Time Just Keeps Dragging On

Sometimes finding that right next job takes a little, or a lot, longer than you anticipate. Often I hear from people, “It used to be so easy, just submit a resume or fill out an application and you got a job – it’s a lot harder now!” Yes, it is.

Days turn to weeks, weeks can turn into months. It is frustrating and humbling. It is not like you want to sit around and eat bon-bons all day – you want to work but the work is hard to find. So how do you communicate the fact that even though the time period has been long you really do want a job?

1. Make sure you are participating in activities that are geared toward employment. Volunteering, taking classes, networking – anything that is expanding your contacts or giving you additional skills. Sitting at home in your sweats perusing the online want ads is not a plan. It can be a piece of your overall plan, but not the sum of the whole.

2. Know what type of job you want. When someone tells me they just want a job they do not realize it but it makes them unforgettable. No one will take just any job. You want the job of the guy that scrapes road-kill off the road? How about a cow enema specialist? You can be looking for different jobs – but at least know what they are.

3. Adapt to your audience. Not everyone knows what you do or did or how well you did it. This is why you need to adapt to your audience. If you are speaking to people from your industry then you can use the key words and phrases that you both understand. If you are talking to someone who is unfamiliar with what you do then you will need to adapt your communication in a manner in which they will understand your message clearly.

4. Give your value not your title. Another sure fire way to be unforgettable is to tell people that you are a specific title or you are looking for a specific job title. Manager, Director, Supplier, Banker, Driver – these are all vague and, well, forgettable. It is not just your value, but who is your audience, who do you serve, how do you help and how have you succeeded in the past that are important aspects to delivering the right message.

5. Look for the link. Do not be afraid to ask people if they might know someone in the transportation, health care, financial or whatever your field happens to be. People will want to help; sometimes you just need to provide a little push to get them to see how they can.

What is you are in an interview and the question comes up why you have been looking for so long. Although this is a humiliating question and can naturally put you on the defense – don’t. One thing you can say in response is, “Just as you are looking for the right candidate I am looking for the right company. I have been interviewing several to ensure I find the right fit.” Then be prepared to explain what you have been doing in the meantime and what your qualifications are for that right company.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t give up. With every step you take remember to think about how this can help you, how you can turn it into a positive for a prospective networking opportunity or how you can use as an example in an interview. It is not just that first step that begins the journey of a thousand miles; it is all the little steps after the initial one that make a difference.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
http://www.CareerPolish.com

Don’t Overlook The Little Things.

Sicky dog Luke
My youngest dog, Luke, has been sick all weekend. It started with what I call the popcorn cough. You know when you eat popcorn and you get a small piece of shell stuck in the back of your throat and try to cough it out – that is what he sounded like all weekend.

Prior to calling the Vet’s I was talking to my best friend who suggested kennel cough and asked if I got my dogs shots for that, which I don’t because they are all contained in our fenced-in yard and I never kennel my dogs. She asked about my step-doggie, Bud, and yes, he gets this shot. Oh, step-doggie: it is my ex-husband’s dog but thinks I own it too so he’s my step-doggie. Anyway, Bud lives in a community where there are lots of dogs, and geese. I think geese are nasty creatures who carry every conceivable disease possible – why else would they have green poop? Any way – back to my point, and I do have one….

But, I’m not there yet….I never thought to get my dogs kennel cough shot because, like I said, they are self-contained, why would they need it? Because I have “sucker” on my forehead. A couple of weeks ago we puppy sat another dog for the weekend. Guess who was the only dog that played with him – Luke. So I am assuming this is where he got it. Given that I seem to take in every stray perhaps I should not overlook the obvious things like getting my dogs shots for things that may not seem possible. Because the probably-not-possible can happen. Tada – my point.

Just because you do not think something is likely does not mean you should not prepare for it, especially when you take actions that make it more likely. I brought another dog in the house – it led to the kennel cough. If you are job searching and have submitted your resume to a company, be prepared in case they call.

Oftentimes I hear people who will say they know they will not get a call yet still send in their resume. If you are so sure you won’t get the call why send it in? And if you do send it in you better be prepared for the call because you would hate to ruin it from one bad phone call. I have even heard people say something like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t think you would call!” Guess what, if you don’t think you should get the job why would I want to hire you? While you ponder that one I’m going to go give my dog a cough suppressant.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.
www.careerpolish.com

Sometimes a Good Thing Isn’t All That Great!

