Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 5 Most Important Factors in Your Resume

There are really no rules when it comes to writing a resume. This fact can be both freeing and frustrating! Although there may be a lack of rules when it comes to writing a resume, there are some items that must be included. Here are the top 5 most important items, as defined by human resources professionals, that you need to include when writing a resume.

Relevant Skills
Whenever I speak with HR professionals, receiving a resume that is full of irrelevant skills and experience is  their top resume pet peeve. Don't force the HR department to sift through irrelevant information to get to the most important information. Chances are good that they will move on to the next, more relevant candidate if you include irrelevant information.

Functional Experience
Your resume should demonstrate that you have experience performing the functions of the job for which you are applying. If you are making a career transition, it is imperative that you do your research and define your transferable skills.

Employment History
Your resume must include your employment history, complete with dates of employment. A resume without dates waves a giant red flag for an employer. Automatically, employers begin to question why you chose to leave off the dates. Doubts creep in about how old your experience may be and they can't tell how many years of experience you bring to the table.

Measurable Accomplishments
It is much more effective to prove you possess a skill through a proven track record of accomplishments. Instead of making empty assertions about your abilities, demonstrate your ability to utilize those skills through previous accomplishments. Whenever possible, make those accomplishments measurable with dollars, percentages, hours, numbers of people supervised, and other figures that quantify what you are capable of handling.

Industry Experience
Whenever possible, hiring managers are looking for industry-specific experience. If you are making an industry and/or career change and you don't have industry experience, this presents a challenge. Be sure that you do your research on the industry, the job, and the company before sending your resume. Determine the keywords that are specific to the industry and be sure to work them into your resume through your transferable skills.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Kathleen Hurley

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.

I graduated from Syracuse University in 2010 with a dual degree in public relations and psychology.  I am currently the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator for Athletics at Drew University, which is a small liberal arts school in New Jersey.  Prior to this, I worked for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is the top high school football all-star game in the country.  That was my first job out of college.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad?

Syracuse's public relations program is one of the top in the country, and the majority of my friends were looking for jobs in some of the world's top agencies and firms.  I spent my whole summer going on interviews at various agencies, but I knew I wanted to work in sports and entertainment.  I had no idea that what I really wanted to do was event management and not more traditional public relations work.  I didn't realized that until I was about a year out of school.  Today, I am hoping to make a career in college athletics - which I had also not thought of until I was in it.  The great thing about my first job is that it wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted, but now I know what I thought I wanted wasn't for me.  Most of my friends are still at those same firms, and while I sometimes envy their stability, my job has taken me to really great places and I get to meet lots of interesting people.  I definitely thought I would get a job right out of school and work my way up the ladder and stay there for who knows how long.  But if I had that, I might be bored.

3. What is your dream job?

My dream job has not changed, I just didn't realize what career path I needed to be on to get there when I was an undergrad.  I want to someday plan an Olympic games.  I would also settle for the Super Bowl.

4. What is the best thing about being a post grad?

The best thing about being a post grad for me has been the life experiences.  I learned more about the career world in my first year out of school then I learned in four years of school.  I now know that the things I was taught growing up - such as that my boss will always know best and that if I keep my head down and work hard I'll get ahead, are not always true.  Experience and education are extremely important, but they don't mean as much in my field if you haven't met the right people.  This is not true for every career, but in communications it is.

5. What is the worst?

There are two difficult parts.  The first is missing college.  All of my friends from college literally moved to the west coast after graduation.  It has been rare for me to see any of them in the past two years.  I miss the awesome social life I had in college - now I work nights and weekends because I am in sports.  Also, it is really difficult knowing that I have an impressive background, but that I haven't met the right people to get the job I really want.  Unlike in school, where getting the grades got you noticed, it hasn't been enough for me in the real world.

6. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

Figure out your niche.  I knew I wanted to work in sports - but that is a huge field.  I started out after graduation working for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and got the job at Drew through a contact there.  Now I realize I'm much happier in a college atmosphere, which was not a career path I had considered.

The other thing is to use your career center as early and as often as possible.  They had to kick me out of the office I was in there so much senior year.  As a result of talking to the career center, I had a much stronger resume and cover letter than lots of other candidates.  But the number one thing is definitely networking.  Write your professors thank you notes and mail them or drop them off after finals, then add them on LinkedIn.  Make some business cards and don't be shy about handing them out!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Military Transition Job Seekers: Learn to Take Credit for Yourself

I was talking today with a military member transitioning to the private sector who has more than 10 years of experience in his field. Despite the fact that he has a proven track record of success in his area of specialty, he shied away from labeling himself an expert. This modesty - and unwillingness to give yourself credit - is a common problem for people transitioning out of the military to the civilian world.

In the military you are conditioned to think of yourself as part of a team that works together to achieve a common goal. The ability to work effectively as part of a team is a very valuable trait that many employers find attractive. However, in order to market yourself effectively once you transition into the civilian world, you must learn to give yourself the credit that you rightly deserve. Here are some tips for overcoming this obstacle.

