How to get stuck at your AWFUL job

Ball And Chain, Restrain, Heavy, Icon, Symbol, Prisoner

Counteroffer! You quit your awful job, but your old boss suddenly tells you about plans for future promotions, glory, and fame! The actual President (not of the 

United States, but close enough) came to ask you to stay. It makes so much sense to stay, right?

In the words of the world-famous Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”

90% of people who take a counteroffer are
looking for a new job in 6 months.

The rate approaches 100% after a year. Counteroffers are forced. They desperately need someone in your position.

You quitting is a “Fear Factor” moment for your old boss. They are scared and desperate. For the next three months, you have an excellent job! Then they ignore their promises. Even worse, you get canned. They were using the time to find a replacement for you.

You’ve been eating cockroach puree for years at that job. Their compensation to get you to stay is a 20% raise and an office. Will that make the cockroach puree taste better? Nope. There is a point where money can’t pay you to keep your job.

A few weeks ago, I had someone working in a large city say they were making well over 500k per year. They also said they’d accept a job offer as low as 120k. This guy had been eating cockroaches for so long that he was willing to cut his pay to a fifth of what he was earning before.

Recognize your limit. Money doesn’t make you happy,
but your job can make you miserable.

He probably wouldn’t accept any counteroffer from that company because it’s just not worth it, and he recognized that. On the other hand, I’ve had many, many people stay because of fabulous counteroffers when they were just about to leave. Absolutely amazing, just like I said before: promotions, fame, glory! Not to mention a hefty raise.

And… they quit. Again. At the new job, the pay was lower, less vacation, all with more boring responsibilities. The real issue was the company. The company didn’t change. Opportunities stayed the same.

They were only treated well when they were
(accidentally) blackmailing their boss.

As you read a few posts back, you don’t want to work at a place where you must threaten your boss to get what you deserve. Don’t take a counteroffer if you’re seriously underpaid or underappreciated. They won’t change. If you go back to them, they’ll treat you as poorly as before, assuming they even give you what they promised.

I must admit, I see some counteroffers and say, “How can they refuse to stay?” Inevitably that person is soon gone. Why? Their job was so bad that it took a huge bribe to get them to stay. The size of the bribe indicates the true foulness of the position.

Think about it. If you are offered a huge reward to stay, you were robbed for the previous year. Will they also offer a year’s back pay as an immediate bonus? If they do, how about for the year before that? How guilty is their conscience?

Don’t accept a counteroffer. The chances are less than 1 in 30 that it will work out. No matter how much they pay you, a cockroach milkshake is still a cockroach milkshake. Whipped cream with a cherry on top doesn’t fix the problem.

Something To Do Today

Put together a portfolio and ask your boss for a raise or promotion if that’s what would keep you there. If they won’t give it to you freely, don’t accept it as the fruits of a counteroffer.

Beat Resume Scanners

Computers reject 2,000,000 resumes in less than a second.

Make sure your resume is not rejected

How to get your resume seen online could be a book.  That book hasn’t changed in the last 5 years.  Here are the basics:

  1. Include every keyword that is in the job listing
  2. Figure out a way to repeat the most important keywords
  3. Resubmit your changed resume occasionally

 Keywords are critical

Computerized filters are being used more often as they improve.  Every platform has them available for all employers.  If your resume does not have every important keyword or acronym, the computer eats it and spits out a form letter saying, “Thank you for your time”. No human sees your resume.

Put a list of certifications, education, software used, tools mastered, and techniques employed at the end of the resume.  Include every abbreviation or keyword in the ad.  If you are missing a minor keyword, consider saying at the end of your resume, “I understand CDF and JCL but have never used them.”  It may get you past the computer filter.  If you are submitting your resume directly to the hiring manager, you might take the list off.

 Repeat important keywords

Your resume will be ranked by keyword usage.  When my query brings back 300 hits, I want to see the most likely resumes first.  I sort on “relevance” and cherry pick the top resumes.  The best way to be ranked highly is to intelligently use the keywords multiple times.

 Resubmit your resume

Job boards usually show the most recently submitted resumes first.  If your resume has not been submitted for 3 months, it is at the bottom.  Worse, recruiters may assume you have a job if your resume is that old.  They won’t call you.

