career advice


Every so often there is an opportunity for reinvention of yourself, and this down economy is certainly one. We all get very attached to what we do as the definition of who we are. When we no longer do a particular job because of a downsizing, layoff, retirement, selling a business, health concerns or a myriad of other reasons, suddenly the identity that went with it is gone too. When we no longer have that identity we can start to wonder who we really are. A great quote I read recently said "Many (people) will be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves this year." That's right, given the opportunity. Because once that job and identity are gone, whether we wanted it to be gone or not, the boundaries that went with it are gone as well. We are no longer what we were, which means we can now be something else. The change may be subtle or dramatic--I was a corporate art director and now I'll become an art director in a different industry. Or move to the agency side. Or build up my interactive design skills. Or start my own design firm. Or open my own retail store. Or get the education necessary to be an art teacher. Or take the time to watch my children grown up for a few years. Or go back to school for nursing.The possibilities are limited only by your interests, ideas and how hard you want to work to make them come to life--certainly some reinventions will take considerably more work than others. Once you let go of what you were, you can become what you want to be. Or at least what you want to be for now, until your next reinvention. Because most people go through this process at least 2-3 times during their work life.

Landscape has Changed for Job Seekers

Janice Worthington's article from Business First this week really struck me as a great reality check for job seekers. The advice is sound in any market, but especially important in today's climate. If you're a Business First subscriber you can read the full article online. Key points below. What you should know about the changed landscape for job seekers:
  • No one will knock on your door--even if you were always recruited for jobs in the past, expect to be the one looking today
  • Realize the hunt--it requires creative hunting in corners relevant to your skills and expertise
  • Type...Point...Click is not a job hunt--this is passive job searching and employers are swamped with online resumes, only using online job boards is equivalent to only looking at newspaper classifieds
  • Interview schmooze is out--don't be try to be a buddy or divert from the interview topic of how you can meet the employer's needs, be friendly of course but stick to the relevant discussion
  • Welcome new arrangements--consider all that require longer or weekly commutes, contract-to-permanent jobs, relocation or paying your own relocation expenses
  • Know the players--both internal and external recruiters work for the employer, their mission is to fill the position with the best possible candidate not to find you a job
  • Career coaches for candidates--career coaches advocate for you, walk you through the search process, provide professionally prepared resumes, networking assistance, search strategy tools--their mission is to find you a job. In the interest of full disclose, the author is a career coach that we do recommend to our associates.

FISH! Sticks

Recently Eileen wrote about a book she read called "FISH!" Another book in this series by Stephen C. Lundin is called FISH! Sticks. Like the previous book, Lundin continues to weave his teachings in a fictional story about Good Samaritan Hospital in New York; however, this story talks about adapting to changing times and how to keep your work fresh. With so many stories on the news about companies closing or laying off employees, there's a lot of people hoping President Obama can fulfill his campaign vision, "yes, we can change." At the moment, this energy is external and you need that to get people to jump on the band wagon. Lundin states that "external energy is necessary at beginning of any large-scale change initiative. But it's only effective for the short-term." At some point in order to sustain change, the energy "must be replaced by natural energy in order for the change to stick," otherwise you'll backslide into old ways. Lundin says that natural energy is created when we "find IT, live IT, and coach IT." IT is how we see ourselves personally contributing to the vision, whether it's President Obama's vision, your company's, or your own. Once identifying what your IT is, you need to find opportunities to contribute to the vision, called "vision moments." Lastly, in order to achieve natural energy that will sustain a changing environment, you need to coach IT. Coaching isn't about who is right or wrong, who is the boss, or more senior; instead it's about keeping everyone on the same path. "Coaching is the glue that holds us together and the fuel for the little corrections that keep a place burning bright." So if you really want change to happen, read "FISH! Sticks" to understand how important your actions are to fulfilling the vision.

