Education Career Services

April 23, 2010

Informational Interview: Beyond the Receptionist

The person with the power in many companies is the receptionist (aka gatekeeper). This individual often protects the executive or hiring manager from unwanted interruptions and possesses an expertise at screening calls. They control whether or not you will get through to your desired contact in a company where you are seeking employment.  

You have to get past the gatekeeper to reach the hiring executives.

If the gatekeeper will not connect you with your target, go the passive approach and begin your networking with him or her. Don’t try flattery or kissing-up; these people are professionals and will see through your con artist act.  One of the purposes of making this initial contact is to gain information about the company, opportunities, expectations, etc.

During your initial contact, do NOT let them know you are not looking for a job. Worthy of a repeat, this is an informational meeting in which you are looking for unadvertised or future opportunities, which are not found within HR (thus, the reason you do not want to be sent to a vacuum of voice messages within the HR department.

Ask the receptionist questions you’d raise with the executive you are trying to contact.  Keep these to inquiries about the company and/or department as opposed to asking about the person you want to pursue.  Your purpose is to learn as much as possible about any available, unadvertised positions within the corporation and learn about the culture of the workplace. Asking for personal information about your target contact is unprofessional and serves no purpose.  It will also get you cut off and put on the do-not-call list.

After networking with the gatekeeper, ask who else they think you should talk with in the company.  Many times, the gatekeeper may be impressed enough to put you through to the contact rather than pass you on to someone else.  Occasionally, they will give you another connection in the company, at which point, you will take advantage of this as a “lateral pass”.  Use the gatekeeper’s name when introducing yourself to the next contact (e.g., “Ms. Brown in Mr. Black’s office told me to contact Mr. Green”).

Always be polite and show respect.  You never know who the gatekeeper really is and how much influence they have with the powers that be.

Ultimately, do not become discouraged as statistics indicate it will take 100 calls to receive 3 positive leads. Through hard work, perseverance, and diligence, success is sure to follow.

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

April 16, 2010

Career Global: Educational Support Required

Is the United States prepared to go career-global? Are our colleges and universities training student’s international perspectives? What about cultural sensitivities and cultural semantics? Is the United States taking a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach when it comes to leading beyond borders? Being a former instructor and dean at a small college, I refuse to answer the above questions as many will not like the answer (especially any politicians scanning this post).

Promises aside, government and the year-old administration must accept and resolve educational complacency by supporting institutions of higher learning. Only an aggressive approach and infusion of capital will create a long-term resolution to our recession, economic and intellectual.  The world is global and the manner in which we guide leaders of tomorrow must support that philosophy… unless we, as a people and country, accept second-nature status.

Are you ready to be a second-place loser?

Will our government, specifically going out to the big man in Washington, address the issues of career management on a grand scale or will educational budget freezes ruin progressive thinking?  If the past year is the trend of the future, first place may not be an option.

Political accountability can not be placed on hold any longer. On a side note, can you pass the tea?

President Obama, give our children and young adults the opportunity to better themselves and, in return, improve the United States standing in the world. Now is the time to invest in our future. Now is the time to invest in education and career management! Bailing super-sized and corrupt corporations sends a message… and not a very nice one. Students and the working class of America require faith regained.  

Educational and Career management policy and implementation are long-lasting solutions where benefits are built upon a foundation of progression, not complacency. Strapping students and those wishing to promote themselves is not an option we can afford.

The talk, rhetoric, and promises may have been fine for yesterday and throughout last year, but not today. Time for talk, rhetoric, and promises is over, Career global and educational support must be on the forefront of government investment.

Promises built the last presidential campaign; now it is time for delivery.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC, author, educator, and co-owner of Career Services International and Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com.  He may be reached directly at dhuffman@careersi.com.

March 3, 2010

It’s an Upgrade Job Market

The rules have changed in today’s job market.  Companies once retaining “B” performers no longer can afford the financial burden.  In today’s market, the cost of under-performance, and the fat needing to be trimmed in order to survive, is no longer an affordable indulgence.

Over the last 90 days, 3 out of 4 professionals securing a position replaced someone under-performing.  Holding these numbers for next 90 days, your resume must be written as a solution based document, not as a responsibilities driven timeline, two very different approaches offering two very different results.  Using work history as the primary story telling medium, you create a boring and passé “selling instrument.”  It may be a traditional document, but there is nothing traditional about today’s market.

Top “A” performers uncover company problems.  Top “A” performers become the solution.  By identifying difficulties and designing your value as the solution to their problem, you create an effective marketing tool.

