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She is in Pain and Fighting a Hard Battle

This is an unusual story. It deviates from the career and job search articles I normally write, but life happens. It will cause you to pause and reflect on some of what could be going on in the lives of some of the people around us.

I had just dropped my husband off at the train station for a trip into Toronto. On my return I stopped at the grocery store for one item. I didn’t need a flyer, but it’s customary for me to pick one up as I am entering the store. The flyer stand was empty, but I saw one tucked far inside a shopping cart, requiring me to put in the quarter to retrieve it. I went straight to pick up the item I needed, but it was sold out. You are now wondering where I am going with all this detail, but bear with me.

Since I didn’t find what I went for, I decided to flip through the pages of the flyer anyway to see what else I could purchase. As I got to the back page I saw this handwritten message:

“God brought me into this world as everyone else. What’s my mistake in it? How am I supposed to be blamed for this? I have kids. I want to live for them; watch them grow into good human beings. I am really sorry if God made a mistake by bringing me into this world. What’s my mistake where no one loves me!!

My existence doesn’t affect[s] anyone!!

Life is like an extra baggage!! Fed up of it since last 12 years. I want to be loved by someone. Don’t I deserve to be loved!!

What’s the point of living!!

My In-laws hate[s] me!!

My husband hates me!!

I hate myself!! I hate myself!!”

Holy! My head started spinning as I re-read the note. I paid for the items and left. As I entered my vehicle, I thought of the pain that that woman was (and is) going through, wondered where she was at that moment, and said a prayer for her. This popular quote: “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle”, kept going through my mind. Wouldn’t a kind word or a shoulder to cry on have eased her pain that day?

We interact with people every day: at work, on the train, in the mall, at the grocery store, and at home. Some have smiles on their faces; others don’t, yet we are not always aware of what’s going on in their lives.

As a career coach, I collaborate with people facing career and job search challenges, whether it is a resume that isn’t communicating value; difficulty landing a job after several interviews; lack of career progression in the organization, or someone who is stuck, confused and, yes, fed up.

I have also had individuals contacting me for job search services, but early into the conversation we both discover they are dealing with issues that need to be resolved before we proceed. While not often, there have been cases where the issues are far outside my professional competence. In such cases I would refer the individual to a therapist or mental health professional trained to handle such matters.

In instances where the problem is not as extreme, we will work on them. Sometimes it’s a self-esteem issue because they feel they are not good enough. One woman actually told me she felt she was suffering from Imposter Syndrome. At other times, someone’s confidence has been shaken because they are not nailing the interview and keeps missing out on job opportunities. These individuals begin to second guess themselves:

  • “Why me?”
  • “Why did my last assignment end within three months, instead of the six they had promised?”
  • “Why am I not getting the jobs even after so many interviews? Could it be they didn’t like me, or was I not a good fit?”
  • “How come I was acting in the position for more than a year, and they hired someone else?”

These are real life battles and a lot of baggage for some people to carry. How can we help? Or, how about you? Do you see yourself in any of the above scenarios? Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you having thoughts like the woman who wrote that note? If the latter, seek professional help, starting with your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if there is one. If not, find someone you can talk to, or search for local organizations that offer counselling support.

By this I hope you now understand why this article did not focus on the job search or resume writing, and why I went into details at the beginning. There was probably a reason I went to great lengths to get the flyer even though I didn’t need it. I could’ve walked straight in the grocery store, picked up the item and left. But, probably it was to give me something else to write about outside my usual career topics. I don’t know.

Life happens outside of our jobs and careers. Sometimes we need to pause from our own busyness, or a focus on self, and become aware of what could be happening to people around us, and even those we don’t know.

That woman who told her story on that supermarket flyer was crying out and sharing her pain. She could be a family member, a coworker, a neighbour, or friend. We don’t know. What we do know is that we need to help carry one another’s burdens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a short conversation, a listening ear, zipping our lips before a hurtful word escapes, or taking the time to be kind. Kindness doesn’t cost anything.

