Friday, September 25, 2009

Is This A Good Time?

When a recruiter or hiring manager calls you and asks if this is a good time to talk, be honest. If it's not, it's much better to reschedule the call for a more ideal time than to attempt to have a conversation with chaos going on in the background. Yes, potential employers want to feel like they are high on the priority list for a job candidate. More importantly, they want to know the person has good judgment. Putting the person first by taking the call while there is a baby screaming or dog barking in the background is not going to give you the edge. Neither is filling their ears with profanities because a cop is closing in on your car and you haven't been paying attention to your speed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Doors NOT Corners

Just for the sake of discussion, advancing your education is supposed to open doors for you. Too often I find individuals turning the tables on that notion and allowing the knowledge they've gained to push them into a corner.

What do I mean? It's the belief once you have a degree in 'XYZ' it becomes your sole focus and option. In a world with job descriptions beyond your wildest imagination, people are convinced they are now only suited for a tiny sliver of the overall pie. It's simply not true.

Gaining knowledge in a particular subject area does help show your relevance in that specific field. Do not negate the universal qualities of the education experience, however. Don't discount the benefits of having refined, through the education process, your ability to write, read, interpret, memorize, conclude, problem solve, theorize, achieve goals and the like. These are all necessary skills in many areas of the working world. Never mind there are likely pieces of the actual subject matter that translate nicely to other fields too.

The point of this post is to push those of you who are finding yourself in a corner to realize it is your own mind putting you there. The limitations you encounter in this world are most often self-created. Look at your skills and abilities. Seek out the doors they lead you to and walk through them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Take Me, For Example

It's been over a week since my last blog. Naughty, naughty, naughty on my part. In the blog world that kind of absence can dramatically affect your following. I could have mind blowing blogs, but by neglecting to stay in front of my readers with fresh content, I am at risk of losing their interest and following. It wouldn't take long to become a blogger they enjoyed at one time, but no longer think much about. It's not that I did anything to turn them off, I just didn't do anything to keep them turned on.

The same thing happens with job seekers. They make a great impression with a decision maker or networking contact and then fail to keep themselves in front of that person. Months go by with no contact. In short order it has been a year. There is some thought that if the impression you made was good enough that person will come looking for you and do their part to keep things warm. Not so. We all are busy and prone to going with the options readily available versus putting the effort into remembering those who wowed us and tracking them down.

Make time in the coming days to reconnect with those who you hit it off with in the past. Don't allow more time to pass. Once you've done so, put a plan in place to make sure you do not repeat neglecting them. Don't let those valuable relationships fade. You need those people to get you where you hope to go.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bart Simpson University

At the risk of sounding like a Bart Simpson groupie, I have to tell you about my favorite episode of "The Simpsons." Of course, I've only seen three or four. Here goes.

The show begins with Bart's sister Lisa trying to come up with a science project for a school report. She decides on a test to determine who is smarter, Bart or a mouse. The test involves a treat rigged with an electrical current to shock whomever touches it. For the mouse, it's a block of cheese. For Bart, it's a cookie jar. Lisa allows the mouse and Bart access to their respective treats and then counts how many times each is shocked before realizing the problem and giving up. For the mouse, it only takes one or two shocks before he hangs up his gloves. Bart is another matter, however. A good chunk of the episode is devoted to watching Bart getting shocked over and over again. He's so focused on getting a cookie, he's unable to see how pointless his efforts are. Instead of applying his energy towards getting a different snack, he keeps at the cookie, never learning or adjusting. The closing shot of the episode shows Bart with his shaking hand hovering over the cookie jar and getting ready to give it another try.

That episode stuck with me because it reminded me of what I see all too often with job seekers. They allow themselves to be beaten and battered over and over with strategies that aren't effective and don't generate results. The focus on the prize is so intense, little attention is paid to the means of winning it. Many swear they've tried everything with their job searches. When I quiz them, more often than not I find they too are hovering over an electrified cookie jar and reaching in over and over again. I don't see them foraging through the cupboards looking for other options. And they wonder why they hate looking for a job so much?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

She's Got Instant Like!

A colleague of mine was talking up a woman he was hoping I could help with her job search. He didn't know much about her work history and skills, but he was able to offer up "she's got instant like!" He said it with a smile and a wink. He wasn't discounting the value of a person's expertise, he clearly understood the advantage people have in a job search when others like them on the spot. Lucky ducks.

Are they lucky though? Luck implies a chance outcome. Most people I know who have "instant like" have a three main things in common. One, they smile a lot. Two, they listen well and give others a chance to share the limelight. Three, they are more positive than negative so it's not a strain to be around them.

When you think about the qualities I listed above, it's easy to see why many job seekers struggle with getting their "instant like" working for them. It's hard to smile and be positive when hunting for work. If you parted ways with your last employer under less than ideal conditions or are struggling financially and emotionally as a result of your search, being Susie Sunshine is a chore. Listening to others and seeing to their needs is also tough. While looking for a job, we tend to slip into "me, me, me" mode and aren't even aware of what others need or when we haven't given them their turn as the point of focus.

Thinking back through the years, those who managed to go about their search with enthusiasm, a smile, a positive attitude and the ability to think beyond themselves have clearly done better. They were the people corporate clients would get into bidding wars over. They were the ones whose skill deficiencies were cast off as no big deal.

I can hear people now, "but that's not fair!" Prepare to be annoyed. "It is what it is." It used to drive me nuts when people in my life would use that line of reasoning. That said, what's so wrong about asking people to make a genuine effort to be pleasant? In the end, a likable person with the right skills is going to beat out the person who is likable, but doesn't bring as much to the table.

I know a lot of people are working on beefing up their credentials right now in the hopes of standing out and gaining the advantage in the current market. That's all well and good, but it's also important to take stock of how likable you are at the moment. Hiring managers are much more likely to move on candidates they like.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Resume File Names

Are you sending your resume to potential employers via email? If so, please pay attention to the document name you are using for your resume. You certainly don't want a hiring manager's chuckle for the day to come at your expense.

When we save documents on our computer, we give them names that will help us know what the document is without always thinking how it might look to others. I've received all sorts of attachments through the years that have raised an eyebrow or inspired a giggle. Some have been bad enough the document hasn't even made it through my spam filter.

When naming a document you will be sending as an email attachment, consider the following suggestions.

1. Don't use any funky abbreviations. Be particularly careful with abbreviating assistant and associate. "Executive Ass Resume" doesn't exactly give you the foot in the door you are striving for.

2. Be careful not to include company names from past opportunities you've applied for. "Nike Resume" doesn't come off so good when you are applying to New Balance.

3. Make sure your document title doesn't draw attention to a skill you don't wish to emphasize. For example, if you are looking to get away from sales, "John Doe Sales Resume" isn't a good title.

4. You should have several versions of your resume, but you need not tip an employer off to that fact. You can come off like a serial job applicant. "Jane Doe Version 263" isn't the best idea.

5. If you've used another person's resume as the foundation for yours, take care not to use that individual's original file name. Tiffany Jones shouldn't be sending a resume titled "M Smith HR Resume."

6. Avoid using the document title as a chance to make a statement. The risk of coming off weird is too great. "Number1Candidate", "The_1_2_Hire", "PickMe" and the like are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

The best plan is to keep it simple. You need a system for keeping track of the versions of resumes you send employers. How you name them must help you distinguish what was sent while also allowing you to present professionally to the company.