Adding constraints to a time-sensitive culture, job seekers present contributions to decision makers who are, more often than not, not actively looking for you.  As a result, you must hit fast and hard – every word on your resume counts.

Writing your own resume is unwise.  After all, there’s a tendency to come across in a responsibility driven format.  For maximum impact, a solutions based document needs to be concise and results driven.  Ask yourself the following and acknowledge how an employer would find value in your written response:

  1. What are the common challenges facing the industries you are targeting?
  2. How have you contributed to solving those problems?
  3. What are your top five accomplishments?  Quantify them in numbers, dollars, percentages, time-savings etc…
  4. What is the largest project/deal/sale/feat you’ve worked on (speak to whatever is appropriate to describe the merits of your expertise)?
  5. Have you been involved in the turnaround of a company, division, program, or project? Describe in a three line maximum statement.
  6. Why would a decision maker want to spend ten minutes talking to you?  Develop a verbal message to further describe action statements from your resume.
  7. Does your marketing material reflect an “A” or “B” performer?  How?

When developing key statements, detail the issue(s), what action plan(s) you developed and/or implemented, and the result(s)?

After a benefit driven marketing resume is constructed, it’s time to get in front of the right person within the organizations who will benefit from your contributions.  The “A” performer does not look for job openings.  The “A” performer pursues challenges and opportunities, never settling.  The “B” performer waits on the sidelines, settling for status quo. 

Are you an “A” performer or a “B” performer? 

Submitted by Rob Swanson, fellow certified writer and manager at Career Services International.

February 22, 2010

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Digital Networking & Search Engines

The following was submitted by one of our very own professionally certified writers, Sigmarie Soto:

Just as you take advantage of Internet resources to research companies and find job opportunities, potential employers use them to get more background information on candidates.  With tools, such as LinkedIn and maybe even Facebook, you have the opportunity to showcase your professional side.  What happened the last time you “Googled” your name?  Hopefully, public links to embarrassing pictures of you on MySpace or Facebook weren’t first to come up. 

Believe it or not, potential employers will look for these types of links to get an idea of the type of person, socially, they are considering hiring.  What’s important is to keep it professional. 

So, is the use of photos on LinkedIn professional or not?  Although LinkedIn is a large and global professional networking site, it didn’t allow users to post photos until 2007 in an effort to separate themselves from other sites.  Based on popular demand, they allow users to post one small photo.  In the professional world, it is not advisable to include your picture on a résumé.  However, your online profile is a different story because it is your virtual identity and connection to a vast amount of contacts that aren’t necessarily available face-to-face. 

Chances are that if a potential employer picks up your résumé and is interested in what they read, they won’t automatically be worried about what you look like.  If they happen to do a search on your name, they are looking for things that are connected to you.  It is not to say that hiring decision-makers should decide whether a candidate is “qualified” based on their looks, but simply sometimes putting a face to the name can help prior to an interview.  This is true, also, for instances when you go to job fairs or professional networking events.  Ultimately, sometimes people can remember a face more than they can remember a name.

Time for a cliché—a picture is worth a thousand words.

If you are inclined to use pictures, be careful what types of pictures they are.  Pictures, as a first impression or refresher, can ultimately play against you if showing too much age or not enough age.  I’m not talking glamour shots, but a plain, professional solo face shot would suffice.  Show some personality, but not in an overwhelming way.  Avoid posting pictures of you and one or more people, and avoid using pictures that are small, especially on LinkedIn. 

Public profiles can also prove detrimental if the information you share is unprofessional or vulgar.  Keep your social networking profiles private and be careful who is in your network.  Just as you probably wouldn’t want Auntie Aida to see certain aspects of your social life, the same should hold true for potential employers.  Potential employers aside, current employers and even customers can gain access to this information and these images. 

Just because you are in the door, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t upkeep and improve your professional image and profile.

Thank you Ziggy for discussing such an important (and often neglected) career management issue.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com
www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

February 1, 2010

What to Leave Out besides the Kitchen Sink….

By Kimberly Sarmiento

As I was reviewing a friend’s career documents recently, it occurred to me that some people wrote their resume for their first job and simply did nothing but update it with every new position.  After a few career transitions, the document was in need of serious trimming!

We put a great deal of emphasis on what should go into your resume – quantifiable achievements, top-line contributions, and cost-saving initiatives for example.  However, we also need to focus on what can come out. 

Collegiate Achievements: Unless you are a recent graduate, there is no need to point out that you lettered in varsity sports, was the captain of the chess team, or served as president of Gamma Beta Kappa.  In fact, even if you are a recent graduate, you can leave those things off your resume unless you can attach an accomplishment with them.

