. It's as American as car commercials.

Do you know how much money is spent every year on advertising? Over one trillion dollars. All this is spent in an attempt to convince you to want (and buy) things you don't need. Your prospective employer is in a similar boat. You must convince her that she's got to have you working for her, because you're like money in the bank. Hiring managers know only what you (and your references) tell them. Obviously, if you say you were the project manager, and you were only the assistant gofer, your credibility will be difficult to maintain.

One Caveat, however. The most believable lies are those sprinkled with a healthy dose of truth. No one believes that Bill Clinton didn't inhale, but his answer was close enough to the truth to let it slide. Of course, hiring managers are trained (or have learned from experience) to sift through your spin, looking to see what is going on behind the curtain. Keep your puffery to a believable minimum, and let a few heartfelt admissions slip through the screen. "To be perfectly honest, I had a lot of help from my team members on that project." "The overall economy was good in our industry during that quarter. Some of my division's success was due to other factors."

Selling involves several stages. Once you've targeted the mark (employer), you have to do something to pique their interest. Resume fluffing sometimes does the trick, but sometimes simple in your face persistence works as well. Hopefully you will have enough time during the interview process to find out what fears and needs are driving the employer's questions. If you believe that you are best person for the job, and that this is the job that really suits you, others will be happy enough to believe you too. It takes too much energy to fight your enthusiasm.

How do you get to that point? Practice saying it. "I do believe, I do believe…" Or, for those with more time and money, acting lessons.

Mark Poppen


Copyright © 2002, Decklin's Domain,
All Rights Reserved
Revised - 2002/November/21
Contact -

Why not visit our Forums ?