Unhappy with Your Job?

UnhappyAt some time in their careers, most people come to a point when they’re so unhappy with their jobs that they want to make drastic changes in their careers, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I need a change!”

It’s true that many aren’t cut out for their current careers or find they have a strong passion for another field, and should be making efforts to take on something new. However, most of the time, they can achieve change, and job satisfaction, without taking such drastic action.

It is essential for someone in this situation to dig deep to discover the real reason s/he is unhappy before proceeding down a path to change careers. Accordingly, a career coach or counselor should initiate such a conversation before proceeding to help her/his client pursue a new career path.

Keep in mind that organizations hire you because you’ve proven from your experience and achievements that you can be successful in their organization…not for what you think you can do. This is especially true today’s tight job market.Unhappy

How do you know?

Ask yourself, “What is the primary reason you are unhappy?” ( “Burned out” is not a reason.)

  • Are you not getting enough recognition/respect from your manager? Upper management? Your colleagues?
  • Are you not getting paid enough…or what you think you should be getting?
  • Are you working too many long days, nights, and weekends?
  • Are you required to travel much more than you’d like?
  • Are you commuting much more than you’d like?
  • Do you have the necessary skills and/or tools to be successful?
  • Are you spending too much of your time doing tasks that you hate?
  • Do you have ethical or moral conflicts with your manager or the company?

Then ask yourself:

  • If I could change anything about my job what would it be?
  • Is there a realistic chance of getting this change made?

There are several options to take before giving up entirely on your current career.

  • Have a conversation with your manager and ask if there is a way to get what you need.
  • Look for other opportunities in the same company.
  • Look for similar opportunities in a different company, industry, or location.

As Barbara Safani, owner of a NY career management firm, said in a New York Times article a while back, ’A lot of people who say that they hate what they do actually hate who they do it for.

If after doing this analysis, you still feel strongly about pursuing another career, perform your due diligence. Thoroughly research the field and talk to people in the field to learn what it’s really like.

  • What education or skills do I need to acquire?
  • What are the costs involved – financial, time, other?
  • Can I afford these costs?
  • Am I willing to start at the bottom again?

KRON InterviewHi I’m Mauri, President/CEO of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. My favorite client update is, “I did everything you told me to and I got the job!”

Career Insiders’ Talent Acquisition services are focused on executive and senior management level positions in sales/marketing, finance, corporate legal, and HR. Please contact me for more info.

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Watch Your Language, Young Man!

Resume Image LinkedIn recently announced its 2013 Top 10 Overused Buzzwords in member profiles. One of them is “responsible.” Why is this not a good word to use? What are good words to use in a resume or profile instead of “responsible,” and what are some good words to use to make your resume stand out?

I agree wholeheartedly with LinkedIn on this issue and have always advised against using the word “responsible” as in “Responsible for conducting surveys, updating spreadsheets, and producing reports.” First, it is unclear as to whether or not you actually performed these tasks or if you managed one or more employees who did. If you did perform these activities, then you should just say so. Use this opportunity to describe your actions and their results as in the example below. Your resume shouldn’t be just a list of your job duties.Client Resume Review

◾ Conducted surveys of all new employees, approximately 500, for the first quarter of 2013, completing this task in half the usual time by implementing an online survey application.
◾ Input respondent data into spreadsheet offering an immediate comparison with surveys from Q1 2012.
◾ Formatted, printed and compiled survey details and summary data into executive reports and delivered to senior management.

If on the other hand, you managed a team of one or more people who performed these duties, you could describe it this way:

◾ Managed execution and reporting of quarterly survey of new employees, averaging 500/quarter.
◾ Obtained Vice President’s approval to implement SurveyMonkey as our first web-based survey solution, completing the entire survey process in half the usual time.

You will want to use vocabulary that presents your achievements in the best light, ones that indicate that you accomplished something that someone else in your position may not have been able to do, that you made a difference. Describe the results of your actions as compared to previous results or compared to other companies in your industry, but only if the comparisons are positive for you. Include situations when you introduced a process that improved the way work was getting done.

