Friday, December 12, 2014

The Holidays Are Here - So Change Your Search Strategy

The holidays are here, but don't stop your job search.  Just change it!

The holidays are in full swing and that puts a different twist on your job search.  It is true that the holidays are a hectic time of year.  And that puts extra challenges on your job search.  It seems that . . . .
    - no one will take your calls
    -  you don't hear back from employers, and
    -  you can't get network contacts to commit to a meeting with you.
So . . . . you may be tempted, in fact very tempted, to alter your daily job search routine, and let holiday shopping, baking, entertaining, etc.  replace sending letters to potential employers, following-up on applications you submitted, attending job searching networking groups, etc.  And, if it feels no one is getting back to you, then you might as well just shut down your search for now and pick it up sometime in the January.  Right? 
     This ill-advised strategy will cost you time and can cost you missed opportunities.   It's a bad decision, based on a misunderstanding of how hiring happens.

Misunderstanding of how hiring happens
Many job seekers mistakenly believe that employers stop hiring during the last couple months of the year.  Not true!  My best and most poignant example is a client who received their job offer on the afternoon of December 24 - it was around 2:30 pm.

Sure employers become busy with not only holiday company events, but end-of-the-year tasks and requirements that must be accomplished before they can call it a year and go home for their own holiday break!  So hiring may slow.  But, if they have open positions that are critical to performance in the new calendar year, they will want to fill these before December 31.  They are concurrently looking ahead at the upcoming year’s workload and the staffing requirements to fulfill the anticipated workload.  With those tasks behind them, they can hit the ground running on January 2.

Add to job seekers’ misunderstanding of end-of-the-year hiring the fact that job searching is hard, and, well  . . . .  job seekers think they have a case for postponing their search until the new year.  Let’s face it:  If you’ve been working hard for months with no job offer to show for it, and feeling pretty discouraged, if not defeated, taking time off from your search during the holidays can seem like an attractive option.  But, don't do it.  

You will benefit by maintaining your search right through the holidays.  Here's how:
    ●  Advantage:  You have a slightly more open playing field during the holiday season, extending into the first and even second week of the new year.  Due to the fact that many of your competitors will drop out of the race due to their mistaken belief that employers don't hire during the holidays, you have less competition.
    ●  Advantage:  By maintaining your job search momentum and staying visible inside your network, you keep your own pipeline open and flowing with leads, ideas and opportunities that may just lead to an interview and a job.  It takes time to build a pipeline; don’t let yours shut down and face re-building it in the new year.
    ●  Advantage:  Following up on positions and opportunities that you pursued can lead to an interview.  You may even be able to move the action forward.  Your pro-activity may influence a recruiter or hiring manager to take your call, provide additional information,  meet with you, or even interview you.  You can push the action forward!
    ●  Advantage: Previously hard-to-reach folks may now have time to meet with you.  The time is coming soon when employees begin to take their holiday and end-of-the-year “use it or lose it” leave.  Without a full complement of team members in place, progress on work projects slows just because everyone whose input is needed isn’t there.  So you may be able to schedule networking talks and employer talks with those previously unavailable.

Strategy 1 - Be empathetic with employers at this time of year
    My grandmother used to say: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”  Snarling at recruiters, HR reps, and hiring managers won’t get you very far.  Demanding that recruiters update you on what has happened to your application, or expressing frustration about why it is taking so long to decide between the other candidate and you won’t work.  Instead, empathize with employers, understanding that they’re not all that different from you; this is a busy time of year for them too.
    ●  If you are following up on an application or interview, empathize by being helpful.  Offer to do whatever you can to provide additional information or materials in order to make their task easier.
    ●  If you are trying to talk with one of your targeted employers for the first or second time, empathize by being sensitive.  State that you know that is a busy time of year for them too, but you are (remain if a second conversation) very interested in the firm and believe you have a lot to offer.  Inquire if they might have some time in their schedule to meet with you.  The key is to emphasize you won’t take more than 20 minutes of their time.  Many fear an hour-long meeting and they just don’t have the time!

Strategy 2 - Change your game plan.
Continue to contact employers, but change your game plan.  Continue to target employers that are likely buyers of your skill and experience set.  Contact them by both letters with your resume, and applying for opportunities you learn of.   BUT, understand that the holidays offer challenges to employers too (as described above).  Understanding how can allow you to interact with employers in such a way that can work to the benefit of you both.  Understand too that the status of your search - ongoing or just beginning - will determine the progress you can make at this time of year, as illustrated in the 2 scenarios below:

Scenario 1:  Your search is well underway
    If your search is well underway, and you are engaged in pursuing jobs for which you have networked or interviewed, you may be able to be able to turn the opportunity into an offer by the end of the year.
    ●  Be proactive in following up with the employer, offering to supply any additional information, to update them on additional credentials you have attained, to meet other members of the staff, or to inform them of your availability for a final interview.
    ●  Express your continued interest in and “great enthusiasm” for the firm and for the position.  Stating that this firm is definitely your first choice of employers may gain you some points!

Scenario 2:  Your search is just getting started
    Just beginning?  Beginning your search activity near the end of the year will put you ahead of the crowd who plan to begin their job searches in the new year - a really popular “New Years Resolution.”  However, you can get ahead of the crowd by doing your prep work now!
    There is a lot of preparatory work in getting a search underway and these last couple months of the year are a good time for a job seeker to do that.
    ●  It takes a month or two to prepare your marketing materials - Resumes being one of these.
    ● It takes time to re-connect with your network, update them on your status and plan to seek a new opportunity, and to request/gain referrals to new network contacts.
    ●  It takes time to get applications submitted.  In sales jargon - it takes time to “open and feed the pipeline.”  
    You can accomplish all this and more if you begin now.  Doing so means you will be well positioned to hit the ground running in the new year.

