Tuesday, June 25, 2013

10 Mistakes That Are Keeping You Unemployed

Everyday, thousands of people wake up and begin their non-stop search of finding, and applying to jobs. If you’re actively looking for a job, but your inbox is full of cobwebs, you may be committing some fatal job mistakes that are sinking your self esteem and your chances at making contact with potential employers. The problem might not be 100% yours however, sometimes well established job search doctrine might actually be hurting your chances at landing your dream job.

In my opinion, the universe of job search tips, blogs, information, how-to and advice from you great Aunt Mildridge has become overly standardized and in certain places is stale and outdated. I think success in today’s job market will require you to reject some of these outdated ideas and instead utilize a more thoughtful and tailored approach.

Your job search shouldn't be a drain but it will be if you stick to the “tried and true” (but ultimately tired and truth-less) methods.  It’s time to re-shape your job search methods to navigate the job market smarter not harder! Rejecting outdated convention and avoiding common errors can take your search from distressed to success!

Application Auto-Pilot

“Just keep at it and just keep submitting applications! As long as you keep sending applications eventually one will see how great you are”               - Aunt Mildridge

If you are like too many other people I know your search process goes a little like this: 1. Open a couple job boards. 2. Flip to the industries that relate to your skills. 3. Open anything that looks remotely interesting. 4. Shoot off your form resume and generic cover letter to the application address. 5. Repeat.

I don’t think this is the right approach but it the approach that some many people recommend and most people follow. If this process sounds familiar, you are likely have application auto-pilot on and are going through the job search motions without really knowing what you’re looking for. Sending applications is important however if all you are doing is hitting the send button you are probably doing yourself disservice. Sometimes it might be better to invest your time learning about a smaller number of opportunities and going the extra mile when applying to them.  

Open Up Your Mind, No Seriously, Do It.

“Look for your dream job! No one wants to be stuck in a job they hate for the rest of your life!” – A.M.

I think that all too often recent graduates expect a glamorous starting point for their career. Chances are your first job is not going to be your last. In fact today people are changing jobs more often than ever. Most of the time, landing your “dream job” right out of college is just that, a dream. You’ll have to put in your dues and work your way up, and it will make it that much more rewarding when you get there. While you might want to believe your dream job is waiting, you might need to rethink or reject this idea so that one day you can get you your dream job.

So when looking for your first job, keep an open mind. You’ll learn a lot about what you need and want professionally early in your career, so don’t be afraid to stretch the limits of your search. Reject convention and get moving on your career.

Use ALL of Your Networks

“All you have to do is network! Network, network, network! Have you talked to your great uncle Rufus?” – A.M.

In our internet age, your network is BIG! It extends far beyond than your great uncle Rufus. Family, friends, classmates, former bosses, neighbors, professors, alumni and the deli owner who you buy your morning coffee from! You are not networking until you are talking to all of these people.

Ask any career expert about the most effective strategy for finding work and they will all say "networking". Yet we have accepted a narrow definition of networking that ends up being unsuccessful. Redefine your network wider and engage with it more broadly. Ask for information, advice and assistance with your search. As previously discussed throughout my blog, LinkedIn is key to making connections with people who you might not have otherwise.

Better Yet, Know How to Network

“Networking is important, but you don’t want to bother people, everyone is tight on time these days” – A.M.

While Milly’s advice is true in some circumstances I believe people view networking in the wrong way. Recent graduates (and sometime seasoned professionals) believe they can only network if they have something they can offer in exchange. In reality networking doesn't need to be a zero sum transaction. Turn the tables to see what I mean.  If a student or young professional asked you for advice or help but didn't have anything to offer, would you tell them no? Probably not.

The fact is people like helping other people. As long as you are respectful people will help you. Often times you will find that people offer to help more than you even ask them to. Be kind, be respectful and be grateful but don’t be too cautious.

Just Keep Doing What You Are Doing

“Don’t get frustrated. Searching for a job is always going to take a long time and will usually be painful ” – A.M.

I don’t think job search needs to be torture. While you cannot control how quickly you land your job, you can control whether it is a beneficial experience or whether it is a painful experience. While you search and apply for positions you should be learning more and more about the industries and companies you are interested in and learning more about yourself and where you will fit best.

I also think you should get frustrated. You should get frustrated if your approach isn't working. The key is you shouldn't stay frustrated. Take your frustration as a sign that the approach isn't working. If you find yourself frustrated don’t ask “What is wrong with me”, ask “What is wrong with my approach and how can I make this more effective.” Searching for a job can be nerve-racking but you don’t need to give yourself even more anxiety by telling yourself that you are the problem.

