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Reframing the Narrative Around ‘No Canadian Experience’

It’s ironic that the same qualifications that allow newcomers to gain permanent residency status and come to Canada seem to work against them once they arrive.

Last Saturday, I hosted a Webinar through New Canadians TV on this notion of “No Canadian Experience”, and am sharing a synopsis of what was discussed. While the content is geared to newcomers, other job seekers will find some of these tips beneficial.

Reframe the Narrative

First of all, the phrase – No Canadian Experience – is a conversation stopper. It’s one way to stop you in your tracks and prevent you from talking about your unique journey and the benefits an employer could gain from hiring someone like you. Instead of ending the conversation, use the opportunity to engage and reframe the narrative.

Address the Elephant in the Room

(Image: Reddit)

If you get the sense your lack of Canadian work experience could be a concern, you might want to address the ‘elephant in the room’ upfront. Admit it (see a sample script below under elevator pitch), then steer the conversation to how your international experience aligns with the organization’s goals and the benefit they will gain from hiring you. However, before you can have such a conversation, you will need to do some preliminary work. This work won’t be easy, so commit to playing the long game. You will discover it’s a better use of your time than sending resumes to every company and not getting a response.

Take an Inventory of Your Skills

Look at all the things you have done, the skills you used and the outcome / impact you made and write them down. This exercise will help you quantify your achievements, make you stand out from other candidates, and provide you with an inventory of your skills to help you showcase your value.

Research, Research, Research

Every job is NOT for you so don’t go sending resumes to every company that has an opening. Research the ones you would want to work with, and you can start with these lists:

Extend your research to social media platforms, starting with LinkedIn. Sometimes names of your connections who work at a particular company may show up. If not, check if someone in your network knows someone at the company, and ask if they could introduce you. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to respond so don’t become despondent and give up if they dont. Remember you are in it for the long haul.

Once you have gone through the lists, select about 15-20 companies, whether or not they have advertised. When you are focusing on just the ones with advertised openings, you could be missing out on hidden opportunities.

Target Recruiters

While I am not aware there’s a Top 100 Best Recruiters list, you can find many recruiters on LinkedIn. Follow the same process as you did with companies. Check your network, then Connections, then search for recruiters (or any other related title). Make sure to target those in your industry. Start with 5-10 such recruiters and reach out to them. See how to forge authentic relationships below.

Dissect the Job Posting

To get the attention of an employer takes much more than sending a resume and cover letter. It requires an understanding of the employer’s needs. The first indicator of what the employer needs is in the job posting. Pay very close attention. Assess your skills and qualifications against the posting. What do you have to offer? How does your experience align with the requirements?

Prepare Your Career Documents

Depending on who you are talking to, employers take between 6 and 10 seconds to scan your resume; the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) probably takes less. This means if your resume isn’t addressing what’s asked for in the job posting, it will be rejected by the employer leaving them to think that you don’t understand their needs.

Forge Authentic Relationships

The key to a successful job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second, and offer to be of assistance always. This is where playing the long game will help you forge authentic relationships, build credibility and gain visibility. In the early stages of building these relationships, don’t go asking for a job (unless there’s one that you know they are hiring for.) After all, you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date! Develop a ‘give, give, get’ mentality. Always ask how you can help your new connections. If you happen to know that an employer is recruiting for another position and you have someone you can recommend, let them know.

Use Every Tool at Your Disposal

As a follow on to building relationships, you are now at the stage where you need to use every tool at your disposal to find the right contacts. You have experimented with LinkedIn, try Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Employers recruiters are on these platforms. What about emails? Most companies have standard e-mail formats. Try sending multiple emails in different format until you no longer receive a “mail delivery error.” You may even want to use the Advanced Search on Google.

Contact as many people as possible while being realistic — not everyone is going to respond.

