Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Job Hunting in a Tough Economy!

This week, a client asked me if he should put his job search on hold until the economy improves. A perfectly legitimate question! Essentially he wanted to know if this is a good time to look for a job. Whenever someone asks me that question, I respond with the same answer...

The best time to look for a job is when you need one (maybe you've lost your job due to downsizing or termination) or when you're ready for a new opportunity (due to burnout, career transition, a desire to master new skills, etc.). Most people underestimate the time and effort involved with a job search, so they put off critical prep work - like updating their marketing materials, identifying and organizing their resources, defining their network, and creating a profile (as a target) of a best fit job in a right fit organization.

Our presidential election may be decided but job seekers are left to conduct their search in an economic downturn or dare I say the "R" word - recession! Each week there seems to be some news story that triggers real anxiety about serious issues like employment, compensation, benefits and retirement. But we must push forward and not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the evening news. Which means that candidates need to be even more proactive, more creative, more tenacious, and better prepared as they network, compete and market themselves to potential employers.

Let's also not forget about the power of positive thinking and that sometimes we do actually make our own luck. And if you're encountering some barriers and you need a fresh perspective, consider contacting a career coach!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Benefits of Freelance Assignments!

Have you ever considered taking on a temporary, contract or freelance project? If you are willing to compete for these assignments, the benefits to this type of work might include:

* The ability to bring in extra income as needed.
* An opportunity to explore and expand your skills and interests.
* Bridging a gap in your employment history, when faced with downsizing or termination.
* Gaining experience and building a portfolio for a career transition.
* To address a need for flexible working arrangements while completing a degree, caring for family, etc.
* Freelancing is often a great match for individuals who enjoy working from a home office/telecommuting.

This environment is expanding, as companies seek to control costs by outsourcing projects. If you're interested in exploring the freelance world further, take a look at the following web links for additional information and leads:

And feel free to share your ideas and experiences surrounding contract/freelance work!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blogging About Blogs!

Each week I search the web for career resources that my clients might find useful, to augment or enhance their coaching exercises. The web offers an array of information, data, advice and opinions, often in the form of blogs, on topics such as resume writing, job search, networking, interviewing, careers, the workplace and organizational behavior. A key challenge is determining if the blogger’s examples and points of view are relevant to your current situation. Does the information fit your need and can you trust the source?

Check out the Career Blogs from Alltop - Top Career News

This link presents a phenomenal listing of blogs related to the work environment and career development. In fact, it may even border on information overload! But this is a perfect illustration of the scope of data, facts, opinions and perspectives available on the web – all just a mouse click away. But this long list of career blogs is still only a small fraction of the number lurking out there in cyberspace. Scan these blogs to identify those that you might find appealing and helpful for career planning. And if all the information becomes a bit overwhelming, you can always call a Career Coach!

When you come across career blogs/sites that you would like to recommend – feel free to pass along the links.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is it Time to Get Certified?

If you have ever considered pursuing a professional credential, maybe NOW is the right time! I'm not referring to professions that currently require a license or certification to obtain employment, such as medicine, nursing, public accounting (to function as a CPA), architecture, etc. Professional certification is becoming increasingly popular and even required in many industries. It is common to see job postings that list a certification/credential as a preferred qualification of the best fit candidate; such as PHR-Professional in Human Resources, PMP-Project Management Professional, CMPE-Certified Medical Practice Executive, CPC-Certified Professional Coder for example.

Learning and training opportunities have never been more available and flexible (online courses, distance/home study courses, seminars, conferences, webinars, etc.). Professional certification is a great way to gain new skills and knowledge, as well as to validate experience and expertise.

