Tag Archives: job search skills

Tips and advice on improving your job search techniques

About your resume…so who are you really?

I often get asked the question, “How much effort should I put into my resume to make it more personal?”

It’s a really good question because there are personal traits about us that get missed in resumes. Too often resumes are written in such a boring and bland manner, focusing solely on high work achievements and strong occupational skills, forgetting to portray who you really are. So who are you really? Everyone has a different side to them and that is what makes us different. Sometimes the workplace culture puts you in an environment where it creates, an artificial you. We are playing a part, trying to fit-in, and modelling to suite the perfect organisational fit. However, does it come naturally to you and if I met you jogging on the beach, is that how you would present yourself…your true self?

There are three events that occur with your resume when applying for a job that may impact on your personal profile;

  1. Not all recruiters care about you personal achievements and some may not even read the last page of your resume where usually your personal achievements, hobbies and other interests are noted
  2. Whether a recruiter will spend time reviewing the personal achievements on your resume will depend on the volume of recruitment they are processing  and the type of job you have applied for
  3. Personal traits come into play further down the track when you are at the shortlist stage and when the hiring manager imposes his views and values around the candidate in trying to determine fit for the organisation.

My approach to resume writing is to note personal high achievements in your resume for a number of reason. They provide a snap shot of who you are outside of work, your values and what you stand for. It may provide an insight into the person that we often don’t see in a controlled workplace culture…who you really are.

Resume

So what are good examples of personal high achievements? They can be a number of things and there is no limit. The only rule to observe is that the personal achievement must be significant enough to get noticed and normally related to a milestone achieved in the community and outside of work.

  • Are you the president or secretary of a successful sporting organisation that competes at the highest level in its code
  • Have you published a book and have achieved status as an author
  • Do you compete at a high level representing your State or Country in sport or any other activity
  • Have you been involved in missionary or voluntary work to support the disadvantaged, whether at home or outside your country
  •  Have you raised money for charity that attracted media attention for your efforts
  • Have you received an honor or merit from Government and been recognized for a significant achievement to the community

There is much more I could add to this list as long as it follows the golden rule that the personal achievement must be significant enough to be noticed. So be creative and don’t be afraid to list your significant personal achievements on your resume. We are not just creatures of our work based environment and organisational cultures but also real people with our own unique personalities, belief systems and values. That’s what makes us who we are.

5 Things to Tell Your Friends about Job Hunting…

 

5 critical success 2

5 critical success factors

Let me provide you with a reality check and a quick snap shot on the fundamentals around job search. Yes, everyone in the career and recruitment game has a theory or a view around the key steps to finding a job.  I have read most of them and I find them to be much the same with slight variations. The following are the foundations mentioned in my book that were developed through my own personal experience.  I can break it down into 5 key critical success factors:

  1. Successful job search skills knowledge
  2. Strong financial management initiatives
  3. Flexible and open career re-assessment
  4. Mental toughness and a strong belief system
  5. Managing your current job.

Successful Job Search Skills Knowledge

Key Success Factor Number 1

Your very first objective when you have lost your job is to get another job. Now that may sound a bit straightforward but it isn’t. To get another job today requires special knowledge and skill.

This is because in most situations, redundancy falls during times of economic slowdown, rising unemployment resulting in fewer jobs and greater competition. Labour economists call this an ‘oversupply of labour’ and this will cause an imbalance in the labour market favouring employers. That’s right – employers can pick and chose whomever they like and they know it. I think that competition is a key word here, because just like any other competitive scenario, nobody remembers who came second.

Your job search knowledge must consist of the following areas of competence:

  1. Ability to tap into the hidden job market
  2. Successful behavioural interview skills
  3. Good letter writing ability with a marketable resume
  4. Strong belief in yourself and mental stamina.

Successful job search skills knowledge is critical and my book focuses heavily on this key area. I have covered all of the above areas of competence in separate chapters so that you can easily move from one key activity to another. Your ability to network with others and perform well at interviews will be paramount.

Your ability to write good covering letters and have a well-written up-to-date resume is equally important.

Strong Financial Management Initiatives

Key Success Factor Number 2

Money management is certainly an area of great stress during redundancy or loss of job. This is because your comfort zone has been taken away from you. The weekly or fortnightly pay you have relied upon is no longer there and you are concerned about where your next pay is coming from. I have seen this scenario cause great stress to people with debts, mortgages, and young families particularly where there is only a single income earner.

