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How to Spring Clean Your Career in One Day!

If a job opportunity falls in your lap today, would you be prepared for it? A woman left me a message this past Monday: “I would like a professional resume, and need it done by Friday, so I can’t really waste too much time here.” Wow! I said to myself. Some people seem to conduct their job search by the seat of their pants. They spend more time planning for their vacation than they do on their job search or career. Think of it: they research the places they want to go; determine a budget, and book the date, but when it comes to the job search, or a career transition, they don’t give it the same priority. They have a casual approach to the very job that would help them pay for the vacation.

“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” said Whitney Young Jr. It is not too late to spring clean your career and be ready for your next opportunity. Here are some tips:

Conduct an Inventory of Your Skill-sets

The moment some people think of job search, they equate it to a resume. “I just saw an job posting, and I need a resume right away.” Although the resume is very important, it is not the first thing one should think of when it comes to the job search. Think of what you would and would not want in your next role. Take an inventory of your values, interests, skills, knowledge and personal qualities:

  • Values – what is important to you? Integrity, status, accomplishments?
  • Interests – what do you enjoy doing?
  • Abilities/skills – what you are good at?
  • Knowledge – what you know: your “intellectual capital”.
  • Personality – your attitude, what you are passionate about, what motivates you.

This assessment helps you plan what type of job or career you wish to pursue.

Dust Off the Old Resume

Creating a professional resume is not something to be done in a hurry as alluded to above, so never leave this very important task for the last minute. Review your journal (hopefully you have been keeping one) where you recorded your achievements, the projects you worked on, and the role(s) you played. Check your email for recognition messages from people you have interacted with. Pull out your performance appraisals and review the positive feedback. These all tell your story, and should be appropriately incorporated in your resume.

Prepare to be the Closer (Not the Loser), at the Interview

Some people are afraid of interviews the way others are afraid of public speaking, but that’s not you! You are ready with memorable stories of your successes (and failures). Yes, what have you learned from those failures? Research, not only the company, but its competitors; not only their website, but annual reports and industry reports. Prepare a mini presentation or proposal identifying the company’s pain points. You can bet your competitors won’t be thinking that far ahead. Even if you don’t get a chance to present it, you can have it as a ‘leave-behind’. (A year ago, I took my own advice, created a mini presentation when I interviewed for a Committee position, and was selected).

Craft Your Salary Negotiation Story

Afraid to have the money talk? Unable to answer the “What’s your salary expectation” question? Salary discussions can be scary. Some candidates are scared they might mention a dollar amount, or say “yes” too quickly and lose out on an opportunity. Do not wait until an offer is apparent before you craft your negotiation story. Conduct your research and enter the negotiation conversation well-prepared and confident.

Build Your Online Brand (and that includes a Personal Website)

Many people wince when they hear they need to build their online brand. Some believe only executives should do so; others start thinking they are going to overexpose themselves. There is some truth to that, but in the digital world we live in, coupled with a very competitive job market, it makes sense to explore the online world when seeking to stand out. A LinkedIn Profile is great, but what happens if LinkedIn disappears? Someone referred to that situation as “having your house built on a rented property”. As a backup plan, think of building your own personal website that you own and control.

Put a Job Search Strategy in Place

You need a proactive and carefully orchestrated job search plan that will bring results. Not one that have you looking for a job once you become unemployed, or when you are at your wits end. This ‘on-the-fly’ job search approach does not work and will, more often than not, end in frustration. It’s better to take the time to conduct a targetted search with a limited number of companies you would want to work for, than uploading your resume to any and every company for any job, and hope to be contacted.

Learn Effective Networking Strategies

The moment some people hear the word ‘networking’, they conjure up images of people with name tags and business cards running around in a meeting room. They then tell themselves “That’s not for me…I am too shy…people might think I am forcing myself on them.” Some of that may be true, but if orchestrated well, networking is not as difficult as it’s made out to be. According to Executive Search guru, David Perry, “For those of us who are terminally shy the Internet has made it possible to network from our computer keyboard and avoid those awkward mixers. So start your networking online, but be respectful, and don’t go begging for a job at the first opportunity. Build the relationship first.

The above advice is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are ever looking for an accountability partner to assist you, I would be pleased to be that person. In fact, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, you could benefit from a Career Empowerment workshop I am hosting on June 3, 2017, at the Corporate Event Centre in Mississauga. Click here for details: Spring Your Career in One Day!