Develop Your Elevator Sound-Bite

Once you have connected with people you need to tell them about yourself in approximately 30 seconds – the time it takes for an elevator to move from one floor to the next. This is when you craft your elevator pitch or sound-bite. As important as your degrees are to you, that’s not what you want to begin your introduction with. They want to know first how you can help them make or save money. Tell them what it is you do, and name a couple of your accomplishments.

Below is a sample script of an elevator pitch or sound-bite. While it is structured for the interview and will help you address your lack of Canadian experience, it can also be reworked to create a brand paragraph for your resume or help you perfect your elevator sound bite.

“First of all, thank you for inviting me to the interview. I am pleased that something in my background and experience caused you to select me as one of the candidates to be interviewed.

Second, it is true that I haven’t had an opportunity to work in Canada yet and I am hoping you will give me that first chance.

Third, and most significantly, my experience aligns very well with the position. For four years, I was the head of Digital Marketing at _______, with offices in Canada, the US and 17 other countries. My experience includes diverse managerial experience in performance marketing, digital media and marketing technology, and building partnerships with clients to achieve extraordinary results. Conducting regular meetings with staff across all locations and utilizing my bilingual skills, I gained a good grasp of workplace culture and norms allowing me to resolve problems and conflicts before they escalate. With such a background, I am confident I will be able to help you develop and implement your digital marketing strategy across all media channels and platforms.” 

Get Ready to Toot Your Own Horn

“Accomplishments don’t speak for themselves”, is a mantra from Google’s #IamRemarkable workshop that I have had the honour of hosting three times over the past several weeks. This means if you don’t speak up about your accomplishments, you will go unnoticed. In other words, if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will know you are coming.

I hope the above tips will help you reframe the narrative around your lack of Canadian experience and steer the conversation towards the value you will bring to the company. Your unique journey has value. Talk about it. “It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts!”

Have questions? Let’s connect!

I Was Zoom-bombed On a Career Chat…and It Wasn’t Pretty!

Pixabay

Since the onset of COVID19, and realizing that some job seekers and employees are facing anxiety and uncertainty, I decided to host a few weekly Casual Career Chats where I would answer questions about job losses, job search, career transition. resumes, etc. I invited three of my colleagues, Maureen McCann, Michelle Precourt and Christine Cristiano, to be a part of the panel answering the questions.

The first Zoom meeting was on March 27, and it went without a hitch. Last Friday, April 3, I logged into the meeting a few minutes early to give us (the Panel) a chance to chat before the 3:00 pm start. Suddenly, I saw a message that my screen was being shared, and in seconds the vilest of pornography started broadcasting, interspersed with the N-word. At the time, my daughter and her son were in the adjacent room, and she shouted, “Mom, what’s that I am hearing?” They were not online, and didn’t see the images, but I quickly rambled off what was happening.

As one can imagine, the invasion of my computer screen startled me. I was in shock as I grappled to find a way to end the nightmare. Eventually, I gained some semblance of composure and clicked on “End Meeting for All”. Assuming it was an error, I re-started the meeting a few minutes afterwards, and in a flash, the pornography began. I immediately terminated the meeting.

In speaking with my colleagues afterwards, I learned for the first time about Zoom-bombing. One shared a link to an FBI article on the subject (which is posted below). Prior to the article, I had only heard about the lack of proper security on Zoom, but I didn’t pay it much attention. One reason was that I have had a Zoom account for years, and never had a problem.

After the conversation with my colleagues, I proceeded to do a bit of research, and what I discovered was horrifying. There has been a litany of incidences where hackers have been bombarding online classrooms (from kindergarten to university), and primarily targetting people of colour. A young African American man was defending his PhD dissertation via Zoom when his screen infiltrated. An article in last Friday’s USA Today summarizes what happened to K’Andre Miller, a hockey prospect for the New York Rangers. An online community gathering by a Jewish high school in Vancouver was also invaded. Most of these incidences have escalated since COVID19, when the use of the Zoom app ballooned from 10 million users in December 2019, to 200 million now.

