Tag Archives: job search

Credit where credit is due

It’s time for a round of applause for job seekers who have found success and some encouragement for those who are still on the hunt.

The situation out there is still bleak (though it’s significantly better than it was at the beginning of the year) and we  haven’t declared that we’re out of the recession nor are we sure when we will be. It’s still a little miserable out there.

But sometimes you gotta look past that and focus on the good.

This post is dedicated to a friend of mine and reader who got a job offer and graciously accepted. How did he do it? He went to a job fair, he made a connection with a recruiter, he listened to what that recruiter told him and made changes to his materials, he followed up appropriately, he struck a chord with his interviewers – and the rest is history.

So congrats to him on getting the job and congratulations to the employer on getting an outstanding employee. All around good news!

Do you know anyone who’s gotten a job recently? Give them a shout and congratulate them if you haven’t already. Looking to help people find jobs? Try connecting with JobAngels to do your part. Still looking for a job? Keep positive, try new things and remember that it only takes one yes to get where you want.

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YOU be the judge.

In my previous post about finding a job through significant persistence, I wrote about my experience as a ballroom dance judge. There are so many people out on the floor that sometimes some of them can get lost. Sometimes, this happens to applicants as well, but it’s not a reason to despair.

In response, the awesome Matt Hawk asked this in the comments:

Mike, as a ballroom dance judge you mentioned you were unable to notice all the dancers. I’m sure it wasn’t a day-glo orange safety vest, but how did you use that knowledge to become more noticable when you did go back to the dance floor? Crisper steps, higher kicks, brighter outfits?

What tactical advice would you give a job seeker? Paper weight/color? Font? Language style? I’d be curious to hear.

Equipped with the knowledge of what a judge is doing and looking for, I made almost no alterations to my practice habits. Sure, I continued working with my partner, improving my technique and enhancing my presentation like I had already been doing, but beyond that, I didn’t make any changes. What’s the alternative? Positioning myself directly in front of judgse so they have to see me? Well, that actually guarantees I won’t be picked. Get a flashier outfit that calls attention to me right away? I’ll admit that my costume is flashy enough as it is (yes, there are rhinestones) that too much more would be tasteless and would turn judges off. The moral here is that gimmicks don’t work.

What did differ was my mental state. Knowing that my dancing would shine though if it was good enough and that the only thing I could do was to dance my best, I stopped feeling like I had to force the issue to be seen and simply danced my heart out while having a good time – I stopped caring about the judges and focused more on what I was doing. In others, I instilled a level of confidence in myself that I didn’t have before.

And that is exactly what I would suggest to job seekers out there. Make your work your best. Show off who you are in the best way possible. Be proud of the work that you’re putting out there. But be sure you put down who you actually are and not who you think someone else wants you to be. No, you won’t get picked every time – I certainly didn’t get called back for every round – but when you do, it will be for the right reasons, because that employer is interested in meeting the candidate represented by the piece of paper.

I recognize that it seems like I’m telling you to do nothing. No, don’t change the font size or the weight of the paper (though there shouldn’t be a paper weight since you should be using e-mail nowadays anyway…). Again, gimmicks don’t work (and you don’t want to work for an employer who responds to gimmicks anyway because that means that the employer only responds to neediness and cries for attention).

What I am suggesting is that you change your state of mind – express your passion for the things that you want. Don’t hesitate to let loose and be honest about who you are (within reason, of course) and what you’re looking for. Employers will respond to it eventually, you just have to give it some time.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Getting picked last is better than not getting picked at all.

An employee came in and asked us about why we picked her resume out of the bunch. After going back to school and changing careers, she was convinced that the long process was because there was something fishy going on in the background, and she wanted our take.

I remembered her application vividly. The resume had all the skills we were looking for, as well as internships and external activities that clearly supported what she was doing. And her cover letter was filled with enthusiasm, passion and sincere excitedness for the position. I could tell this was someone who not only wanted a job, but wanted a job with us – she had done her research and was even more interested after looking into us. And I was right – she’s been an awesome fit in the time she’s spent with us.

