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How to Get an Influential Person to Have Coffee With You

Coffee_Meeting2How would you like to get a once-in-a-life-time opportunity (face-to-face or virtually) to connect with someone famous, or with the Chief Decision Maker at your ideal employer? What if you could meet with a VIP – someone who could give you the inside scoop about one of your target employers? Yes, you can, and all it takes is a cup of coffee and lots of courage!

As a big proponent of going beyond the resume and using unconventional strategies to reach out to employers, I am always looking for unusual ways job seekers can connect with people who can play a role in their job search.

Recently, I learned about Ten Thousand Coffees, a new organization that is making it easy for job seekers to reach out and connect with busy and influential people who they would not normally get a chance to speak with. Its mission is “to connect students, recent grads, and young professionals with industry leaders and experts and engage in life-changing, career making conversations over coffee.” Even if you do not fall within those categories, you can also use the strategies outlined below to meet with an influencer, have coffee, and boost your career opportunities.

Wondering how you should maximize those precious moments when you do connect? Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, offers four ways to connect with powerful people: “Interview them, write about them, do them a favor, and be interesting.”  Here are my suggestions, although not necessarily in the same order:

Make Yourself Interesting. First impression counts, so before you reach out to any of the individuals with whom you would like to connect, do some introspection. Ask yourself, “Apart from my skills and expertise, what else makes me an interesting person?” It could be that you are good at golf; you sew your own clothes, or you won a dance competition. Find ways of incorporating those interests into your profile, especially if the person you are targeting has similar interests. As Dorie says, “Successful professionals like meeting compelling new people.

Interview Them. Prepare a list of questions for your time together. Remember, these individuals are busy people and won’t have time for frivolous questions, so make sure your questions are well-thought out. Your list could include:

  • How did you become a/an ____________?
  • What aspects of your job gives you the most personal satisfaction?
  • What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  • How long have you worked for this organization?
  • What are your major responsibilities?
  • What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  • What are the major frustrations in this job?
  • What do you like most about this job?
  • What are the most frequently recurring problems?
  • What advice would you give to a person coming into a company, or entering a profession like this?

Write About Them. To gain additional mileage out of your coffee meeting, write an article or blog post about the interview. Break up the interview into mini blog posts and ask readers to comment. Or, if you are active on Twitter, use pieces from the interview as tweets. Not only will you be showcasing your expertise, but your influencer will be impressed. He or she might even retweet your posts. Sooner or later, recruiters and potential employers will begin to take notice of your professional activities.

Do Them a Favour. You may be thinking that there’s no way you could return a favour to this ‘important’ person. Of course you can. First of all, at the end of the interview, ask them this networking question: “How can I help you?” They might quickly dismiss your question by saying “It’s OK, or it’s no big deal.” It may not be a big deal to them, but do them the favour anyway. You could rebroadcast the interview as a podcast, upload it to your YouTube channel, or submit it to news outlets – online and off. It could also be as simple as recommending a restaurant, or sending them an interesting article about one of their competitors. They will thank you for your initiative.

These strategies can help you connect with influential people whether or not you are a part of Ten Thousand Coffees. Are you ready to snag an interview with an influential person? Go ahead!

Happy Valentine’s Day: 6 Tips to Put a Little Love in Your Career

Valentino-3Happy Valentine’s Day! Today would’ve been the 18th birthday of my cat, Valentino, seen here on the right. We lost him and his mom, Vanessa, last year, and I am just now getting the courage to even talk about them.

However, this re-run from last year’s archives is not about my cats. It is a gift from me to you. Click on this link (Put a Little Love in Your Career) to get some Valentine’s Day encouragement.

Share your comments here to let me know how you have been putting some love in your career and job search. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

The ABCs of Networking: 26 Simple Tips to Get You Started

ABCs_Daisy_WrightMost job seekers wince at the thought of networking. After all, it’s quite awkward. Facing a group of strangers in a large room is like a deer caught in the headlights – stunned and unable to move.

If you are a seeker who is feeling like this deer, then help is on the way. This infographic takes you back to alphabet basics with 26 simple networking tips. They will help you prepare in advance of a networking event, help you deal with the awkward moments, and relearn your ABCs. (Click twice on the image.)

