Posted by: careerworks | May 29, 2012

The Danger in Self-assessing Your Interview Skills

I am constantly amazed at the harmful lies people tell themselves about their performance in job interviews.

Few will argue about the importance of having a great resume; after all, it’s the resume that generates job interviews. But nearly all job seekers overestimate their own job interview skills. This reduces the probability of getting the job offer because it is only through an exceptional job interview performance that you’ll get hired.

Recent statistics suggest that it takes 17 job interviews to get a job offer during this recession. When job openings are plentiful and candidates are in high demand, the ratio drops to 6-to-1, meaning it takes only 6 interviews to get an offer during the good times. The lesson here is that without top-notch interview skills, you’ll waste 6 to 17 job opportunities before your performance is good enough to get an offer.

Below are six lies we tell ourselves about job interviews:

“I’ll do great on my job interviews because…”

1.    I’m Great at My Job

The skills required to get the job are fundamentally different from the skills required to do a job. If you have looked for a job recently you know this all too well.

2.    I’m a Good Communicator

Being a good communicator is a good start, but most of our business communicating is one-on-one or in a setting where you are talking about work, not yourself. During the job interview, you are often speaking with multiple interviewers and responding to questions about you and your talents. Convincing an interviewer of your abilities is a unique situation in the world of business communications.

3.    I’ve Interviewed Hundreds of People

Being an interviewer is different from being interviewed. Just ask anyone who has been interviewed recently. While the interviewer and the interviewee are in the same room, each is playing a different role that requires different skills to be successful. When the job applicant has the right skills, he/she facilitates a conversation and usually gets the offer.

4.    I’ve Had Many Practice Interviews

Learning by trial and error can teach you a few things about effective interviewing, but it wastes a lot of great job opportunities. Besides, practicing the same unproductive job interview ritual will only make you comfortable with ineffective habits that can really hurt your career.

5.    Interviewers Have Interviewing Skills

Most interviewers are unskilled and only participate in interviews because they have to. They have received no training and consequently ask really dumb questions, which is why you need to learn to carry the load and subtly direct the interview.

6.    The Most Qualified, Get Hired Most of the Time

Ten years as a career coach has taught me one truth about the job market: the most qualified person rarely gets hired. The reason is that “who is the most qualified’ is subjective, and loaded with personal bias. Additionally, a job description is actually a collection of guesses as to what the requirements are for a specific job. A job description is a way for the hiring manager to say, “I want to hire someone who has already done what I want him or her to do for me.”

To win a great job, you can either continue lying to yourself, go through 17 interviews before you get an offer, or you can invest the energy to learn successful job interviewing techniques and significantly increase your odds of getting a great job sooner.

Whether you work with us or another career coach is irrelevant. What really matters is that you improve your interview skills. Common advice is everywhere on the Internet, but common advice only yields common results.

If you don’t want to invest any money in yourself, at least make a list of the interview questions you expect and those that you fear. Then ask someone to do a mock interview with you using the questions you listed. Record the mock interview using audio or video. You may be surprised at how you actually sound. Remember, the job interview is the most important moment in your job search.

While your resume may get you to the interview, it is your job interview skills that will win the job offer. Preparation and practice make all the difference in your performance because the most qualified person rarely gets the job. It’s the person who interviews the best who wins the job offer.

Posted by: careerworks | May 21, 2012

Answering the question; Tell Me About Yourself

There you are dressed your best and being interviewed for the job of your dreams and the dreaded question gets asked, “Tell me about yourself.” This question is almost always asked by prospective employers and almost always answered with a resounding thud or silence… Knowing how to describe yourself in an interview can mean the difference of landing your dream job or going back to the want ads and job boards.

