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It’s your life. It’s your career. Stop apologizing.

Three times this week, (and it’s only Wednesday), I’ve had clients say to me, “If only I’d …”, or “How am I going to explain this gap in employment?”, “What will ‘they’ think, when they see …?” and other, self-deprecating comments about their career and the choices they’ve made in their lives. To which I gently SHOUT, “Stop apologizing for events and decisions you cannot change. Find the value or diminish the event, but stop carrying it around everywhere you go.” (Easier said, than done. I know.)

Photo by satguru via Flickr

Too often job seekers and careerists focus on the one thing they perceive as a lack and forget to dig deeper and find value in that one thing. To add fuel to the fire, not only do they apologize for life choices, they throw them up as red flags and roadblocks during interviews. Rather than keeping conversations focused on what they learned, they make excuses and apologize for the fact they weren’t “gainfully employed” or “weren’t in a normal cookie-cutter situation” while learning new, exciting, and marketable skills.

We all, intellectually, know we’re in a completely different job market. Fifty years with the same company and retiring with a gold watch are pretty much a thing of the past. Frequent job changes, gaps, sabbaticals, conscious decisions to take a break, relocate, go back to school, just sit and be are common pieces of today’s careers story. YET, we continue to act as if we took more than two seconds off since the age of 16, something is wrong and must be “explained away.”

I worked with a young man last year. He made astute investments and managed his money wisely. When he married, he and his bride traveled Europe – for a year. A dream vacation for them both; they had the time of their lives.  He came to me, ready to re-enter the work force. One of his first questions, “How do I explain the fact I didn’t work for a year? That looks bad doesn’t it?”

Hmmmmm. Let’s see. His target was financial analyst for organizations with a global reach. He saw a gap. I saw someone who:

  • Invested, saved, and managed his money well enough to support two people traveling for an entire year in Europe.
  • Learned about currency exchange and market fluctuations, first hand.
  • Embraced many different cultures; became versed in behavioral nuances and social expectations in each one.
  • Made lifelong connections building a solid foundation for a global network.
  • Troubleshot and responded to last minute changes and emerging situations.
  • Planned and arranged international travel.
  • Communicated frequently with non-English speaking locals, eventually attaining understanding.
  • Honed interpersonal skills through meeting so many people from so many different countries and navigating the first year of marriage. :)

After looking at the trip through career-value eyes, he no longer saw the time spent traveling as a roadblock, but rather a differentiator. He had the skills needed, like “every other financial analyst,” but now, he knew how to capitalize on the extra layer of expertise, derived from his travels, he brought to any employer.

I could tell you about the aspiring office manager who volunteered for a local charity during a two-year gap in employment. She thought she just answered the phone.” With prodding, she shared she built a donor database for the organization enabling targeted donor campaigns and boosting overall fundraising. She also helped create content and managed mail marketing campaigns. She thought she “didn’t do anything” for two years because she “didn’t get paid. In reality, she’d built solid office management, collaboration, and marketing skills.

Or we could discuss the person I spoke with the other day who started the conversation, “I’m sorry, but my degree is only in history ….” She didn’t see the value, knowledge, or skills derived from attaining the degree – time management, teamwork, research, communication, subject matter expertise. She’d decided that her degree in “history” was no help to her current career goals and led with a statement pointing out that fact. She didn’t see the thousands of people who would LOVE to have the opportunity to earn and hold a degree, or that (I’ve read repeatedly) a good many folk have drifted away their majors only five years out from graduation. She brought her own job search and interview roadblock with her and quickly flopped it into the middle of a conversation about her career goals.

{As an aside, she was doing marketable things in operations management and logistics. By the time she’d dazzled with all she could do from an operations, efficiency, and cost saving standpoint, a potential employer probably wouldn’t care if her degree was in eating bon-bons.}

Bottom line: life and career choices make up the wonderful fabric of you. Job searches and career moves are difficult enough without feeling like you have to apologize for anything falling outside the “fifty-years and a gold watch” scenario. Look at what you learned during the “non-traditional” times and rather than apologize for being different, embrace, tout, and flaunt the value being different brings.

Jobseekers: How are you making connections?

I found this email in my inbox this morning*:

Subject: Please contact me if you would like to be my Job Recruiter

Greetings Recruiters,

Sextant by stebulus via flickr

My name is John Doe and I am looking for a Sales Manager/Director position in “Some” County, Idaho. Please email me at johndoe4hire@geemail.com or call me at 555-555-5555

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

John Doe

555-555-5555

(*Information fictionalized to protect identity.)

I will give John kudos for blind CCing all the recipients. But it does make me wonder how many others received the opportunity to “be his job recruiter.”

I’ve written about asking for assistance during a search, here and here. (Read those too.) Following is a portion of what I responded to John, adding to my (unfortunately) growing collection of “don’t do this” job search posts:

Hi John -

I appreciate the contact. However I am not a recruiter. I am a career strategist, producing compelling, interview-landing resumes.

(Know your audience. Group email? No clue what I do for a living? Don’t I feel special? Ya. Let me hop right on helping … although I did.)

I’d be happy to take a look at your existing career documents to ensure they are up to competing in a 2012 job search. I offer a brief general impression at no charge or obligation.

(Since he’d made contact with me, why not take a moment to mention my services and offer an opportunity for engagement. As I’m prone to do, I went a step further and “stuck my nose all up in his bidness” in an attempt to help with his job search success – whether I heard from him again or not. I continued …)

And if you don’t mind a bit of unsolicited guidance. I am a former recruiter. To be boldly honest, there is very little chance, when I was recruiting that I would have done more with this type of email than hit the delete button.

Recruiters find people for jobs. They don’t find jobs for people. And, they frequently segment into specific niched industries, working with national and international clients. (My niche was the lighting industry).

This correspondence gives no indication as to the industry in question. And it gives no indication of what value you bring to “me”, as a recruiter, or what value and benefit you bring to “my” client, the hiring company. The message in this email does nothing other than ask a complete stranger to “do something” (call or email) without any indication about what’s in it for them. In today’s market, with the current unemployment rate, it’s an “all about them job market.” {“What can you (the candidate) do for me (the employer – or in this case, the employer’s representative)?}

When I was a recruiter I’d frequently come into the office to find more than 300 emails had arrived overnight. Considering the sheer volume of information to plough through on any given day, the individual who clearly succinctly conveyed value and projected current skills into targeted positions, matching my open job orders, caught my attention. Those applying a shotgun approach to job search or asking for a “favor” without any indication of the value they brought were dumped into the applicant database or worse, quickly deleted.

Will I ever hear from John again? I don’t know. Regardless, I do hope he at least ponders what I said.

PS: The irony to this story is John’s job target: Sales Manager/Director

No (successful) salesperson on this planet would walk up to a potential customer and say, “I need commissions so you need to call me and place an order.” Even a non-salesperson knows that approach doesn’t work. Yet here is a potential sales manager or director doing the equivalent of just that. (“I’m for hire; call me.” “I need a job; call me.”)

Talk about missing a stellar opportunity to demonstrate salesmanship. This almost throws his sales prowess and expertise into question from the first contact. If he doesn’t call me, I do hope he finds someone to help him navigate the treacherous waters of job search 2012. Right now, he doesn’t even have a sextant and is trying to compete in a market requiring a high-tech, finely-tuned GPS.

 

The power of value in salary negotiations

One of the best parts of writing resumes for folks; I frequently get to meet extended families. I’ve written for husband and wives and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, and fraternity and sorority brothers and sisters and many combinations of the above.

Last year, I wrote for a wife; then her husband. They kept in touch and we’ve built an amiable relationship over time. Yesterday, I was working toward a hard deadline for a client. I took a writing break and checked my email. There was a note from the wife. The husband had a job offer.

What they thought would be a lucrative salary, turned out to be a much-lower-than-anticipated or originally-discussed offer. I could feel her disappointment through the email. Right then, I didn’t have time to do justice to salary negation coaching, but couldn’t leave them hanging either.

This is how I responded:

 “I’m on a hard deadline so don’t have time for a long answer, but will point you here:

www.salarynegotiations.com

Jack Chapman’s book (site above) is (also) usually in the local bookstores WORTH the investment!!

Also dig around on www.asktheheadhunter.com Nick (Corcodilos) has great advice about negotiations there too.”

Throughout her email, she indicated “the company could afford more than they were offering” and “job duties far outweighed compensation.” I empathized with her, but went on to say:

 “Also, allow me to be bold (like that’s something new, huh? LOL), “how much they can afford” is not your concern. Your concern is to clearly, succinctly define why he is worth the money he expects to be paid. Quantifiable, qualifiable statements of value indicating why the duties of the position require higher compensation will “win”. “I will add ‘this’ to the bottom line and operations will improve in ‘this’ manner, saving ‘this’ amount of money.”

He can also check market value for the area using www.salary.com. Also, Google ‘salary calculators’ and do a few comparisons to get a sound average. Knowing what the market will bear gives you power in the negotiation.”

I wished them luck, knowing I’d at least pointed them in the right direction. I went back to my project.

