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Monday, April 14, 2014
Create your own reality
It may sound crazy, but I believe all of us are familiar with what it means to be a stalker. Many of you probably think about (and hopefully do not relate to) the hiding-out, binoculars around the neck, creeper-style stalking that results in restraining orders or imprisonment. Perhaps on an even lesser scale, you may shamefully contemplate the hours you spent stalking the online pictures of your long-lost middle school crush that just friended you on Facebook. Regardless of these two stereotypical stalker types, I hope you will consider a new definition of stalking—a stalking of yourself and your career, that will challenge you to pursue your passions fearlessly, shamelessly and obsessively.
Stalking your career really means stalking your inner passions, your fire within and the talents you have and then blending those within a career. Unfortunately, for many of you, the word “career” evokes feelings of utter panic. “Career” has morphed into a new definition of entrapment, leaving post-grads feelings stuck, imprisoned to their nine to five jobs that mean nothing to them. For our entire lives, our teachers, parents, and society itself has trained us to believe that after college our sole purpose is to find a career that leaves us financially stable. We may have had inspirational mentors here and there that paid lip service to the importance of us pursuing our passions, but now that college is over, you may find that you do not so much as have an idea of what we’d like to do. The sky doesn’t really seem to be the limit any longer because we are paralyzed by our fears of failure. But, now is not the time for fear. It is time for us to all shed our inhibitions, throw caution to the wind and find out what really drives us to wake up in the morning. In my book entitled, The Secret to Finding Passion in Your Career, I believe whole-heartedly when I proclaim that, “They (teachers, parents, society) may have been right or wrong, but now it is up to you to begin creating the reality in which you can live the life your inner nature requires you to live.”
Once you have an idea of what interests you, search for people who are using your same passions in a career and stalk them. Don’t follow them around and actually stalk them, but use them to build up an understanding of possible careers you could obtain and let them become a part of a system of networking you have for your future career as well. Never disregard or refuse a conversation with someone. It’s not all about who you know, but all about who you are willing to get to know. Connections are vital in not only helping you gain opportunities in the future, but also giving you a wide range of knowledge pertaining to how to apply your passions in the working world. Investigate their jobs for things that may interest you or spark you to use your passions similarly. Be aware of who you’re meeting everywhere you go. You may be at a boring Christmas party with all of your parent’s seemingly lame friends or standing in line at the grocery store, but talk to everyone and find ways to give value to them. Welcome the exchange that is possible when you give and gain insight from those around you, a reciprocation that will naturally evolve into your personal growth in your specific field.
Once you have begun to seek out your passion in a specific career, pursue these opportunities relentlessly and creatively. It is hard to get a job in this economy, any job, and the lowest jobs are the hardest, because there are so many people applying. So, whether you’re applying as a barista at Starbucks or as a high-level executive at a marketing firm, keep in mind that you must act creatively in order to be remembered and gain any type of competitive edge over the sea of applicants. Just as you can imagine, it is always more effective to have face-to-face conversations with people than a virtual one, so always opt to hand in a hardcopy resume or have a real life interview with a future employer over simply e-mailing your resume or having a phone interview. When face-to-face is not an option, add a picture to your resume since, “a memorable picture and a nice smile equals competitive advantage.” Most importantly, be patient and stay persistent—and recognize that it may take time before you see the fruit of your labor (pun intended).
Today, even right now, let yourself daydream a bit. What do you love to do? Explore your passions freely. No answer is wrong, no occupation unreasonable, no dream unrealistic. Believe in yourself and believe in your own unique journey. Your life does not and should not look the same as the next person. Your career and vocation ought to align specifically to your heart, your talents, your skills and your interests. Although many will travel the world and start their own businesses, “You don’t need to run around the world and start a business ... It is about being who you are and living life in that expression.” Let yourself think, remember, and discover what you love and what you want out of life and relentlessly stalk that passion.
