Archives for how do I advance my career

Catch Your Next Job with the Right Tools

Photo courtesy of Casey Bisson of flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/fishjob Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Photo courtesy of Casey Bisson of flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/fishjob Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Trout season is approaching in Pennsylvania! Would you try to catch those fish by throwing stones at them? Throwing stones could possibly work, but using a fishing rod is a much better idea. We’ve all heard the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Learning how to fish is great, but you’ll still need the right pole. A rod used for fishing in a serene lake is very different from a rod used to fish in a choppy river. You also can’t ignore the importance of a good lure, bait and a hook. Not being able to catch fish means starvation, especially if you’re dependent on that catch for your meal. At the very least, you’ve wasted your time and energy with efforts that don’t pay off for the day. How many days can you do this before you give up? Likewise, when it comes to job opportunity, skills are crucial, but you still need the right set of tools and a good location to reel in an employer. Like a fish, a good employer can provide substance in the form of financial security, a sense of purpose, and putting your passions to use.

Find a place to start by creating a plan:

If you were going fishing, you wouldn’t start by running to the closest creek and casting your line. First you would decide on what type of fish you’d like to catch. Then you would research an ideal fishing location, and ask a few fishermen to tell you about it. Next, you would get your gear in order and you would be certain to make sure you have the right pole for the situation. You can think about job hunting in the same way. You locate your ideal employers, research the company, work your networks, manage your brand, revise your résumé and review it.

In my article, “Become an Effective Job Hunter: Work Smarter, Not Harder!”, I wrote that you can see tremendous results in fewer hours than you think, if you put your time into the right resources. A lot of job seekers may be tempted to apply online through job boards and internet searches, because they think they’ll be missing out on opportunities AND because it’s a habit. Or they perhaps they work during the day and feel that the job boards are the only resource they can turn to after work hours. However, the percentage of people hired via internet searching is shockingly low. Less than 10% of people are hired by employers through this method. In fact, only 5% of your time should be spent looking for work on job boards, after you’ve set up your agents and have validated suitable results. Choose two days per week to check your agent results and add those companies to your target company list, research them, network and market yourself appropriately. Relying solely on job boards is like going to the ocean to catch fish. The fish are plentiful and so is the competition. The chances of getting the fish you actually want are slim. This concept can be summed up succinctly by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, “The fishing is best where the fewest go.”

Picking your employer and role:

Do you want to work for a large employer, or a small company? There are positives and negatives associated with employer size. A smaller company will most likely have you wearing multiple hats. In other words, all of your skills will be put to use. If you’re the type of person who likes doing multiple jobs that take advantage of your dynamic skill set, a small company could be a great fit. If you prefer to do a specific job, and you don’t mind being slotted into one position, a larger company may be a better fit. It really depends on your needs, and your ability to identify those needs. These are typical characteristics of jobs at smaller and larger companies, but there are also exceptions. Your target list goal, if your criteria defy those typical characteristics, would be to identify those exceptions and research, network and market to them appropriately.

Once you have a company size in mind, and a possible employer, it is time to research that company. Job review sites like Vault or Glassdoor are great places to get a feel for employers, including salary rates. There may be companies worth flocking to. Other companies may raise too many red flags, or may not be a good cultural fit. I wrote extensively about this process in my article, “You Can’t Afford Not to Investigate Your Next Employer!” In addition to salary and healthcare benefits, vacation time can be considered as part of your compensation package. At this stage you’re still at the pre-qualification level, not unsimilar to when an employer determines if you meet the minimal qualifications for a job. At this point, you’d really want to do as thorough a job searching them as they would do to qualify you. There are some great research tips within the Daily Job Search Tips on the Accelerfate Facebook page.

