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Your Heroic Job Search

Simply-become-who-you-are

David is a programmer at a small company. One day he received a promotion to management. He used to love programming, but lately it feels like everything is going wrong at work. He’s learning a tremendous amount about the business side and loves to interface with the C-level: but, at the end of the day he is exhausted from all of the people-problems he has to deal with on the job. Drama between co-workers, scheduling issues when people call out sick, confronting his staff about missed deadlines, and their failure to meet performance expectations are just a few of the issues he has to resolve.

This affects his usually-pleasant disposition and he becomes a grumpy person at work and home. David is now irritable and impatient with his family. His relationships with his wife and kids suffer. His son’s teacher now recommends that David and his family see a therapist weekly. His problems begin to extend beyond work and his immediate family. Even though David knows that he only has so much time with his ailing parents, he resents how they depend on him. He has no energy to take care of his health, and now his doctor wants him to start taking cholesterol and blood pressure medication. David also didn’t take care of his car. He forgot to get it serviced and inspected, so he was pulled over and fined for driving with expired inspection stickers, and the mechanic identified major engine problems due to his failure to get regular oil changes.

As David’s expenses grow, he has to cancel plans for vacations, which further disappoints his family. He starts to feel like there is no reprieve from his life. David is getting a month older with every day that passes in his life. He feels hopeless. Nothing is going the way he wants. It is as if he’s walking toward the abyss and nothing can correct his course. He knows he has to do more to save his health and to reignite the passion in his career. The desire to search for a new job, and to leave the stresses of his current job behind are calling to him. David has to answer the call.

David wants new adventures and excitement in his life. He wants to feel as if his work matters, instead of feeling like a cog in a giant machine. Each night after work, he applies for new jobs on various job boards and on company websites. Most of the time, he submits his résumé and never hears back from potential employers. Other times, David’s interviews are torturous, as he tries to explain why he would be a good manager. He then tries to go back to programming, but receives even fewer responses, and is told he is over-qualified, and addressing his failure to be an effective manager continues to make him feel inadequate and embarrassed. He knows he’s not making a great impression with employers.

A year passed and David is still miserable at his job as a manager, unable to find anything new. He needs change NOW. David asks a few of his friends for advice and one of them suggests reassessing his job search. The manager knows he wants more from his job search. He doesn’t want to waste any more time and energy at his unfulfilling job. He begins the reassessment by attempting to identify his strengths, assess his skills, and tries to assume a new professional identity while carving out his own personal niche in the job market. David has a difficult time trying to achieve the vision he set forward. He reaches out to a career coach who can help him relay those findings into a vision of his new professional identity.

With the advice of a career coach, he is able to learn how to apply his strengths as a business analyst, has a new résumé written, and even learns how to connect with others in his desired industry. The career coach helps him develop a three-month plan to close the skills gap he needs to be considered a Business Analyst, and helps him enroll in online courses that he can take while he searches and works full-time. David learns how to demonstrate his value and passion to others. He also revamps his LinkedIn profile, and it is rewritten to promote the transferrable skills and innate talents he has been using all along. He is able to show how he will apply his skills in a new way, in a new role. The the results are almost immediate. Within three months of hiring a career coach, David receives job offers from multiple companies and discovers his negotiating power. David lands a job as a Business Analyst at a company he loves, while earning a higher salary than he did at his previous job as a manager.

David’s journey from a job he hated to a job he loved is not unlike the journey of a hero– a term used in fiction-writing. The call to adventure is often ignored or refused by the hero in his or her journey. The refusal might be because of a sense of fear, insecurity, or obligation. Refusing the call means feeling stuck in a place of hopelessness and being a victim to circumstances. Joseph Campbell, an American writer, helped summarize the concept of the Hero’s Journey in his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In his concept of the hero’s journey, the hero’s tale only takes a turn for the positive when he answers the call of adventure:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

 

Think of it this way: the decision to search for a new job, whether you’re unemployed or seeking a better job, is a journey. In your job search, YOU are the hero: but thankfully, you are also the AUTHOR of your own epic journey. Like the hero in many stories, your journey never really goes anywhere until you heed a higher calling. In the case of a job seeker, this would be the call to leave the job you’re dissatisfied with, or avoiding taking just any job if you’re unemployed. Heeding the call means you’ll be victorious in your journey. But many of us (at first) choose to ignore the call. What does this look like? More importantly, how can we get our heroic journey started?

