Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


If you already have a job, but you’re not satisfied, should you look for a new position in the middle of this recession? Or should you just hunker down and be glad that you have a job at all?

My advice to people who are currently employed is to consider at least three factors when deciding whether or not to pursue other career opportunities in this recession.

1) Is the company that you are considering stable and is it growing? Employees must do their due diligence and find out about the financial health of the company before deciding to leave what they have for greener pastures. There are resources such as Dun and Bradstreet and Standard and Poors that can help employees determine the financial standing of various companies. It doesn’t make sense to leave a stable job to go to an unstable one.

2) Will you fit in with the culture of the new organization? There is no point in jumping from the frying pan into the fire. If you are going to make a job change during this economic downturn, it should be a change for the better, not for the worse. If you join an organization that is not a good cultural fit for you, you will be very unhappy.

3) Is it financially worth it? If you are going to leave your current job for another opportunity, you should consider whether or not it is worth your while financially to do so.

If you can answer yes to all of the questions above, then now is a good time to make that career move

Thursday, August 20, 2009


What should you do if you are stuck in a bad job? After all, the economy is bad, and after having assessed your field, you may have determined that it is best to stay where you are for awhile. But what do you do in the meantime?

Here is some advice that can help you get through this time in your life:

Mentor more junior employees. If you have a number of years of experience in your field, you can increase your job satisfaction by passing along your experience to employees who are newer to the organization. There is fulfillment in helping others, and mentoring other employees can make your time at your current job more enjoyable.

Get involved in committees to increase your visibility in the organization and make a contribution outside of your department. Many large companies have committees to review processes or improve employee retention. Joining such a committee can expose you to other people in a large organization that you might not otherwise meet and can open the door for future job opportunities.

Take advantage of employer-sponsored community service programs. If your employer has a community service program, use that as an opportunity to do good for someone else and get away from your workplace for a few hours a week. This will take your mind off your own troubles and also lend a helping hand to someone else. You might be able to get involved in your local public school or help out in a homeless shelter. Community service programs can also have the added benefit of positioning you for future opportunities if you take on volunteer work that will give you skills in a different area.

Use a company-sponsored tuition reimbursement program to your advantage. If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take classes that will enhance your resume. You might consider getting a certification in your field since certifications have become very common in many fields. If you do not yet have an advanced degree, you might consider using the tuition reimbursement program to obtain that degree to increase your marketability. That way, when the economy turns around you will be well positioned to move into a job that you really like.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Of course you’ve read the vacancy announcements. In today’s economy employers can afford to be choosy. They can afford to take their time and look for the perfect candidate—someone who has all the certifications and just the right amount of experience.

So what if you don’t meet all of the qualifications listed in the advertisement? Should you not bother to apply?

First of all, keep in mind that employers often put out a wish list for the vacancy announcement. They would like to have someone with all of the requirements. However, they will often go with the person who comes closest to having all of the requirements. It is best for job seekers then to apply for jobs even if they don't match up with everything listed on the ad.

The next step is to try to network one's way into the job. Employers generally prefer to hire someone that they know something about, so if a job seeker comes highly recommended by someone that the hiring manager knows, that recommendation goes a long way. Job seekers should try to find out who they know in their networks who can put in a good word for them. LinkedIn is very useful in this regard. You can search for jobs on LinkedIn, and the software will automatically tell you whether or not you are connected to anyone who works at the organization that has the opening.

When you get to the interview level you should come prepared with specific examples that demonstrate how you have used the skills that are listed in the ad in the workplace. You will come across as a credible candidate if you have stories to share with the interviewer of how you have successfully used your skill set instead of simply saying that you have X, Y, or Z skills.

And of course you should continue to use your network throughout the job search process. If you have someone in your network championing your cause with the hiring manager, you can come across as the best candidate even if on paper you’re not the perfect candidate.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What If I Can't Quantify My Accomplishments?

Many job seekers know that in order to write an effective resume, they need to focus on their accomplishments for the different positions that they have held. Numbers look impressive on the resume, and salespeople usually find it easy to quantify their results because their work is so numbers driven.

But what if you’re not a salesperson? How do you show that you made a real contribution to the bottom line of your organization?

Let’s start with what you can quantify:

Time or money saved. If you instituted a process improvement that saved time and made a procedure more efficient, you can estimate the amount of time saved by comparing the amount of time that the procedure initially required with the amount of time it took after you improved the process. This can be stated in units of time (i.e., hours, days, or weeks), or it can be stated as a percentage (i.e., time for monthly close was reduced by 40%). By the same token, you can quantify the amount of money you saved for your organization. For example, you might have saved $1 million by switching vendors and negotiating a better price. You can state the dollar amount or the percentage of money saved (i.e., decreased expenses by 60%).

New business for the company. Even if you are not in sales, you may still have contributed to the bottom line by referring new business. Again, you can estimate how much money you earned for the company. Or perhaps your work led to more sales. If you are in marketing, you may have created materials that were used by salespeople to increase sales. Quantify the sales that were generated after the marketing collateral you created was implemented.

