10 essential policies to follow in the job search

kids-bike-sizes-18261717The other day I was walking up a hill I used to run up. Riding down the hill were a group of four boys. Only one of the boys was wearing a helmet, so I said to them, “How come only one of you is smart enough to wear a helmet?” They shrugged their shoulders, riding on. I’m sure I embarrassed the hell out of the one smart boy.

As I walked on I thought that the parents of the one boy probably enforce the helmet policy, and they won’t let him leave the house without one on. I further thought that there are some obvious policies jobseekers should follow when they look for work. Here 10 essential policies.

  1. Have a game plan and establish goals. Having a plan and goals means, first of all, you need to know what job you want to pursue, which can be the most difficult part of the job search for some. Without a plan, you’ll have no direction, which is essential if you don’t want to spin your wheels getting nowhere. Smart jobseekers have a plan for every day of their search, striving to meet the goal of following the plan at least 80% of the time.
  2. A résumé that to brands you. A very important policy is writing a résumé that is tailored to each job, showing employers you can meet their specific needs. Showing immediate value with Summary that attracts the attention of the reader, having a Core Competency section which shows you have the required skills, and touting quantified accomplishments throughout the résumé; are all necessary to fulfill this policy.
  3. Creating an online presence, namely LinkedIn, is a policy every jobseeker must abide by. At least 95% of recruiters/employers use LinkedIn to find talent, so if you’re not on LinkedIn you’re definitely hurting your chances of advancing in the job search. Keep in mind that daily engagement is necessary to stay in the minds of LinkedIn members. Only updating your status once a week is not going to do the trick.
  4. Writing cover letters that stir interest. If you’re writing cover letters that fail to express your personality and are, well, boring; you’re violating an important policy. Worse yet, if you’re sending form cover letters that don’t show you meet the specific requirements of the job, you’re killing your chance of getting an interview. Forget what you’ve been told about recruiters not reading cover letters. I’ve spoken with many who do read cover letters to get a better idea of the canidates’ value.
  5. Don’t only apply online for positions. I’m not saying not to use job boards, but don’t use them as the foundation of your job search. Networking still is, and will be, the most successful way to find employment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that sending out hundreds of applications will advance your job search. This leads us to the next policy.
  6. Make Networking part of your vocabulary. If you’re not going to networking events, meet-ups, or connecting with everyone you know, you’re missing the boat. Networking is proactive and a great way to uncover hidden opportunities at companies/organizations that may be hiring. Opportunities can also be uncovered while connecting with people in your community.
  7. Securing informational meetings. The goal behind information meetings is networking with people who are in your desired industry and selected companies. While you’re not interviewing for an advertised job, impressing the people with whom you speak can create opportunities that might include being recommended for a job developing in the company, or may lead to speaking with other quality connections. This is a policy that can lead to hidden jobs.
  8. Following up with potential connections is missing from the equation. You’re great at meeting people at networking events or other places to connect. You promise to email or call your connections. But you don’t. This is surely a policy violation. Don’t let all that good work go to waste by not making the phone call or sending the email.
  9. Prepare for interviews. One of the most important policies is preparing for interviews by researching the position and company. You think you can wing it because you know your business like no one does. You’ve heard of behavioral-based questions but aren’t too concerned. You don’t get the job because of your lack of preparation.
  10. Send a follow-up note is the final policy. Simply thanking the interviewer/s in the follow-up note isn’t enough; show the interviewers you were listening and engaged by mentioning some points of interest or revisiting a question you didn’t elaborate on. Oh, one more thing; send a unique follow-up note to each interviewer. Now that’s showing the love.

I have deep admiration for the parents of the boy who wore his helmet, despite what his friends may have thought. Having kids of my own, I know how difficult it is to set this policy and enforce it. Similarly I know how difficult it is for jobseekers to follow the policies I’ve mentioned above. They’re all important policies that can lead to a shorter job search.

