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

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Expert provides tips for dealing with age bias

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in The Star Ledger Guest Column “Hire Me” (www.nj.com) and in MillburnPatch.com
Q.
I have been consulting but have not been able to land a regular full time position. What
best approaches do you suggest for those of us in our mid-late 50’s who want full time
work? I truly believe that my age is a very real obstacle and many of my colleagues feel the
same way — we all have impressive resumes, successful track records, yet don’t seem to be
able to get anywhere. Your advice is appreciated.
— LF
Short Hills

 

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. 

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.

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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 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. 

Effective Job Search Strategies

Keep to a schedule and network in real life, advises the coach

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

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I am in transition and find I am so busy attending meeting after meeting that I only go online after dinner. How do I figure out what is most effective for my job search and how long should this search last?

SC
Short Hills

 

When you are in transition, the first thing to do is create a weekly schedule for yourself. The hardest part of transitioning is typically the lack of routine that follows the job loss. Your schedule needs to be based on your goals.

As you think about your goals, determine what your short term and what your long term goals are. Check to see if your goals are realistic based on your current skills or do you need to refresh your knowledge or learn new skills? Your short term goal may include finding a similar position as your last one and your long term goal may involve retraining for a new industry or new career.

If your goal is to find a similar position in the same industry, then you are conducting a targeted job search. A targeted job search is focused and may require some research and much networking. Using your local library, you can use on line databases. One is ReferenceUSA (http://www.referenceusa.com) to search the industry and identify all of the possible companies within a certain geographical territory. There are many additional resources that your Research Librarian should be able to help you with.

Once you identify the targeted companies, you will need to see who is in your network that can help you tap into them. Your network consists of your family, friends, former co-workers, vendors you have worked with in the past, your church, temple and other associations and affiliations, plus on line communities you are involved with – LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

To be an effective networker, it is helpful to create openings through the online communities but the true value comes with the follow up conversation over the phone or face to face networking! When you meet someone, your persona and competence coupled with your communication style is what builds the relationship. Relationships take time to develop so see this networking activity as a long term strategy!

If your goal is twofold, find a similar role so you can pay your bills while transitioning to a new career, then you may want to conduct the targeted job search while researching other career options. One site, O’NET is created for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration (http://online.onetcenter.org). This site allows you to explore various skills sets and determine job possibilities. It also can provide you with the market range for salaries based on jobs identified within the database.

What is most effective for your job search will depend on your goals. Speaking with family or friends may help you set the goals. If not, a trained professional can help you set your goals. The weekly schedule will evolve over time. Initially, it may allocate a heavier allotment of time devoted to research. This will gradually shift to networking meetings within selected associations to help you build your networks within your current or new functional area or industry. You may choose to identify retraining options, researching scholarships or grants that may be available. This too can be research at your library. Personally, I am a huge fan of libraries and they are free!

During your job search, make sure you are out connecting with the world around you on a daily basis. It may mean a walk around the block or to the library or a networking meeting or a lecture on a topic that interest you. It is too easy to remain behind your computer for hours.

 

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. 

Dumbing Down Resumes

You don’t want to seem overqualified for a position, but dumbing down a resume can backfire.

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

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

What do you think about leaving off or adjusting credentials—such as PhD’s, managerial experience—work years from one’s resume during this economic downturn in order not to appear overqualified for a job?

TL Millburn

 

In today’s market, with all of the online search capabilities, it can be challenging to present yourself as someone you are not when social media can give you away. How you profile yourself on LinkedIn.com is more typically how you will appear. Think about “Googling” your name to find out what data comes up for you. Although you may choose to have multiple resumes, your social media profile is your tell all.

Typically, when you hear you are overqualified, this can reflect a number of concerns. Some potential employer’s concerns may include that they believe you will be bored in the position, you will not remain in the job long, you may try to expand the job and reach for work that is someone else’s responsibility or they may not be prepared to pay what they believe your experience deserves.

One technique for shortening your resume is to limit your experience to your most recent and relevant positions and then consolidating your earlier experiences showing only highlights of achievements.

I do not recommend changing your job title because when a prospective employer checks your references, typically the company will provide the latest title held just prior to your departure. Other inconsistencies may turn up in your social media data. Think about how you may have been were quoted in an article, blog or book. How were you referenced?

Your confidence and body language during an interview can also tell a lot about you. When you interview, your presence and how you handle yourself reveals your confidence, experience and abilities.

Keep in mind that today’s market is challenging and compensation is approximately 10-20 percent lower than where we were before this economic downturn. Some interviewers can be intimidated by a person with a wealth of experience. Others will be thrilled to have your experience on their team. It is up to you as the interviewee to present yourself in the most appropriate manner to the interviewer.

