Is your job search improving or stagnating? Here are a few tips to jump start your search:
1. Get out of your house and start informational Interviewing! If you’ve been applying for posted jobs online almost exclusively, you are missing out on a gold mine of opportunities by not doing more informational interviews. A tip of the hat to What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles for this innovation in the job search. You can read that section in the book (get a library copy if you are watching your budget) or google the term for some questions designed to get you in front of hiring managers in your fields of interest. This time you are asking the questions! As you do this, you will uncover some job resources and openings…some of which have not yet been broadcast to the world. This is exactly where you want to be!
2. Get a LinkedIn Profile and keep improving the one you have. Use your connections there to meet people, and join relevant groups to your career interests. Stay active in those groups by posting questions and reply to the questions of others in the group. Utilize the introduction feature to meet people for you to do informational interviews…even phone interviews with people out of state. I recently did this for some contract work possibilities with a former manager who then gave me the name of a colleague who lives in another state. Through that contact I had two informational interviews with the same firm in two different states. All for information and more contacts. This works if you work it!
3. Finally, never give up! Keep at it. Devote the time to your SELF! You are worth it!
One of my workshop participants offered a wise comment that I’ve never forgotten, and I’d like to pass it along to You! He said, “You play like you practice” in response to another participant who “couldn’t get into” the mindset of practicing for an interview.
Here are a few more tips:
- Practice with a friend, spouse or your faithful dog! Prepare answers to questions yourself by asking and answering them aloud while looking in the mirror.
- Stress your accomplishments, more than your responsibilities (for example, how did you save the company money?)
- Listen to the questions; prepare 30 seconds to 1 min. versions of the answers. Keep practicing until you feel comfortable!
- Be prepared to ask questions about the work itself…now is not the time to ask about salaries! (Look for another post soon on salary negotiation!)
- If you are interested in the position, say so!
- Ask when a decision is going to be made and if you can follow up if you think of more questions.
- Bring extra copies of your resume in case you meet with more than one interviewer. Leave a business card. Be sure to get one of theirs.
When back in your car, and while it’s still fresh in your mind, jot down some notes to include in your thank you note!
Group Interview Tips:
I’ve been on interviews with a group from the employer side and also a group of candidates—all at the same time! Look at everyone in the employer group (not just the friendly face; the person who may appear to be distracted may be taking notes!)
Get everyone’s card if you can so you can send them all a thank you note.
Phone Interview Tips:
- Get dressed for the interview as if it were in person—you’ll think of yourself differently
- Find a quiet place with no distractions. Get rid of background “noise” and attention distractions: TV, radio.
- Make other arrangements for your kids or pets!
Last week I had the good fortune to see and take photos of a newborn owl and its mother. This was a first for me! My new telephoto lens did a great job as I trusted it to bring clarity to what my naked eye was seeing as I looked at the nest from afar! Sure enough—when I reviewed the photos more carefully, there the baby was in all the detail I had “hoped” when I was taking the photos! (Please see the Owl Photos in the April Posting!)
I started to think what relevance this experience has for the job search—what do you need to trust in the way of new skills so that things turn out for the best and as you hope? One way is to work your rejects—something most job candidates don’t do. We tend to want to close the chapter and move on. But by not working the rejects, we miss out on a potential gold mine of information and opportunity!
First you may be saying, “What rejects—I never heard from the xyz organization!” And you probably won’t. These companies are swamped with resume and application responses, many of which don’t even fit the job description! You can make an initial contact by phone or email that says, “I just wanted to know where you are in the selection process and let you know that I am still interested.” If they have made a decision, and you were not selected, here’s what you can do:
Tips on how to work your rejects: Write a letter (you can send an email, too, but a letter is more personal) basically saying “Congratulations to the person who was selected for the position and although I would have enjoyed being part of the team, I would appreciate any other suggestions you may have of where I might best use my skills.” Let them know you will be calling to follow-up to this letter. Then make the call. You can leave a message that says, “You were expecting my call” because you said so in your letter! You don’t know who this person might know who could be of help to you! It will also give you a sense of bringing closure to that job prospect!
There are several reasons this strategy has some good success:
Most job candidates do NOT do this, so you are going to stand out just by making the effort!
The employer may feel a bit “guilty” that you were rejected and more inclined to respond to your request.
Since you are going to be asking the person for “advice” (and since most of us love to give advice and aren’t often asked) you are giving the person an opportunity to be helpful!
It keeps you in the loop in case the person they hired does not “work out” for one reason or another! I knew someone who got a job this way…the employer simply did not want to start the interview process all over again. The candidate made it easy for them to hire her! And she was a good fit for the job!
Trust that the new skills you are applying to your job search will yield results and Work Those Rejects! By being more proactive, it will also boost your confidence in your search!
