Sunday, January 24, 2010

Negative Job References?

I got a call earlier this week from someone who was worried about the fact that there was a significant amount of friction between herself and her former boss. Regardless of the fact that this person had a good relationship with her subordinates, the ‘love’ was not there when it came to the relationship she had with her boss.

To ease her fears, I shared with the caller that organizations are reluctant to give anyone calling in to check references anything more than a ‘tombstone’ reference i.e. name, rank and start/end date, due to the fear of being sued.

I also shared with the caller that it was silly to ask someone for a reference unless they actually worked closely together and had a positive working relationship. The idea that anyone would supply the names and contact information of those who would not say positive things about you is completely foreign to me.

The purpose of a reference check is to confirm that you, as the candidate, can deliver what you claimed you could deliver during your interview. This kind of information is more likely to come from a long-term colleague or mentor/boss than from your last employer’s HR department.

Once you have established that your future employer has decided to proceed with your application and has asked that you provide references [usually 3], there are a couple of things that you should do to make the next phase of the hiring process go more smoothly:
  • Take the time to prep your references. Call each of your references and let them know that they should expect a call from [insert the name of the company and/or the hiring manger at the company]
  • Supply your references both a copy of your résumé as well as a copy of the job description
Job-seekers should know that hiring managers are looking to and will rely on information they find on the Internet just as much as they rely on the information they receive from names and numbers you have supplied. Job-seekers/knowledge workers can now show their work, provide connections and validate what they have done.

When it comes to seeking employment, competencies are important, but hiring managers believe that past performance is the best predictor of future success. Know that every presentation, every article, blog comment, article, white paper, press release, egroup posting (if RSS is turned on) that involves you is now on the Internet and therefore in the public domain. When information is in the ‘public domain’ and it cannot be deleted. All web content is available and always archived.

Know that Google now defines who you are and it behoves you to make sure that all of your future employers only see you in your best light.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shaken not Stirred

If you are new to the job-seeking scene and the traditional methods of job searching aren’t working for you, it’s time for you to ‘shake it up’ a bit. It’s time to become familiar with, and comfortable using, social media to help you in your search for new employment. Using social media effectively can add another layer of valuable information to your search for employment. Once you have identified the top five or six companies where you would like to work, do the following:
  • Search for the name of the company on Linked In. This may lead you to a list of company employees which will, in turn help you identify any 2nd or 3rd degree ‘connections’ already in your network and serve as a way, through formal ‘introductions’, into the company
  • Search Twitter with the phrase “New CEO”. Don’t be surprised if some of the returns include tweets from those inside the company who may have insights as to the new directions for the company and new opportunities for you
  • Get a profile on all of the major social networking sites so that potential employers can find you
  • Follow recruiters on Twitter
  • Start a blog on subjects that you are passionate about so that so that potential employers will be granted insights to the depth of your knowledge
Do not be frightened by the magnitude of social media. It is a powerful tool that anyone can learn to use and manage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Big Brother at Work?

I received an interesting question today about the decision to send an e-mail to their boss. The issue/concern surrounded the fact that important e-mail and voice messages were deleted while the individual was on vacation. The writer of the query seemed determined to demand to know why the communications were deleted.

My response to the questions raised was as follows:
  • When sending e-mail, tone is critical
  • Never send an e-mail when you are emotional about the subject matter
  • In the case of the individual who was alleging that her employer deleted the e-mail and voice-mail were deleted on purpose, it is important to consider the fact that these forms of communication were deleted in error
  • In the case of the said individual, it is also important to consider that the employer believed that the information found within the communications needed urgent attention and felt that waiting until the employee returned from vacation to address the issues and concerns of the customer did not serve the best interest of the customer
It is important for all employees to know that all communications received while you are an employee at work or on work-supplied tools such as laptops, Blackberries, cell phone, etc. belong to the employer. All employees should assume that their boss is reviewing all correspondence, listening in on all phone calls and using the embedded GPS devices in the company supplied ‘toys’ to confirm that their employees are in fact where they say they are.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

At the end of a typical interview, the candidate will be given the opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer. As a job seeker, this part of the interview is yet another opportunity to show potential employers how you stand apart from the rest of the pack of candidates. Don’t waste this opportunity. Have good questions ready.

Do Not use this time to ask more information about the company - If you have done your homework properly, you should already know the answers

Do use this question period to find out how you can help the employers solve problems - The best questions to ask are the ones that you, as the candidate, already know part of the answer and already know how to contribute to the solution. This strategy for asking insightful questions will give the interviewer the opportunity to see the degree of research you done on the company as well as show that you are capable of a higher level of thinking. The best questions to ask are those that are open ended i.e. those that require an explanation. (Close ended questions require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and that stifle rather than enrich the conversation.) These types of questions will help you to uncover specific issues and leave the interviewer with the increased perception that you understand the problem both on a micro and macro level. Questions that begin with the words, ‘How...’, ‘Why...’, 'What impact...’, 'What are the implications of...’, are far more effective than questions that begin with the words ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Where, or ‘When’.

Do Not use this time to ask questions about career advancement, salary, company benefits and the like.

Do ask questions about company strategy, corporate goals, business growth opportunities, issues that have an effect on the industry, etc. If you want to know where you can find the information you are looking for, I would suggest that you start with Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine, look at company press releases, the comment section of the annual report of public companies, and read all of Blogs you can find about the company. This type of research will then allow you to ask questions such as, “My research indicates that (blank) in your industry is projected to increase by 15% in the next 3 years. How is (insert the company name) preparing to capitalize on that opportunity?

Know that the questions you ask are not as important as the answers you receive. The point of this exercise is that you are asking tough questions and attempting to discern if you are getting truthful answers. If you know all or part of the answer to the question before you ask the question, you will know whether you are getting truthful answers. If you are not being told the truth during the interview, that speaks VOLUMES about the company culture and work environment and it’s time to ask yourself if you really want to work there.

If you take the time to come up with at least a half a dozen insightful questions, you will find the interview process far more productive and become far more successful in all of your future career endeavours.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Job Search Jitters

Looking for a job is stressful at the best of times and stress related to your job search needs to be managed. Everything in your life can be managed; and any stress related to job-search can be managed in the same manner as you would manage any other stresses in your life. As a ‘shoot straight from the hip’ kind of gal, I have decided to spare my readers the pain of embellishing the dozen do’s to help job-seekers address their job search jitters.

1. Admit that you are stressed and know that, “This too shall pass.”

2. Itemize all of your fears and organize them from most to least stressful; the greater the magnitude of impact they have on your daily life the higher the fear or stress should be on your itemized list. Do not be afraid of the number of items on the list. You can and will address each of those your deem critical and will soon come to the conclusion that you can strike a good many off the list entirely.

3. Make a plan to address each fear on your list

4. Make a plan to address each fear, including worst-case scenarios, and figure out a systematic process to address each. It is also critical that you take the time to make a detailed budget of your household expenses.. Itemize the money you have as well as can access should the need. Knowledge is power and power is what you need to get yourself through this short-lived but emotionally and spiritually trying time.

5. Pace yourself. All goals, even the goals for addressing fears need to be realistic. Those well versed in the area of time management use the acronym SMART [Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound.] Know that if your set lofty goals for yourself, that one of two things will happen:

  1. You will be successful and become invigorated - Yeah for you!
  2. You will be unsuccessful and likely become depressed - It will become even tougher for you to get up in the morning and face the day’s challenges

6. Train your mindset to focus on ‘successes, rather than ‘failures’. Use the STAR method to help you focus:
  •  Situation: Remember a recent challenge and situation in which you found yourself.
  •  Task: What was the objective? What SMART plan did you create in order to resolve the challenge/situation?
  •  Action: What did you do? Were there alternatives to the method of choosing how to resolve the issue? What were the alternatives? What was your rational for choosing to address the challenge/situation?
  •  Results: What was the outcome of your actions? What did you achieve through your actions? Did you meet your objectives? What did you learn from this experience? Have you used this learning since?

7. Get a mentor real, virtual or inspirational books
  • a. Ask supportive and knowledgeable people for their ideas
  • b. Develop an emotional support system
  • c. Meet regularly with people who find themselves in the same situation

8. Get professional help to re-work your résumé, help you with honing your interview skills, etc. …

9. Once you have secured an interview, prepare good questions for the interviewer. Take the time to write down at least 50 ways that you are capable of being a benefit to your next employer. If you are truly spunky, find a reason give the list to the interviewer at some point during the interview process

10. Start saying, “YES” to all invitations. Have your ‘elevator pitch’ at the ready for any opportunity that may present itself. Don’t forget that the most effective ‘elevator pitches’ are the ones that are bursting with ‘KISSES’ [Keep it Short, Sweet, Easy to understand and Suggesting of some sort of follow-up].

11. Know that the word “no” doesn’t necessarily mean ‘never’; it just means ‘not now’.

12. Get your profile on all of the social network sites - Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

In closing, I would just like to remind you that simply because of your unique life’s experiences, you have skills, ideas and feelings that are valuable and can contribute to the betterment of any organization in a most profound manner. You just have to train yourself to believe it and your forthcoming opportunities will become more apparent.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Golden Nuggets

Hello Friends,

Welcome to my Blog. The main purpose of this Blog will be to share my thoughts and insights on subjects related to career management. For those of you who are not familiar with the manner with which I conduct my SMART Career Planning Business, I will share with you the following information:

Step One: Review my client's résumé

Step Two: Meet with my client

Step Three: Chat informally with my client so that I can have a better understanding of what they really want/need from me. It is during this, often critical stage, that I uncover salient information that can be used to help my client set themselves apart from their competition in the eyes of potential employers.

Step Four: Create a résumé that truly showcases all of my client's unique skills and abilities.

While I understand that what I have shared with you thus far is certainly nothing remarkable, I shared this information only to serve as an introduction to the type of information I uncovered during a recent interview with a client.

I recently met with a client who was a highly credentialed individual with several years of international experience in her area of expertise. While the fact that she was able to back up her many years of hands-on experience with the formal schooling, among her 'differentiators' was the fact that she also worked for the RED CROSS as a translator and spoke 5 languages fluently. When I asked her why this information was not included in her original résumé, she just smiled and told me that she didn't think it was important.

Earlier on in my career as a career coach, I also had the pleasure of meeting another lovely woman who was interested in becoming a physiotherapist. As she was an immigrant, she was well aware that any credentials that she held in her home country were not recognized in Canada and she was open and eager to get any further training necessary. The golden nugget of information I was able to glean from meeting with this delightful woman was the fact that she had the distinction of being on an OLYMPIC team that won a GOLD MEDAL in Volleyball. When I suggested to her that this particular piece of information would be noteworthy in a number of documents, including her résumé, she seemed perplexed. Her position was that no one would be interested in something like that. I disagreed! I told her that formally trained athletes, are in a 'different league' than regular folks and the fact that she personally knows many highly recognized athletes and that, in her world being awarded a medal is not of any great value or worth. Again, I disagreed. She finally relented and gave me permission to include this little 'non-event' in the “Career Highlights” section of her résumé.

The point that I am trying to make in this posting is that EVERYONE has elements in their personal history that can be of importance to future employers and that often it takes a 'stranger' to sit down with you over a cup of coffee to find out how truly wonderful you are!

If what I have said so far strikes a cord with any of you, I would LOVE to hear about it.