Strategy 3 - Network, Network, Network!
    Holiday get-togethers abound! Take advantage of these networking opportunities to meet everyone you can possibly can.  Don’t prejudge their usefulness.  You never, never know where an opportunity will come from.
    ● Attend  –  “business cards in hand”  –  and get known!  You can gain visibility and add to your list of network contacts.
    ● Go to everything you’re invited to, and even things you’re not.
        •  Wrangle an invitation to a holiday party, association event, and even a company holiday party.
        •  Friends, families, neighborhoods, and groups hold parties and events.  You may be surprised who your family and friends know and can introduce you to.
        •  Professional organizations and professional societies substitute holiday parties and networking events for their regular monthly program format.

Strategy 4 - Send greeting cards!
    Don’t overlook this simple avenue to remain visible.  For the price of a stamp, you remain visible.  Yes, you can send e-cards, but take advantage of this one time of year where it is appropriate to be seen in a more personable way as you send a hand-written card via the USPS.
    ●  Send holiday cards to everyone in your network, including employers.
    ●  Make them generic:  Select cards that are appropriate and non-offensive to your audience.  Select cards that say, for instance, “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”
    ●  Include your business card.
    ●  Write a few words to personalize the card.  Get the biggest bang for the buck by personalizing your greeting; they'll remember you!  For instance, you can say you enjoyed meeting them at the (be specific) meeting, or thank them for the benefit you derived from attending their presentation.  You can state that you were impressed by them and even though you did not receive an offer, you hope your paths will cross again. . . .  You get the idea.  Close by wishing anyone you send a card to a happy holiday season and/or a wonderful new year.

Strategy 5 - Re-group
    If you’ve been at your search for a while, “Audit your own performance” to see how you’re doing and what you can change about your approach as you go into the new year.  If you have been searching for 3 or more months, take some time to corroborate what you’re doing well and look for areas for improvement.
    ●  Set aside a block of time in which you can devote your total attention - NO INTERRUPTIONS!
    ●  If possible, find a “job search buddy” with whom you can talk through your review.  It’s best if it’s someone who understands the process of what it takes to find a job today, and the way you are going about your search.
    ●  Review your Career Strategy - Marketing Plan.  What responses have you received from your target companies?   It's not a bad idea to again look up your target companies; revisit their current work as well as to learn about any new work areas or directions projections, etc. that might be in need of your skills.
    ●  Review your resume  -  Not a quick read but a through review.   Read it out loud, and take a step back and view it from the perspective of a target company or employer.  Use what you’ve learned from your search to gauge if it . . .
        •  REALLY shows what you want to do and
        •  “Sells you” as the candidate to do it.  If not, revise and refocus.
    ●  Review your interviews; serious networking meetings count as interviews.
        •  Note the top 5 or 10 questions you have been asked and make note of your answers.
        •  Gauge if your answers were the best responses in order to showcase your skills and experience, if not, decide how to best word them.

Strategy 6 - Change those holiday traditions that make you crazy!
Change doesn’t make you popular.  But, it can make you saner.  Think of all those holiday traditions in which you feel forced to participate and that you’ve come to resent.  This is your golden opportunity to change them!
Choosing to stop, or change your degree of participation in, long-time family or friends’ traditions is hard.  But, as a person looking for a job, you have the best excuse, actually a sound reason, to beg off of holiday events:  "You can’t afford it.  You don’t have the resources - the money, time, or energy - to participate this year - that’s it!"  It’s time for you to start some new ways of engaging in the holidays. Here’s how:
    ●  Think about what you really like about the holidays, and identify what you don’t.
    ●  Don’t suddenly spring your new-found knowledge on family and friends.  Talk it over with your own nuclear family or close friends with whom you will be spending the holidays, and inform them of what you would like  – and plan  – to do.
    ●  Now this is the hard part - Inform those family members, friends, and acquaintances whose expectations you will not be able to fulfill this year of your situation.   You might say, “You will not be able to participate this year due to your job search and your limited resources."  And . . .Stand firm.  Use the broken record technique:  No matter what Aunt Susie or Uncle Stan says, your response is: “I can not afford it this year.”  “I can not afford it this year.”  “I can not afford it this year."

Now, . . . .
With these “Holiday Job Search Strategies” in mind, you may find you are able to keep your search going  – or take steps to begin one  – and enjoy your holidays all at the same time.

I wish you great success and a Happy Holiday Season!


For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bah-Humbug - Not Really, But When it Comes to Those Holiday Traditions . . . .

Spending money you don’t have
    on presents you don’t want to buy
          to travel to places you don’t want to go
              on entertaining you don’t want to do
Spending time you don't have
    with people you don’t want to see
         on holiday traditions you don’t want to continue
Spending energy you don't have
    on activities that take you away from your job search!

What's a job seeker to do?  Stop it - Stop it right now!  You can’t afford it and you don't have to. 
It's as simple -- and as complex --  as that!  Here's how . . .

Welcome to the holidays – that wonderful time of the year when traditions “bind us” to doing what we’ve always done - even if we no longer want to do what we’ve always done.

