- Strong work ethic: Think through several ways of showcasing your strong work ethic. Did you rise early every morning in high school to shovel neighbors’ driveways as a source of income? Did you volunteer at a local soup kitchen once a week throughout college? Maybe you took care of a younger sibling or volunteered to lead a college community group. Think of examples that show consistent, hard work, even if they don’t relate to a specific job.
- Creativity: Explain how you were able to produce something in a fresh or unusual manner or talk about times you were able to work around problems to reach a solution.
- Integrity: Discuss a situation in which you were able to discern the difference between right and wrong. This is particularly effective if you did the right thing despite pressure to do the opposite.
- Responsibility: Describe in detail times you have been trusted to use good judgment and sound thinking to complete important projects on time. Perhaps you organized a fundraiser, managed a daily dog-walking business, or wrote a weekly column for the college newspaper. Stress examples in which you were responsible for delivering quality work while meeting deadlines consistently.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Here are a few key advantages of face-to-face communication, as it relates to the workplace setting.
In-person meetings go deeper. Sitting across from others and making eye contact provides greater insight into how they are reacting to the information you’re discussing. Direct eye contact also fosters trust. Face-to-face communication is vital in the give-and-take required when dealing with complex business communications. These meetings are particularly beneficial for negotiating, persuading, consensus-building, and decision-making.
Stronger relationships develop. Spending time over dinner or at the café provides a unique opportunity to cement meaningful relationships with clients and maintain productive relationships with co-workers. By getting to know your clients and colleagues on a personal level, you will be more apt to build stronger bonds.
Body language counts. You are in a stronger position to gauge reactions when you meet, greet, and shake hands. Using all five senses is a more accurate way for “reading” another person.
In data-oriented presentations or cases where vast amounts of information are being disseminated, video or web conferences may be the way to go. The bottom line, though, is that you should think of technology as a tool, rather than as a replacement for face-to-face communication. That way, you are in a better position to discern which type of communication will more effectively serve your business needs.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Perhaps you have been in an interview where you were asked a question that began with “give me an example when you…” or “tell me about a time when…” These are called behavioral interview questions and seek to probe into how you respond in certain work situations. They are based upon the idea that the best way to predict future behavior is through past behavior.
Behavioral interview questions can seem tough, but a cool (and well prepared) head can prevail. To answer a behavioral interview question, use the STAR method:
Situation/Task: Describe a situation or a task from your work history that best corresponds with the question asked. For example, if you were asked “tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor,” discuss a situation where you had a disagreement. If you have never disagreed with your supervisor, try describing a time when you disagreed with another co-worker.
Action: Illustrate the action you took in this situation, emphasizing skills that would benefit a future employer such as being proactive, teamwork, solving problems, technical knowledge or anything else that you gather from your research.
Result: Finally, tell the result of your actions and what you learned. The result does not need to be favorable if you took something away that positively impacted your performance.
Monday, December 27, 2010
An effective job search is a time consuming process that uses multiple approaches toward the target. You have already learned that an effective job search must be targeted. However, it must also be organized and strategic. Prepare your search strategy by avoiding these common mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Your job search is one-dimensional
As a military service member, chances are you have not conducted the type of search that will be necessary in today’s market. A multi-pronged attack is necessary for success. Sending resumes and cover letters in response to job postings is only one option. You must also start networking. Talk with fellow service members who are employed with your target companies to gain referrals. Inform vendors and military contractors about your transition. Participate in social networking such as LinkedIn by posting your profile.
Mistake #2 – Your job search is too general or too specific
There is no such thing as an effective general job search. If you have no target in mind, you will never achieve your goal. One of the biggest mistakes is to try to cover an entire military career’s job responsibilities in one resume. This will overwhelm an employer with information and underwhelm them in terms of your relevance to their company. Focus your efforts, highlight relevant skills, and leave out irrelevant information.
Before beginning your job search, you must research your targeted industry. Before you write a targeted resume, you need to ensure there is a market for this specialty where you want to live. Your resume and your search must be targeted. However, there has to be a market for your skills where you want to live.
Mistake #3 – You started your job search too soon or too late
Military personnel often begin to make preparations up to two years prior to retirement. However, two years – or even one year – is too soon to start applying to job openings. For federal positions, you can start applying six months prior to your separation date. For civilian positions, you can start applying three months prior to separation. Start too soon and you may knock yourself out of the running with some companies when they find out your availability.
