Education Career Services

June 15, 2010

Social Media Intoxication: enough all ready!

I finally have a few minutes to reflect about the day and how to maneuver along this crazy highway called electronic social networking. Problem is, the only thing I can think of is: I need to check my LinkedIn, Twitter, Face Book, and five other accounts just in case…

There are benefits of networking but where is the point of diminishing return? Or is there such a concept in this arena?

How much time and energy do you spend texting, twitting, linking, and face booking? If we accumulated the amount of time spent (or should I have said wasted) peering into monitors and punching keys over a full week period, do you think the minutes (okay, I should have said hours) would be staggering and perhaps eye-popping? Being a rookie with such technology, I averaged the following throughout a full week:

* LinkedIn, logged in on the hour and spent an average of eight minutes on the site each time
* Responded to three peer questions on LinkedIn (total time spent for each ten minutes)
* Twitted and read those twitting articles several times a day (I am not a huge Twitterer so my time was limited to personal knowledge—no doubt many out there spend hours Twitting each day)
* Face Book was checked and browsed four to five times daily
* Blogging took a great deal of time over the week; with three active blogs to keep up, I seem to be running in a circle

Add daily interruptions and now I must ask, how does any real work get done? Running several publishing, writing, and human capital firms is a full-time (70 hour week) job—heck, no wonder my hair is sprouting more salt and less pepper! Maybe it’s time to kick back and rethink what we do during the day?

Is the social/media craze worth the sacrifice? At what point is enough too much and at what point are we walking around with our eyes glued to a networking device—never looking up to see if the sky is falling or if there even was a sky?

I don’t know how far this networking evolution will take civilization but I am beginning to worry about the negative effects of social media intoxication. Thus far, I’ve had the pleasure to see the following:

* Employees forgetting to work but not forgetting to network
* Students texting instead of taking notes / while an instructor I disallowed laptops, phones, and any other electronic medium in the classroom
* Less original work being performed and being submitted (or was I imagining)
* Family members not connecting face to face, even at restaurants while sitting at the same table (go figure)
* Drivers texting while operating their vehicle
* An over all decrease of interviewing and real social skills

Don’t know about you but I believe social media networking does have a darker side associated with it. For starters, think I’ll limit the time spent on electronic toys and insist those sitting at the dinner table with me pay more attention to the people sitting at the table. Perhaps each day enjoy simplicity, noise-free simplicity…

So what if I miss a Tweet or am not the first to see a photo on Face Book… does it really matter?

dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services/Career Services International
dhuffman@careersi.com

June 9, 2010

Interviewing: Be a Tiger, NOT a lamb

Finally… it took months to get one and nothing is going to stop me from making the right impression and landing a job offer (or at least making it to the next interview round). Securing an interview appointment is only half the battle – actually, getting the interview is only the beginning.

Over the past few days, I had the luxury of interviewing five candidates. The following summarizes the high points and a couple low points:

Thumbs Up:

* All five entered the reception area in a timely and professional manner
* All five dress professionally and fit the part, clothes tight and holding an eager and smiling face
* All five engaged in a “conversational” style during the interview (as opposed to being stiff or rigid – for the record, I prefer a relaxed discussion – one not predetermined and overly practiced)
* All five offered a firm hand shake upon initial greeting and departure
* All five could do the job

From the surface, it is a neck to neck rating.

Thumbs Shaking:

* None of the five have sent a thank you follow up (I prefer snail mail [yet did not even receive an email or a phone call] showcasing a bit of personality, innovation, attention to our conversation, and sincere interest)
* None of the five appeared to perform due diligence regarding pre-interview company research (I am only guessing here but as no one shared an in-depth knowledge of what we do and how we do it, I can only conclude based upon the premises provided)

With no clear-cut candidate advantage, what do you recommend I do? Having all return for a second interview would probably result in the same result. As a hiring agent, I want someone to step up to the plate and force me to recognize him/her as the one. Guess I will just keep interviewing, checking the mail, and hoping someone will rise above the complacency…

