Technology Cannot Replace the Personal Touch

I’m starting a newsletter. Sounds easy enough, but my goodness, there are a lot of factors to consider: how do I want it to look, what should be included, what should the tone be (okay, that one is not too difficult), will I be dedicated to keep a calendar updated within the newsletter, do I have enough to say…and for those of you that know me – do not answer that last one! There are all of these factors and more that center around distributing something electronically which automatically takes out a bit of your personal touch.

Think about your email etiquette, you know not to use all capital letters or the receiver might think you are screaming at them. Now amplify that and you see my dilemma.

We do so much electronically these days, emails, texting, ordering online…it is quick, convenient and simple. But I miss the personal touch. And I bet I am not alone. So, in my own little way, I try to keep the personal alive.

One of my must do’s for the week, every week, is send out at least five personal note cards. It is easy to send a client a quick email to check in, but every now and then I send a personal note card instead. I have yet to receive a response less than pleasantly surprised every time. I have a vested interest in every person that I work with and each one is unique, special and awesome. The all deserve at least a personal note card!

Whether you are in business or not, I encourage you to step away from the keyboard now and then and drop a friend a note. I love getting mail – except bills, I really don’t like bills, but then again they are a reminder to be thankful that I have the opportunity to have the things I do, but I still don’t like them. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if your bills came in the form of a personal note card? “Cool, the electric company though enough about me to send me this pretty little 4×6 blue note – they like me” I pay for their friendship, I know, but still.

Who wouldn’t like to get a nice card today? You do not have to go to the store and buy the greeting cards. You can go to many different places and get plain cards with matching envelopes that will do just fine. Target has a 200 count set in primary and pastel colors that is about $10. No kidding! Just think how many people you can make happy with $10 – plus postage of course. Don’t forget the postage, the USPS is our friend too!

Whether it be a friend, a co-worker, your 3rd grade teacher or the old couple that lived in your neighborhood, spread the happy and send a personal card. It doesn’t have to be anything more than, “I’m just dropping you a line to say hello and hope that everything is going well with you.” That took all of 30 seconds and you probably just made someone’s day!

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A Change in Your Attitude Line Up Puts Things in Perspective

After speaking at the Business & Professional Exchange this morning I came home to a bit of bad news. Nothing earth shattering, just frustrating. So I chatted with my best friend about this, as we girls have a tendency to do.

Funny thing is, I think she was more upset for me than I was for myself. No matter your pain, your girlfriends will always feel it worse for you! Although I told her it was okay, it is time to let go of anger about past situations, clean up the present and move on. I am all about taking a postive approach these days. She agreed it was the right attitude, but just wished things would stop piling on me. I admit, I had a moment of self-pity and wished the same thing; however, the way I look at it is if you keep starting from a lower point it just means you have a higher accomplishment waiting for you.

That’s how I am choosing to look at it. In this situation I thought that I knew everything that needed to be done, but then life threw a curve and took me a step back. That’s ok, we all need curve balls now and then. I mean how boring would it be if every major league pitcher threw only fast balls? Anyway, it is not like I took one for the team and it took me out of the game. It was just a slider that caught the outside corner for strike three. It was just one out, not the entire ballgame. Besides, this pitcher is getting tired and I’m just getting warmed up!

Job Searching – Stay Flexible and Protect Those Eggs!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – do you remember that phrase? When I heard it as a kid it did not make sense to me because the only time I thought about putting eggs in a basket was on an Easter Egg hunt and, well, wasn’t that the point to make it easier to carry?

Now that I am older I understand the phrase, still not sure of the origin but I will be looking that up as soon as I finish this blog. However I get it now and that’s my point. And since I now get it, I have to share.

Generally I find people who are putting all their eggs in one basket have one of two baskets: the first is hoping for just one job and one job alone. This is the one they want: they know it is going to come through for them so there is no need to look further.

The second basket is settling for one job and one job alone. If an opportunity comes up after accepting a position they do not consider it because they have already piled their basket high and wide.

I am here to tell you to stop carrying around that one basket and loading it full of eggs. People are talking and the eggs are starting to stink. When you are in transition you must learn to do one thing that is extremely uncomfortable – be flexible.

Regarding the first basket – I know an opportunity will present itself and you really want that position. I mean really, really, really; stomp your feet; close your eyes and silently say, “pretty, pretty please” want it. Been there, done that.

It is wonderful to get excited about an opportunity, it really is. You get jazzed for the first time in who knows how long; you see yourself in the position; you know you can do that job better than anyone else. But remain flexible and open. You may think it is perfect but that does not mean hiring managers think the same way you do. And alas, there may be disappointment.

Even if you think you are a shoe in (another phrase that I am curious about) for the job remember: do not stop networking, searching and keeping your opportunities open. Life happens; people make mistakes and hire the wrong person. It happens.

If happens to you, and I am so sorry if it did, here is another way to remain flexible and open. Call them back after about a month. There is nothing wrong with calling someone you interviewed with and were in the final running for the position to just check in. Tell them how much you really liked their company and to see if there are any other opportunities available because you really want the opportunity to work within that firm.