Work your networks:

Networking is the number one tool in your job seeking endeavors. The word of mouth has serious power; according to a 2012 ABC report, 80% of job seekers land their position through networking. It is similar to the way a fishing buddy can help steer you to the right fishing spot. Start with your professional connections, friends, family and even alumni for job leads. Reaching out to employees and hiring managers at companies you’d like to work for could result in a job. It is through these professional and personal networks that possible job openings can be discovered. When companies have exhausted their internal candidates, they will often rely on referrals from employees and job seekers they’ve met at informational meetings. In short, networking is the lifeblood of a job seeker. Many people don’t think that they have a network. Other people assume that their network doesn’t know anyone. There are also people who’ve tapped their network, but got few to no results. Without connections, finding a job becomes significantly more difficult. I discuss how to tap into these networks in my vlogs, “How Does Your Garden, uh, Network Grow?” and “Get Interviews in Your Network.”

Your personal brand:

Networking is an outlet for your personal brand, and your brand messaging should be consistent with networking as with your content. A well-crafted online presence can be thought of as a lure for job recruiters. For working professionals, LinkedIn is absolutely the best place to be. Over 97% of recruiters looked for talent on LinkedIn in 2012. It also serves as a great tool to engage with recruiters, and further research an employer. You can receive job postings along with company news through the service. The postings are a great way to become aware of opportunities and to find out who you know that could recommend you for the job. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile recently, make sure you’re not using a default headline and that your profile doesn’t mirror your résumé. Make connections to your corporate and school alumni, if you haven’t already. You can also take your experience on LinkedIn to the next level by joining groups within your industry.

Facebook and Twitter are other platforms for your personal brand. You can cultivate your presence on these networks in order to capture the attention of employers. These are great tools for sounding off about your industry, keeping abreast of news, posting news, and following influential people within your industry. Professional blogs are also a great way to demonstrate your knowledge about your industry. Workers with a passion for their field, and those who take the initiative shine brilliantly, and stand out from the competition. Again, if your personal brand can be likened to a fishing lure for employers, bold and bright lures tend to capture attention. It’s like being the most attractive, juicy bait for your ideal catch.

Hook employers with your résumé and cover letter:

A fishing pole, lures, and other types of bait aren’t very useful without a good hook. No one wants to work hard with networking and personal branding, only to let the job get away. A well-polished résumé and cover letter can get an employer to bite. A personalized cover letter is the result of your research on a company. It stands out and makes it impossible for a hiring manager to ignore, even if the company isn’t hiring at the moment. A generic cover letter makes it much easier for a recruiter to ignore and weed out potential candidates. My vlog, “Our Cover Letter Secret Sauce” discusses how to write a customized letter. A well-tuned, well-customized letter can garner same-day responses from top executives at highly attractive employers. After all, taking the time to write a great cover letter shows an employer how passionate you are about the position, and how you could bring that same passion to the workplace.

A résumé is the deciding factor in getting that all important interview and most hiring managers only spend a few minutes looking at them. Taking the time to invest in a professionally written résumé can help you stand out from other job seekers. You are competing with hundreds of other potential candidates for the same position, and hiring managers are inundated with résumés and cover letters on a daily basis. The key is not just having a powerful, branded résumé, but getting it in front of decision makers.

You have your job skills, and you’re very good at your job. Think of landing a position at a new employer, like catching a great fish. Locating a spot where few reels are cast by others, wrestling with the fish, the excitement of pulling it into your boat and ultimately tasting the success of your hard work is a thrilling reward. Not only are you great at sustaining yourself with the job hunt, you can easily do it again the next time you’re ready to move on. New employment opportunities can bring greater financial gain, and renewed passion in your professional life, especially if you feel stagnant at your current employer. To get to the next level of your professional life, you’ll have to reel in a great employer, and you’ll need a good set of tools and the right techniques to stand out from the crowd. These techniques consist of brand management, going to where the recruiters are, and reaching out to hiring managers to ensure that they see your cover letter and résumé.

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Advance Your Career by Making Demands to Your Boss

Photo courtesy of sean dreilinger of flickr creative commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)(http://bit.ly/requestforhappiness).

