11 job-search blunders I find hard to believe

scaleSome things I find hard to believe; like I stepped on my scale this morning expecting to be two pounds heavier, due to weekend of overeating, and I was actually two pounds lighter.

Or I deliver the best workshop of my life and receive less than stellar evaluations. What about my wife still talking to me after I haven’t installed a new screen door on our house three weeks after she’d asked me to?

Other things I find hard to believe are things that jobseekers do in their job search. For example:

  1. After getting laid off, they think it’s a great time for a three-month vacation, especially during the summer. Take a week off and then start your job search is my advice. Some downtime is healthy, but the longer you’re out, the harder it will be to get a job.
  2. They tell me they have no accomplishments to list on their résumé, so they have a résumé that looks like a grocery list of duty statements. One jobseeker told me that in five years of working at a company he hadn’t achieved anything great. Come on, try, guy.
  3. They send the same résumé to employers thinking targeted cover letters will address the requirements of a job. One customer admitted he sends out the same résumé but makes sure to tailor the cover letter to meet the employers’ needs. Half way there.
  4. Related to #3: They don’t send cover letters with their résumés. Come on, it only takes an hour at most to write a cover letter that elaborates more on your qualifications and accomplishments. Unless specifically told not to send a cover letter, send one.
  5. They think it’s acceptable to dress like they’re going to the gym while they’re in public. You’re always in the hunt and you never know when someone who has the authority to hire you—or knows someone who has the authority to hire you—will bump into you in the grocery store.
  6. Speaking of networking…they think going to networking events are the only places networking is allowed. Newsflash, networking is ongoing and happens wherever, whenever someone is willing to listen. Next time you’re getting your hair styled or cut, put a bug in the ear of your hairstylist.
  7. They start a LinkedIn profile and just leave it there like a wilting plant. Do you think doing this will create a positive impression on recruiters and employers? No, it will do more harm than good. Having a profile is one part of the equation; being active is another part. Be active on LinkedIn.
  8. They spend the majority of their time on the computer, posting résumés to Monster, SimplyHired, the Ladders, etc. Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute, says your chance of success is between 5%-10% when using this method alone. To me this is not a great use of jobseeking time.
  9. They spend mere minutes researching companies and the jobs for which they apply before an interview. Really now, don’t you owe employers the respect of being able to articulate why you want to work at their company and do the job they’re advertising? Do your research.
  10. They expect recruiters to work for them. Who pays the recruiters’ bills? Recruiters work for employers, and any optimism you hear in their voice is to give you confidence when vying for the position, not to indicate you have the job. They’re busy people who don’t always have time to answer your phone calls or e-mails, so don’t feel slighted.
  11. They don’t send a thank you note to employers after an interview. I know, people say it’s a waste of time; but don’t go about your job search in a half-ass way. Thank you notes are an extension of the interview and could make you or…break you.

If you’re committing all of these blunders, or even some of them, consider correcting these aspects of your job search. I’m curious to know of any blunders that come to your mind. Let’s add them to the list.

3 places where introverts need to get away to recharge their batteries

alone at workLast year my family celebrated our daughter’s graduation from high school with a small celebration. We were near a lake and the temperature was in the 90’s. Many of our friends were there with their kids who immediately took to the water.

A perfect setting. I enjoyed conversing with our friends, as we talked about kids and past events; and I was particularly animated as I talked.

Then it hit me like a title wave. I needed time to get away and recharge my batteries. Did I care if company would miss me? Not really. As an introvert, group events can take a toll on me. I enjoy the company of others, but my energy level for talking with them is not as enduring as it is for extraverts.

Extraverts have that energy that drives them through a party; it charges their batteries. They derive mental stimulation by talking and being listened to. I don’t’ envy them, though. The time alone to watch the kids swimming in the lake or even sitting in silence next to another introvert is as rewarding as it is for extraverts to talk to others at length.

Small gathering is the first place that comes to mind where introverts need to get away. The following two are:

Networking events. As an introvert, you may find yourself enjoying a conversation with a few people, but suddenly it occurs to you that where you’d rather be is in a quiet place, perhaps outside getting some fresh air, or in a lit room.

What’s likely to happen is another introvert joining you, perhaps by mistake or because she saw you escaping to your place of reflection. This is fine, because it’s you and she making small talk, such as, “Had to get away from the crowd.” I know what you mean, she tells you. And so you’ve established a bond.

Like the time I stole away from our guest at my party, you’ve had the opportunity to recharge your batteries so you can return to the larger group, which is now in the “needs and leads” portion of the event. One of my LinkedIn connections told me this type of break is what she needs before returning to a business event and possibly an extended after hours. Sure, it may be time for some to retire to the hotel room, but she understands the value of personal networking and pushes herself to keep going.

