Feature: Are Your Windows Broken?

Feature: Are Your Windows Broken?

Feature: Are Your Windows Broken?

The idea was the brainchild of James Q. Wilson, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. Writing in The Atlantic magazine in 1982, he argued that the physical state of a neighborhood was an accurate measure of its social and political health. In what came to be known as his “broken windows” theory of urban development, he linked structural blight to leadership blight. In other words, the physical disrepair of a neighborhood was a symptom of broken city government.

I think a similar notion can be applied to your career. The state of your professional competence is a reflection of the person who is responsible for maintaining its upkeep: you. In other words, when an employer assesses the skills, knowledge and experience that you bring to the table as a candidate, they will consider what they find to be an indication of the motivation, determination and energy you offer as a person. If the former is in disrepair-if your skills are substandard, your knowledge is antiquated, your track record is spotty-then they will assume the latter-your desire and propensity to contribute-is, as well. Broken professional windows reflect broken individual values.

How is that? The best employers see the offer of a job as an investment in you. Sure, that means the skills and knowledge you have, but equally as important, it encompasses your capacity and commitment to apply that capability on-the-job. In other words, employers want to know if you take enough pride in your occupational expertise to:

  • keep it up-to-date,
  • use it effectively in your work,
  • transform it into a meaningful contribution for your employer.
  • A well kept career indicates you are; a career with broken windows indicates you aren’t.

    How can you check to see if you have career blight? Here’s what employers and recruiters see as personal broken windows:

    1. You cannot identify discrete accomplishments on-the-job that demonstrate your competence in your field and your commitment to making a contribution to your employer.

    2. You have a track record of working to the limits of your job description and no further.

    3. You avoid special projects and ad hoc task forces that require you to work outside your comfort zone.

    4. You don’t feel any passion for your work and devote the bare minimum of time and effort to it.

    5. You have not taken a refresher course or training program in your primary field in the last three years.

    6. You are not continuously enrolled in educational programs to develop “value-added skills” in such areas as a second language, time management, and cost-benefit analysis.

    7. You do not participate in a professional association or society that serves your field or industry.

    8. You don’t read the literature in your field and, therefore, can’t comment on key issues and trends that are affecting it and its role in the workplace.

    9. You have gaps in your employment that are filled with active job searches, but no concurrent effort to maintain and/or enhance your occupational expertise.

    10. You aren’t able to articulate your goals for employment or the contribution you can make to an employer.

    There are two reasons that employers reject candidates for their openings:

  • There is a mismatch between their qualifications and those required by the position; they are either too junior or qualified in a field or specialty that is not central to job performance.
  • The candidates have let their career slip into disrepair as indicated by one or more of the broken windows listed above.
  • If you aren’t selected for an opening due to the first reason, you remain a viable candidate for that employer’s openings in the future. If you aren’t selected for the second reason, however, you are unlikely to ever be considered seriously by that employer. In other words, broken windows slam doors shut.

    Ominous as that sounds, it is not a permanent condition. The wonderful thing about broken windows is that they can be repaired. It takes a little effort, but fixing them can transform what employers see when they look at you. Solid windows reflect sound qualifications and a person with the values to maintain and apply them on-the-job.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Business 2.0 published a story describing “job auditions” at Southwest Airlines. The carrier, known for its outgoing and convivial service, begins assessing employment candidates before they even realize it. The company gives them a special ticket which informs gate agents, flight attendants and other employees that the individual is being flown out to the company’s headquarters for an interview. The employees then observe and report on the candidate’s behavior during the journey. Rude, loud, impolite or otherwise unpleasant behavior will cause a person to be rejected even if they ace the actual interview. What’s the lesson for everyone else? In today’s competitive job market, the interview begins, not when you’re sitting across the desk from the hiring manager, but from the first nanosecond of contact you have with an employer’s representatives. Make sure that you treat every e-mail message, every phone call and every interaction you have as if it were your very last chance to make a positive impression … it just may be.