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. Earlier this year I was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

Naughty or Nice?

People NetworkingThe holidays are coming up and many people think they should give their job search a break.  While it is true that there is less hiring activity because many people take vacations, it is wrong to assume that nothing gets done.  With the economy the way it is, people are not taking as much vacation time as they may have in the past.   And that includes hiring managers.  While many job seekers are taking this time off, why don’t you use this opportunity to take advantage of a bit less competition?

In addition, this is a good time to engage professional help as most job search expenses are tax deductible (check with the IRS for details).  Services you purchase before December 31 will be tax deductible for 2013.

The holiday period is a terrific time for networking…parties, parties, parties.  It is a great excuse to contact people you haven’t seen all year.  Send out holiday greetings, invite people out or over.  If you are invited to parties, GO!  Host a party yourself.   Being among your friends will lift your spirits and your self confidence.

When contacting friends, be sure to ask about them, how they are and what they are doing.  And let them know about you, how you are, and that you are looking for a new job…and be specific about the job you are seeking.  You can lighten it up by adding, “I thought I’d let you know just in case you hear of something.”

Send holiday greetings by email to those companies you haven’t heard from in a while.  Use this as an excuse to make an additional follow-up connection.

When you attend events, plan ahead.  Think about the people you know who will probably be there.  Prepare your “elevator speech” but in a lighter more social tone.  Again, ask them about themselves, what they have been doing, etc. and let them know about your job search.

Also consider that there may be people whom you don’t know as well and make it a point to meet as many of them as possible.   One of my favorite sayings about networking is that whenever there are two or more people, it’s a networking event!  Be sure to collect business cards so that you can follow up as soon as possible.

One last word of advice…if you are partying and networking, please be on your best behavior and do not overuse alcohol.  (Well, at least I didn’t say not to drink at all!)

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. Earlier this year I was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

Get Organized!!

Get organizedMy advice is always to customize your resume for each job opportunity, but how can you keep track of everything?  Create a document folder for each position that you submit a resume for. In this folder include the resume version you submitted for that job plus a copy of the job description, cover letter, and any other related documentation or correspondence. Be sure to save a copy of the full job description rather than just the url to the online posting as the posting may be removed from the company’s web site at any time.

Name your documents in such a way that they can be clearly identified – by the company’s recruiter and/or hiring manager as well as by you. For the recruiter/hiring manager, document tiles should include your name and the type of document; ie resume or cover letter. Don’t overlook the fact that this simple title is a mini writing sample, and so you should make sure that there are no spelling errors. Even if you’re careful to keep the right resume version in the proper folder, you may want to add something that identifies the company and/or position. Here are some examples:

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (Google)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (Google-VP, Finance)

You may add a date if you’d like but it’s much less important.

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (2013)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (2013-0718)

Finally, you should create an Excel spreadsheet to track your job search progress and include the following information.

  • Company Name
  • Job Title
  • Person Contacted/Person to Contact
  • Contact Info
  • Action Taken
  • Date Action Taken
  • Next Action to Take
  • Date of Next Action to Take
  • Notes/Comments

It’s important to keep your tracking spreadsheet up to date. I’ve found that clients who do this make more progress in their search if only because they have a written plan which specifies what they need to do next and when. In this way, they keep themselves accountable.

Here’s a lagniappe: If you use Word’s Tracking feature to show changes you’ve made or those made by someone else whom you’ve asked to proofread your resume, don’t forget to turn tracking off before sending it out! (A lagniappe is a word use chiefly in Louisiana which means “a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; a bonus.”)

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I recently was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

Job Search Etiquette

Interview Recently, a recruiter friend of mine told me that her client was preparing to extend a job offer to one of her candidates after a round of successful interviews.  As news of the offer was being communicated to my friend to forward to the candidate, the client received an email from the candidate thanking her for the opportunity to interview.

