Remember when you were a teenager and wanted to go somewhere with friends and your parents said no?  You were shocked because “NO” is not in the Teenager dictionary.   So, what did you do?  You stepped back and tried a different angle to get your way.   You were going to do anything within your power to find a way to go out with your friends. Am I right?  Of course I am.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

The same should apply to a certain extent with your job search.  I am baffled by the number of job seekers who receive a “flush” letter or no response at all to a job application and take that no as a ”forever no”.  The candidate will bow his or her head and walk away defeated.  I often ask, “Whatever happened to your teenage grit?”  Usually that gets me some narrowed eyes, but if that also comes with a bit of newfound determination, then great.

Let me be clear, I do not agree with continually badgering a person after being told no.   I am, however, surprised how many times job seekers run quickly in other direction after a simple “NO”.  My response is “STOP THAT!”  Of course, you have to know when enough is enough too, so be careful not to cross that line.

My advice?   Try to find out more information.  Do further research.  Did your resume get to the correct hands?  If you only applied online and didn’t network your way to a hiring manager, then I have to honestly say you deserve the lack of response (do you have another blog entry for this – if so, you may link to it here).  But for those who network, and maybe even interview, only to turned away, I urge you to seek out more information.  Here are some quick tips if you are ever turned down for a position:

  1. Ask why? Were you not qualified?  Did you interview poorly?  Did you make any mistakes?  If you need more experience, ask for advice on what you need to do in order to return one day and be successful in obtaining another position with the organization. 
  2. Continue to network.  The position you applied for may not have been right for you.  Seek other opportunities within the organization or at least be on the company radar in the event this position or something similar arises in the future.
  3. Never burn your bridges.  Never get a chip on your shoulder for being turned down for a position.  There is always a reason, but I promise that the company did not try to squash your goals in anyway.   Also remember that the people you meet in business will most likely turn up again during your career.  Treat everyone in business as a potential client and/or colleague for the future. 

There is always a time in which you will have to take no as a final answer.  Respect that answer, but have you ever thought that walking away after a simple no might prove to a company that you were never that serious in the first place?  That old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease does have some merit. 

The next time you do not receive a position you really want, ask why?  It’s a great networking and mentorship opportunity as well.  Show your interest.  Show your passion.  And most importantly, do what you have to do to become the best candidate so you can reach those career goals.  You will never know until you ask.

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Each year as new students arrive, we can typically categorize our students in one of three different categories. 

The Dreamer: This student is shooting for the stars but doesn’t quite understand the politics, steps, hard work and effort it will take to reach the stars. Or this person is a bit over-confident in their abilities to reach their goals that they think they have to leave the petty hard work to the menials.

The Realist: This student typically understands their skills and how they can contribute to an organization.  They have a good idea about what they want to do and often times, you will find that these students have already had various experiences that have allowed them to understand who they are and what they want to do with their career

The Undecided: This student will ponder the many thousands of options and never settle on one.  They are reluctant to take the leap and try something new and different.  They have not explored their own skill sets, and don’t typically know where to begin.

So, which student is in the most frustrating situation?  That’s right!  The Undecided aka Unfocused.  You see, with the Dreamer, they at least have direction and just need a bit of professional guidance to steer the ship, and the Realists have it pretty figured out.  But the Undecided…they are a whole different breed.  I just want to look at my students and say, choose something and if you don’t like it…guess what?  You can change.  Many times, they know they want to make an impact.  They aren’t just people who don’t want to contribute.  They do want to help out, but just don’t know where to get started.

Start with baby steps.  Decide what skills you have to offer and what you enjoy doing. Then look at different career options that fall in line with your skills and values.  Now that you have narrowed it down to about 500 options, then choose one.  Try it out, then go from there.  Set up an informational interview, find some people in that field and talk to them.  Ask them what their days are like, etc…

Then, volunteer to help out for a few days, see if you like the atmosphere, ability to use your talents and skills.  Take the leap.

Thousands of interns across the country are on the downhill slide as summer internships end in August at varying times.  Let’s face it; one of the top questions on their minds right now is whether they can turn their internship into a fulltime offer.  Okay, that is assuming everything is going well. 

Statistics show that the number of companies that hire their fulltime employees from their internship pool is dramatically rising.  Current interns who want to secure a fulltime offer from the company where they are interning are hopefully kicking their “star quality” into high gear for their employers.

There are some very simple steps current interns can take to answer questions and better position themselves as viable fulltime candidates and secure an offer early this fall if not before they even complete their internships. 

  1. NETWORK:  I can hear the groan already.  Get to know people within the company and not just in your department.  Introduce yourself to assistants and learn more about the other departments.  Talk to other interns within the company and see what they are doing and learning.  And let us not forget the ever-important hiring managers. 
  2. SHOW RESULTS:  Make sure that your supervisor and coworkers see what you can do for the company.  Play an integral role in your internship projects.  Offer to help wherever you can.  Make sure that you do not leave a single loose end or allow anyone to pick up your slack. 
  3. BE INTERESTED:  Read my previous blog for more on this.  Be sure to learn as much as you can and be inquisitive about a project as a whole or the company in general. Be interested in what other people do and what they bring to the table.  Get to know the history and future goals of your projects.
  4. GET IN THE KNOW:  Find out if your company will be hiring fulltime from their internship pool.  In the current economy, some companies that have historically hired from their interns may not be able to do so this year.  Ask.  Also, ask about the process and the expected timing for making decisions and sharing offers. 
  5. TELL THEM:  Believe it or not, this is the one thing that most job seekers forget.  Tell the employer you would be very interested in receiving a fulltime offer and tell the employer why.   
  6. BE PREPARED:  The years of college students having weeks if not months to make job offer decisions are really over.  Employers want to know quickly and sometimes almost immediately especially from their interns.  If you do receive a fulltime offer, be prepared to give the employer quick response.   