But it did make me think about the year and a half she spent NOT getting interviews. Was there foul play? Maybe. But without really knowing what was going on in the hiring managers’ minds, there’s no way of being sure of that conclusion, and no reason to assume the worst.

As a ballroom dancer, I used to assume the very same at my dance competitions – the judges weren’t picking me because there was something wrong with my dancing or because of politics, because they knew all the people they picked over me. Well, as it turns out, when I started to judge, I realized that sometimes you just can’t possibly notice everyone – you don’t have enough time or energy to see all of the great people out there. There are times when you, as the dancer do everything right, but you just don’t get seen, so you fall through the cracks, however good you may be.

In job hunting, it’s the same way. You may be an excellent fit and you may do everything perfectly, but sometimes, it’s not enough to get you noticed. There’s no guarantee that you’ll make it in front of the hiring manager’s eyes in time to get interviewed and subsequently hired.

So what does that mean for you? It means that you can’t leap to conclusions and lose the negative attitude. Keep applying and putting yourself out there. Eventually, you’ll get to the person who needs to see how truly awesome you are. You have to keep making those connections to better your chances of that happening.

You may not live your whole life in the spotlight, but when it comes down to it, you’ll find it. Don’t lose hope. We, as a company, are lucky that my employee was forced to wait as long as she did – we’re better off for having her. Your next employer will feel the same way about you.

The 1-2-3 punch of social media, relationship building and recruiting

I talked last time about building relationships and how you can use them for applying for jobs and for recruiting techniques. You don’t really want to cold call a place unless you have no other means of getting in touch – if you have a personal connection, you’re way more likely to attract the attention of the employer or the candidate. It’s something that’s been tried and true – that strategy has been so effective that there’s reason to believe in its accuracy. 

But let’s add to that with this whole social media thing that’s come about and revolutionizing the way we communicate. Like DC Dietitian mentioned (thanks for your comments!), you can use these tools to accomplish the same goals in a very different fashion, whether that’s landing yourself an awesome job (and congrats on that Jen!) or finding a stellar candidate that you’d like to bring on.

First, from the perspective of the job seeker, there are a lot of new ways to connect with brands. Though you may not want them in your news feed all the time, Liking a corporate Facebook page does get you one step closer to the organization and puts you in a position to meet others. You can follow organizations on both Twitter and LinkedIn, the former giving you a quicker and more concise way to get their updates and chat with them (assuming they aren’t too big to respond to every single thing that comes their way and that they don’t just push out their own news) and the latter giving you insight into recent staff changes and potential information that may come up. And you can use Twitter and hashtags like #HireFriday or #JobAngels to further your goals. And that’s just the beginning.

As for the employer side, while the relationship building hasn’t changed, the way you communicate with potential recruits has significantly. On the larger scale, if you’re not regularly publishing content, your talent is going to miss you – you can’t expect to establish your brand with 1 Tweet a week or 1 Facebook page post per month. When you’re pushing two-way content out (i.e. not just stuff about you, because no one cares, thank you Chris Brogan), you’ll build an audience and engage with people who have an interest in building a community.

On a smaller scale, searching bios and posts on LinkedIn and Twitter give you access to the things you’re looking for – for example, I can search for “architect” and come up with thousands upon thousands who have used that term recently. You can participate in industry livetweets to meet people. I partake once in a month in #aiachat, a conversation for architecture industry folks put on by the American Institute of Architects, where we discuss things related to the practice. You can convey your brand and share insight about the way you do business, but more importantly, you get to know people more personally and share great ideas with them – it’s a win-win for everyone.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I want to leave some food for thought and not make this too long, but there’s so much more to be uncovered. What are your ideas about social media and recruiting, from either the jobseeker or employer perspective? What kinds of issues may come up with that? Any thoughts about the direction this is taking the application/recruiting process? Would love to hear from you!

Say hello to 2010

Welcome to the first business day of 2010!