I’ve heard from lots of job seekers over the years who feel trapped by holiday traditions that they feel compelled to participate in just because they’ve always done it.  When I ask them, “So why do you?” as often as not, they answer “It’s a tradition - we’ve always done it,” even if they really don’t like or have even come to resent holiday activities such as  . . . .
    ● Getting together every year on Thanksgiving with 23 people
    ● Hosting the annual neighborhood holiday block party
    ● Buying presents for 13.  It was OK when it was just your 4 siblings, but now with your siblings’ children, presents-for-4 has turned into presents-for-13.
    ● Traveling to St. Louis or Butte, or Mobile . . ., with 3 little kids on flights and presents in tow, to spend Christmas day with extended family since that is where they always congregate!
    ● or . . . well, you get the idea.

Stop it
My advice to those job seekers has been - "Stop it."  Stop doing those things that cause you to spend money, time, and energy you don’t have on things, activities, and people that will simply slow, stymie, thwart, or stop your search for a new position.   You can’t afford it!

Bah-humbug  --  Not really
This is not a case of “bah-humbug!”  It’s just being practical.  It is a case of examining what you truly want, but more importantly are able, to do for the holiday season, in light of the fact that you are looking for a job. 

Change isn’t easy, especially for folks who have long-standing expectations of you.  Here’s the thing:  If they truly have your best interest at heart - and not their own - they will accept and understand your decision - eventually.

Change doesn’t make you popular
Choosing to stop, or change your degree of, participation in long-time family or friends’ traditions is hard.  But, as a person looking for a job, you have the best excuse, actually a sound reason, to beg off of holiday events:  "You can’t afford it.  You don’t have the resources - the money, time, or energy - to participate this year - that’s it!" 

And, people will adjust.  Over time, family, friends, and acquaintances may come to accept, if not actually understand, that you are making a decision that is best for you, and your immediate family (if you have one),  at this time.  Instigating change rarely makes you popular, but it can make you happier when you are engaging in only those traditions or starting new ones that you really want, and can afford, to participate in.

Start some new traditions
It’s time to start some new ways of engaging in the holidays. Here’s how:
(1)  Think about what you really like about the holidays. 
(2)  Identify what you don’t like about the holidays, noting traditions you’ve gone along with but never really liked and don’t want to continue.  Get clear on your reasons why.
(3)  Talk it over with your own nuclear family or close friends with whom you will be spending the holidays.
(4)  List what you would really like to do - on your own, with your nuclear family, with extended family, and with your circle of friends and acquaintances. It's OK to answer "Nothing this year."
(5)  Examine your list and decide
     (A) What you want to do, and
     (B) What you can afford to do, - 2 different things entirely.  Base this on your resources – available time, money, and energy.
(6)  Now this is the hard part - Inform those family members, friends, and acquaintances whose expectations you will not be able to fulfill this year of your situation.   You might say, “You will not be able to participate this year due to your job search and your limited resources."  And . . .
    - The earlier the better.
    - Be prepared for arguments of why "you have to"  - by folks who want you to do what they want you to do!
    - Prepare and practice your response in advance - one that is not arguable.  One of the least arguable is: “I can not afford it this year.” 
    - Stand firm.  Use the broken record technique:  No matter what Aunt Susie or Uncle Stan says, your response is: “I can not afford it this year.”  “I can not afford it this year.”  “I can not afford it this year.”  Eventually, when they realize they can’t coerce you into doing things “the way we’ve always done them” they will get Your Message.

Enjoy your holidays!
Now focus your resources on what you actually want to do for this year’s holiday season, and enjoy your holidays!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Monday, October 27, 2014

Face Your Fear and NETWORK!

"Networking:  Do I have to?" asks the reluctant job seeker.

      Yes you do if you want to find a better job quicker!

If you dread the idea of going up to strangers whose paths you cross and striking up a conversation, you are far from alone.  Many, if not most folks - if the truth were told - dread the idea.  They’d rather have a root canal.

However, the truth is that many, if not most, opportunities are found through networking.  These wonderful positions never see the light of an advertisement.  If they do, it is often late in the process, meaning many suitable candidates have already made the hiring employer aware of them and their capabilities.

The Hidden Market
 These unadvertised (or late-in-the-game advertised) positions are found in what is called -- and aptly so --  the Hidden Market.  It is the employment market that is accessed through people and it is the market where some of the best positions reside.

Networking opens the door to the Hidden Market.
Networking opens the door.  Positions are found on the Hidden Market by talking and connecting with folks who work for a firm and know of needs or open jobs, or by talking to folks who know some folks who know of opportunities  . . .  You get the idea!

It gets easier 
Networking can be a little intimidating when you first begin.  But, as many of my clients tell me, it gets easier as they network more and more.  A bonus is meeting new and interesting people, as well as reconnecting with past contacts, and that increases your own valuable network. 

The Open Market - A slow process
Sure, it is still possible to find a job by sitting at your computer for hours, if not days, on end, applying for 100's if not 1000's of jobs that you find on the Open Market and hoping one of them will get back to you.  It is an avenue to a new job, but it is a choice that generally results in a long, long, long search.  It is a slow process.

Or you can choose to network.  Networking speeds things up.  Adding networking to your daily routine uncovers positions faster  --  before they are openly advertised, or in many cases, never openly advertised.

Face your fear and NETWORK! 
So, if networking is a scary thing, face your fear, bite the bullet, and do it anyway.  There are many benefits to be gained from networking, and it just might help you find your dream job!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website, including:
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
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Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Managing a Job Search is Like Managing a Project

Managing an effective job search is akin to managing any important project. Whether you are beginning a new search or seeking to revitalize an ongoing search,  plan to employ the project management skills you would use on any important project in order to successfully and effectively achieve your goal.

