Thursday, November 29, 2007

Step Up Your Job Search During the Holiday Season

When I counsel clients on their job search during the holiday season, they often tell me that they plan to put their search on hold because they think that everyone is out of town and no one is hiring during this season.

Actually, December can be a great time to step up your search campaign because so many applicants believe this misperception of the market. When people drop out of the job market during the holiday season, there's an opportunity for you to accelerate your search in a climate with decreased competition. Below are four ways to increase your visibility in 2007 to prepare for a more robust search in 2008.

Informational Interviews

Savvy job seekers know that the more visible they are, the greater the chances of meeting the person that can connect them with a viable job opportunity. This concept may be even more important when you are searching during the holiday season. Some job seekers make the mistake of taking a break from their search during December because they assume that no one is in the hiring mode. The reality is that holiday networking may be more productive than networking during other times of the year. Decision makers' schedules are not as tight and they may be more generous with their time. By establishing relationships with the key players now, you are more likely to be remembered when the hiring picks up.

Family and Community Parties

Families and friends tend to make more of an effort to get together during the holiday season. Family and community gatherings are excellent opportunities to reconnect with old friends and hook up with new contacts. Schools, religious groups, health clubs, and support groups are just of few of the communities where holiday activities may be taking place. There is always a chance to share information relevant to these communities as well as information relevant to your personal and professional life at these events.

Business Functions

Most companies and professional associations host a holiday party in December. By attending a spouse's company party or an event hosted by a professional organization, you can build powerful business connections in a relaxed and festive environment.

Holiday Cards

Holiday cards provide a natural "touch point" or opportunity to reconnect with friends, family, and colleagues. Reach out to your network now with some "best wishes" and holiday cheer and you will have a natural entrée into a job-related conversation in the New Year.

By establishing relationships during the holiday season, you increase the likelihood of making inroads with decision makers who may be hiring in the New Year. Hiring managers may be more accessible, more relaxed, and in a better frame of mind during the winter holiday season. Create a networking plan now to take advantage of the unique networking opportunities available during the month of December.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Following Up on Networking Leads

Clients often struggle with the notion of following up with networking contacts. Many are concerned that they will be perceived as a nuisance if they follow up with a contact too aggressively. The key to a successful follow up campaign is to be persistent without the other party knowing it.

If you call a networking contact and leave a message, your follow up strategy should be to call every day at different times without leaving additional messages. You might call and leave a message on Monday, then follow up at 10am on Tuesday morning, noon on Wednesday, 3pm on Thursday, and 4:30 on Friday. If you get the contact's voice mail, don't leave additional messages. If you vary the timing of the calls you increase the likelihood of getting the contact in person. If you get a secretary or other type of gatekeeper, be polite and try to develop a rapport with that person. If they ask if you would like to leave a message a good response is "No, that's alright...when would be the best time to reach this person? This strategy allows you to maintain control over the interaction.

If after several attempts you are still unable to connect with your networking contact, consider discussing the situation with the original person who gave you the contact. Perhaps the contact is swamped with a time-sensitive project or out of town on vacation and you need to delay your follow up strategy until they return. While you won't be able to build a relationship with every potential contact, you can improve your chances of connecting with people in a timely fashion by following these suggestions.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is Your Resume a Turkey?

Many people with great job skills and noteworthy achievements have resumes that are poorly written and fail to market their candidacy appropriately. Is your resume a turkey? Compare your document content against these common resume mistakes.

Task Overload

Most people's resumes have exhaustive lists of job tasks but never chronicle how those job tasks contributed to the bottom line for the company. Without an accomplishment focused resume, your document is bound to get lost in a sea of mediocrity. Stand out from the crowd by showcasing examples of how you help the companies you support make money, save money, and save time.

An exercise to help you think of your experiences in terms of accomplishments is to identify the problems or challenges you faced on the job, the actions you took to overcome the obstacles, and the results achieved by your actions. By creating these stories, you capitalize on what makes you unique, rather than dwelling on the tasks that are part of many people's jobs that make you forgettable.

Claustrophobic Text

Good content helps make a good resume. But sometimes people include so much content in the resume that they sacrifice design and end up with a document that has so much text that it suffocates the reader. Choose a font size no smaller than 10 point and break the text up by using bullets and spaces rather than big blocky paragraphs. Keep the margins to at least .6 on all sides. These strategies will make your document more "user friendly" and encourage the hiring manager to read on.

