A free workshop on "career transition," held this past weekend by Catholic University, drew a capacity crowd of 600, apparently a reflection of rising unemployment and fears of layoffs by white-collar workers here.
The moving force behind the workshop was Stanley Hyman, an adjunct faculty member in the university's business program and president of the Identity Research Institute, a local behavioral science think tank. Hyman also teaches a seven-week course at Catholic University called "The Strategy of Career Transition," from which he claims to have graduated more than 10,000 people over the last eight years.
Before the program, Hyman described the typical participant in the workshop as a "GS-11 generalist," a white-collar employe who has skills that are marketable but not exceptional, and who, until now, has never really experienced any threat of a "reduction in force."
"These people being riffed, being generalists, have to realize that it's going to be tough," Hyman said. "I tell them, 'You've got to understand you might be underemployed, but you have to maintain a cash flow and realize it's a temporary situation.'
"There's a different personality in government. People come to government work seeking optimum job security, not like personalities in the private sector. This is not to say that they're lazy . . . but these people expect a womb in the job."
The remedies prescribed by Hyman and the other lecturers add up to "self-marketing." They provided advice on how to handle an interview, how to dress for it, how to write an effective re'sume' and how to conduct salary negotiations.
On the interview: "You've got to realize that 65 percent of communication is nonverbal, only about 30 percent comes out of your mouth . . . The name of the game is to get the interviewer talking."
On the proper dress for an interview: "When you look at somebody, a new person walking into your office, within 30 to 45 seconds you've already made up your mind whether you like them or don't like them. The way to get another person to like you is through self-marketing. Find out how they dress and dress like them." People like to see reflections of themselves in others, he explained.
On the re'sume': "The re'sume' has to be like an advertisement for soap or cigarettes. It has to be attractive to a reader . . . You do that with semantics, without saying, 'I'm different than the average bureaucrat.' The facts must be couched so they come up to the reader subliminally, subconsciously, so they think, 'Let's call this person up for an interview.' "
On salary negotiations: "Most bureaucrats don't know you can negotiate for a salary and, if they do, there's a tendency to ask for too much or too little."
Other speakers at the workshop were Rupert Curry of IBM; John Scott of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Ginger Thaxton of Commercial Resources; Jack Rutter of Comsat; James Gresock of the Catholic University Counseling Center; Anne Hagan of Booz-Allen; Rick Hindin of Britches of Georgetown, and Genia Hyman (wife of Stanley Hyman) of the Identity Research Institute.
One reason Hyman organized the workshop is that he is offended by the practices of some career counseling businesses here, which have continued to mushroom in numbers with each new wave of RIFs.
"It's a lucrative industry, probably the most lucrative industry in a recession, with profits that jump three, four, 500 percent."
He contends that some career counseling service offer little more than stamps, stationery and instructions on how to write a resume.
Hyman said he hoped the workshop, which also offered instruction on how to search for a job by using free resource materials from libraries and private sources, would provide an alternative "so people don't end up paying some company two grand and ending up with nothing but a canceled check."