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It’s Pretty Tough at the Bottom

There are several new grads in my circle who are looking for the job that will kick off their career.  They have had jobs all through school so the act of applying, interviewing and getting hired is not new for them.

I have come to appreciate that looking for a full time role is harder than finding a part-time-to-get-me-through-school job. 

My son, for example, is looking to start in social work.  He got good grades at a good school and had great performance reviews on his co-op placements.  But you know what’s holding him back?  He does not have a car.  Almost every social work job where we live requires that the candidate have their own car with a honking big liability insurance policy.  All this on a $15/hour contract?  Really?

One of my friends kids wanted to be a paramedic.  He got great marks and loved the material and exceeded expectation on his practicums and ride-alongs.  No one told him when he started that there weren’t many job openings for paramedics.  People don’t leave.  I guess they really love it and only retire when their knees give out.

A former colleague of mine was only a colleague because she could not find a job in a library even though she had graduated at the top of her class in library science (yes, that’s a thing).  She worked with me for three years until she found a part time role that she hoped would someday become full time.

I am not trying to be all doom and gloom but I think it’s helpful that those of us who are long established in our career get a refresher on what it is like out there today.  Maybe we can keep it in mind when we are writing job postings.

Could someone who is bright, tech savvy and been multi-tasking since they could walk take on the role you need to fill?  Does it really need to be someone with three years of experience?  Could they learn the software?  (I bet if they had a VCR, it would not be flashing 000)

Let’s give this some thought – it could help lots of people who are just starting or re-starting their careers.



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Polish Your Profile – LinkedIn Tips

LinkedIn is an amazing tool for career development.  Your profile hums along attracting attention while you are off doing other things.

At least that’s how it should work.  Here are some tips to make sure you are getting noticed.

When you choose your company, make sure you use the right one.  In large corporations, there may be multiple divisions or different brands.  Look at the profiles of your colleagues and leaders to see what they chose.  

Describe your role in bullet points and make sure you use specific words that are common in your industry and area of expertise – especially technology and tools – be really specific with those.

Fill in as many of the areas of your profile as you reasonable can.  You never know what people like me will be searching for or in what area we will look.

Have a professional looking photo – no dogs, please.  And try to find something better than a clipped image from the last wedding you attended.  Try this:  get someone to take your picture right after your next haircut.  That usually works well.

This one seems so obvious but check the email attached to your LinkedIn account and make sure it’s one you actually use. Click the little triangle beside the word Me in the upper right corner.  You can review your settings and check your email address and notifications.

Post interesting things happening in your company or in your industry.  That is the sort of activity that makes you look like a dynamic person who is paying attention to things other than summer Fridays.

Join some groups that reflect your interests.  That bolsters how LinkedIn sees your expertise.

And finally, connect with people.  You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way but make sure you add at least a few people every month.  It keeps things dynamic and interesting and that’s the key to LinkedIn success.



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Don’t Park your Career for the Summer

Contrary to popular belief, the summer is a great time to get a new job. Sure, hiring managers go on vacation but that does not mean that all activity stops. Business goes on and plans for the fall often require new skills and more people.
Summer is rich with networking opportunities. A bunch of my friends did a big fund raising walk last week and there were a lot of corporate teams participating. It is not hard to pick out someone wearing a team jersey of one your most admired companies and strike up a conversation about walking shoes.

It’s safe to say you have more in common than just looming blisters.
And let’s not forget sports tournaments. Whether you are at a charity golf thing or your kid’s soccer tournament, you will be spending time with people you don’t know. These are prime opportunities to learn about new industries, companies and jobs.

If you meet someone interesting, jot down a couple of notes on your phone. When you get back to your regular life, find the person on LinkedIn and ask them to connect. Mention where you met in case they don’t remember.

The next time you see a job posted at their firm, you can hit them up for information.
Sometimes the conversation can turn serious pretty quickly. If you find yourself talking about your work and the person says “We should talk – give me a call on Monday”, then get their card and ask what time would be best. Do some research on the company and make the call.

Be ready. This stuff really happens. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked someone how they got their role and they start with “Well, it’s kind of a funny story…..”

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Making the Most of the Information Interview

When you are thinking about moving your career in another direction, you need information.  You need to understand what it’s really like, how it pays and if possible, how to get there.

One of the best ways to do this is the information interview. This is when someone who is in your chosen segment/field/industry agrees to sit down with you to share some of those details.

You can meet with company presidents, people who sit on industry associations, technical experts.  They are all potential sources of information to support your decision making.

When you approach people, make it clear that you are looking for information, not a job (even if, deep down, you are looking for a job). They should see meeting with you as a low risk, low maintenance opportunity to show what they know.

When you are in one of the meetings, your body language needs to be calm and relaxed.  Remember this is not about a job and it is not about you.

But that doesn’t mean you can go in unprepared.  