A lot of anxiety and stress happens at the workplace. Considering many people spend many hours of each day in that space, it would be a great place to start being empathetic. The next time you are tempted to criticize someone, turn that criticism into kindness. Just think that this person could be having an ‘iceberg’ moment; a lot more going on beneath the surface. If a coworker snaps at you, invite them for coffee and listen, even in silence, or let them guide the conversation. If you are a manager and feel the urge to call out a staff member because they didn’t meet your expectation, turn the moment into a coachable one. Ask them a few questions and listen attentively to their responses:

  1. What is your dream?
  2. What motivates you?
  3. What would make your role in this department/company more fulfilling?
  4. Do you think you are currently performing up to your potential? Why or why not?
  5. What does success mean for you? What would a successful life look and feel like?
  6. If you could have anything in the world what would it be?
  7. What do you want the rest of your life to be about?
  8. Are you feeling overwhelmed? How do you release stress?
  9. What do you do to look after yourself on a regular basis?
  10. How do you enjoy yourself?

You might not have to ask or get an answer to all the questions, but that’s not the point. You shifted gears and took the time to make a difference in that person’s life.

On a scale of 1-10, life is not a perfect circle. There are ups and downs. If you are at a point where you want to take stock of your life or career, why not sit with a notepad in a quiet place and take a look at your life to determine what could be contributing to or impeding your progress or overall happiness? Find out what’s working in your family, job, career, friendships, finance, health, etc. and what’s not working. Rank them on a scale of 1-10. If they are low in most areas, it’s time to reach out for help from a trusted friend or a coach.

If you would like a free copy of an assessment tool – Brighten Up Your Life – which will indicate what a happy, satisfying life might look like for you in several areas, send me an email at daisy[at]thewrightcareer.com, and I will gladly make it available to you. (This tool will only work if you are committed to using it.)

In the meantime, take care of yourself and be kind to everyone you meet. They might just be fighting a very hard battle.

Need a quick chat about your career or job search? Give me a call pronto!

Life and Work Getting You Down? Call a Career Coach

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

You can’t reach the top of your game all by yourself. Just as sporting champions benefit from the wisdom and guidance of their coaches, so can you in your working career.

~ Robert Half Career Coaching Guide

Once upon a time coaching was exclusive to business executives, actors, athletes, professional speakers, and entertainers. These experts hire coaches to help them assess their strengths and weaknesses, keep them motivated and support them as they work toward fulfilling their goals and dreams. You might not fall into any of those categories, but that does not mean you couldn’t benefit from coaching. If you are experiencing any or all of the following symptoms you might want to consider a career coach:

  • You are standing at a crossroads in your career and need help identifying the right direction
  • You are dissatisfied with your job, but not sure what to do next
  • You Lack confidence and have been passed over for promotions or other job opportunities
  • You are not getting interviews, and when you do, you are not moving on to the next stage

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a woman who has been in a career rut for a few years. Her career includes working in marketing and advertising with some well-known brands in Toronto. She also had a stint in television. Now she is ‘stuck’. At the end of our exploratory conversation, I asked her, “So, how can I help you? She said, “Ugh, I thought you would tell me.” I explained to her that coaching isn’t about telling someone what to do – it’s asking the right question to help the person gain clarity and come up with his or her own answers.

At the end of the conversation, I thought about this common misconception that people have about career coaching. A career coach cannot look into a crystal ball and tell a client what to do. It’s a collaborative process. The client explains the challenge they face, and where they might need the most help. The coach listens, prods, listens some more, advises, provides resources and keeps the client accountable.

Of course, it’s not easy to get out of a rut. Sometimes the journey starts off on the right foot but at some point the wheel falls off. Life gets in the way sometimes, but most times it’s because of a lack of action; a firm commitment to doing the homework (assessments, assignments, quizzes), and participate fully in the process. At some point they  abandon the process and give up. Giving up shouldn’t be an option if one really desires to get out of a rut.

Author and Marketing expert Bill Connolly wrote an article in Entrepreneur titled Stop Planning Your Career and Take Action. In it he summarizes the story of Dr. Susan O’Malley, a cosmetic doctor and personal development expert who specializes in helping people transform their own obstacles into victory:

  • College-dropout who worked as a secretary
  • At age 39 she became a doctor. (The day she started medical school she was six months pregnant and single.)
  • Became an entrepreneur at age 50
  • At 63 she became a first-time author writing her book, Tough Cookies Don’t Crumble: Turn Set-Backs into Success

Dr. O’Malley did not waver, complain or give up when she was forced  into a middle age change. “She dove head first into her new path, realizing that ‘now’ was far better than ‘never’, said Connolly. She advises anyone in similar positions as she was to start with small risks and work your way up.

“Everybody is afraid at one time or another. Fear prevents us from taking risks and stepping outside our comfort zone. All the stars will never be aligned perfectly and sometimes you have to make a decision with what you have.”

Anyone who realizes they are in a rut (career or otherwise), and wants a change, should take  action. Don’t leave such an important decision to happenstance. Once the decision is made, keep calm and carry on. Giving up should never be an option.

If you are feeling demoralized; if you find yourself at a plateau, and if you lack confidence, you might want to consider career coaching. A career coach can boost your confidence and give you a competitive edge.

 

Canada Career Week – November 4 – 8, 2013

Canada Career WeekToday’s issue of the Monday Morning Rx is a salute to Canada Career Week.

The week, November 4 – 8, 2013, has been designed “to promote, showcase and celebrate career development nation-wide”, by the Canadian Career Development Foundation and its partners.

Canadians are, indeed, at a crossroads in their careers, and even though there are a plethora of services and resources available, many are still not sure how to access these resources and make them work to their advantage.

public perceptions about career development and the workplace

At The Wright Career Solution, we will be hosting a FREE Q & A on Thursday November 7, at 8:00 pm EST, to provide answers to questions about career, resumes, interview strategies, or the job search. Details are below.

Can’t attend? No worries…send your questions to: careercoach[at]thewrightcareer.com, and we will answer them live.

To join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device: Go to Canada Career Week at The Wright Career Solution. If you would prefer to join by telephone, the phone line is: 1(424)203-8450 (US/Canada only). Meeting ID: 474 467 653.

If you are a career professional, then I invite you to participate as well.

Related information on Canada Career Week and Career Development:

Sharon Graham’s Blog

Facebook

CERIC’s Online Survey of Public Perceptions About Career Development and the Workplace

 

 

 

 

No Canadian Experience, Eh? A Canadian Bestseller

20100804_book_cover_previewOn Thanksgiving morning, I received a LinkedIn message from one of my contacts. It read as follows:

“Good morning Daisy,

My name is ______ and I work for _____ College. I was the coordinator for the Immigrant Language Training programs at [the college] and also taught the Newcomer Career Exploration course. I read your book a couple of years ago and thought it was a one of a kind resource for professional newcomers. I have since purchased four class sets and each one of my students has commented on how beneficial it has been through their transition here in Canada.

Our program assists professional newcomers transition to the Canadian workplace – each student must complete a work placement to gain experience. Our team has had a great success rate. Out of 15 students that enroll in our full-time program each year, an average of 7 students find full-time employment in their respective fields. This is not including our part-time student success!

I also would like to let you know that the first year I only purchased a set – hoping that students would return them at the end of the year…but, of course they valued your book and asked to keep it. This is the reason why I have purchased 4 sets – each semester. I give them away to the students, to keep learning and so that they can go back to those chapters in your textbook that are most important to them.

I would like to thank you for writing this textbook. I created my new hybrid course around your textbook and would love to share it with you some time.”

For obvious reasons I have not included her name nor the name of the college, but what a Thanksgiving gift! And I responded to her to tell her just that.

That news spurred me to do the Math and find out how many copies of this book that have been printed. It came up to 4,219. This number includes what has been sold, given away, as well as the ebook version.

Now, why is it a bestseller? During one of my researches when writing the book, I found out that if a self-published book sold 500 copies and more, it was considered a bestseller. Well…? No Canadian Experience, Eh? is one!

There are so many people to thank for this achievement, but my gratitude continues to go out to the 16 contributors of the second edition. You know who you are and this couldn’t have happened without you. What started as an idea, evolved into a book that has been making a difference to the lives of many people. Isn’t that a BIG announcement? In addition, this woman took it a step further and used the book to create a hybrid course for her students.

Never underestimate the rippling effects of one book.


Why You Should Leave the Complacency of Your Comfort Zone

Monday Morning Rx – A Weekly Dose of Career Inspiration

Hello there! I am Daisy Wright, of The Wright Career Solution, and am here with the Monday Morning Rx – a weekly dose of career inspiration.

Today’s episode is titled Why You Should Leave the Complacency of Your Comfort Zone.

First, I want you to take a look at the image before you. If you are within the circle where it is said that 90% of the population resides, I think you are a bit too comfortable, and it’s time to disrupt yourself. Get up and stretch, because I have an assignment for you today. I would like you to choose a phrase from inside the circle that you say quite often to yourself, and throw it away – literally or figuratively. Banish it from your vocabulary. Do not allow it to take centre stage in your life or your mind again.