A half hour after my incident, and without contacting Zoom, I received a “Dear Valued Customer” email from them. It was advising me of what they were doing to tighten security and what safeguards I should put in place.

I spoke with Peel Regional Police Communication Bureau to find out what they knew about Zoom-bombing. The woman I spoke with hadn’t heard of it but her colleague did. I then called the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and they had heard about it, and urged me to take greater security.

Putting the onus on me to adhere to Zoom’s security protocol is not a problem. But, let’s face it, this infiltration of my screen speaks to a larger issue: RACISM! And before anyone hastens to dismiss my pronouncement, let me say this, whenever someone tells you they have experienced racism, believe them. Don’t be too quick to write it off as “playing the race card.” It’s too easy to resort to that, and then miss the opportunity to have a civil discourse on the topic.

Many of us shy away from such discussions because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because race is a social construct that places people in boxes, or on a hierarchy that presupposes one group is more, or less, than the other. Herein lies the problem. It’s awkward to argue such a concept, but if we are not prepared to have a candid discussion about racism, we will continue to perpetuate this fallacy.

Many years ago I was invited to speak to a group of university students in a women’s studies class. Of the 50 students, 3 were non-white. During the Q&A, one student asked me if I had ever faced racism. I smiled, then said, “If I tell you I haven’t, I would be lying. I have had my share, but I never allow racism to stop me from doing whatever I want to do or going wherever I want to go. If it means going up, down, sideways or plowing through, I am going to get there. Obstacles may slow me down, but nothing is going to stop me.”

That has always been my approach. Probably it’s because of my Jamaican background, where we don’t cringe when faced with obstacles like these. We deal with the elephant in the room if it raises its head, and then move on. And, by the way, sometimes, the racism is not as blatant as the Zoom-bombing experience. Sometimes it’s the microaggressions that we face in our workplaces, schools, and communities, both on- and offline. They are real!

There I was, with my colleagues, offering free career advice to job seekers and people who feel uncertain and lost during this COVID19 scare, and someone (or group) decided that invading my online space with pornography and racist taunts was more important. I don’t get angry very often, but this time I did. However, I won’t focus on the anger lest we miss the point of the real issue.

I know what I am saying is not at all comfy, but it is not meant to be. Sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade! That said, I am not going to allow trolls to stop me from doing my work. The Casual Career Chat will continue for a couple more weeks as was intended, but with a different set of security protocols.

As I conclude this piece, I want to say I am privileged to have built relationships, and serve a client base from diverse races and cultures. I am the better from the experiences, and I am confident my clients and connections would say the same. But this should, and will not prevent me from calling out racism when I see it, and this one hit close to home.

Related Posts:

New York Rangers Prospect Zoombombed

CNN’s Interview with Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan

Zoombombing attack Left Doctoral Candidate Shaken

FBI Warns of Teleconferencing and Online Classroom Hijacking

 

Kick Ageism to the Curb…Your Career Isn’t Over!

A day before presenting on Ageism to a group of mostly baby boomers, I asked my LinkedIn community if they could provide some tips on the topic that I could add to my own resource kit to share with the group. The ‘ask’ was for ONE tip from each person.”  The community’s response was overwhelming!

In appreciation for their generosity, I decided to curate the content (mostly verbatim), and make it available to contributors and other interested parties. The information and contributors are not listed in any particular order.

It’s important to note that, while ageism is a two-way street where younger workers also face discrimination, this particular discussion relates to older workers and the challenges they face in the workplace.

Click on the link below to download your copy:

Kick Ageism to the Curb-Your Career Isn’t Over_Crowd-sourced Resource

Keep adding to the job search debate about ageism in the workplace.

 

Quick Resume Reference Guide at Your Finger Tips

Need a handy guide when writing your own resume? Download a copy of this Infographic.

Resume Writing Strategies That Haven’t Changed

What Employers Are Looking for in Employees

What are employers looking for in their employees?

 

STEMpathy!

 

Coined by author and journalist Tom Friedman, STEMpathy is “a combination of science, technology, engineering, and math with human empathy, the ability to connect with another human being.” This is what employers are looking for in their employees; people who not only have technical expertise, but soft skills and character.

At the 2017 Gateway Conference hosted by The Municipality of York in October, I was privileged to sit on a panel of HR professionals discussing What Employers are Looking For in Employees. The other panellists were Moderator, Mary Duncan, Chief Human Resources Officer at CAA, Shelley Khosla, Director, Human Resources at Weber Shandwick, and Sonya Whyte, Associate Vice President, Talent Acquisition at TD Bank.

As the discussion progressed, Shelley told the audience that she looks for people “who demonstrate passion, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity, and who are able to work collaboratively in teams.” She also said that employers look for employees who align values with principles, embrace and celebrate differences, work in the same direction, and contribute to an irresistible culture.

Sonya remarked that she looks for employees with passion, diversity of thought and people, and inclusion. During interviews, she looks for people who show depth, who are able to demonstrate what separates them from others, and who are able to talk confidently about their background. That’s one of the reasons she listens carefully to people when they answer the “tell me about yourself” question as it gives her an idea of the person’s thought process. She also looks for employees who “think like a customer and act like an owner.”

Mary said she looks for people who demonstrate competency, creativity and cultural fit, and who display enthusiasm about the company.

For my part, I focused on the interpersonal or people skills. These soft skills are harder to observe, quantify and measure. They are akin to character skills and are very important in and outside the workplace. They complement the technical skills and are required for everyday interactions.

It is very important to hone your soft skills. While your technical know-how may get your foot in the door, it’s your people skills that will open more doors for you; it’s these skills that will determine success or failure in one’s career. Faizolhardi Zubairy, Head of Digital Media at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad, said, “Your work ethic, attitude, communication skills, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence and leadership are the soft skills that are crucial for career success. (Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone for Career Growth).

The bottom line is that employers are looking for employees who have a good blend of technical capability and soft skills. They look for people who can communicate well; who are positive, respectful, reliable and honest, and have integrity. They look for people who are able to function in cross-cultural environments, appreciate differences, fit in with the corporate family (culture), and contribute to a team. They also look for people who demonstrate the five elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

In making a decision between two candidates, Kevin Sheridan, Employee Engagement and Management Expert, and contributor to HR Daily Advisor blog, said I would take the person with the right character any day of the week.  Character is ingrained in a person’s core being and dictates how he or she will behave.  It encompasses one’s ethics, values, dedication, motivation, and outlook.  It is nearly impossible to alter a person’s character, for better or for worse. Skills are things that are learned.” (Culture is Merriam-Webster Word of the Year – For Good Reason).

It makes sense, therefore, that anyone who is in a job search or a career transition, should assess their STEMpathy skills. You may have the  technical expertise (STEM), but lack character and soft skills, so pay attention to both. You will also need to assess your emotional intelligence skills, becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses, how to control your emotions, demonstrate empathy, exhibit professionalism and strong interpersonal skills, manage disputes and build and maintain relationships.

Apart from discussing the skills that employers look for in employees, members of the Panel also offered additional job search advice:

  1. Weave stories into your resume and during interviews.
  2. Create your resume with the most important and relevant information up front.
  3. Make sure the content of your resume aligns with the job posting if you want to get the attention of the HR manager.
  4. Keyword matching is essential; make sure your resume contains keywords from the job posting. It should also have lots of white spaces to make it easy to read.
  5. Customize your resume for each position instead of sending the same version to every company. It’s easy to tell if you are mass mailing.
  6. Your resume should be short – a maximum of two pages
  7. Create a good LinkedIn Profile. “Social is critical to employers”, said Sonya Whyte. “I sometimes share LinkedIn Profiles with my team.”
  8. During interviews, speak about your unique successes and stellar results
  9. Follow-up after the interview and send a Thank-you note. Common courtesy goes a long way in today’s busy workplace.
  10. Demonstrate that you understand, and have the skills required for the job
  11. Articulate why you are qualified in your resume and at the interview. Draw the alignment between your skills, experience and job requirements.
  12. Describe how your transferrable skills match the position
  13. Send a concise cover letter. While some recruiters do not want to see cover letters, some on the panel believe they serve a purpose. They help you stand out in the selection process, so use it to share what it is you bring that others may not.