The collegiate job seeker needs to be ready for a hurry up and wait recruiting year.  While you will be receiving offers as per the employer’s needs and calendar, you will also have to make your decision within their schedule needs and not yours.  Don’t be anxious, but be ready.  The best way for interns to be ready is to ensure this 10-12 week job interview you are experiencing is stellar.  WOW your internship employer.  Your goal is for them to see you as a candidate they cannot afford to lose.

Remember how much you questioned everything as a kid?  Why is the sky blue?  Why are circles round?  Why do people die?  Those were the years we questioned everything about life.  We were fascinated with the answers our parents shared and even more fascinated to find out the adult truth later on in life.

Fast forward to adulthood.  Somewhere between four years of age and today we stopped asking questions.  We  have beckoned the quick and easy facts as to asking the question “why?” .

I speak to countless job seekers who only ask what they need to get by. They want to know what is on the test.  We often blame a lack of time for the inability to be inquisitive, but in fact asking questions is and incredible leadership quality.  In fact, I challenge you to pick up any literature that focuses on Leadership and see if it doesn’t include something about being curious, inquisitive and “challenging the process” as Kouzes and Posner refer to in their famous leadership book called The Leadership Challenge.  

The skill of asking questions comes when you seek adequate information to make intelligent and well-thought-out decisions, and understand when it is time to stop.  As always you want to maintain a balance so that you are cognizant of the other persons time.

I encourage questions.  Personally, I enjoy a person who is interested in learning as much about a subject as possible.  When preparing for your career and making decisions on new employment opportunities, please challenge yourself to be more inquisitive.  Ask questions.  Learn as much as you can about a company and a career in a broader spectrum rather than just focusing on preparing for a 30 minute interview or conversation. 

This entry was jointly written by both Cindy and Stacey.

Last week, Cindy passed on a very interesting blog from Hannah Morgan that consisted of a checklist for a job search. See http://hannahmorgan.typepad.com/hannah_morgan/2009/02/check-list-for-a-job-search.html

This is a very good list for the professionals in today’s marketplace because, as we know, people are not staying with organizations as long as they used to.  It is important for the professional/job seeker to maintain a robust culmination of well-crafted job search tools.  In addition to absolutely everything on this list, I argue there is one very important omission that should be near the top of the list.  It is something that can close the deal or close the door within 5 seconds.  It is a person’s professional image.

I manage a large number of professional-level Master’s students each year, and it is not coincidental that often times the students who struggle the most finding a position are also those who struggle with presenting a polished professional image.  This is not always the case, but it occurs often enough to be recognized.  Some professionals have a natural knack for creating a polished and professional image, while others struggle to grasp what kind of investment it takes to create an image that promotes their “brand” instead of one that hinders it.

I have had students, friends, and coworkers that are so incredibly intelligent, well spoken, driven, organized, essentially have everything listed on items 1-21 of the checklist, but struggle with presenting themselves as a crisp and polished professional.  Studies have shown that image is an incredible determinant of success in business.  In business, everyone is selling something…whether it be a service, product, or information but regardless people want to purchase from people who are well put together.  So businesses want to hire people who are well put together.

My addition to the magnificent list presented by Hannah is for every Job seeker to have some sort of image profile done, whether that be professionally or by someone you can trust to be honest with you and by someone who has the credibility to give the feedback.

The saying is true, “You feel how you look” so why not take the extra step to make sure you are always at your professional best.

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I just returned from the Page Family reunion in Ohio this past weekend. I’m just going to say it, “I love my family.”  While my grandparents from both sides of my family have passed on now, each side (Page andFlournoy) still gets together as often as possible.  It’s a true honor to my grandparents. 

While spending time with my Ohio family this weekend, I couldn’t help but remember all of my amazing memories of Vinnie and James Page.  To raise their six children, both of my grandparents worked outside of the home.   My grandmother earned her paycheck as a cook for several years while my grandfather spent his life working in the West Virginia coal mines and then at the Ohio Reformatory (watch The Shawshank Redemption to get a look at the place). 

They worked hard and with an amazing work ethic while at work and home.  These two people never had to take a class on ethics.  It was instilled in their souls.   Their work ethic throughout both of their lives was superior to say the very least.  I remember my grandpa telling me once that no matter what job I was given to do, do it right and do it with pride.  That’s a simple statement, but it’s probably one of the most impactful in my life. 

I challenge all of  us whether we are entering the workforce for the first time, re-entering after returning to school or just plain in the middle of your career to read that statement and apply  it to your life and career.  Whatever job you are given to do, do it right and do it with pride.  Take pride in every job you are given.  Never job is too small. 

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for your words of wisdom.

~Cindy