Just these three changes may change your invisible resume to a real interview magnet.

Did you make it this far? If so, re-read this article and only look
at the bold words. This is what your resume looks like to a computer.
To a computer, you want the most keywords.

 That’s a lot of keywords!  As I mentioned above, use lists. Lists and summaries are the easiest way to reuse keywords without looking repetitive to a real person once it makes it past the computer.

On a job description, keywords may be listed as skills, proficiencies, aptitudes, or something else.  Periodically, you’ll see an awful job description that’s exclusively in brick sized paragraphs. Try and pick out the most important words. What skills, abilities, and personality features are they looking for?

Then rewrite your resume for each job you REALLY want!

Write each keyword down before writing your resume. Your resume should be personalized for the job you’re applying to.

Something To Do Today

Go read the job description of the last job you submitted your resume for.  Did your resume have all the keywords?  Did it repeat the most important keywords?

Get the raise you deserve

Blackmail your boss?

While I worked at EDS, a man quit three different times. He entirely left the building and briefly worked for another company for a few weeks. He’d walk out with a clear message to his (previous) manager that he didn’t want to leave the job and could be enticed to stay or return. Each time, that man got the raise and promotion.

Blackmail? I think so! And, it worked! It didn’t backfire… at least not directly.

Morale in the company tanked. Every worker realized “If I want to get that raise, I have to quit”. That’s not the sort of place that most people want to work at. People did leave, and for many of them, permanently.

Blackmail DOES work! That is, if you want to work for a company where you have to threaten your boss.

Don’t ask for a raise. PROVE you deserve one!

You shouldn’t need to threaten to leave to get a raise. Put together your resume like you were looking for a job. Collect your accomplishments in a portfolio. Get recommendations from friends and coworkers. Show them to your boss.

 When you can prove you deserve a raise, go get one. Talk to your boss. Show them that they would have to pay more to hire an equal level replacement, so they should be paying you more. Right now. Don’t threaten to quit. Give them your portfolio and the time to make the right decision.

^^There’s nothing more convincing than simple proof^^

At least one month down the road, ask them what they’re planning on doing (if you haven’t gotten the raise, of course!). Just ask. Don’t threaten, don’t demand, don’t beg like a dog. Ask.

Your boss might not give it to you. Maybe they can’t. Perchance they think you don’t deserve it. Don’t blackmail your boss. Let them have the opportunity to make the right choice and be heroes. If you don’t get what you deserve, go look for a new job and don’t look back.

Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

Something To Do Today

Upgrade your resume. Look for new accomplishments and skills to add.

Show me the gold – your portfolio

As a recruiter, I had recommended Ben for a job as a programmer. He’d been programming constantly for 6 years. He could prove his skills with C++. He had produced a video game that was more complex than many in the stores at the time.

I was enthusiastic and said he was a junior, which is perfect for a simple 3 month programming job. The hiring manager agreed to interview him. I forgot (seriously just forgot) to mention that he was a high school junior, not a junior in college. Out of courtesy, the manager let the interview go on anyways.

Ben’s portfolio (the game), enthusiasm, and knowledge
were so great that the 16 year old kid got hired.

Let’s not forget he was cheap, too.

How can a high school junior get a job meant for a college junior? An enthusiastic mistake and a portfolio. You create your own enthusiasm. Don’t try to make mistakes, but do capitalize on them. The portfolio is not as easy as it looks.

Your portfolio is separate from your resume. Your resume is a list of accomplishments. It says what happened while you were at a job, a list of improvements.

A portfolio is proof. Graphic artists will take a folder (nowadays, probably electronic) full of the best examples of their work. Programmers can share websites they’ve built, or other programs that actually run, like Ben’s game. A portfolio is demonstratable. Use your portfolio to prove that you have amazing abilities.

Collect your best examples and put them together on a thumb drive, a folder, online, or somewhere else. Show people your portfolio! When I talked previously about building enthusiasm so people recommend you, this is how to do it! Talk about how awesome and fun building your favorite project was!

Take your favorite thing you’ve ever worked on, what brings
a smile on your face just to think about, and share it.