It helps to know that this question will be asked so you prepare for it ahead of time, but be careful that you don’t some off sounding like you memorized the script the night before. When getting ready to describe yourself in an interview you should consider the following:

  • Why tell them what they already know? Don’t start out with your name and age, they have that on the application and repeating it sort of makes you sound silly. Instead of saying where you went to school – also on the application – tell the interviewer what you got out of your education or who influenced you along the way.  This is your time to let the interviewer know everything about you that is not on the application.
  • Give your strengths AND your weaknesses: First off all when giving your strengths, never come off too cocky. Be proud, but be careful not to toot your own horn so loudly that it becomes a turn-off to the interviewer. Besides giving what your strengths are, also mention your weaknesses, but do it in a way that makes you look good. An example could be;  ‘I have no patience for those that do not want to go the extra mile to help a co-worker. A statement such as this shows the interviewer that you don’t think you are perfect, but that your faults are good ones to have.
  • Be honest: This is most important of all. If you are not being honest many prospective employers can see right through your BS. You are who you are. If the job isn’t meant to be, then that’s life. Never pretend to be somebody you are not.
  • Speak clearly and don’t stammer: This goes back to the whole practice thing. If you are constantly stuttering or saying ‘uh,’ or my favorite, ‘you know,’ then you give the impression that you are searching for words to say. If you don’t know who you are, then who does?

While there are no magic words to speak that will guarantee you a job, you should be prepared to adequately describe yourself at an interview. You know the question is coming, so you may as well prepare for it. A good trick is to stand in front of the mirror and interview yourself. Ask yourself the question and answer the question. Would you hire yourself? If the answer is no, then chances are neither will the prospective employer, so keep practicing until the answer is yes.

Posted by: careerworks | May 8, 2012

Getting Past Those Electronic Eyes

When you fill out those online job applications, your information enters a database of applications or automated applicant tracking system. (Sometimes called the resume black hole). How many times have you heard of people filling out dozens of online applications without even getting one response back!

Automated systems sort and process the applications. If your application isn’t processed and brought to the top of the list of applications, it simply won’t be reviewed by human beings.

What do you need to get to the top of the automated list, and get past the filters designed to weed out applicants before HR or anyone else needs to spend any time on it?

You’ll need three things:

1.     Exact keywords and phrases

2.     Find jobs that closely match your skills and abilities

3.     Learn to follow up

Exact Keywords and Phrases

If you don’t have the exact keywords and phrases that the automated system is looking for, your application will fail. It is that simple. Let’s say you’re looking for something using a Google search. In the Google search box, you’ll type in a search term and Google will deliver a list of possible results that relate to the term that you typed in. Although the algorithms are different, the automated applicant tracking systems work the same way.

The irony here is that many people will have the experience and pre-requisites expected, but will not be in the list of top qualified candidates because the automated systems just won’t find their application.

Find Jobs That Closely Match Your Skills and Abilities

Automated systems are looking for specific keywords and phrases; it is easiest to match those keywords when you are applying for jobs that you really do qualify for. But, where do you find those perfect jobs? Finding the right jobs requires knowing where to look, and how to get the right help finding the job opportunities. It is estimated that the big job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, and etc. only account for 4 to 8 percent of all hires nationally. What that means is that the majority of the jobs available are not on the big job boards instead, you’ll find them through your network.

Finding just the right job opportunities will cut down the frustration factors and actually improve your chances of interviews and job offers.

Learn to Follow Up

Most people think that online job application means that you can’t contact the company, and that there won’t be any human interaction until you win the job application lottery and your name is chosen. Frankly, this attitude keeps most people from making the short list at the companies that they’re interested in. If you have the first two things mentioned above, then you need to let a real person know it.

Companies often hire people who are a known entity. They are friends of someone in the company, or have worked with someone in the past. This is where the saying comes from, “who you know matters more than what you know.”

No place is that more evident than when it comes to getting hired. As it turns out, knowing who to contact and how to contact them is a key component to becoming that known entity, and gaining a leg up on your competition. Finding the right people to contact and making that connection will make a big difference in the employer’s interest in your online job application.

If you are finally ready for a better online job application experience, then learn the secrets that actually get people hired, that help them get past the automated filters to get interviews and job offers.

Posted by: careerworks | May 8, 2012

What is your employment outlook?

Posted by: careerworks | March 26, 2012

What information of mine can a potential employer access?

The recent downturn in the economy has created an extremely competitive job market where employers are being extra careful of whom they hire into their organization. In fact, more than 80 percent of employers do a background check on potential employees by performing some form of employee screening. So, it’s a good idea that you understand the truth and myths surrounding background checks and what employers may learn about you.

To ease your mind, I’ll share with you what a potential employer can and cannot learn about you through a pre-employment background check.