GPAs and Dates: As much as like to infuse figures into career documents, there are a few numbers we can leave out.  Once again, unless you graduated in the last couple of years, the employer doesn’t need to know your GPA or if you graduated with honors.  We also recommend you leave off the date you obtained your degree.  This gives an automatic cue as to your age which can tell your potential employer you are either too old or too young for consideration.

Lists of Duties/Responsibilities: These laundry lists tell the employer nothing about what you have done or what you can do for a company.  Whenever possible, take one of your responsibilities and pair it up with an accomplishment.  But also remember that some things are implicit in your job title.  We expect a Senior Support Specialist to provide support.  You don’t have long to make an impression (30 second at most!) so don’t waste time telling the reader what they can figure out on their own.

References: It is not longer necessary to provide a list of references in your resume or make the statement that references are available upon request.  Hiring authorities expect you can provide them with references.  Prepare a sheet to leave behind during an interview, but don’t worry about in your introductory documents.

Salary Information: Even if a job add requests salary information, it is best not to provide this in your resume or cover letter.  Salary should always be addressed during an interview.

Personal Information/Photos: It was once in vogue to supply a potential employer with a professional photo on your resume along with information about your interest and personal life.  Today, the law protects you from having to reveal this sort of information and it would be best not to open yourself up to unintentional discrimination right from the start with a bad picture or a hobby the hiring executive finds dangerous.

Remember when you craft your resume and cover letter that optimizing space and words is as much about removing needless information as it is about including top accomplishments.  To make an impact, you must make every word count!

Thank you Kimberly; as always, your insight is greatly appreciated.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com
www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

October 26, 2009

Job Success for Recent College Graduates

Submitted by Victoria Andrew

You may have graduated magna cum laude, aced the interview, and successfully landed your first job with a Fortune 500 company despite the stiff competition in a difficult economy. You have a great deal to celebrate. However, you will soon discover that you also have a plethora of things to still learn to achieve success in the workplace.

No matter how competitive your education may have been, there are still many things to learn and master out in the real world. Just like the President of the United States, a new employee’s first 100 days in office is a crucial time where all eyes are on the recent graduate to see if you have the ability to meet and even exceed expectations. Transitioning from the academic world to real world employment – while also striving to make a favorable impression on one’s new employer – is a challenge. In doing so, recent grads will discover it takes finesse to handle pressure with grace.

New employees, regardless of age or experience, should be mindful of the personal and professional dynamics in every office. To achieve upward mobility and job security with employers, there are simple yet effective steps one may follow:

1)      Find a mentor. Carefully chose someone who is an expert in your field, who genuinely wishes to teach and counsel you, and who can freely provide objective advice and guidance in your chosen profession.  He or she will be invaluable to you, and will appreciate your sincere interest in learning their knowledge and expertise.

2)      Refrain from engaging in company gossip. Although it is important to form alliances and network, draw strong boundaries between your personal and professional life. Make a rule to keep any complaints or issues in your personal life confidential from your co-workers.

3)      Take it seriously. The days of lazy summer jobs and entertaining internships are over. Develop a perspective of your position in a long-term mindset. Establish ambitious yet tangible goals to demonstrate your professional demeanor.

4)      Dress appropriately. Become knowledgeable of your company’s dress code, and emulate professional expectations.

5)      Tread lightly. Despite having a strong drive to prove yourself, humbly and graciously understand your role as a new employee. Although it is important to demonstrate confidence, also be cautious not to step on anyone’s toes. Within your first 100 days, being humble with your authority figures will place you in their good graces.

6)      Do your homework. For the first time you are working without the structure of a syllabus and concrete expectations of a professor. However, just because your workday might be over at 5pm, does not mean your work is necessarily accomplished for the day. Especially within your first 100 days, pursue research on your company, your position, and on any required company programs needed to succeed. Take your training just as seriously as you would a final exam.

Don’t be surprised if your first career diverges from the solid vision of what you aspire to pursue in a career after graduation. In today’s economy, it is realistic to not always be able to begin with a career that is an ideal match with your desired “plan.” Normally, it takes many years in the workforce to truly discover who you are and what you wish to achieve in your life. Yet, practicing astute professionalism and our suggestions for making the most of your first career will help lay the foundation for upward mobility, success, and an auspicious future.

Thank you Victoria, and I look forward to many more submissions.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com
www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

October 14, 2009

Working for Free…a Georgian Experiment

Unemployed and looking for a job?  Good news, jobs are out there!  Only one catch, there is no pay.