Your Cover Letter Is Just... Boring.

“Don’t worry about your cover letter, no one reads it and you just have to get it done with” – A.M.

This is a horrible message to send your potential future employer. You pretty much are saying: “This application isn't important to me and you are just another unimportant application click.” I think that although the cover-letter might not be what gets you the job it could the reason you don’t get a job.

If you are sending a cover-letter to a job, turn off auto pilot and customize your cover letter. Cover-letter writing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Each job application needs a tailored cover letter to accompany your resume. If the job application doesn’t require a cover letter consider sending a tailored one anyone. While some people might write this off as not following directions, many more will appreciate that you cared enough to take the extra steps.

I also think you don’t think a cover-letter needs to be boring. “Hi, my name is Julia and I am applying for the marketing position at your company.” Of course you are. As are the rest of the people in the dictionary-sized stack of resumes. Don’t mistake your cover letter for anything other than a sales pitch. Your cover letter should be persuasive, charismatic, bursting with enthusiasm, and explaining how the Cosmos aligned on this serendipitous summer day to bless the company with their truly perfect candidate match.

Communicate your strengths and interests as they align with the company, and be sure to directly ask for what you want (an interview). Your days of pasting a form letter and swapping out company names and position titles are over.

Failing to Follow Up

“By the time your thank you email gets there they already made their decision” – A.M.

While some people believe sending a thank you is a check the box exercise no one really cares about, today this just isn't true. It's not enough to send resumes and pray the phone rings. You are expecting too much in thinking that your resume will be discovered in the big, black, online hole, alongside hundreds of other resumes. Hustle to follow up, it shows extra initiative. 

Further, do not end communication after the interview. Be sure to write a follow up letter or e-mail after the meeting thanking them for meeting with you. In the letter summarize why you think the job is a great fit and touch upon your interest in working for the company. Lack of enthusiasm is a deal killer with employers at any stage of the process.

Your Social Presence Betrays You

While Auntie is a little too old for this mistake, assuming that employers take the time to check your web presence is a big mistake. While the first round of selections might be made without visiting Google or social media 99% of the time your online presence will be checked before you are hired

If you haven’t yet, get your social networks on privacy lock down ASAP. Protect those Spring Break pictures on Facebook and nix all your off-color tweets (especially if your Twitter account is linked to your real name). It is common practice of hiring managers to research their candidates online – make sure they don’t find anything on your social profiles that will cast you in an unprofessional light.

And Your Communication Is Just As Flawed...

“Make sure you include all of your accomplishments!!! I am still proud of that macaroni diagram you made back in 7th grade!!” A.M.

Wrong again. While this misconception isn't as severe and prevalent as the previous mishaps  there is still a lot of issues here. You do not want to include or laundry list ever accomplishment you have ever made. Make sure your resume does not exceed one page. Your resume is not a comprehensive list of every professional or extracurricular experience you've ever had; instead, it's a strategically chosen demonstration of your experiences that make you suited for the position to which you're applying.

Also, when considering sending your resume or cover letter, do not address the e-mail, letter, fax, etc to "Whom it may concern" call the company and ask for the name of the hiring manager or division head of your area of interest. 

Ill must quickly add (even though this really isn't a misconception and generally everyone has this right) that before submitting your properly addressed, one page resume; (for Heaven’s sake,) PLEASE proofread it! If I had a nickle for every dumb typo I came across while proofreading resumes in the Career Service Office during my undergrad career, Id be on an exotic rain forest vacation instead of sitting here typing this blog post... I'm not kidding.

PLEASE NOTE: Typos and grammatical errors in your letters / emails will turn off employers right away. Proofread documents carefully and have others review them as well.

Show Your Personality But Be PROFESSIONAL

“Share that bubbling personality that we all love!! If you just show them how interesting you are they will have to hire you” A.M.

Okay, yes, hiring managers are looking for interesting people and personality, with skills and ability, but don’t assure that their right person is … you. Showing that you will fit in is essential but this is best done in the interview phase. While you should share certain interests in your application and communications, for example, travel, reading biographies, outdoor sports, you should not go over-board. The importance here is to stay professional and don’t over-do it. This balance of professionalism and personality extends to dress as well. Even if you are applying to a creative job you should air on the side of professionalism.

You’re Playing a Rigged Numbers Game

This isn't the time to sit back and be casual in your approach, you must devote time to the process.

It’s easy to get discouraged by months of effort without any promising leads. Keep the job market in perspective: thousands of people are applying for a handful of jobs, and the workforce is underemployed as a whole. You must devote time to the process.

