Before you begin a job search, or begin to think about asking for that big promotion, you need to know where you want to go. The fact is: no one is an expert at everything – and that’s okay. But, knowing what your best assets are can help you take targeted aim at your career goal.
Find some time today to sit down and take inventory of your strengths and preferences. Try to jot down at least three answers for each of the following questions:
1. What are you great at?
2. What are you not-so-great at?
3. What are you excellent at, but unexcited by?
4. What do you excel at, and feel passionate about?
Remember to think broadly – your answers don’t have to be specific to work. In fact, think of them as: “My Life’s Top Hits.” You could include strengths that surface in any (and every) element of your life: school, work, extracurricular activities, relationships and more. To learn more about making a list like this, click here and use the 'Billboard Top Hits' exercise.
By thoughtfully answering these questions, you will begin to identify the intersection of what you excel at, and what interests you most – and that’s step 1!
Sometimes, in order to move forward, we must look back – for inspiration, lessons or clues that can help guide our way. Tonight, look back on your childhood dreams and try to find the common-thread themes that surface in them all.
1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
2. What attracted you to that trade and why?
3. Do you still find your old ideas attractive?
4. Is there a way to leverage your current skill set in an industry that gets you closer to this line of work?
While you might not be able to pursue your childhood dreams, consider how you can leverage your current skill set in an industry that gets you closer to that work.
For instance, you might not become a scientist, but you could work in finance, sales, advertising and so forth for the pharmaceutical industry. Or, if as a child you wanted to pursue pediatric medicine, perhaps you now realize that the true core of this early desire pointed to your love of children – think about what you could do that involves working with kids.
Who says taking charge of your career can’t include some fun and games? Today, it’s time to play Nine Lives*. You can either play this little game alone, or with a friend or loved one. In fact, sometimes it’s even more fun to play with others because they can often see patterns you might otherwise miss.
Now, given these rules, what nine lives would you live? Write them down!
When you look at your answers, what themes do you see? What is missing? Both insights are important hints to help you understand what career options might be available to you – and what long-term objectives you can set.
*This content is adapted from Karen James Chopra, LPC, MCC, NCC of Chopra Careers (www.chopracareers.com).
Today, I’ll teach you how to find a career or position in your current job that will speak to your strengths while tapping into your passions and interests. To start, grab a piece of paper (or open a Word document) and flesh out three columns as follows:
HISTORY: In this column, list every job you’ve held in the history of your career. Only record the job title and company names for now.
POSITIVES: Here’s where you can provide the nitty-gritty details of what you liked about each of these jobs. Be as specific as possible, i.e.: appreciated the opportunity to manage junior-level staff, enjoyed building client relationships, valued freedom to be flexible with my work schedule.
NEGATIVES: Don’t be afraid to nitpick at the jobs’ low-points and hash out all the things that you didn’t like. Again, be specific, i.e.: felt trapped by the no-window office space, would have appreciated more mentorship, didn’t like making sales calls.
In this exercise, the negative column is just as important as the positive, because in both cases, you’ll begin to notice themes. Getting a big-picture view of your career and pinpointing the elements that really worked for you (and those that didn’t) can help you identify the intersection of what you’re really good at, and what you enjoy.
Try these easy exercises today to help you discover your dream job, dream role or simply the industry that best fits your skill and interests:
GET A COACH:
GET YOUR FEET WET:
Once you have found several postings you like, read each description carefully. Then, cut and paste any sections that describe what you would love to do. Leave out those you wouldn’t.
As you move through this simple and fun exercise, you will essentially be building your “dream job!” Once you have built it, you can compare how your current job stacks up against your ideal, and you can begin to focus on job postings that most closely match it.
Whether you’re looking to advance in your current position or find something entirely new, today’s the day to give yourself a little reality check to ensure you’re ready to move forward.
When considering your next steps, take some time to think realistically about how your life will be impacted:
EDUCATION: Is it ok to go back to school for the sake of the job, or to acquire new skills for a promotion? If so, how would you fit a school schedule in with concurrent work? Are there opportunities within your current job to have continuing education paid for or subsidized?
EXPERIENCE: If you have no experience in the field you’d like to enter, or the role you’d like to fill, can you afford to intern? If so, for how long and if not, can you find another way in?
LOCATION: Where would/could this new job or role take you? Are you willing to relocate and can you afford it? If not in a new locale, is the office convenient to your home and how will a new commute affect you and your family?
SALARY: Based on your lifestyle, location and responsibilities, can you afford a salary change? You might need to build a budget to determine what your bottom-line number is.
Prepare yourself for a confident conversation today:
Now you are ready to present your case to your manager and hear his or her suggestions for how you can fill the skill gap between your current position and your goal. Don’t forget to propose a plan for how you hope to implement their suggestions and schedule another time to meet, to review your progress.
Coming up next in our Challenge: expert tips to build your personal brand and propel you to the next level in your career!
Today I’ll help you build a brag sheet that you can think of as your “Career Top Hits” list. Everyone should have one, whether or not you’re looking for a new job.
Different from your “Life Top Hits” list from last week, this is an ongoing record of your contributions and accomplishments in the workplace that you will later incorporate into your resume or use for fodder when asking for a promotion.
When writing out your list, segment each accomplishment by your various job roles (so building your resume will be a breeze) and keep these important points in mind:
1. What is/was the quantifiable scope of your position (number of reports, budgets, day-to-day numbers, etc.)?
2. Did you identify ways to make operations run better, faster, safer, cheaper or more profitably?
3. Can you quantify your experience? For example:
4. What projects or milestones make you proudest? Did you complete projects ahead of schedule or under budget? How?
5. What praise or accolades have you’ve received from colleagues, vendors, clients or managers? Catalog positive feedback from your performance reviews to remind you what you’re great at and the ways in which you provide value to your current and future employers.
You might have noticed that most of these questions are focused on quantifiable results. Why? Because tangible numbers are the basis for hiring decisions! Plus, knowing your numbers will ensure that you remember and refer to them in an interview down the road.
Think of your resume as a valuable marketing tool in your job search “tool kit.” It needs to support your job goals by bringing attention to your most relevant:
Follow these simple rules for crafting a clean-looking resume that does not make you seem like a Jack-of-All-Trades (and master of none):
Follow this rule of thumb regarding your resume’s length: At entry-level, your resume should be no more than one page. At mid- to senior-level you can stretch to two pages. In very rare occasions, you may use three pages, but not often.
As if the six-second timeframe weren’t enough to put you in a panic, there are two other factors at play when it comes to getting a hiring professional to even see your resume in the first place. I call them the gatekeepers: one is human the other is electronic.
First, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) scan for key terms and phrases relevant to the job. Next, a junior-level coordinator typically scans for education, recent experience and relevant skills before passing to the recruiter or hiring manager who has a better understanding of the job requirements.
In order to perfect your resume, you must plan to get past them both. Here’s how:
Today, I’ll help you build your personal tagline or “elevator pitch” — a brief summary of your professional brand that captures someone’s attention so that they want to ask you more.
The goal of your statement is to show employers what you can do for them. To help you identify your unique value and translate it into a 30-second statement, grab a pen and paper and jot down the answers to these questions:
WHO ARE YOU?
Write down your name, job title and primary function.
WHAT ARE YOU GREAT AT AND PASSIONATE ABOUT?
Think back to your accomplishments log – how has your previous experience prepared you for this new role?
HOW DO YOUR STRENGTHS ADD VALUE?
Elaborate on the results you’ve produced including the accomplishments you are proud of and the tangible results that benefitted your previous employers. Think in terms of better, faster or cheaper. For example, did you increase revenue, cut costs, or make things run more efficiently?
Practice makes perfect! Begin learning your pitch by practicing alone, but out loud, until you have nearly memorized the content.
Next, ask a friend to listen to you practice your pitch out loud. If you are too shy to do this, it is just as useful to record your pitch and play it back for yourself - to hear what you sound like.
The goal is to fine-tune your delivery in a way that feels friendly, conversational, impactful and engaging. To meet these criteria, consider the following points when evaluating yourself:
Be prepared to adjust your pitch to suit unique audiences and environments. Consider what jargon you use, how detailed you get, how casual or formal the conversation should be, and so forth.
Your online ‘appearance’ matters – a lot. In fact, 70% of hiring professionals have turned down candidates based on something they saw online.
Today, it’s time to check up on your online presence to ensure you have a squeaky clean cyber record. Here’s how to get started:
WHAT’S YOUR REPUTATION?
Even after you’ve landed a job, you should run a Google search for yourself on a regular basis to understand what an employer might see if they searched for you. Set up a monthly Google alert for your name to stay up-to-date on your online presence.
If your search unearths some unflattering results, you can reach out to the website that owns the material and ask for it to be removed. Or, you can push down negative news by getting your name mentioned online for positive reasons!
HOW SOCIAL ARE YOU?
Where do you have social media profiles online for public view? Do you like what you see? Un-tag any photos that you wouldn’t want an employer seeing, remove unprofessional posts or status updates and adjust your security settings so that no one outside of your inner circle can see your profile.
WHERE IS YOUR RESUME?
Where have you posted your resume to job boards in the past? If old versions of your resume are alive and well around the web, they might send a mixed signal to recruiters. Close all inactive accounts and upload your most relevant and current resume to the sites you are targeting.
It’s important to build a social media presence you can be proud of.
LINKEDIN is a great way to grow your professional online presence and utilize your network.
PINTEREST is a great venue for visualizing your goals or accomplishments.
FACEBOOK is a great place to socialize, but it’s not the best platform for promoting your professional brand.
TWITTER is a wonderful resource for reconnaissance.
Networking is more than a professional buzzword. When done strategically, building and using a solid professional network can help you in countless and immeasurable ways over the course of your career.
Remember, the goal is to simply meet as many new people as possible and grow your number of connections. Keep in mind that meeting someone who isn’t directly related to your industry or line of work doesn’t mean they won’t know someone who might be valuable to you.
Begin growing your network today:
1. List your current contacts including friends, relatives, acquaintances, former colleagues, vendors, business partners and customers with whom you’ve maintained a friendly, if not close, relationship.
2. Ask yourself: Who in this group is actually in a position to know about industry news and job openings?
3. Prioritize connecting with these “lead” contacts based on their ability to help you.
4. Invite your connection for a cup of coffee or an after-work drink.
5. Don’t go into the meeting asking for a job!
6. Be prepared to simply catch up over the first meeting on a personal level.
7. Focus on learning more about the other person’s work, their company, etc. – as you would at an informational interview.
8. Look for opportunities to connect them to someone in your circle who would be of value to them.
9. Always leave with a call to action – either a new resource, a new introduction, or a lead to pursue.
10. Once you’ve reconnected, you can later ask for help in the way of a job reference, an introduction to another contact or some insight into the industry.
Click here to see two simple examples of how to reach out – it doesn’t have to be awkward!
There is one type of friend who can be incredibly valuable to your networking efforts. I like to call these people “social butterflies” and their reach is farther than yours.
You know who I’m talking about — they’re the friends who tend to run in a number of very different social circles and love gathering people together and making introductions. Whether in your industry or not, connectors like this can be an important gateway to other valuable connections.
Here’s a straightforward way to quickly determine who can be most helpful:
Reach out to this person (or these people) and get them fluttering around for you! They will be able to put you in touch with people you might never meet otherwise — and endorsing you with their connections could help you secure a phone call or lunch meeting.
Beyond simply meeting people, truly effective networking requires you to build meaningful connections and exchange information with those who prove valuable to your career goals.
Try these three useful tactics to show your network some love:
PAY IT FORWARD
When developing a new professional relationship, the worst thing you can do is immediately ask for favors or a job. Always look for opportunities to pay it forward. Learn more about the person so you can find ways to provide value.
As a job seeker, you are learning a ton more about the job search than your average professional. When you find something that could be useful to your contacts, don’t be afraid to share it!
SHOWER THEM WITH COMPLIMENTS
Let’s be honest — everyone likes receiving compliments. Use social media to stay up-to-date on your most relevant contacts.
Avoid being a cyber-pest! Reach out only to congratulate them on important milestones, comment on their recent accomplishments and share information (articles, links, etc.) they might find interesting or useful. Don’t overdo it.
PARTNER WITH A PEER MENTOR
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, each offering different types of support throughout your career. As someone looking to further your career, consider approaching a colleague, fellow job seeker, or friend who’s in a similar line of work and joining forces. By checking in with one another on a weekly or regular basis and sharing information, you’re automatically doubling your efforts and resources.
Click here to learn more about how to work with a mentor and get the most out of the relationship.
There are three main methods you can use to pursue job leads:
1. Search for online listings
2. Engage recruiters
3. Tap into your network
To maximize the number of well-fitted opportunities you can pursue, you need to utilize them all. Today, let’s focus on the first:
SEARCH FOR ONLINE LISTINGS
For instance, the results for a "Marketing Manager jobs" search will lead to a number of relevant job boards including Indeed and TheLadders. Also search by your industry or specialty such as “pharmaceutical job boards” to identify niche boards.
Before you apply to any job, first check in with your network. You might know someone who can help refer you to the hiring manager. If you do know someone, apply to the job online and have your contact drop off a hard copy of your resume and cover letter to whomever they know.
Whether you’re hunting for a new career or you want to take a step up in your industry, engaging recruiters can be a valuable way to reach your goal because the more soldiers you have in the field, the faster you’ll win the battle!
First, get to know the various types of recruiters:
Next, learn how to work well with them all:
TARGET THE RIGHT RECRUITERS
Use resources like TheLadders and LinkedIn to identify recruiters and agencies that target the types of jobs you are qualified for and interested in. Identify specific recruiters to contact individually. Whenever possible, locate the recruiter’s email address on their company site or LinkedIn profile so you can personally email your message and attach your resume.
HELP RECRUITERS FIND YOU
Create a strong online presence so recruiters find you. Upload your current resume to all the targeted job boards you use and maintain a professional online profile that’s aligned with your resume. Actively participate in targeted groups on LinkedIn and industry-specific membership associations, and post comments and share relevant articles.
MAKE SURE THE JOB FITS … AND SPELL IT OUT
Make sure you meet all the must-have requirements for a position before applying. Seeking a role for which you’re unqualified is not only a waste of time for you and the recruiter, but it also shows that you didn’t read the job description carefully. Spell out your qualifications in your cover letter, and incorporate key terms from the job description in your resume.
Reach out to at least five new recruiters every week and follow up with each one week later.
There are countless opportunities to find new job leads or make new connections even when you aren’t actively in job hunting mode. That’s why you should never turn off your networking switch!
Every day is an opportunity to meet someone new — keep that in mind, no matter where you’re going and be ready to network anytime, anywhere:
You never know who you’ll meet — in or out of the office — who could positively impact your career. As you grow your network, identify those who work in your target profession or industry (i.e., as vendors, colleagues, customers, and so forth). These people are in the best position to share industry news and potential job leads.
Don’t discount the connections you make with people from other lines of work. While they might not be able to help you with your career goals, they could introduce you to someone who can.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees aged 50+ are not only more likely to be laid off during hard economic times, but they’re also known to have longer periods of unemployment before they are able to re-enter the workforce.
There are a number of factors at play here, including age discrimination. It may not be fair or legal, but it most certainly exists. Here are a few things you can do to compete against other candidates — regardless of their age — in today’s job market.
MAINTAIN A POSITIVE MIND-SET
If you think the age issue is standing in the way of your job search, then it will. I’m not saying age discrimination doesn’t exist. But getting angry about it doesn’t help — it wastes time, energy and makes you less marketable.
FALL BACK ON EXPERIENCE
Your experience, industry expertise and maturity are all valuable selling points. If you can sell your expertise and demonstrate your worth, companies will see your potential and consider you along with any other qualified candidate.
When interviewing, your goal is to come across as confident, passionate and full of energy and expertise. If you don’t feel any of these things, fake it till you feel it. One easy trick to “fake it” is to force a smile when you’re networking or speaking with a recruiter during a phone screen — they will hear positivity in your voice as a result.
You can also target job boards that post opportunities from age-friendly companies. These include:
If you feel your employment rights have been violated, you can file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
From your wardrobe to your body language to the way you ask and answer questions…it’s all important! Since interviewing (or endorsing yourself for a new role or promotion) is much like a performance, you should “rehearse” beforehand.
Here’s how to get completely prepped for this important conversation:
RESEARCH THE COMPANY & THE ROLE
RELATE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Practice discussing what about your past experience, accomplishments, background or skill sets makes you an attractive candidate.
When selecting anecdotes, think like a STAR:
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
On average, people in a position to hire spend 20% of their time making sure you’ve got the required technical skills noted in your application. The other 80% is spent determining if you will be a good fit for the team.
You could have the best skill set in the world, but if you don’t appear to fit well with the team, then you’ll likely get passed up for someone who will. For example, if you attend your interview at Google headquarters in a suit, you won't fit.
When an employer considers a candidate’s fit, the elements they analyze include (but are not limited to):
Try one of these three tactics to get a good sense of corporate culture before your interview:
1. If you came to the job through a third-party recruiter, ask him or her to help you understand what the most important things are that the hiring manager wants to achieve when filling the role and finding a good fit.
2. If you have a company contact within your network, invite him or her to coffee so you can gather intel about the job role and the team dynamics.
Imagine you are the interviewer or manager who is trying to determine how your candidate will face specific challenges within your organization, team or culture. To get the answers, you must ask some behaviorally-focused questions that will force the candidate to explain how they have handled certain situations in the past — giving you an idea of how they’ll handle them in the future.
Here are a few examples of common topics and questions that interviewers use to get a candidate to show his or her hand:
DECISION MAKING AND PROBLEM SOLVING
PLANNING AND ORGANIZATION
Once you've determined which questions you might be asked during an interview, look back on your past experiences and develop stories to answer them. Keep your anecdotes detailed, yet succinct, and always include the following three elements:
1. A description of a specific, real-life challenge you encountered.
2. A description of the specific actions you took to overcome the challenge.
3. A summary of the results of your actions including quantifiable results if possible.
When your interviewer or manager asks: “Do you have any questions for me?” keep in mind that even though you’re doing the asking, you are still being evaluated.
Your questions should not only convey your interest and your thoroughness in vetting the job, they should ultimately help you better understand the needs of the hiring manager so you can better pitch your skills as the solution to those needs.
Try any of these ten questions to make every minute count:
1. If you could describe your corporate culture in three words, what would you say and why?
2. What are the three most important things you want the person who gets this opportunity to achieve over the next year?
3. What's one thing that's integral to this company's success that an outsider wouldn't know about?
4. What's your (or my future boss') leadership style?
5. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. What about this position made you prioritize it over others?
6. How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?
7. What is your vision for this group/department/ product line/etc. over the next 2-3 years?
8. What kinds of people are successful here?
9. Conversely, what are the common characteristics among employees who have either fizzled out, failed or left?
10. What's the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?
The first rule of salary negotiation is to avoid discussing numbers so you have time to build a rapport with your interviewers!
Ideally, you’ll be able to fend off the money discussion until you have an offer in hand, because that’s when you’ll have the most power to negotiate. But, delaying the conversation won’t be easy.
Here are a few suggestions for how to deflect salary inquiries:*
If you’re forced to state your salary requirements upfront, use a researched number that shows fair market value for the position. Your goal is to explain why you’re worth what you’re asking for based on (1) your research of the market and (2) the value you can bring to the table.
When the time comes, follow these three tips to build a compensation package that can work for everyone:
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Visit Salary.com and PayScale.com to discover the fair market value rate for your targeted job with respect to your experience and educational background; and the industry, company size and location.
SET YOUR RANGE
Consider the answers to these three questions which will make up your target compensation range:
CONSIDER NON-MONETARY BENEFITS
Other non-monetary details can be negotiated to make an attractive package, including:
*Courtesy of Jack Chapman, author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute.
Follow these guidelines to create a stellar list of references:
AVOID A RANDOM REFERENCE
A job reference must be more than just someone willing to shower you with praise.
A good reference knows who are you are and is willing to be your advocate.
DON’T SURPRISE YOUR REFERENCE
Never let your reference get caught off-guard by a prospective employer’s call.
When you properly select and prepare your references, you can only improve your chances of landing a job — overlook them, and you could end up without one.
A recent survey conducted by TheLadders found more than 75% of interviewers say receiving a thank you note impacts their decision-making process. Click here for eight expert tips on making the most out of every word.
If you are selected for the position — CONGRATS! Whether you’ve accepted a new job, moved departments in your current company or received a promotion, remember, your first 90 days are an extension of the interview process.
Follow these onboarding tips to make a smooth transition now and any other time you enter a new team:
BEFORE YOUR FIRST DAY…
YOUR FIRST WEEK…
YOUR FIRST MONTH…
Good luck and remember to follow my weekly column at Ask Amanda and on Twitter for up-to-the-minute job-search advice. In the meantime, here's a quick recap of our best tips from this Challenge to keep for your next job search!
Yummy recipes, DIY projects, home decor, fashion and more curated by iVillage staffers.
The very dirty truth about fashion internships... DUN DUN @srslytheshow http://t.co/wfewf