What hot weather? There is an ongoing heat wave, but my family is inside glued to the television during the Olympics.
Yes, most of it is a nice distraction from all the negative things that could be getting my attention these days. However, the Olympics also inspire me to think about the level of success that is possible for me and all people. Success is possible for people whether they are a child on the little league team, an administrative assistant, software developer, middle management, or a CEO.
An Olympic level of success would look different for everyone and it does not necessarily mean appearing in TV commercials; I imagine what would be consistent would be a fair amount of hard work, a winning mindset, and the ability to have fun even under pressure. Perhaps that success does not come with a medal, but hopefully it will come with enough money to afford a good lifestyle, the ability to mingle with other top performers, and the peace of mind in knowing that you gave it everything inside you.
Answer one or a few of the following questions to see if there is an Olympian inside you.
If your job was an Olympic sport, do you think you could be the greatest in the world?
Would you be willing to test yourself against others who believe they could be the best in the world?
When you see the look of exultation on the faces of the Olympic medalists, can you think of and share with us a moment when you felt like that?
Is there any job you can think of doing for which you would sacrifice a social life, momentous family occasions, sleep, junk food, alcohol, etc.?
Would you be willing to move to another country to work with the best coach in the world?
On June 2, 2006, I was called into my boss’ office (I was reporting to two people). I received the news that I was being let go. I had been laid off twice before, and had been fired twice before, but this news was the best news I could have received at the time.
Earlier that year, I had been put on probation and asked to work under a mentor, the late, great Allen Astra, to make sure that I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. I had not made a placement in two-and-a-half months. This was after being offered the opportunity to work with a coach, the late, great Sheila Kutner, aka, “The Velvet Hammer.”
After two months on probation, I was given the chance to ask the account managers that I was working with to come into the board room with us, along with my mentor, Allen. They let me take the lead and confront them directly. Their general feedback was that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing to identify and present suitable candidates for their job openings, so I asked them for specific instances where quality candidates were not delivered. When no specific instances could be cited, my bosses then realized that it was a perception problem, not a performance problem, and my reputation was redeemed. I was no longer on probation, and I was to be assigned more viable jobs. However, I still was not feeling great about my job.
I had already realized that recruiting no longer fulfilled me. The seeds planted five years earlier to becoming a career coach before being laid off the first time were growing, pushing through the soil and begging for water, nutrients, and sunshine. Sheila helped me realize that I was the only thing standing in my way. What more did I need to know? Well, how to run a business, for one. She helped me devise a six-month plan that had started January 1st of that year. I joined a professional organization and took courses on career planning and résumé writing by one of the industry’s founders, Jay Block. My target date to quit and start my company was June 1st.
I had only saved up $1500 (this was a few months after Tim and I honeymooned in New Zealand, and the year after we threw a wedding for 250 guests, so there wasn’t much left in our account). I figured I did not need much overhead if I could land clients right away.
On Friday, May 13th, my 13-month old cat, Lucy, was hit by a car. The impact was to her head and face. We almost lost her on the way to the animal hospital. They gave her a 50/50 chance of surviving, and they thought her jaw was broken. The bills were $1200, but she recovered in two days and on Mother’s Day I was able to take her home. She’s still with us today and I never lamented spending that money.
I delayed my plans until I could save up another $1300, but my plans, I suppose, were not meant to wait.
On June 2nd, after being told just two months before that I was the right person for the job, though knowing the job was not right for me any longer, I was told that I would have one month’s severance and be eligible for unemployment benefits. They were letting me go, with no specific reasons. It did not matter…this was exactly what I wanted. Without that push out the door, who knows how long I would have stayed just to feel more financially comfortable and stable, only to feel increasingly dissatisfied in my role.
On that same day, I drafted an e-mail to all my friends, family and former colleagues, announcing my new résumé writing company, Charésumé (charisma + résumé, which was rebranded as Epic Careering in 2012) and asking them to visit my website. My website had been lovingly put together by my brother-in-law, a CTO, in exchange for my résumé writing services– my first client. A company was born, and I was reborn as an entrepreneur.
I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of that fateful day the EPIC way– there has been an idea rolling around in my head since reading “Think and Grow Rich” several years ago, and I will be finally testing this idea out on a much smaller scale.
It is a Career Revival Concert.
The act or an instance of reviving: the revival of a person who fainted.
The condition of being revived.
A restoration to use, acceptance, activity, or vigor after a period of obscurity or quiescence: a revival of colonial architecture; a revival of the economy.
A new presentation of an old play, movie, opera, ballet, or similar production.
A time of reawakened interest in religion.
A meeting or series of meetings for the purpose of reawakening religious faith, often characterized by impassioned preaching and public testimony.
Restoration to validity of something lapsed or set aside, such as a legal claim or status.
This combines sermon-like job search education with the emulsifying, healing, connecting powers of LIVE music.
On June 2nd, I would like to invite you to celebrate 10 years of Epic Careering with me. I’ll be doing a very short version of the Career Revival Concert – three songs with three mini-lessons, at open mic night at The Whitpain Tavern around 8:30ish.
I hope you can join me and bear witness to what could be the birth of a new way of helping job seekers, and offer valuable feedback that will help me make the CRC the most effective edutainment job seeker event possible.
Thank you for being a supporter to Epic Careering reaching this momentous milestone. Thank you to the hundreds of clients who have entrusted me to help you reach the next level in your career. Thank you to the family and friends who have cheered me on, cared for my children, and referred your loved ones.
Emma reading the newspaper by Diego Sevilla Ruiz of Flickr
Is it really possible to switch industries? Can anyone land at their dream job? As a career coach, I have seen many job seekers limit what is truly possible in their careers simply because they believed common misconceptions. Not only do common misperceptions or myths hold job seekers back, but they can be detrimental in the long run. Think of the prolonged job searches, feeling trapped at a job you are disengaged from, and how your health can suffer because of stress. By uncovering and debunking some of the most common job search myths, your job search can soar to heights you never imagined.
