Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Did you Leave your Last Job? How to Navigate This Interview Question.

One of my favorite sayings is “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Success in an interview is measured by being prepared for all questions that may be asked. Don’t be thrown off-track by this popular question. The key to answering this question effectively is to remain brief, be positive, and don’t provide unnecessary details.

Interviewers ask this question so that they can understand your motivations and try to gain insight into how you handle conflict. You would be amazed at some of the things candidates have told me in response to this question. The answer to this one question can serve as a giant red warning sign that says “DO NOT HIRE.” Here are some situations you may be facing and how to deal with each one:

If you were fired
This situation can be tricky. You could answer that you made a mutual decision to take your career in a new direction. However, honesty is always the best policy. Take responsibility for the situation, explain what you learned from the experience, and express that the issue will not happen again. Don’t feel compelled go into details. Never try to blame your former employer; you will always come across as though you were the problem.

If you were laid off
Being laid off is seldom viewed as a negative toward the candidate. When stating your reason, explain that you were part of large-scale reduction in force. Provide a general reason for the lay-off such as the company was downsizing, outsourcing, or business slowed down. Do not come across as bitter or angry. Express appreciation for your former company, talk about what you learned in your previous position, and convey enthusiasm for your future opportunities and challenges.

If you did not get along with your boss or coworkers
Never speak negatively about a boss, coworker or the company in an interview. Do not feel the need to explain the situation and who was right or wrong. No matter the circumstances, if you are the one complaining you will come across as a problem employee who is difficult to manage.

When the situation was uncomfortable, it is best to offer a brief answer such as “I was looking to use my skills and experience in an environment where I could make a positive impact.” Unless pressed for further details, it is best to leave it at that.

If you were unhappy with your career direction
Career satisfaction comes from many angles – being challenged, continued growth, adequate pay, and appreciation. However, if you complain about any of these issues, you may come across as easily bored and unmotivated. Talk about how you want to continue to grow and develop your career and how you feel your skills and knowledge can benefit their company. Show that you are self-aware and motivated to succeed by talking about how your skills were not a fit in your previous employer and then state how you feel you fit into the company for which you are interviewing.

If your life circumstances changed
Our personal lives inevitably impact our work. However, you don’t want the interviewer to feel as though your job will be negatively impacted by your personal life. Briefly explain how you left your last job to raise a family, but be sure focus on how you feel you can contribute and bring value to the organization.

Career Lessons from a Feather Foot

I was driving home from shopping this weekend when I found myself behind a driver that possessed a – shall I say – “feather foot:” one who braked 500 feet before the stop light and could not possibly go one mile above the speed limit. Now, I would like to think of myself as a patient person who would not let something like this get to him…but in this instance I did the opposite: I revved my car’s engine, signaled right, and zipped around the offending vehicle with a roll of my eyes. About two miles ahead I encountered an intersection under construction and I waited for my turn to go along with the other cars at the four-way stop. I glanced in my rearview mirror and was startled to see…the feather foot driver. We ended up in the exact same place, only he did it with half the energy. Just as in driving, there are ways that you can manage your career that produces better outcomes using a more calm approach.

The speed limit is a guide: Speed limits exist not only for safety but to keep traffic flowing optimally. They’re designed to regulate: not too fast, not too slow. There are features of your career that serve as guides, too, from the education you obtain to workplace norms and industry culture. To make you trip smooth, study these guides so that you are more prepared for the work ahead of you.

What’s the hurry?: If you visit FuelEconomy.gov you learn that the faster you drive, the more fuel you expend. Fuel, in this case, parallels your time and energy. Just because you are “driving faster” doesn’t meant that you are getting to where you want to go more quickly. Those who are successful in their fields really delve into them. They engage with their passion, meet others who renew them, stay on top of industry advances, and learn through making mistakes and celebrating successes. Don’t be in a hurry to get “there;” be here in the now and celebrate the journey.