  • Think about the role you played in the team. What value did you bring? What idea or innovation did you think of that may not have happened otherwise?
  • When writing your resume or preparing for an interview, you must define your selling points. Don't think of it as bragging. Stating you are the best (fill in the blank) in the world is bragging and arrogant. However, simply stating what qualities make you effective at what you do is not bragging.
  • Back up your assertions with measurable accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to utilize your skills. When you can back up your statements with stories, examples, and statistics, you transform from bragging to stating the facts of what make you good at what you do.
  • Focus on value and benefits. Think long and hard at what makes you cost-effective as an employee. How will you earn the money that your employer will pay you? Take the focus off of yourself and put it back on the employer by talking about what value and benefits your potential employer will receive when they add you to their team.
  • Don't fool yourself into thinking employers will value modesty. What an employer truly values is an employee that has taken the time to learn about the employer's needs and problems, then takes this information and creates a targeted presentation - both in the resume and interview - of how the employee can resolve the employer's problems and meet their needs.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Are You Trusted in the Workplace?

Cultivating trustworthiness is a worthwhile endeavor if you want to succeed in the workplace. The more that you are trusted by your supervisor, your coworkers, and your peers, new opportunities and areas of collaboration will be opened up to you. Developing trust, however, requires an amount of vulnerability, honesty, and an ego-free state of being that many struggle to cultivate. Ask yourself these questions to gauge how well you create a persona of trust in the workplace:

Do you stay true to your word? A simple yet important question. You may speak highly of your work (most people do) but are you giving your all to the thorough analysis that you say you do, the time that you proclaim to give to clients, and the attention to detail to that important project? Your work is an extension of you word, so ensure that you produce what you state you will.

Do you speak up if you see problems? Honesty is a critical component of trust, and diplomatically pointing out problems will ensure that your interests are for the project, the team, and your workplace as opposed to yourself.

Do you freely share important information? Those who keep information to themselves can be seen as dodgy and putting their own interests before the team and the project. Share information that you have to cultivate trust and to build strong relationships with those that you work with.

Do you admit mistakes? To err is human…to admit it, superhuman. Immediately admit mistakes and work to rectify them to show that you can learn from your failures and fix problems you have caused.

Do you give credit? It feels good to accomplish things, but share credit with others to create strong relationships and increase the likelihood that they will want to work with you in the future.

Reflect on these questions and adjust your work habits to garner trust and enhance your career.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

High Five Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

Memorial Day Weekend Edition

With heartfelt gratitude for their outstanding service, bravery, and sacrifice, we dedicate this weekly roundup to our nation's veterans and active duty personnel who now look to transition from the armed services to the civilian workforce.

  1. The Value of a Veteran in a Competitive Business Environment
  2. This recent article on the Corporate Gray Blog cites a study of academic research by Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families titled The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran: Beyond the Clich├ęs, which "supports a robust, specific, and compelling business case for hiring individuals with military background and experience."

  3. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
  4. IAVA is the country's first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among its many programs for vets and their families, IAVA's Combat to Careers initiative:


  5. From Camo to Corporate: Transitioning from the Military to Corporate America
  6. The blog Camo to Corporate serves as a forum of inspiring success stories, tips and advice, book reviews, as well as a collection of web links to military organizations, recruiting firms, and online resources to help veterans and active duty personnel transition successfully to careers in the civilian world.

  7. Marine Executive Association (MEA)
  8. MEA is a national, volunteer, non-profit organization of former and current active duty marines who provide transition assistance to fellow marines, such as:

    • resume review
    • job hunting and interview tips and techniques
    • job posting by employers to the MEA web site
    • resume posting by marines for employer download
    • resume and interview coaching

  9. Disney Kicks Off Career Expos for Returning Vets
  10. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Walt Disney Co. announced the kickoff of a series of career expo events aimed at helping returning veterans make the transition to civilian life. The career expos are part of Disney's 2012 Heroes Work Here initiative to:

    • provide at least 1,000 jobs and career opportunities for returning U.S. veterans over the next three years
    • support military families and veterans during their transition into civilian life
    • launch a national public awareness campaign to encourage all employers across the U.S. to hire veterans

Friday, May 25, 2012

Overlooking Skills Gained Outside of Work

During a job search, it may be easy to identify and communicate skills you have gained in the workplace, but what about skills you’ve gained outside of work. Many people overlook everyday-life skills they’ve developed at home or through participation in hobbies, clubs and organizations, or volunteer work.

Whether you’re currently employed, looking to change jobs, or re-entering the workforce, it is a good idea to broaden your scope when creating your skills inventory. This inventory should be something you can easily reference when needed, for example, when updating your resume or interviewing for a job.

Below are a few common scenarios and highlighted skills that may apply to the workplace.

Stay-at-home Parenting

If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent and never given a second thought to the skills you’re gaining, think again. Raising children translates to caregiver. Managing your family’s budget develops general accounting and budget management skills. Handling several tasks successfully on any given day, and often simultaneously, demonstrates time management and multitasking abilities.

Volunteer Work

Volunteer work is a great way to use existing skills and learn new ones. For example, if you volunteer your time tutoring children, you are developing teaching skills. By working with a non-profit organization to build homes, you cultivate construction skills. Raising money for your local church or school provides fundraising experience.

Hobbies or Interests

Writing your own blog posts hones communication skills. Similarly, if you find yourself answering technology questions and fixing computers for friends and family, you may have a technical aptitude that is highly sought in the workplace.

These ideas provide a starting point. Now make time to think about and professionally position the invaluable skills you have gained outside the workplace.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Power of Failure. How to Turn a Mistake into a Positive Experience.

