Drop the attitude: mind your job search mannerisms

A recent article posted in Quintessential Careers from Susan Jepson, Director of National Senior Networks, makes me think of how jobseekers of any age need to display a positive attitude. Susan writes about how mature workers need to address the interview, hone their technology skills, and seek help from career professionals.

In her article, Mature Job-Seekers: Are You Practicing Reverse Age Discrimination in Your Job Hunt?, Susan’s first assertion is that mature workers must not come across as having an attitude.

“Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection,” she writes.

Susan’s article reminds me that a negative attitude isn’t inclusive of just older jobseekers. One’s negative attitude shows itself in many of one’s mannerisms. Demonstrations of your mannerisms precedes any opportunity to appear before an employer. Failing to control your mannerisms can prevent you from getting to the interview. Below are some signs of a negative attitude. These are things you should keep in mind when going out in public.

Arrogance impresses no one. You may have been outstanding at what you did, and you may be outstanding in the future, but keep in mind that dipomacy is your best card at this time. You will be relying on many people to help you in your job search, and most people don’t appreciate being looked down upon.

Apparel is one aspect of your attitude. During the summer it’s hot out there, but please refrain from wearing gym shorts and tee-shirts with Budweiser advertisements. At all times make sure you are well-groomed and presentable–you never know when a potential employer might be just around the corner.

Your countenance is more noticeable than you think. I’ve witnessed people who walk into the career center looking as if they’d like to strike anyone in their path. Their mouth looks like it was chiseled into a constant frown. There seems to be hatred in their eyes. This can be intimidating, let alone off-putting.

Be outgoing…or at least fake it. For you introverts (I can relate), try to use every opportunity to network. Your most vital job search technique must include networking. It’s not as hard as it appears. You don’t have to see networking as only going to arranged events. It’s a daily thing and that’s why you have to be on your game every day. One jobseeker I know told me he was meeting someone for lunch, and he was dreading it. Nonetheless, he met the person for lunch. He faked it.

Mind your manners. “Thank you,” “it was great seeing you,” “hope your day is wonderful,” etc., go a long way. These are things we learned in Kindergarten, yet not all of us practice the niceties as much as we should. I am often thanked by customers after a workshop or in an e-mail. They’re the ones who do the hard work, and their hard work will result in a job.

Offer advice. I personally appreciate it when people tell me what I’ve done wrong, or what would work better…as long as it’s constructive criticism. This is another part of our persona that people notice. Good, honest advice delivered in a polite manner is priceless.

Don’t appear desperate and despondent. Most people want to help you, but if you seem like you are giving up the battle, your peers, career advisors, and people employed in your industry, will doubt your ability to succeed at your next job. “Don’t let ‘em see you sweat.”

Why does this matter?

Simply, your job search is ongoing. You are being judged, regardless of your age, wherever you go. The man or woman who has the authority to hire you, may be standing behind you in the checkout line. Those who try to help you take into account the aforementioned aspects of your overall attitude. If given the choice to recommend someone for a position, anyone is likely to back the person who has their attitude in check.

As I’ve said, maintaining a pleasant demeanor and appearing positive is difficult under an extremely stressful situation like being unemployed; but I’ll guarantee you that a negative approach to conquering unemployment will not lead to quick employment. Be mindful at all times how you appear to others.

Do you know what you’ve accomplished? Rely on the help of others to gain self-knowledge

Do you ever get the sense that you don’t know what you’ve accomplished at work? I know this is an odd question, but it’s something you need to think about as you’re searching for work, as well as while you’re working.

I was talking with a colleague and dwelling on the fact that I felt I haven’t accomplished as much as I would have liked. “What do you mean,” she said. “You’ve developed tons of workshops and get great reviews. You started a LinkedIn group and developed three workshops on LinkedIn. That shows innovation….” Enough already I thought; I got the point. I’m simply too close to…me…I guess. I need to step back and hear from others what I’ve accomplished.

Laura-Smith Proulx addresses this quandary very nicely in a blog entry on writing your résumé in 3 Easy Ways to Overcome the Challenge of Résumé Writing.

“Most executive leaders and skilled professionals are subject matter experts in all types of leadership competencies, from strategic planning to team delegation,” she writes. “However, when asked to describe their strengths, most of them will resort to tactical or skills-based descriptions, rather than illustrating the ways in which they add strategic value.”

Plainly speaking, even high-performing jobseekers have a hard time seeing what they’ve accomplished, who they are. While important in writing a powerful résumé, there are other aspects of your job search that require self-knowledge.

Here’s what you do to gain the self-knowledge to see what you’ve accomplished at work.