Think ahead of time about what you want to learn.  Have five or six questions you want to have answered. Make sure one of them focuses on the person who is giving you all this good intel.  You could ask how they got into the business or what it is that they really love about it.

Take notes if you’d like but make sure to do lots of listening.  That’s what you are there for – to listen and learn.

When the person starts to shuffle around and look like they are ready to finish, respect that.  Stand up, shake their hand and thank them for their time and willingness to share what they have shared.

It is wise to send a thank you note the next day.  It can be handwritten or emailed – It’s a great way to show how much you appreciated the respect they gave you.

You might want to drop a note to the person who referred you.  We frequently lose sight of those people and let’s face it, in many cases, they really got the ball rolling for you.

Information interviews really are a great way to get the inside info on what’s going on – make the most of them.


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When Headhunters Apply for Jobs

I got a good refresher on the candidate experience this week.  I was surfing around LinkedIn when I saw an interesting job posted.  It looked like something I might want to do.  I hemmed and hawed for a while on the decision-making teeter totter.  Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  I like what I do but what if there is something better?

I took a deep breath and  sent an email.  Whew.

Then I went about my day and forgot all about it.  Until two days later when it dawned on me that no one had called me.  All of the sudden, I was back in sixth grade.  Do they like me? Was I too forward?  Am I barking up the wrong tree?  When should I call to follow up?  Now?  Maybe I should wait.  For about ten minutes, I was like a dog chasing my tail.

Then the phone rang.  It was not the employer.  It was a client.  I got my head back in the game and forgot about the whole thing.

Later, I actually did get a call from the headhunter.  We had a nice chat.  Ultimately, we decided that my experience did not quite fit the employer’s wish list.   This was not heartbreaking news.  I love what I do and I am doing it in one of the best places to do it.  It was an interesting exercise that confirmed exactly what I thought: I am in the right place for right now.

It was also an interesting exercise because it reminded me what it’s like to be a candidate: putting it out there, waiting for some feedback, trying to continue focusing on other things while you wait to see if you are wanted.  An excellent lesson indeed.

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Canada 150 – Big Grin

We are approaching one of the best long weekends of them all – Canada 150.  Everyone will be celebrating in some way: barbecues or fireworks or family reunion picnics.  What ever plans you have, you are certain to run in to people you have not seen for a while or people you just don’t know.

This represents a great opportunity to network and get yourself out there.  I am not saying you will have a new job on Tuesday but you might make some valuable connections that you can develop over the summer.

Here is the problem:  everyone I know (including me) is walking around complaining about how tired they are and very busy they have been.  That is not the best frame of mind to be in if you want to maximize your opportunities.

Of course you are tired.  Of course you are too busy.  Even retired people are too busy.  Get over it.

Take a few minutes to identify a few good things that have happened over the last quarter.  They might be work things or family events – it doesn’t really matter as long as they are positive.  Maybe you finished a big project or got a promotion.  Maybe your kid graduated from something or you got engaged.

Park these thoughts in your brain, near the front.  When you meet someone at the grocery store on Sunday and they ask how you are, these are the things to share.  Not “same old, same old” or “I have been soooo busy”.  These are lame responses and you come across as too lazy to thing of something meaningful to say.  That does not beget new connections or relationships.  It makes you look as interesting as a dish mop.

You are better than that.  So tomorrow, when you are wrapping up loose ends before the long weekend, think about your positives.  Jot them down on a Post-It note or your hand.  Be ready to smile and throw some good energy at people.  You might be surprised at what happens.

Happy Birthday Canada!!

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The Value of the Interview Pause

We are all nervous when we go to interviews.  It never changes. It does not matter how senior you are or how many interivews you have done, you will still have sweaty palms and sweaty armpits.

We also, in that situation, tend to speak just a little too quickly.  We get caught up answering in a gush of words that were probably not the best choice.  Our answers are either too short or too long.  When you can no longer remember the question, you have gone on too long.

One of the ways to combat this is to take a pause before you start to answer a question.  Not a long pause, just a short breath in while you compose your thoughts.  It will feel like you are taking an hour but only to you.  The interviewer is processing pretty quickly too.  A breath might be a welcome pause.

This will allow to quickly flip through the possible answers and examples in your head to select the best one and then lay it out clearly.

Once you do this the first time and see how it feels, it will be easier to continue it through the interview process.

You can even practice at home before you get to the interview.  When someone asks where the measuring spoons are, you can take a small pause and then answer.  What’s neat about this approach, is that sometimes the person answers their own question while you are pausing.  This is especially helpful with teenagers.

If you have not been in an interview situation for a while, it is worth the time to practice with someone you know.  Pick a few examples of your successes, resilience, empathy and anything else that might be relevant and then sit down with a friend and try out the stories.  Make sure you insert the pause before you begin each story.  It will be worth your time.  You will feel way more confident going to meet the next hiring manager and that’s a big part of success.

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