Friday, September 30, 2011

Signs That a Job Interview Went Well

Have you ever walked out of a job interview feeling strongly about how the interview went, only to be caught off guard later when the employer follows up in a way that you didn’t expect—either positively or negatively?
Short of, “We’d like to offer you the job,” there are no guarantees that certain signs or statements from an interviewer(s) will result in a next interview or job offer. However, indicators like those in the following list usually suggest the interview went quite well.  
  • Conversation is comfortable and easy and you are clearly starting to establish a rapport with the interviewer.  
  • The interview runs longer than expected and the interviewer shows obvious interest in your responses and probes further than expected with follow-up questions.
  • The interviewer provides detailed specifics regarding the job and responsibilities—beyond a general overview—particularly in a first-interview situation. 
  • The interviewer spends considerable time selling you on the company, job, and employees. 
  • The interviewer starts referring to you in the role, for example, “Your knowledge regarding online marketing would add a lot of value when we release our upgraded version.” 
  • The interviewer’s body language is positive and accepting: he or she is smiling, nodding approvingly to your responses, leaning into the conversation, and maintaining good eye contact. 
  • The interviewer introduces you to team members and/or manager(s) on an impromptu basis. 
  • The interviewer provides a definitive date upon which you can expect to hear back regarding a decision to move forward with you as a potential job candidate and/or to extend you an offer.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Make the Most of Your Lunch Hour

Your lunch hour is designed not only to refuel your body, but refuel your mind. Having a half an hour to an hour break from deadlines, work projects, and even co-workers is a great way to help you relax and recharge for the rest of the day. Here are some tips on making the most of your lunch break at work:

1. If the weather is nice, enjoy it! Bring some sneakers to work and go for a walk to clear your head or simply eat lunch outside. The Vitamin D from the sun will give you a boost to power through the afternoon, no matter what kind of day you're having.

2. Check your mood. If you're feeling overwhelmed and grouchy, step outside or go for a drive. Don't force yourself to eat cheerfully in the kitchen with your co-workers if you fear you might snap. If you're feeling social, by all means grab some co-workers to eat with you.

3. Also if you're feeling social or need a boost, meet with a friend! If you have a friend that works close by, make a date for lunch.

4. Take a drive and get to know the neighborhood. This is especially helpful for post grads who are just starting a job in a new area. Scope out the best places for after work drinks or places for a fun lunchtime break.

5. If you're feeling overwhelmed with work and just can't relax, dive back in! Eat lunch at your desk and catch up on your responsibilities. You just may feel better at the end of the day when your work is all done.

6. If you have the time and live close enough, go home to recharge. Being home for even a half an hour can relax you and give you the boost to finish the day. This also allows you to save money by eating at home if you didn't have time to pack a lunch.

What are your tips for making the most out of your lunch break?

How to Overcome the “Overqualified” Stigma in the Job Search

As the job market gets more competitive and finding a job gets tougher, more workers find themselves in a position of needing to accept a job that is well below their level of pay or experience. These candidates may find themselves in a phone screening or an interview only to be told they are overqualified. This term is usually another way for the employer to express one of the following fears:

• The candidate is going to cost too much in salary

• The candidate is just looking for a temporary position until something better comes along

• The candidate will be bored at work and have a poor attitude

• The hiring manager is intimidated by the candidate and fears the candidate will threaten their own job security

If you find yourself forced to apply for positions that are below your pay or experience levels, how do you combat and overcome these obstacles? Here are some strategies you can use to ensure a successful job search – even when you are overqualified.

• Tailoring your resume and cover letter to the job for which you are applying becomes more important than ever in this situation. Remove the information from the resume that is irrelevant to the position or company for which you are applying.

• Try to avoid the temptation to “dumb down” your experience on the resume. Instead of omitting experience – which may feel like you are being untruthful – instead face the problem head-on.

• Use the cover letter to address your situation. Express your enthusiasm for working for their particular company and your willingness to start at a lower level in order to accept the opportunity to work for their company. Talk about your interest in a job and company that offers long-term growth potential.

• In the interview, be as direct as possible. Before salary is even discussed, you can mention that your current salary expectations and needs are very different that they were in previous positions.

• Focus on the positive aspects of your experience. The knowledge, skills, and abilities you bring to the team can help make everyone around you better and more productive. However, be very diplomatic about how you present this type of an idea so you don’t look like someone who will step on the boss’ toes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Networking for Introverts. How a Shy Person Can Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities.

I comfortably teach classes on job search techniques to hundreds of people. However, ask me to make small talk and socialize in a room full of those same people and I become immediately uncomfortable. People are often surprised to find out that I am – at my core – an introverted person. Put me in front of a class speaking about a subject I know well, and I become a very outgoing and confident person.