 

It is Time for Reflection, Resolutions, Goal Setting AND Action

Time For Reflection Message Means Ponder Or ReflectThe New Year is usually a time for reflection. We reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and then we begin, with all good intentions to make resolutions or set goals. But, before the end of January, goals will be forfeited, resolutions will be broken, old habits will seep in, and we are back to where we started. We default to complacency and inertia and never take the action necessary to accomplish our goals.

Resolutions never spur me to action because I perceive them as fleeting clouds ambling along without a clear sense of direction. On the other hand, goals appear more tangible, as if they can be touched, so I am a bit more motivated when I think in terms of goals.

Whether you subscribe to resolutions or goal setting, following through with action is a must. Write down your goals, review them regularly, then act. Begin by using the ACTION plan laid out below:

A – Abandon the old ways of thinking and doing things. If resolutions didn’t work, get smart, and set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

C – Commit to your goals. Commitment is necessary for success.  Set aside at least one hour each day, no matter what, to work on the goal – whether it is to research your target employers, arrange informational interviews, or network with people who will keep you on their radar for opportunities that may be of interest to you.

T – Tackle your goal one piece at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Break the major goal into manageable mini goals. Keep yourself motivated by reward yourself when each mini goal is achieved.

I – Invest the time and resources necessary to achieve the goal. Too many people wait until the last minute to start working on their resumes, for example. A hastily put-together resume and cover letter won’t reach your intended audience. It takes a carefully orchestrated plan and that takes time.

O – Open yourself to new opportunities. The promotion you were expecting may have gone to someone else, or your recent interview did not end with a job offer. Instead of staring at those closed doors, look for other windows of opportunity to showcase your brand accomplish your goal.

N – Network. As a job seeker, or someone in career transition, you need to invest time in your networking efforts. It is said that sixty percent of a job seeker’s time should be spent on networking. Many people have negative connotations about networking. They view it as a dirty word instead of relationship-building, and that takes a lot of time and effort.

If you are ready for a new job or a new career, set SMART goals, review them regularly then take action. You might surprise yourself.  Share your experience or thoughts here and let’s discuss.

 

Beyond the Resume (Part 2): 7 Things Every Job Seeker Should Know About ATS

ATS_NavigateAs competition in the job market heats up, the frustration level rises for job candidates trying to get their resumes in front of recruiters. Many are bemoaning the fact that applicant tracking systems (ATS) have taken the human out of human resources. They perceive that they are being treated as commodities, and to them this perception is real. HR professionals, on the other hand, would counter this by saying they are swamped with too many resumes, and need a cost-effective tool to manage their recruiting process.

Jon Ciampi, former CEO of Preptel, now VP of Marketing at CRC Health Group, knows quite a bit about ATSs. “Applicant tracking systems contain different database fields for information on a resume, such as the candidate’s name, contact details, work experience, job titles, education, employer names and periods of employment. These systems try to identify this information on a job seeker’s resume, but if a resume isn’t formatted according to the applicant tracking system, it won’t pull this information into the proper fields.”

One of my clients wanted to know how she could make sure her resume was selected by an applicant tracking system on a government website. She had all the qualifications for the job. We discussed the pros and cons of the ATS, and I told her she should ensure that her resume mirrors the job posting as much as possible. I encouraged her to do a practice run of the application process right up to the ‘Submit’ button then cancel it. This allowed her to get a behind-the-scenes look at the system. After that exercise she completed the formal application.

A few days later she logged into her account and was shocked to see that over 4,000 people had applied for the position. She was equally shocked last week when she was called for an interview. We concluded that her resume was selected by the system because she had used the right keywords, and aligned her experience with the requirements of the position.

