Gifts for Job Seekers

December can be a tough time to be a job seeker.  Even if they got a package and are not feeling the financial consequences, it’s still a difficult time.  Everyone seems to be going to company functions and doing gift exchanges with colleagues or having lunch with customers.

Aside from missing the structure and community, they are worried about what they will do next.  It does not matter if you are an Assistant or an Assistant Vice President, the same kind of anxiety rolls over you in the middle of the night.

Here are some gift ideas to consider:

  • Haircut – a gift certificate for a spa, salon or high end barber shop
  • Accessories – tie or scarf to freshen up an older outfit
  • Starbucks Card – it’s nice to be able to get out of the house for a treat
  • Prepaid Sessions with a Coach  – life coach, career coach or fitness coach –any of these experts will add value and structure
  • Introductions – what could be better than receiving a call out of the blue with an offer to get together to discuss an opportunity?  Think of the connections you could make to help someone out.
  • Time – an invitation to lunch, dinner or even just coffee will be very appreciated.  It will serve as a reminder that the world is still revolving and opportunities will come.

Best wishes for a successful conclusion to this year – may it be a fantastic jumping off point for next year.

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Interview Attire – Get it Right

Jeans?  Khakis? Suit?  There are so many different work cultures now, it can be tricky to figure out what to wear to an interview.  Over dressing or under dressing can make you feel awkward at the beginning of a conversation and that can be tough to recover from.

Ultimately you want to dress in a way that makes you feel confident. So if you have favourite socks or lucky underwear, start with that.

You can check out the website of the company to see how they present themselves.  Look for candid work photos under the careers page.  You can look on Glassdoor (although you will learn a lot more than how employees dress!).  You can also ask the person who is setting up the interview.  Whether they are in the organization or from an agency, they should be able to give you some insight.

And don’t be afraid to ask.   How you show up is as important as where you show up.

Whether it’s a jeans place or a suit place, make sure what you are wearing is clean, neat and smells fresh.  Not like a garden, a beach or a forest.  Just plain clean.

This goes for hair and shoes as well.  People won’t care if your hair is long or short.  It’s about showing that you respect this opportunity enough to care about how you put yourself together.  If you care about that, the assumption is that you will care about your work too.

On the way in to the meeting, wipe your palms, square your shoulders and take a deep breath and you will be ready for a great conversation!

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Get Happy with your Job

The University of Alberta gave out some honourary degrees last week and Bob McDonald, the host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks was one of the recipients.  He was recognized for is efforts to bring scientific information and discoveries to communities across Canada and around the world.  Anyone who has listed to his show even once, has come away smarter.

Here is what he said in his acceptance speech “Figure out what you want to do and look for opportunities that point you in that direction.  You’ll be amazed where you end up.”  Every graduate and everyone in a career crisis could use this as a framework to figure out what’s next.

Figuring out what you like can be kind of difficult if you have been in a “hamster wheel” kind of job for a while.  If you are feeling down and out about your work, it can be hard to identify what you like.  It can feel like the whole thing is trash.

Try taking a walk or meditating or some other activity that does not require concentration. Let you mind wander to the last time you laughed at work.  What were you doing and who were you with?  Did it happen again?  Where you with colleagues, customers or vendors?  What lead up to the situation?

The answers will start to help you separate out the good parts of your work.  It’s pretty easy to dwell on the crap but it doesn’t really help.

As you start to pick out the good bits ( liking customers, solving problems with systems, developing new ways to present a product), you can take that information forward to look for opportunities that focus on those good bits.  The idea is to get into a role with more of the stuff you like and less of the crap you don’t.

When you get on the LinkedIn or Indeed to look at job postings, don’t start with a title.  Try searching for the phrase or activity that you want to do.  You will probably get some results that are not relevant but you will also get some things that you had never considered or didn’t even know existed.

For example, I like to make up recipes and experiment with ingredients.  I put those words in LinkedIn and learned that I could be a bartender/mixologist or a beverage flavour technologist or a cereal product developer.  Who knew?

Let’s be clear – every job has some junk but to maximize your impact and satisfaction, you want the junk to play a smaller part.

 

 

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Let’s fix the Commute

Lots of people think about changing jobs because of their commute.  Maybe if, as commuters, we had a little more awareness, it would not be such a big deal.  After five years of public transit, here are my suggestions for improving everyone’s experience.