Be careful when dumbing down your resume. It can backfire on you. A person I know presented a dumbed down resume to the company of his dreams even though his experience was greater than the position he applied to. As he was in the midst of interviewing for the director role, a VP level position opened up. Now, he had to explain his passion for the company and how he was willing to come in at junior role so he could join their operations. Thankfully, the hiring manager was so taken with his abilities and impressed with his commitment to the company that he hired him. This situation could have been interpreted differently. If he saw the candidate as disingenuous, the situation could have gone the other way.

Although I do not recommend dumbing down resumes, you may choose to selectively highlight certain experiences and scale back on some other experiences for your resume. The challenge is adjusting your on line presence to reflect a consistent message. When you interview, you may choose to adjust your answers to reflect the level of experience required. You may wish to address that you have additional experience but that you understand what is required for this position and stay focused on making your answers consistent with the job at hand.

Remember what Sir Walter Scott said: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

 

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.  

Connecting with Your Boss on Facebook?

How do you respond when your boss wants to be friends on Facebook?

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

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

What do I do with my boss who wants to friend me on Facebook? I do not want to, as I use Facebook to connect only with my family and personal friends. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this?

Unsigned

 

There is so much attention given to connecting on social media that many believe they need to connect with everyone they know regardless of their connection to the other individual. The key to truly connecting in person or on line is developing the relationship. Relationships are based on common interests and connections, and relationships are developed over time.

Have you thought about why your boss wants to connect with you on Facebook? What is your boss looking to gain from connecting electronically when you are connected while at work? Do you work in the same location or do you work remotely? Are you in a position where the power of whom you know and their connections can have an impact on your work results?

Being honest and sincere is the best way to respond. It is better to set a polite and appropriate professional boundary upfront. Some options to consider:

  • You may ignore your boss’s request. This is not recommended as it will only going to be awkward over time.
  • You may friend your boss and restrict what he/she can and can’t see.
  • You may create a separate work related profile for your professional connections.
  • You may suggest connecting on LinkedIn instead. Then explain how you use Facebook to connect with family and personal friends only. Add that you enjoy working with him/her and would like to keep the relationship professional.

As more and more companies are using social media sites to communicate, this is a tricky situation. Some companies are now putting rules in place on the use of social media such as Facebook. For example, a supervisor can’t friend a subordinate. Check if your company has any established guidelines.

 

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. 

Coming Back to Work After a Break

What’s the best way to present yourself when you decide to re-enter the workforce after a break?

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

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

As I prepare to return to the job market after taking a deliberate break for the past four years, I struggle with how to present myself. Through a written resume, social media or in person—what is the best way to make connections?

MS
Short Hills

 

Jumping back into the job market after taking a break or sabbatical can be overwhelming. The market is challenging at present and the approach to connecting has changed significantly with social media and online presence that did not play a prominent role in the past.

Reconnecting with your network from prior work experiences is easier now due to social media. If you lost contact, you can typically find individuals on one of the many social boards. If you are interested in re-connecting with an old company, try connecting through LinkedIn where you can view current employees, new hires, former employees, recent changes and promotions.

Typically, one of the best ways to initiate connections is to begin to let your inner social circle know that you are interested in re-entering the job market. Begin exploratory discussions with them. Ask this inner circle for contacts that may be able to help you connect to selected companies or for opportunities that play into your skills and strengths. As this circle of connections grow, keep looping back to the people who gave you referrals and inform them of your activity and thank them.

When you do not know what you want to do next, try exploring job boards by advanced search and search on key words instead of searching by title. This option will show you listings that would never have surfaced based on title searches. As jobs are shifting and changing with the influence of social media and technology, there are many new job titles that exist today that did not exist in the past.

Exploring career opportunities can be very time consuming so be prepared to enjoy the journey of discovery. Once you identify a few jobs that interest you, explore some social boards and find individuals with these titles and consider conducting an informational interview to learn more about this type of work, what skills are required, what education and certifications are expected and how to break into this area.

Another way to gain knowledge about a career is to follow some subject matter experts on social boards, blogs and ask questions or follow discussions. This can help you learn about new areas and the terminology or buzz words associated with them. Doing research in your local library with a reference librarian can open your eyes to many new possibilities and it is free. You can also return to your alma mater’s career services center for support. Each college and university differs in their offerings, so call and ask which services you may be able to use.

Remember, we spend a significant portion of our time working, so enjoying what you do is a great privilege and one for which you can plan. Speaking with a career coach may be helpful.

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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.