Armed with the above skills, you will fit the mold of what employers are looking for in employees.

How to Spring Clean Your Career in One Day!

If a job opportunity falls in your lap today, would you be prepared for it? A woman left me a message this past Monday: “I would like a professional resume, and need it done by Friday, so I can’t really waste too much time here.” Wow! I said to myself. Some people seem to conduct their job search by the seat of their pants. They spend more time planning for their vacation than they do on their job search or career. Think of it: they research the places they want to go; determine a budget, and book the date, but when it comes to the job search, or a career transition, they don’t give it the same priority. They have a casual approach to the very job that would help them pay for the vacation.

“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” said Whitney Young Jr. It is not too late to spring clean your career and be ready for your next opportunity. Here are some tips:

Conduct an Inventory of Your Skill-sets

The moment some people think of job search, they equate it to a resume. “I just saw an job posting, and I need a resume right away.” Although the resume is very important, it is not the first thing one should think of when it comes to the job search. Think of what you would and would not want in your next role. Take an inventory of your values, interests, skills, knowledge and personal qualities:

  • Values – what is important to you? Integrity, status, accomplishments?
  • Interests – what do you enjoy doing?
  • Abilities/skills – what you are good at?
  • Knowledge – what you know: your “intellectual capital”.
  • Personality – your attitude, what you are passionate about, what motivates you.

This assessment helps you plan what type of job or career you wish to pursue.

Dust Off the Old Resume

Creating a professional resume is not something to be done in a hurry as alluded to above, so never leave this very important task for the last minute. Review your journal (hopefully you have been keeping one) where you recorded your achievements, the projects you worked on, and the role(s) you played. Check your email for recognition messages from people you have interacted with. Pull out your performance appraisals and review the positive feedback. These all tell your story, and should be appropriately incorporated in your resume.

Prepare to be the Closer (Not the Loser), at the Interview

Some people are afraid of interviews the way others are afraid of public speaking, but that’s not you! You are ready with memorable stories of your successes (and failures). Yes, what have you learned from those failures? Research, not only the company, but its competitors; not only their website, but annual reports and industry reports. Prepare a mini presentation or proposal identifying the company’s pain points. You can bet your competitors won’t be thinking that far ahead. Even if you don’t get a chance to present it, you can have it as a ‘leave-behind’. (A year ago, I took my own advice, created a mini presentation when I interviewed for a Committee position, and was selected).

Craft Your Salary Negotiation Story

Afraid to have the money talk? Unable to answer the “What’s your salary expectation” question? Salary discussions can be scary. Some candidates are scared they might mention a dollar amount, or say “yes” too quickly and lose out on an opportunity. Do not wait until an offer is apparent before you craft your negotiation story. Conduct your research and enter the negotiation conversation well-prepared and confident.

Build Your Online Brand (and that includes a Personal Website)

Many people wince when they hear they need to build their online brand. Some believe only executives should do so; others start thinking they are going to overexpose themselves. There is some truth to that, but in the digital world we live in, coupled with a very competitive job market, it makes sense to explore the online world when seeking to stand out. A LinkedIn Profile is great, but what happens if LinkedIn disappears? Someone referred to that situation as “having your house built on a rented property”. As a backup plan, think of building your own personal website that you own and control.

Put a Job Search Strategy in Place

You need a proactive and carefully orchestrated job search plan that will bring results. Not one that have you looking for a job once you become unemployed, or when you are at your wits end. This ‘on-the-fly’ job search approach does not work and will, more often than not, end in frustration. It’s better to take the time to conduct a targetted search with a limited number of companies you would want to work for, than uploading your resume to any and every company for any job, and hope to be contacted.