However, don’t wait until the last minute to begin your career transition. As soon as you decide to make the transition, decide on a career target and prepare a focused resume and cover letter. These can be used for networking with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and contractors. It is never too soon to begin networking.
Friday, December 24, 2010
- Do a self-assessment. First, identify your values. Do you value independence, structure, creativity, adventure, or a team environment? Is autonomy, security, status, or integrity important to you? Next, consider your interests. What activities do you pursue in your free time? What types of books or movies do you enjoy? What did you like about your last job and what could you live without? What motivates you and why?
- Play to your strengths. Create a thorough list of your strengths. Are you organized, creative, a terrific public speaker, or a born leader? Are you a great teacher, problem solver, or technology whiz? To ensure you are being objective, enlist help from friends, family, and business associates.
- Match them up. After identifying your values, interests, and strengths, brainstorm and research some possible careers. Start with the Career Transitions “Explore Careers” section. Consult those who know you best for career matches you might not have considered.
- Research the requirements. Narrow your search to a few ideas and then determine their requirements. Do you need to brush up on computer skills? Does the job require a special certification? Perhaps a semester at a community college is all you need to move forward.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
- Check email only at defined times each day. Checking email only two or three times a day—for example 10:00, 1:00, and 4:00—provides solid, uninterrupted blocks of time to complete important work. Let your boss, colleagues, and clients know that if they need to reach you instantly, email is not the way. Turning off your email program’s auto notify feature will help you resist the urge to check email more often.
- Respond appropriately. If an email requires a short, simple response, do it immediately. This eliminates the need to go back later and spend additional time re-reading the message.
- Create folders. Create a “Reply ASAP” folder for organizing time-sensitive emails that require a more detailed answer. Use a “To Do” folder for messages that need a response but are not considered urgent. Set up other folders for storing emails that don’t require a response but provide information you’ll need later. Organize these in a way that makes them easy to find when you need them—by client, project, contact, etc.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
- Skills Assessment: These tests, consisting of a series of questions which can be answered in 30-45 minutes, will help you understand how your strengths and challenges relate to a variety of career options. There are many skills assessment tests available. Check out the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey, Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (for college students), and Strengths Finder 2.0, which is a combination book and online assessment. And coming soon, Career Transitions will include a skills assessment tool.
- Interests: Working in a job that uses your skills is gratifying, but if the subject matter is not of interest, the job can quickly become routine. To figure out what excites you, consider the types of work you enjoy, the leisure activities you pursue, etc. Then, make time to take the Career Transitions interest assessment, review your results, and explore some of the careers that match up.
- Values: For long-term satisfaction, consider your values before taking any position. Do so without judgment; the exercise is to understand what you need from your job, not to revamp your value system. For example, consider your views on work-life balance, the weight you place on salary, the significance of career advancement opportunities, and how important it is to you to make a contribution to society.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
- Do your research: Investigate the field you are interested in to learn more about it. Career Transitions is a great place to start.
- Create strong questions: In an informational interview, you are the “reporter” doing the interviewing. Create questions that delve deeper into what you have researched and make the precious time with your interviewee worthwhile. Questions more personal to the interviewee’s experience can be successful as well, providing more detail into the nature of the career or company you are researching. Try these examples:
- What is your proudest accomplishment in your current position?
- What was the best piece of advice you received that helped you become more successful?
- What challenges in your current position do you enjoy the most?
- Contact the right person: When you are ready, contact the person who you feel would best be able to answer your questions. You’ll obviously want to find someone who works in the career field or organization that you are targeting, but how? The best way to do this is to use your network and connect with someone you are interested in through a friend or family member (or even through the friend of a friend or family member). Be persistent in calling on your contacts; degrees of separation are small and they will most likely know someone with whom you can talk-. If you still aren’t finding success, another option would be to send a blind email to someone in that organization or role that you are targeting, but don’t be surprised if you do not hear back. Be honest and sincere in your email, and let them know that they are under no obligation to talk with you or even reply to your email. With the control in their hands and with “no strings attached,” they will be more inclined to speak with you.
