10 Year End Tweaks & Tips

Reindeer GuyWhat would the end of the year be without lists? Best books, worst movies, most dramatic failures, the most influential people; the list of lists goes on. In that spirit, but hopefully much more useful, are some quick tips and tweaks that you can complete in a few minutes each.

  1. How is your profile photo? If you aren’t happy with your headshot that you use for LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites, take a moment during the holidays to take a new one. You will probably be dressed nicely and with other people, and everyone has a camera, so do it. Don’t wear the reindeer sweater!
  2. Scroll through your LI contacts with this question in mind: “What good work do I remember about this person doing on which I can base a LinkedIn recommendation?” Start at Z in your contacts for a change, and work your way from the bottom. Write the recommendation. It will be a wonderful holiday gift that will be appreciated much more than the Scooby Doo Chia Pet from Walgreen’s.
  3. Review just your current job’s block in your LinkedIn profile. What have you done this year that isn’t included. Update this and your résumé with your 2012 accomplishments.
  4. Again, review your contacts. Whom have you not spoken with in a long time? Send a note or make a call. Check in. Keep your network alive. A “Happy Holidays!” wish is always a great reason call.
  5. Invest some of your downtime (New Year’s Day, perhaps) taking inventory of your volunteer work. You haven’t done any? Check Catchafire or VolunteerMatch for ideas, or look close to home. The Rotary, Lions, faith communities, and the Boys & Girls Clubs are great places to start.
  6. Start that blog you have been thinking about. WordPress and other sites couldn’t be easier to use. You have great ideas to share. What are you waiting for?
  7. Check your privacy settings in your social media accounts. Are they still appropriately set for your needs? While you’re at it, change your passwords to something more secure than 123456.
  8. Update your signature block in your email account. Be sure that it reflects your professional brand as it should and that all information is current.
  9. Actively participate in a different LinkedIn or Quora conversation once a day for a week. See what it does for your thinking, creativity and networking.
  10. Drop the cash for a box of personal business cards. 123Print and Vista Print are good, cheap sources to get your personal networking cards printed.

What are you working on? Do you have other ideas for quick-hit tweaks for the final days of the year? Please share them.

Do you want to know more about Catchafire? Read about my experience here.

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.

How’s Your Lead

All writers know that stories that are going to be read need to start with a great lead. Those first few sentences, the first paragraph, must grab the reader’s attention. It’s true for newspaper articles, online stories and longer work. It’s also true for résumés.

In On Writing Well, the classic on non-fiction writing by William Zinsser, the author says this: “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead” (p. 9).

How is the first sentence of your résumé relative to this high standard? Go ahead, read it. Read it out loud. Does it say anything about you that will make the reader want to continue? Is it a true description of you and your accomplishments, or is it vague, generic hash?

Recruiters will make a decision to continue reading based on the first half of the first page. You have only a handful of words and a small number of lines to make your case and keep yourself in the hunt for consideration.

Try this: print a copy of your resume without your name at the top. Give it to a close friend or family member who knows you well. Ask that person to read it. What’s the reaction? Is it what you expected?

The first 100 words or so are some of the most important in your job search. Are they as influential and hard-working as you would like? Does sentence one flow and encourage the reader to move to number two and three? If not, get the red pen, eliminate the goo and make it sharp. Every word counts!

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. If you do any writing, get Zinsser’s book!

3 Military to Civilian Career Tips

Army soldiers run computer networks. Airmen lead people to maintain complex aircraft. Marines lead communications efforts in the military and with civilian populations. Every job in the military has characteristics that translate to the civilian workplace. Clearly identifying them and being able to tell the story will be a big part of any successful military to civilian transition. Here are a few pointers to make that easier.

Keep records. A military service person will always be able to get copies of service records. I am talking about these but more detailed records of the work that has been done. I recently spent time working with a client who served in the Army in Iraq, where he was responsible for running his company’s computer network and ensuring that it was secure and available. We spent time discussing the size of the network, the number of users, any special configurations used and other details. Without sharing anything classified, I was able to get a good picture of what he did and described it in his résumé. He has had success in his civilian search.

Think about the next step. The sailor who has a goal for civilian employment can be thinking about the work that she is doing in the Navy and how it is similar to jobs outside of the service. The military is full of jargon and abbreviations that need to be translated into civilian-speak. Read civilian job postings and understand their descriptions, qualifications and requirements. Connect the dots in your résumé, describing how what you did on that destroyer is exactly what the ABC Company in Scranton is looking for.

Start building a network. It is easy to get caught up in the insulated world of the military, only to come out at the other end without connections in the outside world. Start working on it right away. There are many people and civic organizations that want to help you and get to know service members. Many are veterans themselves and they will help when the enlistment is over.

Thanks for your service, veterans! Feel free to ask questions or share other tips in the comments below.

