Tag Archive | "job hunting"

Want to Make a Career Change? Ways to Invest in Your Job Search

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The quest for the dream job remains elusive for many Americans.  Only 14 percent feel they have the perfect job, while more than half want to change careers, according to a 2013 survey reported by the University of Phoenix.  The average baby boomer born between 1957 and 1964 held 11.3 jobs between ages 18 and 46, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has discovered, with men changing jobs slightly more frequently than women.  Considering psychological scales rank changing careers as more stressful than mortgage foreclosure, it might be worthwhile for the sake of your health, as well as your finances, to invest in optimizing your job search and improving your odds of securing a stable career position.

 

Hunt for the Right Quarry

 

Before you start your job hunt, it’s a good idea to know what you’re hunting for.  Career switching is foreshadowed in college, when 80 percent of students change majors at least once, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.  Many students fail to take advantage of career guidance opportunities available to them in high school and college.  But if you’ve already graduated, it’s not too late, as similar resources are also available to adults seeking career guidance.

 

One tool to get you pointed in the right direction is a vocational test to match your personality, aptitude and skills to a suitable career path. John Bolles, author of the classic job-hunting guide, “What Color Is Your Parachute?” provides links to a number of vocational tests on his website.  Some basic tools are free to use, while premium tools, such as John Holland’s $9.95 Self-Directed Search test, provide a more in-depth assessment of your career potential.

 

Use Technology to Connect with Employers

 

Employment service Manpower has found hiring managers prefer LinkedIn to other online job tools by a two to one margin.  To get the most leverage out of your LinkedIn profile, consider linking it to your own domain where you can showcase your professional credentials.  Describe your skills, cite your experience, display certifications, quote testimonials, post articles illustrating your expertise or embed videos telling employers what you can do for them.  Potential employers often search by keyword or skillset, so having your LinkedIn account constantly updated is a must, according to CashNetUSA.

 

Look Your Best for Online Interviews

 

Manpower also found 18 percent of job seekers surveyed have been interviewed on Skype or other video chat platforms over the last year.  Given the somewhat high probability you may be interviewed online, it’s worthwhile to invest in a high-quality camera to look your best.  For less than $40, you can get a Web cam with clear sound quality, such as the Logitech C270.  Or, for about $160, you can get a pro cam.

 

Be Prepared

 

You never know when you’re going to run into a potential employer at a networking event, social gathering or even the grocery store!  Be prepared by carrying business cards with you.  Print-on-demand services such as Vistaprint can provide you with 250 cards for as little as $15.

 

You Don’t Really Want that New Job, Do You?

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No, this isn’t a reverse-psychology article.  It’s a wake up call, as well as truly sound advice, for any and all seeking gainful employment in this miserable economy.


You Don’t Really Want that New Job, Do You?


After reading this title, you’re no doubt unleashing a string of invectives at me.  How dare I assume that you’ve done less than 100% in trying to nail down a job?  Well, I dare to, because the ugly truth is, you must put in 200% of a concentrated effort in this economy, and odds are, you haven’t done that.


Sure, you’ve spruced up your resume and tailored your cover letters.  You’ve posted your career documents online, on the mega-boards and the niche boards, as well as ladders.com, linkedin.com, and similar sites.  You’ve accessed the “hidden job market” and pounded the pavement until your shoe leather was about as thin as your wallet.  You’ve researched your target companies peripherally (usually via perusal of their official websites); you’ve secured interviews that seemed to have gone very well.   And yet, you have received no feasible job offers.  Every night, as you crawl into bed and fear yet another bout of watching the clock in the cold, pre-dawn hours, your mind churns with one single question, “What am I doing wrong?”


As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson during a particularly puzzling case, “If we exhaust the probable, what must remain is the improbable.”   That is sound advice to any serious job seeker.  If you have exhausted all the plausible (read: usual) tactics, consider what you may have judged to be implausible — or what you have never considered at all!


