Education Career Services

July 29, 2010

Your Career Search in a High-Tech World

Submitted by Kimberly Sarmiento, CPRW

Senior IT executives will tell you that having the right technology and a strong IT strategy is pivotal in today’s ever-changing high-tech marketplace.  And rather your career search is global or local, your on-line efforts are just as important. 

However, while IT is an important aspect of any company, there are plenty of other business functions – like Human Resources and Sales & Marketing – which would vie for top priority in making an organization a success.  The truth is they are all instrumental parts of the whole, working together to optimize revenue and profitability.  Likewise, your career search must incorporate many elements to be truly successful and maximize returns.

Your IT Strategy:

Besides posting a résumé on job sites, maintain a professional networking page on a website like LinkedIn.  While your LinkedIn page contains much of the same information as your résumé, it should be different in tone and verbiage.  After all, if you submit your résumé to a company, you don’t want them feeling like they’ve seen all this information before when they review your LinkedIn page or vice versa.  Having the content of your profile page professional prepared by a trained résumé writer might be one way to maximize your on-line presence. If you are unable to secure the help of a professional writer, throw a few ideas our way and we will offer insight and guidance.

Your Human Resources Tactics:

Personal contact is key to networking success as well as getting your foot in the door for interviews.  Do NOT be afraid to pick up the phone and introduce yourself to a prospective hiring authority or professional contact.  Asking for informational interviews is one way to expand your contacts and place yourself on an employer’s radar.  Also after sending a decision maker your résumé, connecting with them by phone is very important.  On a side note, always use business etiquette because this will help you cement a positive impression.

Your Sales & Marketing Campaign:

A solid résumé and cover letter is your method of promoting yourself to hiring authorities.  Making sure your documents are error free and convey your value with powerful, active-voice language will position you ahead of your competition.  Having a professional résumé writer or your career services department review and/or prepare your documents is like having a professional advertising company prepare a marketing campaign.  You want to hit your audience with the best material possible to make them pick up that phone and call you. 

Effective career marketing is more effective under a collaborative approach.  For the student, don’t hesitate to contact your career services professionals.  For those who have been in the workforce (as well as those entering the workforce), consider securing an expert in the field.  If you have any questions or would like me to quickly review your material, give me a shout-out.

Thank you Kimberly, your wisdom is always appreciated.

dhuffman
EducationCS.com
407-206-5883

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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

March 17, 2010

Did I REALLY Post That?

No doubt we’ve heard it over and over again… social media/networking is overtaking the world and just about every aspect of life, including job searching and career management.  So, with this common truth, what’s the latest?

According to an AIRS Sourcing Report dated February 2010, you may be amazed at the prevalence permeating (I have never used those two words together in my life so if it makes no sense, get over it) the social media network.  For example:

2010 Social Media Stats Review:

* Facebook has been in business 6 years (last month), and now has 400,000,000 members
* 50% of Facebook users log on daily (are you one of them—hmm, if 50% log on daily, that means 200,000,000 users log on daily—this is for the match challenged out there)
* 65 million Facebook users access the site with mobile devices (still a respectful number by any stretch)
* LinkedIn has 11 million users across Europe
* India is the fastest growing country using LinkedIn, with more than 3 million users
* LinkedIn is offered in 4 different languages, while Facebook is offered in 70 languages
*
Twitter now has 75 million profiles
* In December 2009, 17% of Twitter users tweeted, equating to roughly 10 to15 million users joining the conversation

Enough of the numbers and what does it mean to you? First of all, for those not venturing into the social media world, you are at a disadvantage as professional exposure can be an added value when searching for a job.  Unfortunately, there may be price to pay if you are tangled into the electronic social network.  For example, once an entry is written and published or an image is posted, there is no turning back. For those hitting Spring Break hard and fast, beware your behavior may be recorded for the world to see… and as the trend continues, the world WILL see. 

While on an off-beat strum, if you’re looking for a site to show off your creative side, one of my former college students developed “A Community for All Artists” and is located at http://artists-square.com.  I encourage you to check it out.  Okay, getting back on track…

. and bringing me to another point, employers ARE searching potential candidates on the Internet.  I’ll go ahead and make my position clear: error in the way of conservative caution and DO NOT post, publish, or take pictures your parents (or potential employer) would not be proud of.  Just think about Phelps and the stir he created due to posted pictures. 

With millions searching, seizing, and spying, be careful,

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
dhuffman@careersi.com
www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman

January 14, 2010

Don’t spam filter out a job offer!

By Kimberly Sarmiento

The only thing more annoying than spam e-mail is that we still get junk mail in our physical mailboxes.  You know – the ones we have to go outside to check?

But as aggravating and virus infested as spam mail might be, you don’t want to filter out a future employer’s contact.  Therefore, I recommend against adding on features which will require a hiring authority to go through steps to establish they are a real person – ie. getting transferred to a website and typing in random numbers and letters they have to read through a strangely colored box.

I’ve gone through the trouble of doing this for a couple of friends and clients, but if I was in the position of scheduling a dozen candidates for interviews – I’m not sure I would bother.

If you are strongly concerned about spam mail, go ahead and establish a separate e-mail account used solely for your career search.  Remember to check it several times a day, but at least you know that all correspondence sent to and from that account will be dedicated to your career.  Therefore, there will be no chance of you losing an important e-mail in the shuffle of your regular correspondence. 

A dedicated e-mail account will also allow you to track easily which companies have responded to your inquires and/or submissions.  And it offers the benefit of professionalism should your current e-mail account be a little too cutesy, flat-out inappropriate, or give away information you might want to not reveal (your children’s names, your birth year, etc…).

Rather or not you choose to keep your current e-mail on your resume or replace it with a new one, remember you want to make it as convenient for the hiring authority (or their assistant) to contact you.  The more steps you ask them to take to get a hold of you, the more you increase the possibility they move on to another candidate!

Thank you Kimberly!

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

December 16, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is a New Career…

You couldn’t ask for a better season than Christmas when you’re on a career hunt.  All year long professionals are looking for networking events… luncheons, meetings, formal and informal get-togethers… 

This time of year, however, the events are looking for you!  Christmas parties, New Year parties, Solstice parties, parties just for the sake of parties — if you’re like me, you’re invited to a lot of them.  If you’re looking for new employment, go to every one of them.

I can hear some of you slamming on the brakes right now.  “Parties aren’t a place to bring your own agenda!  They’re for getting away from business!  Hanging out!  Getting to know each other or just plain celebrating!  Eating!”

All very true, but consider what the first thing people ask you at parties:  “How are you?”  “What are you up to these days?” “What do you do?”   Here are some easy answers, “Doing great!  Looking for new opportunities!”  “There’s a lot going on, including, I hope, a career transition.” “I’m a and I’m currently looking for a new company to share my skills with.  Know any?”

The point is, networking isn’t an add-on agenda, it’s a part of who you are; knowing and being known.  Certainly you don’t want to harp on the subject through out the party, but you do want to make contacts.  Career is a part of life and we are all interested in what our friends do and want to do.  Remember that a big part of networking is listening.  Ask people about themselves and be willing to burrow through the polite “this and that” answer.  People want to talk about themselves and once they do, they’re open to hearing more about you.  It’s called friendship. (In fact, I have a friend who refuses to call it networking.  He prefers “relationship building.”

Have a stack of  networking/business cards on hand and if you find someone who may have some information, hand over your card, ask for theirs, and say, “can we get together soon and discuss this further?”  Then be sure to follow up a few days later.  Ask if you can hook up on LinkedIn, see if they know others you might talk to.  Don’t work the career angle exclusively, of course; building the relationship requires more than just business.

Most important, if parties bring out the “wild” in you, especially during a career hunt, tone it down.  Wild partiers don’t impress potential business contacts.  Instead, smile, stay engaged, and enjoy yourself… respectfully. 🙂

Happy Holidays

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

December 9, 2009

The UnAdvertised-Advertised Job Market

We have always advocated the 360-degree job search.  Apply to online postings and print postings, but PLEASE don’t stop there!  Direct mail campaigns are far better and second only to strong networking.

Today’s employers turn to current employees for referrals.  They take recommendations from networking contacts and they’ll turn to their LinkedIn contacts.  But wade through the mountain of résumés received from online postings?  Only if they have to.

