Posted by: careerworks | November 16, 2011

Being Thankful in Your Job Search

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s important to stop for a moment and
think about what you can be thankful for during your job search.

The job search can be a lonely, grueling process. Especially if you lost your
job and have encountered rejection; it’s easy to become frustrated, cynical,
and even depressed or angry. Taking a moment to think about what you are
thankful for can reinvigorate you, and you can reap major rewards going
forward.

There are many people who typically are helpful to you during your job
search. These include, first and foremost, your family. Then there are those
trusted former or current colleagues, supervisors or mentors who serve as
your references. It’s very important to maintain a good connection with them
to keep them updated in your search and never take them for granted. After
this small group, there are many people you may reach out to for advice and
guidance. This includes people who shared their time with you during
informational interviews, who provided career advice, or connected you with
their contacts to obtain an internal referral for a job. Thank them for their
part in your search, large or small.

The list goes on to include people who interviewed you but did not select you
for a position. This might surprise you, but maintaining a good connection
with a search team for a job that didn’t choose you can reap rewards in the
future by leading to referrals to other jobs that might be a better fit.

Consider keeping track of all the people you meet during your search, from
your most trusted mentors to people who spend a few minutes with you
providing advice over the phone. Keep track of your networking interactions,
and think about a way you could follow up with them to provide an update, not
just about your search, but about opportunities that might be of interest to
them, articles you’ve read, events they might want to attend, or updates about
other parts of your life (without crossing the personal-professional
boundary). And be sure to ask them what is going on in their life, and how
you could be helpful to them. Being thankful at all stages of the job search,
even when you are rejected, is an exceptional way to build and maintain the
connections that will help you be successful.

  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Posted by: careerworks | October 19, 2011

Avoiding Common Job Hunting Mistakes

Many people are job hunting these days, but some are making mistakes that are hurting their chances of getting hired. Learn to avoid these mistakes and you’ll be ahead of the pack.

But how? Start by knowing — and avoiding — these10 common mistakes made by job hunters.

1: Being a generalist

Now more than ever, companies look for specialists, not generalists. Develop a personal brand, distinguish your skills and strengths, and design your job search around specific industries and functions. For inspiration, turn to the Internet or a Sunday newspaper and study searches from real-life companies.

2: Building bloated resumes

Employers don’t read resumes — they scan them in mere seconds. Put your resume on a word diet and eliminate the bloat. Odds are, you can lose up to a third of the words without compromising the content. Remove extraneous words and phrases, as well as generic “mom and apple pie” references, to bring your experiences and accomplishments to the forefront. Among the common culprits: “a,” “the,” “reporting to,” “responsible for,” and “strong team player” and a host of other cliche’s.

3: Missing the target

Most job seekers are “self-centric.” Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on your target. Know the job you’re seeking, what companies are looking for, and how you can present your experience to win and hold people’s attention.Your search isn’t about you. It’s about them.

4: Hibernating online

More than 70 percent of successful job searches are the result of networking, not job postings. Resist spending more time in front of your computer than you do in front of human beings. Get on the phone. Even better, get out and connect, face-to-face, with your network and other people you meet along the way. Share your elevator pitch with everyone, whether you’re at a networking event or a checkout line at the grocery store.

5: Sabotaging your networking efforts

The first rule for networking: Don’t ask for a job. Why? Because the sole purpose of networking is to seek advice and information. In today’s world you’ve already asked a person for something: their time. Don’t put an abrupt end to the conversation by asking, “Do you have a job for me?” Seek answers to smart, well-positioned questions and listen for a way to return the favor.

6: Preparing too little (or not at all) for interviews

One of my executive search friends passed over a prospect because when asked in an interview, “What do you know about the company?” he responded, “Absolutely nothing.” (He had even provided the prospect with detailed information on the company plus asked him to study the organization’s Web site). Before every interview, do your homework on the company, from knowing the executive team to learning about key industry issues, trends, and competitors. To really stand out, develop your “First 90 Days” plan for the position and be ready to discuss it.

