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Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Taking good care of yourself is the ultimate job search strategy

Last week, one of my clients seemed down.  I could hear the bad energy over the phone and sensed it in the subtext of her emails.  She admitted she was frustrated at the pace of her search.  She felt like she was pushing hard with no end in sight.  (Keep in mind that her search started less than two months ago, and she was getting great reception from her networking overtures.)  In her eyes, she didn’t have that new job yet, so the progress seemed hollow.

My answer was the opposite of what she expected.  She expected that I’d do the coach as cheerleader routine and get her to push even harder.  On the contrary, I told her to slow the search down.  Rather than working every day on it, cut back to 3-4 days a week.  Spend the other days on something fun, something that will rekindle her passion, something that will refresh and renew her energy.

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Radical Transparency, Social Networking & The Dangers that Lurk there for Students

Radical Transparency is a new phenomenon that’s sweeping the world as a result of the freedom and access to information offered by the Internet.  Like most things, radical transparency is both good and bad, depending on how you use or misuse it.

It’s good because it makes important information accessible to the public.  For example, Kellogg’s cereals, which “Tony the Tiger” touted as being Grrrrreat for children, now cannot hide the massive amounts of sugar they have added all these years.

It’s bad because you can take a photo and think its fun, only to have it plastered all over the internet, making you look not so much like the person you wanted to look like.  Case in point:  a small city mayor had some provocative pictures taken in a bikini, only to have them plastered all over the web.  She was ousted out of office because of this poor judgment call.  And she didn’t even post the pictures on the web…her friends did.  Ugh!

If you are a student, beware!  A new survey of 500 top colleges found that 10% of admissions officers looked at social networking sites to evaluate applicants.  Almost 40% said they were negatively affected by what they saw.   Some admissions officers said they rejected students because of material on their sites.  In fact, one university rejected a student after that student gushed about the school during a visit, only to trash it online. 

Radical transparency creates a mine field for social networkers.  Look before you leap because once something is “out there”, it can come back to haunt you!

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Integrating The Professional and Personal Into Your Networking

“Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz makes a point about tailoring your networking pitch to your audience.  Ferrazzi mentions that when he wants to dazzle professionally, he focuses on his HBS background, his consulting partnership at Deloitte and the other blue chip, pedigree items in his background.  When he wants to connect, he talks about growing up in a blue collar family.  This is a very useful point to remember at all stages of your networking, not just your pitch:  you have multiple dimensions, at a minimum personal and professional, but you can also define yourself by your past/ future, accomplishments/ goals, skills/ attributes and more.

When you define your network, remember the personal and the professional contacts you have.  When you approach people, remember Keith Ferrazzi’s tip:  adjust based on who you are talking to and the effect you want to make.  When you follow up, it’s not always about business or always about fun.  Sometimes you need to ask a friend for a lead or a referral.  Sometimes you have a restaurant to recommend or personal update for a business connection. 

Networking is about building relationships so this is not a black/ white proposition.  Relationships grow organically, they ebb and flow.  It’s not about getting personal, staying professional, or thinking either/ or.  Integrate both professional and personal into the relationships you build.

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Last day of summer at the beach and how it ties to a job search

I spent this past Sunday at the Jersey Shore – my favorite getaway – to enjoy one of the last days of summer.   I try to get there every weekend during the summer, as my husband and I have a small bungalow which is about 60 seconds from the sand. 

During the summer weekends, I see the same guy (about 55 years old) paddling his bright yellow kayak headfirst into the waves.  He has an amazing technique and rarely flips over.  I just didn’t expect him to be there after all the crowds have gone. 

Well, the waves were pretty intense this past weekend and he took a mean flip which sent his kayak to the beach and he followed not so easily.  When he finally came in, about 4 or 5 people waited for him and he took his boat, drained it of the water, and just headed back out again.  I told him how much I enjoy watching him and he told me that couldn’t at all equal the enjoyment he gets from kayaking.

So, of course, I thought of how that compares to the job search process.  He used 3 characteristics to ensure success and you can use the same during your job search process:

1. Knowledge:  he knows how to handle his kayak in calm waters and tumultuous waters.  He knows how to position his kayak when the waves are 2 feet high and 5 feet high.  He knows what to do when he flips over, and how to get the kayak ready to go out again.

