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.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others.

10 to ways act professionally in the job search

ProfessionalimsMy daughter recently had to defend her position when she was accused of something that she and I felt was unjust. Nonetheless, before she spoke to the principal, I told her to act professionally.

The look on her face was priceless. “How should I act professionally in this situation, Dad?” she asked. Exactly. How do you act professionally in a situation that is less than desirable? The best answer I could give my daughter was, “Do your best. Just do your best.”

This recent event prompted me to think of 10 ways act professionally in the job search:

  1. Treat people with respect. This is simple advice your mother gave you as a child. In your job search you’ll run into a helpful people and people who are…well putzes who think it’s all about them. Treat all of them with respect and work with the ones who treat you with respect.
  2. Resist the urge to only take and not give. The term “Pay it forward'” has real meaning. Create good karma by being a giver, understanding that the help you give others will be returned by someone else. One of my customers, who recently landed a job, was the epitome of a networker because of the leads she doled out like candy.
  3. Act positive. Having been unemployed myself, I understand the emotional ups and downs, as well as the financial burden, that go with being out of work. I’m not telling you to feel positive; I’m telling you to act positive. In other words fake it till you make it. Keep in mind that people feel more inclined to help those who appear positive.
  4. Dress the part. Put on the appearance of a professional by dressing properly, not like you’re heading to the beach. I can spot the jobseekers who aren’t fully into their job search by the way they dress, e.g., they wear tee-shirts instead of button-down shirts; yoga pants instead of dress pants or skirts. First appearances count; they really do.
  5. Be a student of the job search. I’ve witnessed those who understand the norms of the job search and those who don’t. The ones who do, dress appropriately, maintain a positive attitude (despite how they’re feeling inside), and follow proper etiquette. You are part of an organization called the Job Search.
  6. Be dedicated to your job search. I ask my workshop attendees how many hours a week they should dedicate to their job search. The ones who tell me what they think I want to hear say more than 40 hours. That might be a bit extreme, as there are other important things in your life, like family. I say 25-30 hours should suffice. Work smarter, not harder, as they say.
  7. Listen to constructive criticism. It is essential that you don’t get offended when someone critiques your “brilliant” résumé, interview performance, or networking etiquette. People generally want to help you in your job search. You’re not required to take their advice, but listen to what they have to say.
  8. Show up or call on time. In your case, it may be for the interview and appointments you’ve set up to meet with other jobseekers. The rule of never being late still applies. (Worse yet is forgetting entirely about an appointment, of which I’m guilty.) Call ahead if you’re going to be late, though. You might get some forgiveness.
  9. Realize the employer is not your enemy. Here’s the thing, the employer is only trying to hire the best person possible. Many hiring managers, HR, recruiters have been burned by hiring the wrong person—68% have done it at least once. Don’t create an adversary environment between you and the employer; you’ll lose.
  10. Follow up; always follow up. If you had a great meeting with a fellow jobseeker or you were granted an informational interview; always remember to respond with a thank you message and a call to action. Sometimes our meetings don’t warrant further action. Nonetheless, show your gratitude for the time the individual took to help you.

The story of my daughter turned out well–she was not at fault of what she was accused. I was proud of how my daughter handled the situation. She acted professionally and manged to create a positive atmosphere between her and the principal I, on the other hand, might not have done so well.

Start writing your family holiday networking newsletter

ThanksgivingLike me, you may receive holiday newsletters from friends and relatives who you see infrequently. You may look forward to receiving these yearly letters or dread them because they carry on for pages about personal information best saved for a therapist.

For jobseekers these newsletters can serve as a great way to network if written properly. You’re sending these holiday networking newsletters to people who care about your welfare and would like to help in any way they could.

Maybe your uncle Jake once worked at Raytheon and still has connections there, past or present; or your former roommate from college is doing well for himself in marketing in NYC. Your brother is active on LinkedIn and probably has connections living in your area. He’ll sing your praises for sure. The list of possibilities are great.