I love constructive feedback. To me, having someone help me see my weaknesses is akin to finding ways to get  better at what I do. I am not a glutton for punishment; I enjoy compliments as much as the next person. However, I think when I fail - as long as I face it with the right attitude - I become better during my next attempt. Here are some ideas on how to turn your failures into a learning experience.

Take an Outside Look at Your Actions
I often find myself surrounded by finger-pointers. When something goes wrong there are few people willing to step forward and admit to a mistake or failure, they instead get defensive. Try to separate your feelings when you respond to a mistake. Look at your actions from the outside, evaluate your actions as though they were made by someone else, and acknowledge your failure without trying to self-justify.

Actually Listen to Other People's Feedback
When we don't like the negative things that people tell us, we tend to dismiss them or chalk them up to the other person's shortcomings. Practice actually hearing criticisms from others and practice listening to that criticism without taking it personally. Ask questions of your critic to find out how they think you can do things differently the next time. Use this information to find ways that you can improve.

Surround Yourself with Informed, Trustworthy Peers
We all enjoy praise, but I only want sincere kudos that I have earned. Gather a trusted "advisory board" of peers that will give you honest feedback on when you have succeeded, when you have failed, and why they feel this way. Having the honest, frank and compassionate opinion of people you trust is an invaluable way to ensure you keep growing.

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Jeanette Bravo

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.

This month, I graduated from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. I graduated with a bachelors of arts in communication with minors in tourism development and management as well as special events management. In addition, I graduated with a certificate in convention sales and meeting planning.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad? Explain. 

Four years ago, I either wanted to be a teacher or a communications/special events director for a non-profit. Going into college, I wasn't sure of which pathway to choose but I believe that my 18-year-old self would be proud of the courses I took and the accomplishments I've made. In some perspective, this is where I would have hoped to be.

3. What is your dream job?

My dream job is a career where I can experience the best of both worlds. To me, that is a career that includes both communication-based work as well as special events management. The wide variety of workplace settings that I would enjoy include higher education, a non-profit organization, a tourism-related pr agency or an airline.

4. What is the best thing about being a post grad?

The best thing about being a post grad is making all your hard work pay off through a job that you love. Moreover, it's fun to see my peers accomplish their career goals around the country.

5. What is the worst? 

The worst thing about being a post grad is my transition from a crazy schedule to a normal one. I was quite in involved in college with various organizations, a job, internship, class, and I enjoyed going out on the weekends. Okay, weekdays can be included, but now my schedule is completely different where I feel like I have to fill up my time.

6. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

Don't feel obligated that you have to join the whole "let's completely freak out about finding a job before I graduate" club. If you are able to financially and if your industry of interest is broad enough, I think that you should search for a job that you completely love rather than one that you just like.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is Self-employment Right for You? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

This morning I was asked to give a presentation to a group of 5th graders about being self-employed. As I thought about what I was going to say to them, I realized there are plenty of adults out there who may be considering the same option. I decided to bring you a grown-up version of what I talked to the students about for today's blog post.

Many people launch a new business on a whim, thinking they just want to be their own boss. However, self-employment is not for everyone. It is certainly not for the faint of heart! To assess whether or not entrepreneurship is for you, ask yourselves these questions before you even begin the planning process.

Why do you want to be self-employed?
The most common reason I hear is that people want to be their own boss. While that is a benefit, that can also be a negative. As the boss, the sole responsibility falls on you. Although you get to choose who you work for, you can't always pick and choose your customers if you really want your business to thrive. You may consider reading this earlier blog post for other pros and cons of self-employment.

How flexible are you?
Being self-employed means dealing with the uncertainty of a changing income, changing economic conditions, as well as changes in your industry. As a business owner, you must wear many different hats. I am the customer relationship manager, operations manager, accountant, marketing executive, writer, and janitor of my business - and that was just today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

Are you self-motivated and disciplined?
There is no one looking over your shoulder to ensure you get your work done. No one is there to prevent you from sleeping in or taking a long lunch - you must have the discipline. There will be obstacles and difficulties to overcome almost everyday and you are the only one that can push yourself to tackle them.

Are you comfortable talking about yourself in front of strangers?
A business owner's best marketing tool is his or herself. If you are not willing to put yourself out into the community to network and make connections, it will be very difficult to get the word out about your business and its services.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Five Steps to Decline a Job Intelligently

In May of 2005,  I had a problem...the good kind of problem. Two organizations wanted to hire me to begin working that July. I obviously couldn't work for the both of them so I had a big decision to make. Declining a job offer intelligently takes foresight, planning, and professional acumen. Follow these steps to accept the right position and decline the other intelligently:

1. Ensure the decision is right for you: Look at both job offers objectively as they compare to your values. Are you being compensated the way that you believe? Will you have the autonomy that you crave? How does the position fit in with your long-term career plans? Will your potential supervisor be one that you feel you can learn from? These and other questions need to be considered in light of what is important to you. Search you soul, make a pro/con chart, and consult with mentors if you need to to make the right decision.

2. Accept the job offer and get it in writing: This is a crucial step to declining a job intelligently, as it will give you the security you need to confidently turn down the other job. Getting a job offer in writing doesn't guarantee the job in event that funding is cut or some other abnormal circumstance occurs (unless you have a contract), but it will give you the good-faith security you need to turn down the other offer.

3. Contact the other job and be direct about your decision: When you contact the organization that you are turning down, be direct and to-the-point with them...but not too direct. For example, if you get the feeling that your future supervisor will be a slave-driving micromanager, it would be considered rude to tell him/her that, or even to tell the organization's recruiter that. Think of the broad, general reasons why the job isn't the right one for you, including your career goals, work responsibilities, and type of work.

4. Expect questions (and possibly a counter-offer): Be prepared for any questions that may come your way, even direct questions like "are you declining the job because you think that your future supervisor will be a slave-driving micromanager?" Tactful but brief responses are required here: emphasize that you have given the positions a lot of thought and you feel that the other one is right for your career, goals, and the time in your life (if these apply). If salary was the deciding factor for you and they try to lure you with a higher salary, you can stick to your original plan and turn them down or you can reconsider. Just be aware of the impact of making a decision like this on your professional persona.

5. Say thank you: As always, thank the organization for the opportunity and the interest. Your graciousness here can open opportunities in the future.

While you may be initially excited to have to entertain two job offers, you still need to show the utmost professionalism and consideration when choosing one over the other and when accepting one and turning the other down.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

High Five Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. 8 Steps to Build Relationships after a Networking Event
"These eight steps should be started and worked through immediately. The timeliness of follow-up is critical. You will want to get back to people while you are both fresh in each other’s minds."

2. Step Up to Advance Your Career
"Go after those projects that are valued by company leaders where you can flex your muscles, showcase your strengths, and demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job."

3. 18 Proven Ways to Help Recruiters Find You on LinkedIn
"LinkedIn is an excellent resource for improving a job search by allowing job hunters to make new contacts with recruiters and companies that might not have found them otherwise."

4.  Beware the "Tell Me About Yourself" Job Interview Question  
" The 'tell me about yourself' question is certainly not a request for a brief personal biography! Your answer to the question definitely should be laser-focused on the specific task at hand."

5. In the Job Search, Your Comfort Zone is the Danger Zone!
"Trying to accomplish what needs to be done while only doing those things that are easy and comfortable for you is a recipe for mediocrity or failure!"

AND one Bonus for the week!

6. 10 High-Risk Sci-Fi/Fantasy Careers
"Explore the galaxy, meet interesting people, and capture them for cash money! There's never been a better time to get into bounty hunting."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Public Libraries Are a Credible Resource for Career, Job, and Business Information

Public libraries are invaluable community resources for access to credible information and resources.  Most public libraries maintain collections of literature, periodicals, directories, multimedia, and other materials typically available for public lending or reference.  

Whether you’re a student exploring occupations, a job seeker looking to transition careers, or a professional looking to stay abreast of business or industry information and trends, the library is a great place for research.  So much of what you need to know about a particular occupation, industry, business, company, and the market and economy as a whole is available from your local library.  Below is just a sampling of what you might expect to find:

·         Books, databases, and portals about careers, industries, and jobs
·         Industry, occupation, and company information
·         Links to job boards and career websites and blogs
·         Career-interest and skills-assessment tests and tools
·         Business and industry periodicals
·         Exam prep books, for example for professional certifications, civil service, law enforcement, etc.

With online access available and many libraries now offering mobile apps for smartphones, it is easy to access your library anytime, from anywhere.  So the next time you’re in search of valuable information and resources, don’t forget to consider your local library. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 5 Stages of Job Loss Grief

The chances are very good that you or someone you know has recently lost their job or will lose their job at some time. Just last week, a member of my family lost her job. In her words, it was "completely out of the blue." People tend to grieve the loss of a job in some of the same ways as grieving the loss of someone we care about. After all, many of us find our identity in our careers. Here are the 5 stages of job loss grief you may experience.

Stage 1 - Shock and Denial
Whether the writing was on the wall or not, we are almost always shocked when it happens to us. Of course, you can't truly deny the fact you are being laid off. However, thoughts of "I can't believe they are letting me go" and "They will not be able to live without me" go through our minds in this stage. Much of the time, I hear from people who were so shocked and numb in the lay off meeting, they forget to ask important questions such as benefits extensions, severance, and requests for letters of recommendation.

Stage 2 - Anger
The other day, when my family member was laid off, she was very unhappy to find that even though she was a director, the company had someone escort her to her desk and watched over her carefully while she packed. Of course, this made her very upset. It is okay to feel anger, it is an important part of the healing process. However, never burn a bridge - that person you "tell off" could very well be an excellent source of referral down the road.

Step 3 - Bargaining
Don't get mired in asking yourself the "what if . . . " or musing about the "if only . . ." typical bargaining with yourself questions. Instead focus your energy on bargaining your severance package. My family member I mentioned earlier negotiated an additional month of severance pay and benefits extension.

Step 4 - Depression
People tend to take lay-offs very personal. You have to keep in mind that this is not personal, it is not a reflection of your value, it is simply a business decision based on the company's financial status. It is important to have an updated resume at all times so you can avoid wallowing in self-pity and instead focus on getting back into the job market.

Step 5 - Acceptance
I am one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason. I just wish the universe would share its motivations with me once in a while! Accept the reality of the situation and use it as a springboard for a new chapter in your career. You may be in for some rough times, but with a great resume and perseverance you will land on your feet again soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Colleen Godlewski

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.

I graduated from Oakland University in December 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Currently, I work at an upscale family-owned dance studio as a Sales & Event Coordinator.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad?

Upon graduation, I assumed I would send out a ton of resumes and find a full time job within the corporate sector of communications at a prosperous company. I was working at the studio while I was attending college, and I have been promoted since but it is still not the full-time position that I strive for. I used to have a clear picture of what my dream job would be but now, it would be a dream come true to find something that puts my degree to use, full-time, with benefits within the state of Michigan. It looks more and more impossible as the days drag on.

3. What is the best thing about being a post grad?

The best thing about being a post grad is actually having some sort of experience when applying for jobs. The degree itself gives you something to rely on. And also, the extra time (that you once would have spent in class) is nice and helps clear your schedule.

4. What is the worst?

The worst thing about being a post grad is the money struggle. Paying back loans is the worst, especially when you haven't found your perfect career yet.

5. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

My advice to post grads is to keep your head up, continue to make as many professional connections as you can and create a flawless resume that employers will have to look twice at.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Be a Proactive Manager of Your Own Career

The dictionary defines the word proactive as preparing for an expected occurrence or potential negative situation. It goes on to say that being proactive is to initiate change rather than react to events. I know so many people who have been negatively affected by the job market. Whether they are laid off, let go, or find themselves underemployed, the common theme is that every one of these people have found themselves unprepared. Heck, even my own husband did not have his resume updated when he was laid off in 2008 - and we both know better!

Life gets busy, we get caught up in everyday living, and forget to take control of our own destinies. Here are some ways that you can proactively take charge of your career path and make sure that you are prepared for any eventuality.

Always Keep Your Resume Current and Updated
Being laid off is a very stressful time. Most people want to immediately get back into the market as soon as they find out their job has been eliminated. This is very difficult to do if your resume is out-of-date. If you have not updated your resume in several years, chances are the style of the resume itself is outdated.

Another incentive to keep your resume updated is that it is very challenging to remember what you did three years ago when you go to write a resume after a layoff. However, if you have kept the resume current with accomplishments and contributions you make - as you make them - your resume stays current and accurate.

Keep Your Knowledge, Skills, and Certifications Current
Often, when we get comfortable in our jobs, we neglect our education and professional development. I urge you to keep pursuing education and certifications as your industry changes and grows. You will be much more marketable if you have current skills. Demonstrate that you keep up with industry trends by showing that you have maintained current training. It does not have to cost an arm and a leg, just a class, a seminar, or attendance at an industry conference annually is enough to keep you sharp.

Diversify Within Your Career Field
My husband is a civil engineer. When he was laid off in 2008, he specialized in designing master planned communities. When the construction market in our state hit the skids, no one wanted his skills because they were looking for someone with municipal project and highway experience. It took him almost two years to land a good job in his industry and he still has not returned to his previous salary.

The moral of his story is that you should try to avoid getting pigeon-holed. Of course it is good to have a specialty, just make sure you cross-train and gain exposure to new ways to apply your skills and knowledge. The more diverse your knowledge, the more marketable you become.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Four Workplace Advice Tips…from Mom

Yesterday we honored the most important woman in our lives: mom. Ensuring that we washed behind our ears, ate our vegetables, shared our toys, and were home before dark, moms-in a sense-acted like our first managers, guiding and shaping our behaviors so that we can thrive in the future. Read on for four workplace tips inspired by this wise and devoted woman:

Mind Your Ps and Qs: This Mom-centric expression speaks to a basic tenet of interpersonal interaction: manners. Manners, in the workplace, are everything. How you treat others speaks not only to your professional reputation but to your personal character. Despite differences of opinion, different working styles, and different ways of approaching problems, creating an environment of respect for others will ensure that you receive it yourself and aid your career by showing you operate with integrity.

Share: Mom may have been referring to our toys, but in the workplace sharing takes on a new meaning: sharing credit (particularly with those that helped you succeed) and sharing responsibility (even if you don't want to or it's not expedient). Sharing reinforces the satisfaction one receives by giving others opportunities for them to succeed, setting a great example for your team and other coworkers.

Always Wear Your Seatbelt: Mom implored us to fasten our seatbelts to keep us safe while traveling in the car. The workplace seatbelt is decidedly more proverbial but no less important: prepare yourself for the challenges and threats that are to come your way through careful anticipation and preparation. Just as a seatbelt keeps you safe in a car, your due diligence and vigilance will keep you safe in the workplace.

Stop and Smell the Flowers: Mom has high expectations for you and wants you to succeed, but she also wants you to be happy. Celebrate both the little and big successes at work, giving recognition to those who helped you along the way and recognizing yourself for the hard work and dedication that you put in.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

High Five Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. Why Your Career is a Work in Progress
"'Finished' ought to be an F-word for all of us. Because when it comes to our career, we are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more, often in unexpected or unpredictable ways."

2. Five Tips from a Veteran Who Got a Job
"Many transitioning vets suffer from a 'grass is greener' perspective and focus on that one job they think they’d love. Get settled and take time to learn--you might love something you don’t even know about yet."

3. 6 Secrets for 'Six-Pack' Abs and Successful Job-Hunting
"In many ways, like fashion models, job seekers who areprofessionally “slim and trim,” and in obviously excellent “shape,” have a distinct advantage over those who are not."

4.  3 Tips for Recharging a Stalled Career  
"Don't let what seems like a dead end lead to your career's demise."

5. 5 Secrets to Quickly Land the Job
"The early bird really does get the worm. Half the jobs went to people who had applied in the first week."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spend Your Online Time Wisely

You can find a limitless number of helpful online resources for job seekers; however, without a strategy for how to use your online time wisely, you may fall prey to surfing the Internet, clicking from one site to another without purpose.  If this sounds familiar, step back and create a plan for how to get the most out of Internet job searching.
Focus on Your Goals
If you haven’t done so already, evaluate your interests, values, qualifications, skills, and experience in order to establish your career goals.  Once defined, these goals should direct your job search efforts, both online and off.  

Popular and Niche Job Boards
Internet job boards are excellent sources for viewing and applying for open job postings across many companies. By using an Internet search engine and a search phrase like “top job boards,” you can locate popular job boards. Niche job boards, those targeted to your occupation and industry, are also great resources for narrowing your search to the most relevant job openings.   

Company Websites
Use the Internet to research companies you’d like to work for.  Then, look for job postings on those company websites that interest you.  Some of these sites enable you to set up job alerts that notify you, via email, when job openings matching your criteria become available.  

Social Media 
Be sure to create a professional online presence on social media sites, like LinkedIn, that are designed for professionals and networking.  Investigate other online communities; begin by looking at relevant industry and professional associations.

Just One More Tool
Think of the Internet as one more tool in your job-seeker toolbox. It is an excellent resource for job seekers, but it should not be your only resource.  The fact is, there is no substitute for face-to-face, professional interactions and networking.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Steps to Recovering from Lying on Your Resume

The latest case of a high profile executive caught lying on their resume is just one of many examples of people exaggerating our outright lying on their resume. In an earlier blog post, I discussed the ramifications of lying on a resume. However, in light of what is in the news right now, let's look at what you can do to recover from a resume fib.

Step 1 - Assess the Situation
If you left information out of your resume and your application, the situation is much more serious. The resume is not a legal document like the application. If you have simply left out the information from the resume, you can explain that you were presenting only the most relevant information on the resume. A customer called me last week with this exact situation. She was facing a pre-hire background check and she had left a short-term job off the resume. When she explained that she had not included a brief, irrelevant position on the resume, all was forgiven.

Step 2 - Come Clean
Many people would say that admitting to an untruth is the equivalent of career suicide. However, the motivation behind admitting the mistake is to own up to your error so that you can begin to mend fences. Would you rather admit the mistake now and have a chance to explain yourself, or have the information come out in a post-hire background check so that you appear subversive.

Step 3 - Ask for Forgiveness and Demonstrate your Value
It is important to apologize for your actions. However, before you go into the meeting where you come clean and apologize, prepare a presentation that demonstrates the results you have (or can) achieve for the company and how you have brought (or will bring) measurable value to the organization. Discuss the motivation behind the lie or omission as the desire to get a chance to work for the organization. Flattery may not be everything, but it does not hurt!

The bottom line is to obviously not put yourself in this position in the first place. If you feel the need to lie, chances are you are lacking a key skill or qualification. Instead of focusing your energy on lying and then working to cover the lie, instead focus on obtaining the skills, experience and knowledge you need to succeed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Allison McGee

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.
I graduated in May 2010 from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC with a BS in Biology. It took me a year to find a full-time job. During my "gap" year, I worked part-time as a pre-school assistant teacher and as a Pharmacy Technician. I was employed in April 2011 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). I am a Regulatory Documents Specialist for the Infectious Diseases Clinical trials unit. Basically, I do a lot of the paper work behind all the studies that keeps them ethical and gets them approved to continue every year.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad?
While I was in school, my plan was to go to pharmacy school. After working in a pharmacy for five years as a technician, I began to hate it. I finally realized (spring semester senior year, great timing huh?) that I didn't want to be stuck in a career that I hated. I still have no idea what I want to do! While I was a student, I thought I would have everything put together by now, but that is not the case!

3. What is the best thing about being a post grad?
The best part about being a post grad is coming home and not having to worry about doing anything! I know this isn't true for everyone, but for me it's the best thing! I love coming home after work and I can choose what I have to do and nothing is mandatory. I don't have to worry about that paper due next week or that test tomorrow morning. Its a great feeling! 

4. What is the worst?
The worst part for me is the loss of community. Once you're out in the "real world" it can be really hard to meet people/make friends. To do so, you have to put out a lot of effort! For most of the first year and a half after college, I was just waiting for a community to fall in my lap. I just didn't want to put myself out there. I am just now finally starting to do so and it is hard!

5. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

Don't worry about having every thing figured out right away. I wish I had taken better advantage of my time and taken the time to figure out what I want to do. Put yourself out there to meet people, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you (I'm still working on this!). Enjoy yourself! :) You only get to be a young/mid-20 something for so long!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tips for Requesting a Raise During a Recession

Most people who are employed right now are simply thankful to have that job. Asking for a pay raise is most likely the last thing on their mind. However, if you don't ask for a raise, you will almost certainly not get one. You need to find a balance between being sensitive to the company's financial state and asking to be compensated for your value. Here are some strategies you can employ when asking for a raise - no matter the state of the economy.

Assess your worth
Conduct some initial research that identifies what someone in your geographic location, with your education and experience levels, and in your industry should be making. Use sites such as and to conduct this research. If you discover in your research that you are earning below industry standard wages, then you should proceed with the process. If not, go back to being thankful for your job and prepare yourself to make a case during your next annual review.

List your achievements
Remember when you wrote your resume and you documented measurable accomplishments for each position? This step is very similar. Evaluate the key contributions you have made to the company. Whenever possible, quantify the value in percentages or dollars that these achievements have brought the company.

Identify the specialized skills you bring to the table. Are you fulfilling multiple roles that would require you to be replaced by multiple individuals? Is there room to propose a promotion within the organization because of the way you have performed? Do you have any customer, client, peer, or supervisor compliments that relate to your performance? If you are having trouble answering these questions and gathering evidentiary data of why you deserve a raise, you will have a very difficult time making a case for that raise.

Make your case
When you get the opportunity to speak with your supervisor to request a raise, you must tread carefully. You do not want to come across as though you are threatening to leave, and you don't want to appear pushy or angry. When asking for a raise, do not make it personal. Your boss does not want to hear about your personal financial struggles. You are simply there to present the facts (backed with data) of the value you bring versus the compensation you are receiving.

Be ready for the fact that your boss may acknowledge the validity of your claim, but be unable to meet your requests at the current time. This is a good opportunity to negotiate for other reimbursements such as an upgrade in title or responsibilities (which should come with a raise), increased vacation time, or even a written agreement to increase your salary at a time that you can both agree to.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Six Steps to a Well-Rounded References Strategy

Six Steps to a Well-Rounded References Strategy

There are books abound on how to prepare a "knock 'em dead" resume or how to interview with finesse. You are not likely, however, to find a book on creating a strategy around references at your local book retailer. A strong candidate knows the power of a solid reference and will create a strategy to make the most of these relationships. Follow the steps below to create on for yourself:

1. Choose the right references: Optimal references are people who have direct experience working with you. They can speak to your work habits, interpersonal skills, accomplishments, and team-orientation. Supervisors are ideal, as are coworkers with which you have had direct contact. The longer you have performed work for or with these individuals the better.

2. Get permission: Contact all of your references to obtain permission for you to use them as references. Briefly update them on the jobs for which you are applying.

3. Create a bank of references: Most applicants stop after obtaining three references; do not do this. Instead, obtain a "bank" of references: around six to ten people. Creating a bank will help you with the following step.

4. Match your references to the position: When you are applying for positions, scrutinize the position descriptions to determine what knowledge, skills, and abilities the organization is looking for. Based upon this information, choose references that can best speak to your qualifications for the position. For example, if the position seems more technology heavy, be sure to include a reference that has worked with you on a technology-oriented project.

5. Prep your references: If you are contacted for an interview, contact all of the references that you listed for that position to notify them that they may be contacted. Send them the name of the company as well as a copy of the position description so they know for what you are applying and answer any questions that they may have.

6. Send thank you notes: The graciousness of your references should be paid back. Send them a thank you note for agreeing to be a reference and for helping you further your career. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

1. This is What I Learned from 3 of Silicon Valley's Giants
"Most of us walk around with an artificial glass ceiling on what we can accomplish.  We find 100 reasons why an idea won’t work.  This holds us back from reaching our true potential."

2. Networking Tips to Help You Land Your First Job
"I think people misjudge Twitter as a career and networking tool. It is a phenomenal research tool for following companies, people and industries that interest you and learning what they want you to know about them."

3. When Choosing a Job, Culture Matters
"Some organizations will excite you. They'll stimulate your success and growth. Others will be stressful. They may lead you to quit before you've accomplished much or learned what you hoped to."

4.  Does "Ready, Fire!, Aim" Describe Your Job Search Approach?  
"So, then, what’s the answer to effectively competing in today’s job market? It is to have a good, well-thought-out action plan, and then to effectively implement that plan."

5. Why People Stay Mired in Their Careers
"Here are five reasons people stay stuck in their careers and what you must avoid to find satisfaction and success in yours."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Following Directions

Do you find yourself frequently misinterpreting or even questioning directions on the job?   Following directions at work is important in helping you to be successful in your career.  If following directions is an issue for you, it is time to step back and take a good look at what’s going on.

Identify the Cause
Congratulations, you’ve conquered step one—recognizing there is a problem.  Next you need to identify what might be causing you to misinterpret, question, or even outright ignore the direction of those in authority.  

A common culprit can be miscommunication; you may be misinterpreting verbal or written directions from management. Be sure you are listening to directions carefully, then restate the directions in your own words and clarify anything you do not understand.  Another idea: if directions are verbally communicated, follow up by reiterating them in writing.  This is particularly helpful if directions are unclear, ambiguous, or complicated. Avoid impromptu hallway discussions about detailed tasks and directions; instead, request a meeting so you can come prepared or request directions in writing.  

Challenging Direction 
If you’ve decided miscommunication isn’t the issue, ask yourself if you are challenging direction because you disagree with the approachMost employers welcome employees who use their knowledge and expertise to develop solutions and ideas, but be sure to present these in a professional manner.  If management disagrees with your approach and instructs you to implement the original directions, do so respectfully unless extreme circumstances will compromise you or the company legally or ethically.   If your inability to follow directions stems from a lack of respect for your direct manager, explore opportunities to move to another group within the organization.  If the issue is a lack of respect for company leadership, you may need to find a different employer altogether. 