A potential employer will be able to access:

Arrest Records—MYTH.   An employer cannot access your arrest record. Your arrest record will only be seen if you were convicted of a crime or are pending trial.

Bankruptcy Filings—TRUTH.  Bankruptcies are public record. However, employers cannot discriminate against applicants because they have filed for bankruptcy.

Workers Compensation  Claims—TRUTH. When an employee’s claim goes through the state system or the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), the case becomes  public record. An employer may only use this information if an injury might interfere with one’s ability to perform required duties.

Social Security Number—TRUTH.  An employer will be able to verify your social security number.

Educational Records—TRUTH.  These records are only seen if there is consent from you, the student. However, a school can release what they call “directory information” which can include your name, address, dates of attendance, degrees earned, and activities you participated in, that is unless you have given written notice not to release that information.

Military Service Records—TRUTH.  The military can disclose your name, rank, salary, assignments and awards  without your consent.

Medical Records—MYTH.  Employers do not have the authority to request your medical records and cannot use them when making a hiring decision. They can however inquire if you have any physical restrictions that may inhibit you from performing a certain job.

Work History—TRUTH.  Verification of dates of employment and positions held can be obtained.

Driving Records—TRUTH.  Your driving records are not confidential and can be released without consent. However, they are usually not included in the standard pre-employment background check unless you will be driving as part of your job.

Credit Reports—MYTH.   Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) employers must receive written consent before seeking an employee’s or potential employee’s credit report. However, if they run a credit check with your consent, its best to first check out what they may find. Get a Free Credit Report now!

This material is provided for general informational purpose and should not be considered legal advice. Restrictions on information that can be shared may vary from state to state.

Posted by: careerworks | March 14, 2012

Lifting Your Elevator Pitch off the Ground Floor

The first elevator reportedly dates to the first century, when Roman gladiators rode rope and people powered lifts to reach the floor of the Coliseum. The first elevator speech may have occurred not long after… possibly as a pair of combatants exchanged trash talk before an upcoming fight? There’s no doubt that today’s job seeker doing battle in the marketplace can ill afford to miss a chance to make the right impression on a potential employer when they happen to cross paths. This is the genesis of the modern elevator pitch, a 30- to 60-second presentation suitable for delivery in the brief interval when two people find themselves in close proximity between floors.

Almost everyone in business has an elevator pitch story. Sometimes it relates how an entrepreneur cleverly landed an introduction to what turned out to be a cornerstone customer. More often, it includes elements of confusion, delay, and regret at a missed opportunity. To make sure you don’t miss your elevator opportunity when it arises, rid your mind of these three common elevator speech misconceptions, and embrace the truth.

Myth 1: An elevator pitch is a sales tool.

Reality: That’s true only if you consider an advertisement a sales tool. An elevator pitch should not be prepared or presented as if the end goal were to get a signed job offer on the spot. The environment — a hallway encounter, waiting in a queue at a coffee shop, or standing in an actual elevator — is not conducive to getting a job. Rather, an elevator pitch should be an introduction, a primer and an educational tool.

Myth 2: Pack your elevator speech with facts that will amaze the listener and demonstrate a mastery of technical nomenclature.

Reality: Trim your fact-packed presentation down to the one or two most important statistics or other data points. And avoid the jargon. Your goal is to inform and intrigue, not to overwhelm or confuse.

Myth 3: Once you’ve written and practiced your elevator speech, you’re ready.

Reality: The problem here is that you need more than one elevator speech. The one you’ll use in a given situation depends on your objective as well as the person who will hear it. You’ll have one speech for an encounter with a potential employer, another for a networking contact. Your abilities to quickly size up your elevator-mate, choose an appropriate goal for the ride, and select the proper speech from your repertoire are crucial. Don’t neglect the art of the one-on-one, seconds-long presentation. Unless you live in a strictly one-story town, you’ll need it.

Posted by: careerworks | February 27, 2012

Negotiating Your Next Compensation Package

Imagine you have just received a job offer that you are very interested in accepting, the benefits are better than expected, the commute is ideal, but the salary is a disappointment. How can you move this job offer from good offer to a  great offer? We can help you by providing ways in which to effectively negotiate an acceptable salary with employers. Consider the following tips:

What’s Your Strategy? – Set guidelines for yourself on what you deem acceptable. Don’t forget, it is important not to look at salary alone. You should factor in and rate other important attributes such as commute time, career advancement, etc. Have your limits in mind and know what you want, what you expect, and what you will settle for.

