Friday, November 30, 2012

Should I Start My Own Business?

Many people have business ideas and wonder if they would be viable in the marketplace. Others want to know how to come up with a great business idea. Here are several suggestions for things you can do to explore starting a business.

First, think about your interests and skills and identify expertise you have in particular areas. In doing so, ask yourself, “Does this skill or expertise have the potential to fill a market need or attract prospective customers?” Another way to identify business opportunities is by writing down your own frustrations as a consumer. For example, have you had a need for a particular service and noticed there is no business currently filling this need adequately?

The good news is, you don’t always have to start from scratch. Take a look at existing businesses that interest you and assess whether there is enough consumer demand and room for competition.

Before going further, you’ll want to assess your personal and professional goals and create a business plan for your idea. Many cities, counties, and area chambers of commerce have business centers or Economic Development Departments for critiquing your plan submissions and providing you with feedback. Often, they can also offer you advice on next steps you need to take.

Another important step involves completing a financial plan. This will give you an idea of how much you need to invest in the business, what you can expect as a return, and how long it might take to become profitable.

Of course, you should make the most of existing resources for learning about start-ups. has many articles on starting your own business. Also, several metropolitan areas offer new business planning guides on their websites.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are References Even Necessary in Today's Job Market?

I must admit, before I started this recent interview process I would have answered this question differently. I know many companies are very careful about what they will and will not say in a reference check, so my first inclination would have been to say that references were quickly becoming a thing of the past.

However, as I conducted research I found that many companies are still using the reference check process as a screening tool. Most recently, I found a study that was published by CareerBuilder. In this study, based on a survey of almost 2,500 hiring managers and HR professionals as well as almost 4,000 job seekers, I found some interesting statistics:

  • 80% of employers said they do contact a candidate's references and 16% of them contact references before they even call the candidate for the first interview
  • 69% of the hiring decision makers said they have changed their mind about a candidate based on what they learned in the reference check
  • Of these wishy-washy hiring managers, 47% changed their mind in a negative way and 23% felt more favorably after talking to the candidate's references
  • Almost 30% of employers reported finding a falsified reference on an application
  • 15% of candidates admitted that they did not talk to their references to ask their permission or even inform them they listed them as a reference
So what have we learned from this study?
  • References do matter and employers are still checking them. In fact, my references were requested to provide written answers to a series of four questions today.
  • References can sway the opinion of a hiring manager both positively and negatively. Therefore, we should select "coachable" references that you can talk with regarding the upcoming reference call.
  • Never lie on an application. They may not catch you right away, but there is always a chance the truth will come out at some point - and then it is too late.
  • Always ask your references for permission - BEFORE you list them as a reference. Also, always give them fair warning of who might be calling and what they will be asking about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tips for Success in the Demonstration Interview

The saga of my interview process for the part-time teaching position continues. Interview three was this morning. The format was what I call a demonstration interview, although it may also be called a practical or presentation interview. In this style of interview, your potential employer wants to validate that you do, in fact, possess the skills you have claimed in previous interviews by witnessing them first-hand.

Since I am interviewing with a company that is based remotely, I was asked today to provide a ten-minute training presentation on interview techniques (very ironic!) via Skype. The video aspect of the interview was a challenge all its own. However, here are some basic tips I can offer you to ensure your success if you are ever asked to "prove it" by a potential employer.

  • Keep it simple and let your skills do the talking. You don't need an elaborate set up in order to present your materials, you - and your knowledge - are the star of the show.

  • Focus your presentation and know that you can't possibly show them everything you know in the limited time offered. For example, a personal trainer who is asked to provide a 15-minute demonstration of their training style can't work out every body part in that time. Instead, they should focus on area of the body (i.e. legs) and show knowledge through demonstrating proper form, motivating the participant, and explaining how each movement is benefiting the body.

  • Be engaging and interactive. Most practical, hands-on interviews are for the purpose of evaluating knowledge. Engage the observer in the process whenever possible.