What are they going to do, tell you not to call back? Seriously. Swallow the pride a little bit and give them a call. I have actually done this and although when making the call I felt like I was begging I was so glad I did. The woman I interviewed with was delighted that I called and the first thing she said was, “Thank goodness you called back, the other candidate is not working out at all – when can you come in?”

As to the second basket – once you have a job and another opportunity comes you way, it is perfectly acceptable to check it out. If you were just throwing your resume against the wall to see what would stick odds are it may not be greener on the other side of the fence. However, if this is an opportunity that you would really like to pursue, then you should consider it. Do not, and I repeat, do not disrespect your current employer to investigate another opportunity. This means do not take long lunches to meet with people, do not call in sick two weeks after starting the position, and do not walk out thinking you have the new opportunity made. Remember, someone did hire you, they found value in you and this new opportunity might be great, but it also might be basket number one. Be flexible, be willing to listen but do not jump ship just because someone else caught your eye.

Sometimes it takes people a while to be able to seriously consider you for a position, whether they just got approval to hire, the right people just got back in the office or the need is now a priority. Timing is not always perfect so you cannot hold that against them. So hear them out as to what they have to say and you can determine for yourself if it is a right opportunity to consider, while you are still employed. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush you know. I’m not sure if that applies or not, but I am on a roll with these sayings today!

Job searching is frustrating and the timing rarely works out the way we want it to, but that is where being flexible comes in very handy. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that the world does not work on our schedule. I have to remind myself on a daily basis so trust me, this I know. Think I’m just saying that? Does the fact that years ago my brother once gave me a shirt that said, “I want it and I want it NOW” tell you anything?

Just remember what your priorities are, what is important to you and what is not, and what you really want to do. There is nothing written in stone that says you have to take the first job that is offered to you or that you have to remain on a path that is not conducive to your goals. Take a breath or two, weigh your options, remain flexible and it will all work out in the end.

Job Searching – Stop Looking for Your Ex

I took my son and his dad to the airport yesterday. Throughout my day I keep waiting for a Jake sighting, as we call it at my house. Then I have to remember, he is not even in the state! I hate when I do that, I get in such a habit of something that I completely forget when things have changed. I find a lot of people do the same thing.

We keep expecting things to happen as they always have. We get comfortable in habits and it shocks our systems when things change. Sometimes we do not want to accept or even recognize that there has been or needs to be a change. Here are some quotes to demonstrate:

“I’ve never had to write a resume, I always made a call and I had a job”
“I don’t need to re-write my resume, this worked just fine for me 10 years ago”
“I’m not taking any position under Sr. Vice President, I’ve worked too long for a lower job”
“Using online job banks have always worked for me before, I’m sure I’ll find something soon”

Yes, and I just looked out the window for Jake’s car, too. Just because things have always happened a certain way in the past does not mean that they will continue to do so. I used to be blond and able to leg press 275 pounds. Things change.

I compare cover letters to love letters, resumes to first dates, interviews to second dates and here is another one for my list: jobs are like relationships: namely marriages. There is a dynamic involved, although it may not always be healthy, it does exist. We used to joke at one of my old companies that I was my boss’s work-wife. You get comfortable with the way things go, the way they run, your role and position. Things may not be great, but they weren’t bad. And you are looking for that comfort in your next relationship (job). Here is a thought: there is a reason it did not work out…

When looking for your next position, realize that the old relationship is over and you cannot simply replace what you had – there are no two jobs or relationships that are exactly alike and nor should they be. What were the positives in the last relationship – those are the things you want to focus on. What were the challenges – you want to make sure those are not in the next relationship. If you keep going back to where you were and failed then that is where you will always be.

What value did you bring to the last relationship and how did it serve you well? Those are the things you want to continue to strengthen. What things did you do or not know that negatively affected your last relationship? Those are the things that you want to work on, improve, get more education or training, or change your mindset so those challenges can be made into positive.

And let’s not kid ourselves, in every ending of a relationship we had a part to play. Even if you are sitting there saying, “I didn’t do anything, they had cutbacks, it wasn’t my fault!” That may have been the main factor, but I bet if you took a long hard look at your relationship history you would find things that you could have done that would have improved the relationship.

Here’s the bottom line, kids: Do not expect your next position to be your last. That relationship is over, the divorce is final and they have remarried. It is time to move on. And if you look at the last relationship, was it really all that it could have been? Could there have been things that would have made you more excited to go to work every day? These are great insights to have when interviewing for the next position. You have the opportunity to ask those questions to make sure the next one is the right one, to make sure it is a good fit before committing. It is a commitment and you have to know what you are willing to tolerate and what you are not. What is important to you and what can you tolerate? If the position is a little further away than you wanted, but you work less hours – is that a good compromise? Life is all about compromises so make sure you are clear what is important, what is negotiable, what you are not willing to tolerate so that you can go into your next relationship with open eyes and a stronger sense of self. It can make all the difference.

Gaps in Work History – What have you done for YOU lately?