Learn Effective Networking Strategies

The moment some people hear the word ‘networking’, they conjure up images of people with name tags and business cards running around in a meeting room. They then tell themselves “That’s not for me…I am too shy…people might think I am forcing myself on them.” Some of that may be true, but if orchestrated well, networking is not as difficult as it’s made out to be. According to Executive Search guru, David Perry, “For those of us who are terminally shy the Internet has made it possible to network from our computer keyboard and avoid those awkward mixers. So start your networking online, but be respectful, and don’t go begging for a job at the first opportunity. Build the relationship first.

The above advice is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are ever looking for an accountability partner to assist you, I would be pleased to be that person. In fact, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, you could benefit from a Career Empowerment workshop I am hosting on June 3, 2017, at the Corporate Event Centre in Mississauga. Click here for details: Spring Your Career in One Day!

 

Why Are You Afraid to Tell Your Unique, Authentic Story?

tell them your story - advice in isolated vintage wood letterpress printing blocks

We tell stories every day – to family, friends and colleagues – yet we hardly think of telling stories when we meet recruiters, hiring managers, potential employers, and even potential business partners. Why? We are afraid; we don’t want anyone to label us as ‘braggarts’. A LinkedIn article titled “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable – Why Now is the Time to Tell Your Work Story”, indicates that approximately only 29% of Canadians and 40% of Americans feel comfortable talking about themselves. In fact, 53% of workers admitted they feel like they are bragging if they talk about themselves. “We’re so uncomfortable touting our work successes that we’d rather share our political views on social media than let our followers know we received a promotion or got a new job.”

In his book, Tell to Win, Peter Gruber states: “Today everyone – whether they know it or not – is in the emotional transportation business. More and more, success is won by creating [and telling] compelling stories that have the power to move partners, shareholders, customers and employees to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.” This means, if you can’t engage, persuade, motivate and convince others of your accomplishments, your story will remain inside you, and someone else will snag that coveted job or business opportunity.

Storytelling has not only become a central theme to the job search process, but is also a powerful way to get your message across in any setting. It doesn’t matter if you are in an interview, at a networking event, delivering an elevator speech in 30 seconds, participating in meetings, or communicating one-on-one. What matters is your ability to confidently tell stories that will communicate your value and build credibility.

Bear in mind that you are also telling your story in verbal and nonverbal ways. For example, did you know that your resume and your other career marketing efforts are all telling your story? When your resume is set aside by a hiring manager for follow up, it is because something compelling grabbed the his or her attention. When it comes to interviews, you are often asked to “tell me about yourself” or “describe a time when…”. Those questions present an opportunity for you to recount stories that will convince the hiring manager you are the ideal person for the role.

Whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, it’s important that you become a masterful storyteller. Someone who is able to strategically craft and deliver stories that will engage and capture an audience, whether it’s an audience of one or many. You need signature stories that you are proud to share, without feeling bashful. Stories that reveal your authenticity and set you apart from your competitors. How do you do that? Think of it as a movie where you were the main actor. Recall and write out compelling scenes that demonstrated the challenges you were up against, the actions you took and the results or outcomes. Look for patterns. What skills were you using most; where did you feel more energized. This exercise should give your confidence a boost and have you well-prepared to articulate your unique and authentic stories.