7: Missing opportunities on social media

Some employers and recruiters may look at your profile online: LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites. Leverage that opportunity and let your online presence tell a story. You’ll need to watch the appropriateness of what you post online; at least you’d better. But take it a step further: Tell your story and tout your personal brand.

8: Having weak communication skills

Communication skills can make or break a job search. Most job seekers sabotage interviews and conversations by sharing too many details. On the flip side, others share too little information, glossing over their successes or sharing what “we” did without spotlighting their personal contribution. Pick one area of communication that needs your attention, considering skills such as listening, presenting, persuading, or messaging, and commit to improvement. Take a class, hold practice interviews with a friend or career coach, or join a group where you can practice these skills.

9: Failing to put in the hours

Being a serious, successful job seeker is a full-time job. Don’t be a part-timer by investing only a few hours in your search. Many people report spending “under 10 hours” per week on their search. Compare that, however, to one recent job hunter who was on a quest to land a new position in six weeks. He set a goal to have at least one meeting every day and quickly learned that would require making 50 to 75 calls a week. He made the calls — and his goal.

10: Going it alone

Flying solo, particularly in today’s turbulence, is tough. Form a job search team that meets or talks on a regular basis. Together, you can add structure, support, and a sense of accountability to your searches. Team members can share new contacts and accomplishments and discuss the week’s highlights and struggles. If someone has had a particularly tough week, others can offer advice or inspiration.

Posted by: careerworks | September 26, 2011

New to the Job Hunt?

The job market is the most competitive it’s been since the early 80’s. So it’s no
surprise that there’s an increase in emails from people who haven’t had to
think about job hunting in a long time. Times have changed when it comes to
searching for a job, primarily because the Internet has changed the rules.

Here are some quick tips and suggestions for you to use.

When you submit a cover letter and resume, it’s best to put your cover letter in the
body of the email and then attach your resume. Just as it was earlier in your career, the content of the cover letter is very important, since it needs to be customized to the
opening and the company. A good cover letter also differentiates you from the
competition. It should make a compelling argument that you are the best candidate. Here is an example, “I was very interested to learn about the opening for a nurse in your ICU because I have a strong, successful track record that appears to match your requirements exactly.”

The same holds true for your resume. One-size-fits-all doesn’t cut it anymore. You
need to speak in results language and match your past results to the
requirements of the job.

Most HR departments are lean and so they are looking to the latest technology to
find talent for their openings. Most companies don’t want to use agencies, since so
many job boards are available. Most companies have their own career section on
their website and they make use of some of the better, secure job boards out
there (visit www.Weddles.com for a good list of the better job boards).  You will find tools, advice, and resources at Weddles too.

Employers scan for certain skill sets or certain kinds of experience. That means you need to be careful to use specific key words in your resume so your resume comes up
when employers are searching. For instance, they may want to hire a facility
manager but if you have used the term property manager, your resume won’t come
up when they search. Nouns are more important than adjectives, since key words
specific to the requirements of the job are what matter.

Conversely, when you are searching a job board to find your dream job, use the following search rules:

  • Use lower case letters in your search. If you use upper case, such
    as Property Manager, you will only pull up jobs where that phrase has been
    capitalized.
  • If you require two specific things in your job search, such as
    healthcare and $75,000. Search with AND. For example, healthcare AND $75,000.
  • If you want to link two words, such as property manager, use
    quotes around the words: “property manager”.
  • If two phrases are interchangeable and you want to see jobs using
    both phrases, use “property manager” OR “facility manager.”

Incidentally, job seekers should know companies often search their own company name to see who is job-hunting. They are increasingly checking out social networking sites such as Facebook to find out what potential candidates are saying (or
showing) about themselves, so use common sense when revealing personal
information about yourself on the Web.