Photo courtesy of sean dreilinger of flickr creative commons – Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)(http://bit.ly/requestforhappiness).

A number of years ago I had a co-worker who was unsatisfied with her position at our company. We worked in close proximity, and she had a habit of complaining to me about other employees. She lamented bitterly about workers who were allowed to leave early on light workflow days. They essentially only worked a few days a week and they were always guaranteed their same workstation. Meanwhile, she showed up to work nearly every day, but had to wander the work floor unsure of what her task would be for that day. In her eyes, the managers had their favorites, while everyone else had to suffer. Finally, I asked her, “Why not tell the boss how unhappy you are, and request a more permanent spot?” She stood silent for a moment, and then muttered an excuse about how her opinion wouldn’t matter.

In my past job, I noted that those who were bold enough to make demands from the boss often moved up in the company. To clarify, making demands doesn’t mean storming into your boss’s office and pounding your fist on the desk. It means making requests that will better your life and the company. Those who stayed silent often languished until their dissatisfaction either lead them to quit, or to remain unhappy and stagnant. Those who are really dissatisfied with their jobs can earn a reputation for being a toxic influence, which may lead to getting fired. This means not getting a good recommendation, which prevents you from landing anywhere new.

The thought of talking to the boss and making demands can be enough to paralyze some of us. A sense of dread and foreboding wraps itself around you and threatens to suffocate. Nervous thoughts and feelings of self-doubt swirl around in your mind. Silence rarely dispels dissatisfaction. You push back against the anxiety and summon your courage. You want to advance your career. Well, commanding the attention of your boss is the key to getting ahead. You no longer want to be the employee that goes unnoticed by your higher-ups. You have ambitions that need to be fulfilled, and you’re eager to take your career to the next level.

It may be tempting to keep your head down, work hard, avoid making waves, and hope you get noticed in the future. These actions constitute a good work ethic, but they may not capture the attention of your boss. That is, you may be a great worker, but not making noticeable waves only contributes to the status quo of your professional life. I always say, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, who cares?” In other words, the impact is isolated. Furthermore, if you want to take your career to the next level and secure financial freedom, your boss and the relationships of your workplace has a role to play. In terms of promoting yourself, integrating and building relationships with other departments can also raise your visibility level. The requests you can make of your boss can run the gamut. Your requests can range from the relatively minor, like asking for a more comfortable chair, to the life-changing events, such as a promotion or a higher salary.

Don’t leave your compensation on the table

When there’s a discussion of compensation, salary is the first thing to come to mind. Compensation is important in the work place, because our time and effort have value. In the hiring process, salary negotiations may make or break a job offer. While you’re employed at a company, your pay can also make or break your position. Your salary may not increase as quickly as you like, so at some point you’ll have to ask your boss for a raise. Consider it in personal terms: not asking for a raise is simply leaving money on the table, especially if you’ve been at your current position for a number of years. There are long term losses to consider. Once you leave money on the table, you are decreasing your salary for years to come. This can add up to millions of dollars that are earned, but are uncollected. You CAN make up for lost time by mastering the negotiation process, but the challenge and skills needed increase with every year you are paid less than you are worth. You may ask yourself, “What should my salary be?” Plug your numbers into the Unlimited Abundance income calculator to discover the answer.

Personal time is critical to your well-being

Time off is critical to your personal and professional well-being. You can make all of the money in the world and your job may give you immense pleasure, but what good is it to you if you never relax or see your family? If you work constantly without being able to take a vacation, or critical time off when you need it, it won’t be long before the burnout sets in. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2012 revealed that long working hours can result in a combination of stress, raised blood pressure, and other serious health problems. In some cases, working more than an average of 11 hours per day raised the risk of heart disease by 67%. In short, overworking can be detrimental to your hearth. The job you once loved slowly begins to turn sour. Instead of joy, the thought of work only brings you misery and dread. Additionally, you may forget how to derive joy from personal things— even when you are doing personal things, you can feel guilty about not working. That is a huge warning sign that priorities need to shift, or else time off will add to your stress. Personal time is vital to maintaining a healthy life.