2. Tenacity:  he never gives up.  If it’s sunny or cloudy, he’s out there.  If the water is rough or smooth, he’s out there.  He is persistent and as a reward, he gets the closest to the dolphin pods that swim by, and the flocks of stingrays that ride the waves just as the swimmers do.

3. Proactive:  He knows how to deal with any expected difficulty.  When his kayak filled with water, he flipped it over, drained it, resealed the opening and out he went again.  When he got caught in tough waves without his kayak, he used to oars to stay afloat.

All three things can apply to the job search.  You have to know what to do in good situations, and tough situations.  You have to be tenacious – get out there and network when the weather is good, and when the weather is bad.  Never cancel an appointment because you may not be feeling your best.  And lastly, you must be proactive and create opportunities when there doesn’t seem to be any because of this economy.  People will get hired in 2008 and 2009.  Make sure it’s you!

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What will happen to your summer offer?

For those of you who worked at Financial Services firms this summer, this is a time of anxiety.  You must be wondering if your offer will be honored or if it will be reneged upon.  We still don’t know what exactly will happen since so many companies are being bought, merging, being broken into little pieces, or just plain going out of business.

Having worked at Financial Services firms for about 25 years now I can tell you this:  firms do not ever want to reneg offers – even if they are merging with or being acquired by another company.  They will do whatever possible to honor their extended offers.  With that said, there are so many things in the air right now that no one knows for sure who will do what.

One thing we do know for sure is that when a company does reneg, their reputation takes a serious blow and that reputation will last for many years.  But when you are fighting for your survival, honoring summer intern offers seems less important then staying in business.  Once businesses reneg, students will feel very free to reneg upon their acceptances because of the companies bad reputation.  All in all, it makes for a very messy situation!

My advice for now … hang in there and do what you can to stay calm.  Concentrate on doing well at school, and networking like mad this Fall recruiting season.  Choices are always a very good thing to have, so treat your job search like the most important course you have to take this Fall.

Hopefully, this recent and significant jump in the stock market will help and is a sign of more positive things to come.  But given that we have a very bumpy ride ahead of us … stay tuned!

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How to Effectively Maintain and Grow Relationships in the Web 2.0 World

This is a special guest post by Scott Bradley, Gen Y entrepreneur, marketer and blogger of Networking Effectively.  Scott will be SixFigureStart’s special guest on the Oct 7, 7p EST teleclass on Networking At Career Fairs.  Email info@sixfigurestart.com to register and get the call-in details.

In the world of the social web anyone can “add a friend” or “make a connection” but everyone who just thinks that they can use this as a strategy to “network” are horribly mistaken.

 

Below is a short list of what I have found to be the most effective things to do to help you build a “following” and get people to like you and listen to what you have to say on the social web…all the while creating win/win partnerships at the same time!

 

1) Get social!

            I am serious! Stop worrying about the numbers of friends you have and start thinking of ways to engage with the “tentative audience” you have already built. I call new friends the tentative audience, because when you first “add them as a connection” all they have seen is a profile and your name…and if your lucky maybe your website.

 

For the experience and exposures to be effective, find out ways to actively engage with your new connections to move them from the tentative audience category to life-long friends and business partners. The only way to do this is to BE SOCIAL on these sites. If you have a good link to share, share it using the posted items feature in Facebook! If you found something interesting or a cool tip that you learned that day, share it in your status. There are so many ways to share good things with your contacts on these sites if I actually took the time to list them all it would take up the entire page! Get creative!

 

2) Help others before helping yourself

            Always look to be of value to other contacts that you connect with through the social web. The “I scratch your back, you scratch my back” phenomenon is seen everywhere on the social web, because when you WAKE UP to the fact that you need other people to help you to be an online success and a great networker…you will see that the only way to accomplish this is to think about others first before thinking about yourself.

 

            Before you scream, “But I want to just go on there get what I need to get done, and make sure that I am the most productive with my time,” let me put it to you this way. Say that you are person A and you have person B come to you and say, “Do you know anyone who ________?” would you help person B find who they are looking for IF THEY NEVER HELPED YOU to begin with? EXACTLY!!! You wouldn’t!!! Seriously ask people how you can help them in messages you send back and forth. This activity is definitely worth your time because if you help another person, you can come back to them in the future and ask them for a favor you may need. I guarantee you they will gladly do it.

