Category Archives: Business

A House That Finally Feels Like Home

To me, the perfect home is about more than just the house itself. It has to do first with the neighborhood that it is in, and then the more immediate area where the neighbors who you will be interacting with are located. It has to do with the actual yard since living life isn’t just done inside a house. And finally, yes, it does have to do with the house itself. I already knew what neighborhood I wanted to live in, so I went to the website of a realtor who was highly recommended to see if he had any listings in that area.

I was disheartened when I did not come across any on his website, but I still left my information along with the area that I was interested in. His response back to me was quick, which I truly appreciated. He told me that he has sold many houses in that neighborhood, though most are sold before they even become listed.

Reasons To Leave Your Current Employe

We all know that it is very unlikely that anyone is going to stay with the same company for 40 years, collect a watch and a pension, and then go off into a blissful, stress-free retirement. Those days are over, and in the new era of work, it is incumbent upon the individual to take responsibility for managing her own career. Hopefully, you are evaluating your current role and company on an ongoing basis, and are thinking about what you would like to do in the immediate future, and in the longer term. But how do you know when it’s time to make a move? Here are five factors that can make that decision crystal clear:

No room for advancement/lack of growth. You’ve been in the same role for the past three years, and as you look around, you realize that there is nowhere for you to go within your current organization. Many times, the only way to advance in your career is to take your skills and experiences to a new employer.

Current role is not using your marketable skills. You are a great writer who happens to be fluent in French. In your current role, you’re conducting a lot of financial analyses, and you’re working with an offshore team in Russia. You begin to feel that your skills and intellect are being squandered, and you become bored. This is a clear indication that it is time to seek a new role.

You want to realign your career path. You have worked extensively with global teams in the past, and are especially adept at cross-border negotiations. In your current role, you’ve been managing a portfolio of products that are sold exclusively into the US market. You decide that you want to go back to working with a global team, but your current employer only does business in the US.

Commute/work-life issues. I am always surprised at how many managers discount the impact that lengthy commutes can have on employees. Most employees care more about the time it takes to get to work than the distance. Traveling 20 miles in the Boston or Los Angeles areas can be untenable, but 20 miles in Omaha is not that bad. If your commute is taking a toll on other areas of your life, and your employer is unwilling or unable to offer anything in terms of workplace flexibility, it might be time to look for a position closer to home, or one with policies to help employees deal with lengthy commutes, such as telecommuting options or staggered start times.

You are underpaid. This is an absolutely valid reason for leaving your employer and an incredibly common one. Let us dispense with the notion that wanting to be paid more, or to be paid a market rate, is somehow crass. People go to work in to earn money. That’s why it’s called “compensation,” and not “cocktail hour.” Although it is possible to increase your pay by negotiating a raise or taking a promotion, it usually takes a move outside of your current employer to affect a meaningful change in your wallet.

Take a professional inventory. If any of these five issues applies to you, it might be time to start looking around for your next role.

Great Cover Letter

Rumors of the death of the cover letter are premature. Cover letters often do make a difference – especially if they have all 10 of the following advantages.

1: The name of the hiring manager,
if at all possible, even if you’re sending it to Human Resources. And do send it directly to the hiring manager as well! Finding the name and email address of that person may take a little web research – the company website and LinkedIn are the first places to try – or it may be as simple as calling the main number and asking.

2: An attention-getting opening.
What do you think is the #1 most interesting or impressive thing about you, from the point of view of the employer you’re writing to? Start with that. Or figure out what their pain points are, and start by presenting yourself as the solution to their problems. Either of these approaches would be much more effective than “I am writing to express my interest in the blah blah position. My resume is attached.”

3: Your Key Selling Points.
Emphasis on what you most want employers to notice – the top three to five reasons why they should hire you instead of someone else.

4: Evidence that you are especially motivated to work for them:
Do some research and mention what you discovered that makes you a good fit.

5: Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Even professional writers have their work proofread before publication. You can get good professional proofreading for around $5 per page.

6: Brevity. Keep it to one page or less for mailing, or one email screen (without scrolling).

