Monday, October 31, 2011

Job Seeking Errors Can Hinder Success

A job search can be extremely stressful, causing job seekers to act out of character as they vie for limited opportunities in the current job market. A job seeker’s personal financial situation—especially when unemployed—can also add to the pressure of trying to land a new job. These factors, and more, can cause you to make errors that can thwart your job search success.

Putting Someone on the Spot
Job seekers are encouraged to leverage networks, but that doesn’t mean putting someone on the spot. For example, don’t ask someone to endorse you professionally when that person has never worked with you. And, a social engagement is not the time to corner someone for professional assistance.

Be Reasonable about Follow Up and Rejection
You’re expected to follow up after submitting a job application and/or resume or after interviewing. However, relentlessly contacting the recruiter or hiring manager is unprofessional. Be strategic, yet reasonable. For example, if a hiring manager mentions that he/she will make a decision within the next two weeks, and you haven’t heard back after that time period has lapsed, a follow up call is completely acceptable. Be gracious about any feedback that is offered, and respect the employer’s right to decide what is best for the company. Job search rejection is never easy; however, reacting angrily or defensively leaves a negative, lasting impression with a prospective employer.

Be Professional–Online and Off
Most job seekers are conscientious and professional about face-to-face interactions; however, these same people often let their guard down online. Online rants about a current boss or co-worker can become a deal breaker when spotted by a prospective employer.

Do Not String Along a Prospective Employer
Don’t feign interest in a job that you have determined is not a good fit. It is disrespectful and deceitful to lead on a prospective employer just to leverage another negotiating position. Likewise, it is wrong to string a company along while hoping that a better job opportunity will materialize before you have to commit.

Getting Clear About Your Motivations

Sitting in my pantry is a juicer: a machine that grinds fruits and vegetables into delicious, healthy juice. I purchased it after viewing a very influential documentary about the unhealthy, processed food that we eat. The juicer was going to be my tool to nutritious eating and a new, healthier lifestyle. So why is it still sitting in the pantry?

It's not uncommon to become charmed by the possibilities of a new way of being: a new life that we believe is going to make things better for us. Whether it is the new exercise device that will help make us slimmer, the new clothes that will feed our self esteem, or the new school that we just enrolled in that will give us the education we want to help us pursue a career dream, possibilities-in the right context-are powerful motivators to action and living a rich, fulfilling life. However, once you've taken that first step-the biggest step-toward that dream, doubt can fill you to the point where your momentum is stopped.

When considering the possibilities and options that are presented to you for your career, ones that will bring significant and lasting change, ask yourself these questions to get clear about your intent:

What about this decision excites me?

What am I trying to be that this change will help create?

How am I honoring my values by making this decision?

What will I be losing by making this decision?

What are the consequences if I go through with the decision? What are the consequences if I don't go through with this decision?

To be honest, I haven't decided where I am at quite yet with the juicer. But I know that by dwelling on these questions I will find the answer. When it comes to your career, you are not just in a state of doing; you are in a state of being. Make our decision with both your head and your heart, filled with intention and the power of creation.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Maintain Your Personal Brand.

In previous posts I have discussed how to define your personal brand and how to create your personal brand. Now, I want to address how to maintain and protect the integrity of your brand. Personal brands may be redefined due to career growth, education, discoveries, or industry trends. However, you never want to lose sight of the core of your brand message.

In my previous post about branding I talked about In-N-Out Burgers with their three-item menu – burgers, cheeseburgers and double cheeseburgers. An example of a loss in brand integrity for In-N-Out may be suddenly venturing into chicken sandwiches and hot dogs. This would seemingly fly in the face of the brand they have built.

> When you are managing your personal brand, keep in mind your reputation is on the line and you should protect it with all you have. Here are some tips to do just this.

> Keep your skills and knowledge current and relevant. Outdated information or skills will kill a candidate’s personal brand relevancy faster than most anything else.

> Manage your online reputation. Conduct a Google search of your name periodically and set up Google alerts to ensure your brand is represented accurately online.

> When something negative is printed online go into damage control mode as quickly as possible. Staying true to your brand will help you to avoid negative publicity; however you can’t make everyone happy all the time. Be prepared with a disaster recovery plan using search engine optimization tactics if this situation arises.