Myth #1: You do not need a cover letter
Are cover letters a requirement? Many employers require a cover letter, but think of them as the key to getting directly in front of a hiring manager. A cover letter demonstrates an interest in the company, explains your skills, and covers what is not included in your résumé. It is an introduction to a hiring manager that highlights your accomplishments, accompanies your résumé, and it is your chance to make your case for an interview. In fact, a cover letter is read before your résumé and often determines if a hiring manager will take the time to read your résumé. A well-written cover letter is tailored to a specific company, grabs the attention of a hiring manager, and beckons him or her to take immediate action.
Myth #2: Changing careers is impossible
Jennifer Ghazzouli was a bench chemist for the Philadelphia Police Department. She wanted more from her job and switched careers. She is now in recruiting and leads global hiring strategy for QVC. Jennifer was approached early in her career about becoming a recruiter and was told by others that recruiting is sales. She initially balked at the idea. However, Jennifer knew that she was not happy as a bench chemist. When she talked to her friends, they shared insights and ultimately the job lead.
Changing careers was one of the top frustrations of the many job seekers we asked. They find it is challenging to enter a new industry without the industry experience the job appears to require. A career change requires more work than changing employers, but it is not an impossible task. Like Jennifer, many of the people who successfully broke into a new industry do so through their network. In fact, I saw this happening as a recruiter. A position that called for a specific industry experience would go to someone who was able to promote transferable skills and experience as value-adds. Branding in these cases was just as responsible as networking. In terms of transitioning, research the new industry by looking at employers, asking questions of those already in the industry, and volunteering. Hard skills can be transferred from one career to another. Additionally, soft skills also play a huge role in your career. Unlike hard skills, a good grasp of soft skills is required in any industry. Like changing an employer, consider what makes you happy in your career and why you want to transition to a new industry.
Myth #3: The job of your dreams is not viable
Jack Morrison of SAP America never doubted his chances of success. Unfortunately, most people somewhere along the way are told and believe that success is not possible for them; that they are not worthy to receive what they really want, and/or that it is better to be accepted, and to not rock the boat. So many people settle for a job that pays the bills. Settling for a job you are not passionate about is a recipe for disengagement. Employee disengagement is an epidemic at 70%, costing US companies $450 billion each year, and costing individuals the chance to thrive, be fulfilled and well-paid. Just like with changing careers, research is king when it comes to landing your dream job. Make a list of companies that fit 80% of your criteria and begin finding and reaching out to contacts within those companies. Brian Quinn dreamed of being a rock star from a very young age and never gave up on his dream career. The path was not easy, but he worked hard to fulfill his calling and found success.
Myth #4: Do not leave your job without having another one waiting
It is always better to have a new job waiting before you quit. Having a job makes it easier to negotiate for a higher salary and you avoid unemployment bias. However, you may not always have the luxury of searching for a job while employed. Also, consider your happiness if you are employed at a job you dislike. If the job is stressful enough that you want to leave immediately, take your financial situation into account. If you have savings to get by for a little while, plan your job search out, and even consider the help of a career coach. Evaluate the costs to your life and potentially to your wallet by staying stuck versus the investment you make in being able to take control of your life. Think about being able to land at a company where you can thrive and be paid well. That is what we help job seekers obtain!
Myth #5: Employment is a one-way street
The job seekers who feel that they are at an employer’s mercy may be stuck in a cycle of disappointment in their job search. Their confidence is gone and they start to believe something is wrong with them, and they must take whatever they can get. In these instances, it is their tools and tactics that need adjustment, not who they are or what they want. The end result of putting yourself at the mercy of an employer is landing an awful job. It does not have to be this way. Just as an employer is making sure you are a good fit at an interview, you are doing the same. You owe it to yourself and your happiness to accept a job at an employer who will keep you engaged and fulfilled. Ask questions at your interview, discover their mission, and research them beforehand. Additionally, your number one weapon against being at an employer’s mercy is momentum, which we help job seekers generate. Momentum is having several offers in play, while employers bid over you- much like an auction. Instead hoping that you are hired by an employer, the employer hopes that they can persuade you to work for them. That is the power of job momentum!
Job seeker misconceptions or myths can prolong a job search and frustrate employees who want to make major career changes. Worse, these mistaken beliefs can cause job seekers to doubt themselves, to give up on their job searches, and to reach a place of disappointment and desperation. Often job search methods and tools are the problem, not the job seeker. By clearing away these misconceptions we hope that job seekers will reject these self-limiting beliefs and realize what is possible in their job search.
What common job search myths would you add to this list?
Steven Slater, a JetBlue Airways flight attendant, was frustrated with his job. He had enough one day and quit on the spot. He cursed at the passenger he had been arguing with, grabbed a beer, and slid down the plane’s emergency chute. Slater was hailed as a hero by many, but quickly landed in trouble. His method of quitting burned a lot of bridges, to say the least. Workers who are unhappy deserve to find a better job, but how you quit affects your job search. If you leave your employer in a bind, you may jeopardize your professional future as a reputation for quitting suddenly may follow you. Exercising patience and leaving on good terms will make it easier to land future jobs.
Keep your job search confidential
Revealing you are looking for work can cause you to be terminated immediately. Many employers fear that job seekers will depart and take confidential information with them, or they may not give the job their best effort. Ask former employers, co-workers, and clients for recommendations to avoid being discovered during your job search. Be aware that updating your LinkedIn profile may alert employers, but do not let that fear keep you from optimizing your profile. It is a small world and word of your search could travel. Explain to your trusted contacts and potential employers that your job search is confidential. When it comes to references, use previous supervisors. They may ask if your current employer will be a reference. The response to this question depends on how confident you feel that, in spite of your leaving, your employer will sing your praises. Let your prospective employer know that upon receipt of an offer, you will ask your current employer to be a reference. You can be honest if you are uncertain. All too often previous employers are spiteful, though there are laws in most states to protect employees from references that prevent them from landing viable new work.
Do not make a dramatic exit
If you have a toxic work culture, or boss, it may be tempting to heed the siren call of gleeful abandonment once your next position is secured. There may be an urge to slap a letter of resignation on your boss’s desk, or to tell your co-workers what you really think of them as you make your exit. Keep your exit civil and classy regardless of your working conditions. You do not know when you may need someone at your company as a future reference. They may hesitate to help you depending on how you departed.
