The Final Question – Make it Good

Picture this:  you are in a job interview and it is going really well.  You feel like the conversation has flowed nicely and your answers have been thorough and thoughtful.  The hiring manager has provided a great outline of the job and the expectations.  Then she says, “Do you have any questions for me?”

The answer to this question should always be yes.  This is a chance to continue the conversation and to get some more candid answers from the hiring manager.

It also demonstrates that you are an interesting person who likes to go beyond the typical answers.  A good question has the potential to get you a few extra checkmarks.

You can ask questions about the manager.

  • What do you like about this firm?
  • How was transition when you joined the company?
  • What are you most proud of?

Or you can ask questions about the organization.

  • Where do you think this company is headed?
  • What does the competition look like?
  • How does this organization innovate?

You want to be mindful of the person’s time.  You won’t have the chance to ask all of the questions so try to pick the best one.

A good interview with comprehensive questions should answer most of your questions about the day to day details of the job. You can finish strong with some juicy questions of your own.

Mic drop.

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How to Help New Grads

It is graduation season.  Lots and lots of new grads will be looking for their first full time jobs.  You will be contacted by nieces, nephews, neighbours kids and who knows who else.

You have two choices: make a few minutes to talk with them and answer their questions or ignore and procrastinate until they go away.

Take the first option.

grad hat

Not just for karma, although that’s important.  Do it because every successful person can point to one or two conversations that were pivotal in making decisions about their early career.

Wouldn’t you like to be at least partially responsible for someone’s meteoric rise?

College and universities are not preparing people for the process of looking for a job.  They are not talking about LinkedIn or networking or how to polish their resume.  As far as I know, only MBA programs offer this sort of preparation.  Most kids are graduating without any idea how to get anything but a job at the mall.

So be helpful.  Talk about how people get hired at your company.  Talk about companies you know that are hiring or have new grad programs.

Point them to the Jobs page on LinkedIn, Indeed and Talent Egg.  Offer to connect with them on LinkedIn.   Ask them about their introduction/elevator pitch and help them refine it so that it’s smooth and interesting.

These may seem like little things but they could be enormously helpful to someone looking for their first job.  Plus it could come in handy if you discover in ten years that they are your new boss.

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Spring is Here – Time to Cultivate your References

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers are looking for verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are.

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared such as inadvertently giving confidential information about the business or inappropriate details about the candidate.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR departments in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references. Only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, a workaround developed. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and therefore, not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

Be nice to people when they leave the organization, regardless of the reason for their departure. Set up at least one coffee date per month with a former manager or colleague. You never know when you are going to need someone who can authentically vouch for your performance at work and verify the stuff that’s on your resume.

There can be an unexpected bonus in all this networking: coffee dates often lead to opportunities in the form of introductions and job leads.

Smile and bring on the double double!

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Time to Marie Kondo Your Network

May is around the corner so hypothetically, spring has arrived but I can still see my breath in the mornings so it’s not here yet.

Spring is when we think about cleaning, decluttering and generally freshening things up.  This should include not  just your living room, fridge or stinky, salt stained car but also your network.

Yes, I said network.

I am not saying you should unfriend people in droves however, once in a while, you need to take a look at your network to see if it reflects your needs and brings you joy. Your network is a bit like insurance.  You really only learn about the consequences of choosing the cheap plan when you get into an accident and realize what is not covered.

You don’t want to figure out that your network is made up of mostly peers from the same company or industry when there is a downturn in that business.  You will all be moping at the same time.  Not helpful.

Here is what really drove this home for me:  Justin Bieber.  Seriously.  We re-watched his roast on Comedy Central this week.  It was hilarious (on many levels) but what struck me was the diversity of the people willing to go on tv to roast the kid.

You might expect comics like Kevin Hart and musicians like Ludacris.  They are his natural, industry network.  They probably go to the same parties and award shows and have  a lot in common.

Guess who else was on the stage?  Shaquille O’Neil, Snoop Dog and, wait for it, Martha Stewart.

No matter that they were only there to make fun of him.  That’s not the point.  The point is that they were willing to expose themselves by telling jokes about him to a live audience.

That is a powerful network.  With that kind of diversity, Justin should be able to steer clear of all kinds of career obstacles.  He should be able to use them to evaluate opportunities and get doors opened for new ideas.

So, who would speak at your roast?  Can you pull together people from difference industries and backgrounds?  Do they know enough about you to tell some great stories?