“So tell me what have you been doing since you left your last position?” That can be such a daunting question during an interview. Please, please, please do not answer, “Looking for a job.” If you have answered in this way I am sending you a mental head slap! How you answer this question is important. Of course, that is, if you get to the interview.

When a potential employer is reading your resume and cover letter, if they see gaps, they are asking the question: what have you been doing. Are you adequately explaining gaps or even acknowledging them? Putting your head in the sand does not make an uncomfortable situation go away – I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.

I recently saw something on CareerBuilder the other day that stated over half of the countries unemployed have been without a job for 27 weeks or more. While six months may not seem like a long amount of time during this economy, what about those who have been looking for 12 or more months? No matter what the time period, this is a challenge and there are two things that can help you.

First and foremost: Invest in yourself. I’ve said it before and I will say it many more times: if you are in transition you are now officially in the business of sales. Your company is you, your product is you and your market is the employment world. Welcome aboard! Welcome to one of the most difficult jobs you will ever have full of frustration, doubt, insecurity, rejection, unknown – and that’s just a Monday!

So how does one invest in oneself and how much is this going to cost me you ask? Well, first, shame on you – that is the wrong attitude. Do not approach this as a negative; investing in oneself is a positive thing! The cost can vary monetarily but there is a heavy price of your time, effort and mental energy. You cannot slack on this, you must commit!

1. Take classes. Your public library has a plethora of classes available (I love that word plethora and am so excited that I can use it!); WorkOne Centers offer classes; there are community colleges, online resources: just look around you and you will see the availability. You may not be able to go back to get a college degree at this time but that does not mean you cannot take a class to help expand your skills. This can cost money, but you are worth the investment!
2. Network. Look in your community paper to see what networking groups are meeting and when and get your caboose there. Practice, learn, try – the more people that know you and what you can do the greater the chance they know someone or a friend of a friend that might be able to help. This can be low or no cost, do your homework and get moving.

3. Ask. If you are looking to get into a new industry, do your homework, research companies and reach out to ask for informational interviews. Generally I find people do what to help others, but how can anyone help you if you do not ask? This is free!

4. Volunteer. You can think of this as paying it forward, putting others before yourself or an opportunity to meet new people with whom you have something in common. You will be expanding your horizons and network, giving back to your community and building information to be able to put on your resume. This is free but the rewards are priceless.

5. Hire a professional. Sometimes you must realize there is only so much that you can do on your own and even that might not be working. There are professionals in all areas that can help you: life coaches, career counselors, etiquette consultants – you name it there are resources available to you. Yes, this costs money but again, aren’t you worth the investment?

5a. Go to a professional. Utilize the services of professionals that can assist you in your job search – staffing firms or recruiters. Many do not charge the employees but rather the employers so this is another free option in terms of money. But be forewarned – you must be worth the investment for them to try to sell you so I suggest you employ one or many of the above options.

Now, let me back up and say first that I completely understand the anger and frustration of losing a job and job searching. At some point it is akin to the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression then Acceptance. You are allowed to feel any or all of these emotions and it is perfectly normal.  Keep in mind; however, there is a difference between allowing oneself to feel these emotions and being trapped by them.

Before you can invest in yourself you must believe in yourself and the benefits of taking action. To be blunt – stop fighting everything in your world! I once knew a gentleman that was in transition for well over a year. He would show up at networking events, seminars and workshops and had quite the reputation. And not the reputation that one would like to have.

I was giving a workshop once on resumes and throughout the entire workshop he was very negative and challenging. Not to me personally, but to most things that any of the presenters said. He would say things like, “I tried that once, it didn’t work,” or “I personally do not think that employers care about that.” Negativity oozed from his pores and others around him started to roll their eyes. You see, every positive thought or suggestion that was given to him he rejected. Every suggestion on investing in himself was met with volatile denial, “I can’t afford to do that, I don’t have time. I don’t’ want to – I just need a job!”

You cannot afford to invest in yourself, just by becoming involved in activities that are free? Seriously? Think about that thought for a minute. To me it says I can afford to be unemployed for as long as I want to poison my world with my negative attitude. Seriously.

Now, one might think he picked up on this clue as to why he was in transition so long, but unfortunately, he did not get the connection. He created such a physical wall around himself that others were no longer willing to assist him to the point that they turned the other direction when they saw him coming. Learn from this, please.

I have talked to several recruiters, HR professionals and managers who state that they understand that there will be a time between positions; however, if it is any length of time they want to see that the individual was proactive in investing in themselves. Yes, they literally use this phrase: “I want to see that they have invested in themselves.” Do you start to see the connection?

Investing in yourself in any of the above ways shows that you are proactive in your search, in yourself. My uncle, when he was a teenager, was told my grandfather to go get a job. He came home after about an hour and told his mother, “I walked up and down the street and no one offered me a job.” True story. Your next employer is not going to run out of their building and say, “Oh, thank goodness you walked by, you’re hired!” nor are they going to come knock on your door!

