Education Career Services

May 27, 2009

What Motivates You?

Filed under: Career Cafe — EducationCS @ 7:56 pm
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elephanyMoney is that elephant in the room obscuring everything else.  Certainly, we must be paid to do a job; but is that what motivates you?  At times, no doubt.  Monday mornings in particular, the alarm requires added power that getting a paycheck provides.  Once you’re in the door, though, what powers your work day?

A stunning amount of people are unhappy with their jobs, yet if you ask them why, they can’t articulate it very well.  In the same vein, a mid-life crisis spreads malaise across a personal landscape.  Both of these, according to studies, are at least partly rooted in undefined motivation.

The unhappy employee regularly accepts jobs that don’t satisfy because the don’t know what satisfies them.  Likewise, middle-aged adults who do clearly know what drives them rarely struggle with mid-life crisis; those who do begin to find their motivators are shallow and lack meaning.

We don’t consciously choose our motivators; discovering them is an introspective pursuit.  If we don’t have a burning need to help people, for example, suddenly deciding you’re going to be motivated by helping people won’t work.

There are several methods of discovery; one looks back, the other is more experiential.

Examine your life for times and events that were the most fulfilling (not necessarily the most fun).  From there, what was satisfying?  If baking bread was a supremely satisfying experience, dig a little deeper; was it the creation of a product or the pleasure to the end-users that engaged you?

Alternatively, or in addition to the above, begin volunteering your time in a variety of service opportunities, both group and individual.  Which do you want to repeat?  Which don’t you want to repeat?

Discover, define, and test your motivators.   Give the elephant some company and watch your job satisfaction spur greater accomplishments!

 

Rob Swanson

Managing Writer

Career Services International – www.careersi.com

Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

May 26, 2009

Diagnosing Job Search Problems: Part 2b – From Fine to Fabulous

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 2:07 am
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red-crossIf you’re sporting the traditional two-page résumé, nicely formatted and meticulously proofread, you’re already beating half the field.  The next step is to consider your messaging strategy.  When putting together a marketing-style résumé, it can help to think of yourself as a product and this document as your sales brochure.  In other words, what is a company really buying when they agree to pay your salary?  (Hint: companies care about their bottom line.) 

Consider your key transferable skills and the best examples of how you used them to positively affect profitability, productivity, cost-savings, talent development, corporate mission, and so on. 

Armed with this insight, confront your documents this question in mind: “What would I want a potential employer to remember after glancing at my résumé for 10 to 20 seconds?” 

Now look carefully at your résumé.  Is this information organized for quick, easy access within the top one-third of the page (where the eye naturally falls when we begin to read)? 

Here are a few barriers between your core message and the reader you’re hoping to woo:

Strict chronology.  Some of your achievements probably came from positions you held a few years back, while some of your responsibilities in your most recent role are likely ho-hum.  Consider adding a highlights section up front where you can feature your “greatest hits” precisely where the reader will notice them.

Blocks of text.  If your paragraphs and bullet points are running longer than two or three lines, you are burying your message and barring “skimmability.”  Keep it short, and plan on filling in the detail during an interview.  Beware—a long objective or introductory statement is like a huge wall between you and your reader, so boil it down to its essence.

Buzzword overkill.  We all want our résumés to be retrieved by keyword in electronic systems, but including every industry term will make your résumé incomprehensible to the human reader on whose desk it will ultimately land.  Focus your résumé on the skills that are most unique and central to your job function.

The Final Polish

If you have a marketing-style résumé that grabs attention at the top of the page, give it a final read… listening with the ear of a haiku poet. 

Your goal will be to cut every word that less-than-essential.  This is the career equivalent a politician’s carefully crafted soundbites.

Pay special attention to the verbs—the source of action in the document.  If you said “directed and managed,” the second verb doesn’t add clarity, so take it out.  “Successfully led the implementation of…” has more punch if you just say “Implemented.” 

If your verbs are surrounded by armies of adverbs (those pesky –ly words), you’ll want to remove most of them.  Also, kill the jargon and eliminate any overblown descriptions. 

For the best results, you’ll want to seek out a professional writer, but even a friend can help you trim excess verbiage to arrive at a clear, concise, and powerful statement of who you are.

Next up…targeting strategy.  Now that you’ve got stellar documents, how do you get them in the hands of the right people?

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Career Services International – www.careersi.com

Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

May 22, 2009

Diagnosing Job Search Problems: Part 2a – Professional Documents

Filed under: Career Development — EducationCS @ 8:19 pm
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red-crossOn Wednesday, we posted a three-question quiz to identify your job search problem areas.  If you missed it, see below.

 In today’s commentary, we’ll address the dreaded résumé, helping to move you up the scale from bad to good.  If you answered “1” or “2” to the first question in our quiz, you’ll want to review this post from the beginning.  For the “3s” and “4s” in our midst, the basics we highlight in the first section may be old news, but we cover some finer points further down.

From Bad to Good

Your cover letter and résumé embody the first impression you will make on a potential employer, so pay close attention to what they say about you.  If your documents haven’t changed since your school days, or they take the form of a dumping ground for miscellaneous detail about each position, you are showing an employer that you don’t care enough to do the job right.