Give ample notice
Turn in your notice at least two weeks before your departure. Two weeks is standard, but give a longer notice when possible to be considerate toward your employer. A sudden exit greatly inconveniences your boss, colleagues, and customers, and ensures you leave on bad terms as they scramble to find a replacement. Again, it is a small world and the reputation that you left your employer in a bind may follow you. While being considerate, you also want to protect yourself. Some employers may send you home that day when you give your notice, and you may even find yourself escorted by security. This is a policy sometimes borne out of concern that departing employers may take proprietary information, especially if you accept a job offer with a competitor. Still, give them the consideration of two weeks’ notice.
Train your replacement
Training new employees is time-consuming for many employers. Make the transition easier for your boss by offering to work with your replacement, or to create a training manual. These actions create a win-win-win scenario for everyone involved. Your boss does not have to spend time training a new employee, your replacement is empowered to move into your position with minimal effort, and you leave a reputation of reliability.
Finish your existing projects
Finish your existing projects and tie up loose ends. No one wants to be saddled with the burden of trying to complete someone else’s project. If it is not possible to complete a project, create and keep ample documentation. A finished project or detailed instructions makes it easier for your replacement to move into your role.
Connect with co-workers
Let your co-workers know of your departure and offer to keep in touch. Informing your co-workers in advance gives them time to prepare for the transition, though you want to use discretion about who you can trust. Send a farewell message via mass e-mail and give co-workers your contact information, such as a personal e-mail address and a LinkedIn profile. Prepare it before you leave, as you may only have 30 minutes to pack up your belongings and leave the premises. Make sure your colleagues are in your LinkedIn network and stay in contact. You never know where a co-worker may end up, if he or she may be your next boss, or in a prime position to hire you at a future job.
Do not accept a counteroffer
Your boss may make a counteroffer once they discover your intent to leave. There are good reasons to deny this offer. It is designed to stop you from leaving, but you may be fired within a few months as they devise a plan to replace you. Additionally, the dissatisfaction that caused you to seek a new job will remain, even with a pay raise. Remind yourself of the reasons you are leaving and stick to your decision.
If you work at a less-than-ideal employer, it may be tempting to burn bridges as you exit. We hope you are leaving your employer because you have big plans to become happy professionally. We encourage you to take control and plan your exit. If you really have days that are SO bad that you fantasize about going out in a blaze of glory, what you are really seeking is the ultimate feeling of empowerment. This does not come from that blaze of glory moment- that moment can burn you forever. It comes from intentionally and strategically planning your next move and exiting with class. Chances are there are others at your job having the same fantasy who will be inspired by and perhaps envious of your moving on to bigger and better. This is really the best revenge against employers who have proven undeserving of your talents, effort, and time.
A brilliant scientist was hired at a pharmaceutical company and was let go six months after landing. He was challenging throughout the qualification process, and I thoroughly coached him during the interview process. He ultimately lost the position because no one could work with him. His brilliance could not be properly leveraged to create value for the organization. Because of his failure to succeed, I was unable to place him anywhere else. Unfortunately, there are a lot of brilliant technically skilled people whose potential for creating value in this world is inhibited by their lack of ability to integrate and collaborate with others.
Soft skills such as time management, relationship building, and communication allow employees to effectively leverage their technical skills and knowledge. These skills are the unsung heroes of the working world and can make or break a job search. A lack of soft skills can cause an otherwise talented employee to lose a job. A good grasp of soft skills separates an above-average employee who constantly brings value to their company from an average employee who only performs their day-to-day tasks. There are numerous soft skills, but I’ve narrowed down the list to nine of the most important skills employers demand:
1. Time Management
Effectively managing time allows you to take other people’s busy schedules into consideration.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Give answers that stay within a reasonable limit of time for the details asked.
Demonstrating in your past experience: Promote your ability to deliver assignments or projects on time, even in challenging circumstances.
Communicating effectively allows you to connect interpersonally with others via written and verbal means.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Plan and practice what you will say before the interview. Speak clearly and concisely, and listen to your interviewer.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Provide examples of written material you created, such as a memo.
3. Relationship Building
Good relationships are built on trust, positivity, and communication.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Listen and be respectful of your interviewer, and ask questions in order to build rapport.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Talk positively about your previous employers and provide examples of teamwork.
Your attitude consists of a positive frame of mind that exudes hopeful optimism, and is focused on creating solutions.
Demonstrating it in the interview: You are positive and upbeat throughout the interview.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how your positive attitude raised morale, allowed you to easily participate in teamwork, and helped provide solutions.
Confidence is the belief in your own skills and the ability to take on new tasks.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and maintain good posture.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote your achievements, especially the successful completion of tasks that were new or difficult.
A good leader is constantly motivated to improve and acts decisively, even if you are not managing others.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Provide examples of how you faced a challenge and acted decisively to create a resolution.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Quantitatively speak about your accomplishments. How much money did you save the company with your actions?
Being flexible allows you to adapt to a variety of circumstances and people, and work through unexpected events.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer examples on how you quickly adapted to changing circumstances in the workplace.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you used your flexibility to step out of your comfort zone and to take on new tasks.
A creative employee offers suggestions or ideas on how to improve workflow, or increase work value.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Explain how you solved a productivity problem and how your solution benefited the company.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote the value you added to a company by introducing a more efficient work method.
Effective problem-solving takes into account how you encountered a problem, and how you persisted until the solution was found.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Walk an interviewer through your problem solving processes.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you solved a particularly difficult problem and how it positively impacted your employer.
Why soft skills matter
Employers use hard skills as criteria to ensure a candidate meets a job’s technical requirements. The interview determines a candidate’s soft skills. I spoke to Guy Fardone about how Evolve IP, a cloud services company, primarily hires candidates based on their emotional intelligence and aptitude. Questions the employer asks are “Do they look me in the eyes, and are they able to listen and then respond appropriately?” “Can they build rapport?” People who come in the door already having a baseline understanding of how to build relationships with people are going to be that much more successful in their career.
Many employers rate the importance of soft skills just as highly as technical skills. Your technical skills may open the door to interviews, but your ability to manage time, problem-solve, build relationships, and your creativity are what enable you to land and keep the job. Emphasize how your use of soft skills has to led success in the workplace, and how they can help you bring value to a potential employer. Successfully leveraging your soft skills and your technical skills can set you apart from other job seekers, and enable you to land faster.
