Posts Tagged ‘job search strategy’

The New Job Didn’t Work Out. Now What?

February 17th, 2012

It was a whirlwind romance. They wooed you, you wowed them. Fine, you had a couple of misgivings, but you ignored them because this employer liked you. They really, really liked you. And who can afford to turn away an offer in today’s job market, right? You tell all your friends about your great new job. You let your parents/spouse/therapist know they can stop worrying about you. You buy new clothes, new must-have-for-the-new-job accessories.

But within the first couple of days of starting the exciting new stage of your career, your “uh oh” signals kick into high gear. This job isn’t quite what you were imagining it would be.

Maybe the corporate culture has some unhealthy undercurrents. Maybe your new colleagues or staff aren’t welcoming, or the small “p” political atmosphere is toxic. Perhaps the skills you thought you were “good enough” at or could learn on the job, they need you to be exceptional at from day one. Or the training you were promised never materializes. Or the challenges that were described as minor in the interview, turn out to be a huge cesspool of issues that will take more than one person to fix, and there is no corporate willingness to acknowledge this reality.

Whatever the reason, the job is a miss-fit, and you decide to leave, or you get pushed out.

You now face the challenge of putting yourself back into the job search arena.  It can feel overwhelming, and more than a little bit humiliating, to have to start all over again. Before you start recirculating your resume, take some time to take stock. There are valuable lessons in every career miss-fit.

 How to Find the Pony in the Pile of Fertilizer

  • With as much honesty and objectivity as you can muster, inventory what didn’t work, and what did work, in that job. Was the job different than advertised? Did they think that you were different then advertised – were they assuming that you had knowledge and skills that you didn’t have? Was it a culture misfit or a personality misfit?
  • Whatever the reasons are that the position was a miss-fit, own your share of it. Create a list of 10 to 15 “truths” or take-away lessons. Structure them as “I learned” statements. For example, “The position required me to do ABC. I learned that I need to get more training before I take a job that requires  ABC.” “The manager didn’t give me enough direction. I learned that I need to be clear at the outset in asking for direction.” “The position was completely different than advertised. I learned that I need to do more due diligence before I accept an offer.” “The position required me to develop strategy. I learned that I am better playing a tactical role.”
  • For each take-away lesson, create an action plan. What specific steps are you going to take now to help yourself feel more confident and successful if such as situation were to arise again? Try to make the action specific, measurable, and with a deadline. “I will take the Color of Communications workshop within the next three weeks so that I can better understand my communication style and learn how to communicate with people who’s style is different from my own. ” “I will practice asking the right kinds of questions in interviews so that I can better gauge culture fit.” “I will rewrite my resume to focus on my strengths as a tactician, and target my job search to positions that call for strong day-to-day leadership.”
  • Develop a communications plan. You are going to have to explain this misstep, not only to your friends/parents/spouse/therapist, but also to your network of contacts and perhaps to potential employers during job interviews (yes, there will be other interviews). Use the lessons-learned and action plan to craft a message that not only demonstrates that you understand why the job didn’t work out, but that you have the maturity and professionalism to own your share of it.
  • Decide how you will handle this position in your career marketing collateral. Will you feature it front and center in your resume, list it under “additional experience includes”, or exclude it altogether? What about on your LinkedIn profile?

Job Miss-Fits Aren’t Career Ending

There are any number of reasons why a new job turns out to be a bad fit, and it happens more often than you might think. One leadership study found that 64% of new leaders hired from the outside don’t make it past the first year. Another found that 35% of American workers quit within the first six months of taking a new job.

Hiring managers know that failure happens. They won’t judge you on the fail, they’ll judge you on how you handled it. “Weaker candidates are able to analyze failure, but they are more reluctant to acknowledge their role in it. Stronger candidates are able to analyze failure and success – and acknowledge their role in both.”

The good news is that you know you have a resume that gets noticed, and with some fine-tuning you can make sure that it is showcasing you as the perfect solution for the right kind of problem. You also know that you have the skills for managing a job search, even if you were hoping you wouldn’t have to do it quite so soon.  Armed with some new self-awareness and a plan of action, you can get back into the job search arena with confidence that you will be able to find the right-fit job for you.

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Fresh Start – Books Worth Looking At For Your Job Search

September 7th, 2011

(Part II of my September Fresh Start series)

September marks the start of a new reading season for me. While my summer reading list typically includes flights of fancy and fiction, I find myself drawn to business, strategy and how-to books by the time autumn rolls around, books that will teach me something I didn’t know, challenge my assumptions, and give me new ideas for my business.

