Archive for August, 2008

Sarah Palin Teaches Job Seekers Not to Throw in the Towel

I don’t believe that it’s a good idea to inject politics into the workplace. Inevitably, people will disagree, and some will feel it’s necessary to “convert” people to their “right” way of thinking. In any case, it’s a can of worms, a Pandora’s box – once opened, it can’t be contained again.

So, I don’t choose political sides on my blog. However, I’ve been a bit of a political junkie since I was a kid. Somehow, I can’t get enough of the talk shows and articles and blogs about the ins and outs of the presidential election. I can’t help but be inspired to write a post about John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for his VP spot.

Two angles that interest me as a blogger writing about career issues:

  1. Governor Palin’s relative inexperience.
  2. The blog that some credit for raising her profile.

Experience in the Job Hunt

No matter what your political bent, you are probably surprised that McCain chose someone from such a small state, who, on paper, has less experience than any VP pick in modern history (per the Huffington Post).

What does this mean for job seekers? I think it means – you never know! On one hand, I just blogged about the risks of taking a job that is beyond your experience. On the other hand, maybe Palin’s accomplishments and specific skills (including the less quantifiable “soft” skills) make her very well qualified to balance a ticket with McCain. Sometimes, the “right” person for the job may not be as obvious as it seems.

The lesson? Maybe there is a promotion at your organization that you’d like to shoot for, but you figure another candidate is a shoo-in. Don’t throw in the towel! Think about what you can do to stand out. What makes you just right for the job? Think outside of the box, focus on all of your skills and contributions and make sure the decision makers know what you have to offer.

Which brings us to point #2:

Some Credit Blogger for VP Pick

Adam Brickley, a 21-year old college student apparently has been blogging in an effort to win Sarah Palin a spot on the Republican ticket since last year. The power of social media? Perhaps! Just as you don’t really know what the tipping point is that causes an organization to choose one qualified candidate over another, seemingly equally qualified candidate, we’ll never really know how much influence (or not) this blog had. Brickley did report that he received a call from the Palins after McCain’s official announcement.

The lesson for job seekers here? You never know what can tip the scales. While Brickley’s blog may have had little influence, it is safe to say that his impact was more than just blowing into the wind. I often tell job seekers that blogging can be good for their careers. For a strong writer, starting a blog is a great way to demonstrate expertise in an area. With employers “Googling” applicants, blogging is one way to help control your digital footprint (what people find when they search for your name). If you blog, you directly impact what comes up, which is especially useful if you aren’t happy with current search results.

Only time will tell how Governor Palin will fare in the VP race, but no matter what the outcome, don’t ignore the lessons for your own career or job hunt!

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Thinking of reaching for a position that seems out of reach? Need some help to give your job hunt a boost? Visit Keppie Careers online for information about our services, including resume writing, interview preparation and job hunt coaching:

Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice – In Your Job Search or Otherwise!

What an incredible coincidence (or maybe it isn’t?) that, just as the U.S. Gulf Coast areas hit by Katrina three years ago should be pausing to remember the victims of that horrible disaster, Hurricaine Gustav threatens the region still struggling to recover three years later.

This time, it seems as if people aren’t taking any chances. The AP reports that 1 million residents fled the Gulf Coast, well ahead of any official orders to evacuate the area. The mayor of New Orleans has told tourists to leave, hospitals are preparing and shelters are being set up. (The Superdome NOT being one of them.)

Hopefully, lessons learned from the Katrina disaster will inform and improve the response to this oncoming storm. People have not forgotten Katrina and will do what they can to avoid getting involved in a similar situation.

Does it always take an epic catastrophe to learn from our mistakes? Ideally, we will all be able to recognize that there’s something to be learned from every mis-step, especially as mistakes pertain to job hunting.

In my networking, I’ve recently spoken with two job hunters who face similar situations. Both out of work, they desperately needed jobs to earn income. As a result, both allowed themselves to be sucked into interviews and positions that were not well suited to their skills and experience.

