Archive for the ‘Job Search’ Category

Congratulations — you have a job offer! All those months (years?) of job hunting; sending targeted resumes and cover letters to hiring managers showing them how you can impale their nasty little dragons on the head of a spear; enduring the smirks of passersby on the street after a networking event because you forgot to take off your name tag. You’ve been offered the job you wanted and a salary that will allow you to pay your Verizon bill from 3 months ago and stop rationing toiletpaper.

Now what? Do you just take the salary that’s offered, ‘cuz you’re just so happy to have the job? Do you stammer, “Do you think maybe you could go just a wee bit higher?” I think you know the answer to that. Keep in mind that every job/salary affects your financial situation for years to come, probably for the rest of your life (how’s that for pressure?).

Here are some don’ts when it comes to negotiating salary.

  • Don’t be too humble. I am, of course, assuming that you wouldn’t literally bend down to the floor and chant, “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” But sometimes people are so grateful to have a job offer, especially after a long and difficult search, that they aren’t assertive enough about what they’re worth. You wouldn’t be getting hired if the employer didn’t think you have a lot to offer, so you want to approach the negotiation process with an “I’m awesome, you’re awesome” mindset. Remember the whole “mutual benefit” thing.
  • Don’t take the first offer without negotiating at all. Your new employer expects you to negotiate. If you don’t, it makes you look  a. desperate,  b. insecure,  c. gutless,  and  d. kinda goofy. Not a good way to start off in a new job. Even if the company has a tight budget, if they’re doing well enough to hire a new employee, they have some leeway in the salary range. Even if it’s a nonprofit, don’t assume they can’t be flexible. The range may be smaller for a 5-person nonprofit than for a Fortune 500 company, but there still is one (range, that is). I did once get hired years ago for a position with the City of Boston that boasted a non-negotiable salary of $14.63 an hour (how the hell did they come up with THAT figure??), but that’s pretty rare. So negotiate if you want your new employer’s respect!
  • Don’t be out in left field with your counteroffer. Do your research so you know what your market value is, based on the position, your level of experience, and the city you’re in. The typical salary range for a software developer is a bit different in New York City than Butte, Montana. Look on sites like salary.com, glassdoor.com and payscale.com for info.
  • Don’t give too specific a salary when asked for your requirement. “I figured out I need $53,400 to be able to pay my bills” is not a good answer. Give a wide range; $50 – 60K is the range I’m focusing on” is much better.
  • Don’t give your current or recent salary in your cover letter or in an interview (don’t give a fake one, either). It’s really not the employer’s business what you made before; it’s their business what they should pay you based on your experience. If asked this question, give your target range instead (be upfront about it; don’t pretend your target range is your recent salary).
  • If you have absolutely no clue what salary range they’re offering by the second interview, ask (something like, “Could you give me an idea what the salary range is, so we know we’re in the same ballpark?”). If it’s outlandishly below your range, say so (not in those exact words). No point in wasting your or their time if they’re paying $30,000 below what you need to buy cat food. That goes double if the interview is in another state.
  • If you find out when you get an offer that the salary is just a tad lower than your range, express enthusiasm about the job and see if you can negotiate up. If not, try to negotiate other benefits – early salary review, bonus, extra vacation time, tuition reimbursement, discount card for Whole Foods, time-share in the Cayman Islands, date with the sexy admin assistant guy, etc. Just kidding about the last three. But you knew that.
  • Don’t assume the offer is carved in stone if it’s just verbal. Once you have a salary that’s mutually agreeable, get it in writing.

Spider-Man has a job interview. He knows the interviewer won’t just ask him about his work history, but will also probably do a behavioral interview, i.e. ask him to give examples of times when he saved the world from multi-limbed freaks or greedy uber-ambitious guys who climbed out of  the TV sitcom hellpit. Here are some of the behavioral interview stories he’s prepared:

  • a time when he solved a problem –  “I had to figure out how to save a trainload of people without splitting myself in half, so I focused on the problem and used my finger to create a rope….”
  • a story about handling conflict – “When my best friend wanted to kill me ’cause I killed his father and stole his girlfriend, I successfully negotiated a win-win before I knocked him unconscious.”
  • a time when he defused a potentially volatile situation – “I de-limbed Alfred Molina as he was about to destroy a lot of buildings….”
  • his strategies for handling stress – “To keep my general stress level low, I do some deep breathing, climb walls, and bungee-jump without the bungee.”
  • an example demonstrating how well he worked on a team – “I divided up world-saving responsibilities with my alter-ego based on our different strengths.”
  • a time when he initiated a project or strategy – “I started the Spidey’s-Not-the-Bad-Guy Fan Club.”
  • an example of when he juggled multiple priorities – “Well, I had to save three people who were about to fall to their death, so I perched two of them on the roof….”

