Pushing Buttons

At a conference I attended, the keynote speaker was fumbling with technology at the beginning of her presentation.  After figuring out the problem, she said, “the takeaway is just push the button.”  While this wasn’t the main point of her presentation, it struck me on several levels.

How many things in our lives require us to push a button to get the process started?  Coffee makers require us to push a button as do computers, televisions, phones, microwaves, and some ovens.  Even the lights in my bedroom are controlled by a remote.  If this many things in our daily lives require us to push a button, should it surprise us that changing careers would involve pushing a button as well?

Changing careers usually involves writing a resume, creating cover letters, online applications, and developing a strong LinkedIn profile.  All of these tasks involve pushing buttons to get them accomplished.  Researching companies is done through visiting websites which involves pushing buttons.  Frequently, individuals look at getting or completing a degree as part of the process to change career directions.  Researching schools and programs usually starts with online research.  Applying to schools and completing the FAFSA form are also done online.  So, going back to school to complete a degree also involves pushing buttons.

If you are considering changing directions, stop thinking about it and start pushing buttons to get the process started.

Posted on December 16th, 2014 by

The Infographic Resume

As the nature of job search changes, the tools that deliver a successful job search change as well. One tool that I find completely intriguing is the infographic resume.

If you’re not familiar with infographics, infographics are visual representations of data or information with the purpose of making the data and information easy to understand. Infographics are often used to present complex and complicated information in a way that is clear and engaging.

Depending on how you define them, infographics have been around in various forms for 1000’s of years. Since 2010 there has been a sharp and dramatic rise in the use and expected use of infographics. Recently, the data increasingly being represented in this manner is work history, aka resumes.

While I don’t believe that infographics should replace resumes, I do believe that an inforgraphic resume is a great tool to have on a personal website, in an online work portfolio, as a leave behind during informational and job interviews, as well as a engagement tool on your social networks.

Here are some tips to use when creating an infographic resume:

  1. Search the web for examples infographic resumes to get ideas on the many possible ways to tell your work success story visually.
  2. Use a professional software platform to create your infographic resume. Many of these platforms (like Canva and Visualize) are free and very easy to use.
  3. Make your infographic resume simple and easy to understand. Although you may find numerous examples of infographic resumes that are quite involved, resist the temptation to cram all of your work experience into it. Instead, pick your career, experience, and education highlights and showcase them visualy.
  4. Tell a story. In order for an infographic to catch and hold attention, it must tell a story. Lead the HR professional through your work-journey and your path to professional greatness. Point out all of the key points along the way that draw attention to your expertise, the value you bring to an organization, and make you stand out as an exceptional candidate for the position you’re seeking.

My infographic resume is located on my LinkedIn profile labeled Professional Journey. To get free infographics on various educational topics sent to your email once per day, check out Daily Infographic.

Now it’s your turn! After you create your infographic, redact any personal information such as your address, phone number, and email and then include a link to your infographic in the comments below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

 

 

Becoming a Networking Super Star

What does networking mean to you? If you are like most of us, you will say it’s a way to get others to help you find a job or advance your career. That’s true, but it’s much more than that. I suggest that you define networking as a strategy that is mutually beneficial to you and your contact. By that I mean to be truly successful at networking, you must focus on what you can do for your contact as well as what you are seeking. It’s not just a matter of asking your contacts to help you. They will be much more likely to help if they can see some benefit for themselves as well. Here are some suggestions to help you become a “networking super star.”

1. Ask questions. Before attending networking events, find the names of expected attendees and search LinkedIn or other social media sites to identify topics they are most likely to be interested in discussing. For those already in your network, find out what they are currently working on. This will go a long way in making your next interaction a productive one.

2. Add value. The moment you identify a way to help your contact, take action. Maybe it’s as simple as knowing someone who can help your contact with a problem If so, take the time to introduce the two.

