Tracy Cutone, a partner in WinterWyman's HR Contract Staffing division, has over 15 years experience in recruiting, HR and training and development. She currently partners with clients on strategic hiring needs and contract labor solutions.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: In May of 2013, I applied for a job and was a finalist. I was disappointed that I did not receive an offer but I kept searching and accepted a new role in September of 2013. I am really happy in my new role. My new role offers upward mobility and the opportunity to fine tune some of my skills. Plus I can return to school in a few months because my employer has a very generous tuition aid program. Sounds perfect right? I just received a phone call from the company who didn't offer me the role in May. They have a similar position, much like the one I did not get in May. I am not sure what to do. I would rate my current job as a 9 out of 10. It is great but not perfect. I have one annoying co-worker. What should I do? Should I talk to the other company?
A: You are in a fortunate position. You must have left a very positive impression on the company with whom you interviewed in May of 2013. Many job seekers don't realize that often companies will re-contact a strong candidate at a later date. This is one of the reasons why I suggest never to "burn a bridge." Often times how you handle rejection is just as important as how you handle an acceptance. Had you been angry, nasty or bitter when you didn't receive an offer in May, you probably would not have heard from that company again. Kudos to you for your professionalism and poise.
Now, to address your current dilemma. I would talk to the first company again and thank them for their interest. Be gracious and listen to the opportunity being discussed. Remember you don't have a solid job offer from them. They are simply reaching out. You may hear some details that are not ideal - maybe the job responsibilities are not as appealing as the ones in your current role or the benefits don't include a generous tuition package. You rate your current role a 9 out of 10 -- a pretty high rating! Few jobs are a 10 out of 10. Taking a new role would be an unknown. Your current company has invested time and money in training you and on-boarding you. I would, however, suggest always maintaining a positive relationship with the first company. Employers and careers will have ups and downs. It's wise to have strong professional relationships with others if and when needed.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Judy Shen-Filerman is founding principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development and communications coaching firm. Judy coaches professionals and executives across industries on career advancement as well as lectures at leading business schools across the US. She contributes regularly to boston.com's Job Doc.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology Search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technologies.
Q: I have been unemployed since the end of May. I have tried everything to get a new job - job fairs, networking, traditional applications online and through the mail, asking friends and family if they know any leads..... it has been a nightmare search process, and I am losing steam. How can I reinvigorate my search? I am in the education field (looking at both teaching and non-teaching jobs).
A: You sound discouraged. A job search can have plenty of disappointments and setbacks. You are not alone.
1. Don't isolate yourself. Join a networking group. When you find a good networking group, you should leave there feeling energized about moving forward with your search. A networking group serves as a support system. Additionally a well-run networking group can be a source of job leads as well as new or alternative ideas on how to run your search. There are several outstanding networking groups in he Boston area. Acton, Hopkinton, Temple Emanuel in Andover are all networking groups with a strong and loyal following.
2. Re-connect with your college or university. College career services offices should not just serve recent grads but offer services for alums as well. Your alumni office may also run networking events.
3. Check out meet-up groups, www.meetup.com. I found this group when review job seeker groups on www.meetup.com. http://www.meetup.com/Effortless-Networking-for-Job-Seekers/
4. Get active using social media. Join LinkedIn. Begin using twitter. Check job boards but be careful not to use a computer as your sole job search tool.
5. Find new ways to connect with others. The Newton Free Library has an incredible range of services for job seekers. Visit http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/jobhunter for more information. At 7pm on Thursday, November 14, Joan Cirillo, President and CEO of Operation A.B.L.E. is speaking about challenges and approaches for the mature job seekers. Cirillo's presentation is part of a regular series at the library called the Job Seekers and Career Development series facilitated by Tammy Gooler Loeb.
6. Lastly consider substitute teaching to begin building relationships within school systems. Often these roles can evolve into longer term assignments for teachers requiring medical and/or personal leaves.
Don't give up hope. A job search is a full-time and exhausting process. There will be lows and there will be highs. Keep swinging.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: I have been in my job for 12 years. Recently I was told that my job will be phased out by the end of the year. I live on cape cod and do not wish to relocate at this time but am unsure of the opportunities on the cape. Any thoughts?
A: I am sorry to hear that you will be losing your job at year-end. Thankfully you have been given some notice and have some time to develop a plan for your job search.
Your job search should begin now. Dust off and update your resume. There are thousands of well-formatted resumes online for you to review all over the internet. Boston.com has quite a bit of helpful information for job seekers under the Jobs tab of boston.com. Visit http://www.boston.com/jobs. There is even a free resume builder tool available for job seekers.
Begin networking and contact colleagues, neighbors and friends. Let them know you are beginning to search for a new job. Get active on Linkedin. Re-connect with colleagues and former co-workers. Join groups on Linkedin related to your industry and specific to the cape cod area. Your personal and professional contacts are the best source for finding out about new roles. Linkedin even has a few cape cod-specific groups.
Limiting your search to cape cod could also limit your opportunities but it depends upon a number of factors, including your level and your industry. Think about whether you could at least expand your search to include south shore.
Research cape cod (and perhaps south shore) networking groups. Join professional association groups specific to your career. If you are committed to remaining on the cape, you may have to consider other industries or professions. A few cape-specific sites to visit include www.capecodchamber.org, www.capeevents.com, www.capecodyoungprofessionals.com and cape-cod.meetup.com.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology Search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technologies.
Q: My company is hiring. They are offering employees a referral bonus if we refer qualified candidates for open jobs within my company. I referred my neighbor, who was just hired by my employer. I was told he had applied several months ago online so my "finder's fee" will be zero. Is this a common practice? I feel like I should be paid the money!
A: Employee referral programs are often used by employers to source a wider pool of candidates. Some companies only use them for "hard to fill" positions like developers, engineers or similar roles. Employees, like you, may have professional and personal colleagues who would be well-qualified for opportunities within the company. Further, employees often "screen out" candidates who might not be a good fit, because of commute, experience or other job-related factors.
Most companies do have good intentions when an employee referral program is introduced. They would prefer to reward their employees, rather than pay a fee to a recruiter or place a costly advertisement. However, usually there are some basic guidelines for a successful referral. One of the most common rules for a successful referral is that your introduction between your referral (or your neighbor) must represent the first contact with the company. In other words, the candidate should not have applied before through another source (e.g., a placement firm, an advertisement, a referral by another employee, etc.). It sounds like your neighbor should have notified you that he had applied online to your company several months ago. This information would have likely re-set your expectations. Some companies also have rules like excluding executives, hiring managers or members of the HR/Recruiting teams from receiving a bonus based on an employee referral.
I can understand your frustration but I also understand why you were excluded from receiving the bonus. Keep looking for qualified candidates. Your next referral could be a lucrative one.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Judy Shen-Filerman is founding principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development and communications coaching firm. Judy coaches professionals and executives across industries on career advancement as well as lectures at leading business schools across the US. She contributes regularly to boston.com's Job Doc.
Q: I am a recent college graduate who has a Sociology Degree with a minor in Environmental Science. Can you recommend the type of job I should be looking for? I would like to work with children and or help with adults needing assistance. Are there any agencies that could help me?
A: There are probably several occupations that would work for your skill set and interests. The ideal role includes two factors: 1. interesting work that you love and can be passionate about and 2. work that provides you an income which you can live on. There are many people employed across the US that either love their jobs but struggle financially, or really despise what they do but make a decent income. The trick is to find both!
During your college years, it is helpful to intern and work part-time or summers in your fields of interest. Did you ever work at a summer camp with kids? Or in a role caring for adults? This practical experience is invaluable. Many of us enjoy studying subjects but then, in a real-life situation, it is not exactly what we expected!
One resource worth reviewing is the Occupational Outlook Handbook report on "Most New Jobs." This report lists the 20 occupations with high growth rates. It also provides some data on the pay listed for each occupation. There are several occupations which may be of interest to you. Visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm for the complete report. There is also a useful tool on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website called "Occupation Finder." This tool allow you to sort through different roles based on education , projected growth rate and a number of other factors. Visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm to access this tool.
Employment agencies could be helpful but so could the career services office of your college or university. I would start at your college or university first. Their office will likely have job postings and leads for recent graduates which would be appropriate for your major and career interests.
Q: I was recently offered a job and accepted it immediately. The interview process was rigorous and I am so excited to have been offered the job! It is a wonderful opportunity and a step up in terms of responsibilities.
I am working with a recruiter at a well-known placement agency. The recruiter asked me if I could start the new job within a week. I want to give at least two weeks' notice to my current employer. The recruiter told me that two weeks' notice is really not necessary anymore. I was told (by the recruiter) that I should focus on the new job, not the old one. What's your take?
A: Congratulations on your new role! It is encouraging to learn that candidates are accepting offers and that companies are hiring.
My sense is that you know what you should do, but you are looking for validation. I think the recruiter is not providing sound advice to you. If I had to take an educated guess, my guess would be that the recruiter is probably driven by the fee he or she expects to receive based on your placement in the new role. A recruitment agency often issues their invoices after a candidate starts a new job. The sooner you start, the sooner the recruiter gets paid! A check in your recruiter's hands, sooner rather than later, could be influencing their advice to you.
I think offering two weeks' notice is what is expected of most professional roles. Leaving your role in an honorable and ethical way is important. My first reason is that it is simply the right thing to do. Second, professional circles are often small ones, particularly in specific industries. You may be working with one or more of your current colleagues at some point. We never know what the future holds for our careers. Depending upon your career path, you also may need a professional reference from your current supervisor or a colleague. Separating from your current company in a professional way can only work to your benefit. Stay firm in your conviction.
Judy Shen-Filerman is founding principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development and communications coaching firm. Judy coaches professionals and executives across industries on career advancement as well as lectures at leading business schools across the US. She contributes regularly to boston.com's Job Doc.
Q: My frustration is that I was working with a headhunter. I have found out that headhunter left the firm without telling me. So I left a message for another headhunter so maybe she may help me find a new job and she never called me back. Should I try to find another agency? And how do I start with networking during tough job market?
A: It is an exasperating experience when you are working with a placement professional ("headhunter") and they leave the firm without notifying you. However, we don't know why your contact left the firm. Perhaps the individual did not leave voluntarily and was not permitted to contact you about their departure. Or, as you suggest, the individual left the company, and somewhat unprofessionally, did not share this information with you.
You can certainly consider working with another agency, assuming you did not sign any exclusive agreement with the prior agency. Placement agencies are often helpful especially if you have a specialized skill. Many employers will use placement agencies if they don't have the in-house resources to devote to a search for talent or the skill set is hard to find.
Relying solely on an employment agency is risky though. An employment agency will try to place you if they can earn a fee. Some agencies will not work with you if your skill set is not in demand.
As you probably know, networking is critical to any job search. Establish a networking goal. As an example, connect or re-connect with 10 colleagues in a single week. Remember it is not just the individual with whom you are meeting, but instead their entire network of contacts. Offer to pay for coffee or an iced tea. Some meetings will end without immediate success. Some meetings may be fruitful and connect you to opportunities.
Check job boards too but don't spend more than 25% of your time checking job boards. Some job seekers, especially introverts, will spend their entire work week online without meeting a new contact in person.
Join LinkedIn if you haven't. Begin connecting with others on LinkedIn. Join groups on LinkedIn and watch what others are sharing. Check out the Jobs tab on LinkedIn and search for roles that might be appropriate for your skill set.
Tracy Cutone, a partner in WinterWyman's HR Contract Staffing division, has over 15 years experience in recruiting, HR and training and development. She currently partners with clients on strategic hiring needs and contract labor solutions.
Q: I read this column every week. Most of the time I agree with the advice. I have a question I have never seen asked. What are 3 things that most job applicants do right? (Please mention the big ones). What are the 3 things that most job applicants do wrong?
A: Thanks for asking this question. It's a great one and had me scratching my head for a bit. It's hard to identify and explain just three of each!
What strong candidates do:
1. Pay attention to the details. Their resume is flawless. They show up on time and maybe even a few minutes early. Often they bring an extra hard copy of their resume. They return calls or emails promptly with the appropriate tone (not too casual with "Hey Dude" as the greeting and not too formal with "Dear Madam"). They spell the company name and the recruiter's name correctly. Their email responses have no typos.
2. Build rapport quickly. Without overdoing in a phony way, smart candidates build rapport quickly. They find a common interest: you both own a rescue dog, you vacation in the same town, you both root for the Red Sox or you attended the same college. Strong candidates make connections quickly and authentically.
3. Make it easy to hire them. They are qualified and they highlight the relevant qualifications, skills, experiences and attributes which are the most important for the job. The best candidates present well both over the phone, in person and via email. They offer more than what you expect (e.g.,"I would be happy to interview on Thursday at 6pm if that works best for the CEO.") They are positive and gracious during the selection process.
What weak candidates do:
1. Irritate early and often. Their resume is sloppy. Communication is difficult. They don't show up for an interview or they show up late with a poor excuse. When a recruiter calls them on their tardiness, they become defensive. They take several days to respond to emails or messages.
2. Don't prepare adequately. The recruiter recommends they dress a certain way which will fit in with the company culture. The candidates argues. A weak candidate ignores a recruiter's requests to visit the company's website and research the company's product, service and competitive landscape. Candidates should always ask questions about the company and about the role. Questions indicate interest and intellectual curiosity.
3. Have unreasonable expectations and egos. Sometimes they request unreasonable dollars, hours or benefits. An early ego is detected and often big egos don't play well in the sandbox. "No thanks" is how most of my clients respond. I have one client who says, "Egos need not apply." It is more common for my clients to assume that a new hire will do almost anything to get the job done, even if part of the job seems beneath the person.
Finally, one more piece of advice. Strong candidates differentiate themselves in a positive way. Writing a 30-60-90 day plan, an outline of anticipated accomplishments if hired, shows enthusiasm, thoughtfulness and a high level of interest.
Q: I was interviewed by a company in July of this year. I went back on three different dates for several interviews. The company said they had many candidates applying for this one role. I found out in August that I didn't get the job. I am crushed and angry. I spent so much time with this company and even shared some of my past work with them. What should I do about getting my work samples back?
A: From what you have shared, I think there may be two issues to address. Let's first start with your anger. It's normal to feel disappointed and angry if you don't receive a job offer, especially after you interviewed multiple times. You must have a been a final contender. However, you can't let your anger fester or you may bring those feelings with you to the next interview. No one wants to hire a hostile and bitter candidate. I have interviewed candidates who have trouble shaking feelings of resentment and it's not good. You can share and vent these feelings with your spouse, partner, friend, therapist, cat, dog or parakeet. But you shouldn't "let them out" during events like networking meetings or interviews.
Regarding your work samples, kudos to you for sharing them. By sharing them with a potential employer, you have demonstrated your skill and worth! You provided samples of what you can accomplish so the interviewer could better understand what you can offer. When sharing work samples, it's best to make high-quality copies in advance. You can leave the copies with the company and retain the originals. If you have only originals to share, taking them with you after the interview is probably prudent. If the company is still in possession of your work samples, I would suggest emailing a quick note asking them to be left at the reception desk if possible. Or if you are comfortable with the company mailing them, that might be another option.
On a related note, I have had clients reconsider "runner-ups" in the past. Ensure that all of your communication with this company is positive and professional. On more than one occasion, I have observed a client re-connecting with a candidate from a past search for a role (maybe even a different role) within the company. Burning bridges is rarely smart.
Q: I have been looking for a job for several months now. I am expecting a written job offer within the next week or so after the new company checks my references. I realize that I am not sure how to quit in a professional way. Any tips for that?
A: You are smart to be thoughtful in your upcoming departure. How you leave a job speaks volumes about your professionalism. A few tips:
1. Give appropriate notice. Most employers expect at least two weeks notice. There may be extenuating circumstances where three or more weeks might be appreciated. Examples where more than two weeks notice might be helpful to your former employer: a vacant position within your department, a colleague on a leave of absence or vacation or an important deadline or launch.
2. When communicating your intent to leave the company, inform your direct supervisor first in a private way. Hopefully this information can be communicated in person. Or if your supervisor works in a different location or is traveling, a phone call may be the best alternative to an in-person meeting. No supervisor likes to hear about one of their team members leaving through the grapevine.
3. Put some thought into a transition plan. Who can pick up some of your responsibilities after you leave? How can the work still get completed? The plan may not be perfect but you have given it some thought so your supervisor can think proactively so work does not fall through the cracks.
4. Don't burn bridges. Don't sabotage your former employer. Be gracious and helpful about responding to questions even after you have left.
5. If given the opportunity to participate in an exit interview (i.e., a final meeting about your reasons for leaving, details about benefits, pay, etc.), try to present your feedback in a helpful way. There may be negatives about your former company, former boss or former role, but try to weave in some positive comments too.
Finally, it is a small world. You want to depart on professional terms because you may be working with some of your former co-workers in a future life. One of them may be a future client, manager or colleague!
Q: How would I land an entry-level biotechnology job? How do I make my resume stand out? How do I get a temp job in a hospital?
A: Congrats on your eagerness to join a growing field! Biotech jobs can include developing new drugs and therapies, creating tools for detection of new and/or existing diseases, analyzing pesticide usage within commonly grown crops, exploring alternative fuels for both commercial and residential application or reducing the rate of infectious diseases. One website to bookmark is the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council site, www.massbio.org. As of today, this site has over 1000 jobs posted on it. The jobs range from a Clinical Laboratory Manager to a QA Associate.
Having a degree in a scientifically-oriented field would be helpful. Some of the degrees that could be good paths to a career in biotech include biology, chemistry, nursing, laboratory science or even biotechnology. Biotech is career path which often requires an advanced degree. Evaluate which jobs often require advanced degrees.
If you are earning a degree in a scientific field, it would be helpful to secure an internship in a related field. Internships are valuable in several ways. First, they provide job-related experience. Second, internships broaden your network of professional contacts in this field. Third, when looking for an entry-level role, to have a biotech company's name on your resume is a plus.
Your resume will stand out if it is well-designed, error-free and contains industry-related experience. Have a trusted friend or relative review your resume. Most of us don't find our own typos or mistakes when we edit and re-edit a document.
Regarding a temporary role in a hospital, check out the organization's website. If you know anyone who works there, he or she could be helpful in sharing what areas might be hiring. Reach out to an HR team member in a professional way. Tell him or her you are interested in a temp role. Explain that you are open and willing to try any entry-level role.
Good luck in finding an entry-level role in biotech!
Q: I am a late bloomer and I worked in construction for eight years before I found out what I really wanted for a career. I went to school, graduated, got my certification, but right now prospects are very tight. How do I create a resume for a career in Radiology Tech, when I am not presently working in that field, but I am working full-time?
A: Congrats on finding a career that can bring you joy! There are some who never find what truly makes them happy in their work life.
You were smart to select an occupation in healthcare. Overall, healthcare is an area of expected growth and, in particular, the employment outlook for radiology technologist is quick positive. For more information about this role as a career, visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Radiologic-technologists.htm.
Changing fields is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. I see more and more people change fields within the workforce today when compared to past decades. A few tips for you:
- Stay connected to the career services office of the school from where you graduated. Often the career services office receive job postings and information on who is hiring within your field. They can also help you write a resume which discusses your work history but also conveys your intent to use your recent degree.
- Join a professional association. The American Association of Radiologic Technologists (http://www.asrt.org) is one to consider. There are also career services available through this professional association.
- Join LinkedIn and begin following potential employers. Join career-related groups on LinkedIn.
- Start networking within the profession. Networking opportunities might be available through your college, community, local library or professional association.
- Use free resources available. Visit www.boston.com/jobs. There is quite a bit of content that could be helpful to your job search.
- Several years ago, there was an article posted on www.boston.com specifically addressing career changers. It is still applicable today. You can read this article by clicking on http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/careerdevelopment/transitions/2010/.
Changing your career is achievable. Good luck!
A colleague commented to me the other day that he had been mildly surprised to receive a friend request from an intern who had recently started working at his firm. His comment raises the question: When is it appropriate to submit a friend request in business?
Before you decide to send a request to connect or friend, think about:
- The social network you are making the request on.
- The relationship you have with that person.
- What you want to achieve.
The two gorillas of the social networking world are Facebook and LinkedIn. In a nutshell, think of LinkedIn as a networking tool and contact management system designed for business relationships. Facebook is more of a place for people to socialize and connect on a personal basis, although businesses have certainly found a way to use Facebook as a marketing platform as well. But for the individual, use Facebook for personal life and LinkedIn for business.
So, my colleague’s intern should have been looking to connect with him through LinkedIn, not Facebook. But, timing also made a difference to her request. As she had just started at this company, he had no real relationship with her yet. Consequently, from his perspective her request was like receiving a request from a stranger. Her better course of action would have been to wait a few weeks before sending her request.
For the intern, she should have answered the question “What do I want to achieve with my request?” before she sent it.
If she is simply trying to build a relationship with my colleague, her best approach is to do it in person at work first. She has the advantage of being in front of him and impressing him every day with her work and her effort. That is a decided advantage over anyone who seeks to connect and build a relationship only through the online community. Even if her goal is to friend him on Facebook, she should first give him a chance to get to know her better She should also consider just what kind of access she wants him to have on her page.
If she is seeking to get him to be part of her professional network, again, the relationship she builds at work with him is a much better way to encourage him to join. Once she’s established a track record with him, then complementing the in-person relationship with a request to connect on LinkedIn would be appropriate. Timing is everything.
Q: I am re-entering the workforce after a six-year leave and finding it difficult to find a job. My resume is showing my last employer which is in the automotive industry. What should I do with my resume to make it more appealing?
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce! Job hunting is a challenge alone. You have shared two additional challenges to your work history which may be additional challenge: a six-year gap in your work history as well as recent experience in the automotive industry.
Let’s start with discussing the six-year gap first. One option is to create a functional resume. Instead of using the chronological format (starting with your most recent role and working backwards), consider a functional format for your resume. A functional resume focuses less on the dates and more on your accomplishments and/or skills. You may have several different headings in a functional resume. The headings may include achievements or they may present your skills within specific areas (e.g., technical skills, operational skills, leadership/supervision or manufacturing expertise). For examples of different resumes (including the functional resume), visit http://www.boston.com/jobs/bighelp2008/fall/resume_types/.
Let’s tackle the automotive industry now. Several reports in 2013 indicate an upswing in hiring within the automotive industry in 2013. Even with the recent hiring surge, the auto industry will probably never offer the same pay and benefits to many workers as they have in the past. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one area of growth within the automotive industry is auto repair and maintenance. Visit http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_203.htm to review what industries expect to see growth in wages.
There may be other industries to consider. If you have expertise in manufacturing, it may be worth considering industries with projected long-term opportunities. For more info, visit http://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm to review the expected fastest growing occupations. Notice that many of them are healthcare-related.
Good luck in your search. Be open to different roles and industries. Opportunities not always come from where you expect them!
Q: I have been job hunting for about six months. It was slow around the holidays. I became discouraged because I would send resumes to companies and would hear nothing back. Then, I started becoming smarter about using my network. I also noticed the job market seemed to pick up after January. Now I have two offers in hand. Both are good offers and I think I would be happy with either role. How do I decide?
A: Congratulations. Your hard work and persistence paid off. It sounds like you also may have made a change in how you ran your search: instead of simply emailing a resume to a company, you used your network to your advantage. Your professional network of colleagues, friends and acquaintances can be a valuable asset during a job hunt.
Two offers in hand! Good for you! Here are some of the factors to think about when making a decision:
1. Look at the complete offer, not just the salary. The salary is important but should not be the sole reason for accepting the offer.
2. When employees report high levels of job satisfaction, one factor is often critical: how interesting and challenging the work itself is. Does one role offer more challenging or interesting work?
3. Think about your career path. Which role offers you opportunities beyond this initial role?
4. Evaluate the employee benefits. Compare the medical, dental, life and disability plans. Is there a retirement savings plan [like a 401(k) plan]? Is there a company match for this plan? Does the company offer tuition aid, training programs or other professional development opportunities?
5. Understand the compensation part of the offer. Is there a base salary plus a bonus or other incentives?
6. Is one commute better than the other? Is there free parking or is there an expense associated with parking? Is either role accessible via public transportation?
7. What supervisor and colleagues seem to be a better fit for your work style?
8. If flexibility is important to you, does one opportunity offer you more flexibility than the other?
Make sure that you receive any offer in writing. A written offer helps clarify the details of the employment offer. You want to ensure that you understand the specifics of each offer.