Any company, any organization is comprised primarily of its hierarchy: C-level leaders, directors, middle management, and salaried, hourly-wage, and/or commissioned employees.  It may also consist of distributors and an external sales force.  But at heart, a company is its people.   Therefore, you must determine the answers to these questions:


  • Someone started the firm; who was this person?  What was his or her vision?  How has that vision changed over the years?
  • How has the company grown — and more importantly, why did it grow?
  • Who is its competition?
  • Who are its employees?
  • Where is the company going?
  • How has it suffered in the economy?
  • What steps has it taken to stay afloat and competitive?  Has it launched new initiatives, new product-service offerings, or has it simply reduced its staff and closed locations? (Hint: those who have simply tightened their belts do not represent your best interests as potential employers, even if their nearest location saves you $100 a week in gas!)


If you truly apply yourself and get your hands on some company literature, if you conduct in-depth research, incorporating Business Week and industry-specific journals into your exploration, you’ll emerge with some of the answers, but not all of them.  And you need these answers in order to present yourself to the hiring authorities as a highly desirable employee!


So … how do you get these answers?   


Our answer: emulate Sherlock Holmes!  In arriving at the resolutions to his cases, the greatest detective who never lived knew exactly who to question, as well as when and how.  As we’re dealing with companies and not a corpus delecti, you’ll need to do a bit of pre-research in order to communicate with those in the know.


We don’t suggest that you stalk anyone, but do be observant.  Note where the employees of your target firms hang out.  Note the establishments that they patronize, particularly the places where they eat and knock back a cold one after a long hard day at work.   When the whistle blows at 5, 5:30, or 6 PM, where do the majority of workers head if they are not headed home?  Inquiries at local restaurants and bars, sweetened with tips, can point you in the right direction.


Once you’re there, strike up conversations with people (the workers).  You don’t need to tell them you’re looking for a job; you can say that you have something temporary and feel you’re in line for a better offer.   If the employees don’t view you as a threat, chances are, they’ll open up to you — especially if you can meet them in sports bars, local pubs, or informal dining establishments with at least one big-screen TV.


You might also meet them in those storefront type gyms where parents gather to take their children for some quality interaction.  Weekends are usually most conducive for these types of meetings.


Like Sherlock, use discretion in your questioning.  Don’t make all of the questions about you; engage the people you meet in genuine conversation, leading the talk toward their jobs: their companies, their employers, their product development, marketing, and operational tactics.  Share information about what you have learned via your own work experience (again, use discretion!)  You’ll come away with a wealth of information that you will not find elsewhere: information that will help you tremendously on interviews. 


Busted: Holiday Job Hunting Myths

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In the film, “Kramer versus Kramer,” Dustin Hoffman plays a desperate man.  Once a well-paid executive, he loses his job simultaneous to his wife’s unexpected filing for divorce and suit for custody of their only child.   She’ll get custody if he doesn’t prove that he can support his kid; he needs to earn a paycheck, and soon.  Smack in the middle of the holiday season, he discovers an opening in a large, reputable firm and attempts to apply for the position. Initially, he’s rebuffed by the company’s reps. They advise him that it’s Christmastime, when no firm hires and no firm grants interviews.


Driven and adamant, Hoffman’s character crashes the office party at the firm in question.  He delivers his resume and portfolio, telling the execs that his application for employment is good for 24 hours only; that they must “take it or leave it.”  Stunned by his nerve and impressed with his credentials, the employers offer him the job on the spot!


While we’re not suggesting that you crash a potential employer’s Christmas, Chanukah, or New Year’s Eve fete, we’ve offered this memorable scene from the film for a reason.  It illustrates the myth that too many job seekers labor beneath, the myth that employers do not and will not increase the size of their workforce during the weeks between Thanksgiving and the first of the following year.