I have always felt a correlation with money management and the ability to focus on getting a job. If you can take the pressure of monetary matters away from you for a short time then your ability to focus on job hunting improves significantly. The distraction of money worries does not help you focus on interview performance and getting that job. You may become desperate and make the wrong career move in the name of security. You must focus on managing your money immediately after a job loss and here are 10 financial tips to get you started:

  1. Speak to your bank about lowering your mortgage repayments immediately. You will find that over the years you have probably increased your repayments either deliberately or through interest rate reductions. Pay the minimum amount possible for now and forget about paying your house off sooner. That is not a priority now and you must review your financial objectives.
  2. With your redundancy payment pay-off credit card debt either in part or full and decrease the number of bills and interest you must pay monthly.
  3. Eliminate all unnecessary spending. All those nice things to have such as pay television, domestic servants, magazine subscriptions and memberships should be reviewed.
  4. If you have money tied up in investments such as shares or fixed interest term deposits, withdraw this money either in part or full and create a buffer zone for emergencies. Hold this money in an everyday ‘at call’ account for psychological security. This buffer zone will make you feel more secure and comfortable and allow you to focus on job hunting.
  5. Watch your spending and don’t behave as though you are still employed. This is the toughest part because it involves changing your lifestyle and habits. Holidays, clothes and any other regular purchases such as household items and entertainment expenses must be slashed. Believe me, they are not important now and you will survive until things are back on track again.
  6. Be economical with controllable household utilities expenses such as gas, electricity, telephone and your food budget. I managed to save $150 a month on food for my family by just watching for price specials, comparing prices and being more selective.
  7. Create a strict budget that is achievable and try to work within it. It will help you stick to targets and operate within set budget guidelines.
  8. Apply for social security payments. The money will not be enough to live on but it will stretch your savings further buying you more time for job search.
  9. If your finances become too tight prepare to refinance your home as the last resort. Again, this is not a preferred option but the key to job success is time.
  10. Talk about the prospects of borrowing money from family only if necessary. You will need a very supportive family for this and be prepared to pay them back when you get a job.

Flexible and Open Career Re-Assessment

Key Success Factor Number 3

My advice in this instance is get out of your comfort zone whatever you do! Too many people I have helped in their career transition have hindered their job search prospects by sticking to old beliefs and methods of approach. It has to do with familiarity and what people know best, a type of comfort zone holding you prisoner within an electric fence. Once you have lost your job your life will change from despair to opportunity.

I say this because it’s a perfect opportunity to try something new and different. That’s right, you have nothing to lose now and you can experiment and try new ideas and concepts. Stretch yourself and become excited with the thought that everything you have always dreamed of doing outside your steady and regular job has now arrived. It is time to try to test new ideas, experiment with new concepts or see where your hobbies will take you. I commenced writing my book to keep me busy when I lost my job.

Key success factor 3 is about open career re-assessment. To sit down and analyse your career options carefully rather than focusing on getting back to your regular day job or profession that you have been working for so many years.

It is time for a break and a re-assessment of your career wants and needs. In this book I dedicate a chapter to career options. I recommended that you consider a variety of options such as:

  • Starting your own business or franchise
  • Developing a new concept, idea or invention
  • Consider going back to school and undertaking further studies
  • Develop your hobbies into a potential income source
  • Try a new career in a totally different industry and/or profession
  • Take a sabbatical and enjoy the beautiful pleasures of the world.

Whatever you decide to do, flexibility in thought and total career re-assessment will enable you to increase your options in life. When you are in career transition mode I can easily teach you job search skills and how to apply them, however, your view on life and how you exercise your career options is a thought process that only you can act upon. Life is all about increasing your options and then picking the best one for yourself.

Don’t limit yourself when you lose your job, open yourself to all possibilities and explore your opportunities to their fullest. Would you believe I was motivated to write this book when I was between jobs? I had always wanted to write a book about assisting others achieve better employment prospects but I always thought it too hard and time-consuming.