> Keep your private life, well . . . private. This is especially true with the proliferation of social media. Filter what you say online. No matter how well you manage your personal filters, those you interact with online may not be as diligent. When in doubt, keep it off the internet!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 Strategies for Dealing with a Difficult Coworker

Often times, we spend more of our time at work than home with our family members. You can’t always choose your co-workers, any more than you get to choose your family and you certainly can’t always get along with everyone.

Whether you find yourself working with a bully, a negative person, an outright liar, or a gossip, if you want to protect your work environment you can follow these steps to resolve the situation.

Have a plan and be prepared
If you have to deal regularly with an argumentative or negative person, be proactive. When faced with a situation for which we are unprepared, we are likely to act on instincts and strike back or become angry. Don’t react to conflict emotionally, be professional and non-confrontational. Walk away from the conflict when you are both angry. When everyone calms down, talk through the issue in a carefully planned, well-though manner.

Don’t be a part of the problem
When we are attacked our instinct is to protect ourselves. However, hostile people who are confrontational often thrive on controversy and tension. Don’t play their game and fuel their fire. You need to be the more mature and professional person. If you react only with kindness and positive comments, they will tend to leave you alone to work in peace.

Try to see their point of view
Is there a reason this person is being so difficult or has a bad attitude? Maybe they are having marital, money, or health problems. Although these issues don’t excuse a bad attitude, they may explain it. It is possible they are not aware of how they are perceived or that they come across negatively. Talk with them and show them kindness and understanding. Attempt to see things from their point of view.

Know when to seek support
If you have tried all the suggestions with no success, you may need to involve a neutral third party. This person will serve as a mediator who will listen to both sides of the story and help find a middle ground. Go into this conversation with an open mind and try your best to work as a team. If this does not work, it may be time to get your supervisor involved.

Know when to say when
We are bound to have occasional disagreements when interacting with people every day. If the problem can not be resolved, you have a decision to make. If your productivity and work performance is negatively affected, either you or your co-worker needs to move on to a new department or find a new job.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Three Steps to Direct Your Learning-For Free

When we think of "education" what typically comes to mind is the traditional "sit in a classroom and be lectured at while occasionally taking a test or writing a paper" method of delivery. This has been ineffective in helping adults learn. Adults not only need to be exposed to masterful content in an engaging way but must possess a strong drive to learn it as well as a means to relate what they are learning to their own lives. You don't need to take expensive university classes to learn something new that will benefit your career. Follow these steps to not only find free online places to grow your knowledge in a subject area, but to practice it.

1. Get clear about the what and the whys: Before you begin, focus on not the what you will learn (i.e. "computer programming") but why you are learning it. This is crucial because when you are struggling to create time for what you're learning or are feeling unmotivated, the whys will help center and focus you. On a piece of paper or index card, write down your answers to these questions: Who am I trying to be that learning this will help me to become? What will this learning allow me to do that fulfills me? What will my life be like after I have learned this? Keep these available to you to keep your motivation and level of engagement as high as possible.

2. Find your avenue to learning: There is a revolution happening online with many avenues of free learning cropping up in many places. For example, Khan Academy is a website with 2,500 videos on subjects ranging from mathematics to art history...all for free for you to learn at your own pace, whenever you want. Some renown universities-including MIT and UC-Berkeley-have crated free online course content that can be viewed online or downloaded as podcasts. Speaking of podcasts, iTunes U features lectures from hundreds of colleges and universities that can be downloaded and viewed whenever you want. And, even with all of these wonderful online resources, don't forget about an old institution dedicated to furthering your knowledge-your public library. Once you know your why the what is where you should focus.

3. Practice: You know why you are learning and you know what you are now only need to apply it to make it stick. Practice can take many forms; the only requirement is to do it. For example, you may be teaching yourself HTML or Java or any other programming language. To prove your proficiency, write some code! Create sample webpages or programs to show others. If you are learning art history, volunteer at a local arts facility to demonstrate your passion for and knowledge of the subject. If mathematics is more your thing, tutor schoolchildren or college students to help them become more proficient in the subject you've been studying. Teaching others is a great way to not only practice but to solidify your learning through helping others.

Don't get caught in the mindset that the only way to learn something is to take your own learning through your drive and initiative. You can become just as proficient...and save a buck.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finding Time to Get Work Done

If you’re like many professionals, you’re carrying a heavy workload. On top of that, you’re on the run from one meeting to the next, inundated with email, and sidetracked by interruptions. You often find yourself asking, “How do I make time to do actual work?”

 Get Organized
 Use the first few minutes of every day to get organized by reviewing your calendar and pulling together materials you need throughout the day. Then, identify and prioritize the day’s tasks into “must do” and “if time allows” tasks. This plan will help you hit the ground running.

 Schedule “Do Not Disturb” Time
 If you share your schedule with others, block out “do not disturb” time. Even if you don’t label it as such, make sure you clearly communicate to others that you’re blocking time to get specific tasks done. Whether you schedule time to review a proposal, prepare a meeting agenda, etc., the point is not to waiver on that commitment unless an urgent matter arises.

 Schedule Time to Respond to Email
 It is hard to imagine a work environment without the convenience of email; however, as helpful as email is, it can also interfere with productivity if it is not managed well. Try to schedule small, regular increments of time for managing your email.

Build In Buffer Time between Meetings
If your job requires frequent meetings, do your best to schedule buffer time between meetings to allow for time to work. Also, if possible, schedule no more than three or four meetings per day, based on an average of one hour per meeting. Additionally, only attend meetings that are necessary; use your best judgment and, if uncertain, check with your manager for input.

Plan for the Unplanned
Remember, no matter how well you plan and organize your day, unplanned events do happen. Today’s professionals need to be ready to respond swiftly to changes that can occur in a fast-paced work environment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to Create Your Personal Brand.

In an earlier post I discussed how to define your personal brand. The job search process is nothing more than marketing yourself. The best way to market a product – you – is to create a brand. Once you have defined your personal brand, it is time to begin using the tools available to build that brand’s statement.

Here are some of the tools that you should ensure are a part of your brand building tool chest:

Resume and Cover Letter
It is a proven fact that employers are only going to give your resume 10 to 15 seconds of attention. Therefore, your resume must clearly and definitively represent your brand and concisely and effectively convey your brand message. Your resume must tell a story, with facts, examples, and accomplishments of how your brand brings value to a potential employer.

Online Presence
More than ever before, employers and recruiters are using the internet to locate candidates and to check them out before an interview. You MUST have an online presence as a career professional. Create a professional profile on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Utilize social networking to reinforce your brand message and extend your brand’s reach.

Some other opportunities to create a brand presence are blogs, commenting on blog posts, online bios, web portfolios, videos, and using online broadcasts such as Twitter to further create your online presence.

This is not an area that you can ignore. No matter how wonderful your online presence may be, you have to be able to perform in reality. It is easy to misrepresent yourself online, but much more difficult to do in person. There are countless opportunities to network in your industry. Research which organizations will be most relevant and productive in your brand’s niche.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Companies Evaluate a Salary Range

Have you ever wondered how companies determine a salary or pay range for a particular job? Or why a salary for the same job title varies from company to company?

For starters, companies in the United States must adhere to various Federal employment laws and regulations instituted by the U.S. Department of Labor. For those interested in researching these, go to In addition to governmental guidelines, companies consider other criteria when evaluating salary ranges.

Placing the Focus on Job Description, Not Title

It is a common misconception that a job title and accompanying salary at one company should translate similarly at other companies. In real life, salaries can vary significantly between companies. For example, a marketing and sales director could draw an annual salary from $50,000 to $150,000 or higher. The main reason for a variance like this is that the job responsibilities can be considerably different at each company. Therefore, when companies evaluate a salary range, they focus on the job description that details the work responsibilities and functions—not the title.

Other Factors Companies Consider

In general and simplified, owners and/or managers set salary ranges based on how they value the job and how much the company can afford. The goal is to attract top job candidates while minimizing overhead expenses.

Every company goes through a process in setting salaries; typically, the larger the organization, the more extensive the process of classifying jobs and evaluating how they interrelate. Below are a few key factors that many companies consider when setting salary ranges.

  • Level of education, expertise, skill, and experience required to perform the job
  • What the market is willing to bear, particularly local and regional markets
  • The size of the talent pool; for example, is the market flooded with qualified people?
  • Competitive and industry standards for the same or similar job functions
  • The benefits package: salary is often just one part of that package. For example, in addition to salary, a company may offer a comprehensive benefits package, including health care, a 401k program, vacation time, flexible work arrangements, and other appealing benefits.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

5 Steps to Creating an Effective Self-introduction

You may have heard it called an elevator speech or a 30-second commercial. No matter what it is called, it is imperative that you prepare – and memorize – your self-introduction before you take on networking as a job seeker or even as a career professional.

We have all been to those professional events where the first question we are asked is “What do you do?” How often have you blown this golden networking opportunity by simply telling the person what career field you are in? Use this 5-step approach to prepare your message in advance and take advantage of the next time you have a chance to shine in a networking situation.

What is your background?
Let your listener know what your background is, how many years of experience you have, and what the scope of your responsibility has been. Don’t just be satisfied with saying “I am a project manager,” instead say “I am a project manager with more than 8 years of experience leading cross-functional teams of up to 25 personnel complete projects budgets up to $25 million.”

What certifications or education do you have that are important?
This section is more important in some career fields than others. Only mention certifications and education if it is relevant to being considered a candidate in your chosen career field. Unrelated degrees or education need not be mentioned in the networking arena.

What are your strengths or areas of specialization?
Think about what you want the person to remember you as. Last week I talked about defining your personal brand. This is one of the ways that you will use the brand to discuss your area of expertise. To continue our earlier example you might continue on to say, “One of my areas of expertise is bringing together a diverse team and creating an effective project implementation schedule that ensures project milestones are met within the scope of the project budget.”

Offer an example of one of your accomplishments.
I am a big believer in proving my skills and knowledge with examples and accomplishments. Don’t just tell someone you have a skill or expertise, prove it to them. Our project manager example may continue in their introduction as follows, “I took over my last project that I led to completion when it was 6 months along. The project was in trouble; it was behind schedule by at least 6 weeks and was running about 20% above budget. I met with the team and revised the schedule to try to make up lost time, I identified and corrected the key areas where the project was over budget, and involved the whole team with making some major changes. In the end, we were able to come in 7% under budget and completed the project on schedule.”

What are you looking for?
This is the most important part of networking, and often the hardest part for most people. You have to ask for assistance. Most people really want to help you, but they can not help you if they have no idea of what you need. Whether you are looking for a new employer, networking contacts to expand your client base, or just to make connections with industry professionals and expand your knowledge, be sure to tell your listener what you need.

How to Leave Your Internship With Grace

College students and post grads often take internships to get experience or their foot in the door of a company they want to work at. Most internships have a start date and finish date, regardless if you are there for class credit or simply experience.

How do you leave while ensuring you keep these amazing contacts you worked so hard to impress? Here are some tips:
  1. If you enjoyed your internship, do check to see if they are hiring for part-time or full-time positions. Many times internships can lead to a regular job at a company if you really impressed them with your hard work. Make sure you let them know you are interested in working there and take contact information from co-workers and bosses.
  2. If you hated your internship and can't wait to get out of there, don't burn any bridges. Leaving unprofessionally or mouthing off could hurt you in the future. Perhaps one of your bosses or co-workers will give you a great recommendation that will help you land a job at another company or someone from their network could help you find work. Always be professional, even if the people you are working for aren't being very professional themselves.
  3. Ask for a recommendation letter from your boss/supervisor/manager. These letters are often crucial in helping you get a job. Also ask if they will be a reference for you.
  4. Keep in touch. Once you're all finished with your internship, send a quick note or email thanking them again for giving you the opportunity and how much you appreciate the learning experience. Check in every few months so they don't forget you if you have them as a reference or hope to find a job based on the network you created there.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Find Your Way to What Fulfills You

By night I am a career coach and blog writer, but by day I work at a renowned medical institution. It's a massive place-spanning several city blocks-and, as you are wont to see at a place of this size, there are patients everywhere. And not a day goes by that I don't see the all-to-familiar look of confusion/nervousness/uncertainty on the faces of patients as timidly step up to one of many campus maps we have posted on the walls of our buildings.

Then I swoop in. "Can I help you find your way?"

Relief washes over them as they tell me the building where their appointment is located, and we engage in small talk as I escort them there. Once we arrive, the thank you I receive is so heartfelt and genuine...true appreciation for aiding someone in need.

I don't do it for the thank you. I do it because I like helping people; specifically, helping people find their way. Pondering this feeling and the professional life that I aspire to create, it's not hard to see the connection between the two. Yet, for months, I didn't...and dwelling on this feeling brought me to a question: what if you were living your ideal career without even knowing it?

This week I have a challenge for you: listen for the "thank yous," the "you shouldn't haves," and other instances of sincere appreciation shown by those you interact with. Pay attention to the times when you feel a part of a bigger purpose than your day-to-day activities but are truly serving others. Finally, note where the source of this comes from: inside or outside a professional setting, with a specific population of people, in your daily work responsibilities or outside them.