Have you ever wondered if anyone outside of friends and family cared about your views and opinions on social media? In today’s job search, social media can make or break your chances of landing. According to a 2014 Jobvite survey, 55% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate based on their social media profile. Maintaining a strong and attractive social media profile increases your visibility, and invites potential employers to learn more about you. Your online presence can even be the factor that seals the deal after an interview. Employers can use your social media profile to verify your qualifications, your personality, to see if you’re a cultural fit, and work out other details they were unable to glean from you during an interview. Making these little details easier for employers to find helps your marketing hit the target and inspires action when you know what is important to the recipient.
There have been countless articles written about how NOT to represent yourself on social media, but what are the best ways to present yourself? I’ve compiled a list directly inspired by Youtern’s article, “These 5 Social Media Personalities May Be Unemployable” and put an EPIC spin on them.
So what are the best types of social media personalities that increase your chances of landing a job?
Complimentary Candice – Complimentary Candice is the type of employee who speaks positively about her experiences and her past employers. She highlights the good things her employers have done in the workplace, in the community, or how they positively impact the world. She comes off as enthusiastic about her work and her co-workers. She is the type of employee who comes to work with a smile and greets everyone with kind words. If the morale of the workplace is low, a Complimentary Candice will find a way to raise everyone’s spirits. In turn, she is the type of employee who people want to work with and her attitude can help positively impact productivity and profits.
Showtime Samurai – The Showtime Samurai knows that social media and being online is important in this day and age. This type of employee uses social media as a part of their overall image and to capture the attention of potential employers. The Showtime Samurai knows if they are invisible online they won’t attract as many job opportunities. They know it is completely possible to network and to be found by potential employers without using social media, but social media is their sword. They use their weapon to connect with others and draw attention to themselves. The Showtime Samurai is also honorable and knows they must put their best self forward. They have a networking infographic because they know it will improve their visibility among the job-seeking crowd. They are transparent and they have a sizable number of followers. This type of social media personality is very attractive to employers who value a large social media following because those employers know a potential candidate with lots of followers can bring an instant expansion to a company’s visibility. The Showtime Samurai is also the type who uses their charisma to draw others closer. Their influence is constantly expanding by their numerous initiatives and projects in progress.
Sociable Steve – Sociable Steve is similar to Showtime Samurai in that he knows the value of social media visibility. Where the Samurai is intense and loves a large following, Steve is laid back in his approach and doesn’t worry about large numbers of followers. He has an open social media profile and allows recruiters and hiring managers to not only follow him, but also accepts their friend requests. He knows that his passion and knowledge can be appealing to potential employers. His life is an open book that is warm and welcoming to anyone who comes across his profile. Sociable Steve’s other big strength is his ability to make clients and customers feel at ease. His easy-going personality and calm reasoning can diffuse a variety of difficult situations.
Professional Perry – Professional Perry knows that people are looking at his social media profile and that it represents his online brand. He doesn’t post inappropriate content, make crude jokes, and never shows his wild weekends online. Instead, he posts about the volunteering work he does, about his positive family outings, and his hobbies. His value makes him trustworthy and a good spokesperson for a conservative company with strict social media policies.
Transformative Tim – Transformative Tim is a change agent. He is bold and not afraid to tackle difficult subjects, engage in debate and to try and change public opinion TACTFULLY and RESPECTFULLY. He is a master at seeing both sides of an issue. He knows where he stands and does his best to win others to his side. Transformative Tim also knows where to draw the line and when to stop pressing if he can’t sway an opinion. This type of personality isn’t appropriate for all companies, but it is perfect for social impact organizations, non-profits, lobbying organizations, and public office officials.
There’s a counter-argument to the positive social media personalities: “If I only post about good things, I’m not being true to myself!” In his Slate article, Paul Heibert states numerous reasons why people tend to over-share content on social media that can make them un-hirable. One reason is the lack of inhibition and a sense of being invisible due to not having face-to-face communication with others when posting to social media. Like it or not, your presence online is your brand and employers are going to research you in order to lean more about you. The 2014 Jobvite survey noted that 93% of recruiters will review a candidate’s social media profile before making a hiring decision. Of the 93% of recruiters, 55% of those recruiters reconsidered a candidate based on their social media profile, and 61% of those reconsiderations were negative. Profanity, illegal drug references, alcohol references and spelling errors topped the negative reconsiderations on recruiters’ lists. On the flipside, over 60% of recruiters want to see positive content such as memberships in professional organizations and volunteering for charities. By using the knowledge that potential employers will search for you online and that you can make yourself more appealing through social media, you can increase your chances of landing the job.
If you have a social media profile and are searching for your next job, it is almost certain that a potential employer will view your social media profile. You can make their decision to consider you for the job easier by making your social media presence attractive. This means having a social media profile that will strengthen the best aspects of your personality and give employers a positive glimpse into the type of worker you will be at their companies. Your online presence also avoids the negative pitfalls that turn off potential employers. American entrepreneur Amy Jo Martin said it best: “Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.” Just as you want to be perceived positively by employers in the real world, you want to be perceived the same way online.
Earlier this year the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 40% of Americans have contingent jobs. These are considered alternate work arrangements as opposed to full-time positions, and include contractors and consultants. You may have landed a contract-to-hire job with the promise of a full-time position at the end of the contract. Now what? There are no guarantees that an employer may actually hire you at the end of a specified contract. Even so, many job seekers end up taking this kind of work while searching for a full-time job in the hope that it may become a permanent position. For some, it may be a conflicting decision because they feel by taking a contract-to-hire job that they are going to miss the opportunity of permanent work without the contract period. How can you optimize this arrangement to increase your probability of landing a full-time position at the end of a contract?
Optimize your contract-to-hire role
Employees in a contract-to-hire position can make the most of their contract by looking at the arrangement from the company’s point of view. Employers see the benefit of a contract-to-hire job as getting a chance to try out an employee before they commit to a full-time position. In this trial run, employers have the opportunity to judge an employee’s skills and to see if they are a good cultural fit. You can think of it as an extended interview for the duration of a contract as employers see if a candidate lives up to what was stated on a résumé. Additionally, employers can also ensure the budget for a particular project is secure without having to worry about paying salary and benefits. A contract job may seem to favor an employer, but can it be a backdoor that leads to landing a full-time position. In other words, it’s a great opportunity to convince an employer why you’re the best candidate for a full-time job.
