Career Adventure

career development from both sides of the interview table

Throwing open the doors

An announcement of sorts…

I started this blog with a focus on job transition, offering ideas and resources for people who are looking for new positions.  But really, and especially in this economy, we’re all in transition.

Even those of you who are settled in established positions are likely working towards the next step in your careers.

Since I’m just as passionate about helping people improve themselves in their current roles, I’m going to widen the scope here.  You can expect to see more content on effective management, professionalism, networking, and more that should be pertinent to everyone in the working world, job holders and job seekers alike.

If there’s any particular topic you’d like to see, please let me know.  In the meantime, thanks for visiting.

Filed under: announcements,

Finding the humor in job loss

Humor is the instinct for taking pain playfully.

–Max Eastman

Everywhere you go nowadays, it seems someone has lost their job.  Your brother, your cousin, your dry cleaner’s daughter…  The bright side for the unemployed?  The stigma of job loss is dissolving.  Chances are if someone hasn’t experienced it personally, they’ve either known someone, or watched competent peers go through it in their own companies.

So, job loss is less shameful, perhaps.  But is it ever funny?

An article from Workforce.com examines the controversy over recent ads by Monster that use humor to point out that not everyone is in the right job.  Some say that humor in light of the slew of corporate layoffs and ever-increasing unemployment is out-of-step with public sentiment, as so many people are either out of work or grateful to have any job, regardless of how well it may suit them.

Job loss can be difficult, demoralizing, scary.  But dwelling on the negative doesn’t benefit anyone.  So, here are some guidelines:

If you have lost your job… Make all the jokes you want, but don’t focus on mocking either your former employer or yourself.  If you indulge in negative talk about your employer, either seriously or in jest, you may find this tendency sneaking out at inappropriate times.  Like a job interview.  Harboring resentment doesn’t get you anywhere, and if you’re not vigilant, you may reflect it in your body language or tone of voice.  And don’t be too hard on yourself, either.  Your mindset about your own capabilities will affect your effectiveness while networking or interviewing as well.

If you are a “survivor”… Recognize that times around your workplace are tough.  A little laughter can break the tension, but you want to avoid comments about those individuals who did not survive the layoffs, as you don’t know who maintains close relationships with those individuals.  You can lose trust and credibility with your coworkers.  And don’t think that just because someone doesn’t come to the office every day that they don’t hear what’s going on.

If you’re managing survivors… You’re subject to the same rules as above with one additional restriction: no jokes about who will be the “next to go.”  The possibility of further layoffs will be on your team’s mind and interfering with their productivity.  Bringing additional focus on the possibility, even in jest, won’t help them regain focus.

Alright, so a little levity on a Friday is in order.  Want to enjoy some job-loss humor without risking your career?  Thank Dilbert.

Filed under: job hunt, mindset, , , , ,

One Question

In past job searches, I’ve focused on a career trajectory.  If I have position A, that qualifies me for position B, which in turn qualifies me for C, etc.  My job searches have been all about finding that position B — that next step in an inevitable climb up the corporate ladder.

But a couple of life changes (parenthood, unemployment) have seriously reordered my definition of a career path.

So, reading today The ONE Question Every Entrepreneur Must Ask by Scott  Ginsberg (aka The Nametag Guy), I thought about how applicable the question is in other contexts.

The question that Scott poses (and I encourage you to click through and read the original) is:  What are YOU building?

Scott attacks it from the standpoint of entrepreneurship, but all of  us can benefit from answering this question.  Even as a cog in the greater wheel, we have the opportunity to build things within the span of our control, and often far beyond it.

So, as a job seeker I am asking myself the question, and using it to help me determine what the next step for me should be.  What are YOU building?  And is it the work and the life that you want?

Filed under: entrepreneurship, mindset, , , , ,

Offer: Free resume critique

If you would like to be considered for a free resume critique in the future, please contact me.  As part of an upcoming feature on this site, your resume will be reviewed and suggestions offered.  You can participate anonymously or get a little extra exposure for your job search, as you prefer.  Submissions should be in Word format (.doc, .docx).  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Filed under: job hunt, offers, resumes, , , , , ,

Interview Question of the Week: Tell Me About Yourself

Today I’m launching a new feature: Interview Question of the Week.  Each week I’ll share a new potential interview question, along with some thoughts on effective and ineffective answers.  Different interviewers have different goals with various questions, so if you have a different take, please share in the comments.

In keeping with kicking off the series, this week’s question is the one that so often kicks off interviews: Tell me about yourself.

Now, I’m sure your poodle, Fluffy, is delightful and your ballroom dance classes are really paying off, but this isn’t what I’m looking to hear about here.

Your answer to this question is the interview equivalent of an elevator pitch, your opportunity to create a picture of who you are and what you offer in 2 minutes or less.  It should be:

  • Well-rehearsed. If nothing else, this.  This is a softball question — after all, what could you know more about than yourself?  If you can’t knock this one out of the park, your following responses will be overshadowed.
  • Professionally focused. I am all for injecting personality into the speech.  It humanizes you as a candidate and sparks conversation.  But such tidbits should be garnish.  Your experience, background and career focus should be the meat.  So, if you must tell me about Fluffy, great, but do so after I hear about your success leading teams, developing software, meeting sales quotas, or whatever it is that you do.
  • New information.  An interviewer has your resume.  Some of your intro will have to touch on items on your resume, but take this opportunity to fill in the context.  Share motivation, challenges, turning points, whatever is appropriate to flesh out the narrative.

If you’re struggling with what to say, rephrase the question in your head.  Answer the question: “Why are you here today applying for this job?”  Tackle, tactfully, why you’re looking and what you think you have to offer.  The train of thought probably looks like this.

You focused:

  1. My name is _____ and I’ve worked in _____ for _____ years.
  2. I started my career with …
  3. Over time I moved up the ranks to work in _____ and _____.
  4. Most recently I’ve worked for _____ in their _____ area.
  5. I joined the company to help them with …
  6. But over time my role grew to include …
  7. While I’ve enjoyed the opportunity I’ve come to believe a new position is appropriate at this time because…

Position and Company Focused:

  1. I learned about your company through …
  2. I know that you have a need in _____ area …
  3. My knowledge about your company strategy/culture/etc. made me believe that I may be able to assist you because…
  4. I think my experience could assist you with …
  5. And I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss how I can assist you here today.

Write and rewrite your basic script.  Use descriptive language.  Use humor if you can.  Understand that this speech isn’t just designed to provide background — it’s designed to make the interviewer like you.

If you do well with this question, you will surpass the vast majority of your competition, and you may just pave the way for a more congenial, enjoyable interview.

Any luck with this method?  See things differently?  Let me know in the comments.

Filed under: howto, Interview Question of the Week, job hunt, , , , , ,

Another reason to diversify

Your job efforts, that is.

New statistics show that online job searching is skyrocketing, especially on some of the less-known job sites.

The same article points out that women spend more time on searching online.  Their conclusion — women are being disproportionately affected by the economy.  I’ll throw out an alternative — women may be less likely to use their networks to find their next opportunity.

So, keep in mind that the competition online is getting tougher, and adjust the time you spend there accordingly.  Then, find a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd.

Filed under: job hunt, trends, , , , , , ,

Neuroscience and You: Working with your brain on your job hunt

One of the most enriching parts of Human Resources work for me is involvement in coaching.  While I’m searching for a new position, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up on research, discussion and methodology to hone my coaching abilities.

So, wandering through iTunes today, I ran across some recordings from the 2008 Asia Pacific Neuroleadership Summit via Results Coaching Systems in Australia.  Listening to “Coaching with the Brain in Mind” brought forth a point that may be worth considering in prepping for your next job interview:

Stress can literally short-circuit your ability to put forward your best self

David Rock shares the following about the way the brain works:

  • We have the capability to change the way we think and behave, but it requires significant conscious effort and attention.
  • The brain contains vast amounts of information.  As a way to maximize efficiency, the brain’s natural instinct is to move information that we utilize on a regular basis from working memory, which takes a lot of energy and resources, to our “hard wiring.”
  • Stressful situations, especially situations where we fear for our image or sense of self, overwhelm the brain with electrical activity.
  • This increased activity causes the brain to seek self-preservation through stasis, reverting to those behaviors that are hard wired and automatic.

Prepping for an interview is essential to putting forward your very best self.  But how do you target your prep so that you can overcome the effects of stress and focus on the content of the interview, rather than the context?  Answer: move as much as possible into your hard-wiring so that you can focus your attention on the fine-tuning.

Level 1:  Behaviors

The straightforward piece of this is identifying behaviors that might interfere with your perceived professionalism, energy or intellect.  Things like posture, rate of speech, word choice, facial expressions or manner of dress all have an impact on your first impression and the way you connect with an interviewer.  Luckily, these are all things you can practice every day, not just in an interview situation.  Make a list of things you’d like to work on.  Ask trusted friends, family or colleagues to help you identify areas of improvement if you need an outside perspective.  Then look for opportunities to practice more effective behaviors.  Maintain good posture while driving.  Put a quarter in a jar every time you say “like” or “um.”  Whatever it takes.

Level 2: Content

One of the best ways to prepare for interviews is to create narratives around your past projects and experiences that demonstrate your work.  In another post, we’ll talk about how to craft effective answers for behavioral interviewing questions.  For now, understand that every experience and project listed on your resume is ripe for questioning.  Take time to develop short speeches, one to three minutes each, identifying how these experiences have qualified you for the next step in your career.  Then practice, practice, practice.  If you can ensure that your attention in an interview doesn’t need to be on the details of your experience, you can better customize the story to the situation or react to facial expressions or body language that may tip you off to questions or concerns the interviewer holds.

Power Tip: Refining the system

Last thing to do: institute quality control.  If you’re in a situation where you recognize that these behaviors you’ve been practicing didn’t come through, take note, then practice that behavior more.

With work, you can develop a more professional, confident demeanor that comes through in the most stressful of circumstances.

Filed under: job hunt, mindset, , , , , , , ,

The five things I want out of a job candidate

There are dozens of places to find tips on interviewing, including this one.  Much of the advice you’ll find is foundational — the basics that are required to get your rear end into the interview chair and to be considered on the same plane as your fellow candidates.

The basics are important.  Trust me, plenty of people get them wrong.  But my wish-list when I’m looking for new staff includes more than shined shoes and plenty of fresh resumes.

Nothing pleases a recruiter more than a candidate that just rocks the interview.  When the conversation pops.  When you want to trade them their fresh resume for the employee handbook and keys to their new office.  But these people are few and far between.

These five things are so rare to see, but so powerful.  If I have anything to say about it, they’re guaranteed to get you an offer:

  1. Clarity — Show me that you’ve thought about this opportunity and exactly how it will fit your master career plan.  Tell me exactly what you want out of a new employer, and exactly why you think my company might be able to offer it.  But first, tell me what you do best and how you think it fits with what we’re asking.  If you hem or haw you’ve lost me.  Don’t be a know-it-all — I know better than you do what I’m looking for — but use what you do know to connect to what you have to offer.  I’ll help you fill in the gaps.
  2. Blue-sky attitude — The last thing I want is a that’s-not-my-jobber, the person who performs within their job description and checks out at 5 pm.  Think of where your value is in the organization, and how you can grow your contribution.  Be open to change.  Bonus points for proof you’ve initiated it.
  3. Curiosity — I always leave about a third of the interview time, sometimes more, to answer a candidate’s questions.  Please don’t be the shortest interview of the day by not having any.  My ideal candidate wants to understand the organization even if they don’t get the job — they can always file info away under “industry knowledge.”  Specific questions about the company, industry, market trends, challenges, opportunities, growth plan…  all of these show an interest in what makes the organization tick, and make for a much more interesting conversation.
  4. Energy — Don’t get too comfortable — you’ll look like you’re on auto-pilot.  Stay engaged in the conversation.  Lean towards me; smile.  Gesture precisely.  Walk confidently.  Then tell me about the time that you put in eighty hour weeks to crank out a client deliverable or the fact that you spend weekends working with Habitat for Humanity.  I want to see someone who thrives off of challenge, enrichment, personal development.  If I as the employer can offer you that, I can expect an engaged, successful performer.
  5. Action — This one is the most important.  The first four show ability and state of mind.  Action is what gets results.  Behavioral-based interviewing is very common, with questions like “Tell me about the time you managed a project against a difficult deadline.”  These questions give you a chance to show me not just what you know, but how you use it.  Tell me in detail what you did and what came of it.  Action, result, action, result, wash, rinse, repeat.  Prove that you’ve delivered value in your previous roles, so that I can expect the same.

Demonstrating these qualities in an interview will put you far ahead of your competition.

Filed under: job hunt, ,

HowTo LinkedIn #1: Creating your unique URL

What web site is at the top of an IT professional’s must-know list this year? Sites like Green Grid and Secunia are focused on optimizing and protecting the corporate network, but the New York Times’ top pick is a site that helps the IT professional optimize and protect their career brand — LinkedIn.

The value of networking is highlighted when the job market is unstable.  If you’re in transition or think there’s a chance you may end up there, a daily focus on networking is a good habit to create.

This post marks the first in a series on how to get the most out of LinkedIn as a professional networking tool.  Over the course of the series, you can expect to learn both basics and best practices for creating a professional presence online.

Creating your unique profile URL

By default, new LinkedIn users get a randomly-generated URL address for their public profiles.  A standard random URL might look like this:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/99/56b/000

With a few clicks of the mouse (and a little typing) you can select your own custom URL, which would look more like this:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristidaeda

Easier to remember, easier to share, and therefore more likely to successfully direct someone to your profile.

Changing your URL is easy enough.  While logged in, in the left navigation area, click “Edit My Profile” under the Profile header.  In the first large profile block, you’ll see a line that says “Public Profile” followed by the current URL location.  By clicking “Edit” to the right of the URL, you can select an available, unique URL for your profile.

The slightly harder piece is thinking about how to use the custom URL to manage your online brand.  Google and other search engines index LinkedIn profiles, and they typically get good visibility.  So, deciding on your URL takes two simple steps:

  1. Create a URL that will attract traffic. Using your name as your URL is common, and effective, especially if your name is unique or if you believe someone may search for you by name.  Or, you can develop a keyword-based URL.  Think “ILtechnicalrecruiter” or “freelancecommunicator” or the like.  Web traffic is all about being keyword-rich, and the URL is no exception.
  2. Don’t change it. LinkedIn allows you to change your custom URL, but each time you make a change you’re losing people who may have bookmarked you, and traffic off of search engines.  Choose a simple, quality custom URL to begin with and keep it.

That’s it.  Simple start, right?  You’re already closer to a fully optimized LinkedIn presence.

Watch for upcoming posts as we work our way through creating a profile that represents you professionally, and just might make the connection that leads to your next opportunity.

Filed under: howto, networking, web tools, , ,

Where the jobs are

Amidst the less-than-stellar employment statistics is a ray of hope for those working, or aspiring to work, in select industries.

Government, health care and education added jobs in December.

If you’ve been contemplating pursuing nursing or becoming a teacher, the opportunities may still be out there for you.

Filed under: job hunt, trends, , , , ,

About Career Adventure

Career Adventure is the blog of Kristi Daeda, a Human Resources and recruiting pro sharing thoughts on career development from both sides of the interview table.

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