 

Why Are You Afraid to Tell Your Unique, Authentic Story?

tell them your story - advice in isolated vintage wood letterpress printing blocks

We tell stories every day – to family, friends and colleagues – yet we hardly think of telling stories when we meet recruiters, hiring managers, potential employers, and even potential business partners. Why? We are afraid; we don’t want anyone to label us as ‘braggarts’. A LinkedIn article titled “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable – Why Now is the Time to Tell Your Work Story”, indicates that approximately only 29% of Canadians and 40% of Americans feel comfortable talking about themselves. In fact, 53% of workers admitted they feel like they are bragging if they talk about themselves. “We’re so uncomfortable touting our work successes that we’d rather share our political views on social media than let our followers know we received a promotion or got a new job.”

In his book, Tell to Win, Peter Gruber states: “Today everyone – whether they know it or not – is in the emotional transportation business. More and more, success is won by creating [and telling] compelling stories that have the power to move partners, shareholders, customers and employees to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.” This means, if you can’t engage, persuade, motivate and convince others of your accomplishments, your story will remain inside you, and someone else will snag that coveted job or business opportunity.

Storytelling has not only become a central theme to the job search process, but is also a powerful way to get your message across in any setting. It doesn’t matter if you are in an interview, at a networking event, delivering an elevator speech in 30 seconds, participating in meetings, or communicating one-on-one. What matters is your ability to confidently tell stories that will communicate your value and build credibility.

Bear in mind that you are also telling your story in verbal and nonverbal ways. For example, did you know that your resume and your other career marketing efforts are all telling your story? When your resume is set aside by a hiring manager for follow up, it is because something compelling grabbed the his or her attention. When it comes to interviews, you are often asked to “tell me about yourself” or “describe a time when…”. Those questions present an opportunity for you to recount stories that will convince the hiring manager you are the ideal person for the role.

Whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, it’s important that you become a masterful storyteller. Someone who is able to strategically craft and deliver stories that will engage and capture an audience, whether it’s an audience of one or many. You need signature stories that you are proud to share, without feeling bashful. Stories that reveal your authenticity and set you apart from your competitors. How do you do that? Think of it as a movie where you were the main actor. Recall and write out compelling scenes that demonstrated the challenges you were up against, the actions you took and the results or outcomes. Look for patterns. What skills were you using most; where did you feel more energized. This exercise should give your confidence a boost and have you well-prepared to articulate your unique and authentic stories.

Before telling your story, consider the following:

  • Know yourself: Candidly assess your strengths, weaknesses, failures and successes, and be ready to address them if asked.
  • Learn to promote yourself. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but you need to learn to talk about yourself. This is not bragging. This is articulating what’s true about you; who you are, what you have accomplished, and what value you will bring to the new role. If you don’t tell your story, then people won’t know the broad range of talents you have. There is merit in the cliché of tooting your own horn, because if you don’t, no one will know you are coming.
  • Be authentic: Don’t borrow someone else’s story and try to be somebody you are not. Tell your own unique story honestly and with confidence and ensuring that you stay authentic. Author and poet May Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
  • Review interview questions ahead of time. While you may not know all the questions you will be asked, research, review and practice certain interview questions that are commonly asked. Then prepare to condense your accomplishments into a few short points that will be memorable.
  • Strengthen your online presence. Nothing speaks louder than a well-written, consistent, authentic online profile that tells your story even when you are asleep. This could be a personal website or blog, or your LinkedIn profile, complete with accomplishments and work samples (if appropriate).

Now, it’s your turn. Are you ready to tell your story? Need to learn storytelling strategies? Grab a copy of Tell Stories, Get Hired.

The Truth About Colour in Your Resume

Whether you are an executive, a manager or mid-career professional, in a tight job market you know you are competing against equally qualified candidates for the same position. What can you do with your resume (and your other career marketing documents) to differentiate you from your competitors? Infuse them with a tinge of colour.

Before you baulk at the idea, take a look at the Colour Emotion Guide below. It contains some of the most recognizable brands. Notice their logo colours? They did not choose them by accident. A lot of thought went into their decision.