So why do they post the job if they aren’t going to fill it that way?  Largely to cover their backsides from the threat of litigation or the appearance of impropriety, not to mention the need for market analysts to see the implications of favorable growth that advertised positions offer.

Job-seekers toiling solely in the field of online postings are dramatically slowing down their search.  It’s worth devoting a small amount of time to advertised positions, but do NOT forsake the fertile fields of the direct mail campaign, the power of informational meetings, and networking functions.  If you need a new job, play every card.

Keep a Networking Card with you at all times for easy business card exchange and follow up any personal contacts with a LinkedIn invitation. You friends and business contacts are your best advocates, so activate your network and aggressively build it whether you seeking a job or not.

Think 360!

Rob Swanson
Career Services International
Writing Manager

December 3, 2009

Optimize Your Network!

Published author and writer with Education Career Services

As I caught up with a dear childhood friend this past holiday weekend; we discussed many career-related topics.  Our conversation spanned possible future career choices to going back to school and so on.  It was the topic of networking which inspired this particular blog entry. 

She understands networking very well and in fact utilized it to advance in her career.  My work with her will involve defining her next career goal and assembling a resume which positions her in the best possible light.  But I got to thinking about how so many people overlook the resources they have at their immediate disposal.  I want to get readers thinking outside-of-the box when it comes to networking. 

After all, you just never know who might introduce you to your next big opportunity.
Let’s look at five possible networks:

Business Associates: When you think of professional networking, this is probably the first category which comes to mind.  It’s a good place to start.  Former and current associates can be a great source for career opportunities, but this is just a beginning.

Professional/Social Associations: This is a very large group of potential networking contacts.  Many of them might not know the details of your career, but they are likely open to looking over your information and passing it along to someone they might know.  But don’t limit this category’s possibilities.  Professional and social associations could include the following:

                Industry Associations
                Interest Groups
                Alumni Associations
                PTA Groups
                Church Organizations
                Neighborhood Watch Committees
                Hobby Groups

Friends and Family: Some people have no problem asking friends and family for favors.  But if you are like me, this is the last group you want to hit up in a job search.  Yet this group might be the best suited for providing you valuable direction in your career search.  Since your friends and family may know what you do but not be well-versed in your accomplishments, don’t feel shy handing them a resume highlighting your career details.  In fact, you should provide a resume to all networking contacts.  Don’t assume that knowing you equates to knowing what makes you valuable as an employee.

Online Networks:  If you are not a member of a professional online network such as LinkedIn, consider putting a profile up today.  However, don’t underestimate the value of online social networks as well.  Reconnecting with old high school friends means connecting with people who developed careers in the years since you last saw or spoke with them.  As you reminisce about football games and evil teachers, if you discover they are in a career field which interests you – don’t be afraid to let them know you are looking for a new opportunity.

Old Professors:  If you think college instructors were just there to give you a grade, you were wrong.  They are vital sources for career advancement.  Think of the number of people who pass through their classrooms an onto industry success.  Students – cultivate relationships with current and past instructors!  Everyone else, contact old professors and see if they remember you.  Strike up a conversation about your career and your goals.  They likely will be able to put you in contact with someone who can help you, but expect to repay the favor someday.

Hopefully this blog has given you some new ideas about someone you can contact in your career search.  Remember to prepare a dynamic resume highlighting your accomplishments and value so they can pass it along with their recommendation or introduction.

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

December 1, 2009

Toot Your Own Horn: The Key to Success

Submitted by Victoria Andrew,
Professional Writer at Education Career Services

It often takes many years for job seekers to come into realization of how self-promotion catalyzes career success.  We are not referring to flamboyant self-promotion that could potentially hinder a career, but of the meticulously planned self-advocacy that optimizes achievements and promotions.  Even if we were of the top 1% who are serendipitous enough to have someone high enough on the corporate food chain to act as a champion on our behalf, they could never accurately articulate our accomplishments.  Ultimately, we are forced to face the reality that self-promotion is something we must do for ourselves.

People often spend several years of their career with their noses down, never once being truly noticed and validated despite pursuing their job with superior performance.  We hear over and over again that networking is essential to any successful job search, and you must aggressively pursue your own leads.  Yet, there is a critical component to networking, securing promotions, and/or negotiating a raise that is often overlooked: mastering the art of self-promotion. If you’re not confident in claiming your achievements and promoting yourself, it will be impossible to advance in your career.  Thus, we suggest that you toot your own horn, and honk it proudly!

