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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.

 

LinkedIn Endorsements: Fad, Foe or Friend?

If you are active on LinkedIn you may have started receiving endorsements from some of your connections. I have, and must say that when they started arriving in my Inbox I thought spam hackers had infiltrated the accounts of some of the people in my network and were sporadically sending out these messages. I became a bit more curious when I noticed endorsements were coming from some individuals with whom I had very little, if any, interactions. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate all I have received so far, but because I wasn’t aware that such a feature exists, I was sceptical. It wasn’t until I saw several posts on a discussion board and visited the LinkedIn blog that I realized the emails were legitimate.

LinkedIn Endorsement is a feature that allows your contacts to click a button and recognize and validate skills and expertise that you have on your profile. They can also add skills and expertise that they know you have but ones you may not have listed. In fact, in a word or phrase, a LinkedIn endorsement could help to answer the age old question, “What are you good at?” The feature also allows you to pay-it-forward by endorsing the expertise of people in your network who you know quite well or by reciprocating the favour of those who have endorsed you. Having said that, is this LinkedIn Endorsement feature a fad, a foe or a friend?

Fad. From much of what I have read, some people have characterized it as a fad – a trend that will pass. One individual curtly said, “This too shall pass”, referring to Twitter‘s #FollowFriday and Facebook‘s ‘Likes’. A comment on Inquirer.net states, “As the feature stands, it’s really just eye-candy for Linkedin, perhaps catching the attention of an employer but quickly fading away under detailed scrutiny.” One colleague commented that, “This whole endorsements thing is kinda brainless…silly and devoid of meaning.” Digital marketer, Eric Whittlake, portends that the value of LinkedIn as a business network will decrease while traffic to the site and potential advertising will increase. And, blogger Garrett Heath, said, “The Endorsement feature cheapens some of these accomplishments and turns a candidate’s profile/resume effectively into a “Like” contest.”

Foe. Although this could be more perception than reality, somewhere down the road, recruiters and hiring managers could be tempted to look at the number of endorsements one has and eliminate some otherwise talented people from the competition because they do not have many endorsements. This is not too far-fetched as there were discussions in the blogosphere and on job boards several months ago about some employers using one’s Klout score (or number of Twitter followers, for that matter), to determine how much clout (influence) one has and which applicants should be short-listed for interviews. Endorsements could also impact the LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature since it is easier to click on a skills button than to write a recommendation. And, in some circles, endorsements could be viewed as a “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” strategy, which could be frowned on and diminish its effectiveness.

Friend. The upside to the act of endorsements is that it could be perceived as a 360° validation of your expertise. Not only are you saying you are ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ but people who are familiar with you and your work also agrees with you. These endorsements add value and credibility and back up your claim of having those skills and expertise. An endorsement could also be mutually beneficial as you can return the favour of the endorser and thereby capitalize on each other’s network. If done correctly, endorsements could enhance the value of the recommendations you already have.

It’s obvious that the feature has friends and foes. From my perspective, however, the jury is still out. First, the feature is only a month old (up to the time of this post); second, I am still not sure how to use it effectively. For example, when I thought I was accepting endorsements, I ended up clicking on the “Endorse All 4” button that popped up without clearly looking at who I was endorsing. There will be many more discussions about the value of endorsements, and when that happens we can all determine if a LinkedIn Endorsement is a fad, a foe or a friend. Leave your comments or your discoveries in the “Speak Your Mind” section below.

Additional reading:

The Pros and Cons of Endorsements

How LinkedIn Skills Endorsement Impact Your Job Search

Endorsement Feature Degrades LinkedIn as a Professional Network

 

7 Habits of Highly Successful Job Seekers

This post is in honour of the legendary management guru Stephen Covey, author of the bestselling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, who passed away recently. Mr. Covey’s principles were not meant to be a quick-fix prescription for personal growth, but a deliberate plan of action to achieve one’s personal, professional or business goals. In the same way, the tips below are not quick-fixes nor are they all-inclusive, but they can be applied with some degree of success if one is committed to professional growth. Highly successful job seekers:

