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Tuesday, July 5, 2011



Dear Readers:
This blog has moved as of July 1, 2011 and can now be found on http://www.pathfindercareers.com/blog . Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly, and thank you for reading!

Best regards,

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bad Marketing Gone Wrong - Personalization Matters in a Job Search

I'll admit it.  There's a war going on... right here on my desk.  Specifically, it's taking place in my in-box.

Day after day, I spent probably 30 minutes going through e-newsletters that I have been 'added' to without my permission, and taking the time to unsubscribe.

Then I am greeted with a message: "Please don't go!  Tell us why you are leaving."

Really?  Do you ACTUALLY have to ask???

Some person in some marketing department somewhere probably purchased a 'list' and gleefully added a whole passel of email addresses, thinking that they hit paydirt.

But what is really happening?

The lack of targeted focus and ultimately, refining the prospects that they are adding to their database is really going to end up being quantity, not quality.

What kind of database does the company really have when 90% of the contacts have never bought from that company, and if asked, would never do so in the future???

Ok, now that I have gotten this rant off my chest, this same lesson can be applied to your job search.  Let's take LinkedIn connections... do you see where I am going here?

What use is a giant network of people that you have 'added' to put another notch in your belt and feel 'loved' by countless connections, when in fact, they have no idea who you are and wouldn't be too motivated to act on your behalf during your job search?  People help others that they KNOW and have a meaningful rapport with... not complete strangers who really just want to use you.


What use is a list of recruiters that you blast your resume out to when they have never interacted with you before... and don't know you from boo?

My point being is that the tide has turned.  Mass marketing in any context without any attempt to qualify and understand your target audience is entering the realm of dinosaurs.  We are all getting over-dosed on information coming our way, and as a result, are getting more sophisticated about how we want to be communicated to either via phone, email, web or via print.

Clicking 'send' without doing the proper legwork and qualification really is one thing, and one thing only: LAZY.

And you know what my attitude is? FINE.  If you don't take the time to find out about me and what I want and how we might build a meaningful relationship together, then what you are really telling me is that you don't care about me.  You just want the opportunity to market to me. Or worse... use me.

In order to earn that opportunity, you have to build my trust and buy-in first... and the only way you can do that is by taking the time to know me first.

So don't be lazy in your job search or any other marketing campaign... take the time to build those relationships... that's where the real paydirt is!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Job Interview Autopsies: What You Don't Know Will Hurt You

We've all had that awful job interview where either we bobbled a question someone tossed at us (such as: "If you could be any animal, what would you be?") or we gave a bad answer and afterwards we smack our foreheads because we realized we could have given a much better answer.

I talk to a lot of people who are very stressed out about interviews and loathe them for the very reason because they've had bad ones... many say they would rather go have a root canal than go through the painful examination of an interview.

But you know what?

Interviews are actually good for you.


Think about it. They put us on the spot in a way that we usually don't encounter on a daily basis. An interview actually is a very powerful experience because you learn how you react under pressure.

If you really want to get over those jitters, you'll need to do an autopsy to discover what you need to know and / or work on to improve your skills in these situations.

Here are some tips on becoming more comfortable and at ease:

1) Interview often. Practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the more it's like staying on your bike. And if you do happen to fall, it'll be a lot easier to get back on again.

2) Dig into the interview and autopsy it. What did you do well? What did you do wrong? What did you expect? What happened that was unexpected? Did you feel prepared or totally unready?

3) Write down all the questions you can remember AFTER the interview. By keeping a running list of real interview questions you've encountered, you can gain skill in knowing what might be coming your way the next time you meet an employer.

4) Do your research. Did the employer field a question to you that had something to do with the company? If you had done your research, confidence comes with knowledge and even buy you some time. Sometimes, even deflecting those questions with similar but different detailed information can help you wiggle out of tight spots.

5) What was your gut instinct about the interview? Trusting your intuition is important... if you are feeling not-so-great about an interview and your performance in there, there might have been something perhaps non-verbal that the interviewers were exuding that put you off. If you aren't walking out pumped up and energized, is this really the right opportunity for you?

If you don't take the time to truly examine how you performed in an interview, and don't dissect the pieces that you did well versus the ones you had an #epicfail on, you won't learn about yourself nor will you learn what you can do better for next time. In your lifetime, you'll have a lot more interviews than job offers, so mastering the knowledge of your strengths and weak points is incredibly important to your career.. otherwise, what you don't know will hurt you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You 2.0: The Brave New World of Social Media and Online Job Searches

There are a million different websites out there providing advice on social media and job search … many of which have some great nuggets… but which one is right for you? 

The answer is: Any or all of them.

Or maybe none!

You’ll definitely need to do your research on finding out where you need to be and how to build your online content and messaging towards a target audience.

But one thing is clear… pressing ‘send’ isn’t going to magically make job offers or interviews appear. 

You absolutely have to work every bit as hard on the social media end during the online pursuit of jobs as you would with networking in real life at a business meeting.

This month, the Career Collective pulls together a great mind meld of career industry experts to discuss strategies of how to use social media in a job search. (Please click the links at the bottom of this post to access other career experts' articles!)

It’s all about building relationships and reinforcing your personal brand.  Having a prominent online brand and presence can not only define you, but also help you be’ found’ by employers.

Keeping these two ideas in the forefront of your strategy, social media can make the online job search and real-life networking meetings much easier. Here are a few tips to help you make sense of the befuddling array of advice out there to make social media work for you during a job search:

How to use it:

If done correctly, think of social media is your 24/7/365 marketing guardian.  It can be working when you aren’t.  But the key is to put the effort into planning into this by understanding the technology first. The key is to understand the ‘big players’ in social media, what they do, and what role each one of them represents in your job search.

Facebook:  Think of this social media outlet as a way to connect on a personal level to friends and contacts – they get to know you and vice versa.  Another advantage of Facebook is that you can keep your network updated on your job search progress (I.e.: Have an interview at ABC company – does anyone have a contact over there?) I call Facebook an ‘ongoing conversation’ with your first-tier contacts.

Twitter: Companies can tweet about specific jobs, provide updates on the company’s direction, mention change in personnel, and can reveal specific names of people who work at your target company to follow.  You can use this information to introduce yourself, network with key contacts, and gather information to help round out your knowledge of a specific employer.

LinkedIn:  There’s a reason that LinkedIn recently did an IPO on their stock: it has quickly become the ‘go-to’ resource for both job seekers, people who are employed, and also employers.  It has become THE gathering ground of the business world in order to see and be seen… Another feature of LinkedIn is that it is quickly becoming the next generation of a résumé or CV that makes you, again, accessible 24/7.

Blogs: Employers are increasingly hiring subject matter experts and what better way to demonstrate your subject matter expertise in a particular industry area than to write about it?  Producing a blog does require a commitment and should be a regular activity,  If you don’t use it, how do you expect others to?

Getting started and key do’s and don’ts:

Let’s tackle this section by addressing each platform so you can understand what are the ‘must-do’s’ for each social media tool.

Facebook: While Facebook gives you the opportunity to reflect your personality, don’t forget that this is can also be a PROFESSIONAL forum… exercise caution about posting things that are polarizing or would be embarrassing to you should a prospective employer see it.  And then there are always the human resource software programs that can bypass privacy settings, so don’t be fooled into thinking that your tirades or photos from last weekend’s party at the beach are protected from prospective employers.  When in doubt, don’t post!!  Key things to include: Photo, regular updates, and information that you think your network might be interested in.

Twitter: Key things to include: photo or avatar, short bio, and a link to your LinkedIn profile, an online résumé or CV, or a professional Facebook page.  Including a customized, professional background can add visual interest to your Twitter homepage.  But it doesn’t stop there… you then need to start tweeting. Find experts in your industry, follow them, and if they have a great nugget of information you would like to share, then re-tweet it.  Then develop your own content… and find the appropriate hashtags (#) to categorize your content… you’ll be surprised at how many people will re-tweet your info.  But beware of spambots that follow you or mention you in their Tweets in an attempt to get you to click on their links (which could be malware too)… If they follow me, then I block them. If they mention me in a spam tweet, I block and report them.  Having a bazillion followers that are spammers does nothing to enhance your professional reputation on line… instead, cultivate a quality list of followers in your industry and do the same for those leaders that you respect.

LinkedIn:  One of my favorite ways of stating the importance of having a fully complete profile on LinkedIn is this:  “Having an incomplete LinkedIn profile is like showing up to an interview wearing sweatpants.”  It’s true. Take the time to fill out the entire profile and add a little more personality on including some of your top takeaways from jobs. Make sure to include a photo, join relevant industry groups, and ask for recommendations from respected people in your network, but don’t ‘trade’ testimonials in the ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ tradition… employers can smell a rat like that a mile away… so choose the people that you ask for recommendations carefully, and find different things that they can highlight so everyone has a different angle to talk about.  Another thing to boost your subject matter expertise is to answer questions in your specific field under the Q&A option – that can help you get noticed.

Blog:  Again, if you start one, keep adding to it.  And keep it topical and on theme.  If you spend one day musing about political things then the next article, you jump right into an industry-specific post, you’ll be perceived as being all over the map.  Stay on topic, and don’t be afraid to post other relevant posts from individuals in your industry- but the key here is to not only ask for their permission but also provide attribution. NEVER incorporate content that is not yours and try to infer that it is.  That makes a lot of people cranky and also has legal repercussions.  ALWAYS provide proper attribution to the rightful author. Who knows? They might cross post one of your blog entries!   When creating a blog, map out your posting schedule, include a bio and photo, and any other relevant links. Another courtesy thing to do is to create a ‘blog roll’ of additional related blogs of interest to help give the reader an idea of who you think are industry thought leaders.  It actually adds gravitas to your credentials!

Be sure to read other related articles written by top industry career experts by following #careercollective on Twitter, and see what they have to say on this topic: (and you can follow them too- included are their Twitter handles!)

How Having Your Own Website Helps You, @keppie_careers
Make Your Career More Social: Show Up and Engage, @WalterAkana
How to Get a New Job Using Social Media, @DebraWheatman
Social Media: Choosing, Using, and Confusing, @ErinKennedyCPRW
Updating: A Social Media Strategy For Job Search, @TimsStrategy
How to Use Social Media in Your Job Search, @heatherhuhman
We Get By With a Little Recs from Our Friends, @chandlee
Expat Careers & Social Media: Social Media is Potentially 6 Times more Influential than a CV or Resume, @expatcoachmegan
Social-Media Tools and Resources to Maximize Your Personalized Job Search, @KatCareerGal
Job Search and Social Media: A Collective Approach, @careersherpa
Social Media: So what’s the point?, @DawnBugni
Tools that change your world, @WorkWithIllness
HOW TO: Meet People IRL via LinkedIn, @AvidCareerist
Jumping Into the Social Media Sea@ValueIntoWords
Social Media Primer for Job Seekers, @LaurieBerenson
Your Career Needs Social Media - Get Started, @EliteResumes @MartinBuckland
Sink or Swim in Social Media, @KCCareerCoach
Effective Web 2.0 Job Search: Top 5 Secrets, @resumeservice

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Top 7 Survival Tips For New Grads In The Workplace

For most traditional new graduates, moving from the school world into the workplace is a huge culture shock. 

They are going from an environment where everyone has been the same age and generational outlook to a suddenly diverse social environment with people of all ages and backgrounds present. Learning the ropes of a new job, mastering the social ladder of a workplace, and in general, trying to figure out  business etiquette can be pretty frustrating to new workers.

Here are some tips for new grads on navigating their bold new venture in the work world:

1) Be patient.  Today’s graduates are used to the fast pace of technology and in a way, this has built up a low tolerance for being willing to wait. Especially for job promotions or advancement.  “Yeah, yeah, I get it.  Now let’s move on” seems to be the mantra. But unfortunately, the big wheels of business don’t move that quickly and sometimes the opportunity simply isn’t there yet. Take a deep breath.  It will happen, but not necessarily on YOUR timelines. It’s all in the timing… great things come to those that wait!

2) Don’t forget to thank those that help you.  Manners do matter, and those that have made the effort to help you remember who has thanked them or not.  This can have far-reaching impacts on your career – those that become your biggest supporters (and this is reinforced by taking the time to thank them) can open doors you can’t even imagine… both now and in the future.

3) Your career will be a series of choices, not “A” choice.  I read somewhere that the average high school student is going to have 23 jobs in their lifetime… so if statistics don’t lie, you definitely won’t be putting all your eggs in one basket.  Don’t like the work that you are doing and it isn’t rewarding enough? Then look for the skills that are transferrable out of that job and roll them into something that you DO enjoy doing.

4) Tread lightly and carefully.  I am not saying you need to fear your co-workers, but you should know that the office political environment can play out in similar fashion as social cliques back in school… with deadlier consequences.  Refrain from gossiping (which is a behavior common in high school and college) and choose your words carefully. Until you have an accurate read on each person in your office, keep your cards close to your chest. Gossip never has a place in the workplace, but it does happen, and that person you confided in could just as easily turn around and stab you in the back… torpedoing your career.  Keep your own counsel.

5) Education doesn’t end with your graduation.  Not too many career centers or colleges / universities prepare students for the staggering fact that their education isn’t ending… in fact, it is just starting.  Beyond your formal schooling, there’s a whole new universe of learning called “professional development” – this is the stuff that will give you the job-specific skills to be successful.  The sooner you can become aware of the fact that you need to demonstrate continuous learning by taking classes, trainings, workshops, webinars, and attending conferences / tradeshows / conventions, as well as gaining industry certifications, you will be light years ahead of anyone else in your graduating class.  This process does not end until you retire.  And if you ignore this area, you will have a much more difficult time with career advancement because employers are hiring subject matter experts. How can you build your knowledge?

6) Network.  In school, this was called making friends. And you’ll be doing that same thing… but in a business context. Some of my best friends were met while we were working together…  some are closer friends now than others, but the point is that networking really is building a connection with people with whom you have some kind of shared interest or goal.  And when you have that ‘spiderweb’ of people in your network, you’ll find that job and life opportunities flow much easier your way because these are the people who can and want to help you.

7) Don’t leave your dirty dishes in the office sink… your office mates are not your mom. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but the subtext to this statement is really important… you are now on your own and you cannot expect anyone to pick up your slack.  Everything you do from this point forward is business, and not bound by any bonds other than your employment agreement.  It’s pretty darned scary to be suddenly put out in the ‘cold’ after having warm, supportive environments at home and school.  The work world doesn’t operate that way… you either sink or swim.  You are judged by your actions and you should always do the right thing… and never expect someone to be there to catch you when you fall.  That’s called life, and over the course of your career, you are going to make mistakes and have to learn from them.  That’s called experience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Career Savvy: You Are What You Wear

Remember the good old days of high school?  How the clothing that you wore really defined your image?

Surprise!  The work world isn't much different.  The only thing that has changed is that for the most part, no one is going to say anything directly to you about what you wear... they simply won't hire or promote you if the image that you project doesn't fit within the company culture.

What we wear and our appearance DOES impact our career... from the first few seconds in an interview to what you choose from your closet on a daily basis.

Sound trivial? It is, but as the employer sees it: it isn't.  

How you represent yourself also is how the company you work for represents themselves to their customers, both internally and externally.

Way back (I won't say how long ago this was!)... in my first job, on the very first day, I was pulled aside by my supervisor who said she was going to have to send me home to change my clothing. 

Flabbergasted and completely humiliated, I asked why. She smiled, and in a very kind, sympathetic voice, told me to look around the corporate environment and see what others are wearing. Suddenly, my eyes were opened and I saw people wearing suits and other formal business attire.  Then I looked down at myself... I was a college student (and at the time, leggings and big shirts were 'in' ), and immediately realized what she was saying.  Ironically, in the college environment, what I was wearing was generally considered somewhat 'dressy' compared to the usual fare of sweatshirts and sweatpants common on campus.  In fact, some of my friends had even commented how nice I looked, and I had proudly replied that I was going to my first day on the job. 

Oooh... was that first day ever a learning experience!

I thought I WAS dressed up but I didn't understand the culture shift. Then my boss gave me the wake-up call that I needed.

And I just about died from embarrassment!

The rule of thumb is that you if you don't take your personal image seriously, how can anyone else? 

Someone once told me that you should always dress one level ABOVE your current position. Obviously, you don't want to overdo it, and in many companies, particularly on the West Coast, office attire has been slipping into 'business casual' which is a far cry from the stuffy 3-piece suit days. 

But you are what you wear, and if you demonstrate care and cultivation of your personal image, others will pick up on this and this perception will shape their view of you.

Clothing has an often ridiculously high price tag, and a lot of times, people who aren't working don't have the budget to walk in and buy clothes off the rack at their favorite store.  There are alternatives. You can either catch a great sale at a quality department store, go to name-brand discount stores like Nordstrom Rack, or you can even find high-quality items in consignment stores or places like Goodwill if you are willing to spend the time searching.  

Be strategic about what you buy; don't always go for the cheapest price because sometimes, the poor tailoring can become readily apparent after wearing the outfit even once.  Be willing to make an investment into finer materials that aren't too trendy so you can extend the clothing's lifetime.

The point is: investing in your wardrobe is really investing in yourself.  And cultivating your personal brand appearance can have positive, far-reaching impacts on your career and future advancement.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Be Specific in A Job Search

Knock Knock.

Who's there?


Iwanna who?

Iwanna job... any job...

I know... I get it...This joke falls totally flat... just like a generalized request for employment you might put out to your friends, colleagues, and network contacts. 

The WORST thing you can do is say, "Help... I need work... any job will do!"  People want to help you, don't get me wrong, but none of us are job boards and aren't repositories or list trackers to keep tabs on every single job opening out there.  We're human, remember?

Your network WANTS to help you.

But until you get specific, our hands are tied. It's like we mutely watch you flail around, because you haven't given us anything we can grab on to in order to reel you in with a hot lead.

A more effective way about going about requesting help from your network is to either identify SPECIFIC job openings or TARGET companies at which you would like to work.  That provides those who want to assist in your job search something to latch onto.

If you can tell me specifics, then I have something concrete that I can act on, and then go to my network and see if I either know someone who might connect you to the job opening or to prospective employers. 

Many job seekers fail to understand this basic rule of asking for help... specifics get you farther in terms of assistance from your network than vague generalities.

Be specific.  Be focused.  And you'll be pleasantly surprised at how the pieces start to fit together.  Your job search could be a lot faster because of it!