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7 Better Things to Do on the Drive to Your Interview Than Stress

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[Article contributed by Millenial Career Expert Sarah Landrum]

Your big interview is close; anxiety is setting in, and you know that by the time you are ready to make the commute to the interview, you’ll be one giant ball of stress. To make matters worse, you will be driving to the interview, and when under pressure, driving isn’t the most fun. Here are seven things you can do during the drive to your interview to lessen your stress.

  1. Crank Up the AC: Stress has a way of fogging up our brains, making articulating what we’re thinking difficult. If you’re feeling groggy or sluggish, roll down the windows or crank up the air conditioning in your car, even if it’s a chilly day. With some fresh air hitting your face, you’ll liven up in no time and be able to think more clearly. An additional advantage is if you’re prone to sweating is that the cold air will work to calm your nerves.
  1. Listen to Some Music: Whether you’re feeling excited, overwhelmed, stressed or all of the above before the big job interview, music can lower stress levels immensely. The week of your interview, take the time to create a playlist with songs to calm you down and an upbeat one to get you pumped up. If you’re not into music, you can still take your mind off the interview. There are various podcasts you can listen to, including ones covering pop culture, food and other lighthearted topics. Depending on your mood while driving to the interview, you’ll have plenty of options for your listening pleasure.
  1. Snack Smartly: Before your interview, your stomach may feel like it’s in knots and it might be hard to eat. However, nothing is worse than being in the middle of a sentence with your future boss, only to be interrupted by your stomach gurgling its displeasure at finding itself on empty. Prior to your interview, find a healthy snack that won’t be messy and isn’t going to make your breath putrid. Fresh veggies, a protein-packed smoothie or a scone or muffin will work perfectly. Snacking smartly can help to wake you up and give your brain the fuel it needs to ace the interview. Just make sure it ends up in your stomach and not down the front of your suit or blouse. It may be best to pack another shirt just in case.
  1. Go Zen: You might be lucky enough to have a yoga session right before your interview to release some stress, but why not bring the good vibes of the studio with you? With some essential oil room spray, relaxing music and a positive mantra to repeat to yourself, you can focus on the drive while melting away stress. By the time you arrive at your interview, you’ll feel refreshed and have a positive outlook for your potential new employer.
  1. Get a Massage: Tell stress to take a hike by getting your own personal massage as you drive. Old massaging cushions required a wall outlet to power them, but now, your car’s 12v charger will do just fine with various massager models. There are various types of car cushion massagers available, so do your research to find the best one for you and your budget.
  1. Practice Your Smile and Posture: Driving can be tough on your back depending on how far you’re traveling, and even with a car cushion massager, you may start to feel anxious just because you’re stuck and can’t burn the nervous energy off. The good news is you can practice good posture and a warm smile anywhere. According to a recent study, candidates who smiled less were deemed more favorable for jobs considered to be serious and professional. However, candidates who smiled at the beginning and end of the interview faired better than candidates who smiled throughout the entire interview. So practice those award-winning smiles for when you first arrive and when you leave.

Great posture – shoulders down, head up, and back – work for any type of job interview and shows you are confident, poised and ready to address anything that comes your way. Let your body language reflect your attitude about the job.

  1. Check Your Face and Breath: Stuck at what seems to be an extra long red light with only a mile or two to go? Take the time to flip down your mirror and give those pearly whites a once over. If you were snacking in the car, this part is especially important before you make your way into the interview. Having chia seeds from your smoothie stuck in your teeth won’t really win you any points. Make sure if you’re wearing makeup that nothing is smeared, and check your hair, especially if the windows were down or the AC was cranked up. Your looks will make the first impression, so ensure your looks are wow-worthy in a professional way.

A certain degree of stress is normal. It pumps up the adrenaline and allows you to be more focused, so don’t allow it to derail your chances of doing well in the interview. Recognize the stress for what it’s worth, then start focusing on success strategies to ace your interview.