Consultants who are trying to make the switch to full-time employment have a uniquely different experience than a candidate who is directly hired as a full-time employee. As a consultant, an employer expects you to know your subject matter, as there may be very little on the job training. Furthermore, consultants need to have the ability to focus, to be aware of, but not involved in company politics, and to know their strengths and areas of comfort. This means going above and beyond what is expected of you. You may be on contract, but there’s no reason not to approach the job in the same manner as a full-time position. Just like with a full-time position, you want to make your employer look good, and you want to respect their chain of command. You may be used to working as a full-time employee, but your role as a contractor is slightly different. You want to be noticed as an exceptional worker, but you don’t want to step on any toes. For example, you may have recommendations and feedback for the company. However, it is best to keep that advice limited to avoid being seen as a know-it-all. I’ll explain how to provide recommendations in few moments.
As a contractor, you are occasionally limited to using the same skill sets over and over again because you’re hired as a subject matter expert. Nevertheless, you are able to sample different cultures and environments and you can look for opportunities to touch technologies, processes, and functions that you previously haven’t been exposed to while you’re there. Being able to see what some companies are doing right, wrong, and a little bit of both can give you an expanded perspective that can help you become a strong strategist. This enthusiasm and willingness to learn can go a long way in convincing employers why you want to become a full-time employee, especially if you’ve been a contractor for a long time. Some employers may believe that you will miss being a road warrior (which is part of some consulting jobs, but not all), that you miss earning a higher hourly wage and that you are not as easily integrated into the fabric of the company so that you effectuate change. Beware of this color of perception, but it is absolutely a challenge you can overcome. If you need our help, we also specialize in this area.
Will this job translate into full-time work?
The employee who is rewarded with a full-time position has proven their value to a company. They have managed to stand out and have gone above and beyond to become indispensable to an employer. As I stated earlier, a contract-to-hire position is like an extended interview. Just like an interview, you want to demonstrate the value you can bring to a company. Find an employer’s pain point and work to solve the problem. Ask questions and challenge yourself to move beyond your comfort zone.
Asking questions is especially good because you can be seen as an outsider by other employees who may consider you to be a know-it-all coming to impose your idea of what is right on the company. This can be surprising to people who have never been in a contract-to-hire role before. This type of position takes a certain amount of diplomacy and earning trust. Asking questions is a great way to demonstrate that you seek to understand your role and the role of others. You’re able to gain a wider perspective and see the bigger picture of how all the pieces fit together at a company. This will enable you to grow faster into a strategic role in your company or at a different company. A full understanding of your role is always a great way to be visible to a wider audience and to expand your network and the company.
Contractors are expected to start out at a running pace and to come in with the skills that the company needs to perform at a high-level from the gate. Immediate contributions are going to be expected, so any understanding that you need in order to deliver should be procured within the first week. Then you will want to network with and ask questions of people in other departments regarding their function, duties, goals, and challenges. Stay away from asking about internal politics. Of course you want to know about them before you decide to become a permanent member of the team, but they usually become evident to you without inquiring too deeply.
Ask your hiring manager for feedback on a weekly basis rather than waiting for a 90-day performance evaluation. Make sure you know the protocol for operating as a consultant, as it differs slightly from the protocol of a regular employee. Follow the chain of command and respect your peers’ and employer’s reporting structure. Participate in social events in moderation- remember this is the age of YouTube and camera phones. Work longer hours and don’t leave before your boss.
Keep a diary or a notebook where you can record questions about why things are done a certain way at a company. Let your boss know that you’re keeping this diary during your weekly performance meetings and ask questions regarding these things before you make any recommendations.
Considerations to keep in mind BEFORE you accept a contract position
If you’re on the fence about taking a contract-to-hire position, there are a few things to keep in mind. Before you accept a contract position, ask the employer how often those contracts are converted into full-time positions. Even if employment is a possibility, keep in mind there are no guarantees. If someone in a consultant role doesn’t fully consider why he or she wants to be a full-time employee, a contract-to-hire role may end badly. I previously wrote about how the shift from a consulting role to full-time employment isn’t always easy– it’s worth reading if you’re undecided.
Contract work can show employers you have a good work ethic. That said, I think some people have the impression that as a consultant you’re able to manage your own schedule and that it’s like working for yourself. In reality, contractors sometimes work longer hours and they don’t necessarily enjoy some of the perks and benefits of employees. As a contractor, you are sometimes brought in to finish projects quickly and to sometimes clean up someone else’s mess. It can be an all-hands-on-deck, do-what-it-takes type of effort. You can also be excluded from certain meetings and social events.
Contract-to-hire jobs can fill gaps in your résumé. Employers are more understanding of candidates who land new consulting positions every few months versus full-time employees who change companies every few months. Even if you have landed a position as a consultant with a company, don’t stop your job search. A very tricky part of being a contractor is trying to line up your next job while you’re still working full-time (and them some) on the contract. Update your résumé as you go and keep a careful record of your every effort, result and impact you make. We specialize in helping contractors with this type of job search.
Contract-to-hire jobs are one pathway into full-time employment. Similar to an interview, candidates who prove their value to employers, and demonstrate their industry expertise stand the best chance at landing a full-time position at the end of a contract.
Mike Lazerow is an entrepreneur with a philosophy that grasps you by the chin and makes it impossible to look away. At least, that is how I felt when he stated his case about being a “weirdo.” In his words, “You do everything that authority says you have to do- get good grades, take the right subjects, make the team, wear the right clothes, comb your hair, go to the right college. You land your first big job interview and the first question they ask is, ‘Why should I hire you? What makes you so different?”’
At an early age we are dissuaded from pursuing our passions in order to settle for a “safe” and “normal” career. While this brings in income, 68.5% of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. There IS an alternative to high employee dissatisfaction. Through what we have been able to achieve with our clients, we know that having a career that fulfills you and pays you what you’re worth is not just possible, but probable when you execute an EPIC job search.