I also like to add to my library of resources that I can recommend to my clients – books that offer genuine value and time-tested ideas on managing an effective job search.  Additions to my recommended reading list this year include:

Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies

(Joshua Waldman, MBA) – $19.99 US / $23.99 Canadian

Fresh off the presses, Joshua presents a wealth of tips, how-to’s, and things-to-think-about for managing the online portion of your job search and professional profile.  There’s a ton of information packed into an easy-to-browse  format, and as with most books in the Dummies series, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet rather than a seven course meal. Readers will appreciate being able to pick and choose which sections are most relevant for them, and quickly apply the techniques and strategies to their job search.

The book covers everything from defining your personal brand (what you want to be known and respected for professionally), creating a blog, and using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, to planning and executing a proactive social media job hunt.  I particularly liked the Chapter on Setting Yourself Up for a Successful Job Search, with tips on using online tools such as JobKatch, Becomed, JibberJobber and CareerShift.  It can take jobseekers weeks to figure out a productive “routine”, and these tools can fast track that learning process so that you can be immediately productive in your search and stay focused and organized.

Job Search Magic

(Susan Britton Whitcomb) – $18.95 US / $22.50 Canadian

Published in 2006, Susan’s book is one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve come across on planning, executing and managing the entire job search cycle – in fact it is required reading for the Certified Job Search Strategist accreditation program.  At 500+ pages, with each chapter building on information from previous sections, skipping around isn’t recommended, but the book lays out all the building blocks that a jobseeker will need, in a logical sequence that takes the guess work out of planning a job search and career marketing campaign.

There are chapters on figuring out the right target for your job search, getting (and more challenging – maintaining) the right mind set, writing great keyword copy, managing active and passive job search streams, researching companies using online and offline resources, mastering assessments tests, handling interviews, negotiating salaries, and getting off to a good start in your new position.  With worksheets, quizzes and checklists for each section, this is a true do-it-yourself guide for somebody who is ready to get serious about their job search.

Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0

(Jay Conrad Levinson, David E. Perry) $21.95 US / $25.95 Canadian

This isn’t really a new addition to my recommended reading list – I’ve been suggesting it to my clients for several years – but since there is a new edition I’m including it. The rebel of the job search guides, as you would expect from its name this book offers unconventional advice for standing out from the crowd and tapping into the hidden job market.

I first came across the second edition when I was launching Resume Confidential, and it was love at first read. With ideas on how to network for greatest impact, circumvent the gatekeepers, and write extreme resumes that get noticed, it was just the book I was looking for to add immediate value for my clients and break through the body of “presumed wisdom” that has become outdated and ineffective in today’s job market.  I am now on my fourth copy of the book (I keep lending and losing it), and continue to incorporate David and Jay’s ideas into my practice – including the networking resume, modeled on the Extreme Resume.

With the most recent edition, published this spring, the authors add social media advice to an arsenal of nearly 1000 tips and tricks, all of them tested and validated in some of the most nobody-is-hiring-right-now job markets in North America.   Be warned, the ideas are not for the faint of heart, and you can expect to get push back from HR professionals and recruiters who like to keep the hiring process traditional and take control out of the candidate’s hands. But if you are ready to shake up your thinking about what a job search is supposed to look like, then this is the book for you.

How about you? What great career books and resources have you found this year?

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“Apply With LinkedIn” App Could be a Game Changer

June 2nd, 2011

Apply with LinkedIn AppGigaOM leaked the news yesterday that LinkedIn is getting ready to launch a plug-in for employers’ websites called Apply With LinkedIn, which will allow job candidates to apply for available positions using their LinkedIn profiles as resumes.

Game Changer for Corporate Recruiting

Depending on LinkedIn’s pricing and packaging strategy, this has the potential to be a game changer in the recruiting and hiring world. Not only could it drive standardization in the front-end of applicant tracking systems, but it will virtually eliminate two of the biggest pains of online job application processes (the need for applicants to cut and paste into predefined boxes, and the need for HR folks to try and fix resume parsing errors).

I also anticipate that this move could seriously cut into the profits of job boards such as Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com, especially if LinkedIn creates an attractive bundle that combines access to LinkedIn job boards with the application plug in for corporate career sites.

Game Changer for Jobseekers

For jobseekers, the Apply Within LinkedIn app could be a game changer too, especially if corporations move to “Upload from LinkedIn” as their preferred option.

For any jobseeker who has ever labored over the cumbersome cut-and-paste requirements of some corporate career sites and wondered why they have to upload everything when they’ve already attached their resume, the option to point and click will come as a welcome relief. The ability to set up job alerts and immediately apply using your cellphone will speed up candidate time-to-market.

