Your Weekly Job Search Calendar

calendarSome unemployed people spend less than four hours a week on their job search. Some work at it even less. How does 41 minutes a day sound (see the Princeton study with that statistic)? Will a job seeker be successful with so little activity? Probably not.

Recognize this for what it is. Finding work is often harder than being employed. The skills that you need to be successful in a job search (e.g., self-marketing, interviewing, active networking) are often not the skills you use in your profession. Remember, though, that this will not be forever. Soon you will be back doing what you do best, if you work your search diligently and consistently.

To keep this from falling into the 41-minute trap (what do these people do after, say, 9:30 AM?), here are some job search foundations that you should implement today. This will keep you moving and motivated in an environment where negativity and rejection are real and ever-present.

Create a weekly plan. Plot out your activities for the week. Plan for shorter bursts of focused activity, limiting the time to no more than 90 minutes per task. People cannot maintain strong focus longer than this, so plan your work in blocks. Factor in short breaks, exercise, family obligations, meals and all of the other distractions (Facebook, anyone?) and priorities. Remember to invest at least 30 hours a week in yourself with an intense job search.

Rotate through your activities, matching the task to the best times. I am an early riser, often on social media at around 6AM. This would be fine in a job search because you want to have a social media/online presence, and it is less time dependent than other priorities. Your people-centered activities – phone calls, informational interviews, cold canvassing – need to be done during business hours. Don’t be hanging out on LinkedIn when you should be meeting and talking with people.

Click Here For 21 Use-Them-Now LinkedIn Tips

Get dressed and out of the house. You will not find a job with online activities alone. Get going at the same time every day, get a shower, get dressed and be ready for the business of your search. If you are targeting a job or function where you can drop in and apply in person, do that. Join networking groups. Check for services, job search teams, workshops and seminars at your state’s employment office, public library or faith communities (many see this as a vital and viable ministry).

Track your results. They say if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. In this case, you have to manage yourself. Hold yourself accountable to your plan. Don’t accept your own excuses. If you didn’t make your calls today, add them into tomorrow. There is no boss hovering over your head to force a deadline. Instead, you need to be accountable to yourself and those who depend on you.

Celebrate and rest. When you get to the end of your week, review your results. How much time did you spend on your search? How many people did you contact who could help you find a job? If you are pleased with your effort and results, celebrate! Give yourself a high-five. Take the weekend off, rest, recharge, and do something else to restore yourself.  Get ready to do it again on Monday.

The job search does not offer much positive reinforcement. There is a lot of rejection. It really is no fun. But when the good things happen, they make all of the difference. Unlike so many other areas of life where there are degrees of success, the job search is more binary, more black/white, job/no job. Recognize it, face it head on and work hard. Good things will happen for you.

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Are you using social media to find a job? Here are some pointers on using it more effectively to manage your career.

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Bill Florin CEIP CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Career Change? 7 Tips to Sell Transferable Skills

new career directionCareer and industry changes require work. Your job as the changer and job seeker is to help potential employers understand how the work you have done before is relevant in your next industry or profession. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either.

We have already seen some dramatic changes in the economic landscape in early 2014. Multiple retailers have announced closings, changes in direction, bankruptcy filings and acquisitions. All of these changes, which include consolidations and job losses, could have you thinking about making a move to another industry. Retail isn’t the only example, but it makes the point.

Here are some tips to make your marketing message more effective.

Scrub your message of old-industry language. If you are making a move from one industry to another, spend some time translating for your new focus. This will change from industry to industry, but there are likely a few words and phrases in your résumé, LinkedIn profile, letters and other messages that need to be tweaked. For example, “inventory shrink” in retail might be more understandable as “inventory control” or “physical inventory integrity” or “inventory loss prevention.” Do your research and make the changes. Speak the buyer’s (i.e., future employer’s) language.

Focus on results. Every business needs people who can drive strong financial performances. Dollars are dollars. Use some space to explain how you increased sales, operating profit, and profit margins. This plays well in any industry.

People are everywhere. Talent development is a universally appreciated skill. Have you worked to develop and promote people in your old gig? If so, talk about it. Coaching and mentoring skills, along with training ability, are also in demand everywhere.