Aggression causes accidents: When I sped around the feather foot to get ahead of him, I did so for the sole purpose of being ahead. There was no emergency; it was just a senseless, impulsive act. A race to the top for the sake of being at the top can leave many causalities in its wake. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t passionately pursue your dreams, be mindful of the difference between aggression and focused ambition, between impulsive desire and inspired aspiration. If your current actions are honoring your personal values and are not inflicting harm on others, you’re on the right track.

I couldn’t help but laugh at my folly when I saw the feather foot; it was a powerful reminder that it’s better to enjoy the drive than to be the first one at the stop sign.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Post Grad" Movie Review - True To Real Life?

While browsing a closing Blockbuster for deals on movies, I stumbled upon the movie "Post Grad". Being a post grad myself, I wondered what the movie was like. I remember seeing previews for the film and all I knew was it was starring Alexis Bledel (former star of "Gilmore Girls") and her character was off to find her dream job and perhaps a love interest along the way. It was only $3.99 so I figured, "Why not?" and picked it up, knowing my looming wisdom teeth removal would leave lots of time for movie watching.

Unfortunately, this film was a disappointment. I was hoping for perhaps some tips for my post grad self or at least an entertaining couple of hours to forget about the pain radiating from my mouth.

It had the typical storyline and my hopes of watching a modern day story of a post grad just like me were dashed. Bledel is Ryden Malby, who starts out the movie being an excited graduate on her graduation day. She pretty much figures where she'll be: at her dream job in a publishing company. After all, she is a smart and successful graduate. But alas, her dreams are dashed when her arch nemesis at school gets the job first. With no other options, she is forced to move back home with her kooky family (including Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, and Carol Burnett). From there on is the typical post grad dilemma and failed interviews along with the romantic dramas of her best guy friend having a crush on her but she is more interested in the sexy, foreign neighbor.

So will Ryden Malby find her dream job? Fall in love? Of course everything turns out perfect in the end! Spoiler alert: She ends up with the best guy friend and her enemy messes up big time allowing Malby to steal the job from her. So, if you're looking for a movie to ease your post grad woes, to get post grad tips from a movie, or be entertained....you should probably skip this one unfortunately.

Although even the disappointment of the film brings me back to a very important lesson as a post grad. There will be disappointments. Rarely do people find their dream job right away after graduating. You may go through periods of unemployment, bad jobs, and even worse bosses. All while dealing with the changing relationships of post grad friendships and post grad dating. It is tough out there, but keep your head high and you just might get that movie ending you've been hoping for.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gaining Experience Can Help You Land an Internship

Internship experience can give you an edge in landing a professional job, particularly your first. But consider this: In many cases, the competition for landing an internship can be as steep as the competition for landing a job. Therefore, those with experience will have an advantage. Even if education is your current, full-time focus, you can still work at positioning yourself to land an internship. Here are some ideas:

  • Volunteer your time and services to a non-profit organization. Specifically look for opportunities that may strengthen key skills valued in your chosen profession, for example, project management, communication, and even overseeing a small budget.
  • Offer to assist with a task or research project within your college of study or another department of interest. Depending on your class standing, check into teaching assistant or tutoring opportunities.
  • Take on as many lead project roles as possible, whether at college, part-time job or volunteer position, and document key accomplishments in your resume. If applicable, pull together project documentation and results for inclusion in a portfolio.
  • Demonstrate that you are well-rounded by becoming involved in clubs or groups within your professional or recreational areas of interest.
  • Work a part-time or summer job to demonstrate responsibility and a good work ethic. Almost any work experience will be viewed as valuable. If appropriate, ask your supervisor to write you a letter of recommendation.
  • Pursue a job-shadowing opportunity in your field or industry of interest.
  • Identify a few target companies relating to your profession and then approach these companies offering to do some general office, shop, or warehouse work. If necessary, consider whether you can afford to do some unpaid work in return for gaining experience and broadening your professional contact base.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tell Me About Yourself – 4 steps to Preparing a Compelling Answer to This Interview Question

This question is one of the most commonly asked interview questions. When it is asked, it is usually one of the first questions. Your answer to this question can play a big role in making a positive first impression in the interview. This is one of the few interview questions that I recommend scripting out and practicing until you can say it by rote.