“There’s a lot of mediocrity being celebrated, and a lot of wonderful stuff being ignored or discouraged.” -Sean Penn
Surviving, not thriving
The most recent Gallup poll revealed that nearly 70% of employees are actively disengaged from work. This cost companies $300 billion annually. If a lack of employee engagement cost companies hundreds of billions each year, what does it mean for workers? This disengagement can cause frustration and a deep sense of unhappiness. In turn, that frustration leads to stress and anxiety and/or depression. Disengagement can also teach future generations that work isn’t something you enjoy or that can be fun, but is something you HAVE to do to survive. I see people settling for jobs that offer what they think is security in exchange for their passion as a sacrifice for their family. This exchange is what they think they need to do, but how did they come to that conclusion? How and when did they decide that they couldn’t have a job they loved and that enabled them to take care of their bills, family and retirement? It is a fallacy that was learned from the examples of others, and the longer we perpetuate it by staying in jobs that don’t engage us, the more future generations will continue the same cycle.
The best cure for disengagement is to avoid taking a job you don’t enjoy. Some people may wonder how to tell if they’ll enjoy a job or not. Others believe they’ll eventually find enjoyment in a job if they try hard enough. There are questions you can ask yourself to ensure you accept a job you know you’ll love. Seek a job that leaves you fulfilled, adds value to your personal and professional life, and gives you a greater sense of purpose. Before you apply to your next job, figure out what you want from an employer by identifying your criteria.
If you’re disengaged you are either A) in the wrong job, or B) not taking full accountability for improving your situation. I believe the majority of people are in the wrong job and have yet to find work that is exciting and fulfilling. When people settle, they settle for way less money than they would be able to make if they were in jobs that enabled them to fully utilize all of their talents. A fulfilling and engaging job would allow people to thrive and perform at higher levels, because they would have an effervescent energy that would be hard not to notice. Putting in extra hours would be a natural inclination, because you love what you’re doing. Job fulfillment is something that gives you energy instead of draining you.
If I knew growing up that I would find work that I love so much, work that I would want to do all the time, that gave me a buzz, and that made me feel triumphant, I would have been looking for engaging work from the start. I didn’t know such work was possible until I found it, and I’ve had jobs I liked before I discovered my passion. Passion-filled work is on another level! It literally calls to you and draws you closer. Or as Emmy Award-winning Fox 29 Producer Berlinda Garnett stated in our August Epic Career Tales interview, “A calling is that thing that’s been laid on you.” Esther Hicks nicely sums up why passion trumps motivation, “Motivation is the antithesis of inspiration.” You don’t need to manufacture motivation when you do work that is inspiring.
Being fully engaged at work means finding satisfaction and pride in how you contribute to your company. You want to say you’re proud to work for your employer, you’re proud of what you do for a living, and how you and how your job contributes to society as a whole. An engaging job also presents challenges that aid in your growth. Tim Pash and his role at Microsoft are the epitome of an engaging job. Tim is definitely proud to work for Microsoft and loves the challenge the company provides. Tim admits Microsoft is a tough, but fulfilling place to work because the company really pushes employees’ abilities. The company also encourages employees to constantly create and share new ideas with co-workers and managers. Thanks to the challenges, mastering a job at Microsoft is one of the best feelings in the world. For more on Tim Pash’s role at Microsoft, make sure to sign-up for our newsletter so you can listen to and read about his Epic Career Tale.
Some people believe it doesn’t matter how you feel about a job as long as you’re able to pursue your passion outside of work. I disagree for many of the reasons I’ve already stated, but one really stands out to me: We don’t know how much time we have in life. Why bother to spend the time we do have stuck in an employment situation where survival is just good enough? The death of my nephew two springs ago really drove that point home. Working too hard, not spending more time with friends, and not living a life true to your dreams are some of the many regrets of the dying that Jane McGonigal highlights in her TED Talk. Just imagine how much pleasure and joy we can derive from life if we apply our talents to work and pursue what we love, rather than going after the jobs that we think will provide the most stability, even if it costs us our happiness.
Imagine waking up every morning and being excited to work, instead of dreading another 40-hour week. You may have had people who’ve constantly told you it is better play it safe with a career you might not like rather than risk failing by pursuing what you love. This attitude can bring unhappiness and disengagement. Many people also VASTLY underestimate who they could be and what they can do. It’s not too late to reconsider your career choice. The pursuit of work that engages and satisfies you can lead to a life where work is a joy and you spend your time doing what you really love.
M11 Junction 8-9 Scheme by Highwaysengland on Flickr
Under the right circumstances working with a recruiter to land your next job can be extremely beneficial. If you have a position or ideal firm in mind and meet the requirements, a recruiter can aid your job search. In my previous article “Why Recruiters Won’t Get You a Job” I wrote about the pros and cons of working with recruiters. While it is true that recruiters work for the employer, not the job seeker, I fear I may have scared some people away from ever working with recruiters. Recruiters are like any other tool in your job-search arsenal.
There are times when you’ll need the help of a recruiter, such as needing to place your résumé directly in front of a hiring manager. In this case, building a relationship with a recruiter can be highly beneficial. Other times, you may need advice on making a transition into a completely different industry, or résumé advice. In these situations recruiters aren’t in a great position to help you. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t hang a picture using a hacksaw, you would use a hammer. In the same manner, recruiters can’t meet all of your job search needs, but can vouch for you when you’re a good fit for a certain job.
Just to be clear, I’m focusing exclusively on external recruiters. External recruiters are third-party firms who submit candidates to hiring companies and compete against other firms to place candidates. They work with employers, but aren’t part of the staff. Their placement fees are paid by the hiring company.
Do your research
Before consulting with a recruiter, have a clear idea of what you want from a position, including your compensation/salary. Evaluate a company and if you determine it meets 80% of your criteria, move forward. Make sure you’re also a good match for a job description. If you don’t have 80% of the skills required for the job, don’t make a recruiter try to pass you off with more skills than you actually have. The 80% rule comes straight from the employer’s rules-of-thumb. For example, a job may require 10 years of experience as an IT project manager and someone applies knowing they only have 5 years of experience as a retail manager. Recruiters are expected to find candidates that match a position’s requirements as closely as possible. In most cases, they’re competing against other recruiters who will also be sending candidates to employers who closely match the requirements. Recruiters remain competitive by finding job seekers who match as many requirements as possible. This isn’t to say that the job always goes to the candidate who best fits a job description and requirements.