Today, I got a message from the wife (paraphrasing):

“He called the company today and let them know the offer was conservative. He told them why he was worth more, etc. They raised it 15k!!!!”

There’s power in articulating your value. There’s power in partnering with a career professional with career management knowledge and job search resources. There’s power in keeping your network alive. Had we not maintained casual contact during the past year, chances are I might not have responded so quickly. And the chance might have been lost.

Bottom line: Knowing and articulating value + building networks and maintaining relationships + a little direction from a pro = $15,000 boost in starting salary (for them anyway.)

WOOT!

My dad, Mr. B.

If y’all don’t mind, I’m going to take a moment to talk about my dad, Mr. B.

You see, my dad, Donald Sigurd Bugni, passed quietly in his sleep a little more than a week ago – December 23rd, 2011. On Wednesday, the 28th, friends and family gathered at the family church to celebrate his life – on what would have been his 85th birthday. It seemed fitting to bid farewell to this pragmatic, practical, precise engineer on the same day he said hello, 85 years earlier. It’s just like dad to make sure all the loose ends tied up nicely.

He had a sly, sweet smile with “little apple cheeks” that seemed to take his normally solemn face by surprise. He could also be crabby and set in his ways – at least I come by it honestly. :) He had a quick wit. I used to kid, “Dad knew snark before snark was cool.”

Dad worked for Square D Company for 46 years, and he and mom would have celebrated their 60th anniversary this coming Valentine’s Day. Talk about longevity! I learned a thing or two about loyalty from both of them.

I could go on and on and talk about all the wonderful memories of him that live in my heart, but won’t. Suffice it to say, I know lessons learned and wisdom gained from him are tightly woven in the fabric of me. And that’s a good thing.

He’s at peace now. And that has given me (and my family) peace.

I love you Mr. B. Godspeed.  

Donald Sigurd Bugni December 28, 1926 – December 23, 2011

He taught me how to change a car tire 

Don Bugni and friend Kenny July 20, 1942

 

 

 

 

Dad, in the Army

The Bugni Family - Christmas 1964

Audrey and Don Bugni (Circa 1980s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken New Year's Day 2011, it only seem right Dad takes us into New Year's Day 2012. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t know me. You need to help me.

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. It read:

What advice do you have for me as a teacher who is transitioning into technology? Please connect with me on LinkedIn. Touch a life and make a world of difference.
Thank you
[name withheld]“

I did not recognize the name. I belong to several job search and career groups on LinkedIn. The LinkedIn header indicated we were members of the same job search group. I honestly don’t participate in LinkedIn discussion groups like I “should.” I pop in occasionally answer a question and “disappear” until I spot something else I can and have time to answer. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never dropped into this particular group.

Photo by Seafarer via Flickr

So. Let’s take another look at that request from a complete stranger again. There was no “this is how we know each other” introduction. There wasn’t an “I follow you on Twitter” common ground moment. No mention was made of an article or blog post I’d written. None of that; only the “What do you have for me?” opening. If this were an in-person meeting, in essence, this person walked up, extended a hand and said, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”

I shrugged my shoulders at the lack of “social” in this social media connection and overlooked the me-centric approach to job search and career management. I, sadly, see things like this every day. Rather than delete the inquiry with an eye roll, the business person and coach in me kicked in and I decided to respond. This could be a potential client. And even if this person didn’t end up using my services, I had a little time to offer some insight and help a stranger … in spite of a rather abrupt request.

I spent the next 45 minutes or so crafting a thoughtful response. I looked up and included the link to a blog post I had written about the topic to offer further insight. I put a lot of time into “stranger request” responses because they may be a client prospect and while I want to help; I also want to live indoors and eat regularly. In my eyes, I’m “interviewing” with a potential client every time I respond to one of these requests. I do not take the advice I give or the way I give it lightly.

I hit send on the email. A few hours later, the person responded:

“Love it. Looks like my storage unit of school teacher stuff. I joined _____ & _____’s career beta committee so I can computerize everything and reinvent my future. My future as a microsoft office trainer.
Thank you
[name withheld]“

(The “love it” refers to the picture of clutter in the blog post link I sent.)

The individual commented on the blog picture and went on to tell me about a free site they had joined to facilitate the career change they desired and stated their career goal with conviction. There was a thank you at the end. There was no mention of the information I’d provided – good, bad or indifferent.

Sure, they got the information they needed for right now, but at what cost. Call me an old curmudgeon, but to be quite blunt, after this exchange, I’ll be hard pressed to answer any more of their questions with much more than, “That’s a rather large question. I offer job search coaching at an hourly rate.” Multiply that response by the rest of this person’s network and they’ll see information and connection resources dry up quickly. “I need, I want, give me” message wear thin quickly.

