A Note From JobGiraffe’s Summer Interns…

When it comes to World Giraffe Day, we are more than just interns. At JobGiraffe, we experienced being leaders and innovators on a major company event. Our biggest project this summer was planning and organizing World Giraffe Day at Brookfield Zoo. On June 20th, we invited over 1,000 clients and their families to join us at the zoo to celebrate and bring awareness to the conservation of giraffes. We were entrusted with the responsibility of planning, budgeting, and organizing this major event.

From the first day of our internship, we were told, “The one thing you can always count on is change.” As time went on, we began to realize how accurate this statement was. Whether it was budget changes or mounting attendance rates, we were expected to adapt to these changes. We realized it was more important to adapt to the change than to try to force reality to meet your expectations.

Throughout the planning process we came in contact with many other aspects of the company. One of the most interesting projects outside of the event was creating new and engaging social media posts. We learned the planning of a company’s social media is very different than using it personally.

In 2011, JobGiraffe was created out of Paige Personnel Services, and we were lucky enough to be a part of this ongoing re-branding process. We gathered old clients from the Paige Personnel database and created spreadsheets to put them into the new system. These spreadsheets were used to invite old clients to our next event, World Giraffe Night.

With our last event being such a success, we were confident going into our second event. World Giraffe Night gives us an opportunity to plan a different style of event. Where the first event was a chance to show appreciation to our current clients, our second event is to reconnect with old clients and re-introduce ourselves at JobGiraffe. We’ve learned from the first experience what to carry over into the second event when it comes to staffing the event, budgeting, and communicating with Brookfield Zoo staff members.

We hope that our impact on JobGiraffe’s first World Giraffe Day and Night event will become a tradition for years to come. We believe this is the beginning of a successful branding event for JobGiraffe going forward. And through our own experiences with JobGiraffe, we hope to have built a foundation for our own careers going forward as well.

Thank you, JobGiraffe!

The 2015 Interns

DevilStorm Robotics Proves Itself at FIRST Competition

by Sean Brna, JobGiraffe Editor At Large

The DevilStorm Robotics team from Hinsdale Central High School has finished competing in the FIRST Robotics 2015 Midwest Regional Competition recently held at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. In only their second year of competing in this prestigious robotics competition,robo3 we are proud to announce that they, and their robot Stanley, fought valiantly and won 5 out of their 10 matches. This earned them a spot in the quarterfinals where they  teamed up with two other high ranking teams. Unfortunately they did not make it out of the quarterfinals, but that’s okay! For a second-year team their performance is commendable and we at JobGiraffe could not be prouder! And while winning it all would have been nice, we know that just building a robot from scratch – a robot that was competitive in an intense tournament such as this – is really a win in and of itself.

photo

Congratulations to the DevilStorm robotics team, we can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!robo4

By the way… the team could always use additional funding as well as help from mentors, if you’d like to help you may email devilstormrobotics@gmail.com. Additionally, you can follow the team and learn more about the specifics of their progress on Facebook at http://devilstormrobotics.cmail2.com/t/t-l-tytuzl-iljrjtvt-r/ and on Twitter at http://devilstormrobotics.cmail2.com/t/t-l-tytuzl-iljrjtvt-y/.

Join JobGiraffe on World Giraffe Day at Brookfield Zoo

by Ben Horwitz, Communications Director, JobGiraffe

Ben Horwitz, JobGiraffe, World Giraffe Day
Ben Horwitz, JobGiraffe

Earlier this year JobGiraffe announced that it will sponsor Brookfield Zoo’s second annual World Giraffe Day celebration. Our partnership with the Zoo is a reminder of our deep commitment to Chicago, the surrounding suburbs and the people who call it home. Yet, outside of our Midwestern world, it is also a call to action for conservation globally.

It isn’t hard to see what makes giraffes such spectacular creatures. Their grace and strength are reminders of the undeniable majesty of nature, and their bodies are a reminder of what extreme lengths (no pun intended) nature will go in order to survive. They are also the perfect mascot for a company that encourages job seekers to reach higher and to stand out above the crowd.