Do your Homework – The key to a successful salary negotiation is preparation. Research your market value to determine what a person with your skills, education and qualifications is earning in your area.

Convince the Interviewer That They Need You – When you begin the negotiation process, position yourself as a “must have” candidate. Be prepared to  demonstrate your value, but at the same time, not show desperation that you NEED the job. This will give you more leverage at the negotiation table.

Wait to Talk Numbers – Gauge the employer’s interest in you before you start talking numbers. If the employer is interested, they will reveal the level of compensation they are willing to offer. The salary you received in the past is your bargaining chip, so don’t disclose these numbers too soon. If the interviewer does raise the question of salary before you have received an offer, try to return the question to them by asking what they are expecting to pay someone with your qualifications. If that doesn’t work, ask them to give you a range that they are contemplating based on their needs.

Get it in Writing – Don’t start negotiating until you have received an offer in writing. Job offer terms are not always crystal clear, so before you officially accept, examine the job from all angles. Make sure you take into consideration the additional benefits that can add as much as forty percent to your base salary. Don’t feel pressured to immediately respond to an offer.

Practice with Live Job Offers – Refine your negotiation skills by practicing your negotiation strategy with companies that extend an offer that you would most likely not consider. You never know, your great negotiation skills may turn a “not so good” offer into a great offer.

Stay Professional – It is important to remain professional throughout any negotiation process, despite all of the feelings that you may be experiencing. Remain calm, cool, collected and confident.

Talking salary is never easy. Ask for too much and you can be seen as money hungry. Ask for too little and you can risk earning less than what you deserve or not being hired at all. Knowing how much you are worth is a simple, yet critical step in your job search process.

We have all had those days in which we would rather be doing just about anything other than what we’re supposed to. There are plenty of tools to help you get back on track and stay that way. Here are a few basic tips:

  • Fully use your online calendar. Most e-mail platforms also have great calendar features. Take advantage of this if you’re not already.   If there are certain tasks you need to do every day, block out a certain time each day for these tasks. Set your availability to away, and keep on the task at hand. These reminders will hopefully keep you on task and remind you it is time to start them if you are in the zone doing another task.

  • Rescue Time. One of my favorite features of this program ( is that it can actually block certain websites for however long you chose. Rescue Time claims it can save users an average of 3 hours and 54 minutes of work time per week — not too shabby. The “lite” version is free forever.
  • Avoid your e-mail. Stop checking your e-mails constantly. The more time you spend checking e-mails and responding, the less time you’re spending on other tasks. Set aside 30 min to an hour each day or every other day to check your messages. If you get thousands of e-mails a day you should start filtering high priority emails into folders you can check easily and get the information you need when you need it. Gmail users can use Priority Inbox to do this. You may also want to unsubscribe to all those things you subscribed to earlier to get that free “whatever.”

  • Make your to-do list the day before. Each day, at the end of your work day, make a list of tasks that need to be done for the next day. Because the information is fresh in your head, you can quickly sort out what needs to get done, and in what priority. This way when you begin your day, and you need that extra cup of coffee, you won’t have to spend much time on planning.
Posted by: careerworks | January 16, 2012

Networking Tips for Shy People

Networking is the key to success in business and job hunting. It helps you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who’ll support your ideas.

But networking is tough for shy people. They view it as insincere at best, manipulative at worst. They avoid networking for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence, fear of rejection and a sense of unworthiness.

If they could just relate to others more easily, if they just possessed more self-confidence and weren’t such self-conscious wallflowers, the world would be their oyster, and schmoozing would be so much easier.

It is possible for shrinking violets and shy guys to master the skill of networking. They just have to realize, that successful networking is all about building sincere relationships based on mutual interests. They have to network their way to success.

If you’re struggling to meet new people, here’s some common-sense advice for increasing your networking skills.

Start Small

If approaching people you don’t know intimidates you, begin your networking efforts by seeking out familiar faces, such as relatives and friends. You can do a significant amount of valuable networking without ever having to make a cold call. A series of successful conversations will make you more confident in the process.

