If I could shake your hand…..

This post, according to my friends at WordPress, is my 301st.  So rather than pass along more thoughts and advice on jobs and careers, I am going to take a big pause to say thank you.

I started this blog in 2008 when we were in the middle of a big recession.  Companies were laying off way faster than they were hiring and we really did not have much in the way of jobs to talk about with candidates.  There were so many interesting and talented people looking. I started talking with them about networking and resumes and all the other things needed to propel a career.thank-you

Each week, a theme would emerge in my conversations and people really seemed to appreciate that I took the time to talk to them.  I started a blog to put this information out to the universe figuring other people might be interested as well.

A funny thing happened.  I started to get notes and comments from readers.  Honestly, at first it was just my parents (big shout out to them!) but then people would send a note that they enjoyed the tips or that they had read something useful and passed it along to their kids.

I started to share the material on LinkedIn and then a whole bunch of other people started to read it.  Clients and candidates provided both ideas and positive feedback.

It seemed that every time there was a black cloud over my desk, a happy comment would arrive in my inbox.  Last week, two colleagues asked me if it was okay for them to use articles for workshops they were leading.  That is certainly the highest form of flattery!

So this is my chance to thank you for spending a few minutes each week reading this stuff.  I hope it continues to be useful with a side of funny.


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Boost Your Career – Go on a Date with Lynda

It feels awful when you read a job posting and it sounds absolutely fantastic.  It’s right up your alley until  you get to the skills requirements and you realize you don’t quite measure up.

This has been difficult to overcome in the past.  Time and money seem to be the enemies of further education.  Even if we have the money, most formal courses take weeks and weeks.  It requires a real commitment.

And this skills thing is a concern in our day jobs too.  The digital era is changing the way we work faster than ever and we need to make sure we have the right skills all the time.

Let me introduce you to Lynda.com.  It is an online platform with over 3,500 video courses on topics such as Advanced Excel, Statistics, Effective Presentations, Interviewing, Photoshop and more.  The courses are delivered in short video segments with exercises for practice and they are delivered by experts.

You might be tempted to think that this is just fluff.  Who really uses online learning?

What did you do the last time you needed to fix something at home? You hopped on YouTube, right? What did you do when you wanted to look up a recipe or craft you saw on TV?  Yep, YouTube again.

Video on demand is convenient and accessible.  What more could you want?

What if it were free?  If you have a library card, you can access it for free.  Really.

Since Lynda.com was purchased by LinkedIn and LinkedIn was purchased by Microsoft, they have cut deals with many public libraries and universities to give staff, students and patrons free access.

This is just too good to pass up.  Skip the burger lunch today.  Grab a sandwich and head to LinkedIn Learning.  You owe it to yourself to check it out.

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Not that into you ……

I was a panelist at a job search workshop yesterday.  There were lots of interesting questions during the session and then in the one-on-ones afterwards.

One theme stood out – people trying to get into a particular company.

Three people asked about that.  “I have picked my dream company.  I have applied to postings and left messages for the hiring managers but no one has called me back.  What else can I do?”

My response?  Nothing.

Here’s why:

  • There is a fine line between between follow up and stalking.  Repeated emails do not reinforce your message.  They make it seem like you have nothing else to do.
  • You might think you have the perfect skill set  for a role but there are many forces at play in each hiring decision.  You might not be aware of issues on the existing team, upcoming changes in the division or a host of other issues.  These will affect the sorts of candidates that they want to spend time interviewing.
  • There might be things in your background that they do not see as a fit.  This may seem arbitrary and it is.  It is their company.  They already work there.

So what can you do?

  • Get specific about why it is your dream company.  Find more with the same qualities and apply.
  • Keep target number one in your radar.  Talk with people in other areas of the company. Keep track of what’s happening with their products and services.  Other opportunities will come up – usually when you are not looking.
  • Keep you information updated in their system.  Just do this quietly – no fanfare needed. Corporate recruiters will look at their own database first and you want to make sure your information is fresh, particularly your contact details.

Finding a job is not like buying shoes. You cannot pop in to a store, fall in love with a loafer, try on a few sizes and walk out with a perfect fit.  It is a journey that requires patience, perseverance and just a little creativity.

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Too busy to Advance your Career?

I read an interesting article in Fast Company today.  It talked about how to deal with being ‘busy”.   Lots of people complain about working 70 or 80 hour weeks.  But we know the truth: many of them are not complaining.  They are actually bragging.  Trust me, there are better ways to feel important.

Where this does become a problem is when people are too busy to advance their careers.

Managers love this.  When someone is too busy to breathe, it is pretty tough for them to refresh their resume or respond to a headhunter’s LinkedIn message.

The author of the article suggested two things:

  • Think about a week as a block of hours
  • Take a look at what is actually eating up your time

The first idea is kind of neat.  If you look at a week as 168 hours and you spend 8 hours sleeping each night (work with me here….) that leaves 112 hours for work and other stuff. Even if you work 70 hours, that still leaves more than 40 for things like your resume or responding to that message.  This feels more manageable than just looking at one twelve hour day at a time.

The second may reveal things you don’t like so be prepared.  Keep careful track of what you do for a week.  That includes Candy Crush, going for coffee and dallying on Pinterest.

See the patterns?  See the time you are using to procrastinate or just kill time between things?  That’s where you can make some changes and take back some control.

Maybe you can fit in time to meet a former colleague for coffee or update your profile.  And once you figure that out, you can even look at going to the gym more or starting a blog.

Check out the app store for your device.  Look under “time tracker” but be careful -there are a lot of choices and you don’t want to use up too many of your 168 hours.


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How to Make the Most of an Internship

Many people have co-op terms or internships as part of their academic courses.  They are fantastic learning experiences but there are some extra things you can do to maximize their impact from a career perspective.

Make sure you add the your title and company to your LinkedIn profile. Add some bullet points about your tasks so that other people can get a feel for what you are doing.

Invite people you are working with to join your network.  You can also invite people from outside the company.  If you get to shadow someone at a meeting or a conference, pick up business cards and send out the invites. linkedin cracked button

Your LinkedIn invitations have more impact if you personalize them.  If you mention where you met the person and how much you liked their presentation/speech/questions, you will up the chances of them accepting your invite.

Ask if people in your work  group will provide a recommendation.  Basically, you are asking if they will say a couple of nice things about you that will be visible on your profile.

Start a list in your phone of training and learning opportunities so you can record them as you go.  By the end of your term, you won’t remember what happened at the beginning.  These are valuable bits to add to your resume when you are done.  You want to be able to reference not just what you did, but what you learned.  That’s the sort of thing future employers want to see.

When you finish an internship, make sure you note that on your LinkedIn profile.  You might also want to take a few minutes to write some thank you notes to your boss and your boss’s boss.  Mention how much you learned and how much you enjoyed being part of the team.

None of these items are going to make an internship better but they will help to make sure it is a solid starting point for  a satisfying career.

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New LinkedIn Feature Filters out the Fluff

It’s September and we are all running around trying to adjust to new schedules.  If we can’t find time to catch our breath, how the heck can we keep our eyes open for new career opportunities?

It’s pretty easy for this to fall on the back burner but this is not the time for that to happen.  Fall is when hiring teams realize that if they don’t start the hiring process now, they might lose headcount.

For example, there are lots of interesting jobs being posted on LinkedIn right now.  In fact, there are so many, it can take hours to sift through them.

LinkedIn has added a new feature to help with this.  The next time you go into LinkedIn, click the Jobs tab.  You will see a new tab called Preferences.

It has lots of areas to click and choose – geography, industry, seniority, company size and more.  This will help to focus the jobs that get sent to you.  The more things you click, the more relevant the jobs should be. ( I hope this really works – I am tired of getting pipefitter jobs in my inbox.)

You can also choose what you would like to share with recruiters.  This should also improve the odds of getting excited when you are approached about a role.

We know that the more we automate tasks, the more effective we are.  After all, we don’t count our steps, do we?  We just glance at our Fitbit and get going.  Using this tool should have the same effect.  You can glance at the postings of the day, decide on a course of action ( apply, save, dump) and then get to yoga.


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Interview Like You Mean It

As a manager, interviewing is one of the most important things you do. You can’t build a great team that will reach great objectives if you don’t hire great people to be on that team.
Interviewing is the first step to hiring those great people.

When you interview someone, you are trying to figure out if they are the right person to help solve a problem.

Do they have the right skills and attitudes to be the fixer you need?

You establish this through questions and conversation and most importantly, concentration. We expect candidates to be highly engaged in the interview process. It is reasonable, therefore, that the hiring manager should be present in body and mind as well.

Before you step into an interview, take a few minutes to put aside the million things that you are working on. Think about the role (and problem) this person might be able to fix. Take another look at their resume.  

Put down your phone, square your shoulders and head in to shake hands and say hello.

Try to start with an open ended question as an ice breaker. “Tell me about yourself” is a bit tricky. It can lead to a really long answer if the person is nervous. It also could sound like you are covering up the fact that you did not take time to look at the person’s resume.

  • How did you get started in this industy?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • What have you heard about our technology?

These are all open ended but with relatively controlled answers that will give you some insight into the the person right from the get-go.

Pay attention. Call out something interesting. Ask follow up questions. This is your chance to figure out how they think and how they might fit with you and your team.  

If you are, at this point, rolling your eyes because interviewing is a drag and you never meet interesting candidates, then get with your recruiting folks and get that fixed. 

The world is full of interesting people. Find them, talk to them and hire them.

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