Posted by: careerworks | August 30, 2011

How do you answer the question, ‘What do You Do?”

As a Job Seeker you need an elevator speech. Whether you actually call it an “elevator speech” a “30 second introduction” or an “infomercial” is irrelevant. When you are asked “what do you do?” then your answer is your elevator speech, like it or not.

This needs some thought and practice to avoid these most common mistakes. Beware! Succinctly getting your message over in a way that grabs attention is not always as easy as “just telling others what you do.” You’ll do well to avoid these 5 mistakes.

Mistake 1 – Talking about yourself

How are you going to tell people about what you do without talking about yourself? For example “I do this…” or “I am an internet guru” or “I am a professional with this, that and the other skill.”

The problem here is twofold. First, people don’t really care about you, your accolades and self-appointed titles yet. They are trying to decide quickly if you are someone who may be able to help them, or are worth chatting with further as a networking partner or might be able to solve their problem.

Secondly – it is so common that your message will sound very similar to other people in the same niche. When that happens it is hard to grab attention.

The solution is to change your mindset and put yourself in the shoes of your ideal listener and think about the challenges they face and how you might solve them. Use that as the lead into your elevator speech. In other words: “I work with (this type of company) struggling with (this type of problem).

Mistake 2 – Expecting others to “get” you

The most common example of this is assuming people will understand and be interested when you label yourself – “We are tax attorneys” and leaving at that. Here’s the thing: people often either don’t get what you do (perhaps they have never heard of it) or they assume they know what you do and it is different from the reality.

In either case it would be nice to think your listener would stop you and ask you to elaborate. They won’t. They will be confused; embarrassed they won’t understand or just be disinterested and move on.

Avoid labeling yourself – stick to the formula above and talk to their challenges.

Mistake 3 – Irrelevant information

You must have heard how this sounds: “I’ve have done this for 26 years……..”

This is a variation on talking about yourself but is specific and common enough to warrant its own category. Again, unless this is of specific importance to the audience then it is probably just noise.

The solution is simply to cut it out of your intro – it wastes time and adds little value. Again, stick to your target audience and what concerns them. That is the litmus test for all your intro material.

Mistake 4 – Trying to be cute

There is a lot of advice out there recommending a tag line to keep you memorable. This can certainly work but for every funny play on words there are countless groan inducing puns or worse, tag lines that really don’t make sense.

It is the same advice as humor in a presentation. It can be great, but you really have to know what you are doing and so many people don’t. There is a very fine line between being witty and offending. Also a clever play on words can confuse listeners.

If you have a clever tag line that works, by all means stick with it. However it isn’t necessary and don’t waste time thinking one up. Just stick with your message that you help a certain audience with a specific problem.

Mistake 5 – Not trying

This might be harsh when considering an elevator speech but let’s face it, sometimes people give up with their elevator speech and tell you about it:

“Well, I’m really nervous/not good at this so I will just tell you about …….”

At other times it is being unprepared and can be embarrassing to watch someone stumble through an elevator speech without a clear goal or plan. Don’t let it happen to you!

You should always be prepared to introduce yourself – there is no excuse for being caught off guard and certainly not to give up on the whole thing and muddle through.

These mistakes are on display at every networking event. You can avoid them, and therefore stand out by sticking to a simple formula. An Elevator speech doesn’t need to be rote, learned by heart or memorized. You can use different words and gear it to your audience as long as you have thought about it beforehand, and avoid these mistakes!

We all need help at one time or another—especially when we’re facing an interview for a job let alone the job search as a whole. And yet, most of us hang back, fearful of admitting our weakness or concern to a friend or colleague and seek help.

Many of us would rather handle the matter on our own. We buck up, stiffen our upper lip, dig in our heels, and go for it. But there’s no benefit in going through a challenge without support. Others have travelled the course before us so why not use their road map? You might be surprised at how many people want to give you a hand, an encouraging word, or a name or contact you can refer to.

