Education Career Services

June 26, 2009

Common Denominator: Career Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 10, 2009

Career Magic in Orlando?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2009

(In)visible anger

The last few months I have seen (and felt) so much anger in just about all sectors of the market.  No doubt there is cause for so many ill-feelings as unemployment, foreclosures, higher gas prices, and on and on are no hitting harder each day.  As a professional resume writer and career coach, I hear heartfelt stories all the time.  Who’s safe from economic devastation?  Not to spoil anyone’s breakfast but no one appears to be safe.

Since, in my opinion, no one is “protected” from crisis way, becoming prepared is the only sound practice in this crazy world!  So you’re asking how does one protect him/herself; good question.  Without any hesitation, I believe the first step is to recognize there are more people than available job positions.  Okay, what does this do?  Another good question.  Recognizing you are not the only contestant in a competitive market brings reality to a new level.  Since there are more people than job positions, you must develop a plan to increase your value, your worth, and your immediate contribution. 

What determines value?  On a company perspective, what can the job applicant do right now—not next week or even next month?  Recent graduates, you offer theory and perhaps a capstone, intern, extern, or a bit of experience to go with it.  Is this enough?  For some yes, for some no.  For experienced executives, knowing is not always enough either—you must be the top performer as well.

Let’s make a connection to American Idol for a moment.

Paula and Simon decreased hundreds of thousands of wanna-be’s to a baker’s dozen.  In most cases it was clear that the vast majority of applicants were pretenders; only a hand full truly belonged.  After months of hard work, the top ten dwindled to only a few.  Here’s where you come in….for the pretenders, lack of true talent (or value) will create a schism between the ones who can.  In career management, this schism is created and reinforced within 15 seconds of reviewing your cover letter and/or resume.  Leaving you with one approach: you must prove quickly that YOU offer value….and still no guarantee (this is where so much (in)visible anger comes into play).

Getting back on track, your cover letter MUST accompany your resume in EVERY situation.  Your cover letter MUST be tailored to EVERY job posting.  In other words, do not submit a blanket cover letter—incorporate words from the posting and from research about the job and/or company (if known).

Don’t submit a response to a posting without doing your homework.  How many contestants on American Idol blew their one chance by not knowing the words (and many still became angry at Simon for eliminating them due to lack of homework)?  In addition to creating a tailored cover letter to fit each job posting, so should your resume be constructed.  Do not submit a blanket resume under any situation.  If you do, don’t become angry at your invisibility!  Place key terms, your connection to the job, and what you can do for the company immediately. 

There’s no easy way to become “visible” but there are ways to shed light on your work and value.  These are tough times but that does not mean anger is the answer. 

Complete your homework, get involved in your career campaign, and never forget the words.

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

April 16, 2009

Less is More

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 6:18 pm
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Less is more. Since when?

I have seen my fair share of interesting resumes – some are fifteen pages with little useful information and some are one-and-a-half pages with…no useful information at all. It’s tough deciding what information is pertinent to include and what can be better left for an interview, especially if you’re looking at it subjectively. That being said, sometimes I get some initial push-back from clients when I turn their multi-page resume covering over thirty years of experience into one, sometimes maybe two pages. The reality is that decision-makers and even human resources professionals no longer have time to read through tons of information to maybe get a hint of the value you might bring.

Be stingy with the amount of information you choose to reveal about yourself and your career. Make them ask questions. When you get a phone call from a potential employer or even a recruiter asking for more information or asking you to come in, you’ll know the resume has done its job. Your objective with the resume is to garner some interest in what you have to offer.

What do you have to offer? Although you technically have a limited amount of space to work with, this is your chance to showcase achievements that are unique to your career. Instead of handing out a paper that lists the same responsibilities for each position or that looks the same as everyone else’s, show them what you can and have already done. Be specific without boring the reader with mundane details. Confusing? Consider the following two job descriptions – same person, same position:

  • Responsible for managing and supervising engineering team and department budget. Managed software development, including requirements gathering, management presentations, project scope and costing, contract development, and delivery. Handled training, end-user support, testing, and troubleshooting. Reported to the vice president of engineering and developed and submitted progress reports.

 

  • Led 35-person engineering team through full-phase software development, managing $30M annual budget; facilitated training, testing, end-user support, and troubleshooting.

The second example brings in the specifics without including information that is already assumed. Of course it’s easy to just add and add to a resume as the years go by, but by the time 20 years goes by, your fist position as a business analyst doesn’t mean as much anymore.

