Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Outrageous Interview Mistakes that Include Lessons for Everyone - Part 1

It is always fun to hear the stories of the outrageous and downright bizarre behavior that interviewers experience. We laugh at those mistakes and say, "I would never behave that way in an interview." However, each of us make our own mistakes, of varying degrees of severity in interviews. Let's look at a few of the most outrageous stories I have heard or experienced, and see what we can learn from others' mistakes.

Mistake: I was once told a story by an HR person of an interviewee who answered their cell phone during the interview and proceeded to get in a fight with the person on the phone - in the middle of the interview! When the conversation was over, instead of apologizing and returning to the interview, they placed a call to someone else and began to tell them the story of the fight. The HR person explained that at that point they simply escorted them out of their office as they were still talking on the phone.

Lesson: Let's face it, many of us are addicted to our cell phones, laptops, and tablets. Any free time is spent surfing the internet, playing games, or updating our Facebook status. Never take out your electronic device and start using it - even when waiting in the lobby to be called back for the interview. Instead, use this time to review your notes and mentally prepare for the upcoming interview. Your cell phone should be turned off, or better yet left in the car, during the interview. Even if it is on vibrate, it can still be heard when it rings.

Mistake: A male candidate I was interviewing showed up for the interview wearing chipped black nail polish, wearing rumpled clothing that looked as though he slept in it, and reeking of alcohol.

Lesson: Keep in mind that 93% of our communication with the world around us is non-verbal. Your image should send a clear message of professionalism and competence. People form a first impression in the first 7 seconds they meet you and this is largely based on visual appearance. Make a solid first impression by paying attention to the details of your clothing, grooming, and body language. Get a good night's sleep before your interview and avoid alcohol the night before.

Mistake: When I asked a candidate "Why should I hire you?" their answer was "Because I need a job." They went on to talk about how they were going through a divorce and were behind on all their utilities, rent, and credit card payments.

Lesson: Companies are looking to hire the most cost-effective person as opposed to the person who NEEDS the job the most. When an employer is interviewing you for an job, they want to feel as though you have chosen to work for their company, not as though you are simply looking for a job - any job. Do your research and try to find the motivation behind why the company is hiring; find out what problems or needs they may have. Clearly identify the value you can bring to the company in terms of what benefits you can achieve for the organization. Remember, instead of focusing on your needs, talk about the value you can bring to the company.

Check back on Thursday for more interview mistakes and lessons!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Three questions to foster creativity at work

According to the latest IBM CEO survey, creativity is a key influencer of success in the workplace. This isn't a surprise given the VUCA environment today's workers now find themselves in: people, markets, products, and other components of business need to stand out. New professionals are expected to leverage their creativity and unique point of view. With creativity comes job security and advancement.

Thousands of pages have been written about creativity and how to cultivate it within oneself. But those pages can be long forgotten when you or a team have been slogging through a problem or issue for hours without coming up with a possible solution. Take a break for 10 minutes and come at your problem using one of these questions:

How would an outsider approach this? Looking at your problem or issue with an outsider's eye will spawn creative solutions. Think of the cracks in walls where you live that you have come to accept and ignore. An outsider will notice and point out these cracks, flaws, etc. and where you do not as you're too close to the problem. Short of bringing an outsider in (which would be creative itself!), put an outsider's eye on your issue and see what develops.

What sacred cows are we upholding? The meeting can only be face-to-face. The project has to involve IT. The CEO has to deliver the message. Sacred cows in an organization or within one's practice can be disruptors to creative thought and innovation. The absolutely intractable ones should be acknowledged and compensated for...but I would encourage you to question whether or not that sacred cow truly is a sacred cow. Or is it one that you have made up to be a sacred cow?

What if...?
 An excellent question to ask to play with seemingly "far out there" options and possibilities. When a course of action seems implausible, outlandish, or difficult, use this question to play with the possibility of what might happen if you took the risk and succeeded.

As Einstein famously said "we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." Use these questions to assume the role of "creative disruptor" in your work and reap the benefits of your insights and new ways of thinking.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Taking Risks and Standing Out

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

  • Finding a Job Through Networking Groups"You might not hear about a job opportunity day one in networking, but if you pay attention and make your intentions of finding a job known,opportunities will find you."
  • Why Getting Comfortable With Discomfort Is Crucial to Success"[A]s every successful person will tell you, it’s only by being willing to make mistakes and try something new that you can ever accomplish more than what’s been done before."

  • How to Stand Out in a Crowded Job Market--Forget the Traditional Resume"[F]or those who are willing to stand out, there is still a ton of opportunity. The first step to standing out and getting your dream job is to start thinking of your resume as one of many tools that you may use to get a job. Then, you must find a novel way to approach companies that you’d like to work for."