Here are few targeted resources to assist you in researching professional certification programs across a wide array of industries:

  1. Career OneStop - Certification Finder

  2. Weddle's Association Directory - Identify professional associations in your field, then research the certification programs that may be sponsored/endorsed by the association.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Put Some FEVER In Your Cover Letters

Forget the drab; one size fits all cover letters that you may have used in the past. And please ignore the letter samples in publications and on web sites that go on and on with paragraph after paragraph, essentially providing a condensed version of your resume. These types of cover letters are not effective because the people you want to read them (internal and external recruiters and hiring managers) DO NOT WANT TO READ THEM. The first type is just too generic and the latter contains far too much information.

Remember that, like a resume, a cover letter is a business document. And a key rule for business writing is to make the document concise – GET TO THE POINT! If the resume is going to garner 7-10 seconds of attention from the reader on first glance, then the cover letter may actually get less. But you need a cover letter, so make sure that it is on point and delivers a message with impact.

So how do you construct a top notch cover letter? I recommend you put some FEVER in your letter!

F – Craft a document that has a very clear FOCUS on the type of opportunity (including associated titles) that you are qualified to assume. Don’t try to send the message that you will consider several types of positions within the organization. There is a very real risk in stating that you can be a manager, or an analyst, or a project leader, or whatever they need you to be at this time. The reader may decide that your flexibility actually represents a lack of clarity regarding your strengths and experience.

E – EMPHASIZE why you believe that you will be a strong fit for the position, the team and the organization. Do some homework and learn about this employer’s culture, environment, structure and work dynamics.

V – Provide the reader with a very clear sense of the immediate VALUE that you can bring to the organization. Your content should answer the question, “Why should I consider you for this position?”

E – Interject several bullet points to solidify in the reader’s mind the EXPERTISE that you offer. Don’t regurgitate all the bullets from your resume. Rather, include several select words/phrases to express some of the key skills, core strengths and expertise you hold; and these should align with the qualifications for the position you are seeking.

R – Close your letter with a strong REQUEST for a personal interview at the reader’s convenience. Convey that you are ready to answer targeted questions and explain your background in detail.

If you invest the time and effort into crafting your cover letter with FEVER, you send the message that you are a professional who is focused, efficient and serious about your interest in the position you are seeking.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Psssst...I Have a Secret - The Hidden Job Market Isn't Really Hidden!

You may have come across a blurb in a publication or on a web site that brings up the subject of the hidden job market. And you've probably asked yourself "why is it hidden and how can I find it?" Well I have good news for you. The hidden job market isn't really hidden; but it will take creativity, resourcefulness and determination to access. The hidden job market is really just another name for a proactive job search. Gone are the days when looking through the Sunday paper with highlighter in hand would consistently result in promising job leads. And if you're waiting by the phone for hiring managers and recruiters to contact you after posting your resume on one or two popular job boards, make sure you have access to a bathroom - it will likely be a very long wait!

I'm not saying that you shouldn't check the want ads or the popular job boards, just don't make them the foundation of your search. Take into account that you, along with thousands of candidates (even tens of thousands in major cities), are using these same obvious sources. Check them every once in a while or set-up an automatic search agent so the job boards will send you an email with posting matching your criteria.

So how can you take control of the search process? Consider the following list of resources to be your map and you set out to discover the hidden job market.

Networking: Reach out and contact family, friends, professional contacts (peers and colleagues), academic contacts, community contacts, etc. and let them know you are looking for a new opportunity. Be clear and concise about the type of position you are seeking and be prepared to send your updated resume.
Print Ads in Industry Publications: Remember to look at the career postings in the newsletters and journals you receive through memberships to professional associations.
Meta-search Job Boards: Try sites like or to search multiple job boards at once, based upon key words and location.
Specialty Job Boards: The idea is to move well beyond the obvious and identify job boards that represent your location, occupation, industry, etc. Job boards with a niche focus will likely provide a greater percentage of qualified leads. Some of these may require a monthly subscription. So what? It’s an investment! Sign up for a few months, take a look around and cancel if you’re not getting the leads you expected.
Researching Companies of Interest: Access information from industry directories, Chamber of Commerce directories, online databases for company research, and advertised lists of top companies. Compile a list of the top 25, 50, etc. companies that are of interest to you, then jump to the company web site and explore postings on the site’s Careers page.
Professional Associations: Join groups that represent your industry and/or occupation. Then make the effort to attend lunch meetings, workshops and roundtable discussions. These groups offer you an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and meet new peers, thereby expanding your network.
Alumni Associations: Remember these? Instead of throwing away the newsletters and magazines from your alma mater, check out what the alumni career services department has to offer in terms of free or low cost job search, company research and networking resources.

