Education Career Services

June 28, 2010

Resume Mirror: Reflecting VALUE

Submitted by Steve Klubock,
Career Services International

How do you increase the odds the market will see your value and make a bid (in the form of an interview and eventual job offer)? In some ways, your job in getting a job is to force the company to see its own self in a product advertisement (that being you). Is my twisted logic making sense? Put in another way, once the company makes a connection, you will find yourself in the right position for the next step.

Let’s break it down a bit by comparing common commodities to this concept and how the average consumer/company defines a need to possess. If we were to find living room furniture and feel certain it would fit our current décor, and, most importantly fit through the door, we probably would purchase the piece. If not, we would walk on by. Likewise with a suit of clothes; if we can see ourselves in the suit and if it matches the style we are looking for, chances are, we would buy it.

So how do the above examples apply to selling yourself to complete strangers during the worst job market in 60 years? How do you get the market to see itself in you?

Warning: Attitude realignment may be required.

If you are selling, (and you most assuredly are) your presentation must be about the buyer (company) and his/her needs. With this as a mindset, your skills, education, contributions, and potential must be presented in terms of company need. Thus leading to the next question: how do you figure that one out?

Your résumé needs to present the value package as a solution to the present (and potential) problems challenging the market today and more specifically the company you are targeting. Rather bluntly, your value proposition is the foundation to open doors of communication and resolution.

Time for an exercise: Call ten industry leaders and ask them, point blank, what are the top three priorities or challenges affecting their labor force and what is it they value most in an employee. After about five calls you will see a common thread.

Next, look at YOUR career history and see where you have addressed these areas and how you are marketing those sought after qualities. Take note of what you hear (great knowledge during interview sessions) and know the buyer will ONLY be interested in the product (you) if what you bring can be internalized within the overall goal of the company.

Surely you are not a piece of furniture or made of fabric, but the lessons learned can be used to your advantage. Make sure your resume takes advantage of the top third of the page by highlighting VALUE.  These first few lines of information (Problem, Action, and Result) are the basis hiring executives use when evaluating candidates.

Keep a pulse on the industry you are pursuing and mirror company needs to what you bring to the table.  In today’s labor saturated market, packaging is almost as important as the product itself.

Wishing you success.

Thanks Steve, your 20+ years experience in career management is much appreciated.

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.

April 28, 2010

Personal Mission Statement, Part one of two

Submitted by Victoria Andrew, professional writer and your Team Career member

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~ Marianne Williamson

As a resume writer, one of the first questions we ask a new client is, “What is your ideal job?”  Even though we interview high-level executives with decades of experience in their chosen field, it is surprising how many spontaneously reveal their unfulfilled dreams.  Sometimes their unrealized passions contradict societal paradigms of success and/or diverge from the career evolution their original resumes convey. Yet promptly, such an impulsive confession is erased with a chuckle and air of sarcasm as they change the tone and launch into a discussion of their “pragmatic” career goals. 

Even if they have captured millions of dollars in annual revenue and their achievements surpass competition, some clients still struggle to articulate their true purpose and unique value they bring to a corporation.  A hiring manager may contemplate in response, “Is this person in the wrong field? Do they have a clear direction in life?” 

Also, many job seekers are apprehensive of acknowledging their greatness and the marketable value of their contributions.  They underplay their achievements and potential.  As their resume writer, I wonder, “Are they afraid of their true power and lacking in self-worth?”  Due to their modesty, they often fear taking ownership of their accomplishments. Thus, their resume is diminished and hiring managers will not realize the full potential they could bring to an enterprise.

To remedy this, I advise building a mission statement to engage in the self-assessment needed to empower a career direction and to connect with a unique purpose.  A concise yet compelling mission statement may also allow you to identify companies that have similar values.  It may help to better analyze the costs and benefits of a new career opportunity.  Lastly, such an exercise will crystallize one’s true self and talents with integrity free of societal expectations.

The personal mission statement’s value is best summarized by the talented Pablo Picasso:

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act.  There is no other route to success.”

In practicing the art of self-assessment and promotion, both your life and your career will be enriched.

Part Two expands upon this concept and offers steps for YOU to use as a guide when developing a personal mission statement.

Thank you Victoria, we all look forward to part two.

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.

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 20, 2010

Smile, You’re Being Checked Out

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 Facebook, you have an open 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 look at these links to get an idea of the type of person (yes, even socially) they are considering hiring.  What’s important is to keep it professional.