    CareerDNA launched its service to assist graduating college students with their career planning. According to a study it commissioned:

  • 80% of graduating seniors do not have a job when they receive their diploma,
  • 97% of those same seniors say they aren’t confident that they have selected the right career path, and
  • 65% did not use the resources of their college’s career center, turning instead to professors (83%), parents (75%) and friends (67%).
  • Given the level of investment required, these days, to support a student during four years of college, you’d think academic institutions would be more aggressive about ensuring a robust return: you know, something useful like a job with a modicum of meaning and opportunity for the graduate. Since many schools apparently don’t see this as their role, CareerDNA now offers a solution, Its online assessment and career coaching center is designed to help recent college grads get a job they will love based on their individual traits and talents. The service costs $49.95 for the first 12 months and $19.95 a year thereafter.

    CareerJournal.com released the results of its survey of “Best Careers,” based on individual worker satisfaction with the jobs their field offers. The most highly satisfied employees said their work provided intellectual stimulation, strong job security, a high level of control and autonomy, and extensive direct contact with customers or clients. The jobs where you are most likely to find these features are:

  • Curriculum and instructional coordinators
  • High school special-education teachers
  • Hospital and clinic managers
  • Management consultants and analysts
  • Medical researchers
  • Physical therapists
  • Sales, marketing and advertising managers
  • Social workers, counselors and related managers.
  • 6FigureJobs.com polled its members to see who, among today’s business leaders, they would most like to have dinner with. The top five vote-getters were:

  • Warren Buffet, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway;
  • Steve Jobs, Chairman of Apple;
  • Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft;
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Founders of Google.
  • The list is instructive in several ways. First, age is irrelevant. Both seniority and youth are represented among the executives, suggesting that innovation and performance are a function of talent, not time. Second, the winners have had their downs as well as their ups. Jobs lost his first job at Apple in a headquarters battle, and Gates has struggled with government regulators in both the U.S. and Europe. Despite these setbacks, they bounce back, proving that resiliency is one of the key elements of success.

    Randstad, a staffing firm, conducted a survey of American workers and found that ageism continues to fester in the workplace. According to the younger workers who were polled:

  • 77% do not seek advice or guidance from their older coworkers,
  • only 56% related well to older workers, and
  • just 20% thought that older workers brought energy or innovative ideas to their jobs.
  • It’s no surprise, therefore, that a similar survey among older workers, conducted by ExecuNet found that 74% of the respondents were concerned that they will be discriminated against because of their age. And that’s a tragedy for both parties. The older workers lose out on employment opportunities for which they are qualified, and younger workers lose on the wisdom and experience that older workers bring to the workplace. So, here’s my advice. Take the first step. If you’re an older worker (which these days means you’re over the age of 45), reach out and get to know two younger workers; and if you’re a younger worker, do the same with two older workers. It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt; I think it nurtures understanding and appreciation.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. You’re an experienced production supervisor who’d like to get away from the hard times in the automotive industry. Which of the following sites would optimize your supply chain of opportunities in other industries?

  • ProductionHub.com
  • ManufacturingJobs.com
  • JobsinManufacturing.com
  • CareerBuilder.com
  • 2. You’re a civil engineer looking to expand your horizons by working for an environmentally friendly home construction company. Where could you go online to build solid relationships with prospective employers?

  • EngCen.com
  • ConstructionExecutives.com
  • Construction.com
  • HomeBuilders.com
  • 3. If you’re a senior systems security analyst looking to move to an employer with more upward mobility, which of the following sites would enable you to tap into job databases online?

  • CISSP.com
  • ISACA.org
  • SCES.org
  • ISSA.org
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories

    Everything Oregon


    Advance Internet, Inc.

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: Regional/USA – Oregon

    Number of jobs: 3,500

    Salary levels of jobs: Hourly to $200K

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: Indefinitely

    Restrictions on who can post: None

    Other services for job seekers: Career information, Links to other sites with resources

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but ProductionHub.com, a site for jobs in TV and movie production.

    2. All but HomeBuilders.com, a site that links home buyers and builders.

    3. All but SCES.org, the site of the South Carolina Employment Security Commission.