Friday, July 27, 2007

Why Blog When You Are in a Job Search?

Resumes are great tools for introducing yourself to potential employers and recruiters. But resumes do little to foster the relationship between you and decision makers in your field. Blogging gives you the opportunity to consistently authenticate the skill set demonstrated on your resume and continue a conversation with the people who need to know who you are. If you’ve been thinking about incorporating a blog into your self-marketing strategy, below are eight blogging tips to help you move forward.

Setting Up A Blog

A number of services are available for setting up a blog quickly and easily. Hosting services like Blogger or Typepad provide formatting templates and blog publishing systems like MoveableType and WordPress help users produce custom-designed sites.

Keep it Real

Writing for the web is different from writing for other mediums. Readers expect to see a personal side of you. They look for quality information from a trusted source. You want them to feel comfortable with you and the information you present so they keep coming back to your blog. Avoid “corporate speak” and use a conversational, but professional tone in your posts, similar to your speaking style during a networking meeting . Your audience wants to feel like you are talking directly to them.

Stay on Topic

The best blogs are those that create community for a specific niche. They are not designed to be everything to everyone. If you are marketing your candidacy to multiple industries, your blog should address common, yet specific issues that are relevant to your profession. If your expertise benefits a very narrow niche, your blog should center on industry or product-specific information that is important to your audience and an extension of your brand.

Stay In the Now

Since most blogs list entries in reverse chronological format, it’s critical that you blog frequently; once a week is acceptable, but two to three times per week is ideal. If the “shelf life” of your blog posts has expired, your readership may question the value of your posts or your commitment to your blog and your profession. Try to schedule time each week for blogging so your content stays fresh and your readership stays intact.

Use Keywords to Boost Search Engine Rankings

Blogs contribute to the frequency with which search engines such as Google and MSN identify a person. You can accelerate your page ranking by incorporating relevant keywords into your blog copy and headlines. “Blogrolling”, a term that means setting up links on the blog, also boosts positioning on Web searches.

Build Credibility

By writing frequently and writing about a specific topic, you build credibility with your readers. If readers return to your blog, they are likely to also want to comment on your blog and connect personally. Since they have already established somewhat of a relationship with you, they are more likely to be "pre-sold" when they inquire about your availability for new opportunities.

Create Community

A great blog creates a community where people can come to learn, build relationships, exchange ideas, and have their concerns validated. Your blog is a virtual extension of your network. Expect to give more than you receive in the form of content and advice. In no time visitors will be tuning in for your latest installment, recommending your blog to others, and spreading the word about you and your expertise.

Get the Word Out

Include a link to your blog on all your personal marketing collateral including business cards, email signature line, published articles, bios, and voicemail recordings. This strategy encourages prospective employers to visit your blog and helps them stay connected to you.

Setting up a blog is easy; maintaining one is hard work and a significant commitment. But the process can be extremely satisfying and the benefits to your job search can be priceless. As an expert in your field, you offer a unique slant on your area of knowledge. Blogging raises not only your individual credibility, but that of your industry as well.

Interested in learning more about how a blog can help you in your search? Contact us for details.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Changing Your Mind About a Job Offer

Over on the SittingXLegged blog, there is a post about candidates who accept a job and then back out of the offer in order to take another, higher paying position. Rescinding an offer carries significant risk, because by doing so your integrity may be questioned and your reputation damaged.

Sometimes candidates take jobs that they are not completely satisfied with and continue to look in the hopes that something better will come along. A better strategy is to negotiate an offer so the final offer is attractive to you and compelling enough for you to make a serious commitment to the new position. If you are not sure if you want a position because you are simultaneously courting other employers, either continue to negotiate or ask for more time before making your final decision. In the long run, this is a much better strategy than taking a job and then changing your mind.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Career Management 101

Over on the Cube Rules blog, there is a post about the fact that people take various career paths following a layoff, but few plan for such an event. People plan for so many life events; weddings, college, vacations...Yet few map out a career management strategy that includes annual goal setting and reflection. As a result, we are frequently caught off guard following a life changing event such as a layoff. I've seen every possible emotion from people following a downsizing from shock to fear to anger to depression and the people who suffer the most are the ones who never took the time to think of the "what if" scenarios.

Employers aren't life partners. The relationship can change on a dime if the business conditions warrant it. If you are currently in a job search due to a corporate restructuring, this is a hard lesson to learn. Take the time to map out a career plan, update your resume, and foster relationships with friends and colleagues who can help you weather the storm.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Everything Is Negotiable

The Evil HR Lady blog has an informative post about a recent job seeker's negotiation dilemmas
that will resonate with many. The candidate discusses a desire to negotiate additional paid time off, flexible work hours, and a more generous severance package and asks if these requests are appropriate.

In salary negotiation, anything is negotiable as long as it is fair and reasonable. This candidate makes a compelling argument for why these negotiation points are important to him and points out how flexibility on the company's part will contribute to his individual performance and contribution to the company.