In my heart, I know this person is excited about their career decision and is gathering every known resource to facilitate that change. They meant no harm. They have no clue as to how me-centric their message sounds. However, during this innocuous exchange, from my perspective, all I heard was “me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me.” (Wonder what a hiring authority will hear when they launch their search ….)

Opening the requests with a smidge of flattery or at least some information about why/how we’re connected or why they’re coming to me for help would have been a great ice breaker. And, at the end of it all, taking a moment to offer something back in return would have been nice too.

“Thank you for taking the time to respond. You’ve given me food for thought. Let me know if I can help with your future endeavors.”

I frequently tell resume clients to “step to the other side of the desk” and hear what they’re saying (read what they’re writing) from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know or care about them and doesn’t have intimate details regarding their career. Very often, taking an objective step back, they’re stunned by the tone and tenor of their communication, the assumptive stance they take and the incorrect way things can be perceived without important details.

Hopefully, in future connections, my LinkedIn correspondent will read and think about what they say and how they say it before they hit send. All take and no give does not build a network.

(Note, name and gender omitted to protect identity.)

Stop with the bad resume advice

I worked with a client recently. We spoke on the phone several times before she engaged my services. I had also provided a few samples, so she knew the type of document I produced and was confident in my capabilities and knowledge of best practices for this crazy, competitive job market.

Shortly after our intake conversation, I received a polite email from her.

“Hi Dawn,
I just spoke to a friend of mine … He said that now a days it’s best to keep your resume at one page and to let them know that references are available upon request in order that they will contact you for them and you will know what the status of the application process is …  I don’t know how mine can be limited to one page or if it should be at this point, but I trust your judgment.”

I shook my head. Oh no! Another job seeker thrown for a loop by well-meaning, but oh-so-wrong, out-dated guidance I started the process of unraveling two of the resume myths that linger … yet again.

Excerpted below is what I replied:

“Hi Audrey,

Whoa. You hit a hot button topic for me. :) I do not limit resume page length based on some arbitrary “rule” unfounded in any logic or reason. A resume should be as long as it needs to be to convey your value … and not one word more.

I have conveyed the value of a 30-year career in one page; I have written two-page documents for new graduates; I have created executives documents with three pages, plus addendums. Each was an effective approach based on the specifics of their search, the details of their positions and what they did in their career.

I have never, in 25 years of corporate experience (hiring & interviewing staff), two years’ executive recruiting and almost ten years in the career industry, ever had any hiring authority say, “Ya know, that Audrey really has everything we need. She can hit the ground running. She’s a perfect candidate, but golly gee, her resume is two pages. We can’t hire her.” (smile)

Putting “references upon request” on a document is a waste of space. Of course you’ll give references if requested. Plus, it’s 2011. Google is your reference too. Don’t submit the list without being asked. Make sure you have everyone prepped and ready, but there is no need to take up space with that information. I’d rather add more info about your value.  

In the spirit of gentle education regarding resumes (and job search too), if you try to take resume (or job search) advice from everyone you meet, your will quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated with all the unbelievably conflicted information. Quite frankly, your head will explode, your document will look like you took advice from 45 people, all with differing opinions and you won’t know which way to turn in your search.

I’ve written on this topic frequently.
“Hate resume writing: Here’s how to get it DONE”
(Scroll down. My contribution to the conversation is after the three young ladies.)

On my own blog:
“How are you asking for feedback?”

And I was interviewed by a US News and World Reports reporter and was quoted in an article regarding page length:
“The death of the one page resume?”

(I warned you page length was a hot button issue. :))”

She replied with gratitude that she didn’t have to sort through these things anymore. She knew she could count on me to do the right thing and agreed to stop listening to “everyone’s” opinion.

When you partner with a professional, partner with someone you trust; then trust them. And please … can we let the “one-page” rule and “references available upon request” statement finally join the objective and the rest of the out-dated job search dinosaurs in extinction.

How are you asking for feedback?

And what are you getting? And for that matter, what are you giving when asked?

In the past few months, I’ve had two people hand me a product (virtually or in person) with no context or reference to their attachment or affiliation, what I was viewing or why I would be interested. The only guidance I got was the equivalent of a generic, “So. What ‘cha think?”

A few months ago, Karen Swim and I were having an email conversation about feedback. She wisely observed, “When you ask for an opinion, many people will look for something to pick apart just so they feel ‘valued.'”

