Archive for the ‘Job Search’ Category

Your Personal Career BoD

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Should I move to take the next step in my career? Is now the time for me to launch my own business? Why should I invest in a Ph.D?

A personal Board of Directors (BoD) can facilitate your career decisions. Many of us have our friends, relatives, former teachers, or mentors  that we go to for advice or to test ideas. This network is essential if you are feeling stuck or looking for your next move.

Why a BoD?

Tom Peters first coined the phrase, “You, Inc.” to illustrate the type of control we need to take for our own careers. When you adopt the mindset that you work for yourself, although full-time within one organization, your perspective shifts to greater collaboration and accountability. As an employee, your manager and organization are also partners in your career.

We need others’ expertise to help us explore and make informed decisions for both our career and life. Your BoD serves not only as counsel, but will broaden your perspective. They provide critical reality checks and they point you towards resources or in directions you wouldn’t find on your own. They help you formulate and realize your goals.

What do they do?

They tell you the truth. This means you create and nourish the relationships around trust: trust that you will listen to, work to understand and consider their advice, especially when you don’t agree. They can help you see blind spots of both strengths and skills. They will tell you how others may perceive you.

They share their own experience and professional advice. At times, they may pave the way or refer you for an opportunity.

Your BoD can guide you to resources and help with decisions around career opportunities, formal education or certifications and other major investments of time, effort and money. They will encourage, help problem-solve and hold you accountable for your career decisions.

Who do you need on your BoD?

You’ll want people who know your profession and aspirations. You’ll need professional expertise in the areas that support your aspirations. A BoD is  comprised of people from outside your employer to give you a bigger picture.

A corporate board includes expertise from finance, marketing, legal, tax and technology to name a few. Your BoD should include mentors with experience and expertise in all the areas of your life such as these. Many people include spiritual guidance as well. Your family/partner also play an obvious role and need to be included in your decisions.

What’s in it for them?

They share their expertise and experience with you because they want you to succeed. It is that simple. As a bonus, through you and others on your BoD, they expand their own network of professionals and friends. You can pay it forward by referring business or contacts to them, as appropriate.

How does this work?

Initially, convene your BoD with an invitation to share breakfast (you pay) to meet each other and set an initial agenda. Meet as a group one to three times a year as you need them for planning and discussion. (Don’t wait for emergencies!) Keep them informed as to your progress and questions with a quarterly e-check-in. Meet with individuals as needed.

Decide if you want to provide a stipend for your BoD members. Be clear if you want this to be pro-bono. Use the initial discussion to outline how you want to work together and expectations – yours and theirs.

Your Board wants to see you succeed and may be with you for many years. Some may rotate off.  Do stay in touch and be grateful for this valuable person in your life.

 

Building Your Network from Scratch

Friday, January 27th, 2017

If you think you don’t know anyone who can help with your job search, then you need to look at this from a different angle.  In most cases we don’t know that actual hiring person.  But you may know someone who does, or can connect you to them.

Sally Forth

rather than just asking “Are you (your organization) hiring?”  Reach out inquiring about how your interests and experience could be of value to them.  Target your organizations to learn about specific roles and projects.

Here are 3 basic steps to get going.

 

Job Search Tips When You Don’t Know Anyone

 

 

Continuing the Career Conversation

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

PathgateYou’ve just heard someone speak or attended a meeting where you met someone with common interests. Or perhaps you just attended a conference and have a stash on business cards. What’s your next step?

First 12 hours

Look at the business card or your note and recall everything that was interesting and important to remember about them.  Do they work at an organization, or know someone who works at an organization that you’d like to explore?  Are they doing something interesting? Make a note on the card along with the date and place you met.

Which of these people are “A” list candidates? These would be people you want to make sure they don’t forget you. They are also the people you may have offered something, such as a resource, or to introduce them to someone you know, or a vacation tip, etc. What can you do for them?  Yes, this is the first questions, not, “What can they do for you?” Why would they want to continue a conversation with you?  Don’t assume anything!

Look for people who can influence your work or job search. Influencers are more strategic than direct hiring managers, since they introduce many opportunities.

Search for collaborators. Cultivate relationships that may lead to referrals and job or work leads. After all, the best way to grow as a professional is often through collaborating with others.

Keep the rest of the cards with your notes. A contact made today, may not bring what you need today, but that person may be the resource you needed (or needed you) for a situation in the future.

Next 12 hours

Google your “A” list to see any additional common areas of interest. Check out their LinkedIn profile. This is not stalking, its just doing your homework.