Monday, December 20, 2010
No matter how qualified you may be, if a potential employer can not decipher your resume, comprehend your military skills and experience, and understand the value you offer, you will not get calls for interviews. In teaching thousands of military service members from all branches of the military, I have learned they find the task of translating their skills to civilian terms the most challenging step.
To begin, you must strip away the military language and acronyms in order to highlight your skills in your resume. Many of the people who will screen or read your resume have no concept of military life. It is your job to provide a clear understanding of the relevant skills and experience you gained in the military. Most military experience transfers easily to the corporate world with the right language.
Instead of: Acted as the battalion secretary to create schedules for the unit.
Translate to: Created calendars and organized training schedules for 150+ personnel.
Instead of: Achieved FMC rate of 88% and 98% scheduling effectiveness rate.
Translate to: Maintained critical equipment availability 6% above USAF standards. Managed time effectively to ensure 98% of all scheduled maintenance was completed on-time.
Additionally, many military job titles are meaningless in the civilian world. Do your research to determine what potential employers are calling the positions for which you are qualified. Take the following example of how you can translate the USAF First Sergeant duty title. Employee Relations Manager (First Sergeant), United States Air Force. As you can see, the official title is still included on the resume, we just highlighted the “civilianized” job title by bolding it.
There are some very useful resources available on the Internet. Here are a few:
O*NET (http://online.onetcenter.org/) – Offers the Crosswalk Search by entering your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Navy Rating, or Air Force Military Occupation Code (MOC).
Army COOL and Navy COOL (https://www.cool.army.mil/) or (https://www.cool.navy.mil/) – Works in connection with the Occupational Outlook Handbook to provide detailed career information.
Verification of Military Education and Training (VMET) (http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/vmet) – Provides detailed information about your current position and related civilian career fields.
America’s CareerInfoNet (www.acinet.org/moc) – Serves as a military to civilian occupational translator and provides labor market information by state.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Whether you have served four years or dedicated your entire career towards service in the military, you may face some obstacles in your transition. Over the next five weeks, I will tackle some of the issues you will face and provide you with five steps you should take in order to expedite the transition process.
This first step is very important; it will determine the effectiveness of your military transition. In order to get results, a job search and a resume must have a target or focus. One of the biggest errors made on military transition resumes is a lack of focus. There is no such thing as an effective generic resume. A resume that tries to appeal to everyone ends up appealing to no one.
Military personnel learn a wide variety of skills and often have countless additional duties on top of their duty title. It would be nearly impossible and certainly ineffective to fit all your previous military experience into one resume. Studies show that the reader affords your resume 10 to 15 seconds of attention. The reader will not sift through all the irrelevant information to get to the most compelling information. Your relevant, transferable skills must be easy to find, not buried among the unimportant information.
For example, a jet engine craftsman whose focus is contract and finance management will never be effective in their search with a resume that focuses on jet engine maintenance. In addition to mechanical knowledge, this candidate has project management, customer service, budget planning and allocation, documentation management, and supervisory experience. Their mechanical knowledge has no place on their resume, as it is irrelevant to the target employer.
Before beginning your transition, determine the career field you will pursue and identify the local companies that have jobs. Discover what qualifications and education you need and define your transferable qualifications. Some research resources are the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/oco) and the Department of Labor’s O*NET site (http://online.onetceter.org).
Making the decision to target your job search will enable you to eliminate irrelevant information from your resume and accelerate your job search. This may mean leaving out some skills and experience or possibly having multiple resumes targeted to different careers.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
- Evaluate your target. If the person you need to convince is your boss, determine how he or she would view your proposal. Be prepared to respond to potential trouble spots and be ready to demonstrate how your idea will make his or her life easier. Include some of your boss’s favorite buzzwords and analogies in your proposal.
- Do the research. Be able to support your idea with facts, figures, and real-world examples. Look at your role as that of an attorney putting together the most effective case. Packaging is also important. How does your boss like to receive information? Does he or she prefer a dog-and-pony show—in other words, an elaborate production—or facts and figures on a spreadsheet?
- Invite without pressure. Before approaching your boss, convince some co-workers or key people in other departments to support your idea. Invite your boss and other co-workers along for the ride and get them on board early. Move slowly and be willing to accept a bite-sized “yes.” Offer flexibility by pitching the idea as a pilot program that can be regularly evaluated then expanded upon later.
