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You Are the CEO of Your Career: Take Charge!

CEO or chief executive officer text on black block

As the New Year looms, some people are rethinking their career strategy. Competition, layoffs and uncertainty are forcing them to assess themselves to see how they can take charge of their careers.

A chief operating officer of a financial company and a director at one of the Big Four consulting firms contacted me recently. They were looking for guidance as they plan for the year ahead. The director has already started to lay out her 3 to 5-year plan. She is planning to pursue an EMBA, and has her eyes on a very senior position. Although she has a mentor whom she meets with once per month, she is also looking for a sponsor to help her advance. At the time, I thought to myself: how many people really map out a 3 to 5-year plan in such an unpredictable job market?

The initiative taken by these two individuals is not new. Some people do this, particularly at the start of a new year. But, there are others who invest more time and money on vacation plans than they do on their careers. If your goal in 2016 is to take charge and become the CEO of your career, consider the following:

#1 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CAREER

“There is one person that has responsibility for your career, and that is YOU.” ~ Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley (@CarlaannHarris)

There are many people who believe that their HR departments or their bosses are the ones responsible for their career progression. Not anymore. Your career trajectory is your responsibility. That’s the reason you must begin to see yourself as a take-charge CEO, and map out a career strategy.

#2 TREAT YOUR CAREER AS A BUSINESS

“Manage your career as if it were a start-up business because traditional job security is a thing of the past.” ~Reid Hoffman, Cofounder of LinkedIn and coauthor of the book, The Start-Up of You. (@ReidHoffman)

Even though you may be an employee, in order for you to compete in the freelance economy, you need to think and act like an entrepreneur. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. Invest your time (and money if necessary), to get your ‘business’ off the ground. Think in terms of the value you could create for your employer. What new skills could you learn that would make you more marketable? Start thinking that you are in the business of marketing and selling product YOU!

#3 BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

More and more HR professionals are turning to the internet to seek out information about candidates, including social media profiles, personal websites and blogs. ~ The Undercover Recruiter (@Undercoverrec)

Social media is an equal opportunity platform, and does not require a PhD to participate. This means anyone can use it to engage in conversations, demonstrate expertise, build credibility and gain visibility. Don’t be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters frequently peruse LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, to find candidates. It makes sense for you to develop and maintain a robust online presence to make sure you are discovered during these searches.

#4 PREPARE TO ADVANCE ON THE JOB

“Early in my career, I believed that career advancement was based solely on having a strong work ethic and solid performance results. While I still believe that there is no substitute for hard work and strong performance, what I learned over time is that being successful is also highly influenced through the learning that takes place and the exposure to new perspectives gained through mentoring relationships and building your networks.” Arie Ball, Vice President of Sourcing and Talent Acquisition at Sodexo, USA, and contributor to my book Tell Stories, Get Hired. (@Arie_Ball)

Years ago, it was assumed that longevity and hard work meant one would automatically climb the corporate ladder. The world has changed, and the career ladder is no longer a straight line. Sometimes a lateral move, or a step or two down could be steps in the right direction. It could also mean a chance to learn new skills, gain new perspectives change career focus, and become the CEO of your career.

#5 FIND A MENTOR AND A SPONSOR

“Both mentors and sponsors are important in maximizing career growth…Not only will sponsors and mentors believe in your potential when you are doubting yourself, but they will champion your successes, to open doors for your next big career move.” ~ Louise Pentland, Senior Executive & General Council at PayPal (@PayPal)

Why do you need both a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor gives advice, and can be someone inside or outside your company. A sponsor is someone internal to your organization who puts his or her career on the line for you. He or she can vouch for your work, and more importantly, has a seat at the decision-making table, so they can speak up passionately on your behalf. They can put a word in on why you should get the promotion or that next plum assignment.

“Sponsors are well-connected to the organization, and the industry, and have insider knowledge about opportunities (and threats). They are very much out in the open. They are visible supporters and champions of your career”, said Christine Brown-Quinn, author of Step Aside Super Woman: Career & Family is for Any Woman, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired. (@FemaleCapital). Therefore, if you are interested in career progression, especially to the more senior levels, it’s career sponsorship that’s going to make that defining difference.

