New year’s resolutions and job search

 

New years resolution

“The new year stands before us like a chapter in a book waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” (Melody Beattie, Author)

What are your new year’s resolutions as we rapidly approach 2016 and farewell 2015?

 

The origins of new year’s resolutions goes back to Roman times, where the first month of the new year – January – is named after Janus, the two-faced god who looked backwards to the old year and forward to the new year.  It was during this time over 2,000 years ago that new year’s resolutions began. Resolutions were more of a moral flavour, such as being good to others (For more information see billpetro.com).

According to a survey done by Sydney radio station 2DayFM in recent years, the top 10 new year’s resolutions are:

  1. Spend more time with family
  2. Fall in love
  3. Help others with their dreams (which goes to show not much has changed in 2,000 years!)
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Learn something exciting
  6. Stay fit and healthy
  7. Enjoy life to the fullest
  8. Spend less and save more
  9. Become more organised
  10. Lose weight.

Most if not all of these resolutions can be impacted by a successful job search. Looking for a role with work-life balance allows us to spend more time with family and loved ones; leading and inspiring others may help others to achieve their (professional) dreams; not being able to smoke at work keeps us healthier; learning new skills and having a higher salary to save more complement each of these resolutions!  What’s more, in a recent Google survey, 18% of people met their significant other at work, so you can even enhance your chances of falling in love in 2016!

If you are between jobs or thinking about changing jobs, then the new year is a time when such thoughts are brought even more into focus.  Like Janus, we put the old year behind us and look to the new year as a fresh beginning…

If you are working, you need to think about ‘why’ you want to change.  What’s not working out in your current role or company?  All of us need to think about exactly ‘what’ it is we’d like to do.  To do this, think about the skills you have (and perhaps skills gaps that need to be filled); what you like doing (e.g. Project work, technology, managing) as well as your values and how they relate to the organisation (and manager) you’d like to work for.  For example, if lifestyle is a key value, you should look for an organisation and role that avoids excessive travel or working lots of overtime.  In short, think about what you can do, what you like doing and your values when deciding on your next role.  Of course, this takes some time and effort and like any new year’s resolution requires a first – and most important – step…It may be as simple as taking time to focus on what you’d like to do, updating your resume, reconnecting with your network or even engaging a career coach to help…

Is 2016 going to be a repeat of 2015 or a new beginning on many fronts including work?  It’s entirely up to you.  In the same survey conducted by 2DayFM, they found that 48% of Australians make new year’s resolutions, but only 6% are successful in achieving them…Not a particularly good strike rate!  To improve the odds of success – and as suggested by Beattie earlier – write down your goals (resolutions) with associated timelines (e.g. Update resume by 31 January) and put them somewhere visible so that you can keep track of progress.  At work we are driven by our KPIs and objectives, so why can’t we apply the same rigour to our own personal and professional planning?

Good luck with your resolutions for 2016!

For any help with job search, see my website at www.thecareermedic.com or contact me directly by clicking here.  You may also be interested in my book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which was recently published and is full of practical, no-nonsense job search tips for mature workers.  You can purchase the book from this link  or directly from Amazon or Booktopia among others.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

The most important question you’ll answer in a job interview

Job interviewMost of us have heard the expression ‘First impressions are the longest lasting’ or ‘First impressions count’.  Nothing is more true in the job interview.

Whether it is the impression made in the first 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 2, 5 or 10 minutes most interviewers have already made up their mind about you early on.  Knowing this human fallibility, how can you use this to your advantage in a job interview?  Simple! Know that generally, the interviewer is either unprepared or under-prepared to interview you…

Most interviewers are busy people, racing from one meeting to another, working on projects, meeting customers and other corporate busyness.  In this myriad of activity, preparation for ‘that interview at 11 am’ very much takes a back seat, meaning that most interviewers may only take a cursory glance at your resume before interviewing you.

On the back of minimal if any preparation, the interviewer then relies on those off-the-cuff questions like ‘What are your weaknesses?’, ‘What do you see yourself doing in ‘x’ years?‘ and ‘Why don’t you step me through your resume’, which is basically saying, ‘I am a lazy sod and have not bothered to read it.’

In the same category of what I term ‘lazy, off-the-cuff’ questions is the classic, ‘Why don’t you tell me about yourself’?‘ This is normally the first question out of the interviewers’ mouth after any initial small talk and an overview of what will be covered in the interview.  It also buys the interviewer a few moments to catch their breath, and take another sneaky look at the resume.

Common – and ineffective – responses to this question include personal history (‘I am married with 12 children and enjoy woodwork’) and/or a lengthy rendition of work experience (‘I started working in 1985 with company X, in 1987 I moved to company Y…’).  In other words, death by a thousand cuts…

If you want to significantly differentiate yourself from other candidates and give yourself the foundation for a great interview, prepare a response with these 4 elements:

  1. I am a….
  2. I have worked in…
  3. I have vocational/professional skills in…
  4. My strengths as an employee or manager are….

Let’s use an example:  “I am an experienced human resources business partner and I’ve worked in transport and IT for company X and most recently for company Y. I have skills in recruitment and selection up to senior executive level, talent management and succession planning in global organisations and the development of broad strategies that aid employee retention.  My strengths include developing effective and productive relationships with all levels of employees and managers, the ability to effectively manage my time and achieve set priorities and a strong working knowledge of business technology.”

This summarizes who you are professionally and what you offer the potential employer…In essence your value proposition or what problems you can solve for them.  You should also tailor it to suit the role you are applying for,  because at the end of the day it’s all about matching the person to the requirements of the job.

What this response also does is to ‘feed’ the unprepared interviewer a number of prompts from which they can ask further questions.  For example, ‘You mentioned that one of your strengths is around business technology.  Can you tell me more about this?’  You betcha I can!  Because in addition to getting my pitch right, I also have also thoroughly prepared specific examples to illustrate each of these areas of skills and strengths.

So, aside from being professionally dressed relevant to the role and engaging in comfortable pre-interview small-talk with the interviewer(s), you have nailed what is often the first question in a job interview.  What a great first impression!

For assistance in all aspects of job search, contact Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) by clicking here.   Paul provides tailored job search services around resumes, cover letters, interview skills, and LinkedIn and fear-free networking.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

Considering a job offer? You’ll want to read this

PackageA mistake many of us make when considering a job offer is just focusing on the financials…In other words, what we’ll be paid in the new job.

While it may be commonsense for most of us, I’d like to ensure that when you are considering a new role, you look at all the elements, both financial and non-financial that constitute the ‘package’ on offer.  Of course the financials ensure we can pay the bills and live the lifestyle we want, but don’t lose sight of other aspects of the offer that very often are just as important.

I recently worked with a client who was considering taking a job $10K below what she had earned previously.  In speaking to her, she considered this offer principally on the basis that the person she’d be working for was a great leader (she had worked for him previously).  In this case, what ‘value’ can you put on a great leader?  $10K?  $25K? Too high to even assign a value?  Having worked for both good leaders and poor managers, I would certainly say there is high value in working for a great leader and it adds significantly to the overall package.  So, in my clients case, she may well have accepted a higher value package, albeit one with less cash…

So what other sorts of things should you consider in weighing up a job offer?  Here are some things to think about:

  1. Other financial elements beyond base salary – Such as bonus, shares, options, profit sharing and the like…Yes, most of it is ‘at risk’ and not guaranteed, but it’s part of the package and valuable when the organisation is doing well.
  2. Location of the role – It’s rare that people enjoy a long commute to work, so saving 10-15 minutes or more of commuting time is a real benefit, especially when it comes to work-life balance.
  3. Career prospects – What other opportunities does the new organisation provide (both within the department and outside)?  Even if I’m not a career ladder-climber, does the job or organisation offer additional responsibilities, challenges or exposure?
  4. Work hours – While most companies get their ‘pound of flesh’ in terms of our time commitment to them, having predictable and ‘fair’ hours that don’t overly encroach on our personal lives can be a boon.
  5. Security – Unfortunately, there’s no organisation that’s completely secure, however, would the organisation’s financial results and forecasts indicate there’s more security than not?  How is their industry doing as a whole?  If you don’t know, you should find out!
  6. Work environment – Will you be housed in modern, well-equipped offices or in old, worn and beyond their use-by-date furniture and fittings?  While most of us would prefer not to sit on bean bags in a room with pink walls, is the office comfortable with all the required ‘corporate creature comforts’ like break rooms, coffee stations and the like?
  7. Technology – If IT is your thing, does the organisation offer modern, fast laptops or old ‘hand-me-down’ recycled PC’s from another department or location?  What systems do they use that can potentially make your worklife easier and therefore happier?
  8. Development – What training do they offer?  Leadership, soft or technical training? Tuition reimbursement? Most training has value beyond the organisation you’ve worked for and you can take it with you when you leave.  Generally, we enjoy learning new things as well that can improve our performance and contribution.
  9. Empowerment & autonomy – Most of us would rather be given a broad remit and to manage accordingly than to be micro-managed.
  10. Communications – Is the leadership visible and do they regularly communicate to the organisation?  Not just from the ‘ivory tower’ but at ground level (by walking around the office and knowing peoples’ names and a little bit about them)?
  11. The company’s name or reputation – If the offer is with Google, Microsoft, BHP, Woolworths or Telstra, you are joining a well-known successful organisation which has a level of prestige or status associated with it (and the association that good people work there).  This may be helpful not only for professional networking, but also for when you come to change jobs in the future.  Having this type of organisation on your resume is guaranteed to make you stand out.

Each of us has our preferences and how much – or little – the above things matter. What is important is that  you look at the offer in terms of the ‘total package’ and not just in terms of cash.

For assistance with job search in the areas of resume and LinkedIn profile development, interview skills training and fear-free networking, contact The Career Medic (Paul Di Michiel) by clicking here or visiting the website at www.thecareermedic.com

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

Good boss, bad boss! You choose

HORRIBLE BOSSES

I recently saw a post on LinkedIn which said something like: ‘Would you rather work for a good boss in a job you don’t like, or for a poor manager in a great job?’ and it got me thinking, not because it was a conundrum but rather because it’s abundantly clear.  I would ALWAYS choose a good boss, on the basis that the person you work for has influence over so many things in employment and can potentially make even a ‘bad job’ better.  Frankly, I don’t think ‘good boss’ and ‘job I don’t like’ go together.  A good boss will make all the difference to how we perceive our jobs and act and contribute in them.  Conversely a bad boss, will very often make most aspects of the work environment unpleasant.

It also got me reflecting on some of the individuals I’ve worked for over the years, each of whom are not infallible, but for some reason or another have unfortunately ended up managing other people.  I’ve placed these managers into the following categories*:

Madame Matriarch 

Dresses impeccably and presents very confidently but has no common sense or ‘people sense’ whatsoever.  They are in corporate life for themselves and the power, trappings and position it brings, rather than for any remuneration (as they – or their partner – are usually financially ‘well off’).  They feel and act important and love to attend ‘executive team meetings’, usually populated predominantly – or solely – by members of the opposite sex.  Even more appealing is when they get the opportunity to take centre stage and do a presentation or a pitch for a pet project that will immeasurably benefit the company and rocket them into annals of corporate super-stardom.  They spend inordinate amounts of time cultivating a relationship with their boss and minimal ‘catch me when you can’ time with their subordinates.  You are left in no doubt where you sit on their hierarchy when you work for these people.

The Secret Conniver 

The worst aspect about this insidious two-faced chameleon is that they have the outward appearance of someone who is ‘easy going’ (or ‘blokey’ to use a masculine term) but are in fact only thinking about themselves and their success.  They generally go into jobs, make changes for the sake of changes (because that’s what managers do) and usually end up doing more damage than when they stepped into the role originally.  They only get found out when their rhetoric and bluster is found to be baseless and shallow and promised results are not delivered.  They are generally rude and aggressive in meetings, rationalising this approach with the belief that others are paid to do a job and if they don’t (in their mind), they deserve to be bollocked.   They would fail Management 1A and terms like ‘Praise in public and criticise in private’ or ‘Provide feedback sooner rather than later’ don’t even occur to them.  They take little personal interest in their staff, but still put on the superficial veneer when it works to their advantage.  Karma loves The Secret Conniver, because what they sow, they eventually reap…Unfortunately, like the bad penny, they tend to keep popping up elsewhere to do damage in other environments.

The Night Owl

Similar to Madame Matriarch, but this person operates 24/7 and expects their staff to do likewise.  If you don’t respond to an email on Sunday for something due on Monday morning at 9.00 am, God help you!  Do you want to leave work before 7.00 pm?  Not a good look, because The Night Owl will be there most of the night or checking emails from home and then take great pleasure in letting people know how they were doing this or that presentation or report ’till the wee hours, but also condescendingly letting their staff know that ‘If I do it, there’s no reason you can’t as well!’.  The Night Owls only portal for self-esteem and positive feedback comes from work.  They rationalise their manic dedication to the job by saying they are paid to do whatever it takes to get the job done and if that means 24/7 so be it.

There are many other ‘types’ of poor manager out there and perhaps you’ve had the misfortune to work for one of them as well…If you are like me, your credo is then, ‘What I learnt not-to-do from that person was…’ and then consciously not repeating that when you are handed the important mantle of people manager…

How can you avoid working for a poor manager?  It’s difficult because very often organisations change and you don’t have any say in who you inherit for a boss. However, if you are interviewing for a job, make sure you interview your potential manager by asking something like:  ‘So, I understand you would be my manager in this role. Something that is very important to me is the leadership style of my manager.  On that basis, can you describe your leadership style, but more practically how  you communicate with the team, manage performance and the like…’.  Now, it’s almost certain each of the above managers would attach the leadership skills of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi to themselves, so don’t just take their response at face-value.  Check-in with your network.  Who do you know that may know – or know of – your future manager?  This is where LinkedIn is of immense value.

What about great managers, or true leaders?  In my experience they generally do or have the following characteristics:

  • Don’t do the power-trip or positional-power thing
  • Are genuinely good at what they do
  • Are interested in – and practically support – your development and success
  • Avoid surprises and don’t blame others
  • Can admit to their own mistakes and oversights
  • Share successes with the team and provide individual recognition where appropriate
  • While not being your best friend, they have an interest in you personally and know something about you and your family outside work
  • Are approachable and available
  • Invest time in providing constructive feedback
  • Are prepared for and conduct effective one-on-one meetings and performance reviews

So, would I rather work for a good boss and leader than a poor boss?  You bet!  Regardless of other things, they can make the difference to turn a not-so-good or mundane job into an enjoyable, challenging and worthwhile experience.

For support and guidance in job search, including resume preparation, interview skills training, LinkedIn profiles and networking strategies, contact The Career Medic (Paul Di Michiel) by clicking here.  You can also visit my web page at www.thecareermedic.com.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

 * Note that these characters are amalgamations of several people and don’t represent any one specific individual.  However if you do recognise yourself in any of these amalgamations you should be ashamed.

 

12 biggest mistakes made during job search

looking for a jobIn job search, we generally ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ and it’s not surprising that we make mistakes, thinking we are doing the right thing.  We also get lots of ‘advice’ from well-meaning but ignorant family members or friends..

In this post, I’ve captured some of the typical – yet by no means exhaustive list of – mistakes made during job search and the relevant actions for each.

Mistake #1 – Not knowing what job you want

If you’ve ever bought a car without knowing the sort of make, colour, or model you are after, you can understand this mistake.  You will spend an inordinate amount of time walking through car yards and being accosted by lots of ‘eager’ salespeople. It’s the same with job search.  If you don’t specify the type of role you are after, it all becomes a bit hit and miss. For example, if I say ‘I’m after a job in Human Resources’, that’s pretty vague and ambiguous as there are many types of jobs in HR. Therefore it’s better to say something like ‘I am looking for a role as a Human Resources Business Partner, where I can work with and support a senior executive team, ideally in the IT industry’.

Mistake #2 – Not being aware of the job market

‘I’m in the market for a job as a toll collector on Sydney’s motor-ways…I’m not having much luck…’  Quelle surprise! This is an extreme example, but you need to be aware of what’s happening ‘out there’ in the market. Whether it be trends in a profession or an industry (like off-shoring or industry down-swings or technology advancements that have impacted our potential toll-collector), this may influence how you conduct your search and perhaps focus on markets where there are more opportunities available.

Mistake #3 – Letting the ‘here and now’ concerns interfere with your search

By this I mean getting bogged down in the present and feeling sorry for yourself.  Negative thoughts like ‘Will I ever work again?’ or ‘It’s all too hard’ are self-fulfilling prophecies and will keep you trapped and unable to move forward.  Think of everything you do in job search as a stepping stone or bridge to your next role…Every application, every discussion with networking contacts, every recruiter meeting are positive steps to ensure you get your next role.  Therefore, act in the present, but think in the future!

Mistake #4 – Having a poor resume and LinkedIn profile

Both of these communication channels are representations of you!  They provide information on you and highlight your strengths and achievements.  A lengthy, poorly written, generic and ‘activities-based’ resume won’t do you any favours.  Nor will a half-completed or minimal LinkedIn profile.  As you communicate and engage with people in job search, you want both of these fundamental tools to fully and accurately represent you as a professional in your field.  Spend the relevant time to ensure both convey the right messages about you to the marketplace.

Mistake #5 – Inactivity

In job search we often think we have time to do what’s needed, but time gets away from us and before we know it, we’ve been in transition for a period of weeks or months.  Don’t let the grass grow!  Those who are active in job search create opportunities for themselves.  Job search activity also positively impacts your emotional state.  If you are busy, you are not thinking about negative ‘stuff’ but rather concerned about achieving things.  For example, setting up, attending and following up after networking meetings, keeps you busy…and positive!

Mistake #6 – Over-reliance on the internet and/or recruiters 

Jobs advertised online are in the ‘public domain’ and everyone else looking for a job is applying for these jobs as well.  If you’ve applied for jobs on LinkedIn, you’ll very often see a counter on the job ads that indicates how many people have applied for a job. Whether it’s 12 or 22 or 222 other applicants, the odds are stacked against you.  Recruiters fill jobs on behalf of companies and they cast their net wide to pull in as many suitable candidates as possible in order to present a shining short list to the hiring company.  You are one of many and really need to stand out to have a chance to land THE job. Therefore, don’t just rely on job search engines or recruiters alone! Network and selectively use recruiters as well.  For networking, don’t delay, start as soon as you engage in job search as this is most fertile arena to find your next job.

Mistake #7 – Not preparing for interviews

I have lost count of the number of people I’ve interviewed over the years whose sole preparation for the interview was putting on their ‘Sunday best’ and perhaps reading over their resume and job advert in the bus on the way to the interview.  This simply does not work and thinking you’ll ‘wing it’ during the interview is prone to failure.  Not only that, but the interviewer is inferring that’s how you’d approach job tasks if you were employed by him or her.  Therefore, know your resume inside and out and be sure to have ready responses against the criteria of the job as a minimum.  The old adage of ‘Fail to prepare and prepare to fail’ is very true in job search!

Mistake #8 – Knowing very little – or nothing – about the company you are interviewing with

When you are asked ‘What do you know about Company X?’ and you throw out a few obvious facts borne of little or no research, this indicates to the interviewer that you could not be bothered preparing for the interview and that you’d likely bring the same bad habits to the job.  In this day and age of the internet and instant information, there’s no excuse for not having 5-8 key points about the company you are interviewing with.  Furthermore you can also tailor your information to the role you are applying for (e.g. If going for a job in HR, your response may be more around the people aspects of the business, whereas if you were in IT it may be more technology-focused).

Mistake #9 – Meandering and long-winded responses to interview questions

As interviewees, we are understandably nervous and often feel that if we say more, it will impress the interviewer.  Wrong!  If you are asked a question, answer it!  Don’t go off on tangents, even if you think they are related to the question.  Interviewers generally have the attention span of a gnat and all they want to know is if you have certain skills, experiences and competencies based on the question they’ve asked.  If the interviewer wants more information, he or she will ask for it!

A good approach is that when you are asked behavioural questions (e.g. ‘Give me an example of…’; ‘Tell me about a time when…’), you should answer them using the STAR approach…Situation, Task, Action(s) and Result. This is good for you to deliver the example, but also for the interviewer as a structured and well thought out example is potentially a very powerful illustration of your skills and experience.