Preparation is key to succeed at finding the job you want.  Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, or firing off resumes at any and every opening that comes along, termed "shotgunning"is usually an exercise in frustration in the long run.

Learning the steps involved and preparing a "job search strategy" is the first step. As you begin your search, or take a step back to regroup an ongoing search, figure out your goal as follows:
  • Identify the type of job, or expanded role, you are seeking and write it down.
Continue your planning with market research.
  • Gain information and knowledge about the need and market for the type of work you want to do. 
  • Identify what industries and locales hire your skill set.
Acquire the project management tools you’ll need to get organized and perform the work of the project.
  • Establish your workspace.  If finding a job is a job . . . .  and it is . . . . set up your work space or office.  You'll need office tools to conduct and manage your search, so take the time to organize your office, computer, phone, files, etc.  
  • Create, or revise, your marketing tools:  Resume, marketing plan, "L"vator speech, networking plan, business cards, annotated reference list, bio, and portfolio.
    • Your resume needs to be focused on acquiring a specific type of job. Your other marketing materials - "L:vator speech, cover letters, bio, etc - also need to be similarly focused.
    • Focus, revise, and update your marketing materials to align with and support achievement of your goal.  The skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments you list should show that you can do the job and be an asset to the hiring firm.
    • If your resume doesn't present information that shows you have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and accomplishments to do the job, rewrite it.
    •  If you are searching for 2 different types of jobs, such as grant writing and public relations, or engineering and business development, develop two sets of marketing tools (i.e., resume, “L”vator speech, bio, etc.).        
Market and Execute: 
With your goal clearly in mind, your work space or office organized, and your marketing materials focused on your goal, set off on your search in earnest.  Execute your search by marketing yourself and your capabilities.
  • Organize your work day to include time for research, networking, attending events, and eventually interviewing for ideal jobs and then negotiating your offerS!
So begin at the beginning.
Invest the time up front to get organized and plan a strategic job search.  The investment will speed you on your way and pay off in conducting a more focused, faster, and rewarding search.

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lern to tell stories

Interviewing?  Learn to tell stories.  People remember them long after a resistation of facts and figures is forgotten.

Telling a good story about an accomplishment, an achievement, a problem solved, a sticky situation handled, etc. will be remembered by an interviewer long after a resitation of a list of your strengths or dates of promotions etc.

And, as a savvy job seeker, your goal is to be remembered by a prospective employer.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interviewing: The Most Frequently Asked Interview Question

Tell me about yourself!
And so the interview begins.  The interviewer asks this "ice breaker" question as much to start a conversation as to actually learn about the candidate sitting in front of him or her.

The question: "So why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?” is generally considered the most frequently asked interview question.  Not a particularly good question by a long shot, nevertheless is is most commonly asked in order to get the conversation - the interview - going.

And while appearing on the surface to be a simple question to answer, in fact, it not only throws many candidates but throws them right out of the competition!  Why?  Because an unprepared candidate can sound like this.

Umm, well I grew up in Florida , lived there most of my life, went to Florida State University, majored in philosophy, and then I took a year off to help my Dad out in his printing business.  My first job was in 1972 when I was hired as a  clerk in . . . ."

The interviewer listens patiently, acts interested, but is secretly thinking: “What does this have to do with the job he's applying for as a business analyst?  Get to the point."

The interviewee continues to rattle on,  clears his throat a time or two, and continues their monologue that goes on way, way too long! 

Sound familiar?
If you have ever sat in the interviewee's seat and experienced the situation just described, you are not alone.  In fact, many, if not most job seekers, have had a similar experience. You know what we want to say about yourself your job-related experience; you can can’t seem to say it!

Make a good first impression
In an interview, any job seeker wants to make a good first impression.  You want to convey that you are the right candidate for the job and that you can get the job done!  You want to appear motivated and capable. You want to show that you are qualified to perform the duties of the job and then some.  You just can’t seem to say it as well as you would like.

Why not?  What goes wrong?  What’s missing? 
Generally when a job seeker stammers, and hems and haws at the beginning of an interview, or is just too wordy, what is missing is a prepared and practiced short presentation that "tells the interviewer about yourself."  This short, precise presentation, highlighting relevant experience, qualifications, and skills, is -- by another name  -- an "L"vator speech!

What is an “L”vator speech?
An "L"vator speech is a professional self-description that can be said in 30 seconds or less.. Theoretically, it can be said in the time you travel in an elevator from the 1st to the 14th floor. . . .hence, the term "L"vator speech!  AND, when you're done, your listener has a pretty good  idea of what you do and do well.

In other words, your “L”vator speech is a short, concise, prepared in advance, and well-practiced description of your expertise, abilities, skills, and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for.

How do you do it? . . .  With this 5-Step Model
It can be a bit mystifying to try to figure out how to describe the essence of your experience in less than 30 seconds.  So, here's a method to do just that.  Below is a 5-Step Model for preparing your “L”vator speech.  The model allows you to tell the listener, in 30 seconds or less, what you do and what you are expert at.  It helps you showcase your skills, and highlight relevant accomplishments.  It provides you a way to ask for your desired outcome from the discussion.  So, . . . take out a pencil and paper and begin to craft your "L"vator speech --  your answer to the #1 interview question:  "So why don't you tell me a little about yourself?"

5-Step Model to craft your "L"vator speech
Step 1. Start with your profession.  State what you do in a couple of words?
    I am a ________________________________    
    I’m an electronics engineer.   I’m a manager.  I’m an administrative assistant.

Step 2.  Identify your area(s) of expertise. What makes you stand out from the crowd?
    I'm a ____________,with in-depth experience or expertise in ________________
    I’m an electronics engineer, with extensive experience in designing systems that . . . 
    I’m a manager who consistently runs departments that function like clockwork.
    I’m an administrative assistant who never misses a deadline.

Step 3.  Identify your areas of skill that are relevant to the job your are seeking.
    I’m particularly skilled in______________,  or I’m adept at _____________________
    I am skilled in helping the customer implement new systems with no downtime.
    I’m really effective at planning and budgeting so that the programs I manage come in on time and within budget.
    I’m current in the latest office computer software so I’ll be productive right off the bat!

Step 4.  Identify knowledge, strengths, and unique attributes that are relevant to the position.
    I am certified in__________, or, I am trained in__________, or I was awarded the__________
    I hold a Master's degree in advanced electronics engineering.
    I am a certified Program Manager.
    I was recognized as the “Employee of the Year” by my previous employer and earned a cash award.

Step 5. Ask for what you want.  What are you trying to achieve?
    I am looking for__________, or, I am seeking __________, or I hope to__________
    I am looking for a Systems Engineering position that uses_____________
    I am hoping you can refer me to a person in your network who is familiar with ___________________
    I am seeking an opportunity to _________________

Using the 5-Step Model will help you craft an “L”vator speech that gets to the point and accomplishes your objective of “telling the listener about you." 
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub
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Illustrations of questions per the 6 categories

5 Categories of Questions

The 5 categories of questions that interviews probe are listed below.

1.  Your background, skills, and experience = Can you do the job?

Questions in this category or area are aimed at one thing:  Can you do the job?  Interviewers probe your experience, skills, certifications, background, to find out if you have:
    - Hands-on experience in each of the key performance areas?
    - Managed the key performance areas (if the job is managerial in nature)
    - Managed subordinates, teams, or colleagues at designated experience levels, educational levels, salary levels
    - how handle employees who can’t perform, or misfit

This question also gets at salary level.  Experience tells experienced and “compensation-knowledgeable” recruiters what your level of experience pays in the marketplace.  This is a concept that often surprises job seekers; companies employ teams of “compensation experts” whose role it is to constantly survey their industry to ascertain what skills and experience pay in the marketplace and in various geographic areas of the marketplace.

2.  Your goals and objectives
Questions in this category or area gauge if your goals are appropriate for the job, the program (in the federal contracting arena), the department, the company, the corporate culture.

This area of questioning probes motivations for wanting the job.  Are you under-motivated for a “cracker-jack” company culture; or are you aims too high or aggressive for a more laid-back organization.

If you’re not in sync you will make folks in the company uncomfortable initially, irritated later.  And, you’ll feel like a fish out of water?

How much do you want the job?
Hint: There is only one answer to the question: “Are you open to relocation?”

3.  Your education and training
Questions in this area seek to determine if you have the right amount of education and training,

This area of questioning probes goals/motivation:  Are you under-educated or are you over-educated?

or if you are amenable to getting the right amount.

Hint: There is only one answer to the question: “Are you open to going back to school?”

4.  Your weaknesses and potential problems = Potential land mines!
Questions in this area uncover “landmines” which the company would prefer to uncover before they step on one.

In the words of a employment manager colleague of mine, “I don’t need to hire another problem; I’ve already got enough problem walking around here.”

5.  Sensitive issues or areas
Questions in this area

Answer the following two questions for each category:

    (1)  What do you think the interviewer is looking for when probing this category?

    (2)  What would your best strategy be to make the most of the opportunity in answering the question?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Interviewing: What's Your Greatest Strength?

"What's your greatest strength?" asks the interviewer.
     "Well, mmmm. . . , I would say I'm . . .  un . . . ." stumbles the interviewee.
A missed opportunity to succinctly and reasonably tell your interviewer a couple of your key attributes that make you stand out from the crowd and why hiring you would be a good thing!

"What's your greatest strength?"
This frequently asked interview question throws a lot of interviewees as much as its closely related cousin:  What's your greatest weakness?  On the surface, it shouldn't. It seems it should be the easier of the two questions.  But, it throws a lot of job seekers anyway.  It seems that saying "good things" about yourself and your job performance is not as easy or as comfortable as it might seem.

So, in answering this question . . . 
  1. Consider what you want interviewers and networking contacts to know about your job performance, and   
  2. Plan what you want to say as carefully as you do in answering the flip-side question:  What's your greatest weakness?
Almost all interviewers will askWhat's your greatest strength?
Almost all interviewers will ask this question.  They want to know what you bring to the table.  In other words, they want to know:
  1. How can hiring you, benefit them? 
  2.  But, they also ask it to see how you handle this question and what it reveals about you in terms of how you see yourself.   It tells them a lot.
While some candidates for positions overdo it with self-serving comments that come across as "bragging," this question really allows candidates to 
What is to be gained from answering this question well?  Lots!
1.  It begins the sale - your sale of you to the hiring company, or to a network contact who - if impressed - will refer you.
2.  It makes the sale.  If your strengths -- abilities, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, knowledge, education, job history & interpersonal skills -- impress and convince the hiring manager that you are what he or she needs to solve problems or attain growth, you're hired!

A particularly good interview question
Unlike its close cousin (What’s Your Biggest Weakness?) which is not a particularly good question, “What’s Your Greatest Strength?” is a particularly good question; in fact, it’s a great question!  

It allows candidates to:

(1) State their case for hiring them, and 
(2) Move their cause forward.  
A well thought-out fact-based answer, can convince the HR interviewer, the hiring manager, and other members of the interviewing panel that hiring you is a good thing!

A strategy

As with its close cousin, this question can work against you if 
you are not prepared.  Without a strategy, some job seekers provide a foot-in-mouth answer that knocks them out of the competition entirely.

Below is a strategy to follow that delivers a thoughtful fact-based answer:
  • Step 1 Choose a strength, or 2 or 3 strengths, that relate to key requirements of the job. 
  • Step 2.  Review your professional accomplishments and select one (or better 2 or 3) that demonstrate how you used the strengths you've chosen in performing work.  Since these should be stated as Accomplishment Statements (i.e., bulleted points on your resume), they should be easy to find.
  • Step 3.  Practice telling the story of each Accomplishment Statement.  State (1)  the situation, challenge, or problem you faced; (2) the actions you took; and (3) the result you achieved.
A triple win
Using the strategy just described above, you score a TRIPLE WIN!
1.  You provide a fact-based response, backed up by your story.
2.  You show self-awareness.
3.  You not only talk about but demonstrate how you used your strength(s) to achieve a successful outcome to a problem you tackled or situation you encountered.  

In summary, effective interviewing is not easy, but it's not rocket science either! While there are 1000s of interview questions being asked, many are common and frequently asked questions.  Do some homework.  Learn what these frequently asked questions are, plan credible responses in advance, and sail through your interview!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.  View
Nancy's Nine Cardinal Rules of Interviewing for more advice.
___________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Strategy: Be Cautious When - and Where and What - You Post

Looking for a job?  Seeking a career transition?  Be very cautious about what you post.  It can -- and does - come back to you haunt you!  Take action now to prevent career casualties down the road.

Recent events in the news about ill-advised photos posted on-line make the point, once again, that the on-line world is not a private place.  This has happened time and time again, and while there is public outrage now, it will be short-lived and folks will go about posting more private messages and comments until it happens again.  It's a cycle.  

Photos, comments, articles, rants, . . . that are posted are there to stay and for all to see, including prospective employers, potential business partners, and network contacts.  Ill-advised postings ruin reputations and along with it chances for new career opportunities.

Reputations ruined; careers de-railed
It’s a topic worth carefully thinking about and considering your future actions.  If you are seeking new career opportunities, don't let postings, comments, and photos that show you in a negative light ruin your chances in the short-run and even de-rail your career long-term.  Ask yourself:  Is a momentary rant worth a long-term consequence?

Your social media presence is out there for ALL to see.  All means potential employers, recruiters, prospective business partners, network contacts, educational institutions, and potential professional and business associations you desire to join.  They will all review your on-line presence in social media as they seek to know who you are and if they want you on their team.

Take steps to secure your professional future
So, job seekers, take some steps now to secure your professional future:
  1. Review each social media site on which you participate.  
  2. Decide if it is in your best interest professionally to continue to use that site.  Close down accounts that don't enhance your standing in your professional community -  . . . YES, that means even those personal sites that you use to chat with friends and think "no one else will ever see."
  3. Check your postings on every social media and networking site on which you decide to keep the account open and continue to use.  Delete any material - comments, photos, rants - that does not enhance your professional reputation, including sites you consider personal such as Facebook.
  4. Read every word of your Linked In profile.  Revise and update it.  Employers with almost 100% certainty will visit this site and view your profile before hiring external candidates, and before promoting, expanding the duties of, or championing for high-potential its internal candidates.
  5. Clean up your e-mail accounts and delete e-mails that you don't want seen --accidentally.  
  6. Review your e-mail address book, and eliminate potential trouble spots.
  7. Close down e-mail accounts that are NOT useful to you.  Keep open only those e-mail accounts that you use and monitor regularly!
  8. Use the STOP rule before sending any e-mails, texts, or comments when you're angry or in an emotional state:
    1. S - stop and take a breath before you touch that keyboard!
      1. Don't post a "cute" photo of you that with a clearer head you realize is questionable at best.
      2. Don't respond too quickly to any comment or article you read on any social media site.
      3. Don't respond immediately to any e-mail that makes you mad.
    2. T - take a time-out.  
      1. Walk around your office, the building, down the street in order to give your emotions some time to settle down and yourself some time to think.
    3. O - opt for writing your message on a medium that can't be sent anywhere.  
      1. Getting the feelings out is OK if you do it in a medium that can't hurt you.  
      2. Write the old fashioned way with paper & pencil on a tablet, or type if you must but type your thoughts in a Word document that you type and file away.  
    4. P - pause any actions you want to take for 24 hours.  
      1. A day later, the situation might look very differently, and you'll be glad you STOPPED an action that could have held professional consequences for you and your career.
A Valuable Tool . . .  IF . . You Manage it well
Social media, including the various networking sites and your e-mail accounts, can be a very positive tool for a job seeker who manages it well.  It can speed up your search, enable you to make new contacts, allow you to do research with the click of a key, promote your professional skills and competencies, enhance your professional image, and allow faster communication.

However, as we have seen, it can also have the opposite, or negative, effect.  Take action now to prevent career casualties down the road.

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.  
___________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interviewing: What's Your Biggest Weakness?

"What's your biggest weakness?" asks the interviewer.
     "Well, um, I guess it would be . . . ." stumbles the interviewee.
And, the rest, as they say, is history.  A history of missed opportunities due to lack of a credible and reasonable response to one of the most frequently asked interview questions:  What's your biggest weakness?

"What's your biggest weakness?"
A lot of interviewers ask this not particularly good interview question.  They ask it as much to see how you handle this question as to actually hear your response.