I remember the first job I ever applied for in an office during one summer in college. The job, a personal assistant, required that I have proficiency answering phones, filing paperwork alphabetically, making coffee, and using a copier. Having no past experience in an office, I confidently applied with my high school diploma, a few college courses, and somewhat tech-savvy skills under my belt. I mean, I knew my ABCs and I knew I could figure out how to transfer calls on a phone. I disregarded the fact that I had never once in my life made coffee or copies recognizing that I had no chance at being hired unless I beefed up my skills since my work experience consisted of babysitting. I showed up to the interview in my best workplace attire, exaggerated a bit, and obtained the job using charisma and a somewhat inflated resume. The evening before my first day, I resorted to YouTube videos on “How to Brew a Cup of Coffee” and “How to Use a Standard Copier” to teach me how to be a PA and life on the job turned out to be a breeze.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Networking Commandments for New Grads
Networking has become a crucial part of pursuing a career—and it makes sense: many jobs are never posted anywhere and are filled through recommendations and people who know someone who knows someone. Finding a job is mainly about who you know and who knows what about you.
But what if you are moving to a new city or want to change careers and don’t know anyone and nobody who matters knows you? Networking becomes exponentially harder—but not impossible. The bad news: You have to start from scratch. The good news: You have to start from scratch.
A fresh start means that you have nothing to lose. You cannot only try a new haircut and outfits, no; you can try new elevator pitches and new ways to start conversations with strangers.
Making a Fresh Start
Once you have made the decision to change careers or move to your favorite city you have to make a plan. Know what you want and what you need to do to get there. Memorize a clear and concise elevator pitch and don’t be afraid to pitch it even if you live on the first floor.
The Internet will be your new best friend. Living in a time dominated by Social Media, new contacts or at least information are often just a few clicks, links, pokes and tweets away—so before you start your journey to becoming a Networqueen, you have to do some homework.
Update your resume and your online presence so they represent you and your (new) goals. Google yourself and see what future employers will find—make sure your online presence complements your professional appearance.
Master the delicate art of bragging—after all, if you don’t talk about yourself, who will? Don’t be arrogant but be proud of your achievements and make sure people know about them. You don’t have to rent a billboard, but casually mentioning your fabulousness will work wonders.
Follow potential future employers on LinkedIn and Twitter and like them on Facebook. That way, you will not only get information and updates easily, you will also have the chance to get in touch: You can like their posts, retweet or make comments. Don’t go overboard but like, link and follow with low-key determination.
Update your LinkedIn profile. Including a professional and current photo). LinkedIn is a great tool to initiate contact and become visible for future employers, recruiters and your friends who all have their own network. Join groups and participate in discussions buy only follow a handful of groups so you can make quality contributions.
Tweet. Twitter is an easy way to start communicating with strangers. The conversation might not go beyond a couple of tweets, but at least you will have a name or a topic to casually mention if you apply for a job at that company.
Let your network know. Look through your (online and offline) address book, send out a short email about your plans and ask your friends if they have any advice. Tell them that you would appreciate it if they could keep their eyes and ears open: It’s amazing how often seemingly “random” people know someone who might be crucial to your job search. You can send them the link to your LinkedIn profile or attach a short profile so they know what you are looking for.
Ask for advice. People love to talk about themselves. If you ask a friend or someone you admire about their experience, they will most always be willing to help you. Tell them how you got their name or email address so they don’t think you’re stalking or spamming them.
Volunteer. If you lack experience in your field, start volunteering and take small steps, such as starting a blog. In some areas it’s easier to volunteer or keep yourself busy in your spare time—but a unique and creative approach will definitely get people talking and open doors.
Socialize. Attend networking events, seminars or conferences; join clubs or associations. You will meet new people, get new opportunities and have a chance to wear all your new dresses. And it really can’t hurt.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Be a strategic, optimistic and tenacious full-time job seeker
Whether the target is a retail job on Main Street or an executive-level job in the C-suite, stress is still high among long-frustrated job seekers. There’s no shortage of fingers pointing at potential culprits. Depending on your politics, it could be the House, the Senate, Obamacare or presidents who have long left Washington, D.C.
When you’re worried about making ends meet today—and unable to even think about the financial security you’ll need through decades of retirement—it’s easy to blame everyone and everything for your misfortune. The fact is, though, that job seekers are not powerless victims of an economy that has volatile fits and starts.
