Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog Your Way to a Killer Job

The most important element of a personal branding campaign is to launch and maintain a blog. Branding yourself serves the purpose of defining what your edge is—what makes you valuable as an employee or as a business partner. Your personal brand should bleed through all of your social media outlets. The real show, however, goes down on your blog.

On your blog you get to call all the shots. Define the topic and thereby define yourself. Your blog will showcase what you’re passionate about. It’ll show you know your stuff. It will show that you can’t help but spend your time on what you love—AND that anyone would by lucky to work with you.

What Do You Have to Say?

Picture the job you want. What are you doing? Are you changing the world? How? A good blog attracts people when it proposes to make the world better in ways other people can get hyped up about. Your blog could catapult you into once in a lifetime type job where you have the opportunity to make a difference.

You can start by commenting on current events in your field. If you want to get into city planning or development then comment on new and interesting programs and policies. Know what’s new in theory and what is actually taking place in the real world. Post links to news stories, interactive media and stunning photos. Stay focused and over time you’ll become a trusted voice in your niche.

How Often Do You Have to Post?

Every day! Just kidding, you do not have to post every day although it couldn’t hurt. The key is to post regularly. Try to commit to posting at least 2-3 times a week. For the most part you can get by with short posts. Post too many long posts and you can say goodbye to busy readers. Introduce a longer post (250-500 words) every week or two.

What you want to establish is a presence that is active and relevant. If you aren’t blogging every day, you should at least be tweeting. This shows you are alive, well and available for your readers and contacts. A daily presence keeps you at the top of the mind. Show that you are on top of your field by being the first place people can go for news and informed opinions.

Make Yourself Available

It won’t be long until you get into the swing of blogging. You’ll love it. You’ll be digging around in your field and connecting with people who love the same things. So don’t forget your objective: landing your dream job or striking up a brilliant partnership. Make sure there is a section on your blog where you state the kind of work you’re interested in. List contact details like your email address. Express that you are open to job offers in your respective field.

Once you score the interview, shake hands your future boss, and see your nameplate tacked up on the door, don’t forget about your blog and readers. Keep blogging—you never know what tomorrow holds.

- Sara

Sara Triana Mitchell is a blogger and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and is pursuing a M.Ed. in Children's Literature.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reinvention Just Might Be the Best Revenge

Lately, the term reinvention has been gaining a lot of organic buzz: career reinvention, reinvention conventions, reinvention seminars. Merriam-Webster defines reinvention as the act of “remaking or redoing completely; bringing into use again”, and that definition has a lot of meaning for people caught in less-than-desirable situations including as toxic workplaces, medical issues, budget cuts, and age-related discrimination.

As people in the U.S. are living longer, there is more time for people to try on a few careers - to remake themselves. At the same time, however, companies have been forced to implement widespread layoffs during one of the worst economic slumps in history.

As unemployment numbers have risen, many people have turned to their second- and even third-acts as a way to make ends meet. As the availability of high-speed Internet reaches even the most remote areas, people are finding new ways to do good work wherever they are. Many who long suspected layoffs have been able to dabble in freelancing or moonlighting only to discover a much larger market available to them when the pink slip arrived - thus creating a consultancy practice with a built-in set of clients. Some have turned their own ideas, recipes, and special skills into niche markets and created a business for themselves. In many cases, these reinventions just might be the best revenge as workers are finding ways to make it work and make their lives better and more fulfilling at the same time.

In coming weeks, we’re going to outline a strategy for a real-life reinvention, describe the steps you can do to identify what you want, outline a plan to figure out how to get it, and what to do when you’ve got it in your sights. Stay tuned!

- Virginia


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Social Media--The Power Tool for Your Job Hunt

This is the first of a multi-part series on using Social Media as part of a successful job search.  Our goal: to walk you step-by-step from setup through engagement to employment via Social Media.

In another day (and another job market), the best way to find a job was to submit your spiffy resume to employers, attend job fairs and buy a good suit so you looked the part.  Those days are gone.  Technology has created new ways of marketing everything from shoes to software, and marketing yourself as a potential employee has evolved as well.

You still need to have a great resume, though just what constitutes a great resume has changed (that is a topic for another post), and you still need to look the part in-person.  You also need to work your personal network to put the word out about your skills and availability and find out about companies looking for what you have to offer.  But now, your personal network can extend exponentially beyond the people you know first-hand, through the use of social media.  And if you’re NOT using the power of social media to extend your reach to prospective employers, you’re likely losing out to those that ARE.

There is a dizzying array of social media tools and sites available, so what does someone completely unfamiliar with social media need to know to get started?  If you can only participate on one social media site, LinkedIn is the essential one to use.  LinkedIn is a network entirely focused on business-- users can create a profile showing their education and employment history, get recommendations from current and previous employers, and actively work to make connections.

A well-built LinkedIn profile is like an online resume on steroids—not only is LinkedIn where employers and recruiters go to learn about candidates that came to them, they actually search there to find the best people to actively recruit, even if those people are not currently seeking new employment.

Best of all, on LinkedIn, recommendations from those with whom and for whom you have worked are publicly viewable, so the concept of “References Available Upon Request” is a thing of the past—your good work and achievements are right in front of prospective employers.

Prospective employers not only like LinkedIn, they expect you will be there if you’re serious about your career.  So if you do nothing else with social media as part of your job search, DEFINITELY leverage the job-finding power of LinkedIn.

Next up: Getting Started with LinkedIn—Your Profile

- Julie

Julie Ladd is a marketing strategist and strategic copywriter who helps businesses and individuals figure out what to say, how to say it and where for maximum impact, including using Social Media as an effective communication channel to reach and engage a broader audience.  She is a veteran of years of job-hunting on the way to finding her calling.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Employee or Independent Contractor?

In hard economic times, some employers might be tempted to mis-classify an employee as an independent contractor (IC). The advantages are obvious: no payroll taxes, no other fringes, and no overtime pay. Job seekers themselves might be similarly tempted. From their perspective, with no taxes withheld, they get much more take-home pay, which might help them get back on their feet more quickly.

There are serious consequences, though, for both parties. Penalties an employer may face include a thorough audit and reimbursement of any wages and overtime due, as well as payment of all taxes due, plus penalties. Any workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance benefits due must generally be paid from the employer’s funds. Employers with a pattern of similar abuses may also face criminal charges.

Applicants who accept such offers also face consequences. Although no income taxes are withheld from their pay, they must still pay them, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. ICs, legally self-employed, must also pay the employer’s share of those taxes when they file their annual tax return.

So what constitutes an “employee?” Think “control” – the more control the employer has, the more likely it’s an employee’s job, and not an IC’s. Pretty much everything about an employee’s job is determined by the employer: where the job is done, how it’s done, the hours during which it’s done, etc. Employees are also subject to the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which includes eligibility both for the minimum wage and for overtime pay.

Real ICs, on the other hand, aren’t subject to FLSA, but otherwise have a great deal of flexibility. They have an agreement with the employer to do a particular job, and generally work without supervision or control. They set their own hours and in many cases don’t need to work be at the employer’s workplace. Finally, ICs generally cannot be discharged early – before the expiration of their contract – unless there’s a breach of contract. Examples of legitimate IC jobs are freelancers contracted to do specific projects; in addition, lawyers and accountants are also often hired on an IC basis.

If you’re currently working as an independent contractor, make certain you haven’t been mis-classified, because that can cost a great deal of money. Check these government sites for more detailed explanations and standards:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html?

http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman/reports/futurework/conference/staffing/9.1_contractors.htm

If you are mis-classified, you’re in a sticky situation. If you complain, you’ll likely be fired outright; if you don’t complain, you’re letting the employer exploit you. The best advice I can offer is to talk to a lawyer for advice about your specific situation.

And if you’re job hunting and you’re offered you an employee’s job with an IC classification, your response should be “I’d love to work here, but that’s an employee’s position under the law, and I don’t want to get you in trouble by letting myself be mis-classified.”

- Dale
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Dale’s been involved in human resources for over 20 years, first as a shop steward and then in different management capacities.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Set the Room on Fire: Branding Yourself 101


You are not the reason you do not have a job. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there! You’ve got the experience, the degree and people like you! Try taking this classic line out for a spin: it’s not you; it’s the recession.
The fact is the market is swamped with awesome people a lot like you—those with decades of experience, those with stellar degrees and killer references, and those who can set a room on fire with their wit. Competition is fierce! But you are your own most powerful weapon in this fight. Your passions and your drive, your interests and your history set you apart. Harness the full power of what makes you unique: brand yourself.
Branding yourself is a buzz-concept based on a really simple idea. Articulate what your “edge” is and sell it ‘til the cows come home. Figure out what makes you an asset as an employee or business partner and craft your online and in-person presence to revolve around that idea. Branding yourself answers that vague interview question, “What makes you a good fit for this job?” before you score the interview.
Say you’re trying to get into green energy. You churned out a winning thesis in your masters program but the industry is still one big closed door.  Articulate the energy niche that drives you crazy and keeps you up at night, whether it’s solar panels on schools or educating people about making their homes super efficient. Then broadcast this message in a professional and engaging way.
This plays out across your social media profiles: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It involves following related blogs and participating in germane discussions. And, perhaps most importantly, branding yourself demands that you launch your own blog. Your blog is the epicenter of your personal brand. Keep it focused on your edge. Your blog will paint a picture to potential employers and colleagues of exactly who you are and what drives you.
Launching a branding campaign will help you to focus on your strengths and goals. It will snag the eyes of like-minded people and could ultimately land you your dream job.

-Sara

Sara Triana Mitchell is a blogger and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and is pursuing an M.Ed. in Children's Literature.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gaming the Job Search System


Gaming the Job Search System
Tips for Finding Work – Recession or Not

A friend of mine was laid off from his job of 10 years in October of 2009. After taking a month to recover from the shock, he’s spent the last 16 months sitting behind his computer checking job boards and sending out resumes. That’s not all bad; but it’s definitely not the winning formula to securing a job during what is turning out to be the “era of the jobless.”
Looking for a job is an entirely new ballgame these days. With 9% of Americans unemployed, there are approximately 2.5 million jobs available for the 13.9 million people officially unemployed, according to the New York Times. So you do the math! For every available job, think of the thousands vying for it! That means you’re up against an army of other people for each job to which you apply.
With that in mind, the key to getting a job is accepting that you need to market and sell yourself.  So what’s a person to do? First, let me share with you that I’ve been in the unemployment boat, and it isn’t fun. However, I spent more than 20 years as an executive with hiring and firing power, so I know what most HR managers need to see from an applicant. The following punch list will give you a game plan. In later articles, I’ll expand on them.
·      Resume Building – Construct two separate resumes. You will need a universal or one-page version and an interview (expanded two-page) version. Make sure that you include what your career goals are and emphasize all the skills, talents and tools you possess. These should appear right at the top, after your name and contact information. Be sure to have a resume specialist critique them to help you improve your strengths and restrict your weaknesses. This is imperative. Your resume can make or break you. Obviously, use the universal resume in your marketing efforts and save the expanded one for the interview. A Word of Caution: It’s a smart move to research prospective organizations and slightly modify your resume to specifically address the needs and wants of each potential employer. A lot of work, but worth it.
·      Cover/Marketing Letter – Create a customized cover letter for every prospective employer. Forget about mass mail-merged letters. Don’t send out generic form letters. Make sure you’ve done enough research about each prospective organization that you can easily tailor the letter to the specific position.
·      Create a Web site – Yep. It’s a digital world. Include an overview of your skills—let your personality shine through. Provide links to your two resumes, testimonials from former employers and business associates, samples of your work (if applicable) and PDF links to your scanned letters of reference as well as a list of references. If you are concerned about privacy, create a private or secure Web site that can only be accessed with a password. In your cover/marketing letter, always include the link to your Web site with an explanation of what is included there.  Make it easy for them to have all the information about you at their fingertips. This will really set you apart from the pack.
·      This is worth repeating: don’t send out mass mailings or generic correspondence – customize everything, particularly cover letters and your resume to your targeted employer. That means researching the company to which you are applying.
·      Search Recruiters and Develop Relationships with them. Recruiters are looking for good people to fill positions for their clients. Be helpful. Become a resource for them. Use your rolodex and offer to help them by referring people that you know have the talent and skills for which they are looking. Follow the openings on their sites and make suggestions. Or touch base with them on a regular basis to recommend highly-skilled unemployed associates. You know the old saying, “What goes around comes around.” Who do you think that recruiter will call when he has a position that your skill set can fill? Get the picture? And, if you help another person capture a job, can you spell “indebted”?
·      Network – Speak regularly to friends (both employed and unemployed) and prior business associates. Attend industry association meetings; join small industry networking groups that meet for lunch on a monthly basis. Work your network.
·      Volunteer with organizations where you can meet prospective employers and demonstrate your talents. I worked as a volunteer for about six months in an industry-related organization. When they were looking for a full-time editor, I was the first person the association director targeted for the job. I secured the position and maintained it for over a decade before being approached with an even better opportunity.
·      Do research on local employers that interest you. Research all targeted companies’ Web Sites for potential openings. Then send a customized marketing letter to determine if they would be willing to receive your resume or even meet briefly with you (where feasible).
·      Send marketing letters to influential alumni from your college if applicable.
·      Follow the job board openings and research company Web sites to gather more information where possible. Then apply as instructed.
·      Follow-up on every correspondence with an email if phone calls are not accepted.
·      Talk to temp agencies to see if there are positions that would get you into the front door of targeted employers.
·      When interviewing, again let your personality shine and treat your perspective employer as a person, not someone to be feared. Be prepared to sell yourself. Do your homework and go in ready to ask a lot of questions and show off your knowledge of the company. Be prepared to direct the conversation and control the interview.
·      Stay positive. Remember, this is a numbers game. The more you market, the better your likelihood of success. A generous concept in sales would be 25 rejections to 1 acceptance. The most frustrating part of job selling is that prospective employers don’t contact you to tell you they aren’t interested, nor do they allow you to call and ask.  Most of the time you just don’t hear anything. So, stay positive by treating searching for employment like it’s a job. You’re the marketer/salesperson, and the product is you. It’s been said that if you give a person something in which he truly believes, he can become a successful salesperson. You know your capabilities; just believe in yourself. Good luck!


- Carol McKibben
"Carol is a former magazine and technology executive, she has had more than 20 years experience hiring and managing countless employees."