Job hopefuls have bought into this myth for too long.  They’ve been told that companies are bogged down with end-of-year reconciliation and reporting of finances; they’ve been told that projects often wind down before the end of the year.  Although some of this information may be true, it is not true of every company, every department, and every job category/function.


Much like the human race, the job market is continually evolving.  Many of the hard and fast rules that once served as guidelines no longer hold true.  What is true, however, is that employers are often under the gun, at the end of the year, to fill their job requisitions (openings for positions via qualified candidates).


When the New Year kicks in, it often does so with new budgetary constraints — constraints that can impact the hiring process.  The job requisitions that were open before December 31, 2011, for example, may be closed come January 1, 2012.  Managers rush to fill those positions, because if they don’t, their departments will be understaffed and less productive in the coming year.


“Make hay while the sun shines” goes the old adage.  The sun is not shining upon this economy, by any means.  Why, then, reduce your chances of seeking gainful employment by buying into outdated, invalid myths about holiday hiring practices?   You can bet dollars to donuts that job hopefuls who are not clued into the truth will not be applying for jobs this holiday season.


So, get the jump on them.


Ensure that your resume and cover letter are compelling and truthful; ensure that they marry all the elements that employers currently demand with your specific skills and accomplishments.  And then, submit your career documents for those positions with which you are well suited.  Happy holidays, and happy job hunting!


The Black Cloud

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We all know someone who claims to have been born under a black cloud.  Bemoaning a universe out to get him, he yammers on about misfortunes great and small, including his aching back and the hair he was served along with his dinner.  What he fails to mention — indeed, what he fails to see — is that he’d lifted a fifty-pound carton in a manner designed to put him in traction, and chose to chow down in a notorious greasy spoon.  Such individuals are not cursed by unseen forces. They are self-destructive; they set themselves up for failure.  They do it in every aspect of their lives, including interviews.


Here are some of the behaviors they exhibit that give employers reasons not to hire them:


 1.     Lighting up cigarettes.


2.     Displaying tattoos or body piercing, even those that are allegedly “discreet.”


 3.     Reeking of last’s night garlic-laden dinner.


 4.     Cracking chewing gum; blowing bubbles.


 5.     Biting their nails or engaging in other disgusting behaviors.


 6.     Peering at their cell phones to read incoming text messages.


 7.     Dressing inappropriately and/or sporting unsuitable hairstyles.


 8.     Asking, “Waz up?” instead of politely saying, “Thank you for seeing me today” at the onset of the interview.


 9.     Failing to shake hands with the employer.  Crushing the employer’s hand in a death grip.


10.    Failing to articulate their skills and accomplishments properly in response to direct questions.


11.    Focusing on salary, benefits, and paid holidays instead of the attributes the employee requires.


12.    Saying, “This places reminds me of the dump I just left,” and/or other rude comments, including those painting former employers as the Devil’s spawn.


13.    Failing to arrive on time (too early or too late) and being cavalier about it, as if the employer’s time is worthless.


14.    Calling the interviewer “Honey” or “Sweetie.”


15.    Having typos on their resumes.


16.    Saying, “I don’t know what that means on my resume; my friend wrote it for me.”


17.    Forgetting to bring multiple copies of their resumes, in the event that more than one manager conducts the interview.


18.    Failing to familiarize themselves with the company’s mission and product/service line.


19.    Inserting religion, politics, American Idol, or any other unrelated topic into a discussion that should revolve solely around the company’s needs, the demands of the position, and the assets the job candidate can bring to the table.


20.    Interrupting the interviewer.


21.    Failing to maintain eye contact.


If any or all of these gaffes sound like scenes from a situation comedy, let us assure you that they are real.  The “Waz up?” line, for instance, was pulled recently on the owner of a local restaurant that I patronize regularly (and it’s not a fast food franchise).  Seeking to hire an assistant manager, the owner had advertised the job opening. After suffering through a number of wisecracking, lackadaisical candidates, he hired an older woman with a slight disability.  The lady was not only experienced, she’d arrived neatly dressed, well prepared, and with a demeanor that was professional and enthusiastic.


