Top 10 Tips for Grads Starting Their Career Search

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com
 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,
As a recent graduate with my bachelors, what are the top 10 tips you would suggest for me
starting out in my job search?
P.J.
Millburn

[Read more…]

Interviewing by Storytelling

How can you be comfortable in an interview and show the best picture of you?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I struggle when interviewing as I am not comfortable in this setting. How can I be more effective in my responses?

GD
Short Hills

 

Interviewing can be stressful if you are not prepared. Although you cannot prepare for every question or situation encountered, practice can reduce the anxiety you may feel going into an interview setting.

A certain amount of stress or anxiety can serve to elevate your performance during the interview. If the stress or anxiety is too much, then it can have a negative impact on your presentation.

The key during an interview is to shift ever so gently the interview from a question grilling situation into a conversation. You can achieve this by answering the questions concisely and asking clarifying questions as you close your response. For example, for the “tell me about yourself” you can say “based on my understanding of the position, I have the knowledge to help the company leverage itself in this new market with experience in…” Then close your answer with “please share with me what some of the initial projects you see this role taking on.” Closing in this manner will allow you to gain insight for the questions that follow and you are gently shifting the interview into a conversation style.

The key is to know the job, the company and potential issues the company is facing—compliance, regulatory, globalization, environmental and social concerns prior to your interview meeting. If you can gain intelligence on the individuals you will be meeting with is very important as well. Ask about their process, next steps and when you can connect with them to follow up.

Learn yoga breathing so you can calm yourself prior to interviewing. Clear your mind and focus to get the conversation flowing. Wrap your answers in stories after you provide a concise technical answer by saying, “May I elaborate by sharing a work situation?” It allows the interviewer to respond and then you are able to engage in a story. Keep the story brief, emphasizing the point you want to make and do not go off on a tangent. It’s a powerful way of sharing your strengths while weaving a story.

Remember it is your responsibility to tell an accurate story about yourself, stressing your strengths and abilities. If you are scheduled for an interview, then you have passed the initial match or competency screen. Now it is up to you to show your personality. People like to hire individuals that they like and get along with, so chemistry is important. Watch for work style, approach and engage so you can begin to build a relationship. Typically the hiring manager selects the candidate they believe will perform well and that feels comfortable within the company culture and department’s style.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice.  

How Do I Stop Self Doubting?

How to gain more confidence on the job.

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I have been working for 6 months as a RN (Registered Nurse). I am always asking questions when I am not sure how to do something. Why do so many more experienced RNs doubt me by telling me how to do something even if I know how to perform the procedure? What should I do?

Thanks,
L.G., Millburn

 

You are in a field that has potentially life-threatening consequences if done wrong. The fact that you are aware enough to ask when unsure is a good thing. The biggest challenge for many new hires is knowing when to proceed and when to ask for help. In nursing school, there was probably a lot of instructional guidance given. It sounds like you are taking your work very seriously.

By asking repeatedly about a procedure, you may be undermining the staff’s confidence in you. Are you truly unsure or just not feeling confident enough to proceed? If you have done a procedure before successfully, ask yourself, “do I need to review the protocol?” If you are unsure, you may want to ask an experienced colleague to stand by if possible, while you perform the procedure. It will demonstrate your abilities and confirm your knowledge. If you are unable to complete the procedure, your experienced colleague will be there for assistance.

Respect your colleague’s time. When working in a team, understand that your co-workers have other responsibilities they are juggling. If you are asking for help, figure out how to return the favor by helping them in an area you are strong in.

Another option may be to create a study group with other RNs to practice procedures, review protocols and share best practices. Consider asking some of the more experienced RNs to honor this group by offering their expertise and mentoring. You may consider creating a social club for RNs, such as a book or movie discussion group that can meet in person or over a social media site. You may consider joining some professional associations for gaining additional knowledge and best practices.

Connecting with colleagues is important when building trust within relationships. Creating genuine caring relationships with your team members while balancing the workload is important. Self-awareness of one’s behavior is the key. The faster you can build the emotional intelligence through raising their self-awareness, the faster your team will integrate and the happier they will be to work together. A team consists of multiple styles and various experience levels. Respect for one another, understanding each other’s strengths and how to support one another is very important. New talent is important and necessary and the blend of wisdom gained from experience with new creative ideas usually yields the best and brightest options.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

How Do I Reinvent Myself?

What’s the best way to change your work life to fit with your current personal life?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I am trying to reinvent myself so that I don’t have to work the long hours and can spend more time with my family. My question is about how to really go about doing this—what are my options? What fields could I transition into? I really feel that I am having a mid-life crisis and could use direction but I am not so sure where to turn or which way to go. And I am sure that I am not alone in this and that there are many women returning to the work force with similar concerns to mine.