“Amy” said to me, “I knew that I didn’t really have the experience to do the job. There were red flags, but they were willing to hire me, so I signed on.” Unfortunately, the result was that the contract to permanent position did not become permanent when the organization realized that their hire couldn’t manage the project they had in mind. While she had a paid job for several months, she stopped job hunting while employed, and when her concerns became reality, she realized that she had wasted several months when she could have been seeking the permanent job she needs.

“Kris” describes a similar situation. She took a job that she knew she couldn’t really do. She’s not sure how she landed the position, but after only four weeks, faces being asked to leave.

“Amy” is back on the job hunt, and finding that things haven’t changed…She’s still being recruited for jobs above her qualifications. “Kris,” facing her worst fears, now wonders how to approach her job hunt.

Maybe these stories are not familiar, but you have a different recurring job hunting problem? I met “Bill,” who says he “keeps coming in second” in his search. Others keep sending out the same resume to literally 100s of jobs, but don’t get a single interview.

Job seekers need to take stock and learn from their mistakes. Maybe trusting their own instincts will help. Maybe asking for help with a resume or interview coaching will make the difference. Recognize that doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result, isn’t smart. (Not a political statement, but I can’t help but think that this sentiment is relevant here!)

Just as you (hopefully) wouldn’t hole up in your New Orleans home as a huge storm approaches, don’t make the same mistakes over and over in your quest for a new job. Take some time to evaluate your plans and consider seeking some help. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing a job hunting disaster, partly of your own making.

If you want to receive free up-to-date tips to help with your job hunt, Click here to subscribe to receive future blogs sent directly to you!

Tired of making the same mistake twice? Visit Keppie Careers online for information about our services, including resume writing, interview preparation and job hunt coaching:

Salary Transparency in the Job Hunt and On the Job

Have you heard the new tread in career-ology? Lisa Belkin of the New York Times recently wrote about it. It’s called “salary transparency,” and the point is that everyone in an organization will know what everyone else in the organization earns. The thought is, if everyone is paid what he or she is worth, there is no need for workers to be secretive about salaries. A key point for job seekers, true transparency will offer more than one leg up when it comes to negotiating compensation.

Some workers have always had salary transparency. Government workers’ salaries are public, as are many non-profit employee salaries.

The JobBoard reminds us that there are a variety of tools to help workers learn what their jobs are “worth,” such as and “next-generation competitors like PayScale, GlassDoor and SalaryScout, [who] are taking things even further.” notes that actual salary transparency raises “prickly privacy issues and lets rivals poach more easily (they know what to offer to snag desirable employees).”

However, the site also notes benefits of salary transparency:

  • A fair compensation system based on actual performance.
  • Employee understanding of the business (e.g., why payroll is usually the largest cost; why certain employees earn more).
  • A culture of trust, as employees and senior managers share more information.
  • Pay would not be a primary weapon in the fight for talent.
  • Organizations could create a more collegial, open system with some salary transparency.
  • Companies would be able to create a rigorous performance-based pay system.

So, what do you think? Is it a good idea for everyone to know what everyone else earns? Would it encourage fairness in compensation? Or is it a train wreck?

If you want to receive free up-to-date tips to keep up with workplace trends and help with your job hunt, Click here to subscribe to receive future blogs sent directly to you!

You have no idea what you’re worth? Can’t even get your resume underway? Keppie Careers is here for you! Did you know we offer a resume consulting service? We advise, you write! Or, hire us to write your resume for you. Visit Keppie Careers online for information about our services:

photo by Tony Ciranjiiva

Resume Tip – Your Resume Should Read as the Perfect Match for Your Next Job

 So, you are trying to write your own resume, and you are focusing on all of the things that you’ve done in the past to highlight?  STOP!

Your resume isn’t ABOUT your past – it’s about your future! Of course, you need to rely on what you have done to convince your next employer of what you can do for him or her, but remember: Your resume needs to read as the perfect match for your next job. You don’t want to look like the candidate who is qualified to do the job you already have.

