To Get A Job, Hold the Job Applications (Apply Later)

I wear several hats on the social web, including serving as the "New Grads" columnist for Job-Hunt.org, one of my favorite resources on the web.

My latest column on Job-Hunt is about why you should never click the apply button on a job, before you've hit the pause button to prepare. You can read the post, 5 Ways to Jump Start the Job Search on Job-Hunt.org.

Let me know if you have comments or questions here!

To your success,

Chandlee

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What Was in 2010, What To Expect in 2011

I'm pleased to be a member of Career Collective, a community of bloggers that provides perspective on job search related topics on a monthly basis. Up this month, trends that will affect your career this year! Here's my take:

2010 was a power year for social media users:

By the numbers:

Also observed:

  • Employers went online to find you. A whopping 86% of respondents to Jobvite’s Social Media Recruitment survey said they would be using social media for recruiting in 2010; 46% of those responding said they’d also increase spending to do it. (Want more information on how industry insiders use it? Read why tech-evangelist Robert Scoble calls Twitter crack for technical recruiters.)
  • Employers are having a love-hate relationship with social media. While it has become a great force in finding candidates, it’s also enough to make a senior level compliance officer and corporate attorneys suffer panic attacks: In October, a former recruiter won a court case after she was sued by her former employer for taking a proprietary database. Her contention? She could learn just as much from information available in social media (and LinkedIn in particular) as she could from the database…The courts agreed.

MUST-DOS FOR 2011

Manage Your Online Presence

Whether you are a job seeker—or a working professional—monitoring and building a strong online presence that showcases your strengths and expertise is an essential ingredient for managing your own career.

Protect Yourself: Follow Best Practices in Using Social Media

While a proactive strategy for building a professional presence is required, I also think it’s important to protect yourself from the potential wrath of an angry past, present or potential employer. I anticipate further employer scrutiny of social media use by employees. Every lawyer I’ve spoken with recently says they speak to clients or potential clients at least once a week about an issue related to social media misuse, abuse, or discomfort. I expect to see more policy development, more education, and more employer issued guidelines around how employees should use social media and what they can—and can’t take with them when they leave. Want to stay out of trouble? Check out Kodak’s Social Media Tips Guide, paying special attention to their employee-developed policies for using social media.

Social Media Accounts and Work: Keep ‘Em Separated

If you haven’t done so already, use a personal e-mail—not a work account—for all of your social networking. You don’t want to leave a job and lose access to your LinkedIn account as well, do you? Keeping your access and login information separate is a best practice, just as only working on your resume with your own computer—and in off hours—is. Why invite problems?

Share Carefully

Did you read of status updates that led to firing in 2010? Avoid a similar fate.

Remember the elusive “Circle of Trust” in Meet the Parents? You need your own Circle of Trust for your job search—a handful of trusted advisors, mentors, friends and colleagues who you can count on to “have your back” and share leads and information.  I can hear the ringing of my mother’s voice as I type, “There’s no need to share everything with everyone." Especially if 84% of Americans are searching for a job in 11.

Go Forth

And with that, I’m pleased to announce the opportunity to put all these strategies in action in ‘11!

I’m working with StartWire, a new platform that allows professionals to accelerate job search through social collaboration with a trusted, private network of friends, colleagues and experts. If you’re a job seeker and want to check out StartWire, sign up for an invitation to take a test drive here. We’d love to have you take a look around.

To Your Success in 2011,

Chandlee

Here are posts from my friends at the Career Collective:

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I’m Going to Let You Finish (My 2011 Wish for You)

One thing that's always, like, been a difference between, like, the performing arts, and being a painter, you know. A painter does a painting, and he paints it, and that's it, you know. He has the joy of creating it, it hangs on a wall, and somebody buys it, and maybe somebody buys it again, or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft somewhere until he dies. But he never, you know, nobody ever, nobody ever said to Van Gogh, 'Paint a Starry Night again, man!' You know? He painted it and that was it.

                                     – Joni Mitchell, Miles of Aisles

 

Unlike painters, singer-songwriters, comedians, and many professionals share a common challenge: You get known for something you are good at, and then people want you to do it–everyday. But your interests change over time. And when your interests change not everyone accepts or supports what you want to do–especially if your desired change requires an investm 2474695970_d5603c5854_m ent in time, money, or reinvention. Or if your change requires patience and an open mind from others–who've grown to expect you to be "as seen before."

Ever had this happen to you? It happened to Steve Martin in New York in December at the 92nd Street Y, during a program billed as "A Conversation with Steve Martin.
" Many audience members complained and got full refunds after expressing their disappointment with Martin's topic of conversation: His crime? He talked about his latest book, An Object of Beauty and art.

Over the course of his career, Martin has dazzled many with physical humor, wry wit, and knack for comedy. But on the side, he's written plays, a novella (Shopgirl), non-fiction essays for The New Yorker, and is an avid banjo player. As he once said of his own career, "Stand-up comedy was just an accident. I was figuring out a way to get on stage." He has always been a guy with diverse interests.

But the audience wanted to see this side of Steve Martin.

  

Those who were there–and close-captioned viewers–sent e-mails and notes to the hosts, asking for a change in tone. Martin was asked–before any q & a period–to switch the course of conversation to his career instead. The conversation flatlined.

In a New York Times editorial titled The Art of Interruption, Martin talked about what happened.

Now let me try to answer the question you might be asking yourself at this point: was I boring? Yes, I might have been…I have no doubt that, in time, and with some cooperation from the audience, we would have achieved ignition. I have been performing a long time, and I can tell when the audience’s attention is straying. I do not need a note. My mind was already churning like a weather front; at that moment, if I could have sung my novel to a Broadway beat I would have.

But I can’t help wondering what we might have said if we hadn’t been stopped. Maybe we were just around the corner from something thrilling. Isn’t that the nature of a live conversation? It halts, it stutters, it doubles back, it soars. We might have found a small nugget, something off topic or unexpected, that wouldn’t have warranted the refund that was offered.

If the e-mailers could have lived with “I am unamused” for just a little longer, or had given us some understanding based on past performance, or even a little old-fashioned respect, something worthwhile, unusual or calamitous might have emerged. Who knows, maybe I would have ended up singing my novel.


Does anyone like being interrupted?
Especially in pursuit of an interest? As Langston Hughes wrote "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Maybe it just sags with a heavy load…"


My wish for you in 2011: That you find the space and support you need to explore your interests and pursue your career goals–even and especially if they are different from what others want or expect.


May you find mentors to seek out for advice, trusted peers who can help you navigate transitions, and friends and family who can serve as your cheerleaders along the way.
And if you don't need it for yourself, may you be able to provide it for someone else…

Cross-posted on Career Hub. Photo by Sebastiano Pitruzzello.

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Steve Martin on How to Beat Writer’s Block

Ever had writer’s block when writing your resume, your LinkedIn profile, or a cover  Steve_martin letter? Do you know well what you’ve accomplished, but have trouble putting it to paper? A quick way to fix it is to borrow a strategy Steve Martin recommends in an ironic essay called “Writing is Easy.”

Martin's advice for writers who get stuck.

Go to an already published [novel] and find a sentence you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your [manuscript]. Usually that sentence will lead you to another sentence; pretty soon your ideas will start to flow.

Here's a strategy you can use to apply Martin's advice with your resume and career documents:

  1. Find material for inspiration. Watch how other people write up their own experience.

    I recommend using LinkedIn for this purpose. Through LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature, you can find LinkedIn profiles of others who work in your field or industry. Narrow your search by geographical area, industry, groups, years of experience or function (LinkedIn has over 85 million users).

  2. Read the profiles that come up within the first four pages of search results: The ones that come up first will be a combination of individuals in your personal network (people who may be networking resources for you), and people whose profiles are fine-tuned to work well with search engines.
  3. Make a collection of phrases and keywords that align with your skill set and experiences. Was someone else able to articulate what you do better than you've been able to say it yourself? (If yes, you can borrow a sentence for now.)
  4. Go back to your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, etc. Use the ideas you've gathered as a jumpstart for listing the keywords and phrases you need for your resume. If you've borrowed a sentence, revise it. Put the idea in your own words.

Plagiarism is wrong. I’m not saying that it is okay to copy sentences or use someone else’s LinkedIn profile as your own. (Martin actually advises that “you can safely copy up to three sentences of someone else’s work–unless they are friends; then you can use two." I disagree with this–and suspect he does too in all seriousness.)  But I do find that seeing how other people summarize their skills and experience can help you sum up your own. Is the writer's block gone?  Good.

When Martin wrote this essay, he was being sarcastic. But I like this piece of advice because it really does help people get unstuck—and because watching how other people do things is always a good way to learn. Especially when managing your career or writing your resume.

My next post will focus on some trouble Martin ran into recently when he wasn't being humorous–and why it may be more fun to be an fine artist than a comedian. In the interim, here's a hat tip to Steve Martin. Thanks for all the help with writer's block–and for helping us laugh!

Cross-posted on Career Hub.

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Driving the Dark Away: The Winter Job Search

 
Revels_north
I don't know about you, but I'm always happy to greet the Winter Solstice
. I love to watch the days grow longer, in part because I find it challenging when the sun sets before 5. For years, I've coped with the darkness through attending performances by The Revels , a performing arts organization which observes the Solstice with song, dance, poetry, and drama. Each performance showcases a different culture (the one I saw last week focused on French Canadian life) but features common elements, "The Lord of the Dance" before intermission, a Mummer's play, and a reading of "The Shortest Day"–a poem by Susan Cooper which I share with friends every year.

Produced in ten cities nationally,The Revels was founded by the late John Langstaff  as a way for communities to "drive the dark away" during a time of year in which night comes early and it's easy to go home, hibernate and be alone.

I don't know about you, but many of the job seekers I work with find that "driving the dark away" is a big part of looking for a new career opportunity. I've come to believe there are actually two parts to any job search.

  1. The job search:  networking, figuring out how to navigate the competition, the mechanics of applying for jobs, crafting an online presence and tight resume, determining your best fit, etc.
  2. The psychology of the search process – finding the motivation to keep going, feel good about yourself, connect with others who are important to you, working, etc.

In any job search–finding a way to feel good in the process of the search is necessary fuel for the journey.As my friend Jason Alba said in a post that's received over 480 comments, Depression Clouds Everything and is a very common experience.

There are many ways to fight the psychological blues in job search. Find a Meetup group of others who share your career or outside interests. Jump on Twitter and make some new friends. Ask a friend, mentor or person of interest  to meet you for coffee. If you've been laid off and it's awkward, coach them on how to talk to you. Spend time in places and with people who appreciate you. Go offline and explore an outside interest after you've spent some time exploring and applying opportunities.

Albert Camus once wrote, "In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." How do you drive the dark away? What's your Revels equivalent? Do you have any strategies to share?

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Learning to Fight Blah in Job Search

"Your language becomes clear and strong, not when you can no longer add a sentence, but when you can no longer take away from it."

Isaac Babel

This is one of my all-time a favorite writing quote. My colleagues and Twitter Job Search Guide co-authors, Deb Dib and Susan Whitcomb, are masters of the concise. During the process of writing the book, Deb developed an inspired a formula for writing cover letters in ten tweets–or the equivalent of less then ten text messages.

Since publishing the book, Deb and Susan have put their heads together again and have designed a framework to get a ten tweet cover letter down to only five points. I've always been an advocate of cover letters that show employer research, engagement, and an understanding of job fit. In the past I've often struggled to develop cover letters in less than one page. As an English major, it was a challenge not to exceed the suggested limit for papers. In college, I was jealous of my friend Cindy who was called out for submitting a paper in 14 point font. Our professor's comment:

"Cindy, do you think I'm blind?"

"Chandlee, do you think I have a magnifying glass?"

In years since, I've learned to reduce my word count be brief. The twitter limitation of 140 characters has helped with that. So have text messages. And so has my work with Deb and Susan. As Deb says, "So what? Say it fast. And Make me care."

I can now write letters in less than 500 words. Resumes with 10+ years of experience in one page. And given that employers spend less than 15 seconds on a resume, and perhaps even less than 10 seconds on a cover letter, that's important. There's no room for clutter.

As this video shows, there's a lot of blah out there. Who has patience for it? No one. Here's to trimming the fat, removing the unnecessary, eliminating the extraneous.