As much thought and strategy will need to go into creating your LinkedIn profile as has traditionally gone into your resume, and it will become even more important that your profile be 100% complete.

The Downsides

The biggest downside that I see is the potential for higher incidents of spray-and-pray job applications, which is a no-win for everybody. In fact David Zax with Fast Company has suggested that this will make Apply with LinkedIn a non-starter.

For jobseekers, the one-size fit-all format for LinkedIn profile will limit their ability to tailor their application to the specific information needs of each company, which goes against the grain of job search best practices. Further, a fully developed LinkedIn profile is announcement to the world that you are open for business, job-offer wise, which you may not want your current employer to know

How Will This Play Out?

LinkedIn has probably redefined recruiting and job search best practices more than any other platform, so it will be interesting to see how the business model rolls out. Unfortunately they have a recent history of alienating their core base by monetizing member services that have previously been free, and creating fee structures that price casual users out of the market.

The plug-in may end up being a tool for large corporations only, and its ease of use may make it more of a liability than an asset it when it comes to candidate screening and selection. But with the right business model it could become the must-have tool for applicant-employer interface, no matter what the company size.  How do you think this will play out?

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Jobseekers, be Interview-Ready: Company Research 101

May 26th, 2011

Interview Calendar

A question was posted on LinkedIn recently asking hiring managers what their pet peeves were when it comes to interviewing job candidates. Over and over again, respondents indicated that their pet peeve is candidates who come to the interview and don’t know anything about the company.

Jobseekers, there is no excuse.  When you go into the interview, you should know the company’s products, its mission, its history, its industry, its competitors, its strategic goals, and any big projects/products/announcements that have made it in the news.

“But I Don’t Know How To Research a Company!” you say? Here’s how:

  1. Start with the company’s website. Look for an “About Us“,  “News & Press“, “Our Team” sections.  Look for an “Our Services” or“Our Clients” section.  Basically, read everything you possibly can on the company website.
  2. Look at what the company says about itself on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to check out new hire listings.
  3. Go back to the team list you found in step one. Now search each of these names in LinkedIn. How long have they been in the position? Where were they before that? Do they mention any projects they’ve been involved in? What groups do they belong to? Have they asked or answered any questions in LinkedIn Q&A? Have they contributed to any group discussions? Do they have a blog?
  4. Google the company name and click through to some of the links. This is a scavenger hunt, of sorts. You won’t know what’s good until you find it. Skip through to the third, fifth, seventh and tenth pages. Look for articles that mention the company in terms of industry trends and developments, new products, customer service experiences. If you have more time, read more articles.
  5. Go back to the google search page, and toggle on the NEWS tab. Search the company again. Look for press releases, industry analyses, financial analyst reports, controversies, praise, mentions by journalists. Often you’ll find more illuminating information from the financial and industry analysts  who talk about an annual report than you will from the report itself.
  6. Reset the time parameters, and look for news articles about the company from a year ago, two years ago, five years ago.
  7. Search the company name together with “merger” or “acquisition”. Has the company acquired other companies or been acquired? Is there any news about how smoothly (or not so smoothly) this went?
  8. Search the company name together with the title of your target position. You may be able to find out who the incumbent was before you, some of the projects they were involved in, any PR (negative or positive) that they attracted.
  9. Do it again, using the title of the person you will be reporting to. Is your soon-to-be-supervisor new in the position, or was there somebody in the position before him/her? How recent was the change? This search should be done both in Google and in LinkedIn.
  10. Search the company name together with the word “convention”, or “trade show”, or “conference”. Look for any presentations, keynote speeches, whitepapers. At a minimum, you will learn which industry associations and events the hiring company deems valuable.
  11. Search the company name together with keywords from the job description. Use one keyword at a time: Research. Marketing. Project Manager. ISP.  This is a great way to find clues to the goals and challenges that you will be facing that are specific to your target position.
  12. Search the company name together with the word “case study”. IT companies love to create case studies of their success stories. Check out what problems these vendors helped your target company to solve. Match this information against press releases announcing a different vendor for the same solution, which is often a clue that a mega-project went bust.
  13. Use www.wefollow.com to search for the company and any of its employees on twitter. Check out their twitter streams. What are they talking about? What are they excited about?
  14. Google “who are COMPANY’s main competitors“. Look for entries from sites such www.finance.yahoo.com, wikinvest.com, www.hoover.com, and www.corporatewatch.com.
  15. Use www.glassdoor.com to research the company culture.

Organize Your Information

The amount of information you will uncover will vary depending on the company’s size and years in business. For smaller firms, you might not get much more than their stated business goal and the names of its founders and executives. That’s fine, that’s more than you knew before. Try other search engines like bingPipl is a great tool for doing a deep search on people’s names. For most mid to large-sized companies, the information will be so voluminous that it will be overwhelming.  Organize your findings by the questions you want answered:

  • What is the company’s product/service and target clientele?
  • Where does the company say it is heading in the next five years? What are its goals, values, mission?
  • Has there been any events recently that confirm or contradict those values, mission, goals?
  • Who are its main competitors? How does the company stack up against these competitors?
  • Has there been a lot of staffing changes recently? Is this because the company is growing, or is it an indication of potential trouble?
  • What are the company’s main challenges? Pain points? Risk exposures?
  • What are the company’s main competitive advantages?

If you want to position yourself as the solution to their problem, think like a marketer. Do your market research. Understand who the company is, what its challenges and pain points are, where they are going, and how you can contribute.  Then, be ready to demonstrate your insights in your interview.

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Don’t Fill Your Resume With Sea Junk

July 30th, 2010

I am an inveterate beachcomber. One of my soul-satisfying delights when I’m on vacation is to find interesting bits of sea glass, seashells, broken pottery, and rusty something-or-others, and at the end of a seaside walk I will inevitably return with a few new treasures in my pockets. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection of odds and ends, which until recently have been tucked away in boxes, baskets and whatever is handy around the house. This week I decided to consolidate my collection into a single location, and was dismayed to realize exactly how extensive it was. If I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with sea junk, I needed to cull, and I needed to be ruthless in doing so.

Beachcombing Collection

Beachcombing Collection

Maintaining your resume over the years can be like that. You create a document to land a job, add bits to it as you progress through your career, until one day you realize you have six or more pages of “sea junk” and no clear idea of how to cull it down into a useful document again.

If you don’t have a clear career brand, if you don’t know who your target audience is, if you don’t understand what their buying motivators are, then it can be hard to decide what to include and what to cut out. Your resume is your career marketing document, a key component of your job search arsenal, and every word, every phrase, every formatting decision must add value from the reader’s point of view. The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be to decide what to include and what to exclude from your resume. By researching your target companies and understanding their pain points, you will be able to go through your resume with a ruthless “so what” editing pen, to ensure that what remains provides a clear and compelling picture of why you are the perfect solution to your target audience’s biggest challenge.

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Whitewater Lessons that Jobseekers Can Learn From

May 3rd, 2010

In our child-free years of reckless abandon, my husband and I became avid white-water enthusiasts. What we lacked in finesse we made up for in tenacity, and we eventually honed our skills enough to spend most of our river time in our canoe rather than under it. But not before we spent a good deal of time up the creek without a paddle, trying to swim ourselves and our canoe back to shore.

One particular trip stands out – both for the sheer adrenalin-fed terror, and for the lessons I learned. We were paddling the Magnetawan, a river that in mid-summer is a lazy meanderer interspersed with waterfalls, but in early April is a torrent of spring runoff. Our trip guide, Tim, was an expert kayaker, and very motivational in a rah-rah you-can-do-it sort of way. We trusted him implicitly. He  had done this river many times before (albeit in a kayak, never an open canoe), and assured us that the river was totally within our capabilities. Tim was wrong. I realized this when I found myself in the bow of a 17 foot open canoe, trying to eddy out of a 6 foot standing wave. (Plot spoiler: we didn’t make it).

I thought about this trip recently when a contact on LinkedIn described his job search as a white-knuckle up-the-creek-without-a-paddle experience. I realized that some of the lessons I learned on the Magnetewan are applicable to a job search.

Lessons That I Learned When I Was Up The Creek

Choose Your Guide With Care

While solo-tripping can be exhilarating it is not for the faint of heart, so many of us will turn to experts for advice and guidance. When it comes to the right way to find a job, everybody has a strong opinion. Google “job search expert” and you will get 70,300,000 hits.  Some experts will be merely motivational, some will be novices, some will be jaded by their own failed trips, some will have advice that only works for a particular river (or industry, or discipline, or personality). Whether you elect to listen to a trusted mentor, a friend, a career counsellor, or a job search coach, choose your experts with care. Make sure that the advice they offer makes sense for you, your industry, your profession, your career stage, your personality.

Have Your Own Copy of the Map

Create a job search plan – a map – that will take you to your destination, and own it. The clearer you are in defining realistic goals for your next career move, the more useful your map will be. Whether you work alone or with a guide, become an expert on your skills, strengths, attributes, risk tolerances and weaknesses. Define what you are good at (your value proposition), so you can narrow down your map to kinds of companies and opportunities that are a good match for you.

