Things to Take On a Job Interview That Will Leave a Lasting Impression

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We all have been on job interviews at some point our lives. Job interviews tend to make people feel nervous and uneasy. They worry about what to expect, what to wear, what to say, and what they should they take with them. We have all heard the basics of what to take on a job interview, resumes, a pen, and a note-pad, but I will suggest some uncommon things that can leave a good impression on the interviewer.

 

1. Recommendations – Take a copy of recommendations that you have received on LinkedIn or have a few of your current or former co-workers write you a letter of recommendation. This is sure to leave a good impression especially if what was written about you coincide with your brand or highlight things that may not have been discussed during the interview.

2. Copy of Employee Reviews – Nothing more shows you in a positive manner than a former or current supervisor giving you glowing ratings and remarks on an employee review. Be sure to review the entire document to make sure that there is nothing there that may show you in a negative manner. If there are some things included that show areas that you need to improve omit these areas, and just show the positive things said about you.

3. Samples of Your Work – If you are in a design field then you will need to have a mini portfolio and “leave behinds” to leave the interviewer with something that they can view after the interview is over. If possible take a tablet to show some of your work. Even if you are not in the design area you should still be prepared to show some samples of your work. For example, if you are responsible for conducting workshops or teaching, you could bring a hard copy of your PowerPoint presentation or sample lesson plans.

 4. Awards & Recognition – If you received any company related awards or any recognition related to your field of choice, take a few with you. If what you received is big and bulky maybe take a picture of it and add it to your things to show the interviewer.

5. Excellent Prepared Questions – When the interviewer asks if you have any questions this is a good time to turn the interview in your favor. Have some prepared questions ready and written down before you arrive for the interview. The questions can be related to the job or the company. You can ask questions about what the company is looking for in candidates for the position, problems that the company is experiencing related to the position, and about your interview. For example if you ask the questions “Can you tell me about a former or current employee in this position that has performed the job exceptionally”? or “Do you see anything in me based on the interview that would hinder you from moving forward with me”? It gives you a chance to show why you would be perfect for the position, how you would solve a problem for the organization, and gives you a chance to clear up any thing that may be hindering them from moving forward as well as things to change in the next interview.  

 

Don’t arrive to the interview as if you are packing for a move—carrying too much stuff. Be selective about the things you take with you to the interview and only take the things that will highlight you in the most professional manner. If possible, fit all the supplemental things inside of the portfolio folder that you take with you, and if you are taking a tablet bring the carrying bag. These supplemental items can leave a positive lasting impression on the interviewer and can be the thing that sets you apart from other job seekers. For more career related questions contact me at dharris@careerskyrocket.com.

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Tips for Introverts to Overcome the Fear of Networking

I have the pleasure of working with clients from a multitude of industries, all with their own unique personality types. Some of my clients have expressed to me that they are naturally introverted and believe that when they are interviewing, networking, or contacting employers, they come across as shy or not as confident as they would like.  Some of my clients have even gone so far as to refrain from aggressively seeking opportunities because they were in fact too shy and afraid to leave their comfort zone. Even if you are qualified for a position, if you don’t know when to turn on what I call “the switch” and let the employer know how you will personally bring value to their organization, it will be difficult to obtain your dream job.

One of the most important things a person must know when conducting a job search is what they personally bring to an organization—and they must convey this to the potential employer. If you know what skills you possess and practice telling others about your brand, it will make it easier when the opportunity presents itself with an employer.  This topic is one that is personal to me since I once struggled with networking and knowing how to sale myself.  Naturally, I shy away from the spotlight, but I have learned that inhibition won’t lead to obtaining employment. Being too reserved can come across as a lack of confidence, and that’s the last message you want to send in an interview—so practice is crucial. Go over your self-selling skills with a professional if possible, or rehearse with a friend.

Here are a few tips that helped me overcome my fear of networking, and building key relationships related to obtaining employment.

1.       How Bad Do You Want It?

You must develop a “whatever I want, I will get” attitude. By this I don’t mean doing anything illegal or shady, but you have to have determination; I have always been determined to reach the goals that I set for myself. I quickly learned that being afraid to approach others and reluctant to step outside of my comfort zone would only lead to not reaching my career goals or my full potential. I began to understand that many interviews were obtained through referrals and that meant expanding my network. Even if an interview is secured using traditional methods, it still requires you to tell the employer why you are the ideal candidate. Being an introvert isn’t a negative, it simply means that you draw energy from within. Once you understand who you are and exactly what you offer, with practice, even the most introverted individual can turn on their “switch”. So it goes back to my original question: how bad do you want it?  We all know that it is an employer’s market, hone the characteristics that will set you apart. Relentlessly go after your goals and don’t allow set-backs or misconceived personality traits to stagnate your progress. 

