Education Career Services

June 30, 2009

Resumes – it’s time to update but why?

Are there any trends going on without my knowledge?

As companies innovate and evolve, representing oneself via marketing materials (resume, cover letter, etc) must fuse company “needs” with candidate “skills.”  In a nutshell, employers want those capable and willing to grow AND not afraid of resolving challenges with “blue-sky” resolutions.

Estimates are clear; one has 12 seconds to 15 seconds to grab the reader’s interest, no more.  After this initial (and ever so brief) encounter of the first kind, decisions are made to discard or retain for closer inspection.  No doubt about it, the concept of instant gratification has seeped into the hiring process and now refuses to depart without a fight.  Corporate evolution via labor acquisition is now in time warp and the candidate must, as a natural reaction to this paradigm, hit quick and hard with the facts and only the facts.

In the end, individuals maximizing the marketing “hot zone” lands the interview.  For today’s resume/marketing trend tip, show your value/contributions as quickly as possible…that is, in the beginning.  So where is the beginning and how do I maximize it?  The “hot zone” resides in the top third of the resume.  In this pivotal region, employers are seeking value and take the approach: “What can you do for my company—now?”  So it seems that without a meaty worm on the hook, the big fish never bites (or calls to arrange an interview)! 

Elements attracting interview invitations are qualifiers defining what you will do for the bottom-line.  Unfortunately, too many resumes use the “tell me” approach as opposed to the “show me” approach.  The “tell me” approach uses fluffy soft words without a true declaration of action…this passive rhetorical road leads to burger flipping (I am speaking as one who flipped many burgers way back when.  As a result, I do respect the trade).  “Show me,” takes the reader to the context, the challenge, the action initiated or coordinated, and allows the reader to experience the results of your knowledge.

In the next submission, resume format will be examined. When you may ask?  Soon…very soon.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CEIP, CPCC
Career Services International
Education Career Services

June 26, 2009

Common Denominator: Career Management

Over the past two weeks I had the opportunity to speak to many career professionals throughout the North Eastern side of the United States.  Not only was the trip a scenic paradise, the information gained was invaluable and will be incorporated throughout blog entrees as well as our career manuals and collateral.

June 26My first stop was to oversee a train-the-trainer seminar at YTI Career Institute where I had the honor of sharing and receiving suggestions and stories from close to 50 professionals.  Not only are their campuses beautiful, their dedication to student success (from before the first day of class to beyond graduation and job acceptance) sets a high standard for any college or university to follow.  It is an honor to be part of YTI Career Institute, and I look forward to a long partnership.

The EACE conference, held in Buffalo, was also valuable.  Approximately 250 career professionals attended and many came by our booth to chat, check out our material, and offer suggestions for input. 

Though I spoke to hundreds of individuals over the past two weeks, one element was clearly expressed: professional development and career management is a major concern for everyone. 

The trip proved to be essential; sharing information in a setting conducive to growth always brings great rewards.  For the next few weeks I will be dedicating a great deal of time and energy transferring the past few weeks into our career management collateral.  

For those unable to play a direct part, the result is available.  From the student entering college to the executive seeking career challenges, one thing remains clear: we are all seeking ways to progress within this global economic cruise ship.  

If you have any questions do send them to me.  On a side note, I will be traveling to the Greater Chicago area for an upcoming MWACE conference and always up for a meet, greet, and lunch event…think about it.

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

June 25, 2009

One Page or Two?

Filed under: Career Cafe,Career Development — EducationCS @ 3:09 am

pinkhummercincinnatiIt used to be, the length of your resume indicated your importance and career accomplishment.  Kind of like how a big Cadillac said the same thing. 

But times change and the Hummer-sized resume is as popular as a pink Cadillac.  Today’s resumes are sports cars, short, fast, and sleek, largly because hiring managers are doing the work of three people and when an SUV lands on their desk, they see red.  Who has time to wade through pages of career biography?  Certainly not today’s executives.

No, they want power and punch in short sentences and easy to find result-nuggets.  With restless eyes, if they don’t find a hook immediately, they kick the tires of the next resume.

Keep them short and sporty, folks or you may not make it to the starting line.

June 22, 2009

Reader Investment

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 8:06 pm
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boaredThe best resumes and cover letters are written with the reader in mind.  We talk a lot about telling the reader only what they need to know; now we’re going to look at making sure it’s read.  To do that, we have to understand the concept of “reader investment.”

Each resume requires an investment of time from the hiring manager.  They have just so much time and patience to spend on each page that they must be choosy in their selection.  Their initial skim of the document determines whether they’ll make that time investment. 

Wading through big, clunky paragraphs is annoying so it’s easier to skip over readerthem.  You do it all the time, probably on this blog.  If this post was one big block of text, you might opt to scroll down the page looking for a more accessible entry.  Bullets jump out and grab you, so do bolded sections or headings  How many of you read that bolded paragraph before you read the entry?

Ask yourself, “how much reader investment does my resume require?”

  • Do you have paragraphs more than three lines long in the top portion (the sales zone of a resume)? 
  • Are there strings of more than four bullets? 
  • Do your grouped bullets relate to each other? 
  • Are the results at the end of the sentence rather than the front?
  • Were you more likely or less to read these bullets if they were clumped in a paragraph?

A clear presentation of low investment bullets, headlines, and short paragraphs wisely using bold, italic, and/or small caps does two things:  1) It will more likely be read, and 2) will require less white space.  Keeping things concise does not mean you present less.  In fact, you can present a lot more steak if you cut out the fat.

Rob Swanson

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

June 16, 2009

The Power of a Career Plan

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 7:01 pm
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Discussing my navigationally-challenged mind with my daughter the other day, I explained that I can always visualize where I am and where I want to be, but often the path between the two points elludes me.  As a result, I am quite fond of maps and, if I could justify the expense, GPS units.chp_16thc_map_1

Careers can be like that.  We know who we want to be and we know who we are, it’s the transitional “us” that can escape us.  If I want to someday be a CEO, I’m going to need a career plan to get there, otherwise every ill wind will blow me off course eventually forcing me to wonder “how did I get here when that’s where I wanted to be?”

A good career plan looks at the goal position and determines what skills, knowledge, and abilities (KSAs) are necessary to acquire and then charts a course for gaining those KSAs.   If the goal is to be a CEO in the green (environmentally friendly) industry, you’ll need to gather industry knowledge and business acumen.  

Ideally you will gain KSAs through a combination of research and education and hands-on, in-the-field experience.  For example, college can teach you to read a balance sheet and how to manage P&L (with all the attendant financial paperwork), but until you’re actually handling profit and loss accountability as a divisional manager, you won’t be ready to enter a CEO slot.  You’ll need to learn leadership, marketing, infrastructure, and a combination of other soft and hard skills.  With a career plan, you’ll be able to track and check off KSAs as you acquire them.  It serves as a map and a self-assessment.

At the same time, you’ll need to gather industry knowledge–again through research and experience, documenting as you go.

Right now, in the current economic storm , those with solid career plans have a leg up on those who don’t.  There have been a lot of layoffs and job closures.  Professionals who wing their careers can be at a loss; when the bills begin to mount, they might accept any position which may be hard to explain later in their career.  “McDonald’s was hiring” isn’t a great answer.  Our career planner, however, is prepared for such unforeseen setbacks.  Checking the plan, our planner determines which KSAs can best be acquired in the current conditions.  An entry- or mid-level position with, say, a solar farm for someone planning to be a green CEO someday will be perceived as a tactical move.  “It seemed like a great time to gain knowledge of the green industry from the inside.”  (That is not to say tactical gains won’t come from working at McDonald’s.  A plan gives you purpose no matter where you work because it focuses you on what needs to be developed.  Leadership, management, and even P&L can be learned at fast-food restaurants.  Without a plan, such a job can become a drudge.)

A plan can also be of tremendous help to the undecided.  My daughter, for example, vasilates between wanting to a lawyer, politician, veterinarian, or fashion designer (she’s 11, so give her a break).  When she’s a bit older and narrows it down to (know her) several things, her career plan will list all of them as her goal and will drive out all the KSAs for each potential position.  Then she would determine what the common KSAs are and focus on those first.  As she acquires those through jobs and volunteerism, she will be able to narrow her choices without losing any time in her career plan.

The plan always gives you something to work on.  Do you have a plan?

Rob Swanson

Managing Writer

Career Services International (www.careersi.com)

Education Career Services (www.educationcs.com)

June 13, 2009

Diagnosing Your Job Search Problem Areas: Part 4a Perfecting Interpersonal Skills

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 1:33 am
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red-crossIn our beginning-of-summer job search rundown, we’ve covered how to put together a top-notch résumé and how to get that document in the hands of the right people.  For our next-t0-last installment, we’ll cover some techniques for setting yourself apart throughout the rest of the hiring process.

If you missed the earlier postings of this series, scroll down the blog and look for the red cross symbol.

Networking

In the last post of this series, we covered the importance of networking as the basis for an effective job search.  Keep in mind, however, that your contacts aren’t primarily interested in your job search—so a self-centered approach is likely to fall flat.  What to do?

–Brainstorm ways you can reconnect with former colleagues in a less demanding way than simply asking for a job.  You might be able to orchestrate social interaction.  Email and online networking sites also offer a low-stress, low-commitment way to reach out…but they may not result in a flood of new leads.

–Making new contacts?  Consider what makes you valuable to them.  Do you have information or expertise to share?  Can you volunteer some time or get involved in an event?  Then by all means, do so!  By giving first, you are much more likely to receive the intel and recommendations you are looking for later.

Follow-Up Calls

Most job postings request candidates not call, or they shield contact information to avert a constantly ringing phone.  In these cases, don’t buck the system.  Following instructions is a basic characteristic of a good employee.

If you’re doing direct outreach to companies, however, follow-up calls are an important part of getting through.  Send your information to the contact you’ve identified, give it a few days to arrive, then call to schedule a time to meet. 

Follow-up calls may also be appropriate at other times in the process.  If you’ve had an interview or been told a decision is forthcoming but don’t hear anything for a while, a call to the hiring manager is acceptable.  Ask if they need more information or if you can answer any further questions.  Also, quickly underscore your key value points and where they align with the position.  Don’t become a stalker who calls every day, but don’t let an organization think you’ve lost interest, either. 

“Can you send me some more information?”

Have you received a telephone call from a hiring manager or recruiter requesting that you send a more detailed résumé, a document in another format, etc?  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! 

Repurpose this call.  Highlight your interest in the position and ask for more information, mentioning that you’d like to send the right follow-up materials so they can accurately evaluate you.  Get the contact talking about the organization’s needs, then demonstrate how well you fit them. 

And don’t just send your standard cover letter.  Write a customized note based on the information you gleaned.  Mention your conversation to help spur the contact’s memory.  Ideally, this will spur an interview.

Check back here for the next installment where we look at interviewing.

 

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Career Sevices International – www.careersi.com

Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

June 10, 2009

Career Magic in Orlando?

june 10Yippee, I’ve lived in Orlando for over 8 years and the basketball team is in the NBA finals.  Sorry for not getting overly excited but life will go on no matter the outcome of the games.  And truth be told, no matter who wins the series, career management for the non-basketball players will not suddenly become brighter as reality hits surprisingly hard.

As a matter of fact, the unemployment rate and foreclosures continue to rise while the average American remains struggling in an economy that (on the surface) appears to be inconsistent with the disbursement of services.  So, what do we do?  For some, temporary relief will be found in front of their television set or at the arena screaming at the refs for unfair calls.  For others, this sport called basketball simply reinforces the idea of an unfair marketplace.  Let me break it down for a second, how can our world justify paying huge sums of money to sports athletes while close to 9% of our workforce is unemployed? 

Hey, I am an Orlando Magic fan and did a bit of screaming last night as well.  My intent with today’s submission is not to become philosophical and ask for radical change.  I am simply bringing a point of reference to the surface and asking the question “what is fair?”

True enough, there is value (an emotional/psychological catharsis if you will) in sports and no doubt we all need to find ways to release tension—I’m asking is there may be a better way to invest the millions of dollars than handing the money over to young adults, wealthy owners, and greedy vendors.  Think about an alternative for a second, what type of redevelopment programs would be supported if we reined in on the craziness of sports?  Take a look around your community; do you have any ideas where you would invest millions of dollars?  Perhaps there are ways this money would make your area more economically stable (and not just for one or two groups—for the community as a whole).

I checked out Orlando’s Workforce program recently.  Without argument, additional funds are needed (and I am not talking about a ton) for career guidebooks, support material, additional training, more employees, and extra resources which will in turn increase the marketability of those not properly prepared to market themselves.  I got it, this spending is not glamorous.  After all, who wants to go to a building where there are no banners, no lights, no dancers, and no television contracts?  Then again, perhaps our politicians are doing the right thing by supporting sports franchises?  Where else can one go to purchase a $6 hot dog?  At this price, no doubt someone is expanding their career aspirations—but at what cost and who is paying the price!  Leading me to the question, what does your city do for the unemployed, the struggling, the poor community, and the people who need support the most?  Bringing me to the next story…

Several weekends ago, while on the way to the farmers market, I went to an open house as I like to dream and see how the other world lives.  The neighborhood was beautiful.  The house was huge.  The neighbor was Dwight Howard.  The price was $5.5 million.  The pinch hurt!

So here I remain, back to reality and reality tells me I don’t want a $5.5-million dollar house.  I don’t want a famous neighbor.  I want our city, our state, and our nation to begin prioritizing where money is invested.  Schools are closing at a crazy rate.  Teachers losing jobs and our students are losing out.  I suggest that career management and career preparation be an investment made TODAY, creating an environment of shared responsibility and personal pride.

Then again, I could be a blind politician and forget about the whole community career thing and go to game four of the NBA finals…after all, nothing Kobe Bryant can’t break that Dwight can’t fix! 

On this note and my new desire to be amongst the crowd, if you have a couple tickets and can’t make it to the game tomorrow night, let me know.  I need an emotional release and yelling just may be the way!  One more thing, Dwight, you do have one beautiful house!

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

June 9, 2009

Mentoring, George!? Come on!

Filed under: Career Development — EducationCS @ 8:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

seinfeld46Maybe you missed the episode of Seinfeld devoted to mocking mentoring.  If so, it was funny.  Not an accurate portrayal of mentoring, of course, but funny.

Mentoring can be a formal process within a company, but it’s not limited to that, and with the Internet, mentors don’t even have to know they’re mentoring!  At its heart, mentoring is an effective way of transferring industry/corporate/executive knowledge where a junior employee can observe and question a senior employee.  Eyes-on help, certainly, but it’s the interaction that is priceless.  With such services as LinkedIn and Facebook, mentoring can be an informal, virtual experience.

We’ve talked about building networks to find employment; it also serves as a treasure trove for learning.  Simply post a question and numerous altruistic executives will answer.  You may get conflicting views, which is a great way to build a comprehensive picture.

This blog is just such an opportunity.  We get hundreds of hits a week with almost no questions.  ASK!  It’s free, and the beginning of a magnificent professional practice — looking to people further along the path than you are is the best way to catch up. 

Or you can take the Seinfeld approach and ask George, Elaine, or heaven-forbid, Kramer or Newman.  Your peer group may have solid information; your elders almost certainly do.  Check them out!

Rob Swanson

Managing Writer

Career Services International – www.careersi.com

Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

June 6, 2009

Cover Letter Perfect

Several days ago I was asked the following: “With so many sites and people offering advice, how does one write the perfect cove letter?

June 05_2009Being a career coach and professional writer, I receive questions of this nature often.  I’ll be the first to tell you, there is no such thing as a “perfect cover letter.”  When creating a cover letter (and resume) considerations must be taken into account, including your knowledge, skills, and abilities for a particular position.  Thus far, I’m not being specific, and there is reason.

Cover letter content is subjective and varies from individual to individual as well as from industry to industry.  As a result, I recommend you take a fluid approach to cover letter fundamentals and gather information from outside sources but do not be tied by it.  When I write for students through executive professionals, my goal is to use data triangulation and fuse client knowledge and practice into one impactful strategy.  In this way, cover letter subjectivity is replaced by an objective approach.