A logical next step after talking with friends and family is to pursue individuals who are part of your alumni network. It exists for the purpose of networking, so contacting an alum out of the blue shouldn’t feel like a cold call. After all, they joined the network to make and take such calls.

Stop Apologizing

Introverts and inexperienced networkers often apologize when asking for an individual’s help because they see networking as an imposition, not as relationship building. Don’t feel like you’re asking someone to do them a favor. Apologizing merely demonstrates your lack of confidence. You don’t have to apologize for asking for help. You don’t have to apologize for wanting to learn more about the individual with whom you’re networking. One day you may be able to help them out.

Tap into Your Primal Instincts

Sometimes, when an introvert hears that he’s not inherently a loner, that humans are innately social creatures, the realization helps him emerge from his shell of shyness.

Smile: This is such a simple, basic rule, yet people just don’t think about it. They’re so focused on needing to network at a conference that they don’t realize they’re walking around with a scowl on their face. Scowling expressions are forbidding. People are more likely to warm up to someone who says good morning with a broad smile.

Ask a question: Joining a group engaged in conversation can be awkward. The best way to do so is to pose a question to the group after getting the gist of the conversation. You build your credibility by asking a question, and for a shy person, that’s a much easier way to engage than by barging in with an opinion.

Listen:  If you can get people to discuss their experiences and opinions—and listen with sincere interest—you can have a great conversation with someone without having to say much at all.

Business cards: Always have them handy. They’re an effective way for you to leave your name behind so that people remember who you are.

Say the person’s name: People like to hear their own name. So when you meet someone, use his name in conversation. Doing so makes the other person feel more comfortable, like you really know him and he knows you.

Be Yourself

Many introverted professionals think they have to act like an extrovert in networking situations. While you do have to make an effort to be more gregarious than normal, you shouldn’t be artificial.

Be the authentic, humble, shy person you are. It can be endearing. Don’t try to be something you’re not. In other words, it’s OK if you’re a little awkward. Just don’t keep apologizing for it.

Tap into Your Passions

Join clubs and attend events that relate to an interest or activity you enjoy. If you’re a budding oenophile, attend a wine tasting at your local liquor store. Eager reader? Join a book club. Can’t get enough of the pigskin? Attend a football game or watch one at a bar.

Just because you’re a technology professional doesn’t mean you should only go to technology conferences to network. That person sitting in front of you [at the game] might have a job you always dreamed about or work in a company that you want to get into. You could sit behind them the whole season and never know that unless you initiate a conversation.

The advantage of engaging in activities you enjoy with other people is that it makes conversation so much easier. So while you’re analyzing that vintage wine, discussing the plot of new best seller or sharing game stats, ask the person with whom you’re chatting for her name and about her work. There’s no reason not to do so if you’re having an amiable conversation.

Attending gatherings where you feel comfortable helps you put your best foot forward. Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission.

If you do find yourself in a room full of strangers at a conference or party go straight to the stuff that interests you. When you talk about things you’re passionate about, you will light up and appear more engaging. You don’t have to find a shared interest [to connect with others]. You just have to share your interests. So be sure to ask the people around you what they do in their spare time.

Ask for Introductions

Shy people attending conferences tend to find one person with whom they spend all their time for the duration of the event. Although settling in with one person may be more comfortable for the introvert than introducing himself to lots of new people, it defeats the purpose of networking.

The shy person should adopt the buddy system and attend events with their buddy. Then during the event, ask his buddy if they know anyone else and if they could make some introductions on your behalf.

Sometimes shy people have trouble networking because they don’t think they have anything significant, such as a job or a contact, to give back to someone who helped them.

Although networking works best when you do have something to offer, what you offer doesn’t have to be a job. Sincere interest in the other person—even flattery—is a form of generosity and goes a long way when you’re networking.

Be Prepared

If you’re afraid you’ll freeze up or get tongue-tied in a social setting, prepare yourself in advance. Think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. If you’re attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready. Also anticipating questions you may be asked, such as why you’re looking for a new job, and have clear, concise answers at the ready.

Follow Up

Sharing information—whether a website, article, report or phone number—with new contacts builds your credibility. So if you promised to e-mail a report to someone you met on the plane, make sure you do that.

