Tuesday, September 29, 2009

12for12K - Support Doctors Without Borders TODAY!

Today is 12for12K - let's raise $12,000 in 12 hours for Doctors Without Borders - amazing healers going where so many others will not go - JOIN ME! Simply click the title of this post, or click below.


Doctors Without Borders is 12for12k's September charity. Please do what you can to help us meet our goal of supporting this excellent organization, whether by donating or by spreading the word.

From their website: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971.

Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need.

What exactly does your support provide?

Your Donation What It Can Provide

$35 will fund Two high-energy meals a day to 200 children

$50 will fund Vaccinations for 50 people against meningitis, measles, polio or other deadly epidemics

$70 will fund Two basic suture kits to repair minor shrapnel wounds

$100 will fund Infection-fighting antibiotics to treat nearly 40 wounded children

$250 will fund A sterilization kit for syringes and needles used in mobile vaccination campaigns

$500 will fund A medical kit containing basic drugs, supplies, equipment, and dressings to treat 1,500 patients for three months

$1000 will fund Emergency medical supplies to aid 5,000 disaster victims for an entire month

$5500 will fund An emergency health kit to care for 10,000 displaced people for three months

Build your cover letter around employer's WIIFM (what's in it for me)

Employers wonder "What's in it for me if I hire you? What are you going to do for ME, if I do this great thing for you - giving you a job and paycheck?"

Use your cover letter to answer that question. The point of a cover letter is to convince the employer that you understand their challenges and have what it takes to successfully handle and resolve them. Your value is in relieving their pain. That's what's in it for an employer who hires you: pain relief and solutions.

Last week, I got two tweets (on Twitter) and several e-mails asking me about cover letters, so the topic is in the air. Perhaps this means there are more jobs being posted. Let's hope so!

To give you a flavor of the questions, here are the tweets, with my responses.

First Tweet
Hi Julia - I'm wondering if you had any tips on writing a winning cover ltr wo sounding fake? Something I've been struggling with.

My Response
Show ur passion 4 emp'r issues. See my recent post (September 22). dm if u need more.

Second Tweet
@juliaerickson: Should I say "I'll work for free." just to get experience on my resume? Accounting is so hard to break into.

My Response
In cover letter cd ask 4 chance 2 wk pro bono (4 free) 2 get experience, volunteer @ non-profit 2 add 2 ur resume

Follow-Up Tweet
Cover letters are so hard for me because I really can't think of why I'd want to work for a particular company, I just want to work.

My Responses
1. what r challenges/problems u love 2 tackle, find in job descrip, say how u'll address them in cov ltr
2. the thing is you'll get the work you really want 2 do & you can muster up wanting 2 wk 4 a company b/c u can do that wk there

How do you create a convincing cover letter?

* Find the challenges and concerns stated and implied in the job posting, and then list them in a word processing document. This will be the beginning of your cover letter.

* Take one challenge, and craft a sentence that uses some specific language from the job posting to show that you have zeroed in on and comprehend this challenge. For example, "Managing both full-time and part-time staff requires great leadership and organizational skills to distribute assignments most effectively, monitor performance, and maintain team cohesiveness and morale."

* For that same challenge, create a companion sentence that shows how your experience and skill is exactly aligned to meet the challenge. For example, "While at XYZ Company, I oversaw 20 full-time and 60 part-time staff and ensured that the team delivered its results on time and under-budget, while having fun doing it. In fact, annual turnover on my team of part-time workers was less than 10%, far less than the industry average of 30-40%."

* Follow this process for at least one more challenge and possibly two.

What you're doing is building a case and telling a compelling story about your history and how it's prepared you to be the person who will solve this employer's problems.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Important to Get Encouragement!

I sent this e-mail message to a client who is pursuing a "dual path" - meaning she has a long term goal which requires her to get additional education and a credential, while also making money to support herself. She had to miss an appointment, and I thought I'd send her a message that would be welcome no matter what emotional state she was in.

I was just telling someone how you had the courage to follow your dream, to
pursue the dual path of a job you mostly like (remember, 60-75% of the must
have list was our goal!) and getting the qualifications to help your
community, especially its children. I'm so proud of you, Ingrid. Your
determination and commitment inspire ME to keep going toward my own
dreams. So thank you!

It turned out she needed encouragement more than I imagined. Here is her response to me:

This email came at the exact right time--I was feeling discouraged.
Thank you so much for your kind words--they meant a lot to me and kept
me focused!

I learned long ago how much I need people who tell me that I'm doing really great things for myself, that I'm on a wonderful path, that I am terrific. It is so easy to listen to doubts and fears and anxieties - both within my head and from other people who have their own stuff. I need to surround myself with people who reassure me that I'm just fine and that it's fantastic for me to pursue my dreams.

Because I have such supportive and loving people in my life, I make it my business to provide that support to other people. Encouragement literally means to give someone courage. And courage is moving forward in spite of our fears.

Who in your life is giving you the encouragement you need to take some risks and pursue the work you really love to do? And who are you encouraging today?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Intention Statement: Be REALLY Specific

Every job seeker needs a powerful intention statement - a 5 to 10 second answer to the question "so what are you looking for?" It has to GRAB the listener immediately.

So over the past few days, I've worked with people to zero in on specifically what they want to do. To be more specific, I want to know exactly what work challenges and issues they want to tackle.

Why am I doing this?

1) Specificity breeds commitment. It's hard to be committed to achieving a generality. "I want to lose weight." Sure, doesn't almost everyone? Compare to: "I want to be 10 pounds lighter in 45 days." It's a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Once I voice that want or intention, I actually am committed to it. Something happens in my brain and heart where it becomes a goal I am motivated to achieve.

2) Specificity allows others to help me. If I say I can do almost anything, that is not helpful to people who want to help me find work. Their next question is usually "but what do you WANT to do?" People need specificity for their brains and mental rolodexes or contact pages to come alive and start spitting out ideas and connections. So if I say instead "I can do almost anything in fundraising" or "I can write just about any marketing piece you need written," there is enough specificity for people to start thinking "who do I know in fundraising, or what do I need written, or do I know anyone who needs something written?"

