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!


Follow the Rules

Lately, I’ve been recruiting to fill a job in my department, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when job seekers don’t follow instructions. Before they click the “apply” button on the website, applicants are advised that they must be prepared to upload a resume and a cover letter and that their cover letter should express their salary expectations.

My estimate is that less than ten percent of applicants meet all three of those simple requirements. Because the system requires two documents, about half load their resume twice – once as a cover letter and once a the resume. No more than one-in-ten mention salary.

Job seekers – when you fail to follow simple and explicit directions in the application process, it makes it extremely hard to convince the employer that you will follow simple and explicit directions as an employee.

You must read and follow all directions in the application process. Even if you think the directions are silly, if you think they ask for information they don’t need, or if you think answering the question will negatively affect your application, you must follow the rules. If you don’t, you run a strong risk that your application will not even be considered.

I’ve written before about the importance of a cover letter, and you should never submit a resume without a cover letter (unless they specifically instruct you NOT to submit a cover letter – which I’ve never heard of).  A cover letter is a necessary tool in framing your resume.

Now, you don’t just have to follow the rules. For example, if they don’t require a cover letter, you should still send one. They might tell you to apply via human resources – and you should – but you should also attempt to get your cover letter and resume directly to the hiring manager. You may need to explain why you can’t supply something they have requested, but at least that is better than simply ignoring their request.

So, simple lesson for today, follow the rules. And then find ways to expand the rules in your favor.

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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.


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 Elevator Speech

It’s a new year and you are hitting the networking scene. You are cleaned up, you’re carrying some copies of your freshly updated resume, you’re set – right? Have you thought about what you’re going to say? You need to have a great elevator speech – a 30-second summary of who you are, what you do, and what you want. Nancy Collamer does a fantastic job of describing how to develop your elevator speech in this blog post.

Then, when you think you’re ready, I want to watch this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. If you’ve seen this before, watch it again. The power of body language is incredible and should not be ignored.

Finally, reread this blog post from last May on First Impressions.

You have a story to tell, and you have skills to offer a new employer. The information in these three sources will help put you in a position so you can use those skills. Your elevator speech, your body language, and your first impression will open doors. If you neglect these three items you may have a long a challenging job search.

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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.


New Year – New Resume

For a successful job search, you need three consistently good pieces of paper (or electronic documents for you young ‘uns). You need a resume, a cover letter, and a target list. (I’ll talk about the Target List next time). If you search this blog for Resume or Cover Letter (and I encourage you do that) you’ll find lots of good information. Resume Magic Parts I & II and The Second Most Important Bullet in Your Gun are great starting points. But for the impatient reader, here are some highlights:

Both documents must look good – clean, well-formatted, PERFECT spelling and punctuation, good white space, one font, etc. They need to look like they came from the same person – same formatting, same letterhead, and same style. Here’s the deal – if you cannot execute a flawless resume and cover letter – how can I trust that you can do your job correctly – whatever job that might be?

They need to be specific to the job you are applying for – highlight your quantified accomplishments that prove you have the ability to do the job you are trying to get. Make the recruiter want to know more about you. Sequence the information so the most important information is on the top half of the first page.

You must submit both documents every time. A resume is a like a photograph of you – who you are and what you are made of; but the cover letter is the background of that photograph, the context that explains why you are sending this resume and adds more color about your interest and excitement. A resume without a cover letter is lost and uninteresting.

Include lots of enablers and avoid the limiters (read more). Don’t put your photograph on either document.

Include your full name and contact information (mailing address, email address, phone number) on both documents. Make sure you are using a professional email address like bob.smith@gmail.com instead of kitten42@hotmail.com.

Your cover letter should reference the job you’re applying for. Throw in some facts about the company so that you can show you’ve done your research and you really are interested in this job for this organization.

Whenever possible send the documents to a specific person. Use LinkedIn or other sources to find out who the hiring manager is and send it to her/him. If HR says you must apply via their processes do that too, but always try to get to the hiring manager. If you’re sending it to HR try to find out the name of the recruiter, or the department head. If you are stumped, send the letter to “Dear Hiring Manager” or Dear Human Resources Professional”, not “To Whom it May Concern.”

I had not planned for this post to be a “best of” kind of post, but I’ve given you several links to posts with more information and more detail.

The bottom line is that if you want to start this new year off with a bang, you need to have the best looking, most complete resume and cover letter you can. Take the time, do them right, and they’ll open doors for you.

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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.


Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2015!

By all accounts, this looks to be a good year for the job hunter. The economy is growing and adding jobs. People are moving between jobs and creating opportunities. The new year means that companies are opening new budgets with new positions. The new year also brings a new energy as companies shake off the holidays and get back to business.

So, are you ready to greet this new year? Have you refreshed your resume and included quantified accomplishments? Do you have your elevator speech down pat? Have you updated your target list and know where you want to go?

Over the next few weeks I plan to go back to basics and make sure you have the tools to capitalize on the opportunities that will start opening up on Monday.

For this post, I want to implore you to network. The vast majority of jobs that are filled are never advertised. They don’t show up on Indeed or CareerBuilder, they don’t appear on industry job boards, and they may not even be posted on company websites. They get filled because the hiring manager (or HR) already knows someone who is qualified.

Now, if you are sitting at home scanning the want ads, you might feel that is unfair. If they don’t advertise the job and give you the chance to apply, how will you ever get a new job? If that is how you feel, get over it. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. If you have a choice of advertising, screening, interviewing and then hiring a stranger (all of which might take 8-12 weeks), versus hiring a fully qualified candidate that was referred to you by a friend and whom you had coffee with two weeks ago, which would you prefer?

If you want to find a good job, you must network. You need to tell everyone you know your story and ask them to refer you to people they know and repeat the process over and over. You are not asking these people to hire you. You are asking them to spend a few minutes, to get to know you and your abilities, and to suggest to you other professionals with whom you can do the same. Through that process, you will meet someone who has a job to fill and who feels you are the person to fill that job.

Believe in yourself, believe in the process, and be ready to get back to work.

If you want more advice on how to network, how to write a resume, 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.


Welcome to … The Holiday Zone

For those of you old enough to remember this – imagine some twinkling music in the background and Rod Serling’s voice saying …

“Job seeker, you’ve noticed something has changed – there are fewer openings – no one returns your calls – everyone seems distracted. It’s because you have entered —— the Holiday Zone.”

I don’t have any factual data to back up what I’m about out to tell you, but I do have 30 years of experience. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a frustrating time to be a job seeker. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it is reality.

From an organization’s perspective, now is not the time to try to fill a job. They know that people who have jobs, stop looking for new jobs during the holidays. They know that they have spent their recruiting budget, and wont’ be buying any new advertising or creating any new jobs until after the first of the year. Everything slows down until January.

The same is true for the employed job seeker. They will spend their weekends and evenings shopping, wrapping, and attending holiday parties, not looking for jobs.

So, if you are unemployed, what do you do? Just put your search on the shelf for a month? No, you keep working, but you work smart.

Use holiday parties as networking activities. Meet new people, tell them your story, and ask if you can connect after the first of the year to exchange information and contacts.

Take this time to do some more intensive corporate research. Look at the local news websites to find which companies are in the news for charitable giving or other social outreach; then add them to your Target list and make plans to contact them in January – and when you do, mention how you support their good works.

Volunteer to work for a community organization that helps families over the holidays and do some networking with other volunteers. If you do schedule a networking meeting, take a few holiday cookies as a thank you gift.

Spend some time on your resume, maybe its time for a complete resume makeover; reorganize, rewrite, and refresh.

The point is, you can’t control the calendar, you can only control how you respond to it. You can curl up in a ball and wait for January, or you can spend your time productively. You won’t see as many postings, and you won’t get as many interview, and people won’t be as available to network; but that does not mean you can’t keep looking and making yourself better so that come January 1, you are ready to knock their socks off.

Enjoy the season, recognize your blessings, and get ready for a fantastic 2015.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.


One Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

In this digital world in which we live, this adage has never been more true. This phrase was first written in 1918 about a pictorial magazine about World War I. At that time, no one could have conceived the number of images we are bombarded with every day. Managing your image is important for the job seeker. The right image, or the wrong one, can tell a recruiter all that s/he wants to know.

There are places you where you absolutely must have a picture of you, and some places where you probably shouldn’t. Here are three suggestions:

Resume – NO – Do not put your photograph on your resume unless you are applying to be a model, a performer, or some other position where you will be hired based on your looks. I like to talk about enablers and limiters on your resume, and photos are almost always limiters. Rarely will all but the most stunning photo improve your chance of getting an interview, and often a poor quality photo can land your resume on the reject pile.

LinkedIn – YES – you should have a good quality professional looking photo on your LinkedIn profile. A lack of a photo suggests (at least to me) that you don’t follow through on things. It appears that you set up a LinkedIn profile because someone (like me) told me you needed one, but you didn’t finish the process. Keep in mind, LinkedIn is a professional networking site. It is not Facebook. Your LinkedIn photo should be a head and shoulders picture in professional attire with a pleasant smile. You want to covey professionalism. Put those other photos on Facebook.

Facebook – YES and NO – If you are going to have a Facebook account, you need to make a decision; is it public or private? If you leave your site unrestricted, you need to realize that many companies will look for you on Facebook to learn more about you. Pictures of you in “unprofessional” situations, drinking, smoking, or what-have-you, might be fine for your friends, but is this how you want your future boss to see you? Assume anything you post on an unrestricted Facebook page is the same as posting that same image on your resume. I suggest you lock down your account to just friends, or you make sure to keep your page Sunday-School appropriate.

Yes, one picture can be worth 1,000 words. As a job seeker, make sure those 1,000 words say “here’s why you should hire me.”

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.