What does this mean for you? From the student to the entry-level first-time employee to the seasoned professional, interviews (if you are lucky enough to get one) are YOUR time to shine. The concept is simple:

Interview Shining Requires:

* Making sure you hit all points on the thumbs up category
* Perform due diligence prior to the interview; this means researching the company, what they do, how they do it, and what you bring which will add/contribute to the success of the company
* Send a thank you/follow up letter if you remain interested in the position immediately after the interview. Take it from me, a typical employer, sometimes the little things can make a huge difference

Getting that initial interview is only the beginning. Prove your value AND reinforce your contributions and interest. I have five good candidates treading, all I want now is a reason to believe one of them wants the job as much as I want to hire him/her… what else can I do?

dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services/Career Services International
dhuffman@careersi.com

June 4, 2010

Mix at your own risk!

By Kimberly Sarmiento, CPRW
Career Services International

Today’s job seekers are advised that social media sites and on-line networking are valuable tools for professional advancement.  But much like a poorly written cover letter or résumé can do more harm than good, a badly managed on-line presence can hurt you professionally.  How do you optimize your chances at success in the new virtual business world?

First of all, blend the social you and the professional you with great caution.  LinkedIn now features sections where you can link your Facebook and Twitter account to your profile.  While many seem to think this is a great way to show your personality to a potential employer, I would advice against connecting your LinkedIn profile to a site you use to express yourself freely

Even if you don’t have drunken debauchery filled weekends where pictures of you could arise, there are plenty of thoughts, comments, and interests your boss does not need to know about you.  If you want to keep these spaces free for your personal expression, do not connect them to a professional site. 

You should also be aware that even if you do not connect your Facebook or MySpace account to your LinkedIn profile, your employer could still search for you.  Therefore, you should check your privacy settings.  While your LinkedIn settings should be set for the most open access, your personal websites should not.  Make sure whatever an employer can access when they search for your name will depict you in a professional, positive light.  

One suggestion to mitigate these concerns might be to create a second Facebook or MySpace account for professional, semi-casual contacts.  If that is the case, manage your friends list well and make sure no one on it would tag you in a Spring Break photo from 1988 that you swore you burned the negatives of years ago.

When it comes to connecting a Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile, make sure your tweets are professional and well, very non-confrontational.  If it isn’t proper to discuss a topic at your office, it probably isn’t a good idea to tweet about it

You probably already realize it’s a bad idea to tweet about the hot waitress serving you lunch.  But also know you might want to avoid tweeting about strong dislike of people who belong to certain religious or political affiliations or your opinion about controversial subjects.  Yes, this is the land of free speech but that doesn’t mean speech is consequence free.  While your employer can’t really fire you for having an opinion he or she disagrees with, there are many grey areas of employment and promotions where revealing your belief that marijuana and prostitution should be legalized might not favor you.

Finally, realize that any tweeting, blogging, or general commenting you do about your company on-line could violate company policies.  Make sure you are not giving your employer legitimate grounds for dismissing you by reviewing your company handbook.  When in doubt, leave out numbers, specifics, or any other information which could be considered confidential.

While the digital age is fantastic, one thing old fashion forms of communication afforded you was the chance to think twice.  You might write the letter – but you had the chance to throw it away before you mailed it!  Remember that what you put on-line in an instant can be accessed by the wrong person before you have the opportunity to remove it

By constantly considering what you put on the Internet from the point of view of a hiring authority, you can make your on-line presence a boost to your career rather than a stumbling block.

Thanks Kimberly

Dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services/Career Services International
dhuffman@careersi.com

June 1, 2010

Resume Language: Grammar, Consistency, and Point of View

Although the rules of grammar, such as parallel sentence structure, consistency, and punctuation, do apply, the statements we create for resumes are somewhat fragments in bullet or paragraph form simply because we eliminate the pronouns (he/she, you, we).  However, this doesn’t mean correct grammar in any other sense of the word should be absent.  Above all things (along with accuracy), grammar adds to the professionalism of any document. 

