Attention Holiday Shoppers!

Just in time for your holiday shopping, I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another is now available in print! Whether your company calls it a layoff, a termination, or a reduction in force, the bottom line is that you are out of a job and need to find a new one. So how do you do that? There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but there are some straightforward techniques that in the end may mean you don’t just find a job, but you build a career.

Buy the book here for a great stocking suffer for the job seeker in your life. Or, if you prefer the ebook, buy the Nook version at Barnes & Noble (also available in other formats from Smashwords).  If you want advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out the I’m Fired?!? blog.

Happy Holidays!


Anticipation Redux

(This is an update to a post from August, 2014.)

What are your great memories of anticipation? Trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve? The last day of school? The last day before school started? How about right before you got married?

Now think again about some of those times. Mixed with that excitement, was there also a touch of fear, or a note of doubt. You were sure that whatever was going to happen was going to be great – or at least you were pretty sure – right?

Your job search will probably be filled these times. Maybe you’re a finalist for job, going in for your last interview. It would be great to get back to work, this sounds a like a good place to work, the people have been very nice, but … the work seemed a little tedious – not exactly what you’d like to do. What if you take the job and it starts off great, but after a few weeks the newness wears off and now it’s just a job. Did you make a mistake? Should you keep looking?

Recently a friend of mine had a similar “problem.” He was getting ready to interview for two jobs. He was more interested in Job A than Job B, but both were better than his current job. He had sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do if Job B made him an offer before Job A did.

Here’s the deal, you need to control what you can control – and that is you. Rather than stress before (or during) the interview about what you’ll do if they do (or don’t) offer you a job, be in the moment. Put 100% of yourself into the process and wait to see what happens. If you are in a new job and feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse – set it aside and do your job the best you can do it.  If, after you’ve tried it you decide you made a mistake, look for a new job.

I heard the phrase once that worrying was “borrowing trouble” – taking tomorrow’s problems and making them issues in your life today. As best you can, don’t do that. Live in the present, do what you can to be successful today, and let tomorrow take care of itself. Take it from a guy who’s lost his job six times. Things work out. Control what you can control and let the rest take care of itself.

BTW – Here is some real life anticipation. In 1998, I had an idea for a book and started writing. In 2015 I’m Fired?!? was published as an eBook. Last week I held a proof of the paper version in my hands and it should be available in about a month. Sometimes you just have to learn to be patient.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available as an eBook and soon in print! Click here for more details.


Focus

Imagine this – you sit down to a networking interview with a guy who just lost his job. You ask, “So what work did you do?” And he responds … “I used Excel, I audited accounts, I did reconciliations, I made journal entries, I filled out tax forms, I oversaw inventory, I prepared financial statements, I managed cash, I worked with banks, I managed the fixed asset system, I calculated depreciation …” Soon your eyes glaze over and you wonder why you agreed to meet this guy.

What was missing from this answer to your question was focus. What he probably should have said was “I was an accountant.” Then through follow-up questions could have learned about what type of accountant and gradually picked up as much detail as you needed. But, by leading with the details he lost you.

Likewise, your job search needs focus. Learn to lead with the general and move to the specific as needed. Help people see the whole you, rather than just the tasks that you know how to perform. While focus is required in all aspects of your search, there are two key areas where that summary comes into play.

The fist is your elevator speech. This is a 30-second description of who you are and what you want. This high-level summary needs to be focused and be the door opener for you to be able to provide more detail. A typical job hunter has only one elevator speech, but if your search is taking you in very different directions, you might have two ready, depending on whom you meet.

The second key area for focus is your resume. I recommend that the first thing on your resume, below your name and contact information, should be a summary. This is no more than two sentences or four bullets that tell the reader exactly why you are the person they should hire for the job you are applying for. This summary leads them into the accomplishments, career history, and education that support that summary – again working from general to specific.

When you are out of work and just want to find a job, you may be tempted to tell everyone everything with the hope that there will be some scrap of information that you throw out that captures their attention. Unfortunately, that technique does not often work. Find your focus and sell the whole package. You have something to offer and someone is going see that in your focus.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


How much are you worth?

Inevitably, in your job search the topic of money is going to come up. Maybe you left your last job because you needed more money. Maybe they let you go because you made too much. Regardless, before you accept your next offer, the company has to decide how much they can pay you to do the work, and you have to decide how much your time and effort is worth.

Unfortunately, unless this job is covered by an existing union contract, there is no simple answer. Every organization has a unique perspective on total compensation – a blend of base pay, benefits, paid time off, working environment, career opportunities, performance expectations, and job security – that makes every job offer different. You may be in a position to have competing offers for similar work, but you need to compare so much more than the salary. Will the job provide meaningful work? Will I like my coworkers and the work culture? Will I be able to develop my career and learn new things? Will I have the time to spend with my family? Will I like my boss? Do I identify with the mission of the organization? There are hundreds of questions you need to consider beyond base pay.

But, let’s talk money. One of the best indications of your worth, purely from a base salary perspective, is what you were paid in your last comparable job. Much like the market value of a house is what someone is willing to pay for it, the first step in determining the value of your labor is too look at what someone else paid you – keeping in mind that this amount was wrapped in that organization’s view of total compensation. That organization had to balance what they paid you with what they paid other employees (internal equity) and what other organizations pay their workers (external competitiveness).

You can get a sense of external competitiveness by looking at sites like salary.com, monster.com and other salary surveys. Please understand; the information they are reporting on these sites is a) supplied by the individual, not the company, so there is no accuracy check, and b) they are consolidating this information based on a one-sentence job description. You might be paid more or less, because while the job has the same job title, the responsibilities are very different. Consider that data, but take it with a large grain of salt.

A key component of your worth needs to be what you need. Do you need base salary, medical insurance, retirement contributions, educational assistance, on-site daycare, on-the-job training, a supportive environment, flexible work schedule, lots of paid time off, a career development program, a busy job, a chance to prove yourself, or a place where you can take a step back and not be stressed? All of those things need to go to into evaluating a job offer.

As I said, there is no easy answer to the question. Take time during your search to evaluate you, and figure out both what you need and what you want. Then take time during the interview process to see how the organization aligns with your wants and needs. Then, when you get to the salary discussion, you have a context and you’ll be much more able to figure out what you’re worth.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Sometimes the job search doesn’t start because you get fired. Sometimes a friend tells you about an opening, or you happen across something on the web, or maybe a headhunter calls you out of the blue. You like your job and your boss – the pay is okay – you didn’t think you were in the job market. What should you do?

There are those who advocate you should always have your resume up to date and be looking for your next job. They stress you have to look out for yourself and jump at every chance. I’m not one of those people. I don’t think it hurts your career to have periods of stable employment and I don’t like to look at resumes where someone changes companies every few years.

But at the same time, you do need to have a good sense of the world outside of your cubicle. You should always keep your network fresh, meet new people, build relationships, and help others with their job search. And occasionally, when a recruiter calls, answer the call.

Here is the first reality check. You are not the best thing since sliced bread, and just because a headhunter calls you does not mean you need to give your notice. Just because you choose to apply for another job does not mean you should pack your desk – or even that you’ve made the decision to leave. There is always that chance, and it is a very good chance, that you won’t be offered the job, or if you are you won’t like it.

Going on an interview with another company is not like cheating on your wife. You committed to your spouse until death do you part; you committed to your employer for as long as the relationship continues to work for both of you. If an opportunity looks interesting, pursue it. The worst case will be that you’ll get your resume updated, you’ll meet some new people, and you’ll get some reinforcement that you like what you do and where you work. Maybe you’ll find something even better, but don’t turn in your resignation until you get that job offer.

So, here’s the other question, do you tell your boss you have an interview? Probably not. If you have made the decision you want to leave your current employer and you are actively pursuing other opportunities then, maybe, but rarely. If this is just a whim, you don’t know if it will lead to anything, you’re not unhappy, then no – keep that information to yourself. There is little to be gained and plenty to be lost by being overly transparent.

