Job Searching and Contact Information – Keep it Clean and Keep it Simple

I have said it before and I am sure I will say it many more times, looking for a job is a job in itself. 

 

Rarely have I talked to someone who would describe the experience as pleasant.  Strike that, I don’t think I have ever talked to anyone who describes job searching as anything near pleasant.

 

There are times that you might feel everything is stacked against you, or that those powers that be that are evaluating your resume are playing by a set of rules that they just will not share with you.

 

Most often, if you are rejected for a position you never know why.

 

Do you know that it could be something as simple or small as your email address?

 

Email Addresses: Keep it Clean

 

If your email address is inappropriate, it could be landing your resume in the trash before they even get to your opening statement.

 

Not fair?  Maybe, but remember the powers that be and those rules that no one is telling you about…

 

The line of thinking is that if you are applying for a professional position you are professional enough to assume it and perform the role.  If you have an email that completely counteracts that professional image it could be sending the wrong message.

 

Quick fix: create a simple, clean email address.  It only takes a few minutes to set up an email account.  The bonus of this is when you setup a separate email for job searching, you know everything in that account is about your job search.  No wading through emails about the kids school activities, family messages, friends jokes or links – just all about the search.

 

A last thought on your email: if submitting your resume electronically, be sure to make your email address a hyperlink.  That way when the powers that be are reading your resume and think, “Wow, I really want to contact this person,” all they have to do is click on the link at the top of your page.    

 

They are busy folks here, do not make they go through the process of copy and pasting into an email.  Normally in Word when you hit the space bar after typing an email address it automatically formats it into a hyperlink (as indicated by the blue coloring and underline). 

 

If for some reason it does not, move the cursor to the email, right click and choose hyperlink and recreate.

 

Email Addresses: Keep it Simple

 

Another piece of your contact information is your phone number.  I advise my clients to only use one phone number.  Those powers that be are busy folks.  We do not want to make them have to make a choice as to which number or presume that they will call both and leave a message. 

 

Keep it simple and just use one phone number in your contact information.  It can also help you eliminate some anxiety on your part.  What if they left a message on your home number and you did not receive it until the evening when you got home?  That initial excitement feeling could quickly be overcome with the feeling of “oh shoot, I have to wait until tomorrow to call them back.”

 

When you call them back the next day, you might have to leave a voicemail.  And the game of tag begins, but you are not aware you are getting tagged until late in the evening.

 

Of course, leaving a cell phone number can lead to the game of tag, too.  Primarily I am a proponent of only using one phone number so it makes it easier for the powers that be.  Also, when you only list one phone number there is no reason to give it a descriptor, i.e “Home” or “Cellular”.  Just list the phone number.

 

Every aspect of your resume is important, even the smallest detail like a phone number or email address.  One phone number without a descriptor and one simple email will make your letterhead on your resume, cover letter and any communication look much more professional and clean. 

 

Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

What Do You Want and Why Should I Give It To You?

I had the absolute pleasure of speaking to the Avon Chapter of Busniess & Professional Exchange this morning.  What started out with elevator pitches moved on to resumes.  Although it was an interesting journey there was a common thread that lead from one topic to the other: engagement.

Let’s face it – the driving force behind most communication is engagement.  Oh sure, there are times that communication is strictly one way – i.e. speaking to our children.  Trust me, when my son was in his teenage hey-day the last thing I wanted in talking to him was engagement.  No, it was more a “just listen and do”; unfortunately, this is my kid we are talking about so there was a lot more engagement that I ever bargained for – gee, wonder where he got that….

Ok, fine, he got it from me.  I’ll admit it.  Having recognized that I can take a mere statement and build an engagement on it I have had to realize that it is not always the desired response.  Ask any of my former bosses.

I study communication at all levels and all forms; I love it and it is fascinating.  Normally because of the amount of research and analysis I can bring to light certain points that people normally overlook.  Just like making the statement that normally the purpose of communication is engagement.  You want the other person to be drawn into a conversation with you.

The most difficult mode of communication to build engagement is the written word.  When you are speaking to someone in person or even over the phone you have clues that you can utilize to adjust your speaking patterns or chosen words to encourage engagement.  However, with the written word you are far removed from that person.  For this reason sometimes it feels like a shot in the dark.

So how do you even begin to craft a message that will build engagement?  The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “What is my desired outcome?”  Even thought this sounds simple enough you would be surprised how many people really do not know what they want when they send off a message.

Oh sure, when you send a resume you want them to call you –right?  But what then?  What do you want them to ask you about, what do you want to focus on during the conversation – have you thought about these before you craft your message?

Sometimes we make things too darned difficult for our own good.  Start small, start simple.  First figure out what kind of response you want from the other person.  This will help drive your message.

Sometimes the recipient is looking within your message to determine how they should respond.  That might sound confusing so let me give an example.  I received a text yesterday – nothing new, I get a lot of texts (I’m really big on texting).  Anyway, this one was a very simple message: it was the name of a place I worked at when I was a teenager, but that was the extent of the message, oh, and some exclamation points.

I looked at it and thought, “Ok”.  I am not sure what the meaning was, I mean it wasn’t an invitation to join them, maybe it wasn’t even meant for me – who knows.  I certainly didn’t and since I was clueless, I didn’t respond.  I wasn’t trying to be rude; but not having spoken to this person in a while I just assumed it was sent to me by mistake.

Long story short – know what it is you are saying and why so you do not leave the recipient clueless.  Because if you do want a response and you do not allow them the opportunity to respond you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t get it.

Now, if you are sending a more lengthy communication, i.e. resume or email, again start with what is your desired result.  Then you need to think about your audience.  Realize that their time is important, no matter how little they are giving to you, it is important.  You need to make your message count – and this means it should matter to them.

Your resume should answer the question, “What can you do for me?” If you are asking for an informational interview you should enlighten them as to who you are, how you got connected to them, what type of information you are seeking and why – oh, and thank them.  Don’t forget your manners.

Let me be blunt – for some reason we all find that we have less hours in the day so we have become very selective with the amount of time we share with others and even more selective on those others that we choose to spend time.  Within your written communication you need to build the case for why they want to give you their time.  In other words why would it benefit them to speak to you?

Let me take blunt a step further: until you can answer the questions of “What do you want and why should I give it to you” do not send that communication.  Only after you can answer these two questions then you can begin to craft your message in a way that will not only speak to these to points but significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your desired result.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

http://www.CareerPolish.com

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.