  • How to Get Hired for Your Dream Job"
    Your employment career will be a journey not a final destination. Furthermore, what may be your dream today may change tomorrow. A dream job is a job that is helping you progress toward your dreams

  • Preventing Rejection at Work"[W]e all thrive on being connected to others. Don't let your office become a place where people feel threatened by rejection. Instead, bring your conversational intelligence to work.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Keeping Reasonable Work Hours

Do you have difficulty leaving work at a reasonable hour? Are your long hours causing problems in your personal or family life? Look at this issue honestly, and you may see a pattern of your own making. If this is the case, and you don’t know how to change the pattern, consider the suggestions below.

Challenge Your Perceptions
What are your perceptions regarding your work? Do you think if you finish all tasks on your daily to-do list, you’ll finally be caught up? Or, are you hesitant to ask for assistance because you perceive the work wouldn’t get done to your standards? Reality check: If you work in a busy environment, you may never completely catch up. And although a co-worker may not approach a task the same way you would, this doesn’t always mean the work won’t get done well. So, delegate a few tasks.

Actions to Help You Exit
Start small. Commit to one day a week of leaving work at a reasonable time. Tell others about your plan, and ask them to hold you to it. Block out your work calendar so you don’t schedule any meetings in the last hour of your day, if possible. Set an alarm for thirty minutes prior to departure time to trigger a wrap up, including time to review and organize tasks for the following day.

As a visible signal that you’re leaving the office soon, pull out your coat or briefcase. This should dissuade most people from approaching you with requests. If they don’t catch on, politely and professionally tell them you will have to follow up on any requests the next day.

Other Commitments Await
Remember and keep commitments you’ve made to others, including those outside of work who need to be able to count on you too. And if you’re fortunate enough to have some down time, take advantage of it and do something you enjoy—maybe even relax.

Having no balance in your life can negatively impact your personal life, and it’s likely your work performance may suffer as well. Your mind and body need a reprieve so you can approach your daily work with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and energy. So, take better care to leave work on time; chances are, you will not only be happier, but healthier.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Methods for Veterans to Leverage LinkedIn During Their Transition

The statistics are different depending on the survey you read. However, one fact remains consistent - LinkedIn is a critical tool in the job search process. In a recent survey by Jobvite, 92% of human resources professionals said they use social media in the recruiting process with 92% of those surveyed using LinkedIn as their number one choice. (See the full results here)

Transitioning veterans should take advantage of the business networking opportunities that LinkedIn has to offer. Whether you are passively or actively job searching, your LinkedIn profile can be the difference as to whether or not you see positive results from your search. Here are some special circumstances that veterans should take into consideration when creating their profile on LinkedIn.

  • Make sure potential employers can find you by loading your LI profile with industry-specific keywords. Research your industry on sites like o*net and the occupational outlook handbook to define keywords. Use these same resources to ensure you are translating your military skills effectively.
  • Capture the attention of recruiters with a compelling headline. As a default, LinkedIn uses your most recent job title and company as your headline. Be different and stand out from the crowd when you show up in recruiter searches by customizing your headline. 
  • LinkedIn profiles with photographs are 7 times more likely to be viewed when the profile comes up in search results. Make sure the photo you include is professional. Don't use your official military photo as your LI photo. This will give the impression that you are not ready to make the transition to the private sector.
  • Manage the message you send with your profile. In addition to using a non-military photo, take the focus off your military status by avoiding military language, refraining from referring to your rank, and translating your military skills to private sector language.
  • Ensure potential employers can find you. Use your personal email address, not your military address, as your LinkedIn contact method. Set your profile as public so that recruiters and potential hiring managers can find you when they do a search.
  • List an end date or availability date on your LI profile. Give employers an idea of when you will be available to start with their company and remove the ambiguity of whether or not you are officially leaving the military.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Daily Leap Career Video of the Week: Career Tips for Older Workers

Each week we present our Daily Leap Career Video of the Week. The video we share presents news or advice related to career development, searching for a job, the economy and employment, and other career-related topics.

In this video Marci Alboher, Kerry Hannon, Jacquelyn James discuss career transitions for older works and encore careers, among other things.

Learn more in the video below:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Should You Send a Cover Letter? The Survey Says....Definitely Maybe!

It would be so much easier if there were a set of job search rules to follow. It would be easier if everyone followed the same hiring guidelines, processes, and procedures. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. One of these ambiguities is whether or not to send a cover letter when you send your resume in response to a job posting.

Human resources professionals will give you differing points of view. Some of them say to always send them and that they always read them. Others say they want you to send them but they don't read them. Yet others say you should not send them. So what is a job seeker to do?

My recommendation for job seekers is to ALWAYS send a cover letter. Even the HR professionals that say they don't want them will often admit that they appreciate the effort that the job seeker takes to prepare the cover letter. While they may read some, all, or none of it, when they refer you to the hiring manager for their review, they will always pass along your resume and cover letter. With this in mind, here are some tips to help you ensure your cover letter is as effective as it can be.

  • Write your cover letter to the hiring manager's attention. Speak in terms of how you can benefit the hiring manager as an addition to their team.
  • Keep your cover letter brief and concise. A cover letter should never be longer than one page. Ideally, the cover letter is three paragraphs maximum - an introduction, a sales pitch, and a closing paragraph that includes a call to action.
  • Customize your cover letter as much as possible. Research the hiring manager's name and title and address it directly to them. Research the company's needs and goals and use the cover letter to demonstrate how you can assist them in solving their problems or achieving their objectives.
  • Engage the reader by staying away from formulaic, boring cover letters that sound like every other letter they have read that day. Grab their attention from the very first paragraph.
  • Don't regurgitate or repeat the resume. Think of the cover letter as the opportunity to introduce the resume and highlight what the reader will find when they review the resume. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Three questions to ask before pursuing an advanced degree

You have your bachelor's degree but are considering pursuing some kind of advanced degree: a master's or even a law degree. The conventional wisdom is that there are significant benefits to your career by pursuing an advanced degree. But the decision to do so should not be made lightly. Before pursuing an advanced degree, reflect on the questions below to become more clear about whether the decision is the right one for you.

What is your goal in pursuing an advanced degree? When you embark upon an endeavor like obtaining a master's degree or another of its kind, think about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Do you hope to earn more money? Those with advanced degree do earn a higher income over the duration of the careers according to the Georgetown University College Payoff report. However, some industries value higher education more than others and an advanced degree may not make a difference. But money might not be your goal: perhaps you pursuing one for the sake of learning or growing your professional network. You may have other reasons; get clear about them before filling out any paperwork.

What is the value of a degree to your organization? If you are working for a company or organization, learn how they value degrees. Some employees think that obtaining an advanced degree will lead to an automatic promotion or pay increase...only to be disappointed to find out that it does not. Your role in the company may make a difference as well: if you are in a sales position, an advanced degree might not mean a pay increase (though it could be factored in to promotional opportunities). And while some companies provide a tuition reimbursement benefit, it may require you to commit to working there for a certain number of years (typically one to three); if you leave before then you will have to pay back all or a portion of your schooling. If you work for an organization, ask around or check your company's policies to learn more about the impact an advanced degree would have.

How will pursing the degree affect your life? Pursuing a degree will take time and dedication: are you willing to make sacrifices in order to see it through? If you have a family, are you willing to spend less time with them and more time studying? Same question if you do not have a family but have an active social life; pursuing a degree will affect it. You should factor in two to three hours of studying for every hour that you are in class. Further, if your organization provides a tuition remission benefit, it is highly likely that there are things it will not cover (e.g. books, lab fees, gas to travel to classes, etc). Is your budget in line to be able to take on this extra burden? 

While there are many benefits to advancing your education, a level-head and some serious consideration are necessary to ensure if this is the right decision for you. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Is Grad School the Best Decision and More on Networking

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

  • 9 Networking Secrets from a Superconnector"Always be thinking about the other person, not personal gain. Other people come first. Since most people are concerned with their own personal gain, you'll quickly stand out. Albert Einstein once said, 'Strive not to be a person of success, but a person of value'."
  • Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To"Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again."

  • Networking Tips to Land--Or Keep--a Job"Don’t know where to meet people? Volunteer your time. Volunteer at your church, at charity events such as 5-kilometre runs, fundraisers, your child’s school or other events."

  • How to Market Yourself on LinkedIn"
    The résumé is not the only way to demonstrate what you've done. Today, there are many more options to publish content and create a robust, interactive representation of who you are.

  • Grad School May Not Be the Best Way to Spend $100,000"If you're doing a graduate program just to get the degree on your wall, or if only a handful of classes excite you, it's far better (and cheaper) to take adult ed or extension school classes. Here are a few other reasons why you shouldn't go back.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Careers with High Turnover

Even in a healthy economy, certain occupations generate high turnover. This can be costly for employers and informative for job candidates who would want to know if the employee turnover is due to low compensation or job burnout.

The Houston Chronicle digital site, Chron, featured an article entitled, “Occupations and Careers with the Highest Rate of Turnover,” which presented a few of these high-turnover careers.

A flexible, entry-level job in retail is great for college students or those needing extra money. However, lack of advancement and benefits in retail, not to mention low pay, make it difficult to make a living. Unless you are seeking long-term success in management or as a buyer, keep in mind retail occupations present turnover rates of about 75-80 percent.

Food Service
Standing on your feet for endless hours and trying to please customers is tough, both physically and mentally. If management isn’t invested in your success or it’s not fine dining, the job probably isn’t paying a whole lot either. The Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly cites food service occupations among those with the highest turnover rates.

Nursing is an occupation with a lot of demand; however, entry-level nursing positions don’t necessarily pay well. Plus, being at the mercy of physicians can take a toll and result in job burnout and high turnover.

Customer Service
Customer service jobs may seem like a wise choice for those with limited education or experience, but these jobs demand a lot of patience and perseverance. Customers and the general public can be very disrespectful. It’s tough work, and many cannot tolerate it long term.

Source: Hamlett, Christina. “Occupations and Careers with the Highest Rate of Turnover.” Chron. Hearst Communications. smallbusiness.chron.com. (Last Viewed: April 11, 2013.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Identify Your Motivators to Clarify Your Priorities

I have had a week of bad news. On top of the tragedies that have happened in our nation this week, I have learned a relative I love very much is terminally ill and that someone I am close to is on the verge of a divorce that will impact two young children. It has been a week where I have felt the need to evaluate my personal priorities.

You don't need to wait for a week of bad news in order to define your motivators and evaluate the priorities in your career. Most people have more than one motivating factor. However, evaluate these five motivators and rank them in order. It is a good idea to know what motivates you in order to ensure your decisions - both every day and momentous decisions - align with those priorities.

Challenge can be defined as being engaged, having your abilities stretched, and being constantly tested. If challenge is your number one motivator, it is important to you that you are never bored. The person who selects challenge as their top priority is someone who is valued for their ability to learn quickly, think on their feet, and make a significant contribution to a team. This person will become bored, unhappy, and unproductive if they have to do menial or repetitive tasks as part of their career.

The person who selects location as their top priority has very particular preferences about where they work. It may relate to an inside or outside work environment, or it may be about what part of the country or world in which you work. Travel - and how often they have to be away from home - may also be a factor to the person who selects this as their top priority.

Advancement also means many different things to different people. It could be about recognition, status, or climbing the corporate ladder. However, advancement can also be seen as growing and developing a skill set or becoming an expert in your field. This priority can definitely impact the size and status of the company where you choose to work.

We all have bills to pay and different ideas of how much it takes to maintain their desired standard of living. Before you make a career decision, it is important that you define your personal financial requirements. Even if money is not your number one motivator, it is still important to make this determination so you can make decisions that support your needs.

Job security refers to your need for familiarity and could possibly be about how feel in regards to change. When a job is predictable and familiar, some people feel stifled. However, if this is your top priority, you feel comfortable and secure in that situation. Your need for security, and where it falls on your list of priorities will likely change as your life situation changes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Daily Leap Career Video of the Week: Defining Success

Each week we present our Daily Leap Career Video of the Week. The video we share presents news or advice related to career development, searching for a job, the economy and employment, and other career-related topics.

In this video John Maxwell discusses the secret to defining success in our lives.

Learn more in the video below:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Danger (and Value) of Showing 10+ Years of Experience on Your Resume

I was speaking with someone today with more than 30 years of experience in their industry. They resisted the fact that I wanted them to put 10+ years of experience. As we discussed the positive and negative of putting the true number of years (32!), I thought this might make an interesting topic for today.

The Dangers

  • The biggest danger with listing more than 10 years of experience is the fear of age discrimination. Age discrimination is based in fear. A few of these concerns are that you lack energy, fear that you are not open to changing technology or ideas, and fear that you may have health concerns. These are all tough to overcome on a piece of paper.
  • The more experience you have, the more salary you can demand. Employers are looking for the most cost-effective employee. Therefore, showing your entire 25 years of experience may give them second thoughts about whether or not they can afford you.
  • Keep in mind, if you have 32 years of experience and you are being interviewed by your potential boss that isn't even 32 years old, they may be intimidated by you to the point that they will not even call you for an interview. Fear that you may take their job from them could be a stopping point for some less secure bosses.
  • Most employers truly want to know your latest and greatest accomplishments. They view older accomplishments as outdated and irrelevant. Employers do not want to wade through irrelevant information to get to what they deem "the good stuff."

The Value

  • Showing a depth and breadth of experience demonstrates you can hit the ground running and make an immediate impact on the organization. Be sure to show that you possess current knowledge of new technology or methods if you go back more than 10 years.
  • In more than 10 years of industry experience, chances are you have seen changes in industry standards and expectations and changes in technology. Demonstrating your consistent performance, no matter the changes surrounding you, can be valuable to your sales pitch.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Five questions toward a stronger relationship with your boss

To trust and to be trusted are critical components of organizational and personal success. And while trust in the workplace is on the rise, you should remain vigilant of the level of trust in your relationship with your supervisor. 

Clear, simple communication is essential to build a relationship of trust. To begin a supervisory relationship the right way or to fine-tune one that has already been established, use the questions below:

What expectations do you have for me in the short-term and long-term? A basic yet essential question to get both you and your supervisor on the same page. This question prompts a discussion on what is (and is not) important in your work and what priorities need to be established. 

What methods do you prefer I use to communicate with you? Be upfront and ask how your supervisor would like to receive information from you: short or long phone calls, short or long emails, in-person meetings or through other means or outputs. Indicating to your supervisor that you respect her time and tailoring how you communicate with her will greatly further a relationship of trust.

What can I do to make your job easier? Even though you may be clear about expectations, there could be other ways that you can help out your supervisor...and shine in the process. For example, if your boss isn't as technologically savvy as you are, perhaps you could provide a quick lesson on more advanced functions of Outlook or keyboard shortcuts in Word. Your boss will appreciate your initiative and the assistance you are providing. Remain vigilant of opportunities such as this and offer help where you can; the trust you build will be a reward in and of itself.

What if we...? The significance of this question can be summed up in one word: solutions. Don't just bring problems to your supervisor but suggest solutions to those issues. Employees tend to shy away from solutions (particularly out-of-the-box ones) for fear of looking foolish. Do not fall into this trap: supervisors are looking for creativity in the output you deliver and would not have hired you if they did not want to leverage your talents and insights. Build trust through your creativity and initiative.

In what areas would you like me to improve? Do not wait until your annual review before you ask this question. Stay abreast of areas of improvement and listen to your supervisor's suggestions with an open-mind and willingness to do your work differently. If you have questions or if something does not sit right with you, bring them up respectfully. But your willingness to invite and receive feedback will most certainly strengthen the trust in your relationship.

Use these questions to create a strong, trusting dynamic between you and your supervisor, and role model this behavior to others. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Leadership, Mentors, and How to Send a Networking Email

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

  • 10 Leadership Lessons I Wish I Learned In My 20's"Always have someone as your coach, your confidant, and your advisor.  This can be formal or informal, but you need a 'go-to' person at every stage of your life.  This person may change and you may add mentors over time."

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Real Story on Networking Groups

Networking groups can result in positive connections and relationships; however, there are many misconceptions about how to use networking groups. In the article “Get the Real Story On Networking Groups,” Ivan Misner, PhD, founder and chairman of one of the world’s largest networking organizations, gives some pointers on how to make networking work for you.

“Networking is simple─but it’s not easy” (Misner)

Networking is a skill that takes practice. Much like playing a sport, you’re not an expert the first time out. You’ll have to attend more than one event to cultivate the valuable relationships a networking group provides.

Be prepared to explain your business and be able to define your customer base. Listen to others describe their businesses so you can identify professional opportunities for assisting and doing business with others. Networking is a two-way street that can result in long-term relationships, but don’t expect new customers after just one event. It takes time to form profitable relationships.

Networking isn’t just for young professionals

In fact, many networkers are seasoned professionals who have recognized and learned the benefits of networking, including the competitive advantages it offers.

Look for a networking group representative of the community in which you do business. Often you’ll benefit from a diverse networking population of older and younger members, men and women, and a mix of race and ethnicities.

Viable customer referrals

Assuming professionals in your networking circle are knowledgeable about your business and goals, the referrals they send your way should lead to viable, long-term customers.

Networking is about forming relationships that are mutually beneficial. It takes time and work, but when done well, networking should be worth the effort.

Source: Misner PhD, Ivan.“Get the Real Story on Networking Groups.” Entrepreneur Media. January 5, 2010. entrepreneur.com (Excerpted from Misner, David Alexander, and Brian Hilliard. Networking Like a Pro, Entrepreneur Press. 2010.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why is it Important to Decline a Job Offer with Grace?

We all hope to be in the situation of having so many job offers in our hands that we find ourselves required to decline jobs, right? You may think that this situation does not require any finesse or extra effort on your part. However, I caution you to handle the decline of a job offer with the same level of professionalism you used to land the job offer in the first place.

There are many reasons, aside from having multiple offers, that you may have to turn down an offer. The money may not be right. You may feel that the company's culture or the boss' leadership style are not a fit for you. Perhaps you decided you are not willing to work the hours, travel the distance, or make the commute that the job will require. No matter the reason you decide to turn down the job, the process of declining a job can be quite uncomfortable and awkward.

For this reason many people tend to shy away from the conflict of saying "no thank you" to the offer. Here are some of the key reasons I caution you to be diplomatic and attentively professional when responding to the offer.

  • You never know what may happen or change in your future. The location or money may not work for you today, but your situation may change. If you don't turn down the job in a professional manner, you will never get another chance with this company.
  • NEVER burn a bridge or sacrifice a networking contact. The human resources person you are working with at company A may someday move to company B where you really want to work. HR people see thousands of candidates every year, but I am sure the negative experiences stand out in their memories. Don't be a bad HR memory!
  • You don't want to get a bad reputation, especially in today's world where networking and social media are the rule. Human resources professionals travel in the same circles and often talk to their counterparts within the same industry. Make a positive impression, even in a negative situation, and you may just get a networking referral in the future.
  • You must never lead a company on and should always be timely in turning down an offer. Think twice about negotiating with the company for increased salary and benefits if you know in advance that you have no intention of taking the job. The extra work they put into meeting your demands will leave a very bad, lasting impression with HR and will hurt your future chances.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daily Leap Career Video of the Week: Knowing When to Make that Leap

Each week we present our Daily Leap Career Video of the Week. The video we share presents news or advice related to career development, searching for a job, the economy and employment, and other career-related topics.

In this video AHAlife founder Shauna Mei talks about how to recognize the right time to make a career leap.

Learn more in the video below:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Turn Your Passion into a Career

Have you ever had a job where time literally flew by, where you loved going to work every day, where you felt happy and fulfilled at the end of most days? Often times, this situation occurs when we are doing something that we are passionate about. I always tell people that we spend too much of our lives working to be unhappy with what we do.

Have you ever considered following your passion in life and turning it into a career? Let's explore some methods you can use to do just that.

Tap into Your Volunteer Work
When people are passionate about something, they often find a way to be in the environment - even if it means they don't get paid. If you have been volunteering in the career field you want to move toward, highlight this experience and insider knowledge on your resume and tap into networking connections you have developed.

I met a man who was in the Air Force. At every base, he found a way to volunteer for the Forestry Department. When he transitioned out of the USAF, he wanted to be a forest ranger. He had already done the job, he just had not been paid for it. His resume started with and focused on his volunteer experience;  his work experience was simply icing on the cake.

Turn Your Part-time Hobbies into Full-time Work
Your passion may be something you do in your free time, outside of work hours. When people are truly passionate about something, they learn as much as they can about the subject matter. You may not have been paid for your knowledge before, but you still may be a subject matter expert.

I know someone who brewed his own beer as a hobby. He was very knowledgeable about the methods, ingredients, and different procedures because of the trial and error brewing he did at home. When someone asked him if he ever thought of pursuing this as a career, he said it had honestly never occurred to him. Within a week, he had found an opening at a small craft brewery in his hometown and applied for the job.

Explore Your Options
Everyone has an affinity or natural talent for something, they simply need to discover it. I like to ask people this question, "If you knew you could not fail, had the resources you needed, and were supported by family, friends, and community, what would you do?" Open your mind to the multitude of possibilities and dream big. However, it is also important to be realistic. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Will following my passion require me to start a business? Do I have the right personality, resources, and knowledge to be a business owner?
  • Will I still enjoy my passion if I have to focus on it 24/7?
  • Is my passion something that people are willing to pay for?
  • Is there a demand for what I do in the market?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Five questions to more powerful informational interviews

Informational interviews are a wonderful way to get personal, first-hand knowledge into a particular career field or position that you are interested in. If someone is gracious enough to spend time talking with you, however, you want to make it worth your while...and theirs.

The quality of the questions that you ask is critical to elicit the information you desire. Your questions need to be both interesting as well as to probe for deeper information. Add the list below to you cache of effective informational interview questions to get at the heart of your career area of interest:

  1. What excites you about this position/field? Tap into the emotions of the person you're interviewing by asking them what thrills them about the work they do.
  2. What about this position/field has surprised you? Every field or position looks different from the inside than from the outside. This question will probe into those unexpected aspects that you would be wise to be aware of.
  3. What about the position/field keeps you up at night? A light-hearted question that goes deeper into the problems and issues that are a part of the position or field, ones that produce a significant amount of stress or anxiety.
  4. What relationships have been essential for you to establish? An excellent question to ask to learn more about the important relationships that are necessary to be successful in this field or position. You may be surprised about who your interviewee makes connections with to be successful.
  5. How does this position speak to your values? A question that is as poignant as it is personal, learning more about the values that drive your interviewee in his/her work will give you a clearer picture of how yours do or do not correspond. 
Make the most of any informational interview by being prepared with strong questions!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Job Search, Personal Branding, and Interviewing

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

  • How to Turbo Boost Your Burnt-Out Job Search"When you identify a company you would like to work for, network with as many inside connections as possible. Even if you have a solid contact, having more than one certainly can't hurt."
  • How to Showcase Your Personal Brand in a Job Interview"Perhaps the biggest benefit to personal branding as a job seeker is self-awareness of your unique skills and talents, and recognition of what you’re passionate about and what differentiates you from others."

  • Millennials Are Redefining Work, Corporations Should Take Advantage"We’re a generation with a new work ethic and tremendous potential, given the resources and scope of a large corporation. That young people all over the world are creating brands and technologies that challenge and overshadow decades old institutions — this startup revolution — is evidence enough of the great power of Millennial thinking."

  • Claim Your Freedom at Work"
    If you were free to approach your work differently, what would you change in order to boost your satisfaction and effectiveness?

  • Networking Success Even for the Most Shy"So again, tag team, but also go prepared to be a connector. Show up at a networking event with some specific leads that you can share with other people. It’s a concrete thing, to go in with that spirit of generosity.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Strategies for Keeping You Sane While Job-Hunting

Searching for a job may be one of the most stressful experiences we face. In “How to Keep Your Sanity While Job-Hunting,” career and job search author, Alison Green, presents several ways to help keep your stress level down.

Don’t obsess:
Stop agonizing over one particular job. Obsessing over one job won’t allow you to effectively move on in your search. After your interview, continue looking for other positions. If the employer you interviewed with calls you, then you can bring your focus back around to that job. If the employer doesn’t call, you’ve already moved on.

Don’t try to read between the lines:
Many times an interviewee may take what an interviewer does or doesn’t say as a signal for how the interview went. For example, if the interviewer doesn’t say “I’ll be in touch,” don’t assume you aren’t getting the job. In most cases these signals are meaningless.

Don’t kick yourself about your answers after the interview:
Most interviewers don’t expect perfection, so don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t deliver perfect answers. Interviewers know you’re human, and no one delivers perfect interviews, including other candidates.

Don’t agonize if you’re not hired:
So you didn’t get the job Chances are you won’t ever know exactly why. A better candidate may have been hired, or perhaps the position was eliminated. The point is, don’t get stuck on the “whys” of not getting a specific job—just move on.

Do other things:
Don’t become consumed by your job search. Take a break to participate in activities that help take your mind off the search.

Remember, finding a job takes time:
Plan for your job search to take a while; a lengthy search is not unusual, so don’t expect to find a job right away.

Source: Green, Alison. “How to Keep Your Sanity While Job-Hunting.” Money: On Careers. U.S. News and World Report. March 11, 2013. money.usnews.com.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

4 Reasons Why You May Not Be Getting a Job Offer

So you had a great interview. You felt like you made a connection with the interviewer, you were comfortable and confident when answering questions, you asked intelligent questions of the interviewer, and yet you still did not get the call with the offer. What happened?

There are all sorts of factors that go into whether or not you are the candidate selected for the job. Unfortunately many of them are out of our control. For example, you can't control the other candidates and their qualifications. You can't control whether or not the interviewer decided to hire their nephew. So, for the sake of saving our sanity, let's focus on 4 reasons that are within our control and look at what you can do to overcome these situations.

1. Your Social Media Presence Is Unfavorable
The statistics vary based on the survey you read. However, between 80 and 95% of hiring manager and human resources professionals admit that they check you out online before they make the hiring decision. Between 60 and 80% of employers do not hire people because of what they find on the internet. Do a Google search on yourself and see what comes up, then evaluate it from the employer's point of view. Ensure there are no controversial comments, avoid hot-button issues such as religion and politics, and take down any inappropriate photos or jokes.

2. Your References Say Negative Things About You
No matter how you left your previous positions, you need to keep your contacts with your references friendly and positive. Call your references and ask them to support your search for new employment. Swallow your pride, apologize for past issues, and mend those bridges. Negative references can be a huge stumbling block for job seekers. Be proactive; it is better to know in advance where you stand with your references than lose a great job due to a negative comment from a reference.

3. You Came Unprepared for the Interview
Preparation has two parts, preparing yourself to discuss your skills and accomplishments and knowing all you need to know about the company. Do your research in both areas to prepare for an effective interview performance. Learn about the company, its mission statement, product or service, and its competitors. Try to discover the motivation behind why the company is hiring. Do they have a problem you can solve? Do they have a need that you can fulfill?

4. You Did Not Effectively Deliver Your Value Proposition
Take the time to get to know your product (YOU!) and clearly define the value you can offer an employer. Remember, every employer is seeking the most cost-effective employee. If you present yourself in terms of how you can make them money or save them money, how you can make their life easier, or how you are more than worth the paycheck they will pay you, then you make the hiring decision an easy one.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Daily Leap Career Video of the Week: Creating Your Own Luck Through Networking

Each week we present our Daily Leap Career Video of the Week. The video we share presents news or advice related to career development, searching for a job, the economy and employment, and other career-related topics.

In this video Bertrand Sosa, an entrepreneur and investor, discusses the importance of networking and suggests that networking enables you to create your own luck.

Learn more in the video below:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How to Overcome Interview Jitters

I was teaching a class last week to a group of military service members preparing to transition into the private sector. At one point in the class I had a young gentleman ask me, "Why do people get so nervous in an interview? It's just a conversation!" I agree so much with that statement, I actually stopped the class to give the man a high five.

However, not everyone is so laid back about the job interview. Many of us are nervous about the idea of the job interview. No matter how much we prepare and practice, we still get the attack of the nerves. Next time you are facing the prospect of a job interview, use some of these strategies to calm your (often inevitable) nerves.

Put the Interview Into Perspective
Think of the interview as your opportunity to learn about the job, the company, and its culture. Treat the interview as a two-way street where you assess the company as much as they are assessing you. Almost all of us have been in an interview where based on your observations, or even your gut feeling, you know that this is not a place you want to work. Don't focus so much on giving a "great performance" that you lose track of the fact that you are looking for the right fit for you.

Assess Who Has More to Lose
Walking into the interview, the interviewer has much more to lose than you. All you truly have to lose is time and maybe a bit of money you spend on gas and a babysitter. However, every interview you gain experience, connections, and confidence in your ability to answer the questions. A wrong hire can cost the employer time, money, their reputation, their customers, and possibly their entire business. Think about how much more they have to lose than you next time you need to calm some of those nerves.

Practice the Three R's of Interview Preparation
The three R's stand for Research, Rehearse, and Relax. Research the industry and the company to become an expert at answering questions about why you want to work for the company and what key transferable skills you bring to the table. Prepare your interview talking points about your personal statement of value or cost-effectiveness, then rehearse it until it rolls off your tongue with ease. Last but not least, relax by revisiting the two points above. As I always tell people, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Go out there and prepare and use your next opportunity to make your own luck!

Monday, April 1, 2013

3 Questions to Ask Before you Seek Out a Mentor

"Get a mentor" is a common exhortation for those who are struggling with creating direction and traction in their careers. A mentor is someone with elevated knowledge, skills, abilities, and/or perspectives that gives guidance to another, and research has shown that a mentor benefits you in terms of promotion, employee engagement, and career satisfaction.

But before you start hunting for a mentor, take a pause. What work do you need to do on yourself before you bring a mentor into the mix? Here are three questions to ask of yourself before you seek a mentor out.

What problem(s) am I looking to solve? Before you consider reaching out to a potential mentor, ask yourself what your end goal or objective is. Are there skills that you are looking to acquire, knowledge you would like to obtain, or would you benefit from a certain perspective that a mentor has? A mentoring relationship will not go very far and will not at all be fruitful if you do not know where you would like to go; you will feel frustrated at the end and your mentor will feel as if she wasted her time. Get clear about your purpose.

Is a mentor who I need right now? Considering the problem you have decided upon solving, reflect on where you want to go in your career and ask yourself if you know the general direction (i.e. you have honed in on a particluar field or company) or if you are still exploring? It could be that - instead of a mentor - you would be better off working with a career coach or counselor. All three - a coach, a counselor, and a mentor - bring different skills and perspectives to your problem. A mentor functions best within a particular career context (like a certain industry or company); a career counselor or coach can help you if you need to be more exploratory and intentionally unfocused in your approach.

Am I willing to put in the work? This is a critical question as a mentor has little time for those who are not willing to put in their time. After you have determined what problem(s) you would like to tackle and that a mentor is the right person with which to work, it is incumbent upon you to take initiative in the following areas:

  • Scheduling a meeting
  • Preparing discussion topics
  • Engaging in dialogue that could challenge your assumptions and beliefs
  • Completing assignments that a mentor gives
  • Gauging your experience with you mentor to determine if it is meeting your needs

A true mentor relationship should be 90 percent you, 10 percent your mentor. Their role is to help you help yourself overcome that gap between where you are and where you want to be...so long as you properly plan and prepare.