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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.

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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.

10 Social LinkedIn Things to Do Now

Your LinkedIn profile is more than an electronic résumé. LinkedIn is a social media site, and if you want to get the most out of it, you should be spending some time each day, or at least every few days, on the site. Activity creates visibility and connections. Punch through this list and figure out how you can be more effective while being LinkedIn.

1. Seasonal Greetings. As I am writing this, Christmas is just two days away. New Year’s Day is a week later. Scan your contacts list and send a note to say hello and share good wishes. Tip: Rather than typing the same statements over and over again, open your word processing program, type out a few greetings, and copy/paste from there. Easy!

2. Share News. Chances are that you work in an industry where something new is happening. If you see news stories that would be of interest to other people in your company and industry – any community with shared interests – post a link. IMPORTANT: Add a comment (a sentence or two) to your post to tell your network why you found the article valuable. Help them understand why you shared it and why one would want to spend time reading it.

3. Congratulate. This one should be obvious. You will see updates informing you that someone got promoted or landed a new job. Beginners: congratulate the person using that link. Pros: Send a private note, offering encouragement based on what you know about the person. Example: “You did such great work when we worked together at XYZ Company. I know that you will be amazing in this new job. Congratulations!”

4. Watch for Jobs for Others. Is there someone in your network who is looking for a new job? You might run across opportunities on LinkedIn and in other ways. Pass along these leads.

5. Participate in Groups. Participating is more than sharing a link to a story or promoting yourself. Read what others are sharing, get involved in discussions, and offer positive feedback. Part of the fun of social media is recognizing and being recognized for adding value. Give some love to others and they will do the same for you. Relationships start that way.

For 21 great tips on building a better LinkedIn profile, see 21-Point LinkedIn Check-Up. It’s the most viewed and shared article on this site.

6. Be Free with Knowledge. What are you good at? What are your areas of expertise? Monitor group discussions to offer ideas and advice when others ask for it. Your reputation can only get stronger for being so generous.

7. Ask Questions. If you are working through an issue, need advice, or just want to bounce ideas off of others, post a question to your network. You can do this as an update, to groups, or both. You might be surprised by the amount of help and engagement you get. Don’t forget to thank others who help you.

8. Be Gracious. Say thanks! When people endorse you, recommend you, recognize you, or help you in any way, say thank you. You can do this publicly. Better, send a private note thanking the person. Do both! Why not? You can never make a mistake by offering appreciation and thanks.

9. Recommend Businesses. This is especially true for smaller businesses that will care about your recommendation. Think about the businesses with which you have experience. Look for their LinkedIn company pages. Write recommendations that are specific about a product or service provided. This can lead to connections with the company and a more diverse network.

10. Recommendations & Endorsements. You should be doing these already, but if not, get going! When you write recommendations, be brief and specific about an accomplishment or quality about the person. Save your endorsements for people whose work you have seen.

What else are you doing with the service? How are you being social? Please share your ideas.

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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!

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Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Coach and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.

Seven Critical Cover Letter Checks

checkmarkBefore you send out another résumé, either electronically or physically, check your cover letter. Is it doing all that it can to make the case that you are the candidate they should consider most closely? Work this list every time.

1. Does it exist? Sometimes people ask if a cover letter is needed. Look at it this way: if two résumés detailing equivalent experience and qualifications arrive, and one is accompanied by a well-written letter than sells the candidate, who is more likely to get the call? A great letter can tip the scales in your favor. Do it!

2. Is it a proper business letter? This isn’t an email. Nor is it casual correspondence. Use a formal business letter format that includes the date, inside address, a colon (not a comma) after the greeting, and a professional closing.

3. Do you state your purpose? Your first paragraph should clearly state the position for which you are applying, the location where you want to work, and where you found the position advertisement. If you were referred by a person, state it plainly.

4. Do you make a customized pitch? The most important purpose of a cover letter is to sell you for the position. Imagine that you have two minutes with the hiring manager to explain why you should be hired. Write this. Tie your reasons to the qualifications, requirements, and perceived culture of the company. Answer, “Why should I hire you?” Your cover letter should be customized for every position for which you apply. More work, but it’s worth it.

5. Did you address obvious questions? Relocations and long-term unemployment experiences that will be questioned should be addressed. Develop a one-sentence explanation. Something like this can work: “After a large reduction in force with my last company due to industry contraction, I am ready to bring my skills, experience and business acumen to your organization to be part of a successful future.”

6. Did you say “thank you”? You might find it hard to believe, but many letters get sent without the common courtesy of thanks. Don’t let that be you.

7. You proofread, right? Employers rightfully assume that if you are sloppy in your job search – when you have all the time you need to get it right – you will be sloppy as an employee. Simple typos can kill your chances (see The Thank You Letter of Doom for a real horror story). Don’t let it happen to you.

Do you have cover letter success stories to share? Tell everyone about it in the comments below.

Work your cover letter hard and the effort will pay you back. Good luck!

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!