Congratulations again! I am happy to hear that job seekers are landing in 2013!
Q: My son is graduating from college this month. He is searching for a job. We have been very fortunate since many of our friends and family members have been able to take time to meet with him, either by phone or in person. I have encouraged him to send thank-you notes to each person who has met with him. He tells me that this is old-fashioned. What’s your opinion?
A: This is the classic case of “your parents know best.” I agree with you.
If family members and friends are taking the time to meet with your son and maybe even buying him a cup of coffee or a sandwich, then yes, a thank-you note is appropriate. It doesn’t have to be the old-fashioned note via snail mail though. In most cases, a note via email is fine. A thank-you note via email also has a few advantages for a job seeker. First, it is quick. A thank-you email can and should be sent within a day or two. Second, a resume can be attached to a thank-you email, making it easier for the recipient to forward it to a colleague, friend or other interested party. Although your son should bring a hard copy of his resume to any in-person meeting, it is smart to also send a copy via email. A hard copy can be easily misplaced or quickly show signs of wear. A soft copy can be shared with a network. For example, if an uncle has a soft copy of your son’s resume in his inbox and hears about a job opportunity, it is much easier for him to quickly forward the resume.
If an email address is not available, I would resort to mailing a hand-written thank-you note written on a simple, yet professional note card. Like the email thank-you note, the note card should be mailed within a day or two.
A thank-you note should be written professionally, with no typos or misspellings. Grammar should be checked and the note should be customized. As an example, if an uncle’s love of sailing was mentioned during the lunch meeting, a reference to that would be appropriate.
People often remember who sends them a thank-you note. Manners matter during a job search.
Q: How do I combat age discrimination in hiring? I am 61 and I know that it is happening to me.
A: Unfortunately age discrimination does exist. A 2012 survey conducted by the AARP reported that almost one-third of Massachusetts residents report that they, or someone they know, has experienced some type of age discrimination. AARP is a non-profit advocacy group with a focus on those 50 years old and over.
Here are some suggestions:
• Ensure that your skills are current. Dated skills can hinder your search.
• Be tech savvy. Use social media as part of your job search. You should have a basic understanding of tools like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter.
• Use technology to your advantage. Make sure that you research prospective employers in advance of any interviews.
• Consider a functional resume, which highlights your skills and accomplishments rather than dates.
• If using a chronological resume, consider summarizing your early career roles and focus on the last 15 years or so.
• Think about what age biases exist. Maybe they include inflexibility or an inability to learn new tasks? Within your responses to an interviewer’s questions, weave in examples that counter those assumptions. An example:
Interviewer question: Anne, tell me about a time when you had to train a new employee while you worked at ABC Company?Finally, I asked Career and Executive Coach Tammy Gooler Loeb of
Your possible response: At ABC, I was often asked to train new employees based on my knowledge of XYZ software. I realize how important flexibility is when you are a member of a growing team. At ABC, we had a period of incredible growth in 2011, so I probably trained about five new employees during that period of time. (Then provide specifics on the process of how you trained new employees).
Tammy Gooler Loeb Coaching & Consulting what advice she would offer. Loeb offers, “Most people underestimate the scope of their network and its ability to be helpful in their job search. These can be both professional and personal connections. You are not only connecting with them, but also with the people in their extended networks who may be of assistance as well.”
Q: I have been working for 15 years in one profession but only have an associate’s degree. I was transferred to North Carolina for a job several years back and am trying to return to Massachusetts. Do you think employers would be willing to take my years of experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree?
A: You raise a common question in the world of career management: experience vs. education. Usually experience, and relevant experience, wins out. However, some industries still have expectations, and even requirements, around degrees.
In the field of education and higher education, degrees matter and a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or even higher may be required or preferred. In many knowledge-rich industries like biotech, life sciences or health care, degrees are also important and in some cases may be required. In many consulting roles, the firm employing consultants would like to be able to tout “MBA with 12-plus years of experience in pharmaceuticals” or “BSN with 10 years working within Boston’s finest health care institutions.”
Conversely, there are some industries in which degrees may be preferred but related work experience often trumps the degree. These industries would include manufacturing, retail or construction.
Massachusetts, as a state, can be a challenge for those who don’t hold bachelor’s degree. Massachusetts beats out all of states when comparing the percentage of residents who hold bachelor’s degrees. Almost 40% of Massachusetts residents hold a bachelor’s degree.
It would be wise to start networking in advance of your relocation back to Massachusetts. Connect with friends, family and colleagues and let them know of your plans to return. Often times a vibrant professional network delivers valuable information that could lead to job leads or at least intelligence about your field (i.e., who is hiring and who is not). Job boards can provide information about hiring trends and skills which are in demand.
Visit www.boston.com and click on the jobs section. There is information on hot jobs in Massachusetts, job postings, interview tips and other career resources.
Q: Could you tell me how to go about finding employment in the Boston area when you live in the Midwest? I live in Chicago. I do not want to come to Boston without a job.
A: Finding a new job from afar is a challenge. However, you can be successful with a plan. Some recommendations:
1. Connect with any area Boston contacts that you may have including friends, family or other professionals. LinkedIn is a great way to jumpstart these connections. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete and includes a photo and recommendations. Add new contacts daily. On LinkedIn, you can join Boston-area groups that are related to your profession.
2. Most of the job boards allow you to fine-tune your search by geographic area. This will be especially helpful to you since you are focused on a Boston-area search.
3. Find out if your college or university has networking events in the Boston area.
4. Research professional associations in the Boston area.
5. Make sure that you clearly communicate that you expect to relocate at your own expense. Sometimes hiring professionals see an out-of-state address and assume that a costly relocation might be required.
6. Consider securing a phone number with a local area code.
7. If possible, consider planning a trip to the Boston area and plan several face-to-face meetings during these visits.
8. Don’t rule out temporary or contract roles. Often these roles lead to full-time employment opportunities.
9. Be responsive to emails and phone calls placed to you. You should try to respond to all of these inquiries within 24 hours.
10. Use Twitter to follow job hunting experts and companies. There are quite a few related to job hunting (and even specialized industries) which are Boston-centric.
11. Never say no to an introduction. When you are introduced to a new contact, you are also introduced to that individual’s entire network of contacts.
Finally, write a quick thank-you note (by email or mail) to anyone who has been helpful to you during your search.
Q: I love my married name. It's a rhyme-y, memorable name, which is a vast improvement over my maiden name, and I feel it's a nice fit for my line of work. Unfortunately, someone in the entertainment industry also feels the same way. If you do a quick internet search of my name, the majority of the hits on the first page refer to an elegant and demure entertainer. I have recently started looking for a new job and I'd hate to miss out on an employment opportunity just because the hiring manager thinks I'm someone else.
What's should be my plan of action here? I've thought about including some sort of disclaimer on my resume, maybe a light-hearted joke about not googling my name from a work computer, making sure the safe search is on, and rest assured, I am not THAT (insert name here). I'm a designer, and we designers get a bit more, uh, creative freedom with our resumes. Or is it best to just ignore the issue and count on the intelligence of my future employer to know the difference?
A: Your problem is more common than you would think. Several years ago, I answered a similar question in this column. As I recall the details of that question from a few years back, the job seeker was concerned about being mistaken for a famous convicted felon with the exact same name from the exact same town!
First, think about how you can alter your name so it is bit different than the exact name of the well-known entertainer. If the famous person’s name is John Robinson, consider using John R. Robinson, III or Jack Robinson. Or you could also consider attaching an acronym like BFA after your name to clearly designate that you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Some may still ask you about your name, but it sounds like you are ready to respond with a little dose of humor. Also, consider developing a Linkedin profile and adding the URL to your resume. The reader can then look at your profile, including your photo, and be assured that you are not the famous individual.
Those who share names with the famous carry a bit of a burden. However, usually after the initial comment or joke, the focus is on the candidate’s ability to do the job.
On a related note, I had a client several years back that had a small department of four employees. Three of the four employees had the first name of Sara or Sarah. When hiring additional staff for this team, they hoped they could find talent with a different first name.
Good luck with your search!
Q: I am a frustrated job seeker with about ten years experience in my field. After being laid off last summer, I took a few months off to travel and visit with friends and family. I thought I would have an easier time landing a new job in my field but now I am really nervous. My search has been harder than I expected. Every week, I am sending out about 10 or more resumes but I am getting very little response. When I do talk to a company, they say that I am overqualified. What effect does my period of unemployment have on my job search? Do you think I should eliminate an advanced degree from my resume? Perhaps I should consider changing fields too?
A: I think many job seekers have experienced similar challenges. It is ok to enjoy travel and some freedom for a period of time. However, as you discovered, weeks can turn into months very quickly.
Consider developing a disciplined plan and stick to it and hold yourself accountable. A few key steps of your plan should include:
1. If you are not receiving calls interviews, ask a few trusted colleagues and/or family members for feedback on your resume. Your resume should be crisp, legible and error-free.
2. Network and then network more. I once had a successful job seeker explain that their professional network has been their only insurance against prolonged unemployment.
3. Build a profile on LinkedIn. Linkedin is an online networking tool that can only help your job search. You can connect with former colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc. Career-related groups are also available on Linkedin.
4. Use job boards but don’t spend your entire day behind your PC. Spend about 75% of your time building relationships, contacting former colleagues and attending networking events. The remaining 25% of your time can be spent behind a PC.
Finally, I would not recommend deleting an advanced degree from your resume. For some roles, an advanced degree may be preferred and it could differentiate you in a positive way. I think you would have more success remaining in your current field unless your field is one that is shrinking. Good luck with your search. Remember, a job hunt is often a full-time commitment.
- editing expertise provided by Ms. Sloan's 6th grade classes, Hopkinton Middle School
Q. I've been at the same job (with many hats) for the same company since 2001 in a pretty niche market. Now that I'm older and have a family, it really started sinking in that I am underpaid for someone with my tenure, abilities and for the massive amount of work I've done above and beyond my position. There isn't much room to 'move up', or even make a parallel move, so I'm looking in different areas for a new career that will make living easier, and not paycheck to paycheck. I am capable of many things, and have many skills, but my job field (office job in the photography field) doesn't necessarily translate on paper/resume easily, and I think I am often ignored/passed over. I have applied to 50 jobs this year in an array of fields (easily qualified for), and received one call back (then subsequently ignored). Is there a way to get my skill set past the 'he/she works in photography, we don't need pictures taken' stigma, and be seen as a loyal department head with great skills who just happens to work for a company who sells photographs?
A. You have told the story of internal and external job seekers who are challenged by communicating their value. First remember that employers pay you for the value of your contributions to their organization, not based on your family situation, or length of service. Do the research. What do roles like yours pay in service organizations? Reality is the best tool when it is time to negotiate, whether you are faced with an internal or external conversation. Perhaps you are being taken for granted and a more direct review of your contributions could help you maximize your earning potential.
To make that happen, you need to review every word of your resume. If you've had many hats at your current company, you need to define each role in general business terms, not terms just accepted at your company. In each of these roles, quantify the successes you were responsible for or participated in. Most often, companies where you are not considered the main talent but are considered a supporting player often overlook the kind of increases you believe you deserve. You may have already hit your peak compensation at your current company. The resume re-creation you are now tasked with may prove highly valuable if you want to try to renegotiate your current compensation.
Many job seekers use language in their resumes and letters which minimize responsibilities because they tie themselves too closely to the specifics of their current role. To be considered for external roles, you're goal is to remove the “picture taking” from the description of the work you do. Your organization is a service provider. You need to describe the work you do in terms of managing, leading, driving revenue and increasing the success of your company by being able to sell more services, deliver more services at a lesser cost, or increase productivity. All hiring organizations are interested in people who can drive success regardless of what the service or product might be.
Also, consider adding as many project details and results that you can to your LinkedIn profile through the upload and the update feature. Make sure it's completely updated with a recent head shot and communicates what you would like to do as much what you have accomplished.
Once the new resume is complete, change your approach from 50 applications to 50 networking contacts. Develop relationships with vendors and other service providers. You need to develop an external sales force that can speak to your skills and refer you to potential hiring managers, and the new resume will give you the breadth you will need to succeed.
Q: I am a recent college graduate from Arizona State University who is looking to relocate to the Boston area. I graduated with an art history degree and a minor in anthropology and I have a vast background of customer service experience. I have been applying for jobs in the non-profit, marketing and arts sectors in the Boston area but I am still confused as to how I find a job in a place where I have never lived before. I have a ton of skills and am willing to learn but how do get my foot in the door and find an employer that can trust somebody with entry level experience?
A: Your job search in the Boston area will be a greater challenge but one that can be successful. A few tips that will increase your success:
1. Use social media to your advantage. Create an account on LinkedIn. Learn how it works. Join groups on LinkedIn that further your connections in Boston. Create a Twitter account. Begin following job sites and Boston-centric sites. If you are targeting specific employers, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.
2. Research alumni connections and associations in the Boston area. Talk to your professors about contacts that they may have in the Boston area.
3. There are several job posting sites that have a focus on non profits jobs. Idealist.org is one to think about visiting frequently. Check other sites as well.
4. Think about buying a cell phone with a Boston-base phone number for job hunting.
5. Be clear that you don’t expect a prospective employer to pay for your relocation. The thought of a relocation expense may scare them off. Let them know you could relocate quickly.
6. Make sure that you have video chatting capability in case they invite you to interview using this type of technology.
7. Like other job seekers, you should ensure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well designed. Your resume should not exceed one page.
8. Also make sure that your resume includes key words which are desirable for your target industry and/or target employers.
9. If possible, travel to Boston and try to fill that time period with a jam-packed schedule of interviews and/or networking meetings.
10. If you know where you plan to live and can use that address, begin using that address on your resume. A local address conveys that you are serious about relocating.
Job hunting from a distant location can be daunting but not impossible.
Q: I am looking for a job in just about any field. I have a degree in English and have worked in many fields including brewing and cell phone repair, as well as customer service. I can learn exceptionally quickly. How can I convey to potential employers that I can learn anything and put forward 100% effort without sounding self important?
A: Great question. Former co-workers, colleagues and managers are an excellent place to start. People that have worked with you in past roles probably know you work hard and produce quality work. Begin connecting and re-connecting with these contacts on LinkedIn and in person. Your contacts can refer you to companies with the following message: “This is a strong candidate. Strong work ethic. Learns quickly. Willing to do what it takes.” It is easier for a professional contact to refer you to another professional in their network especially if that former colleague has observed your work firsthand. It is also less awkward for a professional contact to give you high praise.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask some of your former co-workers and managers to write recommendations on LinkedIn. These recommendations can share “real-life” examples of your work ethic and your ability to learn a job quickly. They can also endorse your skills and expertise in specific areas like customer service, graphic design or business development (whichever apply to your career). Employers are often checking a LinkedIn profile before they even invite a candidate in for a live interview.
Make sure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well-designed. I think sometimes English majors are held to a higher standard!
During an interview (either via telephone, video chat or in person), weave some of these attributes in your responses. As an example:
Q: Mary, tell me a little bit about what your manager at ABC Company would say about your performance in your role as a Customer Service Rep?
A: Mike Smith was my manager at ABC. I really enjoyed working for him. I am a high-energy quick learner and he allowed me to learn new skills that were not even part of my formal job description. As an example, I developed a knack of using some of the unused modules available in our software to better troubleshoot customer complaints. I was able to train others on how to use these modules and features. I think it helped us resolve customer complaints more quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, if a cover letter is requested, include some of these attributes in your cover letter.
Q: My career has spanned over 25 years and I have been very successful in the corporate world. I have managed large, successful sales teams as well as large project and development programs. Past employment was secured through relationships. I never finished college, and now I find that I can't even get a call back from an employer, even for jobs I am perfectly suited for. Do I have to go back to school in order to get a job? Or is there something else I can do to get over this hurdle?
A: Congratulations on having a successful career. The most important sentence in your question is "Past employment was secured through relationships." You are proving one of the most important strategies in the art and science of job hunting. Relationships matter. Most job seekers still find out about new opportunities through their personal and professional networks.
Let's start with the positives. You have had a successful 25-year career in corporate roles. You have worked with successful sales teams and large project and development teams.
However, most of the candidates with whom you are competing probably have completed a college degree. An article published by the Boston Globe on December 15, 2010 paints a picture of who we are in Massachusetts. According to the article, written by Globe staffers Peter Schworm and Matt Carroll, “Massachusetts has a greater percentage of college graduates than any state in the country.” This article, entitled “A portrait of the state’s population,” was based on a five-year survey called the American Community Survey (ACS), published by the US Census Bureau.
Let’s return to another positive though: your network. Your network is likely filled with professionals who have worked with you and/or understand that you have worked hard to achieve some success in your career. These contacts are critical! Education is important but relevant experience is more important.
A few pieces of very specific advice:
1. Lead with the positives when you pitch your background and career. Focus on your success, tenures with companies, experience, enthusiasm and energy for past roles.
2. Use your network. Get active on LinkedIn.
3. Don’t ever lie about your lack of a bachelor’s degree. It will come back to haunt you. Instead acknowledge that you never completed your degree, but you believe that your 25-year career with lots of success if far more important.
If you are close to attaining your degree, think about how you could finish your degree. Could you look at online courses if you are two courses short of a degree? Or could you consider a school that would award you credit for some of your work/life experiences. If you choose to return to college, research the college thoroughly in advance. You will want to make sure that the college is accredited.
I’m a female marketing consultant. I always greet new clients with a firm handshake. I generally don't do anything in subsequent meetings with people I already know. My question is, how should I greet my regular clients? Should I shake hands every time? I'm not a kisser and I don't want to give the wrong impression, but I never know if I should kiss or hug someone. I don't want to appear cold, but I don't want to give the wrong impression.
What's appropriate for female professionals?
M. D., Saugus, MA
Yes, whenever you greet someone, you should shake hands. It’s an expected norm in today’s business world. As a woman, by extending your hand first, you remove any question a male might have about whether or not to shake your hand. Conversely, if a person reaches out to shake your hand and you don’t reciprocate, it creates a very uncomfortable moment as the person stands there with his neglected hand dangling between you. All the focus of the greeting turns to why you didn’t shake his hand. You literally could damage an existing relationship or ruin your chances for gaining business from a prospect simply by not shaking hands.
The only excuse for not shaking is if you have a cold or the flu and don’t want to chance spreading your germs. In that case, offer an explanation as the greeting starts. For instance, at a first meeting with a prospect, you might say, “Please excuse me for not shaking. I have a cold and don’t want to chance giving it to you. I am so pleased to meet you.”
A woman who was in marketing once told me about her most important client, who invariably would greet by coming out from behind his desk and giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek. She was creeped out by his greeting but, at the same time, didn’t want to say or do anything to mar the relationship. Given that this had been going on for a while, doing something to prevent the hug and kiss probably would be noticed. She would have to decide if the effort to change the greeting was worth the risk of causing an awkward moment with her client.
In business hugs and/or kisses are not appropriate for any except people you know very well. Even then, it subtly shifts the focus away from the professional. What could Ms. Marketing have done to prevent the hug and kiss initially? At the first greeting, she holds her hand out to shake; then, if the person starts to move in for the hug and kiss, she should stiffen her arm gently to keep him from moving in. Works every time.
Q: Although a potential employer can't overtly use age as the basis for making a decision, we over 55ers will frequently be passed over for younger applicants for a job. How do you sell your age as an asset when you are interviewing without being overly pushy about it?
A: Great question. You raise a reality that many job seekers are facing. A candidate will be told, “You are not a good fit.” Or, “Not sure if you would do well with our team.” Or worse of all, no response at all.
In short, you have to convince the interviewer to focus on your value to the company, not your age. Candidates who can demonstrate value get hired. After all, an employer is buying your services trying to get the best bang for their buck.
Here are some tips:
1. Limit your resume to two pages. Consider eliminating your early career roles which may not be as relevant.
2. Include key words in your resume that showcase your skills as up to date. Make sure that you have stayed current in terms of technology, industry trends and experience.
3. Ask a trusted colleague for advice and feedback on your resume and your job search.
4. Don’t offer hurdles that make it easy for a recruiter to eliminate you. What are hurdles? Comments like: “I won’t go into Boston anymore.” Or “I don’t have the time to learn the newest version of that software. I went to a training class in the 80’s and that was enough for me.” Instead offer what you can do. Speak in flexible terms. Examples include: “I know I could learn the latest version. I enjoy learning new technologies.”
5. Some of my clients perceive some email addresses, such as having an aol.com extension, as that of a candidate who is living in the past.
6. Talk up your current experience. Candidates who reminisce, at length, about companies that have died, are not perceived as vibrant candidates.
7. Check your clothing and appearance. Make sure that you are not wearing a suit that you bought in the 80s.
8. Think about what you are expecting in terms of compensation. If you last made $70K and an employer is posting the role with a $50K price tag, is $70K reasonable? Sometimes I think companies are focused on dollars and cents. If another candidate comes along and will take $55K, then think about your salary requirements. I find sometimes it is not a candidate’s age but their salary requirements which scare off the employer. A $70K salary offer could disrupt their internal equity (what they are paying others in the same or similar roles).
9. Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, be energetic, willing and enthusiastic. Companies want to hire engaged candidates, of any age.
Q. I would like to ask a colleague I respect tremendously to mentor me. I don’t work with him directly, but I know he’d be a great help. How do I ask? I don’t want to be a burden and I hope he’d enjoy spending time with me too. I want to bring specific ideas and goals to the table - is that too pushy?
A. There is a difference between pushy and prepared, and if you are going to ask for career support from someone, you need to show just how seriously you take their time and that you are highly invested in making the process easy.
A mentor is a person who acts as a trusted advisor to someone less experienced or new to a job or industry. Some industries and functions have apprentice roles with a senior craftsperson that plays the mentor. Some organizations have formal mentor/mentee programs, or mentoring can happen informally between two people who agree to a mentoring relationship. Either way, the mentoring arrangement should be determined by the goals and availability of the mentor and protégé.
There are many benefits to working with a mentor. They can help you with professional development, offer advice and encouragement, help you develop a network of colleagues and professional contacts, and help you understand politics in the workplace and the savvy to avoid issues.
The fact that you have a potential mentor selected means you’ve already crossed the biggest hurdle. You know your mentor, and don’t have a straight reporting relationship. Identifying a potential mentor who works within your company would be great, but is not a requirement. Finding someone who works or worked in your industry or function however is critical. You will benefit most from working with someone who has a shared understanding of what you do and where your challenges fit in your career trajectory.
Before you ask, assess the strength of the current relationship. Is there a mutual respect? Does your potential mentor like you? Have they been supportive in the past?
When asking your potential mentor to work with you, explain why you want to work with them and provide 2 or 3 goals you would like to work on through the relationship. Provide suggestions on how they might be helpful. Explain what you have learned already from “being in their circle”. If they suggest keeping the relationship informal, ask them to consider a 90-day trial period where you meet 2-3 times to asses if the mentor/protégé relationship will work. That gives you ample time to determine if it’s a fit, while giving you both an out if it’s not. Many people are interested in supporting others, but worry that they will take the burden of “making this work”. Let them know you hope to retain the informal relationship as well, but that you would also hope you have something to offer them, and open up the idea of a two way street. Clearly communicate your hopes on how long the ‘trial’ relationship will last and how frequently you would like to meet. Ask what might be the right amount of time for them. Remember their time is valuable and this shouldn’t be a never ending assignment.
If they say no, recognize the timing may be bad, the relationship isn’t there, or they don’t want the added responsibility. Be professional and retain a cordial relationship. They may suggest other people you can meet who can also provide professional development opportunities, and a flattered colleague is better than an unhappy mentor and mentee.
I am an introvert by nature, and not at all comfortable with putting myself into networking conversations. I know networking will help me get a new job so I really want to overcome my fears. Do you have any tips on networking for introverts?
You are not alone in your anxiety about networking. Many extroverts cringe at the idea of meeting strangers and striking up conversations where they will have to talk about themselves. But, there are plenty of shy people who master the skills of networking by practicing and then using specific assets to their advantage.
Assess your strengths. Introverts often are often good listeners, which helps to build deep and meaningful relationships. This quality is an enormous asset relative to developing strong networking skills. Think about how you can use it to your advantage as you talk to people about who you are, what you have to offer an employer, an how you might help them.