Proper etiquette, right?  However, in the candidate’s message, she came across as arrogant, rude, and careless as her message included misspellings and grammatical errors, and related in detail all the processes that she would change in her first few weeks on the job. Naturally, the hiring manager was offended, changed his mind and rescinded the offer. This story caused me to think that it would be good to talk more about job search etiquette.

Here are four key areas of interaction to consider when conducting a job search, or any time for that matter.

1)      Networking

  • Offer to help; focus on the ‘give’ side of a 2-way ‘give and take’ exchange.  When you make new contacts at networking events or when you reach out to your existing contacts, think first about how you can help them in their endeavors, whether they be career related or not. Keep in mind that supporting someone in an endeavor automatically makes that person want to return the favor. I call this Networking Karma.
  • Be respectful of your contact’s time and make it comfortable for that person to say yes. Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice. Everyone has advice and is happy to give it. Furthermore, you are paying her a compliment by implying that she is an expert.
  • Everywhere I look, career experts are advising job seekers to ask for informational interviews. I agree with the concept but disagree with the wording of the request. An informational interview conjures up a 30-60 minute meeting which resembles an interview but for which there is no open position that can be offered to you. This can make your contacts feel somewhat uncomfortable, first about committing so much time and then for feeling that you expect more than they can give.
  • I’m not saying this is actually what you expect, but it is the thought process that often occurs. So I say ask for a chat, which is defined as an ‘informal conversation or talk conducted in an easy familiar manner’ and implies a much shorter amount of time, for which it will be easier to get a contact to commit.

2)      Face to Face

  • Everyone knows that you should be on time for a meeting; do not keep your contact waiting. If you are meeting that person in her office, you should also beware of arriving too early. Since you are a guest in her space, she may feel responsible for meeting with you earlier than planned and uncomfortable if she can’t. If you’re sitting in the reception area for a long time, you also make other people in the office uncomfortable, and you will end up feeling awkward as well. Arrive only about 5 minutes before your designated meeting time.
  • Be prepared, know what you want to discuss and be clear about what you would like for this person to do for you. Don’t make them figure it out. Don’t shove your resume in front of her and expect her to figure out what type of job you should seek.
  • Listen and be patient, pay attention to what the person is telling you and show your appreciation for her insight without countering every suggestion with an excuse.  I really don’t have to say that your cell phone should be off and out of sight, do I?

3)      On the Phone – Pretend this is a face-to-face meeting and follow all my recommendations above. If you are leaving a voice message, make it short and to the point. Follow it up with an email if you have a lot to say. I have a colleague who not only shows up early for all our meetings but calls a couple of minutes in advance of our scheduled phone appointments. This drives me crazy, and I recommend that you call one or two minutes after your scheduled time to give the other person a chance to be ready for you.

4)      In Writing – There will be numerous occasions to send thank you messages. Always do so immediately after meeting with someone, whether it is for an interview or networking. When you’ve landed your new position and your job search is over, don’t forget to go back again and thank all those people who have helped you in any way. Whatever type of message you are sending – thank you notes, cover letters, or other correspondence, be polite and make sure that you thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors. Do not use text-like abbreviations such as BTW, FYI, etc. And don’t use texting or twitter to convey any of these messages. Texting is okay when the other person has used texting to contact you, but still beware of using texting abbreviations.

Here’s an extra tip:  When using a formal salutation that includes Ms or Mr, follow it only with the person’s last name. I am continually surprised by the number of people who will begin a letter with Dear Ms Mauri Schwartz when the correct way is Dear Ms Schwartz.

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I recently was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

The 3 Question Cover Letter

Cover Letter Image I will start by saying that the vast majority of cover letters are never read. Yes, that’s right. With recruiters and hiring managers sifting through hundreds of resumes, in the interest of time, most of them go straight to the resume. This is even true when the job posting specifically requests one. That said, you should write your cover letter as if it will be read because you have no way of knowing whether or not the person reviewing your application will be one of the few who do.  And many decision makers will go back to read the cover letter if they like the resume.

Even those who will read your cover letter do not have the time or inclination to read a page-long essay, so keep it succinct, not more than half a page, and three, possibly four, paragraphs. Each paragraph should answer one of these three questions, in this order.

Why you?
Where ‘you’ is the company. Introduce yourself and in two or three sentences, convey your interest in the company, the specific position, and even the hiring manager if appropriate, with enthusiasm. Your explanation should include information that shows you have done your research. Some hiring managers who do read resumes tell me that they have more than once rejected an applicant whose cover letter is so generic that it could have been sent for any job at any company. They want to see at the beginning that you’ve taken the time to distinguish them from the rest of the pack, to see why you think they are special. Keep in mind that this will be their first impression of you, and you know what they say about first impressions. At the same time, be careful not to be overly solicitous.

Why me?
Where ‘we’ is you. In this section, tell the reader why you should be considered for the position, why you are special. Choose two or three of the company’s highest priority requirements and write a sentence or two that describe your achievements that will illustrate to the hiring manager that you possess the required qualifications. Don’t just tell them you have the experience. Show them by describing key accomplishments, your actions and the results. To keep your resume easily readable, your paragraphs should only be five or six lines long. Therefore, you may need to use two paragraphs for this segment, thus extending your letter to four paragraphs, but still only half a page in total.

What next?
This last paragraph will be the shortest and simplest, refers to the next step in the process, and may be the one area that is generic. It generally tells the reader that you want a chance to discuss your qualifications and indicates the next step to be an interview.

Most cover letters these days are actually the body of an email message with your resume as the only attachment. However, if a cover letter is specifically requested or you are delivering a hard copy, create a separate document and use the formal business format including your return address, the name and address of the person to whom you are writing, a salutation or greeting, followed by the body of your message.

At the end you want to include a complimentary close, “Thank you for your consideration,” and your first and last name.

For the salutation, it is polite to write “Dear Mr (or Ms) Brown,” rather than use their first name. If you do not know the name of the person who will be receiving your letter, exclude the salutation completely. Don’t use phrases such as “To whom it may concern,” “Dear sir or madam,” or “Dear hiring manager.” Similarly, don’t use the first name and the last, as in “Dear Mr John Brown.”  Believe me, I’ve seen it all.

Linking on LinkedIn

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Whether in person or through social media, a first impression is made within a matter of seconds, and the opportunities to change this impression are few and far between. So whether connecting with a friend, colleague, or boss, it’s extremely important to make your first attempt so good that they can’t ignore you.

Today I’d like to focus on LinkedIn. I’m a true believer in the value of LinkedIn as a job search tool, especially for research, and naturally I have a lot of connections. I’m happy to connect with people I know but lately I’ve been receiving invitations from folks I have no way of having met, from all over the world.  I guess I could be flattered, but I wish they would provide some information as to how they know me and why they’d like to connect with me. Since I’m known as the career expert who is committed to integrating old-fashioned interpersonal relationship building skills (i.e., social etiquette) with the latest technological tools, this has prompted me to lay out my three cardinal rules for LinkedIn requests:

  1. Never ask a stranger to connect!  If you want to introduce yourself, do it in an email or by phone. Build the connection first before you try to link.  If you’ve just met someone at a party or networking event and you’ve exchanged contact info, then that counts.
  2. Never use the “Friend” category unless that person would consider you their friend. If you have attended the same school, then you may use “Classmate” even if you weren’t there at the same time.  The same goes for “Colleague” if you have worked at the same company.  Otherwise, use “Other” and type in the person’s email address in the box provided.  If you’ve followed rule #1, you will have this information.
  3. Never use the generic introduction message that Linkedin provides! Take 20 seconds or so to personalize the request. Remember it took days, weeks, months, and maybe even years to build this connection.