  1. Are Proactive:  They know how fickle the job market is so they adopt a proactive mentality and are always prepared for their next opportunity. As such, their career marketing documents and resources (resume, cover letter, portfolio, personal website or blog) are up-to-date.
  2. Exude Confidence: They know their value and the contributions they have made to the company’s profitability, and are able to articulate this with confidence, but without appearing boastful.
  3. Invest in their Careers: They assess their personal strengths, know their areas for development, and are committed to continuous learning through formal and informal means.
  4. Have a Circle of Influence:  They have built their own circle of influence because they know that they cannot accomplish much on their own and that they need the support of others to succeed. This circle is a formal or informal board of directors of 4-8 people, including some whose career trajectory they would like to emulate, and others who are ready to dispense advice when requested.
  5. Are Active on Social Media: They know that social media is an equal opportunity platform that does not require a Ph.D. to sit at the table, but offers opportunities to have a presence, drive engagement, demonstrate their expertise and build credibility.
  6. Demonstrate Cross-Cultural Competency: They make a deliberate effort to operate in different cultural settings because they recognize the benefits of having diverse groups of talented people working together to solve problems better and faster.
  7. Know How to Collaborate in Virtual Teams: They know that their team members are not always in the cubicle next door, but could be miles or oceans away. In this regard, they have well-developed skills to work productively in virtual teams.

As you reflect on the life of Stephen Covey and his contributions to society, take a moment to reflect on your own career and see if you are on the right path, and even attempt to create your very own ‘7 Habits’ that will help you move your career forward.

Related link: Proactive Workers Stand Out from the Pack

Social Media: The New Job Search Frontier

Recently I did some presentations and a webinar on social media for my clients and a couple of community organizations, including the Kiwanis Club of Brampton.  These presentations offered simple strategies to build a LinkedIn Profile, how job seekers can use social media to market themselves to employers, and how professionals and entrepreneurs can benefit from having an online presence.

Many people are nervous at the mere mention of social media. They are afraid people might misuse their information; they want to guard their privacy, or they are just plain overwhelmed with so many of these tools from which to choose. One webinar participant wrote me to say, “I am scared of a free service that takes my data to make money and promises not to share my information.” She then asked if I thought she was paranoid. Privacy is a legitimate concern, of course, especially since we know, or have heard of many online horror stories, but one does not have to become paranoid.

At one point, I was hesitant to use Facebook, for example. Although I have had an account since 2008, I did not start actively using it until 2010, when I began to see additional benefits other than getting updates from my nieces and nephews. So, social media is scary, and it might look like a time-waster sometimes, but is that enough not to test the waters? From a job seeker’s perspective, is it worth missing out on potential job opportunities, or connecting with a couple of influential decision makers? Wouldn’t it be nice to address someone by name at one of your target companies instead of “Dear Sir/Madam”?

There are many advantages to using social media. During a LinkedIn conference in Toronto last week, the keynoter said, “If you have hired more than 10 people through LinkedIn, stand.” Over 600 HR professionals and recruiters stood up. In other sessions, presenters spoke about how companies can build their employer brands on LinkedIn by reaching out and engaging potential employees through Career Hub Pages and Groups. The overall message from my perspective as a career coach is that job seekers need a LinkedIn presence, for starters.

I also learned that Canada is the 5th largest country on LinkedIn, and that IBM is one of the most active companies on LinkedIn, with over 280,000 employees and 650,000 followers. Want to join IBM? There are lots of people with whom you could connect!

Here’s a summary of some major social media tools:

  • LinkedIn – known as the number one social media tool for business, it has over 150 million members. Not only can profiles be created, but resumes can be uploaded, and by following Company Pages, one is able to keep track of new hires, promotions and the overall health of specific companies.
  • Twitter – a free micro-blogging platform that sends short messages using 140 characters. Recruiters, employers and HR professionals are quite active on Twitter and quite often use it to announce  job vacancies.
  • Facebook – permits businesses to establish a presence and allows people to “Like” and follow those businesses.
  • Pinterest – a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to pinboards. At first glance, one may wonder how effective this is as a job search tool, and the jury is still out on this. However, if you are the creative/artistic type, you can certainly market yourself or your business with it, so, join Pinterest and ‘get ‘Pinspired’!
  •  Google+ – another content sharing service, with an added feature called ‘Hangouts’. It’s a new video service where one can hold meetings, arrange study sessions, family meetings, or social gatherings with up to 10 people. Some companies have already started to conduct interviews with Hangouts.
  • About.me – serves like a parking garage for your online presence. It is a personal page that points people to everything you do around the web. It can be useful as a link in an email instead of uploading your resume and your other documents.

I believe the new job search or business frontier is through social media, and job seekers and entrepreneurs need to leverage its use. None of us can afford to be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Does this mean social media is the ‘be all’ of your job search or business? No! What it does is help you build relationships, engage in conversations, and demonstrate your expertise. This will (over time), lead to opportunities, value and profitability.