Investing in yourself also means opening your mind to other possibilities. You want to be doing X, but cannot obtain that position right now. Sometimes the best roads are the ones that are not a straight shot to where we think we want to go. My path has taken some crazy turns but as I look back, I see that every step was a step in the right direction. No matter what job I did or what the title was or duties performed, I learned something and I moved forward.

If you are not willing to invest in yourself, why would an employer want to? Keep an open mind; get off your duff; put the time, effort, energy and possibly money into the most important person in your company – you. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best, “I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”

Effective Cover Letters/Poetic Love Letters – There is Something To This…

Beyond the obvious aspects of always being on your best behavior and trying to impress the person across the table there are interesting similarities to dating and job searching. Luckily for my boys I will not be using them as an example; instead I’ll use myself and my fiancé, Manuel.

In August of 2011 Manuel and I are getting married. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but trust me, it is. It took over twenty years, but we are back together and making those around us a little nauseous with our absolute devotion, admiration, love and respect for each other. We have even been told our pictures look like those fake ones companies put in picture frames, we just do not seem real because we are “too happy”. We courted all those years ago and continue to do so today.

When Manuel and I were dating at the ripe age of 18 we did not have cell phones or internet and we both had jobs. So when we first began to get to know each other we wrote a lot of letters. We took our time and crafted each one purposefully to share glimpses of ourselves, get to know each other; in other words we courted each other. Your cover letter should be approached in a similar way. Your cover letter is like a love letter without the ooey gooey of course.

Most people I speak to in my workshops hate writing cover letters and nine times out of ten the reason is: “I don’t know what to say.” Try thinking of the cover letter as a courtship letter or love letter to someone you do not know but that you are introducing yourself to with the hopes of getting to know them better.

If you send a cover letter that states something to the effect that you are attaching your resume because you saw their ad on Career Builder, well then you have basically said one of three things

1. “My buddy said you’re cute, want to get a pizza?”
2. “I like you, do you like me: circle Yes or No”
3. “I’m sorry to bother you, I’m sure you don’t want to go out with me anyway.”

Not too impressive.

Your cover letter must show there are similarities between the position and you. Show them that you have commonalities; you belong together – without going overboard of course. If you have nothing in common why on earth would they want to meet you? Do you have the exact qualities that they are looking for in a candidate? Then tell them, show them, explain it to them, court them.

Do they want someone with solid experience? Give them something to whet their appetite before reading your resume. Narrate an example of how you absolutely succeeded when dealing with similar situations, budgets, environments – lead them down the path to your door.

Do your homework, research the company, their core philosophies, their clients, the industry. Have they recently been mentioned in the news, expanded, reorganized, merged, had a recent success, does the company values resonates with yours? These can all be written into your cover letter. Manuel did his homework and knew yellow roses were my favorite: big bonus points when he showed up at my door with a beautiful bouquet. Research shows interest.

Do you really want to meet? Do not assume that they know you want the job and why. One of the complaints I hear from hiring managers and HR reps is that they have too many candidates that apply that do not qualify for the position. When they receive resumes, which are numerous, they are a little skeptical. They run across people that apply but only do so because they have to or just to say they did something. Make sure the recipient knows you want the date, the interview, and convince them that you are worthy.

Impress me. I am a huge baseball fan – specifically a huge Cubs fan. I’ve been a fan since Jody Davis was behind the plate, the Penguin was in the infield and Leon Durham dominated the outfield. Manuel impressed me by writing stories about when he played ball or teased me about my staunch belief that American league is not real baseball. (Pitchers should bat and National League is more defensive. But that’s another story.)

When writing your resume you should be thinking about accomplishments you can utilize to emphasize your abilities. When doing this remember to save something for the cover letter. If you give me a great example in your cover letter I am going to be excited to read more in your resume. If I am reading your resume and see the same example I will be a bit disappointed and possibly think, “This is all you have?” You are not one dimensional, neither should your accomplishments be.

Mind your manners. Use appropriate business language, remember this isn’t a note to pass in class; this is an important business introductory letter. Remember to express gratitude for the person taking the time to read your cover letter and resume. Show interest in following up with them to discuss your abilities, skills, added values in more detail at their convenience.

A well written cover letter will interest the reader into wanting to find out more about you and lead to them reading your resume. This in turn will, if written well, further intrigue or impress them to meet with you to find out more. Take your time, do your homework and remember to tailor it to each individual position for which you are applying. No one wants to receive the same love letter that their friends received! This takes time and practice. Over twenty years of writing love letters and Manuel can still take my breath away.

It’s Just Not Fair

We are used to hearing that from little ones about their older brother or sister getting to do something that they are not or not being allowed to stay up a moment past their bedtimes. Even from our teens in not being allowed to go have the freedoms of an adult without the mentality of one. But as adults, we sometimes find ourselves saying that as well. And you know what; it is okay. It is justified when we are upset about a slighting of our children or loved ones. I find that I say it more in my “momma bear” mode for my kids than I do for myself. After all, I am a grown up, I know the motto suck it up, but when it involves ones we love, well then, the rules change.