A career portfolio is always a good idea as part of your job search package, to trot out at interviews to showcase your accomplishments. A job search show-and-tell, as it were.  And no, it’s not just for artists, writers and celebrity bachelor party cake decorators.

Samples of your professional accomplishments, skills, problems you’ve solved, and dragons you’ve beheaded can illustrate what you’re talking about in an interview in a powerful way. Being able to say, “…and I have an example of that if you’d like to see it,” can win you big fat brownie points in a job interview.

Of course, the interviewer may say, “no thanks, I don’t need to see your headless dragon,” but even if they don’t end up seeing anything you’ve got in there, the process of putting your portfolio together is still really helpful.  Going through your materials and work samples can help you a. prepare for the interview,  b. figure out where the hell your career is going,  c. figure out where you want it to go,  and  d. make you feel really good about yourself, because your accomplishments are all laid out in front of you and scattered all over the kitchen floor.

There are many materials you want to include in your career portfolio (more about that in a later post); here are some things you’ll want to leave out:

  • Your dating site photo; the one with the boob shirt. Really, for that matter, any photo unless you’re a model or actor. In addition to being inappropriate, it’s redundant – you’re sitting right in front of them.
  • Different versions of your resume. What is the interviewer supposed to do, pick the one that best matches the color of their walls? Choose the version that’s most relevant to that position/the same one you sent them (ahem – they should be one and the same), and include that one in your portfolio.
  • Stuff in general not relevant to the position for which you’re interviewing. You don’t want the interviewer to say, “Wait a minute. Which position are you interviewing for again?”
  • Reference letters old enough to be on yellowed paper. I don’t really have to spell out the reasons for that one, do I?
  • Confidential or proprietary information, without permission from the company or clients involved. Again, don’t really need to spell that one out.
  • Personal information that a prospective employer doesn’t need to know about. Even if you think the fundamentalist revival you helped coordinate and the tongues you spoke in while there might somehow be relevant to that office manager position, leave the leaflets you passed out at the mall out of your portfolio.
  • Anything that doesn’t demonstrate a success. If you designed marketing collateral for a huge fund raising event, you’re asked about the results, and only 3 people showed up, that’s not going to look too good for you. Showcase successes, not disasters.

Guest post on my talented friend Andy’s blog, Laughing in Purgatory:

http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/2010/12/job-interview-praying-aint-gonna-help.html

straitjacket guyA comedic look at job search and success – “What Color is Your Parachute” meets “This Is Spinal Tap,” if you will. This combination of comedy and advice gives helpful tips to anyone who is searching for a job, or hoping to hold on to the one they have. Topics include contemplating your navel to find your life’s work, idiot-proofing your job search, online disasters, strategic schmoozing, resume do’s and don’ts, interviewing horrors and how to handle them, how to hold on to your job, reflections on bizarre jobs, and weird work stories.

http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/what-color-is-your-straitjacket-a-pocket-guide-to-getting-and-keeping-a-job-without-going-wacko/14265245

Jimmy Stewart meltdown
1.   Employers ARE hiring, despite the common misconception that everyone’s in Bermuda.

2.   There’s less competition, since a lot of job seekers think everyone’s in Bermuda.

3.   It’ll keep your momentum going, and make it less likely you’ll hop into a bathtub full of water and plug in your electric toothbrush.

4.   All those holiday parties are great opportunities to network. And scarf down free food.

5.   You’ll soon get sick of staring at the TV and watching Jimmy Stewart have a meltdown.

Here is a guest post from Lindsey Donner, Lifestyle Editor for http://igrad.com, “the College Student to College Graduate Resource.” She also blogs regularly on writing as a career at http://lindseydonner.com.

Few things in life are more mind-numbing than an extended job hunt. Even if your downtime between jobs peaks at just a few weeks of unemployment, you’re liable to feel quickly diminished, dehumanized, and exhausted within the first week.

