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. 

Networking is a skill that needs to mastered, but always tactfully

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in The Star Ledger Guest Column “Hire Me” (www.nj.com)

 

As you know, I believe networking is a year-round activity. We are always networking — formally or informally — and I often reference two types of networks, the “cultivated” and the “fly by” network contact.

When you think of an insect that flies around your head or buzzes in your ear, it is annoying. This flying insect is one that you tend to swat away. When you encounter an individual who is not respectful of your personal space or in your face too soon, then this individual is more annoying than valuable. This networker for the receiver is a “fly by” contact that is not typically maintained.

On the other hand, the cultivated networker understands that relationships take time to develop. They will engage someone and continue to bring a value proposition to the table.

There is typically a value exchange between the networker and the receiver. There is a solid reason to come back together and reconnect over and over again.

Why bother networking? In this tight job market, your reputation will precede you if you have worked in an industry or field for some time. So think about your reputation — who are you, what consistencies does your story have, how do people perceive you based on your history of interactions with them?
[Read more…]

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. 

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.

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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.  

Effective Unemployment

How should you spend your time while you’re unemployed?

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

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

How do I use my time wisely during a job search?

C.S. Millburn

 

When you are in the job market, how you use your time to gain additional skills, build trusted relationships and engage in meaningful ways is important. The job market will always swing—currently in a downturn—and we need to plan for each cycle preferably while working. By plan, I mean in financial terms and thinking through what’s next for you. Is it education, retraining, certification, new venture? Have both short and long term plans for your career.

One way to use your time wisely is to create a learning environment that is less formal than entering a certification or education program. Creating a learning environment can be as simple as a book club setting or a topical discussion that everyone brings information to share. When you are learning, you are able to see new perspectives and will help you when you are interviewing as well. Your answers will become more thoughtful.

Another way to use your time wisely is to volunteer. It can be with an organization relating to a cause you believe in or help you build skills needed for your next opportunity. Some volunteer opportunities exist online such as Volunteermatch.org, Taproot.org, Idealist.org, UrbanIntern.com, and internsover40.com and many other local organizations will have options to consider. Think about what skills and abilities you want to develop and then engage in an opportunity. Consider volunteering part time if you want to continue your job search.

The stigma comes into play when you are not comfortable or do not have a good story to tell during the time unemployed. In today’s market, some individuals will hold it against you for being unemployed. Unless you are highly recommended by a respected colleague will you possibly interview with one of these individuals. Honestly, you cannot change other people, only yourself, so get comfortable with where you are. Live it, breathe it and feel good about what you are doing during your transition 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. 

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. 

Do People Look at Resumes on the Internet?

They do, but here are some tips to help get your resume get noticed.

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

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

Maybe you could guide me on how to find a job. My husband has been laid off and he is really struggling to find a job. It seems the only way to get into somewhere is to go on line and apply. Does anyone really look at these resumes?

MS Millburn

 

There are many reasons companies post jobs on the Internet. The primary reason is to be able to identify the qualified candidates for consideration. Another reason is to reach populations they may not have through word of mouth. And another reason is for compliance.

The Internet provides organizations with the ability to tap passive candidates. A passive candidate is one that is not in an active job search, is typically working and looking only if something interesting captures their attention.

When a company makes a posting for compliance purposes, they post the position for a selected time period to review potential candidates when there may already be a candidate identified. This allows the hiring manager to say he has done their due diligence in making the job available to the general public.

There are job postings that remain circulating on various networking groups when the position has been filled some time ago. The viral posting and recirculation of positions can be challenging to impossible to control. I have seen some organizations reply to submissions informing clients that the position was closed some time ago and would the applicant please help inform the group the position is no longer available.

When a company advertises an opening in today’s market, the volume of resumes that come in is tremendous. To filter through all of the candidates can take a lot of resources.

Answering advertisements on the Internet often leads to a great deal of frustration due to the one way nature of the communication and the knowledge there is no way of knowing what happened to your resume. One way to avoid these difficulties and to come to a true understanding of whether a job opening is real and whether your application is being considered is through social networking.

Social networking involves actively looking for a contact within a target company in order to have a less anonymous presence associated with your resume. Getting referred is typically a stronger way to connect into a company. Social networking can help to clarify if there is indeed an opportunity available and if you are qualified.

It can also move your resume from the pile into a special category of consideration that requires the recruiter to notify both you and the person referring you regarding your status. It generally results in a more careful review of your qualifications. In the end, even if you do not get the job, you will have made a new connection or strengthened a relationship with an old acquaintance that may help you with your search. The new connection may extend their network to assist you if you establish a rapport. Establishing new contacts helps expand your prospects of finding a job considerably.

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How you grow and cultivate these relationships over time is where you will see the true benefits in social networking and ultimately career development. People typically refer people they like to work with when an opportunity presents either at their own organization or to a friend seeking talent for another organization. You want to create a rapport that enables your contacts to know what you are up to and what you enjoy and want. It allows them to refer you naturally.

 

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.