I constantly tout the virtues of networking in the job search – it has become an absolute necessity for success in today’s market. However, I was reminded by a colleague today that I personally stink at networking. Starting today, I have vowed to become better at networking, even though I am an introvert. So I decided we could learn about this subject together. In my research about how to best network as a shy person, here are the highlights of what I have learned.

  • Set a goal for yourself of what you want to accomplish at each event. Your goal can be as simple as getting through the first event while having a good time, collecting five business cards, or making a new friend.

  • Plan ahead to ensure your networking experience is successful. Think of several open-ended questions you can ask when you meet new people and listen attentively to their answers.

  • Realize that you must also be ready to talk about yourself. Prepare your 30-second commercial, also known as an elevator speech. However, your speech should be about the benefits you can offer – not necessarily all about you.

  • Look for other introverts at the networking events. You are not alone; there are other people who feel the same way as you. Look for small groups or people standing alone and approach them first.

  • End your conversations gracefully. Everyone is there for the same purpose – to meet new people. Ask your new acquaintance for their business card, let them know you don’t want to monopolize their time, and tell them how nice it was to meet them.

  • Follow-up after a networking event is critical. As an introvert, I really do not enjoy talking on the phone. Why not send a hand-written thank you note? It takes just a few minutes and adds a personal touch.

  • Analyze the success of each event. Don’t beat yourself up for what you did wrong or how you could have responded better. Instead, ask yourself what worked, what didn’t, where you need to prepare better, and whether or not the event was the right venue to market yourself and make the kind of connections you need.

    • Knee-ded Career Satisfaction Therapy

      I’ve been thinking lately about people unhappy in their careers but don’t want to make the leap to ones that are more fulfilling. I’ve also been thinking about my knee.

      I injured my knee in a charity race last year and-seeing no significant issues-my physician recommended physical therapy. I met with a physical therapist who gave me a regimen of stretches and exercises that would get me running without pain again.

      That was a year ago. I didn’t follow through with my plan and I sheepishly met with the physical therapist again to give it another go at it.

      What the heck prevented me from doing the exercises? The question plagued me, but got me curious. The answers I came up with correspond with reasons why those dissatisfied with their careers tend to stick with them. Not unlike us physical therapy failures, “dissatisfied, yet comfortable” denizens of career drudgery share these characteristics:

      A “small inconvenience:” The minor pain I experienced in my knee didn’t significantly hinder my daily activities, not unlike how the small inconveniences of an unfulfilling career don’t significantly hinder this group of workers. Their careers aren’t unbearable, but they also don’t produce passion. In both situations, neither party kept sight of the more fulfilling alternative so the pain-small, but bearable-continues until something has to be done.

      Slow, incremental progress: The doctor made it clear to me that I shouldn’t expect to get better soon; it would take months before I would experience progress. Without the immediate payoff, I wasn’t motivated to prioritize my physical therapy. People dissatisfied with their careers get caught in the same trap: the timeline to transition to the career they love is too long (and often filled with obstacles). So they stay put and complacent, intimidated or put off by the lack of instant results.

      Plummeting priority: The barrier of slow progress and only minor pain keeps the “desired state” from being a priority. I didn’t make it a point to create a schedule and stick to it to help my knee get better; it wasn’t a priority. Those stuck in career drudgery rationalize by saying “well, it’s not what I want to do, but it’s not that bad…” Without making what you want a priority-with no intention or action-it will never happen. And the pain will remain.

      If you feel that you may be missing out on something special career-wise, or want to work through your feelings of disenchantment, reflect on the following questions:

      What joy in your career are you currently missing out on?

      What fears are keeping you from taking action?

      What career dream have you never acted upon, and what would it take to act upon it?

      What time will be the best time for you to make the career move you want, and why then?

      Pain in any form isn’t good, especially if you are missing out on true joy because of it. I’m committed to rehabilitating my knee; I hope you that you rehabilitate your career.

      Monday, September 26, 2011

      Avoid The Awkward Sick Day

      You're a newly post grad at your first job after college and the flu season is quickly approaching. Coughing, sneezing, and fevers...oh my! It can often be hard to tell if you should stay home from work or push through to get your projects done. Here are some tips on handling sick days the right way:

      1. Check your work's policy on sick days. Many companies are very different on this subject. Some are more lenient and others are very strict. I have a friend that gets written up if she calls in sick, no matter what. Find out if you have paid sick days or if you'll have to give up your pay for a day to stay home and rest. If the rules are unclear, talk with your boss or co-workers to get the skinny on calling in.

