Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine who is a recruiter. She has been in the same position for over 10 years and had been presented with the possibility of an interesting job opportunity. When she was asked for a copy of her resume, she panicked! She didn’t have one! She knows first-hand the importance of presenting a powerful resume. She spends her days reviewing resumes and screening candidates. However, she hadn’t updated her own resume in nearly 15 years! She was re-hired into her current position and had done some consulting before that and hadn’t needed a “real” resume. How was she going to reconstruct 15 years of employment history and successfully convey her achievements and accomplishments when she couldn’t remember them! Frantically, she called former colleagues and friends and somehow put something together. The process was not pleasant and the end result did not truly communicate her abilities.
My friend is not the first person, nor will she be the last person, to experience that feeling of helplessness. She has seen first-hand the importance of keeping notes regularly on what she has accomplished. I don’t think she will be making that mistake again. Hopefully, she can be an example for us so we don’t have to go through what she went through. We all know that we should have a file that we keep notes in so that updating our resume will be a manageable process, but how many of us actually do it?
Start now. Grab a paper and write down the basics. Your title(s), employers, dates and brief description of what you have done and accomplished. You won’t regret it but you may regret pushing it off! It takes 5-10 minutes per quarter (max!) and it will make your life so much easier!
As “Tax Time” is fast approaching it is helpful to remember any deductions that can help minimize your tax liability. Therefore, I wanted to remind you (or bring to your attention) the eligible tax deductions related to your job search. Below is an excerpt from an article from Kiplinger regarding these expenses, “The Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions”, Kiplinger Staff (Friday, February 4, 2011). Requirements to be eligible include: costs have to be associated with a job search within the same field that you are currently in, you must not be looking for your first job and you cannot have taken a long break off and now be returning to employment.
“If you’re among the millions of unemployed Americans who were looking for a job in 2010, keep track of your job-search expenses. If you’re looking for a position in the same line of work, you can deduct job-hunting costs as miscellaneous expenses if you itemize, but only to the extent that the total of your total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income. Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job don’t qualify.”
Eligible deductible job-search related expenses include:
- Transportation, food and lodging if must be away overnight for your job search.
- Taxi fares
- Employment agency fees
- Resume preparation fees, printing, business cards, postage
We can all use a tax-break, so check with your accountant to see if you qualify.
While unemployed it is important to keep yourself productively occupied, positive and to ensure that your skills remain up-to-date. Therefore, everyone would agree that it is a good idea to attend courses on subjects related to your career, technology or in areas that might increase your marketability. However, job seekers should be careful of crossing the line between genuinely increasing their skills and hiding behind their coursework to avoid looking for a job.
Too often, I have seen qualified individuals continuously enrolling in course after course at the expense of an all out job search. Many times, these job seekers are afraid of the process, afraid of rejection or just not sure of the best approach to take. Therefore, they enroll in yet another course so that they feel as though they are accomplishing while avoiding the unpleasant prospect of looking for work.
Just a heads up, in case you may be guilty of this behavior or know someone who may be, the first step is usually the hardest. Break the cycle and sit with someone to develop a concrete job search plan with identifiable goals. Sometimes all it takes is some guidance and jumping in to realize it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant a process as you imagined! Setting daily and weekly goals listing number of calls you will make, places you will search for possible leads and identifying specific names of people is a good start. It’s a good idea to partner with someone to keep on track and have a sounding board in this process.
Identifying your target audience in a job search can help create a more pleasant and productive experience. We are all aware that a manufacturer of a new product will determine the target audience of the product and create marketing campaigns to meet the needs and interests of the potential customers. For example, if a company was manufacturing a fabric softener dryer sheet it would not market the product to areas where dryers are not used. A campaign targeted at individuals using clotheslines to dry their clothes will not generate sales of the dryer sheets. That, however, does not discount the effectiveness and benefits of the product. It is merely a poor marketing practice.
Likewise, when conducting your own personal marketing campaign (i.e., sending out resumes, networking, contacting potential employers), you want to make sure that you are targeting appropriate employers based on your skills, background and personality or “product”. Your “product” has benefit for the right position!
We all need to be honest about ourselves (perhaps with some help from friends or colleagues) and determine where we would be most successful and add the most value. Whether your “product” is appropriate for a large corporation, family owned business or non-profit, by targeting the right audience you are likely to have success more quickly. Determining what type of employer, department or function would most benefit from your background will help you fine-tune your search. This may require introspection or coaching but it is a process worth exploring.
Recently, I have had some interesting conversations with several job seekers regarding different aspects of the job search. A common thread through many of these conversations was the need for job seekers to make use of technology in assisting them in securing their next job. Whether it is used to assist in identifying potential employers or in preparing for a scheduled interview, the need to use technology is a given.
For example, I was discussing cover letter preparation with a candidate who had heard about a specific opening at a competitor. He was given the name of the hiring manager and told a bit about the position. He wanted my assistance in preparing the cover letter. I asked him about the background of the interviewer, i.e., where he had gone to school, worked previously, hoping to find a commonality between the manager and the candidate that I could reference in the letter. The candidate responded that he had no idea and seemed surprised when I asked if he had googled the manager and the potential employer. Obviously, he hadn’t! The internet is there for us to use!! If you google a potential hiring manager and the potential employer you may learn valuable information that may help you get the job. You may know someone who went to the same school or worked at the same prior employer as the manager who you can then ask to put in a good word for you. You may learn something about the potential employer that you can reference in a cover letter to show that you have done your research. In this day and age, if you come to an interview without having done internet research it may be held against you – you will appear unprepared. Don’t let that happen.