Even better: "I love to write persuasive materials for organizations with a great mission and low visibility, to invite people to be part of making a big difference in our community."

Or "I love to solve space challenges for companies with big ideas and limited budgets, and make their spaces reflect their brand image and strategic thinking."

Or "I love to help organizations grow to the next level, through identifying new markets, creating sustainable internal systems, and making the most of opportunities."

That last one is still a work in progress, but it's directionally correct.

Another one that is definitely still muddy but headed in the right direction is this one:

"I love to solve big operational challenges for companies in transition or crisis or facing significant market changes, through reengineering processes and people to turn things around and achieve big results."

3) Specificity breeds serendipity. Once you're specific, amazing odd things and opportunities will start to appear. Paul Coehlo said "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." It doesn't mean you won't have doubt or fear or anxiety about whether you'll achieve the goal. And that's fine. As psychologist Rollo May said, "Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt."

Yesterday, Nancy and I were talking about her desire to work in a specific kind of organization in a specific NYC neighborhood. Because it might be difficult for her to immediately get such a position, we talked about interim steps. One possibility was for her to look for a position similar to her current one in her target neighborhood. Then we went on to a job search site, and there was a posting for EXACTLY that kind of job. Obviously, she will apply for the job and network her way into getting an interview. It was just an amazing true story of how specificity can attract the exact thing you want.

Sarah's story is another such example. She was very specific about the kind of job she wanted. Friends and her husband worried that she was TOO specific and would lock herself out of other positions. The thing is, she knew what she wanted. If she didn't find that, she could always expand her search. Why not try for exactly what she wanted first, however? The outcome of that story is that she found exactly what she wanted and got the position.

I hope these examples inspire you to identify exactly what you love to work on, what challenges excite you, what problems you love to solve. And when you find such an opportunity, allow your passion to flow through you into your cover letter.

Never Give Up!

Job searching can be a seemingly endless process. It does have an end, because it had a beginning. We simply don't know when the end will come. Rest assured, it will end with you getting a job.

This past week I heard from two people who've been looking for quite a while (months and months) that they got the jobs they wanted. Hooray! I needed to hear that good news, almost as much as they needed to get the jobs. It was evidence that there really IS an end to the job search.

While I haven't debriefed with them, my knowledge of their process leads me to conclude that a few things were key to their success:

1) Both people were extremely clear on what they wanted - the work, the culture, the role, compensation, impact, physical environment (the Must Have List you'll find elsewhere in this blog).

One had to revise her Must Have List after it became clear that she wasn't taking action toward what she thought she wanted to do. So we looked at a list of the accomplishments of which she was proudest. All were centered on one type of work. Once she was clear that she wanted to do that kind of work, a perfect opportunity presented itself and she easily and peacefully took all the required actions. And she got the job!

2) Both understood exactly how their work history and volunteer work led to and prepared them for the particular job opportunity.

For the second person, the job was a step up from anything he had done previously. He worried that this would disqualify him. Together, we realized that he gathered requisite experience for the new job from all his previous jobs. His combination of experience and skills were unique, and perfectly suited to the job opportunity. He became convinced himself that he had what it took, and he was able to communicate that certainty and confidence on his interviews. And voila! He also got the job.

Clarity is essential, as is commitment. Once these people knew what they wanted, they were willing to do what it took to reach that goal. They focused on what they wanted, without ambivalence or hesitation.

I think it was impossible for the first person to commit to a job search UNTIL she was crystal clear about what she wanted. She got rid of all the "I should" and "they think" ideas, and looked inside and out for the "right fit" work for her.

It was easier to Never Give Up on herself once she was committed, and believed that she would get a job. It was only a matter of time. And it turned out that the time involved was fairly short - about two months from realization to job offer. The same time frame applied to the second person.

If you're in a seemingly endless and hopeless job search, try using the Must Have List guide to get absolute clarity about what you want. It is a great tool and will make it more likely that you will find your "right fit" work, possibly sooner than you think.

On Another Topic: 12for12K Fundraising

I got sidetracked by a conversation about a great Twitter fundraising effort called 12for12K - raise $12,000 in 12 hours for a specific charity.

A non-profit fundraising consulting criticized 12for12K, and in so doing, inspired great outrage and anger on the part of those who are its fans. [full disclosure: I am a fan and have donated to many of the causes.] The founder, @DannyBrown, responded in a measured way, and the consultant has now apologized for her tone and errors of fact.

Now having read the original “rant” and subsequent “conversation,” I’m heartened by the passion inspired by the idea of raising money for charities. I’m delighted to see such a maelstrom of feeling, and now a plethora of ideas for how to use social media for the benefit of non-profits.

Non-profits do some of our world’s most important work: feeding, clothing, housing, educating, healing. And they (we) do it largely with our money – whether through donations from individuals, tax dollars (again, our money), or grants from private sources. In most cases, charities don’t “sell” goods or services; they “sell” a mission, an impact, a vision, a result. Most of all, charities and non-profit organizations offer all of us the opportunity to participate in this incredibly important work. By donating funds, we all get to help heal people or feed or protect them – whatever vital service means most to us.

Long ago, someone told me that if people criticized me, I was doing something right. So Danny Brown and @unmarketing and @sarahrobinson and the other folks who’ve done 12for12K tweeting are clearly doing something right!

The results of 12for12K are wonderful for a couple of reasons. One, it shows that social media can be used to raise awareness of and funds for causes. Two, it shows that social media fundraising is at its beginning, and can improve.

Here’s my 2 cents contribution to the conversation:

* I love the consultant's ideas about helping charities develop a bigger and more effective social media presence. I noticed that Share Our Strength welcomed 12for12K donors when they clicked through to donate and clearly articulated what the fund would accomplish. Other charities can emulate that strategy.

* Some causes may resonate more with the Twitterverse than others. Feeding people is so fundamental and tangible, it may have been easier for people to understand in 140 characters. (Of course, I’m biased – I used to run City Harvest, a prominent NYC hunger-relief organization.) This is only a challenge to the Twitterverse’s marketing mavens and the charities themselves – how can we tell a compelling story in 140 characters? I know we can.