Master the J-Stroke

However carefully you’ve researched your route, you have to get off the couch (or your computer) if you want to make the trip. Master the j-strokes needed to give your job search momentum and direction. Continuously develop your network. Get comfortable making cold calls. Follow up on leads.

Scout the Rapids Yourself

No two river trips are the same. No two job searches are the same. Experts can give you general guidelines, equip you with tools, teach you valuable skills, but you need to scout the conditions yourself, and adapt your route accordingly. What worked two years ago could be completely unproductive or even reckless today. And what was unthinkable last week may be exactly the right manoeuvre right now. You also need to be ready to make in-the-moment decisions when opportunities or obstacles suddenly surface.

Paddle Within Your Limits

Among the whitewater crowd we paddled with, it was a frequent topic of conversation: do you know your limit, have you met your limit? I’ve heard more than one paddler (and jobseeker) say “what have I got to lose” when deciding to push the limits of what they are qualified to do. In paddling the decision can be fatal.** In a job search, it’s not so dire, but it is still a mistake. You lose credibility with recruiters and hiring managers. You lose credibility with your network of contacts. Worse, you lose your focus. Your map becomes diluted, and your elevator speech begins to have addendums. You lose sight of the real value proposition you bring to the table.

The End of the Trip

Technically, our trip didn’t end with us up the creek without a paddle. I held on to my paddle (rule one of ‘how to survive’ a dump), and my husband eventually recovered his. We were able to finish the trip, although we walked a good many of the remaining rapids. We had bumps. We had bruises. We were chastened. But the Magnetewan didn’t kill us. And as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you wiser.

** Our Magnetewan trip leader once boasted that he had never met his limit, never met a rapid, or river, or river condition he wasn’t prepared to try. I should have paid attention to that before making him one of my trusted paddling experts. Eventually Tim me his limit, during a solo trip in Northern Canada. His body was never recovered.

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Jobseekers, Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Social Networking Basket

December 16th, 2009

egg basketAs with many of my blogs, I will begin with a true confession. I’m a Twitter junkie. I enjoy exchanging banter and ideas with industry colleagues around the world. I use Twitter instead of RSS feeds to find interesting articles, blogs and people. I have lists of hundreds of recruiters and career services professionals that I follow daily. I am also on LinkedIn, and have a Facebook page for my business. So the advice I’m about to give may seem strange coming from me. But here goes.

Jobseekers, Get off the Computer Already!

The media is abuzz with news on social media, and a day rarely passes when some headline grabbing article doesn’t tout social networking as the next miracle cure for your job search. Don’t drink the kool-aid.

As somebody who is old enough to remember, it has the same hyped-up do-it-now-or-die, if-you-aren’t-doing-it-your-out-of-the-loop feel as the late 90’s when financial advisors pushed dot.com companies as must-haves in your investment portfolio. Sure, there are stories of people who social-networked their way to a new job, just as there used to be stories of dot.coms that actually made money. But now, as then, genuine success stories are few and far between.

On the job search front, you will find that the social-network-to-success stories tend to have a few things in common. The position for which the job seeker was hired had Social Media somewhere in the job title, or at a minimum in the first paragraph of the job description. More often, the job seeker actually found the job through connections they cultivated offline, but social networking helped to strengthen their credibility.

The real risk of social networking is it’s capacity to suck up hours of time in a blink of an eye, and at the end of a day spent entirely on the computer, you may be no closer to your job search goal.

Does that Mean You Should Abandon Your Social Networking Efforts? Absolutely not!

Social Networking is a useful tool in your job search arsenal. When somebody Googles your name, you need to be findable, and not just in your cousin’s wedding pictures. When a recruiter Boolean searches keywords in your area of expertise, you need to rank high in the search returns. The contributions you make to online conversations, the information you share, the contacts you make can go a long way to cementing your reputation as must-hire candidate.  Some of the contacts that you make online can evolve into strong, positive connections in the real-world.

But Social Networking needs to be one arm of a well thought out and executed job search strategy that includes cold calling companies (read Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 for innovative ideas on how), conducting industry research so that can identify and even create opportunities, attending industry events, lunching with former colleagues and clients, and giving back to the community.

My Social Networking Recommendation for Jobseekers

Schedule time for social networking, and when the time is up, have the self-discipline to push away from the computer. Spend time each day working on the real-world connections that result in job offers. If you don’t, then chances are that while your job search competitor is being on-boarded for his new position, you will be trying to unglue eyelids that have lost the capacity to blink.

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Meet Karen Siwak

An award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions, and she is passionate about empowering clients with the tools, strategies and confidence to take control of their career search. Read more...

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