Posts Tagged ‘job search’

As the holiday season bears down on us all, the pressing questions for the job hunter/careerist are: Should I take a break? Is anything really going to happen in the job market snowmanbefore the New Year? Don’t I deserve a respite from this brutal process and relax by the fire with eggnog?

Well, YES and NO. To be sure, taking some time during the holidays to enjoy the delights of the season and appreciate those around you is an excellent idea. This is certainly NOT the time to pull out the plastic and run up a tab with the retail industry, but having a sensible, enjoyable holiday time with family and friends is something you DO deserve.

That being said, please allow me to make a case for maintaining a certain level of activity between now and the waning din of the noisemakers on the first day of the New Year.

  1. There is no better time to network.

The holidays represent an extraordinary number of opportunities to see and be seen by family, friends and folks from all over. It would be foolish to not consider all of this “face time” as a resource to increase your “Positive Visibility.” Please understand the importance of your attitude and approach, however. Nothing can put the damper on a festive gathering more quickly than someone who is pumping the crowd for job leads, or who has the “deer in the headlights” look of someone whose career is stalled! Be sure to focus your contact with others in a positive manner, seeking information, advice and referral to investigate and consider alternatives. Remember that most individuals truly would like to help, but are at a loss on how to be of assistance. Allow them the luxury of simply giving advice rather than 1) feeling pressed to deliver that killer contact for you or 2) staring through you to someone, anyone at the other side of the room. My experience has been that, in such cases, most people will choose Door Number 2!

An additional word of warning: be sure that your solicitation of “next step” options and advice is not the first question on your list, nor is it the only item of conversation. Ease into these topics. Ask how they are doing, what is new in their lives. Show honest, genuine interest and concern for them as people, not as networking contacts. Also, help them realize that you are in the investigation mode, not desperate for a pay stub or a lead to that next great promotion.

  1. Many decision makers are at home, not on the road.

One of the challenges of job search and networking is navigating through the maze of individuals who need to participate in any decisions being made. In mid-August, for example, it is often difficult to get the right people in the same room (or even in the same state) long enough to give their opinions, since Smitty is at Myrtle Beach and Ms. Jones just left for New England. This is not as true during the holidays!

Indeed, many people will be staying nearer to home, traveling less and becoming more accessible. Although staffing issues may not be at the top of the holiday list, there are still decisions being made, perhaps even more quickly due to the availability of decision-makers. In addition, the end of the year is often the time when budgets are being reviewed and finalized, and new business plans are starting to take shape. Remember: The best time to get connected is always the present!

  1. Your competition may be reduced.

This is one of my personal favorites! Many of your fellow careerists may decide that this is simply not the time to think career at all (for all of the reasons we recounted earlier) and mothball their power suits until the New Year. As a result, there is high potential that your competition will dwindle. Why not take advantage of this “thinning of the field” to forge ahead? As others decide not to take any action until early next year, your well-placed voicemail, LinkedIn update, tweet or short e-mail may improve your standing. In addition, it’s much more effective to maintain a level of activity than attempting to ramp up again on January 2nd!

  1. Most individuals are more open to being helpful at this time.

Admittedly, this will not always be the case. Certainly I would not recommend an intense networking contact at the checkout counter on Christmas Eve! It is true, however, that many are more full of the “milk of human kindness,” more willing to share and provide honest insights and assistance to a well-placed question or request.

  1. Pace yourself!

Now that I’ve made my unassailable arguments for burning up the snow-covered pavement with your career development, I want to introduce the other side of the issue – we ARE in the Holidays! Be sure to take time to care for you and yours, to be thankful for what you do have, to count your blessings. And perhaps, even sip a flagon of eggnog at least once in front of a crackling fire! Sounds good, doesn’t it?!

Happy Holidays and best wishes to you and yours!

“One ringy-dingy! Two ringy-dingys!” (with apologies to Lily Tomlin).

In this crazy world of global economies and national searches, the phone interview is becoming a preferred method for initiating the candidate telephoneselection process. After all, if you can call someone up and interview that person for the cost of a long-distance phone conversation, you’ve saved considerable time and expense over flying someone in for a face-to-face meeting. They are often used even for local candidates as a next step in the hiring process.