 

3) Be Genuine

            From what I have found, people appreciate others who are not only honest but further are genuine in their communication with their “tentative contacts.” If you are on the social web just to promote yourself and sell products, you are not going to last very long because people will see right through you and what you are up to. Being genuine can be as simple as responding to a posted item one of your contacts put up, and giving them a really thoughtful response. Think about it, how would you feel if someone you never knew commented on one of your articles that you posted to your Facebook profile…pretty cool huh! Now flip it…how would it feel if you were to comment on someone’s posted item and then they came back and thanked you for your comment! That is pretty cool as well!

            The more genuine you are, and the more transparent you are, the better it is for you and your contacts on these sites going forward. Trying to be someone your not, only to sell products in my opinion defeats the entire purpose of these social networking sites.

 

When it comes down to it never lose sight that on the other side of the computer is a live breathing person. They are not a number, or a robot, or an animal…they are a live breathing person just like you. Treat them how you would want to be treated and truly the sky is the limit to leveraging the sheer power of these social networking sites.

 

 

 

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What to do when Pink Slips are flying overhead like vultures!

The Chinese Proverb says “May you live in interesting times.”  Many also consider it a curse, and you may feel that way if you are an employee at the following firms:  Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG and perhaps Merrill Lynch. 

 

When pink slips are circling overhead like vultures over a rotting animal, there are several things a Wall Street vet could do:

 

1. Be the calm in the storm and focus on your job.  It’s so easy for less experienced people to get caught up in the hysteria of it all.  If you are a vet, you’ve seen these times of crisis before and you know that we’ll all see them again.  Remember the crash of 1987, the layoffs of 1991.  We all remember 2001 & what happened in 2002 .. when unemployment benefits were extended to 1 year!  Then came 2003 and by 2004 & 2005 companies were hiring like mad again.  So live in the present:  you have a job … bring all your positive energy to work every day and focus on accomplishing things. 

 

2. Be proactive at work.  Think about how to streamline processes and build teamwork.  Think about any moral boosters and bring them to your bosses attention.  They would be very welcomed during these tough times..  update that resume.  it always feels good to have a resume ready to go.  It cuts the stress significantly to be able to start networking asap versus. 

 

3. Network with others in your field.  If you belong to a professional organization (and we all should join some organization) ensure that you attend these meetings and meet as many people as possible.  Networking isn’t about looking for a job, it’s about building relationships.  So put a little more time into this area of your life.  It’s all about the network!

 

4. Do not call in sick, do not take 2 weeks vacation at once, do not complain about your job or about your coworkers.  Stay connected and be reliable at all times.  Make your boss feel like they could not do without you.

 

5. Do things to lower your stress now … should a pink slip act like a “heat seeking missile”.  Forgo that $4,000 vacation & don’t eat out if you can avoid it.  Keep your older car instead of getting a new one right now.  Keep a “saving log” showing how much you have avoided spending.  Make it a contest in the house and have fun with it.   Do anything you can NOT to spend money right now.  It’s great to see a savings account build up because having 6 months of living expenses in a savings account is a wonderful thing.

 

6. Spend quality time with family outside of work.  Bring the stress down on the weekends and at night by having fun.  This will no doubt lower your stress and you will look more relaxed and you’ll be better able to stay calm when and if layoffs come your way.

 

7. Work out regularly!  Endorpins will only make you feel better during this time.  It will keep you centered and able to handle whatever comes your way.

 

8.  Find religion!  Believing in a higher power brings down the stress.  There is something very empowering when you say “I’ll give it all up to you God.”  95% of this country believes in a higher being, so I don’t think I’m out of line to suggest tapping into that higher being for a sense of peace and wellbeing.

 

Good luck & may the pink slips fly by without even looking your way!

Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio

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In a job search, saying no is the only way to say yes to something better

I have many motivated and intelligent clients.  Coaching often self-selects for people who are ambitious enough to not just want a new job but to want their next job to be the right job.

This often means an unnerving dose of waiting and saying no.  If you want the job of your dreams, then you need to define your dream criteria and stick to them.  Not every opportunity will be a good match.  You have to know yourself well enough and then have the courage to stick to what is meaningful to you.