When you do what you’ve said you were going to do, it gives the other person the impression that you keep your word. If you don’t, you’re just another schmoozer.

Get Over Your Fear of Rejection

In the course of networking, you’ll encounter people who can’t or don’t want to help you. That’s life. Don’t take it personally and don’t dwell on it. It’s all part of the process.

Take Risks

When you overcome your fear of rejection, it’ll be easier to make cold calls and strike up conversations with strangers.

The person sitting next to you at a banquet or on an airplane may be feeling as uncomfortable as you are and will appreciate you breaking the ice. They just might be a fabulous contact for you or know the right person for you to talk to. You just won’t know until you try.

See a Shrink

If you can’t open up to people, you’ll never be able to network. And if you absolutely cannot overcome your shyness on your own, says Ken Ferrazzi, author of the book Never Eat Alone. He recommends seeing a therapist who can help you understand why you’re so shy and give you the tools to change.

Posted by: careerworks | December 16, 2011

A Client Success Story: It’s a Numbers Game

While it’s too early to predict whether 2012 is going to be a “bear” or a “bull” market in terms of the job landscape, I’m encouraged by several clients of mine who have already reported landing new positions over these past few weeks.

Another individual ended up receiving not one but TWO good offers last week as a result of their hard work — and has just accepted an assignment that he’s ecstatic about, as a result!

I’d like to share a note I received from a client who has been out beating the bushes for approximately 8 months in order to find an opportunity worthy of his time and talents.  Here are the details he invited me to pass along regarding his experience:

Good news!  I’m employed, quite gainfully…as it turns out.  I appreciated your help and support during my search.  I also appreciated the testimonials provided by some of your clients after they gained employment, since they helped remind me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  So I’d love to share my story, if that’s okay with you.

I started low level networking in March of 2011 as my employer started to wind down operations.  I devoted 40-45 hours per week to my job search starting June 1, 2011, submitted at least 100 resumes on-line and a few in person, resulting in 3 phone interviews and 1 job offer; that job required full time travel and paid half of my target salary, so I declined.  I was the #2 choice in 3 other situations, each created through networking.  I had 45+ informational interviews for un-published positions, exploring fit and capabilities, none of which resulted in offers to me, and only 3 resulting in offers to anyone. 

In August 2011, I created a LinkedIn profile from scratch, and populated it with 150 connections – all of whom I met with personally – over the 5 months.  I attended over 20 networking sessions.  I arranged more than 20 in-person coffee meetings,  with  the (secondary) goal of each meeting being to line up at least 1 new contact and get an introduction.  And because of my ‘many hats and hard to define’ background I possess, I created at least 40 variations on my resume targeted at specific positions.

Nearly all the people I met with and spoke to were extraordinarily supportive and helpful, and more than willing to extend themselves to help me in whatever way they could.  As you have said over and over, networking and personal relationships are the key – but the daily slogging through the internet and other job sources has to be done too.  There were a lot of jobs out there, but very few that I fit into the many hats I’ve worn.  In conclusion, thank you again, Tom, for your help and support. If I can help you or your clients in any way, let me know!”

Again, while everybody’s journey is going to be slightly different, I always appreciate those people who are willing to give back in this manner and share their encouraging news — in addition to passing along the lessons they learned along the way in terms of what worked, and what didn’t, in their search efforts.

In this particular case, I think there are a few key takeaways.  First, the fact that this individual tracked his marketing efforts so carefully is a great thing, it allowed him (just like a company) to evaluate what activities were providing the best ROI in terms of his time and which ones were proving less fruitful.  Secondly, you can also immediately tell that this person treated finding a job as his highest priority and put a significant amount of time (40-45 hours a week) into making it happen.  For those folks who still don’t think there are 40 hours of productive things they can do each week to help create opportunities for themselves, this story is evidence to the contrary.  And lastly, I think this story reinforces the sobering reality that professional-level job opportunities are still extremely hard to come by at the moment — and that it is usually takes a serious amount of focus, gumption, and fighting spirit to beat out the competition.

So thanks to this recent “alumnus” of mine for allowing me to post the details of his newly-concluded search — and as always, as the rest of you find your path to success out there, please let me know if you have any great tips or words of wisdom to pass along!

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