Forget cleaning the fridge.  Spruce up your network instead.

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Duelling Offers

Having two job offers at the same time can be really great for your confidence but really lousy on your nerves.  I have talked to many candidates who lay awake at night trying to decide what to do about something they never thought would happen.

It’s best to start with some kind of framework. You can lay out a pro and con list or you could also lay out your considerations and assign points to each choice.

Company – does the mission match your own?  Will you be proud to say you work there?

Manager – did you click right away?  Is it someone who be a good coach and mentor?  Or the kind who will leave you alone to do your job?

Team – do they seem like the sort who would have your back? Do you already have some things in common?

Office – yes, this is still a factor.  You may need to go to an office from time to time. What will that look like?  I had to go to my office this week. I forgot what it’s like to tack an hour of commmuting time to each end of the day. 

Compensation – are you comfortable with the package? Does it have short and long term growth opportunity? 

Once you assign points to each of these factors for each job, you will come out with a “winner”.  But that may not be the final decision.   You still have to consult your heart to see if it agrees.  Sometimes the risky role is still more appealing.

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Proximity or Performance – The Case for Internal Networking

There is a lot of talk right now about how work will work as we come out of the pandemic and settle into the new ordinary.  Will we all be together? Will we continue to be remote?  Will we have an office or a communal space?

Most companies are still in the planning stages which means they likely have more questions than answers.  It is stressful for sure.

I have read several articles about companies that are committing to a hybrid model.  Some are going to have employees commit to a permanent schedule of in and out of office days. Others will leave it flexible.

Several companies are going back to the office – everybody, all the time.  One rationale is that remote workers may get passed over for promotions or miss development opportunities because they are not physically present. 

That sounds like a cop out to me.  I just don’t buy it.  It’s no different than people in the old days who worked in branch offices or people who worked late or people who went for smoke breaks together.  Those situations and relationships provided the exposure to people outside their regular circle which can often act as a catalyst for a new opportunity. 

There are other ways to get facetime with managers and colleagues outside your immediate group or team.  Working remotely means you aren’t going to bump into someone at the coffee machine or in the elevator.  (You might bump into your spouse at the coffee machine but that’s not likely to lead to a promotion).   You need to cultivate new connections. 

This could mean volunteering for a new project or program.  Many companies are asking for volunteers for diversity initiatives – that would be a great way to connect with new people. 

You want to find a common connection and then reach out for a conversation.  Maybe you are working on the same account but in different regions.  Maybe you are both super users of some software.  Maybe you liked a post that they shared on LinkedIn.  Don’t just punch the “like’” button.  Pick up the phone and give them a call.

This might sound like networking 101.  It is.  Whether you are working in the office or not, you need to connect with new people and nurture your relationships if you want to keep the opportunities coming. 

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If Career Counselling was done by a Help Desk

Hello.  This is the Helpdesk.  What can I do for you?

I am not getting satisfaction from my job.  Also, I think I am not making enough money.

Hmm.  Well, when was the last time you were satisfied?  Can you remember what you were doing at the time?

Sure, I was on vacation.  That was satisfying.

Okay.  How about before that?

Oh yeah.  I was working on a special project.  We were doing a corporate fundraiser.  I got to work with different people and we managed to reach our goal.  It was super fun. 

That sounds highly functional.  Could you recreate that situation?

No.  It’s an annual thing. Sigh.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

You mentioned that the money was not working any more either.  Do you know when that crashed?

No, it just seems to have come to a halt.  Nothing has really changed. 

Maybe it’s time to do some upgrades.  When was the last time you changed your operating system or did a system update?

Oh gee.  I don’t know.  I think it’s been a while.

It sounds to me like that’s what we need to do.  I’ll need to take a look at your education, the jobs you have done and of course, your network.  Could you get all that ready, say, by Tuesday?

If that does not work, we may have to do a cold reset and that could be expensive.  I’d like to troubleshoot one part at a time.

So, let’s set up that appointment and I’ll jump on your resume for a quick look around.

 Okay.  I won’t lose any of my stuff, will I?

No, we should be able to preserve everything.  We’ll just tighten it up, do the latest updates and get it ready to handle some real career action.

Wow.  That sounds great.  Can you take a look at my iphone? It has not been the same since I threw it at the wall.

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Leveraging LinkedIn – Top Tips

LinkedIn has always been a great tool but during “The Great Resignation”, it’s even more powerful.