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Contributed by Sarah Landrum, a freelance writer and millennial career expert. Her blog, Punched Clocks, is all about finding happiness and success in your life and career.

 

What You Need to Know About Job References – Part III

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This is the final of the three-part series on Job References. The first part of this article looks at how to handle negative references, and the latter part contains a list of 18 questions that job references could be asked by potential employers.

How to Handle Negative Job References

Most employers know that people are not perfect and that work relationships sour. However, if something had happened at any of your jobs that could potentially put you in a bad light, you should be ready, if asked, to explain the highs and lows in each of those positions. This is not the time to badmouth the boss, ex-boss or anyone else. If the relationship was not all that great, say so, but frame it in a way that’s open and honest. Here is a suggestion:

“I am not sure what George at The Widget Company would say about me at this point since he wasn’t too happy when I resigned. After three years in the department, I was bypassed for a promotion and asked to train the new hire. I decided it was time to explore other opportunities and so I left for the position with ABC Company. That position represented not only a hike in salary, but the responsibilities were exactly what I was looking for. As you can see, I excelled in that role and was promoted within 12 months of joining the company.”

If you are willing to be transparent and authentic, and discuss the situation candidly while focusing on lessons learned, you could end up being a better reference for yourself than anyone else could.

Questions Your References May be Asked

In an article in the Globe and Mail, a job seeker asked, Why are references even required in this day and age when information about a candidate’s job history and accomplishments can be found online…?” Great question, but as mentioned in the earlier series, it is very costly to make the wrong hire. Therefore, employers look for honest answers, not only during the interview but when they contact your job references. Make sure your references are prepared in advance.

The following questions represent a sample of what your references may be asked. While there are no guarantees, knowing what these questions are ahead of time will put you in a better position to advise your references on what they may be asked:

  1. Can you verify candidates date of employment, title, dates and role?
  2. Is the candidate eligible for rehire? Why or Why Not?
  3. Did the candidate go above and beyond what was required?
  4. What are their strong points? Areas for improvement?
  5. Is there anything else you can add about the candidate, or that I should consider before we hire?
  6. What was she like to work with?
  7. How did she handle conflict?
  8. To what extent was she perceived to be a team player?
  9. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the candidate?
  10. Describe the candidate’s day-to-day responsibilities on the job
  11. What kind of situation would you not hesitate to put the candidate in? What kind of situation would give you pause?
  12. Provide an example of how the candidate raises the bar for herself and for those around her.
  13. If you could create the perfect work environment for the candidate, what would it look like?
  14. What kind of development plan was communicated to the candidate and how did he respond?
  15. How would you describe his interpersonal skills?
  16. What would you say motivated her most?
  17. Why did the candidate leave?
  18. Could the candidate have stayed if he had wanted to?

While your job references will not be asked all of the above questions, it is important that you, the job candidate, familiarize yourself with them and share them with your job references. The answers they give could be what stands between you landing the job or being bypassed.

A final thought on references: When asking someone to act as a reference, pay attention to their response. If they were slow to respond, or appeared lukewarm, this could be a warning sign. Select someone else. It’s better to have someone who is enthusiastic about speaking on your behalf than someone whose lack of enthusiasm could land you at the bottom of the list for consideration.

Do You Know What Employers Think of Your References? (Part II)

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As mentioned in Part I of this series, reference checking forms a crucial part of the hiring process. If you are a candidate who is being seriously considered for a position, your potential employer is going to need performance verification from people with whom you have worked. A Monster.com article titled What Employers Want From Job References, states: “It’s common for employers to seek out additional references for new hires — either online or through their own networks.”  They want to make sure you are who you say you are on paper, that you are going to be able to do the job, and that you will be a good fit for their team.

The norm is to ask for names and contact details of at least three individuals who can vouch for you. But not every employer relies 100% on candidate-supplied references. One reason for this is that many employers believe the job references practice is flawed because candidates tend to provide the names of people who will say good things about them. They view these references as  “candidate-supplied super fans”, according to Deborah Aarts, Senior Editor at Profit Magazine. “Candidate-supplied references are usually nothing more than glowing reviews”, she said.