Get ready folks, football season has started and there will be a lot of analogies coming your way. This is my son’s Senior Year in High School. Big time! The season has not started and already I am biting my tongue enough where I think it will come off at any moment. First let me explain, my son is a chip off both blocks. Between his father and I – the kid is kind of ruined in terms of stubbornness, attitude and strong desire to express our opinions (in an appropriate way) when we see things that are not just. And, well, there is the attitude. He is 17, and a boy, and plays lots of sports, and has inherited his mother’s attitude. People have told me they can just look at me and know immediately if it is really a wise idea to challenge me on something at that moment. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeves. My son has also inherited my naive firm belief that things should be just, right and fair. Decisions made on the basis of merit, ethics and all the proper values. What I have seen in less than a week is testing what we are made of; but, as his father pointed out, it is just a matter of proving yourself once again and it will happen. But as a mother, it is hard. It is hard to sit back and watch helplessly while these things transpire. I want to DO something, I want to be able to make something happen, I want to make it better.

Last week I talked to a woman who is helping her husband with his resume. He is in an incredible funk and this sweet woman is carrying that burden along with the stress of trying to continually build him up and look at the bright side of things. It is killing her watching the effect the transition is having on her husband. She wants to do something, she wants to make things happen, she wants to make it better.

Another client freely admits that he is driving his wife insane because he is looking for work and is being a complete (and not my words) “nutcase” about it. He said his wife has asked how she can help (my assumption: she wants to do something, she wants to make things happen, she wants to make it better) and he tells her he does not know what she can do.

You see, the stress of transition falls not only to those that are in transition, but to everyone around them. Men, and yes I am generalizing here so forgive me, tend to merge who they are with what they do and how they can provide. When there is a chink in their armor, it drives straight to the heart. Women, again I am generalizing, want to do something for them, to make it better. It is a tough world to live in and sometimes we just do not see beyond our own frustrations.

Great, you may be thinking, you have wonderful insight to what is going on in my home but how do we make it GO AWAY??? I wish I had the magic answer to that. It simply does not go away, it eats and tears at us. Personally, I try to take a philosophical approach. This is a time that nerves are raw and we really see the ties that bind. This is the opportunity for very open communication and a chance to become stronger, even if it is not at this moment, but in time. It is also a time to make plans (a primary and back up or two), have a purpose, and go after that primary plan. And if it just so happens that it is not working out the way you want, after you have put everything you have into it, then you already have your back up ready to implement. Take control of what you can and do the best with what you have, this is no time for excuses. Now is the time to give it everything you have no matter what.

For the woman and her husband, I told her to blame me for the following: she was to go home and tell him that I would be glad to speak to him at one of my classes; however, before doing so he must come up with 25 positive things about himself. Only after I see this list would I be able to help him with his resume. I told her the point in this is to force him to see the good in himself in what he can offer not only in a job, but in other ways. It is a difficult assignment; however one which I think will be very valuable. I image that he will want to ask her for advice on the list and possibly he will get some glimpse of insight as to how much good she sees in him.

For my client, I told him he must tell his wife that he knows he is being a donkey’s rear end and he appreciates the fact that she has not smothered him in his sleep. He is not intentionally shutting her out but he honestly does not know what she can do to help him. And I told him he should tell her that as well then ask her opinion. Once he has asked for her opinion, he must shut up and listen. Not knock any suggestion that she gives but be appreciative that she gives it. And he should allow her the opportunity to tell him he’s been the rear end and offer a diversion, do something outside of transition world, even if it is a walk around the block.

For me, well, I am going to focus on the positive that my son has incredible athletic ability (this is not momma bear bragging, I have had several coaches tell me he is one of the most athletic kids in the high school) and is a strong young man able to stand up for himself and what he believes is just and right in a moral sense and not in a self-centered-the-world-revolves-around-me-teenage-entitlement sense. Yes, he knows the difference, I have seen it in action and it is those moments that my breath catches in my throat because there is an adult in there wanting to come out! Although, sometimes he just chooses to ignore it. I have to believe that when all is said and done he will be on that field kicking butt and (from my keyboard to the greater power’s ears) some college will want him to come play for them. Just on a side note, I also have game film of him, just in case any school is interested in seeing just how this kid tackles so hard he gives concussions and has hands that the ball just seems to find…

First Impressions: The Written Word is a Powerful Thing

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I use this saying a lot in my marketing pieces and when I speak at functions. How many people have heard this but not give it any credence? Many people I talk to assume this only relates to the visual aspect of a first impression or forget that it extends to all forms of communication. For example: have you ever received an email from an individual or company and immediately formed an opinion of the sender? Today I want to look at written forms of communication and give few tips and reminders about first impressions, which I call Gentle Reminders. I learned this from Miss Manners.

Email.

Oh, I love email. Oftentimes I would rather people communicate with me via email than on the phone because I can get my email on my computer and on my phone so I can instantly respond to them. Yes, I truly fit the definition of one that has a “CrackBerry”, I am never without my phone and only during family time am I not checking it or responding to something I have received on it.

