The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

10 Resume “Must-Haves”

10 Resume Must-HavesFor a great resume it’s important to include these 10 factors:

1. A clear focus on a specific role or type of job and how you are well qualified for it.

2. Emphasis on what you most want employers to remember about you – the top reason(s) that make you stand out as the best person for the job. Think of these as your key selling points.

3.  Skimmability. If a busy recruiter looks at your resume for just 10 seconds, what will they notice? Make sure your key selling points and other essential qualifications are so visible the reader can’t miss them.

4. Keywords. Find them by analyzing job postings. The most important keyword is your desired job title. Other important keywords are the most crucial qualifications for the job, such an MBA, channel marketing or JavaScript.

5. Accomplishments/results/impact. How did you make a difference for your past employers? It’s not enough just to list your duties – that’s just a job description, and it won’t sell you.

6. The right sections in the right order for your unique situation. Strategically choose to include the sections that work for you, in the order that works best for you. For example, if you’re a recent graduate or seeking a role in the higher education field, then your Education section should probably be near the top. Formatting is especially important – and tricky – when you’re revising your resume for a career change.

The only required sections are Name, Contact Information and Experience. Additional sections to consider are a summary (although you don’t necessarily need to give this a heading), Core Competencies (or Expertise), Skills (or Technical Skills), Education, Awards, Affiliations, Volunteer Experience, Additional Experience and Interests (if they’re relevant or they enhance your brand in some way).

7. Formatting that works well in Applicant Tracking Systems. An ATS is a system that “reads” resumes (generally only in .doc, .docx, .rtf or .txt formats) and uses the information to fill in a standardized candidate profile. Human resources personnel then do keyword searches through the profiles to find candidates to interview.

ATS’s are easily confused and may jumble or reject your resume if you include unusual fonts or symbols, nonstandard section headings (like “Relevant Roles” instead of “Experience”), or place crucial information in headers, footers, text boxes or graphics, none of which will be read by an ATS. Don’t use this kind of formatting.

8. Good, strong verbs, especially at the beginning of each bullet item in your Experience section. Here’s a good list.

9. Clear, concise, correct writing. With so many other resumes in the running, a confusing or wordy one may end up being discarded to save time.

As for the mechanics of English – correct spelling, grammar, word usage, capitalization, punctuation, etc. – you might be surprised by how many errors you’re making. Even professional writers see a mess of red ink when an editor has gone over their work. At the very least, hire a professional proofreader. You’d be surprised how affordable it is.

Even tiny errors like bad punctuation can subtly detract from the intelligent, well educated impression you want to convey.

10. Smart management of your career timeline. Be strategic in your choices about how far back to go, whether to include months or just years, and what jobs to include or leave out.

Making the resume look eye-catching and attractive with tasteful use of color, shading, fonts and graphics (while following the advice in #7 above!) can be helpful, but the 10 factors above are even more important.

Follow every one of these resume writing tips if you want a strong resume that gives you the best shot at getting the interview!

 

This article was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.

How to Stand Out in Interviews – Focus the Interviewer’s Attention!

In job interviews you’re typically competing against several other people. How can you stand out and be the one who gets the job?

Is it a matter of gimmicks or tricks? Nope! It’s a matter of making it very clear to the employer that you’re the best candidate. And that clarity comes from focusing attention – yours and the interviewer’s – on the right things.

Less Is More: The Importance of Focus in Job Interviews

Educators know that if you hit someone with a huge bunch of facts willy-nilly, they may not learn anything. People learn better when the presentation is focused and organized around a few core concepts.

In sales, these are often called “key selling points.” (This is closely related to the idea of a unique selling proposition or a personal brand.) These points are where you want to focus the interviewer’s attention.

In an interview, the “product” you’re selling is you. If that sounds awful, let’s remember that you’re not selling your soul – just clearly communicating the skills, expertise and personal strengths that will make you valuable to an employer.

In fact, let’s get away from sales terminology. I call these your “REV Points,” because they work best if they’re Relevant, Exceptional and Verifiable (REV).

