10 tips jobseekers must heed for a successful job search

And a short story about how my son didn’t listen.

The other day, my son and I were shooting hoops. He was loving it. I was hating it, for the mere fact that my fingers were numb from the cold. To add to my frustration, I was telling him to layup the ball with his opposite hand, but he wasn’t listening. “Why do I need to do layups with my left hand?” he asked me.

basketball

“Because you need to be multi-talented,” I told him. “You need to be able to layup the ball with your opposite hand when you’re forced to the left side.” I’ve never played organized basketball, so I’m not sure my advice was sound; but it sounded good.

While I was “coaching” my 14-year-old kid, I got to thinking about the advice I give jobseekers, most of whom listen and others (like my son) who don’t. The ones who listen are those who send me e-mail or even stop by the career center to tell me about their upcoming interviews or, best of all, their new jobs. It’s all about the effort they put into their job search that makes the difference. They do the hard work, while I simply provide the theory. Such as:

  1. Begin with proper attitude. All too often I hear negativity from my jobseekers. “I’ll never get hired because I’m over qualified.” Or, “There are no jobs out there.” Talk like this will get you nowhere, as I tell my customers. People are more likely to help people who appear positive, as opposed to negative. I’m not saying you must feel positive; I’m just saying appear positive. As the saying goes, “Fake it till you make it.”
  2. Your first impressions matter more than you think. First of all, are you dressed for the job search? What do you mean, you wonder. I mean you’re on stage every time you leave the house, so don’t walk around in clothes you’d wear while cutting the lawn. Always look people in the eyes while delivering a firm handshake that doesn’t crush their hand.
  3. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Clearly explain your occupation (human resources vs. human services is a big difference), your greatest attributes, and your extensive experience. Whenever you talk with someone in your community and the opportunity arises, mention you’re between jobs. Attend jobseeker networking events to gain leads and provide leads; remember, networking is a two-way street.
  4. Penetrate the Hidden Job Market. Which coincidentally  has a great deal to do with networking. Look for jobs where most people aren’t. “Why?” as my son would ask me. Simple, employers gain a lot more from not advertising their positions than they do if they advertise. They prefer to promote from within or get referrals from trusted sources. Advertising comes with  a slew of problems–tons of résumés to read and interviewing strangers. What really frustrates me is when I ask my customers who they’re looking for work, and they list a slew of job boards…and that’s it.
  5. Approach growing companies. This will require gathering your Labor Market Information, which can be done in a number of ways. I suggest developing a list of companies for which you’d like to work and visit their websites to see if there’s growth. Growth equals possible hiring in the future. Sources like business journals, the stock market, networking in the community and at organized events, are all viable options. Once you know which companies are growing, send them an approach letter or call them to get within their walls.
  6. When applying for jobs: research, research, research. Always know the requirements for the jobs for which you apply. Which major skills are most important and can you speak of accomplishments of how you’ve demonstrated them. Know about the companies as well in terms of their products, services, mission statement, etc. This will come in handy when you write your résumé and other written marketing material, as well as when you interview.
  7. Market yourself with professional targeted résumés. DO NOT send a one-fits-all résumé that fails to show the love; rather tailor your résumés for each job. Your résumés should include relevant quantified accomplishments and a strong Performance Profile that makes the employer want to read on. Don’t limit accomplishments to the Work History; include some accomplishment statements in the Performance Profile…the better to get employers’ attention.
  8. Send a cover letter with each résumé, unless instructed not to. True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written, and here we go again, targeted cover letter. A cover letter does a great job of demonstrating your enthusiasm for the job and company to which you’re applying. It also points the reader to the relevant accomplishments on your résumé.
  9. Start a LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter networking campaign. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather it should supplement your networking efforts. I lean more toward LinkedIn as an online networking and branding site. It is for professionals looking for jobs and advancing their business. Your LinkedIn profile should be outstanding like your résumé. If not, don’t advertise it.
  10. Dribble with your left hand. Yesterday I had our networking group do an exercise that was intended to have them think of other ways to look for work, as most of them were probably using the same methods without success. If looking for jobs six hours a day on the Internet isn’t working, try networking, or contacting a recruiter, or reaching out to your alumni, or retraining, etc.