My first gentle reminder is this: email is not texting. You cannot abbreviate or use two letters for entire words. It is not acceptable and frankly you look uneducated when you do so. Can you imagine a hiring manager getting the response back, “tnx for the email, c u 2moro” It almost looks like a Prince song (wow, have I dated myself there).

Email gentle reminder two: please make sure your Caps Lock is NOT on. I have literally emailed someone back asking them to stop yelling at me when I receive an email in all capitol letters. It was a gentle reminder but effective. Read the following lines and see if you can pick up on the difference:

Thank you for your time yesterday; I truly enjoyed our conversation and look forward to meeting again next Tuesday at 3:00.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME YESTERDAY I TRULY ENJOYED OUR CONVERSATION AND LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING AGAIN NEXT TUESDAY AT 3:00.

Same sentence yet there is a major difference in tone.

Email gentle reminder three: Tone, humor and subtleties do not translate well in email so you must keep this in mind. A majority of humor and subtlety is translated through non-verbal communication i.e. a slight smile, a raising of the eyebrow, a widening of the eyes. The reader cannot see you, they cannot read your mind and they certainly do not know what frame of mind you are in when you are writing the email so you must be vigilant in creating a message that is clear and leaves no room for interpretation. Let me state it frankly – humor does not translate well at all, just do not use it period.

Here is another thought to keep in mind: the intended recipient may know you well enough to understand you, but do you really know that they are the only one that will read the email? How many companies have filtering programs for their emails? How many other eyes view their emails? That was something that I had to do in a former life, check all incoming emails for a company and let me tell you, I read a emails containing information that I really did not want to know and wish I could forget!

Email tip: Write the email then walk away. Let it sit then come back and read it again. I have written an email or even a blog and thought what I was writing was exactly what I was thinking and it all was very clear. Much to my dismay, in re-reading the information later I found that the two were not the same and revisions were necessary to make sure my point was clear.

Letters, Thank You Cards, Cover Letters etc.

Gentle Reminder One: First and foremost – check you spelling. Now check it again. Do no solely rely on spell check. I can tell you that I worked four Merrill Lynch. The word “four” in the previous sentence is spelled correctly, but it is the wrong for! And grammar check did not pick up on it either. One misspelled word can ruin a wonderful creation and send it straight into the trash. Have someone else proof it, someone you trust to proof read. I have business partners, two are wonderful at reading content for content alone, making sure the message is clear. The other is wonderful at spelling and grammar. They are an invaluable team: Manuel, Jackie and Jake, I value their opinions and trust their thoughts.

When I write a hand written note, I type it out on the computer first to use spell check as my first line of defense. Then I print it out and go through it word by word. Then I will copy it to the note. And if my writing is not neat, I throw it away and start again. No use sending a hand written note if no one can read it, it defeats the purpose.

Gentle Reminder Two: When writing a hand written note, be sure to reference something that the reader will remember in order to connect you to the interview. It should be something that was a positive exchange. For example, if you are sending a thank you note after an interview, be sure to include something discussed during the interview. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the new automotive ordering process, what an incredible time and money saver!”

One caveat, do not refer to an “inside” joke or lighthearted moment during the interview. It may have eased the situation at that moment, however a day or two later the recipient may not remember the environment in which the exchange transpired or simply not think it funny today.

Gentle Reminder Three: When addressing the envelope, please make sure that it is done neatly and professionally. Use full titles, company name, spell out the address (Suite 500 not Ste 500), use proper business form as it is business communication.

Assistance Letters

This I am making a separate topic due to the uniqueness of the letter. Whether this be a request for an information interview, an introduction or any other appeal make sure you are very clear. If you are appealing to someone to share their time, opinion or expertise please do not send them a five page flattery-dripping letter praising them and in the last sentence end with “by the way, can you….”

Be sincere, honest and direct. If you are asking someone to grant you their time, tell them why you are making this request, they will want to know. No mater who you are your most valuable asset is time and for someone to share theirs with you will require information. I am not simply going to meet with someone because they asked me to. I know that may sound snobbish, and in a way I suppose I am being selfish. I have children, a fiancé, family, friends and a business. My time is valuable and I have limited time to share with everyone that I would love to so please, let the recipient know your intentions.

For me, I want to know why you want to meet with me, what you would like to discuss, and an expectation of time. If you do not set the time expectation, I will. I would also like to know what lead you to contact me specifically.

Let me give you an example. I recently received a request for a meeting. The gentleman and I had met a few years ago through another company and he had found me on LinkedIn. He is a period of transition and would like my advice on a specific topic. He was very clear to tell me that he has attended workshops and done quite a bit of research, which tells me that he is not looking for me to provide all of the answers. He asked for a specific amount of time and suggested a time period for me to check my calendar, at my convenience.

I appreciated several things about this request:
1. He told me how he knew me and was able to establish a connection.
2. He has done his homework on the topic he would like to discuss.
3. He was very specific about the time requested.
4. He recognized the value of my time and promised to honor this.
5. He was specific about the topic, which will lead to a well run meeting.
6. He was very professional in all of his communication.
7. He used common courtesy and manners.