Having written about applicant tracking systems and listened to experts discuss them, I believe that every job seeker should know the following seven things to better navigate the ATS:

  1. Approximately 80% of large and small employers use some form of an ATS. Since employers are flooded with hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes for very few positions, they turn to ATSs to help them deal with the onslaught, and save time and money.
  2. Applicant tracking systems operate on a level playing field. Many job seekers view these systems as just another unnecessary barrier to their job search. On the contrary, they actually level the playing field. Each resume is treated fairly because ATSs are programmed to recognize and select keywords that are specific to the job description. They also gather information based on specific headings and titles. If a resume does not conform to these specific requirements, it will not be read by the ATS.
  3. The length of a resume is not an issue. No need to worry if a two- or three-page resume will be accepted. A longer resume created in plain text and crammed with relevant keywords is preferable to one that is beautifully designed.
  4. Tables, graphics and special characters are difficult to read. Most applicant tracking systems cannot read tables, special characters or images. That’s the reason for the plain text version. The nicely formatted, graphic-rich resume is more suitable for networking purposes, in-person interviews or as an email attachment. They are also useful if the system offers an option to upload a Word or PDF document.
  5. About 75% of qualified candidates are eliminated by the system. This may appear to be in contrast to the point mentioned earlier, but one of the main reasons qualified candidates are rejected is that they do not understand how to configure their resumes to fit the ATS.
  6. Sandbagging the system is a test of your integrity. Do not manipulate the system by using needless repetitions of words and phrases or by using white fonts to hide keywords. This is known as ‘sandbagging’, and recruiters view any attempt to game the system as dishonest.
  7. All applicant tracking systems are not created equal. ATSs are becoming more sophisticated as developers put new versions on the market at rapid speed. These different versions do different things. The onus is on you, the job seeker, to do the research to find out what system your prospective employer uses and adapt your resume accordingly.

While there are no guarantees with the ATS, your resume will stand a better chance of being selected by the system if you take the time to understand how it works. In the meantime, keep networking. It is the best way to land that job.

Related links:

10 Resume Tips to Beat the ATS

Robots Are Reading Your Resume

How to Leverage Applicant Tracking Systems to Land a Job

 

And the Most Overused Resume Buzzword for 2013 Is…

 

Responsible2

Over the past several years, LinkedIn has been coming out with its top ten list of buzzwords found in members’ profiles and resumes. This year, ‘responsible’ heads the list, but it won’t be considered ‘news’ to some recruiters.  In a 2010 survey of Canadian HR professionals and recruiters, they unanimously agreed that employers hire based on results, not on what job candidates were “responsible for…”.

To arrive at the top ten buzzwords, LinkedIn analyzes the English-language profiles of millions of its worldwide members. Since 2010, some words have been eliminated or moved further down the list but ‘innovative’ has been a constant. It is interesting that creative, organizational and effective occupy the top three positions in 2011 and 2012.

LI_Buzzwords

What tends to get lost in these analyses is the fact that job descriptions and job postings are full of these buzzwords. The dichotomy then is, how original can a job seeker get? To ensure their resumes are selected by the applicant tracking system programmed with these same buzzwords, job seekers have little choice but to stack their resumes or profiles with them.

All is not lost. There is a way to circumvent this overuse of buzzwords. It is called networking, an activity that many job seekers detest. Networking does not rely on buzzwords. It is a planned approach to building professional relationships through social media and in-person contacts, and a chance to be seen by recruiters and decision makers. Job seekers have an opportunity to add value to conversations, showcase their expertise and gain visibility from the people who really matter.

So while you might be a responsible and strategic thinker, who is creative, effective and patient; an expert in organizational development, driven to deliver innovative ideas and be extremely analytical, you still have a long way to go to create a resume and LinkedIn profile that will totally be devoid of these buzzwords.

Are you ready to shun those buzzwords? You can start by sharing concrete examples of your accomplishments and how you have added value to your employer.

 

Related links:

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2013 [Infographic]

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2012

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2011

LinkedIn Most Overused Words in 2010

 

 

 

Beyond the Resume (Part 1): Unconventional Ways to Get Noticed By Your Next Employer

Beyond_the_Resume_Red2Are you tired of your resume being rejected by inanimate applicant tracking systems? Have you been spending hours of your precious time submitting your resume on websites without success? Is it beginning to feel like you are going fishing but keeps returning with an empty net? If you answered “Yes” to those questions, it’s time to apply some outrageous strategies to get the attention of your next employer.

In this three-part “Beyond the Resume” series, you will be introduced to some unconventional, and sometimes outrageous strategies that people have used to get the attention of employers.