#6 NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

“The key to all successful networking for job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second and offer to be of assistance always.” ~Unknown

You cannot avoid networking, no matter how distasteful the word sounds, so reject all its negative labeling. Networking is a series of connected relationships built up over time. It’s making personal connections, not bombarding people with your business card or elevator pitch. It’s getting to know people well enough before you begin asking for favours. Networking is about sharing: sharing of ideas and resources without expecting reciprocity. To become a better networker, get into the habit of scheduling specific time on your calendar to connect with people in your network.

#7 ENGAGE AND NURTURE PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” Harvey MacKay, Author & Leadership Guru. (@HarveyMacKay)

Since it is human nature to gravitate towards people we know, like and trust, you should regularly engage and nurture the professional relationships you have developed. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them. In fact, it’s not beneficial to contact your network only when you are in need of help. Keep in touch with them frequently, and always ask questions such as, “How can I help you? Who can I introduce to you?” When you nurture your network, you will be on top of their minds for opportunities.

#8 INVESTIGATE OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE

“Consider volunteering one hour each week to a cause that pulls at your heart strings. Make a habit of volunteering and you will make a world of difference.” Christopher Kai, author of Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities. (@UnleashtheKai)

Many people frown when they hear about volunteering. They believe that because they are not being paid, it is useless work. But, volunteering is one way to take charge of your career. It strengthens your leadership and interpersonal skills. It gives you an opportunity to meet new people, take on high profile assignments, and in general, do excellent work. These days, many corporations encourage volunteerism among their employees. This is beneficial on two fronts. First, the employee is participating in a worthy cause, and second, the company is demonstrating good corporate citizenship.

The above points will help you on your journey of becoming the CEO of your career. Are you ready?

Related posts:

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Did They Really Call You That?

 

Network_1

Did they really call you that? Pardon the term, but have you ever been called a networking ‘ask-hole’? Someone who is always asking for a job; asking for an introduction to someone’s network, asking for favours…sometimes from complete strangers they just connected with on LinkedIn?

The term ‘ask-hole’ is certainly unflattering, (and I am cringing at its use), but if you were really described as such, you may have fallen into the misconception trap that networking (or merely connecting with people) is all about asking for favours.

Every job seeker has heard, at some point, how important it is to network to find hidden job opportunities, but only a few have been told how. Most have been told to ask, not give, and anyone who is constantly asking, runs the risk of being called an ‘ask-hole’.

Networking is not about ask-ask-give. It’s about give-give-ask! You need to develop a Give-Give-Get mentality, according to Porter Gale, author of Your Network is Your Net Worth. Seek opportunities to give, before you begin to ask.

Below are five simple things you could do today to become a better networker. Each tip is backed up by a supporting quote:

  1. Build the relationship first; favours will come later. Before you start asking for favours, start building relationships first, then ask for favours later. Asking for favours too early in the relationship is like going on a first date and asking your date to marry you. In networking terms, it’s a huge turn-off. Brian Tracy said, “The value of a relationship is in direct proportion to the time that you invest in the relationship.”
  2. Don’t ask for a job; ask about them. When you first connect with someone, don’t ask them for a job. Ask about their career trajectory and success stories. (Psst…People enjoy talking about themselves.) Carlos Ghosn said: “Any job very well done that has been carried out by a person who is fully dedicated is always a source of inspiration.” Show them that you are inspired by their stories.
  3. Be respectful of their time. When you ask for a few minutes of their time, stick to the schedule. Do not prolong the meeting beyond the time you had requested. “Respect people who find time for you in their busy schedule.” Unknown. Give them the option of extending the time.
  4. Give of your time, talent and/or your resources. There is always something you can do for someone, whether he or she is on the lowest rung of the organization, or is the CEO. Share your industry expertise; offer to help out on a project; send a congratulatory message on a recent promotion. All these giving efforts will showcase your brand and make you more attractive to decision makers. In Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
  5. Be fully engaged in the conversation. When speaking to someone, show them that you are fully engaged. Do not let your eyes wander around the room for your next catch. Do not take a quick peak at your mobile devices. Do not interrupt the conversation to finish the person’s sentence. Remember Jimi Hendrix’s wise words that “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”. Listen attentively.

Networking is a proven pathway to the elusive hidden job market, and ultimately to job search success. But, it is not an easy process. It requires strategy and patience, and more giving than receiving. If networking doesn’t work the first time around, keep on trying, but always start from a position of giving before asking.