      2. Don't fake sick just to get the day off. This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you take days off you need in advance. If an emergency comes up, be honest about what is going on instead of using the fake cough. Most people can tell when people are actually sick versus faking.

      3. If you are really sick (think fevers, stomach issues, and other illnesses your co-workers wouldn't want to catch), call the appropriate people at your work. Let your boss, supervisors, etc. know that you're sick, briefly explain your woes, and say you're sorry you will miss work and give an estimate on your return.

      4. Lastly, try to avoid getting sick in the first place to avoid any sick day office blunders. Wash your hands a lot, get a flu shot, avoid people who are sick, and take plenty of Vitamin C.

      Stay healthy this season and if you get sick, handle your newly acquired sick days well.

      Friday, September 23, 2011

      Quantity versus Quality. The Importance of Customizing your Resume.

      Earlier in the week I had the opportunity to talk with a recruiter for a large insurance company. I was able to ask her about how she reads a resume, what she looks for, and what drives her crazy. There were really no new revelations that came out of the conversation. However, I did receive further confirmation that the thing that drives HR people craziest remains a lack of relevance in the resume.

      Always keep in mind that there is no such thing as a generic, effective resume. Remember, when you write a resume that tries to appeal to everyone, it actually ends up appealing to no one. This same recruiter shared with me that she received more than 2,000 resumes for 20 openings that she was trying to fill. Bless her, she said she looks at every resume that comes in. However, she said that if the resume is not relevant to the position she is trying to fill, she quickly moves on to the next candidate.

      This is where my quality versus quantity theory comes into play. You will be better served, and get more results in the form of interviews, from sending out fewer resumes every week that you have worked harder on preparing. Here is an example of the process you should go through when you customize a resume:

      1. Read the job posting with a highlighter. Highlight the key words, skills and qualifications.

      2. Research the company using the methods described in this blog post.

      3. Use your research to determine the motivation for the company hiring for this position. For example, are they expanding their operations, are they having quality concerns, or are they about to acquire another organization. In the course of your research, try to identify the name of the hiring manager.

      4. Determine how your skills, experience and qualifications can meet the company’s needs that you discovered in your research.

      5. Start with your summary of skills section of your resume. Ensure your summary is a synopsis of how your skills and qualifications match the needs of the company.

      6. Review the highlighted key words from the job posting and your research. Go through your resume to ensure it contains all the listed keywords. Use previous measurable accomplishments to offer evidence of your ability to use these key skills.

      7. Customize a cover letter addressed to the hiring manager by name and addressing the needs you discovered during your research.

      Job Seekers Should Consider Blogging

      A blog is a website or a page on a website that individuals—called bloggers—use to post entries, typically in chronological order. Blog posts are primarily text, but some include images and website links. They are often interactive in that they invite visitors to post comments, recommend and share blog posts, and even rate content.

      Job seekers can benefit by participating in respected and high-traffic blogs pertaining to their industries or occupations. For starters, these blogs are a great way to keep current on relevant industry or occupational issues and trends. When you participate by posting insightful blog comments or sharing expertise, you may capture the positive attention of others in the industry, including hiring managers or recruiters. Another way to capture this positive attention is to consider starting your own blog for showcasing your personality and knowledge within a given profession and/or industry. From a job seeker’s perspective, your blog should focus on generating a community of followers with similar professional interests, sparking engaging dialogue, and sharing ideas.

      Launching your own blog is fairly easy thanks to the availability of several free blog software services, including Blogger, WordPress, and Blogspot and hosting providers. Whatever tool(s) you choose, you need blog software to create and archive your blog entries and a hosting service to make your blog available on the Internet.

      Keep in mind, blog entries should be well written, short, and on point, plus new posts should be added regularly. You may also want to become familiar with search engine optimization and how the use of keywords can drive traffic to your blog.

      Tuesday, September 20, 2011

      Job Search Tips for People with a Not-so-hot Background

      Last week I taught a group of more than 50 people who had been convicted of felonies at some time in their life. I was there to offer advice on resume writing and interviewing skills. The information was well-received, however, the sense of frustration – and often desperation – was palpable in the room.

      I started thinking about how challenging the job search market is for people with a spotless job history, and comparing how hard it must be for those people with some sort of black mark on their record. Whether you were fired, laid off from multiple positions due to downsizing, have been out of the workforce due to raising a family, or are returning from an injury, job searching can be a very daunting process when you have roadblocks in the way.

      Here are some tips to help you cope with, and overcome, these obstacles if this is something you or someone you know are facing.