What to include in your personal holiday newsletter. Keep in mind that you’re not contacting employers or fellow job seeking networkers who understand the lingo and nuances of networking for work. (These networking letters speak a different language and are targeted to a specific audience.)

You’re reaching out to friends and relatives who know little to nothing about your situation or experience and goals, and who probably haven’t heard from you in awhile. Thus, the content should be light and unobtrusive.

The opening. First wish your recipients a happy holiday. You’ll start light and stay light during the entire letter. This is, after all, the holidays. “Hello loved ones. It’s been a busy year for the Jones, and we have a lot to tell you,” you might begin. “First let me start be telling you that we have a new puppy; I think that sums up ‘busy’.”

The middle. News about the family is always appreciated. “I’m proud to say that Tommy Jr. graduated from college and is interning at Dunn and Brad Street. Claire is enjoying her senior year in high school and much to the chagrin of Ellen and me (did I say that?) is dating a wonderful boy who dotes on her. She’ll be heading off to USC and he’ll be going to Boston College (Joy). Little Jason is entering high school with intentions of wrestling and playing soccer.”

Continue writing about what’s happening on the family front, but don’t brag too much. How many times have we read holiday newsletters that sound like a commercial for the all American family? Keep it real. However, don’t write negative content.

The conclusion. Be upbeat and positive as you tell your recipients about your current situation. You want your friends and relatives to think about how they may help; you don’t want to drive them away with demands or sound needy or despondent. “I think you may recall that I’m in transition from my position as director of marketing at my former software company. I’m in high spirits seeing my family and friends and relatives doing so well. This is a tough economy, and I know of many people out of work. Please keep me and others affected by the layoffs in your thoughts.”

Sign off with your telephone number and LinkedIn URL, if it feels appropriate. Also ask your recipients to write back with news about what’s going on in their lives. Good networking is not only about you, it’s also about those with whom you communicate no matter who the audience is. Show your interest as well.

Some important things to note: don’t ask if anyone knows of a job. You don’t want to put undue pressure on your friends and relatives who are not consumed with the labor market. The best delivery method for your letter will be a typed or hand-written letter delivered by snail mail, as it has a more personal touch and is more likely not to be forgotten.

2 facts about how introverts communicate and network

introvertnetworking

Career advisors, when advising certain jobseekers, have you ever noticed that small talk–breadth of knowledge–is not their forte? Rather they’d prefer to talk about more substantive topics–depth of knowledge–and appreciate the time to formulate their thoughts before talking. What you get from them is rich, deep discussion that’s very purposeful.

Have you also noticed they don’t seem excited when you encourage them to network? It’s not their thing, entering a room full of strangers with whom they have nothing in common. It drains their energy even thinking about it. They may tell you they’d rather walk over burning coals than attend an organized networking event.

If they exhibit these behaviors, it’s likely they’re introverts (read this post from the Huffington Post) and may not realize this, unless they’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I didn’t know my preference for introversion until I took the MBTI when I was 45-years-old. And when I got my results I was shocked because I considered myself to be outgoing.


Communicating

As you’re meeting with your jobseekers, be mindful of how they communicate with you. Introverts are innate listeners who are not as comfortable with small talk as their counterpart, the extraverts, who are quick to start the conversation and would like you to listen. Your conversation with introverts will be deep and thought provoking, but you’ll most likely have to jump-start it.

The best approach to take with an introvert is to start the discussion by stating some observations and then following up with questions. Now stand back and wait for your introverted jobseeker to deliver some insightful statements. Try not to interrupt.

For example, “After looking at your résumé/LinkedIn profile, I am impressed with the detail in which you describe your past jobs. You list a great number of duties. But what I’d like to see are some more accomplishments. What do you think?”

This question gives them the open door to express their thoughts. “I see your point, and I think I could explain how I was close to 100% accurate in my accounting responsibilities. In fact, I was often acknowledged for this and won ‘Employee of the Month’ many times.” You give your jobseeker the opportunity to express her thoughts, and then you do what any good counselor does, sit back and listen.