What’s the one step you can take NOW that will help you become a better giver? After all, you don’t ever want to be called an ‘ask-hole’.

Go ahead and take that one step now! Your job search depends on it.

Why You Should Network to Get Work

People networkingNetworking guru, Donna Messer, is known for saying that one has to ‘network to get work’. It doesn’t matter how often you hear this; it doesn’t matter how often you discount it, networking to get work is a fact.

Too often people say “Networking doesn’t work for me…I am too shy to network…people might think I am forcing myself on them.”  Some of these comments may be true, but let’s GOI – Get Over It. Don’t allow such crippling thoughts to prevent you from getting the job or promotion you really want, or deserve.

You may be telling yourself that you have a great resume and cover letter, but not much is happening. Well, by themselves, they won’t get you the opportunity you are looking for. You need to find creative ways to use these documents to reach your target company. It takes hard work, and lots of it! Thomas Edison once said, Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” Do not miss your opportunity because you are thinking networking is hard work. I can guarantee you, if done properly, your networking efforts will pay off. Just don’t expect overnight success!

Some years ago, I was listening to a group of recruiters on a teleseminar. One was a senior executive recruiter from Microsoft. He told the story of a young man who had been trying to get a job with the company for two years. His resume was just not getting to the right people. You bet it was probably drowning in the sea of thousands of other resumes.

This young man discovered that the company had several blogs, and began to offer comments and contribute his opinions on topics that fell within his area of expertise. One of the company’s recruiters began paying attention to his comments and posts, and realized he knew his stuff. Not very long after he was contacted, and within 10 days of that contact he was offered his dream job with Microsoft. This may have been several years ago, but the process still works. You have to ditch the idea that networking doesn’t work, and devise strategies on how you are going to make it work for you.

Two weeks ago, one of my clients saw a position with one of his target companies and remembered I knew one of the senior HR executives, so he sent me an email to ask if I was still in touch with her. I hadn’t been for a long time, so I googled her name and realized she had moved out of that role. However, while doing the search, I found an article with the name of another recruiter in the company. I passed it to the client and suggested that he do a little bit of footwork and find out how email addresses at the company are structured. Soon after, he responded:

“Thanks for the article. I had a friend who previously worked at [Company] so I was able to copy that format (firstname.lastname@company.ca) and send a message through to the lady from the article. She said she had switched positions but would forward my message to a finance recruiter. Hopefully that will help speed things along.”

That’s networking and research all wrapped in one. Somewhere out there, there is an employer who needs what  you have to offer. But you need to know how to get on their radar. You can do this by tapping into your network or the network of others. Networking is Not a Dirty Word. It’s called Relationship Building.

Does the thought of networking send shivers down your spine? Don’t try doing it alone. Ask for help.

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.

Are You Among LinkedIn’s 1%?

LinkedIn_1_PercentLast week I received a personalized congratulatory email from LinkedIn’s Senior Vice President of User Experience that said “You have one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn Profiles for 2012”. LinkedIn now has 200 million users, so by the time I worked out the math (1 in 2,000,000), the message didn’t have as much meaning, unless I was going to assess and quantify how many connections or clients I received as a result of these views.

Anyway, for it was worth, I googled the sender’s name to make sure it was legitimate, then tweeted the news. What algorithm LinkedIn used to arrive at this percentage is anyone’s guess, but it has certainly garnered a lot of discussion among some of my career practitioner colleagues – from humour to an attitude of ‘What will they come with next?

While we ponder this, however, I am reminded of the many job seekers who are not aware of, or are still not taking advantage of LinkedIn as a job search and networking tool. One woman called me aside at church the other day and said, “Someone sent me an invitation to join LinkedIn. I don’t understand what it is, but I know you would, so I joined, and now am asking you to explain.”  I gave her a brief description of LinkedIn and told her it is often referred to as ‘having one’s resume on steroids’ so she is to make sure she completes her profile.

It might be presumptuous to say that LinkedIn is fast becoming somewhat of a ‘recruiter of choice’ for some employers, but many of them are using LinkedIn to conduct ‘stealth hiring’. This is where they quietly target, recruit, interview and hire employees without advertising job vacancies. They are able to view profiles, see who is connected to whom, what skills and expertise they have, and reach out to them even when these individuals are not looking for job opportunities. On the flip side, they can view profiles and if they are incomplete or do not have the right keywords to appeal to them, they can disqualify them right there.