I differ somewhat with this assumption, as the point of selecting references is to get someone who will attest to your background and capabilities. Someone who will, in fact, give you a glowing review. That said, I understand the point of the argument. While these ‘super fans’ may offer some flattering comments about you, employers also want to get a well-rounded perspective on you.

So, what do they do? They turn to other reference sources. These sources include LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. These are ready-made sources where they can gather reference information on the candidate they are considering hiring, as well as on the job references provided. And, because such information is in the public domain, employers and recruiters do not need anybody’s permission to do conduct their due diligence.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that social media is the other job reference source that employers will use to conduct checks. Since that’s the case, your first task is to review your own online brand to see what will show up when someone searches for you. Is your profile consistent with the professional image you want to  portray? Is there someone else with the same name as yours? How is he or she depicted? Is there anything negative that could easily be attributed to you? If so, you need to address it quickly, not only with your potential employer but also with your job references. You don’t want them to discover anything that has nothing to do with you, then make a wrong assumption or cast any doubts about you.

Your second task is to review the online profiles of people you are considering asking to act as your reference. Check their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other online profiles to see what shows up. Are they portrayed in a good light? You need to make sure that neither you nor your references are displaying behaviour online that could indirectly damage your brand and your chances of getting a job.

The final of the series – Part III – will look at some of the questions employers ask when they contact your job references.

What You Need to Know About Job References – Part I

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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.

Caught in a Salary Negotiation Trap? NEVER, EVER Do This…

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When it comes to salary negotiations, experts will tell you to postpone such discussions until you have been offered the job. That does not mean you should wait until that time to craft your negotiation story.

Imagine this: You have moved to a different state where the economy isn’t booming and the job market is gloomy. You have been applying for jobs and getting interviews but not the offer. Finally, in one of these interviews you are asked about the salary you are expecting. You are thrilled, and you start your answer “Well, I am new to the city, I know the job market isn’t that hot right now. Although I have the credentials for the position, and several years of experience, I only have two years experience in the field. I am willing to start at an entry-level salary of $50K.”

The interviewer wraps up the interview and you leave, feeling a bit uncertain. Imagine a few days later you see the same job advertised with a salary range of $70-$100K. What do you do?

This is a real scenario that happened to one of my clients. I listened to him as he explained his dilemma. Family circumstances necessitated the move, and now he is in a situation where he has to get a job, any job – even an entry-level one. I could sense the desperation in his voice.

Salary negotiation is not a comfortable topic for most people. It becomes even harder when our words and body language tell a story of desperation. As desperate as you may be though, never, ever do what this client did. George C. Fraser, Chairman and CEO of FraserNet Inc. said, “Never bargain or job hunt from a position of weakness. Soar like an eagle, even when you are feeling like a wounded pigeon.” Easier said than done, but there are tools to help job candidates navigate the salary negotiation maze.

The first step is to conduct research so you are more informed when the discussion comes up. At minimum, start with tools such as Salary.com, Payscale.com, salary.monster.ca, Careerjournal.com and Salaryexpert.com. Canada’s Job Bank also has information. These tools allow you to conduct research about salary ranges based on industry, location, job title, experience, etc.

A new resource featured recently on Fast Company, is Paysa.com. One of its cofounders, Chris Bolte told Fast Company that the goal for the platform is to help people figure out how to understand what their value is in the market, and prepare them to have a more balanced, data-driven conversation with either a current or future employer.

To use the tool, a candidate would enter information such as job title, years of experience, company, location, education level, and skill set, and the Paysa platform would give a comprehensive picture of what the candidate is worth in the market.

Having said all of the above, it’s important to keep in mind that salary figures are not universally applicable. You need to take into consideration locations (cities, regions, provinces, states or territories). Having some information puts you in a better position to negotiate.