My son didn’t listen to me when I told him to layup with his opposite hand, despite my constant harping. But he’ll soon learn his lesson when it comes game time and defenders will force him to his left. And my customers will hopefully follow these ten tips in order to make their job search shorter.

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10 first impressions for job-search success

Game of thronesWhen I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones, I was not impressed. I’d heard it was a great show, but the gratuitous violence did more to turn me off than draw me into the most important episode of the series. I haven’t returned to the show since.

I know you’re thinking this is a post about first impressions jobseekers make at interviews, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to make great first impressions in every aspect of your job search, not just how you shake the interviewer/s hands, maintain eye contact, etc.

Making a positive first impression can come into play before the interview phase, perhaps when you least expect it. I’m imaging a scenario where you’re at your local Starbucks, scoping out a comfortable chair to sit in for a couple of hours, and see the only one available among eight.

As you approach coveted chair, a woman dressed in a tee-shirt, yoga pants, and Asics also has her eyes on the prize. You have two choices; you can beat her to it, or you can offer her the chair, knowing there are plenty of stools at the table along the window, albeit uncomfortable ones. You take the high road and offer her the chair and retreat to one of the stools.

A week later you’re at an interview for a job that’s perfect for you. As you’re making the rounds shaking hands with the interviewers, you notice the woman to whom you offered the chair when you were at Starbucks; and she notices you as the kind woman who gave up that chair.

She’s the VP of marketing and a key decision maker in the hiring process. A couple of traits she desires in the next hire is integrity and selflessness. The interview is off to a great start because you made a great first impression by relinquishing that chair. Little did you know that that act of kindness would pay off in a big way, an act of kindness that had nothing to do with the interview process.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But that’s my nature.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t let my job search dictate how I act every minute of the day.” The point is when you’re in the job search, you’re constantly on. Let’s look at other ways you make a first impression before the interview begins.

  1. The way you dress. When you leave the house during the warm seasons, are you wearing your Red Sox Tee-shirt, baggie shorts, and sneakers without socks? You might want to ditch the Tee-shirt…and everything else. Work casual dress shows you’re serious about your job search. Trust me on this: I know which one of my customers’ job-search stint will be short based on how they dress.
  2. Body language. I tell jobseekers that people–not just employers–can read your body language like a neon sign and will make judgments. People can tell if you’re tense and therefore unapproachable. Alternatively, people sense you’re open and welcome them if you have an open stance and pleasant smile.
  3. Possitive attitude. I see plenty of people who are understandably angry, and they’re not afraid to show it. There are other people who are angry because of their unemployment but don’t display their attitude. Think whether you’re more likely to help others who show a negative attitude or those who come across as friendly. I would never insist that you must feel positive; I’m just saying fake it till you make it.
  4. Effective communications. At a networking event or during a phone conversation, are you demonstrating proper communication skills? Are you listening or just doing all the talking? If you’re doing the latter, it could be a turnoff for those with whom you’re speaking…a possible employer or valuable networking contact. I’m highly sensitive to people who do most of the talking.
  5. Activity. One of the best ways to present a great first impression is by being active in your job search. I’m not talking about being overbearing or obnoxious–I’m talking about due diligence, including sending appropriate e-mails, making telephone calls, attending networking events, calling on recruiters, engaging in daily networking, and whatever you’re capable of doing in a professional manner.
  6. Personal business cards. Nothing says professional and serious about the job search than personal business cards. They’re perfect to bring to networking events, job fairs, informational meetings, or just when you’re out and about. My close LinkedIn connection and branding master explains how business cards brand you.
  7. Your online presence. While it’s a well-known fact that employers are using social media to hire talent–approximately 96% use LinkedIn–it’s also known that they are using social media to “dig up dirt.” So make sure your online presence is clean, that there are no photos of you sloppy drunk in Cancun, that you haven’t used Twitter to blast your previous boss. (If you type “Bob McIntosh” on Twitter, you’ll find my tweets, and I guarantee they are professional in nature.)
  8. Chillax. In the job search you’re so focused on getting your next job that you may come across as too focused and determined. Give yourself a break every once in a while. People can sense those who are desperate.
  9. Follow up. This can’t be stressed enough. When you say you’ll call or email someone or meet that person for coffee, make sure you follow through with your commitment. And be sure you’re on time by the minute. Being late leaves a negative first impression.
  10. Pay it forward. In the above scenario you demonstrate selflessness by offering the other person the chair. It so happened the recipient of the chair was someone on the interview team. Your act of paying it forward worked out nicely, as she appreciated your act of kindness.

