Spring Forward

It’s spring and my LinkedIn feed is full of people’s job change announcements. It is refreshing to see so many changes. It takes courage to change jobs during normal times so I thought perhaps people might be reticent to do it during a pandemic.

It just goes to show that we can figure out how do lots of things during challenging times. There are many people who have been successfully hired and onboarded over the last year.

They networked, heard about an opening, went through phone calls and Zoom interviews. They did case studies and presentations and aptitude tests on line. They lined up their references. They resigned on Team, had virtual going-away beers and promised to stay in touch.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Modifications to the process? Yes. Does it continue? Of course it does.

If you are feeling blue or stuck or bored or lonely, take a look at a few jobs. Find some that look interesting. Find other people who do that work – do they seem like your people? If you met them at a virtual conference, would you have enough to talk about?

Take the next step.  Zhuzh up your resume and put it out there. Connect with new people on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Clubhouse. Talk about your interests and your challenges and listen to theirs. Spend time thinking about you learn. Carefully evaluate the opportunities that come your way (and they will). Are they better that what you have today? If not, that’s okay.

You may not end up with a new job but you will certainly end up with a fresh perspective on what you are doing today.

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Floss More – Video Meeting Pro Tips

My team has conducted hundreds and hundreds of video interviews over the last year and we have learned a thing or two about what it takes to be successful in this new-ish virtual world.

Floss more – we are up close and personal all the time.  Where I used to advise people to check their buttons and zippers before a meeting, now my advice is to check your teeth for errant kale or bagel seeds.

Pants less – we all joke about not wearing pants anymore but a word of caution: when you jump up to close your door, we will all know that you are not wearing pants.

Check your mug – I was talking to my straight-laced colleague, Stephen, yesterday and he kept staring at something and moving closer to the camera.  Finally, he asked me what my mug said.  I realized I was using a gift from my sister-in-law with some colourful language that seemed appropriate for women our age but not really for a Zoom call.  We both turned all kinds of red but had a good laugh about it.

Find a phone stand – do not hold your phone in your hand.  Get a phone holder or lean it against something.  A moving phone is nausea inducing for your audience.  Trust me on this one. Your hand is never as still as you think it is and if you sneeze, all bets are off.

Watch the angle – people don’t want to be looking up your nose or at the side of your face.  Pay attention to what your audience will see.

Check your background.  Sure, it’s fun to check out each other’s home office set up but you don’t have to share that if you don’t want to.  Here’s how you can change your Zoom background (link) and blur the background in MS Teams (link)

Video calls on one of the best tools we have to keep ourselves together and connected.  Use them well and often.

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Smooth Out Your Resume

I read resumes for a living.  I read other stuff too but resumes are the main focus during the day (and sometimes evenings, much to my husband’s consternation).

It never gets boring, Each resume, like each person, is interesting and unique. People take different paths to the same role, have different educational chapters and insert more or less of themselves in their resume.

BUT

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Fonts with curly cues
  • Indented boxes and sidebars that get mangled by my software
  • Leaving out dates or titles
  • Not describing the scope and scale of an employer
  • Squishing in too much information by using narrow margins and 8 pt letters
  • 20 bullets for one role and only three for the others
  • Acronyms that are not widely understood

These are all things that take away from the positive impression that your resume is supposed to provide. It’s as if you are strolling along and you suddenly trip on the rug.  Once you recover, it can be hard to remember what you thinking about before.

So before you send me your resume, have someone read it for you.  Ask them if it’s smooth.  They make look at you funny but it will give them a constructive perspective which should generate good, usable feedback.

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Who would you recommend?

Let’s start a movement. Let’s make tomorrow an official LinkedIn recommendation day.

Today, when you are in those mind wandering moments that we all have, think about someone you would recommend.