Keep in mind that this question is not a chance to offer your life story. The response should not include any personal information (i.e. where you grew up, how many dogs or kids you have, etc.) and should be no longer than two minutes. Here are some tips to prepare your answer to this important question.

Your background and experience
Offer an overview of how many years of experience you have to offer and your area of specialty in the field. Here is an example of how to start off the answer to the question. “I am a production manager who specializes in leading teams of up to 200 personnel to meet daily goals. I have more than 7 years of experience organizing maintenance professionals from multiple specialties. My experience includes production management in the semiconductor and microchip fields.”

Your skills
Do your research before the interview and define the company’s needs or specific problems that they hope to solve by filling the position. Identify your top two or three skills and speak about benefits these skills can bring to the company. For example, “I am a motivational leader who has the ability to gain team buy-in to new processes. I consider myself a productivity expert who is able to identify the source of inefficiencies and streamline procedures to optimize the team’s efforts.”

Your best accomplishment
Based on this same research, offer an example of your greatest accomplishment that demonstrates your ability to apply your skills such as “In fact, in my last position at XYZ Microchips, I was part of a continuous improvement team that revamped the production processes. By rearranging the production floor and streamlining the supply gathering procedures we were able to increase production by 22% while improving quality standards by 11%.”

Why you want to work for their company
As I discussed in a previous blog post, the job search process is not all about you. Never talk about what a company can offer you such as benefits, salary, or work conditions. Instead focus on the benefits you can bring the company with your skills. Make the interviewer feel as though you have chosen to work for their company – not as though you are just looking for a paycheck. For example, you could end your answer with a statement like this, “I understand that your company just started implementing Lean and 5S concepts. I have experience rolling out these programs at my previous employer and know I can be of assistance to your company during this same program implementation.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Self-employment

If you dream of leaving the 9 to 5 lifestyle behind and have considered exploring self-employment, before you make the leap you should evaluate all angles. Like any form of employment, being self-employed has its perks and its drawbacks. Here are a few things for you to consider.

Pro: You are your own boss
You are in charge of every detail of your business, you make all the decisions, and you have all the control. Aside from your customers, you answer to no one but yourself. You get to choose who you work with and who you work for. You are not obligated to continue the relationship with a client that is unpleasant, who has unrealistic expectations, or is abusive and rude.

Con: You are your own boss
As someone who is self-employed, I often struggle with self-discipline. Having no one looking over your shoulder can lead to taking too much time off and getting behind in your work. Self-employment demands self-control, self-motivation, time management, and discipline. Keep in mind, there is no one else but you to listen to and solve problems for those unhappy and irate customers. As the only one who is making decisions, you will face some tough choices and will have to own up to your failures.

Pro: Flexible work hours
As an entrepreneur, you get to set your own schedule and work when you chose. Self-employment enables me to spend more time with my children, to go on their field trips, and take vacations whenever I would like. As long as I have a phone, a computer and an internet connection, I can do my work anywhere.

Con: Long work hours
Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that an 8-hour workday is not an option. As the sole person responsible for the business’ success, you often have to work whatever hours are required. I mentioned earlier that my business allows me to spend time with my family. However, I failed to mention that means I work from 8 pm to midnight most nights. Many self-employed people have a hard time leaving their business behind. I have answered client emails while waiting in line at Disneyland and written resumes while my kids played on the beach nearby. The flexibility can be a pro and a con, depending on your viewpoint.

Pro: The money you earn is yours
When you are self-employed, your efforts and your rewards go straight back to you. There is no “glass ceiling” the sky is the limit as to your earning potential. No more slaving away and feeling as though you are not getting the recognition – and rewards – you deserve.

Con: Potential lack of a steady income
When the company does not make money, you don’t make money. There is no steady paycheck or dollar amount you can count on every two weeks when you are self-employed. If you do not perform, you don’t get paid.

How to Lose Your First Job in Four Easy Steps!