Work. Some introverts enjoy the opportunity to take a lunch-time walk, while their colleagues, most likely extraverts, are gathered in the staff room engaged in a boisterous conversation. Walking alone or with a walking mate is a great way to recharge your batteries. I personally prefer listening to music or talk radio, as it allows me to walk at my rapid speed and lose myself in thoughts of the day.

If your fortunate to have an office or cubicle away from the fray, your getaway is convenient and doesn’t require leaving the office. This type of situation is ideal after a day full of meetings, not only to recharge your battery but also to respond to any e-mails following the meetings. Introverts are more productive when they have solitude and moments to reflect and write, something they prefer over meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Whether you’re at a family gathering, a networking event, or at work, getting away is important for maintaining a strong energy level. Introverts are capable of interaction for extended periods of time, but we’re more comfortable if we take time to get away. Don’t deny this opportunity and don’t feel as if you’re being antisocial. You’ll be happier and more productive if you tend to your preferred way to energize yourself.

5 ways to be memorable in a positive way in your job search

question mark

I don’t remember much, but when I do, I never forget. There are some jobseekers I remember because they leave a lasting impression, like one woman I had in my Behavioral Interviewing workshop whose story about motivating others was so compelling. Melissa is her name.

Then there’s Mark who just got an Administrator position in healthcare. He thanked me for my help and told me he’d write an account of his job search and how LinkedIn was of great help.

Lisa landed a benefits job in human resources. Previously she was a manager, but she wanted out of that. She proved that stepping down is fine, just as long as you can still prove your value.

Armando I remember because he would always ping me with updates about his job search. He was always positive, never seemingly desperate, and sometimes he offered to help me. He still remains one of my favorite former customers, still someone I’ll reach out to. The other day, in fact, I called to see if he needed a gift in the form of a very talented jobseeker.

Kelly just landed a marketing job at a bank after being out of work for approximately a year. When she spoke with me just before securing her job, she admitted to being discouraged; but she never showed this. In fact it was just the opposite–she was positive and very active on LinkedIn.

Unfortunately there have been people who are a complete downer, but they’re far and in between. Still I remember them because of the poor impression they made. Mike Downer would constantly e-mail me about how he wasn’t going to make it. I would tell him he would if he networked and tried to be positive. He finally got a job. I won’t hear from him unless he needs another job.

The five people* I mention–yes they exist–who came across as positive and/or were willing to provide any help they could are the ones I would go out of my way to help; whereas the one that was always negative is someone I’d dread hearing from.

There’s a pattern here. People want to go out of their way to help those who make a good impression. If you want to be memorable to people who can assist you in your job search, keep in mind the following:

  1. Appearing positive, regardless of your internal struggles, attracts more people than if you’re negative. Negativity drives people away. Take Mike Downer, for example.
  2. Remind people of you by pinging them with e-mails and phone calls, but don’t annoy them with constant contact. Offer to meet them for coffee if it’s convenient for them.
  3. Always follow up after you’ve met someone who might be of assistance. Every time you follow up ask if you can be of assistance to them. If you can reciprocate in any way, it’s better than only asking for their help.
  4. Know your stories. Expert on storytelling, Katharine Hansen @ A storied Career, touts the importance of stories, how memorable they are in life and in the job search.
  5. Let people know about your successes. Had a great interview? Let people know. Finished a résumé you’re happy with? Let people know. Although your confidence may be low, announcing your achievements will make you and others feel great.

These are just a few positive things you can do to become memorable. Don’t be a downer, regardless of your internal struggles. Most people understand that being out of work is painful, including yours truly; so don’t make it the gist of your relationship with others. People like this are easy for me to remember, even if I can’t remember big name actors like Chris….See, I forgot.

*I will occasionally update this list of people and their examples of positiveness.

4 ways to take control of your job search

Some jobseekers tell me they turn on their computer every day to log on to Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and other job boards. They spend many hours a day applying for posted jobs, sending as many as 20 cookie-cutter resumes out a week, anticipating a call from a recruiter or Human Resources. They wait and wait and wait.

To these jobseekers I point out the futility of a job search like this, explaining that if they want faster results, they have to be more proactive. I tell them this in my Career Networking workshop.

First I talk about the “Hidden Job Market” which is a concept they understand, but I’m not sure they accept. When I tell them them connecting with others is the best approach to penetrating the HJM, I can hear them thinking how difficult it will be to get outside their comfort zone, to get away from their computer.