3 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section

recruitersWhile I’m amazed that some people don’t have a LinkedIn Summary, I’m just as befuddled by folks who don’t see the value of a strong LinkedIn Experience section. When employers and visitors see a profile that lacks details in this vital section, the letdown is like air escaping a balloon.

Here’s the thing, a stunning Summary is great, but when your Experience section comprises of bare essentials, such as your titles, company names, and dates of employment, you’re LinkedIn profile lacks the punch that propels you to the top of the list.

Many believe the Experience section is the most important part of your profile, as it includes your years of experience, accomplishments, a story of what you did for each position, and keywords for search engine optimization (SEO). So here are three reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section.

Your experience section needs to tell a better story. A quick fix of copying the content of your résumé to your profile is the first step in building your Experience section; however, you’re not done yet. You still have to modify your profile to make it more of a networking document. This means your point of view should be first person and, of course, include quantified results.

Take, for example, an accomplishment statement from a résumé I recently read: Trained 5 office staff on new computer software, increasing production by 75%. It has the action statement and a quantified result, but it lacks excitement, the excitement you get from a LinkedIn profile.

Instead: I extended my end-user expertise by volunteering to train 5 office staff on our new database software. All members of the team were more productive as a result of my patient training style, increasing the team’s output by 75%.

Your position doesn’t tell it all.  You’re a director, CEO, or CFO, so you think that says it all. Wrong! Executive Resume Writer, Laura Smith-Proulx believes the more relevant information, the better; particularly when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from other executives. She writes: 

“The key to a strategic message in your CFO résumé is to do MORE with the details – taking the hard facts of budgets managed, teams directed, or cost savings achieved to fold in personal brand messages.”

At the very least, your leadership as a director of an organization plays an essential role in its success. What is the scope of your authority? How have you helped the organization grow? Have you contributed to the community or charities? Have you turned around failing companies and made them more profitable? Remember, you’re representing the organization. Or perhaps you’re passively looking for another job.

The power of LinkedIn is greater than you think. LinkedIn’s search engine is extremely powerful. If you have the proper, and numerous, skills (keywords), your chances of being found are great. Don’t forget to emphasize the quantified accomplishments!

Businesses are looking to connect or employ people with expertise; and although you have what they need, without the skills listed your message isn’t crystal clear. An organization would like to pay you to talk about how you developed a fund-raising process that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars, but your Experience section is nothing more than a place mat. Lost opportunity.

Suppose you find yourself out of a job and suddenly need to connect with others who can help you in a big way. Rushing to create an Experience section that warrants the assistance you need is a bit late and will lengthen your job search.

These are three reasons why you require an Experience section that is strong and worthy of your greatness. Your Summary is a great start; now you need to follow it with an Experience section to support it.

Next we’ll look at 4 reasons why your LinkedIn profile needs a strong Media section. 

4 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Summary

I still remain perplexed that some LinkedIn members put little effort into their Summary section, or don’t have one at all.

Would you go to an interview or business meeting without shoes? Of course not. So I wonder why people feel that a Summary statement on their LinkedIn profile is unnecessary. Having viewed hundreds profiles, I’ve seen many  that simply begin with the Experience section and have no Summary.

The absence of this section of your profile can greatly hurt your potential of capturing the attention of visitors, e.g., potential employers, networkers, and business associates.

I have three theories why people don’t include a Summary: 1) they don’t have the time or energy to write one; 2) they don’t know what to write; and 3) they follow advice of those who say, “Recruiters don’t read a Summary statement. You don’t need one.”

I can understand the first two reasons, although I don’t condone them, but the third one escapes me. Many pundits, recruiters included, say a Summary is necessary, as long as it adds value to the profile. So if you don’t have a Summary because you lack the energy or don’t know what to include, consider 4 reasons why the Summary is important:

It gives you a voice. You’re given more freedom of expression on LinkedIn than you have with your résumé; so use it! Be creative and make the employer want to read on. Your voice contributes to effective branding. It should be some of your best writing and can be written in first person voice or even third person.