So, whether or not you are among LinkedIn’s 1%, 5% or 10% most viewed profiles, here are six quick tips that could bring your profile up to speed and have you on the radar of potential employers:

  1. Complete your profile. This means writing an attention-getting summary and adding skills that will show up in searches and help to attract recruiters and hiring managers.
  2. Upload a professional head-shot. First impressions count, even for your profile, so replace that ‘egg head’ blank square with a professional photo if you want to impress a recruiter or hiring manager, or connect with someone.
  3. Customize your LinkedIn invitation. People are more apt to connect with you if you put a bit of effort into crafting a customized invitation. Let them feel special! Remind them where you met or how you are connected.
  4. Join industry and professional groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups, so search for groups by industry, alumni, former companies and career or job search groups, and join them. Once you have joined, PARTICIPATE!
  5. Follow your target companies. During your research you would’ve identified companies with which you would like to work. Monitor their company pages to learn more about them, their products and services, as well as who has recently been hired.
  6. Ask and Answer Questions. LinkedIn is made up of a community of learners, so don’t be afraid to showcase your expertise by answering questions posed by other users or to pose questions of your own.

While this article primarily pertains to job seekers, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs should harness the power of LinkedIn to build relationships and visibility, and increase business opportunities.

Let us know how you are using LinkedIn and if you have been counted among their most viewed profile.

10 Practical Career Decisions You Can Make in 2013

2013-New-Year-Clock-Facebook-Cover-PhotoAs you welcome 2013, are there things you are holding onto that you should have let go in 2012? Are there people, situations, or ideas that you need to let go of in order to embrace all the opportunities awaiting you this year? If you have identified something or some people holding you back, it’s time to let go and forge full steam ahead. Here are ten career decisions you could make that will move you forward this year:

  1. Let go of ‘I should have, could’ve, can’t, won’t, what ifs, and buts’.  You may have missed out on opportunities because you were second guessing yourself, but they are gone and there is nothing you can about them now. Instead, focus on “I can and I will”.
  2. Let go of the negative people around you. You can spot them easily – the ones who always seem to have a ‘doom-and-gloom-glass-half-empty’ syndrome. This may not be easy as sometimes the cynics among us include people near and dear to us. But, if you would like to start the New Year on a positive footing, you will have to make the decision to reduce or minimize the time spent with pessimists, and embrace those who see obstacles as opportunities. It was Winston Churchill who remarked that “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
    Surround yourself with optimists.
  3. Let go of the activities that are not leading you towards goal achievement. Question yourself: “Is what I am currently doing leading me towards where I want to go?” If the answer is “No”, then it’s time to let go!
  4. Let go of your doubts and failures and appreciate your gifts.  Refrain from comparing your abilities with those of others and stop dwelling on your failures. You have a unique gift that you were endowed with. Recognize and use this gift so you can become better today than you were yesterday.
  5. Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Get off the comfort zone couch and make room to experience something new and refreshing! Your comfort zone is the circle of people you are comfortable interacting with. If you continue to live in that ‘easy chair’ circle, you are not giving yourself an opportunity to expand your horizons.
  6. Evaluate your network. Take an inventory of the people in your network and make sure it includes people whose strengths are your weaknesses. You will be able to learn from these individuals and fill in your skill gaps. Leadership coach, John Maxwell notes in his book, 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, that “It’s hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow.”
  7. Create a vision for your life or career. Visualize what your career or your life should look like by the end of 2013. What do you want to accomplish? Is it time to invest in yourself by enrolling in an online course? Is it time to invest in a coach who will guide, encourage, support and hold you accountable to attaining your goal(s)?
  8. Engage in a self-reflection exercise. Spend some time to answer the following questions: Who am I? What or who do I need to let go of in order to move forward? Where do I see myself in the next 12 months? What is it that I am good at that I would like to continue doing? How can I begin to reshape my destiny? Tony Robbins once said, “It’s in your moments of decisions that your destiny is shaped”. Are you ready to shape or reshape your destiny? If the answer is “Yes”, what small step could you take today to propel you forward?
  9. Take ownership of your career. Are you feeling like you are a prisoner in your job? Do you feel like you are suffocating? You can become the person you want to be; you can get the promotion you so desperately need, but the responsibility is on you. It’s time to take ownership for your own professional development. It’s time to believe in yourself and your capabilities, then learn how to articulate your value to your next employer. Re-read #7 above.
  10. Get rid of the ANTs in your head. Psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen refers to these ANTs as those Automatic Negative Thoughts that fill our heads most of the time…the thoughts we engage in day-after-day with ourselves that hold us down instead of moving us forward. Replace those thoughts with something positive and uplifting. Choose your thoughts carefully because your thoughts manifest themselves as things later on.