There are actually several more resources in addition to those listed above. Rather than dividing your time and effort among all the possible resources, do your homework and then select 3 to 4 resources that you believe will be the most promising for your specific search. If a proactive job search sounds like a lot of work…you’re absolutely right! In a competitive market, the candidate who is willing to put in the time and effort, while being a bit more creative and tenacious, will likely have the advantage. Or you could just use the same old, obvious, tired resources and wait for the phone to ring…and wait, and wait, and wait.

Why not take control, kick it into gear and uncover promising leads each week? If you need help getting organized, staying focused, updating your marketing materials, or preparing for interviews, then contact a career coach for assistance. There is some truth in the old adage that we make our own luck. So what are you waiting for? It's time to get busy and find that best fit career opportunity!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Case Against the Functional Resume

Popular bookstores and Internet sites offer publications, examples and tutorials on how to craft the perfect functional resume. This type of resume is also known as a skills-based resume. There is a tremendous amount of information in support of the functional resume. An old rule of thumb is to use this type of document to downplay frequent job changes, as if the reader will be so dazzled by the style that they will ignore the dates of employment! I willingly admit that the functional resume looks good, de-emphasizes employment dates, and provides a nice overview of an individual’s areas of expertise. But if you are actively conducting a job search, please DO NOT waste your time and energy preparing a functional resume!

Why should you avoid this type of resume? Because hiring managers, internal company recruiters and external recruiters HATE the functional resume. Yes, I know HATE is a strong word, so let me clarify…they truly HATE the functional resume. Hiring managers and recruiters are extremely busy people and they are dedicating a portion of their work day to the review of resumes, lots and lots of resumes. They want to be able to visually scan a document and quickly get an overview of a candidate’s strengths, areas of expertise, career titles, achievements, and length of tenure with each employer listed. They compare this information to the profile of the preferred candidate for the position they are looking to fill.

Imagine you are engrossed in a really good book and truly enjoying what you are reading. Then suddenly you reach a page that is printed upside down and every third word appears backwards. Would you find this odd and somewhat annoying? You would have to stop, turn the book upside down, start reading and then stop each time you need to decipher a word printed backwards on the page. Well this is what it is like for the hiring manager and recruiter when they encounter a functional resume in a batch of incoming documents. One after another they read through the chronological resumes and then they stop at the functional document. Why do they stop? Because they have a quick decision to make; do they invest the time to connect the dots in this document, or just set it aside (or ditch it all together) and move on?

The functional resume often requires a greater investment of time and energy from the reader. The chronology is often somewhat concealed (intentionally) and it can be unclear just when and where the candidate applied his skills to produce his accomplishments. The reader must try to extract the essential details, piece the data together and then compare this to the critical elements in the job posting. And most hiring managers and recruiters do not have the time or patience to devote this kind of attention to a first scan of a resume. They may decide to skip this functional document all together and move on with their review of the incoming resumes.