Image credit: The Logo Company

      Image credit: The Logo Company

Colour speaks a powerful language even without uttering a word. It evokes emotion. It plays a huge role in marketing. Corporations such as IBM and Coco Cola use colour in their branding with the hope it will evoke a positive response from consumers. In an Entrepreneur.com article, The Psychology of Color on Branding and Marketing, writer Gregory Ciotti states that “It is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors.”  As a job seeker, you are also involved in marketing and should employ some of the same tactics as the big brands if you want to stand out.

For those of us who collaborate with clients on their career marketing documents, there is a rationale behind our use of colour. Although our main aim is to help clients uncover their value proposition and tell a focused story, we are also involved in developing an ad campaign to help them differentiate themselves from their competitors. This may include designing a logo, adding some lines, boxes or charts, and adding colour. More often than not colour is used sparingly to ensure it does not overpower and detract from the main message

All this colour dialogue might not resonate with everyone. First of all, when it comes to resumes, opinions are plentiful as to the perfect design, length and format. If ten people look at a resume, it will garner ten different responses. Second, colours mean different things to different people, depending on one’s culture and personal likes and dislikes. However, what most people would agree on is that resume appearances have evolved, and are no longer restricted to black ink on white, gray or ivory paper.

As alluded to above, colour impacts our psyche. It induces an emotion. Generally, if one sees red (as in a flashy red car), it is supposed to denote energy, flamboyance, and dominance; blue symbolizes tranquility, trustworthiness and confidence, and green signifies nature, growth and generosity. The list below contains a few popular brand colours and their meanings:

  • Blue is very popular and implies honesty, trustworthiness, tranquillity, confidence and authority.
  • Red is very intense and aggressive, and draws attention.
  • Gold is associated with value, luxury and prestige. It reflects wisdom, beauty and generosity.
  • Gray is neutral, calm, and conservative but also implies security and reliability.
  • Green has an harmonizing effect. It is associated with nature, health and growth; balances the emotions, inspires compassion, and encourages generosity and kindness.
  • Orange inspires warmth and optimism, and creates enthusiasm. It also suggests affordability and cheap.

While the content of a resume is of paramount importance, anyone who wants to differentiate him or herself from their competitors, should experiment with a dash of colour in its design. It just might boost their brand, garner some extra attention and hopefully evoke an emotional response from an employer.

Want to determine your brand colour? Watch this 4-minute video from the Personal Branding website of William Arruda, developer of the 360Reach Personal Branding Assessment (a tool that I am certified to administer): Discovering My Brand Colour.

Are you ready for the experiment? Go ahead!

 

What You Need to Know About Job References – Part I

Job References_WCS

Most job seekers spend a lot of time on their resumes. A smaller number spend some time preparing for interviews, but not very many give the job reference process the priority it deserves. In fact, many treat it as the easiest part of the job search. That shouldn’t be.

It is customary for employers to conduct reference and background checks on candidates they are planning to hire. Studies have shown that 80% of employers conduct reference checks, and this is because they need to validate the accuracy of the resume and whatever other information the candidate provided. The process is critical to successful hiring and is necessary to ensure that employers have full information on potential employees. A bad hiring decision can prove very costly, and employers want to avoid this.

Start Early

It’s never too early to start building your reference list and engaging your references. Gather a list of names and review the list carefully. Think of people with whom you work, including your direct reports. Individuals who are able to tell stories of your capabilities and accomplishments, and who will leave the best impression.

Avoid individuals who might come across as overly dramatic. Such individuals can discourage the recruiter or hiring manager, or lead them to ask more questions. Do not use family members, friends, or anyone you know would not present you well, including anyone who fired you. Ideally, the references selected should be professionals you know through business, non-profit organizations, your place of worship, or professional associations.

Meet With Your References

Set up a time to meet in person with your references, if possible. They will feel more invested in your success. Provide a copy of your current resume and the job posting. It allows them to have the same information as the employer. Help them remember exactly what you did together. Ask them how they want to be contacted by employers and ensure you have their up-to-date contact information.

Give Adequate Notice

Give your references at least a day’s notice so they are prepared. The more notice they have, the better prepared they will be to speak on your behalf. Provide them with details of what the job entails; who might be calling; what skill-sets are required in the new job, and any specific project you want them to highlight. If they are not notified in advance of the call, they might not be prepared and may come off as uninformed. Such an interaction could reflect poorly on you.