Still scared? It’s time to jump on the social media bandwagon. Experiment and see which ones resonate with you, because these tools have become major players in how we conduct a job search, how and where we do business, what we purchase, and who we connect with.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

11 Important Interview Tips

Do you have an interview today, or anytime soon? Are you nervous? Are your palms getting sweaty? Stop worrying because help is near.

While coaching a client last week, I suggested to her that she ask for some inside tips from the recruiter since he already knows the company where my client will be interviewing. He quickly reeled off the points below, and while they are not new, they could easily be overlooked by job seekers who are focused on practising answers to interview questions. Hopefully they will calm your nerves and help you to do well in the interview:

  1. Arrive early and enter the building 15 minutes before your interview.
  2. Bring three copies of your resume.
  3. Interview attire is conservative, so dress accordingly.
  4. If you have long hair, pull it back.
  5. If you have several ear piercings, take out extra earrings.
  6. If you have tattoos, cover them.
  7. Take a Photo ID – preferably your current driver’s license.
  8. Relax – answer questions honestly and you will do great.
  9. It is OK to ask interviewer(s) to repeat a question, if you need clarification.
  10. Do not accept anything to eat or drink.
  11. When asked to “Tell me about yourself”, they mean your professional, not your personal background.

While reviewing these tips, others might come to your mind. Add them here.

To your interview success,

 

 

 

How to Clue into a Company’s Corporate Culture

While companies put on their best face and say all the right words when trying to lure talented candidates, candidates need to be their own detectives and conduct due diligence to find out if the culture or the face of the company aligns with their values.  Fast Company gives some advice on how to clue in to a Company’s Corporate Culture and save yourself from headaches.

  • Go beyond the company’s website in your research, and perform a Google search. Also look for them or their employees on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Instead of focusing on the job title, the salary and that corner office you hope to occupy, take a step back and pay attention to the small things.
  • Arrive 20 minutes early for the interview so you can see the happenings. Listen carefully to what employees are saying to each other; pay attention to their mode of dress and how they treat each other.
  • Take a mental snapshot of your new boss’s office to see what’s important to him or her. Too many pictures of politicians when you are not the least bit interested in politics could be a sign.
  • If you need specific answers to a burning question, ask your prospective boss to tell you a story, much like a behaviour-based interview. “Tell me a time when…. “. This could be quite revealing.
  • After leaving an interview, sit down and make a list of everything you learned, and flag anything that is of concern to you. If something is bugging you, seek clarification before you accept the job.
  • If you are close to accepting the job offer, but still have questions, arrange an informal meeting with the new boss over coffee or lunch. Size up how he or she interacts with others. That will give you a good clue as to what to expect.

What are your thoughts? Add your own comment below.

Source: Fast Company

Image courtesy of Jaunehibisbus

 

When a Résumé Looks too Good to be True…

…It probably is! Some time ago I wrote an article titled “Lying on Resumes Alarmingly Common”, where I referenced a newspaper article with the heading “Official Résumé Wrong”! Fast forward to 2011, and it appears the topic of ‘lying on résumés’ has reared it’s head again. As a matter of fact, one month ago, I was reviewing the résumé of a young man and when I questioned him about his most recent experience, he admitted he had fabricated it because “others were doing it.” As a career coach and professional résumé writer, I owe it to my clients and myself to make sure that the information is correct.

Officeteam recently conducted a survey and it reveals, once again, that most job seekers stretch the truth on their résumés, particularly when it comes to their job duties and education. The job market may be tough right now, but job seekers should refrain from embellishing their résumés as they will be found out, sooner or later.

Here are some tips that Officeteam has offered to employers on how they can verify information on résumés. Job seekers should take note:

1. Watch for ambiguity. When reviewing resumes, question vague descriptions of skills (e.g., “familiar with,” “involved in”) which may be signs that a professional is trying to hide a lack of relevant work experience.
2. Ask once, ask twice. Pose interview questions that relate to specific skills needed. For example, if a candidate must know a particular software program, ask how he or she has used the technology in previous roles. If an applicant’s response is ambiguous, don’t be afraid to rephrase the question.
3. Get the facts. Ask references to confirm basic information such as the candidate’s employment history, job titles, responsibilities and salary. If they’re willing to talk further, delve into their thoughts on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, interpersonal skills, and ability to work on a team.
4. Branch out. Inquire if references know of others you can speak to about promising candidates. Also, tap your own network to find mutual acquaintances who might be able to shed light on the prospective hire’s background and character.
6.  Put them to the test. To get a true sense of a candidate’s abilities, consider hiring the person on a temporary basis before extending a full-time offer. This allows both parties to assess whether the position is a fit.