According to an Intelligence Report from Parade.com (October 11, 2009 page 6), the unemployed throughout the state of Georgia are “working without a salary in auditions for paying gigs.”  Naturally, I was hooked on the read and continued as, at first, if felt this was a rather brilliant idea.  An hour or so later, and after my morning cup of tea, I am not so optimistic the consequences of such a program will all be beneficial.

But first, a quick review (for those who have not read the article).  Under the Georgia Works program, jobless citizens work part-time for up to six weeks at businesses with job openings.  Let’s begin by highlighting the one very important element: you guessed it, a majority of individuals who took part in this program and worked part-time for a business also under this program received an offer to work permanently (58% of participants).  Pretty impressive!

So far so good?  Enough of the sugar-coating for a moment.  If an individual is working for free while unemployed, how will they be able to effectively search for a career of their choice?  Additionally, what are the rules the business owner must follow?  Does this program equate to a college internship?  On note, will this program become mandatory for all unemployed individuals?  In other words, if I suddenly became unemployed, would I be forced to work for free in order to receive benefits?  On the surface, this seems a tad unfair….or is it?

According to the article, 17 states (besides Georgia) have asked about starting similar programs.  The article concludes with the following quote from Andrew Stettner of the National Employment Law Project: “the purpose of unemployment ought to be to enable people to search for suitable work, not to give employers free labor.” 

An interesting article and insight into the world of politics….just keeping you in the loop.

Have a different opinion?  We’d love to hear it!

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com
www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

August 18, 2009

Sorry Tony, Some Things do End

August 18During a recent annual doctor’s visit, I had the pleasure of hearing (how many times now?) I needed to lose 25 pounds.  Nothing new to me and perhaps this time I will actually do what it takes to become leaner.  Last night I had a vision about the economic atmosphere and began drawing parallels between my weight and our global employment crisis.  Wondering if such a correlation exists, I propose the following:

For the past ten years I did not worry about what I ate or the amount or what I ate.  Oh, those were the days of hot fudge, plenty of ice cream, lots of grease (who can resist onion rings?), and four meals a day.  Worries of larger sized britches and an increasingly uncomfortable lower back were placed on the back burner.  In reflection, it seemed as if my body could handle everything without consequence (okay, so a pound or two crept up as the months and years flew by).  Unfortunately, Tony Curtis’ song forgot things do end… 

           Those were the days, my friend
           We thought they’d never end
           We’d sing and dance forever and a day
           We’d live the life we’d choose
           We’d fight and never lose
           For we were young and sure to have our way

Sorry Tony I realize you just turned 84 (two months ago) but I am getting close to 50 years of age and it’s time to realize (and sacrifice) for the error of my dietary ways. 

Ten years ago the global economy and employment rate was going better than good.  Heck, we had it all, low unemployment, impressive industrial growth, and just about everyone was purchasing a home (or getting ready to).  Yep, those were the days of gluttony without worry of consequence.  Without doubt, those were the days…

So many were young not only in years but in experience; but ten years has a way of creeping on in a blink.  Over the past ten years we accrued a great deal of excessive fatty tissues from which to rake up credit card debt on the promise that tomorrow would exceed the profits of yesterday.  Where’s Tony when we need him now?

Yep, it was a good run and we ate, and ate, and then ordered dessert in a fight we thought we would never lose while the band played in the background!

Today, our economy, employment, and overall health are paying for the excesses of song and dance.  No longer are we experiencing the days of all you can eat buffets (metaphorically).  Rather, businesses, families, and just about everyone must go on a diet, some due to health reasons, some due to economic circumstance, and some due to a combination of both.  Will this be as fun a ride as we experienced in the not too distant past?  I’m not sure but I do realize there are positives and opportunities in all challenges; either way I can always watch reruns of Spartacus.

Last night I had the pleasure of dining out (just another way of contributing to economic growth via spending) and carried a new approach to the table.  Elaine and I shared a main entrée as the issue of excess (and the constant nagging from my doctor) flooded our minds.  After the meal, both of us were comfortable; neither stuffed to the gill (in my typical fashion) and neither feeling guilty about the evening. 

Being lean does not mean being without pleasures or being in jeopardy.  This morning I jumped on the scale and noticed two ounces missing…a good start.  Thinking about our economy and employment rate, perhaps chipping away two ounces at a time can be a lesson we all can share.  After all, have you noticed the sense of entitlement in every crack and cranny of our existence?  Perhaps it is time to get back in shape, to shed a few pounds, to share a main entrée, to help others in need, to become less self-centered, and to become MORE human. 

My doctor probably did not intend for her request for me to place my weight in check to become an economic philosophical model, but it has.  Can you lose the weight, the excess, the sense of entitlement?