The truth was that I had never written anything substantial before and just the thought of commencing it made me feel uncomfortable. I had some spare time up my sleeve and I decided to give it a try, each day I wrote two or three pages and my intensity and confidence grew each time. I also enjoyed it immensely and thought about writing as a new career. I reassessed my career options and was willing to try and experience other things, so can you!

Mental Toughness and a Strong Belief System

Key Success Factor Number 4

Losing your job is one of the toughest events that can happen to you in life. All of a sudden your standard of living, prosperity and your perception of yourself is challenged. Not easy thoughts to deal with on a daily basis.

If you have a family with young children and a mortgage like the majority of us, then matters can get worse because others dear to you and reliant upon your steady employment are also affected. There is nothing like coming home to your partner and informing them you no longer have a suitable job and watching their jaw drop all the way to the ground in a split second.

I learned very quickly that being sorry for myself was not going to help me and what had happened in my previous job was over and done with. I could not change the past but I could ensure that the present and future be better managed with a new way of thinking. The best way to get another job is to stay focused and challenged, to be mentally tough. If you cannot do this for yourself then do it for your loved ones who rely on you. Many authors describe this situation of downward spiralling anxiety and depression as ‘learned helplessness’. You believe that no matter what you do, nothing can help you out of your current situation, and that you are destined for doom and failure.

This is not true, learned helplessness will not get you another job, but mental toughness and a strong belief in yourself and your abilities will. All situations are temporary and you are just entering a trough in your life cycle. Soon it will get better and you will enter a resurgent growth stage and rise towards a new peak in your life.

However, you must believe in your abilities strongly because your belief system will control your thoughts and actions. A belief is nothing more than a feeling of certainty about what something means to you. In this book we discuss belief systems in more detail and expose how you can better control your beliefs towards positive thinking. These are beliefs that can help provide you with energy and a form of mental toughness to keep you going in a positive direction.

Managing Your Current Job

Key Success Factor Number 5

I have made it very clear in my book that good jobs are hard to find today and that the oversupply of good candidates ensures that employers have the upper hand at recruitment. This is what we are dealing with in the new millennium and sometimes we may lose sight of this and feel that the grass is greener on the other side.

Working as a professional employee relations practitioner for many years, I have seen many people leave good jobs simply because they were not good at managing or keeping their current employment. I don’t mean that you should give up better opportunities, far from it. I am referring to those who have left their employment in difficult circumstances or were not entirely happy with their workplace circumstances at the time. It is easier for us to lose our composure rather than think a situation through rationally during difficult circumstances.

The grass is not always greener on the other side. All businesses have their political issues, difficult people to get along with and peculiarities that don’t always make sense, and perhaps, some companies are more prone to this than other. The key is to better manage your career and your job whereas you can rationally think through those difficult moments and ensure you continue to maintain positive relationships in the workplace. All things pass in life and sometimes it may be nothing more than a difficult phase the company is going through. If you are being counselled for poor performance, have a hard look at yourself and determine whether there is genuinely room for improvement.

You may find that you can turn it around with a dedicated personal approach and commitment. If someone is making your life miserable focus on better managing others in the workplace and see if you can change the situation by adopting new and different strategies to better manage this person. There are many courses, books and mentors in the workplace that can assist you overcome difficult situations through their own experiences.

How to avoid being swindled at the job interview?

Swindled

Job Interview Swindler

It can happen to the best of professionals. The company representative or recruiter will create an illusion of grandeur unsurpassed with promises they can’t keep. They feed on your hunger to be wanted, loved, and appreciated for every little bit you stand for. And you say to yourself, “my boss does not treat me like this…these guys must be great to work for.” It’s a facade that is well presented and immaculately served to you on a platter in a way that you can not see the rotting truth underneath.

Yes my dear friends, it has happened to me also. Sucked in by the charisma of the moment and the adrenalin rush that overwhelms you straight after. We are taken off to a place, la la land, where we think we’re in such demand that we are now invincible. At this point, we are blindly about to be swindled! The only catch is  your career is at stake and your future prosperity is about to take a nose dive. Oh yes, lets not underestimate the costly mistake you have made by choosing the wrong job,  Your boss turns out to be totally opposite to his projection and profile and is a psycho in waiting with massive mood swings. The organisational culture is sick and suffering from the ravages of primal behavior and fear. You have gotten yourself into a fine mess and your strategy now turns to exiting the business before you are jettisoned yourself.