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 as it is an outdated practice.  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.  The fact that they are searching for information about you is a positive thing.  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. 

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 will suffice.  Show some personality, but not in an overwhelming way.

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.

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Head Writer – Career Services International

April 9, 2010

“Down” or “Right” Makes no Difference

Sure, things are a bit bleak in the career market but every hill has an upside and a downside.  The job market is no different.  After reading employment trends and predictions, time to let our psychological guards down may not be today.  Being in the career management field for so many years, I secured a great deal of emotional cuddle after corporations changed the term when firing employees from “down-sizing” mentality to “right-sizing.”  Don’t you feel better too?

Okay, enough of the dancing for a minute. Is there really a difference between the two types of “sizing?” What do you think? Now that we’ve established a foundation to work on (and the consequence to be identical), how does this effect you if you are caught in the hook?

Impending “right-sizing” shows what you (employees) are made of.  Make no mistake, in the pressure cooker of who stays and who goes, managers have been assembling their lists.  They are identifying the under-motivated, the whiners, the rigid… and they’re noting those who are self-motivated, flexible, hard-working, solution-providers.  In this light, know decisions as to who remains and who goes are NOT made in a whim but with a great deal of diligence.

If you think just doing your job is enough, think again.  Are you upbeat?  Easy to work with?  The first one someone goes to for help?  Dependable?  Loyal?  Good in a crunch?  If so, you’re a “keeper.”  Then again, don’t get too comfortable or complacent.  In today’s lean world, you gotta show contributions on a daily basis as the “keeper” list is a fickle one.

Keepers are in for more responsibility and greater roles of strategy.  Cultivate a clear vision steeped in the basics and you’ll be marked for promotion.  Best of all, as tasks come up without a clear personnel resource, there’s your chance to get in on an area of interest you haven’t been able to explore yet.  Certainly you’ll be taking on unwelcome tasks, but look for the opportunity in them.  The keepers who ensure business continuity are the first to benefit when the economy picks back up (and it will!).

What if, despite your best efforts, you still get the pink slip?  Embrace the change!  We often fear change and, left to ourselves, avoid it. Given today’s economic climate and volatile employment structure, the pink skip may be thrust in your path.  If this happens, what’s your next move?

You’ll need to work diligently to secure a new post, but take time to rediscover your family while you’re at it.  Extend the change to them and communicate the adventure, not the fear.  How you accept the changes thrust upon us in this economy will influence your children, friends, and loved ones.  Your positive attitude can change lives!

Final words: whether a circumstance is positive or negative is up to you, not the situation.  And if you are a victim of “right-sizing” the good news is: at least you were not a victim of “down-sizing.” There, doesn’t that feel better?

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
Creator, The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

April 2, 2010

Making that first impression: Face-to-face interviews

Submitted by Jenna Rew

In these economic times, being called for a face-to-face interview is a success by itself. Companies want to hire those who can prove beyond doubt that they can fulfill all the employer’s needs. During the initial phase, you have to prove your value to the company is greater than the sum of your pay.

According to the Agency for Workforce Innovation for the state of Florida, over 211,500 jobs have been lost since February of 2009. That being said, nailing your interview is key to ensuring you land a position in a time when thousands are out of work.

So, how do you prepare?

Do the leg work. Research the company where you are applying. Find ways to showcase your skills in a way that is relevant to the employer and prepare questions that can not be answered by going to the company Web site.

Practice makes perfect. Research common interview questions and compose your answers. If possible, practice with someone else to avoid becoming tongue-tied or inconsistent. A few common questions are:

  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your greatest strength? Weakness?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are your career goals?

 Know the area. If necessary, do a trial run. You want to be 10 to 15 minutes early and knowing where you are going is essential.

Prepare your briefcase/portfolio. Consider the things you should be taking with you:

  • At least three copies of your resume in case the interviewer does not have one on hand.
  • Your social security card and driver’s license
  • Writing samples or a portfolio of relevant work
  • Letters of reference and reference information.
  • If you are a recent grad, a copy of your last transcript

Dress for success. Women should wear business pants or a knee length skirt with proper hosiery, a blouse, heels or pumps, minimal jewelry and modest make-up. If appropriate, wear a jacket. Men should wear a three piece business suit and a modest tie, no crazy patterns. Clean shaven is best. Make sure your clothes are ironed. If your clothes are a rumpled mess you give the impression that YOU are a rumpled mess.