Most pundits lean toward first person, as it expresses a more personal side of you. A Summary written in first person invites others into your life. Not many people pull off the third-person voice well; it can sound stilted. But if done right, it can also make a powerful branding impact. People who are established as leaders in their industry warrant a third-person Summary.

It tells a story. Perhaps you want people who would consider connecting with to know you on a more personal level. You have aspirations or philosophies to share; and it’s not about impressing people with your accomplishments in marketing in the nonprofit sector, for example, as much as the positive impact your work has had on the population you serve. You want people to connect because of a share common bond.

The Summary is also a clear example of how LinkedIn separates itself from the résumé. It’s a known fact that the majority of hiring authorities don’t enjoy reading a résumé, which is due, in part, because of its Summary. The Linked profile is more creative because it tells your story, your aspirations, and philosophies.

You can make an immediate impact. Stating accomplishment statements with quantified results are a real attention grabber. If a visitor is going to scan one section of your profile to determine if he’ll read on, make it be your Summary, and leave him with a positive image of you.

Here’s part of a Summary from Doug Caldwell, who calls himself a Facilitator Extraordinaire. (I told you I read a lot of profiles.)

MANUFACTURING COMPANY

✯ Improving unit output by 2,200% over a five-year period.
✯ Reduced manufacturing cycle time by 30%.
✯ Achieved cost saving in excess of $25,000 annually.

Read the rest of his Summary to feel it’s power and excitement.

It’s another place to include keywords. Keywords are the skills employers are looking for, and the more you have the closer you’ll be to the top of the first page. So don’t think “less is better.”  In this case, the more of the 2,000 characters you’re allotted, the more you should use. Please don’t use your Summary as a dumping ground for your keywords, though.

I tell my Advanced LinkedIn workshop attendees that excluding their profile Summary is like neglecting favorite pet. You shouldn’t do it. Find the energy to write one, figure out your story or unique selling proposition, and get to work writing an attention-grabbing Summary. By all means, don’t listen to naysayers who don’t believe in this very important part of your LinkedIn profile.

Coming up 3 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section.

Be smart; say, “thank you” when you’re invited to someone’s LinkedIn network

Thank YousIt’s well worth repeating the importance of showing your gratitude for being inviting to someone’s network, especially if you’ve received a thoughtful, personalized note–not the default message LinkedIn provides.

In a previous entry I ranted about how sending a thoughtful invite on LinkedIn, instead of the “cold,” “lazy,” “uninviting” default message, is necessary to make a good impression on the potential connection. Now I’d like to remind those who have received the proper invite to say, “Thank you.”

If you receive an invitation to be part of someone’s network, reply to the sender by thanking him/her for being considered. It’s an honor the sender has chosen you, so show your gratitude. Don’t let the momentum end. In effect, this is similar to walking away from a conversation at a social gathering. Would you simply walk away from a conversation without saying, “Thank you for the conversation?” Our parents taught us better than that.

If I know the person who sends me the invite, I will thank the person and then add to my note of appreciation. My note will begin with, “Thank you for the invite. And thank you for the personalized message.” And if I want to carry on the conversation, I will add, “It would be great to talk about our common interests, as we’re both in (the occupation). I’d be happy to call you at your convenience.”  You may write a script and paste it into the note, unless you want to personalize your acceptance.

All too often some LinkedIn members invite someone to be in their network, receive an affirmative, and break the link by not showing their gratitude. The sender is notified of the acceptance, and leaves it at that. This sends the wrong message to the new connection and essentially stops networking in its tracks.

To make professional online networking effective, you must keep the ball in play, keep the lines of communication open. This is made easier by extending civility and appreciation for someone accepting your invitation to be in your online network, “Thank you for being part of my network” would suffice. Or you may add, “I invited you to be in my network because we’re both (occupation) or (interested in) and think we can be of assistance to each other.”

Invites can be one of our best reasons to communicate via LinkedIn. It’s important to do the right thing, and that is to say, “Thank you for inviting me to be in your network” and “Thank you for accepting my invite.”