Next, think about a larger networking strategy. You may be more comfortable starting with a one-on-one strategy rather than utlizing to networking events that attract hundreds of people and may be overwhelming.
To get one-on-one meetings, create a list of places where you can find people with whom you would like to network. This list could include alumni associations, professional associations, health clubs, family and friends. Categorize each group or person on the list by connections that are easy, moderate or challenging to make.
Give yourself goals - develop a networking plan that details who you will call and email, how many people you will contact per week and how you will approach the request for a meeting. Research and create a list of specific contacts and start with the easiest people on your list. They will provide great networking practice in addition to being helpful for your search.
Before making other calls, research the person’s professional credentials and connections. Develop a “want” for each contact so you are clear on what you want to communicate about your professional history and goals and about how they can help you succeed. Prior to each meeting, script a list of questions you want to ask, so you can get the conversation flowing and calm your nerves.
During each meeting, give the person your 60 second professional statement to set the context for the conversation. From there, you can ask for their feedback on your resume, their perspective on industry or market trends, and advice on your job search strategy. Also, ask them about their professional path and what they have learned from their job search processes.
Use every opportunity to build rapport. If the contact mentions something you feel is a mutual interest (professional association membership, leisure activity of interest, family, etc.) use that as an opportunity to further the conversation based on those common interests.
Finally, towards the end of each meeting, ask for recruiters and other professionals they recommend you meet and see if they are willing to make an introduction for you. You can offer them a few company names or names of people you’d like to meet to make it easier for them to make referrals.
Thank them for every offer of help or suggestion they provide, even if you already know the contact or have tried what they have suggested. Most importantly, differentiate yourself from others by offering to help your networking contact by providing a “give” from your network.
Networking can be stressful, but with a little practice you may even come to enjoy it, or at least the success it brings.
Q: When fielding a screening phone interview, what one skill would you recommend strengthening before receiving the call? Thanks!
A: A telephone interview is as important as an in-person interview. A few tips before I offer a specific answer to your question.
1. Make sure that you are using a phone that will provide good reception. Using a cell phone can be risky, especially if there are connection concerns.
2. Confirm the call in advance. Email is a good vehicle for confirming the date and time of a scheduled interview.
3. Monitor your voice. Make sure that you are able to sound positive, confident and enthusiastic.
4. Have your resume handy. The individual conducting the call is probably looking at your resume when making the call.
5. Check email before and after the call. The interviewer may need to push the call back a few minutes or reschedule the call. After the call, send a thank-you email as quickly as you can. Make sure that you are checking email frequently.
Now to answer your question! I would recommend strengthening your preparedness. This applies to all candidates, at all levels, across industries. Don’t take a call “on the fly” or receive a call in a loud area. Prepare in advance for a quiet location with no interruptions. Ready yourself with examples of some of your strengths. As an example, instead of saying, “I am good under pressure,” consider “I am good under pressure. For example, last week our copier died when we were printing a complex proposal for a client. The client required several hard copies be delivered by a certain deadline. I found a local copy shop that was able to handle the copying. I picked it up and walked it to our client’s office with minutes to spare.”
Telephone interviews are now a common screening tool. You want to make sure that you advance to the next level.
Q: I am looking to re-enter the job market after being a stay-at-home mom for five years. My problem is that I don't know for what jobs to apply. I worked construction before I left the job market and would like to return working with sustainable living. I am 47 years old and haven't been on an interview for over 15 years. I feel my age and lack of experience interviewing may hold me back from some jobs. I need resources to help me interview, write my resume, and find the right job.
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce. Let’s first start with addressing your resume challenges. There are many resources available to you. One place that offers helpful information is http://www.boston.com/jobs/advice/. Check out the section called BEGIN YOUR JOB SEARCH. This section has information on how to create and build a resume, what occupations are on the rise and information on salaries for a wide range of occupations. This information is all free and available to you 24 hours a day. You could also consider hiring a job search coach. However, this is usually not free.
The state of Massachusetts also provides residents with career centers located across the state. http://www.mass.gov/lwd/employment-services/career-services/career-center-services/find-a-career-center-near-you-1.html. These offices offer a wide range of services from creating a resume to networking.
Before you jump into the workforce, reflect on your skills. Are you a whiz on the computer? Are you good at planning events? Do you enjoy the details of accounting? Are you an especially good writer?
Start your job search with an open mind. There are probably many positions that you would enjoy and would also capitalize on your skills. Especially since some of your experience is dated and competition for jobs is fierce, you should be flexible with respect to the roles which you might consider.
I would suggest becoming an active networker. Start telling others you are re-entering the workforce. Talk about what you are good at and what might work for you in terms of a job opportunity. Neighbors, friends and former colleagues are all good sources of job leads. You should also consider joining LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an online networking tool. Once you create profile, you can begin to connect with others. You can also join groups on LinkedIn. There are several groups whose focus is on sustainability on LinkedIn.
Resilience is important in a job search in this economy. You will probably encounter more “Sorry, we’re not hiring” than “Can you interview on Monday?” Keep swinging though. There are opportunities for flexible and resilient job hunters.
Q. I've requested a recommendation from two of my old bosses (both from the same company) through LinkedIn. Both have ignored my requests. I did great work at this company and left on very good terms, so I think this is an issue of time for both of them. Do you have any suggestions on how I can follow up with them without seeming like a nag?
A. Having LinkedIn recommendations are of great value to job seekers, people looking for consulting assignments, and those in business development. Many other people find them valuable, or just nice to have. Recommendations, when done well, can be very time consuming to write.
First, when you are asking someone to do you a favor, which writing a recommendation is, I would suggest making a phone call. Without that effort, you have no idea what is going on for the person you are asking. Are they traveling extensively? In the midst of a major project? Dealing with personal issues? They many reasons which would impact their ability to write a recommendation for you, in the timeframe you had hope for.
A conversation also lets you explain why you want a recommendation, and what you hope to have highlighted regarding the work you did, the skills you demonstrated, and how you worked with others. Without your input, recommendations can be very flat and read as if they are a generic set of nice words about anyone. If you don't really need the recommendation (you aren't in a job search) perhaps they don't believe it is worth their effort to write one.
How long ago did you work with these former bosses? Have you waited so long they have a foggy memory of the work you did, or perhaps the strength of your relationship?
If you are confident in the relationships, I suggest you call each person, ask about them, and ask if they would be willing to write you a good recommendation. Let them know why you need it, what you would like it to highlight, and offer to draft or outline some materials for them to make it easier. If they agree, make sure to thank them, tell them when you will get the materials to them, and when you hope to have it back. Before you get off the phone, ask them what you can do for them. Ask how you can help them in their job, or in their personal life, and mean it.
Developing a strong, responsive network is all about mutuality, not nagging.
Q: I am working on my associate’s degree in Biology. I was going to pursue my bachelor’s, however I am afraid that I will not find a good job because of all the rumors I've heard about this degree. Eventually, I want to pursue a higher degree but wanted advice as to what to do next. Should I keep going with a bachelor degree's or should I major in something else, like nursing or something specific? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
A: Congratulations on furthering your education in one of the expected growth areas within the US. It is probably better to rely on facts, rather than rumors, about the job prospects for a biology major.
According to a May, 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, STEM occupations (jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) represented nearly 8 million jobs (or 6%) of the jobs in the US. Also according to the May, 2009 BLS report, STEM occupations were high-paying. For all STEM occupations the mean annual wage was $77,880. STEM occupations are often in knowledge-rich fields where education-level matters. You are smart to consider furthering your education beyond an associate’s. Most of these knowledge-rich fields will require a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. In some fields, a doctorate may be preferred or even required.
I believe there is a mix of factors when considering what is the best path for you. Consider the following:
1. What courses do you like? What courses do you dislike?
2. What are your strengths? Are you a strong writer? Do you enjoy building spreadsheets?
3. What areas are expected to grow within the field of biology? Is there a specific field within biology which appeals to you?
4. Try to work in a few different roles through internships, summer jobs or volunteer roles. If you don’t enjoy a particular role, that’s ok. It is better to discover that now than later.
5. Research pay scales for different roles.
A biology degree could open many doors for you. A bachelor’s in biology could lead you to working in a pharmaceutical company or in a university. Or if you enjoy writing and biology, technical writing might be a path worth considering. Biology majors have landed jobs in zoos, aquariums, hospitals, labs, environmental organizations, colleges and universities, government agencies, research organizations and museums.
Registered nurses are in demand and this demand is expected to continue. As we, as a country, grapple with healthcare, including healthcare reform, obesity and living longer, nurses will continue to be in demand.
Neither path is wrong. However, you have to find out which path you would enjoy. Many of us spend 40 or more hours per week working at our jobs. Make sure you like most of what you do.
Q: I've had a good first interview at a company. I found that I share a connection on Linkedin with the hiring manager. Would it be appropriate for that connection to call the hiring manager now before the second interview decision is made? My connection is a relative to an immediate family member (i.e, by marriage) and I know him very well socially. He is a respected business person and the job is a high level business job.
A: Congratulations on a strong first interview! You must have been well-prepared and organized.
You are smart to use Linkedin during your interview process. Some job seekers forget that Linkedin is a tool that can be very valuable during a job search. You can research current and former employees, company information and most importantly… if you know someone! Or sometimes you can uncover contacts who are connected to the hiring manager like you have.
I think your instincts are good. If your relative is a well-regarded and respected professional, he might be a helpful contact. First, I would ask him if he is comfortable contacting this connection. Some people have hundreds, even thousands of connections and know some much better than others. If there is a professional and/or personal relationship between your relative and the hiring manager, your relative may be able to convey some of your positive attributes. Think about what was discussed during the initial interview. Did they mention a strong work ethic was important? Did they mention punctuality and reliability as being critical requirements? Was creativity discussed? If your relative can comment on some of these traits, that might be persuasive. I would suggest discussing, in advance, what you would like your relative to mention during this call or email. You would want him to focus on relevant traits which he has observed. If the role is an accountant, perhaps he could mention that you did well when you studied accounting at ABC University. Or if the role is an events planner, he could mention some of the social events that he has attended that you may have organized.
Q: I have to raise a complaint about the "attend networking events" advice. When I was unemployed I was told this all the time, but the only "networking events" I could find were through my college alumni association, and after a few you've met almost everyone there. I would go to the occasional conference or symposium if I could find one for free, but I found them to be very poor for networking purposes. Plus there aren't events every day, in fact the opportunity is rare, so you start to feel unproductive on a day-to-day basis. It feels like you should be going to a "networking event" everyday when in fact that's impossible. Maybe there are more "networking events" for other professions, but overall I found it to be a frustrating strategy.
A: Networking can be frustrating. A job hunt can be frustrating. But prolonged unemployment is far more frustrating.
Networking works! I have received several inquiries recently like yours. Almost every job seeker is told to network. However many of you are now asking, “Where do I find these events?”
Let me share some very concrete networking events:
- Yes, your college alumni association is one option. Professional associations also offer networking opportunities.
- Visit www.meetup.com. Plug in your zip code and search for a group that might work for you. There are groups for web developers, business developers and those that just want to network.
- The Acton Networkers group is a great group of very active job seekers who meet weekly. Check out www.actonnetworkers.com. Hopkinton Networkers is an offshoot of Acton Networkers. Both meetings are well-run and members exchange job leads and landings. A donation of $1.00 is requested at the door to cover the cost of refreshments. The Acton Networkers are on LinkedIn under groups.
- Temple Emanuel in North Andover and Temple Emanuel in Newton both have vibrant professional networking groups. Both of these groups have active LinkedIn groups as well.
- Public libraries in Massachusetts (and other states) are offering job search resources for free. I know both the Reading Public Library and the Newton Free Library have job search resources, including networking events.
- Visit www.job-hunt.org. You can view networking events by state. In Massachusetts, there are over 40 networking events listed.
Some of these groups may put some meetings or live events on hold for the summer. However, I think you will find that many of the live events begin to “ramp up” in September.
Q: I am a graphic designer with 10 years of experience and have applied to 119 jobs since moving to MA on Jun 3. I have had zero interviews. I tried doing some follow-up phone calls, but those only resulted in rude "they'll call you if interested" or instances where I had to just leave a message. No one ever calls back. Please keep in mind that I only apply for jobs that I am 95%+ qualified for. What am I doing wrong???
A: Great question. Your current job hunt strategy is a popular one. As you have discovered though, it is probably not the most effective job hunting strategy.
Your approach to job hunting can sometimes be successful with luck and in a strong economy. However, I would suggest that you revise your job hunting strategy immediately.
Here is what I would suggest:
1. Develop a Linkedin profile. Several years ago, boston.com published a great “how to use Linkedin” article. I still share it with job seekers. Here it is: http://www.boston.com/jobs/bighelp2009/september/articles/linkedin_tips/
2. Use Linkedin every day to expand your network. Join Linkedin groups which are affiliated with your profession and your desired geographic location.
3. Network, network and then network more. Connections lead to job opportunities. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. should all know you are looking for a new opportunity.
4. Attending networking events in the area.
5. Consider attending a meetup group. Visit www.meetup.com.
6. Connect with an employment agency with expertise in the placement of graphic designers.
7. Don’t dismiss contract or temporary opportunities. These opportunities often lead to longer term full-time roles.
8. Never say no to an introduction. If a friend refers you to a former colleague who runs a marketing agency, meet that person. It does not matter whether they have an appropriate opening or not. They may know of an opportunity or put you in touch with another colleague who is hiring.
Finally, firing off resumes to online postings should be one part of your job search strategy. However, developing contacts should be the focus of your job search.
Q: After four years of teaching, I've decided to change careers and head into human resources/training. I thought I'd have a bit of time on my side, but I've been unemployed since December. The possibility of securing an entry-level position in that field is a no-go so far and my fears of gaining any sort of employment grows with each day. I do have a background in recruiting, so this isn't a change that is completely unrelated to my experience. What are the steps that I should take at this point?
A: How exciting and frightening, all at the same time! A few positives on your side: you have previous experience in recruiting and you are still early in your career. However, a challenge that are probably encountering is the competitiveness of the employment market. You are likely competing against candidates with more HR/training experience. Additionally I have observed that training budgets continue to be tight. You may want to re-focus your search within HR. You may want to consider a generalist role or a recruitment-focused role (to capitalize on your recruitment experience).
In terms of your search, you should be networking extensively. You should be active on Linkedin, Twitter and other forms of social media. Be careful not to spend too much of your time behind a computer. Using technology should be part of your search but take the time to connect with colleagues, former co-workers, friends and neighbors in person as well.
Consider using the career services office of your college or university. Also consider joining professional associations within the world of HR. Many professional associations also post jobs and offer assistance with job searches. The Northeast Human Resources Association (www.nehra.com) is a good resource for your search.
You should also consider temporary or contract roles. Many employers, who might be skittish in the economy, will fill an HR need with a temporary employee or contract employee. If the need continues, often the temp or contractor will be converted to a role on the company payroll. There is less competition for the temporary and contract roles too since most employed job seekers would not consider a temporary or contract role.
Lastly, make sure that you are keeping current with your HR skills and knowledge. Professional associations often offer free or low-cost professional development opportunities for members.
Q: Can you suggest a good career counselor in the Boston area? I need one who charges reasonable fees.
A: Finding a good career counselor can be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you navigate your search for a reputable career counselor:
- Before searching for a career counselor, think about what you want from that counselor. What are your goals and expectations? What do you hope to achieve after you have worked with a career counselor?
- Think about logistics. How far you are willing to travel? What times and dates are you available to meet with your career counselor? Are you willing to do some of your meetings and communication on-line or virtually?
- What is your budget?
- Word of mouth referrals are often a good place to begin. Ask around.
- Visit the Association of Career Professional International at www.acpinternational.org. There is a search function that might be helpful.
- If you attended college, you also may want to research options that might be available through the career services office.
- Visit the websites or the Linkedin pages of your possible career counselors. Ask for a few minutes on the phone with a few that seem promising. Share your expectations and goals and ask how they would best meet your expectations and goals. Ask about their experience in your industry or industries that most interest you. Ask about fees up front.
- Check references before you make a final decision.
- Ask for a complimentary in-person meeting before you sign any agreement. You want to ensure that a rapport can be built. You should treat this as if you are interviewing them for a job. You are!
- Read the fine print. Make sure you understand what you are buying and receiving.
- Lastly, be ready to invest the time. A career coach will most likely not place you in a job. They will instead make your job search skills more effective.
Q: I have been unemployed and doing some temp work for about five months now. I have applied to many jobs and have not had anyone besides temp agencies contact me for interviews. I have had several people look at my resume and cover letter and they said they were both good. I am frustrated and not sure what else to do. Please help!
A: I don’t have a lot of information about your skill set, industry, work history or education. However, let me share some general comments and observations.
You have demonstrated a commitment to your temporary role. This is a positive. You should continue applying for jobs but also focus your efforts. If you enjoy your current work environment, company culture and the content of your current role, you may consider approaching your supervisor and asking about opportunities within this company. Often companies will post open positions on an intranet or a company bulletin board. Check these listings often. There also may be other opportunities within this company, but not within your immediate department.
Don’t close the door on the temporary agencies that are contacting you. More and more of my clients use temporaries as a way to “try before they buy.” They want to employ you on a temporary basis for a short time before they extend you an offer as a full-time employee. Temporary roles can also expose you to new skills, or sharpen old ones. Make it known to the temporary agency that, although temporary roles are fine, your longer term goal is to secure a full-time role with a company.
Like all job seekers, you should be actively networking. Actively networking with colleagues, friends, alums, etc. is a proven way to learn about job opportunities that others might be aware of.
About 75% of your job hunting time should be connecting with people, hopefully in your profession. About 25% of your time should be behind a computer. Often times, job hunters will actually have these percentages reversed during a search.
Q: I am self-employed. I run a small consulting business providing information technology expertise. I am doing well but I am building my business. I work seven days per week. I love the work. The problem? I get about five networking requests per week. Some are from people I don’t even know. Some are from people I went to college with 25 years ago and have not kept in touch with. Some are from friends and family. Some are from recent college grads and I really don’t have any good connections for them. More often than not, they are friends of friends of friends. I want to be helpful but this is turning into my new part-time job! I don’t get paid for this and these people don’t seem to understand that. This time should probably be used building my business. HELP! I have never seen this question in your column before.
A: Your letter hit home with me. I live that same personal challenge. I don’t get paid for having coffees, lunches or a glass of wine with job seekers. I probably receive about 10 requests per week so I think I have you beat!
I struggle with maintaining a balance of being focused on my business while trying to be a helpful resource. Here are some guidelines that I have established for myself. I hope these help you maintain that balance.
- I limit my networking meetings (coffees, breakfasts, etc.) to two per week. Between the travel time and the time away from my business, I have found this limit to be manageable. When job seekers call me I tell them my available times, which are often three or more weeks in the future. If that doesn’t work for them, then that is a choice the job seeker must make. I know it seems harsh, but I can not turn my world upside down and cancel existing appointments because a person that I met at a cookout 11 years ago has lost a job.
- If someone wants to meet me in person, I have to make it convenient for me. It has to be a reasonable location and a time and date that work for me.
- I am often more open to a phone call, which does not require travel time. Yet, still I have to limit these calls, both in terms of length of the call and the number of calls I can take per week.
- I have had many job seekers ask me to revise their resume and help them find a job. I do this type of work but I charge for it.
- Sometimes I have to say “no” to job seekers. It is difficult to do. But if I have met them, shared job seeking strategies, given them feedback on their resume, etc., I feel like I have been more than generous with my time.
Finally, I do believe in giving back. I do believe that sometimes additional business can come from these networking meetings. Even these meetings don’t result in additional business opportunities; I think it is the right thing to do.
Q: I have been out of the workforce for the past 5 years. I have 20+ years of education and was a small business owner. I am overqualified for entry-level positions and have been turned down for employment at several major retailers. My past work experiences were in real estate and finance. But I want to start a new career in the food or the fashion industry where I feel that I can express my creative talents. I am willing to start from the ground level. How do I find networking events or career coaches who can guide me and help me getting hired?
A: Congratulations on asking some very good questions. Let’s tackle the networking events first. You should begin by perfecting an elevator speech. When a colleague, friend or neighbor asks what you are looking for, you should be able to summarize your background, skill set and your aspirations. This is easier said than done but it a worthwhile exercise to draft, perfect and rehearse this pitch.
For networking, consider the following:
1. Connect with friends, colleagues, alums from your past and present. Linkedin makes it easy to do. Join groups on Linkedin. Join a few with a food or fashion focus.
2. Check out www.meetup.com. This is a site which coordinates events for people with common interests. I visited the site and found several area groups with a variety of interests within food. For example, there are groups with interests in natural foods cooking and ethnic dining.
3. Re-connect with the colleges and universities you have attended. The career center and alumni relations offices could be helpful to you.
4. Schedule coffees, lunches, etc. with colleagues and friends. In-person networking is invaluable.
5. Never say no to an introduction. Often when you meet with a contact, that contact will refer you to another contact. Contacts are valuable. Never say no.
The Association of Career Professionals International (www.acpinternational.org) is a good place to start when searching for a career coach. There is a “Find” feature on the website and you can enter basic information and find matches that might be appropriate for you. Always ask a few key questions before hiring a career coach. First, ask about their background, qualifications and experience. You should interview them. Make sure that you feel like you could build a productive relationship with this coach. Second, ask how they are paid. You want to ensure that you understand this information in advance. Third, what is their process or approach? Finally, check a few references.
Q: I’m looking to move to Boston in the near future. What are your tips in finding a good job for a young professional with a Bachelor’s degree and how to go about marketing yourself? Are employers willing to deal with a potential employee not in the area yet?
A: Welcome to Boston (almost)! You can do some job hunting from afar. Some recommendations:
1. Get on Linkedin and start connecting with colleagues, friends, neighbors, alums, etc. Join some groups on Linkedin. When joining groups, look for Boston area groups. Also try to join groups that are geared to your profession. There are also quite a few groups for young professionals on Linkedin. Look for an alumni group in the Boston area on Linkedin.
2. Find out if your college has alumni networking events in the Boston area.
3. Connect or re-connect with any Boston-area contacts that you may have.
4. Search the job boards. Many job boards allow you to restrict your search to a certain geographic area.
5. When you write your resume and cover letter, you should explicitly state that you plan to re-locate at your own expense. Often times when a recruiter reads a resume with an out-of-state address, there is a question of whether this candidate would need relocation assistance.
6. Consider buying a Boston-based cell phone now and listing this number on your resume.
Although you can do some job hunting from afar, in-person networking should also be part of your job hunting plan. Linkedin is a short cut but it does not replace having a cup of coffee with a former colleague or meeting a fellow alum for a bagel.
If possible, plan a trip or two to the Boston area. Try to schedule several face-to-face meetings during these trips. Check out www.meetup.com. This website lists gatherings, of all types.
Lastly, send a thank you note or email to everyone who is helpful to you during your search. Don’t burn any bridges. Be persistent without stalking.
Q: I recently interviewed for a job on a very informational basis. I met with the department manager who is trying to get the new position added to his team in early 2012. I was referred to the department manager by my brother-in-law who knows this guy through professional channels. My brother-in-law asked me how the interview went and I told him I thought it went very well. My brother-in-law asked me if I sent a thank-you note or email to the guy after we met. I didn’t send a thank-you note because it didn’t really feel like a formal interview. The department manager took me to lunch but we only talked about the possible role for about 30 minutes. The rest of the time we talked about sports, changes in our field and our families. My brother-in-law is now clearly irritated at me and insists I should have thanked this guy with a note or an email. I think a handshake and a verbal thank-you right after the lunch were fine to thank him. What is the protocol for sending a thank-you note? In the past, I have sent thank-you notes but only if there was a “real job” at stake. My brother-in-law and I agreed to send this to this column and you would tell me if I should have sent a thank-you note (or email).
A: There is nothing like a good family dispute to spice up holidays, cookouts and other family gatherings! However, I might disappoint you with my response.
I agree with your brother-in-law. In fact, I would probably push it one step farther. I think you owed a thank-you note/email to the department manager AND your brother-in-law.
Let me explain, starting with your brother-in-law. Your brother-in-law became aware of a possible job opportunity that might be of interest to you. You want him to continue passing these job leads to you. A quick email, saying “Hey, thanks for the heads up! I appreciate you forwarding me this contact. I will follow-up with this guy and keep you posted.”