Unfortunately, these animals are under siege. In the last fifteen years there has been a 40% reduction in their population. Approximately 80,000 individuals remain today, but their numbers continue to dwindle due to illegal poaching and habitat loss. Two subspecies of giraffe, the Rothchild’s and the West African giraffe are the most threatened, currently numbering a paltry 1000 and 300 respectively. The plight of the giraffe has gone largely unnoticed when compared to that of the African elephant or black rhinoceros, leading to what some have called a “Silent Extinction.” World Giraffe Day was conceived to combat this trend and support giraffe conservation efforts across Africa.

Celebrated on the longest day of the year (or night if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere) World Giraffe Day is an opportunity to learn about, raise awareness and raise funds for the earth’s “longest” land animal. Currently, giraffes are the least understood large mammal in Africa, and are often referred to as the savannah’s “forgotten megafauna.” World Giraffe Day hopes to change that.

Our participation in World Giraffe Day is a reminder that we need to Reach Higher for our community, our city and our planet. World Giraffe will be celebrated on June 20th at Brookfield Zoo. To learn more about giraffe conservation and World Giraffe Day please visit www.worldgiraffeday.org/ or www.czs.org/Brookfield-ZOO/Events/Upcoming-Events/World-Giraffe-Day for more information about the event.

Hope to see you there. Reach Higher!

Ben Horwitz
Communications Director
JobGiraffe

Thanks, Coach!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

No matter how many years it’s been since you walked with gown and mortarboard to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, I’ll bet you can still name your high school gym or sports coach – right?

Whether you played sports, marched in the band or took Tae Kwon Do at the neighborhood “Y”, we’ve all had important mentors along the way.

Most of us also had the experience of working with our high school or college career development department or counselors. These were useful free services with helpful people who assisted students with understanding how their class selection, skills and scholastic achievement fit into the job market and could shape their future careers.

But what does one do when graduation is in the rear view mirror, or your camp days are long gone, and you’re in need of help with your current job search?

Some people turn to professional career coaches; people who – for a fee – offer personalized advice on how to land the best potential new job. Most job seekers are aware of these services, and they can be very helpful for some people, but is paying a fee REALLY a practical decision for most? Probably not. What many people do not realize is that there is another form of career coaching available that is not only free, but can also lead to you finding your dream job – using a recruiting and staffing firm!

Let’s take a look at why:

Comprehensive Information: There is a common misconception that the consultants who work at recruiting and staffing agencies operate just like HR professionals – focused on filling a specific opening with a specific candidate – but this is incorrect!

Although you may have initially applied for a specific opening with a staffing agency, the consultants working for that agency will look at your education, skills and experience in relation to ALL the positions (and companies) they handle, and ultimately present you with the best fit(s). Plus, they often consider contacting non-clients to discuss potential openings for you that may not yet exist! Like a “talent agent”, your consultant will “shop” your resume around to potential employers to see if an opening can be created or may soon become available.  Working with a recruiting and staffing firm can open hundreds, if not thousands, of doors to openings and opportunities that you may not have access to through any other medium.

Additionally, based on their many years of experience placing people with a variety of backgrounds within numerous types of jobs for countless types of companies and organizations, you can receive comprehensive feedback on your career potential and salary expectations.

Real-Time View of the Local Economy: Consultants at recruiting and staffing agencies have their finger on the pulse of their local job market in an unparalleled way. That’s because everyday they are in communication with the companies in their region about various types of openings. When there are changes in local hiring trends, staffing agencies will be aware of these changes before any economist and certainly before the general public. This ‘real-time’ information becomes invaluable intelligence that can be the difference between you being ahead of or behind the hiring trends in your area.

Resume and Pre-Interview Assistance: Recruiting and staffing consultants will look at your resume and in short time make immediate corrections and/or suggestions for its improvement, which will increase your results in securing interviews.

Also, based on your personal interview, they will make observations regarding your personality type, strengths, weaknesses, areas for learning, potential for growth and help you to “connect the dots” with types of positions, companies or industries that you may not have considered previously – or have even known about.

How strong are your skills and experience? In addition to testing your relevant computer software knowledge and skills, your consultant can offer free tutorials to boost any gap in your proficiency or suggest learning others to boost your marketability. Plus, your consultant will perform various verifications, reference and background checks (all of which should be free of charge to you) to be certain that your background WILL check out as you expect, and if discrepancies are uncovered, help you address them NOW – rather than when its too late.

Additionally, once an interview has been scheduled, your consultant will also offer valuable interview advice and insight into the firm or firms you will meet with! For example, one of our clients LOVES the Cubs – so you’ll know NOT to blurt out how being a Sox fan has improved your work habits!

Fees – It’s FREE: Recruiting and staffing agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area do not charge the job seeker! Chicago is an “EPF market”, or Employer Paid Fee market. Agencies are paid if – and only if – you are hired and providing you stay a certain length of time. In JobGiraffe’s case, this is typically no less than 90 days, but usually more like one year. This fact is not only kinder to your wallet than using a paid career consultant, but helps to assure you that the staffing agency will always work hard to make the best match possible between you, the job seeker, and the company who needs you, otherwise we don’t get paid. And, if you are working with an agency in Chicago, and they are charging you a fee – run!

We’re Your Biggest Fan: When you work with a consultant, not only will you have a liaison between you and the hiring company, you’ll have your own cheering section! Your consultant will always be in your corner rooting for you and will be your best advocate. In fact, oftentimes your consultant may have the ability to ‘tip’ things in your favor if the hiring company must decide between you and someone else.

Also, in addition to providing you “your own cheering section” as you score your next job, your consultant can also be the source of invaluable feedback if you never seem to make it to the “second round” or always seem to always come in “2nd Place”. Sometimes you may be doing something wrong on your interviews, and not even realize it!

This unique “third party professional” can make a difference in every aspect of your job search. Read the profiles of the JobGiraffe staff. A common theme, profile after profile, mentions how gratified they are to help make a difference in the lives of job seekers – and that’s not just true for the JobGiraffe staff – because I do believe it is the common thread shared by consultants across this industry.

So once you land the job you’ve been looking for through a recruiting or staffing firm, don’t forget to say “Thanks Coach”…

Reach Higher!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

The Jobs Outlook – It’s Data Time…

by Andrew Horwitz, Director of Strategy & Planning, JobGiraffe

Andrew Horwitz
Andrew Horwitz

JobGiraffe has been in the business of finding great jobs for great candidates for many years in every type of job market imaginable.   Although I do not hail back to it s beginnings in the 60’s, I know with certainty that 2009 to 2013 was one of the toughest job markets for our company on record. Over the past twelve months we have all been hearing “things are getting better”, so I believe now is the time to take a deeper look at the data and trends affecting employment across the country and, specifically, in our own Chicago Metropolitan Area.

We can utilize this information to analyze the job market’s relative strengths and potential weaknesses in an attempt to identify future opportunities as well as potential pitfalls. In order to even try to give this complex and multi-faceted topic the depth and nuance it deserves, this will be the first in a series of several posts attempting to unpack and put into context some of the key metrics used to understand the economy and the labor market. Hopefully, through this exploration, we can find both meaning and tangible, actionable intelligence in the data.

The national unemployment rate provides a rather rudimentary and often unsatisfying snapshot of the national employment situation, but it’s a useful starting point. As of February 2015, the most recent data available, the unemployment rate currently stands at 5.5%. It’s important to note that the unemployment rate has been relatively consistent in its erosion. In February 2010, February 2011, February 2012, February 2013, and February 2014 respectively, the rates were 9.8, 9.0, 8.3, 7.7, and 6.7 percent.[1]

Another useful – and in my opinion, more telling – indicator is the ratio of unemployed individuals to job openings. As of January 2015, there was a modest 1.8 unemployed individuals actively seeking work for every available job. To put this in perspective, in June of 2009, when the recession technically ended, there were 6.2 unemployed persons per job opening. [2] The number of total job openings and new hires have also increased, illustrating how the job market is picking up steam. This January, there were 5 million total job openings, which exceeds the pre-recession highs.[3] 4.5 million of these openings were in the private sector. The pre-recession highs for total openings in the private sector was surpassed in April 2014. Yet the number of total hires, 4.7 million in January 2015, was still 3.4 percent below their pre-recession level. [4]

The voluntary quit rate, a good indicator of positive career mobility, rose to 2 percent in January, as 2.8 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs. The prevailing wisdom is that individuals leave their current job with the anticipation of greener pastures, and this is the highest level of voluntary quits, as a percentage of total separations, since April 2008.[5] Even through a conservative and cautious interpretation of this data, its pretty clear that more gainful and promising employment is getting easier to attain for most.

However, there are still some persisting structural issues within the composition of the labor force. The labor force participation rate rests at 62.8 percent, according to the most recent BLS data from 2015. To put this in context, the labor force participation rate stood at 63 percent in February 2014, 64.9 percent in February 2010, and 66.3 percent in 2007, prior to the recession.[6] The labor force participation rate is defined as the percentage of ‘working age persons’ (between 16-64 years old) who are either employed or are unemployed, but looking for a job.[7] Part of this decline in the labor force participation rate can be attributed to the demographic shifts caused by an aging population as baby-boomers retire and drop out of the labor force. However, many individuals at or approaching retirement age were pushed into an involuntary, early retirement due to the economic circumstances during and after the recession. There are still many “missing workers,” people of prime working age that have actively given up pursuing employment due to their frustrations in finding a job. While many of these potential members of the workforce might return to actively pursuing employment when they feel that their prospects for landing a job have improved, many “missing workers” may never find their way back to the workforce.[8]

Underemployment and involuntary part-time employment are two other pesky remnants of the recession. It is encouraging that there has been some long-overdue improvement in the numbers regarding involuntary part-time employment recently. The household survey data, collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, indicates that the number of individuals who are involuntary working part-time decreased by 175,000 in February 2015, and 570,000 in the past year.[9] Underemployment is a measure of labor utilization that combines the percentage of the labor force that is ‘highly skilled,’ but is working in ‘low skilled jobs,’ with the percentage of part-time workers that would prefer to be working full-time. [10] The underemployment rate stands at a concerning 16.2 percent in February 2015, but is down from 17.5 percent in February 2014. [11]

Long-term unemployment produces some of the most deleterious effects on a country’s economy and its long-run fiscal health. When individuals are unemployed for a period of six months or longer they find it progressively more difficult to be selected for interviews as their resumes are more readily passed over, often due to the unfair negative stigmas employers associate with being unemployed. Long-term unemployment squeezes budgets from both ends as tax revenues drop from fewer people contributing to payroll and income taxes, while benefits payments go up as those same people draw on various unemployment benefits. Strained budgets, especially at the state level, have the added effect of making it more difficult to re-train workers with new skills, and thereby ease their transition back into the workplace. Inevitably, strained budgets also lead to cuts in discretionary state spending, which not only saps public sector job growth, but can have spillover effects negatively influencing private sector job growth as well.

Historically, employment security in the US has not been as strong as it is in country’s like Japan or Germany. However, the United States in recent decades has had a less sticky and more fluid, dynamic job market. Americans found it much easier to quickly find new jobs, and rates of long-term unemployment were modest when compared to other OECD countries. Our experience with long-term unemployment changed after the recession. Currently, 31.1 percent of unemployed jobseekers have been out of work 27 weeks or longer, a number that is twice as high than it was at the beginning of the recession.[12] The number of long-term unemployed remains at around 2.7 million. The good news is that the number of long-term unemployed is down by 1.1 million year over year, so progress on this front is encouraging.[13]

By in large, the headwinds that were tempering economic growth in the post-recession economy either are or are starting to subside, and the tailwinds created by a more structurally sound economy are taking hold. This is reflected in these numbers, which clearly support the notion that the job market is improving, but is not yet fully healed. National employment figures tell us only part of the story. One characteristic of the nation’s recovery that cannot be overlooked is how growth in the post-recession economy has not been uniform, and outcomes have varied throughout the county – a topic we will explore further in future posts. The next post will focus on the relative strength of Chicago’s market as we delve into how our beloved city has fared.

Thank you for your readership and stay tuned.

Andrew Horwitz
Director of Strategy and Planning
JobGiraffe

[1] United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. 29 Mar 2015.