It did not have to be like this and precautionary action could have been taken prior to accepting the job. There are a number of things you could have done before accepting the job offer as part of your job search routine. It’s about stealth researching and getting underneath the nose of the bullshit you have been told at the interview to find out the truth. Research is more than just reading the annual report or articles in the press. Anyway, most companies pay to be written up well as part of their marketing strategy. You need to go deeper and talk to people in the industry who know the machinations of the company.

Speak to people who understand the industry you are about to enter and their views about the company you are about to join as an employee. You will find out the stuff  between the lines and what is underneath the cracks. What is the leadership team really like and how are their values and behaviors? What about the culture of the workplace and are the employees happy? Has employee turnover been high and why? Do they have a good safety record, and if not, why are people being hurt? Always remember that good companies are judged by the way they behave when things are not going well with an employee, and not just when they are performing magnificently. I say this because we all have our difficult moments in work life and rough patches at times. We are not made perfect and organisations that can help you when the chips are down, and get you back on your feet performing at the right level, are better to work for than those that will spit you out.

Then it gets really tough and you want to find out more about your boss and your bosses boss. We are considering not just their projection and profile but how they manage people in the workplace. What is their management style really like and how do they generally behave in difficult circumstances? What would their direct reports say about them and describe their attributes altogether? Finding this out will be worth its weight in gold as it may prevent you from making a costly career decision later on. Remember, you are making a fundamental decision at an interview. To choose the company you want to work for for many years to come, progress you career and grow your capability during this time.

There is a website you can research company reviews by past and current employees that remain anonymous, at glassdoor.com.au with over 4 million review so far. I wish I had knowledge about his web site previously before accepting job offers. It would have rounded off my research nicely and assisted me before getting swindled at the job interview!

 

Do you warm up before a job interview?

warming-up

Your on your way to an important interview first thing in the morning and navigating through some stiff traffic. Your listening to your favorite morning radio program and having some laughs along the way. Some drivers have cut-in front of you inappropriately, while trying to steal the last meter of territory you have managed to obtain through some tricky and skillful driving. You share your opinion of their driving standards in the usual manner by sign language and other unpleasant expressions of the not so kind variety. No need to worry about the interview for now…you will cross that bridge when you arrive at the employers premises. In the meantime, you have some personal objectives to achieve such as testing the limits of your road rage and the amount of points you have scored against inferior drivers.

The interview is worth a major promotion to you and a 10-20% increase in salary with a highly reputable company. It’s the third and final meeting with the CEO, and as far as you are aware, there are 2 candidates remaining for this highly regarded and well sought position. Have you prepared appropriately for this meeting? Have you given yourself every chance to succeed or are you just going in cold and hoping your personality and experience will pull you through? Anyway, this employer really wants you and how could they not resist hiring some one of your reputable professional talents.

Sports athletes prepare meticulously before an event. Musicians and television performers go through a managed routine to ensure they are stage ready to deliver an immaculate performance. Stunt drivers plan every centimeter of their task execution in intricate detail to ensure they survive the dangers of their harrowing ordeal. However, I have lost count the amount of times i have seen job candidates come to an interview unprepared thinking their smarts is going to wing-it through the process. Why do they think they are so good that they can outperform at the interview with very little preparation?

Lets go back to the early morning driver and reverse the situation. You have turned off the radio and left home 20 minutes earlier, driving patiently in a reasonable way, and not concerned too much about other drivers.  You have prepared a number of practice interview questions and have jotted them down to trigger your memory and activate your thought processes. Preparing your mind about what’s ahead at the interview and silently role-playing answers aloud or in your thoughts will give you an edge. Elite athletes use this method of role-playing and visioning in preparation for the real thing when the match commences.

Here are a list of ten warm-up questions you can role-play on your way to the job interview to stretch the mind and put you in a state of readiness whether it’s the first or final interview;

  1. What attracted you to this position and why do you think you are a good fit for the role?
  2. What do you know about our Company?
  3. Provide me with a brief overview of your work history by focusing on your key areas of expertise?
  4. Provide me an example of a difficult situation at work and how you resolved this issue? What were the key steps you took to achieve a satisfactory outcome?
  5. What are the 3 things you enjoy doing most at work and why?
  6. What are your career objectives for the next 5 years?
  7. Why are you seeking to leave your current job?
  8. Can you give an example where you have made an improvement to a process at work and how you went about achieving this?
  9. How would others describe your work style and work ethic?
  10. Are there any questions you would like to ask about our business and the job?