Job Searching in a Recession

It's official. Economists have confirmed that the U.S. is in a recession and apparently has been since last December. Thanks guys, most people already knew that. Regardless of that not-so-happy news, if you're looking for work you need to keep moving forward. Job Searching in a Recession hits key areas to keep in mind and a few tips related to each area. Key highlights: Take a closer look at industry data Focus on areas that are more stable or growing, and therefore may be more likely to hire. In the marketing and advertising areas interactive is still a big need, and (according to a recent Columbus Chamber report) local industries that are fairly stable include health, insurance, education, and technology. Freshen up your skills In a competitive job market it's more important than ever to be up-to-date. Employers are looking for candidates who are ready to go on day one, they often don't need to (and won't) provide on-the-job training. Rev up your social networking You probably know a lot more people than you realize. Use online networks like LinkedIn and Facebook to connect or re-connect, and get yourself out to industry events and organization meetings. You'll find out industry news, inside info, leads, referrals, and other helpful information for your search. Think in terms of results It's really always about the employer anyway, but now it's crucial to show them what you can do for them. What you need isn't important unless they can see how much they need you. Sorry. Polish your brand and market it Just posting your resume on job boards and looking on isn't enough. You need to put together a pristine resume, excellent portfolio, make connections, and market yourself just like you'd market a product. Be realistic Experts say to "expect it to take at least three months to find a job that pays $40,000. Add one month for every $10,000 more you want in salary. In other words, if you are looking for $80,000 a year, expect it to take at least seven months to find a new job." Be prepared, it's a process and it takes time.

Thinking Differently

Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors, bloggers and overall genius thinkers. He recently posted information about a program he is setting up, essentially a six-month educational opportunity with him. As valuable as a MBA (he says), and he might be right. At first it sounds crazy...six months unpaid, you have to be in New York, pay your own expenses...who would do it? But then I started thinking about the whole concept, and it's brilliant. At minimum it's a one-of-a-kind opportunity to do something entirely different, and learn from someone you really respect. Students and recent graduates do internships to gain experience, it's a requirement at some schools and highly suggested at most. But once you've landed that first, third or fifth job, who thinks about an internship? (which is essentially what Seth Godin is suggesting, regardless of what he calls it). Say you really don't care about Seth Godin, or don't want to move to New York on your own dime for six months? Maybe there is a way you can apply the same concept to your own career. If you could work with a company that you think is amazing or support an organization that you feel is essential, for free, would you? What if it could change your life, get you contacts you'd never have otherwise, building relationships in your industry, help you get into a new field, or build new skills that are essential? If you really want to be somewhere entirely different in a year, what can you do over the next 12 months to get you there? If you could work part-time in a bill-paying job, and do an internship with the place in town you think is absolutely the best, would you? Would they? Who knows, but you never know unless you ask. Find a contact, put together a proposal, see where it goes. Or, if you really want to build up your contacts and reputation in your industry, and have some fun as well, check into volunteering with an organization. They are always looking for interested people who believe in their cause. Unusual times require creative thinking, how can you think differently about your career?

Holiday Shopping (for a job)

It's Black Friday, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S. While you're making that list, scouring stores and online for the best deals, and recovering from your overload of turkey...don't forget about your job search. Are you thinking that no one hires during the holiday so you might as well forget it and enjoy yourself until the New Year? Think again. Companies don't stop working during the holidays, and neither should you. It could even be to your advantage--if most people do put their search on hold until the New Year then you have less competition! Finding a new job is a top New Year's resolution, and the market will be packed come January. If you're already getting your info out and making progress now, you're at least 4-6 weeks ahead of the crowd. This article, Holiday Shopping for a Job-How to Get Ahead of the Post-Season Competition, has some great advice. Keep moving forward, and do at least one new thing every day to get you towards your goal.

Highly Abused Resume Phrases

From Real Simple magazine. The six most highly abused phrases on resumes and profiles, according to research by LinkedIn, the professional networking site: "Proven track record" "Problem solver" Fast paced" "Due diligence" "Cutting edge" "Results-oriented" In addition, while women tend to overuse "attention to detail", men apparently do quite a lot of "disaster recovery." Good to keep in mind while updating your resume, if it's an overused phrase it's not doing anything for you. Find a better way to share that information. Okay, since I'm a problem solver with a proven track record, I'm off to do some results-oriented fast paced disaster recovery with great attention to detail...

