September 29, 2010

Yes, I am mocking Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.  I wonder how many readers will have this movie line in their minds for the rest of the day.  I know I will. 

Let’s face it when we are looking for employment, we want a job now – right now as a matter of fact.  The thought of the lengthy process of networking, writing resumes, writing cover letters, interviewing, and everything else involved is daunting. 

The most important thing to realize about the job search and career management is that it is a process not a task.  It’s a marathon; not a sprint.  Starting a new job is a major life change.  Major life changes and the decisions leading up to the change do and should take time. 

Be prepared for a job search that could last months.  Prepare for those times that your energy and patience will be low.  Create a “cheerleading” squad if you will to pull you out of that valley and keep you focused through this marathon.  You want to avoid being exhausted in your job search and seeming desperate.  Create a support system to keep you fresh and energetic. 

Don’t let yourself be a Veruca Salt in your job search.  You know what happened to Veruca right? 


Your Deserved Salary

September 28, 2010

The title of this blog alone probably has many career coaches and recruiters cringing.  Talk about one of the worst ways to approach a subject to a potential employer.  Tell an employer what you deserve, and I will bet the farm I know what you will really receive. 

To the average job seeker, hurdle number one is getting an interview; hurdle number two is getting the offer.  Somewhere between getting the interview, interviewing and the offer; job seekers start wondering about salary.  Salary is good.  I always say we work to live; we should not live to work.  Good concern, but be careful.  There is proper etiquette to salary inquiries. 

Talking to an employer about what you think you are worth or what you deserve can seriously backfire if you are not careful.  Mentioning the findings of your research is a great idea, but make sure you are not backing the employer into a corner.  Remember the best solution is one that benefits both parties involved.   When you find yourself focusing on what you deserve, take an extra dose of humility.  It works every time.

I get this question quite often from job seekers.  Should I handwrite a thank you note and send through snail mail or should I email so the person can get my thank you that day?  My answer is yes and yes. 

Receiving a thank you note through email from a job candidate is a great way to refresh my mind at the end of the day.  It shows that you left our conversation enthused and wanting to make an impression.            

A thank you note through the mail is something we do not receive very often.  I remember back in the early 90s when the morning and noon mail at work was two to four inches thick if not more.  Letters could easily get lost in the fray.  Today, the volume of mail we receive is much less so thank you notes stand out amongst the bills and junk mail.  A thank you note through the mail is also received three to four days after an interview.  Within your letter, note a discussion topic from our interview which will remind me of our conversation and reinforce your interest.

With the age of email, texting and social media, sending letters through the mail is not as natural as it used to be.  We have to write the letter, address the envelope, put a stamp on the envelope and take it to the mailbox.  That takes time, I agree, but this effort reinforces your interest and shows your added effort in securing the company’s offer. 

My advice to job seekers is to email a thank you note later in the day of your interview and write a thank you note to send through the mail.  Talk about making a great impression.  You can’t go wrong.

I’m a People Person!

September 10, 2010

How many times have I heard a recruiter or hiring manager say, “If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone use “People Person” as a self descriptor?” My typical response is:  “As opposed to what?”  Since we are people; we should all be a “People Person” in one way or another right?  But in all seriousness, there are many phrases or answers to questions job seekers use that are frankly overused and cliché.  Here are some of my favorites used both in interviews and on resumes:

  1. I’m a “people person”: This is one of the most widely used self-descriptors used in the job search today.  What do you mean?  Do you thrive in teams?  Do you have leadership skills?  Are you great at teaching?  Be specific and better define how your skill can benefit business.
  2. My weakness is that I cannot say no:  Of course you can say no.  Interested in washing my windows?  There, you said no.  Quite frankly, everyone tries to use this example because it is safe.  Over-committing  is actually a symptom.  The weakness is in your prioritization skills.
  3. I am looking for experience:  Well, no duh! Employers know that.  When asked why you are applying for a position, the employer wants to know the value you can bring to the equation.   The employer knows you need experience and a job.  And honestly, it is not an employer’s job to give you experience.     
  4. Resume passive words:
  • Responsible for:  Every job has responsibilities.  You get your job description before starting the job, so this information has no impact on your value.
  • Assisted:  This word leaves the reader’s imagination WIDE open.  Did you assist someone with pouring coffee?  Define “assist”.  Define “help”. 
  • Acted as a liaison:  You acted?  That is the same as performed right?  People get awards for that.  Instead of saying you acted or performed, demonstrate something concrete such as communicated between, collaborated with, resolved, etc.  Those words paint a picture of your competency which is what the reader needs to see.

Please pardon my sarcastic humor.  My point is that while all of these answers and phrases are true, they are also way overused and are frankly too vague. In the job search, you are a marketing manager.  Marketing is about selling qualities that set you apart from the other applicants.  If your answers are like everyone else’s, you will be forgotten.  You will just be another “people person” applicant.

Have you ever heard the statement:  “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem”?  WOW!  That statement is powerful although it is not pleasant to hear either.  As a job seeker, your challenge is to find employment.  Your added challenge is to navigate through this economy towards successful employment and a career.  Easy to say but difficult to execute wouldn’t you say?  An effective job search requires patience, tenacity, and most importantly, flexibility.

Have you ever walked through a maze? I have, and I do not enjoy them.  Either way, have you ever tried to walk through a maze only to hit a dead end?  What do you do?  You do not back up only to try the same strategy again, right?  No, you go at it through a different path.  You might hit another dead end, but you keep trying new paths to get through the maze. 

The same approach holds true with the job search.  If you have applied online to dozens of positions with no response, it is time to realize that you need a new strategy?  This plan isn’t working for you.  Stop walking into the same wall over and over again because, frankly, you are now the root of your job search problem. 

If you are getting interviews but no callbacks, your problem is not your resume, so asking endless people to help you with your resume at this point is not what you need to do.  My guess is that you need to address your interviewing skills.  Identify the root of your job search problem and develop strategies to overcome it.  Notice I said strategies not strategy.  Plan A might not be the right avenue for you.

In the job search, it is important to be tenacious and patient enough to not give up too quickly but also wise enough to know when it is time to scrap Plan A and move on to Plan B.

With any challenge you face in your job search, do not give up and blame the economy or your lack of experience for your situation.  Ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?”   The person who just complains that nothing they are doing to find a job is working has now become part of the problem.    The person who looks at the facts and asks “What am I going to do about it?” is the solution-driven job seeker.  I like being solution-driven myself.  What about you?