When promising leads do arise don't down the intensity of the job search efforts. Backing off your search at the sign of possible success can be a critical error that could set you back for months. Don't ever assume an offer will come through since circumstances can change with that organization. Keep the pedal to the metal until you have secured a definite offer in writing.

I hope this helped! I can’t promise a swift end to your job search, but these tips should help you be smarter and more efficient with your time and energy. Target your job search, retool your application forms and chase the jobs worth your while. Hopefully I'll see you soon on the other end of the tunnel!

Search on!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

LinkedIn: An Essential Tool For Career Development

LinkedIn is considered the non-sexy, sleeping giant of social networks. It keeps a low profile, perhaps due to the professional nature of its users. Nonetheless, LinkedIn continues to exert a powerful influence on connected job seekers, brands, recruiters and industries. I live by LinkedIn. I attained two of my internships by reaching out to people through LinkedIn that I otherwise might not have gotten. Its quite simple.

Since the site's official launch in May 2003, LinkedIn has grown to 250 million members in over 200 countries, making it the world’s largest professional network on the Internet (by comparison, Twitter has 500 million registered users, and Facebook has 900 million). Currently available in 17 languages, LinkedIn remains a relevant platform across the globe.

That being said,  As a college student or recent college grad, LinkedIn is a great social networking tool you can use to locate jobs or internships all over the world. It's also a tool you can use to  spread your personal brand . For this reason, when deciding what social media tools you should be investing your limited time and energy into, LinkedIn in can bring great benefits! LinkedIn isn't perfect however and there are certain shortcomings which make it less practical or usable to college students. 

LinkedIn: The Bridge to the Future

Overall LinkedIn is an essential tool for the college student or young professional. A LinkedIn profile will likely be one of the first online public representation of yourself that you want everyone to see (unlike your Spring Break photo album). LinkedIn is best suited for college students looking to begin managing their professional brand, begin building their network and also finding opportunities for internships or full time employment.  

Managing Your Professional Brand
Controlling your online presence and your professional brand is will be important to your professional success. Your online presence will be one of the first impressions a recruiter or business contact has of you. You can be certain that most professionals you will come in contact withwhether it be alumni, fellow interns, hiring managers, recruiters or even professors. You will be Googled, you have been Googled and you probably Google. LinkedIn is where you want to be found. 

LinkedIn provides a space to present a succinct and professional presentation of yourself for all to see. It will allow you to communicate everything you need to without sharing anything you don’t want to. By creating a LinkedIn profile you are taking control of what other professionals are going to find. Maintaining your image (and ensuring recruiters don’t see your spring break photos) makes LinkedIn an essential tool for young professionals and college students. 

Build Your Professional Network
It’s never too early to start building a network with people in your career area. Yet, contacts you make during the job hunt and throughout your career may not necessarily make sense as Facebook friends.  LinkedIn offers a platform for maintaining your professional network while keeping it separate from your personal life. 

You can start your network by linking to classmates who are in your major. While they are friends and classmates now, in the future they become business referrals. You can also add professors and alumni to your network. If there is someone on LinkedIn that you would like to meet, ask a mutual acquaintance to for an introduction. LinkedIn also automatically shows you groups ( i.e. industry, interest, profession) you may like to join based on the information in your profile. As a member of the group, you have access to thought leaders and experts in your industry. 

LinkedIn creates opportunities to bridge relationship gaps when professionals are early in their careers. It is invaluable in this area but it is also not perfectly suited for college students in some ways. While LinkedIn’s free account version provides a variety of useful features, reaching out to certain people requires a paid account which might not be reasonable for college students. 

Find Opportunities
The final essential benefit offered by LinkedIn which makes it an essential tool to college students is Jobs search function. When you click on the Jobs link, it shows jobs that are compatible to your profile. You can also search for additional job openings. While having access to jobs posted in LinkedIn is great, LinkedIn has a unique feature that is not available on other job websites. LinkedIn tells you how many people in your network or group who works at the company. Those people can help you get the job that you are interested in.

LinkedIn: Not Built For the Social Media Generation
As discussed already, LinkedIn is invaluable to young professionals and college students. Unfortunately LinkedIn is not designed or built specifically for a younger generation. While LinkedIn offers many benefits it is important to also be aware certain limitations or challenges young professionals might face. 

