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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!

 

 

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.

6 Reasons to Send a Cover Letter With Your Resume

Cover letter conceptThe importance of cover letters sometimes engenders lively debates among hiring managers, job seekers, and career professionals, and all sides have compelling arguments. Some say recruiters do not have the time to read cover letters, especially when they are under pressure to find the right candidate. Others say that fifty percent of recruiters do not read them. If that’s the case, what happens to the other fifty percent who do spend the time to read these them?

Having participated in and researched the various arguments, here are six reasons a job seeker might want to include a cover letter with his or her resume:

Fifty percent of recruiters read cover letters: While it is commonly argued that fifty percent of recruiters do not read cover letters, the other fifty percent does. Therefore, if there is a fifty-fifty chance that a cover letter is going to be read by a recruiter, why not include one with your resume?

Most employers expect a cover letter with the resume. A 2012 survey conducted by Officeteam revealed that 91% of executives said cover letters were valuable when evaluating job candidates.

The resume is only half-dressed without the cover letter. Sometimes the resume is not enough to convey the job seeker’s qualifications and interest in the role, and gives the impression that something is missing. Adding a cover letter completes the picture. It also is an opportunity to answer potential questions before they are asked. For example, “Why are their gaps in your employment?”

The cover letter demonstrates your contribution. Adam Bryant aka @NYTCorneroffice, contributor at the New York Times, was asked on LinkedIn’s How to Hire series, if a cover letter really helps in the decision to hire. He said,  “The magic word for a cover letter is contribution. You want to show that you are ready to make a contribution, rather than just hoping for a pay cheque; that you have done your homework, you are excited about the vision, and that you understand what the company does.

The cover letter is your elevator pitch for your resume. In an interview with Careerbuilder, Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith, a Massachusetts-based etiquette consulting firm, said, “The cover letter is the elevator pitch for your resume. It’s your best bet for grabbing the recruiter’s interest so that the recruiter wants to review your resume.” Learn how to polish up your cover letter much like you do with your elevator pitch.

The cover letter is an opportunity to tell your unique story and make a good first impression.  A cover letter should create a strong first impression and tells the employer why you are the best person for the role. “Submitting a resume without a cover letter is like not shaking hands when meeting someone for the first time,” says Dave Willmer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Those who aren’t including cover letters with their resumes are missing an opportunity to make a good first impression and set themselves apart from other job applicants.”

How about you? Which side of the cover letter debate are you on?  Should you or should you not send a cover letter with your resume? Share your comments below.

The cover letter demonstrates your contribution. Adam Bryant aka @NYTCorneroffice, contributor at the New York Times, was asked on LinkedIn’s How to Hire series,

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.

Is Your Resume Telling Your Story?

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

Is your resume telling your story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relevant

Experiences and

Skills, which are

Understood and

Measured by

Employers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Dumbing Down Your Resume is a Dumb Idea

Resume_iStock_000015851364Small

If you are dumbing down your resume and downplaying your achievements, you are playing small. You are cowering under the pressure of other people’s opinions. You are undervaluing your capabilities.

The majority of my clients are aspiring managers, managers and emerging executives. Some are also senior leaders or presidents of their own companies but are considering corporate opportunities. Many are faced with challenges from being told they are overqualified, they don’t have Canadian experience, or that they are too old.

I had a conversation with a senior leader (someone in his late fifties) this past week where he said that headhunters have told him that he is too old. I asked him how old is his intellectual capital – that mass of knowledge, ideas and experience housed in his cranium that some 30- or 40-somethings wouldn’t have. This man is an executive within the energy industry, and prior to that worked in the investment and bond markets. Will his age prevent him from adding value to a company?

My colleague Sharon Graham, wrote a blog post recently on this topic. The link is posted below. In it she exposed some of the myths about dumbing down one’s resume. She discussed the fact that there is currently a leadership vacuum, and that new industries are emerging, while others are here to stay. For those reasons, one should highlight one’s achievements instead of dumbing them down.

We live in a real world where these things happen, and I know you hear it quite often. Employers, hiring managers and recruiters telling you overtly or covertly that you are overqualified or you are too old. This is a dumb approach and only serves to exclude potentially good candidates. By the same token it  puts you on the defensive. There are strategies that you, a potentially good candidate, can use to overcome these barriers:

  1. Research the potential employer thoroughly then focus on areas where you know you can solve their problems and add value. Don’t apologize for your accomplishments and successes.
  2. Seek to connect with decision makers, or other people who know these decision makers. This proactive approach might be uncomfortable for some of you but it’s better than constantly uploading  resumes that may end up in the resume black hole.
  3. Be prepared to begin your conversation with something like: “I want you, just for a moment, to suspend your belief that I am overqualified, too old, don’t have Canadian experience [or whatever your specific circumstance is]. If you would like your company to remain where it is, then I might not be a good fit. But, if you would like to see explosive growth within the next X months/years, then we should be having a discussion.” Of course, you have to back up this blatant claim with your proven success stories.