The post has a happy ending and the candidate is able to negotiate for many of the items that he considers top priorities. If you are in the midst of a negotiation conversation with a prospective employer, concentrate on what is fair and reasonable in your specific situation, not what you think is the "standard policy". Once you can show an employer why your proposal makes good business sense for their company you will be able to negotiate for more of what you want and start your employment off on a positive note.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Networking for Introverts

Over on the Jobs in the Money blog, there's a link to an article on networking that recommends networking strategies for introverts. In addition to their recommendations, including attending professional and social events and volunteering for leadership roles in professional organizations, I have one more idea to add.

If working a room isn't your thing, a great way to gain a comfort level with networking is to take advantage of the ever-growing list of on-line networking tools. LinkedIn, Ecademy, and Ryze, just to name a few allow you to connect with members on-line. For introverts, this approach can be a great place to start a networking campaign. The beauty of the on-line world is that you can think about what you want to say and review and tweak your message before you hit send. (Who hasn't wished they could do this at one time or another in a face to face meeting!)

While on-line networking should not replace traditional networking opportunities, it is a great way to supplement your ongoing networking campaign and gain a comfort level with the process.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Base Pay for Commercial Bankers at All-Time High in NYC

According to a recent article in Crain's New York (subscription required), New York banks are facing a shortage of commercial bankers. This may be good news for bankers who are currently in a job search. The competition for talent has accelerated base pay from $125K for the average banker to $175K for a star and the salaries have increased close to 25% over the past two years.

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Make Sure a Prospective Employer is a Good Fit

According to a recent article in SHRM, many professionals feel that their employer’s core values are frequently not aligned with their own and this feeling can lead to lowered productivity or even silent sabotage of projects and ideas.

For the job seeker, it is important to determine if the organization you are interviewing with provides a good cultural fit and matches your life priorities and core values. It’s acceptable to engage the hiring authority in questions that help you determine fit. Don’t be afraid to inquire about the company’s values and culture, philosophy on work hours, and strategies the company uses to keep employees fulfilled in their work. Do a Google search to find out anything you can about the company and help validate your perceptions. This type of information will help you make a qualified decision if an offer is extended.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Salary Increases in 2008 Expected to Be 4%

According to the Compensation Force Blog, 2008 salary increases are expected to average 4%. With that in mind, job seekers should consider strategies for negotiating their total compensation packages that go past the base salary. By negotiating a signing bonus or pro-rated bonus based on individual or company performance, job seekers may be able to barter for a more generous total rewards package. Stock options and company perks like cell phones and laptops when appropriate may also be requested to help "sweeten the pot". Companies will only budge so far when negotiating a performance increase. Try to negotiate more of the "extras" before you take the job to help compensate for some of the "average" salary increases you may be offered along the way.

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Career Solvers Nominated for 5 Toast of the Resume Industry Awards

I'm pleased to announce that Career Solvers was nominated for 5 TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry Awards) for 2007. This international competition is like the Oscars for resume writers and this year Career Solvers was nominated in the following categories:

Best Executive Resume
Best Professional Resume
Best Technical Resume
Best Return to Work Resume
Best Creative Resume

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dress for Success...After the Job Interview

Over on the Jobs in the Money blog, there's a post about how confusing company dress codes can be for employees and how difficult it is to interpret the nuances of a company's dress policy. The interview dress code is pretty straight forward. Business attire still reigns supreme. But once you are on the job, what influences the dress code? Is it determined by how much interaction you have with clients on a regular basis? If you work for a casual clothing company, do you don their latest tank tops and flip flops or stick with something more corporate?

When you are interviewing, check out the dress of your prospective boss and colleagues. After an offer is extended and you are asking your final questions about the position and the company, don't be afraid to ask about the dress code if you have doubts. The first 90 days in a new job are critical. Everything, even your style of dress, may be under the corporate microscope, so take the time to become acquainted with the company's dress code.

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Digital Dirt Strikes Again!

Ms. New Jersey's recent experience with digital dirt may serve as a cautionary tale to all job seekers. Setting your Facebook or MySpace page to private does not ensure that the photos will stay that way. Fortunately for Amy Polumbo, the pageant board did not strip her of her crown, but would an employer who expected you to represent their company and service their customers be so forgiving? Think before you post...if you wouldn't want a previous or potential boss to see the picture or entry, don't post it.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Get the Job Offer in Writing

Before you sign on the dotted line of an employment contract or offer letter, make sure that every point you worked so hard to negotiate for is documented. Candidates frequently tell me that they were promised something during the negotiation process, but because they didn't have a written record of the agreement, promises were not always honored by employers later on.