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company and served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Busyness and a Better Tomorrow

“Busyness that moves you towards a goal and a better place is a good busy.”

All right, this is not the most profound thing ever spoken, but it worked for a client yesterday. I started working with a new person and she is in a tough place. She left her employer of eight years in the spring for what she thought was a step up. It turned out the she signed on with a maniac for a boss, someone not opposed to micro-management and public humiliation. The boss seems to enjoy it.

What is an employee to do?

In this case, my client has endured so much abuse after so much previous success that she seemed paralyzed and felt trapped. Unable to think and afraid to say the wrong thing, she has become physically ill from the environment. Finally, she did something about it and called me.

As we walked through the steps of how I could help her, I learned more and made some suggestions for her to move her search forward. After the conversation she commented, “I’m going to be busy this afternoon.” That’s when I came out with the line at the top, and she liked it. Here’s why.

When we are faced with a difficult situation, one that seems limiting and hopeless, even a small step can make a big difference. One or two activities that lead away from today’s pain and towards a better tomorrow get the mind realizing that all is not lost. The abusive boss is not a permanent fixture. The employee is one day closer to firing that monster.

If you feel like my client, like your situation is terrible and you don’t know what to do, think and act. What do you have to do to improve your situation? What small step can you take today and tomorrow and the next day? If your goal is to find a new job, break it down into smaller pieces, including things that you can do now. Here are a few examples:

“Tonight I am going to take one hour to write down my accomplishments from the last year and the things that make me marketable.”

“This weekend I am going to update my résumé with my accomplishments.”

“Today I am going to reconnect with two colleagues from my last job to strengthen my network.”

Every action will make you feel better and more able to tolerate today’s situation while you lay the foundation for tomorrow’s change. Activity leads to options, options to hope, and hope to change. Plan your escape and get busy on those goals!

Do What You Can

“10 Things You Can Do Today to Master the Universe.” “Do These Three Things to Live to 100.” Those are headlines that social media and content marketers would recommend. I get it. Suggesting that you should do what you can isn’t as sexy. Maybe it’s even dull, but let me explain.

I had a conversation with a person who was very down about her circumstances and her chances to improve her situation. Listening to her, you would believe that everything was wrong in her life. She had no skills that anyone would want. Her options were bad and none.

What I was seeing – an articulate, professional person – and what I was hearing did not match, leading me to ask, “So what things have you done well in your life? What have you done that people have praised and thanked you for?” Surprise! This same person who moments later had nothing positive to say was telling me about how she was so good at her last job that clients asked for her specifically and her boss publicly commented that she was “her best person.” She was the firefighter, sent in to fix problems created by other far less competent coworkers.

Where did the disconnect come from? How did she come to see herself as having so little to offer when others felt otherwise and had told her so? Here are two possibilities.

Sometimes our immediate circumstances and recent defeats cause us to think that we have changed for the worse. Maybe I’ve lost it, or maybe the world has changed around me and I have not kept up. There could be some truth to that, especially if you are talking about a technical skill in a fast moving industry, but there are some talents that we all have that don’t just disappear. Things like critical thinking, communication and relationship building skills are examples.

It could also be that some people just give up too easily or need some encouragement. If you need that encouragement, connect with the people in your life who can give it. If you see someone doing something well or know that someone needs a boost, offer those positive words. You can’t know how important they will be to someone who so desperately needs them.

We all hit rough spots, but we also have plenty to offer. We may never be a CEO of a top company or an inductee into a Hall of Fame, but we are all good at something. Figure out what that thing is and work at it. Forget about the things that you can’t and will never do. You are more likely to find success and satisfaction in doing what you can than wasting time and emotional energy dwelling on what you can’t.

Try this: 1)Set an achievable, realistic goal. 2)Do it. 3)Celebrate. 4)Repeat.

Before you know it, your negativity will be in the past and your self-esteem will be giving you the fuel to win.

Some thoughts on encouragement: 100% Sustainable

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company

Accountability Time: Maybe it is You

“I am working as hard as I can, and my goals stay just out of reach.”

“The economy is so tough. There just aren’t any jobs.”

“Everybody wants perfection, and they just won’t give me a chance.”

Have you ever found yourself saying these things, or something similar? I hear them a lot.

There can be truth in each of these statements. There is more competition for jobs than ever before. Employers are very picky and careful in their hiring processes. Sometimes working hard just isn’t enough. But is that all there is to it? As someone who is very self-critical, let me suggest that the problem could be you. Before you get mad at me, I am not suggesting that you or anyone else has some intrinsic defect that can’t be addressed. I am suggesting that there are things that you can examine and act upon that could make a difference in the trajectory of your life. Here are a few.

Your Work Quality. Whether you are employed or between jobs, the quality of your work is more important than ever. A single spelling mistake on a résumé or LinkedIn profile could mean the difference between an interview or rejection. The quality (and quantity) of your work on the job must be great. If you can’t or won’t do it well, there is someone else who will.

Your Relationships. As you network in professional settings and engage in relationships with those around you – in your home, with your friends, in your faith community and other organizations – are you giving more than you get? Are you willing to and actually giving everything you can to these relationships, creating bonds that will last, or something less? If you could be giving more, do it. Self-centeredness will lead to a very lonely place.

Your Goals. When you get up in the morning and head out the door, are you doing it for the right reasons? Is your work something that energizes and engages you, something that allows you to use your skills in a meaningful way? Do you look forward to seeing your co-workers and telling your friends and family about your accomplishments? If yes, it sounds like you are in a great place. If no, if your reason for going is just for the paycheck, it may be time to make a change.

Your Environment. What fills the world around you? Do you spend time on activities that build you up, or waste it in pass times that break you down? Some time spent in self-development, through reading, education, faith activities and other pursuits will pay dividends that won’t come from another hour of reality TV.

How Badly Do You Want It? In the end, nobody can want you to succeed more than you. Your family, friends and mentors certainly want you to do well, but you must want it more. You are responsible for yourself and your performance.

So, how badly do you want it? What does success look like in your life? What will you do in the next few minutes, hours and days to move towards that vision? You are accountable to yourself, like it or not. Think about these ideas, and give yourself that uncomfortable but crucial conversation that is a necessary part of change. Do it today!

Happy Thoughts

Actually, it’s not just thoughts, but our actions and our relationships that make us truly happy. According to the premise of the documentary Happy, a film that has (here it goes) happily made its way to Netflix streaming, our happiness is determined according to this mix: 50% genetics (you’re born that way), 10% circumstances (that new Rolex won’t make much difference) and 40% our own choices. In other words, our actions and decisions play a huge role in determining if we are walking around with a frown or grinning with glee.

As the film explains, the man pulling the rickshaw in India is as happy as the average American living in relative splendor. The Himba tribe people in Namibia have no physical wealth, but have the deep connections of family and culture that have endured millennia. They love their lives. Everyone is family, and when one is hurting, they all feel the pain. These examples and others make the film’s case.

The flip side of the coin is brutal, ugly and bleak. Illustrating unhappy is the profile of the Japanese career man who dies of karoshi, literally working himself to death, dropping dead upon receiving news of a quality problem back at the plant. Sudden cardiac arrest and instant death have become all too common in a culture that expects 3,000+ hour work years (Do the math. It’s a lot of time.) and the smallest number of vacation days in the industrialized world. (Incidently, karoshi is most common on Sundays and at the beginning of the Japanese fiscal year in April. Apparently, the thought of returning to the office on Monday morning or facing tough new quotas can kill a guy, and it’s mostly guys.)

Happiness, ultimately, is a choice. We can choose to connect with and nurture healthy, meaningful relationships with others. Family and community that act like family make all the difference.

We can play. Or we can work ourselves to death.

We can enjoy the intrinsic pleasures of activities and relationships. Or we can chase the latest brands and get ourselves into debt trying to impress the world with our bling (until we find that nobody cares).

We can care for each other, serve each other, and build a life that matters. Or we can focus solely on ourselves, wondering why that 10% isn’t making us truly happy.

Do something for yourself that could change the way you see the world, your work, your relationships, your spirituality and everything else important. See the film.

Also see this: Thank Your Way to Happiness

Bill Florin is the President and Owner of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

Your Résumé is Foundational

60 Minutes ran a piece profiling the Platform to Employment program in Fairfield County, CT. In one clip, a lecturer tears a résumé in half, proclaiming it obsolete. Ironically, the same piece shows job seekers practice interviewing with the interviewer reviewing the résumé. Go figure. Articles appear from time to time proclaiming the death of the résumé. Did you waste your time and maybe some money creating and optimizing your résumé? No! It is a foundational piece of your search. Here’s why.

Your résumé is your mandatory ticket into meetings with recruiters and hiring managers. Can you imagine what would happen to the candidate who shows up empty-handed for the interview? “Do I have a résumé? No. You can Google me instead and find my web presence.” This would likely be the shortest and most awkward interview of all time.

[See my series of interviewing advice stories: Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, One Question and Awareness & Adaptability.]

Your résumé is a marketing document. The document tells your story and allows others to present and introduce you to others. I frequently get requests that sound like this: “A friend of mine asked me to send him my résumé so that he could pass it along to his boss.” A LinkedIn profile address might work in this scenario, but maybe not. Note that people are asking for résumés, not Klout scores.

The résumé writing process forces you to clarify your experiences and accomplishments. This, in turn, makes you better prepared for interviewing. The hard work of thinking about your career, identifying the most important results and accomplishments, and putting it all into your résumé forces you to reflect upon, rank and organize your thoughts.

LinkedIn profiles are built off of your résumé. Let’s keep this simple and talk about LinkedIn. You can either upload your résumé and have the system automatically build your profile, or you can fill in blocks that look very much like a traditional chronological résumé. The “obsolete” résumé is the foundation of your profile.

[Get your free e-booklet: LinkedIn Start Up & Tune Up]

Keep that résumé sharp, polished and up-to-date. Be sure that it grabs the reader’s attention in the first few sentences. Don’t worry about it being obsolete. The old-fashioned résumé still has a lot of life and many uses.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

Awareness & Adaptability

Here is the tough truth about interviewing: every interviewer, company and day is different. The personalities of the people in the interview – whether in person, on the phone, or by video conference – will sway the encounter. You may have done all of your research and feel that you know the questions you are going to face, only to be disappointed and surprised by an unanticipated angle or a completely different line of questions. That’s where your awareness and adaptability become critical.

Awareness of Your History. Having a detailed awareness of your career history and accomplishments is mandatory. Only you know your story. If you have carefully reviewed your history as you wrote or refined your resume and have updated your LinkedIn profile with your best stuff, you have made a tremendous step in the right direction. By thinking about and reflecting on your accomplishments for these career marketing activities, you will help yourself to have the awareness, memories and stories ready to go for an interview.

Awareness of the Organization’s Culture. This important step is one that is often overlooked by job seekers. Most companies share a lot about their culture and priorities in very open and public ways. Read everything on the company’s career/employment web sites. If possible, get to know people in the organization and learn from them. Then take the step of thinking about how you can best craft your stories in a way that will resonate with your interviewer. Here is an example. Target Corporation lives by the motto “Fast, Fun & Friendly.” If you know this, you could consider how your career stories could be told in a way that show your quick and determined action to resolve a business problem or to exploit an opportunity while staying focused on customer service or employee engagement.

Adapting to the Question. You will have to take your stories and adapt them quickly during an interview. For example, you may be prepared with three stories of accomplishments and you might even have some thoughts of the order in which you would like to tell them. Your interviewer may ask a situational question that changes the order of your stories and the angle you take. Only by knowing your stories well will you be able to adapt. Your interviewer may ask, “Tell me about a time that you saved your company money and please be specific.” If you have a story that fits the question, you can tell the interviewer about the situation, your specific actions and the outcome. If you don’t have the stories memorized and ready, you may stumble through this question and give a weak or poorly told example.

Adapting to the Atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, every interview will be different, and you need to be ready. You could face a one-on-one interview, a small group or a large panel. The interview may be conversational or very formal. It might even include numerous introductions and short interactions. Your emotional intelligence receptors must be on full alert to understand the dynamic and to adapt as needed. By knowing your material and your stories very well, you can devote more of your energy to this critical element and less to the hard work of recalling your stories.

You need to know your stories and must be ready to share them in detail and in a way that addresses the question you face and in a way that is appropriate for the environment. Make the effort to review and reflect on your performance so that you will be ready to adapt as needed. The work that you do will be worth it.

Other articles to help you prepare to interview:

Question 5: Why did you leave?

Question 4: When have you failed?

Question 3: Your greatest accomplishment?

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Service Company.

Thank Your Way to Happiness

Thankfulness will make you happy. Some may think it works the other way, if I am happy I will be thankful, but the first sentence is correct. The simple act of finding things to be thankful for and dwelling on them for a moment tends to wire our brains for happiness. We can literally build ourselves into happier beings by taking the time to be gracious.

Robert Emmons of University of California, Davis completed a ten-year study on the positive psychology topic of gratitude. The product was a book called Thanks! [You can link to an online version here] Early in the book he shares a compelling finding. Emmons and a colleague conducted an experiment in which they divided their subjects into three groups. The first was to keep a journal of things for which they were grateful, the second recorded things that made them mad, and the third control group did neither.

After a few weeks, the journals came back. The gracious group recorded thoughts about beautiful weather, favors received and the like. The negative group had notes about rude drivers, hard days at the job and other indignities. Then the subjects were given a happiness test. The gracious group was 25% happier than the control group. It’s no surprise that the negatively-focused people were the unhappiest.

The study goes on, and you can read it yourself, but the point is clear. Being grateful leads to being a happier person. This idea may be taught and reinforced by your faith tradition (and may lead to a richer experience), or you may have no faith at all. You may come from a long line of pessimists or a home where positivity prevailed. It doesn’t matter. This is one of those cases when your action affects your attitude and you get to choose.

Choose gratitude and happiness will not be far behind. And as you navigate your life, career and job search, that positive energy will come through, helping you become someone with whom others want to work and spend time. It’s your choice and you can start right now.

Encouragement: More ideas on the psychology or work and leadership.

Thank You Notes: The what and how to go along with this idea of why to be thankful.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Your comments and ideas are welcome.