* Charities raise money every day. Internet mavens raise money every day. Maybe there can be a meeting of the minds, a sharing of the techniques, a respect for each other’s expertise and experience. By joining together with good spirit and humility, I believe we can accomplish an amazing amount of good via digital and social media.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Job transitions

Congratulations! You’ve realized it’s time for a new job. But not just any job. You spend 40 to 60 hours a week at work. So now you want to be fulfilled and happy with your work. It’s true that you do have financial obligations. Yet money alone isn’t enough anymore. Maybe you’re tired of office politics or the constant struggle to be best. Maybe you want to spend more time with your kids or working on your home. Maybe the commute is wearing you down and you want to work from home. Or maybe you’ve done all you can or want to do in your career and want to explore some other options.

It could be that you’ve been forced into realizing that you can no longer work as you have in the past. Maybe you’ve been laid off or fired – before you had a chance to quit. Maybe you’re having a hard time finding another job in your field. And just maybe you’re having difficulty getting motivated to even look for something new.

If you’re in any of these situations, it’s time for a work transition.

Many people have gone through work transitions. Transition is different than change, according to William Bridges in his landmark book Transitions. A change is usually easy to make and takes a short period of time. A transition is much deeper and more thorough. It often takes a long time, usually involves some amount of struggle, and perhaps even causes emotional pain. Bridges talks about transitions as involving an ending, the neutral zone and a beginning.

Ending means closing the most recent chapter in your life. It can mean coming to terms with the reality that you are no longer the same person you were, or that you no longer like the same things you did, or that you are no longer suited to do the work you once did. It can mean accepting that you now have other priorities, or that you are physical unable to work at your old pace. It can involve processing feelings of shame or guilt or embarrassment. It can require recognizing the compromises and sacrifices you’ve made and realizing that you no longer can or will make them. Bridges suggests that it will be almost impossible to begin something new until you end the old, and experience supports his belief.

The neutral zone is the time and space between ending and beginning. It can be strange and disorienting as well as a time of great self-discovery and excitement. I call it the hallway between one door closing and another door opening. Sometimes the hallway has no light and you can’t see where you’re going. You feel my way along the wall, trusting that there will be another door. Meanwhile, you learn as much as you can about your likes, dislikes, hopes and disappointments, childhood dreams and unfulfilled aspirations, adult satisfactions and congenial environments. During that time, you discover the kind of work you really want to do and set on the road to finding the job that is your “right fit.” You form an “intention” about work that is grounded in your commitment to finding fulfilling work that fits into your life needs and priorities.

Beginning is almost the conclusion of the transition process – but not quite. For beginning something new involves a period of adjustment, of settling into the new space and work. You make a commitment to yourself during the neutral zone, that you only will take a job that is the “right fit” for you. During the beginning, you must constantly monitor yourself to confirm that the new job really meets your “right fit” criteria. If it doesn’t, that’s OK. Nothing has been wasted and you haven’t made a mistake. You’ve gotten more information about yourself that you can use as you prepare for a change.

The point of a work transition is to discover what you want to do, how you want to be, what kind of environment is best for you, how you work best, and who you want to work for and with. You create your own set of criteria, based on your own talents, skills, achievements, pleasures, and satisfactions. Those criteria become the yardstick against which you measure any potential job. There is a “right fit” job for you, like a glove on a hand. Your work involves defining the hand for the glove to fit. It’s exhausting, demoralizing, and stressful to try to bend yourself to meet the job’s needs and requirements. It’s far better to find a job that suits you.

Goal: JOB. Finding out what suits you is the purpose of this journey. Begin by identifying your goal. It can be just as undefined as a "JOB" as long as your intention is for a job that fits your preferences and needs.

Begin Search. The search starts with you identifying some possible options for work. Naturally, some options are related to your previous work simply because that is your area of expertise. Other options may be long-deferred dreams, or returning to something you once loved. Still other options may not emerge until later in the process. It’s not an exact science.

Information Gathering. In this phase, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible about the various options and especially about yourself. This is the gold mine you need to explore.

You can find out a lot about yourself by using some of the tools developed by TransitionWorks and others, such as the lifetime inventory of accomplishments. This involves listing your most satisfying achievements – things you are proudest of and did really well – and then teasing out similarities among them. You could discover that you love working alone, even if you’ve had to work in groups throughout your career. You could discover that you love being in charge of a team, or that you love working with your hands. Other tools can help you identify things for which you have a passion, or themes running through your work of which you were never aware.

You also need to learn more about your potential work options. You need to find out the state of the industry or field, what skills are needed, common work environments, geographic restrictions, pay scales, and more. The Internet and other media are great sources of information, as are friends and neighbors. As a result of this research, you may discard some options, refine and narrow others, or uncover a new option.

The outcome of this phase is your first statement of intention about work. You will come up with a three to four sentence summary of what you’ve learned about yourself and what you’re now interested in doing. You can have more than one interest at first. Your goal is to narrow down your intention so you can eventually come up with your “right fit” criteria for your next job.

You may discover that you need to “dual path” – pursue a job to pay the bills while also pursuing your passion. You may find that your passion requires more expertise, education, investment or sacrifice than you have or can afford right now. You don’t have to put it aside; you can work toward it. Sometimes, pursuing a passion makes a “day job” more tolerable.

Networking and Information Interviews. Networking can sound intimidating. Yet you do it every day without thinking about it. Every time you ask someone to recommend a plumber, you’re networking. Every time you send your friend to another friend for advice about something, you’re networking. Every time you meet someone at a party and end up calling that person later, you’re networking.

In this phase, networking is solely for the purposes of gathering more information about the various options. Using your statement of intent, you let your “natural network” know that you want to learn more about your areas of interest and ask for their help. Your “natural network” is family, friends, neighbors, trusted colleagues and former colleagues – people with whom you feel comfortable. Ask them if they know anyone who works in your area(s) of interest to whom they’d introduce you. All you want is 20 minutes of that person’s time to learn more about what s/he does and the field in which s/he works.