The story of you meeting the VP of marketing at Starbucks and offering her the coveted seat ends well; she casts a heavy vote to hire you for the job of your dreams. You still don’t know what you did to earn her vote, but does it really matter as long as you consider being the say you are. The power of first impressions.

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BRAVE: 5 letters to remember for the interview

Today in my Interview workshop I went off on a rant about the importance of being a fit in the workplace. It’s not enough to have the job-related skills that allow you to hit the ground running, I told them.

Most of my participants nodded with agreement, while others had to process this point–maybe it never occurred to them, or maybe they were convinced that being able to create code is all they need to do.

Further I told them there’s been a lot of talk from recruiters and hiring managers who reinforce this point. “Really,” the naysayers eyes said. Really.

In an article entitled BRAVE Cultural Framework by George Bradt, the author talks about how employers are looking for job candidates who understand and can demonstrate they’ll fit in with the company.

Employers are looking at: the way people Behave, Relate to others, display their Attitude, express their Values, and the work Environment they create.

As jobseekers, you should keep this framework in mind by remembering the five letters and what they stand for. This is imperative to successfully landing a job where employers are astute enough to realize that overall fit is essential  to a productive workplace.

Remember these five components when you prepare for interviews, as you’ll most likely have to field questions based on the B.R.A.V.E framework.

Behave: This is how you make decisions and/or behave under leadership. Are your decisions the right ones that contribute to a better run business? As individual contributors, do you toe the line, contribute ideas that are implemented, deal well with autonomy or deal equally well with reward and discipline? These are all considerations, and more, that might arise at an interview.

Relate: This is the way you interact with others and create a team environment. You relate to difficult support staff and take appropriate measures to keep everyone on the same page. You understand differences of opinions and methods and work toward a team environment, even with those with whom you disagree.

Attitude: “A big part of this comes through in individual and organizations’ sense of commitment to what they are doing,” the article says. Does the manager promote the proper attitude, make her support staff see the mission of the company or organization? Do the support staff embrace the mission and goals of the organization? This is where someone might be said to have a “bad attitude,” and this could be the mark of death.

Values: As a manager, you must instill values that foster learning, advancement, creativity, autonomy, etc. Staff must hold the same values as the company, or there could be conflict. To understand the values of the company, you must ask the appropriate questions at the interview to uncover them. For example, “How important is creativity to ABC Company?” If you get a blank look, chances are you’re at the wrong interview.

Environment: The article talks about the way people approach the workplace in terms of “formality/informality, preferred office layout, etc,” but it’s really an accumulation of all the aforementioned components, in my opinion. Environment is created by upper and mid management and sustained by the support staff. How one behaves, relates to others, her attitude, and values, are what creates a healthy and efficient work environment, not dress and working hours.

It’s a well-known fact that employers look for three qualities in potential employees. Can they do the job? Will they do the job? And will they fit in? B.R.A.V.E answers the third component, the fit. You must prove that you can work with your support staff, inspire and motivate them to work toward the company’s goals. Likewise, you must show that you are adaptable and can work with any management style. Will you follow the B.R.A.V.E framework? Employers are banking on it.