7: The right format.
Email: Your cover letter should be the email itself, not an attachment. Include the job title in the subject line, plus if possible a few words emphasizing a key selling point. For example: ” MBA w/ Global Experience – Region Director Opening.” If you’re starting from a template, make your changes before pasting the content into the email. Content inserted after that point may appear to the recipient in a different font than the surrounding text.
Hardcopy: Use standard business letter format. Include a “re:” line referring to the job opening. Example: “Re: Region Director role”

8: Keywords.
Cover letters often end up in the human resources department’s applicant tracking system (ATS) along with their resumes. An ATS is like a database that stores applicant information. HR personnel do keyword searches of these materials to determine whose resumes they want to read, and whose to ignore. Your cover letter and resume have more chance of being read if they contain crucial keywords such as the job title being applied for and words describing the most important skills and qualifications for the job.

9: Your phone number.
Even though you phone number is presumably on the resume, include it here as well.

Holiday Networking Events

Holiday season is upon us which means you’ll likely be attending a lot of events.

Not just your family events, but events at your job and any associations you may be a part of.

While advancing your career may not be the point of these events, they do present the perfect opportunity to get a little networking in. Simply put, no one is expecting you to vie for a job at a holiday party like you would in a more professional context.

Holiday parties also typically aren’t forced social situations – which is what can make professional networking events so uncomfortable.

Use our tips below to break the ice at holiday parties so you can get some networking done and grow your list of contacts.

1. Find the person standing alone.

A tactic I use is to strike up a conversation with someone else that looks alone at the event. I literally walk up to those people, introduce myself and say, “I hate standing alone at these events, and assume others prefer to not stand alone either, so I figured we can chat!” and then go into some openers.

Some examples of openers include:

  • What brought you here?
  • Do you know anyone? How did you meet?
  • What are you working on?
  • Were you hoping to find some resources at the event to move your project along?

They key here is to gently ask good questions that will get them talking. Chances are the other person will appreciate that you’re including them, and as a result be more willing to open up and have a conversation.

2. Come from a place of service.

There is nothing more irritating than someone at a networking event who immediately starts pitching themselves upon meeting someone.

Rather than going to the networking event thinking about how many people you need to talk to, how many business cards you need to collect or what deal you need to close, consider going with the intention of being helpful to someone else. Even setting out to help just one person can be more effective than handing out business cards.

Get in the spirit of the holidays and attend these events with service in mind. It takes the pressure of “networking” off of you and can open the doors to building relationships that may very well lead to opportunity later on.

3. Take advantage of the holiday small talk.

The holidays present us with a ton of conversation starters that we can’t call upon the rest of the year. According to Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, you can ask questions like “What are some your family holiday traditions?” or “What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? Why?”

This opens the door for conversation instead of forcing one to occur. Eventually the conversation will lead to everyone’s favorite small talk question “So, what do you do?” This is when you can bring up career goals or the fact that you are looking for a job.

Keep Getting Drawn To Jobs You Hate

Are you one of those people that seem to end up going from one terrible job to another? You might even begin to develop a complex about this strange phenomenon! You might think that there is a simple reason why you get drawn to dead-end jobs or ones where you hate your boss!

In reality, there can be a variety of reasons why you aren’t faring so well in your career endeavors. If you want to break the cycle and end up in a job you love, dare I say one you’d never leave, help is at hand!

Today I’m going to share with you the top four most common reasons why you never seem to end up going for “good” jobs:

1. You don’t think there is anything better out there

Sometimes people assume they have to settle for whatever’s going at the time. As you can appreciate, that isn’t the best of strategies to have when seeking employment!

Believe it or not, there is a “perfect job” out there for everyone. The main issue is that some of us aren’t willing to broaden our horizons. Think about your skills and strengths. What types of (good) roles could you apply for where you could use them?

2. Inability to embrace and work with technology

I’m not going to lie to you; technology dominates virtually all industries today! Some people fear learning new skills that use computers or technology in some way. They have the misguided notion that “computers will take over our jobs”!

The truth is, computers and technology still need humans to operate and oversee them. It’s better to make use of technology instead of shying away from it. For instance, let’s say you’ve got an admin role. Don’t assume that contract lifecycle management software will take over your job!