Productivity and process improvement can’t hurt. Every organization has standard processes that it follows, and many have tremendous opportunities to improve for enhanced productivity and efficiency. If you have done it, talk about it. Efficiency, doing more with less, is vital everywhere.

Can you lead? What stories do you have about influencing others to follow you to achieve a common goal? How have you turned a business unit with your leadership skills? How have you created empowering, engaging environments? Employee engagement is viewed as a key productivity driver, so a compelling case in this area will help.

Can you bounce back? The word is “resilience.” Have you ever overcome a huge challenge that defeated others? Did you ever do something that you thought you and your team couldn’t do? Have you failed, learned and applied what you learned to excel? Again, these are great points that will be valuable anywhere.

Everyone has a customer. They might be called clients, and they might be internal or external, but every professional has someone depending on him or her to produce and deliver as promised. If you can make a compelling case of your ability to create an excellent customer service environment, you will be that much closer to a job offer.

Winners win. If you have succeeded before, you will do it again. If you can help a recruiter or hiring manager understand the significance of your accomplishments and how they will apply and add value at the new job, you win. Help them overcome the obstacle of fear associated with a career changer, and make them want you because you are too good to refuse.

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Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut. Bill is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

 

Entrepreneurism Calling: 8 Reasons to Answer

Today is a holiday in the United States. Does that mean that your usual Sunday night dread will be Monday night dread, an evening of tossing and turning as you think about returning to the office Tuesday morning?

If you have a job, you need to start a business. If you don’t have a job but want one, you need to start a business. Make your own job! Here are a whole bunch of reasons why you should get started building your own venture.

  1. Protect Yourself. Average job tenure in the US is about 4.5 years (see the Bureau of Labor Statistics report). If you are going to work a 40-year career, that means you will have anywhere from 8-11 jobs. Do you think it will be a smooth, full-employment experience every time? No, probably not. Even modest income from self-employment will be valuable when the payroll checks stop.
  2. Develop Skills. There is nothing like having to figure it out for the sake of your business to get your attention. Do it, or you fail. It’s that simple. Building a website, setting up a bookkeeping system, marketing, managing customer relationships – all are critical and may take you beyond what you do in your daily work as an employee.
  3. Build a Network. Take my word for it: you will meet people during your entrepreneurial activities you will never meet otherwise. These people could be customers, referrals, potential business partners, community leaders and others. The point is that your network will become more broad and diverse than it would by keeping your head down in your employee work experience.
  4. Give Yourself Hope. A tough day working for someone else doesn’t seem as bad when you have other things in your life (I know this firsthand). Having the hope that comes with activity and effort building your own success keeps things in perspective and a stern look from your boss will not ruin your day.
  5. Become Known for Something. Have you ever worked in a company or for a boss that gives no recognition? Does your supervisor take the credit? That will not happen when you are out creating a name and reputation for yourself. You do great things for your customers, they thank you, they pay you, and they send you referrals. That’s how it works. A phone call like this from your next customer feels so good (and maybe a lot better than the Employee of the Month award): “Hi, John Smith told me you did a great job for him and I would like you to help me, too.”
  6. Account for your Time. Many transition from employee to self-employed status and back again several times. Depending on the situation and the opportunity, traditional employment could make sense and you will want to take a job. Or, you could get laid off. It happens, even to the best people. Self-employment will allow you to fill in the time on your résumé and answer the question, “So, what have you been doing since you got laid off?”
  7. You Can Get Help. SCORE (visit www.SCORE.org) offers workshops and counseling to help you plan, launch and run a business. Even if you have no idea where to start, they do. If you have a skills or service you would like to offer, they will help you consider opportunities and risks and will coach you through business planning. Other resources include the Small Business Administration (www.SBA.gov) and many local services. Check with your public library, your city’s economic development office, or the local community college for available services.
  8. You Give Yourself Freedom. Do you want to express yourself and your values in your work? If so, you can do it when you own the business. Are there people with whom you don’t want to work? Fine, say no. Do you want to offer special discounts or do pro bono work for special groups or causes? Go for it! You can choose to incorporate and live your most closely held values through a business you own.

What reasons do you have for yourself? Why would you launch a new business? Think about it, internalize it, and make it happen. I would love to hear your motivations and stories in the comments below.

