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iStock_000012681402XSmallJust about everyone acknowledges that making contacts through networking is one of, if not the best ways to land a new position.  In fact, some estimates suggest that about 80% of all jobs are not advertised, and the openings are communicated through word of mouth.   So it stands to reason that the best way to learn about these opportunities is through the contacts you make. You can go to dozens of job events, hand out countless business cards, join the hot online groups, and connect with the universe, but the best way to make networking pay off is to turn those contacts into relationships. 

As a psychologist I am acutely aware of the importance of building relationships with clients.  By relationship I mean a state where people trust one another because of openness, honesty, and a sincere demonstration of willingness to help. An article in The Wall Street Journal by Dennis Nishi (March 24, 2013) reminded me of the critical role that the development of relationships can play when seeking a job.  Nishi’s article emphasizes going beyond brief contacts by developing ways to get in front of the right people.  Nishi relates the experience of a job seeker who, instead of asking for help, offers to help, thereby building strong relationships with individuals who might in turn be helpful to her.

A colleague of mine does a lot of networking to build his business and employs the same strategy.  He meets a lot of really nice, successful, energetic people, but often there is little they have in common.  However, when he comes across someone whose interests are aligned (professionally or socially) he starts to build a relationship by asking, “What can I do to help you? “  Sometimes there’s payback, sometimes there’s not, but on balance my colleague believes that giving is a good way to start getting.

Sometimes being more open about your situation with casual acquaintances can also be helpful.  I had a client who found himself engaged in conversation with another father while both were watching their daughters’ soccer match.   At first, my client focused on a conversation about the game and raising daughters.  At an appropriate time he mentioned that he had been laid off from his job as a salesman for a building supply company. It turned out that the other dad owned a roofing and siding company and was looking for a salesman.  He invited my client to come in for an interview and hired him.

Certainly there’s no harm in asking everyone you meet if they know of any jobs.  It’s just more likely that people will give it extra thought and go out of their way to help if you have some kind of relationship established.  It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment, just a mutual demonstration of interest and caring.  You’ll find It helps to build a connection as opposed to just a conversation about your need to find a job.

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economic crisisSo one day it’s a sunny Fall day and you’re watching children play football and soccer, and the next, 60 mph gusts are launching tree branch projectiles at your home, snapping massive tree trunks in two like so many toothpicks, and driving record tidal surges into coastal homes and businesses.  The storm’s aftermath is a period of shaky calm as people try to assess the damage and contend with life without running water, power, phones, Internet access, the ability to get to work or school or the grocery store (if it’s open and if it has items on the shelves), or even worse…

So just what does a hurricane have to do with losing your job unexpectedly?

It’s not so much the storm that brought you to your “here and now,” since that storm has come and gone.  It’s the aftermath that matters….how you pick yourself up from the devastation, dust (dry?) yourself off, and begin moving forward to stabilize and rebuild.  Recovering from a hurricane and coping with an unexpected job loss are very much about clearing out the debris (the wreckage of your home, yard, career) and focusing on the essentials you need to have/do to move forward to a better place.

You need to:

Stay positive — believing in yourself and a positive future outcome,
Have the necessary tools available and functioning (e.g., Flashlights, Batteries, Resume, References)
Roll up your sleeves and work hard to rebuild, and
Reach out to people for mutual support (aka network)
And all this is done, one step by one step at a time.   So, what are the detailed steps you have to take to power up your job search and find your next job?  Be ready to do some:

Soul searching – It’s time for some healthy introspection.  How did I land here? What went wrong? What went right? What am I good at?  What can I become good at?  What am I lacking?  How can I fill any gaps?  Where do I want to be?  What do I really want to do?
Researching – What’s the current job market like?  What companies would I like to work for? Are they hiring?  Do I know anyone who works there?  What other companies are out there that I might have overlooked with my first pass?
Packaging – Think of yourself as a “product” to be packaged and marketed.  Your primary tools are: your resume, your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile (and other social media pages), and your own blog.  Each of these elements needs to be mindfully constructed so it is clear, crisp, and consistent.  Ideally, working with an experienced resume writer is the best way to devise “stand up and be noticed” marketing materials.  But even if you can’t afford specialized help, you can do-it-yourself with help from Ivy Exec’s numerous webinars on the nuts and bolts of creating “wow” career documentation.  Above all, do not work in a vacuum or your resume will never make it to the top of the pile.
Applying  – Use company job boards and job boards offered by premier career resource companies.  Ivy Exec’s job board posts over 60,000 premium jobs that have been hand selected for our elite members.  Our premium level members receive daily job alerts tailored to their search specifications directly in their inbox. Only apply to jobs you are well qualified for, otherwise you are wasting your time.  Make sure you submit a customized cover letter with every job application that clearly delineates why your skill set and experience map perfectly to the job’s requirements.
Networking – Network! Network! Network!  Reach out to colleagues from prior jobs, friends of friends of friends, and classmates you’ve lost touch with.  Be very open to renewing contacts with people from your past.  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter are all ways to connect and re-connect.  And these social networks can be used to uncover and connect with company insiders if you are patient, yet appropriately persistent.  You just never know, but someone, who knows someone, who knows someone MAY be able to help you.  Additionally, reach out to the alumni offices at schools you attended.  Alumni offices often have networks of alumni who are more than happy to meet with job seekers for informational interviews, and alumni just might have job leads to share with a fellow alum.
Interviewing and Closing… – If it has been awhile since you interviewed, be sure to sharpen those skills before your first interview.  Scheduling informational interviews can help you polish up rusty interview skills.  As a starting point, Ivy Exec offers member access to a library of webinars on Interviewing.  Our premium members have access to a Mentor Network comprised of seasoned executives who can help you prepare tough interviews.  Ivy Exec also offers career coaching services.  Though it may seem “quaint,” make sure you follow up with every interviewer in writing to thank them for their time,  and to reaffirm your interest in the position.  Ivy Exec’s webinar library also includes materials on Negotiating – a key skill you need to master that will help you ensure that your compensation offer is in line with your expectations/requirements.
…and Working Again! — Once you’ve regained your professional footing make sure you nurture your career by growing your skill set and remaining plugged-in to the bigger picture.  Most successful careers require constant care and feeding.  Careers that are going places don’t “coast” there…

Greg Olsten is an Associate in Professional Services at IvyExec.com.

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1. “How long have you been looking?”
Always say that you’ve just started looking in ernest and had been doing something else (such as traveling, or helping a friend start their business) until 1-2 months ago. This is why it is key to stay involved during unemployment, whether you’re consulting for free or active in industry organizations/the community, keep your skills and experience fresh.

Mention how great your job search is going, that the economy is really picking up in your industry, and you’ve been meeting with a lot of companies.

2. “Why did you leave Company X?”
For involuntary departures, always begin by complimenting your former company, boss, and team. Then explain and “agree” with the company’s business reason to eliminate your position.

Always keep it positive – you could mention that you still see your old boss and colleagues regularly. And again, reinforce that you’re in a fortunate position regarding your job search.

3. “Tell me about yourself.”
If you are asked this, try to postpone any lengthy answers until you have gotten them to talk about their priorities. Once you hear those, discuss your prior performance and successes that match the 3 key needs the company has for the open position.

4. “Take me through your resume.”
If you’re speaking with a hiring manager, they don’t want to hear every single bullet or line from your resume. You should give a very abbreviated version that is entirely relevant to the position. If you’re talking to a recruiter, you can be a little more complete in your response. Unless they are asking you for more detail, skip over irrelevant jobs.

Keep in mind, they are looking for red flags, so make all your transitions sound logical and very positive.

Sarah Stamboulie is Ivy Exec’s Senior Career Coach who helps executives accelerate careers and build company and industry visibility. As a Career Coach, Sarah helps clients conduct a more efficient and effective job search in a wide range of industries and functional areas.  Contact Sarah at http://www.ivyexec.com.

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Social isolation is a major threat to people who have been unemployed for a prolonged period.  One obvious cause is the loss of daily contact with co-workers and other professional colleagues.  Another cause arises from people withdrawing from friends and family because of embarrassment and/or the need to cut back on the expenses associated with socializing.  Certainly, there are other possible factors.