Flexible Time

You may consider requesting the ability to telecommute or even flex-time from your boss. If you’re in the middle of unexpected life changes, such as a new child, a sickly family member, or the sudden need to move, working away from the office can be a huge benefit. Your boss won’t know you may need a more flexible schedule, unless you actually take the time to ask them. Some corporate policies are perceived to be inflexible, but many companies are seeing that competition for talent is increasing and are offering flex-time. Remote reporting is becoming more and more necessary to be a competitive employer, especially for hiring millennials. In my article, “Enticing Exclusive Millennials,” I wrote about effective ways for employers to attract new and recent college grads.

Additional on the job learning

Continuing your professional development is essential to your long term career. You can exponentially increase your value and promotability, thereby increasing your income. A good place to start is to know more about your industry and how to improve your performance. The fastest way to improve is to request feedback and constructive criticism from your boss, if he or she doesn’t already give it to you. Take that constructive criticism and focus on building your strengths and finding new ways to apply them, versus focusing on filling in your gaps. Marcus Buckingham, a business consultant and best-selling author, has written numerous articles highlighting the important of promoting your strengths instead of simply improving your weaknesses.

Education doesn’t end with your university degree; it’s only the start of your journey. You can consider attending industry conferences, tuition or certification reimbursement, or even bringing in training on-site for all employees to further your education. Your job is your passion, as well as a source of income, and it is a continual process to strive to become an expert.

You can also ask your boss what industry related books he or she is reading, and ask for sources of industry related news. Not only will this demonstrate your personal initiative, you will also have the opportunity to become more knowledgeable in your field. Having a goal to climb the advancement ladder is great, but not knowing what’s at the top of the ladder makes grabbing that first rung more difficult. If a boss doesn’t “get it,” you can also be the one to point out that if your boss can train you to replace him or her, they can move up. This only works in cultures where everyone isn’t always worried about their job security. If you’re in that situation, contact us and get unstuck!

Getting to know the boss

There are times when you need to get personal, and ask the boss what type of manager he or she is. Sure, you can take the “wait and see” approach and learn what type of person you’ll be working for. Or, you can take the intitive and ask. Some managers are, well, micromanagers. They have to oversee and have a hand in every aspect of the job. All decisions must go through them, and this approach can lead to learning valuable expertise on the job. Other managers prefer a hands-off approach. You’ll get the information you need to do your job correctly, and little else beyond that. Some managers are a mixture of the two approaches. The more you know about your boss, the easier it is to adjust your work style in order to avoid personal clashes. Better yet, when you know what style enables you to thrive and even what management style you would employ, you will want to qualify your employer before you accept a position. That way, you set yourself up for success from the get-go during the interview process.

You can ask your boss about their personal aspirations. What does the job mean to them? Where do they see themselves in five years? What does he or she think of the company? These questions may be difficult to ask at first, but knowing more about your boss can give you a nice snapshot into the company, especially if you’re new. Or, getting to know more about your boss could ease friction and tension at work (if it exists). Moreover, if you have a lot in common with you boss it could make promotions or job transitions easier. After all, personal relationships are vital to advancing your professional life.

Raising influence at work

Influence is another important aspect of your career. You can ask your boss for ways to become a team player for the benefit of your company. If there are critical projects, find a way to participate in them. Take your achievements and highlight them for higher-ups to see. If there’s a critical need that’s not being fulfilled, ask your boss how you can fill this gap. If there’s an issue or a need of expertise, you want to be the “go to” guy or gal at the company. Many of my clients have realized tremendous professional success by making themselves indispensable across the organization. This can come with some conflict, but the better you become at navigating and/or defusing that conflict, the more influence and responsibility you can anticipate.