I’m still amazed when I hear people say they’ve been looking for work almost exclusively on the internet by mass mailing resumes, applying for posted jobs or filling out endless job applications. Recently, I heard someone say, “That’s how my occupation finds out about open positions!” It’s appealing to think you can sit in the comfort of your home in your flip flops and apply away! (along with thousands of others who have this same self-defeating thought).
Do people get jobs through internet ads and filling out job applications? Sure. But if you are doing this exclusively, you are basically wasting your time! This did not work in the best of economic times. Today, you need a better strategy! Think Spring and New Beginnings!
Networking is Key! Recently, I spoke with a Human Resources Manager who said, “When I post a job online, I get swamped with resumes. There is one thing, however, that will move that application to the top of the stack…if I get a call or email from someone I personally know that tells me to look for a particular resume. That one will get my attention, and that’s the person I want to meet!”
How do you get this referral? Through Networking, and here are some low and high tech tips:
Tell everyone you know you are looking for work whether they are in your field of work or not. They know other people and leads will often come from the least expected sources! Sometimes this is the hardest part because you feel you are bothering people as you deal with job search rejection. Keep at it! Be clear on what you are looking for so you make it easy for others to “get” it.
Look for job search support groups in your community, such as your Workforce Center or the city where you live. Ask your reference librarian to help you with this.
You can even form your own group. Just be sure these are not “complaint” sessions! A little of that is fine and probably healthy, but the idea is to listen, give leads and help each other move forward! You might think of asking each person to be accountable for “What did you do this week? What help do you now need?” That will keep the group focused!
Attend meetings or conferences with professional organizations in your field of work. Do an internet search or ask for assistance from your reference librarian. Often you can attend a meeting the first time as a guest (sometimes for free or a guest fee). See what connections you can make there. But be sure you are ready to “give” and not just “take.” For example, if the group appeals to you, volunteer to be on a committee, such as registration for an upcoming event. You are likely to meet more members and other guests this way and you will be seen as a giver not just a taker! As a volunteer, you might also be able to learn some new skills with this group while you are making a contribution.
Get Job Focused with Social Media: When you do an internet search of YOU…what do you find? Your prospective employers will be checking out your electronic presence! The advice now is you should be on at least two forms of Social Media, preferably Linked In and one other, like Facebook or Twitter for your job search. Watch your privacy settings with social media before you start any of this. Take a free class at your Workforce Center or library or sign up for one at your Community College if you don’t know where to begin with Linked In.
- Here are the key elements for Linked In: Your Profile, Connections, Recommendations and Groups:
- Work on your Profile first, then work on Connections (inviting people you know on Linked In to be part of your network). Set a goal to increase the number of Connections each month. Then work on getting and giving Recommendations.
- Finally, and maybe most important of all—choose Groups you want to be involved in. These are the professional organizations, some large, some small, and many will be the ones mentioned in Networking above. Get involved in the discussions that are offered there or pose a question to the Group. You will often hear about job openings as well.
2012 is a Leap Year, and it’s now officially Spring…Take a Leap Forward with Your Search!
Happy Ground Hog Day!
Whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, you probably need to get your resume in shape! Here are some tips:
Look at samples of resumes you like for content and appearance (I like the books by Martin Yate, Knock ’em Dead Resumes, Knock ’em Dead Cover Letters)
Beyond what your responsibilities were, you want to include accomplishments—what did you do that will help this employer! Do that by quantifying your work. Every job can be quantified: What was the scope of the project? How many people did you manage? How large was the organization/department? How much money were you responsible for? How much money did you save? By what % did you decrease turnover?
7 to 10 years of work on your resume—the exception is if you want to return to work you’ve done prior to this time frame; then you will have to include those years and experiences.
One to two pages is best
Include your name and contact information on the 2nd page in case it gets separated
You can include a separate Client List if you have been self-employed or worked as a contractor. Do this alphabetically.
If responding to a job description, include words related to it. Read the job description carefully!
Graduation dates on schools (unless you are a recent grad)
Hobbies and interests (unless it relates to this job)
“References provided on request” This is a given.
Be sure to spell check! This is important and if your resume is scanned for key words—misspellings will be ignored by the scanner!
Volunteer Work that uses your Skills:
Choose these projects carefully—especially if you have a lot of time on your hands—organizations will all want you!
It’s a way to keep your skills current and make a difference
It’s a self-esteem boost!
Temporary Work that uses your Skills:
You can register with one or more temp service companies—the general rule is go to an assignment, and do the best you possibly can in order to get more assignments.
Some of these positions can turn into full-time (or temp to hire) positions.
