Posts Tagged ‘job seeker’

Fresh Start – Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

September 6th, 2011

This weekend the temperature in our neck of the woods plummeted, and suddenly it was Autumn. Despite what the calendar says, to me the start of the new year always coincides with the start of the school year. Although it’s been (unspecified number of) years since I was in school full-time, I still get that rush of excitement that comes from preparing for a new year – buying the right supplies, picking out the wardrobe, deciding on courses, preparing to meet old friends and renew summer-lapsed friendships. In fact I spent the last few weeks updating my strategic business plan and refining the services and programs that I will be offering to my clients this year.

Whether you are running your own business, freelancing, looking for a job or in a steady career, September is a great time to take stock and make an annual strategic plan for your career.

Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

Make an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

  • Do an annual retrospective: what worked for you, career-wise, over the past year?  What accomplishments are you particularly proud of? What obstacles were you able to overcome? What kudos did you receive? What didn’t work so well? What feedback did you receive that made you sit up and take notice? What parts of your career feel stagnant, or worse, toxic? What steps do you need to take to further the successes, overcome the obstacles, and ensure that professional development needs are addressed?
  • Define career goals for the coming year: What do you want to accomplish professionally over the next 12 months? What can you do, and should you do at work to move your career ahead? What can you do, and should you do, outside of work hours to move your career ahead?  Is it time to make a move, and if so, do you have a clear idea of your most logical next career step?
  • Update your career marketing material: If somebody asked you for a copy of your resume, would you be able to give them one? Do you know which of your accomplishments make you most marketable in today’s job market?
  • Update your industry knowledge: Do you know the emerging trends and industry dynamics that are most likely to impact your company, your clients and your career this year? Do you know who the thought leaders are in your field, and where to find them?
  • Refresh your network: Do you have a database of contact information for your network? Are you keeping it up to date? When was the last time you exercised your networking muscles (they go stale pretty quickly if you don’t use them on a regular basis)? do you have lapsed contacts that need to be renewed? Which five to ten people would you like to catch up with, and what is the best time/place to get this done? Are you a member in name only of your professional association? What industry and professional events are coming up this year that you should make a point of attending?
  • Review your IRL image: Do a wardrobe check – are there missing buttons, frayed seams? Are there favourite pieces that really should retire to the great donation heap in the sky?  Does your makeup and hairstyle make you look tired or dated? Have somebody take a picture of you from behind – are you comfortable with what you see? Are you a member of a gym in name only?
  • Review your online image: What about your online image? If somebody searches your name online, will they get an up-to-date impression of who you are and what you have to offer? Do you have a profile in ZoomInfo, Pipl, About.me? Does your LinkedIn profile reflect where you are today in your career?

Create an Annual Strategic Plan for Your Career

Using the above information, define specific goals and action items for the coming year. Formalize them in your calendar with reminders, deadlines and deliverables. Pace yourself and prioritize, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. If you are having trouble getting started, consider working with a career coach who can help to get you on the right track.

    Whether it’s time for radical change or incremental progress, creating an annual strategic plan for your career can help to ensure that you don’t get stuck in a rut and continue to have the knowledge, skills, networking connections and professional reputation to keep you marketable and in demand.

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    Jobseekers, Bland Is Not a Good Look for You

    August 17th, 2010

    I was ready for a change. There were things that weren’t making me happy. I was bored with the same-old same-old. How hard can it be, I thought. People do it themselves all the time. If you listen to the ads, they make it seem so easy. Just buy the right off-the-shelf product, follow the easy instructions, and voila, a brand new me. At a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional. So I did it. And now, I have orange hair. Orange is not a good look for me.

    There are some things that are worth spending money on to get the right professional. For me, hiring a colourist is clearly one of them. For a jobseeker, hiring a professional resume writer may be another.

    Why Hiring a Professional to Write Your Resume May Make Sense for You

    • Having worked with hundreds, if not thousands of clients, an experienced resume pro will have a good idea of who your competition is likely to be. This means that we have unique insights on what it will take to make you – specifically – stand out from the crowd. We can be objective about what to include or exclude from your resume, and can create a profile that grabs the right kind of attention from the right target audience.
    • Our skill isn’t just in the writing, its in the questioning. Good resume pros know what questions to ask you in order to get the gems to put in your resume. We have honed the art of interviewing, probing, pulling out the details that can be used to create a compelling career story.
    • Good resume pros dedicate hours each week on researching the job market. We know what skills are in-demand, what keywords are becoming passe, which employers use which job boards, which employers don’t use job boards at all. These insights mean that we can fast-track the time you would otherwise have to invest in getting ready for your job search.
    • While we typically work arms-length from recruiters in order to be a neutral advocate for our clients, good resume pros take the time to nurture strong networking relationships with recruiters. This means that we can get a heads-up on hiring trends. We can tell you why calling yourself a Farmer instead of Hunter right now will leave you dead in the water if you are looking for a sales position, for example, or why using “Public Relations” instead of “Public Affairs” could result in greater hits on your resume.
    • By leveraging our recruiter and HR network, good resume pros are able to get independent feedback on our product, in order to make sure that it’s going to work for our target audience. After all, it doesn’t matter if you are tickled pink about your new resume, if recruiters aren’t impressed.

    Just like off-the-shelf colour kits, there are many books on how to write your resume. You can find tons of samples, many of them submitted by resume professionals. You should be aware though that we rarely submit our best work for publication. Why? Part of it has to do with protecting competitive intelligence. An edgy format, a unique design, really meaty content, loses its edge if its copied by 10,000 other jobseekers. Mostly, it has to do with the target audience for the book – in order to appeal to as broad a range of jobseekers as possible, the samples tend to be fairly generic and bland. Jobseekers who copy them end up looking fairly generic and bland too. And jobseekers? Bland is not a good look for you.

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    Afraid You’ll Be Laid Off? Don’t Be Passive, Take Control!

    July 31st, 2010

    I came across a couple of interesting surveys this week. The first one, an employee attitude survey, indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people who are currently employed fear that they will lose their jobs due to corporate downsizing. The second survey, from Mental Health America, indicated that 82% of people, when faced with a stressful situation, turn on the television or rely on other forms of distraction. There are probably few things in life more stressful than facing a real or potential layoff, but this is no time to be passive or numbed out. If you think your company may be considering layoffs, take control.

    • Make sure that you remain a superstar in your current position. Without being a total sycophant, demonstrate through your performance how you add value to the company, and how you contribute to the big picture.
    • Take advantage of opportunities to participate in special projects, especially projects involving other departments. The more people in the company who know you and can attest to your strengths, the easier it will be for you to remain gainfully employed, regardless of which side of the retain/layoff tallysheet you end up.
    • Psychologically and emotionally prepare for the worst (or for some of you the best) case scenario, that you will be let go.
    • Get your home front in order, which includes preparing and sticking to a tight budget.
    • If you haven’t been doing it all along, start putting together a portfolio of your success stories, the projects you’ve worked on, copies of your performance reviews, any emails or letters that you’ve received with positive feedback on your performance.
    • Take an inventory of the strengths and expertise you have to offer – your value proposition in today’s job market. What kinds of problems are you good at solving, and who currently has those problems? This will help narrow down the target for your job search for your next career move.
    • Get your networking tools up to date – names, titles & contact numbers of suppliers, clients, industry associates, company colleagues. This is easier to do while you are still in your job.
    • Implement a networking plan that should include online-connecting with at least a couple of new people per week and warm-connecting with people in your current network.
    • Start researching companies that you would be interested in moving to, and see who in your network of contacts might have leads into these organizations. Consider current suppliers, clients, consultants and competitors as likely candidate companies.
    • Find niche job boards in your field/industry. Set up alerts to let you know when new jobs are posted that fit your target criteria.
    • Identify reputable recruiters who specialize in your field.
    • Once you have a target for your job search and know what and to whom you are marketing yourself, prepare your resume and LinkedIn profile. For the investment of less than a few day’s salary, you can enlist the services of professional who can help you create a distinctive, targeted career marketing package.

    The more you take control of your career now – before you receive notice – the less likely you are to feel paralysed with fear about layoff decisions over which you have no control.

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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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