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On The Job Hunt? Never Be Afraid to Tell Your Story

Tell Stories_Get Hired_DaisyWright

Today’s career musings is not only based on a quote by actress Angie Dickinson, but also contains elements from the Foreword of my new book, Tell Stories Get Hired. Credit for the Foreword goes to Sharon Graham, one of Canada’s foremost Career Strategists.

While Dickinson’s quote may relate to life in general, this post is written from a job search context and targets mid-career professionals, managers and executives. It is also relevant to job seekers, people in career transition, and even those who are happy at work!

When it comes to job search, we cannot underestimate the importance of storytelling. Your job search story literally starts with “Once upon a time…”. If you can articulate your value effectively, you can succeed in your job search. Career storytelling can help you build credibility, but its benefits don’t end there. It can also help you to identify your dreams, strengthen your values, find your true assets, and build your self-confidence.

Never be afraid to tell your story. Storytelling is an integral part of your job search. It’s a technique you must use to communicate why you are the best person for the job. It’s a strategy you should employ when networking to demonstrate your industry expertise. You cannot afford to be seen as ‘a shrinking violet’, “someone who is shy or modest and does not like to attract attention.”  Don’t be afraid!

Your story should be interesting. When writing your resume, when networking, or during an interview, create a vivid and interesting picture of what role you played in the story. Were you the lead actor, or did you play a supporting role? In fact, take them on a ride in your CAR, and explain the Challenges you encountered, the Actions you took, and the Results.

Your story is unique. Even if your story is similar to someone else’s, it’s not the same. Find ways to showcase your uniqueness. Brand your story in a package that stands out. According to Sharon, “Our current job search environment is very competitive and the only way to differentiate yourself is to tell “unique signature stories.”

Your story is worth sharing. If you don’t toot your horn, no one will know you are coming. Don’t expect the interviewer to read your mind to determine how great you are. One of my clients lost out on a promotion to project manager because he assumed his boss knew what he had done. He failed to share his success stories.

It’s your story. If you accomplished it, it’s yours, so claim it. If you don’t, others will autograph your work with their name on it. Too many people complain that their bosses or coworkers have taken credit for their work. Don’t let that be you…tell your story!

Every career has many interesting twists and turns, but few people are naturally confident storytellers. Most people find the thought of having to “sell” themselves to recruiters, hiring managers, and other potential company representatives daunting. You may know what you want to share, but are not certain of how best to do that. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Want to learn more about storytelling for the job search? Listen to this podcast, or visit Tell Stories Get Hired to grab your copy of the book.

5 Job Search Mistakes You Should Avoid

Oops_Mistake

From time to time job seekers, prospective clients and clients discuss with me the difficulties they face in finding a job, or getting interviews. Sometimes, these conversations come from unexpected sources: mid-career professionals, managers, and executives.

Most times I empathize with these individuals because the job search process can take a toll on anyone; people get into panic mode, and all rational thinking goes through the window. Sometimes, though, I have to be direct and tell them to hit the delete button on negative thinking. Professionals at these levels should be focusing on who they are and the value they have to offer, rather than how difficult the job search process is. It is said that whatever one focuses on, expands. Focus on negative thinking and it breeds more negatives.

Over the past few days, I have had some email and face-to-face exchanges with several job candidates and identified several job search mistakes they were making. This prompted me to write this post on five job search mistakes you should avoid:

  1. I am overqualified. How do I handle this in the interview? Do not spend your time focusing on being overqualified. Think about what you have to offer. Prepare to explain that you may be overqualified, but only if the company is looking to remain where it is. But, if they want to benefit from your years of experience delivering results; if they want to surpass their competitors, then you are the right person for the job. Of course, back that up with concrete examples that demonstrate your point.
  2. The company indicated only those selected for an interview will be contacted. Follow their rules. Don’t contact them directly, but no one said you couldn’t contact them indirectly. Find employees willing to talk with you about the company, and the position. Ask them for specifics: contact details for the person responsible for hiring, major problems the company is facing, workplace culture and fit. Check out the company’s blog and online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook). What’s being discussed? Who are the influencers? Also, search for former employees who will be able to give you the inside scoop on the company. All this investigative work could pay off, and place you and your resume ahead of others competing for the same job. Some companies offer incentives for internal referrals, and this extra research might just helped you to find one.
  3. I don’t have any interviews lined up, so I am going to wait until I get a date before I seek help. This the most crucial part of the job search. Don’t wait for the last minute on something as important as an interview. Review some interview questions that you are sure they are going to ask, such as ‘Tell me about yourself’, or ‘Why should we hire you?’ Practice with a friend, family member or a career or interview coach. Be prepared! “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” Whitney Young
  4. My friend in HR reviewed the resume you did, and said it does not have an Objective. This is ‘old school’ thinking, in my opinion. But, on a more serious note, keep in mind that if you show your resume to ten different people, you will get ten different opinions. So, while I respect your friend’s opinion, current resume practice, especially for mid-career professionals, managers, and executives, is to substitute an Objective for accomplishment or value-based statements that speak directly to the position. If the statement focuses on the company’s pain points, and grabs attention, you have just made the hiring manager’s job easier.
  5. I have a LinkedIn Profile, but don’t want to upload a photograph. This is a huge mistake. Without a photo on your LinkedIn Profile, you are considered invisible by hiring managers and recruiters. Go ahead and upload a photo, and when you do, make sure it is professional, and does not include other people. As of today’s writing, I have 27 LinkedIn invitations waiting to be accepted, but they fall into the categories of: no photo, a group photo, or a sketchy profile. I am sure they are great people, but they are hiding. As a job candidate, if you want to grow your network on LinkedIn, or get connected to other people, stop making these mistakes.

Are you making any of those mistakes? Are there others you could add to this post? You are welcome to comment below.

The Best Day For Your Job Search

Monday Rx - Best Day to Job Search Job seeker, this is another sporadic dose of the Monday Rx, a picker-upper to help you get through Mondays. I say ‘sporadic’ because, honestly, it’s not every Monday that I write such a blog post!

Are you having a case of the Monday Morning Blues? Grab your favourite cup of coffee, perk yourself up, and get ready for some great news! Today, Monday, is the best day to submit your resume to the employer (or employers) you have been targeting.

A survey conducted by Bright.com (prior to its acquisition by LinkedIn in February 2014), indicated that the best day to apply for a job is on a Monday (at least in the US).

They analyzed more than half a million job applications revealing that 30 percent of people who applied for a job on Mondays went on to get interviews. On the contrary, Saturdays were the least successful day, when the success rate was only 14 percent.

Bright-Com_SurveyImage: Courtesy of qz.com

The report does not explain why Monday job seekers do best, simply confirming that they do. However, the assumption is that applications that come in on a Monday stand a better chance of being seen than ones that come in later in the week, as resumes pile up on hiring managers’ desks. Then, too, it’s possible that Monday applicants might be more eager, go-getters.

Take some time today to review your resume, make sure it addresses the employer’s needs and articulates the value you will bring, then put your ears, telephone, iPad and email services on alert. You might just be called for an interview.

By the way, there are other positives about Mondays. It is said that Monday is the best day to quit smoking, start a new diet or buy a new car. What are your thoughts about Mondays?

Related links:

Good Morning America Blog

Manjari Shukla (Indian Republic)

 

 

6 Tell-tale Signs Your Interview Went Terribly Wrong

Job seekers, there is a huge difference between arrogance and confidence; watch your body language, and beware of your cell phone etiquette. After all, you are in an interview!

It might be astonishing for some job seekers to find out that the interview in which they thought they did so well, actually went terribly wrong. And, many of the mistakes they made would’ve prevented them from moving to the next step. In late 2013, CareerBuilder surveyed 406 hiring managers and human resource professionals across Canada. Their major findings are shown below:

Infographic_Interview_Final_DW

While this infographic may add a touch of humour to a serious topic, it is a fact that many job seekers turn up at interviews unprepared and unprofessional. Many do not research the company before they get to the interview. Some do not understand cell phone etiquette; others do not provide specific examples that would convince the hiring manager they would be a good fit for the position, and many fail to make proper eye contact with the interviewer.