The message I try to deliver is that they have to be proactive, not reactive. They have to take control of their job search, not let it control them. Here are some ways you can be proactive in your job search:

Approach letters. Not oft used, these documents are ideal if you prefer writing more than using the phone, so you might be somewhat introverted. No job has been advertised. (Advertised jobs represent 20% of the labor market.) You’re not reacting to an advertisement.

The goal is to get an informational meeting or better yet, chance upon a possible opening that hasn’t been advertised (80% of the labor market). You must describe your job-related skills and experience and show the employer that you’ve done research on the company to boost the employer’s ego. Read Teena Rose’s article on approach letters.

Good ole’ fashion networking. Normally we think of networking as strictly attending organized meetings where other jobseekers go, doing their best not to seem desperate. (I’ll admit that this type of networking is unsettling, although necessary.) The kind of networking I’m referring to is the kind that involves reaching out to anyone who knows a hiring manager.

Most of the people who contact me after they’ve secured a job tell me that their success was due to knowing someone at the company or organization. You must network wherever you go. Network at your kid’s or grandchildren’s basketball games, at the salon, while taking workshops, at family gatherings (see Any Time is Time to Network)—basically everywhere.

LinkedIn and other social media outlets. I recently received an in-mail from someone who is currently working but is not enjoying her experience. I’ll keep my ears open for the type of position she’s looking for because she asked me to. LinkedIn members who know the potential of this  professional online networking tool are reaching out to other LI members for information and contact leads.

Another one of my jobseekers is doing everything possible to conduct a proper proactive job search. He updates me on his job search and sends me job leads for me to post on our career center’s LinkedIn group. I’ve got a good feeling about this guy. He’s being very proactive by using LinkedIn and his vast personal network of professionals.

Follow Up. Allow me to suggest a must-read book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I think this guy gets more publicity from me than any author I’ve read. The reason I recommend this book is because none of these three proactive approaches are useful unless you follow up on your efforts.

Never Eat Alone teaches you how to network in every situation and then how to keep your network alive by following up with everyone. I mean everyone. Send an approach letter, then follow up with the people to whom you’ve sent it. Network face-to-face, then follow up. Connect with someone on LinkedIn…you guessed it, then follow up.

Being proactive sure beats the hell out of only reacting to jobs that have been advertised and visible to hundreds, if not thousands of other jobseekers. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and yields more results than exclusively participating in the visible job market. Being proactive makes you believe that the job search will finally come to a halt, that the job search is in your hands.

Don’t disappear from LinkedIn, my valued connections

Why Connections DisappearI connected with a childhood friend about a month ago, and it was like a reunion where we caught up on good times, exchanged professional information, and were happy to reconnect. For the last two weeks, though, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him.

What’s funny is that his profile was respectable; nay strong. He even used the media feature in his Experience section. He put real work into it and wrote to me, “I don’t know why people think building a profile is so difficult. All you have to do is play with it.”

But this post isn’t about the best way to build a profile; there have been many posts on this topic. What I’m constantly wondering is where are the people? The people who seem to be going strong, like my childhood friend, but suddenly disappear as if they’ve gone on an extended vacation.

One of the most important aspects of networking—online or personal—is maintaining a presence. I tell my LinkedIn workshop attendees to update at least once a day. That’s correct, once a day. This is how you communicate with your connections and…stay in their minds.

Of course there have to be viable reasons for updating daily. It’s not like you can write, “I’m off to the beach; let’s meet up,” like you might on Twitter. No there must be intelligent and professional topics on which to update.

Let’s start with the most common:

  1. Sharing articles—one of my favorites, especially articles from which people will learn. A good source for articles is Pulse.
  2. Posting quotes—some enjoy doing this. I’m not a big fan.
  3. Writing about skills you’re developing—great for jobseekers to show their value.
  4. Letting people know what classes or conferences you’re attending—perhaps you can meet up with people while you’re in DC.
  5. Are you leading workshops—updating is a great way to promote them, as well as strengthen your brand as a workshop facilitator.
  6. A great book you’re reading—keep it professional. Because LinkedIn eliminated its Reading List feature, you might want to let people know you’re reading Twitter 2.0, for example.

Maybe updating on a regular basis is not your thing. You might simply want to “Like” what others update, or write a short comment, or thank people for visiting your profile. The point is to be active and maintain your presence. It’s really not that hard, my valued connections.

I guess what I’m saying is I miss you. You are part of my network, so don’t disappear like a poof of dirt. Are you getting tired of LinkedIn? Are you spreading yourself too thin? Did you feel forced to join? Be persistent because, as you know, success only comes to those who work hard.