Limited Direct or Mass Interaction 
LinkedIn is more passive then certain other social networks. While you can constantly update a status and your network is able to see updates to your LinkedIn profile or experiences there is far less activity on LinkedIn than on other social networks. Because of this LinkedIn might not have the same enjoyment factor other social networks offer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing it just requires a slightly different approach. Checking LinkedIn multiple times a day, the way you might check other social media sites, will likely be frustrating and not provide much benefit. Don’t let this frustrate you; instead create a system or schedule to check LinkedIn once or twice a week. The slower pace of LinkedIn also sometimes results in delayed responses. This too may be frustrating but you have to adjust to make the most of the site. To challenge yourself make a goal to message or request someone each time you log in. While LinkedIn slower pace doesn't perfectly align with our social media generation the pace makes sense and shouldn't get in the way of your LinkedIn goals. 

Managing Your Brand … Carefully
LinkedIn has less flexible privacy settings than some of the more popular social media sites. For example, on Facebook different friends can be classified into different groups and you can broadcast certain messages to some groups while excluding other groups. LinkedIn does not have this functionality. While you can determine whether content is 100% public or restricted to your network, it is still important for you to be conscious of the privacy policies and know who you are broadcasting messages to. You also need to be careful to avoid contradictory information between your LinkedIn account, resume and applications. While it makes sense to customize your resume to different opportunities, LinkedIn does not allow you to show different profiles to different recruiters or industries. Because of this you need to make sure that your profile does not contradict what you are writing somewhere else in your professional portfolio. 

Free Account vs. Paid Accounts
Most social media and networking sites that college students and young professionals utilize are 100% free. While LinkedIn has a comprehensive offering under their free accounts some of the most useful features such as a premium email / message service require a paid account. This is a major drawback for some users but free accounts still offer enough to make LinkedIn a essential tool. 

The Bottom Line 
LinkedIn is a great tool which will allow students and young professionals to launch their careers and get a jump on the professional world. While LinkedIn is not specifically built for a young generation so certain features require a paid account, these minor drawbacks are tiny in comparison to the benefits. If you are not already on LinkedIn I suggest you set up your account ASAP!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Do Your Research Before A Job Interview

Congratulations! You submitted your resume and you landed a job interview. Take a minute to bask in the glow of confidence that comes with knowing your skills and experience have interested an employer to the point where they’d want to meet you in person. So now what?

You hear it all the time from career experts: "Research the company before you go into a job interview." But what does that mean, exactly? This post will provide some tips on using the Internet and tapping your network to gain information and insight that'll improve your interview answers and help you ask the right questions.  

Step 1: Research the Career Field
As a newbie it is vital that you  thoroughly research  the company's career field and current industry research. Knowing the most you can about the companies career field helps you compensate for lack of actual or extensive job experience. 
  • How does this industry work--what do the organizations do, how do they make their money (or, in the case of nonprofits and government agencies, how and whom do they serve)?
  • What are the skills, personal qualities, education and career paths that successful professionals in this industry share?
  • What are the significant trends in this industry? Read relevant trade journals and websites: Professionals in many industries rely on journals and/or websites that provide current news and information on trends within the industry (e.g. in education  it's Education Week; in advertising, it's AdWeek).
Step 2: Research The Company
Performing research about a company shows interviewers that you are genuinely interested in the opportunity they’re offering. Most people like where they work, and if you seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their organization, they’re probably going to be more inclined to like the idea of you working there.
  • Know the Company's Mission: Your prospective employer's Web site is a’s a treasure trove of information. Look for its mission statement: something that outlines the company's values (perhaps on an About Us or similar page). Consider how the position you want relates to that mission and think about how your experience and background have prepared you to support the company’s goals. 
  • Research recent Company achievements and rewards: While you're at the company's site, look for a Press Room or Company News page that links to recent news releases. (Or simply search the Web for news about the company.)
  • Research your Interviewers: If the company site has a search tool, use it to search for the names of the people you'll be meeting. You may find bio pages or press releases that give you insight into their activities at the company. Then look to LinkedIn or do a general Google search to get some more background information about them. You might find some common ground you can bring up in conversation, or a recent professional achievement for which you can talk about or pay a compliment.
  • Know the Company's competitors and what makes the company different from their competitors: Get to know your target company’s competition and what they are doing. Wouldn't it be impressive to a prospective employer if you were able to give them a heads up on what their competition was doing? Even more impressive would be if you told the target company why you want to work for them over their competitor!
  • The Company's clients: Knowing and discussing the Company's clients is touching on something the interviewers are passionate about because a company's clients is who they do work for everyday.  Knowing this shows diligence and shows that you took the time to go above and beyond in your research.
  • Company Blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts: Many companies  have corporate pages on Twitter, Facebook and Blogging platforms that announce their latest news and happenings. Social media is really useful to follow conversations about job opportunities, new products and the overall culture of companies.
  •  Look up the Company on This site describes itself as an anonymous workplace community that gives a free inside look at over 200,000 companies including salaries, employee reviews and interview questions. It's helpful in researching companies because the reviews are by actual employees and they give both pros and cons of that company. You can also identify salary expectations and prepare for interviews by seeing actual interview questions that other job candidates were asked. 