Practice Makes Perfect

For some people ‘practice makes perfect’ is really, practice leads to progress. You learn along the way sometimes from doing things right and at times from making mistakes. So if you’ve landed a job interview and you feel worried or anxious about it, talk to someone in the know, a man or woman who has experience in this area; maybe someone who has just gone through it. Meet therm for lunch and ask questions, take notes, and perhaps ask that individual to do a ‘practice’ interview with you. It can make all the difference between walking into the meeting with the jitters or showing up with confidence and enthusiasm.

Just One Step at a Time

Also go to the library and use the Internet to find resources that will help put you at ease. Sample interview questions are available so you’ll have a sense of what to expect when you sit down across from the hiring manager. You’ll also see suggestions on how to present yourself, when to speak and when to listen, and what to wear.

Help is out there. It’s up to you to take hold of the people, places, and ideas that will move you to the top of the list of job seekers who are serious about landing the position of their dreams. There is a position for you, the one you know you’re suited for and ready to discuss with excitement and confidence during your next job interview.

Posted by: careerworks | June 9, 2011

Winning the Job in Sixty Seconds or Less

Most interviews end before they even begin. In today’s competitive job market you really need to capture the attention of the interviewer by having the right answer to “Why don’t you take a minute and tell me about yourself.”

The reason is because most job seekers don’t customize their introduction for each interview, believing instead that one-size-fits-all intro’s work. They don’t!

To fix this problem take a close look at the job description and develop a list of questions to be answered. Questions about qualifications, requirements and must have’s. What does the employer need to know about you? These are the important elements that you need to convey early in the interview and you can’t get much earlier than your introduction.

Getting this information out early will put the interviewer at ease believing that you have the right skills and experiences they are looking for; tailor made for their needs.

I’ve sat through a myriad of interviews where the candidate droned on about stuff in which I had no interest. Don’t be one of those people. Instead do some homework to learn about their needs, their markets, and their interests.

The key is to address the top four to five items in their job description or qualifications list for your introduction and then prepare fifteen to twenty thoughtful questions to ask. The answers to these question will help you fill in the blanks that are missing in the job description or help you surface additional needs that the employer has that you can fill. Doing this will help you to build your value in the mind of the interviewer.

Remember too that the interviewer will learn more about you from the questions you ask than the answers you provide.

Posted by: careerworks | May 23, 2011

Answering Salary Questions, 3 Basic Rules

In this post I have been asked to respond to a question from a reader, and one that I get often. The question is: “I recently interviewd with a local company and was asked about my salary history and goals during the first interview. If this should happen again in the future, how do I gracefully dodge the question?”

Talking about money to early in the process is never a good strategy. The employer is asking “Is this person a bargan or are they too expensive.” If you answer with a number that’s high you’ll be eliminated without the opportunity to build your value.  If you answer with a number that is low, you will never be able to get beyond that value no matter how well you negotiate.

There are three basic rules to negotiate compensation successfully.

1. Avoid talking about compensation until after you have received a job offer.

2. Get the employer to volunteer the first figure.

3. Engage the employer by listening, asking questions, and using silence to your advantage.

If you are asked about your salary history and expectations early in the interview, you answer with: “It is hard for me to say what the value of this job might be. I’d like to learn more about your expectations so that I have a better idea of your needs.” Or you might say, “Previous positions that I’ve held are not easily compared to what we are discussing today. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.” Or you might ask, “What is the pay range that you are contemplating for this position?”

If the employer answers with a range, and if the range is acceptable, then give your prospective employer an indication that the range would work for you. If the high end of the range is acceptable, then indicate that.

Later in the interview, (if you’ve deflected the question earlier) the question may come back to you in other forms, such as “What are your salary expectations?” or “What will it take to bring you on board?” Whatever the case, the employer wants you to throw out the first figure. If you do, the employer will most likely have the advantage since they will know where to start negitiating with you. Whatever you do, don’t state a salary figure which you may come to later regret; especially when you learn that you settled for much less than what you could have received had you paid attention to the three basic rules of salary negotiations.

Again, the best way again to handle this question is to get the employer to volunteer a salary figure. Try responding to the question by asking: “Based on what we have discussed, what would you offer someone with my qualifications?”

Another way of asking this question is: “What do you consider to be a fair salary knowing what I’m likely to produce for you over the next 12 months?”

Don’t be surprised if you use one of these answers that the interviewer may come back with a question like, “How much money did you make last year?” Again go back to the suggested response of wanting to learn more about the job and the employers expectations.

Your goal in the job interview is to build your value by verbalizing relevant successes that will make you the most desirable candidate, in fact, the only candidate.

Posted by: careerworks | May 12, 2011

Top Job Skills for 2011

Depending on your industry, certain skills are bound to trump others. But overall, what are employers looking for in an ideal candidate?

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2011 survey, employers are looking for job candidates these top five skills and qualities:

  1. Verbal communication skills
  2. Strong work ethic
  3. Teamwork skills
  4. Analytical skills
  5. Initiative

Skill #1: Verbal communication skills

In the workplace, you need to be able to clearly and concisely communicate with co-workers, clients and supervisors. This is an important skill and is often evaluated during your initial interview with the hiring manager.

Skill #2: Strong work ethic

An employer is looking for a candidate who is reliable, takes initiative, and works hard and does what it takes to get the work done. You need to show that you can work independently, arrive on time and fulfill your commitments in order to be perceived as having a strong work ethic. It’s also important to strive for quality work—employers want someone who can do the job right the first time.

Skill #3: Teamwork skills

The ability to work in a group effectively is key to success on any job. It’s likely that, at some point, you’ll need to work with others in order to get a project done. You need to possess solid communication skills (including listening) and the ability to speak knowledgably while also maintaining a commitment to the team and voicing your opinion.

Skill #4: Analytical skills

You should possess the ability to visualize, articulate, and solve complex problems and concepts. Analytical skills include the ability to use logic to design and test solutions to problems. This also encompasses formulating plans to solve problems.

Skill #5: Initiative

The definition of initiative is the readiness, ability, and willingness to take action. Although some things may not be in your job description, it’s important to convey your desire for the organizations success by offering expertise on new projects or volunteering for tasks that interest you.

Skill #6: Emotional intelligence 

Other highly sought after skills in candidates are those associated with emotional intelligence. Measured as one’s ability to understand and deal with their own emotions, the emotions of others and how to properly act on those emotions. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into several categories: social skills, social awareness, self-awareness, and self-management. Identified as 22 competencies ranging from Integrity and Trust to Standing up for what’s right. These skills are low supply in the workplace and candidates with high EQ are advanced quickly.

How can you improve upon these skills in demand?

For development options, you can look to:

Posted by: careerworks | April 15, 2011

9 Common Job Hunting Mistakes

In today’s competitive job market you can’t afford to make any mistakes in your job search. Avoiding these common mistakes will make your transition easier and have you finishing ahead of the pack.