  • When you are leaving the house, you can choose aftershave, cologne, smelly hair product or mouthwash. You don’t need all four.
  • If you need to carry your life around in a rolling briefcase, don’t sashay.  Just walk in a straight line.
  • If it feels like you might be too close to someone, you probably are.  Back off or turn slightly to the side.
  • If you plan to wear high heeled boots  on your commute, practice at home first.  Falling down the stairs in a crowd is awkward and painful – in more ways than one.
  • Commuter trains move fast.  When you stake out your spot, check for a handle or something you can grab on to when the track bends.  This is not the time to be grabbing anybody’s anything in a crowd.
  • If you are lucky enough to get a seat (or you planned well enough to leave the office on time), look up before you depart to see if anyone needs a seat more than you.  You don’t have to give up your seat, but it would be nice if you took a look, just in case.
  • When you are walking in one direction and decide you want to go somewhere else, do a shoulder check.  Blindly walking diagonally through a crowd is tricky.  You’ll probably be fine but you may leave a trail of “near misses” behind you.

Be aware and be safe – that’s the best way forward for all of us.

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Back Door References – Just another form of gossip

In most searches, the final step is reference checking.  The candidate provides three or four people they have worked with or reported to.  Those people are asked a series of questions about the candidate’s work style and reliability and if the references are done right, they are also asked about areas of improvement and for an explanation of why they left the company.

This exercise is not meant to confirm that the person can do the job.  It provides verification of the good things you saw in the candidate.  And when you see common themes in what people have said, it’s a pretty sure thing.

Sure, this can seem like a bit of a rubber stamp.  But that’s okay.  If every reference check gave you crappy feedback, then you would soon realize have a major problem with your vetting and interview process.

Sometimes impatient or unsure hiring managers take this into their own hands and call people who have worked with or know of the candidate.  Many industries are small enough that this is possible.  This is called back door reference checking.

From a privacy standpoint, this is totally wrong and really crosses the line.  There is a reason we ask a candidate for people to call.

If you hear something bad, what will you do?  Call the candidate and tell them that their former manager said they were unreliable?  What if that manager was on leave for harassment?  You don’t know.  You have no context.

What if you call a former colleague and they happen to mention it to someone else in the organization?  What happens to that candidate who was quietly exploring a new role and all of the sudden everyone knows?  Bad news.

Do don’t play fast and loose with people’s careers.  If there is a particular point of view you want included in the reference, just ask.  That’s the best way.

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Fix your Career by the New Year

Halloween is over and the rush to the end of the year has begun.  Things are going to get busy….really soon.  If you have career goals that are still hanging out there, this is the time to sit down and make a plan to move forward.

Whether you are looking for a promotion, transfer or something new altogether, now is the time to take action.

But where to start?

Make time – carve out 20 minutes every day to work on your objective – either block it in your calendar or make it the same time every day.

Make a list – who do you need to meet and how can you connect with them.  Email, voice mail, and LinkedIn are all options – decide what is most likely to get a response.

Reach out – start connecting with your targets and following up

Expand your network – send LinkedIn invitations to colleagues, neighbours and the guy you met at that thing last week.

Promote yourself – find articles that are relevant to what you do and post them on LinkedIn.  Your connections will see your content and be reminded of your expertise.

Send thank you notes – everyone appreciates being recognized and the good will that is generated will translate into all kinds of neat things.

Take calls from Headhunters – these calls can provide good market intel on your skills and what they are worth – don’t ignore us.

Apply to job postings – notice this is way down the list?  The best opportunities come from connections and good connections come from doing the work in the first place.  Don’t just rely on the application process.  It will rarely show you any love.

 

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Get off the Couch and Start Exploring

I had an interesting situation this week.  One of my candidates, who had been on a long and successful interview journey, ended up with several offers in his inbox.

He was really stressed.  He said he could not understand how this happened.  He was not even looking.  He really likes his job and his team. 

How did this happen?

First of all, he is an interesting and curious person.  When I told him about my client and what they needed to do, he thought it made sense to explore the opportunity.  He felt that it would allow him to build up his skills in a new area.

The first two interviews went really well.  He and a couple of senior managers had wide ranging conversations and he felt really good about it.

Guess what?  After that second interview, he was walking around with just a bit more confidence.  He had third party validation that he was doing some really good work in a really good way. 

It’s not as noticeable as a haircut or new glasses but that kind of confidence shows.

Seemingly out of the blue, he got a couple of networking requests and coffee invitations.  Those led to more casual conversations. Casual, because he had moved beyond the “interview panic prep” and into “this is just a business meeting”.

On top of that, his boss started to let him know about a some longer term projects that he be leading. 

To be clear:  he was not a disgruntled employee complaining about things at work.  No one was trying to placate him or keep him in order to get though the busy cycle.

I suggested that he look at multiple offers as a positive thing not a stressful thing.  It’s a successful measure of how he is navigating his path through the industry.

After weighing the teams, the work, the manager and the future possibilities, he chose.  I think he is going to be very happy. 

So, get off the merry-go-round of your job and take a look around.  Because looking when you are not looking may the best time to look.

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