Prepare a Customized Reference Sheet

Separate yourself from the pack and create a Reference Sheet. Ditch the usual sheet that lists name, contact number, and email address. Prepare a customized version that includes attributes that your references can attest to on your behalf. Provide some insights of your knowledge, skills and abilities that connect with the job for which you are applying. Share this document with your references so they will know how they are being presented to the recruiter or hiring manager, and what to focus on during the call.

Follow Up With Your References (after the Interview)

Give your references an idea of how the interview went and what things were highlighted during the discussion. This will help them respond well when they are called, and mention things that are relevant.

If your job search is taking longer than the norm, schedule a meeting or a telephone call to tell them how things are going, and to ask them questions. Ask who reached out to them, and if any of the questions were challenging for them to answer. This will give them an opportunity to talk things through with you and prepare you for future reference discussions.

Don’t Smother Your References

Some candidates might find themselves applying for numerous positions or going to several interviews, especially if the search is long. In such cases, have more than three individuals from whom to choose, and be selective in how you use them. You don’t want to overuse any of your references to the point where it becomes annoying for them.

Keep in Contact and Express Gratitude

It is important that you keep your references up-to-date with your progress. In fact, as often as you update your resume you should review and connect with your references. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to support you. This is a good way to show how you value them and it will help them to remember you in a most positive way in the future. As Marty Britton, of reference-checking firm, Britton Management, says, “Always thank your references, especially if you got the job. A handwritten note goes further than an email.”

This article is the first of a three-part series on Job References. It includes information from my book Tell Stories, Get Hired, as well as from notes taken during a webinar presented by Manpower Group in 2015.

How to Make Sure You Get a Seat in the House

Seat-in-the-house-TheWrightCareer.com

After a 22-year hiatus, baseball playoff fever hit Toronto (well, all of Canada for that matter), and it was contagious. I couldn’t watch, tweet or read enough about the Blue Jays (until Game 6 of course), but one story in the Toronto Star of October 8, caught my attention. In that story I discovered a seldom used strategy that job seekers, career changers, and entrepreneurs could emulate, and it came from a diehard Blue Jays fan, 81-year old Herm Dyck.

Sportswriter, Dave Feschuk, wrote how Dyck’s passion for baseball got him the best seats in the house in 1977, when Major League Baseball announced that Toronto was getting an expansion team.

Prior to that announcement, Dyck, a businessman at the time, had heard that beer industry executive, Don McDougall, wanted to move the San Francisco Giants to Toronto. He didn’t know McDougall, but he knew that he wanted the best seats in the house, so he contacted him. According to Feschuk, Dyck wrote a letter to McDougall congratulating him on wanting to bring the franchise to Toronto, and included the following line: “And by the way, this is my application for two tickets should a team materialize.”

The Giants’ move didn’t materialize, but Dyck kept his letters going. By 1977, when MLB announced that Toronto was going to get a franchise, Dyck was well known by McDougall. He had pestered him so much that McDougall called him one day and said, “Any man that’s as interested as you are, can have any two seats in the house.” He still has those two seats whenever the Blue Jays play at home games. That’s called ‘nurturing a relationship’.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when an 18-year-old high school student saw a sign in a plaza that a major pharmacy chain was going to open a store in her neighbourhood. She faxed her resume as the sign stated, but did not stop there.

She called the head office of the pharmacy to ask for additional information. She was given the name and contact information of the new owner whom she called. In the conversation she informed him that she lived within walking distance of the proposed pharmacy, that she had had some retail experience, and that she was looking forward to working with him.

Her resume was pulled from the pile and she was one of the first people to be interviewed and subsequently hired. Her proactive efforts got her a seat in the house. That’s called ‘brazen and proactive’.

While Tristan Walker, founder of Walker & Company Brands, is pretty well known in Silicon Valley now, that was not always the case. A Fast Company article reported that Walker “emailed Dennis Crowley, cofounder and CEO of Foursquare, eight times asking for a job. After Crowley half-seriously offered to meet him, Walker hopped on a flight to New York the next day and showed up at their offices, laptop in hand. Stunned, Crowley and cofounder Naveen Selvadurai challenged him to sign up 30 small businesses as Foursquare merchant partners within a month. He found 300 in a little over a week. After that, he was asked to become the company’s first director of business development.” That’s called persistence.

One does not have to be a business man like Herm Dyck, a brazen and proactive 18-year old high school student, or a self-starter like Tristan Walker, to get a seat in the house. It matters that you want something so badly that you will do anything (legal and within reason) to get it.