The reality is that strategic, optimistic and tenacious full-time job seekers do find jobs. The more lackadaisical, defeated, angry, once-in-a-while job seekers do not.
So many job seekers need to hear this—including a 22-year-old recent college grad who is waitressing in Washington, D.C. I read about this young woman in a Business Week article, “You Can Have Any Job You Want As Long As It’s Waitress”. She is not in her desired line of work—she’s hoping to land a job at a think tank or policy-related organization. I applaud her for not letting her ego get in the way of a paycheck, but I think there are probably some big holes in her job search strategy overall.
My first clue was the fact that this young woman has applied to about 20 companies with “minimal response.” Job search pessimists would read this and say, “Well of course—it’s an uncertain economy, few employers are hiring and young people are having the hardest time of all.”
But on the job search optimists side, I say that anyone can find a job in any economy. At last count, there are far more than 20 potential employers in Washington, D.C.
So, here are six nuggets of advice for this young job seeker—and her brethren at every other age and life stage:
1. Cover the waterfront. In a difficult job market, you can’t limit yourself to the top 10 or 20 “ideal companies” on your wish list. Reach for your ideals, but also consider tier two and three companies that are in your areas of interest. Companies of all shapes and sizes offer resume-worthy experience—and paychecks.
2. Don’t die on the vine waiting for a “response”. Even in the best economic environment job seekers wait and wait and wait while they hear radio silence from companies that have their resumes in hand. Hiring managers are busy and distracted. One follow-up call won’t do the trick. And pursuing only one contact at a company is futile. Through Linkedin, personal connections, friends who work for the company and your alumni network find as many contacts as possible who can rustle up some action and get you an interview.
3. Stop hibernating in the Internet “black hole”. Recognize that many jobs are never advertised and online job boards can be wastelands of old, spoken for or undesirable jobs. In the Business Week article, the job-seeking temporary waitress talked about watching job postings on her alumni web site. The jobs listed on most alumni websites are few and far between. She’s probably checking job postings on a lot of other websites, too. Don’t make her mistake: you’ll find a job through real people, not computers.
4. Consider options other than a permanent full-time job. Employers are guarding headcount and doling out fewer and fewer permanent, full-time jobs. One of the young women interviewed for the Business Week article said she will consider internships—and I say that’s a good idea as long as they are paid. Too many companies are getting free labor while they hang a very small carrot off in the distance that may or may not turn into a paid job. Gravitate more to short or long-term freelance jobs (which are more plentiful as companies adjust to Obamacare) or intermittent project work—both available to job-seekers of any age.
Monday, April 14, 2014
The 20 Best Keywords for Your Job Search
Having the right keywords in your social profile, particularly in LinkedIn and Google Plus, is critical to making yourself visible to recruiters and hiring managers who are often searching through them for qualified job candidates. With the right keywords in your social profile, your profile will appear in search results, and appearing in search results is the way you are found by employers and recruiters.
Without the right keywords, your profiles (and you) are invisible, regardless of how well-qualified you might be for the job you want, because your resume may never be seen by a recruiter.
So, What Are Key Words?
The words we type into the search box on a search engine are “keywords.” Recruiters and employers use keywords when searching through search engines and social networks, like LinkedIn, as well as employer applicant tracking systems (“ATS”) and resume databases.
What Are Keywords for Job Search?
Think of keywords as the jargon or “buzzwords” used by insiders in a profession or industry. It’s how insiders describe themselves and others in their profession. These are the terms they give to the people writing job descriptions as the job requirements. The keywords most relevant to your job search are the words and phrases a recruiter would use to describe your next job (and, sometimes, your current and past jobs, too).
Developing Your Keywords
Search for the job you want next on a mega-job site like Indeed.com or your target employers’ websites, and note what unique, job-specific words are used in those job descriptions, in addition to Indeed’s JobTrends, next. Check the job requirements, too, to be sure that you have chosen the right job for you.