  • Perhaps a former colleague or manager
  • Someone who provided great service like a vendor webinar host
  • A fellow volunteer

To make a recommendation, go to your contact list, find the person and click recommend beside their name.  Choose the relationship that you have/had and then go crazy.  Remember that this will be seen by the world.  This is not Facebook.  Drunkface comments are not welcome.   Be clear about how you know the person, what they did and how well they did it.

Think how great it will be when they open their inbox to find an out of the blue recommendation. It will surely make their day. It’s like sending a thank you card without the hassle of the envelope or stamp.

Of course we make recommendations for altruistic reasons but imagine if you are one of the recipients. Remember, it is a bit of a traditional that one recommendation deserves another.

So give it some thought and mark your calendar. Let’s start a wave in the big LinkedIn stadium.

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Spring Cleaning for your Resume

Pandemic or not, 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.  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 up near the top of the list.

Here are the things to consider:

Has your title changed?shirt

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 if you have a few minutes at work, find all those emails that say “thank you” and “you’re a star”.  Email them to your personal account and then print them and take them home.  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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Prescription for a Job Change

If you are thinking about making a job change, consider the old adage:  fish where the fish are.

Consider what it is that you want to do next and then think about where the people are who are doing that thing now.  Better yet, figure out who is doing it now and has a big problem.  The very kind of problem that you know how to fix.

Imagine you have decided that you want to move from the inside customer service team to an outside sales role.  You have been feeling hemmed in lately, talking with the same people over and over. You want to shift to finding new customers and bringing them into the fold.

How about this?  Look for a company that has a product that’s the same or similar to yours and then drill down to find trouble.

Trouble could be in the form of a growth spike, changing market conditions or a new product family.  These are all challenges for company leaders and while they may present great opportunities for the company, they also create pain points for leaders.  Leaders want to relieve pain.  Figure out how to market yourself as the prescription to alleviate that pain.

Use LinkedIn, company websites and your personal network to identify who is suffering right now from not having you on their team. Craft a short but compelling message.

I have been listening to customers like yours for years.  I know what they need and how to package your product so that it provides a solution that fits.  Could you use someone like me in the field?

Just attach your resume and hit send.

There is certainly no guarantee that one email will start a conversation but it’s a good start.

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How to Take a Vacation without Going Away

This is the time when many of us would be looking forward to a vacation – some time in the sun in a place that does not require hats and gloves and where flip flops are the order of the day.

But not this year. This year we are staying home. Again. It’s alternatively sad, frustrating and exhausting. Not being able to go anywhere is hard for introverts and extroverts. Its a universal pain in the neck.

Here are some things you can do to help deal with the vacation situation.

Plan a trip anyway — get on your favourite travel site and plan a trip for next year. You don’t have to actually buy anything. Just scroll though the hotels, islands, museums and restaurants in the area. Everyone has a list of places they would like to go – just starting building itineraries for each one.

Hop on Youtube and find walking tours of an nice tropical area. With a large screen and some headphones, this can feel quite immersive and refreshing. There are also tours of many museums and galleries on Youtube. You can do this with fancy VR googles for a really far out experience.

Take a day off. Plan ahead and actually book it in your work calendar. Sure, you might glance at your email but no meetings and nothing due. The act of looking forward to the day is, in itself, a little bit uplifting. What you do with the day is up to you. I took Monday off and spent the morning on the couch with coffee and magazines. It was quite delightful.

Change your routine. It can be something small like having breakfast for dinner or something major like rearranging your furniture or something really big like getting a new pet.

In the end, just the act of doing something new will open your eyes and cause you to see things a little differently as you take that short commute to your home office or that longer commute to your corporate office.

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Need a Lift? Make a Grinbox

It’s winter and it’s a pandemic – that’s a terrible double whammy. Many of us would be suffering from “winter fatigue” at this point in a normal February and when you layer a lockdown on top of it, it just gets worse.  We are weary of taking a deep breath and bracing ourselves before we step out into the cold.  We are sick of wearing the same winter coat day after day. The only upside, as my Mom pointed out, is that we have not lost our gloves and mittens because you can’t even think of heading outdoors without making sure we have both of them on our damn hands.