You should have absolutely thanked the department manager in a more formal way. For some companies, a note (via mail) is still the expectation. For many companies, a quick email would have been perfectly acceptable. It sounds like this department manager treated you to lunch (this is my assumption) and then talked with you about a possible opportunity as well as other common interests. He took the time out of his day to meet with you in person, probably because of his relationship with your brother-in-law! Anytime another individual meets with you to talk about your career or an opportunity for you, then a thank-you note should be sent.
Q: I moved to New Jersey for a promotion, thinking it would be a 2-3 year assignment. That was in 1990. My family and I very much want to return to the Boston area but I have no network to speak of in the area. Complicating matters is the fact that I also want to change careers. I'd appreciate any thoughts on how to get jump started.
A: Welcome back to Boston… well, hopefully soon! You are smart to make the connection between your “network” and a job search.
How can you build a network in Boston while living in New Jersey? Building a network, especially in the early stages, can be partially accomplished using technology. LinkedIn is an important tool and can be used to build your contacts. If you are currently employed, avoid adding 20 contacts per day. Instead, add a few each day. If you are currently employed, you don’t want your LinkedIn profile to scream, “I am looking for a job in Boston!”
It sounds like you have roots in the Boston area. Think about joining groups on LinkedIn, particularly groups that have a Boston-centric purpose. Again, join groups slowly if others might be checking your profile. Add groups affiliated with your college or university. Consider joining Boston-based groups with a focus on your profession. You can join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn. These groups have been invaluable to me in my career.
Try to plan a few trips to Boston. New Jersey to Boston is a drive-able distance, especially if you are tacking some time onto a long weekend. If you have friends and family here, let them know of your interest in relocating back to this area. Consider attending networking or professional events during those trips. Schedule a coffee or a lunch with contacts that could be helpful to you.
You can also target specific companies or events using technology. If your industry experience is in medical devices, you can find out if the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council is holding an event during one of your trips. Many of these industry associations also post jobs for free for their member companies.
I'm in the process of starting a not-for-profit organization. I was wondering what is the polite way to solicit donations for such an organization? I don't want to become the person who is always asking for money, but I also don't want the organization to suffer from me being overly shy.
M. C., Flushing, NY.
Success in business is based on building relationships and that certainly is true when soliciting for donations. By building a relationship with the donor, you build trust. Trust is key to being successful at the ask.
Just like building relationships, asking for donations is a skill. Just like other skills some people do it naturally and easily, while others learn it. Because it sounds like this is a new venture for you, try to identify a couple of people in the non-profit community in your area who you think would be good mentors for you. If they agree, don’t try to mine them for contacts to solicit, but rather work with them to understand what makes them successful and emulate them as you develop your solicitation skills.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard for people who are going to solicit donations is this: Instead of thinking of it as "asking for a donation," flip your mindset to "offering an opportunity to learn more and give to an amazing cause."
When making phone calls, be warm and personable but get to the point and be considerate: "Jackie, I'm calling because of this opportunity I'm excited about and am personally involved in. Can we have coffee so I can tell you about what I'm doing for the American Heart Association? I'd love to have you be part of it!" If they have time to meet, they will. Face-to-face is always the best way to solicit. If they don't have time, ask them right then and there on the phone and for a specific amount.
Here are four other keys to being successful:
1. Don't solicit for a cause unless you have a passion for it or a personal relationship with it. You must be sincere when you ask for donations.
2. When you take on fundraising, be open and realistic about what you think you can do - don't bite off more than you can chew. That is respectful of you and the development team at the non-profit.
3. Thank the donor verbally when they make the donation. Thank them again when they send in the actual donation (ask the non-profit to notify you). Yes, the non-profit will thank them but, as the solicitor, you should, too.
4. Help the organization by getting complete contact information for their records, future solicitations, or invitations to events. Be careful to note how people wish to be addressed or acknowledged: Is it Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, or Mr. John Doe and Ms. Amy Buck?
Q: I have a daughter who is a high school senior. Her guidance counselor often posts your column on the bulletin board outside of his office door to encourage “good choices.”
My question is that I have heard that employment professionals often check a candidate’s Facebook page before making a hiring decision. Is this true? It seems odd to go to this extreme. However, here is my concern. I am not a big Facebook person. I joined to check on my daughter’s profile and comments. Sometimes her information does border on being inappropriate. For example, photos of her and friends sunbathing. In some photos, she is fully dressed but showing too much skin. There are a few inappropriate comments too. Of course, there are some photos which are harmless, like the photo of our dog or a snowman built last winter. Some comments are fine too.
Also, do colleges check these pages?
A: You are smart to check your daughter’s online profile. Although Facebook is a wonderful social media tool for connecting with others, it can have a darker side. First, beyond the job hunt, your daughter may be communicating information to online predators unknowingly. Talk with your daughter about what she discloses on Facebook. Less is often better.
Employers are increasingly checking online profiles, including Facebook. It is easy to do since accessing a Facebook profile takes seconds. It is important that your daughter’s privacy controls are in place. Employers are trying to gather all the information available on a candidate. If a candidate has several pictures of themselves at parties, drinking beer, etc., then a hiring representative might reconsider extending an offer to this candidate. Any hire is a risk and companies want to mitigate risks. According to Mike Astringer, Founder of Human Capital Consultants, “If a potential employer finds inappropriate material on a social media site chances are good they will use that information in a hiring decision.” A growing number of college admissions officers admit to checking applicants’ Facebook pages. Many feel since it is public domain, it is another piece of information available to them. It is a smart idea for students (and others!) to critically look at their Facebook pages and remove anything that is racier than PG-13. The main profile photo should be positive and professional. A high school graduation photo would be a good choice for your daughter.
In addition to removing salacious photos, all of us need to be aware that the negative comments could have repercussions (especially regarding a college or a prospective employer). Many of us are connecting with colleges and companies. Colleges and employers are able to read these comments and posts.
PS – I hope your daughter’s guidance counselor posts this column outside of his office door!
Q: I've been unemployed since last May. I have posted for many jobs, interviewed for some, and I usually hear I'm over-qualified for what they are looking for. How can I best over come this to land my next career move?
A: Your question mirrors several that we have received for this column over the past year or so. These are frustrating times for job seekers. Many employers are trying “to make due with less.” In short, they are trying to hire fewer employees, pay them less and still remain competitive. It is a difficult balance.
Here is what I can share. If you have been called in for interviews, your resume is probably in good shape. My advice:
1. Networking is incredibly important. Invite a former colleague for a cup of coffee. Schedule a quick chat with a neighbor who is connected. Never say no to an introduction.
2. Get on LinkedIn and expand your contacts. Join groups on LinkedIn. Join groups that are related to your career and/or your education.
3. Don’t spend your entire day at your PC. Attend a Meetup event. Join a networking group.
4. Consider re-writing your resume. Some job seekers have several different versions. If you have been receiving feedback that you are overqualified, consider only showcasing the last 10 or so years of experience on your resume. Try to keep it to one page.
5. Consider temporary, contract and consulting roles. These roles can often lead to full-time roles.
6. Make sure that you have a one-minute pitch about who you are as a candidate. Include your professional history and your career interests. This pitch should be succinct, authentic, enthusiastic and polished.
7. Thank everyone. Any contact who meets with you, send them a thank-you note or thank-you email. Be gracious and appreciative.
8. During networking events, dress for the job you want, not the job you last had.
9. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are living a healthy and balanced life. Your appearance matters now probably more than ever.
10. Even if you have not received a job offer, leave every recruiter and hiring manager with a positive impression. They may call you for another role in the future. A thank-you note (even if you did NOT receive an offer) differentiates you in a very positive way.
11. Be reasonable about expectations, especially around compensation. You may have to re-set your expectations to get your foot back in the door.
12. Be resilient. Dust yourself off after a setback. Think about what you could have done differently.
Keep swinging. A door will open.
Q: Is it ok to contact an HR person you found on LinkedIn to ask for feedback as to why you didn't get an interview for a job you thought was a great fit? I found the guy on LinkedIn and he has his personal email address in his title. It's a very big company and they don't post HR contact info on their site. I feel like I'm stalking or being a pest, but feedback would be really helpful as I move forward with my job search. I'm in my 40s, looking for senior-level/mgr/director job.
A: LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool and can be helpful in a job search. It sounds from your question that you are not angry, hostile and irritated. (Well… maybe a little but it doesn’t sound like these emotions are dominating your thoughts.)
Feedback is often helpful as part of the selection process. Sometimes HR professionals are reluctant to share feedback for a number of reasons. Some candidates express the need for feedback and then when you share feedback, these candidates become defensive and even downright nasty. Some candidates began to re-sell their skills and experience to you when, in all honesty, it is too late. The offer has been extended and accepted.
In your situation, you need to be willing and open to feedback before you contact this HR person. You have to be prepared to receive feedback that may be mixed, with some positive feedback but also some negative feedback.
I think you can send him a request to connect on LinkedIn. If he accepts, his acceptance is an encouraging sign that he might be willing to engage in further dialogue. If he ignores your request, I would interpret that as a sign that he is less than enthusiastic about connecting with you on a post-interview basis.
I suppose you could email him too since he has publicized his personal email address on his LinkedIn title. However, if he didn’t share this email address during the interview process, I would be reluctant to use it.
If you do connect with him, be professional, gracious and thank him for re-connecting. He may keep you in mind for other opportunities or refer you to other HR professionals. It is a small world and you want to leave a good impression.
Q: My situation seems complicated to me, let alone an employer! I left a position as a legal secretary in 2008 for an office manager position. That position did not work out and I was let go after about four weeks. From November 2008 to the present, I have been unemployed. However, in December of 2010 I underwent surgery which necessitated a long recovery period that I hope will end very soon. My most recent salary was $65,000 and I was at a fairly high level administratively. Do you have any advice on how I can address these issues concisely in an interview? Also, what approach should I take regarding my illness? Should I seek a position at the same level that I left? Thank you for your help.
A: Your situation is indeed a bit complicated but can be presented in a credible and positive way. Remember to focus on the positives and minimize the negatives.
First, let’s mention the positives. Think about your professional background and where you have enjoyed success. You don’t need to give a lot of detail regarding your surgery. Instead focus on the present - you are ready, willing and able to return to the workforce.
You have been unemployed for a prolonged period of time. This period of unemployment will no doubt raise a yellow flag for a potential employer. Of course, your surgery was a factor. The economy is also likely a factor. However, the focus should be on what you can deliver to the employer.
Regarding your compensation requirements, you are in the same boat as many others right now. Some of my colleagues call this the “new normal.” Many employees were earning very competitive wages in 2006 and 2007. Then 2008 hit and there has been a correction in terms of compensation. I think you may need to be flexible. Look at any offer you may receive in a holistic way. Don’t just focus on the base salary. The benefits, the commute, the work environment, the company’s mission and the work responsibilities are all important. Also, don’t overlook temporary and/or contract roles. These roles often convert into full-time roles.
Your elevator pitch might sound like this:
I worked for Smith, Brown and Jones, LLP for almost 10 years. I worked for three partners. It was a challenging and exciting role. In 2008, the law firm suffered because of the economy. I left the firm for an office manager role at ABC, Inc. Unfortunately this role was not a good fit. In December, 2010, I had some surgery. I used much of 2011 to recover. I received a “clean bill of health” from my doctor and am ready and eager to return to the working world.
Q: Hi! I am frustrated and hope you can help...I was laid off 2 months ago from a toxic job, but still have not found employment. I have had a few interviews, but nothing has panned out. My most recent interview has me stumped - it went great (I thought), and at the end, the HR rep gave me her card, told me to call/email her any time for an update, and told me things about the 2nd interview. I sent her a thank you letter by email immediately. Then I received a rejection letter in the mail. Any ideas??
A: You raise a common situation that I think many of our readers have experienced during their job hunts. Let’s discuss the positives first.
• You are no longer in a “toxic” job.
• You have had a few interviews.
• There was some initial interest in bringing you back for a second interview.
• You understand the importance of sending a thank you note quickly.
What this tells me is that you are probably applying for appropriate jobs for which you are qualified. Your resume is also probably strong. You have an understanding of professional etiquette and have demonstrated that by emailing a thank you note quickly.
I don’t know what happened in your specific situation. I can offer several educated guesses but they are guesses and I can not be certain that any one of these reasons apply.
Some of the plausible reasons include:
• The employer hired someone else for the position. Another candidate could have been stronger. An internal candidate may have raised their hand during the selection process.
• The company did not fill the position. Or the employer has delayed the filling of the position.
• There was something about your thank you note that was not well received. Either the content or perhaps a glaring typo?
• Perhaps the qualifications or requirements of the job changed? After a hiring manager interviews several candidates, this can happen. After gathering intelligence from candidates, sometimes a different skill set is identified.
HR Reps sometimes have difficulty having these conversations with candidates. While there are candidates who welcome honest feedback, other candidates can become very defensive, even argumentative or belligerent.
Don't let this single outcome impede your search. Dust yourself off and keep swinging.
Thank you for your column in the Boston Globe about saying "Thank you.” I find that an honest rendition of those two words merits much in return.
Could you please address the regrettable habit that has sprung up, that of a reply of "No problem" as opposed to "You're welcome?" I am routinely getting this answer, particularly from the younger set, particularly from people whom I have just thanked for doing their job, the one they get paid for! "No problem" sounds insincere and insouciant. Of course I am 72 years old, so perhaps this is a change I should learn to accept. I hope not!
S. C., Oak Bluffs, MA
You’re welcome, Sara.
Unfortunately, that phrase seems to have disappeared from our language. How often do you hear it as opposed to how often you hear someone replying to a “thank you,” by saying, “Oh, no, thank you.” Whenever I hear that return “Thank you,” all I can think is, “Why are you trumping my ‘Thank you’ with your ‘Thank you?’”
When you respond to a “Thank you” with “You’re welcome,” you are acknowledging the thanks and letting the person know you appreciate it. To say nothing when someone says “Thank you” to you is the equivalent of ignoring the person, and nobody likes to be ignored.
If you really do want to thank someone in return, saying “You’re welcome; and thank you, too” is the best solution. Saying “You’re welcome” first removes any implication that you are simply dismissing the person’s “Thank you” by not acknowledging it.
“No problem” has wormed its way into the normal dialogue we experience with each other. I hear it from all ages of people, not just young people, and I’m inclined to accept it as part of our language today. That said, the same advice holds true for a “No problem” or “It’s nothing” response to a “Thank you.” Precede it with a “You’re welcome,” and now it works perfectly well as a response.
So, today, tomorrow, the next day, take a moment to think about how you’ll respond the next time someone says “Thank you” to you. Try bringing back “You’re welcome” as the first thing you’ll say in acknowledging the “Thank you.” You’ll put a smile on the other person’s face, and that is the real point.
Q: I am in a stable job (as stable as employment goes) but am considering moving for higher salary and better advancement prospects.
Given the world wide economic situation, and in particular the looming US budget threat, is there a high risk in moving into a new job now?
A: When I read your question (and re-read your question), initially I could only reply with one question: "Where is my crystal ball?" Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball. I wish I did! I will have to talk with my editor at www.boston.com about that request!
Stability in a current role is valuable right now. I know many unemployed individuals who would likely view your current situation with envy. There is always a risk when you change jobs and/or companies. However, sometimes these risks can pay off.
However, many professionals often “keep the door open” in the event another opportunity presents itself. It is a smart tactic. We live and work in uncertain times. No one can predict the future. However, you can proactively prepare yourself should you encounter uncertainty in your current role.
You raise a related and important topic. Successful job hunters often have a robust and active network EVEN before they launch a job search. What do I mean? Be smart by growing your professional network each and every day, not just when you are job hunting. Become active on LinkedIn. Connect and re-connect with colleagues both on-line and in person. Ensure that your skills are current. Dust off your resume and look at it with a fresh eye. Does it represent you well? If not, consider giving it a tune-up. Use social media to broaden your network and reach out to new contacts or associations. Never say no to an introduction within your field.
Now about getting my hands on that crystal ball...
Q: I have to relocate to Boston from Southern California due to family obligations. I will pay for my move myself, and I have a residence in Massachusetts. I have applied to many jobs via email, but nothing. I'm about to take out a display ad in the Globe. How can I get noticed?
Conducting a job search in Boston from Southern California is a challenge but not an insurmountable one. A hiring manager may be assuming that you expect the company to pay for a move and that your time to start a new role may be delayed.
Here are some options for you to consider:
1. Join Linkedin if you haven’t already. Connect with as many professional contacts as you can, especially in the Boston area. Also join groups that are appropriate for your career and Boston-based professional associations.
2. If you attended college in the Boston area, re-connect with your college or university. Educate yourself about what your alumni association offers.
3. Use your Massachusetts address on your resume.
4. Consider obtaining a Massachusetts cell phone number before you make the move.
5. Be clear in any communication that you expect to pay for a move yourself. Also be clear if you are returning back to the Massachusetts area. To most recruiters, returning to Boston is more appealing than relocating to Boston.
6. While email is one tool, use all online tools to their fullest. LinkedIn, Twitter, etc can all be effective and helpful in a job search.
7. If feasible, consider returning to Boston for a few days during the workweek. Try to schedule 1001 coffee meetings, lunches, quick sandwiches during that period of time. Make sure that you are gracious to all who fit you into their schedules. Send a thank you note to all who meet with you.
8. Use job boards. These can be helpful with your job search, especially those job boards that can help you search in a specific geographic area.
9. Pick up the phone. Call your contacts and search firms. Schedule phone meetings to pick the brains of current and former colleagues.
10. Check boston.com daily for who is hiring and who is not.
Job hunting from afar is more challenging than in your own backyard. However, you can be successful.
Q: I am an undeclared student entering my sophomore year of my university. I have always enjoyed physics, science and chemistry. I have thought about declaring engineering as my major. I am not sure what type of engineering careers are promising. I’ve seen a few job postings for Materials Engineers. These postings have interested me. What types of companies typically hire this type of engineer? What is the job outlook for these roles? What do hiring managers look for when hiring Materials Engineers? If I don’t land a job after college, my parents will be very upset. I want a job that I enjoy though.
A: Materials science is a diverse field that involves creating and improving materials such as metals, polymers, and nanomaterials to name a few. There are many incredible opportunities which will allow you to continue to use the skills that you have learned in physics and chemistry. You are fortunate to have an interest in this area.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for engineers are expected to be quite good. Starting salaries are typically higher for engineers, as compared to other college graduate degrees. For more information, visit http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm.
I consulted Steve Milt, Chief Operating Officer at DSA Detection in North Andover, Massachusetts. Milt recommends, “To get started in your career it will be important to choose an industry that interests you. Traditional employers for materials engineers include aerospace and electronics companies, but the list extends broadly to medical devices and biotech, green technology and companies like mine, DSA Detection, that are focused on the security industry.”
Milt further offers, “Finding relevant internships and summer jobs to build a track record is an important first step. Select an industry and find a paid or unpaid job during the summer or during the school year. Treat it like your most important class. If your first job isn’t a great fit, that’s ok, because materials engineers can transfer across industries somewhat more easily than other types of engineers. Employers take a chance every time we hire a new employee, so we look for markers of commitment and career progression, like completing projects with business value and receiving increasingly challenging work assignments. These internships and summer jobs are an important chance to make yourself highly marketable at graduation time.”
Many materials engineers choose to pursue advanced degrees as they progress through their career. Milt explains, “If you establish yourself as a high performer, your future company may be willing to pay for all or part of your advanced degree. At DSA Detection, high performer means understanding project goals, completing tasks on schedule, showing good communication skills, all while being a fun person to work with. As an engineer you will build good analytical and decision-making skills, which may lead to greater responsibility and management opportunities down the road.”
Q: I hear all this information about personal branding and branding yourself as a candidate. Branding is now a job search technique? Can you explain this to me?
A: Great question. I consulted Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and Founder of Millennial Branding, to help me better answer your question. According to Schawbel, “Personal branding is about discovering what makes you special and unique in the marketplace and then communicating that, through multiple mediums, to the right people. By using your distinct personality, publishing content related to your expertise on blogs and social networks, and connecting with as many professionals as you can, you will have a leg up in the job search process. Think of the internet as the new global talent pool. It's not just about searching for a job anymore. It's about recruiters finding you on search engines and social networks based on the visibility you create from the content you publish. Nearly 90 percent of companies are recruiting on social networks and 64 percent have hired through a social network this year (source: Jobvite.com).”
According to Schawbel, you may want to create a "personal branding toolkit," which includes profiles on the main social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+), in addition to your own website (yourfullname.com), and a business card. Schawbel recommends “constantly and prolifically communicate your brand through your networking profiles, events, forums, speaking engagements, and more.”
Schawbel and I agree on the importance of LinkedIn when it comes to launching a search for a new opportunity. A complete and robust LinkedIn profile is important. Growing your LinkedIn network is important too. LinkedIn is a good forum for sharing your expertise with others. There is an incredible amount of business intelligence shared on LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool, it does not replace the old-fashioned in-person networking and relationship building. It is an incredibly helpful tool to connect (and re-connect) with contacts new and old.
Q. I have been unemployed for over a year. I have applied to hundreds of jobs and only had a few interviews here and there. Office work, retail… I’ve been applying to everything with no luck. Since I’m home most of the day, I’ve decided to work on my dream of becoming an author. I’ve finished a novel (that hasn’t been published yet) and I wrote some short stories and freelance articles. I thought by putting I’m a writer on my resume would show that I’m proactive and I haven’t been sitting on my butt not doing anything the past year. Putting this on my resume has backfired because the past few job interviews I’ve been on, the interviewer implies that I would rather stay home to write then work for them. I’m barely making any money and I need a real job. How do I get a hiring manager to understand I’m serious about getting hired?
A. Your job search so far seems to be defined by what you haven't done more than what you have done over the last year. While I applaud working on your writing skills, effective job seekers aren't "home most of the day". Take a look at where you find motivation. Is writing a "dream", or an actual goal? You have applied for every kind of job there is, but with no target, or action plan it will be very difficult to show that you are serious about getting hired.
Hiring managers want to see that you have maximized your time off, especially when it is an extended period of time. But they also want to know what it is you can do for them. They need to see the skills, experience, knowledge, and capabilities you have and how they make you successful in the position.
Many job seekers succumb to the pressure of finding a job and forget to focus on what they have to offer. Many people go right into action mode, without taking the time to do a self-assessment to identify their skills, values and interests. Doing this work will help you develop the right target, and strengthen your answers to interview questions.
Right now your writing is a great avocation. Often the best job matches are made when an avocation, hobby or interest, is woven into a career. Focus on jobs where your work experience can be combined with your writing. You may need to develop a portfolio of writing samples, especially if you were paid to write them. Develop a broad target by looking into a variety of industries and functions to see which positions need the skill set you bring, and get active.
You can't conduct a successful job search at home. Build a great LinkedIn group. Set up face-to -face networking meetings to talk about the skill set you bring, and the kind of contribution you can make to an employer. Anticipate at least 100 face-to-face meetings before you find the right opportunity. It is a competitive market. Commit to using your skills in this next job. You can continue the writing and publishing on your own time, after you are employed.
Q: After nine years of service, I was laid off by a large Boston-based company in January, 2010. I have picked up some contract and consulting work for short periods of time through friends and colleagues. However, I can see from the interviewers’ faces that I need to work on a response to one question. I am tired of the question, “why do have such a large gap in your employment history?” I want to say, “because I was laid off…. isn’t that obvious?” These interviewers are so callous and don’t understand that being unemployed for over one year takes a toll on a person’s self-esteem. So Job Doc, how do I answer this question? I will follow your advice. I just need to know what to say.
A: Thank you for submitting your question. This question could have been written by hundreds of job seekers who share your frustration.
Let’s start with the positives. It sounds like you probably enjoyed a stable work history prior to being laid off. This is important information to convey and highlight during any interview. Also, you have secured some consulting and contract roles. These roles should be included on your resume and mentioned during the interview.
And that question, about the gap in your employment (however it may be phrased), should be expected. You will get that question again. Expect it, prepare for it and don’t let it irritate you. An interviewer is trying to find out what occurred during that gap. It could have been that you left your last company because you were tired of travel. Or you left your last role to care for a sick family member. Or you left because you were fired after you were linked to embezzling company funds. All three are possible reasons and all three reasons are very different.