There is also the added insult of the career blogs’ intimation that your failure is due, at least in part, to your inability to leave the house and network, network, network. But who wants to network when you could be in your bed, face ablaze with the glare from your laptop, eating cereal with your hands? Exactly: the kind of people who are already employed.

But it’s possible to improve your odds of joining that exclusive club while also rebuilding your dangerously low levels of self-esteem, even when you’re in a slump and seemingly prospect-less. In fact, the worst thing you can do is remain completely disengaged; everything’s harder when you’re rusty and out of the loop.

If you’re reading this in bed right now, I suggest you get up, brush your teeth, and start tackling this list. At best, it’ll help you get a job. At worst, it’ll make you feel better about yourself. What’s to lose?

  • Create a job portfolio. If you’re a designer, you have already done this. But writers, marketers, programmers, and others can benefit from an on- or offline collection of their biggest professional hits. Hints: marketers will want to include numbers and case studies; programmers, a code repository.
  • Find a volunteer gig that matches your skills (or improves them). Volunteering: it makes you feel good. It makes other people feel good. It gets you out of the house. But for the unemployed, it can be a life raft: you might meet your next boss, or find your true calling, or decide to switch career paths, or learn a new skill (like software that the local arts council asks you, their office volunteer, to work with). You will almost certainly have a new resume bullet and renewed confidence.
  • Clean your (virtual) house. You “never” use LinkedIn. (Really? It’s a great tool for targeted job searching.) Or maybe you “never” update your blog, or your Twitter account. And you definitely “never” thought of revamping your resume. Do me a favor: make a list of all of your online accounts, and then work down the list, with the most professional profiles at the top. Then, go through and improve each and every one. Update your resume on LinkedIn. Recommend a colleague.
  • Go back to school, this time for free. Or almost free. There are several obvious, awesome, FREE or low-cost ways for the jobless to acquire new skills. Let me name a few: (1) internships; (2) industry blogs; (3) online skill-building webinars; (4) community colleges; (5) other local venues, like libraries and community centers, churches, etc. Pick up a local newspaper and get involved. If you can’t part with your laptop, find out what other people know that you don’t: how to use InDesign? How to write a press release? What? There’s a blog, course, or webinar with your name on it.

The bottom line, folks? Do something, and do it well, focusing not on your current situation but where you want to be in the next year—when the search finally ends and you climb out of bed.


 

Job search can be scary. Especially when your last unemployment extension is running out, you just used your last bit of savings to buy underwear because you don’t want to be picking your jockey shorts up off the floor when the elastic breaks in the middle of a job interview, and your Plan B has been blown to hell.

But no matter what your situation, it doesn’t work to operate from a place of fear, and let it make your decisions. The only time fear-based decision-making is a good idea is if a psycho starts shooting in the food court in the mall, and you make the decision to dive under the table instead of continuing to sit there and eat your mushroom omelette. Otherwise, letting fear rule your job search isn’t going to help you. Here are a few ways to avoid it:

  • Focus on the goals you’re shooting for. When you focus on your anxieties, they’re going to loom bigger and bigger until they crush you like a Brazil nut. Instead, dwell on what you want, where you want your career to go, and what you want to accomplish along the way, and allow yourself to believe it’s all attainable — because it is. Well, unless you want to be a Victoria’s Secret model and you look like Danny DeVito.
  • Brainstorm alternatives. If Plan B is dead in the water, then get creative. Without allowing yourself to analyze or censor your ideas, jot down a slew of options. I bet you’ll surprise yourself.
  • Be aware of when you’re scaring yourself. You know, all that negative stuff you say in your head that keeps the fear alive, like “No one is hiring now,” “If I don’t take just any crappy job, I’ll be unemployed forever,” “If I try to get what I want, I’ll end up homeless,” etc. Instead of collecting shopping carts and picking out your street corner …
  • … Replace your fear-based thoughts with power-based ones. Like, “I am in charge of my career,” “I have a lot of skills and experience that the right employer (for me) will value,” “I have the tools to succeed, and I will.” Come on, you can think of some more.
  • Practice visualization. Visualization is very powerful. As often as possible without crashing your car, picture yourself moving through your day in the job you want, doing the stuff you want to spend your time doing, interacting with terrific people, etc. Fill in as many details as you can — what specific projects you’d be working on, what your office or cube would look like, what you’d be wearing, the smell of fish on your co-worker’s breath after lunch — wait, maybe that’s a little too much detail. But you know what I’m saying. Allow yourself to feel the excitement and satisfaction you’ll feel when you’re in that job, and you’ll get there.