Increase in customer satisfaction. You may have been in a position to directly impact customer satisfaction. If your company measures satisfaction through customer surveys and you know that there has been a significant improvement in the customer satisfaction scores as a result of your intervention, you can quantify that increase and write it as an accomplishment on your resume. For example, you could say, “Boosted customer satisfaction scores by 30% in six months by instituting a process that resolved most problems with one call.”

Staff retention rates. Instead of saying something generic like, “Increased morale in the office,” you could talk about the fact that you initiated programs that boosted staff retention rates. This is significant because it is very costly to replace staff. You can either mention the decrease in turnover or the increase in staff retention. Human resources should have data on staff turnover that you can use to compare what the turnover rate was before you came and what the turnover rate has been during your tenure.

But what if you have some accomplishments that are significant for someone in your field, but they just can’t be quantified? Should you omit them because they are not quantifiable?

The answer to the questions above is no. There are ways to show the importance of your accomplishments even if you cannot put a number to them.

Mention awards. Awards speak objectively about the importance of your achievements. But don’t simply list the awards. Include a short descriptive phrase explaining what the award was for. The names of many internal awards are only meaningful to people inside the organization. A brief explanation of the award and why you were given it can give the reader a better understanding of why that award is important.

Talk about the impact of your accomplishments to the organization. Many people when writing their resumes make the mistake of stating what they did without painting a picture for the reader of the results of their action. For example, you might have written a manual on standard operating procedures that was initially produced for your department, but after upper management saw the quality of it, they decided to implement the manual company-wide. Letting the reader know that upper management thought so highly of the manual that they started to use it throughout the entire company shows the impact of your work.

State that your work was recognized outside of your organization. If you presented the results of your work at a professional conference or you were quoted or highlighted in a periodical or professional journal, definitely mention that on your resume. It gives you added credibility in your field and positions you as an expert.

The bottom line is that those who are able to show their contributions to the organization are more likely to attract the attention of the hiring manager. Showing that you have made significant contributions in the past gives hiring managers good reason to believe that you are worth calling for an interview.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Preparing for Interviews

How should you prepare for an upcoming interview? How can you make the best impression on interviewers so that they can see that you are the right candidate for the job?

Here is some advice on how to proceed.

Research companies

You should research the company before going to the interview so that you can speak to the company's needs. Check out the company website as well as any press releases or periodical articles to find out what issues they are facing. You can also use Standard and Poors as well as Dun & Bradstreet to find out about the health of the company. Try to weave some of this data into your answers early on in the interview process so that the interviewer(s) will know that you have done your homework.

Research the interviewer(s)

Do your due diligence before going to the interview, finding out as much as you can about the interviewer(s) through ZoomInfo and LinkedIn. On both ZoomInfo and LinkedIn you can find information about the interviewer’s background, including positions held and education. On LinkedIn you can view the groups the interviewer is a part of as well as the questions that this person has responded to. This research can really pay off as you establish rapport with the interviewer(s) based on the information that you have about them.

Practice interviewing

Practice your answers to commonly asked interview questions so that you come across as a well-prepared candidate. Interviewers usually start with the statement, "Tell me about yourself," so you should be prepared to speak about your qualifications as they relate to the position. Let the interviewer know from the start that you are right for this position.

Questions to anticipate

What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
How would your former boss/co-workers describe you?
What interests you most about this position?
What do you know about our company?
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.
What would you do if you were asked to do something unethical on the job?
Why should I hire you?
Do you have any questions?

These are commonly asked questions that you should prepare answers for before your interview. You do not want to go to the interview and then have to think of an answer on the spot.

Questions you can ask the interviewer

Could you please describe the ideal candidate for this job for me?
What are the company's strengths and weaknesses compared to its competition?
What would you consider to be the most important aspects of this job?
What types of skills do you NOT already have onboard that you're looking to fill with a new hire?
What are the next steps in the interview process?

You should always have questions for the interviewer. These are some sample questions, but it is also a good idea to come up with questions of your own that show that you have done your homework on the company.

At the interview

Arrive early so that you can check your appearance before meeting the interviewer(s) and make the best first impression. Convey confidence but not arrogance as you greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and comfortable eye contact.

Monday, May 25, 2009


You’ve just been laid off. What should you do next? What first steps should you take towards finding new employment? Here is some professional advice:

Put your profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a valuable job search tool because thousands of recruiters regularly search this social networking site for candidates who meet their criteria. Put yourself in a position to be found by a recruiter by placing your profile on this site. An added benefit of LinkedIn is that you can search for jobs on that site and immediately see who you are connected to who works for the company that has the vacancy. This allows you to network your way into a company instead of simply applying for a job online and hoping to hear from them.

Distribute your resume to people in your network and tell them what you are looking for. Particularly for people who you may have a worked with a few years ago, you need to give them a resume so that they can see what you have done most recently. This is also critical for references so that they can speak knowledgeably on your behalf.

Join/become involved in a professional association. A professional association is the best place to find people who are already in your field who have connections to organizations that hire people in your field of expertise. You can raise your visibility in an association by taking on a leadership role. Virtually all associations are looking for people to volunteer to serve on committees. Taking on such a task gives you deeper connections with others in the association that go beyond merely passing out a business card at a monthly meeting. People have an opportunity to see your work ethic and will be more inclined to recommend you for openings that they know of.