Here is my best advice. When “the question” is asked, don’t get emotional. Expect it. Prepare for it. This part of the interview may play out like I’ve described below.
Interviewer from XYZ: So John, you have been out of work for over a year. That’s a long time. Tell me about the circumstances of when and why you left ABC and tell me what you have been doing since you left ABC.”
You: Jane, thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain. First, I should point out that I was with ABC for nine-plus years. I started with ABC right out of college and then was promoted three times. Like a lot of companies, they struggled financially in 2008 and 2009. I survived three layoffs but finally in early 2010, I was laid off too. As you probably recall 2010 was a tough year and a lot of Massachusetts-based companies were not hiring. Fortunately, through networking, I have been able to secure quite a few consulting roles with several small- and mid-sized companies. What I have learned is that I thoroughly enjoy working in smaller, entrepreneurial environments, much like XYZ.
In short, what you are communicating is that you:
1. have had a strong professional work history and that the lay-off was an aberration and due to the overall economic climate, not your performance
2. you are not bitter or angry but you are looking for your next opportunity with a positive outlook and enthusiastic demeanor
3. that you were proactive and an effective networker which enabled you to land several consulting roles
You have woven in many positive comments about yourself and your work history. Your final comment is linking your abilities and preferences back to the opportunity being discussed.
Every question asked during an interview is an opportunity. Don’t run from it or take offense! Instead prepare by crafting a response to showcase your abilities, skills and relevant experience.
Q: I am in my mid-50s and feel like I am being discriminated against in job interviews. How do I show to a potential employer that I could outwork any 30 year old with the same skill set? This employment market is difficult but even more difficult if you have a few gray hairs. Please don’t give me legal advice, just practical advice.
A: Unfortunately, discrimination does exist. And it may be impacting you personally in this job market.
But let me offer some practical counsel on how you can move an interviewer from thinking about your age to focusing on your capabilities. There are stereotypes associated with more mature job seekers. A short list of some of those stereotypes might include:
- being inflexible or rigid
- having outdated skills or work style
- being slow to pick up new ideas, concepts or skills
- working more effectively in a traditional, hierarchical environment (rather than a collaborative, open environment)
Knowing that these are common stereotypes, how can you demonstrate that these misconceptions don’t describe you as a candidate?
1. Dress and accessorize in a current way. Leave your 20-year old suit home. (Or better yet, donate it!) Walk through an office park or office building and observe how professionals are dressing. There is some variation between industries for sure. Ask a trusted colleague for candid feedback on your professional dress. Be willing to accept it and adapt if needed. Carry yourself in a confident and energetic manner. A 2010 www.boston.com article on the topic might be helpful - http://www.boston.com/jobs/galleries/interviewdress2010/.
I recently had to accept some difficult criticism from a family member regarding my style of casual dress. On a recent daytrip, I was told, “Ditch the fanny pack. It makes you look frumpy.” Hmmm… that feedback was hard to take. However, I no longer wear the fanny pack!
2. Be able to demonstrate that you have current skills. Talk about current technologies and trends in your industry. Don’t remember and recall days of the past when mainframes, live operators and little pink message slips were commonplace in most business environments. Avoid comments like: “I remember using a typewriter!” Although experience is helpful, employers are also looking for forward-thinking employees.
3. Provide examples where learning a new skill or talent was exciting. Weave into your interview real-life examples from your work or even personal life which show that you are vibrant, enthusiastic and energetic. I have a 60-plus year old sister who has both a bike and a kayak. She is the epitome of good health and energy. If you have similar interests, mention them in a casual way. (“Oh yes, I know exactly where your office is located. I enjoy the bike trail that runs behind your building almost every weekend in the spring.”)
4. Share examples of when you worked in a high energy, collaborative and unstructured environment. (“When I worked at ABC Inc., it was a high energy and very casual environment. It was an incredibly fun place to work. There was a group of us who took night classes at XYZ College right down the street.”)
If you knock down early age-related assumptions about you as a job seeker, an interviewer is more likely to re-focus on your skills, capabilities and potential as an employee. Discrimination does exist, no doubt. Neither one of us can eliminate it in the employment market. You can, however, be mindful of the common stereotypes, and try to re-direct the focus to your professional work experience and capabilities.
Q: In April, I had an informational interview scheduled with a friend of my cousin. I rarely drive into Boston and it causes me great anxiety when I do. I left plenty of time that morning but probably not enough time. Because of rain and highway construction delays, I never got there on time. I just turned around and came home. Now what do I do? I am so embarrassed that I really don’t want to admit what happened. Is it too late to send a note of apology? My cousin is irritated that I did this after he referred me to his friend.
A: We have all had those mornings when traveling to a location seems to be filled with hurdles, delays and hiccups. Here are some thoughts about how to best handle this in the future:
1. Think about scoping out the location, the route and the parking beforehand. Some people will even “take a dry run.” This means traveling to the location before your appointment to ensure that you know the area, the potential setbacks, parking options, etc. While this is often smart to do, you can not always anticipate traffic or weather delays. You should build in extra time for delays however. I often will use the 2X rule. If I expect a commute to take 30 minutes, I plan for a 60-minute commute.
2. Consider public transportation. Sometimes the stress of finding a parking spot, traffic delays, etc. can cause more hassle than the convenience of driving may be worth.
3. Don’t rely solely on a GPS for a new destination. I usually use both a GPS and a printed map.
If you are running late, it is a professional courtesy to call the person and ask if he or she can still meet. If not, offer another option.
In your specific situation, you should have called the person and explained that you were running late or needed to re-schedule. It is unacceptable to be a “no show” especially since you were referred by your cousin.
I would suggest apologizing to both your cousin and the person you were scheduled to meet. You made a mistake. I think it is important to acknowledge the mistake. You will have to decide whether it is worth it to reschedule this appointment. The other person may not give you a second chance. And if traveling to Boston provokes such feelings of anxiety on your end, it may be better for you to schedule conference calls with contacts in Boston.
Q. I’ve been wondering about this question for a while. One of my colleagues left my firm a few years ago (maybe 3-4?) and asked if she could list me as a personal reference. I told her it was OK and willingly spoke with potential employers about her. Fast-forward to the current time, and she’s still listing me as a personal reference. I haven’t kept contact with this person, and I’m no longer comfortable being a personal reference. I’d appreciate hearing any hints on how I can relay that information to potential employers. I don’t know anything negative about this person, I just haven’t been in contact with her for a few years (and have no way of getting in contact with her now). Thanks.
J. C., Fairfax, VA
A. When all else fails, a little benevolent honesty goes a long way to solving a problem. Rightly so, as you have lost contact with this former colleague, your comfort level for providing a reference has diminished with the passage of time.
You have two options to solve the problem. Wait for the next company to call asking for a reference. Explain the situation to the caller, “Jim, while I’d like to give you some insight into Jane’s capabilities, the fact is I haven’t been in touch with her since she left ABC Corp four years ago. It’s been long enough since then that I’m uncomfortable answering your questions now. Would you please provide me with her current address so I can contact her to discuss this?” Or, you could contact the last company that called you and in a similar manner ask for Jane’s address so you can contact her. It’s important you make the effort to find Jane or you will continue to have to respond to companies seeking a reference from you about her.
As individuals build a network that includes people who are willing to provide references, it’s important to stay in touch with the people in the network. Do so not only when seeking a job, but also while you are on the job so your network participants know what you are doing and can speak about you from a position of current knowledge.
If, over time, you are still providing a person’s name as a reference, do yourself and the person the courtesy of re-asking their permission before simply providing their name as a reference. Otherwise you risk having the person tell the company he or she is no longer willing to give a reference, and that is not what you want your prospective employer to hear about you.
Q: Earlier this year, my employer announced that they were going to pay referral bonuses if we, the employees, referred candidates who get hired for an open position. I have several questions for you. Are these referral programs popular? What if I refer someone who is offered a job but is not hired? What if the employee is hired several months later? Should I still receive the bonus? Last question, what if my referral never gets a call from my employer?
A: Employee referral programs are often successful recruiting tools for many companies. Employee referral programs encourage current employees to refer qualified friends, colleagues, relatives or others for available positions within the company. Often times, the employee who has made the referral will be eligible for a “finder’s fee” if the referred candidate is hired for a position with the company. The company will likely establish guidelines and rules for the program. For example, only certain positions may be eligible for the financial reward. Or the monetary reward may be subject to a waiting period to ensure that the new employee is a good fit.
In response to your specific questions, employee referral programs are a successful recruiting tool and are often used when a company has several “hard to fill” opportunities. Hopefully your company acknowledges all employee referrals but honestly sometimes companyies underestimate the number of referrals that this type of program will generate. Often times, a referred resume will be retained in the event another position becomes available (assuming that the referral is not qualified for one of the existing openings). Your employer may offer you a reward if your referral is hired several months later, but it depends upon the rules that your company has established with respect to their employee referral program.
An employee referral program also sends a few additional messages to the employees of a company. One is that “we are hiring.” This is a positive message especially after the last few years of sluggish hiring. Two, is that "we want to reward employees who tap into their networks that these efforts should be rewarded." Three, "we think our employees are a good judge of talent." It is encouraging to hear that employers are using employee referral programs in 2011.
Q. I have recently started my own business and have business announcement cards to send out. I am a landscape architect, and I will be offering my professional services -- focusing on high-end residential architecture and design. I have accumulated a lot of business contacts from my previous job over the years including past clients, vendors, and other design professionals.
I have several questions regarding how to address the envelopes: Is it best to print the names and addresses on the envelopes digitally or by hand? I am usually very personal and hands on, so I would typically go with the hand-printed addresses, but I don’t want the recipient to view a handwritten address as unprofessional. Also, how do I address envelopes for past clients? These announcements will be sent to a home address. Do I include Mr. & Mrs. or is it better to leave the title off since this is a business related endeavor? If I’m sending to another business professional, do I include the name of the business first and then in care of or vice versa? With or without titles for the individual? Your help is greatly appreciated!!!!
A. D., Nashville, Tennessee
A. You’re on the right path. Because your new business is very much about you, the personal touch expressed by handwritten addresses on the business announcement envelopes is an appropriate way to go. I also think that hand-addressing the announcement plays into the recipient’s natural curiosity about what was important enough to warrant the effort of writing the address by hand. Finally, I see a difference in tone between a proposal or business letter and an announcement. All that said, it is important to remember that your handwriting represents you, and the image it conveys is important. Given that you are in the design field, I am assuming your penmanship is clear, strong and probably even has that look I associate with an architect’s writing. It’s amazing how many people comment to me, “My handwriting is terrible.” If that’s the case with you, then the printed envelope is the way to go. In any case, do not use printed labels, even the ones printed on clear backing, as they are less personal.
Address the envelopes using titles, first names and last names. If you know someone well, you can use the more familiar first name on a personal note that you can write on your announcement card or include separately. By the way, personal notes are a great way to engage the people you are sending announcements to. If sending the announcement to the home address of a former client, you do not need to include the significant other unless, of course, they are in business together. Finally, put the individual’s name on the first line and then the business name on the second line.
Q: I have been a stay at home mom for the past ten years. I am interested in pursuing adjunct teaching at a local college or university. I did teach about 10 years ago but my contacts there may have moved on. I have about 15 years of professional work experience and several advanced degrees. What is the best way to inquire about these jobs?
A: Congratulations on your interest in returning to teaching! Let’s start by exploring your prior teaching experience.
Try to re-establish a relationship with some of these contacts. You might want to even stop by the college and visit. Or check the college’s website to see if there are any names familiar to you. Additionally, you could check LinkedIn to re-connect with employees currently working there as well as former employees. Colleges (and other employers) often like to re-hire quality talent. Re-hires often “hit the ground” a bit more quickly than other newly hired employees who have no or little experience with the employer.
You should also update your resume if you have not done so. Ensure that you have a focus on your higher education experience, especially teaching. Also, begin gathering your professional references.
Begin networking and using other job hunting tools. Social media of all types can be useful in a job search. Spend about 75% of your job search time networking and not behind a computer. Networking with professional and social contacts is still the best way to find out about job opportunities.
Also check out higher education-specific websites. One site in particular to visit is higheredjobs.com.
Lastly, familiarize yourself with how technology has impacted higher education, especially with the evolution of e-learning and online learning options. During the last 10 years, technology has had an incredible impact on how content is delivered to students.
Q: I am a freshman in college. I want to get into a professional sales career when I graduate from school. What can I be doing through my college years to gain some good experience? I don’t want to land a dead-end job after graduation.
A: I am impressed by your question, especially coming from a college freshman. Some of the best and smartest resources available to me are my clients. I consulted Jon Carson, CEO of BiddingForGood in Cambridge. The engine of Jon’s e-commerce business is his inside sales team. Jon’s advice:
The best route is to see if you can find an internship working in an inside sales organization in a role as a lead qualifier or an appointment setter. Just as marketing has trended to the web because of the inherent measurement, sales is trending to the inside model vs. outside because of the increased measurability. The field of sales is trending from art to science so you need to find an internship that will expose you to the science of sales. One way is to intern in a support role in CRM administration for tools like Salesforce or Landslide.
Sales roles are increasingly measurable. Few sales folks get to spend days on the golf course anymore. Instead, they are constantly filling their pipeline, developing a good referral base and closing business.
Internships and summer/part-time jobs are a great way to test the waters for sales (or any industry). Plus, you will be gaining valuable experience. Good sales people are often tenacious, motivated by a goal or a metric and resilient. Resiliency is important. Why? Sales people tend to be told “no thanks” more often than not. It is critical to be able to be able to make your next call with the same energy, passion and enthusiasm. You have to be able to shake setbacks and move on.
Lastly, think about joining LinkedIn now. LinkedIn is an online networking tool. The more contacts that you have when you graduate, the better.
Q: I am trying to look for a job because my company has just announced a merger. I fear that I will lose my job when all the internal departments are reviewed. I always hear about networking when looking for a new job. How can I do that while working full-time?
A: You are smart to be proactive. And yes, my mantra to job seekers is always “network, network, network and then network a bit more!” Most job seekers find jobs through a colleague, professional contact, friend, neighbor or relative. Ideally, you should have a strong and vibrant network even when you are not looking for a job. When you launch a search, it is not an onerous task if you have a strong network of professional contacts.
Looking for another position while employed is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you have a job and income. Often job seekers who are actively employed are more appealing to a prospective employer. I hear this from unemployed job seekers all the time – that they feel there is a stigma associated with being unemployed. The challenge is a search takes time and time is tough to find when you are employed, especially if your current role requires long hours.
You still have to find time to network though. Breakfasts or early morning coffees are attractive options for many professional. Lunches with local contacts may also be an option. A sparkling water or beer after hours is sometimes possible. Although not a substitute for networking, Linkedin can save you valuable time with establishing and re-establishing contacts. Although not always a popular choice, I have met with colleagues and contacts on weekends when time is simply not available during the week. While some are open to weekend meetings, some are not. Realize that some may consider weekends off-limits. Lastly, telephone meetings can work if over-scheduled calendars or geography prevents an in-person meeting.
You can also effectively network at social events that might already be on your calendar. Think about some of the springtime events that you may be attending. Are these events that could possibly lead to job opportunities? Maybe sitting at a child’s lacrosse game can have a dual purpose after all? Maybe an alumni mixer is a good place to re-connect with a few old faces? Perhaps a Memorial Day cookout is a place to make a few new connections?
How do you invite others to join you? You could be selling a new idea—or marketing yourself.
Let's look at four mistakes, using invites to LinkedIn as an example.
1) Never inviting anyone.
Hmm, this one's tempting. No one likes rejection; it forces you to relive high school.
I remember having a high school crush on Linda N. One night, I finally called for a date.
"Who exactly are you?" Linda N. asked.
"I sit on the opposite side of the room in English," I said. That didn't really explain who I was. It didn't even explain, really, where I was.
More about Linda N. in a moment.
Meanwhile, some good news: high school's over.
Last week, I invited 20 people to LinkedIn. Most accepted, a few ignored me. Nothing terrible happened.
2) Bad timing.
When I called Linda N. for a date, my timing was flawed, but only in the sense that it was already Saturday night.
"Yes," Linda N. said, "I'd love to go out—and I think my date's at the door right now."
Timing matters. Are your LinkedIn invitations too late, or too early?
"Don't invite within two hours of meeting," says Rod Hughes, Director of Communications, Oxford Communications.
"I typically wait till the next day," advises Rod. "Anything sooner seems stalker-esque."
3) Inviting everyone.
Suppose you wake up one morning determined to network with Queen Elizabeth.
"How do you know Elizabeth?" LinkedIn will ask, as if already suspicious.
"Colleague," you say. But when the Queen gets your invitation (which of course she won't), you're in trouble.
If she tells LinkedIn she never heard of you, LinkedIn won't like that. You'll be penalized.
"You need a policy," says Thom Singer, author of several networking books.
"My policy," says Thom, "is The Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule, which means not accepting links unless I've had a real conversation."
4) Bad invitation.
At LinkedIn, the default invite is, "I'd like to add you to my professional network."
But that's robotic.
Eric Fischgrund, Social Media Manager at Beckerman, makes his invites personal. Here are two he successfully sent to CEOs:
"Met your staff at the trade show—looking forward to learning more;" also, "Very interested in SEO companies in the NJ area, and look forward to connecting online."
"My cardinal rule," says Eric: "never use the default."
Tip: For better results, deliver a better invitation.
© Copyright 2011 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Q. I have been in job hunt mode for over two years. After a year and a half of no luck on full time positions, I turned my attention to finding part-time work as a CFO. I find my new contacts (Banks, CPA's, Insurance co's) are reluctant to recommend some one they don't have a past relationship with. I'm back looking at full time work while still pushing the part time work which is really messing me up (am I looking for part time or full time). Any suggestions?
A. Long term job searches offer enormous emotional challenges to job seekers and their families. Changing strategy, revising targets and resumes, and generally second guessing everything you do is often the methodology of long term job seekers.
The type of position you are seeking, full time or part time, isn't that significant of an issue. Your target position can continue to be a full time role, and old and new networking contacts will have no difficulty understanding why you would consider part time roles until the right full time opportunity surfaces. You might say "I am looking for a full time CFO role utilizing my skills in (name two or three key areas). I am also looking for part time opportunities to help organizations with interim needs in finance while I continue my search."
Getting your "new" contacts to support your search is the more important issue. Part of all successful job searches involves relying on old contacts as part of a strong network, and developing new contacts as you gather information, and introduce yourself into the marketplace. The strength of the old relationships can help you develop strong relationships with new contacts that are comfortable referring you to other people, and other opportunities.
If this is not the case, you need to review your networking activity in terms of who you are contacting, who is referring you, the amount of activity you are conducting, (a good goal is five face-to-face meetings a week) the conversation itself, how you offer to help the contact, and the follow up or follow through you need to act on. Each point in this list can derail your search. If you are concerned about your effectiveness in any area here, consider working with a career coach to develop your skills.
You may want to expand your options to contract and interim in addition to full time roles. Search professionals will understand the logic of expanding the kinds of roles you are looking into, and as long as you can commit to a time frame for a contract or interim role you should be considered.
Continue the search; perhaps volunteer for a non profit, or community group in a finance role; consider expanding your industry targets; join a job search support group; is your geographic target broad enough? And how many networking meetings have you had? Shoot for 250 great meetings, and stay positive.
Q: I am working as a contractor for a small start-up. I hope to be hired soon by them. I have a dilemma though. They are interviewing a former neighbor of mine. I know this person is a convicted felon and he has spent some time in jail a few years ago for fraud. I don’t know if this company does background checks or not since I have not officially been hired by them. This company’s hiring process is very casual and informal. Do I have an obligation to inform this company? I don’t want to start trouble but I also feel very awkward in not disclosing what I know to someone. Any recommendations?
A: You are in a quandary. Let’s explore your legal obligations (if any) first.
To better address your legal obligations, I consulted Attorney Jeffrey A. Dretler, Partner of the Employment Law Group of Prince Lobel Glovsky & Tye LLP. Dretler offers, “In the circumstances described, assuming you did not enter into any contractual obligation to make such disclosures, there is no legal obligation requiring you to disclose what you know about your former neighbor to anyone at the company. At the same time, assuming you did not become aware of the information in a privileged or confidential setting (e.g. doctor-patient or attorney-client relationship), there is no legal obligation prohibiting you from disclosing what you know to the company. That being said, acting or failing to act each may have consequences that you need to carefully consider.”
Let’s assume you do disclose this information to the company. Then, as a result of your disclosure, your neighbor does not receive a job offer. Your neighbor could discover that it was you who provided information to the company. Dretler explains that in this situation, your neighbor “could try to bring a civil cause of action against you for interference with prospective advantageous relations or even defamation. If the information you provided to the company was true, and was motivated by your belief that the company’s interests were best served by knowing the information, and not based on malice, your neighbor will not succeed on his or her claims against you.” The employer will likely appreciate this information in advance of extending a job offer to this candidate.
Alternatively, let’s assume you do not make the disclosure and the company hires your former neighbor. If a problem surfaces with this new employee, and the company finds out that you knew about this person’s history and did not disclose it, it may reflect poorly on your judgment and commitment to the company.
In short, you will need to weigh both the benefits and the risks of the situation. You will also need to assess your own moral and ethical compass. If this situation were with a client of mine, I would hope that you would disclose this information to a company representative such as the human resources officer, hiring manager or CEO/president. Be clear that you are making the disclosure with the best interests of the company in mind, and not because of any personal malice against your former neighbor. Ask them to verify what you know to eliminate any possible misinformation or error in your recollection. When providing information to the company, distinguish between the information you know to be true and that which you may be less sure about, and do not spread any of this information to people who do not need to know it. Hopefully, by following these steps, you will not feel as if you are keeping important information from the company you hope to become more a part of, nor will you feel as if you are doing something to cause trouble for another.
Q. I spent four years in a high-stress job in finance, regularly working 60 - 70 hours per week. I was laid off 1 year ago, and since then I have rediscovered my love for reading, writing, and life outside of the office. I'd like to return to financial services, since I have substantial knowledge, experience, and certification, but I'm not interested in another high-stress, time-demanding role. Many employers are afraid to hire someone looking to take a step back, since they are likely to leave at their first chance to move back up. So, how do I communicate that I am a conscientious, hard-working employee who's just not interested in working over 40 hours per week?
A. You don't. Employers don't want clock watchers. They do want conscientious hard working employees who will do what it takes to get the job done. You don't benefit from putting limits like that up front in dealing with employers. The realizations about what you want in your next role are key to the next steps in your job search.
You have done some great assessment work which will guide you, and does not need to be shared with an employer. You have reached new conclusions, and identified the kind of position you are looking for, and potentially the kind of environment you want to work in. You have also found that you'd like to lead a more balanced life, where your time spent at work is offset by a range of interests outside of the office. These goals can be met without waving a red flag saying "I need to leave at 5" to an employer. Employers will have a different list of what they want from an employee, and finding the match is where it all starts to work.
The new awareness you have developed can set a direction for you. You can use the additional job search skills of networking and research to identity cultures, industries, and organizations where working 60 hours a week or more is not the norm. Here is where you make decisions on whether to try and engage in interviews with companies who have a reputation for burning out employees, or taking the time to focus on different roles, or industries where balance is more easily attained. You may need to adjust your compensation requirements, which could enlarge the pool of potential employers.
Your networking contacts can introduce you to managers who are looking for hardworking, talented people, particularly when they are reassured that the person isn't looking for a short term opportunity, and doesn't see a lateral move or a move back as failure, or slacking. These companies do exist. As do companies who are looking for talented, hard working people who are willing to work more than 40 hours a week when there is a business need to do so.
You may also want to add information to your resume which showcases activities you dedicate time to outside of work, which you are comfortable discussing in an interview. Good hiring managers want to see that people have outside interests.
Some people believe that taking a career step back will make them achieve balance in their lives. You may be surprised that you find there are high stress jobs, and there are high stress people who bring their type A behavior to any job, and any environment.
Q: I'm looking into making a change after 15+ years in my current company. I now have over 20 years of experience and I'm looking to get into a VP/Director level position in my industry. Any recommendations on where/how to find the executive type positions, any recommendations on recruiter? I don't want to post my resume on a job site.