Last week my son sprained his ankle. Sounds like no big deal, huh? Yeah well, this is my son so it is not that simple. He sprained it Monday night, Tuesday morning it looked like it was removed, beaten to a pulp and put back on his leg crooked. So Tuesday x-rays, Wednesday an MRI and Friday a visit to an Orthopedic Specialist, a week on crutches and now he’s in a boot.

Good times had by all. At first, he wasn’t minding the crutches because, well, I can’t tell you how many cute young ladies looked at him and said (with heartfelt sympathy and “poor baby” eyes), “Oh no, what happened?” and offered to help him – with a door, with his books, if he wanted them to get him anything – yeah, it was kind of nauseating. As a 17 year old charmer, he was kind of enjoying this. Then a couple days on the crutches and he was over the whole thing. His arms hurt, he could not get around very fast and he could not work out or practice. When he was first enjoying all the attention, I just kept waiting; because I knew the day would come where he would look at me and say, “This stinks!” And it did. And I laughed, because that’s the kind of mom I am!

So where is the point in all of this today? If you have read any of my blogs then you know it takes me a while to get to the point and I normally have to tell a story before I get there. Hey, you are the one that keeps reading so don’t blame me, you should have figured this out by now!

Networking, it can be a wonderful thing or it can be an activity that sucks the life out of you. But you have control over that. I know some people who are professional networkers. They attend everything, know everyone and can tell you in great detail all about it. For those that are in business I ask them how much many leads it has generated for them. For those that are in transition, I ask how many opportunities it has brought them. For both categories those professional networkers normally answer that they have a huge rolodex of contacts.

Yeah, well, I can go to any event and get a boat load of cards but that doesn’t mean a darn thing. In fact, I do not offer my card when I network. If there is a genuine interest then the individual will ask for it. When you network you must have a goal, and it is not to get as many cards as you can at the end of the night – this isn’t business card bingo!

Let’s take a step back before we discuss an event. Before you even go to a networking event, do you know what your goal is for that night, for right now in general? What are you looking for? And those of you that answered, “a job” just to let you know, I am sending a mental head slap out to each and every one of you! NO NO NO. Not just a job, but what job; what industry; in what capacity; what skills are you wanting to utilize; what are your strengths; what makes you happy; what drives you crazy; what city, state, or side of town do you want to work in; what are your challenges that you are willing to overcome? Where are you going? If you can’t answer this, grab some happy food, a pad of paper, a comfortable chair and get to work. You are not prepared to network. Prep work here kids.

Now, to the event. Have you done your homework – do you know who will be attending? Did you know that you can call the organizer to find out more information about the event and the attendees? Really, try it! It is much better than wasting your time. Do you know who you would like to meet, either specifically or in general (I want to meet Mr. Smith or I want to meet someone who is works for X company, even better if they work in Accounting), and do you have a goal in mind? If not, go back and read my previous blog about setting goals – look here it is in a convenient link: https://lisakmcdonald.com/2010/01/17/hey-new-year-wait-for-me/.

You see, if you go in unprepared to a networking event, you are going to be like my son on crutches. You are going to get a lot of attention and it will feel great. But all those looking at you with “poor you” eyes are just trying to get names to spam with their emails or waste your time with meetings to tell you all about them. You will be bogged down with all this useless information and irrelevant contacts that will slow you down worse than if you were on crutches.

Go in with purpose, have a goal, know what you want. The event may turn out to be a bust; maybe you do not meet the right type of contacts. That is okay, you did very well in being prepared and walked out with a great practice session rather than hobbled out with arms that hurt and two to three weeks stuck in a big clunky boot. Oh wait, that is my son…

Hey New Year – Wait for Me!!

A new year, seriously? Already? Wait, I was not ready! It was just Thanksgiving and I had a great list of things to do, put up all the Christmas decorations, bake holiday cookies, make goodies for my neighbors, send out all my holiday cards early…. Then it was Christmas, holy cow, I have so many things that I had on my 2009 list that I only had five days to accomplish! Now it is the New Year? It is already the middle of January – wait, let me catch up!

So if you are wondering, no I did not make any New Year Resolutions. I never do. Not because I run out of time or I am a slacker with no goals, I just realized a long time ago that making a years worth of resolutions at one time is daunting – especially if there is no short planning to back it up! Oh sure, you are normally all jazzed to start fresh and go full steam ahead (look at the parking lots at your local workout facility), but by February or March you are all fizzled out. Then deflated. Then driving by the local workout facility and giving it dirty stares.