Send a follow-up email or, at minimum LinkedIn  invitation. Both of these should be personal, individual messages (not the stock invitation) including why you’d like to stay in touch with them. Be sure to include anything you offered in your initial conversation. Ask if they prefer to schedule a phone chat or coffee meeting as a follow-up. Show interest in what they do and who they are.

Follow them on Twitter, which can provide real time data to improve the content of your communication. If you see a personal connection outside of work and/or it makes sense, connect on Facebook.

Or, just call the person. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and would like to keep the conversation going.

The next 12 hours

Add Their Info to Your Contact Management System.

Be a Connector. Introduce two people who can help each other. Its courteous to first ask each person, individually, if they would like to be connected. You are always remembered as the person who made the introduction.

Ideally, make contact within 48 hours, but don’t fail to reach out if it is later than that time frame. Networking can  be assimilated into your daily activities with a simple change in mindset to be more effortless. A small, consistent investment of time each week can pay off huge dividends in the future for you and your network.

 

Translate Your Resume: Show How You Make a Difference

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

To all my scientist, engineering and IT people – your resume needs translation! Your CV needs to showcase how your work makes a difference! No longer will just a list of technical qualifications be enough.

If you want to take your passion to the next level, do you know what that next level is?  Is it a technical, management or policy path? Each of these requires a resume that showcases you for that purpose, not just a list of your technical knowledge.

Talk with people in the role you aspire to fill. Find out what their daily grind is like. Ask what they like most about it. Ask what they wish they knew in hindsight as well as any advice.  You can then fill out your resume with your relevant experience for that role.

Link the work you do to the larger goal or mission of your organization.  Briefly answer, “Why was this important?” Tell the problem you were solving and, if necessary why that problem mattered.  Include who benefited from your work. Rather than listing your activities or duties, connect the dots for how your knowledge and work is valuable to the new employer’s projects and initiatives.

In the day-to-day grind, its easy to forget the bigger picture of our work. I was talking with an engineer that designed and built fuel systems.  He didn’t think it was very important. But he had redesigned and worked with a team that built a system for a satellite which now collects climate data that is used by hundreds of organizations around the world.

Every job is created for a reason. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I didn’t do [fill in your work]?”  Many of us are a lynch pin for projects and can lose sight of our contributions. Describe how what you did and the way you did it accomplished a project or task.

Remember that your resume may be read by three entities – a software system, a layperson to your field (Human Resources) and hiring manager. Use the vocabulary and acronyms that are common to your field, but not just to your current employer.

What may be every1or2deerday work for you, may seem like magic to others!

 

Getting Real in the Job Interview

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

You’ve likely seen someone who was great in the interview, but turned out to be a jerk under day-to-day interactions. And the opposite also happens – the stress of the interview makes someone tongue-tied or goofy, when they would be a good asset to the team.

By the time you are asked to interview (F2F or video) the employer has already determined you have the qualifications for the job.  The interview to see if you are good “fit” with the organization and the team.

Work experience still trumps all other qualifications in the recruiting process. Personality and fit with the culture ranked ahead of such factors as leadership experience in a 2014 survey of more than 2,300 chief executive officers, human-resource managers and other executives in 18 countries. The study, by Universum, a consulting firm for employer branding, found nearly half of respondents rate personality profile as one of the most important hiring considerations and about 40% cite culture fit.

Picking the wrong personality is expensive for both employee and employer. The individual will be unhappy and ultimately unemployed, while the employer will have wasted thousands of dollars on recruiting and training.

Getting real in the interview does not mean you should wing it, nor should you recite a script. But you should be able to pull your thoughts together to both answer and ask questions to determine if this is a good fit you.

  • Practice what you want to say for the basic interview questions (search on “commonly asked interviewing questions”).
  • Know the examples you want to talk about. Make sure they are relevant to the organization’s needs.
  • If you don’t have a response to a question, say so, and ask to come back to it later in the conversation.
  • Ask a career coach or trusted colleague to do a mock interview with you and tell you how you comredshoese across.

Everyone knows you’re a bit nervous about the interview.  Remember, this is a business conversation. Focus on understanding their needs and how your experience can help them. Let your natural personality show them who you are.

Update Your References This Month

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Update Your References

A few months ago I posted some tips on the Care and Feeding of Your References and this month here are some more tips to get past your procrastination. May 4-8 is Update your References Week.

References are people that vouch for your work. Your boss is a key person, but not the only one. You work with many people who have valuable perspectives to help in your career.