 

The Journey and ignoring the call:

If you’re failing to find purpose in your job and your job-search journey is stalled, these are symptoms of a much greater problem– you are out of sync and out of alignment with your purpose and passion. Living against this grain causes splinters and calluses, much like how you can go into numbness and resignation. Until you surrender to the calling, EVERYTHING goes wrong.

If you’re dissatisfied with your job and you feel your life has a lack of passion, it’s not too late to start on a new journey. Bill Walsh, America’s Small Business Coach, said it best: “If your why is strong enough, the how will come.” Consider your own “why.” That is, what are the things that give you passion, drive and purpose in both your professional and personal life? Why have you chosen your particular career? Did you do it just to draw a paycheck? Or do you want to help others succeed: give back to your community: and enjoy your life to the fullest? Your “why” is something only you can answer. I created my own “why” video as one of my first assignments from Bill’s Rainmaker Summit.

Landing a job that helps fuel passion and purpose is a critical part of the hero’s journey. Remember, ignoring the call-to-adventure means being stuck in a place of stagnation and unhappiness.

 

Heeding the call:

At this point, you may feel like our hero who is on the cusp of embarking on the adventure. Right now, you may feel stuck, but you’ve found your reason for wanting to achieve greatness. Perhaps you were meant to read this very post, at this very time. It may be your time to STOP and listen to the call-to-adventure, start your hero’s journey, and accept the call to adventure. Don’t navigate it alone. Every hero has allies he or she can depend on. Those allies may be family, friends, alumni, co-workers and even acquaintances.  They are your network and they are willing to aid you in your journey.

There’s also the option to seek out professional help, if you feel your network can only take your journey so far. A career coach can help you discover the direction you need to take in your journey. Our own book, “Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint Your Purpose and Passion in 30 days” is a journal guide that can help you discover your passion. Whether the future is completely open or you know you need to make some major shifts, but keep a few things in place, our services will help you formulate a clearer vision of your future, so that you can build a strong foundation for a brand and campaign that manifest your ideal future.  We also recommend Derek Rydall’s programs to help you see what is in you already and to help bring it OUT, so that you can become who you are.  We suggest starting with Rydall’s “Best Year of Your Life Podcast” and then considering his Emergineering Program.

 

Decide that NOW is the time to answer the call-to-adventure. This will mean no longer being stuck in a mediocre job, and having the to power to change a career path. Discover what your “why” looks like and how it can help guide your job-search journey. As I said earlier, it could be finding a job you’re passionate about, finding your own financial freedom, earning a better salary, or even helping others in your community.

In your hero’s journey, once you find your “why” you can draw your sword and attack your job search with a renewed sense of purpose. No more job boards. No more torturous interviews. You’re going to be intentional about your future. You may decide that you want to enlist the help of a mentor, a career coach, or you may read about ways to discover and apply proactive methods to your job search. Creating a plan, choosing and targeting employers, networking, building your personal brand, hiring a résumé writer, and crafting a new cover letter are just a few of the many proactive methods you can use in your job search. Remember “why” you want to change your current circumstances and the “how” will come.

Epic adventures ahead!

 

The Correct Response to a Job Lead

 

"Using Three Laptops at the Same Time" by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Using Three Laptops at the Same Time” by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Your network is your net worth.” This succinct phrase is the title of Porter Gale’s book. Gale, a marketing expert and public speaker, argues in her book that a network of personal and professional relationships is the most important asset in a portfolio. Think about it. Over 80% of jobs are unadvertised and obtained through networking. Your network connections can help you obtain job leads and even land a job. When someone in your network produces a job lead for you, your response matters. How you respond to a job lead can mean the difference between discouraging your lead sources, and successfully capitalizing on a lead. In order to capitalize on a lead, it is important to make a smart inquiry about the quality of the lead. Not every lead is a good match for your qualifications, so it is critical to learn more about the source of the lead and the potential job.