Welcome to the Career Sabotage De-Success Center! I’ll be your guide to show you how you can land that first, great job out of college and then blow it completely.

Dress for De-Success: Sure, many companies have dress codes or standard dress expectations, but with all of the hard work you’re going to be putting in there’s no need for you to pay attention to their uptight standards! Come in wearing whatever you want: an Ed Hardy t-shirt, ripped up jeans, and flip-flops. Oh, and don’t pay any attention to personal hygiene since how foul you smell directly correlates with how hard you’re working!

Initiative is for Imbeciles: What is all of this about showing “initiative” in your new job? What are they looking for you to ‘initiate’? Listen, if you weren’t great you wouldn’t have been hired in the first place, so don’t worry about doing things before you are asked or anticipating issues; let the suckers take those on.

Know Your Role: You’re hired to do a job, right? Why would you stray outside of the lovely confines of your position description? Stay in the train tracks that are your position and don’t stray from them. It will keep you from getting in trouble with the boss by overstepping your boundaries.

Stay Connected!: Sure, you have job duties to perform, but the world is such a big, wonderful place! Don’t forget to stay connected to friends and strangers alike by spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, and all of your other favorite social media outlets!

Follow this advice and you’ll be flipping burgers in no time!

Or…if you don’t want to lose your job…

Monday, May 23, 2011

Resume Tips For Post Grads With Little Experience

Some of us have been blessed with experience after experience to fill out pages of our resume. Others have been so focused on school they haven't had time for a job or internship or simply haven't had luck finding one yet. So what do you do when your resume is looking pretty sad? Make the experience you do have and your skills shine and you'll have many experiences to add to that resume in no time.

1. Put your name and contact information front and center at the top of your resume. Make sure your email address is professional!

2. Next add a summary of your objective. A tip is to spruce this part up for each individual job you're applying for. If you're applying for a journalism internship, explain your passions in writing and reporting and relate it to what the company does specifically.

3. List your education experience and academic skills and awards first. Even if you don't have much job experience, showcasing your academic achievements can be just as impressive.

4. Next list your job experience. It is okay to spruce this up a bit. If your only job has been babysitting, don't put "Babysitter" put "Childcare Coordinator" or something similar that sounds more impressive. List bullet points of your job duties (remember if the job was in the past, use all past verbs and if you're currently working there use present verbs).

5. List your references and be sure to have some recommendation letters on request, even if they're just from professors.

6. List all of your skills and achievements! Received a math award? Write it on there. Amazing at Photoshop? Better add that too. The more skills you have to share, the more impressive your resume looks. Even if you don't have the job experience, this will help. Just be sure not to lie. It won't do anyone any good if you say you're a wiz at Excel and when you start the job they realize you've never used it in your life.

7. Add volunteering you've done. This will help if you've had big gaps in your work experience or not much at all. Saying you were volunteering at the time will show character and give you points, especially if it is in the same field as the job you're applying for. Just be honest about it!

8. Fill your resume with PAR: problem, action, and results. Showcasing the times you've noticed a problem at work, an internship, or while volunteering and how you took action and got results is a great way to share your amazing skills with a potential employer.

9. Don't list hobbies and interests unless they are relevant to the job you're applying for or you received some kind of award from it.

10. Lastly, when in doubt: keep it simple. Employers do not want to read through pages and pages of your so-called skills. Try to keep your resume to one or two pages with all relevant information.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Don't Settle For Just Any Job As a Post Grad

Haven't your parents always taught you to follow your dreams? Go for the job you'll absolutely love? Reach your full potential? They've told you this in elementary school while you were just starting to learn all the way up until high school where you started to figure out what you'd like to do and while you pick out colleges. Now you've just graduated from college. Congrats on this huge achievement! Unfortunately the job market is incredibly tough right now and you're faced with a choice. Find any old job or take your parent's advice and really go for your dream job.

The answer isn't always easy. Perhaps you're not able to live at home and need a job to support yourself and pay for rent and bills. Everyone has a different situation and different monetary needs. But I would give the same advice to everyone: follow your dreams and go for a job you'll love.