Once you have done that, dare yourself to look outside the circle and choose one phrase that makes  you uncomfortable. It makes you uneasy whenever you see or say it. Brainstorm with yourself by writing as much as you can about this phrase. In doing so, keep asking these two questions: Why does this make me so uneasy or uncomfortable? What am I going to do about it?

I believe the comfort zone is jammed. Too many of us are settling for less; too many of us are fearful about trying something new, so we lock ourselves in this comfort zone where we feel safe. If this sounds like you, it’s time to get out of this space and allow yourself the freedom and flexibility to become the person you were destined to be!

Need help in getting started? Why not engage a coach or mentor; someone who can help you leave the complacency of your comfort zone and try something different. Then watch yourself gain confidence as you push yourself forward.

Someone once said, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”  My challenge to you today and this week is to make the decision not to stay where you are, but to get out of this safe place.

Best wishes as you move forward with your life and your career. Until then, it’s Daisy Wright, career coach at The Wright Career Solution, where we help managers and emerging executives tell their career stories and get hired.

 

 

Is Your Resume Telling Your Story?

This is your Monday Morning Rx…a weekly does of career inspiration (or humour)!

Is your resume telling your story

Once upon a time there was a resume that thought it was the best resume in town. It had an Objective that focused on what it wanted from the employer; followed by a series of job description statements and ended with References Available on Request. The resume looked at itself in the mirror and was quite pleased with its appearance.

Off to the job boards it went – Workopolis, Monster, Indeed, Eluta – where it applied for all the jobs that were available, whether it met the qualifications or not. It was so busy applying that it forgot to customize itself for each position. This resume then to sat and waited…and waited… for calls! It started thinking, “I have sent out so many resumes, why am I not being called for interviews?”

After a frustrating few weeks, it found the courage to call one of the employers. It was told that they received the resume but it was tossed into “File 13”. “What is File 13?” the resume asked. “The garbage bin”, the employer answered. “You did not include any achievement stories, neither did you demonstrate how the company would benefit from what you had to offer.”

As you can imagine, that was not a happy-ever-after story for this resume. It had to go back to the writing board to think of strategies to create an effective resume. Luckily it found a blog post on 5 Ways to Get Your Resume Ready for Prime Time.

Moral of the story… A resume that dresses itself up with a ‘me-focussed’ Objective; a laundry list of job descriptive statements instead of success stories, and a meaningless References Available on Request declaration, will never tell a convincing story or open doors.

While I can’t lay claim to the resume acronym below, it clearly illustrates that to capture an employer’s attention, a storytelling resume must contain:

Relevant

Experiences and

Skills, which are

Understood and

Measured by

Employers

What about your resume? Is it telling a compelling story? If not, it’s time to seek help.

Hope you received some resume inspiration from today’s dose of Monday Morning Rx.

How a Newly-Arrived Immigrant Landed a Six-Figure Job

http://www.daisywright.com/2013/07/23/how-a-newly-arrived-immigrant-landed-a-six-figure-job/Matthew had started his job search a few months before he arrived in Canada, but realized he needed coaching and a resume targeted to the Canadian market. He was referred to me by someone with whom we are both connected through LinkedIn.

After our initial discussion we agreed on a resume package that included a rewrite of his LinkedIn Profile. In his resume, we positioned him as a Global Business Development Executive. He was pleased with the resume, but wondered if it could intimidate some people. To calm his fears, I asked him the following questions:

  • Is the resume an accurate reflection of your achievements?
  • Did you oversee million dollar budgets?
  • Were you involved in some key contract negotiations?
  • Did you grow revenue by 65% for 3 consecutive years?
  • Did you reduce staff turnover by 50%?

He answered “Yes” to each question. I told him he had nothing to worry about but should focus his energies on how he could duplicate his successes with a new employer.

One of the first things he did after receiving his documents was to contact the CEO of one of his target companies through LinkedIn. He did this using a networking email I developed for him. Soon after, he was asked to send his resume. While waiting for a response, he began responding to postings on job boards. After he had uploaded 10 resumes over seven days, he contacted me to say he was not receiving any responses. I brought him back to reality by telling him that job boards, while important, were not the most effective tools for an effective job search.

He also had a couple of concerns. As successful as he was, he felt he was at a disadvantage without an MBA. He had also heard a lot about internationally educated professionals who were languishing in survival jobs because they lacked ‘Canadian experience’. I confirmed the truth, but suggested that he not allow such thoughts to take root in his head. He should focus, instead on his value proposition – what he had to offer employers.