You (hopefully) know a lot of what to do when you and your last job have parted ways. Network, volunteer, join groups, do a targeted search, blah blah blah. Here are some things NOT to do when you’re not working:

  • Stay in bed (alone) until 2:00 p.m. If you’re not alone, then by all means go for it. Well, maybe not every day. You wouldn’t have enough energy left to do a job search. But staying in bed half the day alone is kinda like drinking alone – it’s more depressing and dysfunctional than fun. You don’t have to get up at six a.m. if you’re not a morning person and you don’t have any early appointments that day, but before 10:00 is probably a good idea (can you guess I’m not a morning person??).
  • Watch TV in the middle of the day. It may be tempting to catch up on Jerry Springer and see whose life sucks more than yours, but that’s not a habit you want to get into.
  • Spend hours looking at online job boards and applying for listed job openings. Yes, it’s easy (well, relatively speaking). Yes, it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something when you actually apply for jobs that are listed. But you know where that usually gets you, don’t you? That’s right, you’ll be sucked into the Job Seeker Vortex of the Apocalypse. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Eat all day. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one.
  • Spend a lot of time rearranging your underwear drawer. You may think, “Oh good, now I have time to do all the pesky household stuff I never have time for.” By all means, clean the house and use the opportunity to catch up on some of that other stuff, but don’t use it to avoid job search activities. If you’re spending more time alphabetizing your toiletries than doing job search stuff, you’re in trouble.
  • Staying up late every night. This goes along with the first one, of course, cuz if you’re out drinking or just up watching Nick at Nite, it’ll be hard to get up at a reasonable time. I fell into this trap when I wasn’t working – at one point, I was going to bed at 3  a.m. and getting up at 1:00 in the afternoon. Needless to say, I didn’t get a hell of a lot done.
  • Spend most of your time hanging out with friends. I don’t mean you shouldn’t see your friends, because they’re very important. But don’t go to a Hitchcock film in the middle of the day with your buddy and call it networking.
  • Spend hours on one cover letter. Maybe the first one for a particular type of job may take longer, and you always want to target your cover letters and take time to make them as likely as possible to elicit responses (and of course proofread!), but there is such a thing as going overboard. Mildly obsessive is okay, pathological is not.
  • Spend hours every day fooling around with your resume. Yes, it’s important to tailor it to the job you’re targeting, and it always is a work in progress to a certain point, but again you can take it too far. Don’t pick at it like a scab ’til it bleeds all over your laptop.
  • Go to one networking group event after another that has absolutely nothing to do with you. I must have said this before, but I’ll say it again – although networking is the most important way to spend your job-search time, and it’s good to open up to new interests, it doesn’t pay to compulsively and gratuitously attend events on topics you could care less about. If you’re into God, guns and ammo, don’t join the Society For Atheist Tree-Huggers.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff floating around lately about the flaming hoops job seekers are asked to hop through (one particularly interesting article can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-ryan/career-advice-teaching-pe_b_651880.html). Absurdly long online apps that ask you to describe the first time in your life you belched up your Gerber’s applesauce. Personality tests with statements to agree or disagree with, such as “I often hear voices that tell me to do bad things.” A hiring process that includes ten interviews, a request for a 20-page strategic plan, and a sword fight.

So what do you do if you really want the job, and your unemployment insurance barely supports your chocolate habit?

It’s up to you, but I personally think that any company that requires you to genuflect is probably not worth your talents. After all, you have a lot to offer, don’t you? Of course you do. So don’t assume you have no choice but to fall on your knees, bow your head to the floor and mutter, “I’m not worthy” because we’re in a crappy job market. And after all, if a company’s hiring process is that horrifying, how much worse would it be once you  actually work there??

Now, I understand why you might feel the pressure to just endure the snafus with which you’re presented. The job market is still kinda scary (though it’s starting to look up. Really.), and being unemployed is no fun. Believe me, I’ve been there. But you’re the only one who is in charge of your career, and if you base your choices on desperation, you’ll only end up screwing yourself. Which is never as much fun as… well, let’s not go there. Let’s just say that desperation is never a basis from which you want to operate. And finding a job is a mutual benefit situation, remember?