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.