      • Rely heavily on networking. People who know you and can vouch for your work ethic and personal values – as opposed to your work history on paper – will be valuable to getting your foot in the door.

      • If you have been out of work for a while, or plan to be off for a long period of time, consider volunteering. Community service will not only strengthen your resume, it will also enable you to make new contacts and potentially network your way into a company.

      • Keep in mind that you are a product that you must sell in the job search process. Present your skills in terms of how they can be of benefit to a company. Do your research and find out why a company is hiring. Use your resume, cover letter, and interview to demonstrate how you can be cost effective and achieve the results they need.

      • Be honest when you answer questions and discuss your background. However, don’t volunteer information they do not request. For example, if you are asked why you left a job, don’t tell them why you were fired. Simply state that you decided to take your career in a new direction.

      • If you did make a mistake, such as a felony conviction, admit you made a mistake and express remorse. Offer as few details as possible when discussing mistakes. Instead, focus on the positive changes you have made – and wish to make – in your life.

      Renew Your Vows to Your Career

      This weekend my wife and I were honored to attend our friends' wedding. The ceremony-set in a local park on a warm, postsummer evening-was a simple and elegant testament to the values and personalities of the couple. They gazed lovingly into each others' eyes and made public vows to each other to fully commit themselves to the new relationship they were creating. Within half an hour it was over; everything was different. There was a new couple standing before us with new priorities and a new level of devotion to each other.

      But, really, nothing was different. Their living situation remained the same, they had the same jobs...their lives-practically-were going to continue pretty much as it had before.

      Different, but not different...I was struck by this paradox and how relatable it is to our careers.

      Day in and day out we go to our place of work more out of a sense of obligation to our lifestyles than a sense of devotion to our lives. Further, we treat our careers as a sacrifice of time rather than a celebration of it. Imagine how we would feel if we considered marriage the same way.

      In a strong marriages, the couple devotes themselves to the relationship and focuses on it to guide their choices so that they are optimally fulfilled. In strong, fulfilling careers, you need to devote yourself not to the how of what you're doing (your job) but the why: your goals, sense of purpose, those that you serve, and the art that you create through your actions. A stronger sense of responsibility fuels your actions, not a sense of obligation.

      What are you going to take a stand for? What will you devote yourself so that you are engaging with your career dream? And how will you carry it out? Make your stand public in the comments below.

      Sunday, September 18, 2011

      How to Create a Video Resume To Wow Potential Employers

      Most readers will have had the experience of creating a traditional resume but have you ever considered creating a video resume? A video resume would be especially helpful if the job you're aiming for puts you in front of the camera or involves working with different types of technology. It is a sure fire way to stand out from the countless paper resumes.

      Here are some tips on getting a video resume done right:

      1. Keep the video short and sweet (about a minute). Just like a paper resume, if you keep rambling on, your potential employers don't have enough time to spend more than a few minutes on each resume (sometimes less). You have to get your point across pretty quickly to keep their attention.

      2. Dress professionally. Think of it as an interview practice run and act the way you would as if you were being interviewed.

      3. Think of the video as a pitch of your personality and talents. This is a chance for you to go beyond your paper resume and share your great communication skills, passion for your industry, and people skills.

      4. Don't forget about your regular paper resume. Include the link to your video resume in your actual resume. If you attach the video in an email, it is likely to get put in the spam folder. Also, in your video, don't just read your resume word for word. That would be redundant...remember, you want to stand out!

      If you want a good laugh, check out Barney Stinson's video resume from the popular television series, "How I Met Your Mother".

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      Use Creativity at Work

      Many people assume they are not creative and choose to reserve creativity for the “creative types” at work. Actually, most everyone has creative potential, and it can show itself in many ways in a work environment—from identifying business opportunities to solving problems. Being creative means using your imagination, seeing things from a fresh perspective, and asking “what if?”

      Traits of a Creative Person 

      Creative people are curious. They are often motivated to solve problems; in fact, they see problems as opportunities. They enjoy learning new things and stretching themselves professionally. Creative people are typically open-minded and slow to judge others' ideas—recognizing that even far-fetched ideas have potential for success. They also tend to be optimists and will persevere in moving ideas and solutions forward. Proposing process improvements, using technology in innovative ways, and working with limited resources to satisfy project objectives are all very real examples of how people use creativity in the workplace.