Business-People_TheWrightCareer.com

Some people, especially those conducting a job search, might say “Been there, done that”. Others might want to dismiss this approach because it sounds hard, or because someone tells them it’s futile. And, then there are those who will take the easy, docile route that most people take instead of going the extra mile. They upload their resumes to an inanimate applicant tracking system, then wait for someone to contact them. When that doesn’t happen they revert to questioning their capabilities, and start believing the naysayers who speak in absolutes: “You are wasting your time because it will NEVER work. It never worked for me, and it won’t for you.”

To get a seat in the house takes all the courage you can muster, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and a determination to let go of negative people. You have to surround yourself with ‘possibility thinkers’ who can encourage you when the going gets tough. And then, you have to be resolute and persistent, and eliminate the notion of giving up just because you hear “No”. Remember that ‘No’ is not final. It just means ‘not yet’.

Those are some of the strategies that will help you to get a seat in the house.

Are you ready for the challenge? If so, what can you start doing NOW that will take you closer to getting a seat in the house?

Related Links:

Toronto Star & Herm Dyck

Fast Company & Tristan Walker

STOP Scaring Recruiters With Your Bare Bones LinkedIn Profile

TheWrightCareer.comIt’s not yet Halloween, but your LinkedIn Profile could be scaring away recruiters and potential contacts in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Recruiters and hiring managers source LinkedIn all the time for great candidates. When they stumble on an incomplete profile, a blank photo box, or missing dates, they don’t contact you for details; they move on to your competitors.

A lot of people believe that the fact they have a LinkedIn account with a name, degrees and a list of employers they are all set. Not so! Take the example of someone I was introduced to recently. Her name was followed by a list of degrees, names of former and current companies, and a long list of committee and board affiliations. That was it! As bare-boned as a skeleton! Yet, in speaking with her, I discovered she is a highly-accomplished professional who could easily attract the attention of recruiters, But her LinkedIn profile lacked substance and would scare the daylights out of a recruiter.

In an informal conversation with a few recruiters recently, I asked them what scared them the most about someone’s LinkedIn Profile. Here are some of their thoughts:

  1. Gaps and Omission of Dates. When recruiters review resumes, they zero in, with eagle eyes, for start and end dates at each employer. It’s no different when they view a LinkedIn Profile. Olivia Petrou, Research Consultant at TWC International Executive Search Limited, says the lack of dates, or gaps in dates, scares her most when looking at job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles. “It makes me curious as to whether that person is hiding something.”
  2. Photograph vs Blank Box. Many LinkedIn users omit, or refuse to include a professional photograph in their profiles. It is a given, in my opinion, that people would be more inclined to reach out or accept a LinkedIn invitation if they can associate a name with a profile. On a recent webinar with LinkedIn’s Michael Shamshoian, he said that “one’s LinkedIn profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if a photo is included.” (By the way, there are some people who have included a photo but it is either a group or a photo of their spouse. Really now? “Who is who?”).
  3. Skimpy information. LinkedIn offers 120 character spaces for the Headline and 2,000 spaces for the Summary, yet so many people skimp on the information they include. While the entire profile is important, the headline and summary sections are considered ‘prime real estate’ spaces and should be maximized.
  4. Incomplete This relates to point 3 above. When we consider that LinkedIn is probably the most significant channel to tell one’s story and build a professional network, members do themselves a disservice when they have incomplete profiles. Geoff Webb, Global Sourcing Strategist at Aon PRO said, “I consistently hear from recruitment teams that the more incomplete a profile is the more likely they are to ignore the profile, so there is great value in making your profile as complete as possible.” 
  5. Spam or Fake Profiles. Who hasn’t received LinkedIn invitations that, at first read appear genuine, but once they are accepted, they are quickly followed up with unwanted business proposals or romantic pursuits? I have had my share and that’s scary! Webb continued: “I am more concerned with the increasing number of ‘spam’ or ‘fake’ profiles on LinkedIn, and although they are pretty easy to spot they waste a huge amount of effort”. Fake profiles and spam messages are time-wasters, and LinkedIn is not for that.
  1. Misreading the audience. Jeff Wedge, a Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant at Aon RPO, opined that although he reviews over 300 resumes and LinkedIn profiles per week, he is hard pressed to find one that attracts his attention to the point where he would pick up the phone to reach out. “Most candidates, ranging from CEO to entry-level, do not understand the audience they are trying to reach. That scares me. They need to have teasers or accomplishments that would convince me to pick up my phone”, he said.