Follow-up. After the interview, send a letter or friendly e-mail saying thank you for the interviewer’s time and interest. When the employers are reviewing applicants they will remember you.

Preparation is everything. Plan accordingly and walk out of your interview with your head held high. Be confident and showcase yourself. You will succeed.

Thank you Jenna, I am convinced this will not be the last time we hear from you,

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
Creator, The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

March 26, 2010

Rejection is not a four-letter word

Rejection is a part of character building…okay, how many times have those words reached your ears and eyes?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received letters of rejection.  Years ago I almost succumbed to a sense of defeat by agreeing with the latency of the words.  But that was long ago and in many ways, so very far away.

Today I own a career management company where writing and editing is part of my daily life…oh what joy!  Additionally, many of my textbooks and support collateral is used in colleges and universities across the United States.  Along the way from way back then to now, a few lessons forged destiny and are now shared with you in hopes of bright skies.

  • Learn from rejection without becoming emotionally smothered by it.  This leads me to a time while at graduate school.  Professor Trigg led the most challenging composition class ever imaginable.  At the beginning of each semester approximately 20 students began her class.  At the conclusion of the semester, at most five were standing.  Her classes were filled with tension, stress, rewrites, poor grades, and all-nighters.  For those remaining to stand, the reward received was beyond anything that could be encountered from the typical or complacent professor.  So difficult and challenging the experience, I signed up for her classes three times (received an A each time).  How does this relate to rejection?  Progression comes with challenge; embrace the opportunity to grow.
  • Persistence is paramount.  For those with the passion to write, never stop submitting.
  • Honesty and freedom make for a great story.  While teaching at a local college, I insisted my students allow their voice (and the true voice of their characters) a room of their own (thank you Virginia).  

The above bullets reflect just a few of the lessons experienced over the years.  No doubt everyone has been through the same forest as I, but it’s nice to know you are not alone.  With this blog and opportunity, we have an area to share words, experiences, and stories.

I encourage all readers to take part and share their personal stories of challenge and, yes, even rejection, as well as the reward.  One ring stands true: together there is strength.  If there is anyway I can assist you, let me know.

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
Creator, The Huffman Report, www.westorlandonews.com

March 11, 2010

The Catch 22 of “Over Qualified”

Between graduating students and retiring-executives-who-aren’t-retiring, not to mention other professionals suddenly finding themselves looking for work, experienced candidates are hearing that dreaded word a lot these days: “over-qualified.”

From an employer’s perspective, seasoned professionals might not be challenged by the open position and therefore leave as soon as they are able.  In some cases, the hiring manager may fear for their own job if they hire a team member who can do their job as well as they can… or even better.

If you hear that concern during the interview, it’s tempting to lay it on the table, “right now I need to pay the bills so I’ll consider any job at the moment!”  That declaration doesn’t allay their fears, however, and may make them worse (you just confirmed you’re looking for something better).

Once again, the answer is to identify their concerns and offer a solution.  “Due to the present economy, companies are getting a lot for their investment; you’re in a position to acquire talent at a great price.  I accept that and intend to provide greater value than a less qualified employee.”

Also make it clear during the interview that you know the key to success is “making my manager great.”  If the hiring manager knows 1) you’re on his or her side, and 2) by bringing you in to the company, he or she will be recognized as bringing in a winner, you effectively negate that concern.

Should the specter of “over qualification” still hovers over the interview, confront the issue, “It seems my qualifications concern you; what do you perceive as the problem?”  Then help them find the solution.  Would signing a year-long commitment help land the job?  Show your value by help them over that hurdle.

In anticipation of that concern, now is actually a good time to transition to a new industry.  “I understand you’re trepidation of hiring someone accustomed to making more money, but in this role I’m looking for more than just a paycheck.  Not only could I be an asset to your company, I’ll receive an education as valuable to me as money.”

Another strategy to dealing with this is to request an interview early in the interview schedule.  Relating your value and bringing up deeper aspects than a less experienced candidate could, you’ll raise interviewer expectations for following candidates.

Like with any objection, you need to find the logic behind the fear to overcome it.  Let’s face it, if you really are over-qualified, you have the experience to conquer the hiring manager’s concerns.  In fact, you may come to welcome that issue once you’re prepared for it.  If you had a choice between a sports car and a bicycle, which would you choose?

Thank you Robert for the great article.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out.

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

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.

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