Blog

January 31, 2017

Self-Care During Your Job Search

As you embark on your job search, well meaning colleagues and friends may tell you, “Looking for a job is a full time job.”  But it doesn’t have to be!  In fact, I would argue that an effective job search may only need to be a “part-time job.”  That’s right, maybe 20 hours/week or less, as long as they are productive hours.  If you create an efficient strategy with daily or weekly goals, you will have plenty of time left over to focus on the most important priority: YOU (gasp! Who has time to think about yourself when you need a paycheck?!)  You, that’s who!

Hear me out.  Unless you are the Dalai Lama, any life transition involves a certain degree of anxiety and heck, even the Dalai has had his fair share of stress.  A job search may evoke fear, uncertainty, a lack of self-confidence or downright panic.  These feelings may force you to the nearest Starbucks every day to bury your head in the online job boards, scouring job descriptions, not allowing yourself to stretch or go to the bathroom until those 25 applications are done!!  OK, deep breath.….Don’t fall into this trap; it’s a recipe for job search burnout.  Instead, you need to recharge and build your energy reserves for when you need them – during interviews.  In-person interviews require that you put your best foot forward and can be an energy suck.  OK, you ask, how do I recharge and re-boot while also conducting an effective job search?  It sounds impossible, but it isn’t.

Here are a few tips that will allow you to conduct an effective job search while setting aside time for you:

Choose a time of the day when you are most energized and productive.  For most, this is the morning after your coffee, breakfast and/or exercise.  However, others prefer after lunch or even late at night.  Set aside that block of time – no more than 2-3 hours - to complete your job search tasks for the day. 

Set 2-5 achievable tasks for the day.  For example, one task might be scanning your favorite job board for 30 minutes.  Another might be creating 2 custom networking messages to employers at target companies.  A final goal might be setting up a live networking lunch for the following week.  You get the picture.  These goals should be achievable but also high value.  They should involve direct contact with individuals who may be able to help, either by offering sound advice or referring you for an interview.

You’ll notice in tip #2 I mention spending 30 minutes on your favorite job board.  DO NOT GET SUCKED IN.  Once you start searching for jobs, it’s very easy to spend hours reviewing job descriptions, trying different keyword combinations and researching companies.  Before you know it, your day is gone and you’ve only applied to one position.  This is not an efficient way to spend your time.  I tell my clients that the job boards are a ‘necessary evil’.  You should visit them, but set time limits for yourself.  You also might consider creating alerts with specific keywords that come to your email directly. 

Now, here is the most important tip.  Once you have completed your tasks for the day, STEP AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER.  That’s right, spend the rest of your day on personal activities.  Maybe that means having lunch or seeing a movie with a friend.  Perhaps your pooch needs a longer walk.  It might be time to dust off your gym shoes, clean out your closet or volunteer at a local shelter.  Do a few things that you would never have a chance to do if you were working. 

Finally, DON’T FEEL GUILTY.  I know, easier said than done.  But you do need to recharge your batteries, even if it’s only for a week or two.  Think of it as a critical part of the job search.  If your energy is up, you are more likely to knock the socks off of a potential employer at your next interview.The bottom line is be sure to incorporate some ‘me time’ into your job search strategy.  If your family and friends ask you about it, tell them your career coach said so.  Your future employer will thank you for it.



February 1, 2016

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

 At the beginning of any job search, seekers feel motivated and ready to engage in productive activities.  They might spend a week or more researching target companies, actively networking, customizing their resume and submitting online applications.  With all of this activity, one would expect an inbox full of responses, right?  Not exactly. 

 Inevitably, job seekers will hit a wall.  They’ve done all the right things but then they hear…CRICKETS.  No one is responding.  No interviews on the horizon.  Not even a phone screen.  As a coach, almost every client will go through this ‘down’ cycle.  They typically ask what they could have done differently.  In most cases, the answer is “Nothing.”  This lull should be expected – job seekers have put in the time, they’ve “planted their seeds”, either through networking or submitting applications – now is the hard part.  THE WAIT.  Their efforts need time to materialize.  Rome was not built in a day!

 Put it into perspective – once they post a job, recruiters are inundated with resumes and it might take them weeks to get back to you.  Once you’ve had a networking conversation, your contact may need some time to consider alternatives for you.  Remember your job search is not their first priority right now (like it is yours).  Give them the courtesy of a few weeks before following up.

 So, what do you do while you’re in this excruciating waiting period?

 Distract yourself – When are you going to have this much personal time again?Use it wisely.Complete a project you’ve been putting off, visit friends you haven’t seen since you’ve been working so hard, volunteer or take that class that you’ve always wanted to try.Sometimes doing something fun or productive helps you come back to your job search with a fresh perspective.

“Detox” from technology – Checking your email 100x a day is not going to make an employer get back to you any sooner; in fact, it just might make you more crazy.Commit to stepping away from the computer (and mobile phone!) for a few hours a day.Spend that time doing something energizing or fun.

Focus on what’s in your control – It’s useless to waste energy focused on when you’re going to hear back from an employer.That is completely out of your control and unless you have someone on the inside who can speak on your behalf, there’s nothing you can do about it.Following up multiple times might actually hurt your chances.Best to focus on what’s in your control, that is, other opportunities and additional networking.

 We’ve all heard the lyrics, “The waiting is the hardest part.”  Nothing could be more true in a job search.  Just know that you’re not alone.  Almost all seekers go through this down cycle.  Take comfort in the fact that if you are doing all the right things, your wait will not last long.


11/17/2015

When life hands you lemons, don’t let them go bad in your refrigerator drawer.

I was recently cleaning out my refrigerator and remembered I had bought a bag of lemons on sale at Costco.  However, upon looking more closely I noticed they had become overripe and gone bad.  I was mad at myself because when I bought the lemons, I figured I would use them for any number of recipes, salad dressings and even just a fresh slice in my water every day.  But I had forgotten about them, letting them rot away in the drawer. 

Sort of a strange analogy, I suppose, but one that resonated with me about missed opportunity. 

Any life transition, and a job transition is a major one, can be an opportunity for us to take a step back and contemplate our career path.  What are the next steps for us?  How can we make use of our greatest strengths and talents?  What will give us joy and allow us to cultivate our true purpose?  

When life hands you lemons, don’t let them go bad in your refrigerator drawer.  As all of us approach crossroads in our lives, we may become overwhelmed, wondering what we did wrong or how we could have changed our current situation.  It’s easy to focus a lot of time and energy on the past – ruminating and dwelling on what happened.  This is human nature.  Our minds tend to focus on what went wrong and what we “could have” or “should have” done to change it.  But what would happen if we could harness that energy into something else?  Could we focus less on the past and more on future possibilities?  How would this change our job search and ultimately, our path forward?  Here are some ideas to help put the past behind you and open up a new world of possibility for your future. 


  • Reframe your mindset – Focus on the future, not the past.  Redirect your energy from rehearsing what you could have done differently to how you can search for a job you’ve always dreamed of.  When you find yourself getting stuck in the past, take action.  Reach out to someone in your network and buy them coffee or implement a creative job search tactic.
  • Cultivate “grit” – Studies show the most successful people are not necessarily the most talented, but those with the most grit; that is, those who can stand back up after being knocked down by life.  Life is going to come with a lot of surprises, both good and bad, and if you are able to identify lessons learned and move forward with optimism, you will reap more success in your life.
  • Be open to all of the possibilities – If you already know what career or job you want, great!  However, don’t close the door to anything that comes your way.  In networking, it’s helpful to ask lots of questions and open yourself up to alternative perspectives.  You never know what opportunity is waiting for you.
  • Identify a job search mentor or Board of Directors – When you are experiencing a time of transition, it’s critical to reach out for support and guidance.  If you can identify a job search mentor (your coach or someone you respect) or even a support network (Job Search “Board of Directors”), your job search effort will be winged.
  • Contemplate your strengths – Take a step back, identify and reflect upon your innate talents and strengths.  Your Transition Assistance coach can identify the right career assessment (Myers Briggs, StrengthsFinder, etc.) to aid your self-discovery. 


Your transition, while challenging, may be a time of great learning and personal growth.  Take charge of your own search and work with your coach or mentor to navigate the right steps for you.  If you use your time and resources wisely, your lemonade will taste doubly sweet!



​​4/30/2015

The Cover Letter Conundrum

Cover letters are always a hot topic during the job search. Job seekers ask, “Should I or shouldn’t I create a cover letter? Do recruiters really read them? What is the best format for a cover letter?” Let me answer these questions to help solve the “cover letter conundrum.”

As a technical recruiter for over 10 years, I admit that I did not read many cover letters. I always spent more of my time skimming resumes for desired keywords and technical skills. That said, I know some recruiters and more importantly, hiring managers, who use cover letters to distinguish between good candidates and great candidates. So, creating a compelling cover letter is an important step in your search.

OK, so what’s the recipe for a strong cover letter? I agree with many of Alexandra Sleator’s tips regarding the format. It should be concise (no more than one page), direct (addresses how your skills match their needs) and enthusiastic (shows excitement about working for the company). I would also argue that a cover letter should include the specific keywords that match the job description, and may only need to be 3 paragraphs long (vs. Sleator’s 4-5 paragraphs). Short and sweet is the key. Here are my tips as well as some sample verbiage to help you create your own compelling cover letter.

1. Start with your name, address and contact information (email and phone number) at the top left-hand margin.

2. Below your contact information, include the date and I also recommend listing the job title and reference code prior to your salutation. We are always trying to make things easier for busy recruiters!

Example:
Job Title: IT Systems Engineer
Job Reference Code: E-2456


3. Start with a salutation. “To Whom It May Concern” is fine but if you have a contact name, address it to that person.

4. The first paragraph should describe how you found this role (job board, networking contact, company website) and why you are excited about it. This also may be a good place to insert your written elevator pitch.

Example: I am eager to submit my resume for the IT Systems Engineer position, which I identified on your company’s career page. I am an accomplished technical engineer with over 10 years of IT systems experience, both in Big 4 Consulting and industry environments. I have held leadership roles in a variety of technical capacities of increasing responsibility that meet the requirements of this position, most notably:

5. Here is where you can include a bulleted list of accomplishments that address the requirements of the role. Use keywords. Spoonfeed your audience! Busy recruiters will thank you for it.

Example bullet: Led a team of 5 developers to drive the full-life cycle implementation of a custom built finance and accounting system which was rolled out within defined timeline and under budget.

6. Finally, end with a reiteration of your interest and as Alexandra notes “with flourish.” This may involve a little creativity. Make sure they remember something about you.

Example: I recently read the article in Forbes dated Jan. 31st about your planned growth in the Business Intelligence space. This is an area of passion for me and as such, I have taken BI/DW classes offered at the local university. I would love to apply what I’ve learned at your company….

7. End by thanking them for their time and consideration and mention that you look forward to hearing back from them regarding next steps.

Once you draft a baseline cover letter, you can edit as necessary for any job you apply for. The format can be the same; just customize the content to your audience and proofread prior to hitting the ‘send’ button. Good luck and happy hunting!



01/29/2015
In Networking, It's All About the Messaging

Networking is a the most critical component of your job search strategy. There are many different types of networking, as well as audiences to network with. The first thing that job seekers tend to do is reach out to their close family, friends and colleagues, their “core” group whom they feel most comfortable with. But what happens when that group is tapped out? Do your networking efforts stop there? No, in fact, they have just begun! Some of the more desirable opportunities or leads are uncovered through people that you may not know at all. So, what is the best way to reach out to this elusive group of professionals?

The best and most effective networking platform today is LinkedIn. LinkedIn boasts over 250 million members – that’s a lot of people to connect with! So, do your research and develop a list of people who you’d like to reach out to via LinkedIn. They could be people with similar career paths to you, who hold roles that you are interested in, or perhaps work for one of your target companies. If they are 2nd degree connections (friends of friends), you can start by asking for an introduction. But what happens when you don’t know these people personally and they don’t know you? You may feel awkward reaching out to them and not know what to say. Many of my clients have told me they don’t like to network because they “hate bothering people” or “feel weird asking someone I don’t know for something.” My response is typically, “It’s all about your message.”

As a career coach, I get a lot of LinkedIn messages from people I don’t know. There are generally three types of messages I receive and out of these three, I only respond to one. From the three sample messages below, can you guess which one I would respond to?

Message #1: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” - Sally Smith

Message #2: “Hi Aileen. I see you are an experienced Career Coach at XYZ company. My name is Sally Smith and I am looking for a new opportunity, targeting your organization. Can you let me know if there are any openings or submit my resume to a recruiter? Thank you, Sally Smith

Message #3: “Hi Aileen. My name is Sally Smith and I am an Organization Change Management consultant. I recently saw your article on the Career Coaching LinkedIn Group about networking for introverts. It really resonated with me as I’m having a tough time networking in my job search. I am seeking some advice on how best to overcome my hesitation to reach out to people I don’t know. Would you have 15 minutes on your calendar during the week of October 6th to connect? Thanks so much and I look forward to networking with you! Sally Smith

If you guessed the third message, you get a gold star! Message #3 shows me two things about the person. First, they took the time to research me as well as some of my group posts/articles on LinkedIn (flattery can go a long way in networking!). Second, she did NOT ask me for a job. The only thing she asked for was 15 minutes of my time and some advice. To me, that leaves a much better impression and I genuinely want to help her. The first two messages turned me off because the person did not take the time to send a personalized note (Example #1) and the person was only reaching out to ask me for a job or referral (Example #2). Big difference!

The next time you decide to network with someone you don’t know, do your research and spend the time crafting a message that is more likely to elicit a response. While you may not hear back from every person, your response rate should improve. The rule of thumb is "start by asking for advice, not a job." Good luck!


01/28/2015
Take Care of YOU During a Job Search


As you embark on your job search, well meaning colleagues and friends may tell you, “Looking for a job is a full time job.” But it doesn’t have to be! In fact, I would argue that an effective job search may only need to be a “part-time job”. That’s right, maybe 20 hours/week or less, as long as they are productive hours. If you create an efficient strategy with daily or weekly goals, you will have plenty of time left over to focus on the most important priority: YOU (gasp! Who has time to think about yourself when you need a paycheck?!) You, that’s who!

Hear me out. Unless you are the Dalai Lama, any life transition involves a certain degree of anxiety and heck, even the Dalai has had his fair share of stress. A job search may evoke fear, uncertainty, a lack of self-confidence or downright panic. These feelings may force you to the nearest Starbucks every day to bury your head in the online job boards, scouring job descriptions, not allowing yourself to stretch or go to the bathroom until those 25 applications are done!! OK, deep breath.….Don’t fall into this trap; it’s a recipe for job search burnout. Instead, you need to recharge and build your energy reserves for when you need them – during interviews. In-person interviews require that you put your best foot forward and can be an energy suck. OK, you ask, how do I recharge and re-boot while also conducting an effective job search? It sounds impossible, but it isn’t.

Here are a few tips that will allow you to conduct an effective job search while setting aside time for you:

Tip 1: Choose a time of the day when you are most energized and productive. For most, this is the morning after your coffee, breakfast and/or exercise. However, others prefer after lunch or even late at night. Set aside that block of time – no more than 2-3 hours - to complete your job search tasks for the day.


Tip 2: Set 2-5 achievable tasks for the day. For example, one task might be scanning your favorite job board for 30 minutes. Another might be creating 2 custom networking messages to employers at target companies. A final goal might be setting up a live networking lunch for the following week. You get the picture. These goals should be achievable but also high value. They should involve direct contact with individuals who may be able to help, either by offering sound advice or referring you for an interview.


You’ll notice in tip #2 I mention spending 30 minutes on your favorite job board. DO NOT GET SUCKED IN. Once you start searching for jobs, it’s very easy to spend hours reviewing job descriptions, trying different keyword combinations and researching companies. Before you know it, your day is gone and you’ve only applied to one position. This is not an efficient way to spend your time. I tell my clients that the job boards are a ‘necessary evil’. You should visit them, but set time limits for yourself. You also might consider creating alerts with specific keywords that come to your email directly.


Now, here is the most important tip. Once you have completed your tasks for the day, STEP AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER. That’s right, spend the rest of your day on personal activities. Maybe that means having lunch or seeing a movie with a friend. Perhaps your pooch needs a longer walk. It might be time to dust off your gym shoes, clean out your closet or volunteer at a local shelter. Do a few things that you would never have a chance to do if you were working.


Finally, DON’T FEEL GUILTY. I know, easier said than done. But you do need to recharge your batteries, even if it’s only for a week or two. Think of it as a critical part of the job search. If your energy is up, you are more likely to knock the socks off of a potential employer at your next interview.

The bottom line is be sure to incorporate some ‘me time’ into your job search strategy. If your family and friends ask you about it, tell them your career coach said so. Your future employer will thank you for it.




01/22/2015
"When should I call?": The Job Search/Dating Analogy


Career coaches often use analogies when they talk about the job search. A common analogy compares the job search to dating. When you stop to think about it, there are so many similarities -– breaking up after a long-term relationship, having to develop a brand and online presence, being vulnerable, networking and putting yourself out there – the list goes on and on. It’s a fun analogy that most people can relate to.

One of the common questions I hear from clients after their first interview or series of interviews is “When should I call?” This is when I use the analogy of the first date. You’ve met, sold yourself, asked questions and demonstrated interest. Now what? Hopefully, the employer has set expectations of when they will contact you regarding next steps. If they have, I recommend waiting to hear from them. If they don’t contact you within the allotted timeframe or didn’t establish next steps, then you can follow up. Here are 3 tips to consider when following up with employers (or after a first date!):

1. 2 Week Rule – After you’ve sent your initial thank you note, give the employer two full weeks before you follow up. Keep in mind that they may be interviewing other candidates, managing conflicting interviewer schedules, reviewing offer details, etc. Especially with larger firms, there are a lot of “behind the scenes” activities taking place. Also, many companies run lean on recruiters who often get behind. Good to give them a little time to get caught up before sending an email.

2. Be short & sweet – Email the recruiter or hiring manager with a succinct email checking in, reiterating interest and stating why you can add value in the role. Do not say anything that sounds impatient or annoyed – “I haven’t heard from you…” That is a surefire way to scare them off.

3. Don’t be a stalker – If you don’t hear from the employer after sending a thank you note and a follow up, let it go! It will not help your chances by following up multiple times and/or calling (or texting after a date..). This is a real turn off to recruiters and hiring managers and they may write you off before they have made a decision. I recommend focusing on other opportunities (aka 'other fish in the sea'). You may find that the company will call you when you least expect it!

So whether you are searching for a job or a relationship, hoping my 3 tips for effective follow up will be helpful. Happy hunting!