With recent or soon-to-be graduates, it’s always difficult to know what to include when information is sometimes scarce. However, what you have been doing in school, whether projects, internships, co-ops, or volunteer work, can be easily adjusted to show that you have the transferable skills decision-makers are looking for.

  • Communication (one-on-one and group)
  • Technical Knowledge/Skills
  • Team Collaboration
  • Time Management
  • Loyalty/Realistic Expectations
  • Writing Abilities
  • Professionalism (appearance and attitude)

Are there any instances where you demonstrated these skills, but thought it would never be important to mention? Share your experiences.

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Senior Writer
Career Services International

April 15, 2009

Who are you? Who-who? Who-who?

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 2:04 am
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If you’re from my era, you are now hearing Roger Daltry’s throbbing guitar riff that follows the title question.  I really want to KNOW!

And so do hiring managers.  The problem, they discover, is that few candidates know who they are in a properly defined and carefully refined professional sense.   A hiring manager is like any other discerning consumer.  With shelves of stock to choose from, they want to know what makes a given product unique.  What particular value is found by plucking it off the shelf and putting it in the employment basket?

Exactly what a hiring manager values isn’t in your control, so it’s better to take stock and figure out what your unique selling-proposition is and find the hiring manager it appeals to.  Are you a sugared cereal with tons of flavor and little nutritional value, driven by the toy surprise inside?  Or are you the smart choice, fortified with iron and minerals?  Okay, I’m getting carried away with the metaphor, but there’s something to be gained from it.  Sugar sells by the surprise; quality by the packaging.  cereal

While the truth is that hiring managers want quality, unless it’s packaged well, they aren’t going to recognize it.  You have to help by identifing and articulating your unique value.  What makes you different from the drones?

When the hiring manager asks two seperate questions, he’s really asking one:  “Tell me about yourself” equals “Why should I hire you?”  Your answer to both is that unique selling proposition.

I’m looking for unique comments on this one: don’t discuss the topic, give me your value statement!  Make it two or three sentences long, compelling, and active. 

Ready? GO!

Rob Swanson
Writing Manager
Career Services International – http://www.careersi.com
Education Career Services – http://www.educationcs.com

March 4, 2009

How Much Are You Worth?

Knowing how to negotiate salary is tough, especially in today’s economy.  The other day, I was dollarsquestions1talking to a friend about her current job and it really got me thinking – where does one draw the line between a reasonable argument and pushing it overboard when it comes to negotiating salary? 

 

Take, for example, two candidates interviewing for the same position as an entry-level mechanical engineer for the same mid-size pharmaceutical company:    

 

Candidate #1: A young woman with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering who has been out of school for a few years and previously held full-time positions as a quality engineer.  The last company went through financial difficulties, leaving her as a part-time engineer on an as-needed basis.  Being out of work for a few months, she is in need of a job and, most importantly, something in her desired field.  She is shy, but offers a good amount of technical knowledge and hands-on experience in the mechanical field.   

 

Candidate #2: A young man with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from one of the largest schools in the nation.  After seven years in the undergraduate program, he is now a new graduate and recently turned down an opportunity to work as an engineer for one of the largest engineering companies in the world to go traveling in Europe after graduation.  He is direct, outgoing, and confident, but can only bring strong character and book knowledge to the table.

 

Which one do you think landed the higher salary?

 

Even as an entry-level candidate, it’s important to understand what someone in your position with your skills should expect to make.  Times are hard now, which makes it critical to follow three guidelines: know when to negotiate, what to negotiate, and how to make your argument. 

 

  • When – You should never bring up salary unless you’re far into the process and are confident you are going to receive a job offer.  Being presumptuous can jeopardize a perfectly good opportunity. 
  • What – Do your research.  Understand what people in your field, entry-level and above, are getting paid.  Do not go in blind because you can either pass up an opportunity to get paid what the job is worth or you can come off too strong. 
  • How – Weigh your strengths with those you find mentioned in your research.  Remember that as an entry-level candidate, you still have a lot to learn.  Secondly, be confident, but not pompous.  It can be equally detrimental to aim too low when asked about salary expectations.

 

In the scenario above, Candidate #2 walked away with the higher salary.  It wasn’t because he was more qualified, but because when offered $40,000 a year, he responded, “Make it $45,900 and you have yourself an engineer.”  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using those exact words, but Candidate #2 was confident that he was worth more than the initial offer.  Candidate #1, on the other hand, took whatever she could get due to her situation – she played it maybe too safe.  She walked away with $40,000 and now works side-by-side with Candidate #1, answering his questions and giving him guidance on a daily basis. 

 

Don’t sell yourself short, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone for a little while.

 

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW

Senior Writer – Career Services International

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