Have you told EVERYONE you’re out of work?

The first thing we’re told when we lose a job is to tell everyone we know. This includes colleagues from the past jobs, friends, neighbors, relatives, hair stylists, convenience store owners, LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends; everybody. We tell the people we know because they can potentially help us find a job. We also tell them because they can be a support system.

But some wouldn’t consider telling the people who should be some of the first to know, their children. Too often people tell me they wouldn’t consider telling their kids because they don’t want to let them down, don’t want to seem weak in their kids’ mind. Hogwash, I say. Your children need to know about your situation if you want them to understand the meaning of life.

Dr. Julie Olson, Ph.D. in clinical psychology, at the Santa Margarita Solutions Center, asserts, “Whether you lost your job, had a pay cut or lost hours at work, as much as this could upset you and create anxiety about your financial situation, the main job you have as a parent is to give your children a sense of security and teach them how to cope with whatever comes their way.”

This especially includes telling your kids about losing your job.

I lost my job in marketing about nine years ago. It was devastating, but I felt it was important to share the news with my three kids. They had to know for a number of reasons.

  1. There would be changes around the house. There wouldn’t be any more shopping sprees. My eldest daughter’s steady flow of GAP and Abercrombie and Fitch clothing would be cut completely. The quality and quantity of food was going to change; but we would still eat.
  2. Daddy wouldn’t be going to work every morning. Instead I would be conducting a job search, which meant I would need time to be out of the house to visit the career center or local library, hit the pavement to knock on companies’ doors, and network.
  3. It also meant I would be acting a little different. I might be moody or distracted, but I would still love them very much. I would need them to understand that it would be a sad and frustrating time and they shouldn’t feel they were at fault. If I seemed distanced while with them, it was because I was thinking about finding work.
  4. This would be a fact of life. People sometimes lose their jobs more than once. It’s not a pleasant thing, but it’s temporary and will eventually pass. I couldn’t be Superman. I would need support from them and other people. In a way, this would be a great lesson for them about persevering in times of trouble.
  5. Most importantly, I wouldn’t lie about our situation. My oldest was smart enough to know that two, three, four…months of vacation was unrealistic. That coming home reeking of alcohol on a week day night was not normal behavior.

All came to pass after 10 months of unemployment; a day came when I found a job, and I was delighted to tell my three kids the good news. The funny thing about that day was when my son told me he didn’t want me to go back to work. Who, he wondered out loud, would take him to playgroup, or play Lego with him? At the time he asked me, I was more concerned about getting back in a working groove. Now, I miss the time I had with my children who understood at that bleak time more about life than they did when I was still working.

If you haven’t told your kids about losing your job, do it soon. As Dr. Julie Olson writes,  “…teach them how to cope with whatever comes their way.”

You’ll receive many opinions of your résumé; rely on 5 sure things

Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your résumés? Knowing the answer to this dilemma is like having a crystal ball, because you won’t be 100% sure of who will provide the right answers. Do you heed the advice of professional résumé writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different.

A recruiter with more than 20 years of experience, Harry Urschel, posted an article on Career Rocketeer on how having the wrong sources or people critique or write your résumé can essentially srew up your job search. He humbly submits that jobseekers are free to follow his advice or disregard it. It’s up to them.

I’m in complete agreement with Harry. Relying on people who don’t know résumé writing might be your downfall. I also know you’re going to receive advice from all kinds of people, and it’s all going to be different. In fact, you can ask 20 résumé experts their opinions on how you should write your résumés, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?

At some point a jobseeker needs to go with what works—a résumé that will get him interviews. I don’t care if it’s written on a napkin and delivered in a Starbucks’ cup (it’s been done). If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking in your résumé  and perhaps your  job search.

Case in point, a good friend of mine is using a functional résumé and getting multiple interviews, despite the facts he has a solid work history and employers in his industry generally despise functional résumés. How can you argue against that?

Now, there are certain rules on writing effective résumés that you need to heed in no particular order. These are things that need to be in place.

  1. Quantifiable results are a must. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages.
  2. Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
  3. Tailor your résumé to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a résumé using the Target Job Deconstruction method is the only alternative.
  4. Your résumé needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.
  5. Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found at the top of the list or not at all. Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords littered throughout their résumé.

I also agree that it might sound self-serving for Urschel to state that the people in the trenches, e.g., recruiters, are the ones who know how a résumé should be written. This doesn’t mean I believe he’s necessarily wrong. I think if you give your résumé to 10 recruiters, you’ll get ten different opinions. If your resume is getting interviews, don’t spend endless hours revising it comma by comma, period by period, font style by font style. You get the point.

For those of you who are trying, hang in there and have hope

I’m going to preface this article by saying plenty of jobseekers I know are conducting a proactive job search but to no avail.

They’re not relying completely on the job boards, placing all their cards on recruiters, sending out cookie cutter resumes, and wasting their time on more ineffective job search methods. In other words, they’re trying. I and other career trainers see your efforts and applaud you.

A recent article on wjs.com called No Market for Lazy Jobseekers, Ruth Mantell, might give you the impression that we career search pundits think conducting the proper job search will guarantee you a job. That we don’t understand the emotional and financial difficulties that consume many people who have been unemployed for one month or one year.

The article notes 10  lazy job-seeking habits. And while they may be accurate, the article doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of finding a job in today’s economy. It doesn’t feign empathy for those who have done what has been asked of them in terms of conducting the proper job search.

But our mission as job search trainers is to give guidance. It isn’t to dwell on the unfortunate realities of unemployment. To that end, we can only point out obvious mistakes, as noted in the article, and offer up suggestions that make for a more productive job search.

Some career trainers like me have lost a job, or two, and understand the despondency heightened by day after day of activity with little progress. The words “it sucks” don’t quite cover the emotional rollercoaster you…I’ve…gone through.

To say, “We get it” is accurate. We understand that telling jobseekers how to find work is often easier said than done; but, at the same time, to conduct a job search based on blasting out hundreds of résumés a month does not constitute a viable campaign.

Point two of the article, Using a Stock Résumé, is very sound advice. Violating networking etiquette is not cool, and asking only what your network can do for you is asking for trouble. There’s no arguing against Ms. Mantell’s advice. To honestly say, “I’m doing everything right but nothing’s working” is fair and should be rewarded.

For what it’s worth, I appreciate you following through on writing targeted résumés, cover letters, and approach letters; going to the interviews prepared for the tough traditional questions and even tougher behavioral question. I’m thrilled to see your efforts on LinkedIn. Glad to link up with you when you send invites to me (even with default invitations). All of this is not for naught.

When you get a job, I’m thrilled. I don’t attribute it to my advice, because you’re the one who did the leg work and sat in the hot seat. You sent the thank you letters. Some of you came back after a short stint, while others made the temp-to-perm job a permanent one. (Pete, you still owe me a cheesecake.)

I still assert that there are proper methods to use in the job search and will continue to point them out. I will not provide the slightest window of opportunity for self-pity, as this is behavior for you to harbor and not let it surface in workshops or while networking or at an interview.

I’m fond of saying, “Hang in there” when other words escape me. So that’s what I’d like you to do. Never give up. Never question your abilities, even if you’ve been off the horse for a while now. And know that you have the support of career trainers, because our mission is to help you to find work. If you read this and feel that I feel you, drop by to say, “Hey” or send an e-mail to confirm you’ve gotten my message. Hell, tell me to jump off a cliff with my condescension. Whatever works…works.

Nerves can be a killer at an interview; don’t let them

Interviews are stressful. I know only one person who said she loved being interviewed, but I don’t know if she was telling me the truth.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of being interviewed—the last one I attended was four years ago and it ended successfully. I “performed” well and shined more than I thought; but I was still nervous and couldn’t remember a word of what I said.

Jobseekers who attend my interview workshops nod their heads in agreement when I talk about how nerves can sabotage the interview for any qualified candidate. It just seems to overcome them when sitting in the hot seat. This, to say the least, is a stressful situation.

Stressful is fine. We have to experience stress to keep us on our toes, as well as learn how to deal with it better. Yet, some people have a very hard time taming their nerves at an interview. You talk with them in a different environment, and they’re as calm as a lake in the morning. But at an interview it’s as though they’re about to walk the plank.

I notice it in one woman I coach. She maintains steady eye contact, speaks with a steady voice, and recalls the answers to any question; but she admits that at an interview, this all goes out the window. It’s the nerves.

Here are some ways to get over the nervousness that leads to a stressed-out interview, including some things you’ll want to do before the meeting.

  1. Realize that the interview is nothing more than a conversation between you, the seller, and the employer, the buyer. Your job is to engage in the conversation. Don’t see it as an interrogation, where you’re getting raked over the coals by Andre Braugher from Homicide: Life on the Streets. Henceforth remove “interview” from your vocabulary.
  2. Be prepared. Let’s say it three times: prepare, prepare, prepare. This means knowing what some of the tough questions might be asked. Forbs.com recently wrote a piece on 10 of the toughest questions. There are many more, but this sample of questions gets to the root of what employers are trying to determine about you. It goes without saying that you must know the competencies for the job and can predict questions based on meeting them.
  3. Realize the interviewer has one purpose and one purpose only, to find the right candidate. She wants to get as much pertinent information from you as possible. This means she wants you to relax and answer her questions with clarity and confidence. She doesn’t want you to fail. Doesn’t that make you feel better.
  4. You are the right person for the job. You’ve applied for a position you’re suited for. If you haven’t applied for the right position, you shouldn’t be at the meeting. There will be other people who applied for the same position and aren’t qualified, but you are. You’ve earned the right to be there, so give yourself a hoorah.
  5. Prepare yourself emotionally for the meeting between you and your potential employer. If given the chance to meet with the employer later in the day, take it and use the morning to review some facts about the job and company. Take a walk and practice your answers, call a friend and talk about light matter, do yoga before getting dressed, or any activity that relaxes you.
  6. To further decrease your nervousness, you may want to bring a cheat sheet. Although I recommend against it, some jobseekers use it as a security blanket. An an article in CareerBuilder.com supports bringing a cheat sheet: “Bringing a cheat sheet and questions. There is no rule that says you can’t bring a nice portfolio with some notes and question on it so during the interview you glance down at it,” says Mark Lyden, author of “Professionals: Do This! Get Hired!”. “What should be on the cheat sheet are little reminders of situations (your life experiences) that you may want to give as an example to answer one of the interview questions

I’ll be the last one to say the meeting between you and the employer will be stress-free. I experience the nerves before and during any time I have to speak before a group of people, but I’ve learned to turn that nervousness into positive energy, mainly because I’m confident of what I have to say.

If you are paralyzed by fear and nerves, perhaps you should speak to a professional who can suggest coping skills. Your chance of getting a job should not be dictated by your fear and nerves; you’re the right one for the job, and you know it.

4 more ways to stay encouraged during a long job search

Jessica Holbrook’s article mentioned four great ways to stay encouraged during the job search in an article titled “4 Tips for Staying Encouraged during a Long Job Search.” So I thought I’d do what my college buddies and I did when we were at a seedy diner, occupying a table until 3:00 a.m., staving off our drunken stupor; and playing the napkin game. In other words, add four more ways to stay positive in the job search.

One: I suggest you visit your local or your college career center. As a workshop specialists and one from whom many seek advice, I can say that there is a great deal to learn about the job search. Let’s face it; the job search has changed in the past 10, 20, 30 years. I’m not just blowing smoke.

How does your résumé feel (as Jessica mentions)? Do you realize that despite many people’s advice, a cover letter is still necessary? Are you aware that behavioral interviews are becoming the norm, even during a telephone interview?

Two: Find a support group. Your inclination might be to commiserate with a buddy over a couple of beers, but that grows old. Trust me. Have a couple of sit-downs to discuss your feelings about being laid off. Air it out.

But then decide to do something constructive, such as join a networking group or two. I suggest seeking out business networking groups or professional affiliations in your occupation where employed people attend. It’s always a good idea to network with people who are in your industry’s loop. Follow the networking creed, don’t go to these groups to ask for a job; you’re there to seek advice and provide your perspective.

Three: Get outside your comfort zone. Have you ever worn your watch on the opposite wrist? I know it’s a silly question, but when you wear your watch on the opposite wrist, it feels uncomfortable, almost unbearable. This is how it might feel to network face-to-face. You may dread going to a networking event where you’ll meet strangers and have to make small talk. Introverts like me know the feeling. However, I make it a point to attend networking events just to get outside my comfort zone. I see these as small victories. Eventaully these small victories will add up to a major victory…a job.

Four: Accept professional and social online networking. Use LinkedIn (the professional networking) to establish contacts and communicate with people who will make a difference in your job search. The same holds true for Twitter and Facebook (the social networking). Communicate with the plan to Advise, Acknowledge, Appreciate, and Advance. These are terms Liz Lynch uses in her presentation of Build strategic relationships using social media platforms. Simply stated, practice proper networking using online tools.

There are many suggestions on how to stay encouraged during your job search. Jessica offers you four viable ways, and I added four more. What other strategies can you think of? Share them with other people who are temporarily out of work. Play the napkin game and comment on Jessica’s and my suggestions.


What You Should Know Before Contacting a Recruiter

Guest post: Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Résumé Writer, LinkedIn Profile Writer, Past Recruiter, Resume Expert & Columnist

Considering contacting a recruiter to find out about executive or leadership jobs in your field? Many job hunters assume that forging connections with recruiters will put them closer to lucrative, high-level positions that aren’t otherwise advertised.

However, a successful recruiter-job seeker relationship doesn’t just happen. It’s important to understand the relationship among all involved parties (the recruiter, company, and you), get your résumé in top shape, and to be ready to deal with potential objections.

These tips will help you be ready to work effectively with a recruiter—with better results from the relationship and a faster outcome for your job search:

1 – Recruiters often source candidates that have been there, done that.

Career professionals and executives that have followed a straight-line, traditional career trajectory (and very few job changes) are the best candidates for working with a recruiter.

The reason? Recruiters are hired by companies to identify talent among leaders who can demonstrate commitment to a specific type of career or skill set, with steady advancement toward a senior-level role in their particular field.

Therefore, if you’re trying to switch between one job type to another, or you’ve hopped among different employers frequently, you’ll often fare better by contacting employers directly.

2 – A recruiter’s mission is to focus on the needs of their client companies.

What many job hunters fail to grasp is that recruiter job orders often contain specific detail on the background, education, career history, and competencies  of the ideal candidate.

Depending upon the recruiter’s relationship with their clients, they may not be able to convince the company to take a chance on your background—especially if it’s not in line with these requirements.

A recruiter must not only be comfortable with the strength of your credentials, but confident that you represent a true personality and leadership fit within their client companies. After all, the recruiter’s professional reputation (and future commissions) are riding on their ability to supply the all-around perfect candidate.

3 – Your résumé must be ready for presentation to their clients.

Too often, job seekers dash off a résumé to recruiters that undercuts their abilities—making it difficult for the recruiter to promote the job hunter as a viable candidate.

If your leadership résumé  hasn’t had a review from colleagues or a résumé professional, it can be worth your time to request a critique or suggestions. Some recruiters even refer their clients to career coaches that can elicit a strong brand message on the résumé.

Others can often see qualities in your background that you’re too close to realize, and their recommendations can make the difference in the response you receive from a recruiter.

As a job hunting method, working with recruiters can be very effective, but only if you go in with an awareness of your role, fitness as a candidate, and realistic expectations.

Some reasons why people blog

What is it that makes people blog? Do they blog for money, fame, the love of writing, to promote their business, or to brand themselves? It can be a combination of all these reasons; or people may blog because they feel the need to be “heard.” The above are some reasons why people blog, but there are more reasons, I’m sure. If you blog, can you pinpoint why?

For money. People who set out to blog for money may be in for a rude awakening. One of my mentors told me once, “Bob, you don’t make money blogging unless you’re published.” I agree with him somewhat on this point, but will amend by adding that you most likely won’t make money blogging unless you’re paid by a company or organization to blog; in which case no one will know you’re the writer.

For fame. You may become famous for blogging; but in order to do so, you must have a pretty large following. If Oprah, Obama, or Steve Jobs were to declare they’re going to blog as their full-time gig, they’d get hits galore. But we’d probably never know if they did the actual writing.

For the love of writing. I’m no Hemmingway or David Sadaris, but that won’t keep me from blogging. I enjoy writing, especially when it’s about the job search. I’ve stated in other entries that blogging and answering questions on LinkedIn are preferable over watching the Bachelorette, So You Think You Can Dance, and other mundane television shows.

To promote your business. I’m surprised that more business people don’t blog. With free blogsites like WordPress and Blogspot, it’s an easy way to market your service/s in a subtle way—e.g., don’t broadcast your résumé writing service throughout or at the end of your blog entry. Simply explain the need for a powerful résumé, executive to entry-level. Your readers will get it, especially if you show you know what you’re talking about. One blog I particularly like is Executive Résumé Expert.

To be heard. Introverts tend to feel left out of conversations and meetings because of their think-before-they-speak nature, leaving the extraverts to often dominate the discussion. Thus writing tends to be the introverts favorite mode of communicating. What better way for the introvert to express his/her thoughts than blogging?

To brand yourself. This is probably the best reason to blog, as well as most talked about. I mention in my workshops that starting and maintaining a blog is a great way to brand yourself. Some of the attendees look at me like I’m asking them to give up their first born. I tell them they’re experts in their field. If you enjoy writing and want to get yourself out there, blogging is a great way to do it.

My urge to blog was further fueled after having read Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself by Erick Deckers and Kyle Lacy. The message I came away with was in order to be known, or branded, you have to be visible on the Internet. While writing a blog will not automatically brand you, it is a way to reinforce the brand you’ve already established. So blogging a consistent positive message is key in fostering your brand.

Bloggers read others’ blogs. It would only make sense that to learn how to blog and enhance your blogging skills, you read what others in your industry have to say. To increase your branding capabilities, share the wealth of information that circulates the Internet. A great source of news is LinkedIn Today, an accumulation of blog entries from various e-zines. I often breeze through them until I find a blog entry I think is of value to my network. Then I share it with them.

I have a blog roll to the right of this entry that includes reputable professionals in the job search industry. I’ve included some of them in this entry, so feel free to check them out. A Storied Career, About.com Job Searching, Branding Yourself Blog, Career Rocketeer, Career Solvers, Executive Resume ExpertJob Hunt, Martin Yate Blog, PongoResume, The New England Job Show.

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