Another "natural network" may be people you don't know at all - yet. Two people I know targeted companies working in the area in which they wanted to work. They wrote e-mails and letters to people at those companies, introducing themselves and their passion for the field, and inquiring about whether they could talk to someone at the company about what the company did. After many unanswered e-mails, both got responses from two companies. One got a job that previously didn't exist - the company created a job for her! They did so because she presented the company with a solution for a problem they were just realizing they had. Her research and thinking allowed her to come up with ideas that the company desperately needed to implement - and she was the right person to implement them. The second person is negotiating with a company for a position they would have to create for him.

The lesson: go with what feels right to you. If you're not comfortable contacting people you know, OK. What's important is that you begin putting your intention out into the world somehow. "Out in the world" is the only place people can get to know what you have to offer.

It’s best if you have some idea of what you think you could do in the area of interest, so people have enough detail to grab onto. If your intention is too broad (“I want to learn more about TV”), it’s hard for people to think of people you could interview. A better statement of intent is “I want to learn more about TV production, especially what goes into making a reality show or a talk show.” This gives your contact enough information to think of people who work in TV production, on reality shows, talk shows, and even cooking, travel or home design shows.

Networking and practice interviews. There is a stage where you start narrowing your efforts and search. You engage in more networking, moving farther afield. With feedback, you refine your statement of intention so it really captures exactly what you want to do. This means eliminating some previous options. Usually now you know enough to draft your “must have” list. In this stage, too, you'll want to go on "practice interviews." This involves applying for jobs that seem to meet at least 50% of your criteria with the goal of getting interviews. You may not know if you actually want the job yet you also never know when practice will yield a real opportunity. So put your heart into the effort and at very least, use every interview as a chance to practice responses to hard questions. Interviews are your opportunity to learn more about field and yourself to further refine intention. You also get to assess jobs according to your "must have" criteria. The more interviews you go on, the more opportunity you have to say “no” to a wrong fit job. Keep networking to get closer to actual jobs that meet 75-80% of “must have” list.

Interviews and evaluating opportunities. On interviews for real jobs, it's important to interview them, too. Your “Must have” list includes things like industry and/or occupational preference, scope of responsibility, preferred compensation, work environment (physical and social), hours required, etc. Evaluate opportunities based on that criteria. Be flexible early on in discussions to keep your options open. Too much rigid adherence to your must have list too soon in the process will result in you being eliminated from the hiring process and you will not get to learn enough to decide if you do or don't want the job. Practice faith that you will find the right fit. If you don’t get a job offer, figure out possible reasons. Was it the right fit for you? Is it a blessing in disguise? Did you really want it? Did you believe it was meant to be yours?

Job offer assessment and ensuring “right fit.” How does this job meet your “must have” list? If you’re dual pathing, does it allow you enough time to pursue your passion? You do get to say no to the wrong fit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

COVER LETTERS: Using "Low Profile Selling" Techniques in Job Search

At the World's Greatest Marketing Seminar, a guy named Tom Hopkins spoke about "low-profile selling" - he apparently is one of the masters of selling and has been emulated and idolized for years.

His approach is to focus on the client's needs, to fully explore their needs, and then provide the solution. By focusing on someone's problems or challenges - something they are really well-acquainted with and sick of - you demonstrate empathy, understanding and hope. It's building the relationship around their WIIFM (what's in it for me). Then you can show how they can benefit from working with you.

In job search, a position description outlines the employer's challenges, needs and problems.
An effective cover letter is essentially a proposal to specifically address them.

For example, here's a very short job description that may not initially seem like it describes any problems but clearly does.

Director of Membership

Responsibilities include working closely with the S.V.P. for Development and Membership to direct all aspects of Membership Department with responsibility for generating specific revenue goals; manage staff of 10 full-time and 31 part-time employees; development and implementation of new on-line strategies for acquisition and retention of members; create and administer a multi-million departmental budget; oversee the research, planning and implementation of around 100 events and member programs; serve as publisher, distributor and content manager of Rotunda, the museum members' newsletter; Candidates should have a bachelor's degree and at least eight years of experience with increasing responsibilities and proven supervisory skills. Experience in a Museum environment a plus. Computer proficiency is required—Raiser's Edge experience is a plus.

I've put in bold the needs and challenges contained in this job description. Here are some examples of how to construct a cover letter response to them.

Members are the lifeblood of all museums and, as with all audiences, the challenge is to create an attractive package that both attracts new members and retains existing ones. My experience in building a large, repeat audience for the [organizationA]'s myriad programs gives me the skill and perspective necessary to take the Museum's membership program to its next level of success.

Publishing relevant, timely member materials is key to promoting the Museum's programs and brand image. I understand the importance of the look and content of publications, based on my rich experience preparing and distributing effective printed and digital media while at [organizationA] and [organizationB]. I derived great pleasure from the fact that our most successful materials led members to deepen their relationship with the organization and become financial donors.

The bulk of your cover letter would include such comparative paragraphs and sentences, showcasing how your past experience will help the employer meet their challenges and reach their goals.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Example of Networking

A chef out of work for a year asked whether it's possible to network effectively via social networking sites. It absolutely is possible.

The big three for networking are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

LinkedIn is perhaps the best place for professional networking with more than 40 million users. Sign up for LinkedIn, create your profile, and then locate former colleagues to add to your network. An effective LinkedIn profile is a marketing piece, that summarizes your "core value proposition" and your accomplishments. Base it on your resume, and then use some of the great tips for using LinkedIn that you can find on this blog or via careerealism.com.

Very important to remember for using LinkedIn most effectively:

1. Draft your profile BEFORE putting it on LinkedIn. That way, you have something complete the first time. You can always update it.

2. Put on a professional-looking photograph. For a chef, wear your chef whites so that your name shows. It will show that you are serious about your profession.

3. Use key words in your description of yourself, as well as in your Summary and Specialities. Key words are those words that describe what you want to do and are likely to be picked up by employers. LinkedIn has a very sophisticated search function for recruiters and employers to use to identify ONLY those LinkedIn members who meet specific criteria. Keep yourself in the game by using industry-specific jargon and language along with plain old English.