So in short, just because you apply for another job does not mean you plan on leaving your current job – occasionally exploring other jobs is good for you – and if you do decide to look around, keep it to yourself until you accept another offer. (Oh, and thanks to The Clash for my title today!)

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


New Year – New Interviews

This month I have been trying to get you in a new state of mind. I’ve talked about new markets, new resumes, new cover letters, new targets, and new networking strategies. For the last post in January, let’s focus on the new interviews.

If you have a good resume and cover letter and you use those with effective networking, I can almost guarantee you’ll get interviews. These techniques will raise you above the average job seeker and give you the visibility you need to be noticed. Then, it will be up to you to use your interviewing skills to move to the next stage.

If you click on Interviewing in the Tag Cloud to the right of this post, you’ll find seven previous posts on interviewing. One of my favorites is Becoming Scheherazade… from just over a year ago. Each of the posts provides some insight in how to make your interviews more successful, but for you impatient ones…

  • Be prepared – go online and find lists of the interview questions. Then write out your answers to those questions. Then practice saying those answers aloud. Be prepared to answer behaviorally based questions (back to Scheherazade).
  • Know who you are and what you want – spend some time (before the interview) really thinking about what you want out of your next job and what you can give. This will drive your elevator speech (last week) but it will also let you answer those questions about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Get off on the right foot – be on time, well dressed and groomed, look the interviewer in the eye, offer a firm handshake, etc. You need to make a good first impression.
  • Answer the questions you’re asked – don’t talk about unrelated subjects, don’t volunteer information they don’t need to know, don’t vent about how your former employer fired you or about how bad your old boss was at managing.
  • Ask questions – use your opportunity to ask questions to show what you know about this company (things you learned while developing your target list, networking, or through research). Asking questions shows that you are interested and want to learn more. Asking intelligent questions really gets the interviewer’s attention.
  • Be polite – enough said.

Losing one a job and finding another can be a challenging, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding process. For the most part the techniques are not rocket-science, but for many they are not common sense either. I hope that these new posts in January have given you the foundation to understand the process and be successful.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Enablers vs. Limiters

I realized that a few weeks ago I wrote about Enablers and Limiters, but I didn’t explain myself well. Let me try again.

Your resume and cover letter should be packed with information that makes the reader (recruiter or hiring manager) want to know more. That information needs to relate directly to the job you are applying for. It needs to make the connection that since you’ve done this activity successfully for someone else, you can do it form them also. That information is what I call Enablers.

Enablers tell your story and make links between your skill set and the position requirements. Some enablers might be in your accountabilities – proving you have accomplished before what needs to be done again. They may be in your career history. Sometimes the organization you worked for is not a household name. Giving a 10-word description of the company/industry may help the reader better understand your experience. Maybe your enabler is your education and training.

The dark-side of providing more information are the Limiters. These are statements that cause a reader to stop reading and decide you are not a fit for the job they are trying to fill. Some limiters are obvious like misspellings and poor grammar. Some come from revealing too much personal information like hobbies – if the recruiter is a golf-widow, she may not like to hear that you love to golf, plus, your love of golf is generally not related to your ability to do the job – which is what your resume is for.

Other limiters are a bit trickier. Listing responsibilities rather than accomplishments may suggest this was what you were supposed to do, but maybe you didn’t do it well. Sometimes the companies you worked for can be limiters – touting yourself as a proven executive from Enron or Tyco may be a limiter.

The key to both enablers and limiters is to read you resume and cover letter from the perspective of a hiring manager (have a friend help you do this). Make sure that every word and phrase encourages them to want to know more about you. Avoid mistakes and topics that allow someone to discount your experience or pigeon-hole you in a hole you don’t want to be in.

This is not easy, and it is the main reason that you should review and customize your resume for every job. Information that may be an enabler for one company may be a limiter at another. As you get better at balancing this information, you’ll get more calls, more interviews and more offers.

Are you trying to decide on the perfect holiday gift for an unemployed friend (or spouse)? Give them a copy of I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.