Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Top 10 Most Important Things I’ve Learned from Editing Career Books

Last week I spoke at the monthly meeting of the Indianapolis chapter of the ExecuNet business networking group. When I was invited to speak back in January, I decided that my particular expertise on the subject of job hunting is that I have been reading the collective wisdom of the top minds in the careers business for 11 years. Ten things stood out to me as being the most essential but overlooked secrets to all aspects of job hunting. For your reading pleasure, here's my outline for the speech:

1. Keep your network in good repair.

  • Don’t wait until you need help to reach out to your network.
  • Networking should be a constant reaching out to people you know (former coworkers, family, friends, service providers) and people you don’t (people you share something or someone in common with).
  • Networking is about giving, too.
  • Networking yields up to 80 percent of all jobs landed.

2. Treat your job search like a job.

  • Spend 40 hours a week on your search.
  • Get up on time, get dressed, and work in your “office.”
  • Make a search schedule and stick to it.
  • Don’t underestimate how long it takes to find a job.

3. Write a customized cover letter for every opportunity you apply to.

  • Resumes can still be more general, but the cover letter must be very specific.
  • Write to a specific person—get a name (hiring manager, not HR).
  • Show, point by point, how you are a fit for the job.
  • Show your enthusiasm for the job.
  • Close actively rather than passively.

4. Emphasize accomplishments on your resume rather than job duties.

  • Just one or two lines for your job duties. Use bullets to emphasize accomplishments (six for current job and three for past jobs).
  • Accomplishments show how you affected the bottom line: How you made money for the company, saved money, grew customer base, created products, developed procedures, won awards.
  • Accomplishments must be quantified with numbers.

5. Build a professional and appealing online presence.

  • Get on LinkedIn, create a professional profile, reconnect with your colleagues, and get recommendations.
  • Make Facebook settings as private as possible; still, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mom to read. Untag unflattering photos.
  • Use Twitter to show your industry knowledge, connect with decision makers, and find out about job openings.
  • If you are good at writing and information sharing, showcase your knowledge in a blog. Again, show some personality but don’t ever say anything that makes you look like a bad employee.

6. Use the Internet the right way in your job search.

  • Professional networking
  • Company research
  • Applying for jobs directly with companies

7. Don’t waste a lot of time chasing job postings.

  • Competition dramatically increases once a job is posted online or in the classifieds.
  • Use your network to find the opportunities before they are posted.
  • Don’t spend all day hiding behind your computer. Get out of the house and make connections.

8. Be prepared to back up anything you say about yourself in an interview with an example.

  • Behavioral interviewing: Tell me about a time when you…
  • Develop a success story to illustrate your top qualities and skills.
  • Challenge, actions, result format.

9. Put off talking about salary as long as possible in the process.

  • Most employers that ask for a range in the ad will still consider you without one (except those who state explicitly that they will not).
  • Whoever mentions a number first, loses.
  • You might name a number that is out of their range, and they will not consider you.
  • You might name a number that is lower than they were prepared to offer.
  • Defer the question by saying you want to focus on whether you are a fit for the job first. Can talk salary later.
  • If you have no choice, name a range.

10. Hiring experts to help you with your search can be worth the investment.

  • Trying to write your own resume is like cutting your own hair—difficult, and it probably won’t end up looking great from all angles.
  • Professional resume writers can be objective and cut what needs to be cut, prompt you for accomplishments, and present you in the best light.
  • Career coaches help you get to the truths inside you, promote what’s most impressive about you, show you the best ways to search, hold you accountable, and offer encouragement.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Defense of Prince

Yesterday we all got a good laugh from an enchanting little story written by Peter Willis for the Daily Mirror (UK). In it, he is allowed exclusive access to secretive pop star Prince's enclave and paints him as a modern-day musical Willie Wonka. No such story would be complete without revealing some of His Purpleness' quirks (of which there are many). But what emerged as the main thrust was this quote:

The Internet's completely over.

Prince's statement was, of course, met with as much derision as when Al Gore purportedly said he invented the thing. Yes, it's rather absurd today to try and imagine life after the Internet. But what I think he might have been saying was that as a music-delivery medium, the Internet is over for him. Obviously, he's got some contractual problems with Apple and some copyright issues in general. I always root for the underdog, so I'm hoping he can find a way around it all.

Prince goes on to say that

All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you.

Again, hilariously unhip, right? But isn't a nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that he might have a point? Whatever the gadgets are filling your head with (in my case, so many words and thoughts and conflicts that my cerebellum fairly buzzes) is disruptive to society. People are finding it harder and harder to relate to one another IRL. It's easy to sit behind your computer and pull the strings, blaming others for our own problems. I fear we will forget how to get out there and live life and be responsible for ourselves.

Another of Prince's documented quirks that I think has merit is his status as a "teetotal vegan." Drinking still water and eating raw fruits and veggies is about as pure as it gets. I will probably never break away from my fondness for the occasional seared cow flesh and fermented grape. But if I can eat just a little more like Prince, it sure wouldn't hurt anything. Maybe I'll start asking myself "WWPE?" (What Would Prince Eat?).

Bottom line: Yes, Prince prances to the beat of a different drum than most of us. But it's that eccentricity that fuels his genius, and I admire his spunk.