  1. Being a generalist – Our instincts tell us that if we generalize, we’ll get noticed and hired faster because you can do so many things. Not so fast! Companies are looking for specialists. When was the last time a professional football team play the same 11 players on either offense or defense for the entire game? Te answer is it’s been years. Even pro football employs specialists.
  2. Resume bulge – Most resumes are augmented with extra words. If this describes yours, put your resume on a diet. Make sure that your story is easy to understand and not hidden with extra words.
  3. What’s your target? – Many of the resumes I see are “job seeker-centric.” Companies don’t care about you yet, they care about their needs and the problems they are looking to solve. Target your resume to solving those problems.
  4. Spending too much time online – If the published job market is less than 20%, why spend 80% of your time there? It’s time to allocate your time in more accurate proportion to the job market. If 80% of jobs are filled by networking, then spend 80% of your time networking.
  5. Working your network – Never ask for a job when you’re networking. You network to get information and advice to advance your search. Asking for a job will sabotage your efforts.
  6. Winging it – Too many job seekers believe that they are great in an interview and prepare too little. Think about the questions that you’ll be asked from “Why should we hire you” to ” your plan for the first 90 days.”  Your answers need to be clear, crisp, and concise.
  7. Talking about stuff that bores others – Answering the question “What do you do” gets a myriad of answers most of which bore the listener rather than begs them to ask for more. Stop talking about titles and processes and replace them with problems you solve and solutions you provide.
  8. Managing time – Time management is critical for the job seeker. Most people struggle with the “freedom” that comes with being on a career search. Especially those who come from environments that are very structured. Schedule your week to regularly include sufficient time to complete your search quickly and efficiently. Thinking of your search as your full time job is a good idea.
  9. Accountability – Going it alone as a job seeker is tough so finding someone to share the experience with you is a huge benefit. Pairing up and meeting weekly to hold each other accountable, pick each other up, and provide advise and inspiration can be very helpful.
Posted by: careerworks | April 1, 2011

Is Your Network Working?

Seeking a job and networking to do so are a lot like trying to meet new people at any event. Having moved here recently – knowing only my spouse-to-be and no one else in the area, was like starting over to find new contacts.

One of the things I had to do – and job seekers will have to do – is decide to stretch and be assertive to meet new people.

I am an out-going person but doing this can take me out of my comfort zone. If you are an introverted or shy person this will be even more of a stretch and take you into a zone of major discomfort at times.

My advice – Get over it and do it. If you want results then you will have to move forward. Sitting still and sending out resumes and hoping will offer a slim chance of results. You are going to have to be assertive if this is going to work.

The next problem is where do you meet the “right” people?

I happen to have a passionate interest in music. By attending local events I found out that there were a number of organizations in my area and knew that I would find people of like-interests. Talking about a subject (like-interests) is easy even with people you’ve just met.

As a job seeker, you can use the same principle. What area of interest could you find a group of “like-minded people?”  The more specialized your experience the easier this will be. For instance if you are an Engineer – There are a number of organization where you would find people who are in the industry that you have an interest in pursuing. Some working and willing to share ideas and contacts.

You can also find “job seeker” groups that fit your situation. An example is a group called “Net-Works” – a group of people who support people who are professional level people and are seeking jobs. Right away there is an instant bond and goal. There are many job groups in every city and area if you do a little research to find them. You would be amazed at what you can find if you “Google” a question. Once you start researching you will find that there is an association or group for almost anything.

The really difficult challenge comes when you begin to think of walking into a room full of strangers and introducing yourself. That’s when things can get really uncomfortable.

How do you walk right up to someone and just start talking. Not so easy. But, “doable” if you are determined. The situation will determine the approach. The easiest way to start a conversation is by asking a question — “Does the event usually start on time? – This is my first time here.” Or, “Hi, I’m Tom and I’m new to this group would you mind if I ask you a few questions about what goes on here?” You may find that the person you just approached is new as well and hasn’t known how to “break the ice.”

The general rule is to find groups of three or more people standing together versus two people so that you are not interrupting a private conversation. On the other hand, sometimes two new people are meeting for the first time and hoping that someone will join them. You will have to use some judgment before you approach the situation.

Some people will be more accepting and friendly than others so don’t beat yourself up if you get a “cold shoulder” once in a while. Dust yourself off – and get back in there. Don’t get discouraged. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth taking a risk.

Like most things in life, it takes time to get “good” at networking and attending group events and making new contacts and friends – what do you have to lose? You probably learned what “not to do” if nothing else.

With practice you will get lucky and connect with some really nice folks who are willing to share leads or include you in an effort to find a job.

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