Not too long into his search he was contacted by a VP to whom the CEO had forwarded his resume. In less than three weeks after that, he had had two interviews and a job offer. Before signing on the dotted line, he called me to ask questions about the offer. I gave him my non-legal opinion, and soon after he started his new six figure job as a Senior Director, Product Development with the company.

I imagine that several thoughts are going through your mind right now. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? What industry is he in? What did he do that I didn’t or couldn’t do?

Here are some things that contributed to Matthew’s success:

  1. He exuded confidence. Even though he may have been quaking in his boots, he displayed confidence in himself and his abilities – online and in person. During our strategy sessions, he mentioned that he was not averse to taking a survival job if he had to, but felt his resume would help him reach key decision makers. I also encouraged him to aim for his ideal position.
  2. He tapped into his network. Building and nurturing a network is crucial to job search success. Over time he had built a strong online network that included the CEO mentioned above. They were not buddies but he had the courage to send his resume that grabbed his attention. That is what set the process in motion.
  3. He invested in himself. He spent the time, money and effort needed to begin a serious job search and the results speak for themselves. So many people hesitate to invest in themselves and their careers yet worry when they don’t get the job or promotion they had hoped for.

The questions rolling around in your mind are legitimate ones that matter, but sometimes it just takes courage, perseverance and a don’t-ever-give-up-no-matter-what mentality! Begin by valuing your worth and believing that you have something to offer an employer. Determine how you are going to package that value, then find ways to go above, under or through the barriers. Do so as if your life depended on it, because it does! I’ll leave it at that for now and ask that you send me your comments.

Why I Love My Job

There were times when I didn’t love my job, mostly because I felt stifled as promotions were few and far between, and I knew I had so much more to offer. One day I took a leap of faith and landed into teaching and resume writing, then career coaching.

Most of my clients these days come from referrals. This not only makes it easy on my marketing, but it’s third-party validation of the work that I do.

A couple of months ago, I received an enquiry email from an HR Manager who was looking for a resume suitable for a Board appointment; a LinkedIn Profile and another resume in readiness for another opportunity, notwithstanding she had just been promoted a month earlier. In the email, she mentioned she was referred by a one of my clients. While I always aim to autograph my work with excellence, when it’s a referral, I double down, literally.

We met in my office and she explained what her needs were. I reviewed the documents she brought then asked for additional information including past performance appraisals. Within four weeks she had received her career marketing documents and was on her way.

After several weeks I followed up with her, as is customary. While listening to her feedback I asked if she could put some of what she was saying (about working with me) in writing. This is what she wrote. Am blushing even though you wouldn’t notice:

“I too am thankful to Gladys for connecting us.  She told me you were amazing and extremely helpful but I don’t think I realized at the time just how much of a return on investment would come my way when I first reached out to you.

In working with you, I found that the process of resume development should be pursued with thoughtfulness and consideration.  Taking the time to focus in on the accomplishments of my past and quantifying my value in each role has been one of the greatest practical skills I have learned from you.  One of the first things I did at work was to quantify the mediation work I performed into legal/arbitrations savings for my Director.  She was wowed by that information and immediately wanted to show it to her boss.

I was extremely impressed with the extra efforts you took to assist me with my moderator assignment – helping me craft a biography and even building on my speaker’s notes.  The rave reviews I received for that initiative was definitely attributable to your encouragement, support and assistance.  You’re coaching skills are outstanding.  Ever since you recommended ways to build upon my personal brand, I have been journaling my work accomplishments and projects every week so that I have something to look back upon for ease of application and retrieval.  

Daisy, you’re a consummate professional.  You’re passionate about your work and ensuring that your client puts their best foot forward.  You helped me identify and promote myself through an eye catching marketable resume and cover letter.  I even marveled at my accomplishments after reading your work.

I hope that we can continue to work with each other in the future.  You will be the first person I call for coaching and interviewing tips when the time comes.  It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you. Thank you very much for all that you’ve done to help me in this next phase of my career.”