      Promote Your Own Creativity

      Do you question your ability to be more creative? If so, you can employ the following behaviors and attitudes to promote and enhance your own creativity:
      • Collaborate and brainstorm with others. Be open to sharing your ideas and encouraging others.
      • Anticipate and overcome challenges. Challenges are a normal part of doing business, and moving past them often requires resourcefulness and creativity.
      • To avoid getting distracted and losing sight of good ideas, write them down.
      • Contemplate and research ideas, when possible, before proposing them to others.
      • Don’t be afraid to fail.
      • If you get stuck, take a break from problem solving or sorting through an idea.
      • Try new things, even simple things—like discovering a new restaurant or cuisine.

      Thursday, September 15, 2011

      I Hate my Dream Job. What to Do When the Dream Becomes a Nightmare.

      Studies show that the average adult will change careers – not just jobs – five to seven times in their life. Obviously, this number fluctuates by individual and based upon circumstances. I can honestly say, I have never had a dream of what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” However, if you told me 10 years ago that I would own a successful resume writing and career services business, I probably would have thought you were crazy.

      I was speaking with a friend yesterday whose good friend sold everything, relocated his family and made a complete life change because he always dreamed of being a police officer. Fast-forward 8 months later and it turns out he absolutely loathes being a police officer. Hating your job, dreading getting out of your car in the parking lot, is no way to spend the majority of your time. Here are some things to think about if you ever land your dream job, and find it to be less – or more – than you expected.

      Why are you unhappy?
      It is difficult to make the right change unless you know what is bothering you. Organize your thoughts and feelings about what you like and dislike in the career. Once you complete this exercise, you can decide if you need to make another career change or just a change of employers.

      Do you dislike the career, or is it just the company, job or supervisor?
      People often confuse disliking their boss or the environment in which they work for hating their career. Do you like what you are doing, but don’t like the people you work for or with? Does the current company for which you work expect you to compromise your values? Sometimes you just need to look for a different place to work, or a different person to work for, without leaving your career field.

      How can you combine the parts of your dream job you love with another career field?
      The new police officer I told you about earlier did not like arresting people and did not like having to work overnight shifts as a new police officer. He enjoyed serving the public, liked the investigative work and felt good about upholding the law. Assess your values and your personality and define what you like about your current career field. Look for opportunities where you can combine the best parts of your career with your values and personality to find the right fit.

      Research before you leap the next time.
      Always conduct as much real-world research as possible. Perform informational interviews, talk to people in the career field and ask them what it is really like to have the job. Make good decisions based on your research and analysis before you jump in with both feet.

      Tuesday, September 13, 2011

      3 Strategies to Avoid an Attack of Nerves During your Next Job Interview.

      I was speaking to a very personable, witty young man last night in a class I was teaching. He said that when he goes to an interview, while they are talking in the hall on the way to the interview he is able to be himself. However, as soon as he sits down in the interview chair, he freezes up and is a nervous wreck. This is a common problem for many people when it comes to job interviews.

      I would like to offer some tactics you can employ to make sure this does not happen to you.

      Put the Interview into Perspective
      People dread job interviews more than going into the dentist for a root canal. No pain is going to be inflicted during the interview! It is just a conversation with another person. You really don’t have anything to lose in an interview except the time it takes to go to the interview. The worst thing that can happen is that you do not get the job. You did not have the job when you walked in the door, so what did you really lose?

      Assess Your Fears
      What is it about interviews that you fear? Is it fear of the unknown? Prepare for the interview and this fear will be alleviated. Is your fear based on the fact that you want them to like you, or that you want their approval? The more nervous you appear, the less likely you are to gain that approval you are seeking. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. You can control your preparation, your attitude, and the way you present yourself in an interview. If you do these things well, you have done your best and the rest is out of your control.

      I am an introverted person by nature. However, I get up in front of hundreds of people and teach job seeking skills and I really enjoy it! The reason I am able to do this comfortably is due to my preparation and knowledge of the subject. The more prepared you are to discuss a subject, the less nervous you will be. Become very familiar with your skills, the benefits you can offer an employer, and prepare several examples of times you have used these skills successfully. Take several hours to prepare this information and all your future interviews will go much more smoothly.

      Career Lessons from Ground Zero

      Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the most horrific terrorist attack upon our country. I spent the week before in New York City and made it a point to tour the WTC Memorial Museum. Among the models, videos, and artifacts on display was a room with the pictures of those who lost their lives on that tragic day. You couldn't help but be moved seeing their bright faces look back at you, people of all ages, races, cultural backgrounds, and professions. I spent time reflecting on those unique faces and the values embedded in what I saw and the values that resonated with me after my time in such a hallowed space:

      Duty: Bravery was redefined by those who lost their lives trying to rescue people from the nightmare that was downtown Manhattan on September 11th. In the midst of mass confusion and chaos, their sense of duty was as unwaivering as it was the day before when the world was normal. No matter what profession you are in, you're serving someone: focusing on those that you serve cultivates your sense of duty.