While you are negotiating don’t get stuck on the dollar figure. Some companies might not pay the salary you want, but you could negotiate for additional vacation, a more flexible work schedule, company-paid training, or other perks. These, if converted to dollars, could raise your total compensation package.

Additional Advice from an Expert

Carole Martin, President of The Interview Coach, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired, said that the first rule of salary negotiation is to be prepared with your numbers. You need to know what you want. You never want to be caught off-guard. When they ask you questions about salary you want to be prepared and ready with answers.

You have several options when faced with the question:

  • You can tell them what you were making at your last job. (Weigh the pros and cons before you offer this information).
  • You can give them a range that is acceptable to you – making sure that the lowest number is enough to cover your basic needs. (Better way of handling this difficult question).
  • You can postpone the discussion until you have more facts about the company and the entire package. (If possible this is the best scenario for you. Only then will you be able to do a fair comparison of what you have made in the past; satisfy your own basic needs; and get the deal that is the best for you).

How you handle the salary negotiation discussion will be key to your ability to get what you want, and more, and you won’t get caught in a salary negotiation trap.

 

How to Make Sure You Get a Seat in the House

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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.

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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

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

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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

 

Got Laid Off? So What?

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This article is a guest post by Nathan Tanner, a member of LinkedIn’s Acquisition team, and author of Not Your Parents’ Workplace, Critical Lessons for Interns and Young Professionals. In the article, he offers insights into the lessons he learned from his failures.

January 14, 2009. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was sitting at my desk when the head of our team tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come by his office. At that moment I knew that I was toast. I was told to collect my things, and after a few quick goodbyes, I was forced to leave the building. It was over that fast. The job that I’d worked so hard to obtain was over.

I had only been an investment banking analyst for six months. I joined Lehman Brothers just weeks before its record-setting bankruptcy, then transitioned to Barclays Capital after it came to the rescue and acquired Lehman’s US operations. For weeks there had been rumors of layoffs, so I wasn’t that surprised when I fell victim.

Facing rejection

While I felt surprisingly calm that fateful day, my new reality sunk in that next morning. I woke up with no responsibility and nowhere to go. Time to find a job. I was excited to get started and optimistically thought that it might take a few weeks to find my next gig. I knew the financial turmoil had created a difficult environment for finance jobs, but I soon realized just how hard it would be to find any job in any industry.

As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, I continued to cast my net wider. I applied for positions that had little connection to my degree or work experience, and I was fortunate to interview for many of them. I went into those interviews feeling confident and qualified, maybe even overqualified for some of them. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t land a job. At this point I had been out of work for four months.

I felt like such a failure.

I eventually found a great role in a completely different industry, and I was thrilled to get back to work. I can’t recall the number of jobs I applied for, but I ended up interviewing with 65 people at 20 different companies.

Lessons learned

At the time I felt like getting laid off would permanently damage my career. On the contrary, I was able to bounce back, and I learned several lessons along the way.

The first lesson I learned is the importance of having a job. I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t realize or appreciate how much value I got from going to work. I missed having somewhere to go each day. I missed being a part of a team. I missed being needed. I learned that having a job, even if it might not be amazing, is a privilege.

The next lesson came during my job hunt. Early 2009 was an awful time to be looking for work, but that’s only one reason why I struggled to persuade companies to hire me. The main reason I couldn’t get an offer is that I failed to show companies how I could add value. I thought companies would want to hire me because I went to a good school and worked for a good company. But that’s not enough.

During an interview at a retail company I talked about my ability to analyze financial statements (my skill), but failed to demonstrate how I could help them manage inventory more effectively (their need). Companies don’t just hire smart people; they hire people who can passionately demonstrate how they can make a big impact in the organization.

Lastly, I strongly believe that one of the reasons I got laid off from Barclays is that I failed to develop strong relationships with my coworkers.

