What’s Your Handicap?

This is a common question in the game of golf. Any player who wants to improve his or her game knows his/her handicap.  Being aware helps the player get better.  Golfers are encouraged to practice their game to decrease their handicap. This concept can apply in your job search as well.  Here’s how.

If you have been searching for the perfect job but just can’t seem to find it perhaps you need to discover your handicap. There are many factors which contribute to difficulty in landing a job: the downturn in the economy, high levels of unemployment, lack of necessary experience or lack of appealing positions. However, sometimes we might have better luck if we weren’t ignorant regarding our personal job search handicap.

Unfortunately, unlike in the game of golf, the job search handicap is not a simple calculation, easy for anyone to figure out.  In the job search, we have to do some serious introspection and depend on friends and relatives to come up with our handicap. It would be great if interviewers would share with us what our handicap or issue was but that generally doesn’t happen in the real world.  Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the usual, “We are sorry but we are going with another candidate”, we would be told, “We didn’t feel that you researched our organization well enough” or “You didn’t convey a feeling of confidence in your expertise with xyz” or even, “Tone it down a bit. You came off a bit arrogant.”

If we had honest feedback from those who reviewed our resumes or interviewed us we would be able to focus and improve on what’s been holding us back.  The next best thing is to get that feedback from practice interviewers.  Just like in the game of golf, to improve you must practice.  Sit with family members, friends, colleagues or a professional interview coach and practice, practice, practice. And then, accept the feedback you are given and work toward decreasing your handicap.  Don’t let a job search handicap prevent you from moving your career forward!

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Is Professionalism Dead?

When I go to the doctor, dentist, bank or supermarket I am there for a very specific reason and I expect a certain level of service, expertise and professionalism.  I am not there to hear the receptionist, teller, cashier, doctor or nurse discuss plans for the evening, re-hash their weekend activities or gripe about a boss or nasty co-worker.  Is it too much to ask that while these people are in front of patients or clients that they behave professionally?

I want confidence in the service that I am receiving and expect all service providers to add to this confidence.  My assurance goes way down as I listen to mundane, annoying and sometimes disturbing conversations, watch as bubble gum is chomped, blown and popped or hear the staff’s lunch menu selection without regard to their unintended audience.

The same holds true for some people’s selection of attire.  Uniforms have been adopted in some service lines for a very good reason.  Business attire serves the same purpose.  While
uniforms and business dress increase confidence the opposite occurs when clothing is unprofessional.  I’m appalled (and embarrassed) by the way some people go to work!

Interestingly, while writing this blog entry I completely by accident came across a survey on professionalism done by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania.  Evidently, for the past few yeas they have been conducting a survey on the level of professionalism among entry-level workers.  I was not surprised at the findings which revealed that both HR representatives and managers found areas where professionalism was lacking.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that some behaviors are beginning to be viewed as acceptable due to widespread existence of those behaviors.  However, just because they exist does not make them right!  In case you are interested, here is a link to the findings of the 2012 survey http://www.ycp.edu/offices-and-services/academic-services/center-for-professional-excellence/2012-professionalism-study/.

So, for all those lucky enough to have jobs, think about the impression you are making and for those who are seeking jobs please be courteous to those whom you will be serving.  And remember, if you can out-beat the competition during your interview just merely by acting more professional than the other candidates it may help you get an offer!

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Successful Networking!

Just a quick, positive and uplifting story for those of you who may need it! Don’t get discouraged if your efforts at finding employment have not yet produced results.  If necessary, take a break for a week or so and then start again with a fresh, new attitude.

I hear from clients all the time who have found new positions but unfortunately they don’t always share the details of how it happened. Recently I heard about a few success stories that resulted from aggressive but targeted networking.  I will share one story now.

 Mr. Candidate, a recent college graduate, was determined to find something in his preferred field.  It was already more than 6 months after graduation but he didn’t want to settle for just any job.  He continued to contact people and respond to job openings.  Using LinkedIn, he found a contact at a desired employer (we will call him Mr. Interviewer).  Mr. Interviewer was connected to one of Mr. Candidate’s contacts. He asked his contact to introduce him to Mr. Interviewer.  The introduction took place and Mr. Candidate followed up with a request to meet. Fortunately, a position had just opened in Mr. Interviewer’s group and within a few weeks Mr. Candidate had a job offer!!!