Recruiters also want you to be as marketable for as many positions as possible, as they are sales people. They may even advise you to be presented for an opportunity outside of what you have decided to consider, if you have the needed skills and qualifications. A recruiter can give you advice about how to get placed, but they are not career management advisors or career coaches. Use your discretion when making these types of decisions and maintain control of your career direction. Don’t waste your time if you know a position outside of your comfort zone will be a lifestyle burden or a huge step backward. However, be open-minded about everything else and remain truthful about what you ultimately want throughout interview process. Sometimes, you can’t see the path to what you want from what’s being offered, but once you get in the door and establish your value and inspire excitement, you may be able to create the path you want.
If you’re working with a third-party recruiter, be honest about your compensation. External recruiters are compensated for a successfully-placed candidate and their fee is usually 20% to 30% of a candidate’s first year salary. The higher your starting salary is, the more a recruiter is paid. That said, the process of negotiation with a recruiter is very different from negotiating with a potential employer. In the employer’s case, the process involves a direct discussion. An external recruiter is the advocate who will negotiate in your best interest to land a position at the highest rate possible. There are times when an employer will give the job to the cheapest candidate. However, better employers understand the value of greater experience that a potential hire can bring. A higher salary is a justifiable business expense, but it must be ultimately approved by finance. The sky isn’t the limit when it comes to company budgets.
Recruiters are people too. This is a golden rule that some professionals overlook. When I was just starting out in recruiting I spoke with professionals who treated me as though I was a peon. They insulted me for not knowing enough about what they did. If I asked them about their skills, they would tell me my questions didn’t really matter. I should have known they possessed particular skills because they were experienced experts. They did not enable me to validate the depth of their knowledge by providing answers to my questions. They were the type of candidates who, in their show of bravado, failed to impress me! As I gained more experience, I would continue to ask questions about their technical skills to validate them, especially after I learned (the hard way) that some candidates are very good at pretending they are skilled. A lack of respect and an over-exaggeration of skills make these types of candidates very difficult to place and risky to present. If they were condescending toward a recruiter, imagine how they might treat a potential employer.
Take a recruiter’s unsolicited calls even when you’re not looking. I often hear many people complaining about how recruiters only want you when they need you. However, I can say the same was mirrored back to me when I was a recruiter. Certainly, I made hundreds of calls per day and some days only received 10 return calls. Granted, if I’m a recruiter and I’m trying to fill a position, talking on the phone with a candidate who’s not actively looking doesn’t seem like the best investment of my time. Nevertheless, building a relationship is a very wise investment of time for both sides. Even if you’re not actively seeking a position, hear what a recruiter has to say, learn about the open position and refer a friend. Someday, if that friend is placed, they could be your internal sponsor for a position you’re interested in. Chances are, you’ll be looking for a new position in three to five years. Plus, some recruiters have a referral program and you could earn a one-time bonus when a friend is placed.
Perhaps you are sick of getting calls from screeners who seem to be very far removed from the recruiting process. Refute your bias, as my old vice president used to say. You don’t really know as much as you think you know about people on the other side. You certainly don’t know who they might be some day. A recruiter could someday become a valued ally, an industry leader, or even your next boss. A screener may seem like an extra gatekeeper, but if the gate opens for you, it’s one step closer to your potential next job.
Follow-up after an interview and keep in touch
Follow-up with your recruiter after a company interview and let them know how it went. Be honest, relay anything concerning that may have occurred during the interview. Recruiters can sometimes go to bat for you and can make all the difference. For example, if you had a rough morning and when you walked into the interview, you may have been flustered and nervous. Let your recruiter know about difficulties you had and he or she may be able to talk to HR and keep your name in the candidate pool.
Keep in touch with your recruiter by using patient persistence. This means sending e-mails and phone calls if you don’t hear back from them immediately. Ask about any relevant information regarding the position. Start your follow-up within a week of submitting your résumé and within a few days of an interview. Weekly check-ins are reasonable if your recruiter has submitted you. Always confirm the submission; they do owe it to you to let you know whether or not they have submitted you for the open position. If you haven’t been submitted, ask why. You may not have been a good match or a better candidate may have received the job.
In fact, most recruiters don’t mind you following up because they’re busy. They work on job requirements that are hot and tend to let follow-ups fall through the cracks. “Hot” is the sense of an urgent need, where the chances of getting a placement are high and the fees are desirable. That doesn’t mean recruiters don’t want to give you an update. If you take it upon yourself to ask for an update, and practice persistence, you can receive the information you need relatively painlessly.
Build a relationship
A steady flow of talent is the lifeblood of a recruiter and referrals can help immensely. If you don’t fit a position, refer someone who does. Better yet, refer a client to a recruiter. You may know a company with a particular problem that a friend or colleague may be able to solve. In this case, your colleague has new work and a company can resolve an issue. Not all recruiters work on business development, but you can imagine how great a recruiter looks when they’re able to place candidates AND bring in new business. Additionally, share news and resources. Recruiters are often so busy with work that they may have missed hearing about the latest trend. Candidates can be their eyes and ears, and help them keep abreast of new trends. A little information can go a long way in building a relationship.
Take your relationship with a recruiter to a new level by engaging them through social media. Try connecting with them through LinkedIn using customized invitations. Additionally, Twitter and Google+ are great places to connect, follow and keep in touch. Many recruiters have also mentioned through Tweet Chats that Google+ is a resource they use to find IT professionals. Tweet Chats are a good way to learn directly about hiring from employment thought leaders. (You can participate with me and other experts in a Tweet Chat this Friday at 3PM ET under #epicjobsearch.) Being connected on social media is also a great way to demonstrate your passion and expertise in an industry. Your résumé may state your skills and interests, but social media is a great way to illustrate those interests.
Working with a recruiter can help you land at a new job faster. If you’re a match for a position, a recruiter will do everything in his or her power to make sure you’re hired. A recruiter can bring momentum to your job search. Imagine being able to find open doors at a company because you took the time to establish a relationship with a recruiter. This relationship can enhance your own ability to create job security in the future.