  • Trust in your skills and knowledge and be ready to go with the flow of the situation. Often, practical interviewers will throw situations at you and ask you to react to them. If you relax and remember what you know, your natural skills and instincts will take over

Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Tips When Transitioning Out of your Job

There may come a time in your career when you amicably transition out of your current job and into a new one. This may be at your current company or at a new company, but - regardless of which -  it will reflect positively on you to make your transition out as smooth as possible. Read the tips below to finish your tenure in your old position strongly.

Strategize with your supervisor: Work with your supervisor to determine what would be the best way for you to spend the time you have left in your position. Undoubtedly there will be projects for your to complete, but which ones should be completed by you as opposed to which ones should be handed off to someone else should be discussed. Ultimately it will be your supervisor's decision, but offer your input based upon your experience and what you think would be best for the company.

Document practices and procedures: Your job may be second nature to you, but to the person (or persons) who will be stepping into your role, it most likely will not be. Create a document detailing the appropriate steps to accomplish certain tasks that are unique to your role and your company. These can include reserving conference rooms, utilizing special pieces of software, a curriculum plan for classes you teach, completing a project proposal, or any other endeavor you feel is important. Further, create a timeline of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks so he/she knows what to expect and do when. 

Train your replacement: If you are in the position to be able to spend any amount of time with your replacement, do so. Sit down with her to demonstrate the ins-and-outs of your job and provide an orientation to your work unit. Have her actually carry out the tasks and consult with you regarding any questions she may have. With your guidance, she will be able to become acclimated more quickly and feel more comfortable in her new role.

What else would you do when amicably separating from a company so that they are successful? Put your suggestions in the comments below!

Saturday, November 24, 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!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, November 23, 2012

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for What You Want

Whether you’re trying to move up the ladder or pursuing a great job offer, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. 

Climbing the ladder
Whatever your career, you should take time to identify and map out your short- and long-term goals. Once you’ve determined the logical progression for your career path, you can identify what technical, management, and/or professional skills you need to achieve your goals.

Talk with someone who is in a similar career in a position you one day hope to achieve.  Ask this person about the type of experience he/she has and the training it took to attain that position.

Asking up front
Long-term career goals are important, but knowing what you want out of an initial job offer can be equally crucial. 

According to, there are many more facets of compensation than just base pay and health benefits. If items such as paid vacation, car allowance, bonus potential, and tuition reimbursement are important to you, be prepared to discuss these up front as part of the entire compensation package and job offer.

Likewise, if schedule flexibility and working from home are things you’re interested in, be ready to cite examples of how you have made this work successfully in past jobs. If you don’t have first-hand experience working in a flexible work arrangement, propose a plan that convinces the employer you can make it a win-win situation for both parties.

In either situation—climbing the ladder or pursuing a job offer—set goals, know your worth, have a plan, and act on it. If you’re confident with your road map, your travels should be smooth and successful.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Three Ways to Show Gratitude Through LinkedIn

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I want to examine a few ways that job seekers and professionals can show their gratitude to those people in their professional network through LinkedIn. First of all, if you do not have a LinkedIn profile your first step is to take care of that oversight.

LinkedIn has become one of the most important networking tools for professionals. People are getting found on LinkedIn for job opportunities, being selected for consulting positions, and connecting with long-lost professional contacts. However, you can also use LinkedIn to build relationships. Here are three ways you can show your gratitude to your contacts and build solid relationships using LinkedIn.

This is a relatively new tool on LinkedIn. When a person has selected their skills and expertise, you can go into their profile and offer a personal endorsement of that skill. If you have first-hand knowledge of your contact's ability to successfully utilize one of their selected skills, all you have to do is go into their profile, hover over the skill they have selected and click on "endorse." This will build your contact's credibility.

This takes a bit more time and thought, but offering a personalized recommendation is another way to show appreciation for your contact. When writing a recommendation for your contact, think about the skills they have discussed in their profile and their skills and expertise section. Write a minimum of two to three sentences about your impression of their skills. Include a brief example or story of how they have impacted you in your recommendation to increase the validity of the message.

Networking, especially social networking, is about making new connections. Always be willing and available to assist your existing network of contacts to connect with each other. When done right, networking is a give and take relationship that benefits everyone involved. Reach out to your contacts with a personal message about the person you want to introduce and clearly state what they are looking for and the type of assistance they need. People can't help unless they know what is needed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Should You Do if You Get Stumped in an Interview?

In my last blog post last week, I shared with you that I had an upcoming interview. That interview went well and I was scheduled for a second phone interview on Monday. Knowing she was interviewing me - a career services professional who teaches interviewing techniques - the interviewer must have prepared some extra-tough questions, because she stumped me once!

The interviewer asked me the top three qualities that I thought were necessary to succeed in the position for which I was interviewing. No problem, I easily answered the question. However, she then proceeded to ask which one I thought I had that was MOST important. I could honestly make a case for any one of these three skills that I knew I could bring to the table and I could not decide how to answer. I was stumped!

If you ever run into a situation where you don't know the best answer to a question, I want you to be prepared to handle the situation. We are often so concerned with how we are perceived in an interview that we are unwilling to admit to any kind of weakness. Faced with the situation of not knowing how to answer, I went with what I considered to be the best option. Here is how I answered:

"I can honestly say I bring all three qualities to the position. I also can make a case for any one of the three qualities being most important. You have stumped me, so give me a second to think about it." I then went on to say that I thought two of the three qualities could be taught in training, but the third quality was the most important and I offered my reasoning.

In an interview, don't be afraid to ask for more time. Don't be afraid to say that you are torn between several answers. Don't be afraid to admit when you get stumped. Any of these situations show you are taking the interview seriously, you are considering each answer carefully, and you have extensive knowledge of the subject matter.  Don't take yourself too seriously and show poise and confidence in the interview - no matter what comes your way.

The interviewer admitted to me at the end of the interview that she was quite proud that she was able to stump me, a professional, and that she put a lot of thought into the question. Quite honestly, it allowed us to build rapport and my being stumped was not perceived negatively.

** Update: as I wrote this blog post, I received an email requesting a final interview, so it must not have been too bad!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Five Myths about References

Myths exist in nearly every aspect of the job search process, from creating a resume, writing a cover letter, or taking part in an interview. The same can be said about the process of choosing job references, or those who can speak about you as a professional. Read - and heed - the top five myths about references below. 

Anyone can be a reference: There are some job candidates who believe that anyone can be a reference: a friend, a neighbor, or a family member. What these candidates fail to realize is that the quality of the reference matters significantly. A reference should be able to speak directly to you as a professional, not in any other role. Ensure that the references you choose can do so.

A reference will always have positive things to say: Candidates may assume that anyone that they have worked with will give them a glowing reference. Not so. Simply working with someone doesn't mean that they will give you a positive reference. When you are reaching out to solicit references, ask that person if they can give you a positive reference. A response of 'no' doesn't necessarily mean that you were a poor worker (though it could be educational for you to find out why they cannot). Ensure that your references will be able to support your candidacy.

You should only have three references: The standard is to provide three references to speak to your work habits and ability to perform in a potential position. However, consider providing a fourth or a fifth unless specifically asked not to. Providing more than three shows confidence that you have more than three people who can speak highly about you. It also will give the potential employer options for who they want to contact.

You can't direct your references: When you contact someone to be your reference, be sure to send her a copy of the position description and to remind her of certain projects or work that you did together that will reflect positively on your candidacy. Such pre-preparation will give your references something of substance to discuss, making them more comfortable and more effective for you when contacted by a potential employer.

You don't need to tell your reference they are being references: Nothing frustrates a reference more than not being forewarned that they will be contacted by a potential employer. Everyone who you give as a reference should know beforehand that they could potentially be contacted. If you do not direct your references as to what you want them to say about you, they should - at the very least - know that they could be contacted so they are not taken by surprise.

What myths about references have you uncovered? Comment about them below!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Thanksgiving Edition

We share some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., every weekend, so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. This is our weekly roundup on job searching, careers, and the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, November 16, 2012

Modern Jobs for Today’s Women

Women have many exciting career options today, and Women’s Health Magazine’s online edition has heralded several as “hot careers.”  Here’s a look at a few on the list.  

Green or Eco-Interior Designer
An eco-interior designer creates interior spaces that meet aesthetic, functional, and budgetary goals using sustainable, recycled, and toxin-free materials when possible.  They also look for ways to incorporate design solutions that minimize energy consumption.  Several colleges and universities offer degrees in environmental studies or programs with a concentration in sustainability to complement an interior design degree.   

Social Media Marketer
With more companies working to engage audiences through social media channels, a growing demand for social media marketers is not surprising.  These marketers develop and implement strategies that motivate target audiences to participate in a brand’s online social media communities, like Facebook, Twitter, and other emerging new media.   Goals include building brand awareness and loyalty while creating customers who are brand advocates.  To break into social media marketing, consider pursuing a degree in this field.  

Genetic Counselor
A genetic counselor works with patients who are at risk for a variety of inherited genetic conditions or those who want children who may be at risk for birth defects.  Genetic counselors consider family medical history and use risk assessment tests in determining the probability of the occurrence or recurrence of a genetic condition or birth defect.  Genetic counselors educate patients about the risks, help them to understand test results, present available options, direct them to resources, and act as patient advocates.  These professionals work in clinical or hospital settings. 
To learn more about hot career picks for women, check out the Women’s Health Magazine list yourself at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why is it So Hard to Practice What We Preach?

I have been teaching job search methods and techniques for more than 10 years. I extol the virtues of preparation before a job interview, I educate job seekers to market their value proposition in their resumes, and I teach them how to negotiate salary. Wouldn't you think it would be easy for me to do these things for myself?

I have been self-employed full-time since 2005. However, I recently decided to apply for a very part-time contract teaching position in my field of specialty - military transition job search methods. Once I saw the job posting, it took me almost a month to update and polish my resume. I sympathized with my customers as I sat down to this arduous task!

Obviously, I did a decent job because they called me within an hour and I have a job interview tomorrow. Don't even ask me if I have started to prepare my answers and define my message for the interview tomorrow. I think from the title of this article, you probably know the answer!

This got me thinking - so often we make claims or offer advice in areas that we fail to follow or live up to ourselves. We see evidence of this "do what I say, not what I do" philosophy almost every day in the news and in our lives. With this blog post, I would like to challenge you to think about your core values, consider the advice you offer those around you, and evaluate the values and beliefs you claim to live by and ask yourself these questions:

* Do you serve as a model of your core values in your every day life - not only when people are watching?

* Are you offering advice, guidance, or instruction that you are failing or refusing to adopt yourself?

* Do you evaluate your bad decisions, lapses in good judgment, and mistakes with an honest evaluation of why things went wrong?

Asking yourself these few questions may help you get back on the right path. I know I have been forced to ask myself these very questions this week. That is all for today, I have to go prepare for an interview!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rethink Personal Branding to Land the Job

You have probably heard about the importance of personal branding in the job search process. However the term branding - which is defined as making an indelible mark or impression on somebody or something - can be a bit daunting or uncomfortable to some people. Instead, think of yourself as strategically positioning yourself in the job search market.

You may already be doing this without realizing you are doing it. For example, if you call yourself the "sales manager that trains and motivates their team to meet their goals, no matter the state of the economy" or the "IT professional that can speak in terms the end-user understands," then you are already strategically positioning yourself.

I have heard the job search process related to dating. The hiring process is about finding a match between two parties. While the money aspect of the job search is important, you must find the right employer, the right position, and the right environment where your skills and qualifications can be of use. Conversely, employers hire to fill a need or solve a problem. When you figure out the motivation or reason behind WHY they are trying to hire for a position you can be strategic in how you position yourself.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help develop your unique strategic positioning.

  • What is the Company’s Need? What specific problem are they trying to solve with this job? Are they trying to make money? Save money? Save time? Keep existing customers? Acquire new customers?
  • What are your Core Abilities? What special abilities do you possess that separate you from other candidates for this position?
  • What are your Values? What is your belief system (behavior and ethics) that is inherent to you? Does this set you apart?
  • What is your Connection to the Company’s Need? Do you possess something special that solves your target employer’s problem? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Five Interview Myths to Steer Clear From

Your resume and cover letter were impeccable, and they helped land you an interview. Have you bought in to any of the following interview myths? Read on to learn how to make an impression that lasts.

No need to prepare for the interview: Some feel there's no point in preparing for an interview because either you know the answers to their questions or you do not. Going into an interview without any practice or reflection is a kiss of death. There are two distinct things you can proactively practice before an interview: fleshing out your stories and how you deliver them. Your stories are the content of your interview: the experiences that matter most to the interviewer that will demonstrate competency in the position. Your delivery is the way in which you verbally convey your experiences: with confidence, authenticity, and without interruption. Prepare for your interview by addressing these two areas, using the job description and what you know about the job to create your content and practice your delivery in front of a mirror or with a friend.

Dress doesn't matter: How you dress most certainly matters in an interview, whether you are interviewing for a janitor or CEO position. I recommend dressing for two positions above your own. That typically means a suit, whether you are a man or a woman. Unless you are told specifically how to dress before coming to an interview, dress more formally than informally to show you value professionalism and take the experience seriously.

Interview begins in the interview room: The interview doesn't begin when you get face to face with the interviewer(s): it begins the moment you are contacted for the interview. The way that you treat others - from the human resources representative to the administrative assistant - will reflect on you as a candidate. Convey your most professional self. 

Interview types are the same: When most people think of an interview, they think of themselves sitting one-on-one with an interviewer, being asked questions like "what are your weaknesses?" and "why do you want this job?" Interviews can take many forms, including panel interviews, where a group of people interview a candidate, all-day interviews, where a candidate will interview with one or two people for a period of time and then move on to another person or persons, and let's not forget behavioral interviews, where the questions focus on how your specific experiences and actions correspond to the position. Be prepared to handle any of these scenarios!

No need for questions at the end: If you don't have any questions for the interviewers at the end of the interview, you shouldn't ask any…right? Wrong: the questions that you ask at the end of an interview indicate the depth with which you have thought about the position and are a great time to learn more about aspects of the position on which you might not be clear, such as company culture and work environment. Have at least five questions ready for the end of the interview and be prepared to ask as many as you are able.

What are your interview myths? Leave them in the comments below!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Veterans Day 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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Work In the Great Outdoors

If the idea of working all day in an office sounds confining, and you’d rather envision yourself working in the great outdoors, check out the following viable career options.

Park Ranger:  An abundant number of national, state, and local parks employ park rangers.  Rangers perform a variety of roles and tasks, but their overarching responsibility is to protect the park and keep its visitors safe.  Park rangers may also educate visitors about the park’s natural resources, be responsible for enforcing park laws or assisting in emergency response and rescue park situations.  This is a profession that places you at the heart of nature. 

Botanist: If you find it interesting to study plants and their role in a particular ecosystem, the field of botany might be for you.  Botanists do lab research, but they also spend a good part of their careers working outdoors.  Botanists can find jobs in the government, academic, and private sectors.

Travel Writer or Photographer:  Combine a passion for travel and writing or photography into a career as a travel writer or photographer.  Share, through words, pictures and assignment guidelines, the cultural and educational experiences you encounter while traveling.  Travel writers and photographers are often contracted on a freelance basis and their work may be published in various online or offline media, such as newspapers, magazines, or blogs.  

Groundskeeper:  A groundskeeper maintains the outdoor properties for public or private institutions.  Groundskeepers may be employed, for example, to maintain the grounds of a public park, golf course, athletic complex, cemetery, or school campus.   These grounds might involve maintaining grass, sand, ponds, artificial turf, or other surfaces.  Duties may involve mowing and trimming, maintaining irrigation systems, controlling weeds and insects, and various other tasks.  

Next time you’re in the great outdoors, take a look around to see if there are any potential great outdoor job opportunities that may be a good match for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are You Sabotaging your Interview with This One Mistake?

Most people prepare for their job interview by preparing a professional outfit, paying attention to their appearance and grooming, and practicing their answers to interview questions. However, many of these same well-prepared interviewees are forgetting to prepare for a critical part of the interview – the part where they ask you if you have any questions for them. Ignoring this critical step in the interview process may just cost you the job.

When you fail to ask any questions you send the interviewer one of these messages – none of them positive.

Impression: You are unprepared
Not asking questions may leave the impression that you did not take time in advance to prepare for the interview. Failing to ask questions makes you look as though you conducted no research on the company or industry.

Research the company and learn about its product, its customers, its industry, and its competitors. Once you have your research you can ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of what is happening in their world, you can show you understand the issues they are facing, and you can discuss your ideas of how you can contribute.

Impression: You are uninterested
When a candidate fails to engage the interviewer and ask questions at the end of the interview, they send the message that they are not interested in the position. One of the reasons hiring manager’s cite for not offering the job is that they are unsure of whether or not the person will accept.

Leave no question as to whether or not you are interested in working for the company by asking the interviewer about the company’s culture. You can also show interest by letting them know that you agree with their customer service philosophy or mission statement.

Impression: You are unqualified
If you don’t take advantage of asking questions you may never discover that the interviewer has concerns about your qualifications.

Always ask the interviewer a question at the end of the interview such as “Do you see any skills that I may be lacking to excel in this position?” This encourages the interviewer to express any objections they may have and allows you to immediately address and overcome their concerns.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Navigate Potential Interview Minefields - Part 2

Last week, in Part 1 of this blog post, I discussed some of the most commonly asked interview questions that are also commonly answered incorrectly. Here are two more questions that you should prepare your "answer map" so that you can avoid self-destructing your interview process!

"Why should we hire you?"
The absolute worst way to answer this question is one I actually heard from a candidate in an interview. When asked this question, he answered "Because I need a job!" As a rule, the employer really does not want to talk about what they can do for you. The employer is looking for the most cost-effective employee that meets their unique needs. They are most definitely not looking for the candidate who is most in need, and they are especially not looking for the most desperate candidate!

Research the company to find out what they need and what issues they are going through. Use this opportunity to demonstrate that you have taken the necessary steps to research the company and discover their needs. Once you know the company's issues, you can convey how you can benefit their company and achieve results for their organization.

"What are your ideas on salary?"
This could truly be the most dangerous minefield of them all! Answer too high and you price yourself out of their range. Answer too low and you don't optimize your annual salary. The rule rule of thumb is that the person who names a number first loses, so it is best to try to avoid naming an exact salary.

Be aware that this question is often being asked before the interview, as early as when they call for the interview appointment. Therefore, preparation is once again the key to effectively answering the question about salary. Research average salaries for your job title in your geographic area on websites such as or The best way to answer the question is to quote your source of choice and provide a range of pay. Always ask the interviewer how that range compares to what their company is paying in order to ensure you have not priced yourself out of their range.

Five Cover Letter Myths to Avoid

Cover letters, not unlike resumes, are subject to many myths. Continuing this series of job-search myths, I delve into cover letters and the bad advice that could cost you in your job search.

1. You don't need a cover letter: It's not uncommon for job postings to either say a cover letter isn't necessary or to not mention a cover letter at all. Unless the posting specifically states "candidates submitting cover letters will not be considered" (and I have yet to see a job posting that says this), you should always submit a cover letter with your resume. Including a cover letter is a mark of professionalism, enabling you to stand out in ways that your resume won't allow.

2. No one reads cover letters: Not true. This isn't to say that every hiring manager/HR administrator reads them, but they sophisticated ones do. They want to go beyond the resume and learn more about the candidates motivations, interest, and how they present themselves outside of the bullet points. Your cover letter should compliment your resume, allowing you to express what would make you a strong candidate outside of the conventions of a resume.

3. It should mostly address your resume: If your cover letter is simply a summary of your resume, you are in trouble. Use the space in a cover letter to address why you are interested in the position and to address specific requirements in the position description that your skills, background, or character are particularly able to meet, or specific accomplishments that you believe would translate into success in your position.

4. It should be long: Cover letters do not need to be epic in length. A strong cover letter can get the job done in 10-15 sentences (some even less). Stay focused on what excites you about the position or company and briefly summarize key strengths and successes in your professional background that address their needs. 

5. Be pushy: Some career experts recommend that candidates end their cover letters with a statement along the lines of "I will call you next week to arrange an interview." Not a good idea. Many candidates feel that a company's hiring should center around them, and statements like this indicate a "me first" mentality. Would you rather stand out by being aggressive or by what your background says about you? Rely on presenting yourself as the best candidate, not strong-arm tactics.  

Share your own cover letter myths or questions below!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Talking Politics in the Workplace

Election 2012 Edition

We share some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., every weekend, so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. This is our weekly roundup on the decision to discuss politics in the workplace. Enjoy!

  1. Data from a Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) study “suggests that employees overwhelmingly support the notion of employer-provided issue and political information.” Read more at Study: Employees Want Employers to Talk Politics.

  2. “It's easy to forget that what's said over social media is visible to everyone, and can turn out to be embarrassing or even disastrous for your brand.” Here are 5 Tips for Talking About Politics on Social Media.

  3. “Most employees believe that they have a 'free speech' right to discuss politics in the workplace: They’re wrong.” Read more at Talking Politics at Work Can Get You Fired.

  4. Are you a small business owner who uses Twitter for your business? Check out Get the 411: What To Post On Twitter.

  5. Business co-owners Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe, above all, “promote the positive message of getting involved in the future of the nation and voting on Election Day” to both employers and employees. Read more at Business owners urge ‘constructive passion’ as politics enters the workplace.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Future of Work

The world of work is changing. Our ability to transform the world in which we work has endless potential. Here, we’ll explore several ways in which defines the future of work.

Getting off the Ladder
The workplace is changing so that the corporate ladder looks more like ”climbing vines.” This is evident at audit and risk management company, Deloitte, whose Mass Career Customization Program ties an employee’s career lattice, or path, to career goals and also life goals.  The Program enables employees to achieve better work-life balance by “dialing up” or “dialing down.”  For example, an employee may need to dial down by decreasing travel time in exchange for family time. Years later when kids are off to college, increased travel may become possible again. 

Women in Management
Women’s management style is proving to be good for business. According to a study of 353 Fortune 500 companies, conducted by Catalyst, companies employing more women in senior management roles had a higher return on equity. Other studies suggest this may be because women focus on the long-term, on results, and on more collaboration, while invoking a management style that is more engaging to employees. 

When Gen Y Runs the Show
Predictions suggest that, by 2019, Generation Y will be in charge in the workplace.Gen Y will work very differently than their parents did. Things like seniority and allegiance to one company won’t be as important to Gen Y. Instead, getting the job done and emphasizing collaborative decision making with global dexterity will take their place.

Boomers, who will still be in need of income, will be perfect for contract positions in their areas of expertise. In fact, job sharing at a senior level may be a trend in the future.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Navigate Potential Interview Minefields - Part 1

Job interviews are a study in contrasts. You are excited but terrified at the prospect of an interview. You prepare yourself for the interview but often feel unprepared once you enter the room. I have said before on this blog that the best way to achieve interview success is to prepare yourself in advance. One of the ways you can do this is to prepare answers to some of the most commonly asked interview questions. Unfortunately, these same questions are often the ones that are most commonly answered incorrectly.

"Tell me about yourself."
As I explained in this earlier blog post, when this question is asked, it is usually asked first. Interviewers use the question as an icebreaker to help get the ball rolling and get to know you. However, don't make the mistake of thinking the interviewer wants you to share personal details such as marital status, age, religion, or how many kids or dogs you have.

Prepare a two-minute career summary that details your experience, your skills, one of your major accomplishments, and how you fit into their company. Practice this answer until you can recite it from memory.

"What are your biggest weaknesses?"
When asked about your weaknesses, you should pick an actual weakness that you learned to overcome. State your weakness, and demonstrate the steps you took to ensure that this weakness does not interfere with your ability to do your job.

Be sure not to bring up a skill that is critical to performing the job for which you are applying. Stating your weakness as a lack of patience for whiny children when you want to manage a child care center will not win you any points!

Check back on Tuesday for two more potentially damaging interview questions and tips to successfully navigate your way past them.