So, enter the telephone interview. An arranged time for a phone call can allow a company to screen you at a deeper level as a candidate (your resume or network probably got you the phone appointment) to see if they really want to make eye contact with you. If you’re like me, you may prefer speaking face to face, but you should probably hone your phone skills, since you’ll likely have a phone interview sometime.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions for getting your message across through the wires:

  • Use a land line or quality phone connection if you can. Don’t trust cheap cell phones. Also, use the handset, not the speakerphone; the technology just isn’t there yet. The company may be using a hands-free system, but they ARE the potential employer. If you don’t have a quality wireless phone where you’ll receive the call, use a standard phone. Sound quality can be a significant problem if your equipment isn’t up to the task.
  • Make arrangements for your phone line to be free, whether you are calling or being called. If you think other people might try to reach you, advise them in advance that you won’t be available and that you need the phone line to remain open.
  • Gather all of the information you can on the company in advance. Have a copy of your resume and work background, key information you want to share, etc., at your fingertips. This is an “open book test,” so be prepared. There is NO REASON not you have all of your “interview ammunition” in front of you for the call!
  • Make sure the location is quiet when the interview takes place. If the call comes when others are around, be sure to make plans for some silence. Interviewing over the cacophony of a barking dog or a blaring rerun of “Sponge Bob Squarepants” is not likely to impress a potential employer.
  • Review what you know of the position and prepare short “experience stories” to demonstrate how you fit the company’s needs. Since you know when the interview is going to take place and have the ability to keep your critical information within reach, there’s no reason not to take full advantage of the situation.
  • Believe it or not, I recommend DRESSING UP for the phone interview. What you wear is often reflected in your voice. If you’re dressed professionally you’ll sound much better than if you’re in a bathrobe and bunny slippers. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true!
  • Sit in a comfortable chair that requires you to maintain good posture. Once again, little steps like this will improve your delivery. Voices can slouch just like bodies do. Some people find interviewing while standing up works as well.
  • Use your voice to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm. Speak clearly with good diction, varying your voice to make points. Consider keeping a glass of water nearby, perhaps some lozenges, etc., just in case you need them.
  • You may find that interviewing in front of a mirror is useful, providing some visual cues and feedback which you cannot get from the other end of the phone line. This technique will also give you some insight into your posture, energy level and related variables.
  • Have all of the questions you want the company to answer ready in advance. Be aware that the phone interview is likely to happen early in the hiring process, so bringing up issues like salary and benefits is probably not a good idea.
  • Near the end of the interview, consider asking (in your own words), “As I learn more about this position in relation to my skills and experience, I frankly see an excellent fit and am quite excited about the opportunity to join your company. Are there any areas of concern regarding my candidacy that we should discuss in greater detail?” A strong question like this near the end of the interview may help you clarify any areas where the company may be unsure of you as a candidate. (And it makes you sound good!)
  • Finally, never close the interview without the final question: “What’s the next step in the process?” or “When can I anticipate hearing from you?” Be sure that you have accurate information on the name, title and address of the individual(s) you are speaking with so that you can send thank-you correspondence.

Phone Interviews:  Be all you can be when that call comes in!

If you don’t shoot, you’ll never score…

Shots on GoalCommon sense, of course, but seldom acted upon. I like to call this “UNcommon Sense!”

My research (I am an unabashed “data junkie”) recently identified a significant statistic quoted during hockey games: “SHOTS ON GOAL.”

It’s not hard to figure out why this is a critical measure of success. IF YOU DON’T SHOOT, YOU’LL NEVER SCORE! To be sure, you want to develop some skill in executing these shots, but waiting for the perfect line for that killer slap shot that’s featured on SportsCenter ™ will likely keep you from ever scoring!

In the same way, if you choose to take limited action in advancing your search, your career explorations, your professional and personal growth, etc., you’ll likely end up with exactly what you put into it: BUPKISS (nothing, or precious little of value)! To quote The Great One, Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”

So, exactly what is the “shots on goal” statistic for your career development?