Guess what I did in both instances when I was asked for feedback? Correct. I found a way to give a negative “pick-apart” initial response. Turns out, both products were near and dear to the asker’s heart. My natural propensity (like it or not) to “offer” value through negative feedback and my perception “we were all picking apart the product” ended up in me doing some back pedaling.

Is it wrong to go to the negative first when asked to give feedback? Probably. But, if we’re honest, we’ve all done it. More than once. Is it wrong to ask for feedback without any information and then be dismayed when what you get is not what you wanted? Probably. But, we all do that too.

Transition this scenario to the job seeker. You’ve recently invested in working with a career professional or invested hours and hours researching, writing and tweaking your resume. You show it to your friends. You excitedly ask, “So. What ‘cha think?”

Let’s keep in mind the people you’re asking, usually:

- Haven’t job searched recently
– Never had a role in the hiring process, ever
– Used to work in HR … 20 years ago
– Read a book about resumes, in college, 8 years ago
– Aren’t quite sure what you do for living … something to do with plastics*
– Have no idea about your career goals
– Don’t know the preferences for your target industry
– Have never worked in the size company or the industry you’re targeting
– Knows you’re changing careers, but not sure of the specifics

I could go on. (And on and on and on …)

Think about it. You’ve asked the simple “What ‘cha think?” question to a group of friends, relatives and acquaintances with widely-varying career and job search backgrounds. Add to that, they may not be up to speed on the specifics of your search. You’ve given no context to what you’re looking for to a group of people who want to feel valued by you.

The input starts:

- I heard you’re supposed to have an objective. Where’s the objective?
– It’s too many words.
– It’s not enough words.
– It’s too detailed.
– It’s not detailed enough.
– I heard bullets are supposed to be round, not square.
– They’ll know what you mean. You don’t have to explain it.
– It should only be one page.
– Shouldn’t it be more than page?
– I’m not sure about the format. It’s different than every other resume I’ve seen.

You’re on top of the world, so proud of your new document. You ask for (unguided) feedback from friends and poof! in a second you’re second guessing everything you know and your confidence is waning. (Multiply that effect for unemployed job seekers.)

Photo by Justin_D_Miller via Flickr

Did anyone intend to burst your bubble? Did you expect everyone you spoke with to find something “wrong” with your career documents? Of course not. On both counts. But it happens. Time and time again.

I worked with a laid-off salesman a while back. He LOVED his resume; was excited to launch the search. He felt on top of the world. Then he showed it to 10 people. Guess what? Ten people had twenty different opinions. It took almost an-hour-and-a-half to explain, validate or debunk what he had been told. What little confidence he had was shot, his head was spinning and he wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn.

This most likely could have been avoided had he asked for feedback differently: “I really like my resume. I engaged with a professional who helped me focus on a specific target using a strategy successful in 2011. (Or I’ve done extensive research … ) “Would you mind reading it over for clarity, please?” Or, “You know my career quite well. I’m trying to spotlight this set of skills as I transition industries. Will you please read my resume and see if you remember anything I did that might be a better example?”  Or, “Would you proofread this for me please? I’m good with the content and format. I just want a second set of eyes to catch any errors I may have missed.”

Each of these examples sets the expectation for the type of input requested. The need for your friend, associate or whoever to figure out what you need and in turn, how to be valued is eliminated. You’ve asked a specific question. You now have the opportunity to receive solid input. If you’re unsure about the input, ask your trusted career professional about it (or spend time doing research to determine validity) and see if what you’ve heard fits with your specific goal.

Going forward, I’ll do a better job of asking clarifying questions before offering off-the-cuff responses. Hopefully my faux pas will help you remember to clarify what was asked or share what you expect in asking. And do remember, everyone has an opinion. Have the confidence to sort through the input and pick and choose what works for you – not try to incorporate everything. (Your head will explode.) As a good friend told me recently, “I might ask for your opinion. It doesn’t mean I’m going to use it.” Have the confidence to ask. Also have the confidence to ignore.

Snark is easy. Thoughtful constructive feedback takes a bit more effort on both parts.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PS: Does asking for clarification mean I (or you) won’t give an honest opinion? PUH-lease. In my case, “If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.” However, when knowing the goal and context of the question we all can be much more focused on solid feedback than offering misguided answers to questions that weren’t asked. That goes for people attempting to help you in your search too.

Serendipity of simple conversations: A networking story

There it is. The KISS snowglobe

On July 29th, 2010, I glanced at my left hand and noticed, to my horror, the main stone, a marquis-cut sapphire, in my engagement ring was gone. The day was my 11th wedding anniversary. (Gotta love the irony.) My husband and I checked into replacing the stone, but opted to put the purchase on hold for a while.