What would you be more inclined to read—a document filled with glaring errors or a document that reads smoothly?  Keep in mind that people who read resumes on a daily basis, such as human resources professionals, hiring managers, and executives, probably see a whirlwind of poorly-written documents one right after the other.  And although applicants may not be writers by profession, they are expected to know and apply basic rules.  Otherwise, that resume is at risk of automatically going into the “no” pile.

When creating a resume, always keep your target readers in mind.  Are these people going to be able to read this without tripping over ideas or punctuation?  Are they going to understand what I meant to say there?  Because resume writing differs from most other types of writing, we need to make sure it is clear and concise (without being overwhelmingly choppy).  For instance:

Option 1
                * Responsible for the automation department and a $100M budget; led 45 personnel in system testing and verification; managed relationships with vendors.

Option 2
                * Oversaw automation department, controlling $100M budget, leading 45-person team in system testing and verification, and managing vendor relationships.

They both say the exact same thing, but Option 2 lets the reader flow with the sentence as opposed to stopping at every semicolon and also connects ideas/responsibilities in one sentence.  The use of the comma after “department” and before “controlling” connects the second part of the sentence to the main idea, which is overseeing the automation department. 

According to the Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW), the use of either third-person or first-person is fine as long as it is consistent throughout the document.  Why eliminate these words?  Again, it enables the reader to flow with the document as opposed to feeling like they are reading a biography or letter.  Since they are more concerned about the value they can get from the applicant, they need something they can skim through.  Being consistent is important because the omission of pronouns can confuse the reader if it suddenly switches from first- to third-person.   Using Option 1 from above: “[I was/he was] responsible for the automation department and a $100M budget; [I/he] led 45 personnel in system testing and verification; [I/he] managed vendor relationships.”  Although they both work in this instance, it does not always.  As an example:

First-person: [I am a]Senior Executive offering world-class experience in sales, business development, partnership building, and operations leadership.  [I] Create strategies to reach target consumers while expanding profitability through product development improvements. 

Third-person: [He is a] Senior Executive offering world-class experience in sales, business development, partnership building, and operations leadership.  [He] Creates strategies to reach target consumers while expanding profitability though product development improvements.

Generally, the third-person approach is more commonly used and has its advantages in terms of easier readability for your target audience.  Consistency in all areas of your resume is vital, including spelling, capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and font, because you don’t want to confuse readers.  The only questions you want them to ask are, Could you provide me with more information? or When are you available for an interview?

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Head Writer – Career Services International

May 28, 2010

What did you say?

I was sitting in the lunch room, minding my own business when one of my employees decided to make an entrance. The first thing out of his lips was how anxious he was for the weekend. Granted, this weekend is a three-day event for many (though not for me or my writing staff) so I can appreciate his zealous expression. Unfortunately, I don’t think it career sound to talk to the person signing the paycheck that his mind, heart, and soul are two days from now (and work).

As a result, I began to wonder what other inappropriate things are stated to bosses (or fellow employees within earshot of their boss) without realizing the consequences.  With this, I began a quick list and welcome your input beefing it up (think of the children).

Here you go, my “what did you say” list follows:

* I can’t believe the wild night last night, I got so wasted I can hardly function with this splitting head ache (how many times have you made such statements on a Monday? I’ve heard this several times and in several ways)

* I checked salary.com and I think we need to have a chat later this afternoon (as an employer, I hate it when this happens as each company is different—as are employees)

* Just got my period and have the worst PMS

* does anyone have any visine?