A: Congratulations on your tenure with your current company. It sounds like you have enjoyed a very stable employment history.
I know very little about you, your professional work history, your industry or educational background. In general though, I can share some broad recommendations for job seekers at your level.
- Network, network and then network even more. Networking still is the most successful job hunting technique. Most job seekers land new roles through a contact. This contact might be a former colleague, a neighbor or someone you met at your church or temple. Establish a networking goal. One contact per day? One contact every other day? Only you know how much time and energy you can invest in your job search.
- Update your resume. Make sure it is crisp, error-free and current (especially since you have worked for 15 plus years at the same company).
- Have professional references typed up and ready to share in a one-page document that looks and feels like your resume (same font, layout, etc.) Include email addresses, their relationship to you (i.e., former manager) and telephone numbers.
- Get active on LinkedIn. Connect with former co-workers, managers, supervisors, etc. LinkedIn doesn’t replace in-person networking but it is a helpful shortcut to connecting and re-connecting with others. Additionally, more and more companies are posting jobs on LinkedIn.
- Recruiters are best found through “word of mouth” referrals. Ask trusted colleagues, former co-workers. Make sure that the recruiter you work with has experience in your industry. This is increasingly important at your level of work experience. You should “kick the tires” before you engage a recruiter. You want to ensure this is a person that can work for your best interests, not just their best interests.
- Job boards are worth visiting but checking job boards should not be your sole job search technique.
- Think about ways to use social media in her job search. Twitter and Facebook are also ways to find out about opportunities.
- Professional associations related to your industry or profession are also worth exploring. Many have job posted on them regularly.
I agree with you that posting your resume on a job site is probably not a wise idea. Especially if you are currently employed, you will need to be professional and discreet in your search.
Q: I've applied for a few jobs through an online application system and I'm able to check the status of my application. However, they all still currently say "Application Received." I know from someone who works at this company that the next step is "Under Review." Is there anything I can do to get the HR manager to take a look at my application?
A: More and more companies are automating their candidate selection process. Many larger employers use online application systems. These application systems sometimes require a candidate to complete an online “fill in the box” application. Other systems receive resumes via a centralized email address and scan the resumes into a candidate tracking system. It is helpful to know that your online application was received. However, from a candidate’s perspective, you want to know more. Not only do you want to know more, but the sooner the better! To a candidate, days of waiting feel like weeks of waiting!
You mention that you have an internal contact at this company. This contact could be very valuable to you. It would be helpful to better understand what the typical timeframe is between the “Application Received” to “Under Review?” Is it 10 days? 21 days? Or is it never for candidates of no interest? Your friend may be able to find out more information about these timeframes.
Additionally, can your friend put in a good word for you? Can your contact perhaps email the HR manager recommending you as a candidate? If your contact at this company is a former colleague, this may be very helpful to your candidacy.
Do you know others at this company? Have you scoured your LinkedIn connections and other professional contacts to determine if there are others that could be helpful in your search?
Recommendations carry weight. Recommendations coming from former colleagues or supervisors can be especially persuasive.
Lastly, you could email the HR manager asking for an update. This may be risky because you don't want to irritate the HR manager. I would recommend that the tone of this email be courteous, professional and demonstrate interest in the company and in the role.
Q. A friend of the family was interested and qualified for a finance position at the company my wife works for, and he asked my wife if she could pass his resume to the recruiter at her company. Five months have passed and there has been no contact from the recruiter or the hiring manager. My wife has been brushed off when she inquires and the role is not filled as of today.
Our friend is frustrated, and my wife is embarrassed. She has asked me if this is how human resources departments work. This is one area where HR people are getting a bad name and they can control it. Will they? Jobs need filling and people need jobs.
A. Employee referrals can be a highly effective way for organizations to find the right people for the right jobs. In a good economy many companies use employee referral programs as an incentive to current employees who refer high quality candidates that will fit into the culture. In the current economy, some employers have decided not to keep these bonus programs in place, but that shouldn’t stop employees from making referrals, or companies from paying attention to the candidates employees refer to the organization.
One of the most effective ways to make an employee referral is through an email introduction. And it may not be too late for your wife to try to get some attention from HR in this way. She should send an email to the hiring manager, the recruiter and the vice president of human resources, attaching your friends resume. In the email, she can copy the job posting, and address the personal characteristics your friend has which would make him a strong candidate. She might decide to copy or blind copy your friend so that he is totally confident she has done her part.
She should also ask both of them to get back to her about their reaction to the candidate and what the next steps might be – only so she can get back to the candidate. If they understand she will take the responsibility for rejection, they might choose to get back to her. If they are interested, they will move forward. Copying the vice president of human resources make the referral more visible, and will help your wife in case she doesn’t get a response.
Also, I encourage your wife and anyone making a referral to visit their offices, or make a phone call to the manager, and the recruiter to find out what to say to the candidate. It should be easier than this, but when people have too much to do, as most human resources people do, even important tasks fall through the cracks.
Candidates need to know that urgency to fill a specific job often comes and goes as competing priorities move in. Keep steady pressure on all your efforts in the most positive way. Frustration is such a huge part of the job search, and finding ways to keep it our of your professional presentation is a must. Continue to utilize employee referrals as one more way to build a successful job search strategy.
2011 is almost here and while many of us have been eagerly awaiting a fresh start in a New Year, economists are not predicting any immediate or significant job growth until the end of the year. This news combined with an already challenging job search can stir up some additional anxieties in many of us. I thought I would again take a break from our regular format, to share some pointers on how to put your best you forward in 2011 to find that next great job.
While we don't have influence over the global marketplace and can't control all the issues that plague our lives, there are some things we do have power over. We can control our professional development, our attitude and our connections. We can become better at our job searching techniques, stronger in our industries, and even more indispensible to our next organization. For the New Year, resolve to be the most productive connected job seeker. Here are five strategies for starting your New Year off right:
Keep your network alive—It’s never a good idea to neglect your network. Reconnect with former colleagues and managers. A vital part of networking is nurturing the relationships you have right now. Make those phone calls or set up coffee dates with colleagues, managers, clients, and vendors. You also want to build your network by cultivating new relationships. Make a goal to participate in at least one face-to-face networking event each month—both within your profession and your industry. Ask your connections to introduce you to someone you want to meet. You also want to take those phone calls you are getting from others looking for work. We all know ‘one hand washes another’, and you never know when a friend may be able to return a favor and pass on your resume to a contact at your dream company. Having a vibrant network is crucial in the job search, but it can also help you gain a well-rounded perspective for staying positive during a job search.
Be recognized as an industry expert—When a CEO is faced with a business dilemma, who is she going to call? Will she bring in a consultant or come straight to you? Build your reputation so that when you land that next position you become your organization’s “go to” person in your discipline. Get at least one person (preferably a manager) from every company you’ve worked for to write a recommendation on LinkedIn. Start following recognized authorities in your industry on Twitter. Read as many good business books you can fit into your free time. Read your local and national trade publications, and follow the general business media. It is important to be knowledgeable about issues specific to your discipline, but you can make more of an impact at your next interview by being on top of all the current happenings in your industry.
Find a mentor—Maybe you think mentors are only for those just beginning their careers—think again. Mentors can serve as valuable resources in any stage of your profession. Think about the goals you would like to accomplish in the short- and long-term. Do you want to hone a skill set or embark on a new challenge? How can a mentor help you reach these goals? Your goal can be lofty (I want to be a SVP in five years) or more focused (I want to learn how to start a micro blog). Allow others to share their insights and expertise to help you achieve your aspirations.
Volunteer—Part of what keeps us grounded and focused in our lives and jobs is keeping a larger perspective. One way to gain that perspective is through volunteerism. You can volunteer at your time at a local food bank or volunteer your professional skill sets at an organization that needs it. You may be able to share a valuable skill with those who are in need—and learn something in the process. By helping others, you can help yourself—and your job search.
Exercise resilience—The companies that have fared best under these uncertain economic circumstances have shown organizational resiliency. You can show personal resiliency as well by taking care of yourself—physically, mentally, spiritually, and professionally—so you will be better able to handle the challenges and opportunities 2011 may bring. Happy New Year!
Q: I am in a contract job but really need to land a full-time job in 2011. It seems like I am always a finalist but never get the offer after several rounds of interviews. What gives?
A: I appreciate your candor. In 2010, job seekers faced incredible competition for every available position. I have seen it from the other side of the table. My firm has recruited for several positions this past fall only to be inundated with queries from hundreds of job seekers. Job seekers have been advised to be persistent and they are indeed being persistent!
Let’s discuss what is working for you. Your resume must be strong since companies are interested enough to contact you. It sounds like you are being invited back for follow-up interviews. This is encouraging! If you are a poor interviewee, you would not have been invited back for “several rounds of interviews.” Interviewing is a skill that many improve with experience. Make sure that you when you leave an interview, you honestly assess your performance and think about what you could improve when interviewed again.
It sounds like you are well-qualified and have a strong background. But the reality is that others are getting offers. Even well-qualified candidates are being turned down by companies in this market. How can you differentiate yourself?
1. Always follow-up. Ask about follow-up before you leave an interview. Don’t leave it to guesswork. Ask about next steps. Email or mail a thank you note. Be gracious, sincere and professional.
2. Lead with your strengths. We are all humans with strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you fully articulate your strengths. Acknowledge but don’t dwell on your weaknesses. Explain how you have been able to compensate for your weaknesses.
3. Use inside connections. Use your network. Does someone in your network work at this employer? Does one of your contacts have another contact working at this employer? Inside contacts can make a difference.
4. Make sure that your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are a positive representation of who you are. Use the available privacy controls on Facebook. Employers are visiting these profiles so use them to your advantage.
5. Develop a working draft of a 30-60-90 day plan to present in the final stages of the selection cycle. The development of this type of plan requires a time commitment from you. You will need to have knowledge of the job, the culture of the organization and most importantly, a firm grasp of the hiring manager’s expectations.
If appropriate, you can email this to the hiring manager when you have been identified as a finalist. I would not recommend investing the time on such a plan unless you are certain you are a finalist. In this plan, you will want to lay out what you hope to achieve in the first 90 days. I would not expect this plan to be perfect but instead you would be asking for the hiring manager’s input.
Developing such a plan demonstrates a level of interest, commitment and would likely separate you from others. It would make you memorable – in a good way! Such a plan can also showcase your organizational and written communication skills.
6. Many contract roles can evolve into full-time positions. Is that a possibility in your current role?
7. Finally, stay in touch with the hiring managers that you have met during your search. Many of my clients are adding staff in 2011. If you made a positive impression, you could receive a call from one of these companies!
Keep swinging. Maintain a positive attitude and continue your search. You are doing a lot of job search activities well.
I get a lot of questions this time of year from job seekers who aren't sure whether they should continue their job search through the holidays. My answer is always a resounding yes. Therefore, I thought I would take a break from our regular format to provide some tips on how to shine as a candidate during the holiday season when it's even more challenging than usual to get the attention of a hiring mananger.
In short, I suggest you become your very own Santa Claus and make sure your efforts reflect the “Nice” list.
Naughty. Be a humbug!
Nice.Take time to recognize your individual blessings. Enjoy the holidays, join in the celebration, and remember that we all have something to feel good about. This will actually endear you to friends, family, and others.
Naughty. Give up and restart your efforts in the New Year.
Nice. Bump your job search efforts up a notch by increasing your holiday activities to stand out from those job searchers who simply give up during the holiday season.
Naughty. Ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Nice. Lend a helping hand. Volunteering to help others can expand your network of contacts and allow you to demonstrate your talents at a time of year when many corporate, charitable or community support programs are short of help.
Naughty. Refuse invitations to holiday parties.
Nice. Take advantage of the season’s social hubbub as holiday parties offer great opportunities to expand your network. Also, reignite your network connections and spread good cheer by sending holiday greeting cards.
Naughty. Have a bleak and negative response to, “How’s the job search?” that revolves around where you have been and why you haven’t found a job yet.
Nice. Have a positive and proactive response to, “How’s the job search?” that focuses on where you are going and what you are looking for.
Naughty.Focus only on making your interactions with people about job leads.
Nice. Focus more on getting to know other people so you can build stronger, long-term relationships that will create more opportunities personally and professionally.
Naughty. Give in to the stress and strife.
Nice.Give yourself permission to simply relax. Not only will you enjoy the holiday season, taking a few scheduled days off will help you stay mentally fit and refreshed in the months to come—making you a more attractive candidate and potentially shortening your search.
Q. I have been job hunting for over a year. I put together my original resume using one of the major online resume services. The result was okay, but I have submitted 30 online applications and am getting little to no interest. I'm not confident that my resume is as good as it could be and I need help. I would like to work with someone experienced who can help me fine tune my resume. I am willing to pay a reasonable price for quality. How can I find a reputable, knowledgeable consultant?
A. Resumes are one key part of a job search, and a successful job seeker needs to have an accomplishment driven resume to support his or her candidacy and showcase his/her talents. But, even the best resume can't get you a job - especially if too few people see it.
Your job search has not been effective over the last year, and we need to assess what may be limiting your success. Doing a recap and assessment of progress, successes and challenges, every quarter of a job search, can help you make adjustments which will get you closer to the offer stage.
Anyone who has submitted an online application knows how frustrating, impersonal and inflexible the process can be. You can go through the entire process and get hung up in the internal system, which can shut down and leave you hanging. Companies are trying to develop better systems, but until then remember; an online application is a first step in the job search process, and not a last step. This method of application is the minimum requirement to get into the process, and a minimum investment yields a minimum response.
You completed thirty online applications and that is admirable. Those applications must have been very targeted. You aren't getting any response, and it may be your resume, but more likely, you need to broaden your search. Were these 30 online applications generated from hours of research and networking? Was the application completed at the direction of people who told you that is how you could get involved in the process? Did you start with a broad target and come down to these bulls eye roles? Or did you generate these positions as jobs you would be willing to accept? How many more positions should you be considering, and how many more opportunities can you uncover if you broaden your targets and your job search methodology?
Applying online is one method, and you can stay online to move into method two - networking - through online tools such as LinkedIn, or Facebook. You can also complete online research of the recruiters who work with people in your area of expertise. Also, you should check all the online job boards including Monster, Career Builder, and MyJSTN.
But, you can't run an entire job search online. We know on average it takes 150 networking meetings, plus the work that surrounds getting those meetings, to successfully land a job. You can choose to hold these meetings over 18 months, 12 months or 6 months. Some of these meetings will be very helpful - others, well, not so much! But, what they will do is help you understand with great clarity what is happening with the kinds of roles you are looking for, and the kinds of companies you are interested in, and who they are hiring.
Job search math says there are typically 200 candidates for every online application. Are you doing everything you can to improve your odds? As you reviewed your tools, you became concerned that your resume could be improved. The New England chapter of the Association of Career Professionals provides a list of members who are qualified to work with you to write your resume: www.acpi-ne.org.
You may find that the benefit of working with a career professional on your resume leads you to look at the many other career coaching services a great career coach can provide. If they can shorten your job search by one month, how much value could that provide?
Whether you decide to use a coach or not, the real hunt begins when you dedicate yourself to the volume of work that needs to be done to be successful, and you do the work you may not want to do, each and every day.
Q: I have heard a lot of conflicting advice on where and how to look for a job. I am a recent college graduate and have been on a contract assignment since September, 2010. I took the summer off and did not job hunt but used the time to enjoy myself. In hindsight, I think that was a mistake. My parents are ruthless and are irritated that I have not found a job with benefits since I am now a college-educated adult. I like my contract work but I am sort of ashamed that I haven't landed a real full-time job like my friends that recently graduated. Can you give me a list of 10 things to try? I am beginning to get hopeless. My parents will believe your advice and I am willing to try anything.
A: Let's start with some positives. Congratulations on earning a college degree! And kudos on landing a job in a challenging economy! Both are achievements! It is a tough time to be a job seeker but that should not slow you down. A contract assignment is often an effective way for both a job seeker and an employer to "test the waters." By that I mean you are learning about their culture, expectations, work environment all while receiving valuable "on the job" training and experience. This employer is also learning about you -- your skill set, work habits and your potential value if you are hired as a full-time employee. Contract assignments can often lead to full-time offers! A contract role is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, you should be explaining to prospective employers that although you are a job seeker, you are actively employed!
Let me share a bulleted list of actionable steps that should be part of your job search.
1. Network, network, network. Maintain a strong and vibrant network of contacts. They may be former classmates, professors, co-workers, neighbors or friends. Networking is simply the most powerful job hunting tool available and almost completely in your control.
2. LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to help you more effectively network. Complete and
profile and get active. Join sub-groups related to your career and interests. LinkedIn is not a substitute for networking. Instead it should compliment and target your networking efforts.
3. Use job boards but don’t focus 100% of your time on job boards.
4. Familiarize yourself with Twitter. Jobs are constantly being tweeted and re-tweeted. You can follow specific industries, people and interests.
5. Use your career services office. Join an alumni group.
6. Develop an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a two minute summary of who you are, what you want to do and what your next role might look like. Make sure it is succint and positive. Eliminate the negativity. In your question, you used words like "hopeless" and "ashamed." Make sure that these words are not part of your elevator speech.
7. Never say no to an introduction. You never know where a job lead may come from. A former college professor, a neighbor or a cousin could all introduce you to a job lead.
8. Be gracious and courteous. Always thank those that have given you their time, their feedback or a referral.
9. Make sure that your resume is crisp, professional, error-free and in a reader-friendly font.
10. Lastly, if you are a top contender for an opportunity, think about submitting a 30-60-90 day plan. This plan should articulate what you hope to accomplish in your first 90 days on the job. This demonstrates a focus, a level of interest and a seriousness that may differentiate you from your competition.
I hope these steps are helpful. Good luck with your search.
Q. I am an RN and I left a job I had for 3 years at a health information company to accept an electronic medical record training position with a major healthcare organization, reporting to the SVP. When I arrived to start my new job, the job description and my report to manager had changed. This was all a surprise to me. After five weeks, I was released by my newly assigned middle manager, with no documented reason, other than being told I was still a probationary hire. This is a first for me! How do I handle presenting this to a new employer and what about on my resume?
A.Presenting the job on your resume and developing a public statement on a very short job can be a challenge. You might decide not to add the job to your resume to eliminate the immediate screening from a resume review. You have a good story to tell in networking meetings, or interviews, and hopefully you can articulate some of the actions you took with your former employer to understand what had happened.
The original agreement, and the reason you chose to leave a stable job was for a specific role, and to report to a Senior Vice President. Change happens in organizations, and we can understand that. At the same time, you should have been given the opportunity to try and understand it, by being prepared for the changes prior to your first day. What should have happened is the SVP, the person who hired you, should have called you to explain the organizational changes which needed to occur on both the reporting structure and the responsibilities of the new role. You would then have had the opportunity to discuss these changes in greater detail, register any concerns, and make arrangements to meet with your new manager, in addition to a face to face meeting with the SVP.
You deserved the opportunity to accept this new “offer”, to reject it, or to work out some kind of understanding about what your future would hold. Five weeks seems very fast for any action to be taken, especially being separated from the job.
There are so many questions to ask, which in hindsight may have altered the outcome. Did you talk to the SVP? Did you talk to a human resources person? What did your original offer letter say? Did you have an offer in writing? Some people would suggest you had an opportunity to talk to a lawyer if the written offer was not honored as it was written. Were you offered severance based on the separation, and the initial circumstances?
People have accepted offers, and changed their minds, or received better offers. Companies have made offers and then withdrawn them based on changes in the economy, or other circumstances. These situations do happen, and when both sides work with integrity and honest communication, facing responsibility for their own actions, fair resolutions should result.
I encourage you to communicate with a senior leader at this firm about a positive public statement which supports your job search. Your conversations with potential employers should be using the same statement showing your understanding of the organizational changes which led to your departure.
Q: I graduated in May with a degree in accounting and am struggling badly trying to find a job. I don't know exactly what I am doing wrong or what to do next. Advice?
A: Congratulations on your degree! Don’t despair. Let’s focus on some action steps that you can take to hopefully improve your job search.
- Get connected with your career services office at your college. Often the career services offices will have jobs posted by both local and national employers.
- Consider temporary or contract work. There are many firms that specialize in accounting. Shop around to find one that best meets your needs.
- Create a profile on LinkedIn. Join accounting related groups on LinkedIn. Start connecting with folks, former classmates, professors, friends and neighbors on LinkedIn.
- Research Meetup. Meetup.com is an online tool that connects people with common interests from cooking to technology. You can enter accounting into their search engine and see if there is a group that might be meeting soon.
- Join a professional association. Some to consider are The American Accounting Association (www.aaahq.org), The Massachusetts Association of Public Accountants (www.mapaweb.org) and the National Society of Accountants (www.nsacct.org).
- Make sure that your resume is clear, crisp and presents your education and work experience effectively.
- Network, network and then network some more. Your goal should be 2 in-person meetings per day. Coffees in the morning and an ice tea in the afternoon. Translation – you don’t have to pick up the tab for two meals per day for two people. A cup of coffee is more affordable than a meal! You should offer to pick up the tab if someone takes time out of their schedule to meet you for an hour. Offer to pay. They don’t have to accept but offer to pay. It is a nice gesture and demonstrates that you are a professional!
- Develop a 1-2 minute elevator speech. It should include who you are, a summary of your education and work experience and some information on what type of role you hope to land.
- Look at job boards but don’t spend your entire day searching online. I often advise job seekers to limit themselves to two hours per day on job boards. Many find that limit helpful.
I also consulted James Elgart, Chief Financial Officer of Cambridge Biomarketing in Cambridge, MA. Elgart’s advice:
My suggestion for recent graduates in accounting is to look for opportunities in public accounting. If the larger firms are not “biting”, don’t dismiss regional and even smaller CPA firms. Gaining experience in public accounting will provide a real opportunity to roll up the sleeves and get a taste of a lot of different areas within accounting (e.g., individual taxes, business taxes, audits, etc.). Getting exposure to the functional areas within accounting is important. Ultimately, you will gravitate to those areas where you demonstrate competence and hopefully enjoy the challenges offered.
Further, Elgart advises to explore the requirements to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Although it requires significant effort, it is a differentiator on a resume. Becoming a “CPA candidate”, qualifies you to become a student member of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (www.mscpaonline.org). Lastly, Elgart recommends to keep up-to-date on QuickBooks and other technologies and software.
Q: For the past few years, I have had, by necessity (layoffs, family illness, economy, etc.), held a series of short-tenured jobs. Before then, I was a very successful top salesperson. Now, just everybody who reviews my resume comments on my short stays and despite my explanations, they toss my resume aside. What can I do?
A: This is a very good question and one that I am commonly asked. The days of spending 10, 15 or even 20 years at a single company are over for many.
Fortunately, there are a number of solutions on how to best present your work history in your resume. First, remember… always, lead with your strengths (just as you would when you were a successful salesperson).
Some solutions that may work for your resume:
- After your contact information, include a summary of your skills and work experience that is persuasive. Make sure that you have included certain key words that would trigger a key word search. For example, if you have a strong background in software sales, make sure that you include software sales in your summary. Larger companies often scan resumes and then hiring managers will do a key word search to find the best candidates from the internal database of scanned resumes.
- Include metrics in your resume. How much did you sell against your quota or your goal? Did you land any challenging or name brand accounts? What were your greatest achievements? A sales resume without metrics is a yellow (if not red) flag for most hiring professionals.
- Consider a traditional chronological format but eliminate the months and use only the years. Instead of 06/2002-7/2003, consider 2002-2003. It reads a bit more smoothly, is still truthful but minimizes any gaps along the way.
- If a traditional chronological format does not work, consider a functional resume. A functional resume is a resume where like skills and work experiences are grouped together. It can be effective when well-written.
Beyond your resume, make sure that you are actively engaging in the most successful job hunting tactics. Social media tools and job boards are important but are not a substitute for in-person networking.
Ensure that you have perfected your elevator speech. What is that? An elevator speech is a two minute summary of you who are as a candidate, a quick summary of your work history and what your next career steps might be. Your elevator speech should be authentic, truthful and highlight your strengths. This elevator speech should be your “opener” for almost every conversation that you have that is career-related.