A résumé book, readily available in the public library, can give you the basics of putting together professional-looking documents.  In general terms, here’s what you should do:

  • Pick a font with no gimmicks and use it at a readable but not over-large size.  This will vary from font to font, but 11 point is a good starting place from which to adjust.
  • Organize your positions in reverse chronological order.  Unless you are an entry-level employee, your education should not take the lead—even if it’s from Harvard.
  • Feature your title for each job in bold and follow with the company name and your dates of employment.  You need only list the year.
  • Under each position, highlight the most important details about your role and impact.  A helpful strategy is to briefly list your responsibilities in left-justified text, then follow with bullet points that call out your key achievements.
  • Include as many numbers as possible.  State how many employees you managed, how big the budget you oversaw, the percentage of productivity improvement you drove, and so on.  Generalities are boring; well-chosen specifics bring life to a document.
  • Don’t weigh the document down with too much detail about the company.  You’re not selling them, you’re selling YOU.
  •  Address the formatting.  Your resulting document should be one page or two…not more and certainly not something in between.  Work with font size, margins, and spaces between sections and bullets to get a pleasing final result.
  • Make sure your name and contact information is easy to locate at the top of the document.  And please, we beg of you, have someone proofread it!

We’re part of the way there, from Bad to Good, but don’t settle for just Good!  Check back Monday for the next installment, from Fine to Fabulous.

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Career Services International www.careersi.com

Education Career Services www.educationcs.com

May 21, 2009

Say WHAT?

No matter the situation, the manner in which we “appear” determines the true message.  For the past few submissions, I’ve concentrated on nonverbal cues and will continue to do so for about two more entrees.  I am spending a great deal of time on this subject as many people do not understand the ripple effects our actions take in the mind of the other person. 

Think about it for a second… just about every day we encounter individuals (and groups) who give off conflicting messages.  Heck, the person behind the burger counter to a small gathering at a mall—no matter the size or situation, the onlooker perceives and creates his or her own reality based upon what is SEEN, not heard.

When was the last time you recorded a video of yourself?  Is the person you see the same person you think?  Just recently I was a featured career guest on a local radio show.  Several days after the 30-minute appearance, I listened to the taped recording…. Need I say more?

 May 21_2009Practice makes perfect

Because most forms of nonverbal communication are practiced subconsciously, the best way to get rid of bad habits is to become aware of them.  Get a friend or a family member to practice interview situations with you.  Using a video camera to tape mock sessions can be even more helpful.  Play the video with a critical and detached eye.  Ask yourself, “What would I like or dislike about this person nonverbally?  What’s making me feel comfortable, making me feel like I can build rapport with this person?”  Get your mock interviewer to ask you tough questions that would make you nervous and susceptible to bad body language.  Notice what you do under pressure and become conscious of it.  The awareness is half the battle.

 No doubt I became aware of what I “sounded” like after the radio appearance.  In a few weeks I will be conducting a training session for over 50 college career specialists and instructors—I’m wondering if I should record that on video?  I think not….

 Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
dhuffman@careersi.com
Education Career Services: http://www.educationcs.com
Career Services International: www.careersi.com

May 20, 2009

Diagnosing Your Job Search

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 6:42 pm

The jobless rate rose to its highest level in decades.  Contrary to popular opinion, however, that doesn’t mean that “no one is hiring.”  In fact, the New York Times recently reported that, even as the economy shed 650,000 jobs overall, four million Americans were hired the same month

If you’re not among the ones who’ve been snatched off the bench, there might be issues other than the U1510925market getting in your way.  Take the following quiz to help identify your greatest job search obstacle.

Your résumé can best be described as:

  1. The same since my school days.  I simply add on to it for each new position.
  2. The encyclopedia of me.  It includes every detail I could remember.
  3. A two-page summary of my job history in a nice format.  My friend proofread it.
  4. Like a product brochure.  Short and salesy, highlighting all my best “features.”

 In searching for jobs, you:

  1. Post my résumé online at various job boards and wait for the call.
  2. Post my résumé and then respond to every ad I see.  It’s a numbers game.
  3. Post my résumé and then respond to relevant ads with a customized cover letter.
  4. Combine online searches with direct contact to companies and networking.

 The response so far has been:

  1. About the same as if I’d sent my résumé into a black hole—total silence.
  2. I’ve gotten a few initial calls but no in-person interviews so far.
  3. I’ve landed several interviews but never made it to the finals.
  4. I’ve been told I was among the top candidates for several positions.

 Your results:

 As you can probably tell, if you answered “1” or “2” to any of the above questions, you need to upgrade your basic career development skills.  We’ll analyze each area (documents, search strategy, and calls/interviews) and help address your biggest problem areas.

 If you answered “3,” you’re probably among the thousands of candidates for whom good job hunting skills have always been enough.  As the competition has tightened in this down economy (now four applicants for every open position), “good” is no longer cutting it.  We have a few high-level strategies to help you stand out. 

Even if you answered “4” to all of the above, check back for some tips on refining your approach so you move from being a top candidate to a top employee.  Look for the red cross symbol to identify related posts.

red-cross

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Career Services International www.careersi.com

Education Career Services www.educationcs.com

May 19, 2009

Do the Hands and Eyes Have IT?

I have been out of service for the past few weeks and apologize for any inconvenience.  I am preparing for the EACE convention coming up in a June and so much work is involved.

For those who recall (if not, review several of the most recent posts), we were discussing nonverbal communication and we might as well get right into it by reviewing two issues, one dealing with the hands and the other with the eyes. 

Hands down

Nervous hand habits, like nail biting, hair twirling, and hand twitching can distract the interviewer and convey insecurity.  You can sit with your hands clasped together or hold onto a small organizer throughout the interview.  Avoid steepling your fingers in an upright position when answering a question.  This may be perceived as arrogant. 

The eyes have it

We have all heard that eye contact is important, it conveys confidence and respect, but too much can be just as bad as not enough.  You don’t want to make eye contact for more than three to five seconds; it’s too intense to sustain the whole time.  Avoiding eye contact, especially when answering questions, can convey dishonesty.

Glad to be here and look forward to answering questions as well as getting back into the pool!  Give me a shout and let me know what you’ve been up as of late.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

dhuffman@careersi.com

Education Career Services: http://www.educationcs.com

Career Services International: www.careersi.com

May 6, 2009

Dealing With Sensitive Information

Filed under: Career Development — EducationCS @ 7:13 pm
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When I’m writing for clients and come across an affiliation or any referenchomesick-for-heavene to religion, I always have to pause and ask myself, “What do I do with this?” For the most part, it is unadvisable to include this type of information on a résumé because of your potential reader’s view or bias. There’s no way to know how a hiring manager or decision-maker will react to a religious affiliation – it could be something that you have in common, but it could also prove detrimental to getting a call. You may be asking yourself, “Well, what’s the big deal?” And although the religious affiliation is a part of your identity, it’s also important to remember that a résumé serves as a brief introduction. Ultimately, this type of information is not necessarily a have-to-know from the beginning – the same as age, race, sexuality, and political affiliation.

However, I have also come across instances where this information is unavoidable. In one instance, I had a client who specialized in facilities management and it just happened to be that three out of the four places he worked for were large churches. Given his line of work, I had no choice and actually took the opportunity to position him as someone with great experience in facilities management with large organizations. Although I included the name of the churches within the work history section, I broadened it out when writing out his accomplishments for the top section, focusing more on the facility size and his contributions rather than the fact it was a church. In other words, his transferrable skills.

Zoning in on transferrable skills is critical for situations such as this as well as situations where you are trying to change industry or are just graduating from college. It’s possible that students may have volunteer experience with churches or other religious organizations. Since work history is limited, you may have to take advantage of those types of experiences and rework typically sensitive information in a way that makes it useful for what you are interested in doing. Keep in mind that you are highlighting your contributions and not the organization. Some transferrable skills include leadership, training, communication, human relations, research, problem resolution, project/event coordination, and technical efficiency. As I always tell clients that are transitioning into a new field – if you’ve had these achievements with one company, you can do the same or better for any other company.

Take a look at your experiences. How can your focus on your transferrable skills?

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Senior Writer
Career Services International – www.careersi.com
Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

May 2, 2009

Never Eat Lunch With Writers

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 12:42 am
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We just can’t help it.  Writers and anyone well-versed in English are typo hunters.  The menu at lunch today was rife with errors: sandwhich, for example, and fryed fish, for another.  On the bright side, the menu writer was consistent.  You could have a turkey sandwhich, a fryed fish sandwhich, or a club sandwhich.

Consistency goes a long way, and it is often the bane of resume writers.  Typos are death to resumes but so is erratic usage of otherwise correct writing.  We tend to be good about the front end of bulleted statements, making sure all our bullet symbols are alike, yet it’s the back end that can bite you. 

There are rules about whether a bullet should have end punctuation or not (if the bullet is a complete sentence, end it with a period, otherwise don’t).  A proofreader will tell you that end punctuation is often messed up–some bullets will have periods (or commas) and some won’t.  BE CONSISTENT!

Other areas arise because MS Word tries to be intelligent.  En- and em-dashes can switch on you without warning.  Pay particular attention to dashes between dates (2005-2008) because some will invariably become 2005 – 2008 (an extra space before or after, or a long dash instead of a short one).  Be sure they are all the same.

Less common is justification problems.  If one paragraph or bullet is at full justification, they all need to be (though we recommend left justification to prevent those odd rivers running through your text).

Further, if you use special formatting on certain entries, such as small caps for company names, double check to make sure all companies are small capped (and if you small cap companies, small cap universities and institutions as well).

Otherwise your reader will be like we were at lunch, busy seeking typo-treasure instead of figuring out what we wanted to eat (I chose the Nuty Turky Sandwhich).

Rob Swanson
Managing Writer
Career Services International – www.careersi.com
Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

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