Mistake #10 – Being late for the interview

I consider this to be a mortal sin in the world of job search and I’m almost embarrassed to include this on the list because it seems so obvious.  Never, and I repeat never, be late for a job interview!  If you are going to run unavoidably late, contact the interviewer ahead of time. They will appreciate this common courtesy, believe me.  I’ve had people turn up late for interviews by 5 or 10 minutes and not even apologise!  Needless to say, very few if any of these latecomers are considered for the available job.  Why?  Because as an interviewer I’m inferring that they’d be late for team meetings, submitting reports and so on.

Always give yourself more than enough time to get to the interview…If you know the interview location is 30 minutes away, allow 60 minutes.  Even if you arrive early, you can take a walk, reflect on your resume and generally get yourself in the right frame of mind.

Mistake #11 – Not getting feedback after an interview

Most of us won’t land the first job we apply for.  In fact, we may go to several interviews before we get a job offer.  If you don’t ask for feedback on how you matched – or did not match – the job requirements and your interview ‘style’ you are prone to continue to make the same mistakes again and again…and being unsuccessful again and again.  Do yourself a favour…When advised you have been unsuccessful, ask for this feedback and incorporate it into your strategy for future interviews.  The feedback should be on why you were not deemed a good fit for the role as well as your interview style.  It’s all about continuous improvement!

Mistake #12 –  Not making the most of transition

Further to mistake #3, we can get caught up in the mire of job search.   Yes, being between jobs or in transition is tough, but what we forget is that being in transition allows us to spend more time with friends and family and to indulge in something we want to do but never have the chance to when we are working.  Once you return to work, this opportunity would have passed, so use your time wisely!  This balanced approach makes you are more effective job seeker but also maintains positive morale during job search.
If you want to be more effective in search, avoid these mistakes!

Also, by following The Career Medic for regular updates you’ll receive tips and hints that will help your job search.  You can also contact The Career Medic by clicking here for specialised help and assistance in job search.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s.


Why are you looking at me on LinkedIn? Cyber-stalking or just good business?

stalkOne of the functions within LinkedIn that is often misunderstood – and sometimes perceived negatively – is the ‘Who’s viewed your profile’ section.  I often hear people remark that it’s uncomfortable – in a stalkerish sort of way – that someone has ‘Looked at me on LinkedIn’…

Here’s the thing, it’s actually a positive thing that can result in connections being made.  It’s not simply about ‘checking someone out’ who’s appearance you find attractive (although undoubtedly there are people who use it for this indulgent purpose).  LinkedIn is about finding and connecting with people and yes, this may involve clicking on someone’s profile and divulging your identity!  Oh the pain!

If you are in job search mode and you notice a recruiter, talent acquisition specialist (or what used to be known as an ‘Internal recruiter’) or manager in your profession or industry ‘checking you out’, it’s actually a prompt for you to reach out to them if you wish.  Call it reciprocity or quid pro quo or simply opening the door to an introduction but they have made the first move.

I have no problems in advising my clients to contact these folks, saying something like: ‘Hi John, I noticed you were viewing my profile on LinkedIn recently.  You may have seen that I’ve left company X and am now looking for work as a…’.  Now this may go somewhere, such as a meeting or phone call, or it may go nowhere, but you’ll never die wondering and it could be that proactive action that leads to your next great role.

One final piece of advice related to the above…

You have the option of ‘Selecting what others see when you view their profile’ in LinkedIn settings.  Please, I beseech thee, select the ‘Recommended‘ option of showing your name and headline so that when you visit someone’s profile, they can see your details for all the reasons listed above.  You want to be found right?

Is there an exception to the above…Of course!  There are occasions where curiosity gets the better of you and you want to see what happened to the office bore or that horrific manager you had the misfortune to work for.  Human beings are naturally curious beings, but we don’t always want to have our identities revealed!  In this case, you have my permission to go undercover and become ‘totally anonymous’...

For help with LinkedIn profiles, you can contact me, Paul Di Michiel (The Career Medic) by clicking HERE.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s