So I learned to cut myself a break. Now, I do start out with some lofty goals for the year, but having a lofty goal and setting it in motion are two completely different things. Can’t eat the elephant in one bite, you know. So I break it down to segments, in four quarters of the year. It is much more manageable and obtainable. I am an example kind of girl so let me give one here. A typical New Years Resolution.

Let’s say that your resolution is to loose 20 pounds this year – period. Let the diet begin. Okay, great. But then what? How are you going to do that? What kind of goals are you going to set? How will you know when you achieve them and in turn help propel you to keep going? What about if instead you tried this: your overall goal is to lose 20 pounds this year. In the first quarter of the year you will cut out sweets and white breads through the week, walk three times a week and drink two more glasses of water a day. Not focusing on the weight here, but the habits. Then at the end of the quarter you can measure your progress then check out the scale. Dropped 7 pounds? Awesome, you are ahead of the game. You can continue with this plan for the next quarter or decide to increase your walking to four times a week and add more fruit into your diet on the weekends. Check yourself out at the end of that quarter – whoo hoo, you are looking awesome and feeling good! The point is, have a plan, measure your plan appropriately and adjust from there.

How do we do this in the job search world? Set a goal to be employed in 2010. Great lofty goal, right? So now, let’s break it down into quarters. For the first quarter you are going to attend two networking events a week and meet three new people at each event. Within two days after meeting these three people decide who you would like to get to know a bit better and reach out to them for a one on one. You will also attend one free training session a month. The training can be on job search or related to that or for a skill (for example a computer application) or even something fun – a free cooking class. Track your progress and guess what, look at you. You have met 24 new people a month! That is (given a rounded four weeks in a month) 72 people in one quarter! Now, let’s say that out of each one of the three, you met with one person for a one on one – get out of your way – you have started to establish 12 new relationships!! And not only that, you have learned something new three times this quarter by attending a class. Not bad, kid! How are you going to top that for the next quarter?

Set your goals, track your goals and pat yourself on the back for your achievements! At the end of the year if you follow the path of your first quarter – you will have met 288 new people this year! And, you will have begun to establish and established relationships with 48 people. Can you grasp this? That would be 48 people who are getting to know you and what you are looking for and working for you by spreading the word of knowing this great person! Way to go kid!

**side note** I always read my blogs to my fiancé before I publish. In case any one else is thinking this, he beat you to it – the first words out of his mouth after he heard this is, “There is a lot of math in there!” Yes, I am a numbers freak, but just focus on this” 288 new people – 48 new relationships.

Tools in Your Toolbox

My dad was a diesel mechanic, when he died he was head of the shop for CCX, a damn good mechanic. He could fix anything. I grew up around tools, the smell of oil, grease, tools, knowing the importance of keeping them clean, putting them away properly and taking care of them. I learned the importance of tools; you can do anything with the right tool. I was comfortable taking some tools and scraps of wood or whatever I could find and see what I could build. I knew how to use tools and what I did not know I liked to ask. (When I was 14 I asked him to show me how to hot-wire a car although much to my chagrin he did not). I have my own tool box, circular saw, jig saw and yes, I have used them well – a couple of years ago I built floor to ceiling bookcases with a bench seat in the middle thank you very much. But the point of this early rambling is that I learned the value of tools from my dad. I also learned the strength in the truth from my dad.

Now that I am much older I carry those same lessons from my dad to other tools. You will hear the message of tools in your toolbox. For a job seeker there are many tools – your resume, your elevator speech, your mentors, your fellow co-workers, employment agencies, recruiters, networking groups – just to name a few. Today I am going to focus on employment agencies and recruiters.

Let me clear up one thing right now – employment agency does not equate to Temp Agency, although there is a time and place for these companies as well. There might be negative connotations about agencies and recruiters and some of those thoughts might be well deserved; however, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I have met some wonderful people in both industries and they are very passionate about what they do and why. If you have not had a lot of experience with either it might be intimidating to try to figure out who to work with and why or even if you want to consider them in your toolbox.

First, go to the agency or recruiter’s website to check them out. There are many agencies that look to fill a need – a professional in a great industry and fantastic position. There are opportunities for office personnel, accounting, all level managers, to name just a few, for many different industries. These are top-notch positions. There are also recruiters who will not work with those seeking employment. This is a good thing to know, too. Any information is good information.