And one more thing while on the subject, Mr. Curtis, you will always remain one of the best…

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

April 28, 2009

Interview and Non-Verbal Impressions: Yes, Chairs DO Care!

As promised, we will uncover a few more non-verbal forms of communication as the week progresses. Yesterday we looked into the “fish or fresh” approach to hand shaking – check it out if you happened to be at the lake and missed it.  Once the handshake is over and you have been escorted to an interview room (typically the hiring managers office), what next?

 

After walking into the room and noticing several empty chairs scattered in front of the desk, do not make haste and sit in any location.  Wait a brief moment and, if the interviewer has not indicated which chair is recommended, politely ask the interviewer for instructions.  Now that you have the location settled, body language kicks into play…

 april-28-2009

The manner in which you sit is just as important as where you sit.  Remember, this is not your home or friendly neighborhood diner and you should not sit like it is.  Yes, there are perceptions in this area too…and you thought an interview was just about answering a few questions!

 

It is generally recommended that you slide to the back of the chair, sit tall, and sit in a straight (not rigid and overly stoic) position.  This type of posture will display to the interviewer that you are comfortable, respectful, and also confident.  On the other side of the posture position, you should not sit close to the edge of your seat (I have a habit of making this error in judgment).  Sitting on the edge may give the impression you are scared, over-anxious, and/or ready to make a quick run out of the room.

 

Women should:

  • Sit with knees close together
  • Not cross their legs

 

Men should:

  • Not sit with legs wide apart
  • Not cross legs with the ankle on the knee

 

One more thing, make sure you keep a comfortable distance, about three feet from the interviewer.  Shortening that space can feel invasive and inappropriately close.

 

Now that we know a bit about handshakes and the manner in which one should sit, let’s call it a moment and begin thinking about how hands and eyes convey messages… yes, we will be detailing a few hints on that specific subject soon.

 

Until then, have a great day and let me know if you would like us to focus on anything specific.

 

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

dhuffman@careersi.com

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

Career Services International: www.careersi.com

March 26, 2009

Is FEAR controlling your career?

march-26-2009

 

 Being an executive career coach, writer, and textbook author, I discuss career issues daily with individuals across all industries, levels, geographic regions, and experience.  For those allowing fear to control your career, you are not alone.

 

How does one know if fear controls your career?  An incomplete listing vicariously experienced within the past month includes:

 

  • Angry at a world for not giving you the chance to prove yourself
  • Depressed and wondering if waking up is worth the effort
  • Staying home, rarely networking with friends, social groups, or professional associations
  • Ready to give up before trying
  • Feeling under-qualified for positions you are clearly qualified to handle

 

In today’s tight economy and angry-mob attitude, what can we do to control our career?  I believe the first step is to recognize our own value.  Believe it or not, uniqueness is a benefit in many arenas.  But before anyone is able to recognize value, confidence must be addressed.  From the classroom to seasoned professionals, displaying confidence is an asset many are falling short on.  No doubt some have been rejected so many times that confidence can be a limited resource.  Still, we need to strap the boots on every day and accept progress, not regress.

 

I hear the outcry and am reminded daily that rejection is a part of life.  On a personal note, I wrote a wonderful piece of fiction several years ago (450+ pages of adventure and thrills), believed it to be an instant classic, and sent it out for publishing consideration…

 

Result: over 50 rejections in 6 months (any publishers looking for a great piece of literature?).  Perhaps this is not the example I should use?  Then again, I am a published author now (just not from my creative work—yet!) and colleges, universities, libraries, and career-minded individuals are receiving benefit from my pages.

 

For too long I allowed fear to control my life, my career.  For those ready to take control, the first steps are hard…accept that there will always be struggles, no matter the number of steps; and remind yourself that “easy” is also a four-letter word.

 

Today is the day to take control of your career by:

 

  • Not being angry at the world; individually one can change the world one step at a time
  • Throwing off the cloak of depression; confidence is a natural reaction to value—and we all have value
  • Packaging yourself and letting the world know who you are; the total package secures offers
  • Never allowing obstacles outside of our control to dictate action
  • Knowing the contributions you will make and displaying those contributions in a way that draws hiring managers to you; recent graduates, transitioning professionals, and entry-level candidates all possess skills – do not sell yourself short

 Fear and anger are nasty words and in my house, they are words without a room to call their own.  With this submission, I will conclude by visiting a statement from a rather old/but relevant movie; many will recognize its origin:

 

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

 

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

dhuffman@careersi.com

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

Career Services International: http://www.careersi.com

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