Collect your references before you need them.  Keep a list of references in the same file as your resume.  It should include the person’s name, current title and contact information.  Write one sentence describing your relationship like this:  [Name] was my [manager, colleague, a vendor, etc.] at [where you knew them if different than their current place or if they are retired]. Don’t embellish, just the facts.

Keep your references up-to-date.  You most likely have references from work you’ve done in the past. Too often we lose track of where they are now – and they lose track of you!  Reach out via your social media of choice to stay in touch. Be genuinely interested in what they are doing and let them know in one sentence what you are now doing and looking to doing next.

Ask for 2-3 testimonials each year from a variety of potential references. You’ll see if you are branding yourself for your next career step. Timing is of the essence – ask just following getting a compliment or hearing that your efforts were appreciated. Tell them that you are gathering testimonials as part of your on-going career portfolio.  All you need is a short 1-2 sentence description of what they thought you did especially well and why it mattered.  It could be your technical prowess or quick responsiveness that enabled them to meet a deadline. This is much more helpful than a vague, “Jim was great to work with.”

Help them write it.  While it seems awkward to write it for them, you can ask them to write about a particular attribute you will need going forward. You can suggest your contribution to a recent project in terms of  your ability to collaborate, lead, influence, analyze and find unique opportunities, cost savings… you get the picture.  If you’ve just received some verbal kudos, rather than ask them to put it in writing, ask if you could draft it and if they would put their name on it.

How many of these four tips can you do this week?

 

 

Your References – Care and Feeding

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

pupstextMany of us set a goal for new employment this time of year. Along with updating the resume, online profiles and reconnecting with people, make an appointment with yourself to consider your reference strategy.

My what? My references are my former employers, right? Not necessarily.  Yes, potential employers traditionally want past bosses, but they often check with others. Nearly all have already googled you and looked at social media sites. After all, would you list anyone that wouldn’t speak well of you? And you may not want your current boss to find out you are leaving through a reference call.

From the hiring person’s point of you, you can do the job, but they want to know, “Can you do the job with Us?”  The interview and reference check is all about “will you fit in” as well as “are you who you say you are.”

Choose your references based on the potential new job and employer.  Select people who know your work and contributions that are relevant for the potential job. This can include your previous bosses, but also people you interacted with to get things done. Include similar relationships in any of your volunteer work. Sometimes these are more relevant to the new job!  Let the potential employer know your relationship (not relatives) to the names you provide. Check to ensure your references will be available to take a call.  Do the legwork to provide current contact information.

Give them a heads-up – don’t let your reference be caught unprepared for a reference call. At minimum, remind him/her of a few of the great things you did while working together. Tell him/her the type of opportunity you ow want and why you want this particular job. Be sure she/he has a copy of your current resume to know what you’ve done since last working with them.  Let them know who will be calling, the time frame and anything about the job that will give them context for their comments.  Use this conversation to catch up with them and learn about their career progress and how you may be of assistance to them.

If you think a reference may not paint the rosiest picture of you, or you don’t want your current employer know you are looking, address this in the interview. Be honest but don’t bad-mouth or place blame. You can provide context and framing for what the reference-checker might hear. If you don’t, your potential employer may never tell you that the reference is why they rejected you. The time to speak up is before they place the call. Offer a performance appraisal or other people that they may contact to get the assurance they need.

Your references are precious along your career.  Maintain your professional relationship with them through networking and appropriate social media throughout the year.

Happy New Work!

 

 

 

Cash or Cachet?

Friday, August 1st, 2014

You find a great job opportunity but discover the salary is lower than you expected.

Several years ago, I was thrilled when I could tell people I worked for The Washington Post because I no longer had to explain who, where or what they did. Then I moved briefly to a very large organization that will unfortunately always be cited for some of the executives’ egregious business dealings. Now I get to work with rocket scientists and engineers and others that make space exploration and earth’s climate knowledge possible at NASA.

For many organizations, there is a “wow” factor that lasts far beyond the initial on-boarding. Whether this is a name-brand organization, or one that has special significance to you, you have a warm sense of pride when people ask, “Where do you work?”

Would you be proud to tell people what your employer produces? Whether it’s financial services, diapers, or food safety policy, can you take pride in being a part of that business?

There is also the resume-building factor of working for an organization that is held in high esteem. Consider the organization’s reputation: There is the public opinion developed by news and public relations, its financial progress, awards and contributions, stories of what it’s like to work there, leadership, its professional thought leaders and more. Would that be important for your future career opportunities?