I don’t encourage inaction.  I don’t think waiting equals doing nothing and expecting that dream job to fall in your lap.  I also don’t recommend that you say no to a good job that meets many of your criteria because you want the perfect job that meets all.

However, I do encourage that you work towards your ideals and not get distracted by every opportunity that may come your way.  A current client is very gregarious and naturally attracts opportunities.  She wants a big company environment but started pursuing some of the smaller companies that expressed interest in her.  In this tight market, it’s good to cast a wider net than you might in a flush economy, but I still advised this client to be more selective.  Pursue the smaller companies in addition to, but not instead of, the first choice companies. 

Don’t let ad hoc opportunities distract you from your goal.  It is up to you to stay on track.  If this means you can’t pursue everything, then you have to say no.  Sometimes, saying no is the only way to say yes to something better.

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Creative careers are possible…but not necessary

It is possible to make a good living and pursue your creative and artistic passions.  It’s possible to do this at any age and stage of your career.  Check out my Wetfeet post on this very subject. 

But I feel very strongly that while making art and making money are not mutually exclusive, they are also not co-dependent.  You do not need to be paid for your art to be serious about it.  You can act in community theater and still be a good actor, but just not one that makes a living from acting.  You can design great websites and get paid for such, or you may decide that what sells commercially isn’t what you want to do, so you design websites by day and devote time after work to design what your heart really calls for.

The decision of how to be creative and how to make money are two separate decisions.  Yes, for some people, it ends up being the same thing (although there are many working actors who confess to doing the independent but artistic money loser and alternating that with the money-making but less creative blockbuster).  For many people, the payoff from being creative is going to be separate from how they pay their bills.  Instead of stressing over what money (or lack thereof) means for your creative commitment, use that energy to make more designs, get more roles. sing more songs.  Then make money however you do it best and however the market will actually bear.  Creative careers are possible but not necessary.  You can be creative regardless of what your career title actually is.

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5 Steps To Comprehensive Project Descriptions

In interviews, I often ask candidates to give me examples of their work:

Tell me about a typical project at Company X;

Tell me about a project where you managed people/ presented to senior management/ impacted the bottom line;

Tell me about an analytical/ research/ strategy project; or

Tell me about your favorite/ least favorite/ most difficult/ most rewarding project;

 

To be a prepared candidate, therefore, you need a list of projects that showcase different points you wish to make – different skills, different scopes, different expertise.  This way, you have an answer to any of the above questions, and since you have thoughtfully prepared your project list in advance, you can talk about your work in an engaging and succinct way.

 

You also want to be able to describe your projects comprehensively enough so that the interviewer has a clear sense of what you can do and what you have accomplished.  Many candidates make the mistake of getting bogged down in the minutia of the project.  They regale the interviewer with a lot of history and background research that usually doesn’t give the interviewer a sense for their active role.  Remember, you are not trying to make the interviewer an expert on the project.  You are selling your skills and expertise, and therefore you need to make the interviewer understand the scope of the project and your role therein.

 

Be able to answer these five questions for any project you discuss in an interview and you will have a comprehensive answer:

 

Who sponsored the project:  CEO, department head, line manager?  This gives the interviewer a sense of the project’s importance.

 

What was the objective?  This is where you showcase your business sense.  Give a clear and concise answer as to why this project was undertaken.  It boils down to revenue generation or cost savings, so know this and frame your answer accordingly.

 

What was the deliverable:  Powerpoint presentation, white paper, presentation to senior management, Excel model?  Give the interviewer a tangible sense of the result of the project.

 

What actually happened?  Let the interviewer know that you know your impact on your company’s business.  If the company benefited, quantify this.  If the company didn’t move forward, explain why not. 

 

What did you do and what did everyone else on the team do?  Be specific about your role so you don’t come across as overreaching and so that the interviewer doesn’t assume you did more or less than you did.  At the same time, being clear about what everyone else did shows that you are a team player and are aware of what is going on around you and what other people contribute.

 

Craft your project descriptions so that the above five questions are answered seamlessly therein.  Don’t wait for the interviewer to prompt you.  Most will not and will just rely on the incomplete information you volunteer.

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