* Hope I don’t have to do a drug test today

* (when speaking to a peer at the next cubicle) Hey, check out this job on Monster.com

* Let’s shut down as it’s 15 minutes before quitting time and it takes 15 minutes to get ready to leave

* I was not late… I was sitting in the parking lot for the last ten minutes so I was technically here

No doubt you can think of many more and perhaps “accidently” said too much at times at the workplace. My words of advice: put yourself in your employers shoes… think about what you say BEFORE you say it.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International, www.careersi.com
Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

May 25, 2010

Using Internships to Beef-Up Student Résumés

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 9:27 pm
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By Jenna Rew

Internships are vital for any college career, providing the meat to a sparse résumé in order to help propel you into the ever-changing job market. Don’t skip out on them; in this economy, they may be the deciding factor between you and an equally well-educated individual. Take part in as many as you can and if possible go for those that span more than a single semester.

Why risk having fewer internships for a longer running one? When transferring your list of experience to a résumé as applicable job experience, you want to show commitment and minimize the appearance of “job hopping”. Further, longer internships give you more opportunities to soak up information and show valuable initiative in an environment that might otherwise be too fast paced for any real contribution from you.

Typically, internships spanning only one semester last just long enough for you to learn how the position works and what you are responsible for but it doesn’t always lend itself to showing your real value, which could result in some very lack luster references. Look for those that are notorious for giving students real work and not just dumping clerical work on a desk, and try to build lasting relationships that could serve you later. If you can’t find a long spanning internship, then look for ways to squeeze out as much potential as possible from a shorter one. Work at home, do your research, talk to colleagues, and listen to conversations.

Always remember as you work, you are trying to build a résumé strong enough to land you a job. Consider what tools are most valuable in the industry you want to work in and look for internships that cater to those. Ask questions of your supervisors and don’t be afraid to volunteer for things that will give you more opportunities to show-off your skills.

When transferring these skills and experiences to a résumé you want to think in terms of numbers. What was the size of the project you helped with? How much money was at stake? How big was the company? For students, sometimes the prestige of the place you intern at can add value to your portfolio. How did you contribute?

Companies don’t care about your job duties; they know what the position they are hiring for does. They want to know what you bring to the table. If you know how to use some particular technical program, include that. If you worked on something difficult or unique, include that. Try to set yourself apart from your fellow entry-level job seekers, because they all need the job equally as bad.

After each internship, don’t be shy to ask if it is okay to list your supervisor as a reference on a job application, or better yet, to ask them to contribute a quote about your abilities for your résumé. Quotes are vital tools, especially for students. They help provide backing to claims that are non-quantifiable. As students, you probably aren’t going to be able to say you boosted sales 400% or reclaimed $30M in lost revenue. You just don’t have the experience, but you can show that prior employers value you and your ability to adapt to given situations.

Remember, this is your career. Do something you are passionate about and use your internships to make sure you are qualified to land your dream job. Don’t put off until tomorrow something you could do today. You don’t want to be that graduate who has to work an internship for free before getting a job because you just didn’t take the time to do it beforehand.

Thanks Jenna, we all appreciate your input and career management tips,

DHuffman,
education career services
career services international

May 20, 2010

Infiltrating the System: The First Week on the Job

By Jenna Rew

Landing a job is the first and most common hurdle in any professional career, and in today’s economy it is paramount that you nail the interview process, win them over with your incredible charm, and amaze them with your excellent skill set. Whether you’re fresh out of college or looking to revamp your job choice, once you make it in the door it’s all about surviving that first week and keeping your newly-found cash flow from running dry.

According to the employment situation summary released on May 7 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15.3 million people were still unemployed with the number of reentrants into the labor force crouching down at around 195,000 in April, meaning there are literally thousands of people to compete with in any given field who both want and need a job, so once you land one, it’s important to keep it.

Every work environment has its own personality.

During that first week on the job, you are bound to find out what it is. My advice: adapt to it. Try to avoid confrontations at all costs and take all criticism with a grain of salt and a smile. Every one has something to learn when they enter a new work environment, even if it’s in a career they have enjoyed for decades.

Every company is different and it’s important to listen to what your co-workers and superiors have to say and try to implement those things into the work you’re doing. It makes you a better employee and puts you on the right track to completing the dreadful probationary period.

