10 ways that test your courage in the job search

courageAlthough I understand my workshop attendee’s reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their personal commercial/elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get at an interview.

They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.”Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it. You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage in certain areas.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other jobseekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know to most people this seems like a no-brainer; how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees. I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most; but networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other jobseekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you. For many attending organized networking events takes courage.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.” I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in a mock interview. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service. But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. The pressure of a mock interview shows in my customers’ answers, voice, and body language. I give them credit for their courage.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee. Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.” This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market. Contact those companies with an approach letter to ask for informational meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of informational meetings. Informational meetings have been the reason for many of my jobseekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them. Once you’ve secured an informational meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional and behavioral. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect. How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.

Reader, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews. To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: clichés on your résumé

The summary statement began with: “Results-oriented Marketing Professional…” As if my hand had a mind of its own, I circled Results-oriented and wrote “Ugh” next to it. I thought twice of erasing my first comment but in the end left it there. My customer did a double-take and pouted, hurt by my crudeness.

With all the negative press about using clichés, or outdated words and phrases, on your résumé and LinkedIn profile, there’s now a push to show how you possess important adaptive skills rather than to simply tell employers you have them.

Résumé experts say words like creative, team-player (ouch), innovative, hardworking, diligent, conscientious, and more are being thrown out the window. They’re seen as fluffy words with no substance.

Words like designed, initiated, directed, authored are more of what employers want to see on a résumé and LinkedIn profile. The big difference is obviously the “bad” words are adjectives and the “good” words are action verbs. To complicate matters more; even some of the verbs have fallen in the cliché category, like led, managed, facilitated, etc.

From a reader’s point of view, this makes sense. Someone who claims he’s outgoinghighly experiencedseasonedresult-driven, etc., seems to…lack creativity. Someone who can show that he is results-oriented by showing he began and finished multiple projects in a timely manner while also consistently saving the company costs by an average of 40% will win over the minds of employers. Showing is always better than telling.

Keywords and phrases: Here’s the rub—many job ads contains clichés; and if you’re going to load your résumé with as many keywords/phrases as possible, you’re almost inclined to use these outdated and useless words. Especially if you know your résumé is going to be scanned by an applicant tracking system (ATS). After all, you want your résumé and LinkedIn profile to end up at the top of the pile.

I performed a quick experiment where I looked at three job ads and attempted to find some of the overused words. Sure enough words and phrases like team player, hard worker, ability to work independently and as part of a teamdetail-oriented, to name a few,  showed up in many of the ads.

Why do companies write job ads that contain words that are almost comical? Part of the reason is because the fine folks who write these ads don’t know any other way to phrase effective ads; and partly because these are qualities they’re looking for. Almost every company is looking for a team player who can work independently as well. Every company desires people with excellent written and verbal communication skills (unfortunately, this phrase is now also considered a cliché).

This leads us back to our conundrum. What to do if you’re trying to write a résumé or Linked profile that includes the keywords and phrases? Not only to game the ATS but also to appease the eyes who’ll be reading your written communications?

The answer is: you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. You can write your résumé and LinkedIn profile employing clichés, or you can avoid the them on your marketing documents, documents that are, after all, examples of your written communications. I say take the high road and don’t sell yourself out.

10 Lame excuses for neglecting LinkedIn

No excusesAre you on LinkedIn? That’s my favorite question of the day. Some of my customers say no, and we leave it at that. But others turn their nose up at the greatest online networking application out there and give me excuses as to why they’re not on LinkedIn.

Of the many excuses I’ve heard for not being on LinkedIn, here are three of my favorites.

  • A self-assured jobseeker told me that he doesn’t need to be on LinkedIn, that he’s found jobs before without social networking. That was before LinkedIn existed.
  • One person told me she was going to get her job back in a few weeks, so why waste her time with LinkedIn. Nothing for certain, especially a verbal promise that you’ll have a job.
  • Another jobseeker once told me he wouldn’t lose his current job. He looked so smug as he said this that I wanted to tell him I wouldn’t bet on it.

Here’s the thing: life happens. The guy who told me he’d always have a job is now serving coffee. Well technically that is a job, but I’m sure not the job he imagined. I remember vividly the day I asked him if he was on LinkedIn, to which he answered, “I’ll never be without a job.”


These are people who’ve made a conscious decision to avoid LinkedIn, and I suppose I have respect their choice. So I wonder what’s worse, not being on LinkedIn or being on LinkedIn and putting in very little effort? These are but a few excuses I’ve heard from people for not conducting a strong LinkedIn strategy.

My LinkedIn profile is great. One day I received a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to skip my LinkedIn Profile and Using LinkedIn workshops so he could attend the third and last one. While he was explaining over the phone his expertise in LinkedIn, I was looking at his profile which was sparse and only showed 94 connections.