If you’re ready to advance to the next level ask your boss for a promotion. If you’ve been turned down for a promotion, ask what you can do to succeed. If there’s a gap in your skills, discover how to close the gap. The problem could be as simple as needing more education in one area. Going into management is not always the most appropriate way to move up—not everyone is a natural manager and some are better off building their skills as a senior individual contributor. In this performance based economy, the length of time at a company is no longer the sole factor in terms of getting promoted. A promotion is something that has to be actively sought out. Again, if a manager doesn’t know you’re interested in moving up, he or she may not even consider you for a promotion.

Don’t forget the other perks!

There are little perks you can request from your boss to make your life easier to manage, especially when pure salary, vacation time or educational resources can’t be negotiated. A few examples include, having your dry cleaning reimbursed if you have a business formal dress code, reimbursement for a long commute, or having to pay a city wage tax. You can also consider healthcare flex spending accounts, college tuition savings accounts, and even childcare stipends. Sometimes these perks fall under different tax deduction categories, so it is more than worth it for an employer to make them a perk that they cover, versus giving you that straight compensation to pay for these things yourself. The ability to not use vacation time or lunch hours for doctor’s appointments is something else to consider. The big question to ask is, “What am I paying for out of pocket that my company can pay for where there is some kind of benefit for them, too?”

Your professional brand is your personal brand, and your brand is directly correlated to your market value and worth. What kind of value do you bring to your company, and your boss? If you had a great product, it would be insane not to advertise it, and to leave value compensation and perks on the table. In the same way, raising your personal status can pave the way for career advancement.  As I said earlier, silence rarely solves problems. If you’re feeling ambitious at work, or ready for a change, you have to voice your opinions to your boss. Sometimes getting to the next level in your professional life is as simple making a few requests.

The Who – You Better You Bet (Album Version Video)

The Who – You Better You Bet Full Length Version video. I love the second verse in the long version that I thought I would edit a video for it! Which has helped me to deal with my heartbreak! *sniffs* Well at least a little…..

Having Trouble Promoting Yourself? Try an Alter-Ego to Land a Job

Photo courtesy of Gwenael Piaser from flickr open source (NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic: http://bit.ly/1AQcsqF).

Photo courtesy of Gwenael Piaser from flickr open source (NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic: http://bit.ly/1AQcsqF).

Chuck Lorre is a television producer who struck gold as the writer and creator of Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. Despite his overwhelming career success, the 62-year-old producer suffers from “imposter syndrome,” a psychological phenomenon where people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. In a 2012 interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Lorre admitted when he writes a script that “stinks” he feels like a fraud, and needs to go and hide. The phenomenon is prevalent among high achievers. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg even discusses the problem with Oprah.

If we turn the imposter syndrome around for the purpose of job seeking, we have the idea of building up confidence. It is a way to mentally push past the hesitancy of many job seekers to fully promote themselves during the job search. When it comes to searching for a job, many candidates don’t promote themselves nearly enough. Many people balk at the idea self-promotion, and it is easier to talk about the value someone else brings to a future employer than it is to talk about oneself.

As a career coach, I see the connection between people who fail to portray their value as an employee and their lack of career advancements. I also saw as a recruiter that the job didn’t always go the highest qualified candidate. It went to the candidate who was able to build rapport and promote their value. These candidates often negotiated a salary higher than what we were told was “possible.” The prevalent tendency of job seekers is to shy away from self-promotion. It becomes much more difficult to advance your career, or make a job transition if recruiters don’t know about your skills or how you could bring value to their company. Learning to promote yourself means that employers will know the potential value you bring to their organization. Self-promoters understand being able to communicate their abilities, skills, and value as a worker are essential to taking their career to the next level. If you are feeling uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion, perhaps just consider it a change in your promotional tactics. The trick: create an alter-ego that is your agent and will promote your value.