To be honest there isn’t much to do on the first week of the job. It’s okay, you’ll notice as the week goes on that you have more to do, but in the mean time, look for things to further your knowledge. Ask questions of your co-workers and read through any manuals you can find. It can be a lot of reading but it will help you later on. You can ask for practice or for one-on-one feedback, but do your best to show that you are excited about the job and ready to begin contributing to the well-being of your new employer. Try to be receptive and perform to the best of your ability. Cement for them the reasons they hired you and you’ll be on your way to a happy and healthy new work environment.

Thank you Jenna, you are a valuable addition to our team,

dhuffman

May 18, 2010

Interview over? What now?

Do thank you notes yield job offers? No, but they help by giving you another chance to sell yourself and show proper social skills at the same time.

Any form of communication with a possible employer can be your marketing tool. With this in mind, use your best sales skills, but don’t be too pushy. Stress that since learning more about the company and the position, you realize what a good fit you are and, having thought about this, you want to add some past achievements (or educational accomplishments) relevant to the job. Reemphasize your skills, mention any information you forgot during the original interview that will be impressive to the employer.

Keep in mind this is a thank you letter; that is the excuse for writing. It can be typed in a business letter format or handwritten using a pre-printed thank you note or professional looking stationary.  The letter should express your appreciation for the opportunity to interview and learn more about the position.

Some things you might want to include are:

* The day of your interview and the job for which you applied.
* Your continued interest in the position and the company.
* Your skills and qualifications and how you will contribute to the organization.

Be creative, the letter must be unique, not generic. It has to be flawless.

Write this letter as soon as possible after the interview. The employer should receive it within 48 hours, maximum. Obviously, the fastest way is to send it to him or her by email if you have their address. Don’t stop there; send a hard copy via regular mail as a follow up. That way you can be certain they receive some form of courtesy and, it will show you pay extra attention to details.

To further assist you, take a look at five tips helping you write your thank-you note:

1. Have a friend proofread your letters for misspellings and grammar errors.
2. Keep it short. All you need is a few sentences
3. Thank everyone who interviewed you. If you met with more than one person at a company, send a letter to each and vary the content.
4. Reiterate your interest in, and qualifications for the job.
5. Include the best way to reach you, even if you think the interviewer knows it. Sign off by asking about the next step.

Placing yourself above the competition takes diligence and action. Employers want you to be the perfect fit… do you think its fun to interview people? Take it from me (I’ve interviewed hundreds), I dislike the whole process and truly hope the next person walking through the front door is the person for the job… and that person could be you!

dhuffman

May 13, 2010

Bigger, Faster, Stronger on the Job Market

By: Leslee Remsburg, CPRW

Many job seekers today believe they are struggling to get noticed by potential employers due to gaps in work history or lack of advanced education degrees.   Just last week, I had two interesting conversations with job seekers needing major résumé overhauls to mask these red flags. 

These days, there is no shortcoming of applicants with lapses in employment – which puts many job seekers in the same boat.  And demonstrating real world experience and success can certainly make up for not having a college or graduate-level degree. 

Having the best résumé means having the most strategic résumé, and to do that means showing potential employers how well you adapt and effect positive change in your work environments.  Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory is not just about the physical assets of being bigger, faster, and stronger.  It is, more importantly, about being able to succeed in your environment, whatever that may be, and it takes more than strong arms to do so.

One of the conversations I had last week was with a man we’ll call Bill.  Bill has a four-year degree and 10+ years experience overseeing IT operations for large multinational companies.  Bill’s biggest concern was that he had been out of work since 2008 when he left his job to take care of sick family members and sort out their affairs.  He explained to me that he had documented carefully in his cover letter (yes, he was sending this out to potential employers) the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded his recent abandonment from the working world.