The other client was a star employee for a couple of well-known technology brands. She was not a referral but found me through Google. As an entrepreneur for more than 10 years, she has reached the stage where she wants to do work that she enjoys rather than “chasing the money”. We spent many hours strategizing on what skills to highlight, and what to say if she’s asked why she’s targeting lower-level jobs – yes, lower-level, but interesting positions. I get hot behind my ears when I have to ask for a testimonial, but when I listen to what some people say about my services, I sometimes sheepishly ask them if they mind putting it in writing. Here’s what this client wrote:

“Daisy is a powerhouse of knowledge and compassion.  She has helped me to reposition myself and my resume so that it reflects more of who I truly am. Through working with her I can now approach prospective employers with greater confidence and ease.  It is such a pleasure to not only work with Daisy but to experience her knowledge, care and support that goes well above and beyond!”

While writing this post, I received an email from another client. He hasn’t announced his new position publicly as yet, but his note reads:

“Before I publicly announce it via LinkedIn I wanted to let you know I’ve accepted a role at (Big Name Company) as a Director in Technical Sales.  I am making a huge leap forward financially and in terms of responsibility.  Thank you for helping me to understand my unique value proposition.  I’d love to write you up an official recommendation if you like.”

It’s a given that not everyone who contacts me will be a good fit. I have had to turn away clients and some have had to turn me away, but in all cases it has worked out well for me, and I hope for them. I have learned in the process to narrow my niche to individuals in mid to senior-level management, and those on the cusp of management – who recognize that it takes time to understand who they are, what their goals are, and develop career marketing documents that focus on those goals. They understand that price plays a role, but value is more important than price. They are also willing to accept my advice, believe in themselves, and stretch beyond what they thought possible.

Having said that, am I giving up on other potential clients because they don’t fit the above profile? No, because many of my clients are not in that niche but we have built such a relationship that we’re stuck with each other. Others I have volunteered to work with on a pro bono basis after assessing their needs, and am equally happy to continue helping them.

These are the reasons I love my job, and I am grateful to work with the calibre of clients that I have.

Social Media: The New Job Search Frontier

Recently I did some presentations and a webinar on social media for my clients and a couple of community organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of Brampton.  These presentations offered simple strategies to build a LinkedIn Profile, how job seekers can use social media to market themselves to employers, and how professionals and entrepreneurs can benefit from having an online presence.

Many people are nervous at the mere mention of social media. They are afraid people might misuse their information; they want to guard their privacy, or they are just plain overwhelmed with so many of these tools from which to choose. One webinar participant wrote me to say, “I am scared of a free service that takes my data to make money and promises not to share my information.” She then asked if I thought she was paranoid. Privacy is a legitimate concern, of course, especially since we know, or have heard of many online horror stories, but one does not have to become paranoid.

At one point, I was hesitant to use Facebook, for example. Although I have had an account since 2008, I did not start actively using it until 2010, when I began to see additional benefits other than getting updates from my nieces and nephews. So, social media is scary, and it might look like a time-waster sometimes, but is that enough not to test the waters? From a job seeker’s perspective, is it worth missing out on potential job opportunities, or connecting with a couple of influential decision makers? Wouldn’t it be nice to address someone by name at one of your target companies instead of “Dear Sir/Madam”?

There are many advantages to using social media. During a LinkedIn conference in Toronto last week, the keynoter said, “If you have hired more than 10 people through LinkedIn, stand.” Over 600 HR professionals and recruiters stood up. In other sessions, presenters spoke about how companies can build their employer brands on LinkedIn by reaching out and engaging potential employees through Career Hub Pages and Groups. The overall message from my perspective as a career coach is that job seekers need a LinkedIn presence, for starters.

I also learned that Canada is the 5th largest country on LinkedIn, and that IBM is one of the most active companies on LinkedIn, with over 280,000 employees and 650,000 followers. Want to join IBM? There are lots of people with whom you could connect!

Here’s a summary of some major social media tools:

  • LinkedIn – known as the number one social media tool for business, it has over 150 million members. Not only can profiles be created, but resumes can be uploaded, and by following Company Pages, one is able to keep track of new hires, promotions and the overall health of specific companies.
  • Twitter – a free micro-blogging platform that sends short messages using 140 characters. Recruiters, employers and HR professionals are quite active on Twitter and quite often use it to announce  job vacancies.
  • Facebook – permits businesses to establish a presence and allows people to “Like” and follow those businesses.
  • Pinterest – a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to pinboards. At first glance, one may wonder how effective this is as a job search tool, and the jury is still out on this. However, if you are the creative/artistic type, you can certainly market yourself or your business with it, so, join Pinterest and ‘get ‘Pinspired’!
  •  Google+ – another content sharing service, with an added feature called ‘Hangouts’. It’s a new video service where one can hold meetings, arrange study sessions, family meetings, or social gatherings with up to 10 people. Some companies have already started to conduct interviews with Hangouts.
  • About.me – serves like a parking garage for your online presence. It is a personal page that points people to everything you do around the web. It can be useful as a link in an email instead of uploading your resume and your other documents.