To say most job candidates get the jitters when they have an interview, is an understatement. But, there are no excuses for inadequate preparation for this important part of the job search process. When unpreparedness meets opportunity, it results in many of the interview mistakes outlined above.

Just in case you were one of the candidates who committed these interview faux pas, here is an armchair’s critique of your performance:

  1. You were arrogant. There is a thin line between being confident and acting arrogant. Learn the difference.
  2. You were not interested in the position. Your body language gave the wrong message. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
  3. You were uninformed about the company. It showed that you were clueless about the company and the role for which you were being interviewed. In-depth research of the company, as well as a request for a detailed job description, would have set you apart.
  4. You were texting or taking calls on your cell phone. Unfortunately, you couldn’t take your hands off your cell phone. Neither did you turn it off before the start of the interview. Well, there are no excuses for this one because you should’ve known better.
  5. You were inappropriately dressed. If there ever was an opportunity to ‘dress up’, it was this one, and in a professional manner. You could’ve called to ask about the company’s dress code, or visited the location prior to the interview to observe what employees were wearing.
  6. You were burning bridges. While it may have boosted your confidence to badmouth your employers, it was not a good idea. Negative portrayals of employers and coworkers are never acceptable.

The survey addresses other mistakes that employers found. The survey details can be found at CareerBuilder. Pay close attention to the most common blunders, as well as the role that body language or non-verbal communication plays in interviews.

What additional advice would you have for a job candidate who committed such blunders? Add your comments below.

 

3 Things An Interviewer Wants to Know

Bright Idea! Job Search Tip

What Interviewers want to know

When you are invited to an interview, make sure you know what the interviewer really wants to know.

  • What evidence do you have to show them that you will be able to do the job for which they are hiring?
  • Are you going to fit in with the company culture, or will you disrupt the team synergy?
  • Do you have a list of convincing success stories that demonstrate your money-making or money-saving capabilities? The bottom-line matters!

If you are unable to answer those three questions, you are not yet ready for the interview. Conduct a brainstorming session with yourself and write down stories that will help you address those questions.

Join the conversation and add your bright ideas!

 

A Job Rejection Could Add Dollars & ‘Sense’ to Your Pocket

Rejected

Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Nowhere is this more applicable than the rejection Brian Acton, cofounder of Whatsapp, received from both Twitter and Facebook. These days, Brian is laughing all the way to the bank, because Facebook, the company that once rejected him, recently purchased Whatsapp for $16 Billion.

Brian_Actons_FB_Rejection

While it’s a big win for Acton, Dr. John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, and an expert on recruiting and staffing, views it as a ‘colossal recruiting failure’  by Facebook. The most costly recruiting error in recent history…”, he said. Well, it depends. If you are Facebook, probably; if you are Acton, certainly not.

Many of us have faced rejection of some sort or another at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s a job offer that went to someone else; a promotion that didn’t materialize, or a response to an email rebuffing your subscription to a job board. The reality is that whatever the rejection, its initial impact is never pleasant. We begin to play the blame game or beat up on ourselves.

I remember how devastated I felt years ago when I lost out on a job that I thought had my name written all over it. After I got the bad news, I held a pity party the entire afternoon.  I was the only one in attendance, and didn’t I spend the time beating up and second-guessing myself?

At some point, I faced the reality that wallowing in self-pity wasn’t going to help me. I brushed myself off, took an introspective look, and decided that I had too much to offer to spend the time moaning and groaning over a lost opportunity. That self-assessment was the first step that helped to change the trajectory of my career and my life.

In my book, No Canadian Experience, Eh? I mention that the more No’s one gets, the closer one is to Yes, and one ‘Yes’ is all that’s needed. As a job seeker, you may have received your quota of rejections, but this is not the time to give up. It’s time to redouble your efforts. Count your No’s as stepping stones to Yes! Here are three tips to help you deal with a job rejection:

  1. Assess yourself. Review the situation to see what went well, and look for opportunities where you need to grow.
  2. Be courteous. Notice that Acton’s tweet paid a compliment to the people he met at Facebook. He didn’t engage in any bad- mouthing).
  3. Follow up with your interviewer. Sometimes the candidate they chose didn’t work out, but because of your professionalism and lack of bitterness, they could decide to offer you the position, or at least give you a second opportunity.

