Monday, December 28, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #9 What questions do I avoid early in the interview process?

A: Questions that make you sound desperate (or clueless)

You often hear blind date analogies to explain the interview process. Like a blind date, it is a gathering where two parties that don’t know each other spend some time together asking each other questions (sometimes even over coffee or dinner) and then based on that, decide to (or not to) go steady. Even though it is proven not be the best way to determine the success of an employee (most recently in Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior), it is still the most prevalent method used to make hiring decisions (so we’ll go with that).

So like the dating process, you want to be (a little) coy at the start, don’t throw up on your interviewer (“here is everything I have ever done or witnessed from my conception to 10:00 this morning”) and you also do not want to “over bound your steps” (a favorite Stan Laurel malapropism) and jump too far ahead too early (the equivalent of “do you want to meet my parents?” half-way through your first date).

With the assumption that you are not trying to be desperate or clueless, here are two quick things to keep in mind:

  • Premature Elicitation After spending 26 minutes illustrating in great detail how smart (and able to get things done) you are, don’t let the first questions you ask when the interviewer yields the remainder of their time to you is, “Do you have dental?”.  Personally, that is probably one of my biggest peeves.

Remember – you don’t have a job offer yet. Your goal (at this stage) is to market ourselves and our abilities. This introduces the what’s in it for me aspect (and start’s the negation phase…and we’re not ready for that).  I also think it makes you sound clueless. Is that the first and most important thing you want to know about your perspective job?  Really?  You don’t want to know what projects your team is working on, or what your typically day will look like, or what exciting new products it that company planning?

Further, if the first question you ask is “How many days vacation do I get?” –  what perception of you do you I think I will conjure?  Perhaps slacker?   Remember if you don’t like them or they don’t like you – whether they serve Coke or Pepsi in the break room won’t matter (so save the banal semantics for the final round).

  • Sharing too much too soon We all have (perceived) negatives when we are applying for a job. Maybe I am currently obligated to give 41 days notice at my current job, or you’ve already booked a 3 week vacation to Aruba with your wife and her Aunt Gladys (that would start on your third day on the job). Unless asked about these matters (and you then do need to answer and answer truthfully), there’s no reason to give someone a reason to put someone else ahead of you in their pile of interviewees.  Again - wait until the offer/negotiation stage of the process (when they’ve told you that already like you and want you).

Now that you know what not to ask – we’ll cover what you should ask in our next episode.

Next Up| What questions should I ask the interviewer?

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #8 How do I prepare for an interview?

A: By doing your homework

Time to roll out the cliché wagon and drop the chestnut that the job search process is a marathon (not a sprint). Have you heard that one before (maybe 13-14 times)? But using that hook, I wimageould like to tag on a quote by runner Lauren Fessenden that is a perfect fit for those beating their feet on the job hunt street:

This is not about instant gratification. You have to work hard for it, sweat for it, give up sleeping in on Sunday morning

The work needed to lap your competition for your next job is not about running fartleks at the indoor track at your neighborhood YMCA, but the workout is just as strenuous and just as crucial to your success (although you can do so without strapping on Under Armour® compression gear) .

Your job search workout is broken into two main categories:

  1. Getting to know the company better
  2. Getting to know (or re-know) yourself

What is it you guys do again?

You want to learn as much about the company and the specific job you are interviewing for.  This is not only so you can determine if it is a good fit for you, but it also gives you the ability to speak intelligently about the company (and their markets).  It also shows interest (as in when you care enough to spend at least 5 minutes on their company website before you walk in the door). 

This is going to be easier for public companies than it is for private companies, but trust me, the information you need is out there for both.  Here are a few areas to spend your time:

  • What is their market? Things in this category include what products/services do they sell (and/or make), who they sell them to, what are their differentiators in the marketplace, have they been a part of any big deals lately (acquisitions, landing a major client). The degree to which you need to know this does depend on the job your applying for (VP of Global Sales vs. PT Mail Room Clerk) - but regardless you should know what they do (as in “everyone is in sales”) .
  • Who is their competition? Simply - who and where do they compete with folks. This is for two primary reasons:
    • I have been asked directly in an interview “who is our competition”?. “Gee, I don’t know” really sounds painful coming out of your mouth an interview. Again – regardless of level, this is important stuff. If you you want to work at Burger King, you need to know McDonald’s is right ahead of them and Wendy’s is right behind.
    • I certainly did not walk into the interview for my current gig wearing Merrell shoes.  Trust me – that stuff matters
  • Work your network One mistaken assumption about the whole networking process is it just to help you find the job. No sir. It can also help you close the deal. Your contacts can be crucial in many ways. They can provide intelligence about the industry (so – as we mentioned- you can talk smart about the space during the interview), about the company (is their press true?), or about the hiring manager specifically (what does she or he look for in a candidate – or are they such a bozo that I wouldn’t want to work there?).  Also – specifically about the job (i.e. not everyone does Project Management the same way).

What I am is what I am (but let’s focus on what will get you the job)

Now that you have done all this research on the company (including the specific hiring manger if you can get it) – it is time to get working on you.

Here are the areas to focus on:

  • Fit yourself to the company (and the job) Knowing what you now know about the company – start thinking of things you have done that fit into that puzzle. Remember – we’re looking for smart/get stuff done anecdotes during the interview, so start a (or tweak an existing) list of the items.
  • Practice Concise Answers This is a biggie. A long rambling answer to a question in an interview is truly a road to nowhere. I kid you not – I have been on the receiving end of 10+ minute answers to simple questions on so many occasions. About 3 minutes in, not only have I lost interest in your answer (and like you – probably have forgotten my original question) but you’ve just flunked the get stuff done portion of the test.  Remember - to leave the irreverent, specific details (I know the project team worked on the 6th floor of the Arlington office…but that probably is not germane to your answer or my understanding of your greatness).  The more questions you are prepared for the better answers you’ll have at the ready.
  • A beginning, a middle and an end Part of the way to be concise is to skinny down your anecdotes. The best stories (as Leonard Nimoy once said in reference to Star Trek V  which did not) have a beginning, middle and end. In the context of an interview questions answers, that translates to a problem (or opportunity), the solution you devised (and how you came about that) and what was the result (how much did we save or did they throw you a parade?).

Where do I start my research?

For companies, thanks to the online world, there’s a bevy of lost cost sources of downlo you can comb:

  • Have you heard of Google? Had you not known, type Top Fast Food Chains into Google and you’ll get the ranking I mentioned before (#1 McDonald’s, #2 Burger King, #3 Wendy’s…).  This is the best place to start.
  • Company Website/Social Media I think by now, most people hit the company website before an interview (if not simply because you had to go there to apply). In addition to the that website, check other social sites (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter) for other places companies talk about themselves and what they do (and what other people say as well).
  • As mentioned, your network can be very helpful to you as well. Use them.
  • Journals/Professional Associations Publications and groups in the industry of the company you are targeting can be very helpful.
  • Libraries A great place to get access to the publications mentioned above. Especially business/reference library (like that James J Hill Reference Library here locally). But if cost and access are an issue for you – your local public library can help as well.

For resaerch on you:,

  • Your past resumes and job descriptions. This should provide talking points on what you have done that you can cull for this specific interview.  It easy to forget some things you have done that you currently aren’t using but would be relevant to your job.
  • Previous Performance Reviews What have your other bosses said about you? That’s often a direct question during an interview and can also give you more examples of what have done well
  • Your portfolio Review samples of your work you’ve done before and have them ready to go in the interview. A great recent story: one of my clients was in any interview recently and asked how she would explain project management to non-IT folks. She whipped out a PPT of a presentation she had done for just that purpose at her current job.  Gooooooooooooooooalllllllllllllllll!
  • Work your network. Call up a former peers, clients or managers and tell them about the job you’re applying for and have them think of a story or two about you that would be good to use. Also seek out people in your network that have the same job as the hiring manager. They often can provide great insight into what they might be looking for
  • Your own previous interviews Remember bad experiences from previous interviews where you did not perform to your expectations. How would you do it differently?
  • Drill  There are a ton of sample tough interview questions online (e.g Commonly Asked Tough Interview Questions ).  Drill yourself over and over on these (you can never be too prepared).  When I was interviewing at a previous job, I printed out the aforementioned tough questions and reviewed them on the plane ride down to the interview.  I can tell you (1) that I was not asked any of the tough questions on the list but (2) but I used some of the answers I had just practiced in the interview and changed softball questions into fantastic answers.  

So sharpen your #2 pencils, purge your job search Chicken Fat, and get ready to cram for an exam (that is the interview).

Next Up: What questions do I avoid early in the interview process?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Random | Merry Christmas Everyone (and let’s hope it is a good 2010)

image For whatever reason (judging by the playlist count on my Nano), I have been tracking a lot of John Lennon music lately. I find this happens more prevalently when I am in a reflective state of mind (as many of us are this time of year).

For my grown up Christmas list this year, I wish everyone a wonderful Christmastime (giving equal time to Sir Paul).  Special thoughts go out to those on the front lines that are in harm’s way (be that in our armed forces or on the job transition front – both of which feature men and women fighting for the betterment of us all).

But back to John, I also wish you a happy New Year.  Let's hope it's a good one - without any fear.

I’ve got a feeling, it will be.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Job Search Extra Point: Christmas Cards (The Most Networking Time of the Year)

I hope the reports of the death of Christmas cards have been greatly exaggerated (Are Christmas cards still relevant in a digital world?). There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a waxing gibbous mailbox this time of year with missives of good tidings from family, friends, colleagues, classmates, your local (authorized) Jeep dealer, and folks you can’t believe you ever dated from Christmas Pasts (or in some cases, Christmases Passed Out).

According to the aforementioned report, folks are going digital for the annual family update in a large part to be green and to a larger (more honest part) to save money. Not the kind of news that causes sugar plums to dance in the head of the US Postmaster.

But as the late Sonny Bono once told us, the beat does go on. So like the typewriter, phone booth and Oldsmobile before it, the snail mail Christmas card is on the endangered species list. Even me, the traditionalist crank on this topic, broke bad and went 60%/40% digital on the nearly 300 holiday wishes that I sent out this year.

But I come to praise the Christmas card – not bury it (that’s the second time I artistically bludgeoned that Shakespeare quote for my own purposes in a post).

So while they are still relevant, I’d like to share my favorite Christmas card story and of course, there’s job search/networking tie-in.

Do you see what I see (me!)

So if you’ve been reading these posts (or have ever talked to me for more than 15 minutes), you know I am very passionate (bordering on obsessed) when it comes to networking. One of the themes I talk about in my coaching sessions with my clients is you never know where your contacts will take you. To illustrate this point, I tell the “Christmas Card Story”.2005Xmas

A few of years ago (the picture gives a clue to as just when), I sent this Christmas card out. As is my standard MO, in addition to the normal family and friends circle, I sent it to former and current co-workers/clients. So it is always part glad tidings and part direct mail campaign (that decade of CRM consulting sticks with you).  Of course, for the business connections, I also tucked in my business card and a personal note.

This Lycra® heavy (I also have an Under Armour® obsession) Christmas card campaign did well that year:

  • One former client who got the card needed some work done and was prompted to call and signed me with my new company (thanks Darren)
  • Another former client – the Carolina Panthers - unaware I had moved companies, requested a follow-on bid to a project I had done for them at my former company
  • Someone called me and offered me a job opportunity (even though I declined in the end, we had a few lunches and talked about it)
  • And – oh yeah - I met my wife

All I Wanted For Christmas Was Not Even on the List

One of the places this aforementioned card ended up was on the refrigerator of a 75 year old, long-time friend of the family (that I have known all my life). Of all the people in the world I had (up until that time) pictured being a Yenta in my life, it was not Lauretta (being a devout Catholic does makes it hard to be a Yenta, I would think).

The story goes that my future wife (Sara) was visiting Lauretta during the Christmas season. Lauretta noticed her looking at my Christmas card on the fridge and hatched the eHarmony like plan. Although she had known both my wife and me for all of our respective lives, it was not until that moment (and opportunity) that the light went on.

Even more shocking was – when my Mother called her long-time bachelor son and started “Lauretta knows someone that…”, I didn’t hang-up the phone. But applying the advice I also give my job search clients (always go on an interview if asked – even if you are not looking) to my dating life, it translated to “take every blind date”.  At the very worst (I thought), it would be a 60 minute dinner and if it wasn’t a fit, no harm done (as my wife will tell you – I can small talk for hours, and hours and hours…)

Sara and I met up a few weeks later (after I returned from a business trip in the Quad Cities – a certain kind of Hell that cannot be explained if you have not experienced it) and the rest is history (not to mention matrimony).