Professional, prepared, and enthusiastic are the characteristics of candidates that secure jobs, not discourtesy, sloppiness, or ignorance. 


Job Hunting Success in 2011: Throw Convention to the Wind!

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The New Year is traditionally one of the best times to seek and gain employment.  Given the current state of our economy, however, this year’s job hunters will likely face more competition than ever before as tens of thousands of unemployed and underemployed job candidates vie for what will almost certainly be fewer opportunities than in banner years past.


Want to distinguish yourself from other candidates and land that job?  Then, take to heart the unconventional problem-solving approach applied by comedian and entertainer Emo Philips who said, “When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.  Then, I realized God doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness.”  Undoubtedly funny, Philips’ comment should provide a revelation to unsuccessful job seekers employing traditional methods in attempting to uncover opportunities.


Consider the case of the fifty-something financial executive who found himself unexpectedly unemployed.  Unable to secure employment via the customary channels of responding to employment advertisements/postings, contacting recruiters, and networking, this individual, in desperation, decided to throw caution as well as pride to the wind.  He fashioned a wooden sandwich sign announcing his availability and summarizing his qualifications.  Then, he proceeded to pound the pavements of lower Manhattan wearing his creation.  His inventiveness and audacity caught the attention of a prospective employer, who following the typical interview process retained the services of this job candidate.


Or, ponder the path to employment that proved fruitful for an unemployed advertising sales executive.  Eschewing preparation of a typical resume, this job seeker determined to not simply describe but demonstrate his salesmanship through his job seeking materials.  Procuring ordinary, unprinted pizza boxes, he displayed his qualifications and accomplishments in a circular pattern surrounding a replica of a baseball in the lower portion of the box.  Atop the box, he had printed in large, bold letters the following:  “If you are seeking a sales executive who knows how to deliver a pitch, look inside.”  The results generated by this most unusual resume format were both immediate and highly effective.  He interviewed with virtually every firm or agency to which he had sent this package and received several lucrative job offers.


The lesson to be learned from the stories above is that sometimes unconventionality, far from being a roadblock, opens avenues to employment opportunities.  This should not be surprising, for even in more conventional job searches, candidates seek to distinguish themselves from competitors via their resumes and cover letters.  The difference in the cases detailed was one of degree.  The old adage “desperate times call for desperate measures” motivated the candidates described to take more extreme measures in gaining the attention of prospective employers and both succeeded in doing so.


Whether any particular job seeker needs to take such extreme measures in his employment search depends upon an analysis of each candidate’s peculiar circumstances.  All candidates, however, can benefit from presenting themselves in ways that highlight their unique contributions and qualifications and thereby, capture the attention and interest of prospective employers in an increasingly crowded and noisy job market. 

How to Conduct a Successful Job Search

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Job Search

In today’s depressed economic environment, finding a job, any job, is often a Herculean task.  Finding the right opportunity – the one that brings with it the right compensation, benefits, location, advancement potential, and balance between personal and professional lives – may be likened to finding the proverbial “needle in a haystack.”  If you want to find that “needle,” you need to have an organized, step-by-step approach to achieve your objective.


At one time, an effective job search entailed simply checking the employment classified section of the area’s Sunday newspapers (as in the image above) and responding to advertised openings.  Today, such an approach seems parochial at best and patently ineffective at worst.


Today’s job search, if one is seeking the right position, is akin to a marketing campaign.  If you were planning a product marketing campaign, you would establish a budget and determine the allocation and mix of media you would employ to transmit your marketing message.  The exact nature and content of your message aside, you would consider all the available media channels – print, broadcast, Web, outdoor, etc. – and determine how to structure your campaign to optimize its effectiveness within your budgetary constraints.


Planning a job search is similar.  You need to consider how much time and effort you have to devote to it.  If you are unemployed, seeking employment may well be your full-time occupation.  If, however, you are working, you need to determine the time that you will allot to your search on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.


Having established a time-budget, you can now proceed to determine how you will tackle maximizing your exposure within the job market.  If this is beginning to sound like an involved process, consider that the quality of your plan and job search will, in most cases, define the quality of your results.


And so, you will need to establish a plan to uncover as many relevant job opportunities as possible.  This plan should take into account the fact that, in the typical calendar year, job openings are relatively evenly split between those that are posted or advertised and those that are not.


If you consider published openings, your resources include newspapers, trade publications, recruiters who advertise openings, and of course, Internet job boards – both general and niche.  Therefore, you will want to designate some of your time and efforts to uncovering openings via each of these sources.  You will need to plan to check newspaper employment classifieds as well as opportunities listed in applicable trade publications.  You can research and identify contingent fee recruiters who specialize in your employment category and contact them.  Ultimately, you will want to post your resume on major and specialty job boards and set up those email alerts that will notify you of new job listings that meet criteria that you will establish.


Now, consider those opportunities that are neither posted nor advertised.  These opportunities will be more difficult to uncover, but more potentially rewarding if identified since these opportunities will have far fewer applicants.  One way to find such opportunities is through networking.  You will need to contact people whom you know that may be of assistance in your job search, as well as establish contacts with others whom you may not know but with whom you may have some connection (alumni of the college from which you graduated, members of an organization to which you belong, etc.).  Participation in networking sites (like LinkedIn) and social networking media (including FaceBook and Twitter) may help you to expand your network of contacts beyond your immediate circle.


Another way to identify unadvertised opportunities is via keeping abreast with business news.  Any business event, positive or negative, usually results in changes in the human capital requirements of the organizations affected.  In such instances, you can research the company’s organization and select appropriate management personnel to whom you will draft and send a letter acknowledging the business event and suggesting your relevant qualifications and prospective benefits to their organization. 


A third approach to reaching the unadvertised job market is blasting or mass mailing your resume.  While this approach usually generates a very low return rate, it only takes one employer contact for you to secure rewarding employment.


Lastly, contingent fee recruiters – the true headhunters – may be researched and contacted in the hope that they may be currently seeking a candidate like yourself.  As in the case of resume blasting or mass mailing, expect a low rate of return for your efforts in this area.


As you can see, developing and conducting an effective job campaign in today’s market is both complicated and time-consuming.  If you develop and execute a comprehensive plan to optimize your employment opportunities, however, you will have significantly improved your chances of securing the right position.

Summertime and Your Job Search

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summertime


Summertime and the living is easy; that is, unless you happen to be unemployed and searching for a job.  In that case, you are tortured and your level of anxiety grows daily.


In job hunting and recruiting circles, it has long been axiomatic that the periods between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and between Memorial Day and Labor Day represent the least probable times of the year to secure employment.  And, if one considers the circumstantial evidence, that supposition rings true.  Since achieving employment today involves multiple interviews with decision-makers at various levels of the potential employing organization, opportunities to arrange these interviews in a timely fashion are limited by vacations, holidays, days off, and hiring manager preoccupation with non-business matters.


Yet, these times of the year do present more than just a glimmer of hope to the serious job seeker, because less motivated job candidates will often refrain from pursuing employment opportunities for the very reasons enumerated above.  This means that for those who either from desperation or design actively seek employment during these periods, there will be significantly less competition than during the traditionally more abundant job hunting seasons of the year.


To maximize opportunities during the summertime, as well as at all times of the year, job hunters require a plan to penetrate all areas of the proverbial job market, including both published and unpublished opportunities, and superior marketing materials in the form of resumes, cover letters, and follow-up letters.  With a viable plan to market themselves effectively and job hunting materials of impeccable quality, serious job seekers can utilize the summer season to their advantage in gaining job market exposure and securing employment while many potential candidates sit on the sidelines.

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