Companies work through an agency or recruiter because they trust them. A hiring company may not want the hassle of having to go through hundreds of resumes to find the right candidate. They utilize the agency/recruiter to filter out the cream of the crop, those that will meet their expectations and qualifications. A good agency/recruiter will have standards and rules that you must comply with so be sure to check this out. Think about it, if they have no standards how can you expect their clients to want the best? That would be you, by the way.

I know one agency that has a rule – if they offer you a set amount of positions within the parameters that you set and you refuse them all then you are no longer a candidate for them. I like this. It is a great standard and it makes you have a frank conversation –what do you really want? And honesty is important. I do not want to hire anyone that promises me the moon. I want someone who is going to be honest and tell me the positives and challenges and then helps me help myself.

A benefit of working with an agency/recruiter is you can be honest with them to tell them your skills and wants. It is not as though you would feel comfortable telling a potential employer “I have these great skills and want to pursue a new vein – how can I get there?” You can ask the agency/recruiter what you can do to improve your lot and have real conversations. They can help you determine a good course for you at this time. They might be able to see an opportunity for you right now that may lead to where you want to go in the future. These are professionals that help cut through the fluff to find the right candidate for their client and the right position for you. Agencies/recruiters have it on both ends so they are not going to waste your time – do not waste theirs.

Let me be very honest here, they are not on your payroll so do not expect them to

1. Drop everything just because you called
2. Perform miracles
3. Bend over backwards for you when you are not willing to put any work into this

Do your homework, just like you would if you had an interview with a company. Who are their clients (not specifically, but more in industry, size, strength etc); why do they chose to work with these companies; who are their candidates; who do they place most successfully; why do they do the work they do; how do they help place you?

In talking to recruiters, many have told me that your best opportunities come from networking, but there are instances that they can help. Find out what these instances are and how you can make yourself more appealing to potential employers.

Remember, you stock your own toolbox. You need to decide what is important to you, what works well for you and how much effort you are willing to give in maintaining your tools. Just keep in mind to look into alternative tools, you might be surprised at what you find.

Time Management

clockTwo words that can either express a great talent or two words that put you in fear of facing that you are less than diligent. Time management is a tricky thing. I remember when I was entering into the financial arena and had to get my stockbrokers exam, supervisory and a few more all while staring a new position and my son’s father was diagnosed with cancer – oh yeah, and caring for my young son. I don’t remember how I got through that year, but I did. I do remember the clock was not my friend. First thing in the morning getting my son to school, then to work, lunch was studying, after work get my son and off to the hospital, home in time for dinner time with my son then put him to bed, then two to three hours of studying. I earned five Series exam designations within 12 months, I excelled at the job, Jeff survived cancer and the horrendous treatments and recovery and my lovely son was wonderful and able to participate in all his activities with glee.

Then later in life I was between jobs. I had all this time on my hands and could not get a darn thing done! How is that? I think I finally figured it out, when it is your time you do not put the same value on it that you do for others. When I punched a clock I was determined to make the most of the time I was there, then when I left for the day I left it there. When it all bleeds into one day and there is no delineation we tend to not keep track of our time. It can be a habit so easy to slip into and a battle uphill to break. I know, owning my own business it is my biggest challenge. It can be the same principle when looking for a job.

Sometimes we volunteer and join so many networking groups that we are very, very busy but at the end of the day we can not determine what we have done for us, for our pursuit of a position. We really end up hurting ourselves by putting everything else first and ourselves last. Let’s face it, if you are looking for a job your first priority must be you and that is hard for some of us to do.

My advice, look at it as a business. Look at your activities – what is the return on investment? Are many of your events duplicates? Same people just different times and locations? Are some events not productive or worse yet involved negative people? Drop them. Just because there is a group out there it does not mean you have to join every single one of them! Be selfish, be honest and make sure what you are choosing to spend your time on is worth your time. Your time is valuable! If you do not believe it how will anyone else?

Make a list of all the activities that you participate in or attend. Next to each item write down their value. If it is your church group, that adds value, maybe not in your job search, but mentally and spiritually it adds value. If it is a networking group – what is the value for YOU? Is it a group coming together complaining or actively supporting and encouraging each other? Are you getting return on your investment of time. Next, think of each one and if you enjoy participating or attending. If you dread going or are not enthusiastic about attending then don’t! Make it a point to put you on the calendar and realize that you are a priority and should be treated as such.