There is an important distinction between a job lead and an introduction offer. If someone in your network offers to introduce you to someone, do not decline the opportunity. There could be synergy between you and the other party, and a conversation might lead to a job opportunity. People are the ultimate connectors. You won’t know if there’s an opportunity until you have a meeting. Graciously accept the introduction offer, attend the meeting and follow up with your source. Feel free to ask your source questions about the party you’re meeting with to attend the meeting fully prepared. An introduction is a direct invitation to establishing a relationship with someone at a potential employer. A job lead is the knowledge of an open position, and when you can establish a relationship with hiring managers you increase your odds of being chosen as the candidate who gets the offer.

Gauge how much the person knows about the source and quality of the information they’ve given you. If it is a job lead, and not an introduction, you’ll have to dig deep and research the lead. Not every job lead is created equally. Your source may or may not be intimately familiar with the lead or the position. He or she may have been approached by a recruiter, declined the offer and decided to forward the position information to you. This doesn’t mean the employer is incompatible with your personal criteria. Your lead source may not have been not been actively looking for a job, or the position may not have fit their personal criteria. Knowing that you’re looking to make a transition, your source decided to be helpful and pass the information on to you.

If your source forwarded a lead and doesn’t know much about the company, avoid bombarding them with questions about the position. In other words, don’t make them answer the same questions you would ask of someone more familiar with the position. Go directly to the source. If the source leads you to a company website or job board, go to LinkedIn to learn more about the company and to discover if you have any possible inside connections. Next week I will go further into depth about the top ten websites you can use to research your employer.

Before you consider making a connection with someone at the company, thoroughly research the organization. Your research will help you get further in your ability to market yourself and demonstrate your value. The job position could be a perfect match for your qualifications and skills, but the company culture or its location may be a poor fit. Here are few questions to consider:

 

  • Where is the company located? You may or may not be open to the idea of relocating to another town or city.

 

  • What is the size of the company? If you’ve previously worked at a small employer, switching to a large employer could be a major culture shock, and vice versa.
  • What do employees think of their employer? If a good number of employees are miserable at the job, it may be a place you want to stay far away from.
  • Why do think you’ll be a good fit for the position? This question can also generate great content for a cover letter. Take notes as you discover your answers.

 

Look up a company’s profile on LinkedIn to discover answers to your questions.  Job review sites such as Vault and Glassdoor are more ways to obtain insight about a potential employer. Visit Salary.com and PayScale to learn more about an average salary for the open position at your employer. These are good resources for gathering salary range information based on your job title, skills and education level. Once you’ve researched a potential employer it’s time make a decision.

If you find that the company meets about 80% of your criteria, create a connection within the company. Go to LinkedIn to see who you may know. If possible, try to identify the most logical hiring managers. Once you find the hiring managers, send out customized invitations. Avoid sending out boilerplate invitations, and use the information you gathered about the hiring managers to introduce yourself. Before you send out those invitations, make your LinkedIn profile as appealing as possible. I’ve written extensively on the subject.  Avoid using default headlines and make sure your profile is more than just an online résumé. When you send an invitation to hiring managers, the point is not to directly ask for a job, but to be the answer to the open position. Think of it like this, the company needs to fill an open position to solve a problem within the company. You want to be the first solution that comes to mind.

If the position does not meet 80% of your criteria and you were referred, follow through with the interview and be upfront with a hiring manager. Let him or her know that the job opportunity presented after an introduction isn’t a fit for you. This honesty can lead to better opportunities down the road. When that potential employer has an open position that matches your qualifications and needs to be filled, either internally or referred, your name may be on the top of the candidate list. Focus on your preferred contribution and the types of positions that are in alignment with your skills and qualifications.  If the real issue with a job is a lifestyle conflict, let the hiring manager know. Express to them how you appreciate the time and effort they took to consider you for a position, but it isn’t a good fit with your lifestyle. For example, longer hours at a potential job may leave you unable to pick up your children from school or daycare in a timely manner. Or, the commute may be too long.