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Bill Florin is a business owner and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.

Five Valuable Proofreading Tips

I will admit it; this is not one of the most interesting topics to discuss. But great proofreading must happen if your résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn documents and other written material will work for you. Here is some harsh reality: every time you apply with error-filled documents – even one error is too much – you are wasting an opportunity. You would have been better off to not apply at all.

Here are some tricks you can use to tighten up your writing.

Read it aloud. This means actual spoken words, not reading silently. I read every line of every letter and résumé I send to my clients because it works. It isn’t exciting, and the first few times you read aloud to yourself it will feel a little silly, but it will help. You will identify poor writing, poor or wrong word choices, and redundancy.

Get away from it. A little time between writing and proof helps a lot. Write it, save it, and step away. Come back later or the next day and read it after doing something else. Write, walk the dog, proofread – in that order.

Print it. I don’t like using paper and ink when I don’t have to, but a hardcopy version will give you a different perspective. Try changing the setting, too, by taking your paper to a different room or to a coffee shop. You will see opportunities for improvement.

Read it backwards. Get a ruler and read line by line from back to front, using the ruler to keep your place. This will change the context and you will notice bad punctuation, words and other errors.

Enlist help. Doesn’t everyone know a spelling and grammar freak? If you do, ask for a reading. It’s always easier to spot someone else’s mistakes than your own.

Remember that a single error on your résumé can get you discarded into the “No!” pile. Take the time and make the effort to have your very best work representing you in the career marketplace. Nothing less will do.

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See The Thank You Letter of Doom for an account of a job search blowout. The letter killed all hope.

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Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He can help you create and market yourself with error-free documents.

Volunteerism: 6 Thoughts to get You to Yes!

Volunteering can do a lot more than fill the time (and your résumé) while you search for a paying gig. Here are six considerations to make volunteerism work better for everyone. As I write this, I also hope that it inspires you to help now.

Get into it. If you decide to volunteer, work hard to make a difference. Non-profits that give you the chance to contribute have very limited resources, including time. They don’t need someone who is not committed. They need help.

Match your volunteerism to your skills. If you are an accountant, look for opportunities to use your accounting skills. Are you a marketing person? That non-profit could probably use you to improve its social media program. The idea is this: you can make a large impact by doing what you do best. Someone needs to work the serving line at the soup kitchen – and that role is very important – but many can do that job, while few can audit the 2013 financials. What is the opportunity cost of a certified project manager cleaning pots in the kitchen while she could be managing an important initiative?

TIP: Check www.Catchafire.org for skills-based pro bono opportunities (I have done two projects through them, and they are great!). www.Volunteermatch.org is another resource for skills-based volunteer opportunities. Are you a member of a faith community? Check there, too. LinkedIn offers a new volunteerism page. Finally, some towns and cities have local volunteer opportunity directories. There is a lot you can do!

Getting out of the house will help you. One of the bigger problems of unemployment and under-employment is the isolation and feelings of inadequacy that come with it. Find a role that gets you out into a professional setting where you can interact with other people. The contact will help you and the organization, and it will give others the chance to learn more about you. Obviously, you will build your network, too.

Positive feedback fuels motivation. Think about it, who doesn’t like some recognition for a job well done? Here is a not-so-secret: non-profits can’t give you money, but they are very appreciative of all volunteers. They will tell you how much they value you, and that will make you feel great, and that will make you want to do more – and do it better – in every area of your life.

You will have fresh stories. Good stories are the secret to a great résumé and interviewing experience. When you can tell about an accomplishment in a compelling, convincing, high-energy way in an interview, the hiring manager will sense your genuineness and credibility. That can only help. Won’t it be better to have a fresh 2014 experience, rather than a stale story from a few years ago, when you sit and answer the questions?

Treat your volunteerism like a job. Your professionalism and skills use will make a difference in how you see yourself and how you sell yourself for a paying job. If you are using all of your professional skills to benefit the non-profit organization and its constituents, you will feel much better about selling the experience as valid and relevant when you market yourself for a paid position.

This could be #7, but I thought it too obvious to treat it that way. No matter how tough your situation , there are others in much tighter spots. They need your help. Go do it, and get ready to make your own list about the value of volunteerism.

One Failure, One Weakness

Everyone hates interview questions that focus on failure. We don’t like to admit to our weaknesses. We are trying to sell ourselves, after all, so why would we want to discuss any of that? The uncomfortable reality, though, is that you will likely be asked one or two questions that get you talking about something other than your victories. You need one failure and one weakness story ready to answer these questions and their variants.

The good news is that you really only need credible examples of one failure and one weakness. Most interviewers are not going to keep drilling for negatives. One great answer to illustrate each kind of question will serve you well, and you can spend the rest of your time and energy preparing your victory stories.

You might hear the questions like this:

“When did you fail to achieve your goals?”

“Tell me about a time that you missed a deadline.”

“Tell me about a time you had to bring bad news to your boss?”

“What are you not good at?”

“What weakness are you working on?”

Answering these questions is easy if you know how. Actually, it is a lot like answering a more positive question in that you want to tell a story with a positive outcome. The difference is that you are starting with a negative and explaining how you learned from it, made changes or compensated, and how you have learned and grown from the experience.

For example, you might say something like this:

Early in my tenure with my current company, I was given a project to revamp our customer follow-up processes. My boss estimated that it would take about two weeks to complete, but he gave me three weeks. My mistake was that I delayed starting the project for a few days. When I dug into the details, I realized that it was more like a four week project as there were people and resources needed that were not immediately available. (Failure Admitted)

After that experience, I made an important change. Now, I review the details of every project that comes my way as soon as it is assigned. I work to identify resources, potential roadblocks and any other concerns right away. (What you learned)

I never made that mistake again. I recently completed a $200,000 budget project two weeks early and was recognized with a “Chairman’s Thanks” award. (Example of Improvement)

To explain a weakness, give an example of how it manifested itself, what you learned, how you compensate or changed, and an example of success. Use the above framework to craft this answer.

Everyone makes mistakes and nobody is great at everything. Smart people reflect on and learn from them. If you can tell this story well, you will have nothing to fear from these interview questions. Think, prepare and practice for success.

There is a lot more interview advice available right here!

See Question 1: Tell me about yourself. — Question 2: Why do you want to work here? — Question 3: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.

Question 4: When have you failed? — Question 5: Why did you leave? — Question 6: Where will you be in five years?

Bill Florin is a Certified Employment Interview Professional and President of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Annual Review Lemonade

Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.

Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.

Everyone hates annual reviews, right? Many are dealing with the process now, either writing their self-evaluations or thinking and writing about their employees (or both). The whole effort takes a lot of time, and many see it as just a necessary hoop that must be jumped through to placate the HR people to get to the raise on the other side. Here is another way to look at it: Use the time to capture the history of your best work.

Annual reviews are often the best source of information for people to use when writing résumés, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters. It’s also a terrific resource to refresh one’s memory before a job interview. As a pro résumé writer, I love it when clients have reviews available as there will be solid and quantifiable information to include in the career marketing package.

Here are a few compelling points that should change your mind about annual reviews.

It’s a paid mini-résumé writing session. Think about the résumé creation process. You have to sit down and think about the work you have done and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Isn’t that what happens when you do your self-review? You are writing about your year and putting your work in the best possible light to earn a big, fat, bell-ringing raise. Your employer is paying you to write this year’s section of your résumé.

You have access to information. When you write a résumé after leaving an employer, you may or may not have access to the data you need to tell your story. How much was that sales increase in 2009? You have access to information now that you can include in your review, and nobody will think twice about you researching it. If asked, you say, “I’m writing my self-review.” Done!

You get documented feedback from your boss. Many people complain that the only good feedback that they get is at review time. If that is you, capture this information and use it later if needed. Positive quotes can be showcased in a cover letter or (sparingly) in a résumé.

Get copies and bring them home. Be a freak about this! Ask for or make hardcopies of your completed, delivered reviews (with your boss’s comments and scores). Bring them home now and file them where you will find them later. Gather previous year’s reviews if you don’t have them.

Keep this in mind and use the annual review process as your time to document your year. Annual appraisal lemons can be squeezed into résumé lemonade later.

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it. Also, be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of new stories. Thanks!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. After writing hundreds of résumés, he knows the value annual reviews in the résumé writing process.



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