The devastating impact of social isolation was highlighted in a recent “60 Minutes” telecast entitled “Platform to Employment” which described a successful program to help long term unemployed gain re-employment.  Interviews of the participants brought home the debilitating psychological pain, which often accompanies unemployment.  Repeatedly, those interviewed referred to the loss of self-confidence and self esteem as well as feelings of shame and embarrassment.  Over time they began to view themselves as failures.  One participant shared her biggest worry; namely, for the first time in her life she feared she would not be able to take care of herself.  It is feelings such as that which cause the unemployed to slowly withdraw into themselves and become more and more socially isolated.

Our bodies are programmed to respond to danger – or threats to our security — by releasing the hormones which lead to the Fight or Flight Response.  We are built to endure short periods of stress.  Prolonged stress or worry has been shown to lead to physical and mental illness.  In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky refers to research, which indicates that social isolation for prolonged periods can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones.

In today’s economy, the unemployed can be subjected to prolonged periods of worry and stress.  The resulting self-doubt and loss of confidence leads to their social withdrawal and inevitably increases their stress levels.  It therefore is critical that the unemployed seek social support, which Sapolsky recommends as an antidote to stress.

A few years ago, I presented a workshop for at a local community college.  The workshop focused on psychological strategies that could be effective in combating the emotional storm of unemployment.  It quickly became clear that an unintended benefit of the program was providing participants with social connections.  In fact, on the last night of the workshop, the group decided to approach college administrators to request a room so that they could continue meeting on a regular basis.

A couple of months later, I presented the same workshop to a similar group, which had been meeting at a church.  It struck me that this group was coping better with the stress of unemployment because of the support they provided each other.  One example of their efforts was a clothing drive for members to replace worn out items as well as obtain acceptable clothing for interviews.  They also canvassed local merchants who were willing to provide unemployed members with discounted services and products.

My experience with these two groups convinced me to encourage unemployed people to find or start support groups.  To find an existing support group, consult the community activities section of your local newspaper, or look into nearby faith organizations.  I have found these support groups to be open to anyone who is interested, regardless of religious affiliation.

If you want to start a group, a faith organization, community college, or volunteer fire department is a good place to start looking for free space.  Topics can range from helping one another with resumes, to providing job leads, to discussing strategies for salary negotiation, how to explain gaps in your resume, or how to handle tough interview questions.  Material need not be prepared in advance.  My bet is that you will be amazed at how many really good suggestions can be inspired by people of like minds.

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There are just some things in life you simply cannot understand until it happens to you. So forgive your friends and family if they’ve never been unemployed – they just don’t know. But it’s up to you to help them get past the idea that you have absolutely nothing to do. They have to understand that you are not on a very long vacation. Your job search takes time.
Tell Them How You Feel
People who are unemployed don’t like to talk about it. During the workday, it’s hard to find people to talk to when you’re out of work.  Since your life has changed, it’s up to YOU to let friends and family know how you want your friendship and relationship to change.
It’s Not Fun
In 2008 when the recession started, some of the recently unemployed coined the word “funemployment.” It isn’t. But your friends and family who are working, maybe in jobs they’re not thrilled with, want some of that! Remind them it is not fun surfing the net to understand social networking. Unemployment is not a vacation and is far from being enjoyable.
Get Up and Get Out
When you lose a job, it’s hard to get started in the morning. If you begin each day on your regular workday schedule, it’s less likely that your friends and family will see you as someone who can be the emergency contact for their kids at school, or the baby sitter, or the errand runner. Even if you head out to the library, where they have materials galore for the unemployed, the act of being up and about will help deter everyone from their special needs requests.
Be Frugal, Not Miserly
Remember that life goes on after you lose your job. If you get into never leaving the house because of your worries about money, although you have a very tight budget, you still have to hang out with friends and family. You’re allowed to laugh and be with the people you care about. Your employed friends and family may feel pressured to treat you, and by all means feel free to accept sometimes. But you should also spend your own money some of time – be sure to fit some fun into the budget. Going out with the gang will give you a chance to laugh and be distracted from being unemployed for the evening.
Finding Employment is a Job in Itself
You want friends and family to think of you as a job-seeker, not an available-to-be-the-helper-they-always-needed. When your neighbor asks you to stop in and walk her dog during the day, let her know you’re going to the Department of Labor, because they have skills seminars that might help you in your job search. And when your husband asks you to go pick up the refreshments for his poker night, remind him that you’re spending time with someone you graduated with to talk about some possible opportunities.  After you turn them down twice, they’ll get the idea that your day job is to find a job!
Laurel Bernstein is an Executive Coach working with senior leaders and business owners in the New York metropolitan area. mailto:bernstein.laurel@gmail.com