Just in case you believe you will never rise from the ashes of a rejection, below are some individuals who faced rejection in their lives, but went on to achieve great things:

  1. Oprah Winfrey was told she wasn’t fit for television.
  2. Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen received 144 rejections from publishers for their book Chicken Soup for the Soul.
  3. Jay-Z had big dreams to become a rapper, but couldn’t get signed to any record labels. He created his own music empire: Roc-A-Fella Records.
  4. J.K. Rowlings got fired because she spent her time writing stories on her work computer.
  5. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

While your story might not be as well-documented as these celebrities; while you might not aspire to such heights, you could change the direction of your life if you view rejection as an opportunity to start over.

Bob Marley, in one of his songs, says, “As one door closes, another one opens.” Don’t continue staring at the closed door that you miss other windows of opportunity.

Are you ready to step forward after a rejection? Share your thoughts or your story below.

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!

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.

Life is Like a Camera, and So is Your Job Search

Monday_Morning_Rx_Life_is_Like_a_Camera

Happy Monday!

For readers who do not know about my Monday Morning Rx, it differs from a regular blog post. It is a small dose of encouragement to brighten your Mondays as you begin your work week, or as you continue your job search. It is supposed to be short and uplifting. So here we go:

Let FOCUS be your keyword today.

  • Focus on what’s important
  • Focus on your job search
  • Focus on your interview prep
  • Focus on revamping your resume
  • Focus on that difficult project
  • Focus on building your network
  • Focus on self-development
  • Focus on that awkward conversation you need to have with the boss
  • Focus on _______________. (Fill in the blank)

Focus, focus focus!

To your success,

daisyname

Job Seeker, What’s Holding You Back?

What's Holding You Back?

Image Template Courtesy of @HubSpot

Dear Job Seeker,

What’s holding you back from achieving your dreams? Have you failed too many times to get a promotion so you have given up on yourself? Do you have dreams yet to be realized, but something in your past is holding you back? Whether you are looking for a new job, a promotion or to attain some other personal goal, it’s never too late.

In one of Joel Osteen’s daily messages, he mentioned an article that says “..the wealthiest places on earth are not the oil fields of the Middle East nor the diamond mines of South Africa. The wealthiest places are the cemeteries. Buried in the ground are businesses that were never formed, songs that were never sung, books that were never written, potential that was never realized, and dreams that never came to pass.”

Author, journalist, and long distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, had an extreme dream – to swim from Cuba to Florida. Nothing could hold her back from achieving this dream. She made four attempts and failed, but she never gave up. On September 2, 2013, and on her 5th attempt, she accomplished that dream. It only took 35 years, and being 64 years old.

How many of us have the determination to hold on to a dream for that long? Not many. Thirty five years  and five attempts might be extreme, but there are many people who abandon even smaller dreams in months instead of years. They hold themselves back after having one or two failures. Nowhere is this more evident than in the job search.

Job seekers of all ilk, (entry-level professionals, managers and emerging executives), are settling for less. They are in jobs that are no longer fulfilling. They are bypassed for promotions and see this as a life sentence. Don’t let setbacks and failures hold you back. Begin to push yourself forward rather than being held back. Here are three quick tips to help you get a job or a promotion:

  1. Conduct a self-assessment. Find out, through formal or informal assessments, whether you have the specific skills and experiences required for your next role. If there are areas for growth, commit to investing in yourself.
  2. Meet with the boss. Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss your desire to assume a new role. Ask him or her if there is anything you could take off their plate which would allow them to focus on other more pressing issues.
  3. Take on a project that others refuse to do. It might not be the most glamorous task, but you will be noticed for showing initiative, and you will learn new skills to add to your resume. Remember to document your activities so you can refer to them at your next performance appraisal.

When you are tempted to give up on your dreams of a better job or a new career, think of Diana Nyad and her tenacity. Remind yourself of these two things: You are never too old to chase your dreams, and never, ever give up.