I'm not saying this is going to be easy. You'll definitely have jobs you think are going to be great but turn out completely horrible. Hopefully if you are unhappy at your job, you can quit and look for something else, but if you need the money, stay strong. Keep going but keep looking! No matter what you're field and how strange the job market is right now, I am confident that everyone can find their dream job eventually. Pursue your passions!

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Professional Response to Criticism

Receiving constructive criticism regarding your work or work style can cause you to conjure up negative thoughts and emotions and a less-than-professional response. But consider how different and positive your response might be if you viewed constructive criticism as an opportunity for improvement and advancing your career. In fact, many people who have reached the pinnacle of their professions credit constructive criticism and tough critics as instrumental to their success.

Understandably, it takes time to develop a new way of thinking about and responding to constructive criticism; the following tips may help.

Give your full attention and focus on learning

As soon as you realize you’re being criticized, it is easy to miss the rest of what the communicator is sharing as you shut down and start formulating your rebuttal. Instead, listen carefully without interrupting. Focus on the intent of the overall message rather than hanging on to particular words or worrying about how to defend yourself. After listening carefully, if you are unclear about what the communicator is saying, ask clarifying questions or request examples to put the feedback into context.

Respond appropriately

Always maintain a positive and professional attitude. If you recognize you have made a mistake, take responsibility and focus on how to solve the problem. You may even want to consider establishing expectations for moving forward. In cases where you don’t agree with the constructive criticism, respectfully explain that you see things differently but will further consider the feedback. Besides, it is always best to re-assess criticism after you’ve had time to process the feedback and your emotions.

Always thank the person for his/her candidness and time. Remember, you are better off knowing what your manager or other people of influence might be thinking about your work so that you can respond when necessary.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

5 Common Resume Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Have you been sending out resumes for jobs you are well-qualified for and not getting any response? Usually, when this happens, the fault lies with the resume. Think of your resume as your calling card that you allow to speak for you when you can not be there. Ask yourself, what is your resume saying about you? Make sure your message is loud and clear by avoiding these common issues.

Poorly Organized or Hard to Read Formatting
Your resume gets an average of 10 to 15 seconds of attention from the hiring manager. If it is too difficult to read, is unorganized, crowded, or has font smaller than 10 points, chances are a hiring manager won’t make the effort. Ensure there is plenty of white space on the resume to increase readability. Use formatting such as borders and bolding key areas to lead the eye through the resume.

Speaking in Job Description Language
Once upon a time, a resume was simply a description of your every day duties. In today’s market, this approach will not get you an interview. To ensure your resume is effective, you want to tell about the benefits you have to offer the company and what results you have achieved. Speak in action-oriented words and avoid phrases such as “responsible for” and “duties included.”

Typos or Spelling Errors
One typo, one misspelled word, or one misused word can mean your resume gets put into the “NO” pile. Your resume must be perfect and free of errors. Don’t rely on spell check to catch your errors. Many of the most common errors (using manger instead of manager OR using your instead of you’re) will not be caught by spell check.

Generic Resume
There is no such thing as an effective generic resume. If you take the time to tailor and focus your resume to the individual company and job, you will be more likely to get a call back. In fact, it has been proven that 10 focused resumes will get more calls for interviews than 100 generic resumes. Only include information that is relevant to the position and company for which you are applying. The more irrelevant information you include, the harder it will be for the employer to locate the “good stuff” that is most relevant to them.

Red Flags
Red flags are a danger to a resume. Some examples include large gaps in employment of more than one year, excessive amounts of jobs in a short period of time, lack of dates for your work history, going back more than 10 years in your work experience, and evidence of specific religious or political affiliations. You never want to lie on your resume, however there are ways to camouflage or explain these issues. Check back next week for more information on this subject.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strategic Selection of References

You crafted a targeted resume that got you a job interview. The hiring manager was impressed with your skills and the company is interested in making you a job offer. Don’t let negative references stand in the way of that offer.

Employers will expect you to provide references. You don’t want to get knocked out of the running for the job opportunity by your references. One bad or even sub-par reference can determine if you get the job offer or receive a rejection letter.