A sample is below:
Hi. My name is Jane Smith. I am a salesperson through and through. I have about 12 years of sales experience working primarily in software sales. I began my career as an inside sales rep and enjoyed tremendous success – winning the President’s Sales Cup three years in row while I was with TUV Company. I was then promoted into a field sales role where I landed quite a few big clients like ABC, DEF and JKL. Most recently I sold online advertising space for QRS and exceeded my quota by 10% or more every year. I went back to school in 2005 and earned an MBA from State U. I am now looking for my next sales role. I love selling and am eager to return to a fast-paced, quota-driven role where I am measured on landing new business.
There is tremendous competition for each and every opportunity right now. And the selection process seems to lengthen a bit during the summer months because of vacations and other scheduling conflicts.
Let me share one tactic that some successful candidates have offered to my clients recently. Final candidates are often sharing a 90-day plan with a prospective employer. The 30-60-90 plan includes goals and milestones that the candidate expects to accomplish in the first 90 days. These plans serve to differentiate a candidate – in a good way. Such a plan can illustrate a candidate’s ability to think critically about success factors if offered the job. The plan demonstrates interest and showcases the candidate’s ability to organize and present information in a logical format.
Lastly, in your situation, you will need to perfect your responses to questions regarding gaps in your work history. Some gaps are explainable and some are not. You will likely get asked about gaps in your work history, so let me offer a suggestion. One sample approach for you to consider:
As we discussed, I was at QRS for over seven years. I left QRS to take care of my elderly mother. Thankfully, my mother’s health has improved dramatically. When I was ready to return to the job market, the economy was not working in my favor. I landed a job at DEF. It was a venture-backed company and it ran out of funding, so I was laid off along with 50 other employees. I am now looking for a new sales position and would love to land a role similar to the role at QRS. I loved that role and was very successful in exceeding my quota month after month there.
Notice I led with a strength (providing a real-life example where you have showed commitment to a company). Then, I provided an honest explanation of a gap in your work history. Further, I explained another gap in a direct and non-defensive manner. Finally, I closed with a positive, forward-looking statement.
It is also worth visiting the jobs section of www.boston.com. There is alot of information about resume writing, interviewing skills and job search tactics.
Q. I am very interested in joining a small consulting company. I was introduced to the staff through a networking contact and had a great initial meeting with a consultant. After that, they asked me back for informal meetings with a few different people. They are all great and they seem to like me too. I know they have a real opening, but I haven’t been asked to interview for the position yet. What are my next steps? I don’t want to be too pushy, but I don’t want to lose what I think could be a great opportunity.
A. So far so good! Discovering opportunity through your network is exactly what job seekers hope for. Your network led you to what seems to be a good match and there is a great deal for you to do at this stage. Many people might describe meetings as informal, but meeting people you want to work with who might want to work with you, is anything but informal. Interviewing is a process of getting to know someone, the skills they have and their experience. It is also an opportunity to learn what an organization is looking for in terms of skills, style, and strengths needed for success on the job. Interviews do not necessarily need to start with formal invitations or use the question and answer format.
Your “interview” started with the introduction you received from your networking contact. That person described you; your skill set, and in their encouragement to meet, probably suggested some areas of professional interest for their contacts to explore. In each interaction you have had so far, you have been assessed for the position they are hiring for. Each participant in the interview process most likely has a list of criteria they have for the new hire and in their meetings with you, are looking for examples or demonstrations of these criteria. So, now you know you have been interviewing and you know you have not answered the most important questions they never asked.
Not every interviewer can provide candidates with a good interview, and as a result, great candidates need to over-prepare. Most people will prepare a list of the questions they anticipate being asked and they will prepare answers to these questions. They will also prepare a list of questions they want to ask. These preparations are all valuable, but where good candidates stop preparing, great candidates continue. Regardless of the questions asked, great candidates prepare a list of the messages they need to get across. Have you learned how they would describe the successful candidate? If you know what you would like to be asked in a formal interview, you know what you’ll discuss regardless of what gets asked or doesn’t. Are there examples of work you have done that you can discuss so the hiring organization can see how you would be successful on the job?
You have been interviewing, and now you have the opportunity to demonstrate the behaviors of a successful member of a small consulting company. So, take the initiative to arrange a next meeting. Discuss your sincere and significant interest in their organization and make sure you are prepared to convey the information which will make them see the best option there is – making you an offer.
Q: I have recently relocated to the USA after getting married, and have lost most of my educational, professional and most personal networks. I've started playing some team sports locally and also engaged in some professional development, but I was interested in advice to build out my network, specifically in the accounting industry.
A: Welcome to the US and congratulations on your recent marriage! You are smart to begin thinking about establishing contacts here. A few suggestions:
• Use your spouse! Your spouse could be a very good conduit to new contacts – personally and professionally!
• You mention education. Research your educational institutions. My bet is that they have alumni associations or networking events in the Massachusetts area.
• There are many professional associations that you should research. Here are a few worth your consideration: The American Accounting Association (www.aaahq.org), The Massachusetts Association of Public Accountants (www.mapaweb.org) and the National Society of Accountants (www.nsacct.org).
• Use LinkedIn. If you don’t have a profile, establish one. Your former contacts may have valuable contacts here in the US that could be very helpful in developing a strong network of contacts locally. LinkedIn also offers a number of subgroups that could be very helpful on both job leads, current events and networking opportunities.
• Learn about MeetUp groups (www.meetup.com). There are groups in the Boston area who meet regularly to discuss topics that range from Quickbooks to sled dogs. If you have a personal interest (like team sports), this may be a good way to broaden those contacts.
• Never say no to an introduction. Even if it at first it doesn’t seem to make sense, that introduction may lead to other helpful connections.
• Get to know your neighbors and your community. Coffee shops, houses of worship and even outdoor summer concerts in your town or city can offer opportunities to meet and connect with others.
With time, you will find that your personal and professional contacts will develop and expand. And someday you will take the extra time to welcome a newcomer to the area.
Q. I recently attend a legislative reception consisting of cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres and networking. What is the proper etiquette for keeping your suit jacket buttoned? Many of the men had unbuttoned their jackets while talking, but I thought that one would keep it buttoned until they sat down. What would be the correct procedure?
S. F., Richmond, VA
A. Etiquette is an ever-evolving set of guidelines that help us know what to do and what to expect others to do so our interactions can be as successful and positive as possible. One way etiquette has clearly been changing is in the softening of a variety of rigid “rules”. One such rigid rule was the notion that men should always button their jackets unless they are sitting down. To button or not to button is no longer a mandate. More important is your own comfort level because if you are comfortable, you will exude an air of confidence which is a good thing both in business social and purely social situations. You might want to button because it will create a more formal look . At an interview or when making a major presentation, the buttoned look helps create an image of polished professionalism. You might choose a more casual unbuttoned look at a social or business social event such as the one mentioned in the question. The sense of comfort and approachability that the unbuttoned look gives can make joining a group and engaging in small talk easier and more pleasant.
If you are going to button, whether you are wearing a three button or a two-button jacket, don’t button the bottom button. With a three-button jacket you can button both the top and middle buttons, or just the middle button. Some image experts will tell you buttoning only the middle of the three buttons is a more casual look. If you have a double breasted jacket keeping it buttoned when standing looks better.
In today’s world the important issues relating to wearing a suit or jacket are:
1. When you have a choice, wear one. So often I go to events and am astonished to see men wearing a sweater or just a shirt or even jeans and a t-shirt, no jacket much less a tie. If it’s even a question of to wear or not to wear, then wear a jacket and tie. You can always take it off. But if you don’t have a jacket and tie and it turns out the occasion is more formal, then you’re out of luck.
2. A good fit. Regardless of how complimentary the sales person is, take your new purchase to a tailor and have it altered to fit your body. It’s well worth the extra investment. You’ll look sharp and confident.
Q. I have recently relocated to the USA after getting married, and have lost most of my educational, professional and most personal networks. I've started playing some team sports locally and also engaged in some professional development, but I was interested in advice to build out my network, specifically in the accounting industry.
A. Congratulations on your recent marriage, and welcome to the USA. I hope you have long and successful relationships with your new spouse and new country! A move like this does have a significant impact on your network, however your world is still within reach due to technological improvements like Skype, email, and low international calling rates.
Building a network should be a goal of every job seeker, every new college graduate, and all professionals who hope to further their careers. Many job seekers regret that they let their networks lapse as they worked with their heads down, paying little attention to maintaining or developing their network. Almost all successful job seekers commit to maintaining their networks due to all the time, energy, and effort they put into creating a highly effective group of contacts.
First start with LinkedIn. Develop your profile, and link to all of your pre-move contacts. Review the groups available from your educational institutions, and professional organizations you might have been part of and join any appropriate ones. Your college or university may have subgroups based on geography. If they don't, consider starting one. There may be more of your academic compatriots here than anyone is aware.
Review new regional groups you might be interested in as well. There are many accounting and finance related groups of professionals, and many have local meetings which you should attend.
Share an update on LinkedIn highlighting what you are looking for regarding accounting connections in your preferred geographic area. Ask your personal contacts to link, in addition to the new sports colleagues you have. This will help you find out more about the professional lives of your teammates. Many professionals neglect connecting to a broad range of people, yet reaching beyond professionals in your industry alone often leads to the best connections who offer information, insight and introductions not as easily available elsewhere. All of these connections will give you a great base on which to build your local network.
Also look at any potential cultural groups - LinkedIn and locally - whose members are from your country of origin. Many cultural groups offer local social and professional events and your local network can continue to grow in this way. The common bond you share with participants typically motivates group members to try and help you develop a network who can support your career aspirations.
You mentioned professional development activities, which are a great way to find out more about the local activities in a profession. Make an effort to meet the members of the board of directors of any professional associations. They are typically very knowledgeable about career opportunities and considered leaders in their fields. If the activities are academic, connect with the faculty for their ideas about new contacts, and to see if they know of the most effective job sites for your areas of interest.
I know your spouse will be eager to help, and adding that network to your own will also be an effective way to expand your connections. There are always more people to connect with and new ways to make it happen, so just keep pushing forward and you’ll have a great network in no time.
Q: I have applied for several jobs within my company through our internal job posting system. I have been turned down at least three times in the past year for internal opportunities. I need someone to give me a chance at a new role. I am in a job that is monotonous and boring. I have been doing it for more than one year. I have a degree in communications but I am hardly using it. There is so much out there about how to land a new job when you are unemployed. My company has not had lay-offs like other companies. What gives? What about finding a new job within your current company? I also don’t think my company is posting all open jobs within our company.
A: You are in a fortunate position but probably don’t realize how fortunate your current situation may be. First, you are gainfully employed when national unemployment figures are hovering around 10%. You may not be in your ideal job but it sounds like your company offers a stable environment. Many will be reading your question and feeling envious rather than sympathetic.
Congratulations! Your company posts some jobs internally! Not all companies post jobs internally. And it sounds like there have been some internal opportunities posted despite the overall challenges during this recession. Your employer is not required to post all jobs. Your company can select which open positions to post and which ones not to post. In general, posting jobs internally though is a good practice. It allows existing employees to move within an organization and also sends a message that your company is hiring. This is a welcome signal to many employees. Lastly, posting a job internally often yields a significant number of employee referrals from existing employees. Many employers offer employee referral bonuses or other rewards if an existing employee refers a candidate that is hired.
Without knowing a lot about your company, I can tell you that there are many, many employees at your company who are focusing on the work on their desks and feeling like they are lucky to have jobs. There are likely employees at your company that are not aggressively pursuing roles outside of your company, particularly if your employer is stable. With more and more employee remaining in their current positions, this often results in less movement internally within companies. This pattern often occurs during recessions.
Although I understand you feel like you are currently not challenged, there are ways to improve your chances at progressing within your current organization. A few pieces of advice:
• First, perform your current job well, really well. It sounds so obvious but it is true. Many employers will not allow an employee to post for another role if the employee is not performing well in their current role.
• Ask for additional duties and responsibilities if you have the ability to take on more work. You will be viewed as a “go-getter” who performs beyond the expectations of your job. Do not use extra time to chat with co-workers, text friends or check social networking sites.
• Make sure that your relationships with peers, colleagues, members of your HR team, your supervisor and others are strong and professional. Develop a strong internal network of colleagues. Avoid excessive complaining, whining or negativity even if your role is not ideal.
• Don’t post for every position that becomes available. Be thoughtful. Post for those roles that are a reasonable step beyond your current position. Make sure that you are qualified. If you are required to submit a written document when you post for a job, make sure that you present your qualifications in a crisp and professional manner. I would guess that internally posted positions are attracting many qualified candidates from within your company. Competition is fierce for almost all opportunities right now.
• Be gracious to those that spent time with you during the posting process. Send thank you emails or notes. I often favorably remember those candidates that send me a thank you note or email. It is a small world. One of the individuals may be a colleague or even a supervisor some day.
• Think about challenging yourself in other ways like learning a new skill (think about which skills may be helpful in your next position) or returning to school at night.
Hiring has picked up recently but I am certainly not seeing a hiring frenzy with any of my clients. I think most companies are filling roles in a cautious and prudent manner.
Q: There is an article on the web saying unemployed people looking for jobs won’t be hired because companies only want to hire employed people. I’m unemployed, and I need a job. Is this true? What else can I do to make sure I can get hired?
A: There is an article circulating on the web titled “Out-of-work job applicants told unemployed need not apply”, by Chris Isidore. The message suggests organizations are only looking to hire people who are currently in jobs, and not active job seekers.
In recruiting terms, there are only two types of people – active candidates – those publically looking for jobs who may be employed or unemployed, and have gone public with their search activity; and passive candidates who are not actively seeking a new job but might consider a new opportunity if they were approached by a recruiter – and the offer was attractive enough.
Many recruiters do find that they have client companies who make this situation a reality. The client company will engage the recruiter in a search, and will say they don’t want unemployed candidates; they are only interested in considering the currently employed. This is a disheartening message to many job seekers, and a message which needs to be considered carefully. There have always been employers who are looking for employed candidates only, and I see fewer and fewer of those hiring criteria.
What’s important to point out here is that many of the experts quoted in the article are retained or contingency recruiters and jobs filled by recruiters only account for somewhere between 5 and 9% of job openings – depending on your source. With so many candidates available, companies choose to use recruiters for a few reasons, including having very specific criteria involving specialized skills which are most often not easily identified. They also choose to use recruiters with expertise who can sort through volumes of paper representing resumes of candidates eager to apply for a job they may not be ideally suited for. However, job openings are filled, more often than not, through non-recruiter methods.
Recruiters typically charge between 25 and 30% of the first year’s cash compensation for finding the successful candidate. Some companies believe that a recruiter only earns that fee by generating the research to identify perfect passive candidates, and to convince them to interview. They may find it hard to believe that the same research and the same influence needed to get a passive candidate to consider the opportunity is exactly what is used to source and recruit an active candidate. Recruiters work for the company paying the fee, and do want to make sure they are seen as adding value – value worthy of the fee. They may believe an active candidate is an “A” candidate, but if the company has discussed their passive requirement, recruiters will work to meet the company request.
So while this information is true for some jobs, some companies, and some recruiters, all data says the significant majority of jobs are filled through networking. You asked what you can do to increase your chances of finding work, and networking is the best solution to this challenge. Do not rely on search firms, job boards, or ads. All these methods of job search will play a part in your job search – but less than 25% of your time should be spent in all three of these areas with at least 75% dedicated to developing a strong, diverse, and supportive network.
Q. I know executive search firms use video to interview so they don’t have to travel, and more people are video chatting, and people work virtually, but I am having a hard time understanding the virtual job fair concept. I need a job so I’ll do what it takes but is this for real? I’m not so sure about the ads I read for people who will help you get a job. Tell me if this is “spam”.
A. You are right about technology encroaching on many aspects of the traditional job search, and not just from the candidate’s side. Using LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, blogs, and job boards are now standard for hiring managers and the use of video interviews are no longer limited to retained search firms. They are used by human resource executives interested in expanding their pool of potential candidates.
The combination of all these technologies combined with companies seeking great candidates and job seekers looking for great jobs comprise a virtual job fair. These multi-media based recruitment platforms started with avatars representing the job seeker and the recruiter – not exactly at the level we see with today’s avatars. Many companies considered these a costly activity with a cost of hire was too high to make these events worth while.
There are a number of organizations. , like Career Builder, producing virtual career fairs. They are real, and each fair needs to be assessed based on the value they provide, the cost, and the amount of access to companies.
I asked Lindsay Stanton, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategy for Job Search Television Network (JSTN) to explain more about the services. “A JSTN video virtual career fair is a video based event allowing company clients to use their Video Job Reports and Company Profiles and candidates to connect with the opportunities on a dynamic level and see an inside view of the organization.” Through the JSTN television network, channel 62 locally, strategic partnerships, and web advertising, JSTN attracts active and passive job seekers from recent college graduates to executives.
Lindsay also points out “We have partnered with colleges and universities around the country helping alumni access the services and we are partnered with disabledperson.com and JOFDAV.com (Job Opportunities for Disabled American Veterans).
At the virtual job fair, candidates can create a 20 second video introduction by using their web-cam for only $5.00. Recruiters can view these, chat live if they are interested, and save them to refer to after the event. During the live chat recruiters and candidates can interact by exchanging an application and resume. Candidates also have access to career consultants, and expert advice on the JSTN site and at the virtual job fair.
To register for JSTN’s next virtual career fair visit, http://www.myjstn.com/vcf/ad/keyston_partners
As a candidate, you need to be prepared to answer questions quickly, make a positive impression, and have a strong resume which you can speak to comfortably. Looking good on video and knowing what you want to highlight is also key. Professional attire is a must. I recommend practicing on your own video equipment if you have it! Video gives you the opportunity to make a great impression, or to land at the bottom of the pile. Develop these new job search skills to be the most effective candidate you can be.
Q. How long should you reasonably be expected to commit to a new job? I'm in an entry-level position currently and have been looking for a new job on-and-off for the last 18 months with no success. I'll likely move out of state next summer when my boyfriend finishes graduate school. Advancement within my company isn't an option. I’ve promised myself I'll stop my search once I know I would be at a new job for less than a year, but I still feel uneasy submitting applications. I'm very unhappy with my current job, but don't want to make enemies at a new job by leaving shortly after starting. Any advice would be most appreciated.
A. P., Huntington, NY
A. While the time frame can change, a one-year minimum commitment to a job is a good rule of thumb. That time frame can be affected by the type of job it is and how long employees typically stay in the particular position before advancing or changing jobs.
Before springing your time limitation in an interview, try to ascertain the expectations of the particular position. Ask how long the person before you held it and if that was the typical tenure. If the interviewer asks how long you’re able to commit, be upfront about your time constraints. You’re correct in thinking that you’re less likely to get a good recommendation or future career network support if you leave a job soon after taking it.
A year is a long time and plans can change. There are a variety of factors that may influence your situation a year from now. A new job may turn out to be your dream job that you don't want to leave. Your boyfriend’s plans may change. While I hope it’s rock solid, your relationship itself may change. Your instincts are correct: if you arrive at a point where you will be in your present job for less than a year, then staying there until your future is well defined may be your best option. You’ll be able to give your employer reasonable notice and leave on a positive note and, perhaps, with a letter of recommendation.
You’ve looked for a new job unsuccessfully on and off for 18 months. If you decide to continue your search, shake things up. In your off hours, make the job search your number one priority, not an on- or off- again effort. Examine your current network and how you can modify or add to it to help you be successful. A one-year position could be a perfect opportunity to try something different outside your career experience or education. There may be interesting opportunities at a local hospital, retail store, dot-com, financial business, or non-profit.
Laura Lang is chief executive of Digitas, a large Boston-based digital marketing agency, and a member of the Massachusetts Women's Forum, a group of 100 top female executives in the state. Before coming to Digitas, Lang worked in consulting and strategy for a variety of companies, most recently as president of Marketing Corporation of America. She recently spoke to Sasha Talcott about social media, career advice, and what she looks for in job candidates.
Q: You did an MBA in finance at Wharton. How did you wind up on the marketing side?
I took lots of marketing classes, too. I was interviewing on Wall Street as well as consumer marketing. I was fascinated by the kinds of thing you did as a marketer. You had to learn why people did things. You had to motivate people. Wall Street is much more structured and much more analytical – it's not as much about understanding people.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
I would have to say time management: Learning how to make fast decisions so I didn't spend lots of extra time worrying about that. Learning how to prioritize the things that really mattered. I'm very fortunate. I have a wonderful family, lots of hobbies and athletic pursuits. I always wanted to have a very well-rounded life.
You can have anything you want, but not everything. If it was really important to spend an afternoon at my daughter's school, I had to think, how was I going to organize my life to do that? How could I become more efficient? I always tied to put my priorities on the table, personal and professional, and work around them.
Q: Were your employers supportive of this?
Yes, they were. One of the things I learned was to become a part of organizations that cared about outcomes – not necessarily process. That helped me. As long as I could deliver the right outcomes, I had more flexibility in what I was able to do. That doesn't mean I didn't work incredibly hard and make lots of trade-offs.
Q: When you are hiring candidates at Digitas, what do you look for? Is there anything specific that makes or breaks a candidate?
For me, the most important thing in a candidate is intellectual curiosity. Digitas is a company that's very rapidly changing – the digital world changes every day. It's important we hire people who are curious about what's going on and who are willing to learn and want to learn. I look for core leadership traits.
Q: What's the best piece of career advice you ever got?
One of the things was to be fearless. To not be afraid of making decisions. My husband is a great baseball fan. He told me that a Hall of Fame hitter only gets a hit three or maybe four times out of 10. I often think about that.
Early in my career, I sometimes found it difficult to make the tough people decisions – I had to learn that. In business, you want to listen. You want to learn. You want to make sure you're not proceeding without information. But if you wait too long, you can actually hurt an organization even more.
Q: With digital marketing growing so rapidly, what are the key trends that those in business should pay attention to?
We are at our core very social beings. People want to connect with other people, and we finally have technology that enables that. That's going to be a very powerful part of how we live our lives.
It isn't a channel – it's the way we live. It's like the air we breathe. There's always going to be lots of stuff: Twitter -- or what's hot now is foursquare. It always has the same things underneath: People want to connect. They want to share they want to learn from each other. That's not going to change.
Q: Are you on Twitter? Facebook?
Linked In? foursquare? Yes, yes, yes, yes. My only challenge is that I don't have enough time to spend on all of them. I'd be overwhelmed if I was on it all of the time.
Sasha Talcott is one of five co-founders of a mentoring and networking group for emerging female leaders, Tomorrow's Women Today – The Boston Women's Leadership Council.
Q: I have been an unsuccessful job hunter. I have emailed hundreds of resumes to hundreds of advertised positions. I spend hours doing this every day and have received little response. It has been six months. Sometimes I receive no response and sometimes an auto response that says "We have received your resume and will contact you if we are interested." I am tired of hearing that the economy is improving. My economy is not improving. Give me five things I can do to land a job in today's economy. Help (please).
A: First, stop what you are doing. It is not working. Let's talk about what you can do that might bring you more success. I will even give you more than five ways to improve your success rate!
1. Be careful of your outlook. What do I mean? Employers don't want to hire angry, tired and frustrated job seekers. And most of us certainly don't want to work with angry, tired and frustrated co-workers. Be careful of your tone, demeanor and other negative signals that you are potentially sending to prospective employers. You sound frustrated. Be careful. This could hinder your ability to land a job.
2. Rarely does firing off resumes to 101 posted job openings work. Instead, think about your professional contacts. Former colleagues, co-workers, even friends and neighbors. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Connect with them on Facebook. Connect with them in person. Networking works. I often draw a parallel between networking and a pinball game. Why? You connect with Dan and it leads to a referral to Dan's former colleague, Haley. Then out of the blue, Bob contacts you because he just had coffee with Haley and he has an engineering role that might be appropriate for your skill set. Seriously, it works.
3. Scour job boards but don't solely rely on advertisements and job boards for job leads. First, not all jobs are posted. Second, once a job is posted, the competition heats up. Limit your time on job boards. It is easy to say "I spent 5 hours job hunting today." But if 5 hours of your time was surfing job boards, this probably isn't the best use of your time.
4. Use online tools to help you network. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have all landed candidates jobs. Online tools are very helpful but are not a replacement for in-person networking. You will still need to network in person and via telephone. Think about setting yourself a networking goal. Three in-person meetings per week? Five in-person meetings per week?
5. There are many professional associations and groups that offer networking opportunities. Schools and alumni associations, Meetup groups and even some of the sub groups on LinkedIn are worth exploring.