Put one foot in front of another

So – let’s review the object lessons of this Christmas Story:

  • Keep people advised of where you are and what you are doing.  In other words – if you are looking for a job, DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET.  Pride don’t pay the bills, Son.
  • You want people that know you connecting an opportunity to you. Be that a job they just heard about, a good plumber that can fix the leaky sink or (in my case) even a mate.
  • When opportunity knocks – you need to knock back. If someone sends you a job lead, your next steps are clear:
    • First - thank them (and I don’t care if you had already seen it on Monster earlier in the day). It so rude to reply “yes – I already saw that”. That motivates people to not help you and it’s just tacky, Jethro.
    • Second – if it is fit for you (even if you are happily employed), follow-up with it. Have coffee with the person. At the very worst, you might just have a new contact and peer in your field.  Or who knows, maybe even a date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.
    • And – if it is not a fit for you, pass it on to someone you know who would be a better fit (and is in need of a job).
  • Make it your business to connect people to each other in this world. That’s how we get people working (and buying work boots). You never know where it may lead you.
  • Birch trees are prone to disease and don’t live long (I had to cut down the one that is pictured).

Friday, December 18, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #7 What is the purpose of the interview?

A: To get an offer

The lesson here is short and sweet (unlike the preponderance of my posts). Our next milestone is the offer and all our actions are driving to that. Therefore - don’t rush ahead and start the forthcoming milestone (negotiation) with the first question of the first interview.

Coming up

Since we’ve now entered game day of the process (and in these times – you’ve actually scored a sit down), separate posts on interview preparation, topics to avoid in the first round, questions I should ask the interviewer, phone (and now video) screens and some brief thoughts on negotiation are headed to an RSS Reader near you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #6 What should be in a resume?

A: Why what you did mattered. 
Note: The judges would also have accepted smart and get stuff done to advance to the bonus round of our game.

Here’s a few of my favorite rants on the topics covering questions I have answered over the years when in comes to resumes:

1. Don’t make me guess what you did

The first rule of a resume is to not make it an Easter Egg hunt for the hiring manager. As a hiring manger, I don’t want to do the math for you. If you are applying (for example) for a project management job, it might be nice if one or both of those words would appear on the front page of your resume (even better if they were side by side at least once). If I can’t tell why you’re qualified for the job in the first ten seconds, I am not going to take even another single second to try and figure it out.  Game over.

That’s why (in addition to the cover letter – since they often get separated) a career or skills summary atop the resume is usually a good idea (and helps set the stage for the rest of your resume). From the first paragraph, the hiring manager should have a mental picture in their head of who you are and what makes you special (and hopefully that does not involve orange hair and big, red floppy shoes).

2. Your Objective is less important to me

One of the most (misguided) resume debates is: Should I have an Objective on my resume? Yes – but we already covered that. Your object is to get an interview. Putting that on a resume would be tacky. This stolid vestigial resume remnant has no place in a post-Eisenhower world.

If you start your resume with (something like) I am looking for a management position where I can effectively utilize my expertise in human resources and project management, and staff recruitment and retention I would say to you go start your own company.

3. Smart and get stuff done

I sound like a broken record on this point. I first nicked smart and get stuff done from Joel On Software for 5 Traits of a Virtuoso BA | Trait #2: Smart, Get Stuff Done.  Again -smart is great. Always hire smart. But I need to be able to see that you can get stuff done or you’ll just frustrate the bejesus out of everyone else (including me).

4. Don’t make me guess why I should give a rip about what you did

I know you spent the last two years of your life working on the MYPPS project (which was a replacement for DITT3 platform). However – with just that description, I don’t know if you developed the next generation ERP platform, the everlasting gobstopper or you’ve just come down with a new-fangled STD.

I know everyone else in Morning Glow, Texas knows that BBSCo is the town’s biggest employer [okay – I made up the company name but the town is real] – but the 308 Million other people in the US (including me) have never heard of it.  So explain what you did (and what the company you did it at did).

Further – I don’t want your job description or a list of your daily tasks (since that’s kind of the same).  I want metrics (and juicy ones at that). 

Resume metrics sound like this:

    • I increased sales of x% in a $x revenue company
    • Achieved inventory reduction goal of x% in the first three months resulting in $xx,xxx,xxx in additional available cash flow
    • Automated billing process resulting in reduction of x FTEs year over year resulting in a saving of $xxx,xxx annually
    • Reduced employee attrition by x% in a xx,xxxx employee firm by giving everyone free pop-tarts on their birthday

Not only do these pop out of the resume – they also are great hooks for you during the interview (should you hopefully get that far).to-tell-the-truth_bw-only

But be careful. You’ll need to answer for the numbers and exaggerated delusions of grandeur that you used:

  • If sales did increase 10% - you need to explain what you did to make it happen (and did you sustain it).
  • If you use precise figures (e.g. reduced annual operating budget by $2,094.21) – be prepared to show your math, Professor.