3 Things You MUST Do to Ace the Job Interview

Sharon DeLay is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Professional Career Coach. She wrote this article for our newsletter recently, we thought it was definitely worth a second read. Congratulations! You landed the job interview. What now? Many job candidates assume that their résumés will speak for them and that all they need to do is show up for the interview. This assumption is doubly dangerous if the candidates are working through a staffing or search firm, because they assume the intermediary (the staffing or search firm representative) has already sold them to the employer. As a matter of fact, the interview is where the candidate needs to really start working! To improve your interview experience and increase your chances of becoming the preferred candidate: Research. The number one deal breaker recruiters and hiring managers have identified is whether the candidate has taken the time to learn about the hiring company. With the abundance of information on the Internet today, employers believe candidates should be able to develop a basic understanding about the company, the market, and the company’s values and cultures before ever walking into the interview. Using the excuse that you’re “just” an accountant, graphic designer, janitor, etc. doesn’t work. To learn more about a company, do an Internet search and review the news coverage, as well as the company’s public Web site (including annual reports and the About Us section, as applicable). You can also ask your friends and colleagues what they know about the company. Adjust your attitude. A very close second is having a good attitude. Some employers have even said this is more important to them than the skill level of the individual. They are willing to invest in training if the candidate’s attitude is stellar and a good fit for the company. To demonstrate a good attitude, always smile. Practice answering your interview questions in front of a mirror and check to see if you have a relaxed, approachable (and smiling) visage. Also, avoid using the interview as a platform for voicing your displeasure over your last job or boss. No matter what the truth is, always formulate your answers to be positive and forward-looking. The past is just that. Learn from it and move on. Create value. Of course, employers want to know you have the basic required skill set to do the job. However, all that gets you is consideration as a candidate along with several others. To separate yourself from the pack, you need to demonstrate how you can help the company do the same. When you talk about your skills and experience, do it in the manner that demonstrates how what you have done has added value to your past employer. Use quantifiable information, discuss efficiencies you’ve introduced and revenue or savings you’ve generated. Simply reiterating your job description only proves you met the basic job requirements.

5 easy steps to start career networking

Sharon DeLay is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Professional Career Coach. She wrote this article for our newsletter recently, we thought it was definitely worth a second read. Studies indicate that the most effective way to find a job is through networking. Whether you’re trying to get into the company of your dreams or move across the country, networking is the way to go. Research indicates that most of the jobs available today will be filled through networking, yet resistance to this method of securing a job remains high, mostly due to uncertainty about how to get started. Try these five easy steps to jumpstart your career networking strategy.
  1. Avoid assumptions. Often, the first words out of the new networker’s mouth are, “I don’t know anyone who can help me get to where I want. Everyone I know is just like me.” Actually, you would be surprised who people know. Even your closest friends and family members either know someone you should meet or know someone who knows someone. Don’t assume your current network is full of dead ends, which leads to the next point.
  2. Begin in your comfort zone. One misconception about networking is that you have to talk with people you don’t know. This is uncomfortable for a lot of people because they simply don’t like talking to strangers or don’t know what to say. Select a few people (friends, family members, co-workers, etc.) you know, like and trust to begin with them.
  3. Identify your goals. To get started, you need to first clarify a few things. What is it you want this year? A new position within your company? A new job altogether? New projects to expand your résumé? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you determine your approach and what to say.
  4. Just ask. Because your first time is always a bit awkward, just make a determination that you’re going to just ask…to meet, talk on the telephone, get advice, or whatever it is you need to do. Once you get over the initial fear and discomfort of asking, it gets easier.
  5. Resolve not to ask for a job. That’s right; don’t ask someone for a job. If you ask someone for something not within his or her power to give you, he or she will be less inclined to want to help you. It’s a common human response: we tend avoid what we know we will fail to achieve (or that causes us pain). Rather than asking for a job, ask for information, other people to talk to, or feedback on how people perceive your skills, abilities and marketability. Nearly everyone can successfully give you what you need in these areas and this will ultimately lead you to your end goal.