My favorite tool for determining the best keywords to use—or to avoid—is Indeed.com’s Job Trends page. Go to Indeed.com/jobtrends, and type a couple of versions of keywords you are considering into the search box. Then, click on “Find Trends,” and Indeed will show you which keyword or keyword phrase is being used most frequently today as well as the trend in the usage (up or down) since 2006.
For example, assume that you hold the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. You can present your certification several different ways: PMP, PMP certified, certified PMP, certified Project Management Professional, etc. To determine which is used most often by employers in their job descriptions, simply type the terms, separated with commas, into the JobTrends search box. Then, Indeed will analyze millions of job descriptions to show you what the relative and absolute trends are for those terms so you can choose the best version to use in your profiles.
If possible, find a way to add the top two versions of the term, so you are found when either of those two terms are used. If you can only use one version of the term, use the one that JobTrends shows you is the most often used and/or trending upward.
Top 20 Categories of Keywords:
1.Your professional name
This is a relatively unique version of your name that you use consistently in your professional communications, including social profiles, publications, blogs, resumes, networking cards, and other visibility. Consistently using a professional name is particularly important when a recruiter or employer is verifying the “facts” on your resume by comparing it with your LinkedIn Profile.
2.Your target job title
The title for the job that you want next, preferably the version(s) used by your target employers is a very important set of keywords. When in doubt about exactly which job title to use, become a slash person - “Project Manager/Senior Project Lead” or “Senior Administrative Assistant/ Executive Assistant” as appropriate for you.
3.Current and previous job titles
Your current and former job titles are also important keywords. Again, focus on the standard job titles that are used now by your target employers, particularly if current (or former) employer(s) used non-standard titles, like “sales star” for a sales rep position. Substitute “sales rep/sales representative” to replace the non-standard term. Again, become a slash person when necessary.
4.Your current or your target city, state, and Zip code
Use city, state, and Zip code in your profiles so your profile is in the search results for any of those terms. This enables you to be found in very specific searches as well as “radius” searches around a city or a zip code.
5.Your current or your target region’s name
Use local regional terms for a geographic area like East Bay Area or Brooklyn, as appropriate for you, for those searchers who use those terms rather than city, state, and Zip.
Preferably the skills most in demand for the job you want next (e.g., managing a P&L, using Microsoft Word and Excel, driving an 18-wheeler, leading a project team, etc.) need to be included—even if they are not the skills you used primarily for your most current job. Use searches on target employer websites or Indeed’s JobTrends to figure out which skills are most in demand.
7.Job-specific, profession-specific, and industry-specific tools and techniques
Add the relevant tools and techniques that you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and/or experience (e.g. MRI, Mastercam, Six Sigma, LEED, etc.).
8.Software relevant to your job or profession
Include the software required for your target job that you use or have been trained to use, particularly if it’s unique to your job, industry, or profession (e.g. SAP, WP, etc.). If widely-used software like the Microsoft Office set of products are sometimes mentioned in job descriptions for the job you want, be sure to include those keywords, too. Don’t assume that they are so widely used that they don’t need to be mentioned.
9.Hardware relevant to your job or profession
Add any specific hardware that may be required for your target job if you have experience using it or have been trained to use it, particularly if it is unique to your job, industry, or profession (e.g. heart monitors, scanners, even different versions of smart phones if they are relevant to the job).
10.Internet tools and apps relevant to your job or profession
Include Internet tools and apps that you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and/or experience (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, etc.).
11.Awards and recognition
If you’ve been employee of the month, salesperson of the year, or received other recognition from your employer, a customer or client, or your profession or industry, be sure to include it (or the most current or relevant recognition) in your social profiles.
12.Relevant industry and professional organizations
Include the industry and professional organizations or societies that you have joined (plus committee membership and current or former officer titles) particularly when you find the organization named in job descriptions.
13.Professional and/or technical acronyms
Usually, the more acronyms; the better, as long as they are appropriate to your experience and education. Be sure to include what the acronyms represent too, just in case someone searches on the complete term rather than only the acronym. This does not include texting shortcuts like LOL!