Creating the Reference List
In the past, job seekers were encouraged to include “References Available Upon Request” on their resume. This is no longer necessary. However, it is expected that you will provide a reference list at the interview. When creating the reference list, be sure to include the name of the reference, your relationship (i.e. former supervisor), his/her job title, company name, company address, phone number, and e-mail address.

Double check all phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and physical addresses for accuracy. Don’t forget to include your own name and contact information. This ensures that the employer will be able to contact you if your reference list accidentally gets separated from your resume.

Deciding What Types of References to Use
There are two types of references: professional and personal (also known as character) references. Professional references include former supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, customers/clients, professors, and contacts from work-related associations or community organizations. Personal references include friends who know you well and can speak to your work ethic and character.

Deciding Who Will be on the Reference List
Typically, employers expect you to provide them with three or four professional references and one personal reference. When choosing references, stay away from political or religious affiliations unless they are relevant to the position for which you’re applying.

Think strategically when choosing your references. You should only choose references who will provide positive and relevant information about you. References should confirm and elaborate on the details of your resume as well as offer positive feedback about your skills, work ethic, job performance, education, and accomplishments.

Self-Assess for Self-Success: Bridge the Gap to be Who You Want to Be!

In my last post I offered some powerful questions to our blog readers to help them turn rejection into rumination and career success. Self-assessment and reflection are powerful skills to develop to become a more successful and capable professional. This week’s activity will help you pinpoint where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there. Get out your piece of notebook paper or open a blank MS Word document and prepare to assess, dream, and plan by answering the following questions:

What kind of professional do I want to be?: Throw away the inhibitions and the “yeah, buts”! This question is designed for you to get in touch with your biggest dreams and aspirations. Be specific: what career field are you working in? What are you wearing to work? Who are you working with? What kinds of issues are you tackling on a daily basis? What does your work environment look like? How are you showing pride in what you are doing? Be descriptive and dream BIG!

Who am I as a professional now?: Describe who you are right now. Again, be as descriptive as possible about your current state of employment (or unemployment). What do you do? What are your daily tasks? Who do you work with? What occupies your mind most of the day? How are you living your values? You get the idea: do a healthy assessment of your present situation.

What is the gap between the two?: So you have who you want to be and who you are right now…but what do you do with this information? Time to identify those gaps: what keeps you from being that professional you want to be? Is it education? Or experience? Perhaps you need to start networking with those who are in the position that you want? Spend some time assessing that gap; enroll a friend or a trusted colleague if needed for some objective feedback to help you.

What is something you can do right now to tackle that gap?: It’s action time. You should now have a list identifying things you can do to bridge your gap. Pick one distinct action you can take to make that gap smaller. It could be something along the lines of taking a class, conducting some research, meeting with someone, or reading a book. The point is to set your goal and create a deadline around it to ensure its completion.

Let reflection and acting with intention guide you to a more prosperous career!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wanted: Strong Communication Skills

Employers want their employees and prospective new hires to have strong communication skills, but have you ever wondered what exactly this means and why communication is important no matter what work you do?

Depending on your job, you may communicate with managers, co-workers, clients, and suppliers. Each of these audiences may have different communication preferences or protocols. For example, managers might require occasional but formal communication, including presentations, while co-workers typically require frequent but more casual communication.

Communication is key to defining expectations and exchanging information that enables people to do their work. Therefore, regardless of audience, employers want employees who can convey their thoughts clearly. To accomplish this, your professional communication should have a clear purpose. And whether written or verbal, you need to be able to articulate your main point(s) and provide relevant details in an organized and logical manner. Choosing the right words and enunciating and pronouncing your words correctly can also impact your message. Even your use of non-verbal communication, like effective eye contact, hand gestures, and tone are critical to reinforcing what you’re saying.

Employers appreciate employees who can communicate well in various situations, including stressful settings where people are exchanging conflicting views. Additionally, employers expect their employees to work positively and productively with different personalities and communication styles. And of course, being a strong communicator requires you to be a skilled and active listener. Remember, communication is an exchange, and without the ability to listen carefully, your communication will likely fall short.

Effectively communicating takes practice. Exercise and improve your communication skills by offering to facilitate team meetings, create and deliver presentations, and write or edit articles for an organization’s newsletter or magazine. Communication opportunities like these can be plentiful on the job, through professional networking associations, or with non-profit volunteer organizations.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Make the Most of your First 90 Days on a New Job

The economy – and more importantly the job market – is improving. I heard today that new unemployment claims dropped more than 40,000 from the previous week. For some of you, this may mean returning to work after an extended unemployment. Here are some strategies to make a positive impression and set yourself up for success the first three months at your new job.

> Prior to beginning your new job, research the company, their competition, and needs. Armed with information, you will be able to create positive impressions of your knowledge, competence, and productivity.

> Prepare a rough outline or work plan for your first 90 days. What do you want to learn, what skills do you need to attain, and what will your focus be? Having a plan in advance will keep you on track for success.

> Meet with your boss right away to establish clear expectations, goals, and priorities for your first 90 days. This enables you to ensure you are meeting expectations and demonstrating value. Try to obtain one-on-one time with your boss, not just a conversation in passing in the hallway, in order to set the tone for your relationship.

> Bond with your co-workers, learn their names, and find what you have in common. This will help you to quickly fit into the group and learn more about company culture.

> Try to find a mentor among your co-workers that knows the ropes, can help you understand the company’s methods and procedures, and can further help you assimilate into the culture.

> Don’t try to challenge long-standing policy and procedure right away. Take time to understand why and how things are done before you begin to make changes.

> Read as much internal communication, policy, procedure, and regulation materials as you can get your hands on. Ask questions and learn as much as you can, while always respecting people’s time.

These first few months on the job set the foundation for your future with the company. To reduce your anxiety and stress, be prepared, balance learning with doing, and focus on becoming part of the team.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Four Keys to Long Distance Job Hunting

The process of job searching in your own town can be a challenge. When you are looking for a job in a town far from where you currently reside, the process can be even more daunting. However, if you follow these criteria – while still daunting – it will be a much more manageable process.

Set Yourself Apart from the Crowd
The internet has opened up the candidate pool and has increased the overall number of resume responses to most job postings. A focused resume that contains only the information most relevant to the job will set you apart from the other resumes on the desk.

You may also want to consider using a local address in the city where you want to relocate. Use a friend’s or family member’s address if possible. If that is not an option, consider a postal service with a physical street address. When the employer calls to schedule an interview, explain you are in the process of relocating permanently, but you could be available for a phone interview.

Plan Ahead
Plan trips to your destination city periodically. Research career fairs, hiring events and expos in the local area and plan trips to be there during those times. Call your target employers and try to schedule informational interviews during the time when you are going to be in the area.

Establish guidelines, before you even send out your resume, of the criteria for when you will be willing to travel to your destination city for an interview. Define the opportunities that you consider worth your time and money. Gather as many details during the phone interview, so that you can form a plan in advance. You should also prepare a relocation plan for yourself.

Do your Research
The more you know about the local job market and the companies for which you are applying, the more effective your job search will be. Using research, define the reasons – either needs or problems – that the company is hiring. If you can demonstrate your ability to meet their needs or solve their problems, they will be more likely to call you.

Use your networking skills to gain an inside advantage. Use www.facebook.com and www.linkedin.com to locate people you may know in the area. Networking your way into a company will increase your chances of success, especially when searching long distance.

Brush up on Phone Interviewing Skills
The likelihood of your first interview being conducted on the phone will greatly increase when you are long distance job hunting. Practice speaking in a calm, clear pace. Ensure you have a strong, clear phone signal. Prepare your information in advance and have it close at hand. Don’t forget to smile and always dress up for the interview – even though your potential employer can’t see you. All of these seemingly small preparations will do wonders for your performance.

Powerful Questions to Help You Cope with Rejection

One of my favorite quotes is by the author James Allen. In his book, As a Man Thinketh, he writes “circumstances do not make the man, they only reveal him to himself.” When I first heard this quote, its simplicity and truth floored me (though, I must admit, I do prefer more gender-neutral prose). I feel this quote particularly resonates with the job-search process. Some people are able to bounce back from rejection very quickly; others can struggle for weeks…or even longer. The sting of rejection will always exist when we are denied something that we are truly passionate about, but our choices and our thoughts dictate our next actions. If you are willing to commit to a new course of action other than wallowing in the mire of self-pity, use the questions below to guide yourself to more productive outcomes.

What wasn’t I willing to do?

If I am feeling down, on what date will I decide to be productive again?

What about my present circumstances bring me joy?

What are three distinct things I can take away from this experience?

What did I do correctly that I will do again in the future?

What feedback can I receive to improve myself in the interview process?

What new goals do I want to set for myself?

Now that I have shared some of my powerful questions, what are some of yours that help bring you back to center after being rejected in the job-search process?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Time Management & Organizational Tips

As a post grad, whether you've already found work, are deep into the job hunt, going to graduate school, or simply finding your own way, you need to be organized and use your time well. Here are some organization and time management tips for any post grad (and really anyone!):

1. If you're job hunting, treat the search like a job. Schedule time to look for jobs, head to businesses, and make sure you know when your interviews are. Scheduling your job hunt will help it feel more like a priority and you won't succumb to laziness.

2. To-do lists are your new best friend. It doesn't matter what type of job you have or if you're still looking, to-do lists are always helpful. Keeping track of things you need to do short-term and long-term will keep you focused and you won't be able to forget important tasks or projects.

3. The Internet can be a huge distraction. While you're working online or job hunting, use website tools such as LeechBlock from Firefox that block certain websites at the times you determine. When you need to be focused, block Facebook and other time-wasting sites during the time you need to work.

4. Take a break when you need one! Sitting at your computer for too many hours a day can cause eye strain, back pain and many other health problems. A good rule is to get up and take a break every half an hour to stretch.

5. Keep a diary of how you spend your time. Wasted an hour looking for an important paper? Organize your desk. Wasted two hours watching TV instead of doing your grad school homework? Evaluate what are the biggest time wasters for you and fix it!

6. Organize your life. Some people prefer a mess, but being organized helps you to be more productive. Cleaning your email box and making labels to store important messages is a start. Keeping your finances, your desk, and your life organized and neat will clear your brain and help you get work done faster.

7. Have a planner or use your phone's calendar to remember appointments and tasks. Then actually use it!

No matter what your plans are, keeping track of your time and staying organized are great skills that will take you far in life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is it too late for a career change?

Nowadays, mid-life (and later) career changes are more common than ever. In fact, workers will likely make several career changes over the span of their lifetimes. People change careers for many reasons. Perhaps a current career no longer aligns with your priorities. Maybe your career has become dull and void of growth opportunities. Or it might be that a career choice you made early on met outdated expectations or targeted financial aspirations that no longer seem relevant to you.

Most workers reach their peak earning potential and the highest rung on their career ladders by the time they reach middle age. Therefore, making a mid-life career change may mean less money and prestige. This is an important consideration when you realize that mid-life can also coincide with greater financial responsibilities—a larger mortgage, the desire to assist older children with college expenses, and/or saving for impending retirement.

Despite the challenges, many workers are taking the risks associated with finding fulfilling careers later in life. Before you decide whether a career change is right for you, there’s a lot to consider. You may want to start with the following:

· Review and evaluate your interests, values, and skills

· Identify growth careers and industries of interest

· Interview people currently working in a profession that appeals to you

· Seek tips and inspiration from those who have successfully changed careers

· Identify transferable skills and strengthen core skills

· Assess your ability to manage change

· Evaluate whether you have the qualities required to help you achieve your new career goals—for example, resilience and perseverance

Regardless of timing, any successful career change requires a solid plan. But once implemented, this plan may lead you to a rewarding career you’d previously only dreamed of.