How about you? Do you embellish, or have you lied on your résumé? Do you know anyone who does? Add your voice here!

Source: Officeteam

Related post: Lying on Résumés Alarmingly Common

Is There Value in a Cover Letter?

Henry Ford said, Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” The same hold true for cover letters – whether you send one or not, you are right, or maybe! It is quite common to hear that 50 per cent of recruiters and hiring managers do not read cover letters; they go straight to the resume. Because of this, many job seekers just submit a résumé. Or, an ad asks to ‘fax your résumé’ and the job seeker faxes only the résumé. They rarely think about the other 50 per cent of recruiters who do read cover letters.

I advise job seekers to always include a cover letter. It’s better to include one and it’s not read than to omit it, and it misses the eyes of the other 50 per cent who do read them.

Recently, I was reading a blog post about cover letters in the Harvard Business Review, and the conversation was centred around cover letters! Should one be included with the résumé? This post garnered a lot of responses for and against. The writer, David Silverman, said that there were really only a few times to use a cover letter:

  1. When you know the name of the person hiring
  2. When you know something about the job requirement
  3. When you’ve been personally referred (which might include 1 and 2)

While most people agreed with the three reasons he stated, many of us were not impressed with the letter he quoted as being “The best cover letter I ever received.” It was no different, in my opinion, from a generic cover letter addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam”.

That said, one comment that got my attention was from a hiring manager. He was responding to comment by another individual, and wrote , “I would have to respectfully disagree with the comment that cover letters are a waste of time. A succinct, well-written cover letter that is laser-targeted to my specific job opening is rare and really gets my attention. And this is the real secret: the cover letter HAS to be well-written and it HAS to be targeted to my specific opening.

I couldn’t have said it better: “A succinct, well-written cover letter that is laser-targeted to my specific job opening is rare and really gets my attention.” In a survey I conducted recently with Canadian HR managers and recruiters, thirty eight percent (38.1%) said candidates must submit a cover letter for each application while thirty percent (30.2%) had no preference. Approximately sixteen percent (15.9%) said they could be useful for information not included on the resume if they add value.

What are your thoughts? Is there value in a cover letter? Join the debate by commenting below:

Source:

http://blogs.hbr.org/silverman/2009/06/the-best-cover-letter.html

6 Job Search Tips from Ted Williams – “The Homeless Man with a Golden Voice”

Have you heard of Ted Williams? He is the homeless man whose Youtube video has captured the hearts of millions of people around the world, thanks to a Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III.

Williams is an ex-radio announcer who fell on hard times, but two years ago he changed his lifestyle and began looking for help and for work. Since the Youtube video went viral, he has received so many job offers that he is still trying to determine which offer to take.

As a job seeker, what can you learn from Ted?

1.       Know yourself and what you are good at. Although homeless, Williams knew he had (and still has) a “God-given gift of voice”.

2.       Craft a clear, concise and compelling branded message that’s unique to you. Williams’ crisp cardboard message read, “I have a God given gift of voice. I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please! Any help will be gratefully appreciated. Thank you and God bless. Happy holidays.”

3.       Look for opportunities to demonstrate your value proposition. Williams didn’t just hang out his cardboard sign, but he demonstrated his rich, radio-announcer delivery whenever he got a chance, and he caught Mr. Chenoweth’s attention.

4.       Follow Williams’ example and revamp your resume to make sure it has the right message that will grab attention. Notice he didn’t have a long laundry list of job descriptive statements, but a short and compelling message.

5.       Brush up on your interview skills to be ready to articulate the value you can bring to your next employer. During his subsequent TV appearances, Williams articulately demonstrated his value when asked to do impromptu voice-overs. He was ready!

6.       Never give up, even when the going gets rough. There’s light at the end of your job search tunnel.

Have you hit rock bottom in your job search? Reflect on the Ted Williams’ story, realize your circumstances are not as bad, then pick yourself up and try again!

Survey on Canadian Resume & Interview Trends

Whether we are career coaches, professional resume writers or job seekers, we want to know what’s current and what’s out-of-date when it comes to resumes and interviews. Here is an opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers from across Canada to have their say and let us know what they look for in resumes; whether they bother to read cover letters, and what are their pet peeves.

Please complete this short survey at Canadian Resume & Interview Trends, and pass it along to others in your network.

Thanks. I will be sharing the results in the next few weeks.