Friday, December 30, 2011

A Unique Perspective

Judi provides a unique perspective on job seeking.  Her advice incorporates the possible viewpoints of employers/HR departments as well as the job seeker’s personal and professional goals.   Most career coaches have a canned approach and try to fit any client into that formula without actually listening to determine each person’s unique situation.  
----Pauline S., MA

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Cheer or Holiday Sneer?

“ #*&$^@*”  Is this you this season?  Your guests are still visiting or you’re due to travel home, presents need to be exchanged, family patterns are taking their toll, holiday madness in the airport….
Look around you.  What do you see?  Harried clerks, irritated shoppers, grumpy travelers, crowded parking lots, people with headaches.  Are you one of them?
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day life and its problems.  Your Christmas platter broke, everyone wants something from you, your sister didn’t give you a gift list and hates the sweater you gave her.  You just want the holidays to be over.
Why are you behaving like this?  Is it making your life easier? Is it helping those around you?  Why are you perpetuating the problem?
Life moves in cycles.  The only constant is change.  Today’s craziness is tomorrow’s tranquility.  When you’re in the middle of today’s craziness,   you can’t always change things and make them un-crazy.  But you can change your attitude, and remember that this, too, shall pass.
Moods are contagious, mostly because we forget that our mood is our choice.  Other people don’t put us in a bad mood; we allowed their bad mood to affect us.
Whether you’re standing in after-Christmas lines impatient to make an exchange and slamming your credit card on the counter, blaring your horn in the parking lot, or heaving heavy sighs at your spouse, remember that “catching” someone else’s bad mood means your grumpiness may now be passed to the next person with whom you interact.
We aren’t separate from each other.  We’re all part of the universe, like a bucket of water taken from the ocean is still part of the ocean.  Energy travels.  We pick up the moods of those around us, unless we choose not to or choose to be a change agent.
The remainder of this season, let’s do something different.  When we get grumpy, stop, stand up straight, and breathe.  If you’re in a store, be patient.  Bring a book and read while you wait.
Others are also shopping after-Christmas sales and the clerk may be harried too.  Before you grumble about a distant parking space, notice you now have the opportunity for some exercise.
In fact, let’s go one step further.  If you see an irritated mother whose child just spilled her coke, step in with a napkin.   Smile at the person walking by you or the salesperson in the store.   Look people directly in the eye, and mean it when you say, “Have a great day!” Ask your family for help with a big hug and kiss instead of sounding annoyed. 
Did we forget that although it’s after Christmas, this is still a time of joy?  A time to be gracious and conscious of those around us?  To savor the moments instead of counting the days until it’s over?
I’m no different.  I see my parents once each year, and while my relationship with them has greatly improved from when I was in high school, we still have our moments. 
In their desire to protect me from failure and disappointment, they have a tendency to squash my ideas and willingness to take risks.  If I absorb that, eventually it will erode my confidence and I forget that their intentions are good.  Soon I’m past the point of no return and might say things I regret.  
Stressful times are testing.  But the more you are tested, the more you can practice not letting it affect you.  And the more you practice, the easier it becomes.  After all, it’s your choice how you respond to others and what message you convey. 
This season, let’s focus on “spread tidings of comfort and joy,”  send “joy to the world,” and remember “tis the season to be jolly” by not twisting off when others are crazy, and by sending love back instead of more craziness.
POLL: What's the favorite gift you have GIVEN this holiday? 
visit: - and leave a comment! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cease and Desist


The other day I was forwarded a press release put out by a reference checking firm.  The title was  ”Cease & Desist: Your Weapon Against Negative Job References.”  The subtitle was “Letters Can Put A Stop To Career-Damaging Feedback.”

I think not.  More like “Letters can make a bad situation worse.”

Let’s first look at how references are done.  Formally, one HR person calls another HR person, checks dates of employment and eligibitlity for rehire.  For legal reasons, you can’t do much more than that.  So it’s not going to help much there.  Eligibility for rehire?  “No.” That’s about it.  Cease and Desist won’t change much there.

On the other hand, there’s a whole lot of informal reference checking that takes place and this is where the cease and desist is applicable and counter productive.    If you’re looking in the same industry or geographical area, there’s the possiblity that the company doing the reference knows the company where you worked.  It goes like this:

Hey Joe, this is Sam over at Magnificent Magic Marbles.  There’s a guy named William Williams applying here for a Director position.  Off the record, what’s the scoop on him?”

