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Wow Your Way into the Job of Your Dreams
By Frances Cole Jones
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Frances C. Jones
All rights reserved.
Job Search Secret: Do It, Delegate It, or Delete It
Most of us begin our job search methodically, and with purpose. Over time, however, as multiple leads come in, multiple resumes get written, and multiple phone calls are made—both our desk and our email inbox become filled with leads and questions whose neglect paralyzes our thinking and keeps us from moving forward with efficiency. At this point, I recommend instituting the Marine Corps maxim, "Do it, delegate it, or delete it," in order to follow up, and follow through, with greater efficiency.
It's the idea behind touching each piece of paper only once.
Why is this important? Well, not only does it instill confidence in those around you, but it also helps you maintain confidence in yourself. The lurking knowledge that you're procrastinating is a confidence-killer. And in the same way it's hard to feel at the top of your game when you know you've left behind piles of laundry, an unmade bed, and a sink full of dirty dishes, it's hard to go present your best self to the world knowing you have an inbox that's overflowing with requests, complaints, and exhortations.
For example, "Do" items include following through on all leads, from all sources—checking every company's or connection's background. While you may not end up posting resumes or picking up the phone to make a connection on every one, you need to keep the mindset that right now, your job search is your job. Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked. What, specifically, are you looking for? Any information on the company's mission/bestselling product/competition, which can then help you position yourself as being able to contribute to furthering their goals, enhancing their status, or plugging the hole in their offerings via skill sets and ideas that are unique to you.
You might think doing this research is something you can delegate, but I've found this isn't the best use of delegation—a highly underrated skill set, by the way. It's far better to delegate those tasks that many of us use doing our job search as a form of creative procrastination designed as "necessary" work: reformatting our resume, updating our website, even getting our interview wardrobe ready—all of which give you a seemingly morally unimpeachable response to the question "What are you doing to further your search?" when, in fact, they are avoidance behavior. Truly. Unless you are a designer or web developer, these tasks are generally best handed off to those trained in these skill sets. Not only will you give yourself the time you need to focus on what you alone can do, you'll likely end up with a far better looking document or site.
I recommend deleting from your to-do list items along the lines of multiple postings of your resume—and the consequent follow-up—on job search postings websites with "credentials" along the lines of "Lose 9 pounds of belly fat in one day." Focused follow-through on personal recommendations and with accredited sites (say, for example Monster.com or TheLadders.com) is far more likely to yield the results you seek. I also suggest deleting those leads you find via what I call "internet daydreaming." This generally looks like a job that was something you considered doing during your summers off in high school and which just happens to be available in Hawaii.
I do not, however, recommend deleting following up on any personal leads you are offered. While it may be tempting to delete from your to-do list following through on the suggestion you got from your child's camp counselor to get in touch with their cousin "because it seems like you have so much in common," following through could reveal their cousin is the vice president of the firm you've been angling for a connection to for the last six months. (But regardless of whether they result in the outcome you want, you need to remember that personal leads are just that—personal. Thanking the person who offered them is mandatory to building the kind of effective, comprehensive network you will always need.)
As you can see, while it may seem either strident or simplistic, adopting a "Do it, delegate it, or delete it" policy gives you a framework for following up and following through in such a way that your mind is free to give 100% of its focus to your day's priorities.
Now You're Speaking My Language
As you begin researching job postings in your area of expertise, it's important to reassure future employers that you are already "speaking their language," as this makes it easier for them to imagine you fitting smoothly into their culture.
If you are a first-time job seeker—or seeking to switch from one industry to another—a great way to do this is to go on a few "informational interviews." These are meetings with higher-ups in your area of interest who can check your resume to ensure you are describing your objective and experience in the language spoken in your desired field. During your interview, they can tell you about trends within the industry that might not be apparent to someone outside the field.
For example, when I first wanted to break into publishing, I went on a few informational interviews, during which I learned that 90% of the people trying to break into that field want to edit fiction—but that a far larger portion of the money made in publishing is made in non-fiction. This enabled me to tweak my resume to highlight the journalistic experience I had had, and to, when I went in for interviews, talk about how I longed to do nothing more than edit books on popular psychology, parenting, how-to....
Once I was speaking the language publishing executives wanted to hear, I was hired to my dream job within a month.
If you are returning to the work force, what you might discover is that—while the basic elements of the job haven't changed—the way people are talking about those elements has.
For example, perhaps you were a consultant working with teams on change management and you used to describe your work as "business process redesign." However, online research reveals that that phrasing has gotten a bad name due to layoffs, and is now referred to as "business transformation." That small update to your resume reassures HR professionals you're up to speed on news in the industry.