Employers have interviews to make sure that you can do the job. If you lack the qualifications that they “require” they won’t hire you. You don’t fit the job description. But here’s a secret:

If you can prove to them you can do that job,
they WILL hire you anyway.

 Years later, Ben ended up using his portfolio to get a previous high-level Google executive to co-found a business with him. His portfolio this time wasn’t a game. It was LucidChart. How good was his portfolio? Take a look here.

Ben had a college level programming job in high school.
Then he had a man from Google asking to start a business with him.

 This all happened before he graduated from college. There is an amazing amount that can be done with a portfolio that can’t be done with a resume.

Something To Do Today

 Ask your boss what you could put in your portfolio that absolutely proves you deserve a raise. Put together that portfolio and see if he gives you that raise. If he doesn’t, show that portfolio to other employers. Maybe they will give you the raise (or rather, a job) when your boss wouldn’t.

Prove you deserve it and they will give it to you.

Getting everyone to recommend you (without having to ask!)

Do you want to work with someone who is unhappy being there to work?

Would you recommend someone who is grumpy about their job for a different job in that field? Who is only working for the money even though they despise their job with a passion?

No one else would either.

Love to work

People love to waste their passion hating their job instead of loving their work. There is a big difference that is noticeable to everyone when someone is excited to work. Painful drudgery for money is too common. These people stay stay stuck where they are and no one wants to recommend them. Ever.

I suppose I shouldn’t say never. Their co-workers might recommend them… to get that person out of their office.

These people drain energy worse than incandescent light bulbs.

Who you are at work

At AGI, we place a lot of people. There are a few groups that everyone tends to fall into: excited kids, total grumps, or average Johnsons.

You know how kids are. They’re excited by all the new stuff around them. They love what they get to do. Life is an exciting adventure, and they can’t stop finding new things to do even if its on the exact same playset for years and years.

People like this do their job off the clock, not getting paid for it. They love what they do, and they are happy to do it outside of work. They have so much energy that is infectious, and these are the people that come to mind whenever a job opportunity gets mentioned. They talk about their job with love, and their friends share that passion because they care.

These people get recommendations for jobs. And a lot of them. These are the people that come to mind when a hole in an organization comes up. These are the people that get called about a new job instead of having to do the calling themselves.

Average Johnsons are average. They use their skills whenever it’s useful. They don’t hate their job but they are far from excited about it. If you ask them about work, you get a “it’s not bad” from them. They might get recommended every now and then, but they aren’t the first person who comes to mind.

Everyone knows a grump when they meet them. They hate their job and everything about it. They avoid it whenever possible. They make the worst workers because they don’t want to be there. A grump goes off like a bomb about how awful their job is. They whine and complain, and no one ever wants to work with them. Maybe they drudged through their classes, got their degree, but there is no person willing to hire them.

There is a huge difference between each of these groups. The biggest difference is excitement, but another is how much they use their job outside of work.

People who are excited get jobs.


 Do your job for free or for charity

 Use your job and work to help someone! Decide, and act. Helping people will help you become more energetic about your job. It will make you happy about it like you’ve never been before.

Are you a computer technician? Rip apart electronics in your spare time. Offer to help a local church or charity with issues. They might not have a job for you, but give them your number to let them call you if something comes up. Offer to teach at a library, a school, or nursing home.

Are you a salesperson? Do what my partner did, become a charity “hit woman”. Get the job of calling on businesses for donations. You will talk to a lot of leaders of industry. And guess what? If you do a good job, they’ll be impressed.

Your friends, family, and acquaintances will see what you are doing. They’ll tell other people. Your friends, family and everyone you meet and help will recommend you if they ever have the opportunity.

Be excited. Love your job and do it for free. Help others and show them how you love your job, or what you want your job to be. Your excitement will get everyone to help you get a job.

Something To Do Today

 Sit down and seriously evaluate how you’ve been acting. Are you a member of the “beef and whine club”? Find something you enjoy that is related to the job you want. Do it with enthusiasm, for free.

Experience and recommendation get you a job where a degree won’t. Job and work recommendations are great, but also getting them from the community will make you stand out.

Standing out in your resume

Any of these tools can get the job done. Which would you choose?

If a resume gets you an interview, it is a great resume. That is the only measure of success. It cannot get you a job. It can get you an interview.

Applicants want their resume to stand out. It used to be done by using extra nice paper. Sometimes the resume was sent with a single crisp fold or in a flat envelope so that it was just slightly different.

Electronically, it is harder to stand out. Content, readability and accomplishments are critical. Content is king. Anything that distracts from content shouldn’t be there. What gets attention? What  stands out, but not distract?


You may have heard that you should not be including a photo in your resume at any cost. Over the years, lawsuits have been filed charging race discrimination against companies that kept photos of applicants. The idea was that if you had a photo, you COULD discriminate. This is no longer an issue as most interviewers will check your social media profiles. Having a photo included on your resume may help you stand out to an employer.

LinkedIn profiles

The easiest resume is to go to LinkedIn and copy your profile to a PDF and send it in. I’m not sure there is a more boring way to make a resume! If an interviewer wants your LinkedIn profile, they will find it. Send something new, not what is easily available online. A unique resume that isn’t online will get you farther than a resume spammed to a thousand companies.


If you have a certification (cert) that is highly sought after, use it. If there is a well known logo associated with the cert, use it at the top of your resume. Don’t go nuts. For example, the gold standard for PC programmers is Microsoft certs or Sun Java certs. Use those logos. If you are a CPA, attach those letters to your name. Don’t add your dog training certification unless you are applying as a dog trainer.

Fancy fonts

Fonts should make your resume easy to read. Don’t mix 3 or 4 fonts on your resume. It distracts, not enhances. Please don’t use brightly colored fonts. Sometimes a resume looks okay with one other color in addition to black. Usually 3 or more font colors look terrible. Don’t distract.

Content is king. Bullets and bolding are usually all you need to attract attention to the most important parts of your resume. First work on content, form will follow.

Something To Do Today

Look at your resume. Is there anything distracting? Hand it to someone else and ask them.

How to get your resume noticed online

get noticed online to get a job

How to get your resume noticed.

How to get your resume seen online could be a book. That book hasn’t changed in the last 5 years. Here are the basics:

  1. Include every keyword that is in the job listing
  2. Figure out a way to repeat the most important key words
  3. Resubmit your changed resume occasionally

Keywords are critical

Computerized filters are being used more often. CareerBuilder, Ladders, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and all the others have them. If your resume does not have every important keyword or acronym, the computer eats it and spits out a form letter. No human sees your resume.

Put a list of certifications, education, software used, tools mastered and techniques employed at the end of the resume. Include every abbreviation or keyword in the ad. If you are missing a minor keyword, consider saying at the end of your resume, “I understand CDF and JCL but have never used them. It may get you past the computer filter. If you are submitting your resume directly to the hiring manager, you might take the list off.

Repeat important keywords

Your resume will be ranked by keyword usage. When my query brings back 300 hits, I want to see the most likely resumes first. I sort on “relevance” and cherry pick the top resumes. The best way to be ranked highly is to intelligently use the keywords multiple times.

Resubmit your resume

Job boards usually show the most recently submitted resumes first. If your resume has not been submitted for 3 months, it is at the bottom. Worse, recruiters may assume you have a job if your resume is that old. They won’t call you. Refresh your resume every week or two with a minor change.

Just these three things may change your invisible resume to a real interview magnet.

Something To Do Today

Go read the job description of the last job you submitted your resume for. Did your resume have all the keywords? Did it repeat the most important keywords?

How to choose (or decide to change) your career

Ladder into the clouds

Is your career really going somewhere?

It isn’t easy.  You won’t be sure you made the right decision.  So how do you decide what your career should be?

This link will take you to an interesting article on choosing a career.

The summary?

  1. Pick a career by really thinking about what you want and exploring your subconcious. Get help from lots of people in this step.
  2. Figure out what is achieveable by dividing the career into doable actions, steps, time periods.
  3. Just do it!  But do it in a series of steps.  Not like a long long long long long marathon.  Like a bunch of steps you can do.
  4. Enjoy! Profit! (and adjust)

You know what?  This version is a lot shorter.  The other one will give you a lot more food for thought.

Cover letter with impact

Tree hit by lightning

Your cover letter can have incredible energy.