Personal experiences such as this do not need to be explained in an introductory letter; rather, a brief statement on the resume no more than eight words would suffice.  Leaving these details on a cover letter would likely halt the reader from moving on to an accompanying résumé to save probable time wasted on unhelpful details.  What do I mean? Focusing on what valuable contributions you have made and are ready to make are always more important.  Employers want to see you can save them time and money- that’s it!

I also spoke with a woman last week we’ll call Sally.  Sally would like a management position since she has been in “senior” roles, tasked to identify problem areas within her department and given opportunities to implement improvements.  Her selling point, she told me, was that she was earning not one, but three advanced degrees online in her spare time.  Of course, Sally thought this would improve her chances of obtaining an interview based on her résumé qualifications but she didn’t quite think through this one.

Sally is on her way to obtaining graduate degrees in business administration, geography, and law.  What an interesting mix… it’s like taking all the leftovers in the fridge to make an unappetizing casserole.  It’s not valuable to have multiple, disparate online degrees.  Pulling out the good stuff from Sally (real contributions she has made that have positively impacted her employers) was like pulling teeth- but it will mean more on paper and in an interview.

If you want to get noticed by your current or a potential employer, show them how well and how quickly you can adapt and become a productive part of their team.

May 10, 2010

Interview Blunder: Out the Window

Over the past month, I have been searching for a writer to join our company. I had our department manager, Ziggy, place a few job postings in various sources. As of late we have been using Craig’s List to find potential candidates (not the best medium to find quality talent but it’s cheap—I tell you this so you do not miss out on any potential employment postings during your search).  After a few weeks, the field of call-backs was reduced from 25 to 4.

We called several to come in to interview, and I won’t bore you with too many details… let it suffice you to know that Ziggy felt all four could do the job well; thus, it was down to “intangibles” to differentiate.  As the four appeared equal on paper, how was the decision to be made? To reinforce what you should do in an interview setting, here’s a quick sample of the things the candidates did which were positive:

* All four candidates showed up ten minutes early (perfect timing)
* All four candidates dressed professionally
* All four candidates engaged in proper pre-interview/company research
* All four candidates asked the right questions

Enough of the positive things for now; let’s get into the gray area:

* Two candidates did NOT send thank you e-mail notes
* Three candidates did NOT send a hard copy thank you letter (a nice touch ignored)

Well, now we have a few items to consider. Here’s the kicker and perhaps I should not be telling you this but I believe the following incident swayed my decision NOT to ask for one of the candidates to return for a second interview.

Blunder: OUT THE WINDOW!

Given the opportunity and time, I make quick trips to the neighborhood bank. On this day we had a deposit to make and I took the trip. An interview was scheduled for 20 minutes into the future so had to hurry on my return. Upon my return, I happened to get behind a well-kept vehicle going the same direction as my office. I followed the mile and both turned right (I used my turning light—the car in front did not). As we neared the front the office, a young lady, driving solo, rolled her window down and flicked a slightly smoked cigarette onto pavement.

Too many, this act of littering would go unnoticed, but I happen to believe trash in my front yard is a blunder which should go noticed. The candidate opened her car door, intentionally missed stepping on the smoking stick, walked 25 feet, and entered our glass door. Moments later I was informed of her presence.

Over the next 30 minutes we talked about how her knowledge, skills, and abilities would contribute to our goals. It was a fine interview, her answers were perfect and, as a recent graduate from UCF, I felt she would fit the dynamics well. Unfortunately all I could see was a total disregard to my front yard; she littered and I could not get past the fact (plus the scent of too much perfume in an attempt to cover the smell of smoke). Needless to say, the field of candidates dropped from four to three.

Lesson of the day: For those preparing and going into an interview, the interview begins BEFORE the actual scheduled time. If you smoke or snack, don’t litter; as a matter of fact, I strongly suggest that if you smoke, do not smoke an hour (or longer) before you dress for the interview. For non-smokers, the smell is obvious and can be a turn off. Just saying…

The employment market is too tight to lose on a flickering butt. Keep your window up and your smile on.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International, www.careersi.com
Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

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