Another use of the internet is to identify potential employers. I’m not referring to typical job boards but rather to discovering specific companies that may interest you and then doing a direct marketing campaign – contacting people within the organization and inquiring if there may be an opening or if you can come in and meet with them. Not all positions are posted on job boards. You can become the right person at the right time if you take the time to call a company after researching them on-line. If you discover information about a specific project or deal they are working on or a specialty that they have and you call and explain how your background would be beneficial to them, you may land yourself a new job! Cold calling may not be effective but “targeted” calling armed with properly researched information can be.
Be creative! Try different tactics! You never know what might make the difference!
Recently, my friend and former colleague, Donna Flagg wrote a refreshing piece for Psychology Today and The Huffington Post. Her article discussed the reality in which we live – that we are judged by what we wear. She had the moral fiber to take a stand against the “politically correct” responses of the masses on the topic of Inez Sainz. Ms. Sainz is the sportscastor who took offense to comments made by Jets’ players after she entered their locker room in less than professional attire. Donna’s words rang true, true, true to me. I will not repeat her article here but it is worthwhile reading: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/office-diaries/201010/business-women-should-not-dress-sex-workers-period and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donna-flagg/why-dressing-for-business_b_768561.html.
The bottom line of her article and the issue confronted by Ms. Sainz is that our way of dress conveys a message. Some professions require a specific uniform while others have a more flexible dress code. There is a general understanding that certain attire is appropriate for certain occasions and inappropriate for other settings. In order to be taken seriously and be viewed as a professional, attractive but conservative clothing should be worn. For example, a defendant in court will generally wear something conservative to portray an image of respectability. Likewise, if one wants to be respected he/she must dress and act respectfully. Ms. Sainz chooses to wear clothing that universally portrays a message of promiscuity and casualness not professionalism.
We all must understand our profession, the image we are attempting to portray and the acceptable dress code for our industry. As Donna so eloquently put it, “A wise woman once told me that it was best to be attractive, but not attracting, when dressing professionally for work. What a simple and profound concept it was.” The same holds true for dressing for an interview or marketing event. Thank you Donna for your honesty and accuracy on this topic!
All interactions with a potential employer are part of the total impression that you make. These impressions add up to influence the decision to hire or not to hire. Your initial contact, phone conversation, resume, cover letter, emails are all part of the “package”. Obviously, your behavior during the interview is part of the impression you make as well. In addition, your choice of activities while waiting for the interviewer can and will be used to assess you as a candidate. Even your demeanor and walk back to the elevator and out of the building may be used if noticed. The message here is – don’t let the “little” things ruin your chance.
While waiting for the interview either in a reception area or in the interviewer’s office, be mindful of your behavior. The following are some do’s and don’ts:
- Read an industry magazine or non-fiction material. This displays an interest in learning and staying up to date.
- Sit quietly but be alert. Show consideration for others while proving that you are attentive to your surroundings.
- Be polite to the receptionist or assistant. How you treat others is important and this feedback may be requested.
- Write in a notebook. Display thoughtfulness and consideration by working quietly and professionally.
- Keep quiet and neat. Demonstrate consideration for those working around you, for the appearance of the area and show that you are put together, neat and organized.
- Make or answer calls. This is not your living room – be sensitive to that.
- Read a trashy novel or magazine. Think of the impression you are trying to make.
- Eat. This isn’t a restaurant.
- Pace. This tends to get people around you nervous and doesn’t cause good vibes.
- Text or email incessantly. This can annoy others and give the impression that you are addicted.
- Flirt with the receptionist or assistant. Being polite is very different from being inappropriate.
- Rustle bags and empty your belongings. Do not appear to be messy, noisy, disorganized and inconsiderate.
A friend of mine was looking for a job while in his final year of law school. He was intelligent and did well in school. He had countless on-campus interviews but met with little success. After about the tenth interview things began to turn around for him and he was being asked back for additional interviews. What he realized was that he had finally had sufficient practice interviewing and was now a more confident, intelligible and impressive interviewer. Unfortunately, he learned the hard way. He forfeited some valuable opportunities practicing.
We all know what we do. We all think we have the answers. And we do. The trouble is if the answers are not very well rehearsed we will be busy formulating sentences instead of impressing the interviewer. An interview is a performance and it needs to be rehearsed. This does not mean that it is a fiction play but rather an opportunity to “try out for the role” and if you haven’t practiced it will be very hard to land the role. You can practice in a room by yourself, face to face with a friend, family member or professional interview trainer but the important part is to practice.
Don’t be like my friend. Don’t use valuable interviewing opportunities as practice time. If you haven’t practiced it will show. And believe me, it will not be an impressive showing.
Ask ten recruiters and hiring managers if a cover letter should be included with the resume and you may get ten different answers. Some people never read the cover letter, others don’t consider a resume unless a cover letter is attached. However, most will agree that there is no harm in attaching a cover letter so you may as well. And since some feel that a cover letter is necessary the safest route to take is to include a professional, concise and customized cover letter. Here are some rules to follow when preparing your cover letter:
MAKE IT TYPO FREE – don’t let it ruin your chances of being called for an interview because of spelling and grammatical errors.
MAKE IT APPEALING – if mailing, it should be formatted like a proper letter. If emailing, it should be set up as a letter as well but does not require the address sections.
MAKE IT THE BODY OF THE EMAIL – if sending the resume via email, avoid sending the cover letter as a second attachment but rather make the cover letter the body of the email and the resume the attachment.
MAKE IT SELL YOU – some recruiters and hiring managers view the cover letter as an example of your writing ability and style. Impress them with how you put together this document.
MAKE IT SPECIFIC – customize the cover letter for the specific position you are applying for. Avoid generic cover letters.