Fake it Until You Make it, How to Fake Confidence in the Job Search

When meeting potential employers, it is important to remember that in their eyes, confidence is equal to competence. In other words, if you appear confident, they automatically assume you know what you are doing. Many people take the process - and its inevitable rejections - personally. Therefore, one of the first victims in the job search process is self-confidence. 

Confidence, however you may be feeling on any given day, can absolutely be faked. You may find that after using the non-verbal and verbal tips below to "fake" your confidence that you will soon "make it" and feel the confidence you have been faking!

Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and hold your head up high. The next time you feel down or less than confident, run yourself through this posture checklist. Slumped shoulders make you look like a deflated balloon. Poor posture is one of the first signs of low levels of confidence.

Eye Contact
People who are self-confident are not intimidated by looking directly at people - especially in the job search process. Candidates who avoid eye contact are deemed untrustworthy and lacking in self esteem.

Tone of Voice
Project enthusiasm, passion, and excitement for your career field and the job for which you are applying. This rule applies whether you are talking with the receptionist, the human resources manager, or the hiring manager. Don't think for a minute that everyone who you interact with does not come together to discuss the candidates.

People who are well-groomed, wear clothes that fit them properly, and are flattering to their individual shape often appear the most confident. The old saying of "When you look good, you feel good" definitely applies in this case.

Listen More, Talk Less
People who are nervous or lack self-confidence tend to talk more and listen less. Unfortunately, it often comes out as nervous babble that will provide the impression that you are a nervous, know-it-all. Try to strike a balance in these situations that involves talking less, listening more, and adding a few questions to keep the other person engaged in the conversation.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Shikole Struber and Allison Sass, founders of the blog "The Real Post Grad"

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.

Shikole Struber: I graduated from American University in Washington DC in 2010. My degree was in Political Science and minor in Communications, both of which I loved at the time. I now manage the office of an IT consulting firm, which is pretty much the farthest thing ever from my major.

Allison Sass:
I graduated in 2010 from The State University of New York at Geneseo with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Art Studio. My current job is as an Online Content Manager for a water conservation company in Rochester, NY. Basically, my job requires me to manage website text, create press releases, maintain our company blog, and send out our bi-monthly newsletter.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad?

SS: I of course had dreams of post grad life, but I can't say I really thought I'd be anywhere. My expectations were low with the economy how it is. I was just happy to get an offer.

AS: My job itself, yes, but where I'm actually working? Definitely not! It's turned out to be a great experience and I've learned a lot about an industry I never imagined I would write about for a living.

3. What is the best thing about being a post grad?

SS: I have the (semi) freedom to do whatever I want. If I want to order in pizza 3 times this week, I can (if I can afford it that week). I can eat ice cream and wine for dinner if I want to. It also finally feels like the world is my oyster again.

AS: Independence. I love making my own money, being able to pay my rent, and being able to provide for myself, on my own terms.

4. What is the worst?

SS: It sounds cliche, but the worst part is student loans and how much they drain my finances, increase my stress and generally make me sad.

AS: I miss college breaks most and having the chance to visit my family and home for extended periods of time. Full-time jobs obviously have limited vacation days, so it's been an adjustment from my college days of having off all summer long and for a month in the winter to only seeing my parents for a weekend or so every few months.

5. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

SS: Pay yourself first. It's Personal Finance 101 but barely anyone listens. Just $10 from every paycheck will REALLY add up when, say, your car breaks down again.

AS: Don't worry if you're not pursuing your passion or working at your dream job right away! Every job isn't going to be a "dream job" and you should be proud of all of the steps you take along the way in your post grad journey.

6. You started your own blog about being a post grad. I love it! What made you decide to start it?

SS: After graduation Allie, my business partner, and I felt lost. In every way. We realized we can't be the only ones so we decided to start our blog, The Real Post Grad, to bring community to a generation who desperately needed it.

AS: Thanks so much! We decided to start the blog about a month after college graduation when I was still job hunting and Shikole had just started her job. We both just wanted a place to write about day to day issues and hoped that putting our thoughts online might help others who felt excited, lost, and completely overwhelmed by post grad life like we did/still do sometimes.

7. What has been the most rewarding part of having this blog?

SS: I love interacting with our readers! Seeing all the comments and tweets make me smile every time. It feels like we are not only reaching our target audience, but getting through to them exactly how we wanted to.

AS: Connecting with all of the bloggers online and just having the chance to read blogs by other post grads.

8. The hardest challenge of maintaining it?

SS: Having time to keep it fresh. We both work 40+ hours a week, usually on the plus end of the spectrum. Between work, sleep (we all need sleep!), and friend time, it's hard to find time to keep everything rolling.

AS: For me, it's figuring out time where I can just sit down and write entries. I write all day long for my full time job, and sometimes it can be hard to make myself sit down and write during my free time.

9. Anything else you'd like to add about your blog or life as a post grad?

SS: Us post grads need to stick together. After writing that I realized how much it sounded like a segue into a Beatles song, but I'm okay with it.

AS: Contribute to our blog! This past February we launched a new website and we really would like to make it a more interactive place. This means we need opinions about post grad life from people that aren't us! We're also planning to start a "post grad chats" video series in the coming months, so even more changes are on the horizon.
As far as life as a post grad goes, we are by no means experts. When we share an "advice" post it's purely based on things that have worked for us and our experiences. We're still learning how to succeed at this stage of our life and want our readers to know that we are right there with them, figuring this whole 20-something thing out.