So as a career coach my advice is simple…give the hiring managers and recruiters what they want. Give them a clear chronology that focuses on skills and achievements and be sure it includes a brief statement to explain any gaps in the timeline. For those individuals who are in love with the functional masterpiece they have crafted, I will offer a compromise. Produce a hybrid resume to provide a summary of skills and career highlights, but be sure to include a strong chronology of academic and employment history in support of major achievements. There are no guarantees for the job seeker. But if candidates give the reader what they are looking for, and it is packaged in a document that is content rich and visually appealing…odds are it will be reviewed.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Change Can Be Good...Just Start Out Slowly

Career coaching is often about discovering a new approach to an old problem. People look to a coach to provide solutions, but are they willing to do the work that is necessary to stimulate the positive change they're seeking? As a professional coach, I wish I could say that I have all the answers and that I can solve any problem. But what I can say with a very high degree of certainty is that you almost always have viable options when you are facing a challenge and that is often the spark for an "ah...ha" moment.

For those people who are feeling stuck, options can feel like roller blades. For those that feel as though they have been backed into a corner, options are like the magic crayon that allows you to draw a doorway to a sunny new room. When we are feeling lost and uncertain, options become our GPS, with a friendly voice acting as our guide.

But how do we identify our options? In order to recognize the options, you must be open to change and be willing to start doing things a bit differently. Do you remember that old saying about the definition of insanity...doing the same thing time and time again and expecting different results? When you start to look at your challenges a bit differently and then begin to make simple changes in your approach, things start to change. If you know you need to exercise but you hate going to a gym, consider going for a walk in the park. If you're feeling stagnant and want to learn something new, sign up for a class or a workshop. If you're tired of your weekly routine, take a different route to work, go someplace new for lunch, and enjoy a different activity after work. You don't have to wait for the weekend to have a little fun, like a mid week bike ride, a movie or a gallery exhibit.

And how do we identify which option represents the right path? Try some brainstorming, some self assessment, some trial and error, and maybe even the objective help from a coach. When it comes to issues of career development, stress management and work-life balance, I offer clients suggestions and resources that often represent a change from their norms and comfort zone. And I offer feedback as they break through old walls with a renewed plan of attack.

Consider the benefits of working with a career coach. At this point in your life, are you willing to gain a fresh perspective and remain open to positive change? You may discover that the power behind coaching doesn't rest with the coach, it flows from the client who chooses to embrace change and focus his strengths, energy and vision of success.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Creating Momentum in Your Job Search

Attack your job search with a three prong approach. Your time and effort should be dedicated to (1.) search & research, (2.) production, and (3.) follow-up.

Search & Research might involve the use of specialty job boards, meta-search sites, the Careers page of company websites, job boards linked to professional associations, your alumni association(s), and networking (person-to-person + e~networking sites).

Production involves getting your personal marketing materials out the door, in response to job leads. This includes snail mail, email, fax, via job boards & uploads...and activating your network. Your resume needs to focus on strengths, areas of expertise and achievements. Develop templates for a standard cover letter and letter of introduction. And remember that your resume and letters are business documents - so make sure they're focused and concise. During each week of your job search, make a commitment to respond to several qualified job leads.

And don't forget to Follow-Up! This can be the most challenging and frustrating part of the search process. This step forces you to deal with obstacles, barriers, dead-ends, and rejection. But if you're willing to be a bit tenacious, this step will allow you to gauge which leads are getting warmer (and deserve more attention) and which have gone cold. So track your weekly job search activity (use a simple spreadsheet), get tough... and complete those follow-up calls and emails.

Decide how much time you can realistically dedicate to your job search each week. Then follow an organized, three prong approach to finding your next career opportunity.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How not to become a Job Hopper!

Maybe it's our natural "fight or flight" instinct, or maybe it's impatience being fueled by our "I want it now" society. Frequent decisions to change jobs - changes that don't illustrate growth, advancement or progression - can truly damage your career. Rather than just jumping to the next thing that comes along, or even feeling repelled by your current employer, think and plan before you make your move. I mean really take some time to be honest with yourself about the kind of strengths you offer and the things that are truly important to you in that next better fit opportunity. Too often people will stop planning when they believe they have found the right job, but how are they defining the right job. Well, they got the title they wanted, or the salary they wanted, or the office they wanted, or the company car...or maybe all of these were part of the package. But did they do their homework, research the organization and ask some tough questions during their interviews? Did they learn all they can about the other elements that may make this job the right opportunity?