Warm-up before the interview…when travelling to work in the car, bus or train. Alternatively, grab a coffee before the interview and find a quiet location to sit down. Warm-up by jotting down bullet point answer to the warm-up questions provided. It should not take more than 20 minutes…and be in a state of ultimate preparedness that will give you the edge and outperform at the interview.

‘Jobs go to those that are good at getting jobs’ – Job Myth of Fact?

Interview Outfit 1

Interview Outfit 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what are the secrets to job success? Do jobs really go to those that are good at getting jobs?

Lets bust this job myth open and uncover some key ingredients that elite job hunters use in their skill set to propel them to the top of the pile.

How critical it is today for employers to ensure they can achieve a quality match during the recruitment process when screening possible candidates. Your projection and profile may be the only thing left standing when applicants of equal ability are key contenders for a job. Your ability to align with corporate values and mission statements is essential. Companies will want you to be an extension of their corporate profile and you will be measured on your ability to fit the mold.

If you can obtain information on the corporate values of the company you are attending an interview for and can translate that into your profile, then you have a definite edge.

Research the founder of the company and what type of person they are. See if you can obtain articles on the company and write-ups on the CEO. Is the company older, traditional and more conservative or is it a new, vibrant and an entrepreneurial business? Do your homework and get that edge on other candidates.

You will be asked questions at interviews that seek to project your personal, business and professional profiles. Employers are always interested in your profiles as part of trying to establish a key match. For example does your professional profile match the organizational profile and corporate culture? Here are questions you may encounter that focus on your profiles:

  1. How would you describe yourself?
  2. How would people you work with describe you?
  3. How would your superiors describe you?

During the interview process, try wherever practicable to reflect on your personal and professional profiles in your responses to interview questions.

Personal Profile

Professional Profile

 

Reliability

Drive

Honesty

Motivation

Pride

Communication skills

Dedication

Team-player

Analytical skills

Energy

Listening

Confidence

Integrity

Determination

During the interview, it is good practice to add to your personal and professional profile by reflecting on your business profile. Your business profile is an indication of your work ethics. Companies are always interested in the prospective candidate’s work ethics and will consider various behaviours such as getting to work on time and working late if required.

Interviewers will test your ability to get tasks done more efficiently and economically by thinking of improved ways of doing things. Companies also have rules and standards called procedures and they expect employees to follow these rules all the time whilst performing their daily activities. The bottom line is about money and companies are profit-making organisations, so your ability to contribute to business profit growth will be considered positively by employers.

Build your business profile into your answer to interview questions wherever possible. The following is a list of the key business profiles you should consider:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Economy
  3. Procedures
  4. Profit

So there you have it…what elite job hunters practice as their key ingredient for success…they have a self awareness of their projection and profile and how it translates into a compelling business profile. Its about seeking a quality fit with the organisation and its culture. This is how jobs go to those that are good at getting jobs.

Exposing the hidden job market…elaborate marketing myth or fact?

So what is the mystery of the hidden job market that has us in raptures and clinging to a sea of job opportunities undiscovered to the naked eye? Jobs go to those that are good at getting jobs and the secrets of elite job hunters  are revealed in an invisible jobs paradise.  A Shangri-La of employment opportunities that only career transition experts hold the keys to good fortune.

Let me bust this discussion right open with a bout of controversy that will inspire you senseless into believing its nothing more than an elaborate marketing hoax! That’s right, there is no such thing as the hidden job market.

When I wrote my book, How to find a Job in 6 weeks, almost 7 years ago, I dedicated a whole chapter to the hidden job market and I researched this phenomenon to find proof of this sea of jobs. I attended seminars and even paid good money pretending I was out of work by attending career transition programs, at a lofty expense.

What I found was incredible and consistent throughout; an elaborate sales training program re-packaged into a networking platform for job hunters to generate leads. And leads for what? It was leads to people, by way of referral, who are in the know about untapped and hidden jobs. Wow! It was a sales lead and networking program that also involved cold calling prospects that have the ability to make hiring decisions.