4. Update your status at least 2-3 times a week. Every time you update your status, a notice goes out to your network. Every time you add someone to your network, a notice goes out to the rest of your network. People usually get compendium e-mails "LinkedIn Updates" once a week; some choose to get them every day. You will stay "top of mind" for people through these notices. Make your updates about your job search, in an upbeat way.

5. Get recommendations. The most effective way to build your presence and credibility on LinkedIn is to get recommendations from former employers, colleagues, and co-workers. The more recommendations you get, the more credible you are. You ask people to recommend you and then you are able to see what they say BEFORE it is posted to your site. If you are not happy with what they said, you can politely thank them and then ask if they'd be open to a suggestion for how they could help you more, by emphasizing x, y or z, because that's the kind of work you're looking for.

Recommendations are very important if you are looking for work on LinkedIn's job search function. Some postings say directly that they are looking for people with recommendations. And because you will put your LinkedIn profile url on your resume, it's helpful to have recommendations for a prospective employer to read. It can only help you, if you are careful about who you ask and what you accept in their recommendations.

6. Join groups related to your field of interest. Members of groups tend to reach out to one another, often joining each other's networks. And when you are a 2nd or 3rd degree connection to someone, you can often network with that person.

7. Post comments and questions, especially in the groups you join. This is a great way to build familiarity, as well as boost your reputation for expertise. People like to help people they know and feel comfortable with, as well as trust.

On Twitter, search for people in your field to follow who probably follow back (you can tell if they have a similar # of people they follow as # of followers). Use hash tags (#) to find other chefs, foodservice industry people, restaurateurs, and the jobsearch community. Obviously, @careerealism has MANY great people and resources for you to access.

Facebook is an interesting hybrid of very personal and somewhat professional networking. I suggest putting on a professional photograph, gathering lots of friends and family into your "friends" network, and posting updates that are upbeat and forward-looking.

Facebook is most appropriately a place for you to get friends thinking on your behalf about your job. I would not expect too much from here, however.You may get support for your job search here, if you are specific about what you are seeking and if you post updates like "met with Sally Schmally today regarding possible catering work" or "volunteered at the local ACF luncheon - what a great group of chefs!" These updates remind people you are looking for work and are staying active.

Because prospective employers now check lots of social networking sites, I would strongly suggest limiting the personal updates you do, putting on very few personal photographs, and putting your privacy settings on the highest level (Friends only can see posts).

More networking ideas: post your resume on some of the hospitality websites, e.g. http://www.hcareers.com/. Search for keywords on Twitter and LinkedIn, such as "Chef" or company names like "Sodexo" and "Starwood." Look for local job search sites. Go to industry events on your own dime or see if you can volunteer at networking events so you can go and do a little bit of networking - as well as get volunteer experience on your resume.


One critical thing to do is to make sure your resume is an effective marketing document. Does your resume highlight your accomplishments, e.g. how profitable your kitchens were? How many seats in your place of business? # of staff you supervised? Specials that were sold out? Food cost and labor cost controls implemented? Union staff or no? Are your certifications all up to date?

Improve your resume based on what you really want to do next. Have you identified the kind of challenges you want to work on at your next place of employment? Do you want a restaurant, hotel, chain, corporate dining, cafeteria, school, university, hospital or catering? Big, medium or small venue? Do you want to be Executive Chef or Chef de Cuisine? Lots of supervisory responsibility or more cooking tasks? What kind of work environment and culture is best for you? What's your "I can live with it and myself" compensation number, as well as your "I want to make" number?

Once you've gotten clear about exactly what you want, you can target your search to those places that meet your criteria. You can tailor your resume to include only those things you want to do again. It will be easier to network, too, because you can tell people what you're looking for - the kind of challenges and the skills you would bring to solving those challenges.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Should I Take This Job? Maybe It's Not My Right Fit...

Here's a problem I'd like to see more of: someone has been offered a job AND has an interview at another company next week. The question: should I take the job I was offered or try to go on the interview and see if that's a better fit for me?

Whatever you do, don't take the job offer AND go on the interview, just to see what's possible. I know some people do it, and sometimes it happens that you get two offers and have to make a decision. That's different, however, from accepting a job with the INTENTION of quitting if you get another offer. It's just not the right thing to do, to dump a perfectly good job and leave the employer high and dry and pretty pissed off. Talk about burning a bridge! And bad karma to boot. In this economy, it would be the equivalent of job suicide to do so.

In another economy, I might suggest trying to delay your decision until you have the interview, or asking if you can move up the interview. Two challenges with this: the employer who's offered you the job has TONS of other eager applicants just dying to take your spot IMMEDIATELY. And the other employer knows she holds all the cards and can find someone equally as good as you whenever they get around to doing interviews. This is called an "employer's market" for good reason.

In THIS economy, I think you'll have to make a decision between the job offer and the interview. It's really fantastic and a testament to your abilities and background that you have a job offer AND an HR person interested enough in you to consider you for another job.

My suggestion is to listen to your gut. So here are some questions to guide you:

* Can you stomach doing the job you were offered? Does it meet most of your "Must Have List?" I assume that you want it to some degree or you wouldn't have applied and gone through the process with such apparent enthusiasm that you were offered the job. If you can stomach doing the job, I'd go for it. As the saying goes, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

* How confident are you that you'd ace the interview for the possible job? In the situation I read about, the person already was turned down by that company. Though the HR manager liked the candidate, she is not making the final decision. In my book, that's too much of a wild card.

* Do you want to work for this company so much that you're willing to take the risk of turning down a "bird in the hand" in hopes that one of the "two in the shrubs" will land in your hand? Can you afford to not work? The job offer is precious, and the job will undoubtedly give you great experience, as well as a paycheck. Is it a perfect job? No. But no job is the perfect job. It's a matter of our priorities and whether a job meets 60-75% of our Must Have List. In addition, we have the power to make anything a fantastic learning experience (think "negative powers of example" as in "I'll NEVER do things that way when I'm the boss!").