7 things you need to consider about your attitude when looking for work

angry person3No one will argue that being unemployed isn’t a traumatic experience, especially me. I was on the receiving end approximately nine years ago and I meet jobseekers daily. Being unemployed isn’t what I’d wish on anyone.

This said, if jobseekers aren’t mindful of the attitude they project, it can hurt their chances of finding their next job. This is perhaps the most difficult thing jobseekers can accomplishment, keeping their attitude in check.

One’s negative attitude shows itself in many 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.

  1. 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 diplomacy 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. You don’t have to see networking as only going to large arranged events–maybe your thing is small get-togethers. Real networking is a daily thing and that’s why you have to be on your game every day.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. Hide your anger. My last point is one I make with my workshop attendees, who for the most part are composed. I tell them their anger comes across loud and clear and…it impresses no one. Yes, you were unfairly let go; but people are not drawn to anger. They’re pushed away.

successWhy does this matter?

Simply put, your job search is ongoing. You are being judged 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.

2 ways employers can do a better job of hiring employees

Not to beat a dead horse, but employee (overall) fit keeps popping up in the news and conversations. Increasingly more employers are finding that the people they hire aren’t working out because they lack the right attitude, and they are quick to release those who don’t meet their expectations. This doesn’t  bode well for employees and employers.

An article in Forbes.com states that in a study of 2,000 hires only 46% worked out in an 18 month period. This is certainly alarming given that almost 50% of hires aren’t working out. What’s particularly telling is that 89% of those who failed, failed because of their attitude.

“Lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament, accounted for 89% of those bad hires,” according to the Forbes article.

Not for nothing, but this doesn’t surprise many people except, apparently, employers who eagerly interview and hire job candidates who look great on paper—e.g., meet most if not all the technical and transferable skills—but don’t put much weight into assessing their attitude. In other words, employers are falling down on the job of hiring the right people.

One way to determine if applicants possess these skills is by asking better interview questions.

The traditional questions like, “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Why do you want to work here?” or “What is your definition of a great manager?” are losing their effectiveness. Jobseekers can rehearse and provide the answers employers want to hear. The tougher questions, namely behavioral ones, will get to the heart of the matter with job candidates.

If the employer needs to know the person has or lacks leadership skills, a series of behavioral questions will draw this out. For example, “Tell me about a time when you inspired your subordinates to perform beyond their job description.” On the flipside, “Tell me about a time when you could have handled a personnel issue better, and how did you correct the issue?”

Questions like these will reveal more than typical traditional questions or tests that judge a person’s technical abilities. Employers who are asking behavioral questions tend to land candidates that last longer—up to 5 times longer, according to some, than those who are asked traditional questions.

Another way to determine if the applicant possesses the right attitude is hiring through referrals.

But it’s not only the questions employers need to ask to ensure better hires. The article states that referrals are employers’ ultimate choice when it comes to hiring people. That’s because the people making the referrals can vouch for the candidates’ personality and ability to go the distance for the company. As well, employers trust candidates’ references; they’re known by employers as people with whom they work, have worked, or know on a professional basis.

Jobvite.com conducted a survey in which it asked employers to rate the methods of hire that yielded the best results. Out of 10 points, referrals ranked the highest at 8.6. Job boards, incidentally, rated tied for last at 6.1. This makes me wonder why employers continue to advertise on Monster.com, SimplyHired.com, CareerBuilder.com, Dice.com, and so on. I guess it’s hard to break habits, even if they’re ineffective.

So what’s the secret behind hiring people who will stick for longer than 18 months? Better interviewing methods and relying on referrals, according to Forbes.com.

What this means for jobseekers. They must be prepared to answer behavioral question, as well as connect to people who know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company. For ways job candidates cans prove their worth, see Recruiters and staffing agencies say your soft skill are important too.