It’s a first step to researching new opportunities.  You can look at actual job postings.  You can also look up companies that are doing cool things to see if they might have a role for you.

It has a myriad of other uses too.

You can look up old friends, former colleagues and classmates.  It’s fun to see what people are doing now and it is easy to send a note suggesting time to reconnect.  Hearing from an old friend is a great antidote to the loneliness of working at home. I recently had the chance to reconnect with a volunteer colleague, She had a “book time with me” icon on her profile. In just a few clicks, we had a video call set up. It was so nice to hear about her job and her family.

People are posting lots and lots of content on LinkedIn.  It’s not a substitute for actual news but it is a way to see what’s going on in the industry you are in or the one you want to be in. You can check out the posts by companies, associations and thought leaders.

It’s an easy way to beef up your presence.  You can share stuff that you like  or post your own content.  It can be original – as in an article you wrote yourself or something you found outside LinkedIn that you think other people in your network will find interesting.

Posting content is better than just “liking” an article.  Hitting the like button is pretty lame. It signals that you thought something was good but not good enough to take time out of your super-busy day to make a comment.

LinkedIn is also a great medium for recognizing people.  You can use the @ sign and the person’s name in your comment for a shout-out or to draw their attention to something.  Other people see that you did that and bang!  You have a community conversation going on.

These are all simple ways to increase your profile and your engagement – really important things to do in this job market.

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Spring Clean Your Resume

Even though there is lots of uncertainly in the world , we know for sure that the warm breezes of spring will arrive over the next few weeks and if you are like me, you will spend some time working on projects around the house.  Maybe switching your clothes around.  Moving the golf shirts and flower printed yoga pants to the front and shoving all the black yoga pants into a box in the garage .  Maybe cleaning up the back yard.  Dust off the bike. Those are the kinds of things we like to do in spring.

It is not just your home that should be sorted and updated.  Your resume should be refreshed too.

It may not be as important as your changing the batteries in your smoke detector, but in terms of your career, it should be right near the top of the list.

Here are the things to consider:

shirt

How have you been working and what do you want in the future? Do you want to stay remote or does a hybrid arrangement suit you better?

Has your title changed?

Has the scope of your role  changed?

Did you take any courses or workshops over the winter?

How about any special projects?

Any new volunteer committees or fund raising initiatives?

Once your resume is refreshed make sure it is stored in a place that’s easily retrievable, like Dropbox.   Once that’s done, you might want to apply the same logic to your LinkedIn profile.  Make sure it is a really good reflection of where you are and what you are doing.

And you might want to take a few minutes to find all those emails that say “thank you” and “you’re a star”.  Email them to your personal account and maybe print a few.  You just never know when you are going to need a little pick-me-up or evidence of your great work.

So put on your favourite spring shirt and get to it!

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

There is a lot of activity on the jobs front these days.  People are re-evaluating their priorities, their location, the industry and their leaders.  Some are looking for a dramatic change. Some are taking retirement earlier or later than planned.

These last two years have caused great upheaval and great opportunities.  Many roles can be done remotely with complete effectiveness.  I have clients who were resolutely against working from home and now they are bringing people back two days a week with flexibility depending on meetings and projects.  That’s a big change.

There are more than 425,000 jobs posted on LinkedIn right now.  That’s only in Canada.  There are 828,000 remote jobs posted in the US. 

Photo by Tarik Nachat on Pexels.com

And then some jobs are not posted because they have not hit the mainstream yet.

I watched a video about a Flight Pet Nanny.  She gets hired to pick up a dog, cat or bunny, get them to the airport and fly with the pet to its ultimate destination.  Word of mouth has made her busier than ever. 

Staying on the pet theme, my nephew drives horses around.  He drove a truck, trailer and horse across the country. 

And the craft gig economy is really going strong.  Etsy had more than 90 million buyers last year.  It is can be glued, sewed or carved, you can find it on Esty.

The spike in home renovations means there is a high demand for Ikea furniture builders.  Speaking as someone who put together an Ikea bed last summer, I can appreciate the need for a pro. Maybe they could figure out where the extra pieces go.

The point is there is a ton of opportunity out there.  This is no time to be miserable at your job.  If you are not happy, carve out some time (and not just on Sunday night at 10 pm when you are particularly miserable) and start exploring.  Talk to friends, talk to your boss, get a coach.  Make a plan and take action.

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