14.Certifications, licenses, or other proof of professional or industry knowledge
Include all proof of professional knowledge or achievement, particularly focusing on those that are current (not expired or out-of-date).
15.Categories of employers
Mention those groups of employers which are your target employers or most often need your services, like “national specialty retailers” or “general medical” for example.
Include job-specific education you have (degrees, majors, applicable course work, post-graduate courses, professional training, on-the-job-training, and certifications, etc.).
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
We all know the saying, “When opportunity knocks…”
Well, why don’t we change things up a bit and knock on opportunity’s door? I have recently realized that with hard work comes opportunity. As almost a senior in college, my four-year plan no longer fits on a full sheet of paper, but a Post-It note. Needless to say, I need to get it in gear and face the reality that it will soon be time for “real world” job applications and graduate school.
I have learned quite a bit during my college career about opportunity, and I want to share them with you brilliant millennial college students. Here are ten tips/keys to knocking on opportunity’s door:
1. Hard work pays off: It is important to work hard. It seems so simple, but sometimes we get wrapped up in wanting to just wait for good things to come. With hard work comes opportunity; opportunity to move up in a job position, opportunity to present to others, or opportunity to meet really awesome individuals that will educate and inspire you. That sounds awesome, right? Yeah, I sure think so. But first you need to work for it.
2. Networking, networking, networking: I cannot stress networking enough. When you network with people, you get to connect with them on a personal level. Then, once you establish that relationship, when their colleague mentions a fantastic internship or job opportunity, you might be the first person that pops into their mind. Find what makes you unique and use it as your strength. Make yourself memorable. That hard work we mentioned… you can talk about that! It will make you stand out. You will be amazed at what opportunities arise when you know people.
3. Talk face to face: We live in a digital age, without doubt. It’s so much easier to send an email or connect on social media. While these are all great ways to stay in constant contact with each other, nothing beats face time. Make a phone call and set up a time to meet over coffee. You don’t even have to talk business! Get to know each other—hey!—sounds kind of like networking, right?
4. Review: Did you go to a really cool, locally owned store last weekend? Do they have a Facebook or website? Write them a review! I once wrote something as simple as “Great atmosphere. Great prices. Great people. Great products.” The store owner then contacted me asking about a potential work opportunity. I was absolutely shocked! I wrote one little review and caught the eye of a business owner.
5. Have experience: Interning is a fantastic thing. Sometimes you get paid, sometimes you get course credit, but most of all, you gain real, hands-on experience. While an education is important, there is only so much you can learn from a textbook. Getting out there and getting your hands dirty will always have a pay-off in the long run.
6. Seek out your campus’ career services office: This place has almost all of the answers. Need a résumé review? Don’t know how to write a cover letter? Stuck searching for an internship? Need interviewing practice? Your campus career services office is the place to be. If you have no idea what I am talking about, drop what you’re doing and go find it.
7. Clean up your social media : Those house party pictures from freshman year that you’re still tagged in- yeah, you should take those off. Employers look at all social media because it gives a real insight to how a person is. Let’s be honest, we all social media creep on people, and boy do you learn a lot! If you have to question it, you should probably delete it. #CleanItUp
8. Appearance : You can never be over-dressed. It’s better to show up to a networking event or an interview in a suit than in something that may be sub-par. Worse case scenario, you have to slither out of those dress pants or heels later. Also, know the difference between business casual, business and formal attire. Pinterest has awesome info-graphics and outfits for inspiration!
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Tips to make the job hunt easier to handle.
Looking for a job is one of the most frustrating and anxiety-producing experiences that we have in our adult lives, especially if the search stretches on longer than anticipated. If you’re one of the many people who is finding that your search is taking months longer than what was typical in previous job markets, here are five ways to make this maddening process easier on yourself.
1. Don’t take it personally. It’s tempting to take it personally when you’re rejected for a job that you thought you were perfect for or when you don’t hear back from an employer after they promised they’d call. Rather than becoming offended, hurt, bitter or starting to feel like a failure, you’ll be far better served by removing your emotions from the equation as much as you can. Job hunting is filled with rejections, even for great candidates, and if you take the way employers treat you as a measure of your worth, you’ll never want to get out of bed again.