A cartoon I have in my files shows two forlorn individuals dressed in tattered business suits walking down the street. One turns to the other and opines,Reverse shiftI think it IS who you know . . . and I know YOU!”

Although networking is always a key topic in job search and career development, precious few of us really enjoy the process very much. We do, however, grudgingly admit that it must be done if we want to get anywhere in our work and life.

I have discussed at some length WHY networking is important and even provided some guidance on WHAT to do with that precious contact when you land it. Seeking information, advice and referral is the key to developing longer-term, mutually productive relationships that create “win-win” relationships rather than bold-faced influence peddling.

Let’s discuss HOW to make this magic happen. And, at the same time, to suggest a counter-intuitive technique to increase your opportunities, something I like to call “Reverse Networking.” What is this, you may ask? Before I answer that question, let’s talk a bit more about the WHY behind such a back-to-front technique.

Some time ago I read an extraordinary book, Working Identity by Dr. Herminia Ibarra. She cited a somewhat obscure reference to a 1973 research project by a then sociology graduate student, Mark Granovetter, who discovered that most of the jobs discovered by networkers (people seeking contact), came from individuals with whom they had very infrequent contact. Granovetter called this “the strength of weak ties.” The numbers are staggering: of people finding work through personal contact, 17% found jobs through people they knew well (strong ties), 55% found their new positions through individuals they did not know as well (weak ties) and 28% were successful through contacts that they barely knew or had not had contact with in years (weakest ties). This means that over 8 of 10 opportunities came from people that they would not typically consider! Granovetter also found that these people often found better positions for more money. The application for career and personal development is obvious!

Ibarra’s chapter titled “Shifting Connections” talks about this phenomenon as being critical in career change, although I would argue that it is equally useful in employment search and career development. If we continue to connect only with people who know us well, we get caught up in what Ibarra termed as “blinds” and “binds,” keeping us away from new experiences and opportunities.  If you continually run in the same circles, you will keep running into the same folks, the same ideas, with little opportunity for Serendipity, the surprising and exciting opportunities that seem to come out of seemingly inconsequential events. This is what Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, talks about when he says that “lucky” people not only maximize chance opportunities, they create them!

How does this relate to networking in general, and “Reverse Networking” specifically? We typically think of networking from the center out, starting with people we know well, are comfortable with, know of us and about us and network out in concentric circles to the outer fringes. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, by the way. However, I suggest adding Reverse Networking to your repertoire as well. The “reverse” theme implies just what it says – let’s start from the outside and work our way in!

Sounds good, eh? There is a potential glitch in the plan, however: To quote one my clients when faced with this concept, “If all of the good leads are in these ‘weak ties,’ how do you find these people?”

A great question! Well, I think I may have found them for you! Who has not seen you in a long time? Or, with whom have you lost touch from your deep, dark past? Your list could include: old neighbors, former coworkers, high school and college teachers, college roommates, distant relatives, former bosses, acquaintances from service groups, associations, hobby organizations, places of worship, etc. If you have not spoken to someone in some time and that person is likely to remember who you are, that’s a good place to start. The use of social networking applications like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. can be particularly helpful in finding out “whatever happened to…?”.

One more word of warning, however. If you aren’t well versed in the science of networking (that is, seeking Information-Advice-Referral, not working them exclusively for your personal advantage), DON’T CALL ANYONE! Be sure you know how to connect with people positively and effectively, establishing solid, active contacts for collaboration and shared insights. Otherwise, you will soon find your email in spam, you will be “unfriended” and your calls blocked (and rightfully so!).

Please allow me to add one more insight:  Remember that your “weaker ties” have “weaker ties” of their own!

Dizzying, isn’t it?

Many of us are near (if not related) to people that I prefer to describe as “Free Agents.” That is, for one reason or another, they find themselves back in the job hunt jungle. In conversations with a clients over the past 25 plus years, I realized that many seldom think about how to assist these folks in their employment search. After all, if  you can’t provide them with a job lead or a killer networking contact, you can’t help them, right?

Wrong! 

Here are some practical tips on being there for them . . .