The best cover letter I ever heard of was a clean sheet of paper that literally only said,

“I can do that job.”

The resume beneath it was thoroughly read. The candidate was carefully considered. A cover letter can have no greater success.

I always read the first sentence or two of a cover letter. Unless I am intrigued, I never read more. I don’t have time to read that you work hard, like people, are a team player and deserve a chance. Everyone says that. It just proves you are average.

I thoroughly read cover letters that have useful gems in the first sentence. I keep reading sentence after sentence until it gets boring. A cover letter masterpiece has me convinced to do an interview before I see the resume. It extracts 2 or 3 gems from the person’s background and displays them briefly. I want those gems. I make a decision based on those gems of information.

If you explore beneath shyness or party chit-chat, you can sometimes turn a dull exchange into an intriguing one. I’ve found this particularly to be true in the case of professors or intellectuals, who are full of fascinating information, but need encouragement before they’ll divulge it. (Joyce Oates)

To discover gems in your background, ask yourself:

  1. Why haven’t they filled this job already?
  2. What are the most critical job skills?
  3. Which of those skills is hardest to find in the job market?
  4. What have I done that proves I am way better than average?

Now craft a single short sentence that shows you are exceptional.

Create 3 more on different subjects.

Now write several short cover letters based on those sentences. Make sure each sentence in the letter proves you are extraordinary.

I would be intrigued by your gem filled letter. I would decide to interview you before I even looked at the resume.


I know 4 people who have gotten jobs without a cover letter, and whose resume only said, “I can do that job.”  The only thing else on the resume was their contact info.  Do you say too much?

Something To Do Today

Hand your cover letter to a friend who is somewhat distracted. See how long it takes them to look like they are slogging through the letter. That’s where the boring stuff starts.

Mental Hygeine to Get a Job

lego man in a shower

Job search? Cleaning your mind may be the most critical part.

“Why are there no blacks and only 3 latinos out of 1200 employees?” I figured there was a good reason, and the president of the company gave me one.  However, a manager got me into his office and yelled at me.  He really yelled at me.  I had a choice to make as I got in my car.  Should I replay the incident over and over and get madder and madder, or should I concentrate on something else?

I chose badly for 15 minutes.  I got madder and madder.  Then I realized what I was doing.  I figured out that something must have triggered that outburst.  The president was not bothered by my question.  The manager that yelled at me was badly embarrassed.  I forgave him and started concentrating on something else, anything else.  In 10 minutes I was enjoying life on my terms again. And, yes, I found out three months later that they were now actively recruiting and training blacks specifically for that division.

Most jobs you apply for, you won’t get.  That’s just the statistical truth.  So how do you handle it when you lose?  You certainly have to notice what happened.  It is great to try to figure out what went wrong, if anything.  After you’ve evaluated what happened, start planning your next job success.

If you keep replaying every negative thing that happens while searching for a job, you’ll go crazy.  When you concentrate on what went well, you reinforce your positive behaviors.  When you relive the things that went wrong, you reinforce the negative. You also feel worse.  Work at feeling better.

My wife is a good piano and organ player.  When she is learning a new piece she is careful NOT to practice known mistakes over and over.  She slows way down and practices it right.  Then she speeds up.  In her mind and in her fingers she concentrates on minor victories.  It can take her a month of practicing 2 to 4 hours a day to get a piece just right.  She’d go crazy if she concentrated on her mistakes.  She enjoys practicing because she celebrates every minor success.  She can find a success every minute.

You need to look for successes in your job hunting. If there is something you know you did wrong, slow down.  Instead of rehearsing the errors in your mind, mentally see yourself doing it right.  Find a quiet place and relax.  See yourself correcting mistakes and getting a positive response.

If someone else screwed up, slow down.  Concentrate on what you did right.  You can’t control the other person.  You can’t change history.  You can find a quiet place and relax.  You can rehearse in your mind what you did right.  In your mind you can practice correcting any mistakes you made.

Good mental hygiene is the difference between self improvement and self destruction. It also just plain feels better.

Something To Do Today

Get the book Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  It has a lot of great ideas about how to control your thoughts and happiness.

Go to and find a place you can help someone else.  It will help.


Next:     Cover letter anesthesia