2. Remember that candidate time is different than employer time. When you’re job searching, time feels like it moves incredibly slowly - you sent in your application and then wait what feels like ages to get called for a phone screen, then wait ages to be invited to an in-person interview and then time stretches even longer when you’re waiting to hear if you got the job. But on the employer’s side, things are different: Hiring managers are juggling lots of other priorities and hiring often isn’t their top priority. While you’re waiting anxiously by your phone each hour for 10 days, they might not even have begun glancing through their stack of applications. It can help to remember this difference and not get too worked up about why you haven’t heard back yet.
3. After you apply for a job, mentally move on right away. Too often, this is what goes through a job seeker’s head after applying for a job: “I wonder when I’ll hear back. Maybe by the end of this week? ... I would be really good at this job. I hope I get it ... It’s Wednesday and I haven’t heard anything yet. I wonder what that means. Maybe I’ll hear tomorrow.” And on and on. It’s far better for your peace of mind to put that job out of your head as soon as you’ve submitted your application because there’s nothing to be gained by agonizing, waiting and wondering. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised if you get a call. And if they don’t, you’ll already have moved on anyway.
4. Don’t speculate on what might be happening behind the scenes or try to read clues into what interviewers say to you. Because job searching can be frustrating and full of disappointments, and because employers can be so difficult to read, job seekers often try to find clues about their candidacy in things that employers say and do. But plenty of what job seekers take as “signals” from employers really don’t actually reveal anything at all. For instance, showing you where your new office would be, telling you that your qualifications are perfect and calling your references doesn’t mean that a job offer is coming your way. You might never even hear from that employer again. And on the flip side of that, don’t assume you’re out of the running just because the employer re-advertises the job or doesn’t get back to you by when they said they would.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
You’re annoying your co-workers and clients with bad correspondence.
Email has revolutionized the way we communicate at work, bringing us a long way from the days of mimeographed memos or stenography. But it has also introduced a whole new array of annoyances into the workplace – some of which you might be guilty of yourself.
Here are 10 ways your use of email might be annoying your colleagues.
1. Not answering. When people email you a direct question, ignoring it is nearly as rude as ignoring a direct question in face-to-face conversation. And yet, offices everywhere are filled with people who don’t bother responding to emails, often even after repeated follow-ups. If you’re an email ignorer, realize that you’re likely to develop a reputation for being unresponsive and possibly disorganized, unless you vow to begin getting back to people. Even a simple “I’m working on it” is better than silence.
2. Requesting read receipts. You might love the idea of knowing exactly when someone has read your email, but requesting read receipts is likely to rankle your recipients. It sends the message that you don’t trust them to respond unless you build in some accountability, or that you don’t trust them to respond quickly enough for your liking. If your co-workers aren’t professional enough to respond to emails without the threat of a read receipt hanging over them, you should address that problem – but sending out an “I don’t trust you” signal with every communication isn’t the way to do it.
3. Sending “urgent” emails that aren’t urgent. Like the boy who cried wolf, if you abuse the urgent marker in email, soon no one will pay any attention to it – and then when you send that one truly urgent email at some point, no one will spot it. So hands-off the urgent notification unless an email truly qualifies.
4. Emailing and then calling or coming by in person to repeat your message. If it’s crucial that your message be received immediately, then email isn’t your medium; you should call or show up in person. This double delivery is so annoying that if you’re in the habit of doing it, you can be confident that your co-workers are grumbling about you right now.
5. Sending replies that make it obvious that you didn’t read the email. Responding “OK” to an email that asked an open-ended question, asking a question that was answered in the email and answering only one of three questions asked will make it obvious that you didn’t actually read the email. And while this might be a time saver for you, it’s going to require the sender to email you back for clarification and ultimately take up more time from both of you.
6. Writing vague subject lines. One-word phrases like “Question” or “Hello” squander the potential of the subject line, which when used correctly can help your recipient find the information in your email in the future.