Addressing Gaps in Employment:
Be honest with yourself and an employer about the gaps—you don’t need to provide all the details if personal. Maybe you were a stay at home mom; maybe you were caring for an elderly parent; maybe there were health related issues.
Volunteer & temp work are both legitimate work experiences to address some gaps in employment.
Include as a separate sheet, not in your resume.
Be clear when you ask for references what you want them to emphasize. Check in advance that they will give you a good reference—don’t assume!
Be sure to use the Recommendations in your Linked In to get and give referrals.
Review of your resume—by two different kinds of reviewers~
Ask someone to review it who does resumes in general; Usually someone with an HR background is very good at this.
Then have someone review it who is in your field of work or the work you want to get into! There might be key words or concepts you have missed, but they won’t.
You have to like it! In the end analysis you make the call. If you are getting interviews, or you are getting good comments about your resume, it is working for you!
It used to be you had one or two resumes and your Cover Letter was tailored to the job…that simply is not good enough in this job market! Your resume should be tailored to this job opening.
White space—leave margins and some white space—some hiring managers like to take notes on a hard copy of your resume
Size of letters shouldn’t be too large or small
Font (for a lot of text you want Times New Roman (anything with seraphs or ‘tails’ like a book or newspaper because it is easier to read).
Arial or Verdana are sans seraph fonts and are better for headers or sections of your resume.
If you are including a resume in an email, select plain text & use sans seraph fonts
Finally, use a good quality paper when you print it.
Perhaps my favorite quote on resumes is from Tom Jackson, who wrote Guerrilla Tactics in the Job Market: “Make it Beautiful!”
And so you should since your resume represents you!
Recently, I asked a recruiter of a temporary employment agency what she thought was the single biggest mistake candidates were making on job interviews right now. Without hesitation she said, “Attitude!” (Yes, employers often ask the agencies to send them candidates to be interviewed instead of having the temp agency make the choice for them!)
The example she gave was a candidate being asked a question by the prospective employer. He replied with, “It’s on my resume!” Needless to say, this person did not get the job. I suspect this response might be indicative of frustration on the part of the candidate for what seems like the obvious: yes, it is on the resume.
Stepping back from this, it’s worth looking at why the employer might ask a question that seems so obvious to you as the candidate.
Might not be very good at interviewing or didn’t review your resume in detail before the interview and is filling time by asking you this question.
Is interested in seeing how you answer the question and express yourself relative to what is on your resume.
- May be looking to see that what you wrote in your resume is a match & is in sync with how you are answering the question!
So here are some tips to develop the right attitude for your job search:
Refresh Your Job Search! Review the job description before you go on the interview and review your resume. Practice answering what seem like “it’s on the resume” type questions with a new approach. Try answering some difficult questions with a buddy or ask yourself these questions and say your answers while looking in the mirror. What does your face tell you about the attitude you are “reflecting” to the employer? Would you hire you?
Consider doing volunteer work related to the field you’d like to be in. It might boost your confidence and you might gain some new skills or use ones you already have. It will give you a “sense of purpose” while you do some good. Be careful not to devote too much time to volunteering if you can’t afford to do that!
Learn a new job-related skill—take a class in person or online. Check your library or Workforce Development Center for free courses or sign up at a local community college or your alma mater. Some temp services provide skills training, too.
Keep your spirits up—it’s likely the search may take longer than you’d like and maybe already has. Keep up your exercise and watch what you are eating…both of these will help keep depression at bay.
Learn to love your job rejects—they are a source of further contacts that few people use.
We’ll talk more about volunteering and handling rejects in upcoming blogs.
Here’s to You and a New Job Search Attitude in this New Year!
Recently, a friend who was looking for work and a career change said, “I’m not going to do anything in December. I’ll wait until January when the holidays are over and start then.” In the spirit of offering job search advice (I asked first!) I suggested there might be another way to look at this. While it’s tempting to take some time off, this is not the time of year to do it. This was confirmed this week by an HR Manager who mentioned she had just made job offers to 10 people who would be starting in January! Now that’s a nice present to give yourself– the start of some new beginnings! When I related my friend’s comment to the HR Manager, she said, “Tell people to look in December!”
Here’s are some of the reasons to continue your job search in December:
1. You can get some appointments that are ready to go after the first of the year rather than lose some precious time. You will feel a lot better about facing the New Year if you already have some irons in the fire!
2. People’s calendars are full! Yours should be, too. I connected with a colleague last week who said the earliest she could meet was February. So getting those calls made now will put you ahead of the game before you have a January calendar that has lots of open spaces!
2. If you are looking to do some informational interviews (see Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute?) now is a good time to schedule those 20 minute interviews with an employer over a cup of coffee. They just might welcome the distraction (after all, you are asking for advice, and who doesn’t like to give that?). You, on the other hand, will have gained information about making a better career decision, may learn of some potential job openings, and you will have made some contacts as well!