  

Thanks, Deb and Susan! (And if you want to learn more, pick up the Twitter Job Search Guide for cover letter help and Susan's book Resume Magic for Resume Help)

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The Jobs Under the Mistletoe

 

I'm honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a community of bloggers who share thoughts on a common topic. Up this month: Common misconceptions about the job search. You can read Mistletoe_2010all of my colleagues thoughts through the link below, here's my take on this theme.

There's a huge assumption that no hiring happens in companies between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. Some may think that when the tree in Rockefeller Center gets lit, the hiring game for the year is over.

But in reality, December may actually be the best time to get in the game–or increase your efforts. (In fact, last December, physicians offices increased hiring by over 9,000 positions.)

Here are three reasons why you may want to search for work instead of a kiss under the mistletoe:

1. Employers are still looking for hires in December. When I worked as a recruiter for a small company, I extended a job offer for a new Sales Manager on Christmas Eve. The reason: We needed someone who could start immediately in the New Year. Business needs don't go on the back burner because of holiday parties and merriment.

In fact, many organizations are especially motivated to hire in December–even more so than they will be in January. There's no set date for how organizations their fiscal years–a college may have a fiscal year that runs July 1 to June 30; other organizations have fiscal years that run from January 1 to December 31. Internally, there's frequently a "use it or lose it" mentality when it comes to spending and hiring. In other words, if someone gets permission to hire in December–they may have to hire in December, or they'll lose the funding for the job come January. This may sound silly, but it happens.

2. You'll have less competition. August is one of the most popular times to take a vacation, and September sees a huge bump in job applications; there's a perennial similar trend every December and January. Anticipate a great deal of New Year's job search resolutions from your peers and fellow applicants.

Apply when your fellow job seekers are taking a breather from the job search, and you have a better chance of standing out in the applicant pool. As one of my recruiting friends recently told me, "When I hire, I rarely go back to applications received after application deadline–or I've received a number of applications. I pick from the pool that I already have. I don't look back." (In other words, don't assume a job listed in December will be there in January.)

3. As almost any employment survey will tell you, networking and employee referrals are frequently a fast track to new opportunities–especially for non-entry level jobs. Offering to employ someone full time after only a few meetings is a big commitment–and many employers prefer to make an offer to someone who comes recommended by others.

Holiday parties are a natural place to make these connections. Or to make a call and reach out to someone you've always wanted to get to know–and ask for a coffee date. (After all, December can be a quiet time at some offices.)

So get out there, and make some new friends under that mistletoe. It may lead to your next opportunity or give you a fresh perspective.

And if you'd like to learn about a few other misconceptions before you start, here are thoughts from my colleagues:

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Lessons in Brevity from Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson held multiple positions during his life. He was a U.S. Minister to France, Secretary of State under George Washington, Vice President to John Adams, and was U.S. President for eight years. His tombstone, however, mentions none of these roles: Thomas Jefferson "author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” TJ_Wyeth

Jefferson wrote his own tombstone inscription in advance of his death. "Not a word more," he advised. These were the three things for which he wanted to be remembered. And if you've ever visited the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, you'll see that there's no chance he will ever be forgotten there.

Spend even 30 minutes on the UVA campus (known as "On Grounds"), and you'll see signs of “TJ's” influence and opinions–everywhere–especially at the heart of the grounds, Jefferson's Academical Village.

  Uva_bg
From the serpentine walls he designed to the reminder near the ceiling of the Aquatic and Fitness Center

Give about two hours every day to exercise,

for health must not be sacrificed to learning.” 

Thomas Jefferson, 1789

As a graduate student at UVA, I felt Jefferson was everywhere. I wondered why Jefferson decided not to mention his Presidency on his tombstone. Clearly, he was proud of the country he Tj_tombstone helped to create and then later governed. Why not mention his eight year tenure as President? Was it an attempt to downplay his experience? Was it because he knew there would be many other U.S. Presidents, but that the scope of his work on the school so close to his home would be more evident many years later? 

I spent today in Charlottesville, and found myself thinking of TJ's tombstone from a different perspective–that of a writer who focuses on helping others get hired. Now, the tombstone inscription appears to me as the result of what my colleagues, co-authors and friends Deb Dib and Susan Whitcomb call “ruthless editing.” Editing down to only the essential points of differentiation—even when it means eliminating mention of experiences that are impressive but irrelevant.

TJ's tombstone inscription is142 characters. Two more than a tweet, and 18 characters less than is allotted for a standard text message. This is significant when you consider that TJ wrote over 20,000 letters in his lifetime–all in long hand (or cursive as we call it today). Visit TJ’s home, Monticello, and you’ll see the duplicating polygraph, a device he refined the design of and used to make copies of letters as he wrote. (Note: It's not the same as a lie detector.)

Jefferson chose to be remembered for his ideals, contributions to an emerging country and state, passion for architecture and education–not his job titles. The prolific writer was–in the end–a ruthless editor when it came to his own epitaph. He made it clear what he wanted for us to remember.

At first glance it may be hard to see the relevance of TJ's brevity for today's job seeker. After all, many elementary schools don’t even teach cursive. As a society, we prefer text messages of 160 characters even to post it notes. Letter writing is almost a forgotten art. The U.S. Postal Service has proposed to eliminate Saturday delivery; I haven't noticed a large public outcry.

But buried in the efficiency of TJ's tombstone inscription lies an essential ingredient for career success today–make it clear what you want to be known for and how you can contribute. As my colleague Deb says, "Say it fast, say it clear, and make me care."

As a majority of employers scan resumes with applicant tracking systems before reading them and those don't frequently look at candidates via Smartphones, it is essential to approach your job search by making a strong case for why you should be hired over someone else. After all, if you don't–chances are good that no one else will.

How can I help you move forward?

 

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Avoiding the Bad Fit Blues

“Sign your name here. Now switch hands and do it again. Is it tougher the second time around? Yeah, I thought so….”

Wrongshoe

I’m right-handed. I grew up sitting across the kitchen table from my left-handed sisters. Our seating arrangement prevented us from bumping elbows.

Just as I prefer to write, eat, and throw with my right hand, I have preferences for how I filter information, work with others, socialize, and make decisions. I like working with words more than numbers. I like spinach more than brussel sprouts. Beets more than carrots.

When I moved to New York, I worked in a job that felt like writing with my left hand. I liked the people, I liked the concept of the job. But as I worked, I felt as though I were breaking trail in two feet of snow – or walking through a sand pile.

The experience of working “against my grain” inspired me to start Best Fit Forward. Because I think there’s nothing worse than landing a job that doesn’t play to your strengths. It may pay the bills, but if it strains you continually–it probably won’t lead you to a promotion.

When you know how to interview well, it’s easy to showcase your skills and accomplishments. You can filter out experiences to demonstrate your potential fit for a position. But sell your weaknesses as a strength, and you may end up sorry. Especially if your new job puts this weakness to work everyday.

I help many of my clients with online identity, job search strategy, and resumes. I prefer to start my work with an assessment; I like to get to know my client’s preferences. Because who wants to bump elbows, really?

Photo by Helga Weber

 

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A Most Unfortunate Resume Mistake No One Will Tell You

I participate in the Career Collective, a community of bloggers who talk about careers and write different posts in response to a common question each month. Up today: scary resume mistakes in honor of Halloween.

My mistake is one that can't be seen on the resume–it lies underneath and only shows up in electronic searches to the discerning eye.

I'm talking about Document Properties. The information you see when you view a doc in GoogleDocs or in the information line on a file. Most specifically: the author field. It's very easy to overlook this minor detail.

When you save your resume, make sure you are listed as the author of your resume. Not anyone else who gave you tips or provided you with writing assistance. Not your friends. And especially not your former employer.

When a prospective employer sees a different name on your resume, they won't tell you. They may just not consider you.

Here's how to fix this in Microsoft Word. Use "Save As" to save your document. Enter your name as author and title in the Properties section.

Word_save
You can make this adjustment in other documents by modifying information in the Properties section of your document–or in searching for how to modify properties using help.

That's it. A quick fix for a potentially scary mistake.

Here are suggestions from my fellow colleagues on Career Collective. (And Happy Halloween!)

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