7. Using colored text, creative fonts or email stationery. Email isn’t intended to be a fancy medium; most people want and expect plain text and nothing more. Mucking about with the fonts or colors is more likely to appear tacky than classy or creative. And using borders of flowers around your email text or other forms of email stationery looks frumpy and unprofessional.
8. Composing email signatures that go on for paragraphs. There’s rarely a need for an email signature to contain anything more than a few lines of information – that’s enough space for your name, title, company (and/or website) and phone number. And sure, it’s fine to add an additional line with a link to subscribe to your email list, order your book or find you on Twitter. But multiple phone numbers, quotes, slogans and lengthy descriptions of the company are unnecessary, generally unread and clutter up the message. When your signature is longer than the average email, that’s a bad sign.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Have a story for every skill.
“The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.”
This statement is the premise behind behavioral interviewing, an interviewing technique created in the 1970s by industrial psychologists. This style of interview is becoming popular with employers, and it can be a challenging experience.
You’re likely to face the technique on job interviews and you should be prepared to confront it the right way.
Traditional interviewing calls upon the candidate to state opinions: “Tell me about yourself.” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” “Why do you want to work for this company?” By contrast, behavioral interviewing requires job candidates to relate stories about how they handled challenges related to the skill sets the company requires for the position.
For example, if a job requires strong communication and team-building skills, an interviewer might ask candidates to recount past experiences where they explained new plans that brought a team together. Behavioral interview questions often start with phrases like, “Tell me about a time when ...” or “Describe a situation in which ... ” or “Give me an example of ...”
While your skills and experiences could be a perfect match for the position, you could lose out if you can’t validate them with relevant anecdotes.
So how do you prepare for a behavioral interview?
First, you’ll want to put yourself in the shoes of the employer and imagine what the ideal candidate for the position would answer from the interviewer’s perspective.
Then, take the time to review thoroughly the job description and research the company and its culture. Look for cues about skills necessary for the job and valued by the organization. Next, think about the sorts of behavioral questions an interviewer might ask to determine those skills.
Here are a few examples of skill sets and some behaviorally focused interview questions aimed at surfacing them.
Decision Making and Problem Solving
■Describe a situation in which you used good judgment and logic to solve a problem.
■Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision.
■Have you ever had trouble getting others to agree with your ideas? How did you deal with the situation, and were you successful?
■Describe the most challenging group from which you’ve had to gain cooperation.
■Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
■Give me an example of a situation in which you positively influenced the actions of others.
■Describe a situation in which you were able to communicate with another individual who did not personally like you (or vice versa).
■Describe a time you had to use written communication to convey an important argument or idea.
■Give me examples of what you’ve done in the past to nurture teamwork.
■Give an example of an unpopular decision you’ve made, what the result was and how you managed it.
Planning and Organization
■When scheduling your time, what method do you use to decide which items are priorities?
■Describe how you’ve handled a sudden interruption to your schedule.
Once you’ve determined which behavioral-based questions you might be asked during an interview, look back on your past experiences and develop stories to answer those questions. Your stories should be detailed yet succinct, and they should always include the following three elements:
1.A description of a specific, real-life situation or challenge you encountered.
2.A description of the specific tasks and actions you took to overcome that challenge.
3.A summary of the results of those actions. (Try to quantify these results whenever possible.)
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It might seem like a good idea, but think twice before you work a name into the conversation.
Usually knowing someone at a company where you’re seeking employment is a good thing. But dropping their name without any tact could rub a human resources official the wrong way and it might even cost you the job. “HR folks can sabotage a search if they feel one-upped,” said career coach Kelley Rexroad, a former human resources executive with more than 25 years of recruiting experience. “It is an ugly but true fact.”
Name-dropping is a technique that might seem smart during an interview, but experts say that most good hiring managers will see right through it and the ploy could backfire drastically.
“I have a saying given to me years ago by a friend: ‘You can’t unring a bell,’ ” Rexroad said. “Don’t name-drop until you need to. You could see the person you know in the hallway when you interview. If he (or) she speaks to you, you will get big points for not name-dropping.”
Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer of the Charles Aris recruiting firm, has personally placed hundreds of people in 100K-plus jobs, but he says that some have missed out because of name-dropping. “If it’s done inappropriately, it can come across as egotistic and pretentious and can backfire,” he said.