  1. First  and most importantly ask others you work with (or worked with) about what you’ve accomplished. Don’t look in the mirror, because you’ll be distracted by your waistline, loss of hair, complexion, or anything that is physical awry. Others (we’ll call them allies) can see the greatness in you because they have different perspectives. At this point you only have one…yours.
  2. After you’ve listen to what your allies say, make a list of 10-15 accomplishments, maybe double this amount if you’re an executive level jobseeker. Writing your list will etch your accomplishments in your mind. Review this list over and over until you can remember the details.
  3. Devise or revise a résumé that clearly reflects your accomplishments. Don’t be concerned about length; you’ll modify your résumé for each job, removing the accomplishments that aren’t pertinent as you send your résumé to A-list companies. Show your new résumé to your allies and ask for their opinions, focussing on the positives.
  4. Write seven or so unique stories that tell about your major accomplishments. If you want more guidance on this, read Katharine Hansen’s book, Tell Me About Yourself, Chapter 2: How to Develop Career-Propelling Stories. She talks about loads of important skills employers are looking for that are ideal for your stories. You’ll want to modify your stories for different situations, and this will further help you in gaining self-knowledge. Again, show your stories to your allies.
  5. Rehearse your stories. Recite them to friends, family, networking partners, to anyone who will listen. Relating your stories to others will give you a sense of pride and increase your self-esteem. This is a key component in understanding who you are.

You know what you’ve done, but how can you tell effective stories that illustrate your worth to your current/past employers? How can you show your worth to prospective employers if you’re having a hard time seeing them? It’s as if your accomplishments might be hidden in a bush, always there but unseen by you. The answer is asking for help from those who know you.

Pay it Forward are not just words. Two people put them into action

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.   ~  John Wooden

The term “pay it forward” is unfathomable to some jobseekers. They way they see it is they’re the ones who are out of work and; therefore, they should be the ones receiving help, not others. This way of thinking is what holds them back from networking or reaching out to do a good deed, which in turn hurts their chances of finding a job.

The majority of jobseekers I run into understand the beauty of paying it forward. They embrace helping others, knowing that help will come their way. Whether it’s offering a free service, giving sound advice, providing a contact name, forwarding a résumé, or giving moral support; paying it forward is all good.

I bring this popular term up in a career networking workshop. To simplify the concept, I tell my attendees that the act of helping others creates good Karma. Further I tell them they should not expect the person you help to immediately repay the favor, because another person will step forward to help you. In fact, you may never receive reciprocation from the person you assisted.

A customer of mine named John Yurka demonstrated the pay it forward mentality in the truest sense; he took photos of five jobseekers for free. He met with them this past Tuesday in a park and spent a good part of his morning making sure the photos he took were to the recipients’ satisfaction.

The photos were astonishing, in my humble opinion. And the jobseekers must have felt the same way, because all of them uploaded their likenesses to LinkedIn. One of the people wrote to me with excitement, commending the work John had done. (An example of John’s work is on the left.)

Another champion of the unemployed, Ken Masson, has helped jobseekers in the past by founding a television show called The New England Job Show. This show comprises of volunteers who help jobseekers find work. Initially the purpose of the show was to film jobseekers’ personal commercials, but soon it branched out to interviewing job search experts, hosting a blog of job-search experts, offering training, and more.

Many of the volunteers from the show eventually find work after starting there, which means that replacements have to be found. When NEJS volunteers find work it’s always great news, but it causes a lot of work for Jackie Simmonds, the current COO of the show. Ken will be dedicating more of his time to the show, because this is what he does; he pays it forward.

There are no hard statistics on how successful paying it forward is. Smart jobseekers simply understand that it makes common sense. It makes common sense because as you’re helping someone, another person is in the process of helping you. I’m convinced that the jobseekers who believe in paying it forward will receive the help they need. How do I know? I just do.

Recruiters advised to interview properly; jobseekers advised to be well prepared

Listen up jobseekers! Recruiters are looking for and finding better ways to interview you. In-house or third-party recruiters are being advised to find the right candidate, not the one who interviews best, but the one who can do the job. The one who can still do the job six months from the time he/she’s hired. 

What does this mean to you? Everything recruiters are advised to do, you must follow their lead…and more.

In Ben’s (simply Ben) article, 5 Ways a Recruiter can Improve Their Interview Technique, posted on http://www.recruitersblog.com/, this recruiter offers his colleagues some sage advice on how to hire the best talent through proper interviewing techniques and attitude. What he has to tell his colleagues is exactly what those of you who seek the help of recruiters should know. What follows are a few of Ben’s notable points.

Recruiters shouldn’t base their decision on interview “performance.”

There are those who interview well but can’t do the job. In other words they’re frauds. Conversely, there are those who don’t interview so well, but can do the job. They suffer a bout of stage fright. Ideally recruiters would like to present people who have both qualities to the hiring manager; but the latter is much more preferable than the former. Side note: unfortunately performing well is still something you must strive to do. Prove you can do the job and then do it.

“I’m sure we’ve all had experiences we’re we’ve hired someone because we got on with them at the interview stage,” Ben writes.  “Then, six months into the role, he or she were still great people but couldn’t/struggled to achieve what was required of them in the first place.”

Don’t focus on first impressions.

Another thing I admire about Ben’s thinking is how he tells his colleagues to deemphasize the first impression interviewers make. Don’t ignore it completely, but don’t make it a deciding factor like we’ve heard done so often in the past. Some say a recruiter or employer will make his/her decision within the first 30 seconds. Here’s what Ben suggests to his colleagues:

“My challenge to you? Be really disciplined on this one. Take those first impressions (we’re all human after all and can’t switch off this natural reaction) but park them.  Write them down somewhere at the beginning of the interview and refer to it again at the end to compare with your final thoughts.”

Use behavioral interview techniques.

One last thing I’d like to point out is the value of behavioral questions. Ben nails this one on the head when he talks about speculative responses as opposed to proven responses. All of us can rehearse for the traditional questions, but the answers we provide to a behavioral question are proven over and over to be accurate…and truthful:

“Just because a candidate says they will do something in 5 weeks time if X Y or Z happens doesn’t mean they actually will.  Instead of asking them what they would do if something happened simply switch the question around.  Ask them for specific examples where they’ve encountered that situation and what they actually did. What were the results? What were the challenges? What were the biggest lessons and how did they change as a result?”

Job search advisors are hearing more and more about how recruiters are employing the best practices to present the right people to the employers, candidates who have not only the technical skills but the transferable and adaptive ones as well. Jobseekers can hope that recruiters and employers will practice best interview techniques, but they must also be prepared for poor interviewers.

Having trouble writing your LinkedIn profile; look at the experts’ profiles

My contacts must think I’m stalking them. Every Wednesday they see my name appear in their “Who’s Viewed My Profile” on LinkedIn, and I feel guilty in a voyeuristic way.

My guilt derives from the fact that they may assume potential customers are reviewing their credentials; when, in fact, someone (I) is leading a workshop and showing their profiles as examples of how they should be written. I suppose my contacts should feel honored; I’m very selective. Nonetheless, I want my contacts to know that they’re helping the jobseekers who attend my LinkedIn workshop. And for this, I’m grateful.

To clear my conscience about using my contacts’ profiles I’m writing this entry to come clean. I want the following experts to know that I’m revealing their profiles to groups of jobseekers who appreciate seeing how constructing a LinkedIn profile is done right. I haven’t heard back from any of my contacts regarding my activity, but I’m sure more than one of them wonders why Bob McIntosh, CPRW shows up without fail every Wednesday.

I’m also writing this entry so you can emulate a good profile–not copy one verbatim; I have a contact whose profile she felt was plagiarized. That’s not the intent of visiting other’s profile. One types in their occupation in Advanced People Search and is presented with a list of people who fit the first-time profile writer. Some of the profiles may be great, some may be poor. You have to be the judge of what you consider to be a strong profile. This is how you get ideas for how to construct your profile.

On with my “confession.” One of my contacts, Louise Kursmark, told me that her profile is public, so it’s no big deal. She’s an author of many search-books and Founder and Director of Résumé Writing Academy, so I’m sure tons of people are looking at her profile anyways.

Wendy Enelow, another author, a colleague of Louise, and Director at Career Thought Leaders Consortium  graciously gave me her blessing. She was the first of my contacts who gave me the permission I sought. So I wouldn’t receive a nasty note, I decided to be safer than sorry and timidly asked her permission. She wrote a note essentially saying, “why the hell not.”

Another contact of mine, Darrell Dizoglio, a professional résumé writer, told me to “go for it.” After all, he’s getting publicity from people seeing his profile up on the wall. (In fact, one of my customers asked for his business card after my workshop, which I had handy.) I thought that was awfully noble of Darrell, and smart.

I’m sure some of them have forgotten I display their profile, even though I asked them…years ago. Howie Lyhte, PMP receives kind words from me for his extensive Experience section, as well as his handsome photograph. He’s a program/project manager who’s also known around these parts for his volunteer work for the unemployed.

Lastly, Ken Masson, my hero because of his volunteer activity and founding The New England Job Show is another profile I show to my workshop attendees. His is a great example of diversity through strong community service.

I find it necessary to share all these great profiles with my customers as a way to back up what I say. Great photos, strong Summaries, excellent Experience sections, examples of volunteerism. It’s all good. If you are struggling with your profile, check out the ones in this entry. Also, visit profiles as I suggested earlier on in this entry.

It’s unanimous; volunteer

Recently I wrote an article on the virtues of volunteering. I know the thought is unsettling to some because they’d be working without pay and, erroneously thinking, it would take away from their job search, but the benefits of volunteering far outweigh the drawbacks, e.g. working without pay.

I read a recent article by James Alexander on CareerRocketeer.com that further enforces the power of volunteering. Titled How Volunteering Can Land You a Job, it elaborates on how you can effectively network, possibly move up in the organization, and land strong recommendations—something I hadn’t thought of.

Another proponent of volunteering is Dawn Bugni who wrote an article called Volunteer to Network. She is so pumped about volunteering that she’s written many articles on this subject. Dawn is a Master Resume Writer (MRW), Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and has been published in countless books.

When you decide to volunteer, be sure it’s the ideal situation, whether it’s at a non-profit organization or a for-profit business. Volunteering is particularly useful if you’re thinking about changing your career. This will give you the opportunity to 1) get into the industry and learn the skills necessary, and 2) determine if your career change is the right thing for you.

As one of my customers told me during a workshop, volunteering led her to her last job; and it was the best decision she made. I hope she repeats her latest success.

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