Whatcha Made Of?

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So many of us are spending our time filling out countless applications hoping to be called in for an interview. What if I told you there was a better, easier way to go about your career search with improved results? There’s a catch, no more focusing on the labor market and what’s going on “out there”, let’s focus on those things that make us the professionals we are.

Instead of job seeking with the ”I need a job now” or “I’ll take anything” mentality – focus on You. Cater to your true self and take inventory of your career values and transferable skills. Use these elements to target how you spend your time job searching and what jobs you apply for:

Career Values
Stewart, Cooper & Coon

123Test.com

Transferable Skills
Transferable Skills Checklist

Examples of Transferable Skills

Let’s wrap up: Completing these assessments and understanding You adds new insight into the kind of work you should be pursuing. Understanding our values and broader skills gives us our “why” – our reason for pursing the opportunity and their reason to considering us as a candidate.

Want more tips? Follow the #JobFinder series via Twitter.

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Filed under Career Coaching, Job Seeker Tools

Too Smart For Your Own Good

Allow me to relinquish you of your concerns of always being or appearing to be – “right“.
Avoid it at all cost. Too much blind assurance robs us from true creativity and collaboration. You’re a smart cookie – good for you.

Here are some ways to stoke the fire of your cerebral expansion without burning down your foundations and bridges:

– Listen: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Hemingway

- Test: The scientific method is a great way to “test” the waters of different ideas and perspectives. Warning, results may vary.

- Keep Learning: True knowledge is knowing that you don’t know everything. Be aware of new opportunities to learn about the world around you and share that knowledge with others. We need it.

Later smarty-pants.

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Thank You

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(Photo: Felixco, Inc.)

When was the last time you followed up an interview with a thank you note? I recently read an article posted on PsychCentral.com on the effects of saying “thank you”. Here’s what they found:

In a study 69 participants were asked to provide feedback to a fictitious student called ‘Eric’ on his cover letter for a job application. After sending their feedback, half of them got a thankful reply from Eric and the other half a neutral reply. Those who were thanked by Eric were more willing to provide further assistance. Indeed the effect of ‘thank you’ was quite substantial: while only 32% of participants receiving the neutral email helped with the second letter, when Eric expressed his gratitude, this went up to 66%.” (PsychCentral.com)

I love to tell the true story of how I landed my first transitional job out of the military with a thank you note. Long story short – I was the only candidate to send a note. The hiring manager said that the choice was between me and another candidate, but my thank you note sealed the deal.

Why Write

A thank you note gives you the opportunity to express sincere appreciation for the interviewer’s time and attention – which shows you can recognized and follow basic social cues. These short notes also give you an opportunity to remind your interviewers of how well your skills are suited for the job. You can also use thank you notes to address issues you may have overlooked during the interview.

What To Write

Here’s a an example of a simple thank you note that I use. I encourage you to draft your own or shop around – the internet is full of templates – make sure the letter is suited for your industry and the job before sending:

Dear,

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the Human Resources Manager position with XYZ Co. Inc. I am very interested in the position as I know my 12+ years experience in employee training and development will be extremely vital to helping XYZ Co. Inc. meet it’s strategic HR goals. I look forward to hearing from you, please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

Kind regards,

Robert Humes

How To Deliver

A colleague of mine shared a disaster story about when a time one of his clients pre-addressed her thank you notes. On her way into the building for her interview she spotted a mailbox and tossed the letters in the box. What she didn’t know was that one of the panel members was out the day of her interview – when the panel member returned to find the mis-addressed letter she shared the blunder with the rest of the panel….you can guess what came next. Lesson learned – address your notes post-interview.

Other notes on delivery notes:

- Keep blank thank you notes in your car to hand write your messages after interviews
– Send/Postmark within 24 hours
– Emails are okay if that has been the consistent means of communication

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Branding

What color is a standard can of Coke Classic? Red. Everyone knows that, right? When the beverage company changes the color of the can – we notice. The name on the can may be the same but something is different.

However, overtime – if the beverage company delivers a consistent quality experience for drinkers – they will learn to love the new labels just as much as the old.

Quick – what color can is Diet Coke?

What’s my point? You, faithful job seeker – are a product. I mean in no way to demean your qualifications or contributions. The branding you put on yourself carries with it certain expectations. Conversely, if you aren’t branding yourself well you won’t get noticed by the “buyers” you want.

Try this:
– Network with professionals in the industry you want to enter or grow
– Conduct A SWOT analysis and see how your brand stacks up against the competition
– Use social media to “advertise” your brand
– Be consistent – spend your time applying for brand specific jobs

Oh – silver by the way.

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Case of the Mondays

How’s it going? Week starting off right?

Some things to keep in mind today:

Remember to keep things in perspective.