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“Too much of a good thing is wonderful,” said Mae West. But when you’re sitting across the desk from a hiring manager who is 30-something, all they see is their “mother” or “father” or even a grandparent. Relevant work experience, advanced degrees and credentials – while prerequisites for many jobs – can disqualify as well as qualify. If a candidate previously held a role at a higher level than the one she’s seeking, or her education or certifications exceed a position’s stated requirements, she’s unlikely to pass the initial software-driven screen most employers apply before even looking at an incoming resume and are categorized as “over-qualified.” This is the shorthand for “too old.”

That’s the evident meaning when a hiring manager or HR person says an opening is “too junior for you,” when you know it pays more than your last job. (This happened to me a few times.)

Is it Really about the Money?  While most of us think that our previous high salary is the issue, money isn’t really all that much of an issue in the decision. Even though age and years of experience map to a candidate’s salary requirement, hiring managers think more about culture and fit. They’re more concerned with the harmony of the existing team members, who might be significantly younger. That’s why overqualified applicants whose compensation need is well within a position’s budgeted range might be rejected. This is the first time in the history of our country that four generations are in the workplace simultaneously. And they’re not always getting along in a professional environment.

Will I Be Challenged?  Hiring managers love to ask the “overqualified” if the position will be challenging to them. Be prepared to answer all those sneaky questions that really point to your age:

  • Are you too accomplished to be content with starting from ground-zero again?
  • Are you just interviewing for this entry level job until you find something more challenging? Are you just looking for a paycheck that will support you until you find your dream job? Is this job just potentially to minimize the gap in your resume?
  • Will you be able to fully participate in the team, even though you have years of experience? Or do you think you’ll resent having to roll up your sleeves at this point in your career?

If you are fully prepared with well-crafted answers, you can overcome the real concern – your age. Remember, you still have youthful ideas.

Laurel Bernstein is an Executive Coach working with senior leaders and business owners in the New York metropolitan area. mailto:bernstein.laurel@gmail.com