However, in some fields your most valuable attribute could be who you know. In these cases, it’s not inappropriate to mention your contacts — just do it directly. “If you’re a salesperson and you have a world-class Rolodex, that’s an asset that should be discussed,” Oakley said. “If you want the person on the other side of the table to know that you know someone, you should just say it. Don’t name-drop it.”
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Over is the new up in many jobs and industries. Learn how to use lateral moves and other off-the-ladder opportunities for career catapults and avoid getting derailed.
Are you looking for that next career challenge but unsure how to get there? Climbing the corporate ladder might not be the only way. Today more than ever, a career detour just might lead to your career destiny. At every level — including the top — professionals, managers, and executives-in-waiting commonly zigzag through several lateral lurches before stepping up to their destination position.
Why has lateral become the new way to the top? The recession is partly to blame — the hierarchy in many companies flattened and compressed during the recession, effectively eliminating rungs that were previously part of the expected climb.
Because of this reality, it has become more important to “think sideways.” If you don’t plan ahead by considering lateral rotations as part of your career development plan, you may end up stuck on your current ladder rung indefinitely, unless you find a way to take a larger-than-usual step up. Yet paradoxically, exceptional advancement is less likely if you haven’t taken the time to boost your experience and confidence with lateral moves.
Cheryl Palmer, career coach and founder of Call to Career, suggested a helpful analogy: “If you’re stuck in a traffic jam and it may be hours before you’re able to move forward, it makes sense to change lanes and exit on a side road where you can more quickly navigate around it. Sitting in the traffic jam and fuming doesn’t get you anywhere.”
For advice on how to effectively turn a side step into a step up, TheLadders asked several career-development experts to weigh in:
1. Make It Make Sense. Without a strategic career path, lateral moves can become merely a merry-go-round. Joanne Cleaver, author of the new book The Career Lattice: Combat Brain Drain, Improve Company Culture, and Attract Top Talent, suggested you must proactively plot your own career plan to make sense of diagonal and lateral moves. “Your employer won’t do it for you, so the first thing to know is that it’s up to you to pursue and land opportunities that advance your career agenda,” said Cleaver.
A great place to start is to envision your next “up” move, and then reverse-engineer the qualifications you need to make a serious run for that position. Cleaver recommended assessing your current experience and skill set to determine what you might need to get where you want to go.
“Ask yourself: Am I lacking hands-on operational experience? Proven expertise in a business skill, such as client retention? A working knowledge of a relevant slice of technology? What skill set would tee up my success in that position?” suggested Cleaver. By comparing the skills required by your next-step job to the skills you currently have, you’ll quickly see the gaps that a lateral move can fill.
2. Do What Needs to Be Done. Your informal self-assessment will likely uncover areas where your skills could be stronger to get you to the next level. Determine specific strategic actions that will help you reach your career goals faster.
“If you are a project manager who wants to become a department manager, you might need two things: a stronger network outside your department so that your reputation is already established with your potential new peers, and broader exposure to customers and clients so you can show that you can drive growth as well as get work accomplished,” said Cleaver.
In this case, she suggested considering a short-term rotation to cultivate relationships with other departments and functions, or working on an assignment that puts you and your team on a customer-facing project.
3. Volunteer Strategically. It can be difficult to find time for volunteer projects in the midst of your primary career responsibilities. But strategic volunteering can be a powerful way to rapidly expand your network of influencers and to backfill business skills, according to Cleaver.
To spin community service into an opportunity for lateral rotation, Cleaver suggested joining an organizational committee whose volunteers complement—yet don’t duplicate—your existing network. Look to your current skills for a logical toehold (for example, if you work in marketing, join the marketing committee).
“Your end game is to transition to an assignment that builds your business skills, once your credibility is established,” explained Cleaver. “So a marketing exec, needing operational and financial management experience, might volunteer to co-chair an annual appeal.” Such assignments tee up results-driven case studies for employees to bring back to their day job, illustrating business skills that prove their qualification for general management.
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