Remember, this wasn’t a quick, slam-dunk job search but rather a result of over 6-8 months of solid job searching.  The right thing came along at the right time after a great deal of persistence.  This can happen for everyone!

 New members are constantly signing up on LinkedIn. Continue to search for potential employer contacts and use your contacts to get introduced!  Don’t give up!

 Please tell me about your successes so that I can continue to share with all my clients!

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Where is my “Objective”?!

I have been asked many times by conerned clients, “Where is the Objective on my resume?  How is the potential employer going to know what I want to do without an Objective?”  This is a valid question since resumes of the past all started with an objective.  But, that is the past and there is good reason for moving away from the “Objective”.  Objectives no longer have their place on a resume and here is why.

An Objective tells the reader what you, the candidate, are looking for or what the employer can do for the candidate.  The goal of a resume is to sell your skills and accomplishments to the employer; to convey to the potential employer what you have to offer.  By starting a resume with an Objective you are using up valuable space on your personal “advertisement” and may lose your reader while you are busy with your demands.

Instead, I recommend starting the resume with a summary of qualifications or accomplishments where you express your achievements and accomplishments.  This conveys to the reader what you are capable of and why they should continue to read on  and see what value you can add to an organization.  As quoted from a Forbes Magazine article, “Ten Resume Red Flags” by Erin Joyce,  “For the most part, objectives sound insincere and, worse, can limit your options. Let your cover letter do the talking when it comes to why you want that particular job. And remember, each cover letter and resume should be individually tailored to a specific job posting–not just a specific field. Taking an interest in the specifics of the job makes you look professional and focused and not like you are mass-emailing anyone who might hire you. Desperation is no more attractive to an employer than it is to a date.”

The importance of the customized cover letter is stressed above as well for those who are concerned that the employer won’t know what job they are applying for if there is no objective.  Read more about writing an effective cover letter in some of my other blog posts.

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Numbers Talk!

We are all familiar with the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  There is some debate as to who coined this phrase but little argument over its meaning and truth. However, I am going to be so bold as to suggest modifying this saying to “A few numbers are worth a thousand words”.  At least when it comes to a resume.   Allow me to explain myself.

When a picture is used to sell a product or convey a message, one is selected that will portray an image with a clear message, catch the viewers attention quickly and easily and will have a high impact on the viewer.  If the desired result is achieved then that picture was worth a thousand words and got the attention of the viewer a whole lot quicker and more efficiently than words could have.  Similarly, when an advertisement is attempting to convince the listener or viewer of something, numbers can be worth a thousand words as well.  As an example, say a candidate was running for office and wanted to quickly and effectively communicate his/her credentials to potential voters.  Which would have a stronger impact:  “In the past I have created jobs, cut taxes, increased benefits to the disabled and provided safer streets for our citizens.”  Or:  “In the past 4 years I have created 50% more jobs, cut taxes by 20%, increased benefits to cover 40% more of our disabled population and cut crime by 30%.”

The same is true for a bank or hedge fund wanting to impress investors with its ability to successfully manage money and provide safe returns.  The bank might quote that it has $x  under management and averages a return of x% for the past x number of years.

Recently, I heard an advertisement for the Indian Point Power Plant extolling its benefits and safety.  The ad highlighted that if the plant were to close all of our energy costs would be much higher.  When I heard that I thought to myself “What does that mean?  What is the definition of much?  It can mean $1 per year to one person or $1000 per year to another.”  The vagueness of the word “much” left me doubting their words and skeptical of the whole ad.  I wondered why they didn’t put a value or percentage to the rise in energy costs.

The same can occur on our resumes.  Stating that we significantly reduced spending may mean 1% or 75%.  The ambiguity may turn off some hiring managers.  If you actually had a significant impact on spending, then state the number.  Sometimes a percentage is more effective and sometimes the actual dollar amount is appropriate.  This applies to all positive achievements.  Stating the percentage by which you reduced errors, customer service was improved, sales increased, revenue increased, etc, tells a stronger story than merely saying it without any quantifiable measurements.  How many people did you hire, how many users did you service, how many clients did you have, how many clients did you add, how many hours did you save….  The examples can go on and on.  We each have to look at our careers and quantify our achievements from our own personal backgrounds regardless of our positions.  Numbers talk – they convey a message.  So if you have numbers that can tell a positive story – use them!

This is my justification for making a modification to that age-old saying: “A picture is few numbers are worth a thousand words”.

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The After-Interview Thank You Letter

People have been writing follow up thank you letters or notes after an interview forever.  Is it really necessary?  Does it have any impact at all on the hiring decision? 

A thank you letter can help tip the scales in your favor and get you a second interview or even an offer.  It can also have a negative impact and cause a manager to decide against moving the process forward.  A poorly written letter or one with spelling or grammatical errors will in all probability ensure you a spot in the “Reject” pile.  But what can you do to help your chances through a thank you letter.

An effective thank you letter should reiterate your interest in the position and thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.  However, to make your candidacy stand out it is helpful to reference an aspect of your interview or discussion that you had that you found especially interesting.   For example, if you discussed a specific project that the employer is working on, a technology they are using or a new approach they may be taking, mention that conversation in the thank you letter and the fact that you enjoyed it for whatever reason.  If you found an article regarding something you discussed during the interview, attach it to the thank you letter and point out that the interviewer may find this information interesting based on your conversation.  Just as a thoughtful, well-prepared candidate positively impacts an employer, so too a thoughtful letter makes a positive impression.  Your letter should stand out (in a professional and good way) so that you stand out as a candidate.

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How often do I hear clients say, “But I’m not an expert, does this make me sound like I know more than I do?” or “I’m not sure that I know all aspects of that software (Excel, Word, etc.,), should I really say that I know it?”  Over and over again I hear people unsure of themselves and their skills.  This uncertainty comes through very clearly on an interview or phone conversation (and even in written correspondence) and is not viewed positively.  My answer to these clients is always the same, “Believe in yourself and your abilities!  That is half the battle.” No one expects you to know as much as the developers who wrote Excel!  You can use it, create spreadsheets and some formulas – you can put it on your resume!  Let the recruiter or hiring manager know what you have done with it, don’t start listing the things you can’t do!  Having confidence is critical in a job search.  If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will believe in you either. And no one wants to hire someone they don’t believe in.  Whether you are just starting out in your career or have been working for some time, believe in your abilities and believe that you can learn what you don’t already know.  Being positive and confident (not cocky!) goes a long way in a finding a job!  As a matter of fact, it helps in retaining a job and getting promoted too!

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College Grads or Anyone for that Matter

Are you or someone you know graduating college soon?

2010 was reported to be the toughest year in over 20 years for recent graduates in securing employment upon graduation.  Every year somewhere between 1 and 2 million students graduate from college and hope to join the workforce.  Many are bright, articulate and anxious to work.  However, with unemployment at over 9%, the competition is tough.

What can a recent graduate do to increase the likelihood of securing employment?  Below are some basic ideas to boost your hire-ability.

Read entire article here: 


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More on Social Networking

I recently wrote about the down-side of social networking.  Although the internet has provided a plethora of positive opportunities and can be extremely useful in a job search, if not used wisely it can hurt us in many ways as well.  According to a recent report, prosecutors and defense attorneys are now making use of the internet to learn about witnesses, jury members and defendants.  The information out there is public and available.  Although the legality of its use is still up for discussion, the reality is that it is being used!  Be aware of what is being posted by you and friends, even if you are young and care-free now!  Think of how many people have been arrested after “bragging” on YouTube or other on-line medium about some silly, illegal and often dangerous behavior.  Those may be extreme cases (still, unbelievably, some people fall prey to those situations!) but would you want to be turned down for a position, fired or scrutinized in court based on something posted on-line?  I don’t think so.

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Social Networking

According to a 2009 survey by CareerBuilder.com about 45% of employers reported using social networking sites to research job candidates.  This is up from 22% in 2008 and presumably, to date, this number is even higher.  35% of employers reported that information they found on-line caused them to reject a candidate.  Those are BIG numbers!  When jobs are scarce and unemployment is high we should be doing all that we can to get hired, not to be rejected!  Information found on these sites may be seen by an unintended audience and you may not have a chance to defend yourself.  And it’s not gone just because you removed it.  Be careful of how you use social networking.  It has huge benefits but don’t discount the down-sides of misuse.

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