  • Keep them in your social circle. Unemployment is not communicable and we all need interaction with others.
  • Ask for a copy of their resume. Look it over, learn more about them and what they have done. If you have good advice on how it’s written or how to use it, tell them.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunity that may interest them, whether it’s an article in the Business Section of the paper, a sign in the lawn in front of a company or a blog you just read.
  • Provide a sympathetic and non-judgmental ear. Job search is tough sledding. They may just need a sounding board at times, not advice.
  • Maintain regular contact and follow up in a positive and supportive manner.
  • Never ask them, “Did you find work YET?!”

Finally, be a friend. They need one now, more than ever!

SFail Hashtagince I’ve had the privilege of working with a plethora of job hunters over the past twenty plus years, I thought I’d share some insights on the downside of the search adventure: How to FAIL in your job search. I can almost guarantee that following any one of these rules exclusively will increase the likelihood of your catching all the episodes of  “The View” and “Judge Judy” as well as completing “to-do lists” for everyone on your block!

Are you ready? OK, here we go…

MISTAKE 1: STICK WITH A SINGLE JOB SEARCH METHOD

There are a lot of job search techniques out there and I’m frequently asked which one should be used. The answer? Use ALL OF THEM! If you restrict your search activity to any single method (including excellent ones like research interviewing or networking), you severely limit your opportunity for success. For example, the ads in the Sunday News are real jobs, not hallucinations. The Internet does list employment opportunities through sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Careerbuilder, and others. Some companies do have “NOW HIRING” signs on their front lawns. Talking to friends and relatives about your interests can help identify employment opportunities. Recruiters and agencies, used intelligently, can be helpful. Social Media applications (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are becoming exceptional search tools. Although I recommend that you invest most of your time in activities that tap into the “hidden market” through research, social media and networking, an effective job search campaign is probably one that uses all available methods to unearth opportunities.

MISTAKE 2: APPLY FOR EVERY POSITION THAT YOU FIND.

When you reduce job hunting to the lowest common denominator, it’s basically a numbers game, right? So it stands to reason that the more times you apply, the more chances you have for success. Logic then dictates that every time you see any job that you’re even remotely qualified for (e.g., I’m not a brain surgeon, but I have a brain), you should go for it. Well, not really. First of all, you’re likely to experience an even higher level of frustration when you’re not considered for most of these positions, chipping away at your already fragile self esteem. In addition, you’ll probably invest a significant amount of time with little or no results. Finally, sooner or later you’re likely to be labeled in the employer community as someone who would do “anything for a buck.” Would YOU hire someone like that? Neither will they!

MISTAKE 3: TELL EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME THAT YOU NEED WORK.

Similar to the above technique, this process will certainly gain you some visibility… as damaged goods! Although the vast majority of people will be willing to help, most of them will quickly tire of your contact as you continually bemoan your lack of a paycheck. OK, I know that’s not what you’re doing, but that’s what your approach will seem like to them! It won’t be long before the word is out for everyone to avoid you at all costs – crossing the street when they see you coming, getting caller ID, spam-blocking your e-mails, ignoring your LinkedIn connection request, turning you into a job search pariah. There is nothing wrong with staying in touch with others to assist you in your search, but you should be seeking information, advice and referrals, not pumping innocent bystanders for job leads.

MISTAKE 4: SPEND ALL OF YOUR TIME JOB HUNTING.

You’ve probably heard that “looking for a job is a full-time job.” I respectfully disagree. Looking for a job is NOT a full-time job; it’s much more that that! Looking for work is, for most of us, much harder than the most difficult job we’ll ever have. Be sure to schedule some downtime, fun activities and recovery time from the wear and tear of presenting yourself to potential employers. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up as a worn-out interviewee, barely able to sit up straight in a chair, not to mention being totally unable to sell your qualifications to the company. To quote a cartoon in my files, “My name is Bob and I need a job!” Be sure to schedule some relaxation and recreation with friends and family along with all of your search activities. You’ll be a better candidate for it.

MISTAKE 5: USE A RESUME THAT SAYS YOU DO IT ALL.