The average job seeker tends to articulate only responsibilities rather than proactive, exciting achievements.  They monotonously rehash previous job descriptions instead of boasting about accomplishments in resumes, cover letters, networking events, and interviews.  We think we may be following standard procedures and will be liked for appearing obsequious and self-effacing.  

Wrong! You will discover humility is counterproductive and not helping you land the position, raise, or promotion we deserve.

In order for self-confidence to strengthened, engage in a fearless self-assessment to explore achievements, passions, strengths, and talents.  Consider pursuing psychometric testing to uncover your ideal career and personality type.  Sharpening self-knowledge empowers you to speak with authority about what you have to contribute.

Your resume is also a marketing tool and powerful opportunity to transform job responsibilities into engaging accomplishments to help you more effectively compete in today’s marketplace.  By making every bullet a reflection of successes that can be quantified or qualified, you will convey the many assets you have to bring to a company more powerfully. 

Job searching is all about sales: the product you are marketing is you!

Furthermore, the art of self-promotion is catalyzed by crafting a value proposition that succinctly and powerfully crystallizes what you have to offer a company.  It is a powerful marketing strategy. Once you know exactly what you are selling – and why you are such an extraordinary product – practice saying it over and over.  When you’re in networking and interview situations, you’ll want to be able to astutely and clearly convey you’re greatest strengths.

The most important issue is to realize you’ve earned the right to celebrate accomplishments.  Many times when something fantastic happens to us, we question ourselves as to whether or not we deserve it.  Let us not be possessed by such a trivial concern as whether or not we are being considered obnoxious or egotistical.  Don’t worry if someone responds to your confidence with, “Man, does she have balls!”  Such a concern is a waste of time.

The most successful career professionals are the ones who have transcended fears.  They’re not afraid to tell everyone who will listen how great they are.  Quite frankly, we should applaud them.  If you don’t toot your horn, nobody else will do it for you.  

Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. You’ve earned it. Toot! Toot!

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

November 26, 2009

Informational Interviews: Bring it Home…

Back to conclude yesterday’s submission dealing with informational interviews…enjoy it and never stop progressing:

For example, informational interviews will:

* Help you learn about careers within the industry
* Can be used to gauge company culture and if you fit in
* Help develop life-long networks
* Give insight into the non-advertised job market
* Give insight for scheduled interviews
* Develop rapport and referrals

Overall, informational interviews give you a leg up against other candidates AND can be used as an indicator when evaluating career matches.  For the record, informational requests are not to be used as a mechanism to ask for a job or a formal interview. This is not the time or the place to be an aggressive job seeker. If you think about it, that takes pressure off you and the person you interview, so now you can do some serious learning.  You know about the benefits, let’s look at your next step.

Your experience and educational background in research comes into play as well as your social and professional networks.  Once you identify a particular company or industry, talk to everyone you know about the company.  The cliché that “we live in a small world” will quickly become a little more real.  It may surprise you how close your network connections may be to decision makers. Through friends, classmates, family members, professors, neighbors, and career services counselors, chances are you will gain valuable insight without a great deal of effort, at least in the initial phase of simply asking.  From people in your network, jot down ideas and remember potential contacts within the company or industry; these may come in handy during informational interviews.

Once you have an outline of information you want to focus on, it is homework time. Research the organization and industry as you will be asking questions related to your findings.  Make a quick list of questions and identify what data your contact may be able to provide.  You will want to make a list of approximately 10-15 questions based upon the title and position of your contact.  The more you are prepared, the more likely the person on the phone will be happy to answer. As noted, people like to talk about themselves and especially their work.

Once you contact a professional in the field, explain that you are gaining information about his or her job responsibilities, requirements, company/industry needs, new processes, and so on.  Always make sure the individual has time for a discussion; if not, schedule a phone meeting at their convenience.

During informational interviews, have your résumé available in case you need a quick reference.  Stick to the time allotted (typically 30 minutes in length), do not take too much of the person’s time and, if the meeting goes well, ask to schedule another meeting, hopefully face-to-face.  Even if you receive a personal meeting, remember the purpose is to gather information—do not turn this into a job interview. You are “researching opportunities” in that particular field or industry.