Photo: Johnna Phillips, Flickr

13 activities to do after losing your job

Number 13I was once asked, “When you get laid off which is more important, to start networking or spend a week writing your résumé?” I thought this was a great question but believe jobseekers need to think of other important activities after they’ve lost their job.

Below are some of the must do’s for people who are starting their job search. You’ll note that dusting off your résumé and networking are far down the list of priorities.

  1. Take time to regroup. This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do when starting your job search. It’s also something people neglect to do by jumping right into the hunt the same day they’re laid off. Conversely, some people wait too long to begin the search, considering this a time to take a “vacation.” Take a week to group at most.
  2. Evaluate your frame of mind. Understand that unemployment can play emotional havoc on your psyche and may require seeking professional help. Many of my customers have shared with me their despondency and even depression after being laid off or let go.
  3. Think about what you want to do. Now is the time to think about what you really want to do, not what you feel comfortable doing. When I was laid off, I realized that I wanted to change my career. Deciding what I wanted to do was one of my top priorities. I had direction.
  4. Develop a plan. You have direction, know what you want to do. Now you need to determine what you have to do to reach that goal. Start with small steps, such as conducting one job-search activity a day, and build up to three a day. Eventually you’ll start planning out each day to include job-search activities like networking, contacting recruiters, following up on your networking meetings, using the Internet (sparingly), contacting your alumni association, etc.
  5. Be dedicated to your job search. Determining your direction could take some contemplation, especially if you’re changing your career. Once you’ve decided on path you want to take, dedicate all you effort to getting there. Is it necessary to spend 40+ hours on your job search I ask my workshop attendees. I don’t thing so. More like 25+ hours of smart job seeking is more like it. And remember, you’re looking for work seven days a week.
  6. Assess your greatest skillsThis is tough for many people, especially those who have a hard time promoting themselves, so solicit the help of others with whom you worked or know in your daily life. Create a list of your strongest skills and accomplishments. These will make good fodder for your new and improved résumé.
  7. Begin telling everyone you know—everyone. That’s right, everyone. You may think your sister in New York would never know of opportunities in Boston, but you never know who she may know who knows someone in Boston. Don’t focus only on the people with whom you worked; you’re limiting your reach. Start attending networking events if you feel comfortable; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
  8. Dust off the résumé. Ideally you should have been updating your résumé  while working, but we know how work demands leave little time to do this, and when we return from a hard day of work we have little if any energy to work on our résumé.
  9. Get on LinkedIn. With all the articles written about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, you should know by now that most employers—approximately 95%—are culling talent on LinkedIn. Take the time to do it right, though. Create a powerful profile and be active by updating often, joining and participating in groups, sending invites, etc.
  10. Get out of the house. Your style might lean more toward attending networking groups, professional affiliations, volunteering, or using your local library’s computers (even if you have your own). Don’t forget your local One-Stop career center that offers you resources and training and education. Get out of the house.
  11. Step up your exercising or begin exercising. Nothing is better for the mind than improving your physical condition. You don’t have to join a club. Simply walk every morning or do yoga. Make sure you get up at the same time you rose from bed when you were working. Do not let your routine slip.
  12. Develop your company list. You’re now in a good position to figure out what type of companies for which you’d like to work. Identifying the companies can help you with your research on them and career possibilities. Your list will also come in handy when networking with jobseeker groups and informational contacts.
  13. Start knocking on companies’ doors. Use your company list to be proactive by approaching growing companies either by sending an approach letter introducing yourself to them or literally visiting your companies. Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute, asserts that your chance of getting a job is 47% if you use this method alone.

The list of must do’s could be endless, but it’s important to keep in mind the important actions needed to properly start your job search. If you are having difficulty getting motivated, speak to close friends, relatives, or trained job-search professionals who can help you with this serious problem. Motivation is required in order to put our plan into action.

Photo: Andreas Gessl, Flickr

5 reasons why you should tell your children if you lose your job

FamilyI tell my customers the first thing they need to do is tell everyone they know that they are unemployed. This includes colleagues from past jobs, friends, neighbors, relatives, hair stylists, convenience store owners, LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends; and even people they meet for the first time, providing the moment is right.

