Are You Employable in 2012?


Are You Employable?

Do you have community management skills?  Can you set up and man listening posts?  Are you an expert at setting up and processing Google Alerts?  Can you cleanup, size and manipulate digital pictures and graphics?  Are you a PowerPoint Ninja?  Do you have more than half of the PC Keyboard macros for Excel under your fingers?  Can you write a SQL query?  Can you craft custom reports in salesforce? Do you have expertise in a particular kind of CRM software?  Can you interpret and respond to questions regarding Google Analytics? Are you facile with FTP software?  Are you a master of digital communication in your industry?

These are just a few of the questions you might field in a job interview this year.  I just listed a job opening for an administrative assistant and, to be honest, I am appalled at the lack of understanding of how to apply for a job, let alone what might be required to obtain one.

Here are a few tips to applying for a job in the information age.

Cover Letters Matter – Your cover letter should be in pure text and in the body of an email.  No fancy fonts, no images, just text. The topic sentence should be awesome and separate you from the pack. The supporting paragraph should make me want to hire you without looking at your resume.  It must, must, must mention the things your prospective employer is seeking and describe why you are the perfect candidate.  Proof read this document several times.  “I lernt frm xperience that i’m a realy grate receptionist,” is an actual sentence from an actual cover letter I received this week.  I have no idea what this person’s résumé looked like, I just copied the sentence for this article and deleted the email.

Résumés Matter – Take the time to craft the résumé for the job you are applying for.  If you haven’t worked in the industry before, say it in the cover letter and say why you think your experience will apply.  If you have worked in the industry, take a moment and figure out what your résumé should look like for this opportunity. Résumés should be .pdf files – do not send word documents or .txt files or PowerPoint documents or anything other than a one-page (two page max) .pdf file.

Honesty Matters – don’t put “Expert in Microsoft Office” on your résumé if you are just “proficient.”  During our telephone interview, I will ask you a question that an expert can answer, when you can’t – you’re out.  I have no time for people who cannot do honest self-assessments of their capabilities.

Skills Matter – This is the Information Age, you need Information Age skills.  Yes, you will learn a great deal on the job, but you need to come to the opportunity with very high-level digital skills.  Why?  Because there are literally a dozen digitally skilled candidates that will apply for this position.  They are more cost-effective for me to hire because they can do more for the same money I will have to pay you.

Work Ethic Matters – I want people around me who are self-starters and who know that the sentence, “Can I help you?” is the least helpful sentence you can utter.  What’s the right way to impress me?  “Shelly, I’ve identified this issue.  I have three solutions, please tell me which one you would like me implement.” I will do anything for people who approach work in this manner – they are awesome!

Understand What Work Is – If you are looking for a skilled job, understand what work is – a mechanism to translate the value of your intellectual property into wealth.  This is a non-trivial distinction between a “job for a paycheck” and a career.  If you want a job, you are not someone I want to hire for a full-time position.  If you have a career, and you are looking to grow by acquiring knowledge, forging it with failure, and tempering it with wisdom, I want you on my team!

Understand The Value of What You Know – There’s an old cliché, “Youth is wasted on the young.”  When you’re looking for a job in 2012, don’t waste the value of your youth.  Yes, you may be young and inexperienced, but you have a valuable asset in your age.  If you are born after 1989, you are a digital native.  This means that you think differently, act differently, and, in fact, are different than the middle-aged hiring manager you’re speaking with.  Your inexperience and youth is also a liability.  Get smart and use this combination of strength and weakness to your advantage.  Our culture aspires to be young – it’s news you can use.

What If You Don’t Have The Necessary Skills – This is the key to everyone’s future.  You must acquire them.  No one can afford to hide behind the affectation that “Digital is for the kids.”  It’s nonsense, and it is a virtual guarantee that you are unemployable in the 21st century.  You no longer have the luxury of saying it.  In fact, you cannot even think it.  Social media is being used to “Occupy” places and overthrow governments.  If you’re not a social media expert, you are at a strict disadvantage.  Facebook and LinkedIn (and 500 other social networks) are replacing email.  Google is mapping the interiors of retail stores.  Amazon is giving people $5 off of any purchase made by taking a picture of an item in a brick and mortar store and then making the purchase via your mobile device.  There is no more analog – the world is digital.  And, more to the point, there are now only two kinds of people and two kinds of devices: connected and not connected.