This post was published a year ago, but ti’s still relevant today. Bad fit is one of the biggest complaints among employers, so what are they going to do about it?

Be prepared for motivation-based interviews; they are tough and get to the core of the applicant

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Carol Quinn, the CEO of Hire Authority, and the designer of motivation-based interviews (MBI). She is passionate about teaching corporations to hire high achievers through the uses of  motivation-based interviewing–in other words, the right candidates.

Listen up jobseekers, smart interviewers aren’t strictly relying on traditional interviews like they did in the past. They’re no longer asking questions that can be answered with rehearsed responses, or that focus primarily on your occupational skills.

Be prepared for a different type of interview called the motivation-based interview (MBI), which gets at your ability to over achieve and overcome obstacles. The reason for this is that traditional-type interviews are just not working.

It’s a well known fact that the majority of interviewers have little or no experience interviewing job candidates—these are most likely front-line managers. It’s also a well known fact that a majority of hires don’t work out and cost companies tens of thousands of dollars. A 2011 survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com revealed that approximately 68% of employers fell victim to bad hires.

The reasons employers give for a poor hire include:

  • Needed to fill the job quickly – 38 percent
  • Not sure; sometimes you make a mistake – 34 percent
  • Insufficient talent intelligence – 21 percent
  • Didn’t check references – 11 percent

It appears that hiring the right candidate is like going to a toy store and having to buy items that are wrapped. No matter how you shake it, examine its shape, and feel it; you’ll never know if it is any good until the paper is off. Further, the brightest and most inviting paper often leads to the worst item (or job candidate using this analogy).

One other known fact is that interviewers are looking for three qualities in a candidate: 1) someone who has the skills, 2) is motivated, and 3) will fit the corporate work environment. The first of the qualities is easy enough to discern from the résumé received as well as through thorough questioning—usually involving traditional questions.

However the motivation and personality fit pieces are a bit dicey and difficult to determine. This, again, is due to poor interviewing. Smart interviewers, who employ MBIs, are getting to the core of a candidate’s attitude and passion for the job because they’re asking questions that can’t be fudged. So be prepared.

The MBIs’ main objective is to determine if a person is a high achiever or simply an average worker by a asking a series of questions that are designed to see how a person handles obstacles. Does the person have an “I can do this” attitude or does he have an “I can’t do this” one?

One example of a MBI question could be one of the following three:

Tell me about a specific time when you….

  1. Had to re-design a website that another person had designed.
  2. Created a website that exceeded everyone’s expectations.
  3. Designed an interactive page that was flawless the first time around.

The most effective MBI question would be the first one, as it asks about an obstacle, whereas the second and third do not. The secret to answering the first question would be to refrain from casting blame on the person who had originally designed the website. Keep in mind that employers are weary of excuses.

A candidate for a manager’s role might be asked about a time when she had to help an employee who was struggling with her performance. She must relate a specific story that demonstrates how she handled the obstacle and how she exhibited a “can do” attitude. Perhaps she succeeded or perhaps she didn’t fare too well. The point is that she tried and she learned from the experience.

The candidate must have stories to tell regarding the success, or failure, of demonstrating a desired skill. The candidate should structure his story using the Challenge, Action, Result (CAR) formula. He must also be able to recall a time when such a skill was demonstrated. No easy task, but definitely possible if he knows what skills will be in question—the secret is understanding the job requirements.

Will employers be one hundred percent successful in the future when hiring the ideal candidates? Most likely not. But as CareerBuilder.com states, interviewers must be willing to take the time to conduct a proper interview, not rely on gut feelings, and fail to do a thorough background check. Perhaps MBIs are the solution to achieving success for employers who are looking for employees who are motivated to do the work and have the capacity to learn the required skills. Only when all the pieces are in place will an abysmal 68% failure rate be reduced.

As for jobseekers, you must prepare yourself for interview questions that test your skills, attitude, and passion for the job. This stuff can’t be faked, so if you get the job, you’ve earned it.

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.