Thanks, J.T. Millburn

 

Take time to reflect on your education, your work and life experience. How do these blend with your current interests? The key here is to leverage your past experiences with your future interests and passions. Evaluate your skills and abilities and think about what you do best. What do you enjoy doing? What do others tell you that you do well? This will give you a sense of your strengths to build on as you identify new possibilities.

Identify contacts within your network who can help introduce you to others in your target area of interest. Begin by networking within the industry you have identified.
Consider the following:

  • Attend seminars, webinars, and other related events to build up your knowledge of the industry “speak.” It will help you when speaking with hiring managers.
  • Network at related professional association meetings.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups and read the discussions to better understand what current trends, interests and priorities are in the new targeted industry.
  • Volunteer to learn new skills and expand your network.
  • Return to work through a staffing agency on a temporary basis. This will allow you to try a new work environment so you can determine the fit. As a company gets to know you, the better your chances are of negotiating a creative alternative work arrangement.

All of these options allow you to develop new relationships, learn and update your skills. To further evaluate your skills, you may consider working with a certified career coach to complete a formal skills assessment and help guide you in new career directions specific to your strengths.

A study about work-family issues conducted by the Pew Research Center and reported by Reuters, indicated “most people thought women should work, with 75 percent rejecting the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Although women account for nearly half of the U.S. workforce, many feel conflicted about the competing roles at work and at home, feeling guilt about how they are balancing work and children. But despite these pressures and conflicts, working moms, overall, are as likely as at-home moms and working dads to say they’re happy with their lives,” the researchers said in a statement. They found “36 percent of working mothers were very happy with their lives—the same as at-home mothers.”

Success is individually defined based on your own value system and needs. Most working moms juggle their priorities and are constantly rebalancing to make it work!

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

How Do I Network?

The advice is to network to get a new job, but how do you do that?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

Everyone says I need to network to find a job. As a recent graduate, I am applying to multiple jobs online and not getting responses. How do I network?

MP
Short Hills

 

Job hunting takes persistence and resilience. In the past, job hunting consisted of submitting resumes along with a cover letter either by mail, fax, email or online. Some job seekers like to post their resumes on selected job search sites for employers to view.

In the last few years, many job seekers are using social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and job sites where the site is doing the preliminary matching for you. Many of these matching sites request a membership fee. Since there are so many free job site resources available, I am not a proponent of online job sites that require payment for memberships.

The Warren Township Library and I conduct quarterly workshops (for free) on the tools available through your public library and how to work with these tools to develop your job search strategy.

One approach is to set up job alerts by selecting key words that solicit job matches from numerous job boards. Selecting the job sites you want to search will take a bit of research once you refine what you are looking for. Once you determine certain areas of interests, then determine the best key words to target your job search criteria. Determining the key words may take a few trails but is worth the time to get it to your liking.

Ryan Derousseau of Mediabistro explains in “Can You Reach the Right People While Schmoozing on LinkedIn?,” “online schmoozing has become the norm… but are you really reaching the people that will help your career while networking online?… The answer is yes. Hubspot confirms that 28 percent of LinkedIn users are senior executives… and of all the users, 67 percent are between the ages of 25 and 54… 80 percent of recruiters say they use the site to find applicants.”

So, how does one network in today’s market? In person, through social and professional meetings, through meetup.com, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. However, your ability to generate conversation is essential to turn your online relationship into a cultivated longer term relationship that will last beyond this job search period.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Guide to Screening

What do you do when you’re asked to screen job candidates?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

Recently I have been asked to screen candidates for a client that I am consulting with. I do not know how to go about this. Can you guide me on how to approach this?

SB
Short Hills

 

There are legal requirements for compliance that come into play when interviewing. Ask your client if they will be handling these requirements or if you are expected to handle this aspect as well.

Assuming they are handling the compliance aspects, let’s begin with the positions you are trying to fill. Have you been given a job posting or description of what is expected? If not, meet with the hiring manager and ask what they are ideally looking for. Ask what specific responsibilities are required for this position and what is nice to have. Ask what will make someone successful in this role. Ask who on their team is an ideal role model. Ask if there is any need to reshuffle any of their team members’ current job responsibilities so they can help develop them or play further into someone’s strengths. Ask if there is anyone within the company that may be considered before seeing outside candidates. These questions allow you to show your client your commitment to the overall success of their staff.

