Tag Archives: Job hunting

5 very good reasons to volunteer to find employment

Before the words leave my mouth, I can hear my workshop attendees thinking, “Why should I work for free?” I hear you. It sucks working hard and not getting paid for it; but read what I’ve got to say before you condemn volunteering to find work.

office worker

An articleVolunteering as a Pathway to Employment Report, praises the act of volunteering, claiming that one’s chance of obtaining employment is 27% higher than by not volunteering. The article points out Social and Human Capital—strengthening relationships and building skills—as two major outcomes of networking.

I elaborate on these assertions and offer three additional outcomes of volunteering: it creates a positive outlook, makes one feel productive, and closes gaps in employment on your résumé. So you naysayers, read on.

1. Volunteer to network for your next job. It opens potential doors because you’re in a place where you can do some real-time networking. Choose an organization or business in the industry in which you’d like to work.

If marketing is your forté, for example, approach an organization that needs a graphic artist or publicist to design some art for their website or write a press release or two.

This organization where you’ve managed to get your foot in the door can help you with leads at other companies, especially if you do a smashing job. The president or owner will want to help you because you’ve come across as competent and likeable. Who knows, you could possibly join the company if a position opens up…or is created.

2. Develop or enhance skills that will make you more marketable. You’ve had it in your head to start blogging but haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. The company who took you on as a volunteer in their marketing department not only can help you network; it can give you the opportunity to enhance your diverse writing skills.

Your approach to management might be to offer starting a blog for them, as the rest of the marketing department is up to their elbows in alligators. They gain a talented writer to write entries, and you learn the fine art of blogging.


3. Volunteering is a great way to do a positive thing. You may consider choosing an organization where your efforts are meaningful in a big way.

A customer of mine said she volunteers at a soup kitchen because she has a soft spot in her heart for the less fortunate.

She’s a bookkeeper, so I suggested that she also offer to do the books for her church. While she’s helping the less fortunate at the soup kitchen, she could also keep her skills sharp through volunteering at her church.

4. Feel productive. Instead of sitting at home and watching The View, you can get back into work mode.

Do you remember work mode? It begins with getting up at 6:00 am, doing some exercise, leaving for a job from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, all the while feeling productive. When you get home from volunteering, you can watch those episodes of The View on DVR.

I tell my workshop attendees that one of the ways to stay sane during unemployment is by getting out of the house, and I repeat this three or four times until I know it’s embedded in their brains. As simple as it sounds, volunteering gets you out of the house.

5. Volunteering will pad your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Yes, employers look at gaps in your work history. When an employer asks about your three months of unemployment, you can proudly say you’ve been volunteering at Company A in their marketing division.

There you authored press releases, created their newest website designs, and started them on your way to a new blogging campaign. Of course you’ll indicate on your résumé, in parenthesis, that this experience was (Volunteer) work. Nonetheless, it was work.

There is concern among LinkedIn users about how to indicate they’re looking for work. Of four possible ways, I list volunteering as my preferred way to indicate you’re in the job hunt. Read the article if this is one of your concerns.

Any time you feel slighted for working without pay, remember why you’re doing it; to  network, develop or enhance new skills, do something positive, feel useful, and pad your résumé. If these five reasons aren’t enough, then by all means stay home and watch The View.

Photo: Flickr, Technical Resources

If you join LinkedIn, be prepared to work. 10 activities required to be successful

It hurts my heart when job seekers tell me they’ve been told that LinkedIn will be the reason for their success in finding a job. It’s great they’re using LinkedIn as part of their job search, but to believe that LinkedIn will the golden ticket to their success is false thinking. They need to combine it with face-to-face networking and other job-search methods.

hard work

This said, If you’re going to use LinkedIn in your job search, you have to put your all into it. So what does it look like to work your arse off on LinkedIn, to take full advantage of what it offers?

1. Create a full profile

  • The first area where you band yourself is a background image, not merely the default, light blue background LinkedIn provides.
  • A professional photo that best reflects your industry. If you’re customer facing, you’ll dress to the nines. An engineer, most likely business casual is fine.
  • A branding headline that tells more than your occupation. It also shows the value you can bring to an employer. Think of your areas of expertise, as well as your occupation.
  • A creative and somewhat lengthier Summary. (Some say it should be short. Let’s agree to disagree.) Your Summary should demonstrate the value you will bring to employers from the get go. To understand what I mean, read Create a kick-ass Summary with these four components.
  • An Experience section that focuses on accomplishments more than basic duties. The mundane duties might be on your résumé. You want to highlight the great things you did.
  • An Education section that goes beyond the name of the institution; degree; major; and, perhaps honorary designation. Take advantage of an area where you can show personality, describing what was going on in your life at the time.
  • Skills and endorsements. The skills you list–you can list up to 50–count toward the keywords by which people search for you.
  • Speaking of Keywords that will help you get found. After optimizing her profile, a former client said she went from close to 100 in rankings to 13.

2. Demonstrate commitment

Spend at least four times a week on LinkedIn. For the diligent job seekers, every day of the week should be the norm. Spend at least 20 minutes a day on the platform. LinkedIn never sleeps; it’s 24×7. But don’t overdue it. You don’t want to be un-followed.

3. Frequent updates

Update at least once a day. Occasionally you can explain your situation but not every day. Your updates can also include industry news, questions you have, sharing articles and media, tips or advice, and more. Updates keep you top of mind. If you’re really adventurous, you can consider posting short videos (only from the LinkedIn app).

4. Develop a quality network

What I call phase two of a successful LinkedIn campaign is accumulating quality connections, totaling at least 250 over a two-month period. Twenty connections will not impress anyone. You’ll be seen as timid and afraid to develop relationships. As well, your search engine optimization (SEO) will suffer, unless your a taxidermist.

5. Skill & Endorsements

Playing the Skills and Endorsement game, where you can list as many as 50 skills and be endorsed for those skills. All one needs to do is click on any of your skills to endorse you. It’s not necessary for them to witness you demonstrating your skills; although, LinkedIn now asks about your level of expertise and how the person knows you. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of this feature?

6. Recommendations

A certain number of recommendations were once necessary for All Star status, but this sections was taken over by Skills & Endorsements. I’ve been vocal about my displeasure at how Recommendations are disrespected. Request recommendations from former employers who are your 1st degree connections.

7. Companies

Use one of LinkedIn’s best features, Companies, to locate key players in your job search—the better to get your résumés in the hiring managers hands. Before you connect with someone, ask for an introduction from one of your shared connections. Or mention your shared connection in a cold connection request. Read 5 steps to connecting with LinkedIn members.

8. Jobs

Use LinkedIn’s Jobs feature which has been enhanced to include demographic information, including other positions viewed by job seekers, who you know at the company, the ability to apply to the company on its website or through Easy Apply. For Premium members there are additional features that give you access to big players and provide you with demographics.

9. Engage on LinkedIn but be professional

This is a very important part of you LinkedIn campaign, so work hard on it. But, keep your engagement on LinkedIn professional. If you are more of a Facebook fan, refrain from posting family photos, video of the presidential primaries, and no mention of your frustration in your job search. Be relevant.

10. Use LinkedIn after you land your next job

There’s one more thing to consider. Once you’ve created a great LinkedIn profile, have established a presence, and are active on LinkedIn leading to a job; don’t give up your activity on LinkedIn. You may need your network in the future. This time instead of having four measly connections, you’ll have hundreds.

Do you get the sense that LinkedIn will require hard work and may not yield immediate results? Good. Do you also feel that joining LinkedIn on the bottom floor will be to your benefit, as opposed to giving up on it? Good.

Photo: Flickr, João Guilherme de Carvalho Barbosa

10 things to consider about your attitude when looking for work

I posted this article almost two years ago on this site but it’s timeless advice. If you haven’t read it, perhaps you should. I’ve also added two examples of behavior that contribute to a poor attitude.


No one will argue that being unemployed isn’t a traumatic experience, especially me. I was on the receiving end approximately 14 years ago and now I serve people in the same situation. Being unemployed isn’t what I’d wish on anyone.

Your negative attitude shows itself in how you appear and the way you communicate. 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 of the most obvious aspects of your attitude. This it’s second on the list. During the summer, when it’s hot, 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, if not off-putting.

4. And your posture. How you enter a room says a great deal about your attitude. Walking in with an erect posture says you’re confident. On the flip side, slouching as you enter a room indicates lack of confidence and in some cases hopelessness. You may be tired, worn out; but try to project the confidence people are drawn to.

5. 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. Networking doesn’t necessarily mean going to large arranged events—maybe your thing is small get-together. Real networking is a daily thing and that’s why you have to be on your game every day. Always think of helping others in whichever way you can. The help you need will come around.

6. 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. It’s nice to be appreciated, to know I play a small part in their finding a job.

7. Be prepared to talk about yourself. I’m not talking about a contrived elevator pitch which can be more irritating than impressive. Talk about your passion and how it’s led to your success. Explain your situation—you’re in transition but see hope—and your needs. Also listen to what others have to say; no one appreciates someone who does all the talking.

8. 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.”

9. Hide your anger. Some of the people I help don’t hide their anger. 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.

Read this post on A little advice for my angry LinkedIn connection.

10. Think about the endgame. This means following-up. Have the attitude that follow-up is essential in the job search. Tell someone you’ll call them, call them. Tell someone you’ll meed them for coffee, meet them for coffee. Don’t drop the ball. When you don’t follow up,  you lose possible opportunities.

Why 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.

Top photo courteous of Flickr, Laura Vanzo

Your résumé should make the employers choice to interview you easy

easySome jobseekers have a misconception that, like a buffet dinner, more is always better on their résumé. What results from this misguided belief is a ton of unfocused and untargeted information that usually leads to information overload for the recruiter, human resources manager, or hiring manager.

These jobseekers feel that the more duties they list on their résumé increases their chance of getting an interview. (The person with the most toys wins.) What they fail to realize is a very logical point Colleen Roller raises in her article, “Abundance of Choice and Its Effect on Decision Making.” It’s this: if we give the reviewer too many choices, she gets bombarded by information and is likely to lose focus on the message the jobseeker is trying to convey.

I often take time to look at my Résumé Writing workshop attendees’ résumés; and at first glance I get the sense that a reviewer might see reading their résumés as a chore. This is not the case with all my attendees, but some of the résumés read like a novel…not good. Can you imagine how a reviewer must feel if she has to select 10 candidates from among 100 résumés, most of which are full of unnecessary text?

Ms. Roller is a usability/decision architect and her eloquent article is about how we take in and remember information, which is essential in creating an effective website. She tells us that when given a choice of chocolate, for example, on the surface we’d prefer 30 different varieties. (I bet you chocolate lovers can think of at least 15.) However, when presented with so many varieties of chocolate, we become overwhelmed. Instead, a choice of six chocolates is what we’re capable of handling.

So how different is selecting from among 30 kinds of chocolate than deciphering a résumé that is nothing more than a list of duties? Not much different.

Ms. Roller says, “As the number of options increases, the evaluation process can become overwhelming and intimidating, especially when it feels like making a choice requires expert information or skill.”

Take advice from résumé reviewers who have been clamoring for résumés that are rich with quantified accomplishments and fewer duties, than ones that only list duties and look more like a grocery list. The overwhelming consensus is that they want résumés that provide the information they need upfront—I refer to it as prioritizing one’s statements as they relate to the job requirements. When jobseekers list only what’s important, the reviewer is quickly able to see the value in jobseekers.

So the question is, “How do jobseekers know which skills and experience to list on their résumé?” The answer lies in a complete understanding of the positions they seek. They must examine and dissect the job ad, and focus on all of the competencies required by the employer. By doing this jobseekers will not overload the reviewer with 30 varieties of chocolate; they will make the choice an easier one to make.

Announcing my Person of the Year for 2012

JobseekersTime just announced its Person of the Year, Barack Obama. To some this is a time to celebrate, to others it might be cause for having a stiff drink.

Last year I declared my Person of the Year; and because I believe in tradition, I will again announce my Person of the Year. This may come as no surprise to many of you; I am going with the same “person.”

The Jobseeker.

Although the Jobseeker was not, like Barack Obama, “both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America,” he or she demonstrated dignity and professionalism, networked and paid it forward, wrote compelling marketing material resulting in interviews, and finally (after more than a year, in some cases), landed a job. Or maybe not.

There were many Jobseekers who demonstrated true heroism throughout the entire year, simply by the way they handled themselves. They:

  • Woke up every morning to put in a full day of hunting for work, leaving no stones upturned and considering every possibility.
  • Maintained that screw-the-economy-I-will-get-a-job attitude.
  • Knew that every day was a day when they might have run into a person who could hire them, or someone who knew a person who could hire them.
  • Took a break every once and awhile to recharge their batteries, but not too long of a break. A day or two at the most. They even networked during the holidays.
  • Followed their career plan of revising their résumé, creating a list of companies they research and contacted, building a LinkedIn profile that meets today’s standards, and other best practices.
  • Attended workshops and took advantage of job-search pundits’ advice, learning that things have changed in the past ten years, but, nonetheless, trudge on.
  • Accepted and embraced the Hidden Job Market, making penetrating it a priority in their job-search plan.
  • Attended interview after interview until they hit a home run with an employer smart enough to hire them. The Jobseeker will never give up, despite the challenges they encounter.
  • Never forgot the important things in life, like family and friends, and taking care of their health. They didn’t let the job search consume them.
  • Faced despondency or depression with courage and perseverance.

These are just a few of the reasons why The Jobseeker  is my Person of the Year. If you think of other reasons, let me know by commenting on this article. I think I should send my reasons to Time and demand a recount.

3 things that lead to success or failure in the job search

During one play in my son’s last soccer games, he had the opportunity to pound a goal into the net; but one of his teammates beat him to the loose ball and netted the goal. Losing the opportunity was not as heart wrenching for me as it was for “Motor”—as his coach calls him.

When Motor gets down about not scoring his requisite goals, my response is to tell him, “The goals will come.” I still believe this because he’s been a prolific scorer in the past; he has a nose for the net. But as the season nears the end, it’s become increasingly clear that scoring more goals is diminishing with each game.

There are a number of factors standing in his way. First, he’s playing amongst a group of more experienced players who understand the nuances of scoring at this level. Second, he’s not hungry enough for the ball. Third, opportunities like the one I described haven’t presented themselves as much as he’d like.

Motor’s missed opportunity is similar to the job search for the three reasons listed above.

It’s rough out there. Like the nature of competition in youth soccer, the competition for jobs is fierce and the playing field is uneven and favors some more than others. Jobseekers need to realize this for a number of reasons. They need to understand that extra effort and ingenuity are necessary to land an interview and then a job. Many jobseekers who aren’t qualified for the jobs they land are succeeding due to their ability to perform well at an interview. The solution to this conundrum is to even the playing field by preparing for interviews and come across as polished. Then you–the qualified applicant will get the job.

Ya gotta be hungry, really hungry. Motor sometimes goes through the motions when playing on the field. Some jobseekers do the same. They tell me that they’ve spent a full-day’s work of the job search looking on line at job boards like Monster, Dice, Simply Hired, Indeed, etc.—and are satisfied with their job search activity. Activities like networking and sending tailored résumés and cover letters to employers take effort that will eventually lead to earning an interview. I see the look of hunger in some of my jobseekers’ eyes–it’s unmistakable and leads me to believe they won’t be out of work long.

Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way. Had the ball been on his strong foot (left) he may have had the jump on his teammate; but, hey, that’s how the ball bounces. Even when the job search is done properly, you’re not guaranteed a job, let alone an interview. There are variables that stand in your way. When I tell my son that goals will happen when they happen, I mean that he can’t give up. Giving up will ensure that he never scores. I also believe that when the time is right, jobseekers will start getting more interview opportunities than they can handle. Continuing to work hard will lead to success; giving up all hope will ensure failure.

Next year is a new year for Motor. He will be a year older and a year stronger. He’ll not dwell on a prior year of hard work with no gratification. Next year he will play his feisty, hard-nosed style of play and the goals will come, and come, and come.