The other elements of the right opportunity will likely include: the type of tasks and responsibilities you would enjoy, the skills you want to acquire or develop further, the size of the organization, the company's structure and management style, the hours and work schedule, whether you will be working alone or as part of a team, the level of flexibility and autonomy you will have, the opportunities for advancement-travel-tuition reimbursement-professional development, etc., etc., etc. These are the issues that should be addressed during interviews, but too many people forget to ask the questions. If you try your very best to define the elements of that better fit or best fit opportunity in advance - you have a much better chance of truly finding it during your search. And maybe then you won't find yourself job hopping - maybe you'll find yourself progressing into roles that are satisfying, challenging and in sync with where you want to be on your career path.

Finding the right opportunity will take time, effort, self assessment and even patience - but the payoff may be a career position that you enjoy for many years. And employers define commitment in terms of years, not months.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hey Atlanta, Fantastic Info on Work, Job & Career

The July 2008 edition of Atlanta magazine is packed with helpful career information for Atlantans, by Atlantans. Those who love their job, some of the very best places to work in the Atlanta market, and how to love the job you have during this tough economy. Check out the articles in this month's issue at

And here are a few other great sources of information to consider on some of the very best places to work. Maybe your next career opportunity is waiting behind one of these lobby doors!

  1. Fortune magazine:

  2. The 50 Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America, published in the July 2008 edition of HR Magazine (from the Society for Human Resource Management):

  3. The 2008 lists from Working Mother magazine:

  4. The Best Places to Work Institute offers the following search engines:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Don't Grumble...Seminars & Workshops Can Be Good Things!

When was the last time you attended a seminar? Was it worthwhile, did you enjoy the experience? Did you grumble and drag your butt to the event, then check your watch every 20-30 minutes - while praying that the speaker would not call on you...and hoping to be home by 4pm? Well there is a very good reason to reconsider your opinion of professional development activities (seminars, workshops, conferences, lectures, retreats, etc.). They don't have to be dull and torturous, they just need to peak your interest! So instead of being told by your employer that you have been registered for yet another seminar such as, Teamwork - Cheerleading for the Disgruntled and Underpaid Cubicle Dweller, try turning the tables on your employer. Get pro-active and seek out a seminar/workshop that you truly find appealing - something that will challenge you, expand your knowledge base and broaden your skills.

Think of it this way, ask your employer to pay for or reimburse you for a seminar you select, one that just might motivate you, and the bonus is that you get a nice change of environment for the work day. Even if your employer won't pay for the event, you should pay for it out of your pocket, if the topic is something you are really excited about. If you can walk out of a one day event with even 1 or 2 practical ideas to put into play, then the event was beneficial. A few other bonuses include the opportunity to demonstrate to your employer that you are engaging in professional development activities (a talking point for that annual performance review), a chance to network with peers who share your attraction to the seminar topic, plus you have new content for your resume (always add relevant activities to your resume under the heading of Professional Development). So find a seminar that looks really promising and sign up ASAP. Here is a nice link to search for seminars of interest:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Time for a Change?

When you're feeling like it might be time to make a change in your career, it might be wise to start by considering two basic questions? First, "is it my work/role or is it the environment or organization that I'm working in?" There may just be a disconnect between your current career values (what is truly important to you in your work) and the values (or lack of values) that exist in the organization that you represent each work day. Maybe it's the size of the company, their management style, their areas of focus (profit, people, social responsibility, ethics), their structure...any number of items. The second question you should ask yourself is "have I reached a saturation point - the point of burn out - in this career, where I no longer enjoy my work/role?"

So when struggling with the issue of whether or not to make a change, take a few steps back and spend some time reflecting on these 2 questions. This self assessment should help to clarify the potential next organization vs. new career focus!

Have you found yourself battling this question of change?