Posts Tagged ‘careers’

I’m reposting a post from awhile back, partly because it’s been a REALLY REALLY busy week already, and partly because I’m co-managing a job fair scheduled for next Wednesday, March 23, details at http://yourcareersource.com/careerf.htm, so I figure it’s apropos….


Job fairs can be helpful to you in your job search. While you can’t expect to go to a job fair and meet the Magic Job Search Genie who will grant you all your employment wishes, job fairs can be useful for networking (with other job seekers as well as employers), shmoozing with employers to get info on opportunities, and yes, even getting actual job leads.

However, as in any other professional and/or social situation in this life, there are some inappropriate job fair moves that will likely give you a bad rep. Here are some of them:

  • Dressing for a day at the beach. Even though you’re not actually at a job interview, if you don’t dress as though you are, no one will be impressed. I don’t care if it’s 95 degrees out and hailing stones the size of Rotweilers. You need to dress professionally for a job fair. Bring your job fair clothes in a (professional-looking) tote and change into them before you walk in, if you must.
  • Butting in line. It was rude in grade school, and it’s rude now. There are going to be lines before the employer tables, especially for the more popular companies. Deal with it.
  • Rambling on until the employer’s eyes glaze over. This is bad for several reasons (in addition to the eye-glazing). One, it’s much more effective to be focused on what you have to offer, and opportunities the company may have that fit what you have to offer. So practice your elevator pitch before you chat with employers. Two, it’s rude to take up too much time when there’s a line of other job seekers. Three, you don’t want the employer to think you’re a boring bag o’ wind. Being a boring bag o’ wind won’t help you get a job. Unless you’re a politician.
  • Accosting employers in the bathroom. Especially if they’re in a stall. Although come to think of it, standing next to you at a urinal is just as bad. I mean, come on. Let the poor guy piss in peace. You may think only a mentally challenged person would do this, but I’ve actually seen it, and the person who did it was clearly not mentally challenged. Horrifyingly clueless, surely, but not mentally challenged.
  • Ignoring your fellow job seekers. You’re not competing for the Stanley Cup. Every last one of you is unique in what you have to offer, and even if some of you are looking for similar positions, you’ll be much better off helping each other. That’s often how job seekers get good leads. You know, networking.
  • Being unprepared. Just as you would for an interview (yeah, I know you would), research each employer whose table you’re visiting. The company list and available positions are almost always available via whomever’s hosting the job fair, at least a few days prior to the event. Peer at the companies’ websites, look at the positions they’re trying to fill, and mention something specific about the company when you talk with the employer (you can prepare a cheat sheet beforehand). And of course, have your elevator pitch ready to go.
  • Asking dumb questions. This follows from the previous point – if you’ve done some research on the companies you’re interested in and you’re prepared, you’re not going to be asking questions like, “What does your company do?” or “Do you have any jobs that don’t require a criminal check?”


Here’s a sample post-interview thank you letter….

Dear Mr. Frankendater,

I’d like to thank you for meeting with me last Friday about the Horrifying Date position. I enjoyed learning about the services Bad Dates offers the non-discriminating woman, and I find your company’s philosophy fascinating.

I am very enthusiastic about this position, and I am confident that it’s a good match with the skills I have to offer. As we discussed, I have often been known to demonstrate behavior so objectionable that the response has consistently been spontaneous escape, often by jumping out of a moving car. And my unique move involving phlegm and a mouthful of mashed potatoes has elicited exactly the type of response Bad Dates strives to achieve.

Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Charlie Wanker Doobenfield

Here is a sample cover letter. Note that it includes the two key elements of an effective cover letter: why you give a flying jockstrap about them, and concrete examples of how you can help them fulfill all their wildest fantasies. Or at least some of them.

Dear Okra-Man,Super Broccoli

I’m very interested in joining your team at Vegan-Superheroes, Inc.  I recently read on veggieherochronicle.com about how your organization is looking to develop your green capabilities. As my particular superpower is emitting highly charged electromagnetic forces after consuming broccoli, I’m confident I would be a valuable addition to your team.

As you can see from my resume, I initiated chlorophyll-induced power-trances at Niblets Corp., which directly resulted in raising our mega-power capabilities in the must-be-a-f*cking-miracle body healing sector by 300%.

Although I specialize in broccoli-related powers, I’ve also improved the quality of drinking water in multiple urban centers by regurgitating magic neurons into their water supplies after ingesting brussel sprouts and Swiss chard.

I would love to talk with you further about your needs at Vegan-Superheroes. You can reach me at 555-555-5555 or greenisgood@gmail.com.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Spew-Green-Magic Man

 

Check out Explode, a comedy thriller/mystery novel. Spontaneous human combustion, or murder?


1.   If you have big yellow sweat stains on your shirt, your first will be your last.

2.   You don’t want to just blurt out anything that comes into your head.

3.   An hour late — not good.

4.   Sizing each other up is what it’s about.

5.   Uncontrolled body noises are frowned on.

6.   Preparation helps.

7.   You don’t want to just blather on about yourself without giving a flying toenail about the other person.

8.   Grabbing a boob in greeting will probably get you thrown out.

9.   If you whine about your ex, you’ll blow it.

10.  If you call them by the wrong name, forget it.


If you’re not familiar with haiku, it’s a form of poetry that consists of 3 lines, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. Here’re some about job interviews:

The manager asks
Did you used to be a blonde?
Illegal question

The phone interview –
I called the CEO Jane
“Uh, it’s Jim.” Oh crap.

Tough group interview
They fire questions at me
Don’t quit now, pit stick

Meeting with the boss
Focus on accomplishments
Ignore his foul breath

Maintain eye contact
Talk mutual benefits
Oops – looked at his crotch

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 the toilet paper.

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.

In your job search quest, you’ve probably seen the word “branding” floating around in the job-osphere (here’s a personal branding blog with a lot of helpful tips) and heard your job search strategy compared to a marketing campaign, with you as the product.

While “self-branding” can sound vaguely scary (especially if you’ve ever worked on a horse farm), it’s not as masochistic as it sounds. Marketing yourself is, in fact, an effective way to conduct your job search, and branding is an essential component of that.

Here are some strategies to help you in your job search self-branding efforts:

  • Come up with what you want to be known for — your professional identity (known in marketingspeak as “positioning”). What are your unique talents that make you different from Joe Schmeckel Jobseeker? Are you TechGirl? GrammarGuy? Do you know where all the commas go before they die? Of course, branding yourself as GrammarGuy probably won’t help you much if you’re a forklift driver. It has to be relevant to the field you’re interested in.
  • Figure out what specific benefits your skills/experience can bring to an employer (otherwise known as your “value proposition.”) Fill in the blank: “When my co-workers (or future co-workers) need help with _____________, they come to me.” Hopefully you’ll be able to come up with something other than, “finishing all the leftovers from Adam’s birthday party,” or “remembering the name of Mr. Spock’s mother.”
  • Emphasize your talents on your resume and in your cover letters. Employers, like men in a relationship, hate having to try to read your mind. And when it comes to an employer, since there’s nothing in it for them, they probably won’t bother. If you want them to focus on particular skills that will benefit them, make it obvious which skills those are.
  • Focus your LinkedIn profile and Twitter tagline (excuse the alliteration) on those talents, in much the same way as you focus your resume on them. And don’t tell me you don’t have LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. You’re job-hunting. It’s 2011. Shame on you.
  • Build a positive online rep. relevant to the type of job you’re interested in. Start a blog in your area of expertise, or at least comment on other people’s blogs, showing your knowledge and offering helpful info. Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your talents, and get involved in the discussions. But I wouldn’t get involved in anything too potentially controversial when you’re job-hunting. That’s just me.
  • Establish your style. Yes, if your style is Lindsey-Lohan-meets-Charlie-Sheen, you probably need to rein it in a bit. And resumes and cover letters need to be more on the formal side in terms of tone. But you do want your online persona to pretty much reflect who you are and how you want to be perceived at work. After all, you’re unique. You want to be noticed (for the right reasons). Besides, if your persona is too scattered in different directions, a prospective employer might think you have multiple personality disorder.
  • Figure out what your target market is, and go for it. Who are the employers you want to work for, who are likely to need and value your talents? If you want to use your aerial basket-weaving skills in a free-flowing environment, don’t be looking at companies that specialize in a 3-piece suit dress code and actuarial statistical analysis.

Here’s an excerpt from “What Color is Your Straitjacket? – A Pocket Guide to Getting and Keeping a Job Without Going Wacko” available as an ebook, http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/what-color-is-your-straitjacket-a-pocket-guide-to-getting-and-keeping-a-job-without-going-wacko/14601180

GIVE ‘EM WHAT THEY WANT – MAKE YOURSELF LESS LAYOFFABLE

In general, your employer will want to keep you around and you’ll be much less layoffable not just because you smell good, but because:

  • you have a positive attitude – no one wants to work with Whiny Guy
  • you’re flexible – not flexible like you can wrap both legs around your neck, but rather like you’re willing to go with the flow and do things outside your job description, like clean the john when the company can no longer afford a maintenance person
  • you’re dependable – you’re there, you’re ready to go, you’re the go-to guy; the one everyone automatically turns to with really dumb questions that have nothing whatsoever to do with your job
  • you give a crap about the company and your co-workers
  • you’re easy to get along with – you aren’t more than mildly irritating, you treat everyone with respect, and you don’t bitch-slap your boss when he annoys you
  • you’re honest – you don’t steal your co-worker’s lunch from the fridge when you think no one is looking
  • you’re presentable – you don’t embarrass your boss in a meeting with clients by telling jokes about whores
  • you refrain from getting involved in office gossip – don’t spread those rumors about the director hitting on an employee in a trannie bar
  • you have unique skills the company needs – you’re the only one in the company who can figure out how the old toaster oven works
  • you take initiative – don’t wait to be asked; think up stuff that’ll not only keep the company from flushing itself down the sewer but even help them make lottsa money
  • you keep your skills and attitude current – if you’re still referring to your PC as “that confounded machine” you may be gone a helluva lot faster than it will
  • you’re eager to learn new skills – eager in a professional way, of course – not eager like a cocker spaniel puppy panting to go take a whiz in the yard

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.

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