Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top Cities for High-Tech Jobs

The high-technology sector has taken a hit like so many other industries during the recent economic rough patch. In 2009, high-tech did away with 245,600 jobs, according to the TechAmerica Foundation’s report Cyberstates 2010: The Definitive State-by-State Analysis of the High-Technology Industry. Despite this lackluster news, the decline came after four years of steady growth in high-tech employment.

There is no question that a career in the high-technology sector is still a viable option. The better question would be: In what areas of the country would job seekers fare better in finding high-technology jobs? Using the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Labor (2006), the American Electronics Association ranked cities with the most high-tech jobs per capita. The top ten cities were as follows:

  1. San Jose, California (Silicon Valley)
  2. Boulder, Colorado
  3. Huntsville, Alabama
  4. Durham, North Carolina
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. Manchester, New Hampshire
  7. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  8. Austin, Texas
  9. Palm Bay-Melbourne, Florida
  10. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Leave a Voicemail Message that Commands Attention

When you leave a voicemail message, you are leaving an impression of yourself. Whether you’re in a job now or in search of one, your ability to leave clear, concise, and relevant messages can impact how you are perceived professionally.

Most people don’t give a lot of thought to voice messages, so the end result can often be confusing and rambling. It is important to convey an interesting, useful, and efficient message. Try to keep your messages to under one minute in length, if possible. A voice message that the listener doesn’t consider relevant or one that is too long will cause you to lose his/her attention. Keep in mind that voice messages are typically well-received when they project a friendly tone with some enthusiasm and/or energy.

Before you leave a voicemail message for a potential hiring manager, client, or professional colleague, consider the following:

  • What is the purpose of your call?

  • Why are you leaving the message for this particular person?

  • Does the recipient know you, or do you first need to establish who you are in your message?

  • What will motivate the listener to hear your complete message? If you have something of value or importance to offer him/her, mention it early.

  • Did you clearly convey what action you are hoping the recipient will take after hearing your message?

There is no question that in today’s business world, people are busy and often overwhelmed with the number of voice messages they must return. By following the above tips, the chances that your voicemail message will be one to which someone responds will be much better.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Be Leery of Online Job Scams

Searching for jobs online is a convenient and viable means for identifying openings. Unfortunately unscrupulous, yet creative, people have found ways to prey on online job seekers as a means of gathering personal information, stealing identities, and worse. Job seekers, therefore, need to be able to spot online job scams in order to avoid becoming a victim.

Here is a list of common red flags that can alert you to online job scams.

  • Promises and guarantees of finding you a job

  • Requests for your social security number

  • Requests for personal banking, credit card, or PayPal account information

  • Ads that require you to send information to questionable email addresses

  • Federal government jobs listed as “previously undisclosed” (All federal government positions are posted on

  • Ads that request payment for services or request that you forward, transfer, or wire money to an account. (Some employment agencies may charge a fee but don’t do so until they succeed in securing you a job and, in most cases, it is the employer that pays the fee.)

  • Work-at-home jobs, specifically those that promise huge earnings or other enticements

  • Job listings that are vague and don’t require you to submit a resume

  • Suspicious email addresses using common email services like Hotmail or Gmail

The public library, hiring companies’ websites, and Career Transitions are all good resources for validating online job postings in which you’re interested. You can also check with your local consumer protection agency, your state’s attorney general’s office, and/or the Better Business Bureau to determine if complaints have been filed against online employment sources.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tweet Your Way to Discovering a Job

If you haven’t done so yet, you may want to explore using Twitter as a tool in your job search. It’s a great way to stay tuned into those of interest in your profession or industry, including hiring managers at companies you’re targeting in your search. Twitter can also help you work toward establishing valuable networking relationships with people in your field of interest.

The following are a few tips to consider when using Twitter during your job search:
  • Set up a user name that includes your name and something about your profession if possible, such as @sjonestechwriter.

  • Use Twitter’s profile (bio) section to briefly describe what you do professionally. This will help increase the chances of your account displaying when users are searching for accounts specific to a certain occupation and/or topic.

  • Consider including a link to your blog.

  • Sign up to receive updates and job alerts from relevant Twitter accounts. You’ll find that several industries and companies use Twitter accounts for posting job openings.

  • Identify, follow, and tweet with other Twitter users in your occupation, industry, or targeted companies.

  • Actively tweet about your professional area of expertise by commenting on industry news, trends, and events. If someone you’re following and trying to network with responds to your tweet with something interesting, either respond back or retweet (i.e., forward it).

  • Comment on interesting tweets from those you’re following in your profession by sharing a public comment (i.e., @replies).

  • Tweet about your job status and search for a job.

  • Use professional, appropriate, and correct grammar in your tweets.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Public Speaking: Boost Your Confidence with Practice and Planning

Public speaking is a common fear among many people. However, with practice, you can boost your confidence and deliver a speech with skill and comfort.