We are meeting next week and I am looking forward to meeting this gentleman, I have been impressed so far. I have no doubt, as there has been a stream of communication that he will present as professional in person as he has in the virtual world.

Gentle Reminder: You set a tone when you are writing correspondence. It is imperative that if you establish a very professional tone you uphold this through out any future contact or communication.

In short, take your time, be clear, be professional and be positive. The written word is a powerful thing when used wisely.

Tips to Help Stay on Track When Looking for a Job

Delay, avoid, procrastinate, ignore….then you need something NOW. I see this time and time again with those in transition. I have had numerous clients that apply this approach with their resume. They delay or hesitate on reviewing the resume I have prepared, or avoid giving me pertinent information and it just lingers. Until I get the call late in the day or evening that, holy cow, I need to send my resume to a company TOMORROW, can you do it tonight? Where were you last week when I was asking for the information?? One of my favorite phrases is, “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part”. Seriously, did you forget you were in transition and an opportunity can happen any time any where?? (And yes, I always get it done)

So for those of you that are going through this little traumatic experience at the time you are reading this, shame on you! You should know better. For those of you that have been there, let’s see what we can do to make sure this does not happen again. Here are some things you can do to make sure you are prepared for that opportunity at any time.

1. You should make sure your resume is updated and appropriate at all times. You should have more than one resume and it will be modified for the job and skills for the position for which you are applying. For example, you may be a manager but there are different types of managers. Some management styles fit better with certain organizations rather than others and you will need to decipher what skills and qualifications each company feels are important for their organization. For example Company A may be seeking a very hands-on manager who is skilled at team building, open communication and being able to perform the work as well as lead it. Company B may be seeking a very analytical, time and information sensitive leader who is skilled at direction, delegation and oversight. Completely different perspectives and having a one-size-fits-all resume will not benefit you in the least.

2. You should make sure you understand your resume and can sell it – i.e. sell you. Your resume is your sales brochure. Have you ever encountered a sales person who constantly has to refer to a manual or sales brochure to tell you the highlights of the product? Not very convincing, huh? If I am in the market for a new digital camera, I do not want someone to read me the manual, I want someone who can explain it in my terms, show me the best features – in other words sell me on it. Then I can glance through the brochure to get further information and reinforce my “need” to buy that camera. You, in this little example, are the digital camera and the sales person.

3. You should have your sales materials with you at all times. Sales materials: that means resumes, business cards or skills cards. No, I do not suggest that you hand out your resume at networking events (unless it specifically requests that you bring them), but you should have your resume with you to read through again before you go into a networking event just as a refresher and boost. When you are at casual networking (i.e. ball games, concerts, gatherings, picnics – wherever) you should have your skill summary cards or business cards with you to be able to hand out to someone if they would like to contact you.

4. You should have a tracking sheet. Job searching stinks. You can get to the point that you feel as though you sent out one hundred resumes last week and did not get one single response. I have literally heard this line numerous times. Keeping a spreadsheet of your activity not only helps you gain a bit of perspective, it also helps you keep track of who you have spoken to, what companies you have applied to, when, what positions, what follow up actions you need to take and any important information relevant to your search. Knowing that you sent a resume to Company A last week, perhaps it is time to follow up – you would know this if you were keeping track of your activities.

5. You should be training your friends and family as Sales Associates. One thing I ask people when I teach classes is, “Do you friends and family know you are looking for a job?” Of course everyone looks at me like I am an idiot and say, “Yes, of course”. So my next question is, “If I were hiring and met them casually, would they know what key word I might say that would let them know immediately to give me your name and number?” Normally, those in my class now have a bashful look on their face for thinking I was an idiot only moments before… The point is, if you tell me you are an IT person looking for a job that means nothing to me. And quite frankly it would be a weak introduction to someone looking for a programmer to tell them that I know someone in IT, but no idea what they do. You need to be specific and make sure people understand that. If I were going back into the financial industry telling you I was a manager tells you nothing! But if I were looking to go back into Compliance, now you have a better clue. If I told you that I would love to work for a mid-sized financial company rather than one of the big boys in banking, investments or insurance there is another clue. And if I told you that I was looking to work in the area between and including Indianapolis to Anderson, there is another really good clue. You now have several key words: Compliance, mid-size, investments, insurance, banking, Indianapolis, Anderson – see where I am going here? Never assume everyone knows what you mean, make it clear.

6. You should make sure your references are prepared. Here is another question I ask during class, “Do you have your references ready, you have asked their permission” Again, normally a yes. Then I ask, “Have you asked them what they would say?” The answer to that one is almost always no. In fact, in between 60-80 classes I have only heard two people say yes. The purpose is two-fold. One, you want to make sure what they say and how they say it will be perceived correctly. I am a sarcastic person, it is who I am and I know it. I have to temper it and keep it under close supervision. If one of my references said I was a great leader, motivator and trainer with great sarcastic wit, the prospective employer may not like that whole sarcasm thing. The second reason is those references may see something in you that you may not see yourself. What if one of your references told you that no matter how stressful a situation got you were always cool, calm and collected and they always looked to you at those times. That sounds like great things to emphasize in a resume or cover letter don’t you think?