 

Always follow through with your source. They took the time to send information for a possible lead, thank them, and update them on what happened. They have a vested interest in the outcome and will want to know if it worked out. This is the best way to reinforce with your network that the efforts that they make on your behalf are not in vain. If, however, too many job leads they send seem to be wrong, they will get discouraged. Give them a little guidance, if necessary, but always with sincere gratitude.

Making a smart inquiry about the lead, and being responsive to your source can be the difference between discouraging them from ever sending you a lead again and receiving more job leads. Again, thank them for their time and research the lead. Your research will enable you to decide if pursuing an open position is worth your time. You can also use your research to put yourself ahead of the competition by crafting a customized cover letter. Learn how to use your research to get immediate responses from employers with our cover letter secret sauce. Above all, gratitude and research is the best response to a job lead.

 

Should I Even Bother Negotiating?

Photo courtesy of nick@ on Flickr creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) "Arm Wrestling" https://www.flickr.com/photos/nic1/3498727510/sizes/m/.

Photo courtesy of nick@ on Flickr creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) “Arm Wrestling” https://www.flickr.com/photos/nic1/3498727510/sizes/m/.

You can always negotiate. However, your chances of getting a desirable result depend on how prepared and educated you are. The point of negotiating is not to battle for power or the upper hand and it is not to squeeze the employer for every last ounce of compensation from their budget. The point of negotiating is to come to a win-win solution where each party gets equal value.

If you have not tracked your accomplishments in measurable terms, consult with an expert (like me) who can ask you the right questions to help draw out these details. Your accomplishments act as justification of your value both with the hiring manager and their finance department or executive leadership. Either or both may ultimately have to approve the budget.

Salary is a price at which an employer purchases you and your abilities. In a “buyer’s market”, employers drive prices. As the economy recovers, so do rates and salaries. We are heading toward a “seller’s market.” (This will not be true of all jobs/industries, but will be true generally.) As with all financial cycles, prices correct themselves and there are opportunities to re-negotiate salaries.

Regardless of the market, settling for the first offer can be perceived as naïve or passive. You are essentially training your employer for future negotiations, so it is worth practicing some advanced negotiating skills, even they don’t result in a higher offer now, but instead set you up for a better offer in the future.

You need to understand your market value so that you can identify a fair offer. If you are wondering what a general range for an acceptable offer would be in this market, niche recruiters are usually the most knowledgeable on current market value. If you have built relationships with a niche recruiter it can be much easier to have them make the time to share this information with you. Keep in mind that this will usually be general information and may not account for the unique value that you have to offer, which an expert can help you understand better. Other resources, such as salary websites (salary.com and government websites) are useful to gather some data as well.

A troubling trend that I see building momentum today is candidates undervaluing themselves. They believe employers will not be able to see their value or pay them for their value, even if they do demonstrate it. In the end, instead of trying, many candidates give up and allow themselves to be undervalued. Until you execute an optimized career campaign, which means executing all 7 steps of a career transition with complete integrity (both structurally and morally), you can’t truly determine if you need to settle for less or be more flexible.
The seven steps of a career transition are:

1. Discovery – determining what you want
2. Marketing materials preparation – resume, profiles, cover letters, biographies, etc.
3. Prospecting – determining criteria and identifying target companies
4. Distribution and follow-up – usually outside of an online portal
5. Networking – nurturing your network while you train them to generate qualified leads
6. Interviewing – is more about who you are not what you say
7. Offer negotiation – start out as partners

Too many people are skipping the career steps or falling short of mastering them. Rather than building momentum so that they can choose from multiple attractive opportunities, they feel forced to accept what they can get, thereby passing up great opportunities for success.

Employers know that candidates tend to get desperate. They can see this as an opportunity to take advantage of those desperate candidates and get cheap talent. Beware – these employers usually foster an environment where they teach you that you are fortunate just to be employed. They use the economy and mental abuse to keep people retained in awful jobs and morale is generally very poor. Over time, some employees may accept the situation and it becomes a bigger challenge for them to get back on track. Once you undervalue yourself, even good employers will start to do the same.

Progressive and attractive employers seek out the candidates that are clear with their motivations and who know their value. They want to offer these candidates an opportunity that matches their qualifications, career goals, and salary requirements. Employers do this so they can retain these valuable candidates even in an up economy, and these companies eliminate candidates that pursue “anything and everything” and who undervalue or overvalue their experience.

On the other end, overpricing yourself puts you at great risk. Layoffs are determined by various factors including utilization versus overhead costs, so negotiating the highest number possible is not the best long-term strategy. Though it may make you feel financially secure, you can put yourself on the chopping block if you do this. The only true job security that you can have in this cyber age is your ability to successfully transition.

As in any time, you will need to know your current market value for both your general skills and your unique value and offer justification, which has little to do with your circumstances and everything to do with the value that the company will realize from hiring you. If you prove you are indispensable and ask for a fair amount, you will get a raise, even if it is not what you originally requested. If the employer does not keep up with market prices, then they risk turnover and increased difficulty filling vacant positions, which costs them money.

Almost always, they expect that what you ask for is negotiable just as they expect you to negotiate their offers, even if they tell you it’s non-negotiable! There may be budgetary limits, and you can consider what benefits and perks would have monetary value to you to make it a win-win situation, which is the END GOAL. Negotiation at its best is not about power or sacrifice. You do not have to settle for less than MARKET VALUE, which is a constantly changing number, or concede what is important to you just to have a job. Success in negotiation is reached in the middle, where you and the company get equal value.

Alabama Shakes – Gimme All Your Love (Official Audio)

iTunes: http://smarturl.it/shakes-scitunes Amazon (CD, VINYL, MP3): http://smarturl.it/shakes-scamazon Alabama Shakes store: http://smarturl.it/shakes-webstore ATO Records store: http://smarturl.it/SandC_ATOStore Available on CD / Digital / 2 x LP (180-Gram Black and Clear Colored Vinyl)

Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Accelerate Your Job Transition

Photo courtesy of BK on flickr creative commons (http://bit.ly/1CJ1zq1).

Photo courtesy of BK on flickr creative commons (http://bit.ly/1CJ1zq1).

You’ve decided to make a job transition and you want to do so as painlessly as possible. Getting out of your comfort zone is a big first step, and is the fastest way to land a new job. Remaining in your comfort zone will only prolong your efforts to find a new employer. If you’re part of the 70% of Americans unhappy at their job, your dissatisfaction will only fester. If you’re unemployed, being out of a job for more than six months can be detrimental to your long-term employment prospects. Leaving your comfort zone means trying something new everyday. Being adventurous, building new skills, and thinking outside of the box is a great way to kick your routine job search habits to the curb. It may be comfortable to seek out your favorite job boards, or to fill out impersonal online applications on employer websites. However, in my years of working with clients as a career coach, I’ve learned that fewer bolder actions can produce greater results and momentum than the many usual actions of job seekers.

Today, I challenge you to try a variety of job search activities. I’ve broken them down into numbered levels, with the difficulty ranging from easy, medium to hard.

Level 1:

Prepare for your next networking, meeting, or interview with an icebreaker: In this age of constantly changing technology there is no end to the news and information available. Before your next meeting event, look for tidbits of light news that fascinates you, and that would appeal to all religions and races. The news can be as simple as a fluff piece you read on one of your social network news feeds, an RSS feed, or even something on a local news station. This icebreaker will help you immediately engage others in conversation, and more importantly, help build rapport. For example: Did you hear about the astronaut who’s going to spend a year in space?

Invest in yourself and consider the long-term payoff: When you’re in a job transition, the finite reach of your finances are more salient than ever. You may want or need to cut back on expenses, including your investments. What you are willing to invest in yourself; however, is a direct reflection to others of how you value yourself. If you are not willing to invest in yourself, others will feel the same way. Consider yourself as an investment to your future employer. Spending money to invest in your professional capital is extremely important. Yes, of course I believe that investing in a professional résumé and a professional LinkedIn profile is important. But even more so, consider the immense payoff of paying for an event, even if that also includes paying a babysitter, where you meet your future employer who pays you your future salary. It is important to go out, live, and enjoy life during your transition. Just remember to nurture and leverage the relationships that result from your adventures.

Level 2:

Read at least one industry-related book per quarter and share the quotes through your social media status updates: Reading industry-related books on a regular basis is an excellent way to keep abreast of your industry, and to become an authoritative figure in your field. It is the difference between someone who’s passionate about their career, and someone who simply views their career as another job. By sharing quotes through your social media status updates you’ll demonstrate how knowledgeable you are to others. You’ll be able to recall the quotes better in conversation and further support your position as an industry insider. As a bonus, you may even inspire someone in your network.

Use your status updates to ask questions at least once a week: If you have pertinent questions about a particular employer, open positions, helpful ways to expand your network, or anything else related to job seeking, ask them! People love to give advice and share their opinion, leverage that to your advantage. The advice or answers you receive could be eye-opening, or may be fantastic food for thought.

Level 3:

Send five acquaintances a CUSTOMIZED invitation to join your LinkedIn network: The five acquaintances are people you already know, but are not connected to. This means you have to go to their profile and click on connect. In addition to your personalized invitation to connect, include an invitation to catch up them with in person or on the phone over the next few weeks. This is important because it helps you build upon a professional relationship. Networking in person is still meaningful, and impressions matter. The next time there’s an opening at your acquaintance’s company, he or she may provide a referral for you. You can also take your invitation initiative a step further. Go beyond thinking of your network as just current and former colleagues. Search LinkedIn for:

  • Neighbors
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Classmates
  • Colleagues that you KNOW or KNEW WELL
  • Your past supervisors
  • Health care providers
  • Parents of your child’s friends
  • Service Providers (plumber, landscaper, exterminator, etc.)

Soon you’ll have 100 new contacts, and you can do five new invitations every day, or even every week.

Conquer your phone phobia: It is important to pick up the phone, reach out and dial someone. Make at least one phone call each day with the goal of scheduling a networking meeting. This isn’t the same as asking for a job. Many people suffer from phone phobia, including skilled sales people and recruiters. If you have a case of phone phobia the best way to overcome it is to get on the horn and make some meaningful noise. Start small and reward your accomplishments by doing something you love. It could be as simple as marathoning Breaking Bad on Netflix, running for an extra mile during your exercise routine, or playing a few levels of Candy Crush Saga on your phone. The point is to positively reinforce the act of calling someone so it becomes easier the next time you do it.

Stepping out of your job transiting comfort zone can be a daunting task on the surface. By taking a few simple and bold steps each day, you can build your confidence as you search for your next job opportunity, and more importantly, it will result in increasing your job momentum. If these activities work for you, and produce the desired results, by all means, do them again. The point is, you’ll reach a point of greater comfort and skill in your job transition. Doing some of the more difficult activities will become second nature, and once they are, you’ll be able use your new skills to accelerate your career and income from this point forward. Mel Robbins explains in her TEDx Talk “How to stop screwing yourself over,”  the importance of activation energy and why you need to get out of your comfort zone. In Mel’s own words: taking that first step requires you to FORCE yourself to do it, no one can do it for you.

Foo Fighters – Big Me

Foo Fighters’ official music video for ‘Big Me’. Click to listen to Foo Fighters on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/FooFSpotify?IQid=FooFBM As featured on Greatest Hits.

Stop Treating LinkedIn Like An Online Résumé

Photo courtesy of www.flazingo.com/creativecommons.

Photo courtesy of www.flazingo.com/creativecommons.

Are you using your LinkedIn profile as an online résumé?  In other words, does your profile reflect a personal brand you’ve carefully crafted, or does it just mirror your résumé? You know as a professional you need to have a presence on LinkedIn. You created an account, made a few connections, and copied a few items from your résumé to create your profile. In fact, you used so much material from your résumé that it is impossible to distinguish it from your LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile deserves to be so much more. A résumé is a document that reflects your past experiences and is meant to be seen by future employers. In contrast, a LinkedIn profile is a vital part of your online presence and is meant to be seen by a much wider audience. It should compliment your résumé in an exciting and engaging way.

Your LinkedIn profile is different from your résumé

Let’s imagine a scenario for just a moment. You have been using your LinkedIn profile as little more than an online résumé tool, and a hiring manager comes across your profile. You have already sent them your résumé as part of a job application, and they decided to Google you. Imagine their disappointment as your LinkedIn profile is exactly the same as your résumé. Or, on the flipside, they’ve seen your LinkedIn profile and ask for your résumé. Again, both your résumé and your profile are indistinguishable. This redundancy isn’t helpful because that potential employer won’t learn anything new about you, and you’ve done very little to set yourself apart from other job candidates. A redundant LinkedIn profile is also a major missed opportunity to show employers, connections, and others members of your online audience how unique and interesting you are as a professional. It’s a chance to allow people into the back story of who you are. Help them visualize what it’s like to speak and work with you.

Your résumé is concise, is customized for your potential employer, and is designed to show an employer how you are uniquely qualified for their opportunity. You can’t include all of your past work experiences, recommendations from others, or general interests. In short, your résumé needs to be laser-focused on a specific role, and on a specific employer. However, your LinkedIn profile can include all of your work experience, recommendations and interests. A good profile allows you to weave an engaging professional narrative that showcases your personal brand far beyond your résumé.

Use your LinkedIn Profile to dazzle your audience

LinkedIn should compliment your résumé by being a creative vehicle that illustrates your professional life. Every aspect of your profile should enhance your personal brand. If you’re using the default headline, ditch it. I previously wrote about the importance of strong headlines in my article titled “Increase views: Ditch the default LinkedIn headline.” The experiences section is an opportunity to list vital keywords that will attract the attention of job recruiters. I covered the importance of carefully using keywords in another article, “Use Keywords With Care or Beware.” The summary is where you can exercise the most creative freedom. In contrast to your résumé, you are allowed to talk about yourself in the first-person. Use this section of your LinkedIn profile to breathe life into your experiences, skills and professional achievements.

You don’t want your profile summary to come off as trite and uninteresting. These types of summaries are often subjective and vague. Just think of a profile summary filled with boring buzzwords shaken up in a bag, poured out into a pile, and arranged in the semblance of a paragraph. Here’s an example of a profile summary filed with cliché words pulled right out of a résumé:

“A dynamic individual with great leadership skills who is highly organized. A proven track record of accomplishments and great teamwork. An effective communicator with a strong business sense and a can-do attitude…”

Most career consultants and recruiters viewing this LinkedIn profile would be tempted to close the page quickly as they stifled a yawn. I believe a person with such a profile is capable of so much more than a lifeless summary. Don’t fall into the trap of creating a boring paragraph of buzzwords. Tell your audience a captivating story. Here’s an example of a more engaging profile summary:

“From a young age the phrase, ‘Shoot for the stars,’ has always caught my attention. It spoke to the core belief that I should never do anything half-heartedly. If I’m going to do something, whether it is professionally or personally, I’m going to go above and beyond anyone else.

‘I have over a decade of experience managing large IT projects, and leading large teams to success. Under my leadership, members of my team knew exactly what was expected of them. The results of our projects were some of the best in the industry…”

This type of profile summary captures a reader’s attention and gently invites them to learn more about you. In short, it compliments your actual résumé and adds a new level of distinction to your online presence. Earlier, I mentioned a hiring manager coming across your LinkedIn profile. Now imagine their delight as they read a captivating profile that brings a new dimension to your résumé.

The point is to captivate your audience and polish your personal brand to until it shines. Again, your résumé is a brief account of your job qualifications, while your LinkedIn profile is a living part of your online presence. It is a compliment to an already great résumé. Your audience should be entranced by your profile, and should want to connect with you. A redundant LinkedIn profile that mirrors your résumé is a wasted opportunity. Unveil your brilliance by showing your online audience just how creative and interesting your professional life is!