Having read the above, are you ready to let go of what’s not serving you and commit to a fresh in 2013? If you are, then let’s talk, or share your thoughts below.

__________________________

PS: Image courtesy of 25dip.com

 

LinkedIn Endorsements: Fad, Foe or Friend?

If you are active on LinkedIn you may have started receiving endorsements from some of your connections. I have, and must say that when they started arriving in my Inbox I thought spam hackers had infiltrated the accounts of some of the people in my network and were sporadically sending out these messages. I became a bit more curious when I noticed endorsements were coming from some individuals with whom I had very little, if any, interactions. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate all I have received so far, but because I wasn’t aware that such a feature exists, I was sceptical. It wasn’t until I saw several posts on a discussion board and visited the LinkedIn blog that I realized the emails were legitimate.

LinkedIn Endorsement is a feature that allows your contacts to click a button and recognize and validate skills and expertise that you have on your profile. They can also add skills and expertise that they know you have but ones you may not have listed. In fact, in a word or phrase, a LinkedIn endorsement could help to answer the age old question, “What are you good at?” The feature also allows you to pay-it-forward by endorsing the expertise of people in your network who you know quite well or by reciprocating the favour of those who have endorsed you. Having said that, is this LinkedIn Endorsement feature a fad, a foe or a friend?

Fad. From much of what I have read, some people have characterized it as a fad – a trend that will pass. One individual curtly said, “This too shall pass”, referring to Twitter‘s #FollowFriday and Facebook‘s ‘Likes’. A comment on Inquirer.net states, “As the feature stands, it’s really just eye-candy for Linkedin, perhaps catching the attention of an employer but quickly fading away under detailed scrutiny.” One colleague commented that, “This whole endorsements thing is kinda brainless…silly and devoid of meaning.” Digital marketer, Eric Whittlake, portends that the value of LinkedIn as a business network will decrease while traffic to the site and potential advertising will increase. And, blogger Garrett Heath, said, “The Endorsement feature cheapens some of these accomplishments and turns a candidate’s profile/resume effectively into a “Like” contest.”

Foe. Although this could be more perception than reality, somewhere down the road, recruiters and hiring managers could be tempted to look at the number of endorsements one has and eliminate some otherwise talented people from the competition because they do not have many endorsements. This is not too far-fetched as there were discussions in the blogosphere and on job boards several months ago about some employers using one’s Klout score (or number of Twitter followers, for that matter), to determine how much clout (influence) one has and which applicants should be short-listed for interviews. Endorsements could also impact the LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature since it is easier to click on a skills button than to write a recommendation. And, in some circles, endorsements could be viewed as a “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” strategy, which could be frowned on and diminish its effectiveness.

Friend. The upside to the act of endorsements is that it could be perceived as a 360° validation of your expertise. Not only are you saying you are ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ but people who are familiar with you and your work also agrees with you. These endorsements add value and credibility and back up your claim of having those skills and expertise. An endorsement could also be mutually beneficial as you can return the favour of the endorser and thereby capitalize on each other’s network. If done correctly, endorsements could enhance the value of the recommendations you already have.

It’s obvious that the feature has friends and foes. From my perspective, however, the jury is still out. First, the feature is only a month old (up to the time of this post); second, I am still not sure how to use it effectively. For example, when I thought I was accepting endorsements, I ended up clicking on the “Endorse All 4” button that popped up without clearly looking at who I was endorsing. There will be many more discussions about the value of endorsements, and when that happens we can all determine if a LinkedIn Endorsement is a fad, a foe or a friend. Leave your comments or your discoveries in the “Speak Your Mind” section below.