7. You should only offer what you can produce. Undersell and over deliver is an old motto. In this situation what I mean is do not get so involved in the job search and networking that you have booked yourself out of quality time for self, family, friends, and quality leads. I have seen people get so wrapped up in networking that they are professional job seekers with no real ability to make real connections and possible inroads to future opportunities. Do get out there and meet with people, do not make it a practice that you have no real results or you neglect the things that are important in life. If you are meeting with so many people at all times and if you are promising to follow up, are you able to keep up with the schedule you set? Sometimes we are our worst enemy. Here’s another old motto to help with this one: work smarter not harder – i.e. network smarter, not harder.

8. You should look at alternative ideas to building connections and seeking opportunities. Volunteer. Give yourself a chance to do something you love, help other people, animals or the environment and enjoy it. By doing something that you enjoy, you will meet other people with similar interests and you can get to know them through this common connection. From there, you can find out what they do when they are not volunteering and maybe they work for a company you are targeting or knows someone who does. You just never know.

9. You should be keeping up to date. I emphasized your resume earlier, but now I am expanding on this concept. You should make sure your skills and techniques are up to date. Not just job skills, but networking and interviewing skills as well. Make sure if you have a business social media page it is up to date. Are their groups or discussions you can join or be a part of, and if so, are you active and up to date in what they are discussing? Are you up to date in what is going on in your town, city, state and nation? Events outside our immediate life impact everyone and you certainly do not want to be caught off guard. It would be disastrous if in an interview the interviewer makes small talk and says something to you about the terrible oil spill and you reply, “Yes, the Exxon situation was very sad”.

These are just a few things that you can do to make sure you are prepared and ready when that wonderful opportunity comes your way, or even a maybe/iffy one shows up. If you are in transition your job right now is to get a job – don’t fire yourself by being unprepared!

The Limits of a Positive Attitude

I consider myself a generally positive person and most people who know me I think would agree with that. I smile a lot, I have a lot to smile about and smiling makes me more positive. My dog, Misfit, even smiles (great picture of that, huh?) Although, keep in mind I do have teenagers, so it is often tested and the glass half full thing is sometimes hard to come by or there is a debate of what liquid is in the glass! The point is this: I try to be positive, look for the good, see the good in people and do unto others. Having said all that, some days it is the most magnificent accomplishment that I made it out of bed and I am okay with that.

Sound contradictory? Perhaps, but let me explain. You see, I believe in the power of a positive attitude. I do believe that your attitude going into a situation does have an impact on your result. However, I also realize there are other factors at play. For example, I have not worked out in a very long time – very, very long time. Now, when I become more active on the weekends, I see the effects. If Manuel and I want to go walk around downtown playing tourist in our own town, I am going to tire out very quickly because I am an out-of-shape slug. No matter how positive I want to be, I am a slug and I will be a tired, grumpy, sore slug after several hours of running around.

When you go on a job interview your positive attitude will absolutely serve you well. However, it will not take you far if you are not prepared. You can only smile and nod so much while the person across the desk realizes you have no idea about the company that you applied to and are now seeking a job from – they pick up on that pretty quickly.

Then there will be interviews that you are completely prepared and absolutely nail it. You know the history, the position, the key attributes they are looking for, you have all the right answers – you rock. Then you do not get a call back or they decided to go with someone else. It happens. And here is where the limits of a positive attitude come into play.

On one hand you can force feed yourself a positive attitude enough that you are so delusional that you think it must have been that you were not positive enough. You had doubts about some of your answers and that must have ruined your interview – just thinking those negative thoughts. Tomorrow you are going to be even more positive, force yourself to think only happy thoughts and never let a negative thought into your mind and THEN you will get that job. Oh, sweetie, you are in for a really long hard fall back to reality. You have lost the boundary line and now look like my little dog Misfit chasing her tail until she makes herself so dizzy she wobbles. It happens I have video to prove it.

On the other hand, you did not get the job, you are bummed and give yourself a moment to grieve….ok, time is up. Now, look back and see this for all sides. You had doubts, so re-examine those. Get back in touch with the interviewer and ask them your questions. If they did not tell you a specific reason why, then ask them – were they looking for a different training background or more experience? ASK! They may not tell you, but give it a shot.

You did your best. Let’s review that statement. You did your best. Pretty strong words, can we always say that about our actions? So you can be positive about the fact that you gave it everything you had and sometimes these things do not work out, but on to the next one! Be positive of your performance, your efforts, your research and your preparation, but do not take this to the extreme that your positive attitude alone is going to make or break you.

I walk into every situation being positive, that a wonderfully positive result will come of my actions. Guess what, it does not always happen. But I know there are other opportunities out there, and if I keep trying and working at it, those will happen. I am positive that I will fail, but I am also positive that I will learn from my failures and tomorrow will be a better day. Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to get off my slug butt and exercise!