A job candidate who’s in high demand is highly desirable to potential employers. The better talent they have, the more competitive they can be. A powerful and distinct brand is expressed through your résumé, LinkedIn profile and biography. Being a competitive candidate also means having an effective targeted employer campaign and being able to elicit several job offers. How you accept and turn down offers can impact your future career prospects. Strategic career management is like chess – you want to think several steps ahead. Let’s take a look at how this can play out.
Katie is a Marketing Director who is ready to move on to a new employer. She’s highly influential on social media and she has established herself as a thought leader. Katie enjoys a mode we call “career autopilot,” where offers to interview and meet high-powered players in her industry come weekly, and sometimes daily.
After confidentially letting her network know she’s looking for a new job, it wasn’t long before Katie began to receive interviews for a variety of companies. She had several job offers, but knows she’s only really interested in one company. The other companies offer her better pay and benefits, so Katie decided to play the companies in the hopes of getting the same benefits from her favorite company. Her favorite company ultimately rescinded the offer after deciding the amount of pay Katie wants is too high. The other two companies feel as though Katie manipulated them by using other offers and suspect that she had no real interest in ever accepting their offers. They also rescind, and Katie suddenly finds herself without any job offers AND with a new reputation as an unethical manipulator who will waste precious time and man-hours. Word spreads because the world is so small. Not only did Katie eliminate her current prospects, but also future prospects with these companies and many more who will learn about the games she played. Where did she go wrong?
Many job seekers would envy Katie’s scenario of having multiple job offers. That said, no one wants to find themselves in a position where their attempts to negotiate better pay or benefits from potential employers backfire, and they find themselves without any job offers. There is a way to create demand for yourself, use that demand to get competing job offers, and to negotiate what’s best for you without manipulating potential employers so that you can remain in-demand and position yourself for future career moves.
Social media is an excellent tool to establish yourself as an expert and to generate demand by creating and sharing valuable content. The ability to engage a recruiter or an industry influencer as a sponsor is only a few clicks away. This shows potential employers that you’re passionate about your industry and it may even help them partially determine if you’d be a good cultural fit. A productive presence on social media where you constantly create and share valuable content for your followers can make employers want to reach out to you.
That said, social media can be deceiving if you’re not careful. Being in demand doesn’t mean just having a lot of followers. Being in demand means having job opportunities that are organically generated amongst your engaged followers because you’re constantly in the spotlight. However, you’ll need to use real-world networking activities to capitalize on those opportunities and turn them into job offers. My article, “7 Steps to Powerful Introductions” details how to do this.
The ultimate leverage and the dangers of improper etiquette:
Imagine your job leads have materialized into several competing job offers. This is what I refer to as the ultimate leverage. You have the ability to choose which job interests you the most. Before deciding to accept any job offers, you must narrow down the number of companies based on a list of your personal criteria. This allows you to focus on the potential employers you really want to work for and to prequalify them as good fits. A good rule-of-thumb to remember is that when a job meets 80% of your criteria, it’s a good indication that the opportunity is a strong fit. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a tool that can help you research a company. Having these lists help you narrow down what you really want from a potential employer and will even pair down the list of competing offers.
Every person uses logic, their intuition, and their heart to different degrees when weighing these decisions, so while these tools and processes will provide you with logical input, you may still want to go with your intuition or heart. If you are drawn to a particular company or opportunity, use the same process to evaluate what you want for your life that a company might offer you that would actually make you seriously consider their offer. If the answer is nothing, gently let that company down as soon as you discover this. Thank them for the offer and express an interest in keeping in touch for the future.
If following your list of criteria still leaves you with several competing offers, you can use that as leverage to help decide which company to choose. What you don’t want to do with your potential employer is be pushy. It’s okay to let them know you have received other job offers. You don’t want to demand that they make you a better offer, or to imply that you won’t consider their current offer. The employer may just decide to go with another equally-qualified-less-demanding candidate.
Don’t try to bluff a company into hiring you sooner at a salary you want. Bluffing could consist of creating a fictitious salary, benefits, or even a fictitious offer. They may ultimately call your bluff. And you’d be surprised how many competitors consort. The companies may be competing for customers, but the employees have frequently been co-workers and friends.
When you have competing job offers, narrow down the list of offers to a favorite company and a follow-up company. As for the contenders, go into negotiations with a very clear idea about what a company would have to offer you in terms of salary and lifestyle to entice you to accept. Be transparent and respectful of their time and efforts. Hiring is costly, and companies will appreciate knowing where they stand.
Let your potential employers know that other companies are also considering you. Think about it this way: an employer doesn’t want to make an offer and prepare to hire you, only to discover you’ve suddenly turned down their offer without knowing why. You don’t have to go deep into detail with companies about competing offers, but give them a timeline of where you are in the process. Be careful with the question “Who are the other companies?” If you’ve been upfront up to now, they may believe you when you say that you’d rather not disclose that information. However, if you have been at all shifty, they will assume you are bluffing and manipulating and you’ll find yourself like Katie. Some companies, however, are conducting a confidential search, and you don’t want to look loose-lipped by divulging that, either. If it is not a confidential search, let them know with whom they are competing. If it is a confidential search, however, state so. They will appreciate your discretion.
If a company really wants to hire you, they may move the hiring process along faster or offer you incentives to help you decide. Or you could be upfront (without being pushy) and ask if the company can provide additional incentives such as extra vacation time, transportation credits, a nicer office, or even a flexible work schedule. Do not ask for these things if you wouldn’t accept the offer. Making an offer work is time consuming and requires the effort of multiple people. Don’t put them through that if in the end, there’s nothing they could offer you that would make you accept.
Once you’ve decided to accept a job offer, break the news to the competing company. Let them know you appreciate the offer and why you accepted another offer. Be kind and authentic in expressing how hard of a decision it was, and how interested you were in their company and opportunity. You don’t want to come across as rude or arrogant. It’s best to leave the door open for future opportunities or the chance to expand your network.
Having multiple companies compete over you seems like an enviable position, and it is. Once our clients are there, however, they are surprised at how much pressure they feel to make the right decision. By using our tools and processes, and by playing the game with integrity, they ensure that they are not closing doors and limiting growth. Instead they are using the ultimate leverage to win now and in the long-term.
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