These are the days when it is hard to get motivated to do anything but lie on the couch wrapped in blankets. How, then, do we keep up on a job search?  That takes a lot of energy. Energy that could be used up walking the dog or going to a drive through.

The Grinbox.

Make a new folder in your inbox called  Grins.  Sort through your mail for messages that made you feel great when you got them.  If your inbox is too gargantuan for this, filter by things like “great job” or “thanks” or “congratulations”.  Put all these messages in your Grinbox.

I bet there are more than you think. I’ll also bet when you read through them, you will break your face grinning at least once.

Keep putting those positive messages in there and you will develop quite a collection. Double click on that folder any day that feels crappy, cold, sad, whatever.

If you need a message to get started, let me know. I’d be happy to get you started.

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Help – I have a Panel Interview

It can be common, especially for senior level roles, to have one of the selection stages be a panel interview.

Initially, it can feel intimidating but it can be very constructive and useful. It provides a really efficient way to meet a cross section of people from the organization. You can think of it just like any other meeting where you would research, prepare and present.

Find out as much as you can before the interview. It’s helpful if you know the names and titles of who will be sitting on the panel. That will give you some insight into the types of concerns they may have. You can check on LinkedIn or look for corporate bios.

Make sure you have a strong introduction statement. Once you all get past commenting on the weather, someone will inevitably ask you to talk a bit about yourself. You need a well practiced summary that illustrates two things: what you have done and why you are there.

Usually Zoom windows give you the person’s name. This is handy because it makes it easy to use their name when you respond to a question.

Panel interviews are a great way to see how people inside the organization interact with each other. You can observe if one person takes the lead, who defers to who, if they talk over one another.

It can be tricky to know where to look when there are multiple people on the screen. Try to strike a balance between looking at the monitor and looking directly into the camera. Looking into the camera is roughly the equivalent of eye contact if you were in a room together.

Make sure to pause before you start to answer a question. Take a breath and gather your thoughts. Panels don’t want to hear a blurted answer. They want clear, concise answers and examples.

Make sure to bring questions of your own as well. There probably won’t be time for many but you really seal the impression you have made with a well chosen and thoughtful question.

When the panel members start to shuffle their notes, that’s your cue to start to wrap up as well. Again, look into the camera and thank them for their time.

Sign off and get working on those thank you notes!

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What does Google Say About You?

I have written before about checking on your social media presence but, right now, it is more important than ever to monitor what people see when they google your name.

There was a fascinating and frightening article in the New York Times on Sunday.  A mild mannered, middle-aged guy in the UK got an urgent call from his father.  He had been alerted by his friends about some nasty items on social media that centered on, not just the son, but the whole family.

Sure enough, there was a stream of false and slanderous information targeted at him, his wife, and several other relatives. Investigations by the police and an intrepid reporter revealed that it had been the work of a less-than-stable woman who wanted to get even with the family for something that had happened years ago.

At this point, I thought it was a pretty interesting story but the next victim’s story really hit home.  She did not realize she had been a target until she deliberately changed her name on her resume.  She had been interviewing for jobs for which she was very qualified but not getting called back.  She used her maiden name on her next applications and not only got interviews, but had two offers within a short time.  She googled herself and realized that there was a slew of terrible things associated with her married name and that she had been a target of the same individual.

It seems that with a little bit of knowledge, a lot of time and the right motivation, you can ruin someone’s social presence.

Almost all of my clients are doing background checks that include examining a candidate’s social media presence. 

Most would take it into consideration if the candidate had been the victim of a targeted attack but only if they knew up front.  It would not have the same impact if you explained it later – plus you might have a lot of other things on your mind.

So, stay ahead of it – check google regularly by typing your name into the search bar with quotation marks at the beginning of your first name and the end of your last name.  See what comes up – you might actually surprised in a good way.

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