Practice

Getting to know what I was good at and realizing the skills I possessed that would bring value to an organization did not come over night. For me, it took years of working for various organizations before I really knew what I wanted to do. However, this allowed me a lot of time to get better at my craft and to practice networking and interviewing. I practiced with friends, family, professionals, and even on actual interviews. The more I practiced and actually took the time to understand what I had to offer and what companies were looking for in potential employees, I grew better at marketing myself and became more comfortable speaking with employers. Many people will tell you to develop an elevator pitch which can be useful when telling people about yourself. However, I tend to stick with knowing the basics of who I am as well as what I have to offer so I don’t sound boring or programmed. In all things, I prefer to be natural and authentic. Just because you are an introvert does not mean you are not confident. If you are not naturally an outgoing person, you need to distinguish your brand and practice telling others about what you have to offer so that when the occasion arises you will be more than ready.

 

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6 Characteristics of Resumes That Get Results

There has been much written on resumes and what is needed to have an effective one. I wanted to write a different synopsis from the standpoint of a career coach. From my experience as a job seeker as well as a career coach I see six basic characteristics of resumes that get results. Results in the since of securing interviews, informational sessions, invites to visit an organization, lunch meetings, or any kind of direct contact with a prospective employer.  So let’s review the 6 characteristics.

1.      Well Written & Organized Strategically

Your document must have correct grammar, no spelling errors and organized in a way that will get the reader’s attention immediately. There must also be clear distinctions between the various areas on your resume. We all know that resumes are scanned quickly by employers and recruiters, so it’s imperative to strategically place information in a way that will grab their attention and encourage them to read further.

 

2.      Targeted To Each Position

There is no such thing as a “general” resume that you send to each job that you apply for. With companies utilizing applicant tracking systems to scan resumes for key words and relevant information, you must target your resume for each position that you apply for. You can accomplish this by first going to the “required qualifications” section within the job description you are interested in applying for and strategically adding the required info throughout your resume. Don’t just add the info so it can get around the applicant tracking system, but make sure you are qualified for the job. You should not apply for jobs where you don’t possess most of the required qualifications chances are you won’t receive a call. Be sure to include relevant industry related skills you have as well, preferably at the top of your document under your career profile, so it’s easy for the reader to spot. I know it’s a lot easier to send out a “general” resume, but if you take the time to make sure that your document is targeted to each position, you will see more results.

 

3.      Branded- What Do You Personally Bring To An Organization

Your resume must include your “brand”. When writing your resume you must start with a clear idea of the skills that you want to highlight to prospective employers. The employer should get a really good understanding of what you will personally bring to their organization after reviewing your resume. Think about the skills you believe that you are really good at and highlight them throughout your resume. This “brand” should be clear everywhere rather in person, on your resume, or social media. The goal is for people rather to associate you with the “brand” that you have created.

 

4.      Include Practical Experience

It’s not enough to just have the required education to obtain employment. Employers want to see practical relevant experience on resumes. I have worked with many clients who believed that since they had completed their education, they were somehow assured employment in their field of choice. Include internships, apprenticeship programs, personal and freelance experience, related projects, and organizations you are active in that are relevant to the particular job you are applying to. This will show the reader that you are passionate about your field of choice and that you are actively engaged. It also shows that you have real world experience that is valuable to any organization.

 

5.      Results Oriented

Often times I review resumes that I consider being “task oriented”. Under each experience there are usually lists that outline general tasks that any person in that position would normally do. Using words like “responsible for” or “assisted”, don’t tell the reader that you can produce results. Instead choose to display results and accomplishments, this will display to the reader that you are a high achiever as opposed to an employee who does the bare minimum on the job. Bold your accomplishments and achievements so it’s easy for the employer to see it. Display that you can produce positive measureable results and you will be more marketable to an organization.

 

6.      Gets In Front Of Hiring Managers

You can have a well written and organized resume that highlights your skills and perfectly, but if it does not get in front of a hiring manager then it serves no purpose. Your resume works in concert with your actions. You must be visible and active in order to get your document reviewed by those responsible for hiring. Networking must become a regular part of your activities even when you are not looking for a job. Contact people in your personal network, join organizations, become active on LinkedIn and social media, and network as much as you can in order to get your document in the hands of the person responsible for hiring.