This week, don't spend your time simply doing but also noticing. Comment on what you have learned about yourself below.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stay Productive While Unemployed

Employers recognize that the weakened economy over the past few years has resulted in layoffs for many skilled workers. As such, an employment gap on a job candidate’s resume is no longer unusual or an immediate red flag to prospective employers. However, you need to be prepared to explain any gap(s) and give examples of how you continued to develop professionally while unemployed.

Employers like to hear that you have taken a course or finished a certification program to enhance your professional skill set. Volunteer work is another great way to strengthen your skills and gain relevant experience. If the only examples you can give are creating cover letters, fine tuning your resume, and sorting through job postings, you may be surprised to find that the red flag raised may very well be for lack of commitment and initiative—not the job gap itself.

Obviously, when you’re in between jobs, job searching is expected to consume much of your time, but not so much that you can’t identify and act on opportunities to improve professionally. Be mindful that life is full of distractions, so it may take some purposeful planning to make professional development a priority.

As an added incentive, consider the personal upside to keeping yourself sharp professionally while you’re unemployed. Not only does it look good to prospective employers, it can also help you maintain a positive attitude and a sense of fulfillment during a difficult time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Define Your Personal Brand.

Later today I am headed to Disneyland with my family. I truly believe that there is no one better at managing their brand than the Disney Corporation. Their iconic Mickey Mouse ears are everywhere, stamped in the concrete, on top of fence posts, on your tickets to get in – their brand is everywhere you look. Disney has even designed a game called “Find the Hidden Mickeys” for park visitors.

As a professional – no matter your career field – you should also aspire to build a brand as strong as the Disney Corporation. However, before you can build your brand you need to define it. I would like to give you some things to think about to help you with building your brand.

What is your specialty?
I hear people call themselves a “jack of all trades and master of none” quite often. While it is good to have a diverse base of knowledge and expertise, in order to define your brand you need to know the area in which you specialize and then strive to be the best in that area. In Arizona, we have In-N-Out Burgers. There are three items on their menu aside from drinks and fries, a burger, a cheeseburger and a double cheeseburger. Their menu is not diverse, but they make a darn good burger and they are always jam packed with customers!

How do you add value to your employer?
Employers are looking for the most cost-effective employees that will bring them the biggest return on their investment. What is your personal value statement? Do you specialize in generating sales volume, creating relationships with customers that lead to repeat business, or are you an efficiency expert? Think about the way in which you can benefit an employer and then market yourself as a specialist in this area.

What do you want to be remembered for?
People often talk about their legacy, what they will be remembered for when they are gone. Chances are you want to be remembered for more than your career accomplishments when you leave this earth for good. However, I want you to think about what your past – or your current – employer will miss the most from your absence. Is it your ability to motivate a team, your engaging training style, or your project management skills?

In order to effectively market yourself, you must first define your customer. Once you define your customer, you can define what is important to them. Lastly, you can then market your skills and benefits to your target customer. Check back next week for more information on how you can use your personal brand in the job search market.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Sense of Interview Questions That Make No Sense.

I was teaching a class on interview techniques last night. One of the attendees was discussing why interviews are so challenging for her.She brought up the fact that she is a logical person who has a hard time with being asked questions that are illogical. Believe it or not, even the most illogical questions are asked for a reason.

When you stop and consider the motivation behind an interview question, you can begin to formulate an answer that will meet the expectations of the interviewer. In this article I will attempt to explain why interviewers may be asking some questions that don’t seem to have a purpose on the surface.

Tell me about a time when . . .
These types of questions are called behavioral questions and these occur when the interviewer asks you for an example or story. The reasoning behind these types of questions is that the interviewer can gain insight into your skills and experience from past accomplishments and examples. Answering these questions allow you to offer proof of your knowledge, skills, and experience.

Tell me about yourself.
An employer does not want to know where you grew up, how many dogs you have, or what you like to do in your free time. So why do they ask this question? Usually this is the first question that is asked and it is used as an ice breaker.

Instead of offering personal information, tell the interviewer how many years of experience you have in the career field for which you are applying, what are the skills you bring to their company, tell them about an accomplishment that proves your skills, and elaborate on why you are the right person for the job. Think of this answer as a 2 minute synopsis of why you are the right person for the job.