Instead, get trained in using such software to efficiently manage your employer’s business processes. In the above example, the software can help you remind customers about contract renewals. Trust me; evolving with the times and using IT will make you more valuable to employers – not less!

3. Resistance to change

I mentioned a moment ago the word “evolving.”

All of us need to change with the times otherwise we risk getting stuck behind in the past. Today’s employers want workers that are happy to evolve with changing market conditions. And they want people that are willing to learn new skills.

Don’t be one of those people that get stuck in their ways. Otherwise, you’ll keep ending up doing monotonous jobs that you hate!

Hiring Insights

I’m seeing some interesting trends through my clients’ experiences, and after being interviewed for a trade magazine article about the current hiring landscape, I’m curious to see if these insights resonate with you. (Note to self: Get better about posting links to my interviews)

The candidate with the most experience doesn’t always get the job. The combination of skills, experience and cultural fit matter most. So when you get passed over for a position for which you feel your completely qualified, you can’t take it personally. But you can do additional research, by talking to professionals who are “in the know”, about how to best position yourself.

Boomerang employees matter – and more companies are invested in making a “parting of the ways” as amicable as possible so you might consider returning to them in the future. Also, if you have a favorable experience with an employer – which is totally possible even if you’re being transitioned out or your position is eliminated – you’re more likely to refer someone to that company. Companies get that this matters as the competition for talent gets tighter.

The hiring timeline is unpredictable. Don’t assume the position has been filled if you don’t hear anything for a month or so after applying. And when a recruiter tells you that the position needs to be filled within a few weeks, don’t assume that they have any control over the schedule. There are just too many variables, including workload, budget, resource allocation and unknown priorities, to play the guessing game.

The candidate with the most experience doesn’t always get the job.

Candidates aren’t doing enough “shopping around” as this career coach would like. A short job search is a successful job search, right? Not so fast. Even though job searching might never been one of your favorite activities, don’t short-change yourself. I’m hearing from more and more professionals who have landed a “bad fit”. So instead of having a short job search, they find themselves having to jump back into a second job search. Don’t let this scare you off or prevent you from leaving a job that makes you miserable. Growing professionally is always worth it. Even if the outcome doesn’t turn out as planned, you’ll learn a ton in the process. Remember that no one is able to predict every outcome with 100 % accuracy.

Company needs change. Priorities shift. Funding gets cut. Resources get allocated to new areas. So when you apply for a job, and get called for an interview, there’s a chance the job might never be filled. As a business practice, it sounds crazy, but companies do go through the entire process and not hire anyone. Not because you’re not a fabulous candidate. But when you hear “we’ve decided to move in another direction” or “we’ve put this position on hold for now”, it’s not code for “we’ve found someone else”. It happens, so you’ll have to move on quickly. The upside: When you get a call for an even better-matched position than the one you originally applied to.

Hiring managers use the interview process to help them define what they really need in a position. Let’s say they start out with three potential candidates. As they go through the interview process, they discover that they need less experience in one area, and more experience in another. And while they were initially open to hiring someone from outside their industry, they now discover that they’re too deep into their project that they can’t afford their new hire to have that steep of a learning curve. So they decide that no one in the current candidate pool fits their needs. Or they decide to split the position into two different lower-level roles.

Resume on Salary History

You should never put your salary history or compensation demands on your resume. Many online applications require salary history but that requirement shows signs of fading away.

Job applicants often feel on the spot when asked to provide information about their current salary and their salary history. They believe the company is trying to save money by basing the salary not on what the position deserves or on the salary range the company set, but instead on the lowest possible increase the job applicant would accept.

Job applicants want to know why pay should be based on their previous job—which might be in a different industry, at a different level, or with different responsibilities. In addition, their previous starting salary has no bearing on the current experience, skills, and knowledge they will be bringing to their next job. Finally, women (for example) generally earn less than men for equal work, so sharing her salary history puts a woman at a disadvantage in salary negotiations; she goes from underpaid to underpaid.

At least one state, Massachusetts, agrees with job applicants. According to a recent news story, Massachusetts law “takes a step that is completely unique: it prohibits employers from asking prospective hires about their salary histories until after they make a job offer that includes compensation, unless the applicants voluntarily disclose the information. No other state has such a ban in place.”