5. Words matter

I saved this for last – because a lot of people think I whine to much about this. And yes – content matters over style. But I think your resume should have power verbs lightly sprinkled throughout.

But lighten up Francis – don’t go crazy and use 348 of them in one resume (as to make you sound stilted and stolid). But done with moderation and without repetition – it can add some muscle to the page.

On the flip side, avoid passive words/phrases like acted as (where you in a play?) and participated in (did you get coffee for the group that did the actual work?).

Up Next: What is the purpose of the interview?

Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | First Quarter Review

Quarter 1 Review

Before we dive into the entrails of what should be in your resume (in our next post), let take a quick look back (by my verbose standards) as we make the first quarter turn on the journey through the 20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know.

Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

Question #1: Where do I look for jobs?
A: Where the jobs are
You can sit on your butt and tweet all day long or run down to the local Piggly Wiggly every 12 minutes to check the bulletin board (if it makes you happy).  This might work for you (I’m all for leaving no stone unturned) - but there are better, target rich places you need to be. Those include networking with people who have jobs and can help your locate your next one  (#1 by a mile), company websites, professional associations, recruiters, social media outlets (Linked In, Twitter, Facebook) and of course job sites (Monster and Careerbuilder still have a place in your search  – but don’t get trapped with volume over quality).

Question #2: Should I use a recruiter/headhunter?
A: Yes!
Anyone that can help you is someone you want to know. Here’s another place where quality is important over quantity. Build, nurture and maintain relationships with talented recruiters in your area and field – as well was those who have preferred relationships with your target companies. But don’t just take. As Sir Paul once said (something like) and, in the end, the leads you take are equal to the leads you make (or something like that).

Question #3: Why do I need to network when I can find my job on
A: See answer to question #1

Questions #4: How do I start to network?
A: By networking
Just dive into the deep-end of the pool and talk to people. And like the jobs – you need to go where people congregate. This includes job transition groups, professional associates (in your industry), places of worship (and I include Starbucks in that group), family reunions, your spouse’s office Christmas party (skip the Red-headed Slut shots when they come out) or vendor symposiums (many of which are free).

Asisde: Job fairs have normally been a great haven for networking. Recently though (in the current joblessness tsunami), they are such an overstuffed cattle call that your time wasted standing in-line to get your resume in a pile with 2,039 other folks is probably better spent elsewhere.

Questions #5: What is the purpose of the resume?
A: To get the interview
This simple answer provides your focus: to avoid getting screened out (i.e. no golden ticket to the interview). So your resume (and it’s partner in crime - your cover letter) must compel your target to call you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Job Search Extra Point | Don’t Hide From Your Network (Destination Unknown)

Recently, I attempted to pass on two leads to folks in my network (one for a job and another for a business opportunity). I was unable to connect with either of these missing persons – so the leads went elsewhere.  These two examples illustrate a cautionary tale of thee proper care and feeding of your network.

The Tale of Vendor Gal

In this first case, I made a call to a contact at a company my company partners with. The phone call went like this (the names have been changed to protect the bozos):

Receptionist Boy: {ABC Company}, this {Receptionist Boy} can I help you?

Me: Good morning! This {me} from {my company}. Is {Vendor Gal } there?

Receptionist: [Nervous paper shuffling, followed by a very awkward and pregnant pause] One moment, I will connect you

Me: [Aside to myself: Well I don’t know what happened, but I sure know {Vendor Gal} had a bad day recently]

Unknown Person: This is {Unknown Person}, can I help you?

Me: [Aside to myself:  Maybe if I say the same thing again, this person will have a clue]. Good morning! This {me} from {my company}. Is {Vendor Gal} there?

Unknown Person: [another pause] {Vendor Gal} is no longer with {ABC Company}. I can connect you to {Another Person at This Company I Never Heard Of} who handles your account

Me: Sound good [as I feel like I just pressed Google’s Feeling Lucky? button]

Another Person at This Company I Never Heard Of: [VMM answers] This is {Another Person at This Company I Never Heard Of}. I am currently away from the….