Job One – I’m still looking for an administrative assistant with awesome digital skills to work for my executive admin.  Will we find the right person?  Of course we will.  For all of the horrible résumés and cover letters submitted, there were several gems.  But the sheer volume of worthless communication from unemployable candidates has been remarkable.  If job creation is our number one national priority, maybe we should start by helping people learn how to properly prepare for employment in the Information Age and then, teach some basic job-hunting skills.



Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is Managing Director, Digital Media Group at Landmark Ventures/ShellyPalmer a technology focused Investment Banking & Advisory practice specializing in M&A, Financings, Strategic Partnerships and Innovation Access. He is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert and well known for his work on Fox Television's Shelly Palmer Digital Living as well as his daily radio report on United Stations Radio Networks. For more information, visit


  1. Mitch says:

    Resume writing and job hunting skills should be taught in high school and a requirement to graduate college.  As a sales and engineering manager, I sympathize with you.  I see similarly poor job prospecting skills from senior sales and engineering candidates. If you really want to have a good laugh and cry, invite some of them in for an interview!

  2. Mitch says:

    Resume writing and job hunting skills should be taught in high school and a requirement to graduate college.  As a sales and engineering manager, I sympathize with you.  I see similarly poor job prospecting skills from senior sales and engineering candidates. If you really want to have a good laugh and cry, invite some of them in for an interview!

  3. Hollywood5459 says:

    This is nothing new. I had many calls from seniors in advertising/communications majors (or so they said) looking for a rate when I was selling for a major metropolitan newspaper. There were a host of different rates so I would ask what are you selling, time frame, other media they were considering and budget ? Inevitably, their answer was that it didn’t matter. So I gave them my direct line and come back with the answers in order to give them the right rates and placements. Not one person ever called back. And this was before people had to cough up their inerts to decide what shirt to buy.

    A major problem is that teachers teach rather than having some income dependency in the field (publishing does not count). That’s just a little something I learned from Phil Trachtman, founder of the Art Institute of Philadelphia back in the 70’s. One of the many reasons that makes Shelly Palmer such a great teacher.

    • Anonymous says:

      And this was before people had to cough up their inerts to decide what shirt to buy.’  

      What are you trying to say here?    Were you perhaps grasping for the word ‘innards?’  Can we file you under the category of ‘people who, in theory, can read – but obviously don’t?’

  4. How to represent yourself for employment as an administrative assistant and more in 2012. Very useful Shelly. I am delighted to pass this on to my followers.

  5. Dombrowski5 says:

    I totally understand your desire to hire qualified individuals but our the grade schools ingraining a computer literate workforce from the get go of elementary education.  For the US to compete in the world ecomony our children need to encompass a global outlook from the beginning of school and often forgotten is the ability to speak and understand their native language non the less being able to speak more than one language. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Dumbo, you can’t put together a coherent thought yourself to save your soul.  What makes you think people would want to work for you?    Your two sentences are riddled with inappropriate clauses, a run on sentence and total nonsense.  And you can’t spell for toffee either.

  6. John says:

    Great info Shelly and will be passing it on to my kids and young people I know. I would love to see you do a similar article for the over 50 person.( Hey  I still do analog PowerPoint’s  – it’s a white board and a dry marker.)  But what advice do you have for people that have 25 + years of experience but found themselves out of work? I was one of them for 10 months and thank God I found a great position. But for a while it was terrifying.

  7. Helen Bradley says:

    Great and timely advice Shelly. I’ve filed it for myself… and sent it to a 22 yo nephew just starting out. I know one of us will read it and take it on board. No clue about the other one… and sadly those are the folk who could benefit most from your story.

  8. Diane Ramsey says:

    Excellent advice, Shelly.  Even if one isn’t looking for a job, it’s info you can use!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Shelly – I’m passing this on to everyone that applies to my openings!  Even if I don’t hire them, maybe they can improve their chances next time.

  10. Zapcypher says:

    Why a pdf file for the resume and not a .doc?  and does the paragraph “Understand the value of what you know” inverse for people born BEFORE 1989?  I made the conscious decision to get up to speed in technology, plus I have wisdom, experience, and a great work ethic. Does that beat out youth and being a digital native?  It doesn’t seem so, since youth can generally work for much less, and may prefer your career as just a job for them.

  11. Zapcypher says:

    ps analog still works re fax; it is still the most secure way for people to get their credit card numbers to us from other countries (we’re not an online storefront, but a lab).

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