As I said, however, it's up to you and your gut feeling. If you really can't stomach the job you were offered and will be desperately unhappy, then don't take it.

You can easily handle the situation so as not to burn any bridges. Simply call the HR person to say that you have great news for you and not-so-great news for her.

"I got a job offer and I've decided to accept it. It was a difficult decision because I am so interested in working for your company, and I thank you very much for believing that I could make a contribution to your company. If it's OK with you, I'd love to stay in touch and perhaps the time will be right at some point in the future for us to work together."

It's polite, keeps a door open, acknowledges her kindness to you, and shows that you are professional.

Good luck with your decision!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Networking Tips from Carrie Wilkerson

Carrie Wilkerson, the Barefoot Executive, is a networking genius. In a video I recently watched, she made these KEY POINTS about how you can more effectively network:

When you meet someone, make a personal connection. Find out what they are interested in. Notice what they talk about, what excites them, what part of conversation they expand on or the topic that lights them up.

Shift your thinking to ask "what can I do for them?"
instead of "what can I get them to do for me?" By starting with the other person's interests, issues, challenges or problems, you put yourself in the position of being of service to them. Generosity always is its own reward, and it also is such a powerful basis on which to develop a relationship. When I'm genuinely interested in people, I get such pleasure from our interaction. And what ends up happening is that the relationship begins to be reciprocal. I am always surprised by what people are willing to do for me when I do for them WITHOUT EXPECTATION OF RETURN.

Always take handwritten notes to remember people - in a notebook, write down everything you remember about the person: family information, interests they have, circumstances under which you met them, anything funny they said or something they said they liked or wanted, people you know in common, and anything that distinguishes them in your mind (facial features, hair, body type, colors they wore, eye color, you name it!)

Send follow-up (FU) notes with a personal touch. Mention that book they liked and recommend one similar to it. Say you hope their child's team won the game. Tell them you loved their site (even successful people need validation and compliments!). Let them know how much they helped you and what value you got from their meeting, such as a new thought, a new way of thinking about your path, or a reframing of the key issues facing an industry.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Use Marketing Tools For Job Search

Having just returned from "The World's Greatest Marketing Seminar" I am full of ideas about how job seekers can better position themselves.

A key message from many speakers is that marketers are in the business of solving people's problems. People (and people run businesses and hire other people) are usually familiar with and able to articulate their problems/challenges/difficulties/obstacles and so will better identify with them. When someone appears to understand their challenges, people tend to hope that person can help them solve the problem. When the problem or challenge is stated clearly and with some emotion, people become hungry for a solution. For a marketer, this creates a willing customer. For a job seeker, this can engender willingness to consider one's candidacy for a position.

This afternoon, one of my clients (D.) and I came up with this 10 second answer to the question "What are you looking for?" Our focus is on the kind of challenge D. wants to work on. Then she presents herself as the solution to the problem. Here's what we drafted:

I want to solve space challenges for clients with big dreams and limited resources, and make their space reflect their brand image and strategic thinking.

In a very few words, D. has defined her area of interest and expertise (solve space problems) captured a problem (clients with big dreams and limited resources), and focused attention on the solution she offers (space will reflect brand image and strategic thinking). The word "solve" at the beginning offers hope of a solution to the problem she then describes (big dreams, few resources); the final part of her statement speaks again to her solution to the problem.

D. can either then say "Let me give you an example" or the listener can ask questions to invite her to tell them more about what she means - and she has plenty to say about that.

She is testing tonight at a networking event. I'll let you know what happens. In the meantime, I wanted you to know I'm thinking about you and ways to make your pitch that much more effective.

You can think about the problems or challenges you want to work on in your next job, the kind of solutions you would offer, and the employers who have this kind of problem. Start with what the employer faces, and then offer yourself as a solution. Remember, when a problem is fully articulated, it hurts, and when something hurts, people want a remedy. By showing that you "feel their pain," you make employers more interested in hearing how you would approach solving the problem and easing the pain.

What if I Like and NEED the Job But Don't Like my Potential Boss?

This is a tough hypothetical question. I know you need a job and it sounds like you think you found one that is the "right fit" for you.

Let's assume you are offered the job. You can take it, and see it as an opportunity to learn one of the most challenging skills in work: to get along with people you don't necessarily like, to focus on work instead of personalities, and to adapt to challenging circumstances. Most of us have to work with people we don't love or even like very much.

For me, the goal was to figure out how to work well enough with them to get the job done.

* One strategy I used was looking for at least one positive thing about the person.

* Another was to "catch them doing something right" at least once a day.

* A third was to send them love and positive thoughts.

Amazingly, most of these people stopped annoying me within a week. Sometimes they changed their behavior - because nice behavior tends to be responded to with nice behavior. After all, "you catch more flies with honey." And mostly, I got into a new habit of focusing on their positive attributes rather than on how their less enjoyable aspects. I'm also reminded that "where my attention goes, energy flows." That means that if I focus my attention on something, then that's all I see.

If all I remembered was that Nora kept repeating her point and not listening to anyone else until she wears them down, that's all I saw and heard. And it was really annoying! I had to work to remember that Nora was a darn good manager with amazing integrity, and usually her points of view are valuable and correct. That put her annoying tenacity in perspective. It didn't make it go away, it simply minimized her flaws enough that I could continue to work with her.

The real question is: Would I CHOOSE to work for Nora? Not if I could help it. In my humble opinion, this is not a "right fit" job for you because your working relationship with you boss is so critical to your job happiness. And if you don't like your boss, my bet is your boss won't really like you. This sounds like it would be a termination waiting to happen.

My question to you is: Why would you think you could work effectively for someone you don't like? While it may be character-building, it is not fun to work for someone you may not like and it certainly does not lend itself to a lengthy job tenure. If you need the job and are offered it, it's OK to take it. I'd continue my job search, however, because there's a better than even chance you'll be so unhappy you'll want to leave soon.

Of course, the job offer is hypothetical. And I am sorry to say that in this particular job market, such an offer is highly unlikely to be made. Employers simply have too many candidates to choose from to choose someone who is not a good personality fit. My hunch is that your potential boss sensed your dislike or some potential conflict, unless you are an expert at hiding your feelings.

So don't count on being offered the job even if you have exactly the skills, experience, education and background they are seeking. Chemistry and culture fit are all-important now. You and they will spend hours and hours and hours together each week.

Remember though that every "no" does bring you one step closer to the "yes" you want, and it will be a "right fit" job for you if you are clear about what you want in a job. Good luck!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

You CAN Find Your "Right Fit" Job

Yes, I am convinced that you can and will find and get the job that's right for you - that is less like work and more like fun, that makes you want to get up in the morning and get to work because you are so motivated by what you do, what impact it has, the people you work with, and the purpose of it all.

I'm convinced of this because I know so many people who now are doing work they love - including me. You are no different from them.

You may be looking for a job right now and think you have to settle for just anything. I disagree completely.

It will take the same energy to find just any job as it will to find your "right fit" job - so why not aim for something that will make you happy?

Here's how to start.

You know what you love to do for work and to make a living. There are things you enjoy so much you either already do them for free or as a hobby, or would do them for free if you could. There are skills you take great pride in using, and accomplishments that gave you the feeling of being on top of the world.

Of course, you also know those jobs or tasks you would like never to do again, as well as those skills you really can't stand using anymore - even if they were hard won. And there are things that bore you now because you've done them too many times.

Take a sheet of paper. Pick up a pen you like to write with. On one side of the paper, write all the things you never want to do again. Flip the paper over. On this side, write all the things you love to do - at work, at home, at play.

Compare the things you like to do at work and at home and at play. See if there are any commonalities. For example, I know a woman who loves to give dinner parties, complete with customized menus and decor. She hates being a lawyer, because it's boring. However, she does like lawyer pay. She now works with nice people, instead of at the corporate firm where it was incredibly competitive and elitist. The firm is small which she likes, and her dinner parties are usually small. What she misses at her current employer is working on projects from beginning to end. Her dinner parties are projects, and she designs them from beginning to end.

From this and other information, she realized she was drawn to the design field, and that she really likes working in a cooperative environment with a relatively small group. She likes to work on projects and is comfortable working on her own with a minimum of supervision.

Now she's taking classes to learn more about design and what specific field she might enter. From informational interviews, she's realized she doesn't want to be a residential interior designer because they make too little money. And she's redoubled her efforts to keep her current job because it provides a pretty comfortable spot from which she can plan her career path. At the same time, she's looking for legal jobs in the design field so she can get closer to the industry and learn more. We're targeting smaller firms of high-end goods, mainly homewares. Her resume features information and accomplishments to market her to this new industry. She also has a model cover letter explaining the transferrability of her skills and her passion for design, as well as rehearsed answers to difficult interview questions.

This is just a simple example of how to use information about your life to figure out what you want to do. It's not the whole story, just a taste of the process I use to help people discover what they love to do and then create the marketing materials necessary to get that "right fit" job.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Should I Quit a Job I Hate to Find One I Love?

I received this comment and question the other day from a woman who is very unhappy with her current job and wants to know what she should do.

Dear Julie,
I have been working in management consulting industry for 5 years now and have been unhappy in it more less since I started. I decided to take a job in this direction precisely because I wasn't sure what my best job would be and expected the consulting industry to provide me with many different project experiences which should bring me closer to the perfect job. The experience ended up revolving around similar clients and business areas and in terms of finding my perfect job - I am just where I started. The fact that I am not at all passionate about what I do is starting to make me unhappy and depressed and I am starting to take that out on my boyfriend and friends. I would like to change something but how do I find the job that is right for me? I am scared to take the step of finally leaving the current job to be able to focus on doing some searching. And I do not know where to start...
Your advice would be much appreciated.. Thank you.

Lina, my first suggestion is to keep your current job. There is plenty of work you can do right now that will lead you toward the right job for you. If you've read much of my blog, you know that I advocate getting to know yourself FIRST.

Getting to know yourself can be done outside of work hours. You have plenty of material to work with: your current job, your college and high school experiences, any part-time work you've had, your hobbies, the books you read, the news stories to which you are drawn, the magazines you read.

The fact that you are taking steps toward a "right fit" job may do one or both of two things: give you hope and make the current job tolerable, and/or make you even more sick of the work you currently do. Both reactions are normal. Becoming more frustrated with your current job simply means you're stirring things up, and reaffirming what you DON'T like.

Knowing what we don't like is the first part of the work. The second part is starting to know what we DO like to do. That's the point of getting to know yourself. And often, that is far more difficult to identify.

To help you identify what you love to do, what you would love to do again, and in what kind of environment and workplace, I've put together a workbook based on this blog and real-life experience with people seeking their right fit. If you leave me your e-mail address, I'll send it to you and you can go through the various questionnaires.

The purpose is to come up with two things: your Must Have List for what will allow you to happily do your best work; and your Core Value Proposition, what you specifically and distinctly have to offer an employer or client. From those two things, you can craft the marketing materials you need to convey your value to employers and land your "right fit" job - specifically your resume, cover letters, and interview information. You will answer questions and ask questions at interviews, because you are not desperate - you are looking for the "right fit" for you, just as the employer is looking for a "right fit" for their position.

It's important to be honest with ourselves, and accept who we are. There's a lot of "shoulds" surrounding work - I "should" do what my parents want me to do or I "should" like this work because other people do. If you can, stop "shoulding" on yourself and instead look clearly at what "is" rather than what is "supposed to be."

Other factors can and do complicate searches for "right fit" work. Perhaps you are attached to the money you make or the prestige of the position you now hold. It's all OK right now. These are all factors that will go into your decision-making process.

There is no one right way or right time frame to get to your "right fit" job. Some people take a few months, others take a few years, and others take some time in-between. I've seen people find their "right fit" job the moment they identify what they want to do, and seen other people get a job that's a step or two closer to their dream work.