Sales and construction are two industries where more than previous employers, you’re looking at informal reference checks with clients and subcontractors.  It’s a network.  People know each other.  As a recruiter, I did it all the time, because I knew people who knew people.

What do you do instead?  A scarier but far more productive method is to heal it.  Remember this is a blog post, so it’s just an overview of what to do. 

I used to sometimes get great references on people who were fired.  But I knew how to do a reference.  Most people don’t.  I also know people, psychology, and am adept at balancing things like that out.  What I did with the reference and what I told the client depended on the bad part of the reference. That’s not human nature.  Human nature wants to avoid mistakes and is going to hear the bad, not the good.  And jettison any possibility for problems.

How do you heal it and effectively temper the problem?  You call the person up and you ask why they’re giving you a bad reference.  And then you work through it until you come to some understanding of what will be said in the future, and how you’ll both present that.

There are other ways to handle a bad reference, and in fact, handle references in general, but this post is specifically in reference to the “cease and desist.”

In any case, rather than go the combatative route, try a little relationship building.  Try more understanding and less assumption.  Move to the positive rather than accentuating – and exacerbating – the negative.  Your job search will be so much better for it, and so will you, especially since it took a lot of guts to make that phone call.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Don’t Rationalize Rude Behavior – (part 1)

In order to get a job, people will rationalize red flags and  fail to make a connection between an isolated event or two and the much larger picture.    I saw this often as a recruiter when I asked candidates questions about their previous jobs.    I see it now with my clients – or people who send me emails – when they are clearly taking something  just to take something,and I counsel them against moving forward in the process and why that is.
These same red flags show up for me too.  That’s because we’re all marketing ourselves in one way or another.    You – the job seekers -  with your resume and cover letter, and me through various means in order to reach more job seekers. 
Although writing and speaking opportunities find me, I also look for them: ezines, newspapers, authors and journalists that might be interested in quoting me or carrying my articles.
One of the reasons I so actively advocate following up is because having been a straight-commission, top-producing sales person who earned my living building relationships with people, I know how important following up is and why it’s necessary.  And I know the frustrations of it, too.  I also know from experience that the red flag is relative to the person, and have nothing to do with me.
When I make a cold call, first I inquire. Then I follow up.  By then, usually I have a dialogue started because the person to whom I’m inquiring gets back with me.  If not, I follow up a third time, and a fourth.   I repeat the reason for calling.  I refresh their memory as to my earlier communications.  I mention that I’ve left a few messages.  I’m always polite.  By the last time, I specifically say I’ve left several messages and would they please take a few minutes to call me back?  So they have to actively and consciously decide not to do that.  It’s not as if they’ve forgotten who I am.
Truthfully, by the fourth time, I’m more interested in just seeing what happens.  I’m not really expecting anything and not sure that if the opportunity presents itself at that point that I even want to pursue it any longer.  The lack of professionalism some people exhibit is astounding.
You have this happen all the time.  You follow up on a resume.  Nothing.  You speak with a recruiter, and then can never get a hold of them again.  They promised to call you about a great opportunity.  Nothing.  You schedule a meeting.  The person doesn’t show up or was called away.  You follow up on an interview.  No return call.
Rude, rude, and rude.  Them, not you.
I don’t care who they are.  I’ve read about singers, movie stars, and even the President, who make a point of answering every letter they receive, although they’re generally form letters sent by people hired to do that.  I’ve called CEOs of large corporations or hospitals, and although I might not speak with them immediately or ever, the admin assistant  phones back.  
The point is that the contact was acknowledged.  Who has such a big ego, or is so busy that they can’t take a minute to even delegate that task to someone?  It leaves me shaking my head in wonder.
Let’s put this statement “them, not you” into perspective.  When I’m selling various newspapers around the U.S. on carrying my column, I share that I was syndicated for 2 years in over 300 major metropolitan markets until they changed their format.  I mention I’ve been a Sunday columnist for the New Haven (CT) Register for four years, and that I’ve written over 50 articles for a trade magazine with which I used to be associated. 
Generally, I’m received enthusiastically and so newspapers around the US are carrying my columns for free in return for my ability to reach more job seekers.  (With newspapers having trouble, they often assign an editor or a reporter to do their columns, so asking for payment would be pointless). 
Yet, with my local paper, a small weekly one, the editor had to talk to the board, and the board, which convenes once per month, would have to vote on it.  The editor forgot to bring it up and after several conversations, it wasn’t worth it.  They’ve gone through several editors since then.  Gee – what  surprise.
Keep an eye out for - Part 2!! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Not to Write A Resume:

Does your resume profile read something like this?
Pro-active and solution-oriented person with proven ability to think outside the box and build collaborative relationships by engaging internal and external stakeholders while working in a cross- functional matrix environment.    Critical thinker with exceptional track record of identifying win-win strategies, building consensus, and implementing change for bottom-line results. 
It does?  Then you sound like everyone else who’s looking for a job.  Not only does it fail to actually convey who you are because the phrases are so generic, but it’s resume speak.  It’s the same as saying blah blah blah.  
By the way,  I hope you didn’t pay someone to write that for you, because numerous professional writers, after they collect your money, are opening books they bought or checked out from the library.  Others have professional designations that they hope to impress you with, but they don’t impress me.  Having seen over half million resumes in my career, I remain unimpressed at most professionally written resumes I’ve seen.  In fact, I’ve redone a bunch of them.
Before you write your resume, or have someone else do it, think about who you are, what you’re good at, and why.  A resume isn’t a list of bland job description and gobbledy gook, generic, overly used phrases – it’s a document that tells your story and conveys who you  are as an individual.  It illustrates how you think, how your career has progressed, why, your degree of motivation, how you make decisions, what you do better than others who have the same skills, and how you’ve benefitted your employers. 
And it’s not just numbers and percentages about how you increased sales, increased production, reduced staff, bam bam bam, hardcore, cold statistics either.
Ask yourself these questions:
  1. What are the top 5 skills that have contributed to your success?
  2. What are the top 5 personality traits that have contributed to your success?
  3. What makes you good at what you do?
  4. What makes you different from the person that held your job before you, or the person who will hold it after you, or the person who has the same title working for the same kind of company down the street?
Now you’re starting to get the idea.
Here are pieces from several client profiles that will give you an idea of what you’re shooting for:
  1. Effective and innovative training professional adept at creating and delivering courses in multiple modes that bring enthusiasm for change and result in new user proficiency.  Extremely skilled at learning, analyzing and understanding new or upgraded software programs, breaking them down and putting together course materials based on audience needs and level of understanding. 
  2. Operationally focused and mathematically inclined corporate finance professional, able to synthesize seemingly disparate pieces into an integrated solution. 
  3. Skilled, forward thinking professional who pragmatically identifies opportunities to reduce expenses and scrutinizes financial records to pinpoint and correct errors. Precise, solutions oriented, and trustworthy, with an exceptional amount of common sense, and a positive “can do” attitude. 
  4. Recognized and published expert in human resource management with extremely effective listening and interpersonal skills, adept at identifying the real problem. 
Do you get a sense of something about that person that makes them unique?   And every bullet on your resume should illustrate the statements in your profile by showing what you did, the results and the benefit.
A resume that has a generic profile followed by a gloppy paragraph of keywords followed by bullets that say things like….
  1. Performed thorough and timely reference checking.
  2. Acted as a liaison between the embassy and the international media, students and other private sector partners.
  3. Led daily meetings with Oracle to define tasks, outline responsibilities, and form weekly agendas
  4. Managed procurement of desktop hardware, software and contractor services with vendors
  5. Involved in setting up customer’s project portfolio management system.
…….is not a resume.   The above are job descriptions, not bullets.  They go in a short paragraph by your job title, not bulleted under it.
Product brochures- cars, dishwashers, cameras, televisions –  make sure to differentiate their product from the competition.  You’re selling a product and the product is you.  When your resume is your brochure, it should accomplish the same purpose.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Job Interview KILLERS!


I admit I have some trouble occasionally finding articles to share.  Many of the articles give poor advice or don’t provide anything but lame, general, obvious (or what should be obvious) advice that you can find anywhere and everywhere.

But I like this one.  They have some unique points that many people don’t discuss and some of the ones they do are discussed in a rather different way.

I continue to say that because of poor job finding strategies, generic cover letters, really bad resumes and lack of interviewing skills, most candidates are operating at less than 70% if not even as low as 15%.

This particular article only drives home that so many things occur that the individual has no idea are improper behavior for a job interview, thus probably continue to do them, and wonder why they remain unemployed.

It’s from the Wall Street Journal:  November 14

Job and Career Advice? (Part 2 of Interview Question)


I’d like  to name this person who gives job and career advice because this person is perceived and put forth as a career expert, and because of where she “resides,” her career information is supposedly trustworthy. 