Additional reading:

The Pros and Cons of Endorsements

How LinkedIn Skills Endorsement Impact Your Job Search

Endorsement Feature Degrades LinkedIn as a Professional Network

 

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

One way of meeting new people and finding ‘hidden opportunities’ is to conduct informational interviews.  An informational interview is a good way to start building your network. It builds your self-confidence and also helps to prepare your for job interviews. You can use an informational interview to expand your networking contacts, find out about possible career paths, learn if and where opportunities might exist for your skills, and gain an understanding of workplace culture.

An informational interview also gives you a look at the inside operations of a company and helps you to decide if the company would be a good place to work.

Most people will be pleased to spend a few minutes (in person or over the telephone), to conduct an informational interview with you. After all, most people like talking about themselves, their jobs and their successes. Others might  not have the time or inclination, and if that’s the case, don’t take it personal; just move on.

Preparing for an Informational Interview

Before you contact anyone, you should develop a script that explains the reason for your request. The script below is an example, but it should be customized to fit your situation and needs:

“I was speaking with ____________, and s/he suggested that I give you a call. I am currently _________________. I am curious about the roles of people currently working in __________, and I was wondering if you would be able to meet with me for 15-20 minutes to talk about your role and the organization you work for.”

If you feel uncomfortable using the telephone, send a letter or an email as your first contact. At the end of your message state that you will contact the person by a certain date and make a note to follow up on that date.

Once you have your script ready, you should:

  • Find at least 3-4 people in the field. The more people you interview, the more information you will get.
  • Ask to meet at the workplace so that you can see the work environment.
  • Be authentic in your approach. Make it clear that you are asking for information only and not inquiring about a job possibility.
  • Practice with a friend or family member to build your confidence before you participate in an informational interview.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.

Questions to Ask at the Informational Interview

Before starting the interview, introduce yourself and thank the person for taking the time to talk or meet with you. Tell them enough about yourself (interests and skills) so that he or she can offer you relevant information. Once all of that is out of the way, start by asking:

  1. What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  2. How did you get into this line of work?
  3. How long have you worked for this organization?
  4. What are your major responsibilities?
  5. What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  6. What are the major frustrations in this job?
  7. What do you like most about this job?
  8. What advice would you give to a person coming into a company like this?
  9. My strongest skills are____________. Do you know of any other company that could use someone with my skills?
  10. Would you have the name of one or two other individuals to whom you could refer me who could give me additional information about this occupation?

The above tips, while not all-inclusive, will help you in preparing and conducting an effective informational interview. Add your comments below.

 

Happy New Year…What Are Your Plans for the Next 364 Days?

 

Did I catch you off guard with this cartoon? Well, it’s adding some humor to the first day of a brand new year!

Anyway, I want you to make the most of the remaining 364 days, so I have gathered some links, quotes and some of my own musings that I hope you will find helpful.

  • After setting your goals, plan to evaluate your progress each day. “If you believe that you need to improve your self-discipline – hire a coach”, says Glenn Llopis of Forbes Blog. Related article here: Top 5 Career Investments for 2012.
  • Start the New Year on the “Wright” foot. Reserve your spot today to join me on a FREE teleconference on January 3, @ 8 pm Eastern.  Register here.
  • Networking is still one of the most successful job search techniques, so nurture your network. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them.
  • Understand how to use the ‘Vacuum Theory’  to advance your career: do the jobs others won’t do, make a visible difference with your presence, and become known as the ‘go to’ expert.
  • Find a job you like and you add five days to every week. ~H. Jackson Brown
  • Don’t allow anyone to discourage you from dreaming lofty dreams. “People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours.” @WomenofHistory.

Hope you find them helpful. Happy New Year to you and much success in 2012.

Monday Rx: Surround Yourself With ‘Possibility Thinkers’

Happy Monday!

What does Monday Rx have to do with your career or job search? Everything! In the midst of a job search or career transition it’s easy to become discouraged. The purpose of the Monday Rx is to lift your spirits, so take a respite from whatever you are doing and savour these words!

Henry Emerson Fosdick said, “Have the daring to accept yourself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the game of making the most of your best.”

Today, surround yourself with ‘possibility thinkers’:

  • Those who believe in your dreams;
  • Those who will motivate and inspire you to stretch beyond your comfort zone;
  • Those who will help you reach your goal.

Look around for ‘possibility thinkers’ within and outside your network. You will need them in your corner when the going gets rough.

To your success,

Image: Attributed to Kelly Rae Roberts Wall Art