Do the best with what you can.

Establish excellence in the mundane.

Remain approachable.

Make a customer feel important.

Ignore negaholic co-workers.

Push forward in positivity.

Take a break.

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Harness Your Light Bulb Moments

You’re sitting in your new (or existing) business, staring at the quarterly sales reports splattered across your desk and then it happens. A great idea on how to increase sales hits you as if from another planet – you, my friend, are having a light bulb moment. Seize it!

Let’s be real, all ideas aren’t created equal. Consider the DeLorean – though an ’80’s pop icon success, DMC wasn’t exactly an automotive industry Cinderella Story. I’m sure in Mr. DeLorean’s head his lightbulb moment didn’t end this way. I wanted to share some useful tips to help you harness the energy behind some of your more abstract ideas so you can put them into action – successfully.

First Things First

Lightbulb moments are great but fleeting so it’s important to capture them in writing (or voice recording) so they don’t get lost in the fray of everyday business. Be headstrong, nothing must delay you from your current situations/projects/agendas before “screwing in your lightbulb”. Besides, rushing projects and filling packed schedules and minds with more concepts and confusion won’t help you scale your business any faster. Prioritize. Do what you can handle – with excellence – and return to your creative process when you’ve accomplished your current goals.

Be Writing Ready

Some of the greatest ideas in the world are recorded on cocktail napkins, the note sections of meeting agendas, the backs of program booklets and in bathroom offices. In fact, you can be practically anywhere when a lightbulb moment occurs. Keep some note taking materials handy so you can jot down those great ideas. Great iPad apps for note taking.

Speak it. Believe it. Repeat.

Talk about your ideas openly with your leadership and within your personal/professional networks. Create mantras and idioms that speak to your ideas and motivate your passion in pursuing your lightbulbs. Don’t allow critIcism to hault you from persuing your ideas. Often times, sad though it may be, those closest to us often pull the plug on some of our greatest lightbulbs. They mean well and they’re just trying to protect us from ourselves – but be very careful with who you allow yourself to listen to. Believe in your idea – there’s a reason why the lightbulb came to you. Keep talking and believing (follow-up with actions – they speak loudly so I hear) until it happens.

Rewind and Define

Go back to the beginning. Pull out that old cocktail napkin and ask yourself, “Am I there yet?”. Define what true success means to you – don’t waver. If you settle at any point your lightbulb won’t shine as bright. Don’t get me wrong, all ideas need some fine tuning from time to time. Decide early on what right looks like and set you and your team on a course to get there.

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Beat Bullying

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Photo Courtesy of taoty via www.freedigitalphotos.net

According to a 2007 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying is 4Xs more prevalent than illegal harassment in the workplace. The same 2007 report showed that 64% of respondents indicated that they supported bullying legislation protections in the workplace. With all these facts we still see bullying on the rise. What is your organization doing to recognize and beat bullying?

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Target Your Job Search

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Often times I run across job seekers who are frustrated with the lack of response from employers. These folks have grown desperate with their unemployment and apply to every job they find. This only compounds the frustration because often times the job seeker is using the same resume and cover letter for manufacturing jobs as they are for retail jobs. The un-targeted job search is like a large crewless sailboat out on the choppy seas – wherever the wind blows so goes the ship. Here are some sure fire ways to get the most our of the time you spend on you job search.

Set A Purpose

What kind of jobs are you qualified for? What do you really want to do? Will you need training to get there?

Answering these simple questions will help you develop a “theme” for your job search. Instead of spending valuable time jumping from desperate app to panicked resume, prioritize your search by targeting industries or professions. For example, if you want a job in HR – purpose yourself to get one – don’t spend another day filling out an application for a receptionist job (unless of course such a position places you in the HR industry). Visit careeronestop.org and research the career you want. Find out the minimum qualifications for employment and set yourself on a course to obtaining those skills and abilities. Most importantly – keep reading.

Be Realistic

Most of us, if given the right opportunities and time could become doctors. Of course that doesn’t mean that any of us could perform open heart surgery right now. When we aim too far from center we often find ourselves with increased stressed. Consider a rubber-band, stretched just slightly it bounces back with ease and retains much of its natural form. Stretch that same rubber-band three feet or more and it will become limp, never again retaining its original state – if it doesn’t snap in the process. Realistic job searching is efficient job searching – at it’s core it seeks to find and apply only to those positions where you meet 85% or more of the minimum qualifications.

Network.

Notice the punctuation. Networking is probably the most vital element to finding a job in this employment environment. Many of the jobs out there don’t make it to Craig’s List or eBay Classifieds, the hiring manager is given the opportunity to make a decision without a competitive process and the company never gets to hear about how great your skills and abilities would meet their needs. Networking helps you create a buzz about your skills and, when done right, has the potential to put you directly inn front of hiring managers and recruiters.

Try targeting. It works, and so will you if you put these tips to use in your job search.

Photo courtesy of pakorn via www.freedigitalphotos .net

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Do What You HAVE To Do…..

The rest of that line is, “………so you can do what you WANT to do”. I was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, University College when I first began using this saying as a mantra to motivate myself through tough courses and prepping for tests. It helped me block out the distractions of life and focus on my task at hand. It made me a better student, which allowed me to enjoy my educational experience and and profit thereby. But when we decode this simple saying we reveal that its a principle of goal setting that we can use in the business world.

Defining What We Want To Do

We’ve got not shortages of wants and that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re talking business. If you can conceive a “want” (i.e. scaling the business, increasing R&D spending, becoming lean, other strategic initiatives, etc.) that means business -and therefore capital- is good – congrats.

Now what?

Follow another goal setting strategy which is to write down some of your more achievable “wants”. Post them in your employee break-rooms, get your people thinking about your vision – be transparent. Your people will appreciate it and buy-in will be more likely and efficient. Start focusing on the value your new initiative will add to your business – stoke the fire of your motivation in perusing this goal, you’re going to need it my friend.

Doing What We Have To Do

I’m a huge fan of the backwards design model of goal setting which states: “begin with the end in mind”. As a student I wanted good grades; I knew I had to meet the professor’s expectations of quality work; I knew where to get the information which defined her valuation of quality; I turned that information into quality “products” which defined her highest standard of quality. Let’s unpack this.

Doing What You Have To Do Is Defining Quality

Whether you’re becoming lean, scaling your mobile application package, or developing a local TV show – when the rubber hits the road it’s all about defining the quality expectations for the end product. If your mobile applications are projected to increase sales by 20% over two quarters – measure, adjust if necessary – but – keep the end in mind. Doing what you have to do is all about making sure quality inputs in resources equal the expected goals so your business can do what you want it to – succeed.

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New Year | New Focus

ImageThe New Year has arrived and some of us still find ourselves out of work and frustrated. Never fear – with these simple yet time exhaustive steps you can transform your career search over night. Here’s how:

Step 1.  Target EVERY resume: If you’re getting regular interviews and calls from employers your resume is working – congratulations you may now stop reading this commentary and search the archives for the section on interviews. For those of you who’re not getting interviews start targeting your resume. A targeted resume is one that addresses the employers’ required knowledge, skills and abilities in the context of your work experiences. Do this successfully and you’ll receive more communication from employers.

Step 2. Put quality time into every resume, application or networking attempt. Your time is valuable and you should only spend it looking for jobs and taking up leads that you believe will lead you into a career opportunity that you want. Applying for a job that you don’t really want sounds silly, who would do that right? Many of us do this all the time because we are not reading job announcement fully, or are not taking the time to read emails thoroughly, panicked about finding work now – etc. Every step an employer takes to higher a qualified candidates is calculated – the steps you take to find, apply and follow-up during your career search should be just as prudent and focused.

Step 3. Get out more. You’re not going to find your dream job sitting on your couch applying for jobs as your subcouncious is fed via background Muary Povich musings.  Not all jobs are advertised online. You’ll need to get out and engage with other job seekers and professionals within your line of work to really do yourself justice. If you just can’t get out use LinkedIn to connect with other professionals and increase your job market knowledge. You want to get to the point where you not only recognize job boards but you know the jobs are available before they hit the airwaves.

Step 4. Be reachable. If a recruiter can’t contact you – they can’t find out how great you are and offer you exciting opportunities. One of the things I saw a lot of late in 2011 was static displays of online resumes with no contact information listed. That’s rough on the recruiter and its rough on you. Here’s the recruiter’s dilemma  and the reason you may not be getting that call: A good sourcer (someone who actively seeks candidates for vacant positions) knows how to find contact information on the web – the tools are there. But, do I spend the time scouring the web for your contact information when another candidate – who is just as qualified – has her contact information readily available? Not a question I’d want a recruiter to ponder when they are staring at my resume. One last thing before we move on – once we find you, make it a pleasant experience for both of us: answer your phone when you’re available; have a sensible answering machine message prepared; return the call but don’t stalk the recruiter (if you called back, trust they will too); finally – listen during the conversation. You might be told vital information – have a pen handy while you’re chatting. No pen handy? Ask the recruiter to hold while you get one.

Step 5. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Its tough out there – follow steps 1-4 and keep in mind that you’re going to have to hear a lot of “no’s” before you hear a “yes”. But if you take the time up front to focus your energies into your application documents you’ll see a better outcome in the New Year. Best wishes.

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January 2, 2012 · 11:37 pm