      Passion: I cannot say whether those who went to work at the World Trade Center on September 11th did so because of a love of their careers or a sense of obligation to their families, their lifestyles, or some other reason. But looking upon those faces, I was reminded to live a worklife of passion, one that isn't one-dimensionally sunny but displays a sense of mission for one's craft and one's constituents.

      Love: I never thought about work in this way before, but living a professional life of duty and passion, of service and excellence, of learning and growth...this is how you show love in your career, making the world a better place to be and contributing positively to your craft.

      September 11th affected us in many different ways. It gave me comfort to look at an event that has been examined from many perspectives from a career one, and I hope that it inspires you to be the best you can be in your profession.

      Monday, September 12, 2011

      7 Questions to Ask before You Search for a Job

      Upon graduating college, the first question from everyone's mouth is "What are you doing now?" or "Where are you going to work?". Maybe you have a job set up or a pretty good idea about what you'd like to do. Perhaps you have no idea where to start in the job hunt and interviewing process. Take a breath and relax. You have time and you need to use that time to determine a few standards before you throw yourself in the world of unemployed job searching.

      Take stock of what you want from a job. Sit down and really think about what you enjoy doing before you start proactively searching. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
      1. What kind of job or occupation did you hope to obtain with your degree?
      2. Has this idea changed since another job or internship?
      3. What type of environment would you best like to work in? An office, at home, or elsewhere?
      4. What type of salary do you hope to earn?
      5. Are you willing to start with a job you dislike in order to move up in a company to a dream job?
      6. Can you think of anyone in your network that can help you obtain your dream job?
      7. Are you willing to move to a new city or state to find a job you love or is a close location very important?
      Now that you've answered some very important questions, make a list of jobs that may fit most or all of your criteria. Now you can actively start job searching both online and in the real world . It is always important to discover what you want in order to find the job you desire. Best of luck!

      Friday, September 9, 2011

      Is Fear of Success Getting in Your Way?

      The fear of professional success is as real as the fear of failure, and it may be holding you back from realizing your full potential. In many cases, you may not even be aware that you fear success or that your actions—or lack of action—may be limiting your career. The following behaviors could suggest that a fear of success may be getting in your way:
      • Using self-sabotaging behavior at work (e.g., arriving late, being uncooperative, repeatedly under-performing)
      • Putting yourself down in front of others
      • Feeling unworthy of success
      • Finding excuses to avoid pursuing career opportunities
      • Believing that success may alienate co-workers, friends, or family
      • Worrying that you won’t be able to maintain your success
      • Convincing yourself that you will fall short of others’ expectations
      • Procrastinating

      The above, to some degree, are very normal and you’re not alone if you have employed these behaviors at one point or another. However, if these represent a consistent pattern over an extended period of time, you may have a fear of success. Success can be elusive and easy to dodge; typically you need to intentionally seek it out and work hard to obtain it. To help you overcome this fear and instead put yourself on a path to success, consider doing the following:
      • Identify and explore what’s holding you back and whether your fears are rational
      • Talk to someone you trust or meet with a professional counselor to discuss your concerns
      • Create a career plan that outlines goals, action steps, and deadlines; track your progress
      • Find a mentor or someone to keep you accountable to your career plan/goals
      • Develop a contingency plan in case your current opportunity doesn’t pan out
      • Visualize a positive outcome; be persistent and patient

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      The Pros and Cons of Working Overseas After Your Military Transition.

      With the U.S. being involved in multiple military actions worldwide, there are many opportunities for people to find work overseas. These opportunities often are filled by military veterans who go to work overseas after their separation. Like any situation, there are good and bad aspects to the prospect. Here are a few you may not have considered.

      Pro: The pay for working in a volatile area such as Iraq or Afghanistan is usually significantly more than you would earn in the states. Although the tax laws constantly change, there are significant tax breaks for income earned in a foreign country. Currently, the first $91,500 of foreign earnings are excluded from taxation. To check the current status of the tax laws visit the following link:

      Con: The people who work overseas are usually salaried employees so their hours are long and they work more than 5 days a week. When working in a volatile country, often there is not much to do besides sleep and work. I have spoken with people who made as much as $120,000 per year in the logistics career field working in Afghanistan. However, this same person worked 6 or 7 days a week and as many as 80 hours per week.

      Pro: There is no better way to experience a country’s culture and understand its citizens’ perspectives than working and living every day in the country. Working overseas you will be exposed to all types of new adventures and will have the opportunity to travel abroad more often.