A not particularly good interview question
A not particularly good question, responses to it have ranged from irrelevant to the embarrassing to bordering on the illegal.  Some candidates, feeling helpless and without a strategy, provide a foot-in-mouth answer that knocks them out of the competition entirely.  Some even respond with a weakness that turns out to be a primary job function and . . . . .  it goes without saying how that turns out!

So, what's a job seeker to do? 
The question feels like a "Catch 22:"  Answer honestly and you may be out of the competition.  Answer with a “I don’t have any weaknesses!” and that answer comes across as a “smart alec-y” or “full-of-yourself” type of answer, AND also indicates a lack of self-awareness - neither of which are qualities interviewers are seeking in new employees. 

A lot has been written about the best way to handle this question.  Strategies job seekers have used include:

-  A non-response:  Some candidates simply say they have "none."  

  • The problem with this response is that since no one is perfect, the answer is not seen as credible.  It can even be as cocky or smart alec-y.  Either way it doesn't enhance your standing in the interviewer's eyes.
-  An opportunity-killing response:  Citing a weakness that is considered key to performance of the job.
  •  The problem with this response is obvious - you are telling the interviewer you can not perform the job. 
 - A cliche response:  Responses that cite "strengths" or admirable qualities disguised as a weakness -
  1.  "I tend to work too hard."
  2.  "I drive my employees too hard."
  3.  "I'm a workaholic."   
  • The problem with this type of response is that interviewers are on to you!  These answers have become trite and cliche.  They've been written about, taught in interview training, practiced pre-interviews, and over-delivered. They don't ring true and savvy interviewers often follow-up by asking the interviewee to cite a second weakness!
In fairness, while some of these strategies listed above may work, and have worked, in some circumstances or in rare situations, generally they don't work and result in a job seeker being eliminated from the competition.

A better way
Below is a strategy to follow that delivers a plausible response in most situations.  Here’s a better tack to take:
  • Step 1 Choose a weakness  --  or in better terms an area in which you could improve – that is not a key requirement of the job.  For instance, if you are applying for a “Communications Director” position, you wouldn’t say “I’m a poor communicator.”  In that case you would certainly be out of the running, and quite frankly, deserve to be.  A job seeker shouldn’t be applying for a job where they can’t handle the main function!
  • Step 2.  Select a weakness (i.e. areas that are not among your greatest strengths) that is not such a key function that it would prevent you from doing the job.  For example, a communications director might choose budgeting.
  • Step 3.  Now, and THIS IS KEY:  State that while you are an excellent communications representative in terms of the key functions (name them), budgeting WAS (i.e., past tense) not your strongest area.  However, recognizing this, you have taken actions (name them) to improve in that area.  And, while you will never be a "finance person," YOU ARE COMPETENT in developing your communications' budgets.
A triple win
Using the strategy just described above, you score a TRIPLE WIN!
1.  You provide an honest response.
2.  You show self-awareness.
3.  You not only show but “demonstrate” a strength:  When you identify a problem, you (1) recognize it and (2) take action.

In summary, effective interviewing is not easy, but it's not rocket science either! While there are 1000s of interview questions being asked, many are common and frequently asked questions.  Do some homework.  Learn what these frequently asked questions are, plan credible responses in advance, and sail through your interview!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.  View Nancy's Nine Cardinal Rules of Interviewing for more advice.
___________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Networking is a 2-Way Street

Networking is a 2-Way Street!
Question:  What is one of the most common mistakes job seekers who are new to networking make?

Answer:     Not recognizing that networking is a give-and-take practice, i.e.., a 2-way street!

Setting up 1-to-1 networking meetings to talk with people about your job search a smart thing to do! 
Talking with people in your network in order to seek information and advice is a time-tested technique for finding a new position or enhancing the one you’ve got!       Why?

Because as folks in your network of contacts learn about you, and the needs you can fill in an organization, they begin to think of you in that context.  When they hear of an opening, or a potential one, in their own organization or in the company of a friend or colleague, they think of you and refer you.  That’s a triple win - for you the job seeker, your contact, and the hiring organization.

A 1-to-1 networking meeting, over a cup of coffee in a comfortable spot, allows you to tell your network contact about the good things you can offer a hiring firm, as well as to learn from your contact what they know about organizations in which you could be an asset.  In fact, It is one of the best, if not THE best, way to access the hidden employment market, where well over 80% of the best jobs are found.

GIVE as well as TAKE
However, recognize that when you engage in networking, you have a responsibility to GIVE as
Successful Networkers Give & Take!
well as TAKE.
  Sure, you are the one in need of help right now as you search for a new job, but remember to be appreciative and generous with those that help you.  (More in a minute about what that means.)

As you reach out to network contacts, you'll find that most people want to help.  They'll provide information,invite you to stay in touch, and even meet with you a time or two.  But recognize that depending on your response and subsequent actions your relationship could be short-lived or grow and extend over a career if not a lifetime.  Some even evolve into genuine friendships and business relationships.