As you prepare, think about who your audience is and ask yourself if those in the audience have any shared traits. Other things to consider are: What is the purpose of your message? Where will you deliver your speech (audio, video, and lighting needs might come into play depending on the setting)? How can you best deliver your message? Be sure to choose your words carefully, and don’t forget to use examples and visual aids, if applicable. You should even think about your tone of voice and body language, such as eye contact and hand gestures.

Below are a few more tips to keep in mind for delivering a successful speech:

  • Be prepared: Research your topic and practice your presentation in front of friends and family.

  • Organize your speech: Have a planned beginning, middle, and end, and be sure you stay within the time allotted.

  • Keep your message concise: Don’t attempt to share too much information or unnecessary details

  • Use language that your audience will understand: Stay away from uncommon words and technical terms, unless you’re confident your audience is familiar with them.

  • Grab your audience’s attention quickly: Plan a powerful introduction for catching your audience’s attention, but make sure it’s relevant and not just for dramatic effect.

  • Dress appropriately: Think about your audience and the setting, and dress for the specific occasion. Dressing professionally signals that you’re respectful of your audience’s attention and time.

  • Be yourself: The more you can deliver a genuine speech and inject glimpses of your personality, the more likely it is that your audience will relate to your speech.

Is Initiative Worth the Effort?

Initiative is defined as taking the first step, originating new ideas, and having the ability to think and act on your own. Think of it as going above and beyond what is expected of you.

Initiative can be a very subjective concept, but in the workplace, showing initiative is typically viewed as a positive attribute. Even so, there are times when it can go unnoticed. This can be particularly true when the result of your extra effort isn’t tangible or can’t be measured as a time or money saver.

Don’t shy away from taking initiative in your career, but do take the time to consider whether your initiative will be worth your effort in the long run. Start by assessing the current work environment. Ask yourself a few important questions before you get started:

  • What are the organization’s goals for the year?

  • What problems need solving?

  • Where can your skills and knowledge achieve the greatest impact?

  • How will your efforts be perceived and valued throughout the organization?

Next, consider sharing the idea with your manager. Taking initiative and investing time on tasks that may not matter to your manager might be perceived as an error in judgment and could backfire on you.

There is no question that, most times, taking the initiative can serve you well. Be sure to evaluate your idea carefully and frame it in terms of the positive impact it will have on others. That way, you can comfortably and enthusiastically take the initiative by moving your idea forward.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Post-Retirement Jobs

The word retirement used to mean you were ending your career in search of rest, relaxation, and travel. But today, retirement is more about ending your lifelong career (generally after the age of 50) in search of another opportunity in the workforce. This new opportunity could mean simply working in the local florist, specialty shop, or electronics store; converting a long-time hobby into a job; or consulting in the line of work from which you just departed.

Before you start your retirement job search, it’s a great idea to develop a plan. Update your resume, determine your strengths and weaknesses, draft a list of your transferable skills, and focus on what type of job you want.

Once everything is in place, your best source for searching is your own network. If you haven’t signed up for LinkedIn yet, do so. LinkedIn is a professional online network, and often its members can turn into great resources to help in your job search.

You should also consider using online job search engines like to view available jobs from multiple company sites and job boards. It can be accessed through the "Find Jobs" section of Career Transitions, There are even web sites developed specifically for job seekers over the age of 50, such as,, and

The most important thing to remember—especially when reaching out to companies and during the interview process—is to focus on your skills and the value you bring to the company. After all, that company will be getting a more experienced, reliable, and flexible addition to its team.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Asking for Interview Feedback

Getting feedback on an interview performance can be a valuable way to improve your interviewing skills, yet many job candidates don’t ask for it. Or if they do, it’s requested at an inappropriate time or in a way that puts the interviewer in a defensive position.

Knowing how to ask for feedback will help you to grow from the experience and, consequently, prepare you for future interview success.

When to Ask

You typically ask for feedback after being notified by a company representative or hiring manager that you haven’t been selected for a job. If you receive a phone call, this is the point to ask for feedback. If you’re notified by email or snail mail, follow up with a phone call within 24 hours.

Who to Ask

It’s best to ask those with whom you’ve interviewed for specific feedback that they can share. If that person isn’t available or willing to provide feedback, consider requesting secondhand feedback from the HR representative or outside recruiter who set up the interview.

Note, though, that a growing number of companies limit or restrict employees from providing interview feedback. Such policies are designed to prevent employment discrimination claims by job candidates who might misinterpret the feedback. Nonetheless, it’s still worth the effort to ask.

What to Ask

Politely ask for an evaluation of your responses, such as how well you answered the questions. In addition, you may also ask for a critique of your professional etiquette, tone of voice, and preparedness.

As you receive constructive feedback, listen carefully and avoid reacting emotionally. As a result, you’ll be able to pinpoint areas where you may have struggled and fine-tune your responses and techniques before your next interview opportunity.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preparing to Answer the Tough Interview Question, “Why Were You Fired?”