Consider this 2014 report on NPR: Emily Amanatullah, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, realized negotiation tactics were a difficult subject for women to master. She ran an experiment where she had both men and women negotiate starting salaries for themselves and on behalf of someone else. The results were telling. The women who negotiated salaries for themselves asked for an average of $7000 less than the men. However, the women often negotiated for better starting salaries if they did so on behalf of a friend. Creating an alter-ego to self-promote during a career transition could go a long way toward getting that advancement. If it is easier to advocate for a friend, then why not become that friend?

An alter-ego, or second self has been used by figures throughout history. Many people have used alter-egos to keep their true identities secret, or to compartmentalize difficult opinions or actions. One of the most famous alter-egos of today is Stephen Colbert. In the satirical The Colbert Report, he is an outspoken rightwing pundit. The real Stephen Colbert is very private, claims to be less political and his true personality isn’t very well known. For our purposes an alter-ego would be an idealized version of yourself who constantly promotes your skills and value during the job seeking process.

Self-Promotion Matters:

In my article, “Why some people never get ahead” I wrote about why the lack of self-promotion can cause people to stagnate in their careers. If you’re uncomfortable with letting others know about your tremendous value as an employee, your professional network won’t take notice. The way you portray yourself to your networks can inspire people to make introductions that may lead to enticing job offers. For employers, you could be the solution to their problems. If you’re not out there promoting yourself, not only do you miss an opportunity to advance, but the employer misses an opportunity to secure great talent.

Avoid the mindset that simply keeping your head down and working hard will bring you the advancements you seek. Michael Cruse’s article “The importance of self-promotion in your career,” points out that employees seeking a promotion must act on their own behalf. It is rare that someone in a position to promote you will act as a personal champion for you, especially if they don’t know you’re seeking a promotion. Millionaire author T. Harv Eker writes about the people who believe talent alone is enough to bring them success in his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. Here is a very poignant excerpt: “You’re probably familiar with the saying ‘Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.’ Well, that’s only true if you add five words: ‘if they know about it.’” Sheryl Sandberg has stated in her book, Lean In, that an internal sponsor is critical to success. It is great to have someone willing to vouch for you, but you also have to be your own sponsor.

In short, self-promotion is the life blood of career advancement.

Creating a self-promoting alter-ego:

How do you create an alter-ego that is your agent? Imagine that it’s not you you’re promoting, but the solution that you provide, on behalf of someone else. That “someone else” could be your child, spouse, other family member, or a friend. Think of your best qualities, skills and talents as theirs, and formulate a plan to promote them. For example, if you’re a project manager, imagine talking up those achievements to get your friend promoted. If the idea of being a family member or friend is too abstract, try simple role-playing. Create an idealized version of yourself, freed from the shackles of your own limitations. You want to come as close to perfection as possible, and you are brimming with endless possibilities. Nothing is beyond your reach. You want everyone to know great this person is, and how they are the solution to employer’s problem. Even the greatest performers have created alter-egos for themselves!

When it comes to the job transition you first have to become your own best advocate. Sometimes it is necessary to create an alter-ego in order to promote yourself. Friends, family and professionals in your network may recommend you, but those introductions will only go so far. And while they love you and want what’s best for you, they won’t even know what to say about you to help you in an optimal way until you can articulate even to them what value you present to your future employer. No one can demonstrate your value to employers, except for you. Self-promotion is the key to moving forward in your career and your finances. Imagine the ultimate version of YOU. The rock star you. The version of you interviewed by Katie Couric. The version of you who travels to exotic places and can make heads turn at a gala. You ARE the center of attention and everyone wants you as the solution to their problems.

Get into the groove of your alter-ego:

Here’s an exercise for you after you’ve created an alter-ego. Create a list of five people who fascinate you and embody the qualities that you most admire. Now, share some of the characteristics of your alter-ego. Does your alter-ego have high energy? Could he or she get a crowd to clap along with you? Is your alter-ego the cool and mysterious type? And most importantly, how do you get into your alter-ego state before show time?

Ziggy Stardust | David Bowie

Song: Ziggy Stardust / David Bowie Footage taken from BBC 4’s documentary, The Story of Ziggy Stardust