It is the responsibility of managers, emerging executives, or any job seeker for that matter, to focus on what they have to offer their next employer. The next step is to determine how they can package this offer in a way that will have employers reaching out to them. This is not the time to leave your career up to job boards, applicant tracking systems, or junior staff who sometimes screen you out because their perception is that you are overqualified or too old.

If you find yourself downplaying your achievements, it’s time to stop. You are someone with a whole lot of things to offer. Stand tall, pull your shoulders back and be prepared to articulate your stories in ways that produce conversations. If you are meeting too much resistance, then ask yourself if this particular organization would be a good place for your to work.

Have you been told to dumb down your resume? If so, share your story in the comments section below, reach out to a career coach, or contact me. We just might be able to help you overcome these job search obstacles.

Related resources

Dumbing Down a Resume is Not a Great Idea (Sharon Graham)

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

 

5 Ways to Get Your Resume Ready for Prime Time

Prime_Time

Is your current resume ready for ‘prime time’? This is not about the peak viewing time on television, for which advertising rates are the highest. It refers to the less than 30 seconds that it takes a recruiter or hiring manager to make a decision about your resume.

Consider this: The average length of a television ad is 60 seconds, much longer than the time it takes the most discerning, eagle-eyed recruiter to scan a resume and decide if it should be tossed in the trash bin, deleted from a database or placed on the ‘for further review’ pile.

If you think of your resume as an ad for a product, and the buyer as a recruiter or hiring manager, how will you ensure that your resume grabs their ‘prime time’ attention and be given the cursory 30-second look?

The five tips below are not all-encompassing, but should certainly help your resume meet the prime time test:

Conduct a prime time test. Grab a copy of your resume right now and review it. What’s your impression? How is it packaged? Will it be noticed within that 30-second flash of time? Does it have an attention-grabbing headline? What have you included in the top-third of the document commonly referred to as ‘prime real estate’? Is the space dominated with a ‘me-centred’ Objective, or does it have an impressive value-based statement highlighting why you are uniquely qualified to fill the position? Does it have a strong value proposition?

Look for career defining stories. As you continue your review, is the resume saturated with career defining stories demonstrating your skills, strengths and accomplishments? Are these stories connected to the employer’s buying motivators or needs? Or, is it packed with statements and responsibilities directly from your job description with no accompanying results or outcomes? It is quite common for job seekers to create resumes laden with job descriptive statements when hiring managers want to see resumes laden with value. Eliminate such statements if you cannot show value. Ultimately, employers hire based on results (or value), not on what you were “responsible for…”.

Weave in endorsements. Do you know you can enhance your resume with third-party endorsements about your achievements and your capabilities? Not just any endorsement, but testimonials and  recommendations from influencers in your network or comments culled from your performance appraisal. Not only do these comments tell the hiring manager that you are the best thing since sliced bread, but statements coming from people who can attest to your abilities – your manager or former supervisor – give you credibility.

Experiment with a creative layout. Is your resume created with one of those templates that everyone uses, or does it have a unique layout that captures the reader’s attention and tempt them to want to read more? You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create a nicely-laid out resume that stands out and appeals to the reader.

Focus on value more than length. While most people prefer a two-page resume, some recruiters say it depends on the level of the position. One executive recruiter, David Perry of Perry Martel said, “Length doesn’t matter to me, as long as it is laden with value.” Another recruiter said, “A long resume (8+ pages), is just too much, no matter how many years of experience a person has.” How long is yours, and does it have relevant information that would grab the interest of a hiring manager? If it is laden with value, then length won’t matter.

In a competitive job market when recruiters and hiring managers are deluged with hundreds of resumes for one position, your resume must be ready to compete for prime time. Make sure to include several compelling stories that focus on your unique value. To get to those stories, ask yourself, “What problems did I solve? What legacy did I leave, or am I leaving in my roles?” Only then will you be able to craft a resume that will be ready for prime time.

Related post:

 

How a Patchwork Quilt Resume Could Damage Your Brand