      Con: Usually, when working overseas, you go alone. That means you are thousands of miles away from family and friends. If you have been in the military, you are used to deploying to different locations or traveling away from your family for weeks or months at a time. However, many spouses and family members expect this to stop once you leave the military. Make sure everyone in your family supports your decision.

      Pro: There are many opportunities with different government contractors as well as the federal government. From teaching English as a second language in China to repairing F-16’s in Saudi Arabia, the opportunities are very plentiful.

      Con: Many people don’t know where to start when looking for a position abroad. Here are some resources for you to use to begin your search. For federal employment opportunities overseas go to and for other opportunities try Also, consider how difficult it will be to job hunt from your overseas location. Set aside the finances necessary to support yourself while you transition back into life in the U.S.

      Tuesday, September 6, 2011

      A Great Read For Post Grads Down On Their Luck

      When you're a post grad, things are extremely exciting. You're all done with your school days and you have your whole life ahead of you. The only problem is, with this economy, you may be struggling right now. If you're looking for a great read that will also inspire you and give you a boost of happiness, try reading The Happiness Project. Now a New York Times Bestseller, this book is definitely worth checking out.

      The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin follows Rubin on her quest for happiness. Rubin has a good job, a family and is generally a happy and lucky person. However, like most of us, she found herself getting angry too easily and letting her pessimism rain down when she should be happy. Instead of taking the Eat, Pray, Love route, since she had a family and responsibilities and couldn't quite go away to "find herself", she decided to make finding happiness a yearly project. This project is something she encourages readers to try in their own way, using her tools any way they see fit.

      She started out by writing a list of resolutions that were put right in front of her, every day, to keep her accountable. She also came up with Splendid Truths, her own made-up philosophies on happiness. She then set out to put goals for each month in different categories, such as family, money, and friendships. Each chapter in the book explores each month of her year to happiness as she researched happiness theories and set to live them out in her own life. 

      For post grads who feel alone or down on their luck after graduating, this is an inspiring read. While a few of the chapters may have no real significance for a post grad (for example, one chapter she explores being a better wife), others will have you thinking of ways to improve areas of your own life and get you down to the nitty-gritty of happiness. 

      If you're interested, check out Rubin's website to read more about her book and theories. What do you have to lose?

      Healthy Versus Unhealthy Competition. The Key Differences.

      I do not consider myself a competitive person. However, like many people, I enjoy succeeding and knowing I did well. In talking with a client the other day – someone who categorized herself as extremely competitive – I began thinking about how a competitive spirit can be detrimental to both your career and your personal life.

      To some, healthy competition is a bit of an oxymoron. We have moved toward raising our children in an “everyone’s a winner” society. However, I believe competition and ultimately failure – when taken in healthy doses – can actually be good for you. This is why my husband and I play our best when playing games with our children. Everyone needs to know how it feels to lose, lose gracefully, learn from mistakes, and get back in the game.

      Here are some ways that you can help yourself distinguish between healthy and unhealthy competition.

      Healthy Competition:
      - encourages the people involved to strive further and push themselves harder than they would have without competition.

      - drives you to achieve more growth and success – not because you are driven to win or lose – but because you are doing your best at something that you care about.

      - changes the boundaries of what you believe you are capable of and stretches the limits of what you believe is possible.

      - requires the courage to take risks, requires the willingness to fail, and necessitates a vulnerability to admit you are ambitious to succeed.

      - makes you feel proud of yourself for trying – no matter the outcome.

      Unhealthy Competition:
      - causes you to feel negatively about other peoples’ successes as opposed to motivated or inspired.

      - happens when you wish for others to have obstacles or limitations so that they are held back.

      - causes you to feel shame when you lose or fail.

      - motivates you to seek competitors who are naturally weaker than you, so that you will feel the advantage.

      Managing Ego in the Workplace

      An individual’s ego can help in creating confidence, drive, and a healthy self-esteem; however, an over-inflated ego can cause issues in the workplace. Organizations with executives, managers, and/or team leaders who have problematic egos may experience low employee morale, limited creativity, and high employee turnover.

      To understand how ego can impact you professionally, take an honest look at yourself to determine whether your ego has ever limited your success.

      Signs that ego is getting in the way of workplace success:

      • Needing to feel superior or self-important with other colleagues
      • Desiring to always be the center of attention
      • Seeking credit for every accomplishment or task
      • Needing to dominate conversations and meetings
      • Avoiding responsibility for errors
      • Encountering difficulties working on a team
      • Finding it difficult to listen to others
      • Resisting other opinions or ideas
      • Frequently using “I” instead of “we” when discussing work projects, ideas, etc.
      • Viewing colleagues as competition
      • Reacting defensively to constructive criticism
      • Boosting self-importance by frequently putting down others’ ideas

      Dealing professionally with large egos

      It takes patience and creativity to work with individuals who have large egos, but it is possible. Following are some tips that may help.