3. If getting started on a career change is important to you, you could also use this time with your local library, Workforce Center, community college or alma mater and see what is available for free on career search testing. If you start to sort some of this out in December, you’ll be ahead of the game come the New Year.
I like to think of the job search process as similar to the way people need to dress for cold weather–in layers! Start the layers of your job search by setting time each day to look at what you are doing to get clear on what you want to do work-wise, make the contacts you need to make, and keep the momentum going in the month of December!
From an email to Friends from Bhutan, April, 2008
Kuzugampola (Hello in Bhutanese) Friends!
Ever since I saw a PBS special on Bhutan (The Land of the Thunder Dragon) some years ago, I wanted to visit here. It is a magical place, often called the last Shangri La, for the beauty of its mountains and valleys. Often it looks like a story book picture! It’s about the size of Switzerland and about a half million people. Apparently, they said they were a million so they could get into the UN, but then, given their sense of humor (truly!) and that census counts are not accurate…Bhutan is nestled between China and India and has four climate zones, from cold in the Himalayan north to tropical in the very south. We were in the central, temperate region. It was lovely spring-like weather.
We had a 9 hour ride on the “Lateral Road” the only road in the country. We started in Paro where the airport is (two planes blessed by their monks called Druk (Dragon) Air). We arrived in Thimpu, the only capital without a traffic light…I have a photo of the one police officer directing traffic. They tried a traffic light (yes, one) and didn’t like it so they got rid of it!
The feel of this country is unbelievable…wonderfully friendly and hospitable people with the men dressed in traditional “ghos” a komono-type outfit and the women in long skirts of beautiful hand woven fabric. The Bhutanese are a handsome people! You may have seen the news on Bhutan’s recent elections as they moved to a constitutional monarchy. It is an interesting time for Bhutan, this Buddhist Kingdom coming into the 21st Century. Their new King, who at 27 is as revered as his father, will be coronated this year. The King’s Father is married to 4 sisters (apparently, one said no!) But having more than one wife or husband is not uncommon in Bhutan.
(Note: In fact the King is now 31, the youngest reigning King, and was just married in 2011. The new Queen, a commoner and 21 years old, is as beautiful as he is handsome!)
Today is our last day (of 11) in Bhutan (internet was not always available on the trip) and did they ever save the best for last! We hiked to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
nestled on the edge of a cliff. It is a trip that, like Mecca, they would like the Buddhists here to do at least once in their lifetime. It is about a 3 hour hike up and is a beautiful one on a good trail with lots of steps in places. Several beautiful viewing points as the rhododendrun are in bloom. Set with the the prayer flags, it is a stunning setting.
I got the Lonely Planet Bhutan book (there weren’t many to choose from when I went I 2008, but I found it a good choice. Check around and see what you like). It gave a good history of Buddhism, I thought.
I went with a company in Boulder called Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Several books I’d recommend are:
So Close to Heaven, The Vanishing Kingdoms of the Himalayas, by Barbara Crossette–lots of history and will give you some context. Great writer.
Beyond the Sky and the Earth, a Journey into Bhutan, Jamie Zeppa; a Canadian who taught in Bhutan and then married one of her students. The marriage didn’t last, but the story of her experiences being in the culture is interesting.
Treasures of the Thunder Dragon by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Whangchuck who was one of the previous Queens–travelogue and memoir. I got a library copy. I loved this book, too.
The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden (daily life and rituals from a woman’s perspective)
The Geography of Bliss, c. 2008. One more book that has a chapter on Bhutan and is just a great travel read. It’s written by NPR Correspondent, Eric Weiner:
A few DVDs:
Travellers & Magicians (Jamie Zeppa’s (see book above) Bhutanese husband is one of the actors.
The Cup (about Bhutanese monks and soccer)
I loved Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang). Do not be discouraged by guidebooks that say it is difficult. It isn’t. There is a path all along the way with lots of people.
Make sure you get to a Festival…anywhere. They are worth seeing and have a good blend of the sacred and the profane. Great photo opps, too.There is one main road that goes across the country and some of the highlights are: Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, and Trongsa. The architecture is lovely as are the people. Happy Travels. If you go to Bhutan, enjoy—I know you will. If you decide to arm chair travel this one, these books and DVDs should be a good start!
PS One book I read several years after my trip: It’s called Married to Bhutan, How One Woman Got Lost, Said “I Do” and Found Bliss, by Linda Leaming, a published writer, who apparently is mentioned in the Geography of Bliss book. She talks a lot about the culture and places. So it’s very thoughtful and chock-full of well-written information. The author lives there now (she’s American).