This past Saturday, we decided to revisit replacing the stone. In preparation, we dug in drawers and old jewelry boxes.  We gathered a small pile of “scrap” gold and sterling silver jewelry and headed to the jewelry store.

We waited for the next available appraiser. Shannon called us to her office. We chatted while she sorted the things of value from the “this looks ‘fishy,’ let me test it further” pieces. While sorting through the silver, she noticed a dachshund pin and asked if we had pets. She shared she had two cats named Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. My husband, a musician himself, grinned and said, “So you like KISS?”

She stopped what she was doing, leaned in and grinning from ear-to-ear shared she LOVED them. She went on to tell us her entire house was very conservative and “plaid.” Plaid that is until the splash of KISS. Plaid. Plaid. KISS. We had quite a laugh together; it was nice to see her “other side.” (She has a picture of her and Gene Simmons on her phone. We’re talking serious fan. Love it!)

She continued working on our appraisal. My husband asked if she had ever seen a KISS snow globe.

Several years ago we somehow became the “proud” owners of a KISS snow globe (neither of us really remembers how it came to be ours, which is somehow fitting. :)) To say it was my least favorite “objet d’art” in the house would be an understatement.

Shannon “lit up” when she heard the words “KISS snow globe.” My husband glanced at me, and in the unspoken language of love between married people, my glance back said, “GET THAT THING OUT OF THE HOUSE.” He turned to Shannon and said, “We have one. We’d love for you to have it.” She almost burst with excitement.

Seriously. Can you blame me?

Today, the KISS snow globe goes to a new home. Shannon joked she was going to build a shrine for it. Part of me believes her. LOL. I’m thrilled it’s gone. She’s thrilled to have it. We’re all thrilled we met each other.

And there’s the job search lesson in this story. A simple conversation led to good things all around. Think about it. There are lots of jewelry stores in the Wilmington area. We went to that one. There are five appraisers on staff at that store. We happened to be paired with the one appraiser who likes KISS. There happened to be a piece of animal shaped jewelry in the mix, sparking the conversation about pets. My husband happened to recognize the correlation between her cat’s names and KISS. And now because of all that happenstance, we all happen to be happy.

I tell clients, “You never know, who knows, who knows, who, who can help get you a job.” Substitute golf or sports or quilting or painting for the “pets” segue in our conversation and substitute employment opportunity for “new home for the KISS snow globe” opportunity. You can see how chance, unexpected, unplanned meetings can lead to something completely unrelated to the original goal, yet equally or additionally wonderful.

Networking doesn’t have to be anything formal or planned. It’s not confined just to job search either. Traveling though life, open to opportunities to give frequently and take occasionally, provides a nice foundation for strong, life-long connections. We may not have dinner with Shannon every week, if ever, but if there’s a need for our paths to cross again, we’ve established trust and can add to the foundation our first serendipitous exchange started.

PS – While the appraisal didn’t completely cover the replacement cost of the stone, it brought it within reach. I’m excited to be able to wear my ring again. I only have to wait two weeks.

Happy to be "heading" to a new home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: 10-12-11: I picked up my ring and delivered Shannon’s snow globe today. A crazy period of unscheduled illness and schedule vacation prevented the exchange before now. She is thrilled with her globe. I am thrilled to have my wedding set back on my left hand where it belongs. A good day all around!

The snow globe and its new owner, Shannon (Click on the picture for her full bio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you positive about your job search?

Career Collective post: Once a month, a group of career professionals blog on a subject topical and timely for a job seeker. We’ll post our thoughts on our own blog and link to the post of our colleagues on the same topic.

This month’s topic: Mid-year job search checkup

Responses from others contributors linked at the end. Follow the hashtag #Career Collective on Twitter.

You’ve set up metrics to track resume send-out-versus-response ratios. You’re so engaged with your network, you know who you spoke with, when, the topic of conversation and have scheduled a date and time for the next contact. You set up social media profiles across the web making you Google-able. You online presence is pristine. You engaged a career professional to make sure your resume and other career documents properly positioned you. On paper and online, you appear to be a slam-dunk candidate for many positions in your industry. You interview well too. But wait … you’re still unemployed or you still haven’t been able to land a new position. What gives?

First, if you’re not in the enviable position, online and on paper, as outlined above, be sure to read all the Career Collective contributions this month. You’re sure to pick up helpful tips and tricks to bring your career marketing collateral and job search strategy up to snuff.

Now, if you’ve got all this going for you, why no job offers? When was the last time you sat down and had an honest look at how you present yourself to the world? I’m not talking about external appearances. I’m talking attitude, outlook and perspective. If you’re doing everything right in a job search and your persona contradicts the message conveyed in your introductory documents, you’re going to have a difficult search. People hire people with positive attitudes and energy. Be sure your habits support that positive projection

Find a quiet spot (like this one) and take a long, hard, honest look at what needs to change.

Moore's Creek, western Pender County, NC

  • Do you hang with a crowd that’s usually complaining about something?

Assess how external forces affect your internal sentences. Picking, poking and complaining about everything under the sun might be all in fun when you’re together with your friends. But, sometimes, that negative tone creeps into everyday conversations and starts to jade your entire perception of the world. Does that mean you have to dump your friends to get a job?

Of course not, but at least be aware of any effect “negative” jokes and kidding have on your personal view of life. Your assessment might cause you to initiate a change in how the group interacts (not an easy feat). It might be a good idea to change the group dynamic and add some new people to the mix at your next event. Or, you might decide to reduce the group events for a while and keep in touch with individuals.

  • Has your job search support group turned into a commiseration session?

When you first joined the group, you left meetings energized, full of ideas and suggestions to propel your search forward. As time wore on, you began to leave meetings more discouraged than when you went in. Your commitment to the people in the group is still there, but the benefits evaporated long ago.

Apply some of the same ideas listed above to change group dynamics without eliminating the group completely. But don’t be afraid to admit it’s time to move on either. Your loyalty has to be to you and your positive mental state.

  • Are you parked on the sofa watching the six-o-clock news every night?

If you’re told (or tell yourself) something often enough, it becomes your reality. If you spend an hour each evening listening to how horrible things are in the world right now, chances are the message will eventually seep into your perception.

A client recently told me, she knew she needed to look for a job, but she watched the news every night. She heard how difficult the job market is right now and adopted the perception that to do anything would be a waste of effort. My advice to her: Turn off your TV. (Apologies to the news industry.)

In lieu of such a drastic measure, at least keep things in perspective. You don’t have to find a job for every single unemployed individual in the United States; you only have to find one, for you. If watching the news every night is stressing you out, there are plenty of ways to stay current with world events, on your terms. Find what works for you and protect your positive outlook. Focus on what you can do to improve on your personal news; not on things you cannot control.

  • Is your family supportive of your search and your career?

Does the question, “So. Do you have a job YET?” pop up daily in family conversations? Does it feel like an inquisition at family gatherings as second-cousins-three-times-removed (what does that mean??) start grilling you about and assessing your job search efforts? Do you get that “sure you are dear” look whenever you share career goals and aspirations?

If family interactions leave you curled in a fetal position under your desk while you’re trying to conduct a job search, it’s up to you to take action. They mean well, but it might be time for a conversation with those closest to you. Ask for their support and tell them what they can do help, and what hurts.

Develop a thick skin for those occasional (unintentional) barbs from extended family and friends. Everyone has an opinion. That doesn’t mean you have to absorb each and every one. As in the examples before, take charge of the dynamic or make some difficult decision about interactions and frequency.

  • Does an (involuntary) frown creep across your face when you talk about past positions and people?

No matter how many times you tell yourself, everything’s fine, if you don’t have a “poker face” when talking about what happened or is happening to encourage you into a job search, you’re going to lose in the job search game.

Find an outlet or method to handle the (understandable) anger and negative energy so it doesn’t make unwanted appearances during career conversations. If you have to, engage friends or sit in front of a mirror to put a positive perspective (spin) on less than perfect circumstances. You don’t want the look on your face and your actions to drown out the value you’re trying to convey.

  • What are you saying to yourself?

What kind of tapes play in your head all day long? I’m not talking about your iPod play list. Are you saying positive things to you about you or is your dialogue peppered with, “You idiot. I can’t believe you were so stupid. I’ll never find a job. It’s not my fault, the world is against me. I never do anything right. I’m always late.” – enough! You get the idea. You spend more time with yourself than you do with anyone else on the planet. Be encouraging in what you say to yourself. (For more on this topic: “What are YOU saying about you?“and “…And then shut up“)

Time and time again I’ve read comments from hiring authorities indicating candidate attitudes play a huge role in hiring decisions. Specific skills can be trained. Attitude determines the success of that training. As I said, people hire positive people. It’s in a job seekers best interest to develop a positive energy in addition to executing a well-strategized search. Remember, the unspoken sometimes speaks louder than the words being said. Rediscover your joie de vivre and see if that isn’t the mid-year tweak your job search needed.