Good riddance to 2009. It was a miserable year for a lot of people. If you weren’t directly affected, you knew a whole slew of people who were. It’s time for a fresh start. And I don’t mean in the “It’s a new decade!!1!” kind of way because that’s already getting on my nerves and we’re only 3 days in. Instead, use the “New Year” as an excuse (even if it’s a lame one) to take a closer look at your working life.

Here are 10 things to consider:

  1. No matter what your job situation is, how’s your resume looking? When’s the last time you revisited it? Something is sure to have happened over the last year that would make it worth your while to update, add and purge. Did you include your volunteer somewhere? Did you get a promotion? Did you move? Is your contact info up to date? Getting away from the boring design you had when you graduated college and adding a little creative touch wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I’m gonna work on a list of resume “Do’s and Don’ts” – so be on the look out for that if you need some help.
  2. Along the same lines, think about all of the materials you’ll be submitting to potential employers. If you have portfolios, work samples, writing pieces or the dreaded cover letter (again, something on that in 2010 from me), take a look at all of your templates and make sure you’re still happy with what you might send to employers – or get yourself to a point where you are again.
  3. Has anyone given feedback on what you’ve put together? Once you’ve done something about your resume and the rest of your materials, give them to someone else to look at. A second pair of eyes will catch what the first pair didn’t.
  4. When’s the last time you checked in with your network? Everyone uses their network when they don’t have a job (and if you’re not, why aren’t you?). And keep it up – employee recommendations are the best resource for new hires. But keeping up with those people to find out how they’re doing when you DON’T need anything will make them more likely to help out when you do have a favor to ask. Use “Happy New Year” as a good place to start. Remember your social networks online as well as offline.
  5. If you’re unemployed, how can you change your job search for 2010? What can you use that you aren’t already? Social media is becoming a better resource for jobs than ever before. Try doing a search on Twitter using #jobs for example. Job boards are a way of the past, but there may still be something on there and it can’t hurt to look. Craig’s List is becoming more and more reputable for job postings. And there may be a niche site out there related to your skill set that you could look at.
  6. If you are employed, do you know what else is out there? The grass may actually be greener somewhere else. It can’t hurt to keep looking. And if you’re paying attention, it means that you might stumble upon something to help out one of your unemployed friends. You never know – passing along that job ad to someone could be just the thing they need to get themselves going again.
  7. Have you thought about an informational interview? If you want to get more information about a certain field/career path/position/company/etc., it could be beneficial. But don’t use the informational interview as a “backdoor” into getting a job. As Ask A Manager will tell you, it’s a bad idea.
  8. What certifications/registrations can you add this year? While education may be more expensive than you can handle, a registration may be more affordable and can enhance your resume for something imminent or for your application down the road.
  9. What are your 2010 goals? Sure, think big – you definitely want to “find a job” this year! But think small and more easily attainable at the same time. You can aim to learn a new software program or enhance your typing skills. If you think about it now, you’ll have to time to schedule it in.
  10. And finally, excuse my cheesiness, but remember that you have a whole new year in front of you. 2009 sucked, I already said that. But you’ve got to suck it up and keep going. Get an attitude readjustment, and try thinking about what will happen, not about what happened last year. The beginning of 2010 will suck too, don’t worry. But at least you’ve got a whole new year to make something of. So, like Zac Efron would say, get your head in the game!

Ugh, as if top 10 lists weren’t overused enough. Expect to see them EVERYWHERE in ’10 since they correspond with the year. Glad I could contribute to the fad.

Anything you’d add to the list as we head into the new decade?

Human Sustainability

I have a friend who is looking for a job. Yawn – so are a lot of people. What complicates things for her is that she had a sudden realization that she isn’t as bulletproof as she once thought she was. Her feelings about insurance went from not caring whether she had it (which she didn’t) or not to being afraid to move for fear of needing a doctor. Needless to say, her desire (and need) for healthcare coverage of any kind has suddenly become more acute.

In talking to her about her current search for jobs, she reiterated that she was doing the best she could to find a job she was interested in. When I asked her on the phone about taking a crappy job that would pay the bills AND give her health insurance, she responded, “Well, I don’t think I’m that desperate yet”. My response to her was a sobering, “Well, for what you consider ‘desperate’, do you really want to get there before you HAVE find a job to pay you and give you benefits?” I got silence from the other end of the line for a second before, “Yeah, I didn’t really think about it that way”.

Taking a job does not mean that you’ve settled down and are forever stuck with the decision that you’ve made. You can change your mind – and let’s be honest, it’s human nature to do so. Think about it this way: let’s say you shopped around until you found someone you wanted to go out with, but when you had dinner together, you found out that your choice was not the perfect specimen you originally anticipated, but was, in fact, a big ol’ loser. Do you say to yourself, “Well, it took me a while to make my choice, so I guess I’ll just stick with it and hope it gets better” or do you find yourself a new date and shrug off the memory of your poor decision-making skills? Rhetorical question, I’m sure. So why, then, is a job any different?

Sometimes, you’ve got to do what pays the bills, even if it sucks, while continuing to look for what you actually want. Before you jump down my throat, often times (especially now), finding “what pays the bills” is (much) easier said than done, and while I’m not brushing that aside, that’s not my point. I’m saying that it’s worth devoting at least part of your energy to entering the workforce in any capacity rather than focusing all of your attention on the single job that you’re interested in. It’s not that you’re selling out by putting your plans on hold; instead, realize that you’re keeping yourself going (I almost said “keeping yourself alive”, but figured that was awfully dramatic, even by my standards) by finding something that will not only provide you with money (kind of important in today’s society), but will always provide you with medical care (by way of insurance) should you need it. It’s all about sustainability here.

I read an article by HR Minion earlier that dealt with this issue for people that have taken jobs and have  “fallen into the employment trap“: they’ve ended their job search, lost track of their networks or stopped learning just because they’ve found any old opportunity. No! Don’t do that! If you’re pretty happy, just seeing what’s out there might just make you realize why you’re in no desire to leave. And if you’re not, keeping your options open and knowing that there’s something else out there for you to find may just be what keeps you going throughout the day.

Time is on my side, yes it is!

Within the last week, I ran into two people I went to college with, one person with whom I travelled to Israel and, just last night, one person who I went to high school with, who I hadn’t seen in years. All of these were random encounters on the streets of DC I might add.

The interesting thing is, had I left wherever my starting point was a mere 5 minutes earlier or 5 minutes later, I would have missed all of these people. It’s not like I was heading to a place that I never visit or trying something new when I ran into them. It was simply a matter of timing: I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

This whole notion of timing is exactly what I tell applicants (and my friends for that matter). While we may not have any openings for the multitude of our qualified applicants, our workload/hiring needs/whatever could change at any given instant and if your resume happens to be seen at the exact second that something becomes available, then lucky you, you’ll be winning the human resources version of the lottery and getting a call. Sure, many HR offices (mine included) hold on to ALL of the resumes that they get and make special notes for which applicants that they want to keep in touch with, but if your timing is right, your chances of getting the return call go way up.

Even though everyone dreads the “Hi, I wanted to check on the status of my application” phone call (or e-mail), the fact that timing is so critical makes that check in unbelievably important. Be prepared to meet an exasperated HR professional on the other end of the line that feels some combination of irritation and pity and has to somehow tell you, “No, unfortunately nothing has opened since we last spoke”. But don’t let that be an excuse not to do it. Think about this like a Google search page: your application is on page 1 when you apply because it’s fresh and recently viewed, but if you don’t refresh it at any point in time, it’s going to keep on sinking to page 12 – and everyone always finds what they’re looking way before page 12.

Now, do keep in mind that the front line HR people (i.e. me) don’t want to talk to you every day or every other day. That would be madness. But calmly calling or dropping a line every other week will suffice. It keeps you on their radar without pushing them over the edge and your resume into the “Do not call back” pile.

Of the 4 people I ran into on the street, I’m planning on meeting up with 3 of them to catch up since we hadn’t seen each other in a while. I honestly hadn’t thought about any of them in a while, but after seeing them, I’m looking forward to finding out what they’ve been doing since we last crossed paths.

How’s that for good timing?