Why did you leave your last job?
This question is often a fishing expedition to see if you will speak negatively about your former employer. Don’t ever offer the details of why you left a job; simply state that you made a decision to take your career in a new direction. Even if you feel like you were wronged, when you tell a story that paints your former employer in a negative light, you look like a problem employee.

Puzzle questions.
How many quarters would it take to stack as high as the Empire State Building? If you could be any animal, which one would you choose and why? These types of questions are intended to see how you react to uncertainty, how fast you can think on your feet, and test your problem solving skills.

If I was asked the Empire State Building question, I would simply say “I don’t know. However, if you give me five minutes, a calculator, and an internet connection, I can find out the height of the building, the thickness of a quarter, and do some quick calculations to get you an answer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs and your iCareer

The world is still mourning the loss of Steve Jobs, the technology visionary who helped popularize the personal computer. Leading a fascinating yet private life, he opened up to a group of graduates in his now famous Stanford Commencement Speech. His oration-particularly regarding his formative years in college-reminds us of the essentials ingredients of creating a career that is as unique as we iCareer, if you will.

Stop "doing:" Jobs dropped out of Reed College after realizing that he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life but his schooling was driving his parents into poverty. Calling it the "best decision he ever made," he stopped walking down the traditional path of high school to college to job because he knew that it wasn't working for him. In essence, he stopped "doing." We tend to associate not "doing" with lack of ambition or motivation. Jobs, however, learned that sometimes to "do" one needs to "not do." It affected his life, and impacted the world, profoundly.

Embracing your circumstances: When Jobs was poor and in college, he described how he slept on friends' floors, collected and returned soda bottles for money, and walked great distances for one good meal every week at a religious temple. He didn't get mired down in the unfortunateness of his circumstances: he survived in spite of them. His example serves as a reminder that when it comes to our careers there are highs and lows; how we approach our problems determines the measure of our character and the level of our success.

"Curiosity and intuition:" Free of the college's requirements, Jobs "dropped-in" on classes and pursued his own interests. He speaks rapturously about-of all topics-calligraphy and how studying it greatly influenced the design of the Macintosh. He credited studying calligraphy and what he learned about design as being a key element to Macintosh's success. By pursuing his curiosity and intuition-without a concern about how he was going to "use" this knowledge-lead to the creation of one of the greatest devices in history.

The core message of Jobs's collegiate years is one of trust, realizing that you are not able to connect the dots at the beginning of your journey, only the end. Very few people will experience the level of success and influence that he has. But-and I feel he would agree with me-if we were to pursue our passions and trust in ourselves more than we currently do, there would be more magically alive people on this earth creating and designing wonderful things that propel us towards peace and prosperity.

Be relentlessly unafraid. Be hopeful. And, above all, trust yourself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stay Productive While Unemployed

Employers recognize that the weakened economy over the past few years has resulted in layoffs for many skilled workers. As such, an employment gap on a job candidate’s resume is no longer unusual or an immediate red flag to prospective employers. However, you need to be prepared to explain any gap(s) and give examples of how you continued to develop professionally while unemployed.

Employers like to hear that you have taken a course or finished a certification program to enhance your professional skill set. Volunteer work is another great way to strengthen your skills and gain relevant experience. If the only examples you can give are creating cover letters, fine tuning your resume, and sorting through job postings, you may be surprised to find that the red flag raised may very well be for lack of commitment and initiative—not the job gap itself.

Obviously, when you’re in between jobs, job searching is expected to consume much of your time, but not so much that you can’t identify and act on opportunities to improve professionally. Be mindful that life is full of distractions, so it may take some purposeful planning to make professional development a priority.

As an added incentive, consider the personal upside to keeping yourself sharp professionally while you’re unemployed. Not only does it look good to prospective employers, it can also help you maintain a positive attitude and a sense of fulfillment during a difficult time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What are Your Weaknesses. How to Answer this Interview Question without Jeopardizing your Interview.

In an interview, the hiring manager is often looking for a reason NOT to hire you. Instead of looking for positives, the truth of the matter is that most interviewers take a negative approach to the screening process. Therefore, your goal in an interview is to ensure that you do not provide them a reason to say no to you.

However, one of the questions we are often asked is “What are your weaknesses?” If we are trying to avoid providing negatives about ourselves, it is difficult to properly answer this question. In the past we were told we should bring up a negative that really is not so bad. For example “I am such a perfectionist that I go above and beyond in everything I do.” However, this answer does not seem sincere and is not the approach I recommend in today’s market.