There is a popular quote that says “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.”  If that’s what you have been doing without much success, it’s time to suspend all that you know about the job search, stop doing what everyone is doing, and try something different, scary, and unconventional. After all, what do you have to lose?

Below I have highlighted some unconventional ways that people have been able to get the attention of employers. Some have landed their dream jobs; others are in the initial stages:

Foot in the Door Strategy: The first is a story I heard of a woman who wanted to work for the biggest advertising agency in town. She sent the owner a box with a shoe (a new one) along with a note that said, “Now that I have my foot in your door, I’d like to talk to you about a job.” “Outrageous”, you say. “That would never work for me or anyone I know”. It might or might not, but this lady had done her homework and knew this gentleman was likely to be impressed with her strategy. (She got the interview, and the job.) Bear in mind that companies hire when they see someone with the skillset they need…that’s why you should aim to get your foot in the door.

Failed Fax Machine: Last week my Office Coordinator client tried to fax her resume and cover letter as requested in the company’s job posting. She tried for hours and couldn’t get through. She decided to Google the name of the company to get the phone number. She found the information and made a call. Here is her account of what transpired:

“I called [Company] on Wednesday because after faxing for about an hour and getting a continuous busy signal… I had to make the call. I had a long and informative conversation with a gentleman. He explained that they have had, and are still having problems with their faxes and emails.  He invited me to submit my resume by snail mail. After hanging up the phone I googled his name and found out he is the owner of the company. I amended my cover letter to read:

Dear Mr. _____,

Thank you for giving so freely of your time to explain the problems with the fax machine at your office. I was hesitant to call as the ad stated .. no phone calls, but I was quite concerned that my cover letter and resume for the Office Coordinator position was not going to end up on your desk if the fax wasn’t working. I can only hope that the problem is corrected quickly so that orders are received and processed in a timely manner and you can continue the business of running [Company].  

I finished with the rest of my cover letter.”

This client did not allow a non-working fax machine to stop her from getting through. She took the initiative to call, and who who did she get? The owner of the company. Her resume and cover letter have probably reached the owner’s desk by this. Let’s see what happens.

Focusing on Microsoft: I have often talked about this young man in Oregon who tried for two years to get into Microsoft through the normal ‘apply online’ channel. Realizing that it wasn’t working for him, he decided to start adding his comments on Microsoft’s blogs on any topic that was within his realm of expertise. Someone took notice and began to monitor him and his comments. Very soon he was contacted by a Microsoft recruiter and within 10 days of the contact he had landed his dream job.

This story was shared by a senior recruiter at Microsoft some time ago during a recruiters’ teleconference.

This Business Insider link – Best Techie Resumes – also provides additional creative ways that some people have landed opportunities. And, before you begin to think it worked for them because they are technical wizards, put on your thinking caps and see how it could work for you.

The above examples are some bold and probably outrageous ways to stand out, get connected, get interviewed, and get hired. You might not want to be that in-your-face, but consider this, how else will you be found?

The point of this post is: whether you are entry-level job seeker, an aspiring manager, manager, or emerging executive, you too, can do something outrageous and unconventional to pull employers towards to you. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of nerves.

Are you ready to do some out-of-the-box thinking to land your dream job? Share your strategies here.

Why Are Robots Reading Your Resume?

Robot Reading ResumeAfter a robust discussion this week on a LinkedIn Group (Career Coach Forum) about applicant tracking systems, one contributor, Sharon Davis shared the infographic below about ATS.

What started out as a discussion about the length of time recruiters take to scan a resume, ended up as a segue into a thread on the inanimate ATS (applicant tracking system). That pesky tool that gets to decide which resumes get in front of the hiring manager, and which ones don’t.

Resume overload in human resources departments has given rise to robot-like applicant tracking systems. One of my earlier blog posts, 10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems, explains how these systems work, but this HireRight graphic shows how job seekers what they can do to ensure their resumes have a better chance of being seen by recruiters.

Since applicant tracking systems remain core to HR, according to Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, job seekers should learn how they work and beat them at their own game.

Meet the Robots Reading Your Resume - An infographic by HireRight

Attribution to www.hireright.com for this graphic.

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.