This all might sound like an unpaid consulting project or business school assignment, but I guarantee it's worth your while. Doing your research will make the difference between the “We’ll call you”, and the “When can you start?” that much smaller!

Navigating Post Grad: Stop Thinking and Start Doing! 10 Questions To Help You Refocus

Whether you’re a senior in college or a recent graduate, you’re likely trying to figure out how to make a smooth transition from the world of textbooks and exams to the world of work. It’s a challenging time, and it can be intimidating to step into the unknown. However, this is also an exciting time where you get to shape your own career and life as an independent person.

Aside from the many questions that come with graduating, or starting a new job, many of my peers seem to be at a pit stop: "What career do I want to pursue?" "I don't know what I want to do with my life" "I don't want just any job" "I don't want a desk job." And hey, that's all fine-until you have 20$ left in your bank account, you cant put gas in your car, your summer bucket list comes to a sudden halt and your parents don't seem to feel as bad for you as you do for yourself.

Then what?  (Besides beating yourself up for procrastinating.) You know you have to gather your thoughts, but you don't know where to start, the questions about your future are still there, and they are weighing heavier than ever.

You have to stop THINKING and start DOING!

For those of you still following, start by grabbing a pen and paper and find a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Close your eyes and think of a a tough decision, a big question or problem that you are weighing and would like an answer to.

You might be tempted to just skim this post and pretend you have a topic, but don’t keep reading until you have a topic or idea in mind that is so-big-it’s-scary (but also exciting).

When you have the topic, jot down your thoughts, ideas and answers on a sheet of paper.

10 questions to help you stop THINKING and start DOING

1. When you think of [topic/idea], what are you most excited about?
2. How does this [topic] fit in with your vision of your greatest self?
4. What’s holding you back / What are you afraid of?
5. What support do you need to move forward?
6. What one next step would make the biggest impact to move you forward (or help with your decision)?
7. What would achieving this get you?
8. Close your eyes and ask each major decision-making system for advice: What does your head say? What  does your heart say? What does your gut say? How can you reconcile these?
9. Dig deeper. What do you really want?
10. What are you waiting for?

After you've reflected on the questions above, take a minute to answer the million dollar question: Reflecting on your answers above, what are you willing to take ACTION on, in the next week?

This exercise can be used for any and all the big questions you may face during your transition. In taking time to reflect and think thoroughly, your job search, apartment hunt and finance managing will become much clearer! This process will help you  figure out exactly what you want, keep you organized and allow you to begin prioritizing your goals as they relate to your career!

Monday, June 10, 2013

So Now What? Life After College: An Introduction

College can be some of the best years of your life, but what happens after graduation? With the tough economy, increased costs of living and outsourcing of jobs, what’s a recent graduate to do?

The plan seemed straightforward: graduate from college, land a job and then breeze through work like it’s the first day of school. Only you’re no longer a student and there aren't any teachers or a syllabus to follow. Heck, some of your office peers have children your age...

You had no idea how drastically different the professional world would be from college life. Nine-to-five workdays, unfamiliar faces, rent to pay, no more summer vacation (ugh)… It’s enough to make you curl up into a teary-eyed ball beneath your cubicle...

But then you remembered that saying your mom, pastor, rabbi, wise old neighbor, grandpa, overly compassionate friend etc. always used to say, that you always never listened to: "It could always be worse." And for once, you know its true, because you could have been in this situation...

Imagine: Graduation season has come and gone, and as you watch all your peers begin to land those finance and accounting jobs, you begin to seriously wonder why you thought it would be a good idea to save the world or become a journalist...

Even sitting at your computer to get your daily dose of Facebook becomes a self depreciating task. As all the business school kids make status updates about signing the lease to their new NYC apartments, you are sulking and packing your clothes into large garbage bags to move back in with your parents. (Because really, whats worse than having a home to come back to!?!)

Your job search is going just as bad as your attitude. You've updated, revised and edited your resume a near 20 times and you just can't seem to land an interview, or even hear back from an employer. You're stuck, and with each failed effort the idea of throwing in the towel and moving somewhere pretty like Colorado to become a career Starbucks Barista is looking better and better.