Me: [Click…the sound of one phone hanging up]

Two things to note here:

  1. If you have to lay off people at your company, I suggest maybe giving your receptionist person a script to follow (so I don’t have to endure two unnecessary phone transfers).  Be respectful to past and current employees as well as your customers
  2. I think I need a new vendor for this particular partnership

Given that last point (that I am never calling back there), I thought perhaps {Vendor Gal} might be able to help me out with her new employer.  Unfortunately, I only have her company email and cell phone number in my contact list, so I headed to Linked In.

Two things I found out:

1. She hadn’t updated her Linked In profile to reflect her new status (whatever that might be)

2. Her contact email was her business email (which I am sure she no longer receives, but instead it is routed to {Another Person at This Company I Never Heard Of} – and that won’t help me)

Needless to say – we didn’t connect (and she lost the opportunity).


The Ballad of Contract Programmer Boy

The other Glengarry lead I had was for an awesome contract development gig. I instantly thought of my former colleague, {Contract Programmer Boy}. I tried to reach him by the last cell I had (disconnected) and the last email I had for him (bounce back).

So – what to do?  Oh – I know!  I headed out to Linked In. I found the email address on his profile was not only older than the one I had for him – but it was his work email from many years ago at company that no longer exists.

Needless to say – we didn’t connect (and he lost he opportunity).

Destination Unknown

Given these two stories, I’d like to pass on a helpful tip. Are you listening? Come a little closer, I’ll whisper it your ear. Ready? Here it is: IF I CAN’T FIND YOU – I CAN’T HELP YOU!

Said another way:

  • You (hopefully) spent some time and effort building your network, don’t hide from it when you need it most
  • As you make a transition in your career (voluntary or compulsory), make sure to let your network know where you are and what you are doing
  • If you have a Linked In account, make sure you update it when you switch jobs (or as soon as you legally can if there are non-compete or severance stipulations). And ALWAYS use your personal email address. Never use your work email.

Or if you prefer, we can sing my advice:

life is so strange (Destination Unknown),
When you don't know (your destination),
Something could change (it's unknown),
And then you won't know (Destination Unknown)

p.s.  Vendor Gal and Contract Programmer Boy, if you think this post is about you, send me an email and let’s reconnect.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Job Search Extra Point | Don't take a holiday from job hunt

Great story in the Star Tribune today (there’s a clause you don’t hear every day) about NOT slowing down your job search during the last 45 days of the year.  Just like folks who delay their job hunt in the summer so they can hike through Yellowstone and find themselves, that is a HUGE mistake. I always say find your job, then yourself.

Some highlights from the article:off duty

  • Don’t buy the myth that companies aren’t hiring in November and December. That’s simply not true. Companies often gear up for a new fiscal year (with FTEs in their Christmas stocking)
  • The article describes a woman who was applying for a retail job but refused to work Black Friday or weekends. Seriously? That’s your strategy?  Good luck with that
  • The article also chronicles a person who would not take a 90 day contract because they wanted 6-7 days off at the end of the year. Guess what? Your competition will take that (and already did). Which would you rather have, 6 days off at the end of this year, or 365 off next year?

Don’t Stop Believing

I know it can be a very depressing time of year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and when you are unemployed and short on cash, the commercialization of the season is a constant reminder of what may not be in your stocking this year. That simply sucks. But muster some of that spirit of the season, and take the many opportunities given you this time of year (e.g. your wife’s office party) to meet new people.

As I mentioned in 20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #4 How do I start to network, focus on hooking up other people and helping them connect (conjunction junction that’s your function) with no strings attached. You’ll feel better, you’ll help someone out who may need a lift more than you do, and just maybe open a door for yourself. 

It’s a good read – check it out.

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #5 What is the purpose of the resume?

A: To get the interview

In the next post, we’ll cover resume content in more depth, but this simple piece of information should help guide your approach to your resume. Primary among these is avoiding the screen-out and crashing the interview

Many times, the hiring manager may not be the first stop for your resume. For example, it may be a 22 year-old HR intern that who is wadding through 262 resumes (especially in these demand challenged times), comparing it to the requisition, and then picking the top 20 to go to the next level (usually a phone screen). This is the argument for customizing the resume to fit the requisition.