Based on the conversation above, create a one page summary that will serve you well when you begin to screen or interview candidates. From the summary and knowing the company’s culture, you will have a good sense of what they are looking for in a qualified candidate.

Assuming they are providing you with the resumes received, create a list of consistent questions you will ask each and every candidate you speak with. You may deviate beyond the core questions but having a consistent approach will help you evaluate the candidates evenly. This core question list typically consists of four to six questions with additional questions focused on a specific topical matter. Ideally, the technical questions should come from the hiring manager unless they have asked you to do this.

Screening or interviewing candidates, whether it’s a technical interview or screening for the right personality and cultural fit, is not as difficult when we know what questions we need to have answered. Preparation up front is the key to successfully screening candidates. Consider screening over the phone with 20 minute conversations. If the candidate is a good fit, you will probably schedule additional time with them or invite them to the office. Best wishes for a successful consulting engagement.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice.  

Graduate Job Seeker

The writer isn’t graduating until May, but how should he handle his job search now?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I am graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics in May 2011. I applied for corporate graduate training programs in financial services firms so I would have a job upon graduating. They seem to be all filled. I have been advised to wait until I’m near graduation and then see what entry level positions are available. I’m worried with the state of the economy whether that is a good idea. What would you recommend?

JS
Short Hills

 

Corporate Graduate Training Programs in many of the financial services firms have reduced the number of graduates in their program. These programs are very competitive and typically require a high GPA and previous internship experience. Involvement in some related student activity or clubs and having someone inside the firm recommend you is very helpful.

Although many of the graduate program selections are typically made between year end and February, there are usually some last minute fall out that occurs within these programs as previously committed graduates change their decision to accept. With the economy being tight, there will probably be less drop-outs than previous years. I would suggest you send holiday wishes (can be holiday cards or via email or LinkedIn) to all of the professionals you interviewed with and to all previous internship connections letting them know that you are searching for an opportunity upon graduation in May 2011. Offer to meet with them in the new year on an exploratory basis. As they respond, set up appointments.

Using LinkedIn allows you to connect and invite them into your network for the future. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be ready to present as this is your social online resumé and presence. Obtain a few recommendations from previous internships and from professors. When you are in active search mode, “post and update” often with either an article you have read and want to share with your audience (LinkedIn connection) or reminding your contacts that you are graduating and seeking an opportunity.

Use this time to gain informational knowledge. Engage others in a conversation about careers. Ask them about their job, their industry and what they see for future career development. You will learn more about various companies, and most people enjoy speaking about what they do and many will enjoy the privilege of informally mentoring you. Ask your parents, family members, friends of your parents, with your parent’s permission of course, and neighbors about potential individuals they can recommend you contact for exploratory or informational meetings.

Networking is the key in this job market. Do you know any previous graduates in the training programs you have applied for that you can connect with? Ask them about the program and see if there are additional programs you may not have applied for. Speak with your University Career Center. Get to know them and let them know who you are. Ask about other companies coming on campus and contacts they may have in the field you want. Ask them to help you set up some exploratory and informational interviews. Ask about alumni at various firms that you can contact. The alumni meetings may be a great way for you to learn more and gain inside contacts so when a position opens, you may be considered.

page1image29568

This is the time to explore career options. I recommend you broaden your search to include finance opportunities rather than just financial services firms.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Getting Your Resume Through the Door

How do you overcome the technology or screening process for resumes?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

What value has technology brought to the recruitment process? How do you work around the technology screening to get an interview?

F.T. Millburn

 

For larger companies, technology has played a significant role in changing how applicants are selected. The technology, referred to as Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS, is used to screen candidates for qualifications based on matching terminology (key words) on one’s resume relative to the job requirements. It allows the corporate recruiter to see only the candidates that are a match based on the programmed criteria.

Many of the programming criteria for job boards prevent the resume from being viewed by the receiving company if it doesn’t match enough of the job specific criteria. Most of these job boards do not inform you that you have been denied the privilege of being viewed. This is when your network is critical.

If your resume is not getting noticed, then change it. Review job postings and look for consistent key words. Integrate these words into your resume. Using these words is the key to getting through the ATS screen. Most people update their resume by adding their last position. When you begin to look for a job, you need to review your resume for formatting and proper use of terms that will meet the ATS matching criteria. I would suggest looking at your resume with a critical eye. Seek others’ opinions from friends, recruiters or a career coach.

The way to work around the ATS is through your network contacts. These contacts are individuals that care about you and truly want to help you. Having your contact introduce your resume to their company’s recruiter or hiring manager is usually very helpful. Even if they introduce you to someone that knows someone inside can be helpful. Informing your friends and family about companies that you are targeting will help them determine if they can help you. If the introducer is respected and known for delivering value, then the introduced resume, or you, will typically be granted a phone screen and possibly an interview. It is important that you keep your contact informed of your job search status with the potential employer. This allows the introducer to follow up naturally with their inside contact as well.