 

 

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Job Security in Professional Sports & How It Relates To Everyday Job Seekers

 

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Job Security in Professional Sports & How It Relates To Everyday Job Seekers

I am a sports fanatic, and I especially follow all Detroit sports teams. With the announcement that the Detroit Lions have hired a new coach for the 2014 season and four other teams hiring head coaches, it made me wonder how I could relate job security and job searching in the NFL to ordinary job seekers. We will focus specifically on the Detroit Lions coaching search for this piece. The average tenure for NFL head coaches is 4 years. This may seem like a short time but you would probably be shocked to know that the average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Let’s take a look at the characteristics that allow coaches to keep their jobs and also make them attractive candidates for open coaching positions as it relates to everyday job seekers.

What Characteristics Allow Coaches to Keep Their Jobs?

  1. Winning (Results) – The coaches that win keep their jobs. Coaches like Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, Marvin Lewis, Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Tom Coughlin, and Mike Tomlin are among coaches who have long tenures at head coach because they win football games. We can relate this to everyday workers. Those workers who produce results are valuable to their prospective organizations. More than likely they have job security. If you want to be attractive to a prospective organization you must highlight positive results.

What Makes Them Attractive Candidates For Open Positions?

  1. The Right Fit- During the Detroit Lions coaching search the thing I heard the most was that the targeted candidate Ken Whisenhunt was mentioned as “the right fit” for the Lions organization. Coming off a season where the Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a disappointing season, throwing 19 interceptions and only completing 58% of his passes, the team felt it needed a coach who had a track record of making quarterbacks better. Whisenhunt fit that bill since he had worked with previous quarterbacks who had been struggling and made them better. He had also taken the Arizona Cardinals to the Superbowl. The Cardinals are similar to the Lions in the sense they had never been to a Superbowl in the past. He presumably solved a problem that the organization wanted fixed immediately. The Lions also wanted to find someone that demanded respect from the players and who would hold players accountable for their actions. The previous coach Jim Schwartz had been widely criticized for not holding players accountable. Whisenhunt was presumed to be the coach of the Lions, but they eventually hired another candidate Jim Caldwell for their open coaching position. Even though Whisenhunt was considered the popular choice Caldwell was “the right fit” for the Lions organization. Businesses want employees who are a good fit for their organization and are able to solve problems that they face. One of the things that can set you apart from other candidates during your job search is if you can show how you are a good fit for the organization as well as how you can solve problems.
  2. Winning (Results) – Winning has become a part of the brand of those coaches who are candidates for open positions. Often times we hear professionals talking about “branding” and letting employers know what skills you have that can benefit their organization. As it relates to the Lions coaching search, Ken Whisenhunt didn’t have to contact them, they were interested in interviewing him, and they initialized the contact. He got interest from reportedly three other NFL teams. He as well as the chosen candidate Jim Caldwell had become synonymous with winning and producing positive results.

 If you want to ensure that you have job security then you must take pride in your work and produce positive measureable results for your organization. Those employees who produce have job security and are promoted within the organization. It is easier to get a referral or recommendation from a supervisor or co-worker since they will be more likely to speak well of your work. When looking for employment it is important to display to a hiring manager your interest in working for their organization and why you would be a great fit for their business. If possible show how you would be the candidate to help to solve problems.

 

 

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Tips For Conducting an Active Job Search While Employed

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Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the most gifted players the NBA has ever seen. But what elevates him above other great players is his mental toughness combined with his ability to focus. You can be great at many things but if you lack focus it can hinder you from producing the best results. Let’s look at Charles Rogers, former NFL and star receiver at Michigan State University. Rogers was gifted with blazing speed and athleticism, height, and was excellent at making great catches. However his time in the NFL was very short due to his lack of focus. Instead of focusing on getting better at his craft, Charles Rogers chose to use drugs even though it went against the NFL policies and procedures. Relying on talent alone to deliver is not a good idea, you must focus on the task at hand and getting better, lack of focus cost Rogers his NFL career.

We can relate the topic of mental focus to our careers as well. We are all gifted with various talents that we utilize on our jobs. I know professionals who are very talented and have great jobs who have experienced this lack of focus at some point in their careers. Maybe they were experiencing a difficult time in their life, or in the process of looking for another job. While these tough times will be difficult to deal with, you must maintain a level of professionalism and focus. The best thing for these people to do during these hard situations was to just take a few days off to regain their focus.

I have been in the situation where I was not satisfied with the position I was in and was in the process of looking for another job. I can attest that it is a difficult time to focus. My interest were divided between doing a great job and focusing on the client’s that I was to serve, and devoting time to conducting an active job search. In an interview when asked about how he maintains mental focus Kobe Bryant said

“Almost anyone can be in great physical condition, but it’s the ability to maintain focus and discipline with the game on the line and under duress that separates the good players from the great ones. Knowing how to maintain focus in sports can elevate your play from decent to your highest potential”.

Here are a few tips to help you keep focus when conducting an active job search while still employed:

 

1.       Remember Why You Took The Job            

Chances are if you are working in your field of choice, you are passionate about the position you are in. You may be dissatisfied with the company or various aspects of your actual position, but the commitment to doing a good job should remain the same. When I would get in a state where I was frustrated with certain things, I always would spend time just talking to the clients I was charged to serve. Seeing how their day was going, how things were going in their lives, finding out the commitment they had to coming to the organization, and it made me remember what I was there for. If you can see the benefit of you producing your best work has on clients it will motivate you to work hard for them. You owe it to the people you are charged to serve to do a good job while you are still there.

 

2.       Don’t Burn Brides   

If you lack focus it will show up in your work. You may have been a star employee but if you are not producing the same excellent work, your employer will notice. You really don’t want to give the impression that you are no longer interested in doing a good job and are more interested in finding employment elsewhere. This can leave bad blood between you and the organization even if you do find another job. You never know when you may need a reference or recommendation.

 

3.       Balance Both Equally   

It can feel like a circus act at first, but balancing an active job search and upholding your current commitments to your current place of employment is totally doable.  The key is to make sure you are still performing your duties effectively. The best time to look for a job is while you are employed, since it cuts down on the stress of actually finding a job. You may have to devote most of your job search time after work. Discretion is a must when searching for new opportunities while still employed. Don’t go telling all your co-workers that you are actively seeking employment since they can tell other people. If you do happen to find employment alert your hiring manager as early as possible to give them time to replace you.

 

 

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Why Feedback Is So Important To Your Jobsearch

If you have been applying for jobs for a while without success, it may be a good idea to seek feedback from the employers at places you have applied to. The feedback that you get from these employers can be a vital piece that you are missing that is keeping you from getting the job you want. Everyone has a “brand” that we send out to employers when we apply for positions. If you are not getting call backs when you apply, or are getting interviews but not getting job offers, you need to find out what impression you are leaving with employers and what message you are putting out. Employers are busy so you won’t get feedback from all of them, but it’s worth a try. You should also think of consulting a professional career coach, who can help you to see and improve areas of improvement. They can also take a look at your personal brand to get a good idea of what employers may think about you. Here are a few tips for asking employers for feedback.

1.       Make Your Request Short & Direct

As stated above employers are very busy and they don’t have time to give feedback to every applicant that applies for a job with their company.  With this being said make your request short and direct. Don’t send a long drawn out story about why you really wanted the job or rehash why you feel you are qualified for the position. If you applied for a position but were never called for an interview, ask specific questions related to your application. If you ask open ended questions that will require a long response chances are you won’t get a response. This is an easier request if you actually interviewed with the person you are requesting feedback from. For example you could say “Hello XXX, hope you are having a wonderful day. My name is XXX and I interviewed with you about two weeks ago for the XXX position. I received a notification that the company chose another candidate. I wanted to thank you for the opportunity of meeting with me to discuss the position. I am continuing my search for positions in my field, and it would really help me if you could provide me with some feedback related to my interview with you. Can you give me one positive impression I left as well as one thing you think I could improve on, so I can give my best interview in the future. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon”.

 

If you have not interviewed with the company this message will be constructed a little different. First you will have to do some research and find out who is in charge of screening all the applications and resumes for the organization. You can search on LinkedIn or the company website for people in the HR department, supervisors over the department you applied for, or recruiters. Once you find out who is responsible for screening and reviewing the applications, you can send them an email directly. Again the message should be short and to the point. For example you could say “Hello XXX, my name is XXX. I am writing you to get some feedback on my recent application with XXX Company. I am working to find employment in the field of XXX without success. If you can give me one thing I should improve on when applying to jobs in the future I would really appreciate it. Hope to hear from you soon”.

 

 2.       Flattery Goes A Long Way

One way to increase your chances of getting feedback is to add some flattery to your email. This requires that you do some research on the person that you are requesting feedback from. Most people are on LinkedIn, or they may have a short description posted on the company’s website about the person. If you can find something in common between yourself and the person highlight that in the beginning of your email. You may have a similar connection on LinkedIn, or admire some professional accomplishments they have achieved. This is a good way to spark dialogue with a person that you may not know very well.

 

3.       Don’t Pester Them: Always Maintain Professionalism

                Only ask for feedback once. Some employers will not respond to you no matter how well constructed your email is. They are busy and may not have the time to respond to hundreds or maybe thousands of people who apply for open positions. If you don’t get a response then you should move on.

 

Remember to make your request for feedback short and to the point. Do some research on the person you are contacting and try to find similarities. If you admire some of their professional accomplishments mention it in your email. Only ask for feedback once. If they don’t respond then move on with your job search. If you cannot get the feedback from the employer connect with a professional career coach, they will be able to help you figure out things that you may be doing wrong and get you on the right track. The career coach may even be able to contact the employer on your behalf to ask for feedback. For more assistance in this area contact me at dharris@careerskyrocket.com.

 

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How To Show Leadership When You Lack the Title

If you are looking for a leadership or supervisory role in your field, but lack the prerequisite of prior supervisory experience, it can be a challenge to find your desired position. Most job descriptions will usually require 1-3 years of experience at a minimum, where you function as the supervisory authority.  Often times the qualifications are even more rigid and will require 3-5 years of experience in this type of role. That leaves many qualified candidates scratching their heads— how does a person who may be qualified for this position show leadership when they have not held a supervisory role? You may currently work for an organization where there is no room for upward mobility. Maybe the person who has a leadership position in your department is actually pretty good at their job and you are waiting for an opportunity to arise. This is a common frustration that I hear from clients who are ready and capable of moving to a leadership role, but lack the opportunity. This type of situation is especially common amongst young professionals between the ages of 25-35. Often the person who holds the leadership role at their places of employment are years away from retirement age. These young professionals often become discouraged because they feel like they are stuck in a place where they have no room to grow. In a world where stagnation is often equated to death, the last thing an up-and-coming professional wants to display is the lack of growth.  Here are a few tips to help you in landing a leadership role in an organization.

 

 

1.       Emphasize Leadership On Work Projects

Even if you are not the one who has the final say so in your department you can still play a key role in the success of your organization. You may have been assigned to a leadership role on an important project at work, even if you weren’t, there could be times that you remember that you bared the majority of the responsibility. If you acted as the team lead on projects then you may have actually had to supervise other members and perhaps even delegate duties to ensure that the work was performed effectively. If possible ask for more responsibilities at work, especially opportunities to head projects and display leadership. Be sure to showcase these projects on your resume. You may also want to get involved with committees—this will allow you to possibly play an active role in bringing positive change to your organization.

 

2.       Show Results

There are many ways to show leadership. Perhaps you came up with scores of innovative ideas that brought positive change and results to your organization.  Don’t be shy, add your accomplishments to your resume—remember the point is to show that you are an out of the box creative thinker that produces results. If you’ve received awards or have been recognized for accomplishments be sure to include it. Professional honors can intrigue a hiring manager to give you a call even when you don’t have the supervisory experience.

 

3.       Get Involved With Outside Activities

People often throw out the idea of volunteering to gain experience and often times my clients say to me they just don’t have the time. Truly, I understand their sentiment, between family, work, running a start-up business, and various other responsibilities I find myself with a time deficit as well. However, if you are serious about landing that leadership role and you know you don’t have the experience, then you have to do what you can to gain the needed experience. Maybe volunteer to serve as a board member. By volunteering for projects in your community, as an aspiring executive, you can gain the experience and networking opportunities that could lead to a great position within the company you are volunteering for.

 

4.       Write a Compelling Cover-Letter

Writing a cover-letter that really emphasizes your leadership abilities and highlighting some of the things that your resume may not show will help tremendously when you lack a bit in the “leadership” department. Don’t bore the reader with a generic cookie-cutter cover letter. Tell about projects that you have worked on, committees that you are a part of, show results and innovative ideas that you’ve implemented, and speak to your outside involvement in volunteer activities. Even though you may have added some of this experience in your resume, if the hiring manager is looking for actual held positions at your place of employment, your cover letter gives you a chance to explain in further detail the qualities that you possess that make you a competitive and qualified candidate for the position.

 

Everyone is not in a position to move into a supervisory position at work for various reasons. The key is to identify and set your career goals as early as possible. If you know that you want to grow into a supervisory role, then you must do what you can to add supervisory experience to your resume by taking on leadership responsibilities both inside your place of employment or if necessary outside. If you are working for an organization where there is no opportunity for upward mobility, then you may want to look at opportunities within other organizations as well.

 

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