- Follow up. Keep your boss and other management invested in your project and updated on its progress. If your idea was rejected, find out why—and keep trying. Some of the most successful inventors in history were rejected multiple times before finally being given a chance.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
You can pick up a copy at a local bookstore or check it out online here.
- Computer literacy: Some degree of computer savvy is a requirement for most positions. Have you been getting by with the basics of e-mail and word processing? Improve your confidence and what you offer potential employers by taking a course in advanced word processing, spreadsheets, database management, or social media. Such courses are readily available through local continuing education facilities, career retraining programs and libraries.
- Communication skills: Both written and oral communication skills are essential to personal and professional success. Business writing classes are available at local community colleges and via on-line courses. Programs such as Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie, available in most communities, can help you improve your oral communication skills, including giving professional presentations to clients or speaking up at meetings.
- Time management/organization: Multitasking is a fact of life today, but how to do it successfully requires a strategy. Good time management skills will stand you in good stead not only in terms of managing work projects, but in the work-life balance. There are many approaches out there. The key takeaway is to use some type of strategy rather than “winging it.” Sources include books, on-line materials, classes, and consultants.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
- Lick your wounds: When job searching you are most likely going to get rejected. Some people are able to easily bounce back from rejection; some need a bit of time. Don't think that you are a failure for taking some time to reassess and refocus. The pause could give you clarity that will make your search easier.
- Create a "rejection" thank you note: Send a note to your interviewer, thanking her for her time and wishing the candidate they selected success. This may seem bizarre, but doing so in this circumstance will speak volumes about your character, professionalism, and the graciousness with which you handle failure.
- Ask for feedback: Contact your interviewer to ask for genuine feedback on your candidacy. You may be surprised about what you hear, from errors on your resume to problems with your interviewing style. Take whatever advice you receive seriously and, again, formally thank her for her time.
Monday, December 13, 2010
- Healthcare: Although growth in healthcare may not occur in 2011, the field has significant potential for future job growth as the aging population continues to increase in size. For example, home health aides and personal and home aides will be in high demand as more patients prefer to recover in their own homes – not only for comfort but for cost savings. These jobs require an associate’s degree or two years or less of specialized training. This may be attractive to professionals looking to transition careers without investing a lot of time and money in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
- Financial Analysts and Planners: Many baby boomers that have not used a financial planner during their careers are likely to look for one as they approach and enter retirement. These baby boomers are looking for a financial analyst or planner who can help them make changes to their portfolio and ensure they have ample savings as they move into this next phase of their lives.
- Consulting: As the economy recovers and employers start to look for additional labor, they may be reluctant to commit to hiring full-time staff. Instead, employers often turn to consultants. Consultants are often used in disciplines such as marketing, management, information technology, and scientific-related areas.
- Information Technology (IT) : IT has been hot for over two decades, and the demand for software developers, software testers, and technical writers remains strong. As nearly all business sectors have web-based products or are moving in that direction, IT is an industry that will continue to grow and develop.
Friday, December 10, 2010
- E-networking: There are many internet sites designed to quickly connect you to people in your industry or field. LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site offering you access to your contacts’ connections. Other sites to check out include Ryze and Plaxo.
- Professional organizations: There is a professional group for every industry and discipline. Gateway to Associations, offered through the Center for Association Leadership, allows you to search by industry and geographic location.
- Informational interviews: The quality of your connections is at least as important as the quantity. Generally, people like to share their expertise with others. These interviews are not specific to an open position, but allow you to find out more about a field or industry in which you are interested. The personal contact will keep you top-of-mind when opportunities arise.
- Project work: If you are between jobs, consider doing some consulting in your field. It is an easier way to get your foot in the door and a great way to build your resume while you meet new people—which can lead to additional projects or permanent positions.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
- Preserve the professional mindset: Get dressed and maintain a set work schedule. Align your work schedule with normal business hours, if applicable based on the job and any agreed-upon working arrangements with employers or clients. Consistent work hours are particularly important if you are telecommuting; you need to be available for the core hours your company will keep.
- Be accessible: Make sure you’re accessible to your clients, boss, or coworkers. Use the advantages of technology that make communicating or working with clients from anywhere seamless, such as smart phone and/or dedicated phone land line/message service, fax machine, web conferencing, file hosting service, etc.