Since you don’t know exactly what a company may need to know about you, be sure to include every single job, experience, class, volunteer activity and project in your resume to make them aware of all of the marvelous ways you could contribute to their organization’s bottom line. This gives you the highest potential to connect your skills with the employer’s needs, right? Wrong! This will more likely turn your resume into an unread epic poem destined for the shredder or recycle bin. And if someone decides that he or she needs something to read before dozing off, it will show you to be an unfocused candidate who will happily take the first position offered (and just as likely to move on for something better as soon as the opportunity arises). Resumes need to be targeted, honest and focused to the needs of the industry, the market and the company.

I trust you get my point: the sooner you decide NOT to follow these rules, the sooner people will be able to send you “Congratulations!” on your new position!

 

Chickadee-Handfeeding-BCBGNPWell, it’s finally happened.  Perhaps your hard work of pounding the pavement has yielded results.  Or, some kind soul has relented.  Or, you just “got lucky.”

At any rate, you now have a job offer. Being employed is a good thing, and this is not a bad position.  To be brutally honest, you could do worse… MUCH worse!  But, continuing to be honest, this is NOT the job of your dreams.  In better economic times, you would probably respond “Thanks, but no thanks” to their offer.

However, these are NOT better times and you’ve gotten used to eating regularly, having insurance and a roof over your head.  Although not ideal, this position can assist in these areas.  So, what do you do?  To quote Jack Nicholson from a recent movie, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Maybe the job of your dreams, or even a more attractive opportunity is just not coming.  In these challenging times, thinking about career development may be a pipe dream.  Be happy that someone wants you! After all, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” right?

Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take some time to think through this situation.  If you’re truly “sitting on” an offer right now, be smart enough to ask for some time to review it, talk to those you trust, etc., before you make a commitment.  If you have other job searches in process, be sure to advise any potential employer that you’ve just been offered a position but you are still interested in them.  Can they give you a sense of your chances?  This may encourage them to take action, or at least let you know where you stand.  I like to use language like, “Help me make the best decision here.  Do you see me as a serious candidate?  When will you make your hiring decision?” If they have no real answer, then it’s clearly time to move on.

Regarding the position “in the hand,” does it meet the criteria for what Barbara Sher calls a “Good Enough Job?” That’s a position that allows you, at least, to make ends meet, to keep your options open, perhaps to continue your search, to feed your better self with hobbies, other activities, etc.

I have three rules for such a position.

Rule One: Can you just go do it, without a lot of additional training or investment?

Rule Two: Will it allow you the time to work on activities that can create opportunities for a better position, or allow you to invest in building up skills, knowledge and experience to make you more marketable?

Rule Three may be the most important:  Can you enjoy it at all? Even if the job isn’t part of your long-term career goals, will the duties bring some level of satisfaction?  If not, you’re likely to find yourself bogged down physically, emotionally and spiritually, to the point that you better not interview for The Job of Your Dreams, because your performance as a candidate will place you in the Reject Pile.

Take the time to work through all of the pluses and minuses of the offer at hand.  Seek to negotiate for a better offer, if you can.  Seek to evaluate the offer in a comprehensive manner, talk to trusted individuals, then make your decision.

OK, let’s say you take the position.  What’s next?  Give them 110%? Eat, sleep and breathe the company slogan?  Get a tattoo of the corporate logo?  Commit your everlasting soul to the company mission statement? Oh, please!

Certainly, do a great job, learn all you can, forge positive working relationships. Demonstrate integrity, honesty and the good old Protestant Work Ethic.

And, one more thing:  KEEP LOOKING! Yes, you read that right.  Do the best job you can, but keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities.  This position may work out for you, but there are certainly no guarantees these days. To quote the credo of the excellent site http://www.careerrealism.com, “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.”

I once read that the web portal YAHOO is an acronym for “You Always Have Other Options.” I truly believe that these days we all need to keep our eyes and ears open, continue networking, looking for the “two in the bush” even when we do have the “bird in the hand.”  This is not to be disloyal to your new position (which I am SURE you would never do), but to keep your ear to the ground just in case.

Then, if things don’t work out with this situation, you have O.O. (Other Options).