Alternatively, perhaps your former job description was, "Managed market research plans" but reading current job postings gives you language such as, "Ran focus groups that uncovered consumer trends—providing sales team with the necessary information for fact-based selling." That's language that's going to make potential employers get in touch.
A great place to check and see how jobs in your desired field are being languaged is TheLadders.com— a site posting jobs paying over $100,000 a year. The employers posting on TheLadders are seeking the most qualified, authoritative candidates imaginable; and they are advertising for them in language that is universally acknowledged within that industry.
Be sure that's the language you are speaking.
The All-Important Informational Interview
When I was thinking about switching professions, from teaching to publishing, I kept going on interviews and striking out, and I couldn't figure it out. There had to be something I was doing incorrectly, but what was it? To discover, I began going on informational interviews—setting up meetings with people whom I would have loved to have as bosses, but who weren't looking for help. I figured they might be able to tell me how to crack the code. This turned out to be invaluable—this turned out to be how I made the jump.
Here's what happened: when I first tried to break into publishing, I was the ripe old age of twenty-five. I'd been teaching for four years and gotten a Master's Degree. From where I sat, that made me a great candidate. From where a future boss sat, that made me a liability. I discovered their concern was that no sooner would they get me trained to their liking than I would move on. Knowing this, I was able to go into an actual interview and say, "I understand that my age and experience might be a concern—that you feel I might leave in a few months. I understand and can tell you that I'm willing to make an eighteen month commitment to this job once you offer it to me."
The purpose of an informational interview is to find out both what companies in your field are looking for and—just as importantly—what they are not. Also, to discover what their concerns might be from looking at you, and your resume.
Additionally, informational interviews are a great place to find out what not to say as well as what you should say—because over the years I have found that in every industry there is one question you can ask, or statement you can make, that just drives people wild.
For example, when I worked in publishing that phrase was, "And I know my book would be great on Oprah." Aaaaauugh. I mean, their book might very well be great on Oprah—but getting your book on Oprah is a bit like getting struck by lightning. The effect of a prospective author saying this was only to make everyone in the room think, "High maintenance. Back away slowly."
The fact that the interview is informational doesn't mean you don't have to prep just as carefully as you would if there were a job at stake. You should know your interviewer's resume inside and out. You should have a list of questions you'd like to have answered: are there any skills I should fine-tune? Are there any immediate red flags you see when you look at my resume? Are there any new trends in the industry I should be aware of? As noted above, is there anything I should absolutely never, ever say?
Now it might seem that people in these positions don't have the time or energy to give to these interviews. I rarely found this to be true. The people I know who've been shut down had often opened with, "Let me take you to lunch." While this is a lovely offer, these people are busy. They don't want to commit to lunch. So, set yourself up for success by respecting their time limits up front, ask them, "May I come in to speak with you for fifteen minutes at the beginning or end of your day?"
Two other great benefits of this kind of interviewing are that once you get an interview with someone in their field, you can often call back and ask if there's anything in particular about that person that would be important for you to know. Also, if they were sufficiently impressed with you, they will have you in mind when someone in their field is looking to hire a new person for their team.
Informational interviews are a win/win/win—and all those wins are for you. You get the experience of interviewing, you get the information, and you get the future connection.
Master the Medium
While it's a bit surprising to me that this needs to be put in writing, experience has shown me that there are a number of elements that need to be addressed regarding email addresses.
I'll begin with the most glaring infraction I see—generally among younger job seekers—which is the use of addresses along the lines of firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org ... These are not appropriate email addresses for use in any situation.
"But," I've had people protest, "I just use these with my friends! I would never use them when I'm looking for a job." OK. I believe that you would never consciously choose to use this address during your job search. That said, we all know there are days when we aren't at the top of our game, for whatever reason: you're sleep deprived, you're checking multiple accounts on your tiny, but indispensable, PDA, you leave your phone on the table and your friend finds it "funny" to forward last night's exploits to all your recent contacts, and suddenly the email's out there and you're cleaning up an interpersonal gaffe that simply didn't have to happen.
Given this, I recommend closing down any accounts you may have with suggestive, cute, silly, personal monikers. While I'm certain this makes me sound like the world's worst killjoy, that's a title I'm willing to own. (Though I would not, of course, set myself up as email@example.com.)
Additionally, I'm not a fan of obscure combinations of letters and numbers. While it might be immediately apparent, and a helpful aide-mémoire for you, that your address is your initials and your birthday or the date Beyoncé rocked the Super Bowl or some such, you are making others work too hard to remember it.
And when you make me work too hard I feel stupid, and when I feel stupid, I don't like you.
What then, do I recommend you do? My suggestion for job seekers of any age is to buy your name as a dot.com For example, I own FrancesJones.com, FrancesCJones.com, FrancesColeJones.com, plus the myriad addresses used for my books and my business. Why? Because linking your email to a service that is used by millions of others (Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc.) doesn't leave the impression of you as unique—as a force to be reckoned with. Buying your name tells others you take yourself seriously, and they need to, too. With this in hand—should your name be John Doe—you can set yourself up as John@JohnDoe.com. This can be done at Register.com, NetworkSolutions.com, and Active-Domain.com or—my favorite—pairNIC.com. Their customer service is outstanding.
And, while we're on the subject of formality and informality on the World Wide Web, I am going to request you clean up your Facebook/Twitter, etc., pages. Because although I have no doubt your trip to Vegas with your friends was memorable (or memorable now that you've posted the pictures online), these should not be available for the world to see—and thinking the world isn't going to look is, in this day and age, laughable. As many of you know who read publications from The Wall Street Journal to the New York Post, job candidates across any number of industries—from bankers to police officers—have been weeded out due to inappropriate postings on their personal pages. Also consider that the latest vetting form for the White House requires candidates to list "all aliases or 'handles' you have used to communicate on the Internet," everything they've written, "including, but not limited to, any posts or comments on blogs or other websites," links to their Facebook or MySpace pages and any potentially embarrassing "electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message." But it's not just White House jobs—in fact, in addition to checking your pages on their own time, recently, I've heard stories of potential employers asking you to open your Facebook page midinterview....
I sincerely hope that gave you pause.
How am I classifying inappropriate? Any postings referencing the intimate details of your personal relationship, your GI tract, or your mental health; and any photos in which you are drinking, smoking, leering, sneering, suggestively posed, or otherwise indisposed. If you are in doubt, I recommend asking yourself the following question: "Does this entry/picture make me sound/look like I can be trusted with $100,000?" If it doesn't, get rid of it. These portals are your public face—or shop window—to the world. You wouldn't want to run into the HR Director with whom you just interviewed scantily clad, slightly inebriated, or making lewd gestures with your friends on the street, don't let him or her find you that way on your home page.
The Polished (Home) Professional
Whether you are freelancing as you look for a job, or have made looking for a job your fulltime job, it is critical that you always appear professional. With this in mind, here are a few tips for ensuring you always present your best self (and a few tips for improving efficiency):
1. If you don't already know, learn how to make address labels on your home printer—hand-addressed mail looks less official.
2. When you are sending something via snail mail, be sure the stamp you have chosen is appropriate—e.g., don't send something with a "Season's Greetings" stamp in August, or a "Love" stamp just because the Post Office is pushing them around Valentine's Day.
3. Consider a separate phone line, especially if you have kids. If this is not possible, please make sure your greeting presents your best self. Your name should be clearly stated; any alternate number offered shouldn't be given so quickly your caller has to call back three times to write it down; and there should be no background noise.
4. You can easily "expand" the size of your office by incorporating the Post-It Table Top Pad: these white board–sized Post-Its are a great way to give a conference room–sized feel to a closet-sized space.
5. A "countdown clock" is a great way to ensure you stay on task. Used for planning everything from weddings to conferences, numerous models are available at Alibaba.com.
Have a Scheme (or at Least a Blog)
Even a few years ago, having a personal presence online was seen as, at best, a luxury or at worst an eccentricity. These days, it's essential. If you can't be Googled, you don't exist. Given this it's critical for you to have a blog or personal website of your own; not doing so signals to employers that you are out of touch with modern rhythms.
Excerpted from Wow Your Way into the Job of Your Dreams by Frances Cole Jones. Copyright © 2014 Frances C. Jones. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Job Search Secret: Do It, Delegate It, or Delete It,
Now You're Speaking My Language,
The All-Important Informational Interview,
Master the Medium,
The Polished (Home) Professional,
Have a Scheme (or at Least a Blog),
Business Card Blunders,
The Art of the Resume,
Look for Angels Wearing Overalls,
Name Drop with Discretion,
Do Go There,
Getting a Job Is Your Job,
Be "Dress Ready",
Just Say Yes,
Job Interview Timeline,
Ace the Q & A,
Presenting Your (Checkered) Past,
Advice for "Experienced" Job Seekers,
Surviving Interview Disasters: Don't Get Flustered, Get Factual,
The Social Interview,
The Polished Follow-up,
Be a Gracious Loser,
Don't Break Your Own Heart,