Joyce Shelleman, Ph.D, offers this sage advice: “Offer [introverts] the opportunity to follow-up with you the next day with any additional questions or thoughts. It usually takes time for an introvert to think of all the things that they want to communicate if they haven’t been able to anticipate your question in advance.”

Networking

It’s no secret that structured networking makes many people uncomfortable, especially introverts. One quote I share with my workshop attendees is from Liz Lynch, Smart Networking: “At the first networking event I ever attended by myself, I lasted five minutes—including the four minutes it took me to check my coat.” This quote clearly illustrates how networking for the first time can be like trying to speak another language.

Now imagine how an introvert feels presented with the prospect of entering a roomful of strangers, expected to make small talk, and (most difficult) promoting himself. He will feel tired just thinking about having to talk to people he doesn’t know, particularly after a day full of looking for work. He may also experience bouts of reluctance prior to a morning networking event.

But here’s the thing; networking is a vital tool in the job search and it’s your job to encourage your introverted jobseeker to attend networking events. Suggest 5 points of attack:

  1. Tell him to have a goal of how many people he’ll talk to at the event. If three is what he decides, that’s fine. Introverts prefer to talk to fewer people and engage in deep, thoughtful conversations.
  2. Suggest that he takes a friend or two. There’s more comfort in having someone by his side to talk with if things are not going as planned. Advise him, however, not to spend all his time at the event with his networking buddy.
  3. Provide encouragement by reminding him that he should focus on asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to what others say. People like to be listened to, and introverts are great listeners.
  4. Enforce upon him that he doesn’t have to be fake; rather he should be natural when speaking with other networkers. He doesn’t have to launch into his 30-second commercial as soon as he meets each person, which will serve to push people away.
  5. Lastly, he doesn’t have to be the last one to leave; although, he might be the one to close the joint if he’s having a grand time. This is in the realm of possibility.

As a career advisor, be cognizant of how introverts communicate. Give them space to express their thoughts and remember that the meetings you have are not about you; they’re about helping your jobseeker express their thoughts so you can better help them. Networking can be unpleasant unless the introvert has realistic expectations, so remind him that he’s in control of the situation.

Book Cover

10 ways that test your courage in the job search

courageAlthough I understand my workshop attendee’s reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their personal commercial/elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get at an interview.

They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.”Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it. You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage in certain areas.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other jobseekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know to most people this seems like a no-brainer; how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees. I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most; but networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other jobseekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you. For many attending organized networking events takes courage.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.” I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in a mock interview. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service. But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. The pressure of a mock interview shows in my customers’ answers, voice, and body language. I give them credit for their courage.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee. Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.” This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market. Contact those companies with an approach letter to ask for informational meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of informational meetings. Informational meetings have been the reason for many of my jobseekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them. Once you’ve secured an informational meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional and behavioral. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect. How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.

Reader, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews. To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.

6 reasons why you still need to network after finding a job by using LinkedIn

linkedinCongratulations, you landed a job. You used LinkedIn to get introduced to the hiring manager at one of your target companies. Although no job had been advertised, she called you in for a preliminary discussion.  This was after perusing your LinkedIn profile.

At the meeting she indicated that they needed to fill a marketing position that would require your level of social media experience. She said she’d be in touch. When the company decided to fill the position, you were called for a “formal” interview.

You answered every question they asked to their satisfaction and even demonstrated your understanding of key issues the company had, and how you would solve them. The VP and hiring manager offered you the position on the spot.

LinkedIn played a large role in getting the job. Now you can take a breather from networking on LinkedIn, right? Wrong. Now you need to maintain and even ramp up your activity for six very good reasons.