She’s  dispensing career information on resumes, interviews, and all things related to finding a job, but to name her would be unprofessional.  

I noticed that for writing a resume, she advocates using an objective .  They are SO dead for lack of information, specifics, and insight into the individual.  Furthermore, the ones she provides will get you nowhere because your resume got tossed into the trash.  A quick run through other parts of her career advice to job seekers wasn’t any more reassuring.

So just because someone is out there as an career coach and expert, doesn’t mean they are.   And if you have no idea who I am and have never worked with me, that means me too.  The best way is look for free career advice information – subscribe to the person’s newsletter, see if they offer free reports, find articles they may have written on how to find a job and all the issues that entails.  

And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the career newsletters either.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interview Question: No, No and No! (Part 1)

I read this today in a career newsletter that those who are finding a job assume has expert and therefore correct, job advice.  This newsletter has  a HUGE circulation.  This entry goes with the one on my Facebook fan page ( that starts out HEINOUS!  In fact, maybe I’ll just start a HEINOUS! category.

I’m not naming the career ”expert” who posted this – the name is irrelvant anyway - but they’re a recruiter and they should know better.  
Here’s their advice:

Toward the end of an interview the interviewer will typically turn to you and ask “do you have any questions?” It is always good to be prepared for this question and to have good thought out questions to respond with. Things that are always good to ask about are company benefits, pay day schedule, management set-up, what does a typical day in this job look like? – those kinds of questions keep the conversation going and show your interest in the position.

Aye carumba!  Can anyone spot the NO NO NO part?  Yes, it’s the “company benefits, pay day schedule” part. A little psychological insight into why I’m so emphatic.

The money/benefits/vacation part is a game, but it’s not really a game.  Some people make money the priority in their job search,  but that’s putting the cart before the horse.  First, if you focus on money to the exclusion of the people with whom you’ll be working, the philosophy and culture of the company, whether the new job has the components that motivate you and make you happy to be there (and about ten other things I’m not going to go into now because it’s off the topic of this post),  you might very well be unhappy in your new job at this company.

Sell yourself to the highest bidder without regard for all the other factors and if you’re unhappy, eventually the money you’re making isn’t going to be enough to compensate you for work ingat a place you hate.  And once the relief of your new job wears off and reality sets in, that’s what you could very well discover.

That’s why salary doesn’t get talked about first (it does with companies, but again, that’s a whole separate topic and post).  Because the point of an interview is to find out if they’re who you want and you’re who they want.  Additionally, it’s ridiculous to talk about money when neither side has attached value to the other.

If you’re going to buy a car for $30K and you won’t go over that price, and someone calls you up and says “Hey I have this cherry red convertible that runs like a dream; cream leather seats and brand new stereo – it’s $37K – you want it?” You’ll be like, “no, too expensive.”  So say – just say – you decide to go look at it.  And you fall in love with the color and you drive it and feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face and maybe you begin to rationalize why $37K is okay.

The point here isn’t actually about going higher or lower than your salary, as much as it is about value.  Once you get to know something – or someone – and decide you want it – or them – then you look at how you can make it work.  So salary up front, and making a decision on that, might eliminate getting the information you need.

This isn’t to say money is unimportant.  One of my clients right now has an offer on the table with a company who has offered her $74.  In her previous job, in a slightly different capacity, she was making over $90K.  She really likes the place and wants the job.  Every single other one of the 8 points I put so much emphasis on is ranking very high.  There are some other issues we’re discussing that aren’t relevant to this blog post, but what is relevant is that the difference is enough that it poses a serious problem, not the least of which might be compromising her salary in future positions.  She was willing to bottom line at $80K.  So we’re embarking on a negotiation strategy.

Had the salary been discussed up front, she’d have walked away and never learned that she really wants to work here.  Perhaps we can work it out, perhaps not.

From the company’s side, it’s a huge turn off.  Yes, I know they violate that by asking you up front, but like I said, that’s a different circumstance and for another time.  At the point they’ve decided to bring you in, your asking about salary at the beginning of the interview communicates that that’s all you care about.  It tells them that your head is in the wrong place for all the reasons stated earlier.  A company wants someone who wants them for who they are, not someone who is all about the paycheck.  Ask those two questions ever, much less in the first interview, and you’ll be dropped from consideration.

In fact, don’t ever, ever bring up the topic.  Period.