3. Understand them. Ask your contacts how they got where they are today. The more you understand “where they are coming from,” the more you can add value to the relationship.

4. Share memorable facts. When asked what you do, don’t just give a canned elevator speech. Instead, mention something personal that defines who you are. Such personal details can help your contact understand and relate to you.

5. Keep a record of your contacts. After attending a networking event, note important topics that came up during your conversations, and follow up with your ideas and suggestions.

6. Make and keep you promises. Even something as simple as sending an email or responding promptly to a phone call can help you build a reputation of trustworthiness.

7. Follow up with your key contacts. Keep a list of your top five or ten networking contacts and try to do something each week to add value to their personal life or business.

8. Above all, be a listener. Sure, you want them to help you, but if you dominate the conversation by talking about your needs, your contacts are not very likely to give you the help you are seeking.

Yes, this takes hard work and persistence, but the rewards can be amazing! And who said becoming a “Super Star” is easy?

Posted on December 2nd, 2014 by

Cover Letters—A Waste of Time or a Valuable Tool?

Signature

The Answer—It depends!  When working with employers who are recruiting our students and alumni, this question has been asked many times.  What I’ve discovered is that they are split about 50-50 when asked about the value of cover letters.  Some tell me they seldom if ever read cover letters submitted with resumes, but others tell me they won’t even look at a resume if they don’t like what they see in the cover letter.

So what’s a Job Seeker to do?  My advice is to always send a high quality cover letter with your resume.  After all, you won’t know ahead of time whether you are sending your resume to an employer who values these letters or one who doesn’t.  So, play it safe and submit one every time you apply for a job.  If it’s well-written, it certainly can’t hurt you—and could help.  If nothing else, it shows the employer you are a more serious candidate who took the time to “go that extra step.”

The key word here is “well-written.”  A generic cover letter where you simply change the position title and employer contact information just won’t do!  Take the time to review the job description and the employer’s website to determine what the employer is looking for.  Then, call attention to those things about you and your background that relate directly to the employer’s requirements—and yes, this means you’ll be writing a different letter for each position.  In addition, use a standard business letter format, and just like your resume, make sure your cover letter is flawless—no spelling or grammatical errors, and a concise, well-organized presentation of your skills and qualifications that directly relate to the job you are applying for (3-4 paragraphs, and never longer than one page).

One final tip: Address your letter to a “real person” if at all possible.  You can sometimes find this on the employer’s website, or you can try calling their human resources department.  Just tell them you are getting ready to apply for [position name} and need to know who to send your application to.  This will work at least 70 – 80% of the time.  If you simply can’t find a name, address your letter to a job title, like Human Resources Representative or Marketing Manager.  DON’T ever use “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”  Most employers find those salutations to be highly offensive and probably won’t even read your letter or resume!

Posted on November 18th, 2014 by

Avoid Common Networking Mistakes

Even though much has been written about online networking etiquette, I still experience some common networking no-no’s.  I share these as a way to help you avoid making the same mistakes and leaving your potential connections thinking you don’t really understand the “rules” of networking.

First of all, the computer generated LinkedIn (or any other networking web site) message that says you want to connect is not enough.  Do not send me a request to connect without personalizing your message.  Did I meet you in a class, at a networking event, or perhaps an association meeting?  Do we have a common connection that has prompted you to contact me?  Remind me because I may not remember and so why should I connect with you?  Connecting is about building relationships and you can’t do that if you don’t specify your reason for wanting to connect.

Are you hoping some of your connections will be able to refer you to someone else?  If so, you need to help them help you.  Provide them with a copy of your resume.  Be specific about your needs.  It is your job to check out their profile to see who they are connected with that you would like to be introduced to and then explain the reason for your interest.

Also, don’t forget that networking is not just about you and your needs.  Make sure that you are anticipating the needs of others and share relevant information when it comes to you.  Networking is relationship-building and relationships are give as well as take.

Posted on November 11th, 2014 by