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Career Management Ideas is an ongoing series of short articles to give you ideas to help you manage your career and keep your growth and development going. Some articles will give you new ideas. Some will challenge you. Some will get you to think more about managing your career. Feedback is welcome. Please share your comments by sending an email to: Contact@Resu-mazing.com.
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Be sure to visit BillFlorin.com for regular updates about career management and marketing ideas. There you will discover a library approaching 100 articles that can help you in your search.
Mastering Common Interview Questions - A Series
Job seekers can anticipate many of the interview questions likely to be asked. The following links will bring you to short articles that will help you develop your effective answers. They will also give you insights into why the questions are asked and what the interviewer is hoping to learn.
Almost every interview starts with a variation of this: So, please tell me about yourself.
If you can't explain why you want the job, you are not prepared.
Of course, you will need to be able to talk about your accomplishments and achievements. You have to sell yourself.
We are not always perfect at our work. Be ready to discuss your failures honestly.
More pointers on handling common and tough questions are on the way. Check back or visit and follow the blog at BillFlorin.com to stay current.
Keeping Your Search Alive
Staying motivated in the search for a new job, especially during times of unemployment, can be one of the biggest challenges in the process. After all, who wants to hear “no” all the time, or worse – nothing at all? Sending out résumés and cover letters for jobs for which one is perfectly qualified and not getting a reply can wear out even the most resilient job seeker. What can you do to stay engaged and motivated? Here are a few tips.
Make a Plan for your Day. Whether you create tomorrow’s plan in the evening or start early with a planning session, make a list of the things that you need to accomplish. Don’t stop until you have completed your list. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and something to talk about if there is a significant person in your life who wants to know what you have been doing all day (can you say “spouse”?).
Eliminate the Distractions. While it can be tempting to kill time in front of the TV or with social media sites, set a time limit for these activities and stick to it. If 30 minutes a day is your Facebook budget, don’t stretch it to 35.
Get out of the House. Get your exercise, shower, dress and go meet people. Get out to the job fairs, meet colleagues for coffee and stay tuned in to the current events in your field.
Challenge Yourself to Add to your Network. Your network should include recruiters – both recruiting agency people and staff recruiters – as well as people with whom you have worked and those that you don’t know yet. Attend as many live events with other people as possible.
Don’t Stop with LinkedIn Messages. Anyone can build a network on LinkedIn, but if it is nothing more than a list of people and their pictures – a list of people you don’t know – you have not done enough. Pick up the phone. Send a personal note. Make the connection more meaningful and valuable for you and the other person. You will be surprised at how warmly some will welcome the extra effort.
Learn Something New. Public libraries, state departments of labor and other organizations give you the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people, mostly for free. Explore the opportunities and sign up.
Volunteer. You can add new things to your résumé and meet people while helping others. Don’t discount the value of this activity.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you have been doing all of these things and know that you are working as hard as you can to find a job, feel good about your effort. It’s a challenging labor market filled with wary hiring managers and senior leaders trying to chart a course in an uncertain environment. Don’t take it personally and keep at it.
It's a Numbers Game
Whenever you make the decision to apply for an advertised job, you should take a some time to understand all of the points at which you will make an impression on a potential employer. Those impressions can help you or hurt you, so it will behoove you to have a plan for every step. Here are some key points.
1. Your résumé, cover letter and other direct communication. It all needs to be error free and must present you in the best way possible.
2. Social media continues to grow in importance. What will a potential employer see with a visit to your social media pages? What comes up when you do a web search on your name?
3. When you have the opportunity to call, do you know what you are going to say to a live person? How about voice mail? Create and practice a script before you make the call. Stand up and smile while making the call. The hightened energy that goes with this effort will come through.
4. Have you anticipated and practiced your answers to predicatable interview questions? No? Get to work!
5. Interviewing is a topic unto itself, but you want to be sure that you are making a great impression with professional dress, punctuality and practiced demeanor.
6. Follow up is often overlooked. Your marketing campaign has to include thank you letters and follow up drip marketing. If a job offer does not come right away, but the door has not been closed (e.g. rejection letter), stay in touch with short updates.
How do the numbers work? Assume that 100 people apply for the same job. Candidates will fall out at any of the steps above - or even due to issues not mentioned here - so your job is to be the best at every step. Don't assume that a great resume will lead to a job, or that a new tailored suit will seal the deal. It all counts! As you work through the steps above, be the best at each checkpoint. Let others fall out. At the end of the process, your number can be #1 - Hired.
Face to Face
You have a great résumé and you have found a job listing that sounds like it was written just for you. You send off a perfect cover letter and the best possible thing happens: you get the call and a recruiter wants to schedule an interview. Now what? Are you ready to sit for an interview and follow up?
First, how much time have you spent preparing for easily anticipated questions? When the recruiter, HR manager or hiring manager sits with you, how will you respond to these questions?
- Please, tell me about yourself and your career.
- What accomplishments from the last 12 months are you most proud about?
- Give me details on how you grew sales/reduced expenses/improved profitability as you claim on your résumé.
- What is your greatest strength? How about your biggest weakness?
Are you going to be ready for these questions, or will you just hope for the best and see what happens? Your competition will prepare and practice and have a portfolio of answers in mind to answer these and other questions. How well do you know yourself and how well can you tell your story in a compelling way that will make the interviewer want to hire you? If you are concerned about this, talk to us about interview preparation services. Don’t forget to visit BillFlorin.com for more career management ideas.
Is Your Social Media Presence Hurting You?
More and more I see comments on LinkedIn from recruiters, resume writers and other career industry professionals about their annoyance with errors in resumes, cover letters and social media content. Mistakes on LinkedIn seem to earn special recognition as career killers. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. LinkedIn and other social media sites market you every minute of the day and tell your story to anyone who cares to read it. What are you saying about your attention to detail and professionalism if you can't even tell your own story well? What will you do to a potential employer's reputation if you make the same mistakes (or worse)?
Here are a couple of things to look at right now:
1. Your LinkedIn profile. Does it have any spelling or grammar errors? If you're not sure, highlight, copy and paste the text into Word and see if you get any red squiggles.
2. Are your recommendations written well? Recruiters read what you write about others to get a sense of your ability to perform on a team. Is it all about you, or are you a team player? Are your recommendations veiled propoganda for yourself, or genuine recommendations for people you appreciate?
It's been said that if you are not online, you don't exist. If you are online, you have to work hard to make sure that the virtual you represents the real you really well.
I recently had the opportunity to work with a new client who demonstrated the value of great record keeping when it came time to update his resume. This client, who works in IT, has detailed records of his accomplishments from his entire career. He has more accomplishment bullet points than anyone else I have seen. When I asked him about this, he told me that a boss told him very early in his career that he should keep a journal about his career because it would likely be useful in the future. He took the advice and started keeping records. His project is that much easier because the conversation can be about the details of the accomplishment, not about trying to remember accomplishments that we want to include. Take a lesson from this client. Keep a journal or portfolio of your activities, accomplishment and recognition. You will be glad that you did.
Finding Work is Real Work
Clients occasionally ask if they should have a resume that is customized for the job for which they are applying. I have to ask, "Do you want the job?" This may seem like a sarcastic reply, but a wake up call may be needed. Consider that the material that you use to market yourself - your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, personal website and others - are entirely under your control. Also consider that they are designed to do a job: get you the interview. If your material isn't optimized for the task at hand (getting an interview with Organization X), you will not be ready to compete. The unemployment rate in this country is starting to drop, but part of the decline is that some job seekers have given up and dropped out of the official number. Could it be that they simply didn't work hard enough at their job searches?
Finding a job - especially a position with a big salary - takes time and effort. Look at your work as an investment in the future. Yes, there are more fun things to do than sweating the details for every job posting, but the fun will come when you get the new job and the compensation that comes with it. Get to work to get to work!
Just Do Something
If you are out of work, one of the most important things you can do is stay busy and to keep your skills sharp during your job search. It is also important to stay in a routine that is going to get you out of bed in the morning to connect with new people. Sitting at your computer searching the job boards does not count! You need to get out and press the flesh. How can you do that?
Volunteering offers you the opportunity to share your special skills with your community and keep working in your field. The organization and its members and clients benefit from your contributions and you get something else that is impressive to put on your resume. Everyone wins.
Where can you get started? Try www.VolunteerMatch.org. You enter your location and a keyword and the site returns a list of current volunteer opportunities. The site is reputable and effective and puts you in touch with some of the most respected non-profits in the nation. Of course, you can always contact your faith community (church, temple, etc.), local schools or other organizations directly. Everyone needs help. The beauty of the Volunteer Match system is that it allows you to work in your field of expertise, maintaining and enhancing your marketability.
Check Volunteer Match and get out of the house. Just do something!
Giving to Get
If you have ever taken a few minutes to find a friend or colleague on LinkedIn, you may have noticed that some profiles are full of great content. They include descriptive profiles, recommendations, reading lists, groups and other relevant material. Others look like an afterthought, possibly set up at the end of the day - maybe even a very long day. Profiles with poor spelling, grammar and little valuable content are common. One of the most valuable elements of LinkedIn is the recommendation feature. How do you get some kudos for yourself?
Give some. When you are on LinkedIn, think about the people with whom you have worked. What value did they add? What were their skills? What can you say that will be both true and valuable?
Write your recommendations in a word processing program so that you will catch spelling and grammar problems. Once you are satisfied with your work, copy and paste it to LinkedIn. Try it! Your LinkedIn contacts will be pleased with your generosity and graciousness. They will also be very impressed that you paid attention to their work. You may even get some recommendations in return.
Keep Your Skills Fresh
On August 9th, The Wall Street Journal reported that many employers looking for skilled workers are having trouble finding the right candidates for the open positions. One machining company commented that its business could grow by 20 percent is it could find candidates to fill its 40 open positions. The same story also reports that low-pay, low-skill jobs are tough to fill while “mid-skill” jobs are tough to find and ultra-competitive as hundreds of people may apply for a single job. Where does this leave you?
If you are working and your employer offers tuition assistance, it would be worth considering using it to advance your education, learn new marketable skills or earn industry certifications and credentials. If you are unemployed, check out the programs offered in your area for retraining and education. Even if you are not looking for a new job, look at the job postings for a similar position with another company. Would your credentials get you hired today? Have you kept up with the industry? What will you do to make yourself even more valuable than you are today?
When you sit down to write your resume or freshen it up with new accomplishments, how detailed are you? Do you have the numbers you need to back up your claims? Just as importantly, do you have accomplishments of which you can be proud? Do you have great stuff to include in a resume and cover letter? If not, get to work!
Consider this. Which is more impressive and likely to catch a recruiter’s eye?
“Improved sales and profits in 2009.”
“Increased sales by 7.7 percent for fiscal year 2009 versus total company increase of 2.6 percent.”
This is a simple example, but the difference between the two is important. The first example gives no context. The second one says that your performance was three times better than the company. Think about the numbers and the details for all of your assignments and accomplishments. Keep notes. Save it all. If you do that, you will have everything you need for an amazing resume.
Your Career Portfolio
A portfolio is not just for visual arts professionals. All of us need to be always looking for opportunities to capture our victories for future reference. When it comes time to refresh your resume and look for your next job, you’ll want lots to work with. What are we talking about?
- Performance reviews
- Emails, notes and other recognition from your boss and peers
- Your own notes that recall your accomplishments
- Newspaper and internet stories about you and your accomplishment
- Anything (and we do mean anything) that details what makes you special
How can you do this? How do you capture this information? You can keep an electronic journal on a flash drive that you can pop into your computer, update, save and remove. You can forward the great emails to yourself for archiving. Handwritten communication can be photocopied, punched and stored in a binder.
When it comes time to write your resume, you’ll want to have more than you need so you can edit it down. You don’t want to have to be scrambling and scratching your head to find or remember your history when the pressure is on.
Take control of your career and become your own historian today.
So, you have a great resume. Your cover letter conveys your enthusiasm for the opportunity. You know exactly how you will respond to those tough interview questions. You know that you are the perfect candidate. But the call never comes and you never get the interview. Why?
What does your online presence say about you? Start with your email address. It’s right there at the top of your resume and your cover letter. If you respond to a job opportunity with an email or fill out an online application, your email address is the first thing that a recruiter will see. Does it convey professionalism, or something else? If you’ve got an email address like PartyBoy13 or SxyChk29, get a new one. Believe it or not, people do use email addresses like this all the time. At best, it generates a laugh and a quick rejection by the recruiter.
What if you get further in the hiring process and a company starts to do some digging? What does your presence on Facebook, Myspace, blogs and other websites say about you? Do you have a picture posted? Would you want a recruiter to see that picture of you? If your social network image is not one that will help you, clean it up before you start your job search. Companies are very careful about hiring and they want to be sure, or at least as sure as they can be, that you will be a great fit. Don’t eliminate yourself by sharing your South Beach exploits or your addiction to Mafia Wars with the world.
Clean up your online image – your personal brand - now.