6. Take a look at the resources available on boston.com. There are articles and columns about resume writing, job hunting strategies, networking groups. Learn more about the job hunting process.
7. Make looking for a job your full-time job. Job hunters can easily become distracted with "to do" lists. Don't use valuable time during the day to to laundry, clean your gutters or mow your lawn. This time should be used for networking.
8. Be a good networker. Be prepared with business cards and copies of your resume. Don't take up more than 30-45 minutes of a colleague's time, especially if they are "on the clock." Have a strong elevator speech prepared. What is that? A two-minute overview of your background, skill set and what you are looking for in your next role. Be open to their feedback and referrals. Never say no to an introduction or a referral.
9. Your resume. Sometimes, but not always, if a candidate is not having success landing interviews, I like to review their resume. Sometimes their resume is not the best presentation of their skills and abilities. It is sometimes difficult to read. There are typos. It is cluttered. The resume should be a summary of your skills and experience in an easy-to-read and crisp format. Keywords are often important.
10. Be gracious. Anyone who takes the time to meet with you or make a referral on your behalf, deserves a thank you email or card. If a former colleague or classmate takes the time to refer you to their HR department, thank him or her.
Lastly, when you land a job (and you will!), remember to take the time to continue building your network. It is easier to build a strong professional network when you are actively employed. And don't forget to say, "Yes, I would be happy to have coffee with you" to those frustrated job seekers who might need your expertise, your contacts and your reassurance in the future. What goes around comes around. Good luck!
Q: I've been searching for a creative-marketing job for quite some time now. With 10+ years of experience, I thought I would have been invited on a few interviews within the last year and a half, but have yet to receive one call. I see the same job listings posted and reposted, what is the best way to get your resume noticed?
A: Thanks for your question. You raise several very important issues. First, let's talk about your job search strategy. Yes, you should be following jobs that are posted. In most fields, job postings are easy to access and provide useful competitive information about what companies and industries are hiring, what skills are required and sometimes even compensation for a specific skill set. And many companies post jobs. However, not all jobs are posted. I would like you to think about how you are using your time.
Networking is still the most powerful job hunting tool. Networking is critical to discovering the hidden job market - those jobs that are not posted. Networking is also key to being referred into a company. Have you been using LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a very powerful networking tool. It does not replace the old-fashioned, traditional networking of meeting contacts for coffee or for lunch, but it is very valuable for connecting with and expanding your professional network. There are also subgroups on LinkedIn that target very specific interests, skill sets and specialties. There will likely be subgroups that target creative marketing. Also, Twitter is an easy and simply way to find out more about job openings. You can follow a targeted group of people, professional associations or companies.
I hope that you have been active in professional associations that might offer you opportunities to network. Alumni association events can offer helpful networking opportunities. There are also some great Meetup groups in the Boston area. Visit www.meetup.com to better understand how Meetup groups work. Meetup is an online community that links specific groups that meet to discuss a variety of topics. There are Meetup groups that focus on networking, sharing job leads and marketing.
Work on a two-minute job pitch speech if you haven't already. In two minutes, you should be able to summarize your skills and work history. Make it memorable and authentic. Here is a sample:
Good morning! My name is Mary Jones. I am a creative marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. I have a particular passion for public relations. I also enjoy media relations. I have an undergraduate degree from University of XYZ and an MBA from ABC University. I am now in the market for a new opportunity. Can I have about 20 minutes of your time to pick your brain to determine if you, or your network, may know of opportunities that might be a good fit for my skill set?
My personal observations over the past several years with regard to marketing roles are:
1. There has been a shift toward quantitative, more data driven marketing roles where a company's investment can be measured.
2. Email marketing, natural and paid search and tracking and analytics are skills that seem to be more in demand.
3. Roles in online marketing seem to be growing while roles in traditional marketing seem to have stabilized.
Think about your skill set. If you have some of the online marketing skills, are you highlighting them strongly enough in your resume? Make sure that your resume is crisp, easy-to-read and not too dense. Include meaningful metrics where possible. Use bullets to list skills rather than a paragraph format. A resume should summarize your professional work history and not include every detail. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to critique your resume.
Q: I was laid off in February. I saw it coming so my resume was done, and I have a LinkedIn account and a Facebook profile. I know I’m supposed to use 'social networks' as a tool to find a job. But I’m not sure I really get how to use them in a job search?
A. I’m so glad you were prepared for your layoff, and that you took advantage of that time to prepare for the search. Many people do not use the advance notice they have, which is unfortunate. Networking remains the best way to conduct a job search, and the number one method leading to offers. Add technology and we have super tools when they are used effectively. A job search is about effectively marketing yourself and your skill sets to prospective employers. Social and professional networking tools provide a simple and efficient way to accomplish this. And using these tools is worth while because HR professionals, hiring managers, recruiters and search firms are also using these tools to look for you.
To consider your LinkedIn profile current, it should have great resume content for all your experience areas as well as references from former colleagues at each job you’ve held. Consider growing your connections by entering the names of the companies you have worked for, so that you can review who else you might want to invite to link. Have you listed all your current or past professional memberships? I don’t find the outlook mass invite strategic enough, but other people are comfortable using that tool. But I do encourage you to spend time “playing” to see who else you know by looking up people, companies, reviewing the jobs link. This treasure hunt will pay off. Your goal is to develop a strong network of level 1 connections. LinkedIn describes these as your trusted friends and colleagues. Based on the number of level 1 contacts you have, your second and third level contacts grow exponentially, so you have more potential leads and information. Include your picture, and make sure a person interested in hiring you would consider it professional. On the home page you can share information about the kind of position you are looking for – these updates can be very effective.
Next, join some industry relevant LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn groups are a great way to keep current on industry news, networking events, trends and more. So start by joining all of the groups hosted by the largest industry associations and trade magazines in your field. You may also see job openings posted here before they are listed anywhere else. Also, creating a reading list on Amazon (which feeds into your LinkedIn account) to let your contacts know what you are reading and what you are interested in is a simple way to give a hiring manager more information on you than what they will find in a resume. You may also find great recommendations about books organizations are using as professional development. Make sure professional reading is what is listed here.
Some people use Facebook as a less formal networking group. You might have personal friends, or people in a broader selection of professions as contacts. Use the fan status to follow companies you need to learn more about. Facebook (MySpace, Friendster, etc.) and LinkedIn makes it easy to query your entire network with job search related questions. Both tools are great for providing brief updates on where you are in your search and what help you might need on any given day.
If you want to take your social networking strategy to the next level consider sharing your industry expertise through microblogs like Twitter. It’s a great way to showcase your knowledge and experience with your peers as well as potential employers. Also, you can easily feed your Twitter account into your Facebook profile making updates a lot more efficient and allowing you to reach two audiences simultaneously. If you don’t feel like you have enough to say to dedicate a Twitter account to that effort, than share your knowledge by commenting on other industry blogs and trade publications articles.
Other simple social networking efforts includes creating Google Alerts on job titles and companies of interest so you can be the most knowledgeable candidate to respond to job queries and be up-to-speed on the company when it comes time to interview.
At any job seeker level, take the time to make the job search process efficient, and more competitive. These tools become a two way street. You are looking for the right opportunity, and by creating a larger online presence you are making it easier for employers to find you.
Q: I am currently employed at a nonprofit as a grant writer. However, I am going to start, in the next year or so, a search for jobs in a different state.
What are some best practices for conducting a job search remotely? I will be able to travel there when/if needed, but I feel I may be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to networking in the region or making strong connections to the places I'd like to be. How can I minimize this disadvantage?
A: Conducting a remote job search is a challenge but not insurmountable, especially if you are comfortable using technology.
First, begin using online tools likes Linked In. You can begin to network online with contacts in the state or region of interest.
If you have family or friends in that area, reach out to these individuals. Developing relationships with contacts in the target area is critical.
Contact employment agencies in the area. Ask friend and family members for referrals.
If you have attended college, or lived in this area before, make sure that you mention this fact to prospective employers and contacts. Prospective employers will be less skeptical if they sense that you have roots in the area.
There are online job boards that allow you to target specific areas geographically. It would be smart to begin spending some time on these job boards now.
Develop contacts with professional and alumni associations in this new area. Spend some time online researching these organization online, and then, if possible, join.
Think about leaving your current address off your resume. Or include two addresses -- one that is current and one that is your future address. Often times, hiring professionals see a resume with an out of state address and immediately dismiss the candidate. They may think it would take too long for the candidate to relocate. Or they may fear they will have to pay your relocation expenses.
Also think about obtaining a new cell phone number with a local number that corresponds to your new town or city. This will indicate to employers that you have "made the leap" and are serious about relocating.
Explain in your cover letter that you anticipate moving (or even better, that you are in the process of moving) to your new state by a certain date. Think about adding "at my expense" if that is a financial reality.
Try to schedule some informational interviews via telephone. You will likely have to plan a job hunting visit to this new location. Try to be efficient as possible with this job hunting visit and fill that time with as many in person meetings as possible. Make sure that you have your 1-2 minute job pitch speech ready to go and perfect. This should include a quick summary of your background, skill set and what your next role might look like.
Like all job seekers, research the employment market before you make a final decision. Ensure that you are not moving to an area with limited opportunities for your profession. You also should ensure that your resume is crisp, concise and free of errors.
Q: What can I do to improve my interview skills? After months of networking I am finally getting interviews and I can’t afford to mess up these chances to get a job. I’ve been told that though I am likable, I ramble and give too much detail without getting to the point. What tips do you have to straighten out my presentation?
A: Interviewing is a skill that can be improved with practice. To really develop your skills, you will need to practice in writing, with friends, and in front of a video camera if possible.
Imagine the interview is thirty minutes long. Within those thirty minutes you will have specific time frames, each with a purpose. The first few moments are considered an icebreaker. These minutes may happen as you walk to or sit in someone’s office. Perhaps they ask about traffic or weather. Now is not the time to be negative, respond in short positive statements.
At this point, a transition to the more formal interview will take place. A question often used to start is something such as “Tell me about yourself.” This is not the time to start with a life history, so prepare a written answer which shows a professional progression, the strength of your work experience, and highlights aspects of your personality like dedication, commitment to learning, leadership, and willingness to work hard. You might also prepare a brief personal statement describing your education and places you have lived (particularly if you are willing to relocate). If you go over ninety seconds with this answer, you’ve moved into rambling territory. If interviewers want additional information, they will ask follow-up questions. Try to remember that interviews are conversations with give and take on both sides.
The next part of the interview is where you can showcase how well suited you are for this position. In preparation, study the job description to prepare statements which speak directly to the responsibilities and the challenges of the role. Your research should extend into the culture and environment of the company. Examples that you give should align with what you know about the work-style of the organizations. For instance, if their culture is all about teamwork, your examples will not focus on all the independent work you have done. Most of the errors made in interviews occur in this section, which can easily be prevented by research, preparation, and practice. Prepare at least ten examples highlighting aspects of your experience that will help the recruiter make a positive decision about your employment.
The next section of the interview is focused on questions you may have. You must have at least ten questions ready to ask. These questions demonstrate your sincere interest in the opportunity and that you have prepared for the interview. You will not use all ten questions and you don’t need to save them for this section. If a topic relating to your question comes up during the interview, ask it, don’t wait until the end of the interview. The questions you prepare cannot be questions you would have easily discovered the answers to in your preparation for the interview or questions related to compensation, vacation, or benefits.
As the interviewer begins to bring the meeting to a close, you may be asked if you have any other questions or if there is anything else you would like to say. Take this opportunity to quickly review the match between your skills and what the job needs. Next, express your interest in the position and ask if the interviewer has any concerns about your ability to do this job. If they do, try to resolve the issue at that moment. Ask if the clarification helped, which it hopefully did.
Your last question follows a “Thank you. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet with you. Can you tell me what the next step in the process will be?” This gives you information about the appropriate time to follow up, and the person you need to contact. This general guide to interviewing will only work if you invest the time and energy into the preparation. If you do find yourself slipping back into old habits of rambling, practice wrapping up what you are saying in 5-10 seconds, even if you are in the middle of a thought.
Call a friend, get out the video camera and improve your chances of getting the offer.
Q. I worked in a dentist's office as a hygienist for over 20 years until he retired. I am now in the process of looking for another job. I send out resumes but get no response. I think that when they look back at 20 years, they know that I was compensated well. I'm willing to take a big cut in salary just to get a job, but how do I put that in a resume? "Willing to negotiate salary" doesn't seem to be working. Thank you for any advice you can give me.
A. Many job seekers know from experience that sending out resumes is one of the least successful ways to get a job, yet it continues to be a significant part of the job search process. Getting you into conversations with people who can hire you or people who can get you to hiring managers is your new goal, and there are a few ways to get you started. Before you decide you need to give up compensation, let’s make sure your job search plan gives you the best chance to get a good response to your efforts.
It sounds like you may have chosen to wait to start the process until your former boss retired. Many job seekers wait until their current role is over before they start the search, and that can really hamper your chances of moving the search forward in a better time frame. In your case, can you ask the dentist to make calls to his professional colleagues to see if they have a need in their offices? Is there a web site or professional association where dentists connect to look for the staff they need? Where have your colleagues gone? You need to find the current and future openings, and then we can deal with your compensation.
For anyone currently employed, your job search should begin once you know you need or want to leave. You may have a 6 week notice, or you may be planning on making a change in 12 months. In both cases, you can put together a plan which involves targeting appropriate organizations or companies, people you know and you’d like to meet, the development of a compelling resume, posting that resume on job boards, a LinkedIn profile with recommendations, and a full list of the web sites that may have jobs in your area of expertise. Some of these recommendations may be new to you but consider learning these new tools your next step in professional development. Use a OneStop Career Center, or a library if you need support to learn to use these tools. It will be worth your time to take the initiative.
When you need to send a resume, you’ll want to include a great cover letter. The focus of the letter is a brief highlight of your skills, what you can offer the new organization, and here is where you let them know that “compensation is flexible, and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the position in greater detail.”
Following the plan involves meeting with lots of people – developing a full network. In these meetings, after you are able to discuss the extent of your experience, you should identify the kinds of people you are trying to meet. These can be dentists in an office, or perhaps a specialty clinic, or introductions to dentists and other hygienists. In these conversations, your goal is to get an understanding of current compensation, and to let your network know that you are flexible in terms of your financial expectations. If your network is sending your resume, with your message about flexibility, you should be able to generate more meetings, and that’s where offers happen.
Q. It’s spring break time, and my son wants to go to Florida with all his friends. He’s been there, done that, and as he and his friends say, “bought the T-shirt”. He is a senior in college and I think it is time to start looking for his first professional job. He has friends who graduated last year who are still looking for work. Tell him it is time to get serious and get employed, and out of my wallet.
A. Last semester of senior year in college means many things to different people, and yours is a perfect example of how parents and seniors might not share the same vision of how to spend the time. This may be a great opportunity for you and your son to practice the fine art of negotiation – a great skill needed for a successful job search.
College seniors should start their job searches now, if they haven’t already. And college students hoping to find summer work should also begin an active search now.
‘Now’ is a relative term in college time, so if you want your students to begin the a successful job search consider bartering with them. The is not a lot of time between spring break and summer to look for work, and a summer with no job is a very long time, especially with limited cash. In partnership, students and parents might begin the process of documenting the job search steps that need to be completed with a commitment of how much time will be dedicated to the activity. Some of the steps can be completed before a great college style spring break – which shows good faith effort.
Let me give you and your college student a head start on some of the steps.
Step1. Clean up your web presence. No spring break photos on Facebook, or any other incriminating pictures, or posts of you or any of your friends. You might even have to add your parents as friends. No tweets that a hiring manager wouldn’t be thrilled to see.
Step 2. Create a LinkedIn account. These will be professional contacts who can help in your search. Build your network, and do not say “I want to do this on my own”. It takes a network. Learn this lesson now, and you’ll be ahead of job seekers for your whole career.
Step 3. Develop a compelling resume. This sales and marketing tool needs to tell the story of you as a committed worker. Learn how to write a very effective resume. Edit it, have professionals review and edit it. What does each line say to the reader? Give each item the “so what” test. Do they learn about your skills, or do they say so what?
Step 4. Identify and prepare your references. Select at least 5 people who can talk about the work you have done and can do. They need to be totally committed to saying great things about you to anyone who will listen. Make sure your references have your resume, and are familiar with your experiences. Stay connected with them so they know anytime they might be called.
Step 5. Use your resources. Meet your college career services staff. Learn what they teach. Utilize the range of their services. Ask them questions; ask them to edit your resume; ask them who they know; and ask them about successful students who came before you and how they made it happen.
Step 6. Network. Learn to network effectively. Read everything you can about networking, and practice. Practice with your friends, your references, and your career services professionals. Develop this skill to expert level.
Step 7. Success.
Step 1 can be completed before spring break; Step 2 can be started as you pack. All the other steps will lead to success. You get to decide when you start the next steps, and the timeframe that will get you to the last step in the process – for this time.
Q. I'm a trucker driver. Or I was, for over 15 years. Now I am not because I got laid off over a year ago. I enjoyed some time off, collected unemployment, and figured I’d have a job by now. The unemployment extensions have kept me above water, but just barely. I have been looking for a job, but all the job search stuff you write about doesn’t seem to work for people with my kind of job. Plus, all the online applications ask for my social security number. That doesn’t sound right. Is it a scam? It’s time to make some money, and get back to work. Do you have advice for regular jobs?
A. Looking for any job from truck driver to human resources professional to company CEO is a challenge in this economy. Believe it or not, most of the job search methods are the same for any type of job, and there are some adjustments which might make the process more effective.
First, identify all the resources available to you for job search help. You will need to use all avenues including online job boards, industry and networking events, etc. for your search to be successful. Many job seekers choose to use one method at a time, and then see what happens. You need to follow multiple paths to make things move ahead.
You have filed for unemployment insurance, so you are getting financial support. Have you used their services and support to write a detailed resume? In your line of work, the information around dates, certifications, and any awards for attendance, or safe driving all matter. Ensure the accuracy of this information. I am sure you are aware that you can buy a copy of your Department of Transportation Records for about $40 online. You need to make sure all information matches.
Be careful with your social security number. This information is used to identify your driving record and proceed with caution on how you use it. If you find an organization which feels like a scam, or presents you with placement opportunities they want to charge you for that, don’t pursue it. I also encourage you to file complaints with the Better Business Bureau if you feel mislead.
Were you part of a union in any of your jobs? Unions can often help current or former members to find new opportunities. Even if you were not a member of a union, these connections can support your job search. I encourage you to meet with leadership and other members. They will have a host of information, and be able to introduce you to other people who may have lots of information to share about job leads and other professional connections.
Many people think networking only applies to senior business people, but it is vital to every job seeker's success. Networking is connecting with others to learn more about what the marketplace looks like, and to see who else you should reach out to. It applies to you.
Make sure you network, use Craigslist, look at the job boards, and talk to everyone you know about others they know in the transportation business.
There are many kinds of driving jobs, paid in many different ways, and in this market, it will take perseverance, and plenty of referrals to get you to the right hiring organization.
Q. My job search is now coming on 5 months, and I don’t understand where the offers are. I am doing what everyone says, I network, I use the job boards, I have as good resume, I am told I interview well. The big bases are covered. Everyone can improve something (I do know that) but am I doing anything wrong or is this just how it is?
A. The job search in this market can be a frustrating, challenging process. Everything you do in this public forum does matter. Each interaction counts, and how you present to every person becomes part of your story. People do talk about candidates within companies and between companies, and you want to make sure what your story is represents you as positive, professional, and an asset to any organization.
We know of situations where people have lost offers for being rude to receptionists, condescending to wait staff at lunch interviews, or because their etiquette was lacking. We know people who ask for a networking meeting and then don’t offer to pay for coffee or lunch. We can start a collection of worst behaviors exhibited by job seekers – feel free to send me your examples and experiences. There are many stories about people who hurt their candidacy by ignoring what they think are the little things, and when it is an employers market, the little things add up.
I’m not saying this is the case for you. The job search does take months and you need to use all methods, and probably with a lot more diligence than most people expect. The challenge is each of these many activities needs to be completed effectively, leaving a positive impression with each person you reach.
You have the big bases covered, so let’s review the “little things”.FULL ENTRY
As a former ad copywriter and (among other jobs) fitness instructor who wrote her first novel at age 45, then saw her second novel turned into a Hollywood movie (above), Claire Cook of Scituate knows all about second acts. In addition to publishing six novels, she has led writing and “reinvention” workshops for women around the country, and her session last month at Scituate’s Front Street Book Shop will be featured in a Today show segment that’s expected to air in mid-August.
In her most recent novel, “The Wildwater Walking Club,’’ the plot is set in motion when the lead character takes a buyout from her employer, an athletic shoe manufacturer. The heroine’s transformation includes career-counseling workshops with a group called Fresh Horizons -- though Cook says that any resemblance to her own workshops is mostly coincidental.
"I don’t know how good the coach was at Fresh Horizons, but I know he was better than I am. I don’t pretend to have any expertise at all in career coaching, but I feel really lucky that I can make a living on my book contracts because soooo many authors can’t. So for me it’s a giveback thing. I really believe that if you have a buried dream, it’s a good idea to dig it up and take a look, and see if it still resonates, and yet I still know how terrifying it was to me.FULL ENTRY
Q. I belong to several online groups. Recently, I started getting inundated with posts about an upcoming seminar. A common member of most of the groups I belong to started sending out dozens of postings to each group about his upcoming event. I felt this was in poor taste but he said that is what these groups are for. Am I correct that there is proper etiquette for these online groups? What are they, and how can I apply them to the groups I administrate?
D. P., Fairport, NY
Q. I was married a little over a year ago and changed my last name to that of my husband's. I am currently in the midst of a job search. For the better part of my employment history I used my maiden name. My resume and contact information all use my married name, as that is my preferred surname. My question regards a prospective employer contacting a former employer about my work dates - if the job was before I was married, my previous employer will only know my maiden name, but future employers will only have my married name. How do I remedy this disconnect? How and when is it appropriate to tell prospective employers what my maiden name was, so that they can conduct the appropriate background research?
A. Women, and men, have many options about the name or names they choose to take into adulthood. Do we continue to use our original name? Do we choose to use the name of our spouse or partner, or perhaps create some meaningful combination of the two? Which order should we put these names in? Many cultures make recommendations about who gets first billing. And some people are choosing to start over and take completely new names that represent who they are at a new point in their life. It might be a family name from generations ago, or a descriptor of their aspirations.FULL ENTRY
Q. I am a senior communications/marketing/PR professional looking to move to the Boston area from New York, and have spent a lot of time networking over the past year, which has resulted in a few interviews. Several Boston search firm executives I spoke with said to use a Boston address (my sister's, whom I would live with once I got the job) on the resume, or many hiring managers would not consider me, as they normally prefer someone who is already in Boston. I do explain my situation in the cover letter, but I am afraid they would not look at the letter if they see a NY address. I just need to get my foot in the door to get an interview. In addition to the networking, what do you suggest I do?
A. Let me answer your questions in the reverse order. Here are some additional strategies that might enhance your long-distance job search:
2. Join (and start attending the meetings of) at least one Boston-based professional association or the Boston chapter of a national professional association.FULL ENTRY
Q. I know - or at least, I've heard - that a lot of employers look at social sites when considering resumes of potential new hires. My problem is that there is at least one other person out there (in the same region, no less) with my name. So while I've kept off the social sites in an attempt to keep my reputation clean and clear, anyone looking up my name might mistakenly think I'm this other person. Is this likely to cost me interviews? Should I be worried about it?
A: Great question. Social sites are becoming a more common source of information for recruiters and hiring managers. You are right to think about this issue, but I would not be overly concerned.FULL ENTRY
Q. My husband was laid off recently. This is our first experience with unemployment. Almost everything I have read says the large Internet job sites are a waste of time. What should the first step be in the job search? He was a manager in telecommunications.
A. To be successful during a period of unemployment, your husband needs to balance solitary tasks - such as visiting Internet job sites - with those that include face-to-face contact with people.
In my experience, the most successful job seekers follow a detailed job search plan, which includes actively networking and using the Web sparingly. Encourage your husband to set six-month, three-month, weekly, and daily goals, and to make reviewing his goals a twice-daily habit, like brushing his teeth.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.