That advice, and HEINOUS #1, just underlines that just because an expert is out there, doesn’t mean they’re an expert.  There are some good career people and columns out there though that offer excellent career advice, and I’ll be bringing those up too.  It’s not all about ME!  LOL

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to handle your layoff explanation on a job interview

Here’s a good article titled “The do’s and don’ts of explaining your recession lay-off.”  This is a thorny problem that leaves a lot of people feeling defensive, even if they’re one of millions of layoffs contributing to the 10% unemployment rate. That’s because it’s hard not to take it personally, especially when there are others who weren’t laid off. 
Most of the time you were just in the wrong position or the wrong department at the wrong time and thus became a statistic.  So in line with this excellent article, I’m going to take each point and in some cases, add some psychological insight and additional information as to why the author is making the points she is, because frequently that brings greater understanding. 
DO be the first one to address your layoff - In my opinion, regardless of who brings it up, you still get to frame it in your own terms, so in the case of this tip, there’s much more t.  The reason you want to bring it up is because it lessens the impact.  If you bring it up, it doesn’t appear that you’re trying to hide anything, which is what most job seekers do.  And by the way, know how you’re going to present it, and practice it in the mirror with a pleasant face and confident, comfortable tone of voice before you go on the interview.
DON’T weave a complex story - As Shakespeare said, “Methinks you doth protest too much.”  So sidestep Shakespeare by following that guy on Dragnet, Joe Friday, who said “Just the facts, ma’am.”  The more you talk, the more you sound defensive,  as if you’re trying to convince yourself that what you’re saying is true.  
DO mention if it’s a recession-related layoff - You’re one of millions.  There’s safety in numbers.  People default to the negative in order to find and avoid problems. Without inserting this point, you leave the interviewer the option of assuming “laid off” is a euphamism for “fired,”  thus concluding you’re a problem employee.  Control your spin!
DON’T speak poorly of your last employer - Besides what the author says, it’s immature.  If you make an immature decision in this area, what other immature behaviors will you bring to the company if you were to work there?  Additionally, it smacks of a victim mindset, rather than one who takes responsiblity.
DO mention if you were involved in a mass layoff - She covers this nicely.  Plus, see the “recession layoff” point above.
DON’T be afraid to say you’re not comfortable answering - Again, she handles this well and I’m glad she brought this up because so many forget that it’s a two-way street and hand every ounce of power over to the interviewer.  They’re afraid that if they don’t answer the question, if they don’t behave, they won’t be liked and they won’t get the job.  You’re not a 5-year old at dinner with your parents.  You can go against the grain.  Be respectful, and be polite and don’t give a whole paragraph on why you don’t want to answer the question.
DO discuss how you’ve filled your time - This, too, is covered well.  Especially the point about being honest. 
Preparation is key to knowing what you’re going to say and pulling it off poised and confidently.  Winging it isn’t a smart strategy.  When I was a recruiter, it was amusing to listen to how many canddiates who were actively looking would say after about the third interview,  “This is getting easier!”  So why not get some of those awkward answers you regret out of the way by shaping what you plan to say before you arrive?

Looking for a Qualified Career Coach...

I had been looking for a qualified career / job coach for sometime. I belong to several networking groups although I am not a strong networker because I am an introvert. Even though I think the people I talked to about career coaches are sincere when looking at their credentials they just didn't have what I was looking for.

I started looking around on the web and found your name and looked at your web site. At first I was skeptical because you said a whole lot of things on your web site but I did not see any tangible proof that I could analyze and take time to consider. I had gotten burned by two other supposed career coaches and felt a little uneasy going through spending money then finding out what they told me was worthless. What clinched it for me was the first two times I talked to you, you were patient answered my questions and didn't push your services on me. I didn't cut you any slack and asked real tough questions, which you satisfactorily  answered. 

I finally got lucky with you, fortunately for me you listened and asked a lot of questions in order to get a true picture of what I wanted and needed to do to become successful.  You literally put your whole heart, soul and self into working with me and the other people you work with. I could tell by the way you handled the webinar's.

Another thing great about you is you tell it like it is. (You are a straight shooter) You don't sugar coat it, you explain why you take the position with examples that I can relate to. And will listen to challenges which I have done more than once and will really consider what I say.With this in mind I feel stronger about being back in the market place when my resume and the other classes are done. I have enjoyed some of the more vocal emails between us and have learned from them. 

I look forward to working with you in the completion of my career project and feel it will be a success. Thanks you for all your help and continued success helping others.
---Mike. W., South River, NJ