Massachusetts lawmakers agree that your salary history and current compensation are private information that you do not have to volunteer. There is no legal or moral obligation to include your salary history on your resume; therefore, you should not include it. Salary negotiations should start after you have a solid job offer, not before.

Resume Writing Secrets Used By Experts

Starting to write your executive resume?

Many business people sitting in chairs and looking at papers

You might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information needed to produce a standout document – especially if you have decades of experience to cover.

I recommend taking a step back to look at your value proposition and contributions from throughout your career, framing your story step by step. Not only will this aid you in writing your resume succinctly and clearly, but you’ll be in better shape when it comes to fielding interview questions.

Consider using these 5 tactics to mine for career and personal branding in an executive career (the same steps employed by professional resume experts):

1 – Interview Yourself.

Ever stopped to ask yourself the same critical questions thrown at you in an interview? Most people don’t.  However, you’ll find that providing answers to these queries is a great pre-writing exercise for developing your executive resume.

As a first step, note your responses to these common questions:

  • What do you offer that makes you a competitive candidate?
  • How have you changed company operations, revenues, or market share for the better?
  • What do you expect to be accomplishing in your first year on the job?
  • How have your previous positions prepared you for this role?

Next, take your answers and fold them into the summary section of your new executive resume. You should have a list of key qualifications and an impression of the ROI you’ve generated, as well as an idea of your future contributions, from this exercise.

2 – Include Your Top Success Stories.

If you haven’t made a list of your top 10 career hits, now’s the time to do so. In fact, don’t stop at 10! Continue on until you’ve documented the best examples of your leadership abilities and reasons for promotion.

To include these in your executive resume, consider using a format such as C-A-R (which stands for Challenge-Action-Result) to show the situation you stepped into, the actions you took, and the resulting outcome for your employer.

When you add success stories like these, you’ll find these narratives will resonate far more with a prospective employer than a tired listing of job duties and divisional responsibilities.

3 – Answer The “Why Should I Hire You?” Question.

Consider this: when an employer makes an investment in you, they’re automatically rejecting the talents of every other executive candidate. They’re also taking the chance that the expenditures needed to hire you will result in serious ROI.

When you form your answer, think in terms of what this employer will gain? What can you deliver faster (or to higher-quality standards) than other candidates? Will your teams be more well-trained or responsive? How will you take the company’s needs seriously — and produce results attuned to their internal and external customer requirements?

You don’t have to supply a grandiose response to use it in your executive resume. Simply list the unique qualifications and capabilities you bring to the table, then further illustrate these competencies with success stories (see #2 above), and accolades from others (see #4 below). Back these skills up with metrics showing your results in cost savings or profit.

4 – Poll Your Colleagues.

Here, you can put the feedback from bosses, customers, and co-workers to good use. Chances are good that you’ve received kudos from the Board, within customer responses, on your LinkedIn Profile, and via email from colleagues. This information needn’t be contained in a formal recommendation letter to be valid; you might spot a pattern in the abilities that others have noted in their commendations.

Take a few minutes to summarize these accolades for use in your executive resume, pulling in a sound bite such as “Commended for hiring employees later promoted to SVP and VP roles.” You can also use a quote from a former boss or subordinate, shortening it for clarity and noting the job title of the source (such as “Peter’s skill in Lean Six Sigma has allowed our operation to become 34% more efficient.” – COO).

Tough Job Search Problems

The key to achieving your career goals rests first in knowing that you are a valuable person with a unique combination of skills and talents to offer the world, and then implementing a plan of action to identify and capitalize on that talent.

The following stories are based on real-life, job search problems and their solutions.

Each person overcame their roadblocks and used talent, perseverance and a plan to reach their dreams – and so can you.

Job Search Challenge #1: I’m Too Old.

John had been searching for a manufacturing management position for more than 8 months and had mailed his chronological resume in response to numerous newspaper ads. He was quite surprised that his resume had not generated a single call for an interview.

However, one glance at his resume clearly indicated the problem.

His resume outlined 30+ years of employment in a series of brief job description statements.

Solution:
Sadly, some employers may be reluctant to hire older adults for any number of reasons.

