Tag Archives: professionalism

13 ways to act professionally in the job search

Professional Woman2

Years ago my daughter 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 event prompted me to think of 13 ways to 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. Don’t be too quick to ask. Related to #2, don’t assume people have the time to review your resume or LinkedIn profile, or meet you for coffee to give you job-search advice. You will find many helpful people who want to help you in your search, but ease into it with a few emails or a phone call before you pop the question.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 job seekers 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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, friends, your sanity. I say 25-30 hours should suffice. Work smarter, not harder, as they say.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Don’t make excuses. We all make mistakes. If you made a mistake that may have led to your termination, admit to it. Employers are looking for self-awareness and transparency. The second part of the equation is explaining what you’ve learned from your mistake and how it won’t happen again.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Employ proper etiquette. I’m not only talking about at an interview. Show etiquette at networking events, as well as on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Actively listen when someone is talking. Don’t interrupt and refrain from speaking too much. If you don’t have anything nice to say on LinkedIn, don’t say anything.

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.

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Perseverance and 7 other P’s in the job search

PerserveranceA customer of mine recently got a job at a company where she’ll be making 15% more than she made at her previous company, not 15% less. Who says all employers are paying jobseekers less than they were previously making?

Her story begins when she made contact with one of her alumnus via LinkedIn. As I was told, this alumnus alerted her to an opening at the company for which she works.

So my customer jumped on the opportunity and went through the arduous process of landing her job.

She was finally awarded the positions after 12 face-to-face interviews. That’s right, 12 interviews. Now don’t ask me why the company couldn’t make a decision within the first three or four or even five interviews. Also don’t ask me why the company had her fly to the west coast twice in one week. Couldn’t they have knocked off some interviews during one visit?

The company’s prolonged search flies in the face of the typical hiring process, where three-five interviews are more the norm than 12.

To land this job my customer demonstrated one of the 12 P’s of the job search for sure, Perseverance. There are seven other P’s, I can think of, that are required for a successful job search.

  1. Positivism: How can this not be included as required for the job search? When all seems to be hopeless, positivism is what will keep you alive. The opposite is negativism which is a killer that can paralyze you and cause you to give up, if not severely weaken your efforts. If you don’t feel positive, fake it till you make it, as they say.
  2. Professionalism: Had my customer not maintained a professional attitude, she may have not succeeded as each interview approached. She may have caused her new company to doubt their decisions to continue the process.
  3. Preparedness: In the job search you must prepare a résumé that will land you the interview. You must also be prepared for the interview by researching the position and company. Without being prepared, you will lack the confidence required to do well at the interview.
  4. Persistence: I marvel at my customer’s endurance throughout the whole process, not to mention not giving into the temptation to throw in the towel. Was this a test on the employer’s part? Were they seeing who would give up first?
  5. Promotion: Many a jobseeker have told me they can’t promote themselves. Guess what: you have no choice because no one will do it for you. Self-promotion becomes more difficult as the job search extends past three, six, nine months.
  6. Progress: Take every little victory as progress toward the goal of landing a job. My customer’s steps toward success were numerous, beginning with connecting with her alumnus, submitting a résumé that landed her the first of many interviews, sending various follow-up notes….The list goes on.
  7. Productivity: The result of all these P words. You must be productive in your job search, or, for lack of better words, it ain’t worth it. This means different things to people. Being productive might be getting outside your comfort zone to attend networking events, following up on connections you’ve established, creating a kick-ass LinkedIn profile, and so on.

Certainly no one would want to go through 12 interviews, wondering if there is even a chance they will land the job. My customers was driven to succeed, and succeed she did. 

Photo courtesy of Kenny Zeo, Flickr.

Job search experts, 7 tips for networking

students networkingOne of my LinkedIn connections, Rich Grant, ponders the question, “Why do college seniors have a hard time networking?” In an outstanding article, Teaching Networking and Professionalism to College Students, he writes: “I’m not speaking out of line, or disclosing any deep secrets, when I say that, generally speaking, college students and recent graduates are not adept at face-to-face networking.”

My observations of jobseekers in age groups older than college students, and as high as mature workers, is similar to the sentiment Rich expresses; networking doesn’t come natural to many people. After pondering the reasons why networking is such a task for students, he provides seven sound tips to help people network.

Read the article in its entirety to learn Rich’s excellent tips:

  1. Define “networking” before you name it.
  2. Recommend they start with the people they know.
  3. Practice makes perfect.
  4. Show, don’t tell.
  5. Provide opportunities for students to build confidence in speaking.
  6. Watch for outside events where the topic of networking is being addressed.
  7. Connect with experts to support your efforts.

If you are a college career advisor, job coach, or a job-search advisor at any level; following Rich’s advice can help you guide your jobseekers to better network. Read Teaching Networking and Professionalism to College Students realizing that this advice applies to all age groups, not just college students.

Why it’s okay to send a handwritten note, and what you should also do

This article is in response to one written for BusinessInsider.com about the pitfalls of sending a handwritten thank you note after an interview. I see the author’s points of view, but I would do it differently. I also stress there is no one way to do it right.

While many people prefer to send an e-mail thank you note after an interview, just as many prefer to send a handwritten note—this is based on unofficial polls I conduct during a few of my workshops.

The pros of sending a handwritten thank you letter.

It’s a personal touch and shows the recipient that you took the time and spent the money to purchase the cards. You thoughtfully wrote the card without the use of spell check. And you either hand delivered it or supported our government’s mail system by mailing it to the interviewer/s.

The feel of a heavy-stock thank you letter is oh so pleasing. The sight of a professional, tasteful card with gold trim and “Thank You” printed in gold is eye appealing. The words written in your own hand are so much more intimate than the standard Arial, Calibri, Cambria fonts. And if your handwriting is nice—please no hearts or smiley faces—it’s an additional bonus.

Best of all—because this is what I do when someone thanks me for helping them find a job—a thank you card is tangible; the interviewer can hang the card in her office for all to see, as well as your gratitude for the time she took to interview job candidates.

I like to tell the story to my workshop participants of a recruiter, a burly man who came to our career center to talk about interviewing. He was asked if he appreciated handwritten thank you notes and proceeded to tell the group about the way the hairs on his arms would rise when he held a card in his hands. A man who stood six feet, four inches talking about the sensation he felt left an impression on me.

The cons of sending a handwritten card.

Unlike the e-mail thank you, it doesn’t get there seconds after you’ve written your words of gratitude. Most will tell you to send it off 24-48 hours after the interview. As well, the card isn’t guaranteed to reach the recipient like an e-mail will (Unless you hand-deliver your thank you card. Here’s a thought.)

You generally can’t include a lot of verbiage on some of the interesting topics discussed at the interview, nor can you practice damage control, e.g., amending an answer you gave or completing it with some research. Unless, of course, your write real small.

The thank you card may not go over well with the IT recruiter…wait, I just told you about the recruiter who spoke at our career center about the feeling of ecstasy he had when he received cards.

What to do?

I’ve presented my opinion fairly objectively (not really), but what I really believe is that first you should send your thank you note via e-mail and then a week later send a handwritten note following up your e-mail. In my opinion, it’s the handwritten card that will impress the interviewer. But to play it safe you might want to do both.