- Maintain a workspace: Dedicate a specific physical location as your workspace and contain your work to that area so it does not overtake your home. Make sure it is private and that members of the household are aware when that space is off-limits. Have a signal when you are unavailable (e.g. door closed, sign on door).
- Keep networking: Networking is a key success factor for any job, but consider it even more vital when working from home. Taking breaks in your day is necessary and combining this with networking is a smart approach. Not only may it lead to your next assignment, but continuing to exchange ideas and get input/feedback from professional colleagues will enhance the quality of your work.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
- Search yourself: It’s obvious that a quick Google search can elicit information about you. But try Spokeo.com to search more in-depth and root out any potential problems that you need to address.
- Lockdown your Facebook profile: Are you familiar with Facebook’s security settings? If not, you could be displaying information that you don’t want others to see. Check out this video from the US Army to turn it into Fort Knox!
- Run interference: Create a profile on LinkedIn.com that is geared exclusively towards your professional life. It will appear near the top of Google search results and bury other sites that have content you’re working on removing.
- Make yourself immune: The last advice is probably the best: do not post anything on social media sites that you wouldn’t want displayed on the front page of the newspaper!
Monday, December 6, 2010
- Project Management: Maybe you haven’t ever held a project management position, but you possess these skills if you’ve chaired a committee at school or a community association. Ever organized a fundraising event or a family reunion? Now there’s the ultimate in project management!
- Leadership: Think about sports, organized or intramural, for yourself or your children. Any coaching experience provides invaluable leadership opportunities. A winning record is impressive, but so are the anecdotes of children who came into their own under your tutelage. And interacting with the parents of children you are coaching absolutely requires relationship-building savvy.
- Communication Skills: Obviously we communicate every day, all day long, but the question is how to convey the mastery of these communication skills. Are there any community newsletters you write or to which you contribute? Do you blog on a favorite hobby? If so, how many followers do you have? Perhaps you have felt strongly on a community issue and convinced others to consider the issue and seek action, displaying not only persuasive verbal communication skills, but leadership as well.
Friday, December 3, 2010
- Global Greening: Ecological awareness, concern, and action have been increasing rapidly over the past five years and are expected to continue. This is why government, big business, and entrepreneurs are all investing heavily in this industry. This environmental trend bodes well for “green collar” jobs in many areas: energy research/manufacturing, recycling, waste management, eco-consulting for businesses, and natural resource management to name a few.
- Graying of America: As baby boomers age, there will be a staggering increase in the requirement for health care facilities and health service professionals to address their needs (e.g., outpatient caretakers, medical and diagnostic technicians, healthcare administrators, etc.).
- Technology Explosion: The only constant in the field of technology is incessant change. Careers in technology will always be abundant, but there is one caveat to keep in mind. While you will need to carve out a techno-niche for your expertise, be careful to keep your awareness broad and be prepared to work hard to stay tuned in to cutting edge developments concerning your specialty.
- Economic Turmoil: The U.S. economic recession has resulted in businesses laying off a startling percent of the workforce. As the economy recovers, corporations will need to re-staff but will be hesitant to hire full-time employees. Consultants, freelance workers, and contract agencies will be in high demand in the foreseeable future.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
- Pay and benefits: Unquestionably, pay and benefits are important. However, they don’t usually make up for other aspects of the job that might create dissatisfaction. As cited in a BNET blog, Leigh Branham, author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, states that most employees leave as a result of issues with their job, manager, culture, or work environment—and not because of pay.
- Leadership with vision and purpose: A company’s leaders typically define the vision, purpose, and goals for the business. Ask yourself whether these align with your own professional values and goals.
- Company culture and work environment: Find out if a prospective employer’s employees feel appreciated and that their work is valued. Is there a sense of mutual respect between management and employees? Does the company care about work and family-life balance? Do employees appear positive and happy? What is the overall energy or vibe in the work environment?
- Manager’s work style and personality: Who you work for has a big impact on job satisfaction, so find out as much as you can about your prospective boss. What is this boss’s reputation among the employees and management? What is his/her personality like? Ask the boss directly about management style, expectations, and how he/she handles conflict, differing opinions, etc.
- Opportunity for growth: A new job typically offers many growth and learning opportunities. However, once you settle into the job, what is your career path? Is there opportunity to add new skills and knowledge? Will there be advancement opportunities?