Just as you need to target you resume to address your potential employer’s problems, you also need to target it to highlight the skills and accomplishments that propel you to where you want to go.  Review job descriptions that interest you. What do they want? What skills do they seek? Demonstrate that you are that person by artfully illustrating that you have the skills and accomplishments to get the job done.

You don’t have those skills on your resume? The “propel you forward” ones? Take the wheel and get them! Talk to your employer about the skills you’d like to develop. See where there are opportunities to get involved in projects that will give you what you need for your resume. Drive your own career bus, or be stuck hopelessly at the red light.

If you want to receive free up-to-date tips to help with your job hunt, Click here to subscribe to receive future blogs sent directly to you!

Need help with your resume? Did you know we offer a resume consulting service? We advise, you write! Or, hire us to write your resume for you. Visit Keppie Careers online for information about our services:

photo by KM

Resume Tip – Be a Knight in Shining Armor!

Do you want to be a hero?

Who doesn’t want to hire a knight in shining armor, ready to take on the problems of the day?

When you focus on your resume, don’t just focus on you and what you offer. Remember to focus on the target – the potential employer. It is just as important to know what the employer wants as it is to know your own skills and accomplishments!

Figure out what problems your target organization is trying to solve. Sometimes, this is easy to discover by reading their website and job description. Other times, informational interviews and keeping up with the news of the day helps. (If the Wall Street Journal just ran an article about the organization, you’ll want to be sure to know about it!) Be sure to Google the organization; don’t just rely on what they say about themselves. What are others saying about them?

Once you know their needs, determine why and how YOU can provide the answers to their problems. Make a clear connection on your resume. Show them that you are their knight in shining armor, slaying dragons left and right.

If you want to receive free up-to-date tips to help with your job hunt, Click here to subscribe to receive future blogs sent directly to you!

Need help with your resume? Did you know we offer a resume consulting service? We advise, you write! Or, hire us to write your resume for you. Visit Keppie Careers online for information about our services:

photo by Ms. Kathleen

How Can You, Uh, Communicate Better?

In job hunting and in everyday life, there aren’t many things more important than the way you communicate. When I coach clients, I encourage them to plan and rehearse certain information that is common to the job hunt. For example, everyone should have an elevator pitch. Job seekers should be able to answer the “what is your weakness” question without missing a beat.

However, my cyber friend Walter Akana reminds us in his blog post, Conversations Without A Net, “we live in an unscripted world.” While there are a lot of things we can rehearse and plan, other times, we just need to be able to communicate effectively on our feet.

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done! That’s why I wanted to share information from Joey Asher’s blog, Speechworks. His recent post, How to, Like, Eliminate Filler Words, offered some terrific tips for anyone trying to improve their communication skills.

The following is a condensed version of the tips in Joey’s post:

Ums” make us sound uncertain and ignorant

We’re afraid that if we get quiet, someone will interrupt us and we’ll lose our “conversational turn.” However, “filler words” are universally seen as signs of uncertainty and even ignorance.

One social scientist has shown than the words make us sound less intelligent. Robert Gifford, Ph.D., of the University of Victoria in British Columbia., taped high school kids answering tough questions and then played the tapes for other students. The students that avoided the “uhs” were perceived to be smarter.

To eliminate filler-words, first you have to notice them.

Most people don’t even hear their filler words. Why don’t we hear the words? It has to do with our “reticular activation system.” This is the part of our brain that filters out unnecessary sensory data. If we’re driving down the road, we can’t pay attention to every sensory input that passes through our line of sight. Otherwise, we’d get distracted and crash. Our reticular activation system helps us stay focused on what’s important. Similarly, we don’t hear every “um” or “er”.

How can we notice the fillers? We can program our reticular activation system to “let in” certain things. When I bought a silver Honda Accord several years ago, I immediately began seeing silver Accords everywhere. I had programmed my brain to “let in” Honda Accords. Similarly, you can program your brain to notice the “ums” and “ers”. Put a rubber band around your wrist as a reminder.

