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Don’t just spit in the wind – make a Plan

I think that Labour Day should be renamed Resume Day or Apply-for-Jobs Day.  There was a big spike in activity on job boards, corporate sites and especially LinkedIn.

This is not unusual long weekend behaviour, especially if the weather is on the crappy side.  While it’s lovely to get a lot of “join my network” invitations, I can’t help but think that people are spitting in the wind.

If you are genuinely interested in finding something new to do, then you need to plan a campaign and then execute it.  You can’t expect to find success by flinging a few resumes into the universe.

If you only have an hour every long weekend for your job search, then you might as well join the smokers outside your building or hang out in a hockey arena.  That kind of random networking will give you about the same results.

The first step is to give your search direction.  What do you want to do?  Specifically.  It can be based around an activity or a technology.

  • I want to lead a team.
  • I want to fix a broken process.
  • I want to build something new.

 

These are the starting points.  Once you can identify that, the rest will fall into place.

Your resume should emphasize why you are qualified to do what you want to do.  Provide good, hard evidence of what you have done and where you did it.  It should be easy for a hiring manger to understand where you would fit into their organization.

Once you are happy with your resume, show it to at least three people you trust.  It is helpful if one of them is a grammar geek or at least a big reader.  You want to make sure it flows nicely, it logical and does not have any spelling mistakes.  This is key and cannot be undervalued.

Now, you are ready to move into the research portion.  You know what you want to do.  Where can you do it that is better than where you are now?

Check out Linkedin, simply hired and indeed.  Look for the right keywords and geography to see what is posted.  Apply with a short and pithy cover note.

There are some neat alerts/tools on each site that you can use to automate this part.  Once you know what you are looking for, these are handy and efficient.

I am not guaranteeing that this strategy will get you the next great gig, but it will give you a targeted approach to the market.

It will also help you solidify your goals.  Your ears will perk up when you hear the smokers or hockey parents mention an opening, and you will be ready to pounce all over it.

 

 

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Pre Interview Checklist

You have gotten through the phone interview and now you have been confirmed for a face to face meeting with HR and the hiring manager.  You are short of breath and sweaty.  A bit of panic is fine, but here’s a list to help you get focused and constructive as  you prepare for your interview.

The day before:

  • Check out the company’s website
  • Look up the people you are going to meet on LinkedIn (don’t invite them just yet)
  • Search Google for the latest news about the company
  • Address the hairiness of your eyebrows and/or neck
  • Iron two shirts ( in case you spill some coffee)
  • Print and review your resume
  • Call a friend and tell them about a difficult situation at work and how you dealt with it
  • Check out the address and decide how you will get there and when you need to leave

The day of:

  • Shower and dress (easy on the cologne)
  • Brush and floss
  • Pack your resume, something to read (Forbes, The Economist), a comb, gum in to your briefcase
  • Make sure to eat something.  Passing out in an interview is not cool

When you arrive:

  • Stop by the washroom to check your teeth and your zipper
  • Turn off your phone
  • Go to reception no more than 10 minutes early
  • Check in with a smile that goes up to your eyes
  • Sit down and pretend to read while you take deep breaths through your nose

Now you re ready to knock it out of the park!

 

 

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Vacations, Stay-cations and Fake-ations

I have learned, this summer, that taking vacation can be complicated. Essentially, vacation should be about having a break from your every day routine. Now that we work from home offices and WiFi gives us email access everywhere, how do you actually take a break?

My first week off this summer was not a break. I was planning to use the week as if it were six Saturdays in a row. I was going to catch up on house chores, run errands and gorge on Netflix. Because I was feeling pretty low key about it, I did not plan appropriately.

I didn’t tell my clients or make arrangements to hand over my projects to my capable colleagues. I don’t think I even put my out of office notifier on.

Guess what happened? I worked every day. Not all day like I usually do but every day.

Halfway through the week, my husband declared that I was not on a stay-cation but rather a fake-cation. (And in his opinion, I was fooling no-one!)

But I learned my lesson.

I started planning for my next vacation about three weeks out. I told my colleagues and clients and worked it into project plans. I knew I was on the right track when people wished me a great week off on the Friday when I left for the day.

I made plans for each day – special stuff that I would not ordinarily do. I left flex time so that I could take advantage of the weather. As it turned out, it was super sunny and gorgeous all week so I was not able to make a dent in my Netflix cue. But you know what? I am not at all sad about that.

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The Final Question

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 responses from the hiring manager.

It also demonstrates that you are interesting and the type of person to go beyond the typical answers.  This will usually 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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LinkedIn Tips and Tricks

With 500 million plus business focused members, LinkedIn is a great place to put your professional information.  Your LinkedIn profile lets you keep in touch with current and former colleagues.  It also allows you to build presence and brand yourself as an expert.

Sometimes we forget that it’s a two way street.  You can respond to job postings  and you can also research inquiries from prospective employers, recruiters and friends.

Like any other mode of communication, you only have one chance to make a good impression.  Here are some tips to make sure you are putting your best foot forward.

Applying for a Job

First of all  make sure you meet at least some of the criteria, if not, don’t apply. If you do click the Apply Button. Sometimes it leads you to the company’s application page and other times it leads you to another LinkedIn page.  Regardless,  you need to fill in the boxes on the page (usually  your contact information).  In most cases, attaching a resume it optional.

Always attach your resume.  You can customize it first but make sure you attach it.  Often your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have enough information to really support most a applications.  Also, your resume is laid out and stylized in your particular and unique way. It is a much better representation of your experience and objectives.

Responding to an Inquiry

When you log in to LinkedIn, check out the Messaging Tab. It will be lit up with a red number so you know there are new messages.

You can choose to ignore them, but you never know when it might lead to your dream job.  Take a look, it’s worth a few minutes.

When are you typing your response, keep in mind that the LinkedIn default is to send a message every time you hit enter.  This means the person who sent you the note will get a series of short messages – a bit like a string of text messages.  You can click on the three dots beside the Send button to change this.

You will see the alternative which is for LinkedIn to send the message only when you press the actual send button.  This is definitely the better way to go.

Both of these tips help you make a better impression when you use your LinkedIn profile

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Lessons from Wimbledon

I spent all of Sunday morning watching the men’s finals at Wimbledon. The match featured Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. They were so evenly matched that the score was tied at the end of the fifth set and it had to go to a tie breaker.

In the end, Federer lost by two points. The commentators were beside themselves, not because he lost but because he was able to stay fresh, fast and accurate all the way through the match at a very advanced age. Get this, he is 38 years old.

That may not be old for the rest of us, but for tennis players, it is ancient.

This means in the next few years, Roger will have to find something else to do. How does the man with more grand slam tennis victories than anyone else find a new career? Just the same as everyone else.

He is going to have to assess his strengths, his experience, his objectives and the market to figure out where he might fit.

How will he maintain his young family? Will he still have to travel all the time? Will anyone outside the tennis world take him seriously?

One thing in his favour is that he is accustomed to having a coach and listening to the advice provided. That will come in really handy. He is clearly a very focused individual so laying out the steps to finding his next gig and being disciplined about following them should not be too difficult.

So even though he is wildly successful now, he will face the same difficulties as the rest of us when it comes to switching careers.

If you are facing a career change, take solace in the fact that it’s tough and rewarding no matter how famous you are. Sometimes you get the gold cup and sometimes you get the silver platter.

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Redefining a Jumpy Career

I had two clients this week who decided they did not want to interview candidates because they looked “too jumpy”.  I pressed for more details. Their perception was that the candidates might not stick around for long.

Meanwhile, the candidates were asking me about the company and whether it was stable.  They wanted to know if it had a good history, if it was Canadian or if it has headquarters elsewhere and what the future looked like.

Does that sound like they were looking to jump ship after six months?  Of course not.

It is ironic, that hiring managers hang so much on whether a candidate demonstrates long tenure at each position. Meanwhile, they cannot offer any guarantee that in two years the company or even the role will be the same in two years.

Mergers and acquisitions, retirements, market downturns and technology upturns all affect the way companies conduct business and the humans they need to be successful.  Employees do their best to stay relevant and keep up, but at the end of the day, leaders choose to swap out those employees for others with different skills.

Just because someone gets restructured does not mean that they do not work hard or offer great skills.  It means they were not the right person at that moment in the organization.

A well-structured interview will bring out the skills, experience and attitudes offered by a candidate. A constructive reference check will verify those characteristics based on past performance.  An independent assessment can be used to predict how the person will react in a new environment.

Those are three solid ways to validate that what you see in an interview is what you will get when the person is in the seat.

Sure, it’s an investment in time and possibly money but it does allow a hiring manager to de-risk a hiring decision.  It also allows them to tap into all the good talent not just the small slice of the candidate community that offers a particular career pattern.

As Forest Gump said, “life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get…. so try them all.

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