  1. Don’t abandon your connections. Some of them were instrumental to your job-search success (especially the woman who alerted you to the unadvertised position). Keep your ears to the pavements for those who were also looking while you were. Reciprocate by introducing them to the people who can help them get to the decision makers.
  2. Build on your expertise and strengthen your brand. Continue to  contribute to your groups and join other groups to share your knowledge with industry leaders. You’ve become well-known in LinkedIn circles; you’re respected for your knowledge and are in prime position to further brand yourself as a social media expert.
  3. LinkedIn was part of your routine. You were on LinkedIn on a daily basis, connecting with new people, using the Companies feature to locate and get introduced to decision makers (remember the one who granted you the conversation?) Of course you attended personal networking events, but LinkedIn added to your overall networking in a big way.
  4. LinkedIn became a community. You met some great people who welcomed you to their network, exchanged messages with you, and encouraged you during your job search. Why would you give this up? LinkedIn is a community consisting of professionals with the same goal in mind, sharing information and social capital. You built some outstanding relationships.
  5. Your new company understands the importance of LinkedIn. The VP of marketing wants everyone in your group to be on LinkedIn to connect with potential business partners and customers. He also wants to enhance the image of the company. A company with employees who have great profiles is a company that means business. He’s looking to you to share what you know about using LinkedIn–you’re his expert.
  6. Continue to build your network for a rainy day. You were looking on LinkedIn for a job almost every day for the last three months, attending networking events, and connecting with people on a daily basis. Your online and personal networks are strong and served you well. Now, more than ever, you want to continue to build your networks for future job search activity. How does that saying go? The best time to network is when you’re working.

When you began your profile, struggled with making it strong, increased your activity, and really began to see its benefits; you never thought it would get you this far. You never thought you’d buy into it and be an evangelist of LinkedIn, spreading the word of its great attributes. Even thought you landed, you still need to network on LinkedIn.

Newsflash: LinkedIn isn’t right for everyone

anxiousFor a long time I’ve considered it my mission to recruit people to join LinkedIn, like a college recruiter goes after blue chip basketball players. But after having a discussion a few nights ago with someone in my workshop, it finally dawned on me that my persuasive style of exciting people to join LinkedIn might be too strong for some people.

After the workshop, where I spoke about LinkedIn like it’s the solution to finding a job or building business, a very nice woman approached me and said she just wasn’t ready. She cited many reasons for this, including not understanding a word I said (not my fault, she said), not sure if she can master the mechanics of LinkedIn, being more of an oral communicator, etc.

As she spoke nearly in tears, I remembered some of the statements I made, “To build your business or increase your chances of getting a job, you must be on LinkedIn. If you are the one responsible for establishing and nurturing the company’s LinkedIn account, you must recruit others in your company and encourage them to have the best profiles possible.”

Oh my gosh, I thought, as this woman was pouring out her soul to me, I created despair in this poor woman. It occurred to me that a few people like her are not ready to be on LinkedIn, never will be. Because I am active–to a fault–on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean everyone must be active or even a member.

I thought further, if someone told me I had to join Facebook, I’d tell them to take a hike. No time, no interest. So, what makes it right for me to tell people they must be on LinkedIn? What makes it right to cause anxiety in this poor woman and perhaps others who are merely trying to make their way in business or a very competitive labor market?

It would never be right. I can’t tell people they must be on LinkedIn. In fact, in a moment of honesty, I have told my customers in other workshops that, “LinkedIn isn’t for everyone. If you’re not ready for LinkedIn, you will only be frustrated.” Perhaps I need to be more consistent in repeating this to every group I lead.

For those of you reading this post, keep in mind that nothing holds truer than having a poor profile and scant presence on LinkedIn will hurt you in business and the job search. With this in mind, I felt justified in telling this woman that she should join LinkedIn when she’s ready. That she’ll be fine if she continues to network face-to-face. She thanked me profusely, as if I released her from prison, and went on her way.

For those of you who are thinking, Bob, how can you betray us LinkedIn die-hards? I say, “Easy, LinkedIn isn’t right for everyone.”