Before telling your story, consider the following:

  • Know yourself: Candidly assess your strengths, weaknesses, failures and successes, and be ready to address them if asked.
  • Learn to promote yourself. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but you need to learn to talk about yourself. This is not bragging. This is articulating what’s true about you; who you are, what you have accomplished, and what value you will bring to the new role. If you don’t tell your story, then people won’t know the broad range of talents you have. There is merit in the cliché of tooting your own horn, because if you don’t, no one will know you are coming.
  • Be authentic: Don’t borrow someone else’s story and try to be somebody you are not. Tell your own unique story honestly and with confidence and ensuring that you stay authentic. Author and poet May Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
  • Review interview questions ahead of time. While you may not know all the questions you will be asked, research, review and practice certain interview questions that are commonly asked. Then prepare to condense your accomplishments into a few short points that will be memorable.
  • Strengthen your online presence. Nothing speaks louder than a well-written, consistent, authentic online profile that tells your story even when you are asleep. This could be a personal website or blog, or your LinkedIn profile, complete with accomplishments and work samples (if appropriate).

Now, it’s your turn. Are you ready to tell your story? Need to learn storytelling strategies? Grab a copy of Tell Stories, Get Hired.

The Truth About Colour in Your Resume

Whether you are an executive, a manager or mid-career professional, in a tight job market you know you are competing against equally qualified candidates for the same position. What can you do with your resume (and your other career marketing documents) to differentiate you from your competitors? Infuse them with a tinge of colour.

Before you baulk at the idea, take a look at the Colour Emotion Guide below. It contains some of the most recognizable brands. Notice their logo colours? They did not choose them by accident. A lot of thought went into their decision.

Image credit: The Logo Company

      Image credit: The Logo Company

Colour speaks a powerful language even without uttering a word. It evokes emotion. It plays a huge role in marketing. Corporations such as IBM and Coco Cola use colour in their branding with the hope it will evoke a positive response from consumers. In an Entrepreneur.com article, The Psychology of Color on Branding and Marketing, writer Gregory Ciotti states that “It is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors.”  As a job seeker, you are also involved in marketing and should employ some of the same tactics as the big brands if you want to stand out.

For those of us who collaborate with clients on their career marketing documents, there is a rationale behind our use of colour. Although our main aim is to help clients uncover their value proposition and tell a focused story, we are also involved in developing an ad campaign to help them differentiate themselves from their competitors. This may include designing a logo, adding some lines, boxes or charts, and adding colour. More often than not colour is used sparingly to ensure it does not overpower and detract from the main message

All this colour dialogue might not resonate with everyone. First of all, when it comes to resumes, opinions are plentiful as to the perfect design, length and format. If ten people look at a resume, it will garner ten different responses. Second, colours mean different things to different people, depending on one’s culture and personal likes and dislikes. However, what most people would agree on is that resume appearances have evolved, and are no longer restricted to black ink on white, gray or ivory paper.

As alluded to above, colour impacts our psyche. It induces an emotion. Generally, if one sees red (as in a flashy red car), it is supposed to denote energy, flamboyance, and dominance; blue symbolizes tranquility, trustworthiness and confidence, and green signifies nature, growth and generosity. The list below contains a few popular brand colours and their meanings:

  • Blue is very popular and implies honesty, trustworthiness, tranquillity, confidence and authority.
  • Red is very intense and aggressive, and draws attention.
  • Gold is associated with value, luxury and prestige. It reflects wisdom, beauty and generosity.
  • Gray is neutral, calm, and conservative but also implies security and reliability.
  • Green has an harmonizing effect. It is associated with nature, health and growth; balances the emotions, inspires compassion, and encourages generosity and kindness.
  • Orange inspires warmth and optimism, and creates enthusiasm. It also suggests affordability and cheap.

While the content of a resume is of paramount importance, anyone who wants to differentiate him or herself from their competitors, should experiment with a dash of colour in its design. It just might boost their brand, garner some extra attention and hopefully evoke an emotional response from an employer.

Want to determine your brand colour? Watch this 4-minute video from the Personal Branding website of William Arruda, developer of the 360Reach Personal Branding Assessment (a tool that I am certified to administer): Discovering My Brand Colour.

Are you ready for the experiment? Go ahead!

 

What You Need to Know About Job References – Part I

Job References_WCS

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.

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.

Business-People_TheWrightCareer.com

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