Most of my customers are amenable to spreading the word far and wide. They know that at any time someone may be able to provide a lead or offer sage advice. Sometimes this happens in my workshops.

But some don’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 them to worry, are afraid their children will lose faith in them.

Hogwash, I tell them. Your children need to know about your situation if you want them to understand the meaning of life.

Dr. Julie Olson, Ph.D. a 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.”

I lost my job in marketing about 12 years ago. It was devastating, but I felt it was important to share the news with my three kids. I told them the day I was laid off. Yes it was a humbling experience, but 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 significantly. 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. I would need a quiet environment to write résumés and cover letters, or make follow-up calls.
  3. 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 but they shouldn’t feel they were at fault. If I seemed distanced while with them, it was because I was thinking about finding work. For little people this can be hard to understand.
  4. Losing a job is 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. We would focus on the important things in life. Although a job loss is temporary, the duration of unemployment can be longer than expected. That year Christmas was celebrated like usual. The kids didn’t get all they wanted, and my wife and I went without gifts; but we still celebrated the holiday. I don’t think the kids thought once about our situation.

All came to pass after six months of unemployment. 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.”

Photo, Flickr, Brian Stupar, Family Hike

5 reasons why what you know about your introversion can limit you

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaToday I think about how being mindful of  my preference for introversion may affect my actions. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, this knowledge occupies my thoughts and sometimes prevents me from doing what I’d like to, what I should do. So the question is would it be better to be ignorant of who I am?

How I direct my energy. Because I’m an introvert, I should prefer not going to an evening business networking event after a hard day at work. Introverts should take time to recharge their battery, not exert themselves by socializing after a day of being around people.

Instead: I have the energy to attend social or networking events despite believing that my energy should be saved for reading a good book on my Kindle, while munching on Gummy Bears. I must fight the generalization.

How I communicate. Extraverts rule the world when it comes to small talk. Because I’m an introvert, my ability to make small talk consists of 140 characters of carefully chosen words. Entering a room full of strangers, expected to make small talk, should make me anxious and want to run from the room screaming like a lunatic.

Instead: I can make small talk with the best of them, as long as I’m not battling a motor mouth for airtime. I’ve often dominated the conversation in the lunchroom much to the surprise of my colleagues. I must fight the belief.

How I listen. As an introvert, I’m supposed to listen to people…and like it? Accordingly I should actively listen and wait until the person has said his/her 5,000 words. Extraverts, according to common belief, are off the hook when it comes to listening intently–they’re free to talk nonstop because…that’s the way it is.

Instead: I find it hard to listen to people who believe they’re all that. If there were an off button on some of the loquacious Neanderthals I meet, my right index finger would ache. I am totally cool listening to people who believe in equal rights in conversation. I must politely end a one-sided conversation, as well as be cognizant of my over talking.

How I learn best. Introverts are said to learn best through writing and research, rather than by talking to others. This implies that we’d rather receive e-mails than talk with our colleagues’ in their cubicles.

Instead: It is true that I enjoy writing, but I don’t get my kicks by spending a whole day at my computer researching topics like the Sabin Oxley Act and writing a 30-page whitepaper on it. I like talking with my colleagues as long as it’s productive and doesn’t drain my time, so I must extend my self more often.

How about those meetings. Apparently I can’t participate at meetings because I think too much before talking and, thus, lose my chance to express my brilliant thoughts. The same goes for brainstorming. When others are coming up with hundreds of ideas and throwing spaghetti against the wall, I’m supposed to remain quiet until I have an idea that will stick.

Instead: While it’s true that some extraverts suck the air out of a meeting room, I can throw my weight around as good as the next guy. True, I’m not a fan of brainstorming, but sometimes it works if facilitated by the right person. Instead of over thinking, I must speak up more often and express my great thoughts.

I’ll be the first to admit that knowing the characteristics of an introvert sometimes shapes my actions at work, as well as in my daily life. I wonder how I’d act if I was ignorant of who I am. Would I act more like an extravert? Nah.

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