Spellcheck Suicide

Many recruiters and hiring managers agree that having a typo on a resume is the fastest way to get placed in the "no" pile. It can be hard to review your own resume. By the time you finish it, you are so close to the situation that it can be hard to spot errors. Here are a few suggestions for catching those pesky typos.

  1. Use spell-check wisely. Spell-check is a great tool, but supplement spell-check with several human rounds of proofreading.
  2. Read the document backwards. Doing so forces you to slow down and pay attention to each word rather than skimming the sentence.
  3. Ask a friend or trusted colleague to proofread the document. It's amazing what a fresh set of eyes will spot.
  4. Get an 8th grade English teacher to read your resume. OK, maybe they are harder to come by, but they will know it all when it comes to spelling and grammar.
Email Etiquette

Your email address is part of your professional image and a critical piece of information on your resume. Email addresses that are cute, silly, provocative, or difficult to key just won't cut it with hiring managers. Chose an address that is some combination of your first and last name and avoid using long strings of numbers or letters that don't form a word. Email addresses are part of your professional persona. You want to stand out from the crowd because of your unique accomplishments, not your unusual email address. Keep it simple and professional and you will quickly elevate your credibility with hiring authorities.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Mastering the Phone Interview

Over on the Brazen Careerist blog, Penelope Trunk has an informative post about the top five interview blunders. One of her blunders is not being prepared for a phone interview. Here are ten additional tips for mastering the phone interview.

Schedule the meeting during a time when you won’t be distracted.

A phone interview should be scheduled like any other interview. At the designated appointment time, make sure the dog is in the backyard and someone else is watching the kids. If a recruiter or hiring manager calls you without advance notice and wants to interview you on the spot, use caution. If the interview “conditions” are not optimal at the time of the call, it is best to tell the interviewer that you are very interested in the position, but need to schedule another time to have a conversation. That time can be as soon as ten minutes later, just make sure that you can take the call without being distracted.

Conduct interviews from a landline.

Cell phones are a boon to modern communication, but the quality is still not the same as that from a land line. You don’t want to frustrate the recruiter or the hiring manager with a bad connection. Plan your interview from a reliable phone line.

Create an office space.

Dedicate an area as your office. This could be as simple as a card table with a phone and your documents. Conduct your interviews from your “office”. Being seated at a desk or table allows you to create an environment similar to an in-person interview.

Put a mirror in front of you.

This helps you focus and it anchors your conversation to the visual representation of a person. Monitoring your facial expressions helps you see if you are communicating your enthusiasm to the recruiter.

Have a glass of water nearby.

If your throat is dry or you get a tickle you can take care of it before it turns into a cough and disrupts the flow of the interview.

Have your notes in front of you.

A phone interview is like an open book test. You can have your company research and answers to potential interview questions right in front of you. Try putting key information on colored index cards and organize by category.

Vary Your Voice.

Since the other person can’t see you, it is critical that you vary the tone and cadence of your voice to communicate interest and develop rapport.

Use pauses effectively.

Pauses in an interview situation are always difficult and they can be especially awkward during a phone interview. Rather than wondering what the person on the other end is doing or if they are still there, use the silence to ask a question. For example, if the interviewer has just asked you about your strengths and your response is met with silence, make that an opportunity to ask a question like “What are the key strengths of your ideal candidate?” This takes care of the silence and allows you to learn more about the position.

Don’t multi-task.

We have grown so accustomed to multi-tasking, however it can be counterproductive during a phone interview. Don’t check your email or stick a casserole in the oven while you are engaged in a phone interview. Act the same way you would for an in-office interview and maintain your focus.


Record some of your answers to prospective interview questions. Play them back and critique. Are you easy to understand? Is your presentation riddled with long pauses and “ums?” Do you communicate interest and enthusiasm? If necessary, rework your answers and your presentation.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

What Recruiters Want

At the Kennedy Recruiting Conference in Orlando, FL earlier this week, I sat in on a Q&A session with four recruiters representing both contingency and retained search firms. All agreed that the most desirable candidates:

  1. have a polished elevator pitch and an enthusiastic delivery.
  2. discuss what they have done, (accomplishments) not what they do (tasks).
  3. use a reverse-chronological format for their resume
They went on to say that the best interviewees:

  1. are completely honest.
  2. ask questions throughout the interview to create a dialogue.
  3. limit their responses to one or two minutes.
  4. never bring up salary in an interview with a hiring manager.
  5. let the hiring manager know they are interested in the position.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Job Search Stress Busters (continued)

Yesterday I blogged on four strategies for reducing stress during a job search. Here are three more recommendations.