Once you notice the words, pause and force yourself to speak faster

Once you start noticing the words, the rest is easy. When you feel a filler word coming, just pause. Close your lips as you figure what to say next.

And try speaking faster. Speaking faster eliminates filler words by giving you less time to substitute the “uhs” and “ers.”

Don’t let filler words “clutter” up your speech and make you sound uncertain and ignorant. With just a little focus, you can be sounding smooth and confident.

If you want to receive free up-to-date tips to help with your job hunt, Click here to subscribe to receive future blogs sent directly to you!

Visit Keppie Careers online for free advice and information about our services:

Being Connected Trumps Being Exceptional In the Working World

Earlier this year, Penelope Trunk invited me to write a blog post for Brazen Careerist. My article recently appeared on her site, and I thought I would share the post with my readers who might be interested in sharing feedback! 

There is a  lot of pressure to be exceptional.  Entrepreneur and author Seth Godin caused a stir when he claimed that, if you are “remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular,” you don’t even need a resume. (You do, but that’s a subject for another blog.) Understandably, a bias that being exceptional is the key to career success is engrained in most professionals.

Take a step back – What really predicts success in the working world? Is being extraordinary the answer?

No one gets an ‘A’ at work. You may earn a strong performance review, a promotion, or even a raise. No doubt that these require quality output, but evaluative characteristics tend to be subjective. (There are no multiple-choice tests.) In reality, your ability to promote, communicate and connect your value to colleagues and superiors is more important than the actual quality of your work. If you don’t believe me, read this study from a Harvard and Duke professor explaining that personal feelings often carry more weight than competence in the business world. (Hat tip: Penelope Trunk)

At a very basic level, if you are contributing, but no one knows, your lack of connectedness hampers your success. However, while being a connector leads to the ability to self-promote, connectedness isn’t about self-promotion.

In his book, The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell defined connectors as “people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.” He goes on to describe how these unique individuals make a habit of introducing people in different circles to each other. Gladwell notes, “We rely on them to give us access to opportunities and worlds to which we don’t belong.”

In our digital, Web 2.0 world, success will depend more and more on our ability to broaden our professional circles and to reach out to a diverse socio-economic group of people representing a mix of opinions and beliefs. Professional “connectors” who habitually introduce people who otherwise may not meet earn goodwill and reputations as valuable resources and colleagues.

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says, “…Community and alliances will rule in the twenty-first century…[success is] dependent on whom you know and how you work with them (291).” He asserts that living a truly connected life is a prerequisite to success. For example, Ferrazzi mentions that Crain’s 40 Under 40, a list of rising stars in an array of fields, aren’t necessarily the best businesspeople. Instead, he suggests that they are probably the best connected businesspeople.

The value of connectedness is never more heightened than during uncertain economic times. Anyone who has been reading the recent “how to recession proof your job” articles and blogs will realize that they inevitably share one common piece of advice: Network for career success. Don’t wait until you are desperate. Networking is about building relationships.

Author and blogger Thom Singer said it well: “All opportunities come from other people.” Your success will depend, not on what you know, how many hours you work, or how much money you make, but on your ability to build and maintain a band of people to share ideas, opinions and contacts. The people you know and their willingness to support you will determine your fate in the working world.

Building trust and relationships with colleagues and associates inside and outside of your organization is something every professional should consciously manage. Don’t assume that you will wake up one day surrounded by mentors, supportive colleagues and friends. The only way to attain success is to drive your own career bus.

Successful people are willing to give without expecting anything in return. Successful relationships (in life and in business) don’t keep score; each partner contributes. Being a connector takes this idea to the next level. If you intentionally broaden your circle of influence and consciously and generously add value to others by introducing them to contacts in your circle, you open the door to untold numbers of opportunities.

Hold the door open for others and you may be surprised at the number of people who will rush to hold it for you.

If you want to receive free up-to-date tips to help with your job hunt, Click here to subscribe to receive future blogs sent directly to you!

Visit Keppie Careers online for free advice and information about our services:

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August 2008
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