      Avoid arguments and competitive exchanges, which tend to be unproductive. Instead, if an issue can’t be discussed calmly, consider involving someone within your organization who can help facilitate the discussion and who has the power to move matters forward.

      Recognize strengths in the other person and ask for his/her expertise in areas where those strengths come into play.

      Look for ways in which differing strengths can complement each another.

      Don’t be bullied. Speak up in a professional manner.

      Most importantly, remember, another person’s unprofessionalism can make your professionalism, integrity, and humility shine.

      Soften the Career Change Blow

      Last month I wrote about changing careers and things to keep in mind when undergoing that transition. It was a personal piece for me, as I was only one class away from completing all coursework for a PhD when I decided to quit. The decision to quit was very logical: I had become bored and listless in my studies and I felt that I was chasing a credential more than engaging with a subject that I felt passionately about. It didn't make sense for me to continue.

      What ultimately made the decision difficult was telling the people who were closest to me that I was quitting. The reactions I received-shock, disappointment, fear, confusion-were entirely natural and what I expected. Careers are put into a different category than other aspects of our lives because we associate where someone works with who they are. So when someone makes an abrupt shift or change in career, we're forced to change how we see them, even though what one does is such a small component of their being. If I had told my friends and family members that I had stopped eating meat, I would have received a reaction...but not one as visceral as I did when I told them I was switching careers.

      How do you soften the blow for those who care about you when you tell them you want to change careers? Follow these tips to make their (and your) coping process easier:

      Expect a strong reaction: As I stated above, reactions to news like a career change can be powerful. Whether there is a financial investment in your decision or not, be ready to engage in a conversation with someone who might be reacting negatively. Listen to where they're coming from and show them empathy and understanding. It's unrealistic to get what you're not willing to show.

      Be honest: When you tell your loved ones that you want to change careers, be honest and upfront with them. Explain how you are feeling about your current career and what prompts your desire to change.

      Mobilize: The question your loved ones will ask you after "why" is "what now?" I recommend that you have some kind of plan in place before you broach the conversation will show your seriousness with which your treating your decision. Whether you know what you want to do next career-wise or you are unsure, show that you are committed to getting things figured out.

      I was able to get the support of my loved ones and have embarked on a career that I find truly satisfying. The decisions you make don't just affect you; follow these tips to smooth over your transition.

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      The 4-step Recipe for a Successful Cover Letter

      The cover letter is one of those anomalies in the job search that many people say are necessary, but they don’t necessarily use it to make a hiring decision. In talking to human resources experts and hiring managers, the consensus seems to be that they want you to send one. However, don’t expect HR to read the letter. They are more interested in whether or not you have the qualifications they need to screen you in or out.

      If you make the cut, and are sent to the hiring manager for a pre-interview review, this is when your cover letter does its job. The hiring manager often reads the cover letter to get a sense of your personality and communication style prior to the interview.

      Use this 4-step recipe to create your cover letter. However, just like most recipes, you will need to make some minor modifications to suit your needs.

      Step 1: The Heading and Salutation. Your cover letter’s heading should be the same as your resume. If using a template, be sure to update the company name/address and change the date. Whenever possible, address the letter to a specific person. Do your research in order to try to address the letter to the hiring manager by name, always use the more formal Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith once you find out if the hiring manager is male or female. If you can’t get a name use: Attention: Hiring Manager.

      Step 2: The Opening Paragraph. This paragraph should attract the reader’s attention. Include why are you writing, what position are you applying for, and where you learned of the position. Catch the reader’s attention with your qualifications and skills from the first line. Don’t use the same “I am writing in response to your advertised job” line that everyone else uses.

      Step 3: The Middle Paragraph. This is your chance to sell your skills. This is the part of the letter that contains the sales pitch. Outline the top reasons you are worthy of an interview, keep in mind the employer doesn’t care about what they can do for you; they want to know what you can do for their company. Don’t just regurgitate your resume, but introduce them to what you are going to discuss in your resume.

      Keep you letter positive, upbeat and packed full of accomplishments and relevant skills that you know will benefit the company. This is not a life history, rather a brief introduction into your resume that gives the employer a glimpse at your personality and communication style.

      Step 4: The Final Paragraph. Never close on a passive note and don’t order the employer to take the next step. Tell the employer what you plan to do next – and do it! Express an interest in the position and the company, thank them for considering your qualifications, and tell them when and how you will follow up.