[2] U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Highlights.” January 2015. P.1

[3] U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Highlights.” January 2015. P.2

[4] U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Highlights.” January 2015. P.5

[5] Bloomberg News. “More Job Openings Move Needle on Yellen Dashboard: Economy.” 10 Mar 2015.

[6] United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. 29 Mar 2015.

[7] Moffat, Mike. About Education. “What is the Labor Force Participation Rate.”

[8] Casselman, Ben. FiveThirtyEight. “More of the Long-Term Unemployed are Finding a Job.” 29 Dec 2014. 

[9] Baker, Dean. Center For Economic and Policy Research. “Job Growth Remains Strong in February.” 6 Mar 2015.

[10] Investopedia. Investopedia Dictionary. “Underemployment.”

[11] Statista. “U.S. Underemployment rate from February 2014 to February 2015 (by month).”

[12] Bloomberg News. “More Job Openings Move Needle on Yellen Dashboard: Economy.” 10 Mar 2015.

[13] Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment Situation Summary.” The Employment Situation – February 2015. 6 Mar 2015.

Cover Letters Are Still Alive – and Thriving!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

It may seem to job seekers that cover letters are not as important as they once were, as we’ve all heard about how little time most hiring managers spend reading a resume or that a computer may actually scan your resume before human eyes ever do.

True or not, this does not mean you shouldn’t include a cover letter when applying for a job!  Although your resume may be the only item reviewed during a company’s first round of selecting candidates for interviews, for the second round or beyond, you can be certain every piece of your submission will be carefully examined, and your excellent cover letter may give you a ‘leg up’ against the competition!

But what makes a good cover letter in today’s world? I’d like to give you seven simple steps to create the best personal/professional introduction (a.k.a. cover letter) you can submit.

1. Writing in the ‘first person’ and ‘present tense’ is the way to go:  Within resumes, most candidates correctly refer to themselves in the third person and avoid using ‘I’ to create a more professional representation of their work history, but you should not do the same in your cover letter.  You can speak to the reader in a more “normal” manner and tone, referring to yourself as “I” and discussing your past and your present in a manner that’s easy to read and understand, and will allow the reader an opportunity to sense your personality.

2. Keep your formatting simple and consistent: The header on your resume (that part at the top which contains your contact information) and your cover letter should be identical. You should use the same font and approximate size for the text in both, and in general make the two documents look as though they belong together.  This simple organizational tactic reflects well upon you and will help you be remembered by the reader. Plus, should your resume and cover letter be accidentally separated, it will be very simple for them to be brought back together.

3. Don’t make your cover letter too lengthy or word-dense: Not only should your cover letter never be longer than one page, it should not look like a law school text. Asking a hiring manager to read a lengthy document about why you’re the right candidate for the job may be asking too much. Make sure there is a balance between the white background of the document and the black text.  This will encourage the reader to engage in what you’ve written as opposed to just scanning it. Taking the reader’s time into consideration will go a long way.

4. Directly address the job you’re applying for and why you’re a fit for that job: Your resume submission should always keep the job you are applying for in mind and you should adjust certain information within the resume appropriately, but it should still read as an objective overview of your professional history. Yet, within your cover letter, it is totally appropriate to specifically address the job you are applying to – and stress why you’re a good fit for it!  Share important highlights of your education, background and/or skills that are the most relevant to the position. If you know who the hiring manager is, or which department they’re within, you should be addressing them personally or by department.  If not, “Hiring Manager” is acceptable.

If you are not willing to take the time to create a personalized and customized cover letter for each resume submission you make, then it is probably best NOT to use a cover letter.

5. Don’t make your cover letter a “mini resume”: The information or professional highlights that are within your resume should not be repeated verbatim in your cover letter. Your cover letter should be seen as a tool to either intrigue the reader into wanting to carefully examine your resume or, if it is being read after your first interview, to reinforce why you are a good fit for the position. Also, keep in mind that your cover letter is a great way to reference positive information about yourself that wouldn’t seem appropriate – or that wouldn’t fit – within your resume.

6. Highlight your main selling points: While your cover letter should read more like prose than a resume, it’s also always best to add a couple of bulleted or highlighted remarks within the cover letter. This will help to visually break up the letter and make it not only easier to read but will also make sure you get across a couple of your best selling attributes should the reader be in a rush.

This could be done by simple bullet points in the middle of the cover letter…

  • With five years of successful outside sales experience, I’ve developed strong interpersonal skills and the ability to connect with people in all levels of an organization.
  • With advanced proficiency in MS Office and experience with Oracle ERP systems and Salesforce CRM software, I have the computer skills necessary for this position

Or, it could even be done by addressing some of the specific needs listed by the company in their job description.

Your ad specifies: Strong interpersonal skills

I offer: Five years of successful outside sales experience that required working with people in all levels of an organization.

Your ad specifies: The need for strong computer skills

I offer: Advanced proficiency in MS Office, experience with Oracle ERP systems and in-depth knowledge of Salesforce CRM software.

7. A strong ending: Emphasize your interest in the position and, although it may seem obvious, always be sure to thank the reader for their consideration in a positive and professional tone. And be sure to sign the cover letter if it’s being delivered by mail or in person, and if sent via email, consider adding an image of your signature. This adds a personal touch and is sure to make you ‘stand out above the crowd’.

Now ‘Reach Higher” and get that job!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

DevilStorm Gets Ready for FIRST Robotics Competition

We’d like to provide another update on the progress of the proudly JobGiraffe sponsored DevilStorm Robotics Team from Hinsdale Central High School. They are now in the middle of their ‘Build Season’, the 6 week long period when they must design and build their robot before it competes in the regional FIRST Robotics competition (it is called Recycle Rush and you can read all the details about it here)._DSC1775The mechanical department of the DevilStorm team has moved from designing their parts within a CAD software program (computer-animated design) to actually ordering their parts and beginning to assemble them. Of course, since they designed their parts on a computer the parts they ordered are not exactly to the specifications they need, so they had to fix these discrepancies themselves. Next, they moved onto actually manufacturing & building the subsystems of the robot, which included building a tower section with steel cable supports to create a lifting mechanism, as well as several gearboxes that allow the lifting to actually work.

_DSC1822The programming department has been working on implementing computer vision, which will essentially be what allows the robot to see and identify containers that need to be picked up during the autonomous part of the competition (in which the robot will work on it’s own without input from the team). They have also been working on the very important controllers that will be used during the part of the competition in which the team controls the robot. As you might imagine these controllers working correctly is paramount to the robot’s success.

_DSC1631The electrical department has been playing a bit of a waiting game because the parts of the already assembled robot are completely wired, meaning they are waiting for more components of the robot to be complete before more wiring is necessary. In the meantime they have been researching for the right encoders to be used on the robot, encoders that will help convert the computer’s instructions into the correct electrical signals to be sent to the mechanical components of the robot.

_DSC1610The logistics department had a big win by securing two new sponsors for the team, and they could have a third one soon as well. They have also been updating several documents related to inventory and budgeting, which then informs them on another important responsibility of theirs, parts ordering. One of the logistics department’s roles is to keep everyone else organized and on target, and it seems that they’ve been quite successful in this regard.

In other news the team has finally decided on a name for the robot, it shall be known as Stanley! We are always excited to hear the updates from the DevilStorm Robotics team, and are always impressed by the quick progress they are making in the complicated process of creating a robot from scratch in just 6 weeks time.

The team could always use additional funding as well as help from mentors, if you’d like to help you may email devilstormrobotics@gmail.com. Additionally, you can follow the team and learn more about the specifics of their progress on Facebook at http://devilstormrobotics.cmail2.com/t/t-l-tytuzl-iljrjtvt-r/ and on Twitter at http://devilstormrobotics.cmail2.com/t/t-l-tytuzl-iljrjtvt-y/.

DevilStorm Robotics Team Update

by Sean Brna

The Hinsdale Central High School robotics team, which JobGiraffe proudly sponsors and roots for, has made great progress lately. They are in the beginning of their 6 week long ‘Build Season’, in which they have to design and build their robot that will compete in the Midwest regional FIRST Robotics Competition. This year’s competition is called Recycle Rush (and you can read all the details about that here). DevilStorm’s team members have been separated into departments of sorts, meaning that certain students focus on certain components of the robot’s design, after which they then have to work together to make sure each component works well with all the others. It’s not a simple process, but progress is being made!

DevilStorm robotics, JobGiraffe

The mechanical part of the team has finished the very important CAD development stage of the building process. CAD stands for Computer-Animated-Design, meaning the students learn about, and then use, complex software so as to design the integral parts of the robot. In this picture you can see the students analyzing the design of the motor controllers for the robot, which will be the part of the robot that allows it to drive.

DevilStorm robotics team, JobGiraffe

But the robot is not all mechanical – it is also part computer! Without computerization, the robot would not be able to accomplish its intricate recycling-related goals. With the help of their mentors, as well as with help from the FIRST Coding Library, the computer part of the team has successfully simplified the programming code, which controls the computer software within their robot. This coding simplification will help their robot run in a more optimal manner related to its specific operation goals. Keep in mind that the robot must be able to run self-sufficiently, as well as be controlled by the students; meaning the efficiency of the code is quite important!

DevilStorm robotics team, JobGiraffe

The electrical side of the team has successfully connected all the motor controls to the robot, meaning it has full movement capabilities. In doing so they have also taught the younger members on the team exactly how one goes about wiring a dynamic machine such as this. One of the more complicated aspects of this process is working with the programmers, so that the code they write correctly knows how to communicate with the robot’s wiring – which is what will allow it to move and operate in exactly the way they wish it to.

DevilStorm Robotics Team, JobGiraffe

And lastly, the “driver station” has received a nifty looking laser-cut design depicting the team’s logo, which is half-robot/half-devil figure that looks very intense indeed!

We are excited to see the next steps in the ‘Build Season’, and see what the DevilStorm robot team will look like as it continues to take shape!

To follow the team and learn more about the specifics of their progress you may follow them on Facebook at http://devilstormrobotics.cmail2.com/t/t-l-tytuzl-iljrjtvt-r/ and on Twitter at http://devilstormrobotics.cmail2.com/t/t-l-tytuzl-iljrjtvt-y/.

Is Your Staff ‘Willing to Walk Away’ in 2015?

Employers: It’s time to pay attention to your underpaid staff! Employees are ‘willing to walk’ as the path to more money may finally be here!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

Yes, I believe both employers and employees are aware that the economy is improving, with GDP growth increasing and the unemployment rate falling. And, while things for the average American could still be better, it seems that there are some signs that these improvements will soon begin to translate to positive changes in the salaries of the middle class.

One significant piece of evidence that salaries are poised to improve is the number of people willing to say goodbye to their current employer. A recent survey from Glassdoor.com showed that 35% of workers said they’d look for a new job in 2015 if they don’t receive a pay increase from their current employer. And while those under 35 and those making less than $50,000 are more inclined to leave their jobs, they aren’t the only ones open to changing the way they think about their salary in 2015. The survey also found that 31% of those making over $100,000 per year would look elsewhere for work if they don’t get a raise, along with 36% of those between the ages of 35 and 44. Those are substantial numbers that would have been unthinkable during the Great Recession!

What exactly does all this mean? Well for one, many of those people who will move on if they don’t get a raise will not actually have to quit, as nearly half of those in the survey also said they expect a 3-5% pay increase this year. But if they do choose to leave, they are more confident in doing so in 2015 as nearly half of those surveyed feel they could find equal or better employment within six months, which is the highest level of employee confidence since 2009. Add in the fact that in 2015 nearly 60% of employers expect to increase hiring and it seems clear that not only will more people be hired this year, but also those who are already employed will have more salary leverage than they have had in a long time!

How should employees handle this positive information? I suggest that if you have had a stagnant pay rate for many years, 2015 may be the time to have the ‘raise conversation’ with your boss. Pick the right moment though, and broach the subject in a thoughtful and non-confrontational way. Don’t just say, “I need a raise or I am out of here!” If your company had a strong quarter, or there is new hiring happening, this probably means your company is in a position to invest more in their employees. Do not be afraid to ask your boss what plans are being made for reviews and/or raises in 2015. Be sure to express your interest in “moving forward” with the company, and give them some time to respond before seriously engaging in a search to find a new position.

And employers, if you do not respond to this approach, or you refuse to have a meaningful conversation with your employees about a raise within a reasonable period of time, then you can be certain your most valuable people will begin to look at what their options are at other companies!

Each situation between employers and employees and their salaries, now and future, is unique; there are no blanket rules or strategies I can cite, but it’s clear that if you – the employee – have been thinking about asking for a raise or changing jobs, the positive improvements as of late have given you the most leverage and opportunity that has existed in years!

Not all employers are going to offer raises on their own; often the employee will still need to ask, but this is not a conversation to be afraid of anymore. And if current employers won’t ‘play ball’, good employees should join the trend and consider ‘walking away’ in 2015, because they will not be alone!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

The ‘Build Season’ Begins for the DevilStorm Robotics Team

In case you didn’t know, JobGiraffe is a proud sponsor – and fan – of Hinsdale Central High School’s robotics team, DevilStorm Robotics. They are a part of the FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) nationwide robotics competition and will take part in the Midwest Regional Competition this spring. The aim of FRC is to inspire young people to be the future leaders within science and technology, while along the way also teaching them other useful skills such as teamwork, mentoring, fundraising, and communication. Last year, DevilStorm did quite well and won the Rookie All-Star Award for the Midwest region.

The 2015 competition officially got underway last Saturday with the announcement of this year’s challenge, which is appropriately called ‘Recycle Rush’. The team will now enter the six-week long ‘Build Season’, in which the team has to first design and prototype ideas for the robot before actually building it.

The Recycle Rush challenge is interesting in that it will challenge the robotics team to not only create a dynamic and complex machine to accomplish its tasks, but also to think about tackling a much larger issue that is important to our environment and the planet.

 

The objective is to build stacks of totes (rectangular recycling containers), and then to place recycling bins (in a traditional recycling/garbage can shape) on top of them, into which the robots will then need to ‘recycle’ litter, which will be represented by pool noodles. Two ‘alliances’ of three teams each will face off against each other in this competition within an area that measures 54’ long and 27’ wide. Within that area will be a ‘landfill zone’, an ‘auto zone’ in-between, and ‘scoring platforms’ (where the totes must be stacked to receive points).

Each 2 minute and 30 second match begins with a 15 second autonomous period, in which the robot must operate independently of any human input. The remaining 2 minutes and 15 seconds are called the Teleop Period. During this time, the robots are controlled remotely by the student drivers. The three teams of each alliance must work together to place as many totes on their scoring platforms as possible. There is the additional twist that recycling containers at greater heights earn an alliance more points. An alliance can also earn points by disposing of their litter in either their landfill zone or by placing litter in or on scored recycling containers. If you leave any un-scored litter marked in the other alliance’s color on your side of the field it will be considered unprocessed and not properly disposed of, resulting in points for the other alliance. An alliance can also earn ‘Cooperation Points’ through coordinating well with the other alliance in the match, which may seem counter intuitive at first, but really does reflect the fact that recycling is something we all benefit from.

What’s clear is that there are many different ways to receive points, or to make each piece of litter moved more valuable. This means that a complex and well thought out strategy will be necessary; in addition to teamwork and building a robot that can actually do the hard work. These students have a lot on their hands!

We are happy to hear that the DevilStorm team has already begun to brainstorm and share their ideas for their robot and have even begun designing and prototyping ideas. And that is just after one week of knowing what the competition would be! They have brought on an engineering teacher to their team, along with an FRC team alum, which are smart moves that should help them to improve upon last year’s success.

JobGiraffe would like to re-iterate that we are very proud of the DevilStorm robotics team and are very happy to again be one of their sponsors as they go into the 2015 competition. If you’d like to learn more about the FRC Robotics Competition and how you can get involved (as a volunteer, sponsor, mentor or donator) you can learn more at http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/get-involved. We will continue to provide updates on the team and their robot as we get closer to competition time.

Good luck to you DevilStorm!