The slow financial markets gave me a lot of down time, and the looming bankruptcy created a less than positive work environment, so I routinely left the office as soon as I completed my work. While other analysts were discussing recent events and the fate of the company with senior bankers, I mostly kept to myself. I failed to take advantage of those slow periods and didn’t spend sufficient time building deep relationships.

When difficult decisions need to be made, it’s a lot easier to let go of someone who you don’t know that well. It’s a mistake I’ve tried to avoid ever since, and I now love getting to know those I work with on a personal level.

Failure can be a great teacher, and while I would never wish to re-live that period again, getting laid off and struggling to find a job taught me valuable lessons early in my career.

Build strong relationships, demonstrate how you add value, and strive to remember that having a job is a privilege.

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Nathan Tanner is on the Talent Acquisition team at LinkedIn and is the author of Not Your Parents’ Workplace: Critical Lessons for Interns and Young Professionals. He recently graduated from BYU with an MBA. Follow him on Twitter @nhtanner.

Related post: I Just Got Laid Off…Now What?

Do You Have the Key to Secure the Job?

iStock_000000588057XSmall-Success Have you ever wanted to know the exact details of a job before you apply? If so, you may want to have a chat with Jon Chow, CEO of SecureTheJob.“A lot of people rely on job postings to learn about a job, but it takes much more than that”, said Chow.

In a recent interview, Chow explained how he came to realize the disconnect between a job posting and the actual job. “There is a big flaw in job descriptions as most are only available when companies are actively recruiting. Between recruiting cycles, those same job descriptions remain stagnant. They hardly, if ever, take into consideration new tasks and responsibilities assigned to the role, or assumed by the incumbent”, said Chow.

What is SecureTheJob?

SecureTheJob is an online portal built on the same ‘give to get’ model as Glassdoor, but it prides itself as a more qualitative resource. While Glassdoor provides insights on salaries that each company pays, as well as potential interview questions, SecureTheJob provides more detailed information from its community of contributors – people who have actually had those jobs.

These individuals, not only understand the technical requirements of the jobs, but also know about those “other duties as assigned”, as well as the soft skills that are important to succeed in the role. They offer advice on an array of things: What surprised them on the job, things they didn’t expect when they started, what they had to learn, and what they wished they had known on day one. With this information, job candidates can get a better understanding about the job and the company’s culture, and are better able to prepare themselves for the interview, and ultimately for success on day one of the job.

SecureTheJob works with employers who provide more information to candidates beyond the job posting so that when they are ready for the next recruiting wave, those candidates will be well-prepared. Job candidates, on the other hand, benefit from insider information to help them market themselves as more qualified to take on those responsibilities, and perform well in those roles. The employer benefits from a pool of higher quality candidates who understand their needs.

How Does SecureTheJob Work?

Chow was quick to point out that SecureTheJob is not a place to vent. “The last things we want is for SecureTheJob to become a site where people vent. The whole goal of SecureTheJob is to stay constructive and helpful. To that end, every single comment that’s submitted to the site is moderated by our team. We screen any comment that’s negative or critical of an employer. What we are trying to do is to have people provide information to others who want that job and tell them how to get it and how to do well at it.”

There are five categories on SecureTheJob for people to provide commentary and advice. These are: how to get interviews, how to succeed at the interview, how to get the promotion, how to succeed in the job, and what they would’ve liked to see in the job description.

Chow continued: “We like to think of it as the difference between speaking to a hiring manager and someone who has had that job. The hiring manager can tell you the salary, they can tell you the hours, they can tell you about the job posting, but the person who has had the job can say so much more.”

The site is a brand new resource and is 100% free. As such, Chow is encouraging everyone to check it out, and hopefully gain something from it, and in turn be able to give back to the community of job seekers. Everyone who uses SecureTheJob is asked to provide a comment about a job they have had that will help others who may want that job.

Do you want the key to your job search success? Visit the source at SecureTheJob and get a better understanding on what you need to do secure the job.

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