Here’s what my colleagues have to say:

Career Collective

4 Summer Strategies to Step Up Your Job Search, @DebraWheatman

Putting Your Job Search Up On The Rack For Inspection, @dawnrasmussen

Mid-Year Job Search Checkup: Are you wasting your time? @GayleHoward

What is your unique value proposition? @keppie_careers

It is Time for Your Check-up Ms/Mr Jobseeker, @careersherpa

Mid-Year Career Checkup: Are You “On Your Game?” @KatCareerGal

How to Perform a Mid-Year Job Search Checkup, @heatherhuhman

Reposition your job search for success, @LaurieBerenson

Mid-Year Job Search Checkup: What’s working and What’s not? @erinkennedycprw

Mid-Year Job Search Check-Up: Getting Un-Stuck, @JobHuntOrg

Mid-Year Check Up: The Full 360, @WalterAkana

5 Tips for Fighting Summer Job Search Blues, @KCCareerCoach

Are you positive about your job search? @DawnBugni

Where Are The Jobs? @MartinBuckland, @EliteResumes

Mid-Year Job-Search Checkup: Get Your Juices Flowing, @ValueIntoWords

When Was Your Last Career & Job Search Check Up? @expatcoachmegan

Is Summer A Job Search Momentum Killer? @TimsStrategy, #CareerCollective

Is It Time for Your Resume Checkup? @barbarasafani, #CareerCollective

How are you asking for help? – Part 2

Yesterday, I shared an email from a job seeker and offered some suggestions how he (you) can improve on responses to requests for assistance. The job seeker’s questions and concerns are common, so I’m sharing what I told him with you.

Here’s his original email:

“I am currently unemployed and for the past few months I have been trying to present better ways to get my resume points of view across to recruiters. I have been trying to co-mingle value based information and actual job duties that I have done. When I do that it seems to create sort of a “laundry list” of my duties and I am trying to stay away from that, but I want to at least show some type of duties that i have. Could you please send me some pointers and advice. Thank You.”

And here’s how I responded:  (Just so you know … I did address him by name. :))

Dear Job Seeker:

Target. Focus. Differentiation is paramount in this market. A resume has morphed into a sales and marketing document telling an employer what they want to know about you; not what you want to tell them. Target your message to your audience. Focus on their needs and tell what differentiates you from why/how you’re better than “any” other person applying for the position. The “laundry list” feel comes from not knowing what to tell them. Without focus, you try and tell them everything. And, without focus they don’t know how they’ll benefit by employing you.

Photo by deanmeyersnet via Flickr

Think about it … If you’re shopping for shoes and I’m telling you about hot dogs, I won’t have your attention long. If you tell a potential employer about X skill set and they’re looking for Y … you won’t have their attention long.

A potential employer will not try and figure out how you fit into their organization. You have to tell them. You tell them, by researching job posting and identifying what your “buyer” is “buying”. What skills do they value? You then create a solid demonstration of those skills. Anything that doesn’t pertain to what they need is clutter.

Objective statements, stating what you “need” went the way of the dinosaur. It’s not about what you need (seek, want to secure ….) It’s about what you bring. In this market, the focus is on the employer. Employers really don’t care what you seek or want; their focus is on what you can do to impact their organization’s bottom line.

I do hope you’re networking, both virtually through social media and in-person though professional organizations, community events and volunteer work. And that you can be found online and your online presence is clean. If you are solely dependent on recruiter interactions, you should know only 3% of hiring is done through professional recruiters. They are a valuable tool in a job seekers tool belt, but it takes more than a hammer to build a house. It takes a variety of approaches to execute a successful job search.

I write a job search blog and I link to lots of other professionals through my site, as well as blog with an international group of writers every month. If you want to go it alone, there is plenty of GOOD teaching material and information linked from my website. (Blue Sky Resume has a fr*e downloadable tutorial.)

If you have the funds available to invest in your future, then engaging with a career professional is the best thing you can do for yourself. (Personally, I’d rather see job seekers spend the time networking, making connections and researching companies than learning about how to write a resume. The return on the investment, both monetarily and time wise is exponential!)

And one final thing, if you’ll indulge me … If you’re asking for assistance, personalizing the salutation and signing with your full name and contact information goes a long way in engaging someone and encouraging them to want to help you.

I wish you well in your search. If you’d like to work with me, I’d be happy to speak with you. If that’s not an option, I encourage you to take advantage of the information I provide on my website.

Best regards,
Dawn

This young man was a willing student. He replied back to my email, used my name, thanked me and signed with his full name and telephone number. YAY! Taking the time to say thank you was a nice touch too. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve crafted a thoughtful responses to requests like this and never hear from the “stranger emailer” again.

Bottom line, remember your manners. Please, thank you and a little flattery in between are powerful motivators. Use them with abandon – in job search AND in life.