So there is no hidden job market and by definition it can’t exist. To assume one does exits would be saying that employers are deliberately disguising or hiding their job vacancies. That is, jobs that are not advertised by internal job boards, newspapers, online or anywhere else. For a small proportion of jobs, employers may ask a recruitment agency to research candidates confidentially or perhaps the hiring manager has knowledge or a relationship with someone containing specialist skills that goes back many years. However, that is not a hidden job market but a select and very small proportion of jobs that are recruited outside traditional advertised means. Hardly the sea of jobs referred to as the hidden job market.

So how big is the hidden job market? 70%, 75% or 80% I hear you say? This is nothing but statistical  nonsense of the best kind that cannot be justified. The hidden job market is no way as large as proposed. US Government Bureau of Labor  Statistics in a regular report called JOLTS stated in 2010 that 40,831,000 hires were made. Of this number 25,490,000 were advertised positions.  The difference is 15,341,000 or 38% that falls into the category on unpublished jobs. This is significantly lower that the touted 75% hidden job market.

So, is there a place for networking in your job search tool kit? The answer is yes, and concept of networking as a job search tool must be part of your toolkit when looking for work and not discounted. It should work together as part of a suite of job search methods, and more importantly should be targeted at high value contacts and  people who are genuinely interested in helping you.

Looking for a job by networking is about relationships you have built over time with people in your industry and profession you trust. These are people who are more likely to assist you or direct you to job opportunities that you are not aware because there is a mutual concern for you. The solution to the hidden job market is to engage in sensible networking principles that may assist you in tapping into a less inflated number of unpublished opportunities.

Resume Resurrection…bringing it back to life?

If you have come to this page thinking you are about to discover a new age religion that was lost and found within the depths of the deep Amazon jungle…I’m sorry…you may have to move on to another category!

This post is truly about resumes and how you can dust the cobwebs of your existing template and bring it back to life…resurrect them as part of an ongoing career plan. That is, im assuming you can remember where you keep your resume? Is it In a forgotten file path on your PC or dusting away in the confines of a cabinet draw with other unrelated documents?

So why should you bother? Have you not got enough to think about already? Now the author wants you to develop a career plan amongst all other things. Let me bring this terrible tragedy of the resurrected resume to an end and encourage you to at least consider the benefits of keeping your you profile document up to date.

I have been resurrecting my resume for many years in a way that is less time-consuming than you think…I will explain how to go about it…The best time to resurrect your resume is when you are on leave from work and usually during the Christmas break. You are relaxed and not in constant demand from work and other activities. All of a sudden you have some time up your sleeve to ponder about your future. Yes…its New Year and everyone becomes retrospective about what they did and what they want to be doing better. Your brain is fertile ground for reviewing you resume with the future in mind because you are in the zone, and heaven forbid, you may even be creative and adventurous.

Resumes

Resumes (Photo credit: jdlasica)

Find your old resume document, wherever it is, print out a hardcopy, grab your favourite drink and just look at it for a while. It’s probably out of date, and does not have your current achievements listed. Be critical…is it a true reflection of your projection and profile? If you were a recruiter in your field would you give this person a job?

Spend no more that an hour and pencil in your changes. We all have to set objectives at work every year and then measure our performance against them during the performance review process. This is where you will find your new achievements for your resume.. You only need 2-3 significant objectives that can demonstrate how you contributed to solving Company problems each year. So you don’t even have to think about developing new achievements for your resume. They already exist during the course of your work and all you need to do is to paste them into your resume. So the job is done and it only took around an hour of your time.

So you are still sceptical about this and need more convincing. Let me offer some words of wisdom which is about as close as you will get to a new age religion from me today. Expect the unexpected in life, one day during your career, either yourself or your boss will decide that you need to part ways and move on. It may not happen today or next year, or maybe not for the next 5 years, but being prepared with you career plan will grow your confidence during this difficult time. Because you are in a state of preparedness rather than panic-stricken and anxious.

And how can we not be prepared for ambitious recruitment consultants that head hunt candidates for a living. Maybe you will be approached one day, and I can assure you that the first thing they will ask you for is an updated resume because they need to move quickly on your candidature. Again, it’s about your state of preparedness.