If an employer does not give you a formal offer letter, create your own letter to document all the points that were agreed upon including start date, job title, starting salary, time off, signing bonus, and any perks you have negotiated as part of your package. Ask the hiring manager or HR contact to sign your letter and keep it in your employment file. Be leary of employers who are reluctant to put each point of the offer in writing.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Top Excuses Why People Don't Network

The idea of networking is often resisted by job seekers. Since a strong network is the key to a successful job search, it's important to uncover the reasons for this resistance. Here are the most common obstacles people face and some recommendations for how to move past them.

1. I don’t want to ask for a favor

Many people think that when you network you are asking someone for a job. But this is not the goal of networking. When you network, you never ask for a job. You ask for information about an industry, company, or position

2. Fear of rejection

Many people fear that if they ask for information the other person might not be willing to talk to them. While it is true that not everyone will agree to meet with you, many people will extend help to you and you have nothing to lose by asking.

3. Lack of awareness regarding the effectiveness of networking

Most people in a job search spend too much time canvassing the open job market, the market everyone gets to see through job posting boards and recruiters. Far fewer explore the hidden market; the jobs that are never posted, but instead are filled through connections. The odds of finding a position through the smaller, hidden market are greater than those in the open market.

4. Not comfortable talking to people they don’t know

60% of the population considers themselves shy. This perception leads to less networking. If the prospect of speaking to someone you don’t know is overwhelming right now, start to build your network by talking with people you do know such as friends, family, neighbors, or your doctor or dentist. If they can lead you to others who can help you gain necessary information for your search, your network will grow in a steady, comfortable way.

5. I want to do it on my own

When you are selected for a position, it’s because you have the skills to support the needs of the position. You showcase your individual accomplishments and differentiate yourself from the competition. But in order to tell your stories to the right person you need to cast a wide net. You leverage your network to find the right audience, not to get the job.

6. Uncomfortable talking about yourself

Many of us were raised to be humble and not to brag. Networking and interviewing requires that you talk about yourself and your accomplishments. When you talk about your skills, you are not bragging. It’s only bragging if your discussion contains hyperbole, half truths, or lies.

7. Concerns about others knowing your business

Feeling too proud to tell people you are in a job search? Examine the cause. Have you assumed that networking is asking for a job? Next, examine the consequences. If you fail to incorporate networking as a method of search, it may take you much longer to find a job.

8. Lack of knowledge regarding the process

If you don’t understand networking, now’s the time to learn. To be an effective networker, you need to be willing to share information, build relationships based on trust and reciprocity, leverage existing relationships to create new ones, and create ways to stay in touch to continue giving. Those who don’t understand the process, who use people for information and never build the relationship or return the favor give networking a bad name and lose credibility in the eyes of others.

9. Expecting things to move too quickly

Networking is an ongoing process. Like a child, your network needs time to grow and you need to nurture it along the way. You must pay attention to your network to keep relationships strong. Many contacts are not able to lead you to the person capable of making a hiring decision. You must constantly “stir the pot” to effectively network. Take care of your network and it will in turn take care of you.

What's your excuse? Feel free to share your thoughts so we can help you break through your networking barriers and accelerate your job search.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Cover Letter Tips and Tricks

A cover letter is recommended when sending a resume to a hiring manager or recruiter. The letter allows the job seeker to tailor their resume to the open position and start a dialogue with the hiring authority. Here are ten tips for more powerful cover letters.
  1. Begin your cover letter with a compelling statement. Rather than starting your cover letter with a reference to the position you are applying for, write a statement that aligns your candidacy with the organization, industry, or job function you are targeting.
  2. Minimize the use of the word "I". Vary your sentences to keep the reader engaged.
  3. Ask for the interview. Create a strong call to action in your letter by expressing your interest in the company and requesting an in-person interview.
  4. Match your qualifications to the requirements of the job. Create a cover letter that addresses each job requirement point by point. The stronger the match you can make between the two, the greater the likelihood of securing the interview.
  5. Build rapport with your audience. Discuss relevant business issues and ask thought provoking questions to show your reader that you recognize their needs.
  6. Include a famous quote to make your point. Incorporating quotes that are relevant to the topics discussed in your letter is a great way to create an interesting and memorable document.
  7. Keep the letter to one page. Keep your cover letters short and use short paragraphs and bulleted lists to keep the reader's attention and make it easy for them to determine the match between your qualifications and their open job.
  8. Address the hiring authority by name. The likelihood of building rapport with the reader and validating your interest in the job is increased when the inside cover address refers to the specific person rather than "Dear Sir". Whenever possible, sleuth around for additional information on the hiring manager so you can personalize your letter.
  9. Reference the position you are applying for. Be sure to mention the job title and job number in the body of your letter as well as in your email subject line. Many hiring authorities request this information and your inability to follow their instructions could jeopardize your candidacy.
  10. Sign your name. In this age of email, sometimes people forget to do this. If you are sending a letter regular mail, include your handwritten signature. If your correspondence is via email, create an electronic signature.