So how much is that cachet worth to you?

When weighing all the factors of a job offer – salary, benefits, vacation, type of work, etc., we also consider the career enhancing aspects.  I once turned down a job offer with a 20% hike in salary in a public utility because I would not continue learning my profession as well as if I stayed in my current role in a bank. The extra year I stayed in the current job gave me knowledge and experience I used to this day in my consulting business. That was more valuable to me at that time in my career than working for a high profile company.

If you are faced with an enticing job and employer  but the salary is lower than you want, double-check your expectations.  Your previous salary may not be relevant in this business decision. Make sure you’ve done your homework and know the salary range for this role in your profession, in the industry and in the location as well as your unique expertise and experience. There are several websites that can get your started. Then in your networking conversations, ask people to verify or correct what you think the range is based on your research.

Salary is important both now and in your future as it is the basis for benefits and future increases. But it isn’t the only thing to negotiate. Factor in the intangibles that are important to you such as work-life flexibility arrangements. If you need money now,  such as for a mortgage payment, ask about a signing bonus. Another common strategy is to get agreement to revisit salary in 3-6 months when you’ve proven your stellar value to the organization.  But get it in writing from not only your current boss, but also HR, in case your boss has moved on.

What’s more important to you – a high starting salary or working with a high profile organization for a lower salary that meets your overall career and work-life needs?

Strategies for Extended Unemployment

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

What are they thinking?! Why are companies shunning people who have been out of work six months or more? Unemployment biases stem from employers desire to avoid making hiring mistakes. This avoidance leads to making assumptions that may or may not be based in fact. Four assumptions I’ve heard are:

  1. “If others don’t hire you, why should I?”
  2. “If you haven’t been working, your skills are probably out-of-date.”
  3. “If you can’t get a job you have lost the discipline of a work routine, or are lazy.”
  4. “If you can’t don’t follow application instructions, you won’t follow directions on the job.”

I bet those got you angry! So let’s use that angry energy to change those assumptions!

  1. Many people lose precious time because they don’t know how to effectively find their next job. Finding a job is “project management” which starts with a clear goal (the right job, not just any job) and strategies for appropriately connecting with people to let them know what you offer. There are many resources online, in your library or a career coach can help you map your job search project.
  2. You may have made family care-taking or other responsibilities your priority while not working in the traditional manner.  Think about the many skills and knowledge you’ve developed that can be of value to an employer such as patience, research, organizing, logistics, attention to detail, creativity, prioritizing, communication, and more.
  3. Get clear on your skills, knowledge and expertise and be able to talk about what you can do for an employer.  What problems can you solve? How can you save them time and money? What ideas and perspectives do you add that can help grow the organization and contribute to its mission?
  4. Keep your skills fresh.  Take free online courses, webinars, etc. Volunteer with community organizations to keep your skills in practice, and to stay in a “work” routine. Offer your expertise through consulting, temporary or project relationships.
  5. Re-skill yourself to do the type of work you will find rewarding and meaningful.
  6. Don’t let your desperation show. Stay positive when talking with people outside your intimate circle. Have 2-3 people who can encourage and keep you on track that you talk with on at least a weekly scheduled basis.

Address the time gap by describing what you have learned and accomplished and, most importantly, how it can be of value to the employer.

What long-term unemployment assumptions have you encountered and what are your strategies?

 

After the Interview – Your Next Step

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

The interview is over and you can take a deep breath.  The people who just interviewed you spent their time and efforts to determine if you are the best fit for the role. Do you appreciate this? Then let them know.

After the interview most of us immediately begin to replay in our heads what we said, and what we wished we had said.  In either case, take these thoughts and make them work for you.  Craft a thank you note to (1) express your appreciation and enthusiasm for the job, (2) remind the person of your key assets for the role, (3) add an item you didn’t discuss to reinforce that you are great for the job.  Send a customized note to everyone who interviewed you with a comment about your specific conversation with them. Don’t delay; send it within 24 hours.

Allison Doyle, the job interviewing expert at About.com says, “When asked about the most appropriate way for candidates to follow up, 38 percent of managers surveyed said that hand-written notes were acceptable, while 87 percent said email worked. 81 percent said a phone call was appropriate, as long as the interviewee didn’t call multiple times. Social media is another way to say thank you, with 27% of managers considering it acceptable. Only 10 percent thought text messages were appropriate.”

Don’t think a thank you note makes a difference?  A well-written note shows professionalism, courtesy and can be the determining factor between you and someone who doesn’t send one.