The question for the hiring organization is to ask if they hiring for a specific position or hiring for potential to help grow their company. What most successful hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals do is to hire talent based on critical skills, matched values and potential. Any hiring manager who understands this blend when hiring will drive success.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice.  

Getting Noticed

How to differentiate yourself from the other candidates who submit their resume.

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

How do you get your resume noticed? I have sent out many resumes after graduating from school last May and have not gotten many interviews yet.

S.S.
Short Hills

 

This is a great follow up question to last week’s column on Getting Your Resume through the Door. Although technology has played a significant role in changing how applicants are selected, the key to getting noticed is to networking your way into an organization.

Applying for a position online is not enough. You need to determine if you know anyone at the company or if someone you know knows someone in the organization. With all of the online tools, the ability to search for connections is at our fingertips.

The key is how you introduce yourself to a new connection and then how you develop this network connection. There is protocol to requesting a connection pass on LinkedIn. You write a note to your direct connection asking them to connect you to their connection. The in-mail should clearly explain the value of connecting you with their contact. When you do this, you want to think about how to engage this once removed connection further to cultivate a new relationship. You also want to keep your initial direct connection informed of your activity on this matter.

Think of social media as one conduit to connecting but the real connection comes in the relationship that is established over time. Think of your personal relationships. You speak with your friends and family often. You will need to engage with your business contacts that have common interests or where you can complement each other on a steady basis. It helps to build the relationship and create a value proposition between you.

There will be times when you are asking and there should be times when you are giving. It will not always be an even exchange depending on what projects and learning stages you and your contact are in. Asking your connections their opinion is great way to obtain some guidance and also provide them with an unspoken message that you value their thoughts.

Getting your resume introduced to the company’s recruiter or hiring manager is incredibly helpful to getting noticed. Let others in your network know what you are looking for and know what they are seeking. If they are working, offer to help them with some research possibly for a project they are working on. This will build your knowledge and you will be adding value to your connection. Get noticed by engaging others in building relationships over time.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Flexible Work Schedules

I am interested in obtaining a flexible work schedule. Can you please help me understand what to consider?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I am interested in obtaining a flexible work schedule. Can you please help me understand what to consider?

A.B. Millburn

 

Some flex work schedules include reduced or compressed work week, working remotely or alternative shifts. Some employers recognize that many workers prefer schedules that allow greater flexibility in choosing the times they begin and end their workday. For some workers, however, the nature of their jobs requires a set schedule, such as in the medical profession or plant manufacturing.

A reduced work week is the option to work fewer hours than the standard work week. A compressed work week is working the full workweek schedule in less days (i.e. four 10-hour days or three 12-hour shifts), which is classic in hospitals for nurses. Many corporations offer professionals in certain positions the option to work remotely with the proper equipment and set up.

Most flexible work schedules are created or designed based on a need typically due to the company’s budget, start-up demand and/or project based with a known or referred individual.

Many flexible schedules are offered to employees who have worked for a company and due to budget restraints may need to reduce their expenses while still needing the individual’s knowledge and skills. This is a classic example of a flex schedule created based on the relationship between the boss and the individual.

To enter a company on a flex schedule is becoming more common as many start-up companies are in need of your skills but cannot afford a full time person yet. Another common example of a flex hire is for a merger and acquisition or divesture phase of a business deal. This is more often for a contracted time period and may be as a temporary employee or as a consultant.

As the relationship status changes from employee to consultant it is important to outline expectations and determine how you will be compensated. You may be offered compensation on an hourly rate or on project completion. If you are working for a temporary agency, many agencies now offer benefits after working for them for a designated time period. As an independent consultant you may need to buy your own benefits. As a consultant, you may be asked to sign certain agreements, such as a non- compete, confidentiality and inventions. Review these carefully and consider reviewing them with an attorney to understand the legal jargon.

As an employee or as a consultant, you may want to consider what certifications will enable you to stand out from the crowd. Determine the benefits of these certifications and who requires them. Speak with hiring managers, recruiters (corporate, contingency, temporary or retainer) who will understand what skills are in demand currently. Plan your approach to obtaining your certifications if you determine you want to pursue certifications. To pitch the certification, place it on your resume under “Professional Development & Education” listing the certification title followed by either “in progress” or “anticipated in (date)”—this will show your commitment to your profession.

page1image28240
page1image28400

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice.