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Find the balance!

imageIn my 8-week class on job search strategies, it's not at all unusual for people to assume the worst when they don't get a response from a company right away after an interview or after applying. It's also not unusual for many of them to get overly excited and "certain" they are getting a job after only seeing an appropriate job posting or after an initial phone screen.

Whether it's being overly pessimistic, or overly optimistic, the problem is the same… unrealistic expectations about the process. Those unrealistic expectations invariably send people on an emotional rollercoaster that becomes draining and leads to a bad attitude in their pursuit of a new career.

It's critical to find balance in your reactions regardless of how things progress.

Here are some things that can help…

Remember… It's not all about you! Very often, people assume that every action an employer takes, or doesn't take, is a very personal statement about them as a candidate. For example:

If the employer calls quickly after applying for a job, it "must" mean they are excited about my background.

or

If they don't call me back when they said they would, it "must" mean they are rejecting me.

The reality is that the employer, in most cases, has other priorities in their workday and workweek than just hiring someone to fill that particular position. Timing often has more to do with when they happen to get to it, rather than any judgment about an individual candidate.

As a candidate, your sense of urgency about getting to the next steps is almost always going to be greater than the employers'. Understanding that you are one of many priorities on their plate often helps to set expectations more realistically.

Temper your emotional response. Allowing yourself to get emotionally too high, or too low in your job search process usually has a rebound effect that swings you too far in the other direction.

It's not unusual for someone to get overly excited when they see a job posting that seems to be "written for them". In reality, regardless how good a fit the position may be, when you see a posting you have to realize you will likely be one of dozens, or potentially hundreds of other candidates. Even if you are a better fit than all the others, you have a challenge of being able to get noticed out of the sea of other applicants. Managing your emotions so that you only allow yourself to get incrementally more excited as you progress through the hiring process helps keep you from the crushing feeling if you don't get the interview or the job.

Conversely, If you allow yourself to hit the floor emotionally when you don't get the job you thought you had locked up, it will take you longer to get into a state of mind to take advantage of the next opportunity that comes up. Furthermore, after you've been so low, many people get overly exuberant when the next prospect turns up. Realize that it was one job, and there are others out there to be pursued as well.

The emotional roller-coaster, going to great heights, and deep valleys is stressful and draining to your attitude and your well being. In turn, that then makes you less attractive to future potential employers.

Keep the pipeline full! The greatest way to keep your emotions on the positive side and avoid the big swings is to have other opportunities you're working on. Too often, when job seekers feel like they're "getting close" to an offer, they slow down or quit their networking, hunting, and applying to other positions. So when they don't get the offer they thought was locked up, they not only feel discouraged about losing that position, they also are starting over again to get their pipeline re-filled.

Until you have an offer in hand, you should never slow down your efforts at pursuing as many opportunities as you can find. It certainly helps you to make better choices and softens the blow when you have 2 or 3 other promising opportunities in the hopper if this turns out not to be "the one".

Finding and maintaining an emotional balance in your job search is critical to being on top of your game throughout your search. Become conscious of your emotional responses and control them to be your best!


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Keep the faith!

imageA woman that took my job search strategies class over 2 years ago, reminded me that you should always have hope, optimism and faith about your search.

She had been a Project Manager for a large health care organization responsible for facility moves. She had an outstanding background of managing multi-million dollar moves for hospitals and some of their largest office facilities as well. Unfortunately, like many others in the "Great Recession", she was laid-off when they were cutting costs and she began her long search for a new position. In her case, it took almost 3 years!

Certainly she got discouraged, her unemployment benefits ran out and finances grew tight. She made ends meet by picking up interim odd jobs, including driving a school bus for several months. Although she continued networking and pursuing opportunities, she began to doubt whether she would ever find an appropriate position for her background again. She did work at maintaining a positive attitude and projected an upbeat personality in her interviews.

Then, through her networking efforts… she met someone at a networking event, who introduced her to someone who worked at another health care company locally. She called and got an informational / networking interview with that person, who later introduced her to the Director of Facilities at the company. They connected, met, and after three weeks of interviews she was presented an offer. The offer was for a position that was never posted. It was created for her. It was a more senior role and at a higher salary than the position she lost three years prior!

Needless to say, she was elated! After enduring month after month of disappointment, doubt, and discouragement, she landed into a position she had only wished for all that time. There are lessons that can be learned from her experience:

Never Quit! Quoting Winston Churchill's famous speech at The Harrow School in 1941… "NEVER give in!". While it's certainly tempting as time goes on to throw in the towel and decide "it's just not going to happen for me", it's critical to find the motivation to turn your attitude around and keep doing whatever is necessary to keep going. Persistence pays. Don't give up!

The attitude you project matters! If, this woman had gone to networking meetings and interviews with a discouraged, bitter, and defeatist disposition, she would not have gotten the job. No one wants to hire someone that's a "downer"! I often say that a positive attitude is the hardest, and most important thing to maintain throughout a job search! It's critical that you get in the habit of charging your batteries each day so that you can face it with optimism and enthusiasm that draws others to you instead of repelling them. Find what works for you and be diligent about doing it!

You never know when it will happen. It's not at all unusual that the best job leads will come from the least likely and least expected sources. It may not be a job lead at all, but rather, as in this case, simply an introduction to someone that ultimately leads to a newly created position. Never minimize the value of an introduction, and always follow up with every contact you can. Always present yourself professionally, and follow up. The contact you don't take seriously may be the one that could have the best opportunity for you!

A long job search can be extremely difficult to endure in many ways… financially, emotionally, in your relationships, and in your self-esteem. Your ability to stay positive, and keep on keeping on will have everything to do with your ultimate success. It can happen… if you Keep the faith!


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Should you create portfolio presentations for your job interviews?

imageFrom time to time I'm asked if I think it's a good idea for people to create and present portfolios for their job interviews. They've either heard of people doing it, or seen one that seems impressive and think it may make a difference in their own interview results.

So… are they worthwhile, and should you create one?

The answer… as with many other questions about your job search, is… maybe!

There are many advantages and good reasons to do one. As well as many pitfalls and reasons that it may do more harm than good.

Here are some observations and considerations for you to make as you decide:


Consider common practices in your field. Some careers demand it. Generally, if you are a graphic artist, photographer, a fashion designer, in advertising, or in other "creative" fields, portfolios are expected. You can talk about your artistic ability, however, the saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words", certainly holds true. If you are an Insurance Actuary, Drill Press Operator, Call Center Manager, etc, there may not be a good reason to have one. However, don't assume that just because people in your field don't generally have one, that you shouldn't either. There may be ways to use it to set you apart from the crowd.

Consider your presentation skills. Your ability to make it engaging will largely determine its value.

  • How well do you "think on your feet"? Can you easily flip to a relevant page/slide and speak about it in an engaging way that doesn't come across as artificial or contrived? You don't want to make it seem like you're trying to twist your answer to one of their questions in a way for you to make sure to get your portfolio in the conversation.

  • Are you "dry"? If you typically speak in monotone speech patterns and have a tendency to ramble on, adding the portfolio, where you bore the interviewer even more than simply answering questions will likely create more of a negative impression than a positive one. However, if you are someone that makes presentations often and tend to engage people well, it can be an asset.
It's gotta have substance! Creating a portfolio simply for the sake of having one, that doesn't really add value to the interview process, will not be viewed worthwhile. It has to be able to present important skills, ideas, research, or other substantive information that is relevant and substantial for the position. Simply creating an expanded resume, that may include graphics of some sort, would likely be viewed as fluffy self-promotion.

It must be relevant. Presenting information about accomplishments or experience you've had in the past, but have little or nothing in common with the position you are pursuing will not help you gain the new role. It may be interesting and engaging in some way, however, if it doesn't prove in some way that you have unique skills or abilities to excel in the job at hand, it will not likely be viewed as worthwhile information.

Don't create questions about your ethics! Often, when people present documentation of their experience or accomplishments, they bring information that may be proprietary to their previous employer. If it's not, it's important that it's clear that it's not. Even the perception that it might be, may cause the employer to question your ethics. Be proactive in making sure they understand that you haven't crossed any lines.

Don't create 'solutions' when you don't have enough information. At times, people will create presentations of their solution to a problem or task that the company may be facing. In the hopes that they may be able to be viewed as a problem solver, they often show instead that they don't have a grasp of the situation. There may be occasions where presenting a solution or plan for a particular challenge can be a way to dramatically set yourself apart from competing candidates. However, don't attempt it unless you've had an opportunity to fully learn the nuances of the issue and have enough facts to make an informed recommendation. Providing solutions without fully understanding the facts will hurt, rather than enhance your credibility.

Successes. I have seen examples of portfolio presentations in interviews where it absolutely swayed the decision makers toward the candidate. They were done, and presented exceptionally well and hit directly on target…
  • One was from someone interviewing for a sales manager position. During the first two interviews at the company, he was able to meet with superiors, peers, and sales people on the team he would be leading. He asked many pointed, and insightful questions about their successes and issues. He asked detailed questions to gain an understanding of the subtle factors contributing to their situation. He also thoroughly researched the company, industry, and their competition to better understand the market. When he was asked to return for further interviews with superiors. He brought a portfolio that he created specifically for this role. He explained what he learned, and he presented a 90-Day plan for how he would tackle issues and achieve their goals. He had charts, agendas, and examples of how he dealt with similar issues in previous roles he'd held. He made a compelling presentation, and left the portfolio with them when he left for them to review further. Because of his care to gather all the necessary facts first, his solutions were spot-on and he ultimately got the job.

  • Another, was someone pursuing a marketing role. Similar to the first example, she used the first interview to primarily gather information. When she returned for further interviews, she brought a portfolio that highlighted her experience that specifically related to the challenges she would face in this particular role. She showed results and achievements that would be directly applicable in the position at hand. It creatively gave her an edge as compared to other candidates they were pursuing. She got the job.

  • The same principles can be used for a variety of positions. An Accountant might present initiatives they took in previous roles to improve processes or to find issues. Or, an Engineer might present products or processes they've designed or improved. It's critical that the presentations always be relevant, substantive, not proprietary information, and engaging.
Creating a portfolio presentation for your next interview might be just what you need to set yourself above other candidates. However, be careful that it's done right and that it adds value to the process. Otherwise, it might be better to avoid it!

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Consider the source!

image

When you're looking for a new job, it seems that nearly everyone has some advice for you.

Particularly when it comes to resumes, I often say that if you show your resume to 10 different people, you'll get 10 different, often conflicting opinions.

People will give their opinions on what the best resources are, how to interview, how to "network", and on any other topic or strategy for your job search. And often people become passionate or argumentative if you don't quickly see the "wisdom" in their advice. Furthermore, there seems to be an infinite amount of advice online in blogs like this, newspaper and magazine articles, YouTube videos, and other sources.

It can certainly become confusing. What, and who, is right?

Take in all the advice you can… but when deciding what to apply in your search, or not… always consider the source!

You're the only one responsible for your search! Although I consider myself reasonably astute at what works in today's job market, and what doesn't, I certainly understand that people are getting a lot of conflicting advice. Based on my career as an Executive Recruiter, I write extensively, teach an 8-week class on job search strategies, present job search related topics to large groups, and coach individuals 1-on-1. However, I often tell people that I'm not offended in any way if they choose not to heed my advice. Each individual is solely responsible for the contacts they make, the resume they present, the way they interview, and how they negotiate an offer. If they rely on someone else's advice and it's ineffective or backfires somehow, the employer is not going to be swayed by hearing that you were only following someone else's advice! You have to take what you hear, apply what you believe sounds right to you, and feel comfortable with disregarding the rest.

CNN and the Wall Street Journal are not necessarily right! With the job market so tight in the last couple of years, it's not uncommon for major publications and television news outlets to do stories with advice for job hunters. It surprises me how often those stories give poor advice. They often are based on the predetermined perception of a reporter that doesn't really have a good grasp of today's job market rather than seeking effective advice from someone that is immersed in it on a daily basis. While ideas and advice from those sources can be great information points, don't necessarily take them as the best advice out there.

Hiring Managers and HR Managers aren't necessarily right! While it may seem to make sense that a hiring manager or HR Manager may be a great source of advice, it's not always the case. A hiring manager that may hire 1 or 2 new people per year, and may have a final few resumes presented to them by an internal or external recruiter, is not likely to see enough resumes or interview enough candidates in the current market to get a good overview of what is effective and what is not. The same is true for an HR Manager that may not have direct recruiting responsibility. Each of them can certainly be worthwhile additional reference points for you, however, don't necessarily weigh their opinions over others. If they are actively hiring people on a regular basis, however, they likely do have a better read of what's effective in the market, and can be a great resource for you.

Outplacement services and your state workforce centers aren't necessarily right! While there are many companies and individuals in either of those situations that are excellent, it's also very common to find people giving outdated advice for your job search. Often, those organizations hire people that may have had HR or recruiting related experience at some point in their background. However, the job market, and effective job search strategies have changed dramatically in the last few years. Technology, commonly accepted practices, preferred means of receiving candidate information, and other factors are much changed from even 4 or 5 years ago. While people are well meaning, their advice is often dated and far less effective than it could be. Consider each person, and piece of advice, on a case by case basis.

Pay attention to people "in the trenches" each day! Generally, the people with the most current and valid advice, are those that are in roles that look for, and deal with job seekers on a daily basis. They have the greatest ability to see an overview of resumes, approaches, online profiles, interview styles, and follow up. They know what gains a response, and what doesn't. They understand what creates a positive impression, and what doesn't. They can best communicate what works and what doesn't. Agency recruiters and "headhunters" that work with multiple companies gain a unique perspective of how companies respond, and what challenges job seekers face. Internal company recruiters can give excellent insight into what their company prefers, and what turns them off. Hiring managers that hire new people on a regular basis, particularly ones that see all the resumes that come in and select their own interviews can relate what triggered their interest and what didn't. Some career coaches that constantly seek out new best practices can be great resources as well.

Obviously, as a recruiter, this may sound self-serving. However, I would say that it's logical that people with the most exposure to the frontlines of the job market each day would have best understanding of the dynamics.

Seek, and listen to all the advice you can get. There are often great gems in the least likely places. And as mentioned earlier, you are the only one that's responsible for your strategies. However, be sure to weigh different advice differently based on the source. There are a lot of poor recommendations out there. Be discerning to pick, and apply, the best!


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