With the recent economic downturn, an increasing number of job seekers find themselves in the position of having to explain why they were fired from a previous job. Many experienced hiring managers understand that the current state of the economy has resulted in a significant increase in layoffs and firings. They also recognize that, in some cases, capable people are fired simply because a particular job was not a good fit or a personality mismatch existed between an individual employee and his/her manager. However, no matter how understanding a hiring manager is, it is that person’s job to ask why you were fired and expect a plausible explanation.

The best way to answer this question is honestly and succinctly while emphasizing any specific lessons gained. Stick to the facts and put a favorable spin on the situation by sharing how you’ve gained valuable professional insight that you can positively leverage in your next job. Avoid getting caught in lengthy details and placing blame on your previous employer. If the interviewer continues to dig for more details, try to turn the conversation back to how well your qualifications align with the position for which you’re interviewing and why you would be an asset to the current organization.

Be aware of your body language, tone, and the overall attitude you’re projecting as you discuss your firing. The best way to convey this confidently in an interview is to work on your attitude before the interview. First you need to accept the fact that you were fired and then you need to convince yourself that you’re genuinely ready to move forward. Once you do, you’ll likely start to experience newfound exhilaration about future job opportunities that lay ahead. And you can count on this enthusiastic and optimistic demeanor being well-received in any interview.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Managing Two Job Offers

Your excellent qualifications and job search diligence have resulted in two job offers, so now what? First, make sure you have some form of written offer in hand from both companies. After enthusiastically reiterating interest in each position and expressing gratitude, ask each potential employer for a response deadline. Most companies expect that you may need a day or two, and none should expect you to make a decision on the spot.

To handle both job offers in a way that earns you respect, you must manage your words and actions professionally. Under no circumstances should you attempt to manipulate a company into extending a better offer by playing one offer against the other or setting ultimatums. In fact, it is not necessary to mention to either prospective employer that you have another offer under consideration.

If faced with a situation where you have already accepted one job offer and now an enticing second offer arrives, be extremely careful in your approach. By recanting the first offer, you could jeopardize your professional relationship and any future opportunities with the first company. This is not to say that you should stick with the first offer, but you had better assess that it is well worth it in the long run to retract your first acceptance in favor of a more appealing second offer.

In both cases, when breaking the news to the company you are turning down, be gracious, straightforward, and apologetic when explaining that, after careful consideration, you have decided to decline their job offer.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Plan and Schedule Your Job Search

Unemployed job seekers often struggle to manage their time, since their former jobs provided considerable structure to their lives. So, it is imperative to plan and schedule your job search to maintain focus, motivation, and success.

Spend the first week or two prioritizing tasks such as creating or updating your résumé, reviewing your network contacts, and posting your profile on web sites like LinkedIn. You should also plan to identify industries, companies, jobs, and geographic areas to target. Career Transitions' “Explore Careers” section is an invaluable resource for job search targeting.

With your plan in place, create a job search schedule. Decide how many hours to devote to your search and dedicate a set amount of time, typically between three and five days. Allocate blocks of time to the following activities:

  • Research targeted industries, companies, jobs, and geographic areas

  • Apply online via job boards like Indeed (accessible through the “Find Jobs” tab in Career Transitions) and company web sites

  • Write customized cover letters

  • Assemble and mail cover letter/resume packets

  • Follow up on jobs for which you’ve applied

  • Network with support groups, professional associations, and career events

By implementing a job search plan and schedule, you'll gain a sense of accomplishment each week, which will help you stay motivated and focused on successfully landing your next job!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Interview Silence: Although Uncomfortable, Work It to Your Advantage

Most job seekers are unsettled by silence in an interview. They tend to break the silence by providing details that may not be relevant to the question or by carrying on about nothing. Either way, rambling to fill a silence can have negative results and even exclude you from being seriously considered for the job. As uncomfortable and intimidating as silence can be during an interview, your best line of defense is to prepare for and expect it.

It takes self-discipline to keep from talking for the mere sake of filling the silence during an interview. Don’t let silence unnerve you. By remaining calm and patiently waiting for the interviewer to comment on your response or pose another question, you are demonstrating self-confidence. If a minute or two passes and the interviewer remains silent, you might want to ask the interviewer if he/she would like you to elaborate on a specific point.

Interviewers often use silence as a technique in exploring how a candidate reacts under pressure. Some prefer silence for thinking about what was just said. Others are even providing a quiet moment out of consideration so you have ample time to organize your thoughts, prepare for the next question, and compose yourself.

Since the main goal of the interviewer is to gather detailed information to assess whether the interviewee is potentially the right person for the job, it can be ineffective for the interviewer to dominate the discussion. The overall interview experience is far more successful when it is a mutually respectful, exploratory, and interesting dialogue.