I believe the new job search or business frontier is through social media, and job seekers and entrepreneurs need to leverage its use. None of us can afford to be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Does this mean social media is the ‘be all’ of your job search or business? No! What it does is help you build relationships, engage in conversations, and demonstrate your expertise. This will (over time), lead to opportunities, value and profitability.

Still scared? It’s time to jump on the social media bandwagon. Experiment and see which ones resonate with you, because these tools have become major players in how we conduct a job search, how and where we do business, what we purchase, and who we connect with.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

Career Coach Daisy Wright

Are you a job seeker who is frustrated with online applicant tracking systems (ATS)? Do you often wonder if your resume has disappeared into a blackhole because the only response you have had from the company is a generic, computer-generated acknowledgement? Well, you have a legitimate reason to be frustrated. After all, only 1% of total applicants get an interview. It’s also likely that your resume may have fallen into the 75% (approximately) of resumes that are discarded for using the wrong words. [Source: Preptel].

To help you understand the ATS process, and to find out how you can boost the chances that your resume will get through this ubiquitous system, I contacted two experts: Chip Cohan, VP of Business Development at PrepTel, and Sylvia Dahlby, of Advanced Personnel Systems, Inc., the company that develops the SmartSearch® applicant tracking system.

SmartSearch® helps companies find resumes fast in a searchable database, and because employers can store thousands of resumes in databases, the system helps them identify qualified candidates among previous as well as new applicants.

PrepTel, on the other hand, is a job seeker’s ally. They are the developers of ResumeterTM, a tool that uses the same technology hiring companies use to help identify deficiencies and show where a résumé may be improved, so it rises to the top of the applicant pool during the screening process. According to Chip, the tool “…enables individuals to quickly and easily customize a résumé for each job opening increasing the success the résumé will be reviewed and considered for an interview”.  This Candidate Optimization service is purported to “…improve a candidate’s chances of getting an interview, securing an offer, and maximizing their compensation package.”

Below are some tips that you should consider when using applicant tracking systems:

  1. Don’t limit the length of your resume. Job seekers are often told to limit their resumes to two pages. That’s still OK if you are sending it as an attachment or delivering it in person, but if you are using the ATS, you can send in a longer version.
  2. Use a generic heading like ‘Work Experience’. Fancy headings like Career Summary, Career Progression, and Notable Accomplishments, are passed over by the system because it is not designed to recognize such headings.
  3. Begin the work experience section with the name of your employer. It is customary to start this section with the employment dates, but the system looks for the name(s) of employers first. Therefore, start with employer’s name, your title, and the dates you held these titles, and place them on separate lines.
  4. Keep formatting simple and omit tables and graphics. The system cannot read graphics, and misreads PDF files and tables.
  5. Include a blend of keywords and phrases. Keywords are important, but the system is programmed to conduct semantic searches where it looks for strings of words identified in the job posting.
  6. Do not ‘sand-bag’ the system. Mirror the job posting as much as possible, but do not manipulate the system with needless repetitions of words and phrases. Recruiters frown on candidates who try to game the system.
  7. Research the company’s corporate culture. Before you submit your resume, visit the company’s website to get a sense of its corporate culture. Look at the words they use to describe their value, then incorporate those words in your resume and/or cover letter.
  8. Make the Resume Easy and Fast to Read. Even though the machinery is searching for keywords, candidates are well advised to have a nice, clean looking document with plenty of white space that’s easy to read on a computer screen and in print.
  9. Use Bullet Points. To avoid long sentences and huge blocks as paragraphs, it is advisable to use bullets, preferably asterisks.
  10. Add a Cover Letter. The cover letter is the perfect place to show interest and fit for the company culture.

Dahlby also offered some additional suggestions:  Job seekers should rewrite their resumes for each position to make sure they mirror the job description. She also advised against ‘sandbagging’ the process. Sandbagging is when candidates include needless repetitions of words and phrases, or when they try to ‘game’ the system by using a lot of keywords and hiding them with white fonts.

With the above information, you should now be equipped to optimize your resume to make sure it ranks high enough where a human will, at the very least, read it, and your frustration level should be reduced a notch.

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