I know some folks disagree - such as Kerry in her (always well-written) post Why You Shouldn’t Customize Your Resume For Each Job Opportunity. The opposition stance is:

  1. that’s what the cover letter is for
  2. it takes a lot of time to do this if you are applying for a boat-load of jobs (time you should be spending networking and other higher return activities)

I certainly agree – spending hours to customize shotgun resumes is not a good use of your time. But, I would counter:

  • For the shotgun resumes, in 5-10 minutes you can do a few minor tweaks to words and phrase to better match the requisition
  • But highly desirable positions you really are fighting hard for (the Glengarry leads), the extra time (at most 15-20 minutes) is worth it
  • If you are networking and working your targeted companies hard, you’ve already gotten your resume in the hands of the hiring manger (and have avoided this screen out phase)

Up next: What should be in a resume?

Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #4 How do I start to network?

A: By networking

Everyone (myself included) hates those trite, circular answers (like the one I just gave). But in this case, it is the most effective way to find the next opportunity (always be closing).

The first question hurled at me during the last job coaching class I taught was, “You’re not going to tell us to network are you”? Well - yes, of course, I did.

I talk (and talk, and talk) about networking whenever the job search topic comes up. Because - as talked about in a previous post - networking is so crucial to the success of your hunt (as in that’s where the jobs are). But for folks new to it – or with a personalities not wired for initiating contact - it can be as nerve-racking as public speaking is for some.

There are blogs and books (ad nausea) on the subject. But a few thoughts (since I am asked about this all the time) that pertain to folks new to networking or our personality-challenged to it (introverted or new to transition).

Just Do It (Nike footwear optional)

In the same way you become a better blogger by simply blogging more (well – at least for some of us), you also get better at networking by just doing it.  Ready to dive into the deep end of the pool?  Here are places you can go that are ripe for this:high dive

  • Professional meetings Things like user groups, professional associations (e.g. local chapter of your PMI meetings), meetups (like your local Social Media Breakfast) and Conferences. These are all great places to meet people in the same profession or same interest (a natural toe hold for conversation).  Two tips if cost is an issue for you:
    • Stick to the free (or inexpensive) stuff. A trip to Las Vegas to attend the International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association (IBDEA) Annual Convention and Product Fair may not be a good idea
    • For sessions that are Happy Hours, order a club soda with a twist. It’s cheaper and you likely won’t end up singing and dancing atop the bar in only a wife-beater
  • Open groups (place were people linger) This could be a church or other religious/spiritual place, Starbucks (which is often a religious experience for me), libraries, book stores and alike. Not only are these places where you can spark up a conversation with a stranger without being arrested for stalking, it can be fruitful. I had a woman at a church gathering this Fall talk about her unemployment situtation. She was looking for a teaching job in a local school district. She told me she never networks and hates it. I told her (1) she should and (2) that in fact she just had. My wife teaches in that district – so I was able to provide a connection. It is that simple
  • Families/Friends/Reunions/Co-Workers Like I said before, never look for a job by yourself. Your Uncle Fester may not know what you really do for a living and may not know that one his customers (who recently told him he was hiring) has a need for someone just like you. Talk to folks tell them what you do (so they think of you when the hear of an opportunity).  I used this very tactic to find my wife (but that’s another story for another time)
  • Conjunction Junction – make that your function It is something I strongly believe in (and do at least once a week). Hooking-up folks whenever you can - WITH NO STRING ATTACHED. Whether you call it pay it forward or Instant Karma (as I prefer to call it), connecting others in your circle expands your circle, too.  So if you know two people that could benefit from meeting each other – hook-up them up.  I often do this with my “Blind Date Introduction” email I am fond of sending (just did it last night).  The email comes in 4 parts and goes something like this:
    • The set-up:  Why I think you two should meet
    • Person 1 Bio:  How I know you and why you are special
    • Person 2 Bio: How I know them and why they are special
    • Contact: Each others contact info with a note to contact the person (or not) as they both see fit.
  • Hey! You’ve got to NOT hide your love away Just get out and meet as many people as you can. Twittering (and DM’ing,thanking folks for RTs..and the lamest thing in the world #followfriday) alone is not networking. It can expand your reach (people and geography) – but at some point, face to face ( or a video Skype call) is still preferred. In other words - you need to get your fat butt out of the house and meet people from time to time.

So – go forth and network. Don’t be too afraid and don’t be too shy (hush, hush – eye to eye)

Up next: We hit the quarter turn on the 20 Questions on the next post with What is the purpose of the resume – and do I need one?


Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.