Archive for Job Search

Connect as a person

We are taught early on getting a job the “right way” involves sending out as many resumes as possible in response to advertised openings.  Very few actual hires are done this way.  People hire people and do not like looking at electronic or hard-copy resumes to determine if someone will be a good employee.  It does take a lot of patience and work to become a person in the job hunting process but definitely worth the effort.

Try every means possible to connect with the hiring manager before you apply for a position.  Respectfully and professionally use your network, social media, cold-call, and in some cases visit in-person to speak with someone who is working in the hiring department.  During this opportunity ask intelligent questions, engage in listening, and be prepared to talk about your marketable skills.  Avoid coming across as desperate or over-selling yourself.

Most hiring managers welcome the chance to engage with real candidates and will often invite those people they have met or someone close to them knows for an interview.  The fit and skills need to be there of course.  Make yourself known in a positive way and you will increase your chances of getting an interview.

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No, Thank YOU

After any informational or job interview send a prompt thank you note.  If you know the hiring manager or committee is making a quick turn around decision it is o.k. to e-mail the thank you.  If you have a bit of time, go ahead and send a formal, “typed” letter or a hand-written note with legible handwriting.  No texting a thank you as of yet.

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Just Ask

As you discover a new career interest and begin seeking out candidates to informational interview, ask the right way.   Most people will gladly talk with you about who they are and what they do if you focus your interest on them.  Start your request with a statement that indicates you have done some background research and care about that information.  Limit the amount you share about yourself and seek out their input.  Eventually you end up sharing your story during the informational interview when invited to do so.

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Be Authentic

Networking By PhoneSocial Networking (Linked-In, Twitter, Facebook) can be very helpful in your job search.  Like any venue that allows you to connect with others, use it wisely.  When you want to reach out and talk with someone from a certain company or organization, try to find someone you know, who knows someone who works there.  Make your initial interaction with anyone you’re in contact with about them and not you.  Nothing is worse than having someone’s first interaction with you be a request.

When I was with NIKE, complete strangers frequently approached me in both work and social situations with two of my least favorite questions, “Can ya get me free stuff?” and “Can ya get me a job?”.  Wow, are you serious?  We just met and you want me to do you a huge favor?  Normally I am a fairly easy going, friendly person.  In these situations I would clam up and end the conversation as quickly as possible.

In contrast when new people would start off conversations by introducing themselves and then asking questions about what I did and where I worked, often I would end up sharing many stories.  Sometimes I ended up volunteering to help them out with contacts or job leads.

Asking a simple question can mean so much.  “I understand you currently work for XYZ company.  That must be fascinating.  What is it like?”  Most people love to talk about two things: 1) themselves and 2) what they do for a living.  When asking questions of interest, you are allowing them to share what they know the most about and it puts everyone at ease.  As trust is built, you can start asking advice from the person and will get an opportunity to share your situation and see if the connection can lead you ultimately to a job.

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Tell Me About Yourself…

Are you ready to respond to what could be for some the hardest question to answer in an interview situation?  “Please, tell me about yourself.”

Interview Handshake

The intention of the questions is for the interviewers to learn a brief summary of the background and qualifications of the candidate.  Your answer should focus on addressing three questions according to Mandy Nyez from St. Norbert College in Wisconsin:

1. Who are you and where are you now? Talk about your education, degrees you have or are pursuing, and any specialty areas you would like to highlight.

Currently I am a senior at Acme University and intend to get my Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications in December.  I have focused on public relations as a concentration area.

2. Where have you been? Career-related experiences are important to highlight in your answer.  Focus on relevant and transferable skills to the position.  If your volunteer and leadership positions are relevant, you can also talk about highlights here as well.

For the pas two summers I have been an intern with ABC Marketing Services in the PR department.  The internships allowed me to hone my copy writing and public speaking skills.  I created press releases and served as a spokeswoman for two client accounts.

3. Where are you going? Finally, you want to focus on your career objectives and goals related to the position.

My hope is to utilize my educational background, experience in the field with clients, and my energy and enthusiasm as the PR Coordinator at First Avenue Advertising.  Eventually I would like to earn my way up to the Public Relations Director.

Be careful about coming across as “canned” or too rehearsed.  Avoid sharing personal information such as your age, number of siblings, or hobbies.  Your future employer wants to see you are a good fit with the position and their company or organization.  Keep it career-related so they can better understand what you “bring to the table.”

Keep your total answer concise as follow-up questions will allow you to fill in more details later.  Outline your summary and practice several versions.  After some intentional work, you will be able to confidently share who and what you are about at job fairs, informal networking opportunities, and in the job interview itself.

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Get started

Go Light“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain

At the end of a career counseling session I usually ask the client a question, “What is the one next thing you need to do as part of your job search?”  As much as I don’t intend for it to be a trick question, the answer is more difficult for most clients to answer than I would have thought.  The tendency is for each of us to jump ahead three or four steps to the final outcome and forget the first steps (often easy) that will get us started.

One client, Jane felt stuck in her job search process.  She was not able to feel like she was making any progress.  Her intentions were good but her follow-through was minimal.  Toward the end of one of our sessions when I asked Jane the “first step” question and she responded with a fairly typical answer, “Do an informational interview with someone in the accounting field.”  Conducting an informational interview is an important aspect for most job seekers and Jane and I had talked about that being a good idea.  We had also talked about how her sister-in-law worked for a small CPA firm as a receptionist and might be a good resource for contacts.

In Jane’s situation the first step is NOT to engage in an informational interview especially since Jane reported the concept felt overwhelming to her.  The ONLY thing Jane had to do as a first step was to call her sister-in-law and ask if she would suggest anyone in her firm as a possible candidate for an informational interview.  I asked Jane how she felt about calling her sister-in-law.  Her response was, “Oh, easy, I can do that.  We talk all the time.”  My suggestion was that Jane only needed to call her sister-in-law to get started.  If she felt good about that first step, then she could move onto the intentionally small next steps we had talked about in the session.

At our next appointment Jane was excited because she had a meeting set up with an accountant to ask questions.  She said it happened because she took each easy step until suddenly the overwhelming larger task was completed before she realized it.

Break your job search into small steps and you will find yourself making steady progress.  Never getting started feels discouraging and hopeless while taking action, even if it is a small action, provides hope for the future.

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31 Flavors


Many job search sites encourage you to post one resume that represents you for all jobs that might be posted on their site.  There is a danger in doing this or thinking one resume will serve you for your job search.  With one resume you quickly become a doer of many things, but the master of none.

You want to create specific resumes for positions of interest that focus your accomplishments on specific experiences that match their job description.  Hiring managers quickly seek out those candidates that “fit” the position.  You want to flavor your resume so it “reeks’ of the position you are applying for.

It takes some intentional thought but you can highlight different career skills using the same experiences in your background.  Many times it is just a matter of rephrasing and repositioning the descriptions you use for your experience.

Simple Case Study: Sarah is looking for a job in advertising but at the same time is also interested in sales positions.  All three examples below come from descriptions of her sales associate position at a well-known clothing outlet.

Example One:

Objective:  Seeking a job, any job, I just need a job

Sales Associate, Clothing-R-Us

  • Utilized cash register to record sales
  • Waited on customers
  • Worked long hours
  • Stocked shelves
  • Priced items

Example Two:

Objective:  Seeking a position with an advertising agency

Sales Associate, Clothing-R-Us

  • Worked with regional manager on writing copy for newspaper advertising
  • Created eye-catching displays to attract customers into store.
  • Intentionally merchandised product to ensure profiled items would sell first.
  • Developed relevant point of sale collateral to increase sales.

Example Three:

Objective:  Seeking a professional sales position

Sales Associate, Clothing-R-Us

  • Highlighted selected product to increase seasonal sales by 20%.
  • Focused on customer concerns to encourage additional product purchases.
  • Developed and implemented special sales activities to reduce stock.
  • Voted sales associate of the month three times over a two-year period.

In these scenarios, Sarah was able to flavor herself as someone who excelled in advertising or sales.  If Sarah were to apply for a customer service position she would adapt her descriptions to a more customer service centric flavor.

Adapt your resume descriptions to the job you want and the reader will sense you are already a good fit for their position.

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Don’t worry, be happy

frown smile

or at least pretend you are…  One of the hardest concepts to convey to someone who has been unemployed and is applying and interviewing for jobs is to keep a positive attitude.  The reality of unemployment, spending more than you earn, or hating your current job can be depressing (literally).  Ironically any hint of you as the job seeker of being desperate, unhappy, down, or feeling sorry for yourself is a quick ticket for rejection in the workplace.

The folks who are in control of the hiring do not want to bring someone in who might “share” this caustic attitude with current employees.  What can you do to ensure you are in a good place mentally when applying or interviewing for a job?

  • Be in a good place– What you are conveying on paper (resume, cover letter, and/or application) changes depending on your mood.  Try to psyche yourself up and be in that “King of the world” place when writing your job search materials.  If not, set them aside until you can be mentally ready.  Note:  This is not an excuse to never start writing.  Be proactive in trying to be in a good place.
  • Do something for yourself– Before the interview do something that might add joy to your life.  Take a walk in a park, put bubbles in your bath, go to the library, visit a neighbor, call a friend, read a book, play a board game, listen to or play music, smell a flower, or some other small gesture that improves your being.
  • Make a list and refer to it–  When you are in a positive mood, make a list that includes talents you have that you will share in the work place.  When you are feeling blue, bring out the list and reflect on ways in which you will make a difference.  Understand the reasons why you would add value to any company or organization.
  • Fake it til you make it–  You always want to be true to yourself and honest in your job application materials and during interviews.  With that being said, remember a time when you were happy and be that person during the interview process.
  • Seek professional help–  If finances allow, find a mental health counselor or therapist to help you deal with the challenges you are dealing with.  A good career coach or counselor can help you create a solid resume and critique your job interviewing skills but is not the right person to help you sort through “life” issues.

Give the impression that you are a resilient person no matter the circumstances.  People want to connect with positive people and go out of there way to help if that confidence appears to be there.

Check this out: J.D. Roth at GetRichSlowly has an excellent post that focuses on the happiness factor with a review of Tal Ben-Shahar’s book, Happier.

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