Appreciative and generous in your response:  Giving
As a job seeker, you're the one in need and, if out of a job, the one with a small bank account.  So how do you show appreciation?  It doesn't have to be expensive.  Following a networking meeting or interaction, in addition to thanking them in person at the end of your meeting, remember to:
  1. Thank the contact who is helping you in a meaningful follow-up Thank You note.  In other words, put some thought into it!
  2. Keep in touch.  Keep your contact updated on your progress with some e-mails, a phone call or two, even another networking meeting.
  3. Look for ways you can be helpful to them.  While buying lunch right now is not in the cards, you can be helpful in less costly ways.  
    1. You can forward information on topics you learned in talking is important to them.  
    2. You can introduce or refer them to someone in your own network who would be a good contact for them.
    3. Offer to serve on a volunteer committee they are chairing.
    4. Invite them to attend a professional association meeting where the topic is of interest.  
    5. Or, offer your ideas for a work problem or new project they have, etc. . . . . .  You get the idea. 
  4.  And, a closing "goes-without-saying" thought: When inviting contacts for a networking meeting over a coffee, please offer to buy the coffee!
It's a Smart Strategy!
Networking is a 2-way street.
Setting up 1-to-1 networking meetings as an integral part of your job search is a smart and effective practice.  As you take information and support from your contact, and give back in kind, you'll find yourself moving closer to achieving your goal.   There just could be a job in it for you!  . . .  .  . It's a Smart Strategy!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tab of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What a Company Wants to Know - 6 Kinds of Interview Questions

Take a walk through the business careers section of any bookstore or library, and you will see lots of books on the subject of job search.  And entire books devoted to interview questions  –  1000's of interview questions with 1000's of answers. 

What's a job seeker to do?  Memorize 1000s of answers to 1000s of questions.  Or  --  and it’s a much better alternative  --  understand that there are 6 basic areas in which you’ll be questioned. 

The key to answering questions in your interviews is to recognize that all questions asked actually fall into a half dozen general categories.   

Same set of questions asked in multiple ways, over and over.  That’s why it often feels like you’ve been answering the same question over and over, because — you have!

A Strategy
So, a strategy is to first understand what interviewers are trying to find out in each of these areas.  Here's what they want to know:

6 Categories of Interview Questions

Category 1.  If you can do the job   – Interviewers will ask about your job or work experience. 
  • They want to know if you have the experience and skills necessary to perform the functions of the job, and to perform at the right level - senior, mid-level, junior, entry. 
  • A job seeker will be asked "technical" questions about their profession.  Sometimes, you'll be asked to provide a presentation on a topic designed to demonstrate that you have the right experience.  (Hint:  Do so, but don't give away the store.)

Category 2.  If you have enough knowledge to do the job -  Interviewers will ask about your education and training.
  • They want to know if you have the necessary education to understand the task(s) required by the job.
  • They want to know that you have a high or detailed enough understanding to be able to communicate information about the task.

Category 3.  If you have the strengths required to do the job -  Interviewers will ask what strengths you have and how they have facilitated your performance of these job functions in previous jobs.
  • They want to know about technical, people interaction/management, communication, leadership, team building, conflict resolution strengths.
  •  They want to know if you have actual physical strengths  -  stamina if it is a stressful, demanding job or actual physical strength if the job involves physical activity.
Category 4.  If you have weaknesses that will prevent you from doing the job at all, or from doing it well.    Interviewers will ask about and probe your technical expertise and experience and your education and training.
  •  They want to know if you have actual - and enough - experience, no experience, experience in the wrong areas, hands-on experience, managerial experience.
  •  They want to know if there are "sensitive" areas from your past that will come back to haunt you, and potentially them as your employer.  These can include poor attitudes, problematic temperaments, arrests, crimes, frequent litigation, lies, job hopping.
  • They want to know if you have poor people skills, no / too little actual "hands-on" management experience, no/too little experience working with customers.
  • They want to know if you have too little education to understand the job or grow the job/department/contract/company.
  • They want to know how you handle conflict, turmoil, stress, deadlines, unreasonable deadlines and too-short time frames.

Category 5.  If you can work with people in the way their organization’s culture deems correct to get the job done -  They will ask about how you typically interact with people in and connected to the organization.
  • They will ask about how you manage upwards.  How do you communicate, support, and interact with superiors in the organization?
  •  They will ask about how you manage downwards.  Is your method of reward and recognition, development of subordinates, and discipline and punishment within the bounds of how the organization does things?
  • They will ask about how you interact with and manage relations with those supporting the organization, such as vendors, suppliers, sub-contractors, and public and governmental entities.
  • They will ask about how you interact with, communicate with, and manage relations with customers.

Category 6.  If you can fit the organization culture  – Are you a good fit in their day-by-day work-a-day world?
  • They will ask about your values and ask for examples of you "living" these values.
  • They will ask about your work style.
  • They will ask about how performance was rewarded / penalized in previous organizations you worked with and gauge your reaction in describing it. 

Preparation is the Answer
An interview can go on for a couple of hours, multiple times, if a candidate is asked back 2 or 3 or 4 times - sort of a progressive interview.  And a candidate can be asked 100's - often feels like 1000s - of questions.   
Question:  How do you manage to not only make it through the interview but shine?  
Answer:     Preparation.

To prepare for your upcoming interviews, first do some homework.  Think of it as preparing a foundation of facts and work examples (accomplishments) from which you will answer the myriad of questions in each of the 6 areas.  Identify pertinent facts and examples per area that illustrate your strong performance and abilities in each area.  Here's how:
(1)  Think through each of the categories above.  Decide the story you want to tell about you in each of the 6 areas.
(2)  Prepare to talk about each category.  Assemble a foundation of facts about your performance, background, experiences, education and training  in each of the 6 areas.
(3)  Identify examples of you performing in each area, illustrating strengths and accomplishments.

The big Advantage
If winging it is not recommended  --  and IT IS NOT --  and preparation is key, then preparing in the manner suggested here will provide a foundation for you from which to best handle interview questions.  You won't be thrown by an off-the-wall question and you will be able to be consistent in the information you reveal.  YOU will come across as a competent, prepared candidate - even the candidate to beat!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tab of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub