Friday, April 29, 2011

Reinvention is a Process, Not a Switch

As you think about, perhaps visualize, and even plan your reinvention, it’s important – very, very important – to remember that reinvention is a process.
A process, by its very nature, is going to take time to evolve, and it could very well be a bumpy road. Do you remember the last time you learned something new? Perhaps you took up knitting or learned to surf or tried baking bread. These are all skills and they take time and practice before you get it right. New learners make mistakes along the way – you might drop stitches, or fall off the surf board repeatedly, or pull the flattest loaf of bread you’ve ever seen out of the oven a few times before you get it right. Even when you get good at something, you’ll still be learning – the bread will sometimes fail to rise, and that’s just life.
Reinventing yourself and choosing a new career path can cause all kinds of other changes in your life, and that’s what keeps a lot of people stuck. Many times, when we make one big change in our lives, it spawns a lot of other changes – unintended consequences as it may be. These unintended and perhaps unexpected changes may be painful or joyful, but it’s all part of the process too.
  • Sometimes, the changes turn out to be blessings in disguise.
  • Sometimes, the changes show you something you hadn’t seen before.
  • Sometimes, the changes reinforce your belief that what you are doing is right.
If it takes you some time before you are ready to take the next step, sign up for the class, or fill out the application form, just remember that change is scary and it’s OK to be scared. It’s not OK, however, to get completely stuck.
Once you’ve committed to the process of reinvention, remember that it’s a process, a journey, and not a simple switch that has to be flicked on. If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.
- Virginia
Virginia O'Connor, started out of college as a teacher of high school English, moved on to marketing writing, and then on to the then-new career of technical writing where she remained for over 20 years. She recently started her next reinvention as a writer and content manager for a number of highly successful websites.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Web Site Savvy for Job Seekers

Differentiating yourself from other job seekers is the key in today’s employment market. A great marketing letter and resume isn’t enough. Don’t forget about your online presence.

That’s right, build a Web site specifically for marketing yourself to potential employers. Nothing fancy. Include an overview of your skills and don’t forget to let your personality shine through. Provide links to your resume. Include testimonials from former employers and business associates and PDF links to scanned letters of reference. Use samples of your work if applicable.

Worried about privacy? Then create a private or secure site that can be accessed with a password that you can give to prospective employers. In your cover letter to future employers, include a link to your Web site (with the password) and briefly describe what’s included there. In this way, you will be putting all your information at their fingertips.

Building a Web site is not difficult. Do a little research on the Internet. You can find simple templates on blog sites like http://wordpress.com/ that will allow you to post your bio, resume, contact information and start a blog. You can find templates that are easy to update and for a low monthly fee will host your site. Of course, you can get fancy and hire a Web designer. Better yet, create a barter deal with a Web master and trade services if you have talent to trade.

The good news is that when you build a Web site with your name in the URL, you will have an online presence. If the perspective boss does a search on you, you’ll be controlling what he or she sees first, rather than random links to social networks you enjoy.

Be sure to post a weekly blog on your site. Make sure that it illustrates your knowledge of your industry to show employers your particular area of expertise. Actively blogging will also extend your network to assist in your job search.

An online presence can enhance your hard copy resume because it isn’t limited to one or two pages. You can expand with testimonials, links and work samples or product. Your Web site will also demonstrate that you are staying on top of the latest networking trends.

Carol McKibben has 20 years experience as a C-Level Executive in the publishing and technology industries. She addresses human resources from a hiring manager’s perspective.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What about all the online jobs I keep hearing about?

The conventional wisdom is that networking – “who you know” – is more successful than applying for jobs posted in newspaper and internet classifieds. Over the past few years, though, this new conventional wisdom is itself being stood on its head as more and more people are not only finding high-quality jobs online, but performing them there as well, for employers they’ve never met face-to-face, and never will.

Online employment is easier for some than others.  For one thing, many jobs simply cannot be done online – anything which requires a worker to be in a particular place to get the job done, like manufacturing or security or transportation, for instance, just doesn’t translate easily to online employment.  Many kinds of work, though, can be done online, though, and this fact has generated a virtual explosion of opportunities, both legitimate and otherwise. All that’s needed to do an online job, really, is a familiarity with the computer and the software used, and a good work ethic.

What are the Pitfalls?

Just as with other types of employment, there are those who’ll take advantage of those seeking online employment. Some make offers of jobs for which the victims haven’t applied, while others are more elaborate and actually post “jobs” and then attempt to victimize the applicants.  Some provide the victims with bogus checks or money orders with instructions that invariably include sending the majority of the funds back to the employer, while others simply ask for the victims’ banking information to facilitate payment of “salary and bonuses.”

Another potential pitfall is the quality of one’s work ethic.  To put it simply, some people need to be in an environment where everyone else is working, in order to work well themselves.  Being at home, whether alone or with the kids, is too distracting for some.

Where Can I Find a Legitimate Online Job?

Legitimate online employment opportunities abound, but prudence is always required. These agencies, like odesk.com, guru.com and elance.com, vet employers before allowing them to post jobs.  Other opportunities, on bulletin boards like Craigslist, generally aren’t vetted and should be carefully checked before providing any information.

The majority of the online jobs offered through the agencies are computer-oriented, for such skillsets as web and software development, networking and information systems, design and multi-media, and so on.  There are also many other jobs, though, including such areas as data entry, technical and creative writing and a wide range of jobs in administrative support.  Applicants provide the agency with profiles which can be viewed by all employers or restricted only to those to which they’ve actually applied.

The main advantage of working with the agencies is that they vet the employers that post jobs, especially verifying that they have the funds available to pay those who apply. A disadvantage is that the employers are from around the world and some offer rates that many westerners would consider insulting. Patience is an important virtue when seeking online employment, but the odds are good that those who apply only to those jobs for which they’re qualified will ultimately find decent jobs.

- Dale

After a long career in Human Resources that included reviewing thousands of hard-copy and emailed resumes, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Handling Pauses in the Career Reinvention Process

3At times, any reinvention will require a pause – kind of like a moment of silence – amid all the work you are doing. The important thing to understand in career reinventions is this: a reinvention will take just as long as it's going to take.

Reinvention is a process that can take weeks, months, even years to fully evolve. Sure, you'll get excited once you've identified your career passion and begin designing your reinvention game plan, but don't worry if there are pauses in the effort. You may discover you have to take a few classes or do some additional work. Or, let's face it, your personal life may intervene in any number of ways:
  • babies are born
  • elderly parents or grown children need support
  • accidents happen
During those spaces where it feels like your reinvention is stalled, it's important to stay focused even if your plans for progress are on temporary hold. Remember, the situation will change – one way or another – it has to change, that's the nature of life and you can't stop it.

Take these breaks in the reinvention process as gifts, the chance to clean up your surroundings, put your financial house in order, simplify your schedule, whatever background efforts that need to be done to clear your path to reinvention progress. These pauses in the process are not bad. In fact, they can help you rest and recover because reinventions are packed with energy draining changes. Breaks in the process can allow your thoughts to flow more freely, give you the time to review the progress you've made and add or delete steps to be done.

Sometimes you can use a pause like this to tap into the ideas of others by seeking out groups or organizations you didn't have time to connect with before, or by getting involved in an industry-specific association to find out what they have to offer.

Even if you don't feel that real progress is being accomplished, keep the mindset and continue acting as if this change is happening. Acting 'as if' can transform elusive possibilities into real truths simply by keeping it in your mind and in the minds of others.

- Virginia

Virginia O'Connor, started out of college as a teacher of high school English, moved on to marketing writing, and then on to the then-new career of technical writing where she remained for over 20 years. She recently started her next reinvention as a writer and content manager for a number of highly successful websites.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Online Job Applications are so Tedious, and Why it Benefits the Serious Job-hunter

Why is applying for a job online such a tedious chore?  When job-hunting online, you might be able to apply for 3 or 4 jobs per hour in a process that includes finding available jobs, accessing the applications, completing them (which usually includes crafting a cover letter), and submitting them with your resume. This can quickly become frustrating as you answer the same questions over and over again, often providing information that’s already on the resume you’re planning to submit.

Back in the Day . . .

While networking has always been one of the leading ways to fill jobs, the “formal” approach adopted by most employers was to publish their jobs in print media, usually newspapers.  Candidates would mail their resumes and cover letters to those jobs they seemed suited for.  As Internet use became more prevalent, more job ads included email addresses, and employers began to post job vacancies online.

Suddenly, the task of distributing resumes became simplicity itself.  All it took was the click of a mouse to deposit a resume and cover letter in an employer’s emailbox. This ease of distribution was quickly exploited, though, by applicants who took a shotgun approach to job-hunting, sending resumes to every email address they found in job ads. What they didn’t consider was that their resumes had company – hundreds or even thousands of other resumes. Employers who previously had received a hundred or so hard copy resumes in a week were facing that same amount and more daily via email.

Problems . . . and a Solution

The use of email was intended to streamline the recruiting process, but it quickly became a burden.  The shotgunners were indiscriminate, often unqualified for the jobs they applied to. Employers often spent hours transferring information into spreadsheets or databases.  Some candidates provided irrelevant information, others provided too little. And when employers routinely opened email attachments of all sorts, their systems were vulnerable to hacking or destruction by vindictive disappointed applicants.

In response, employers started looking for ways to qualify applicants so they’d only have to review applications from credible candidates, and online programs were developed to meet these needs. Job applications can be customized for each job and candidates must take the time to complete them, a process that casual candidates generally avoid. The benefit to employers is that although there will be fewer applications, most will be from serious candidates, in a uniform format that facilitates comparing and ranking applications.

Serious applicants will recognize this as a blessing as well.  They know that the casual candidates have exempted themselves from the process. They also know that some of those who actually complete the online process will feel frustrated by the time required to complete them, and that frustration will show in the application. Prudent candidates, then, will actually spend more time on these online applications, making certain they’re accurately completed, provide all the information requested, and pass a spellcheck review.

- Dale


After a long career in Human Resources that included reviewing thousands of hard-copy and emailed resumes, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stacking the Deck with a Marketing Letter

It’s imperative to stack the deck when you’re reaching out to prospective employers. In addition to your cover letter and resume, create a customized marketing letter to send first to every prospect. Never send out generic form letters. Do enough research about each potential employer so that you can easily tailor the letter to the specific position you’ve targeted.

While you will customize each letter, you can build a basic template that captures the core of what you need to say. It should be brief but loaded with your past accomplishments. Think of it as the tool that puts you front and center before you can walk into the hiring manager’s office. If you send it without your resume, the secretary who intercepts it will be thrown a bit off balance. He or she will be reluctant to just send it off to personnel without the boss seeing it. That’s more of an attention-getter. Whether you are responding to an ad or cold contacting local employers or university alums, it’s a different way to get the decision-maker’s attention.

Marketing letters are most successful for an experienced person who can emphasize a number of past achievements or for strong performers whose qualifications don’t quite fit the job.
  • Opener: State your most significant, quantifiable job success immediately. Example: “As a senior account executive, I consistently averaged annual 16% growth on active accounts, 20% on new business.” For a graduate, say: "I graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky with a 4.0 grade point average in economics."
  • Second paragraph: State what you want. Example: “If your company seeks a seasoned account executive, you will want to review my other successes.” A new graduate could use instead: “You will want to review my background.” The next step is to list up to five achievements that will motivate the employer to want these things for his company. Graduates or job seekers changing careers will want to list course or volunteer work or related experience.
  • Follow with one or two paragraphs describing your educational background and work history. Always pull from your strengths and omit less impressive or irrelevant qualifications to the specific job. If your professional experience is more impressive than your education, put the job-related material first. Try to summarize your professional experience succinctly. Example: “I provide 22 years of experience as a sales manager and have supervised up to 80 account executives and multiple regions throughout the U.S.”
  • Always close with the statement that you are available to meet at the employer’s convenience to provide more background details. If you aren’t pursuing a specific job but are trying to find an opening in a targeted company, indicate that you are excited to meet in person to discuss available opportunities.
Keep in mind that, as a routine practice, you can send a marketing letter before sending a cover letter and a resume. It gives you a chance to present yourself differently than others might.

Carol McKibben has 20 years experience as a C-Level Executive in the publishing and technology industries. She addresses human resources from a hiring manager’s perspective.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Need a Job? Well Get Moving

I know a smart guy who happens to live forty miles north of Detroit. Five years ago he and his brilliant wife had excellent jobs in the automotive industry-- he in I.T. and she in engineering.

I’ll let you guess what happened. Suffice it to say, I’ve never understood why they don’t pack up and move elsewhere. Michigan is one of the most difficult places to find a good job! Their unemployment rate right now is 11%.

Why do good people stay in bad job markets? Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is move! Here are a few scenarios in which moving may be the best option (and hey! it could be fun!).

If you need a type of job that you have to know someone to get and you live in a city too huge to get your foot in the door with the right people, it might be time to move. I have several friends with college degrees and teaching certifications back in Dallas who have been looking for teaching jobs for years. Years!

With so many qualified (and over-qualified) teaching candidates out there, schools will more times than not go with someone they know. If you do not know a single educator in the entire DFW metroplex—it’s time to move!

In a smaller community it is easier to meet other people in your industry, field or occupation. A move from a big city to a bustling suburb may not mean a decrease in pay. Plus, you will find move avenues for involvement. The person you need to meet with the keys to the kingdom may be just a city council meeting away.

Another scenario in which it may be in your best interest to move is you’ve done your due diligence and you know for sure that your perfect job is NOT where you are. A girlfriend of mine with a gift for advertising decided just last week to pack up and move from her home state of Nebraska to Chicago.

She decided that designing logos for small town mom and pop’s was just not going to pay the bills and line her nest egg. Although, she didn’t have an offer yet, she was certain that she had exhausted all options at home. If your industry is really only big in certain locales—get moving!

The final scenario occurs when you get an offer somewhere you never dreamed of moving. Scary? Maybe. But it could be the best thing that ever happened to you. Before my husband got a job offer at a law firm in New Mexico, leaving Texas had never crossed my mind. It seemed impossible to leave everything and everyone we knew.

Moving to a new place and meeting all new people can be a fast and efficient way to get to know the community and re-launch your career. For a few months you get to be the new guy, shaking hands and stating what you do. It’s a great time for personal branding!

If you’re in an employment rut, ask yourself if you’re really tied to where you live. Is it worth remaining jobless or unhappy in your current endeavor? IO
Moving could be the best thing you ever did for yourself your career.

- Sara

Sara Triana Mitchell is a freelance writer and graduate student.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reinvention Step 3: Designing a Game Plan

Now, your reinvention game plan will be entirely different from everyone else’s based on a few factors:

  1. Your available time frame
  2. Your personal, family and financial situation
  3. Your own rate of speed

A quick note from our discussion on finding your passion: you can’t really design a game plan for a career reinvention until you’ve found your passion, right? Wrong.

Let’s say you’re one of those people who’ve done a lot of things, you know what you are good at and what you’re not, you know your work style and what you dislike, but you just don’t know what the next step is.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The mistake that you could make here is doing nothing while you wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a fickle little thing and you might wait a long, long time. The best thing you can do is try something. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? We’ll talk about that too.

So, how do you design a game plan?

Let’s say you’ve figured out what your passion is and you are ready to get started on a reinvention. Before you leap from a job you already have and into the great unknown, let’s take a look at a few things you can do to get started safely.

  1. Look into local or online classes (there is a LOT of online learning these days)
  2. Take a day and volunteer close to your new career
  3. Think creatively, buy someone lunch to pick their brains about the new career
  4. Look into information available online
  5. Check out bloggers who are talking about that new area where you want to be, get engaged in the discussion

Depending on the amount of training you’ll need for your new career, you may have to go back to school, so look into the availability of tax credits to help you pay for it.

The knowledge you learn in these first exploratory steps will help you design the game plan for going forward.

  • If your new career has internships, get busy applying for one.
  • If you’ve taken classes, talk with the teacher about how to get to the next step.
  • If you’ve learned from your lunch interview where you might work, ask for an interview.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Honestly, what is the worst that can happen? If you leap into a day of volunteering and find the career isn’t all you thought it was, you’ve successfully eliminated that from your list of potential options. If you engage in the community and learn about the problems and issues around the career, can you bring skills from your previous work to hand solving those problems? Is there a way to get around it a different way?

If all of this feels more than a little outside your comfort zone – good. That’s exactly how a reinvention is supposed to feel. It’s supposed to feel different, as if you’re stepping a little in the dark and feeling your way around. If you already knew all of this, you’d be doing the job already after all.



- Virginia

Virginia O'Connor, started out of college as a teacher of high school English, moved on to marketing writing, and then on to the then-new career of technical writing where she remained for over 20 years. She recently started her next reinvention as a writer and content manager for a number of highly successful websites.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Exempt or Non-Exempt?

The last thing any job hunter wants is a problematic job offer. One of the problems employers bring on themselves is mis-classifying employees as “exempt” instead of “non-exempt.”  The law says that certain employees are exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements; in some cases, employers erroneously classify employees as exempt when their jobs don’t qualify for exemption.

Some employees, such as those performing certain advanced computer-related jobs, outside salespeople, and professionals like doctors and lawyers are automatically exempt. There are two groups of employees, though – production and administrative – whose members can be either exempt from being paid for overtime, or non-exempt.  The determination is based on their pay level, the basis on which they’re paid, and the nature of their duties.

Who’s exempt and who’s not?

Most production and administrative workers are non-exempt. They’re paid by the hour for time worked, and are entitled to be paid for their overtime.  Supervisors and certain other administrative employees are exempt if they pass all of the following tests:

Salary level: exempt supervisors and administrative staff must be paid at least $455 (gross) per week.

Salary basis: the employee receives that salary for every week actually worked, regardless of the number of hours spent on the job. The salaried employee cannot be docked for tardiness, or for leaving work early, or for taking a long lunch.  An employer who docks an exempt employee’s pay for such reasons is basically acknowledging that the employee is actually hourly, paid for time worked, and thus entitled to overtime. The employer may, however, require any number of hours, or days, in a workweek, but generally may not reduce an exempt employee’s salary.

Supervisors:
must actually supervise at least two (2) workers, and
must have the power to hire and fire those they supervise.

Exempt administrative staff:
primary duties must involve their employer’s general business operations or their management, or those of their employer’s customers, and
they must routinely exercise independent judgment and discretion concerning matters of significance.

This last point is critical, and also is most frequently misunderstood.  It means that exempt administrative employees are active participants in the employer’s decision-making process, involving decisions far beyond who brews the coffee or what brand of toilet paper is used.  They may be instrumental in the establishment of company policy and its interpretation and enforcement, for example, or may make customer service decisions that override established policy in exigent circumstances.  Administrative workers whose jobs don’t qualify as exempt are entitled to overtime pay.

What if you’re offered a non-exempt job that’s classified as exempt?

Job applicants, of course, are most interested in being hired, not in locking horns with prospective employers over overtime.  Nevertheless, applicants offered what appear to be non-exempt jobs with an “exempt” classification should be careful when accepting such positions, and should document their hours and activities accurately just in case such documentation is required down the road.

- Dale

After a long career in Human Resources in both exempt and non-exempt positions, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reinvention Step 2: Finding your Passion

This post is part of the Reinventing your career series

Let's face it, we all make choices in our lives that land us in positions based on what we knew at the time. Those places we land may not be bad at all – in fact, any number of successful careers have been made because a person stumbled on an idea and made it work for them.

When you are experiencing a lot of unhappiness with a job that conflicts with either (or all) of the following:
your home life
your health
your view of where you want to be

... then, a reinvention just might be in the making. But, how do you go from doing what you are doing to doing what you want to be doing? It's not always that easy, figuring out what your passion is, but you can spend as much time on this step as necessary. Of course, we'll offer a few options to shake it up if you get stuck here too long.

Brainstorm

Start brainstorming by recalling what you said you wanted to be when you were a kid. If you don't remember, ask your parents, your siblings, anyone who knew you as a kid. Then, while you have their attention, ask them what they thought you would be when you grew up – these answers may be far more surprising than what you thought as a kid.

Make a list

No, not a list of what you want to do, but a big long list of what you don't want to do. It's OK if your current job responsibilities are on this list. Don't fret over that. You'll use this list to compare the thing you think you want to be doing against. It's a great check point and it often leads to the discovery of what you do want to be doing.

Design a dream job for yourself

Think of all the things you would like to do if you only had the time. Love photography and finding ways to create healthy foods for your family? What about combining those into a position as a food photographer for top chefs? Call on your friends and ask them what they see you doing in the future – this is a good dreamy exercise but it can provide insights you hadn't seen yourself.

Think about the shortcuts

It doesn't all have to be a long process either – take a little time to think about shortcuts you could employ, such as:
Got a side business already? Talk to your clients to find out if there's a way to expand that into a full-time business.
Got a hobby you are desperate to enjoy more of? Consider taking classes to expand your knowledge or even better, teach it to others.

What to do if you get stuck

Now, we can't say how long this part of the process will take or how long you can handle it. If you get stuck however, you can try a few things to prod the process:

Volunteer where you think you want to work. If you think you want to open a yoga studio, volunteer to clean the floors after others leave. The key here is to get dirty with the thing you think you want to do.
Interview others who are doing it – ask them what they like and dislike, what they'd do differently if they had it to do over, how much money they make, anything they are willing to share with you.
Take a class in it and see if it still strikes you as interesting.

Finding your passion can take some time and some creative thinking, but it's an important part of the process. Remember, career workers in this day and age may have several reinventions in their lives, so take the time to get good at this step. You just might be back here with a later reinvention.

- Virginia

Virginia O'Connor, started out of college as a teacher of high school English, moved on to marketing writing, and then on to the then-new career of technical writing where she remained for over 20 years. She recently started her next reinvention as a writer and content manager for a number of highly successful websites.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Interview Is a Sales Pitch

Recently I asked a friend of mine who was going to an interview if he was prepared. He responded that he was just going to “wing it.” He turned a deaf ear to my urging the importance of preparation. He didn’t get the job, either.

I can’t stress the importance of interview preparation. Think of your interview as a sales pitch. It’s imperative to learn all you can about a company and its open position. The job listing has given you the basic facts, but you can use other sources. Talk to industry associates to discover the normal issues for the position type. If you’ve been listening to what I’ve been preaching, then you have made friends with a number of recruiters. They can tell you what to expect and what type of questions you might be asked. This could make the difference between getting hired or rejected.

You need to lead the interview conversation to show that the company will benefit from hiring you. You can’t go in cold. Make an outline or jot down bullet points that emphasize your strengths. You’ve already listed them in your resume. Think about questions that might be asked about your previous work and how you solved problems for former employers. Know ahead of time where you want your career to go and how the interviewing position will help you fulfill your goals.

Jot down examples of your leadership skills. Come up with numbers that will affect the interviewing company’s bottom line or overall business. You need to have anecdotes and facts that you can reinforce throughout the interview that prove you are the person they must hire.

Because you shouldn’t take notes into an interview with you, practice what you are going to say in front of a mirror or in front of family or friends. Do some role playing with one of them and ask them to try and trip you up. You need to be ready to respond quickly to anything the interviewer asks you.

Let’s face it, no matter how much you prepare, the conversation may not go as you expected. So, search for chances to weave your strengths and the benefits you will bring to the company throughout the conversation. Most of the time, your prepared materials will find its way into the conversation. Just stay in “sales mode” and remember that you are selling yourself.

Finally, present a nice appearance and interject examples of your work where applicable. Be relaxed but respectfully, and let your personality shine through. Treat the interviewer as someone you’d like to get to know, not someone to be feared. Remember, you’re there to solve a problem for him/her.
The simple fact is that things may not go your way, but by thoroughly preparing, you’ll have a much better chance than just “winging it.”

- Carol

Carol McKibben has 20 years experience as a C-Level Executive in the publishing and technology industries. She addresses human resources from a hiring manager’s perspective.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reinvention Step 1: Assessing Your Risk-Readiness

This post is part of the Reinventing your career series

Yes, most people would write 'assessing your risk tolerance' but that's largely focused on how much risk you think you can handle. In this case, we're talking about assessing your readiness to tackle the risks associated with making a career change, so it's a little different.

There are risks to career changes. You know the old saying, 'the devil you know' and all that, but how much fun has the devil you already know been lately? If you believe it's time for a career change, let's take a look at assessing the risks, so you can decide if you're ready.
  1. First, do you know what you want to be doing? If you have only a vague idea – 'I think I want to be a sommelier in a fine restaurant' or 'I think I want to manage an auto repair shop' – then you aren't ready. If you don't know at this moment what you want to be doing, then you've got some thinking to do first. Ask yourself each day (even every hour): “Is this what I want to be doing right now?” If the answer is no, then start asking yourself: “What do I want to be doing instead?”
  2. Next, do you know why you want to make that change? Once you've decide what you'd like to be doing, do you know why you want to make that change? It's not enough to say it's because you hate what you are doing because escaping from one career and jumping into another isn't the answer to landing where you are happy. You have to think about the reasons you want to make this change because change isn't easy. If you're fully invested in the change, then making it happen will seem easier even if it's still the same amount of work.
  3. Do you know what you want to get out of this change? Do you want a more flexible work schedule, better pay, a happier work environment? Not all career changes mean an open schedule, a bigger paycheck, or a stress-free workplace, but if that's your goal, then make it clear. The chances of making a successful career reinvention happen are better when the goals are clear.
  4. Do you know what it will take to get there? What skills do you have that apply to where you want to go now? What skills do you need to obtain? Any new career comes with a set of applicable skills, and having a full assessment of what you have and what you need can help you design a plan to get there.
If you're unsure that you want to make this change, consider visiting or volunteering in the job you want as a 'test run'. Seeing the new place will either inspire or frighten you, but either way, you'll know.

- Virginia

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scams and Schemes to Avoid While Job-hunting

Just because you’re looking for a job doesn’t mean that crooks will leave you alone.  They don’t care, and just because you’re low on cash doesn’t mean they won’t try to get it from you. Most employment scams use your anxiety against you.

One of the scams uses bogus news stories as the hook, linking to realistic-looking “news” sites with printed and video stories about people getting rich from Google.  In fact, many people really are making money using Google – they’re working hard, developing valuable products and networks. The scammers aren’t promoting hard work, though – they’re promoting phony get-rich-quick schemes with the real objective of draining your bank account into theirs.

Other websites claim to offer leads to legitimate online jobs, often for freelance writers, mystery shoppers or other work-from-home jobs. Again, there are plenty of legitimate opportunities for online employment from real companies.  The scammers, though, aren’t interested in hooking you up with a real job, they’re interested in hooking into your bank account.

In both of these cases, you’ll find yourself at a long web page that culminates in a pitch for a money-making kit that’s going to put you on the path to instant (or almost-instant) wealth.  The purchase price is often pretty low – sometimes under $10, although some go as high as $50 – and many folks who really ought to know better go ahead and buy it, thinking that maybe, just maybe, there’s something to it . . .

Of course, the kit’s a ripoff, and the buyer just writes it off to tuition in the school of hard knocks . . . until the next credit card statement shows up with a recurring charge for $47 or so from the same crooks. And because so many Americans – even the unemployed ones – don’t scrutinize their credit card statements all that carefully, sometimes these charges will continue for months or even years before they’re caught.

Another scam is a variation of the certified check ripoff. An “employer” hires you online to drive him around for an hour or so every day for a week or two when he comes to town.  He sends you a certified check to pay for an auto rental he’s arranged – all you have to do is drop off the payment with the rental agent, keeping a couple of thousand dollars as an advance on your pay.  The car, he tells you, will be dropped off a couple of days before he arrives in town. The check turns out to be bogus, but it won’t get returned to your bank until long after you’ve paid his confederate and spent your “pay” -- and now you’re responsible for making good on that phony check.

Protect yourself.  When you’re offered a job online, research your employer thoroughly. Don’t give out bank or credit card information, and by all means don’t pay anyone for a job! If you need to provide account information so you can be paid, establish a PayPal account for that purpose alone and sweep it clean immediately after you’re paid.

- Dale

After a long career in human resources, Dale lives in the metro Atlanta area and works as a business consultant and freelance writer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Use a Resume as an Advertisement!

The key to getting a job is accepting that you need to market and sell yourself. So, your resume needs to sell the benefits of hiring you. Think of it as an advertisement about you.

Here are some pointers to help you develop a resume that should serve as a good advertisement for you.
  1. Match your resume’s titles or headings to the jobs you are pursuing.   
  2. Include content that sells your skills and abilities. Don’t write “Managed company strategy.” Instead write “Fashioned strategy driving XYZ Company to Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies List in 2009.” See the difference?
  3. Wordsmith your resume. Use words that provide vivid images of your previous responsibilities. Don’t make generic statements. Be specific. Instead of “Gave out daily assignments to staff,” write “Assigned, directed and supervised daily writing assignments for editorial staff.” 
  4. Use clue words from the job description as your skills heading. Read the job description carefully and pull out significant descriptive words as skills headings. 
  5. Recognize and anticipate the essentials that your prospective job will require but that are not listed and show that you can also fulfill those needs.
  6. Don’t just list your past duties and responsibilities, sell or show how your abilities can benefit the company.  Let’s go back to #3 and the management strategy statement. Instead of “Managed Company Strategy,” how about “Implemented image makeover with new marketing materials and Web site that grew revenues 535%.”
  7. Always lead with the most impressive information about you that is relevant to the job you seek. 
  8. Present images that will capture your targeted salary.  
  9. Always customize your resume and cover letters to address the specific skills each prospective employer wants. 
  10. Proofread and eliminate all spelling and grammatical errors. Use strong action verbs. Avoid repetition. Don’t use personal pronouns, especially “I.” Maintain the same grammatical style throughout the resume. Never describe yourself with words like “the best” or “excellent.” Be accurate and honest.
  11. Put your name and all contact information at the top of a resume. For an interview resume that contains a second page, repeat your name at the top.
  12. For miscellaneous do’s and don’ts, include your degrees and the classes that are relevant to the work you seek, but don’t provide an extensive list of classes. If you have a college degree, don’t include your high school information. Don’t include personal information, like your age, health or marital status, hobbies, religious or political affiliations, etc. Don’t include your salary expectations.
  13. Contact your references and have them ready, but don’t include them on your resume. 
  14. Make your resume scanner-friendly. Do a search on Google to learn more about it. 
  15. Use fonts, like Time New Roman or Arial, because they are the most readable.
  16. Use 8 ½ x 11 quality paper printed on one side. 
  17. Always have your resume reviewed by an expert resume editor. 
Carol McKibben

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