While there are many employers who value the maturity and skills of seasoned managers and executives, it is wise to play down age and focus on accomplishments. Keep in mind that resumes are not your memoirs, and it is not necessary to list your entire career history. Instead, concentrate on your most recent 15 or so years of relevant experience, emphasize your results and leave off dates in the education section.

Remember that the purpose of a resume is to generate interviews. Once you have the opportunity for an interview, you can convey flexibility, a team attitude, enthusiasm, and energy that will impress your interviewer.

Challenge #2: I’m Too Young and Don’t Have Any Experience.

Dan recently graduated from college and was eager to begin a career in marketing. His resume had produced only a couple of interviews and no job offers appeared on the horizon. Dan was convinced that age and lack of experience were to blame.

However, his sketchy chronological resume didn’t indicate any skills and training relevant to his career goal.

Solution:
It’s a Catch-22. You are enthusiastic about starting your new career, but you cannot land a job because you do not have the experience.

Right?

Think again.

You may be underestimating your skills and knowledge.

First, take inventory of all your skills, training, courses, and experiences (both paid and unpaid).

Second, use a functional resume format that will emphasize your skills and accomplishments related to your career objective.

Third, treat any relevant unpaid experience as work experience. Show how you have progressed since your first job, indicating any advancement or additional responsibilities gained through your diligence and results.

Fourth, you also will benefit by joining professional associations in your field. Attend association meetings and get acquainted with other professionals and volunteer to serve on special projects or committees to show what you can do.

You will not only build new skills but new contacts for employment opportunities as well.

Challenge #3: Too Many Jobs and Work History Gaps.

Marlene’s husband was transferred by his company to a new state every two or three years. Initially, Marlene didn’t have any problem landing a position in her new community. After a few moves and three short-term jobs, Marlene found the responses to her resume in short supply.

Her resume format clearly drew attention to her erratic employment history.

Solution:
If you have had a series of positions, it can be detrimental to list all employment on your resume.

For example, you can easily eliminate jobs that were less than a year or even close to two years without noticeable gaps. To achieve the greatest impact, structure your resume in a functional format that focuses on accomplishments followed by a work history section.

The same principles will apply if you have been unemployed for several years because you were raising a family, caring for an ailing family member, recuperating from an illness, or attending college.

Customize Your Resume for Different

Are you applying for similar roles but with different companies? Maybe you’ve decided to save yourself time by submitting the exact same resume to each position. It may be tempting, but don’t do it! You may think you can get away with submitting carbon-copy resumes, but employers can spot them a mile away.

If you are applying for very similar jobs within the same industry but among different companies and need to find ways to customize your resume, here are four ways to make subtle, simple changes that can have a great impact on your resume response rate.

1. Change the Title/Job Target

One way to customize your resume to the different positions you’re applying for is to adjust the title/job target of your resume so that it reflects your unique skills. This works well if you are posting your resume online and want to attract slightly different recruiters and hiring managers or are submitting directly to employers.

For example, if you are a registered nurse (RN) who is skilled in cardiac medicine and experienced as a travel nurse, you may write two resumes—one with the title “Cardiac RN with 10 Years’ Experience in Diagnosis and Intervention” and another titled “Skilled Travel RN with 10 Years’ Cardiac Experience and Flexible Schedule” to help you reach different audiences effectively.

2. Reorder the Keywords

Another way to customize your resume is to reorder your keywords. This is especially important if you’re posting your resume online and don’t want to post the same resume multiple times. But even if you’re submitting resumes to different employers, it’s good to create unique resumes—even if you’re simply shifting keywords to create subtle differences.

3. Rearrange Your Bullet Points

As you adjust your resumes for each job you’re applying for, you can try rearranging your bullet points so that the most important information for that position is listed first. For instance, if you are the travel RN with cardiac experience, you could rearrange your accomplishments so that your stellar cardiac background is listed first in one resume and, in the other, your travel experience is listed first.

4. Revise Your Career Summary

Your career summary is your chance to highlight moments that stand out the most in your time as a professional. You want this summary to be tailored as closely as possible to the job you want. This means it’s time to dig through the job posting to explore the critical requirements of the job. You want to make sure that you list your greatest moments that also mirror what the employer wants most in a candidate.