My rule of thumb when interviewing is that whenever you have to bring up a negative, state the negative and cover it up with a positive statement. The best approach to answering this particular interview question is to define a weakness that you have learned to overcome. Here is an example of how you can effectively answer this question.

“I am not very good at saying no and in the past I have taken on more than I can handle. This led to me missing deadlines or producing work that was not my best quality. I learned to overcome this weakness in several ways. First, I have learned to delegate and am a much better team player. I have also learned to manage my time, organize my daily tasks, and prioritize my day much better. I make a list for the next day at the end of each work day and review it first thing in the morning in order to better plan my daily priorities. Learning to deal with this weakness has led me to be a better time manager and to realize that I am not superwoman who has to say yes to every request myself.”

With this strategy you demonstrate that you are self-aware and that you are willing to admit that you are not perfect. However, you are also able to show your ability to solve problems and overcome obstacles. So, what weakness have you learned to overcome in

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

5 Marketable Skills Every Veteran Possesses.

I spent two days last week at a veteran hiring event that was kicked off by multiple state senators, congressmen, and representatives. There were more than 150 employers at the event who expressed a dedication to hiring veterans. It was a well-attended successful event.

Throughout the event, the focus was on the inherent benefits an employer gets from hiring veterans. I want to point out what I think are the 5 most marketable skills that every veteran develops during their career of military service. Use these selling points to set yourself apart from the competition during your military transition job search process.

Once a military member leaves their entry-level rank, they are often tasked with leadership. Whether mentoring and supervising junior military members or managing tasks, the military teaches excellent leadership skills. Managing for results, especially in challenging or difficult situations, is the backbone of the military.

There is no stronger sense of loyalty, camaraderie, and dedication to your team mates than in the military. Very few tasks are undertaken alone and almost nothing is achieved solo in the military. Team work is essential to a successful military career. Where else can you see such a diverse group of people come together to achieve so much success than in the military?

Efficiency Under Pressure
Working under tight deadlines, working with limited resources, and getting the job done under adverse conditions is all part of a day’s work in the military. There is no overtime in the military, there is only stay until the job gets done – no matter how long the work day may be. Work ethic and military experience must go hand-in-hand.

Respect for – and accountability to – authority, policies, and procedures is ingrained in military members. Military members know the importance of following procedures, regulations, and policies – as it can be the difference between life and death in many situations. Veterans also understand where they fit in an organization and the importance of respecting authority and the leadership structure.

Ability to Overcome Adversity
Stamina, flexibility, strength, dedication, focus, persistence, and determination are all words that come to mind to describe the military work ethic. Veterans often have a “can-do” attitude, usually because failure is simply not an option when talking about the obstacles they must overcome every day.

Pushing Your Career Muscles to the Limit

The only way to grow muscle when strength training is to lift to a point of exhaustion…then go a little beyond that point. It makes sense, if you think about it, because of the body’s remarkable ability to adapt to the physical stress presented upon it. More stress makes the body grow; less stress keeps it the same.

Have you looked at your career in the same way? What pressure have you put on yourself to create a career that is rewarding, fulfilling, and makes a difference in the world? Think about these three areas of your work life and the focus questions after each.

Work performance: You begin a job not knowing how to “do” it, gradually moving to level of competence that becomes second nature. This is a good thing because it demonstrates competence and productivity, but there’s a temptation to hit a “peak” and not progress from there. Going beyond that peak-challenging and questioning your status quo and the organization’s status quo-leads to more personal engagement and fulfillment.

  • Have I mastered what I currently do?

  • Are there improvements that I can make in the procedures or processes of my current position?

Challenging projects: Challenging projects-beyond what you are doing now-will help your career grow through giving you new skills, putting these skills (and your current ones) to test in new environments, and allow you to show your versatility.

  • Do I proactively seek out new projects that will allow me to do so?

  • What projects do I currently know of would benefit from my involvement?

  • How would these projects help grow me professionally?

Relationships: There are relationships that you naturally cultivate at work-such as ones with your supervisor and coworkers-but going further to grow relationships with those outside your immediate work unit is indispensible in creating a network of peers that can attest to your great work performance.

  • What relationships do I need to cultivate to position myself for the next step in my career?

  • Who have I tried to get to know outside my work unit?

  • What reputation do I want to cultivate with those outside my work unit?

Career improvement is a journey; not a destination. Fight complacency by challenging yourself to go beyond the normal and what’s comfortable. Your career muscles will thank you for it.