Communicate with your Family

If you don’t talk about your search with a spouse or significant other, you could be creating additional stress in the relationship. When you shut a partner out of this conversation and carry on as if nothing has changed, that person may worry about the status of your search and your overall financial security. They may constantly seek you

out for updates or offer recommendations on how you should conduct your search. This may feel like nagging to the job seeker and can cause tensions to mount. If your partner wants to understand your search strategy, try setting up a weekly meeting to discuss your search plans. Then agree that you will be given the “space” to carry out your plan.

Sometimes a job seeker’s search is impeded by domestic responsibilities at home. Family members may ask you to do errands, chauffeur other family members to activities and appointments, or take on significant home improvement projects like painting the house. Keep in mind that if your job search is a part-time activity it will take you twice as long to find a new job.

Avoid Toxic People

We’ve all met them. They are the ones who say “It’s brutal out there. I’ve been searching for months and no one is hiring.” These people do nothing to help you in your search. They often have one-dimensional strategies that result in unproductive, extended searches. Let these people know that you intend to stay positive or share a tip that’s working for you. If their negative attitude continues, try, if it’s realistic, to take a break from the relationship.

Find a Buddy

While it’s wonderful to have the support of family and friends during a job search, having a buddy who is also seeking employment can provide great benefits to both parties involved. Find someone who is in a different profession or someone who is in the same profession, but at a more junior or more senior level, so you won’t be competing for the same jobs. Having a buddy allows you to share similar concerns, boost morale, empathize with someone in the same situation, and share advice.

A job search presents a unique set of challenges for many people. But it is also a time when people discover new skills and even new careers. It can be a time to strengthen existing friendships and grow new relationships. By examining your emotions and channeling your energies in a positive direction, you can potentially decrease both your stress level and the amount of time you spend looking for a new job.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Job Search Stress Busters

Job loss ranks high on the list of most stressful situations. Many report going through a grieving process, similar to the stages people go through after the death of a loved one. Shock, denial, anger, and depression are all common reactions to the loss of a job. These emotions are important and you should acknowledge them. Unfortunately, some people become stuck in one of these stages and this is detrimental to a successful job search campaign. Below are seven strategies you can use to reduce stress and generate acceptance and enthusiasm during your search.

Maintain a Routine

Many job seekers report that creating routine alleviates stress during a job search. Keep the same schedule you had when you were working. Wake up at the same time and leave your house at the same time. Plan to be somewhere at 9 am. Go to the library to do research on a target company, plan a networking meeting, or go to a scheduled event.


When you volunteer you are doing something positive for a particular group or community. It allows you to channel your energy and develop focus. It is also a way to help others in need and it can help put your current situation in perspective. By volunteering, your name becomes known among the organization’s members. Chairing a committee or event allows you to showcase your skills in a particular area or gain new skills that can enhance your overall job profile.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a record of your search and your personal thoughts regarding that journey is a good way to identify what’s working and what is not working in your search. It can also be a very cathartic process and a private place for you to record your goals and dreams.

Create a Financial Plan

With a little bit of research and planning you may be able to reduce your financial burden after a job loss. Take the time to look at your finances, tally up your assets and set a plan for your future spending. Review any money coming in including unemployment benefits, severance package, and money from pension and retirement funds. Review expenses such as COBRA, rent, and food. Check out unemployment benefits and inquire if you qualify for any government assisted training through the Department of Labor. Job related expenses may be tax deductible, so check with an accountant. Schools and colleges may offer payment schedules and creditors may offer alternative collections options.

Check back tomorrow for some more stress buster ideas

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Free Personal Branding Summit, Thursday, November 8

Tomorrow is the "lollapalooza" event of the personal branding world. Over two dozen branding experts will share a wealth of information on branding strategies for businesses and job seekers via an all day teleconference and it's absolutely free!

Topics of interest for job seekers include:
  • Branding Your Resume, Bio, or CV
  • Building Your Online Brand for Career Distinction
  • Brand, Networking, and Communication
  • Changing Careers to Pursue Your Authentic Personal Brand
  • Using Personal Branding to Take Your Job Search From Zero to 60
To view a quick schedule and register click here.

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