LinkedIn considers itself the world’s largest professional network, and it offers free visibility. In fact, it is frequently referred to as someone’s resume-on-steroids (being visible 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year). Unlike a resume that has to be brief, a LinkedIn Profile has a number of categories to showcase your skills, experience, education, accomplishments, projects, causes hobbies and interests. Maximize its benefits. Use the categories and spaces to build a robust profile and draw recruiters and potential contacts to you rather than scaring them away.

 

Layoffs – Not all Doom and Gloom: 7 Tips to Cushion the Blow

Layoffs_Again

As I listened to the message, the woman’s tone was one of panic and confusion. “I have just been laid off after 20 years at the same job. I received a severance package, but I am in my mid fifties and will need to continue working. I never took any additional training all these years, and don’t have a clue how to conduct a job search. Can you help me?”

Several questions starting with “Why…, What… and How…?”, raced through my mind, but I banished them very quickly, because it wasn’t the time to be self-righteous. She was in a serious crisis, and needed a listening ear.

Conversely, I was recently contacted by two senior management professionals, one was a referral from a client, and the other found me online. In both cases, changes are taking place in their respective companies, and they have an inkling that layoffs are imminent. Although both believe there could be internal opportunities, they are not taking any chances. They are being proactive and are making plans for what may or may not happen. After all, it’s better to hope for the best, but for the worst.

Layoffs happen quite frequently, and no one ever gets used to it. Falling oil prices have led to massive layoffs in the Canadian energy industry. Rogers Communications recently eliminated several hundred middle management positions as part of its revitalization plan. And recently, Microsoft announced it would be laying off 7,800 of its employees from its phone division. This is enough for any employee or job seeker to be terrified.

The truth is, downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, or whatever other name it is called, is a way of life in today’s economy. When it’s time to restructure, years of service and loyalty will not guarantee anyone a position in a revitalized organization.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. If by some misfortune you are laid off, there are several strategies you can use to cushion the blow and minimize its impact:

  1. Give yourself permission to be angry. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Anger, as long as it’s not misplaced, could have a healing effect. However, do not vent at work or with coworkers or your boss. Such behaviour could be construed as negative and unprofessional; could damage relationships, and thwart your chances of getting a good reference. Find a safe place where you can let off the steam.
  2. Get support. Find a trustworthy person who will listen to you, and give you some good advice. Stay away from anyone who is inclined to help you bash the company or your boss as this is counter-productive.  There might also be free and fee-based resources within your community you could explore to see if they can help you find a new career path.
  3. Engage in self-care. This is an opportunity for you to put yourself first. This is not the time to beat upon yourself and question your ability or self-worth. Take that long-awaited vacation to clear your head and develop strategies to help you bounce back. Use this time to redirect your energy into something productive. Get some exercise, or just relax.
  4. Spotlight your assets. Turn this negative experience into something positive. Begin by spotlighting your assets. What are you good at? What have you accomplished? What awards, recognitions and comments have you received from your supervisor, coworkers and customers? Write out an inventory of your transferable skills that could benefit another employer. All of these are your assets – documented evidence that validate your capabilities – and will help you when you are ready to craft your résumé.
  5. Review your résumé and online profiles. A one-size-fits-all résumé will not work in today’s competitive job environment, neither will an incomplete LinkedIn Profile. The résumé needs to be strategic, and oozing with value. This takes time as you will need to assess all of your skills, attributes and achievements, and determine how to showcase them in a way that differentiates you from your competitors. Your online profiles are also essential pieces of your marketing.
  6. Remember this phrase: “This too shall pass”. What you are feeling now is real, but it won’t last forever. Sometimes a layoff is just the prescription you need to propel you to action. Ask yourself some soul-searching questions: “Is it time for me to retool, brush up on my skills or go back to school to gain additional skills? Do I have what it takes to start a business? What do I really enjoy doing, and should I be exploring this as a career option?”
  7. Maintain a positive attitude. The road to a successful job search, especially in such a competitive job market, is paved with disappointments and frustrations, but don’t give up. Tap into your network; join a support group like a job-finding club, engage in social media groups and networking activities that will put you in touch with people who can offer assistance. Be cautious when introduced to other people’s networks, as you don’t want to begin asking ‘strangers’ for help before they get to know you, and vice versa.

These seven tips are not all-inclusive, neither are they meant to trivialize the emotional impact, but they are steps in the right direction to help you deal with a layoff.

Related links:

Plan Ahead Before the Layoff Axe Falls (first published on Job-Hunt.org)

Got Laid Off? So What?

Microsoft Layoffs

 

The Cover Letter is Dead…Long Live the Cover Letter

Cover Letter_TheWrightCareer2Every so often we hear or read about the death of the resume, but somehow it continues to hang on for dear life. Nowadays, though, it seems that this prediction has reached the cover letter.

In two recent articles – one from Elevate Talent Network, and the other from The Huffington Post – it is being inferred that the cover letter is dying, or has died. This post is not to persuade the converts. It is purely to stand up for the cover letter even if we are witnessing its demise.

Are Cover Letters a Waste of Time?

In February, a few recruiters met with about 80 residents of Liberty Village in Toronto to discuss job search strategies. In answer to the question, “Should I write a cover letter?”, they responded with a resounding and unanimous ‘NO’. The blog post about the event stated “Cover letters were seen by far as a waste of time. Recruiters don’t have the time or the inclination to read your cover letters.”

When I read it, I wondered aloud if it was or is an absolute that exists in recruiter-land. But No! Many people involved in hiring have said the same thing. I was speaking with a human resources manager in one of our regional governments a couple of years ago, and she said that they did not require cover letters, yet they want to see an Objective on the resume. Well, let’s say the Objective requires another debate.

What About the Other 50%

In a survey I conducted several years ago with Canadian HR Managers, recruiters and others involved in hiring, 50% of them indicated that they did not want to see a cover letter, or that cover letters didn’t matter one way or the other. I wondered then about the other 50%.

My colleague Maureen McCann mentioned a time when she was pitching a workshop to human resource managers in one government agency. When she asked the question about cover letters, she received a 50/50 response. This is a quote from Maureen:

“For the 50% who said cover letters remained an important part of the application process, a number of them went further to explain the cover letter is an essential part of the application process. So much so, that the application instructions specifically read (in bold text):

“In addition to your application, you are required to submit a cover letter which demonstrates clearly in writing with concrete examples how you meet each of the essential Education, Experience and the Asset qualifications. Resumes will only be used as a secondary source to validate the information provided in the cover letter.”

There is certainly a valid argument against cover letters. Time is definitely an issue for recruiters who want to fill a position quickly. And as one of the recruiters said in a response to me, “…with the wide spread adoption of the ATS they [cover letters] don’t often make it into our hands (even if we were inclined to read them).”

But what happens to those recruiters and hiring managers who want to see a cover letter? How will a candidate know which ones want or do not want to read a cover letter? Some companies request in their job postings that candidates submit a resume and cover letter. The website of one provincial government asks that the cover letter be combined with the resume and submitted as one document.

The Huffington Post article mentions Allan Jones, chief marketing officer for recruiting site ZipRecruiter, who points out that while some cover letters “… are uninspired copy-paste form letters [they] can still be effective in some cases, especially when they are personalized and reveal specific reasons why a candidate might be a good fit for a position.”

Who Will Stand Up for the Cover Letter?

With such diverse opinions, it’s hard to know which way to go. As a result, I have listed below three simple reasons why the cover letter may still have a life:

  1. Job seekers do not know what side of the 50% cover letter equation some recruiters fall. Therefore, they should err on the side of caution and send one anyway. It is better to have it ignored or tossed out rather than to regret not sending one.
  2. A cover letter can address certain situations that won’t necessarily fit on a resume, such as reason(s) for a gap in employment. It can be used to draw their attention to one of the pain points you (the job seeker) can solve.
  3. Even for those who do not want to see a traditional cover letter, a candidate can create a cover letter within the body of the email when attaching the resume. Most people will open and read an email, especially when it has a strong subject line.

Is it time to let go of the cover letter, or does it still have a life?

Related Links:

Resume Questions from the Heart of Liberty

5 Reasons the Cover Letter Should Just Die

Also posted on LinkedIn

New Book: Tell Stories, Get Hired

Tell Stories, Get Hired is finally here!

Tell Stories Get HiredPRESS RELEASE

Brampton, ON, November 25, 2014 – Job layoffs, a competitive job marketplace, and hiring freezes have put a lot of pressure on job seekers to stand out and be noticed. Those concerns should be alleviated by “Tell Stories, Get Hired”, a new book which demonstrates how job seekers can leverage their stories to convince hiring managers and recruiters to hire them over their competitors.

Daisy Wright, author of the Canadian best seller, No Canadian Experience, Eh?, collaborated with 17 professionals with varying backgrounds from Canada, the US, England, Belgium and France, to develop this new book – Tell Stories, Get Hired. “I value their contributions because, without their collective expertise, this project would have remained a dream,” Wright said. All contributors faced obstacles as they sought to gain employment, advance their career, or break new grounds, but their resilience and ability to tell their stories brought them success.

Wright continued “Storytelling is the new job search craze, and job seekers and career changers need to learn how to dig deep, uncover their stories and get hired. Many people never thought of storytelling as a job search tool, but stories are effective in getting to the heart of a hiring manager.” 

Read more of here >> Tell Stories Get Hired Press Release

IMPORTANT NOTE: Join the 24-hour Twitter-Thon Launch Party on December 2, 2014. Instructions will follow on how you can tweet and retweet from from participating contributors.

Google Will Reject You With These Resume Mistakes

 

Resume2_Rejected

Google will reject you with these resume mistakes! That’s the the essence of what Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, and a LinkedIn Influencer, wrote recently. He said that “in a fiercely competitive labour market, hiring managers don’t need to compromise on quality. All it takes is one small mistake and a manager will reject an otherwise interesting candidate.” It’s not just Google, but so will the majority of employers.

A number of recruiters and human resource professionals often say the same thing. Some report that too many job seekers submit resumes that have poor formatting, spelling and grammar errors, and are longer than three pages.

Below are the five mistakes that you, or other job seekers, are making with their resumes, along with suggestions on how to correct them:

Typos. As much as you might be a good fit for the position, if there are typos in your resume, it gives the impression you are not as detail-oriented as you claim. It is easy for employers to reject your resume with the smallest of errors because there is a talent pool of good candidates from which they can choose.

Suggestion: To ensure your resume is error-free, read it in reverse order – from bottom to top, or ask someone else to proofread it for you.

Length. While the length of one’s resume is debatable, an eight-pager is way too much. Laszlo suggests having a one page resume for every ten years of work experience.

Suggestion: The more common rule is one to two pages, but if your accomplishments seep with value, making it a three-pager won’t hurt. Keep in mind, though, that the sole purpose of a resume is to get you an interview, not to tell your life story.

Formatting. For obvious reasons you want your resume to stand out in a sea of other resumes to quickly grab attention. But, you could easily go overboard with the formatting and your content gets lost.

Suggestion: Laszlo noted that if you are a designer or artist, you can be fairly creative with your formatting. His opinion is that the others of us should stick to white paper with black ink, consistent line spacing, and at least a ten-point font. The resume should also be clean and legible, with name and contact information on every page. He further advised that you view your resume in Google Docs and Word, attach it to an email, then open it in preview mode. This extra work is important as documents sometimes get garbled when moving across platforms. If in doubt, save the resume as a PDF.

Confidential Information. Many job seekers have inadvertently placed confidential information in their resumes. It is great to showcase your accomplishments, but not at the expense of appearing disloyal to one employer, and a potential risk to another. An employer will not hire anyone who shares trade secrets with their competitors.

Suggestion: Think it through carefully. Is the information already in the public domain? Will it breach your confidentiality agreement? If you are not sure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not disclose the information.

Lies. This one is a no-no. As much as you may be tempted, never, ever, put lies on your resume. You will be discovered, even if it’s one week down the road, or 28 years afterwards. In 2007, the former dean of admissions at an Ivey League university, who was in the job for 28 years, had to resign after she it was discovered she lied about her academic credentials. And, more recently, a few CEOs have lost their jobs because they falsified their resumes.

Suggestion: Honesty is the best policy. Don’t inflate your sales results, your GPA, the number of people on your team, or the degree(s) you have. If you were one credit shy of obtaining the degree, be honest about it. Don’t give the impression you completed the full program when you did not.

You might not agree on all the points. At the same time, you wouldn’t want to miss out on a great job opportunity just because there are mistakes in your resume.  Do whatever it takes to be included on the employer’s list of people to contact, rather than be excluded. Review your resume for mistakes and correct them.