10 signs your job search resembles The Middle

The middleOne of my favorite TV shows is ABC’s The Middle. You know, the show about a family struggling just to get by. The character I like best is Brick, the youngest of the Hecks who is a genius yet oddly strange. (“Oddly Strange,” he whispers to his chest.) I also like Mike who my kids say I resemble, until I threaten to cut off their food supply.

Watching The Middle reminds me that some people conduct their job search as if it’s…The Middle. How, you may wonder? Think about the way the family never seems to get ahead, how their lives remain the same; and despite the fact that the show makes us laugh, we find it somewhat depressing. This is my point. There are 10 signs of your job search that resembles The Middle.

  1. No game plan. Does this not describe the Heck family to a T? Having a plan and goals also means 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 be stuck in The Middle land.
  2. A résumé that fails to brand you. Most important is writing a résumé that is tailored to each job, showing employers you can meet their specific needs. A Summary that fails to attract the attention of the reader, lacking a Core Competency section. no accomplishments to mention; are all signs of a The Middle job search.
  3. No online presence, namely LinkedIn, the premier social media application for the job search. At least 94% 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.
  4. cover letter that doesn’t excite. You’re writing cover letters that fail to express your personality and are, well, boring. Worse yet, you’re sending form cover letters that don’t show you meet the specific requirements of the job. Further, you’re a believer of not sending cover letters. The Middle material for sure.
  5. Only applying 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…definitely reminiscent of The Middle.
  6. Networking isn’t 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.
  7. Informational interviews are alien to you. The goal behind information interview is networking with people who are in your desired industry and selected companies. 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.
  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 e-mail or call your connections. But you don’t. This is a sure way to be stuck in The Middle, where nothing seems to change.
  9. Preparing for interviews as an afterthought. Oops, you go to interviews without having done your research on 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. Not sending a follow-up note clearly says you don’t care. And simply thanking the interviewer/s 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. If you want to remain in The Middle, don’t send a follow-up note. But if you want the job, show the love. And no form thanks-yous please.

The Middle teaches a good lesson about how we need to put more effort into the job search. Doing a few of these activities does not make a successful job search; they must all be done and shorten the search. Can you think of other components of the job search that are necessary to make it a success?

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Job search tip #9: Knock on companies’ doors with approach letters

In the last entry we looked at making your company list. Today we’ll examine knocking on companies’ doors by using approach letters.

The other day during a résumé critique one of my customers told me how he had been networking. Something was in the works with a company as a result of him being proactive and knocking on the company’s door. Not literally; although, that’s a viable option. He had sent an approach letter to one of the directors at the company asking for an informational meeting, which then lead to further consideration.

Of course a phone call might have been quicker for my customer than sending a letter, but he felt sending an approach letter was right for him. (By the way, using LinkedIn’s Search Companies feature is a great way to find people at companies.)

For you jobseekers who lean more toward introversion, an approach letter may also feel more comfortable than calling a director, VP, or an individual contributor. There’s more to an approach letter, though, than simply sending an e-mail telling the person that you’d like to get together with her to meet for a short meeting.

With the approach letter, first you’ll research the company so you can write intelligently about why you’d like to meet. You’ll write highly of the company, selling the company to the recipient of your letter. This will show your enthusiasm. It will also show you took the time to visit the company’s website, read articles in the newspaper, and used other methods to research the company. This is the first step you’ll take to impress the recipient.

Next you’ll throw in some kudos about yourself. What makes it worth her while to meet with you? You gained some valuable skills when you worked at the medical device company in their marketing department. You’ll write about the accomplishments you had, like authoring press releases that drew the attention of many of the media, spearheading a direct mail campaign that garnered new business beyond what the company had achieved.

Don’t forget to indicate that you’ll call the recipient. Set a date and exact time. If the person picks up the phone or you have to leave a voice-mail, be ready to explain why you’d like to meet with her. You would like some information on a position you’re pursuing. You’d also like to share some knowledge of competitors or the industry.

What follows could be a networking meeting or maybe good timing on your part—there may actually be a job the company’s trying to fill, unbeknownst to other jobseekers searching the Internet for advertised positions. This is precisely why you don’t want to simply send an e-mail without laying out your skills that make you ideal for a possible job in the company.

The only thing left to do is picking up the phone and asking the recipient if she received your letter. Following up is the last component of sending an approach letter. Even if talking on the phone terrifies the heck out of you, at least you have gotten in your message without having to deliver it cold. You’re compelling writing has wooed the recipient into wanting to know more about you.

In the next article, we’ll look at using LinkedIn to network on line.

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