Archive for the 'skill' Category

Differentiate Your Way to the Interview

Cans of bubbly, brown sugar water. Big stores where they sell hammers, plywood and toilet seats. Men’s black dress socks.

What is the difference? Coke or Pepsi? Home Depot or Lowes? Gold Toe or, uh…

The difference is all about the message the marketing teams of these companies create and blast out to the world. They tell us, through their marketing channels, ads, promotions and sponsorships, what they want us to know so we can make a distinction and a purchase decision. This is exactly what everyone searching for a new job must accomplish, too.

As I write this, we are in the final week of June. All those fresh, young college graduates have hit the market, ready to share their stories of internships, advanced PowerPoint skills, and, you can bet, excellent written and verbal communication skills. They all present themselves so similarly that a random selection from the electronic resume pile is probably as effective a way to select candidates as any other. The dart throw might beat the stock (uh, employee) picking.

So how do you differentiate yourself so you don’t seem like everyone else? Use current, marketable, valued skills and examples of times you have used them. This has not changed, but many people do not understand this vital, core deliverable of the effective resume.

Let me put it simply. You must tell recruiters what makes you special and different, not the same as everyone else. Answer this question: Why you? If you can make the case, you have successfully differentiated your way in the recruiter’s (read: buyer’s) mind. That can lead to the interview, a series of successful conversation, and a job offer.

If you want to be the human equivalent of a black-and-white generic can of “Cola,” just list your responsibilities and call it a day. If you want to stand out with a distinctive message and value proposition, if you want to be something an employer wants to buy, sell yourself with accomplishments and results. If you can do it, the interviews will come.

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Bill Florin is president of Resu-mazing Services Company. He has written more than 500 resume packages for clients since 2009.

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The Critical Skills-Example Link

Skills Need Stories. Give Examples.

Skills Need Stories. Give Examples.

Employers look for people with specific skills. If you can write code, manage a project, or sell, you have a specific marketable skill. That’s obvious. What isn’t as obvious is the need to make the link in your résumé between the claimed skill and a clear example of using that skill. Here is how it is done. The story supports the claim.

If your résumé includes a skills summary section, it probably lists a dozen or so things that you know how to do. This gives recruiters a quick summary of what you have to offer, and most résumés should have this section. Your challenge is to tell a brief story further down in the experience section to explain how you have used the skill. The following are three examples.

Skill: Advanced MS Excel

Example: Created complex Excel workbook using macros and pivot tables to capture and calculate inventory values for over 2,500 unique items.

Skill: Project Management

Example: Served as project manager for $1.5 million, six-month safety improvement effort that included installation of new equipment and life-protection systems.

Skill: Writing

Example: Authored more than 100 individual articles over 18 months and generated over 1,000 visits daily to company blog site.

Use these examples to tell your own stories. Remember, if you cannot give examples of skills used, you probably aren’t very good at them (at least that’s what the recruiters will think). Specific stories of skills used add credibility. Review your résumé, read every skill claim, and ensure that you have at least one story for each to make your document more powerful and believable.

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Looking for more résumé writing tips? Search “resume” with this blog’s search bar for much more.

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Your Résumé Must Have These 8 Things: More great information for building a great résumé.

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.

 

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.

Five Reasons to Make One Decision: Catchafire

Tanzania flagI wrote in September about Catchafire, an organization that matches social-good enterprises with professionals looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities. I stepped forward to apply for some work and promised to tell you about it. Our project had a delayed start, but here’s the report (finally!).

The GLK Student Fund raises money and grants scholarships to needy and worthy students in Tanzania. GLK took a chance on me as a pro bono professional. My project included some important copywriting work. Here is what I discovered in the process.

  1. GLK, like so many other small non-profits, is driven by committed people looking to make a difference. As I worked with Gayle at GLK, it became obvious to me that she was putting every ounce of energy into her work meeting the needs of these students. Witnessing that energy, commitment and sacrifice was and continues to be an inspiration (especially on those low energy days that we all sometimes experience)
  2. These organizations value and respect the opinions and contributions of pro bono professionals. If you are feeling under-appreciated at work, grab one of these volunteer gigs. You will be a huge help and will feel better about your work, value and place in the world.
  3. Catchafire lets you filter and search for just the right project. Select your skill, filter by organizational mission, and get to work helping in a way that can stir your soul. The GLK work was a perfect match for me on several levels. Look and you’ll find one that works for you, too.
  4. After completing the project, I have stayed in touch with Gayle and we have been sharing ideas that have gone beyond the project. This has turned into a meaningful professional friendship. Who doesn’t like that?
  5. Doing this work allowed me to be creative and got me engaged thinking about something outside of my day-to-day. Before this project, I never would have known that the per capita income in Tanzania is less than $600 or just how difficult getting a decent education there can be. I can even point to the country on a map. What will inspire and challenge you?

What are your plans to do something different and meaningful in 2013? You don’t know who needs you until you look. I welcome any questions that you have and hope that you will share your experiences. Do something that really matters to celebrate the New Year!

Be sure to follow this blog and share your stories. Thanks for visiting!

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!

What If There’s Just One Question?

Many people make the effort to prepare for the job interview by considering potential questions, many of which have been covered in earlier pieces on this site (See the “Questions” series). But what if your interview consists of only one question? A friend conveyed a story of his experience about meeting with a top executive of a potential employer. The question: What are you good at?

My friend, being honest and humble, readily admitted that he did not handle this single question very well, but he took it as a learning experience. He is now ready to answer that one if he faces it again. How about you? We learn from our mistakes, but it is better to learn from the mistakes of others; it’s a lot less painful that way. What would you say if faced with this single question? Here are some ideas.

First, think about the things that are important to employers in your industry. It could be a special technology or trend for which you have developed a marketable skill. Be ready to weave that into your answer.

Second, consider the scope and sophistication of your reply. It should be appropriate to the level at which you are interviewing. If you are being considered for a top spot at the firm, your highlighted skills should be at a much higher level than the recent college graduate looking for her first job.

Third, build in examples, or at least short mentions to pique curiosity in the interviewer. For example, you could talk about your superb team building skills as demonstrated when you worked on your firm’s top XYZ account. This will give your interviewer the prompt to ask more about a topic that you want to discuss.

Finally, be sure that you have done you research to understand what is important to this potential employer. You have got to be able to demonstrate that you offer a solution to a problem. You offer skills and abilities that will meet the needs of the organization. You cannot know this if you don’t know anything about the company.

Important: This goes beyond the elevator pitch, which is a brief 30 second self-introduction. It must be concise but it the answer will be developed for a formal interview setting. Add more detail and context and develop it to encourage follow up dialogue.

Summarizing yourself and your career with a concise presentation will not be easy, but it will be worth the effort. You are good at something and likely many more than one thing. Ensure that telling your story about what makes you special one of your top skills.

If you found this helpful, see some other stories to help you deal with common interview questions.

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?