Once your informational interview is over, write the responses and review them as your career decisions may hinge on the impressions taken from this and other informational interviews.  Send the person a thank you note as professional etiquette dictates that you treat the informational interview with the same standards as a job interview.  Once thank you notes have been sent, contact another professional within the company or industry.  Do not stop with a single perspective—the more input from various sources, the more accurate the representation will be.

Possible informational interview questions include:

* What does failure mean to you?
* What qualities do you feel a successful employee should have?
* How do you demonstrate your ability to be innovative?
* What are some of the most effective ways to demonstrate teamwork?
* What three things are most important to you in your job?
* Tell me about a conflict you had with someone and how you handled it.
* Tell me about a major problem you encountered and how you handled it.
* What qualities do you admire in others?
* Tell me about a time a supervisor or peer criticized your work, how did you handle it?

Once it’s time for a formal interview, know that in recent years the use of behavior-modeled interview questions have dominated the interview process.  No matter the industry or job position, you must prepare for this type of setting.”

Okay, enough of the books for now.  To summarize, when networking, do everything you can to make the other person talk about him/herself, the company, and the needs within the company or department.  Do not turn this informational (informal) moment into a formal meeting.  Next time you go to a social (industry) function, keep your ears open, your words to be used as a catalyst for the other person (everyone likes a good listener and at this time, the information can be most invaluable), and the atmosphere to be comfortable.  During the first encounter, do not push for an interview but a follow-up on a specific topic of discussion. 

Find contacts through associations, foot traffic, networking events, and professional peers.  It’s not the easiest thing to do but developing a rapport is the foundation you are trying to accomplish. 

Hopefully I was not too exhaustive in my response.  If you need further help or would like my guidance in any other capacity, do not hesitate to ask. 

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 11, 2009

The Power of Networking In Person

networkingAs Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, and other such social/business networking websites take off, the incredible value of networking should be obvious.

The problem is, you can’t conduct all your networking online.  Don’t get me wrong, a LinkedIn account is a must for business professionals willing to make use of it (and DO; it’s becoming more and more effective for career placement).  We’ll examine this phenomenon closer in a future post, but for now, let’s look at face-to-face networking.

Getting an informational meeting with a professional in your career field can be extremely valuable even if it doesn’t result in employment right off the bat.  Find out about the company and industry; discover what they look for in a job candidate; most of all GET KNOWN BY PEOPLE WHO WILL BE HIRING, and NETWORK FROM THERE.   Never leave an informational meeting without asking for other people you can talk to that are knowledgeable and influential in the industry.  Consider the meeting to be a place where you can ask all the questions you need to get a job there (or somewhere the interviewer can send you).  “Do you know of someone here or within the industry who can use someone with my skills?”  This can be a very productive question.

So, how do you get informational meetings with people you don’t know?  The Networking Letter (NL).

The NL is a combination of your cover letter and resume.   Project your value by identifying your proposed profession and the skills/knowledge  you have to add value in such a position.  Then pull the “WOW” bullets from your resume (those items that best demonstrate your results and value) and include them in your NL with an stem sentence such as: “Please consider:”

Your closing paragraph should summarize your potential impact on the company and then ask for a meeting to discuss company goals, industry update, or any relevant request the addressee could address.  Do not ask for an interview or a job; you’re asking for information and an introduction. 

VERY IMPORTANT: The sign off should indicate that you will call them but they are welcome to contact you in the interim.  Then CALL THEM.  Do not attach a resume; bring it to the meeting.

At the meeting, hand them your resume to show you are a professional in the field and express your interest in the company.  Make it a conversation, not an interview.  Treat the person you’re meeting with as an adviser.  Ask questions, be up front that you’re looking for a position but mostly you want to learn about the company and get on their “radar screen.”    Ask for their card, ask if you can add them to your LinkedIn friends, and ask if they know someone who can use your skills.

Do plenty of these kinds of meetings (especially when you’re still in school!) and build your network.  Keep notes, send a Thank You card, and keep in touch.  A mutual professional and emotional investment created by occassional contact yields dividends.

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

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