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In prior blog posts I spoke about using a brag book, the need to stay in front of your network, the importance of networking, how to stand out and how to use a bio, but the focus here is more broad.  These prior blog posts provide specific, tangible tools to help you manage your career, but what are the overarching strategies that are the key to a successful job search in this current economic climate?  It is what I refer to in my career management methodology as the three A’s: Attitude, Activity and Assertiveness.  You can have the most amazing credentials in the world and the most polished resume but if your Three A’s are not in perfect order, your job search will likely falter, or at a minimum, will not allow you to land the job you deserve in the shortest time possible.
Let’s look at each of these key dimensions:
ATTITUDE
A positive, energetic, hopeful attitude while in job search mode is such an important element in this process.  Hiring managers and recruiters can sniff a desperate, negative and lackluster approach from miles away.  This approach won’t help at all in the current economy.  Let’s look at how a healthy attitude plays out with a standard interview question.  Let’s assume I was laid off due to an elimination of a layer of management.
Interviewer: “Matt, why are you no longer working at XYZ Company?”
Poor Attitude
Me: “Well, I have to tell you, my boss and I never really got along that well.  My clients loved me but I never really hit it off with her.  She seemed to play favorites and I never felt like I had a fair shake.  It’s all for the best anyway because I don’t think I was a good fit for XYZ.”
Positive Attitude
Me:  “Frankly, I never thought that high-performing employees would get hung up in a layoff; however, business decisions had to be made.  My entire layer of management was eliminated.  I know it wasn’t personal.  While I can’t say I agree with it, I can respect a company that makes difficult decisions.  Rather than focus on what was out of my control, I decided right away to leave on a high note by finishing strong on my assignments and transitioning my work in a timely manner.  Now, I am being very selective in what role I accept next because I want to make sure to land in a spot where my talents can best be utilized and where I can make an impact to the company.”
So, as you can see, by fostering positive attitude, you can leave a positive impression during an interview.  This attitude will serve you well in other aspects of your job search, too.  A great example is during the heavy networking phase of your search.  It is important to remain upbeat with your networking partners.  If you are executing your search properly, you should be going after the influential players and power connectors (the most well-networked people) in your industry and region.  These folks are extremely busy and surely will not take a networking call or meeting with a downtrodden job seeker.  Not a chance.
ACTIVITY
You can have the best attitude in the world, but if you are not talking to these power connectors, not attending events, meetings and conferences, and if you are not applying to jobs regularly, then you are going to have a tough time accelerating the job search process.  Activity yields results.  It always does.  Ask any sales professional.  They all use statistics that tell them how many leads they need to call on, how many need to be converted to a face-to-face sales pitch, and how many of these will yield a sale.
Job search is the same way, except you are the product and salesperson wrapped in one.  Here’s a list of some important activities that you should be participating in every day, week and month.  This goes for whether you are out of work and those who are gainfully employed:
·       Face-to-face networking meetings with power connectors
·       LinkedIn invitations
·       Networking events
·       Professional organization meetings
·       Speaking with recruiters
·       Applying for jobs
This type of activity is crucial.  By getting out there and meeting people, even the same people repeatedly (the average networking partner forgets about you in about seven days ), you start to become ingrained in your connections’ minds as the person to remember for job leads and other important referrals.
Please don’t lose sight of the need to apply to open positions, too!  It is very easy to get swept up in the networking process.  So much so that you forget to apply to open jobs.  You need to set aside time to do both.  When the process comes together, you will see an open job and then tap your robust network to find someone with influence to pluck your resume out of the “black hole” and right onto the hiring manager’s desk.
ASSERTIVENESS
Searching for your next position also takes the right degree of assertiveness.  Assertiveness comes into play in several areas.  First, when you are trying to get networking appointments with power connectors, you may have to follow-up on two or three different occasions.  Why?  Not because networking partners don’t care about you or don’t want to be bothered, but because they are extremely busy and just have trouble keeping up with all that they have on their plate.
Let’s look at an example.  People have called me a power connector in the Philadelphia area, particularly in Human Resources and in the pharmaceutical industry.  I’m not sure of this but let’s go with it.  I have a full-time job, a side business and a volunteer position.  This creates many emails, phone calls and meetings.  If you send me an email, it could likely get buried under other pressing issues.  Does this mean I don’t want to connect with you?  No, not at all, so I suggest you send another follow-up.  Build rapport, show credibility, and show me that you believe in mutually beneficial networking.
The same concept applies to a call or email to a recruiter that has an opening that fits your background.  Polite, courteous and timely follow-up shows interest, passion and persistence.  These are traits that any employer would likely covet.  Of course, there is always a limit.  Too much of a good thing is always problematic.
Many job seekers are timid and don’t follow up enough.  If that’s you then remember a good amount of follow-up is appreciated and can really make a difference.
SUMMARY
Conducting a cutting-edge job search requires many tactical elements such as a resume, cover letter, bio, target list of companies and brag book; however, if you also remain focused and practice the Three A’s of Attitude, Activity and Assertiveness, you will likely land your next position sooner and with less stress!
Remember, It Only Takes ONE
Matt Levy is an HR Professional/Recruiting & Talent Expert/Innovator. He blogs at http://mlevy2222.wordpress.com.  You can read the articles he refers to above at that site.   His article, “How Thinking and Acting Positively Helped Me Get a Great Job,” can be found below.

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