To bring it home, according to leading career management associations, effective cover letters must satisfy the following core fundamental rules:

Structural integrity: The typical cover letter consists of three or four paragraphs:

  • First paragraph briefly introduces a target and immediate value you offer.  This is the time to construct a foundation of your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments.
    • Second and third paragraph supports your foundation from the previous paragraph.  This is the time to prove you are the right candidate at minimal risk.  At this stage, the reader is not looking for what you “say” but what you “show.”  Numbers and accomplishments are critical as the adage “past performance predicts future performance” rules everything else.  As a result, many recommend the use of bullets (3 to 5) to draw the reader’s eye.
    • Final paragraph is your call to action.  Consider this the last round of a heavyweight match and the score is tied.  Suggest action and always follow up on it.
  • Solid perfection: Cover letters (as all documents) must be flawless and original:
    • Designed not from a generic template.  The mere design “tells” a great deal about the strategic vision and character of the author.
    • Formatted for reader-friendliness.  There should be plenty of white space to prove your ability to create an organized and efficient document.  If fonts or margins are too small or large, the message you are sending may not be in your favor.
    • Grammatically perfect.  Simply put, there can be no errors.  One error “tells” the reader you are sloppy, not careful, and/or satisfied with less than excellence.

 Your cover letter is not just an introduction; it is the written vehicle lifting you above the crowd and bridging your career dreams to reality.  Unfortunately, you may run across individuals and/or firms who take advantage of cover letter conflict.  So be careful and if you decide assistance is required, place yourself in the reader’s position and examine the finished product with an objective mind.  In any situation, trust yourself in knowing the elements of what makes YOUR perfect cover letter and follow the practice of the top two bullets. 

 I recently published my ninth book dealing with career management issues.  My latest, Resumes & Cover Letters: Writing to Stand Out, goes into great depth with today’s question.  I appreciate the opportunity to bring my research and experience into this question.

 Definitely let me know if YOU have any questions or would like to comment on today’s blog.

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

June 5, 2009

Diagnosing Your Job Search Problem Areas—Part 3b – Overcoming!

red-crossHow do you do it?  While I’m not old fashioned when it comes to résumé formats, I think old school techniques have a lot to offer in targeting strategy…especially since such a small percentage of job seekers are using them.  Here are a few techniques:

 *  Who do you want to work for?  Rather than papering the online world with résumés trying to fit everyone else’s description, take back the control and think about what types of companies fit your criteria.  Create a list and develop a strategy for getting to each one. 

Network, network, network.  Your most valuable resources are the people you know.  Who can recommend you…and who do they know?  Can you play “six degrees of separation” to make contact within your target companies?  If your network could use work, try industry events, community organizations, etc. to broaden your base.  

Direct is best.  If you can’t network you way into the company, you can always send your information directly.  First, do some research.  Identify the individual who would be your boss.  Then send a personalized package by mail to this individual.  Email runs into spam blockers and easy deletion; the personal touch of paper still means a lot. 

What are you asking for?  Most people’s immediate response is “A job, duh!”  (Cue annoying buzzer sound.)  Sure, you can send your résumé and hope it doesn’t get sent to HR.  Or you can send a letter intended to open a dialogue.  Entry-level candidates, for example, might ask for advice about pursuing a career in the industry.  Many higher-ups are more than willing to guide new graduates, and such a conversation gives you an opportunity to make an impression.  When a job comes open, guess who is already in the door.

Use the boards wisely.  I’d never recommend abandoning any strategy, even job boards.  Allocate your time more constructively, however, by conducting highly targeted searches for positions that truly fit your abilities and background.  Then, maximize your chances by creating a customized submission for each posting you respond to. 

Final Polish

The approaches recommended here require more interpersonal skill than online-only strategies, so you’ll want to practice your pitch.  Start by creating a brief statement describing your value to an employer.  Often referred to as an “elevator speech” because it should take no longer to give than a short elevator ride (should you be so lucky as to get those 20 seconds alone with your target), this pitch is strongest when it’s something only you could say. 

 Don’t waste your limited time talking about what a nice person and hard worker you are.  What will really make you stand out?  You may need a counselor or coach to help you arrive at the most powerful summation, but it’s well worth the time, as these couple of sentences will be key in your networking, your direct contact attempts, and you’re your interviews. 

We’ll have more about interpersonal skills for various stages of the process in our next post.  Stay tuned.

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Career Services International – www.careersi.com

Education Career Services – www.eduationcs.com

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