Archive for the ‘Job Search’ Category

Apr 18 2012

Strategic Networking 101

We all know that we’re supposed to “network”.    It has been shown over and over to be the best way to find jobs.    In a down economy, networking is more important than ever because employers get inundated with resumes and they’re afraid of hiring the wrong person.   As a result, they’d much rather hire someone who is recommended by a friend, colleague or employee.

Many people tell me that they’ve tried networking, but that it doesn’t work for them.   When I dig a little deeper, I find out that their definition of networking is to send out an email to friends asking if they know of any openings.    Or, they attend “networking” meetings hoping to find someone who knows of a job. Hope is not a strategy.   To network effectively, you need to use it to find the people and companies out there who need you.

So, how do you do that?  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1) Think of it as research.   Let’s make this easier, what if you need a plumber?  What do you do?   You might research plumbers on the internet, see if there are any plumbers nearby with good recommendations, you might look in the phone book.   But, more than likely, you’ll ask your neighbors.   Networking is just like that.   The problem is that we feel like we’re trying to sell ourselves through the networking process.   Instead, think of it as researching to find companies and people we want to work for AND who value our skills and knowledge!

2) Make a list of 100 people you know.   They don’t have to be in your field and you don’t have to know them that well.   Just well enough that you can call or email them and ask them for 15-20 minutes of their time.   The goal of the meeting is to brainstorm with them to get information, advice and names of companies and people who might have useful information or contacts for you.   Do not ask them if they know of any jobs!  Most people don’t know about job openings – even at their own companies.   It’s not their job to find you a job.    Make it easy for them to help you by keeping your “ask” simple – ask for advice, names, suggestions, ideas and then you take it from there.

3) Know what you are looking for.   If you think of this as research, you need to know what you’re looking for.   And, don’t tell me you’re looking for a job.  That’s too vague.   What kind of job?  In what industry?  What type of company and work environment?  What geography?   If you’re not sure about the answers to these questions, you need to do a bit more homework to figure that out before you go out there and network.

4) Be prepared.   When you ask to meet with someone, it’s your meeting.   They will likely say “so what can I do for you”?  You need to be prepared with an answer to that question.  And, once again, the answer is not “find me a job”.    The answer is to (briefly) tell them what skills you’re hoping to use in what industry and geography.    ”I’m looking for an opportunity to use my financial analysis skills in a non-profit organization in the Boston area” – is enough to get the conversation started.

5) Persevere.  Granted, there’s a fine line between being persistent and being a pest.   Never leave it in their hands to respond to you.   I can’t tell you how many people tell me , “I tried networking once –  I sent an email and they never responded.  Networking doesn’t work for me.”    That is not networking.  You need to follow up with a phone call, another email or snail mail.   Everyone is busy.   If they don’t respond the first time, don’t assume that they don’t want to talk to you.   More than likely, they just didn’t have time to reply.

6) Remember it’s about building relationships.   Finally, remember that networking is a two way street.  End every meeting with the question: “Is there anything I can do for you?”  You’d be surprised at the answers you might get.   If you don’t think you have anything to offer – remember that you have many skills and talents including some that may not be on your resume.  And, if you’re doing a good job networking, you will begin to have a large network you can draw upon to help others you meet along the way.

 

 

Dec 10 2011

Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Use of LinkedIn

Are you on LinkedIn but not sure what to do with it?   Do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting onto LinkedIn?  Do you know you could be doing more with it, but you feel like you don’t have the time?   Here are ten simple things you can do to improve your use of LinkedIn:

1) Get A Picture (or get a better one):  I’m frequently astounded at the pictures that people use for their LinkedIn profiles.   Many of them are blurry, dark, unflattering or cluttered.   Your profile picture should look like you, only better.   Take the time to get a professional head shot taken.   Don’t have the time or money?   Get a friend who has a good digital camera and likes to take pictures.   Get dressed nicely.   Ladies, put on make up.   Wear a solid color that contrasts with your skin color (nothing too bright please).  Outside lighting is more flattering, so go to a park and have your friend take a bunch of photos of you.   Choose the one that you like the most.   Upload to LinkedIn.  Not sure how to do that?  Ask a teenager for help.

2)  Add Groups:   You are allowed to belong to 50 groups on LinkedIn.   The benefit of groups is that you can directly email anyone with whom you share a group.   So, it increases your network exponentially.   Choose some groups in the field in which you’re looking for work or a new field that you’d like to enter.   If you belong to some professional associations, make sure to join their LinkedIn group.  Not sure how to find appropriate groups?   On the top of your profile where it says “People – Search”, click on the down arrow you’ll see a list of things for which you can search.   Select “Groups” off the list.   Then type some key words into the search box and click the little magnifying glass.  You will see a list of groups that you might be interested in joining.  Join some.  Don’t want to get lots of email from your groups?  You can set your email settings to weekly summaries when you join.

3) Proofread your profile:   I frequently notice typos on people’s profiles.   This is your public presence, so PLEASE read your profile carefully and correct those typos!  Make sure your grammar and spelling are correct.   Don’t use person pronouns – it should read more like a resume than a casual email to your friends.

4) Invite more people to join your network:  Try inviting at least one person to your LinkedIn network every day.  If you do that, you’ll have 365 people in your network in a year.   Be sure to invite people you know who are on LinkedIn.   Please don’t send the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” invite.   Take a minute to personalize the invitation.   If you haven’t seen them in awhile, give them a quick update.   Then say, “I’d like to keep in touch by adding you to my network on LinkedIn, if you’re willing!”    Not sure who to invite?  Start with the list that says “people you may know” (to find it click on “Home” at the top of your profile page).   There will be a list of people with whom you share connections or groups.

5)  Add Skills:  There is new feature on LinkedIn that allows you to add skills.  These are words and phrases that are pre-defined by LinkedIn.   To find it, look under the “More” tab on the top of the page.   Select “skills” off the list.   Now, try typing a word or phrase into the search box.   If the skill you typed in is already on the list, it will appear along with a description of that skill.  Even better, a list of related skills will appear on the left hand side.   If it’s an accurate description of your skill, just select “Add skill” and it will be added to the Skills section of your profile.

6) Ask for some recommendations:  It helps to have recommendations for at least the most recent jobs you’ve listed on LinkedIn.   If you’re not comfortable asking your old boss to write you a recommendation, ask a colleague who knows your work or a client who can speak about the experience they had with you. Most people are willing to do this for you if they had a good experience with you and know you well enough to comment on the quality of your work.

7) Write a recommendation for someone else:  Everyone likes a pat on the back.  Writing a recommendation for someone else will make them feel good (and will lift your spirits as well!).   Try doing this once a week and see what happens.    Give the recommendation without expecting to receive one back (and don’t feel insulted if they don’t recommend you as well).   It’s almost better to have recommendations from people who don’t recommend you back because it looks too much like a “quid pro quo” when you recommend everyone that has recommended you.

8) Beef Up Your Summary Section:  The summary section of your profile should include key information about what you can do for employers.  What sets you apart from other candidates?   Don’t say, looking for challenging position in…focus on what’s in it for the employer.   What special skills or knowledge do you possess that will benefit potential employers?  A bulleted list of your special areas of expertise is helpful for people scanning your profile.

9)  Ask or answer a question or post information:  Now that you’re a member of some groups (see item #2 ), you can post an question for discussion, share some information or comment on someone else’s post.   If you do this once or twice a week, it will raise your visibility.   If you post a question, make sure there are no typos or misspelled words.   Also, keep the question upbeat and on point.

10)  Add a book list:   If you like to read and enjoy sharing what you’re reading with others, add the reading list feature to your profile.  To do that, click on “More” at the top of the page and select “Get more applications”.    You will see a list of features you can add to your profile.   Select the “reading list” feature and you can add a list of books you’re reading and write a short comment.    There are many other applications you can add, including Box.net that lets you upload files to your profile and Huddle that gives you a place to share documents that can be edited by others.

Do a few of the things on this list every week and you’ll find that LinkedIn will become a more valuable tool for you whether or not you’re in job search mode.

Oct 21 2011

What to Wear to an Interview

Deciding what to wear to an interview isn’t as simple as it used to be.   With the advent of “business casual”, what to wear to an interview has gotten a bit more complicated.

1) Dress a notch above.   In general, you want to dress a little bit nicer than the way you would be required to dress if you get the job.   So, if you’re applying for a position that requires you to get dirty and wear a uniform, you don’t need to dress in a suit.   Slacks and a sweater or perhaps a blazer would be fine.   Similarly, if you’ll be wearing a suit everyday, wear a good suit and shirt.   First impressions count.

2) Look the part.   If you’re interviewing for a position at a bank, visible tattoos and lots of piercings are probably not a good idea.   On the other hand, if you’re interviewing for a job in a tattoo parlor, tattoos are probably required!   If you are interviewing for a position in a creative workplace, you probably have a bit more room to show some flair and dressing too conservatively could hurt your chances.   Dress to fit in to the workplace, but avoid extremes.   Ladies, no low cut dresses.   Men, avoid loud ties.

3) If in doubt, go conservative.   If you’re not sure what the dress code is like at the workplace, there are a number of things you can do.  Ask someone who works there or who used to work there (look on LinkedIn to see if you have someone in your network).   Look at their website to see what type of public image the company displays.   If they show pictures of guys in suits and white shirts, it’s probably a conservative workplace.    If you live near the company, you can go to their parking lot around closing time and see what people are wearing.

4) Use common sense about accessories.   I once didn’t hire someone because of her earrings.   Before you get angry at me, I was hiring someone to watch my young school-age children.   She showed up with earrings in the shape of the word “SEXY” in large letters.  If she had been the absolute best candidate, could I have overlooked the earrings?  Perhaps.  But, to me, it told me that she didn’t have a lot of common sense.  Think about your audience when dressing for your interview.

5)  Be well groomed.   Above all, you need to be well groomed.   Make sure your clothes fit well and that they’re clean and pressed.   Polish your shoes, make sure your nails and hair are clean and nicely styled.    Avoid heavy perfume or aftershave.   If you smoke, make sure your clothes don’t smell like it.   Employers don’t like hiring smokers and they’ll be able to tell if you had a cigarette right before your interview.

When you’re interviewing for a job, employers are looking for people who will represent their company well and who will fit into the company culture.   Keep that in mind and make sure that what you wear doesn’t make you stand out for the wrong reasons.

Happy hunting!

Sep 5 2011

Free Expert Advice for Job Seekers

Ultimate Job Summit

I was recently selected to participate in a new on-line resource that will be available for job seekers starting today, September 5, 2011 – the Ultimate Job Summit.   This site is the brainchild of Nate Lind, who was unemployed but went from being unemployed to earning 6 figures in 6 months.   He wanted to share the lessons he learned and some of the best advice he used during his job search.   So, he interviewed eight consultants in a variety of areas and is making those interviews available for free for one month.   Each of the consultants interviewed is providing freebies, discounts and special offers to summit participants.   By signing up, you will have access to the discounts provided as well as 8 hours of expert advice that you can access for free at your convenience.

Now, I am one of the people interviewed, but even if I wasn’t, I think it’s a good deal.   You get over 8 hours of free advice from experts who charge good money for their time – so that part alone is worth at least $800.    And, each expert has made special offers available only to those who sign up for the summit.

So, check it out by going to www.ultimatejobsummit.com.    I hope you find it to be a helpful resource – and I’d love to hear your feedback about it!

 

Aug 24 2011

Finding Target Companies

Most career coaches recommend that you identify target companies to help you focus your job search.   In general, I agree with this advice.   Having a list of target companies can help you in a number of ways:

1) Networking:  You can focus your networking efforts on organizations that you think are a good fit.  Networking with current and past employees of your target companies helps you learn more about their challenges and company culture.

2) Research:  Your research time can be aimed at a shorter list of potential employers.  You can set up a schedule to check the company website for job postings, follow the company on LinkedIn, and review the company website.   You can set up news alerts in Google so that when your target companies are mentioned, you will be informed.

3) Advance Interview Preparation:  When you interview with a target company, you will already know what is happening at the company, how you can help them and why you want to work for them.  And, hopefully, you’ll have some inside contacts in place.

4) Hidden Job Market: If you do a proper job of networking, your inside contacts will let you know before positions are posted and recommend you to the hiring manager.   Companies want you to want them, so showing interest BEFORE jobs are posted can never hurt.

Now, there are some drawbacks to having a list of target companies.   Many people I meet have an impossibly long list of “target companies” which makes it difficult to focus.  At that point, the list becomes a “wish list” not a target list.  I suggest having no more than 25 companies on your target list, with ten that you concentrate on at any one time.   Those top ten companies can change as you learn more about each of them, but if you keep the list manageable you’ll be able to spend the time to truly understand their needs and challenges.

So, how do you find these target companies?

I recommend that my clients use Zoominfo as a first step when looking for target companies (www.zoominfo.com).   The site is quite easy to use and enables you to quickly find companies in your area and industry whether or not they have any jobs posted.   Click here for a handout on how to find target companies using Zoominfo.

 

Aug 11 2011

How to Stay Positive & Upbeat During Job Search

Sometimes it feels like job search is just a series of rejections.    We plug away, looking for that next great opportunity, but all we seem to get is negative feedback.   Or worse, no feedback.   It’s very hard to stay positive under those circumstances.

So, what can you do to help yourself stay upbeat?   Here are some suggestions:

1) Get out of the house.   Don’t spend more than 25% of your time in front of the computer looking for jobs.  Face-to-face interaction is very important when you’re looking for work because you become isolated and lose your perspective when job seeking in a vacuum.   Schedule networking meetings, attend professional association workshops or meet a colleague for lunch.

2) Locate some job clubs or networking groups.    There are many free job search and networking groups available.  They often provide free help, support and new ideas and information.    You may even be able to help someone else out who is looking!

3) Volunteer your time.   Taking some time to help people who are less fortunate than you are can help you to combat the blues.   It reminds you that you have valuable skills and it shows that there are people who are in a worse situations than you are.  Do not underestimate the energy you will derive from doing something for others in need.

4) Spend time with supportive friends.   Your friends want to help you, but often they don’t know what to do.   It’s not their job to find you a job, but let them know how they CAN help you.    Have coffee with a different friend each week to brainstorm ideas or to just relax and talk about something other than job search.   Find a job search buddy to meet with once a week – you can provide some accountability and help one another to stay focused.  Think about what kind of help and support would be most valuable from your friends and then reach out to them.    You’ll both be glad you did.

5)  Analyze Your Job Search.   Take a look at what is working and what isn’t.   Are you getting a good response to your resume?   If not, perhaps it would be worth having a professional look at it.   Getting interviews but no offers?  Some practice interviews with a friend or professional might be what you need.   Networking not working for you?   Talk to someone who has done it successfully and see if you can get some suggestions.

6)  Take Control of Your Search.   Finally, take the control of your job search back into your own hands.   Stop emailing people and waiting for them to call you back.   When you’re networking, always let people know that you will call them in a couple of days to follow up.   Identify target companies that would be a good fit for you and look at the jobs posted on their corporate websites.   Start networking to find contacts at those companies, even if no jobs are posted.   Start taking a proactive approach to finding those people and companies out there who need you.   They’re out there – believe me – even in this economy!