I don’t want to connect with people I don’t know. Here’s the thing, networking–whether it’s in person or online–is about meeting people and developing relationships. Not everyone will turn out to be a valued connection, but if you don’t extend yourself, you’ll never know the potential networking offers.

I don’t have the time to use LinkedIn. I hear this often in my LinkedIn workshops. This is a huge excuse. I only ask them to spend 20 minutes, four days a week on LinkedIn. Just because I am on LinkedIn approximately 30 minutes a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year doesn’t mean my workshop attendees have to do the same. That would be crazy.

I posted my résumé on LinkedIn, so I’m done. Whoever told you this has his or her head in the sand. Start your profile by copying and pasting the contents of your résumé to your profile. But that’s just a start–from there you’ll turn it into a networking document. Your résumé is a document you send out when applying for a job, while your profile is a place people come to learn about you as a person and professional. Keep in mind that your résumé and profile can’t display contradictory information.

I don’t want to brag. Related to the previous excuse, what you’re really saying is you don’t want to promote your value to employers and potential business partners. You’re not bragging if you state facts and provide proof of your accomplishments and you stay away from superlatives, like “excellent,” “expert,” “outstanding”…you get the idea. Too many people have given me this excuse for not promoting themselves both on their résumé and LinkedIn profile.

I don’t know how to post a status update. I get this. You’re not sure how you can provide your connections with relevant information. You’ve just been laid off and lack the confidence to write words of wisdom. Don’t sweat it. Let others educate your connections. Read blog posts from your connections or from Pulse and share those. But please make sure you read them before hitting “Share.” Read how to share valuable content.

I don’t want to endorse anyone; it’s a disingenuous. The argument against endorsing others and being endorsed is that people endorse others without witnessing them demonstrating their skills, whereas recommendations are from the heart. This is valid. However, endorsements are here to stay whether we like it or not. But there is a solution: if you want to endorse someone, contact them and ask them which skills they feel are their strongest. Read my hints on endorsing others.

The fact of the matter is that people will find jobs without LinkedIn or not using it to its fullest potential, but by employing this platform you will only enhance your chances of landing a job. There are some instances where a person is just not ready, nor ever will, to use LinkedIn. With these folks I tell them not to get stressed out. You have to be committed to using it.

6 reasons why you still need to network after finding a job by using LinkedIn

linkedinCongratulations, you landed a job. You used LinkedIn to get introduced to the hiring manager at one of your target companies. Although no job had been advertised, she called you in for a preliminary discussion.  This was after perusing your LinkedIn profile.

At the meeting she indicated that they needed to fill a marketing position that would require your level of social media experience. She said she’d be in touch. When the company decided to fill the position, you were called for a “formal” interview.

You answered every question they asked to their satisfaction and even demonstrated your understanding of key issues the company had, and how you would solve them. The VP and hiring manager offered you the position on the spot.

LinkedIn played a large role in getting the job. Now you can take a breather from networking on LinkedIn, right? Wrong. Now you need to maintain and even ramp up your activity for six very good reasons.

  1. Don’t abandon your connections. Some of them were instrumental to your job-search success (especially the woman who alerted you to the unadvertised position). Keep your ears to the pavements for those who were also looking while you were. Reciprocate by introducing them to the people who can help them get to the decision makers.
  2. Build on your expertise and strengthen your brand. Continue to  contribute to your groups and join other groups to share your knowledge with industry leaders. You’ve become well-known in LinkedIn circles; you’re respected for your knowledge and are in prime position to further brand yourself as a social media expert.
  3. LinkedIn was part of your routine. You were on LinkedIn on a daily basis, connecting with new people, using the Companies feature to locate and get introduced to decision makers (remember the one who granted you the conversation?) Of course you attended personal networking events, but LinkedIn added to your overall networking in a big way.
  4. LinkedIn became a community. You met some great people who welcomed you to their network, exchanged messages with you, and encouraged you during your job search. Why would you give this up? LinkedIn is a community consisting of professionals with the same goal in mind, sharing information and social capital. You built some outstanding relationships.
  5. Your new company understands the importance of LinkedIn. The VP of marketing wants everyone in your group to be on LinkedIn to connect with potential business partners and customers. He also wants to enhance the image of the company. A company with employees who have great profiles is a company that means business. He’s looking to you to share what you know about using LinkedIn–you’re his expert.
  6. Continue to build your network for a rainy day. You were looking on LinkedIn for a job almost every day for the last three months, attending networking events, and connecting with people on a daily basis. Your online and personal networks are strong and served you well. Now, more than ever, you want to continue to build your networks for future job search activity. How does that saying go? The best time to network is when you’re working.

When you began your profile, struggled with making it strong, increased your activity, and really began to see its benefits; you never thought it would get you this far. You never thought you’d buy into it and be an evangelist of LinkedIn, spreading the word of its great attributes. Even thought you landed, you still need to network on LinkedIn.

9 traits that great colleagues display

Jeff Hayden wrote a sincere and insightful article on 9 Traits that Make Great Employees Outstanding for BNet.com. In his article he praises employees who are: a little bit “off, “eager to prove others wrong, ask questions for others; among other outstanding traits. I agree with a lot of what Jeff says about great employees.

In response to Jeff’s article, I thought of what I consider nine traits that make colleagues outstanding. What follows is a bit of tongue-in-cheek thoughts on the idea great colleagues.

  1. Understand the value of time. They don’t bug me too often. Come on, if someone’s trying to get some work done, take a hint. I enjoy a good conversation as much as the next guy, but when my eyes keep drifting to the computer screen, it’s time to leave.
  2. Are direct, to the point. They answers close-ended question like, “Do you have a stapler I can borrow?” with a yes or no response. That’s all I ask for. On the other hand, if I ask them how their weekend was, I don’t expect a dissertation on a visit to the Boston Aquarium and the mating habits of penguins.
  3. Don’t watch the clock. They don’t ask me why I’m staying late if I’ve only been at my desk five minutes after quitting time. I don’t work 14 hours days, but I don’t watch the clock either. So if I’m doing a little extra work, I don’t want to hear it from people who are rushing out the door.
  4. Have fun. They know how to play a practical prank better than Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H or Jim Halpert from The Office. One of the best tricks played on me was when a fellow teacher put a paper clip through the prongs of the plug of my radio, so when I plugged it into an outlet, sparks flew and scared the hell out of me. Priceless.
  5. Are generous. They give me a slice of their pizza without having to be asked. Some people just don’t get it when I tell them I’m hungry. A great colleague can see the hunger on my face and slide a slice across the Formica-top table.
  6. Contribute to a safe work environment. They don’t hit me with the company Nerf football as I’m walking down the hallway. When I was in marketing, Sales thought they were all Joe Montana and I was Jerry Rice. No, I was a MarCom writer and didn’t appreciate getting a football in my ear.
  7. Are reliable. They don’t show up at noon for the first day of a trade show when it begins at 9:00 a.m. I understand they like to hit every bar in Manhattan, but there are consequences for every action, even if their heads hit the pillow at 6:00 a.m.
  8. Are considerate. They don’t hold a Biggest Loser contest when everyone, except me, has 5% body fat. “Come on, Bob, you can lose 40 pounds,” they say. Yeah, all I’d have to do is eat celery every day for 10 years.
  9. Pay attention. They hear me the first 15 times when I tell them how to double-side one-sided documents. I’m generally patient, but when someone asks me to explain a procedure but expects me to actually do it, that ticks me off.

Do you feel the same way about great employees as I do? Do you look for a little fun in the workplace, coupled with productive co-workers who realize when you have an important project due and require concentration? At the end of Jeff’s article, he asks for other traits of outstanding workers. These are some of mine.

Is the résumé summary statement on its way out?

I’ve read many résumés that contain summary statements (or Personal/Professional Profile) which, in effect, say nothing at all. I’ve spoken to recruiters and hiring managers who told me they don’t even read the summary statement.

Is the summary statement on its way out or even dead? Is it wasted real estate? Have we become a society so hurried that we don’t have time to read a section of the résumé that tells our story, expresses our value, leads to the meat of  our experience, encourages reviewers to continue reading?

I fear we are reaching the point where the summary statement is gradually losing the foothold it once held. And as a result, I fear what used to be a poetically written four or five lines of prose is becoming obsolete and will soon be excluded from the résumé, simply because people who read résumé don’t have the time. I hope I’m wrong.

We can agree that summary statements should:

  • Brand us
  • Contain no fluff or clichés
  • Include keywords for a particular job or industry
  • Make assertions that are proven in the employment section
  • Grab employers’ attention with implied or actual accomplishments (WOW statements)

Now it seems to appear that none of that matters. Or if it does, a candidate’s value must be stated in a one-line concise, yet comprehensive manner. It’s like skipping the salad and jumping to the entree. Consider this summary statement and its revised version:

Information systems department manager specializing in project planning programming, techniques, and achieving business objectives. Successfully budget hundreds of thousands of dollars in software. PMP with experience in, requirements definition, prioritization, and resource allocation. Lead efforts that generate sales exceeding $3M in competitive pharmaceutical  markets.

Information Systems Manager–project planning, achieving business objectives

PMP–requirements definition, prioritiziement, resource allocation

Budget approximately $200K plus in software

Generate Sales in Millions

Does this revision say enough? It resembles a branding headline on a résumé or LinkedIn profile, no? When I asked professional résumé writers and recruiters, “Is the résumé summary dead?” here’s what a few of them  wrote:

“…the summary statement is dead (or not) depending on how it’s written and the audience. It’s dead if it’s irrelevant on a particular candidate’s résumé because the recruiters / HR professionals don’t want to see it; it’s alive and well if the reader–ATS or human–is searching for a quick synopsis of the candidates qualifications.” Marti Benjamin, Business and Career Coach.

 “I have my candidate compose what I like to call a Career Highlights section. Just a bullet pointed section of some actual career accomplishments. It catches the potential employer’s attention immediately. I feel objectives/summaries are just antiquated in a job market that is currently flooded with candidates.” Adrienne Roberts, Robert Half International.

“Are they on their way out? No….they have already left. Most hiring professionals will tell you that the summary, at least in the US, is an ignored piece of fluff, better left off to leave room for the information they need/want to know.” Sarah Douglas, G.C.D.F

“I feel that summary statements are still an essential component of a résumé, however I am looking for qualifications and hard data, not fluff about perceived skills. If you can quickly read the relevant experience, results achieved, number of direct reports and so on, then the soft skills can be explored further in the interview.” Judy Hojel, Leadership and Development Specialist.

“No, a well written Summary Statement is a must on any  résumé. It brings together the many detail lines of achievements and education to focus the employer on exactly how your candidacy fits the job position. It gives one a big picture view, with the detail to follow on the multiple pages.” Jay Barrett, Human Resources Executive.

As you can see, opinions vary on whether the summary statement is on its way out. I, for one, hope it remains as part of the résumé in a shorter version than the ones I’m seeing on jobseekers’ résumés. Similar to the revised one of the Information Systems Manager? No, but something concise, yet attention grabbing.

How to make your mark on LinkedIn by providing great content

shareSo you’re looking for great content to share with your LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers because sharing content is what good networkers do, right? Sharing content that is pertinent to your community educates them, inspires them, makes them think. True. However, some people misunderstand the purpose of sharing articles on LinkedIn or other platforms. They think the more they share, regardless of content, the better. Not true.

A Forbes article, Become A Leader On LinkedIn: 4 Steps To A More Active Profile, shared by one of my LinkedIn connections inspired me to write this post. Hank Boyer is one of those people who shares information worth reading. The Forbes article is one of the many articles he’s distributed to his LinkedIn connections and the groups he’s in.

The article advises first to publish your own content on LinkedIn. Which seems like a no-brainer if you want to be known as the authority in your industry, a leader on LinkedIn. But let’s face it; not everyone has the time, writes well enough, nor has the inclination to write on a regular basis. Some people, one of my customers attests, simply like to read what others write. My feelings on this are explained in this post.

If you’re not a writer, share the writing of others.

Share an updateIf you’re going to share the content of others, you must be an active reader. Read and understand what the author is saying, then share it on LinkedIn and Twitter–if you’re on Twitter–and write a word or two about said article in the “Share an Update” box. I feel comfortable sharing a post only if I’ve read it and have an intelligent comment to add.

In my LinkedIn workshop when I’m teaching the participants how to post an update, I show them how to share an article with their connections. I make it clear that they must write at least a brief comment, but to do this they have to read the entire article. In order to demonstrate this I have read the article prior to the workshop begins so I can write something intelligent about it during my demonstration.

The Forbes article also suggest becoming a groupie. Find someone who shares content you find extremely valuable and then follow that person. There are a number of my connections who share valuable content of interest to me and my connections. Some share content of other writers in the groups we’re in, while others share content to the public on LinkedIn.

These are my connections who I trust enough that whatever they post on LinkedIn, I’ll open an article and read it in its entirety. That’s how much I trust these folks. I’ve already pointed out Hank Boyer, but others who come to mind are Sabrina Woods, Hanna Morgan, Rich Grant, Greg Johnson, Pat Weber. The list goes on. These people are prolific readers and they also write great stuff.

Make sure what you share will add value. I say this with seriousness. Nothing can hurt your leadership status than posting articles that are poorly written, off target, in some why insulting to your readers, or are used as a platform for venting. Some LinkedIn members read the titles of articles and simply hit “Share.” I understand people want to appear as leaders, but this is irresponsible. They can’t possibly know if the article is valuable if they haven’t read it.

Reciprocate. I’ll add this advice, as it’s important to develop relationships with fellow writers. Reciprocate by sharing articles of writers who have shared your articles, but only if they’re worthy of reciprocation. When you share an article that is poorly written just for the sake of reciprocity, you are soiling your reputation as a leader on LinkedIn.

When my workshop attendees ask me what they update status they can share, my first response is sharing an article. I’m sure to tell them that whatever they share will be a reflection on them as a professional. This is an important message for them, as well as all professionals on LinkedIn.

 

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