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Missed Opportunity

1988 Music Video for Missed Opportunity

Beware the Job Search Trap of the Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of s0crates82 on flickr open source. (http://bit.ly/1vQeqQ4)

Photo courtesy of s0crates82 on flickr open source. (http://bit.ly/1vQeqQ4)

The holiday season is almost here and it is one of the most captivating times of year. There are great sales everywhere, you have a long shopping list, and you can’t wait to decorate the house while the sweet smell of pastries fill the air. You’re looking forward to seeing some of your favorite holiday specials on TV or maybe you’re delighted as you make those travel arrangements to see family and friends. Wait a minute! What about the job hunting plans you had?

With holidays inching closer, now is not the time to take a vacation from your job search. Look for your next job before the holidays hit. Thanksgiving is less than a month away. It is the time of year when job seekers think less about being hired, and more about family gatherings and the perfect gifts. You may be more interested in a winter getaway than making a career transition. The temptation to shelve your résumé and start fresh in January is simply too powerful.

What his hiring really like during the holidays?

It is a common perception that no one hires during the holiday season. This simply isn’t true. Employers want to fill open positions before and after the New Year. Specifically, in January companies want to have potential hires already in place. The end of the year is also a time when many companies increase their payrolls. Also, in a recovering economy, hiring does not slow down much at all. The year 2004 was an example of that. I was unexpectedly busy with just as many, if not more job requirements to fill than during September. And I had been looking forward to some holiday downtime. On top of stress, there is increased competition during the holiday season. Taking the initiative before the holidays arrive could help you avoid a stressful job hunt.

The biggest potential threat to your job search during the holidays is a lack of focus and drive. As I stated earlier, it is extremely tempting to take a break from a job transition to relax from November to January. We want to spend quality time with our family and friends. There are also a lot of great sales for those who love to shop. Unfortunately, the next three months are one of the busiest hiring periods of the year. As companies seek to fill positions by or in January, the call for job applicants picks up in November and December. When the holidays are in full swing, competition for open positions can be fierce. You want to get ahead of the competition by making the most of your job search NOW, not later.

Ever try getting people together over the holidays?

Consider it from a tactical standpoint. If you wait until the end of November, you’ll have several things working against you. First, there are the savvier job seekers who know companies are hiring. Second, hiring managers are inundated with applications on a normal basis, and it will take them longer than usual to setup an interview. Likewise, you may find yourself landing interviews at odd times because of how busy hiring managers are. Coordinating schedules with managers is notoriously hard during this time. Odd interview times could easily put a damper on your holiday plans. Third, a lot of the positions during this time of year are contractual. The last thing you want is to cast your net out, only to find less than satisfying offers. If you want to give your career the epic boost it needs, get out in front of the competition. Don’t let your résumé be swept away by a wave of job seekers; ride that wave to your new career.

Kick-starting your job search immediately will ensure you are interviewed by hiring managers before they are swamped with applicants. This means renovating your résumé, especially if you have been neglecting it. Next: network, network, network! Touch base with friends, acquaintances, or alumni in your professional network, they could be the key to a potential job offer. Attend networking events and make an effort to talk to at least one person per meeting. Holiday parties and company events can be used to further network. The end of the year is already a time when we connect to others, so don’t miss the opportunity to advance your job search. Sara Canuso describes how to make the most of a networking event in her program training module, “Networking for Impact.” Make sure you don’t ignore LinkedIn and other social media networks. Building up your personal brand is essential to standing out from the rest of the competition.

Think QUALITY, not quantity

It is always best to identify prospective positions before the holidays hit. You’ll benefit from having your résumé in front of hiring managers early. You will also stand out from the crowd because you put the maximum effort into your job search. You’ll also avoid the huge rush of job seekers trying to land the same position in the New Year, if it remains open. An open position means hiring managers and other stakeholders will scramble to coordinate their schedules to fill the position. You definitely want to avoid being a part of this scenario. Moreover, you’ll have a leg up on those who chose to suspend their job search until the New Year. Not only will you avoid the many pitfalls the holiday season brings, but you’ll also be able to actually enjoy this time of year. Peace of mind is a brilliant way to celebrate the holidays.

If you need help with your résumé or brand management, we are always here to help! Think of it as an early Christmas present to yourself. (Check with your CPA – our services are often tax deductible!)