One woman has taken 18 months to identify the general field she wants to pursue and narrow it down from design to "not interior design." Now a lawyer working in financial services, she realized she needed to learn about the design field. So she's taking classes and gaining skills and experience - all of which are helping her see what direction she wants to pursue in the design field. I call this a "dual path" where she has kept her "day job" and is pursuing her dreams at night and on weekends.

I strongly advocate finding a buddy or coach who can help you get to know yourself, help you interpret the information you'll be gathering about yourself. It usually is not your significant other nor a family member. They are too invested in you being OK to really be helpful and objective. And usually we are too impatient with ourselves and too afraid to respond well to their prodding and questioning.

The fact that you are asking the question means you are already on the path to finding your right fit work. I hope this blog and my response can help you achieve your goal! Please let me know how else I can help.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Research, Marketing, Conversation: the Job Search Process

A successful job search process is a combination of research, marketing, and conversation.

RESEARCH: Research yourself and research the employers for which you want to work.

1. Get to know yourself

* What are your strengths and capabilities, the things you really like to do and have fun doing?

* What you want to do again? Sometimes we're good at doing things but never want to do them again. What do you never want to do again?

* Look back at your accomplishments. What are you proud of doing? How did you do those things? What kind of skills did they require?

* What do you do for fun? Do you have hobbies? What activities cause you to smile for no reason? When does time fly for you?
* In what environments do you thrive? What culture is best for you?

* What motivates you? For who or what are you willing to work hard? What have you committed to for a long period of time because it's important to you?

Use this information to develop a Must Have List (see my posts on creating your Must Have List).

2. Get to know the employers in your chosen industry and occupation.

* Which employers are engaged in the kind of work you are interested in doing?

* What companies are growing? This means they will be hiring now or in the near future.

* Which organizations have the kind of culture you would thrive in?

How do you find this information? Read industry publications in print and on-line. Do searches on the key terms used in the occupation and industry (e.g. Marketing Director, Telecommunications).

Much information is available through people who work in the industry, through company websites, and by doing a search on various companies via Google. You can find people who know people in the company through LinkedIn and Plaxo, on Twitter and possibly on Facebook. Informational interviews are generally easy for people to agree to; it's a great way to learn about general industry and/or occupational trends. You'll also learn about the culture of the organization by talking in-depth to someone who works at that company.

MARKETING: Look for your "right fit" jobs

1. Build a resume to market your core value proposition to prospective employers.
Your resume needs to highlight your potential value to an employer, demonstrating your abilities through your accomplishments and impact on your past employers. Only include those accomplishments and responsibilities that you want to repeat. We all have parts of our jobs we don't love; it comes with the territory. However, we don't have to ask to do them by listing them in our resume. And you do get what you ask for, in my experience.

2. Match yourself to the most appropriate job opportunities. Find jobs that match your Must Have List.

* Take a job description and highlight all the things you like/love in one color, all the things you are OK with in a second color, all the things you don't like in another, and all the things you need to learn in a fourth color. If most of the job description is in the first color, it's potentially a job for you. If not, keep looking, or be aware when you apply that you may not get an interview.

* Search on job boards to see what's out there, which of your target companies are hiring and might have other jobs coming up. Identify the key words that are common in jobs to which you are drawn. Use those key words in your resume.

* Go to the websites of your target companies.

3. Create a really powerful intention statement. This will say very specifically what job you want, what skills you want to use, what impact you want to have, in what industry and what kind of company.

This is your "pitch" or "elevator speech." It's what you say to people when they ask "and what kind of job are you looking for." It's what you write in an e-mail asking someone for their advice and guidance in your job search process.

Don't worry about being too specific or narrow. Worry about being too broad. Broad intentions don't allow people to help you. Specificity helps you get the exact contacts and opportunities you want, and then to land the job in which you will thrive. We find the right size clothes when we accept our body for what it is. Similarly, we find the "right fit" work when we accept ourselves for who we are.

4. Write "marketing" cover letters. These match your abilities and skills to the specific responsibilities and qualifications cited in the job posting. This is your chance to show how your past makes you highly capable of helping the company meet its goals. They have their own "What's In It For Me" interest. Your job is to tell them what you will deliver and do for them when you are hired. So read about the company's mission statement, its press clips, its services, its most recent developments. Use language similar to that in the job posting and on the company's website; it shows you "speak their language."

More important than meeting basic qualifications is whether you are a cultural fit for a company. Recommendations from current employees count for a lot in any search process, because company leaders realize that an employee will tend to recommend people who are a good cultural fit already. Your job is to show in the cover letter that you understand the organization's culture as well as the specific job requirements. Tell them why you think it would be an honor to work for them. Use flattery, and show enthusiasm for the company. Companies want someone who wants to work for THEM, not someone who just wants a job.

CONVERSATION: Look for "conversational chemistry"

When a company posts a job, it is beginning a conversation with prospective employees. Your cover letter and resume are your response, essentially you picking up the conversation. You are saying "I'm interested in a conversation with you about this." If the company or recruiter sees something they like in your materials and/or if they receive recommendations for you from people they respect, they'll contact you to continue the conversation through an interview. This takes the conversation from "small talk" to a deeper level.

I find that people feel more comfortable about an interview if they think about it as a conversation. In this conversation, the employer wants to know if you are the "right fit" and so they ask lots of questions to ascertain that. You get to ask your own questions. You can relax a little bit because you are trying to find out whether this is in fact the "right fit" for you.

If the conversation goes well, you'll probably go to the next stage. It's not guaranteed, however, because the employer is talking to several other people at the same time. You may not be the best fit. If that's the case, be happy because you probably wouldn't have been happy at that employer. Remember, they already know you meet the basic qualifications. Now they are looking mainly for a culture fit. If they don't believe there is a culture fit, they are right. And if you don't have some skill or ability they decide is very important, you would have begun the job at a deficit - not a recipe for success.

Getting another interview is a chance to have a more in-depth conversation. If it is the "right fit" job, then you and the employer will want to formally agree to continue your conversation and engagement with each other through a job offer and acceptance. Here's hoping for that kind of conversational chemistry!