Ask yourself, what would my co-workers and managers say if I asked them what makes me uniquely valuable? What do I do better than others? Jot down a good long list.

Now identify which of these possible selling points really have that “REV” that’s going to make you stand out.

Choosing Selling Points that Really “REV”

I mentioned that REV stands for Relevant, Exceptional and Verifiable. Here’s what I mean by these terms.

Relevant: A relevant qualification is in demand by employers. Study several job postings for the type of job you want, and underline the important skills, qualifications and qualities the employer is looking for. Which seem to be the top priorities?

Think about the likely pain points of your target companies – the problems that are eating into their profits or making them look bad. Skills that can help solve these problems are powerfully relevant.

Exceptional: An exceptional quality or qualification is one that stands out. Probably all of your competitors have experience in multi-tasking. But can they all speak Mandarin with the company’s Chinese clients.

Maybe you are exceptionally hard working, extremely intelligent, or a superb people person. Well, lots of people say these things about themselves. If you are truly exceptional in a soft skill like these, you’ll need to make it more convincing – it needs to be verifiable.

Verifiable: By this I mean that the item is not just a claim or opinion. It’s something you can prove or give evidence for.

Facts are naturally verifiable. Let’s say you believe your graduate degree is a key selling point. No problem, this is a fact and it can be verified with a background check. Likewise, your work experience is a collection of facts that can be verified.

Skills can be tougher, especially soft skills like communication. Most job applicants claim to have excellent communication skills. By itself, this claim is so subjective – such a matter of opinion, really – that it’s almost meaningless. Until you give evidence for it. Your evidence might be something like this:

  • The skillfulness of your spoken and written communications with the interviewer. (Thus, you’re demonstrating these skills rather than just claiming to have them.)
  • A story about the time when you diplomatically sorted out a misunderstanding and kept a client from leaving.
  • The fact that you wrote documentation that reduced service calls 50%.

Now your claim of exceptional communication skills has credibility!

You’ll notice that we’re using these terms – verify, prove, evidence – a bit loosely. We’re not talking about proving your skills with legalistic or scientific precision. The point is to be able to back up your claims enough to make them reasonably convincing to the interviewer.

Example: One Candidate’s Interview REV Points

Denise Williams is a sales manager looking for a new job. The most relevant, exceptional and verifiable reasons she’s the right person to hire are:

  • Track record of consistently over-achieving goals and earning awards in Fortune 500 companies
  • Exceptional talent for effectively anticipating and navigating change through cross-functional collaboration (with stories to “verify” this and make it real)
  • Learns quickly and positively impacts the bottom line within the first few months on any job (again, verified by stories)

Using Your REV Points

Now that you know the top 3 or top 5 things that will make you stand out, how do you use them to get the job?

  • Emphasize them throughout the interview process.
  • Start the interview with them. Make a great first impression by bringing up these points as you answer the first question in the interview, which is often “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Tell stories (examples) from your work that bring each of these key points to life. These stories can also help you improve your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • End the interview with them. People tend to remember what they hear first, but also what they hear last. Include some or all of these points in your closing statement at the end of the interview, as well as your follow-up communications.

Want help figuring out your key selling points? Sign up for my FREE five-lesson course, Stand Out In Your Interviews.

5 Crazy Mistakes Job Seekers Make

I’m not going to bore you with the same old job search mistakes – letting your cell phone ring at an interview, blah blah. Here are some crazy job search mistakes that are often made even by smart job seekers like you.

1. Making no attempt to get their resume past the gatekeeper when they apply online.

Sending your resume to Human Resources without also sending a copy directly to the hiring manager is a huge missed opportunity. Sure, the job posting doesn’t tell you the manager’s name, but there are ways to find out.

2. Basing their job search on answering job postings.

Given that about three-quarters of jobs are obtained through word of mouth, networking and personal referrals, does it make sense to spend nine-tenths of your job search time looking for jobs online? Learn how to use informational interviews to get a job faster.

3. Under-utilizing LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a great way to advertise your skills to recruiters and make useful connections – if you do it right. Most people don’t know how to use it, starting with how to put together an excellent profile.

4. Not getting serious about job search until they’ve been unemployed for months.

I’m going to be blunt: the longer you’re unemployed the worse you look to employers. If you’ve been out of a job for, say, six months you’re considered “long-term unemployed.” Don’t let yourself fall into that vicious cycle.

If you have just gotten laid off, my advice is to take a reasonable-length vacation if you need to – I suggest a few weeks – then start spending 25-40 hours a week doing a smart, well planned, proactive job search.

If you really feel you’ve got to go crazy and take a year off, I doubt I can talk you out of it – but be prepared for a tough job search when you get back.

5. Failing to capitalize on the expertise that’s available.

Job search is simple and easy, right? Of course it isn’t. Making room in your budget for competent professional resume writing, job search advice and interview coaching is one of the best investments you can make in your future earning potential and career satisfaction.

Just to give you a little more than I promised, I’ll include one more:

6. Trusting themselves to proofread their own writing.

I’ve worked in publishing houses, and I can tell you that even professional writers need a second and maybe third pair of eyes to catch the mistakes they don’t notice because they were too familiar with their own writing. Proofreading isn’t even expensive. Did you know you can get a resume proofread by a professional for $5-10? Go on LinkedIn and find a qualified proofreader. It’s crazy not to.

That’s enough craziness for now. Be smart and get a great job sooner!

How to Build Rapport in Your Interview

“We just clicked, right off the bat.” How can you build that rapport in a job interview?

One fast way to get there is through mirroring the interviewer’s posture, gestures , energy level and way of talking. Here’s a great two-minute video that shows you how.

Using the techniques in this video will make your interviewer feel more comfortable being with you, which is bound to increase your chances of getting the job.

When you first started reading this post, you may have thought mirroring sounded unnatural or phony. But when you watched the video, what did you think? To me, the candidate looked just as natural and real when she was mirroring the interviewer. That’s because mirroring is something people naturally do. We just don’t usually call it that, or even notice that we’re doing it. It’s part of having good social skills.

Practice this in various situations so that it comes naturally when you need it most. Build rapport with your interviewer and get that job!

Super-useful LinkedIn Feature Returns: Search Someone’s Connections

It used to be that you could do a Boolean search through the Connections list of someone you’re connected to on LinkedIn, to see who they know that you might like to be introduced to. What a boon when you’re looking for a job.

Well, you can now do that again, and without paying for premium. Here’s a quick video demonstration by LinkedIn marketing guru Brynne Tillman.

If you don’t see the “See Connections” link in someone’s profile it means they’ve set their Privacy settings to prevent it. For example, I don’t let people see my connections because many of my connections are clients and their names are confidential. But I think you’ll find that many of your connections have not hidden theirs.

Use your LinkedIn network to find the right people to network with! Nothing beats talking to people as a way to get a job.

Interviewers Can’t Take Your Word for It

job interview, interviewingLet’s face it, employers know that many candidates exaggerate or even lie in job interviews. You know you’re honest, but how could they know? Many candidates lie in interviews.

Even if you weren’t lying, many of the claims job seekers make are matters of opinion. Why should the interviewer trust your opinion of yourself?

I tend to believe my clients when they tell me about the things they’ve accomplished. But then, I’m not risking thousands of dollars in staff time and lost productivity, as employers are – every time they make a hire. If employers seem a bit paranoid, they have reason to be.

Employers want evidence, but not necessarily the kind you’d need in a court of law. Sometimes it’s enough just to tell the story in a way that would be hard to fake. Whatever claims you make, back them up with specifics. If you tell about a project you did a good job with, paint the picture with specific details so the employer gets a sense that the story is real.

If you improved customer service, what are the metrics that prove it? Did 98% of clients renew at the end of the year? If you kept your department running smoothly after the manager quit, what does “smoothly” mean, specifically?

Another way to give “evidence” for your abilities is to have the praise coming from someone other than you. Getting excellent recommendations on your LinkedIn profile, well in advance, is one way to do this. Another is to quote someone else word-for-word, especially if you can back it up with a reference later.

I recently helped a client – I’ll call him Jim – prepare for an interview for a project management job. He is intensely excited about the job and has outstanding skills, but the results of his work are sometimes difficult to quantify. Nor does he have any contacts inside the organization. So how will they know it’s true when he tells them how well he has performed?

I asked Jim, “Well, how do you know you do a good job?”

“Partly from what people say to me,” he said. “My last boss used to say ‘Anytime I ask about any project, Jim instantly knows all the facts, the status, and any special considerations. He’s totally on top of it.’ He’s giving me a reference, too.”

References are generally a last check, once the decision has already been made. The glowing remarks of this supervisor may never be heard unless the employer can hear them before making a decision.

“Bring him into the interview,” I said, “by mentioning his name and that he’s a reference, and then quoting exactly what he says to you.”

Provide evidence to back up your claims. This will make a huge difference in your interview skills.

 

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.

10 Ingredients of an Excellent LinkedIn Profile

10 Ingredients of an Excellent LinkedIn ProfileWhat are the must-haves for a LinkedIn profile that enhances your image and helps you advance your job search and career?

I could write a book on getting the most out of LinkedIn, but you probably don’t have time to read it anyway. For now, let’s just look at the top priorities.

Nail these, and you’ll stand out from most of the competition, whether you’re in job search, self-employed or simply serious about career management.

1. Branding.

Know what makes you stand out – your unique brand or key selling points – and emphasize it throughout your profile. If you don’t know what makes you a great person to hire or collaborate with, how is anyone else going to figure it out?

2. A Good Professional Headline.

This is just your title and company, right? Nope. This field is one of the most important for keywords as well as a first impression, so write a more branded headline than the one LinkedIn automatically generated. An easy but effective formula is to start with your job title, then add a dash or symbol followed by a tagline or mention of one or more of your best selling points.

3. Mistake-free Writing.

The vast majority of us, even professional writers, make mistakes in grammar, capitalization, word usage and spelling. Unless you received all A’s in English, you will probably benefit from having your profile copyedited and/or proofread by a professional. You can find a skilled pro via Yelp or free-lancing sites (or by asking me for a name) who may charge less than $20 to fix those little issues. It’s worth it!

4. Keywords.

What are the crucial skills, areas of expertise and designations your employers or customers will be looking for? These words and phrases need to be used appropriately throughout your profile to make it relevant. This helps your profile rank highly in search results when recruiters are looking for someone with qualifications like yours.  Hint: The most important keyword is your desired job title.

5. A Reasonable Degree of Completeness.

A fully developed profile is not only more engaging but will often have better search rankings. Write well-developed Summary (with special attention to the beginning, which is all that shows up unless the user clicks for more), Experience, Education and Skills sections, and don’t neglect Accomplishments (Certifications, Awards, Projects and so on). Added media such as images, PDFs or video are a plus as long as they support your brand.

One are where completeness is not helpful is to list jobs you held many, many years ago that are no longer relevant or that might subject you to age discrimination. Make a strategic choice about how far back to go.

6. A Good Photo.

The online world is very visual and becoming more so all the time. A good photo builds trust and makes you more approachable and memorable. Hire a pro, or have a friend take at least 20 shots in flattering lighting (for example, outdoors in the shade, or during the hour around sunset) and pick the best one.

7. Connections.

The more connections you have, the more chance you have getting introduced to insiders and referred into a job. Each new connection increases your odds of being at least a 3rd degree connection to any given recruiter, which makes it easier for her or him to access your profile and reach out to you.

8. Recommendations.

If an employer is interested in your resume, often their next step is to look at your LinkedIn profile for more clues about you, including social proof that you have the hard and soft skills they want. Ask for recommendations from colleagues and managers, which you can do by visiting their profile and clicking the three dots to the right of their photo. Endorsements (which show up in the Skills section) are less crucial but still useful to make the profile look good, and they may  improve your search rankings.

9. Consistency with your resume.

This doesn’t mean your LinkedIn should be identical to your resume – far from it – but the two should never contradict each other. Prospective employers may be suspicious when a job is omitted from your resume but included on LinkedIn, for example.

10. Good Choices in the Privacy Settings.

Log in and click the drop-down arrow under the tiny picture of you in the upper right-hand corner of any LinkedIn page, then select Settings & Privacy. Review and adjust your settings carefully, especially if you don’t want your current employer to know you’re looking for a new job.

Now, are there only 10 important things to know about optimizing your LinkedIn profile? Of course not. This is a good start, but why not request a free consultation to talk about your specific situation and how you can best use this powerful platform to get a great job sooner?

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.)

Interviewing Tips for the Over-50 Professional

I hated writing that title. There is not some big GONG! that sounds at age 50 shutting us out of opportunities. But ageism and stereotypes are common, so if you’re older you’d be wise to adopt strategies to reduce the drag that these mindsets can have on your interview success.

Age discrimination can occur regardless of the interviewer’s age, but the viewpoints and expectations of Millennial-age hiring managers may make interviewing more challenging for older candidates.

Ask yourself what your goal is. To enlighten interviewers and eliminate ageism? Good luck with that! To show them you’re the right person to hire? Now there’s a goal you can reach.

Having coached many job seekers for whom age was a concern – and being over 50 myself – I can share some suggestions that will help you get the job you want at any age.

First, assess whether your age is even an issue.

Let’s assume that some of your target employers tend to expect, and maybe even prefer, a certain age range. Do you know what that range is?

You may have a sense of this already. If you do, and you’re older than that, then yes, this post is relevant to you.

If you’re not sure, let’s think about it a little. Since age discrimination is illegal and employers are unlikely to admit they prefer a certain age, we have to do a little educated guessing here. Questions to consider:

  • What’s the typical age range you’ve seen among people in your line of work?
  • When you look at job postings, how many years of experience do they tend to mention? Do you have far more than that? A few years more than required is probably a plus. Twenty years more may be a problem.
  • On the other hand, the years of experience posted may be just a minimum. What age would someone probably need to have reached in order to have accumulated all the abilities called for in the posting?
  • Think about the company you’re interviewing for. Do you have reason to think their employees are younger or older than most? Look to Glassdoor, word of mouth and the overall online image of the company for clues.

What stereotypes might you need to work against?

A stereotype is defined as “A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Many of the stereotypes about older people have been shown by research to be mistaken.

Nevertheless, negative stereotypes persist. Many people have the idea that older people are unhealthy, lacking in energy and enthusiasm, memory-impaired, unproductive, set in their ways rather than innovative, uninterested in learning new skills, uncomfortable with new technologies, out of touch with new trends or resistant to following younger leaders. They may believe you won’t be willing or able to work long hours.

How can you counteract those?

You can demonstrate that the stereotypes don’t apply to you.

Look healthy. As much as possible, be healthy. Are you exercising enough, sleeping enough, eating well? Beyond that, both women and men can looking healthier by using a facial exfoliant, moisturizer and quality hair products to create a healthy-looking glow. Good posture also conveys vitality. (As an over-50 person myself, I maintain my posture by doing yoga regularly.)

Convey energy and enthusiasm. Develop stories from your recent work history about successes you accomplished that demonstrate these qualities. For example, tell about wins you achieved by going above and beyond requirements, working hard or working quickly, motivating others with your passion, and so on. Go above and beyond in interviews by being better prepared than others – e.g., by researching the company and industry thoroughly, and/or by preparing a 30-60-90 day plan.

Show you’re still sharp. If you tend to forget dates and figures related to your work, review them thoroughly before interviewing. Take a few notes during interviews and then review and add to them immediately afterwards, so that your thank you notes and subsequent interviews are well informed.

Prove you’re still highly productive. Be prepared with specifics about all you’ve accomplished in your current/recent roles.

Show that you’re innovative and creative. Give examples.

Update your skills. A new certification or coursework not only improves your abilities but shows that you’re a lifelong learner, still in high gear and not downshifting! There are so many online courses and tutorials. Free-trial subscriptions to various tools and applications can give you a chance to study them for a month.

Embrace new technologies. If you’re a bit techno-phobic I sympathize, but pulling out a paper datebook or mentioning “I’ve never Skyped before” won’t exactly give you a tech-savvy image.

Keep up on the relevant trends for your profession and industry. Join professional associations and groups. Read work-related blogs and news.

Show you’ll work well with younger colleagues and a younger boss. Show respect and gain rapport by listening actively, asking good questions, and keeping your own answers focused and concise – usually a minute or less. Rambling at great length is a trait people may associate with bosses – or with that elderly uncle who monopolizes dinner table conversation every Thanksgiving. Show you won’t dominate conversations.

Don’t call attention to age differences with remarks like “I guess this dates me, but…” or “younger people like yourself.” It’s not that you need to hide your age, but going out of your way to point to your age – or worse, the interviewer’s – will distract from what’s relevant and can easily come across as patronizing.

If you’re willing to work evenings and weekends, say so. Give examples of times when you’ve pulled a long haul to complete a project successfully and on time. This will go a long way to show you’ll fit into today’s open-ended work life.

On the other hand, if you really aren’t willing to work evenings or weekends, try describing how your efficient, focused working methods have made that extra time unnecessary. If you can’t sell that to employers, look for companies that place more value on work-life balance, or consider a different line of work that’s a better fit.

Capitalize on what the years have given you.

There are also positive stereotypes about over-50 professionals: that we’re mature, trustworthy and stable, with good judgment – in other words, wisdom. Think about what you’ve gained from experience. Have you solved so many problems over the years that you’ve become a go-to for troubleshooting and turnarounds? Have you learned to remain calm and competent while others are losing their heads? Develop interview stories that vividly illustrate these valuable abilities.

Keep it all in perspective.

There’s hardly any job seeker who doesn’t have something that may count against them in interviews. Maybe it’s their lack of a certain skill, or a gap in their work history, or their funny-looking nose, or that they say “basically” too often. Your age is only one factor. And not every interviewer is ageist. Many will perceive you positively as a seasoned pro.

And remember, overcoming age discrimination is only one aspect of getting ready for interviews. Make sure your overall interview preparation is top notch, and you’ll have every possible advantage over the under-prepared competition – whatever age they may be.

90 Days, 32 Informational Interviews, 1 Great Job

This is the true story of how Dan, a self-described introvert, harnessed the power of networking by doing three informational interviews a week, landed a six-figure job he loves – and even enjoyed many of the conversations!

How did he do it? I interviewed Dan to find out.

What was he looking for?

In 2016 Dan (not his real name) was unemployed, except for some sporadic consulting work. But given his strong track record as a manager and individual contributor in various nonprofit organizations, he didn’t feel desperate. Dan was looking for “the right job, not just any job.”

His requirements included the following:

  • A salary of $100K or more.
  • No relocation or long commute.
  • A motivating mission at a large nonprofit, educational institution, government organization or ethical startup.
  • A talented team.
  • The opportunity to be “an educator, not just an administrator.”

Why informational interviews?

Although he did some online job search, Dan decided that informational interviews would help him pinpoint the right opportunity. “I wanted to see what was out there and which organizations were the best to work for.”

How did he get 32 people to make time for him?

He let go of the idea that any particular meeting had to lead to a job. Instead, he decided to approach the conversations “in a spirit of curiosity, or as if I were a reporter.”

“That made it very low-pressure for the people I was talking to, as well as for me,” he said, adding with a laugh, “People like talking about themselves. Who knew?”

“It was really important to get introductions. Yes, I did some cold reach-outs, but mostly it was a matter of reconnecting with people I’d known in the past and hadn’t talked to in a while, especially people who were really smart or well-connected.”

Linkedin was a useful tool in this process. “I would look to see who was working where, or in what field. I joined a couple of relevant groups and then I looked up people in my network who were connected to any of these groups.” This made it easier to reach out to these people, who were now fellow group members.

What kind of questions did Dan ask?

He asked his interviewees about their background, how they got started in their career and job, and what they liked and didn’t like about it.

Going beyond the standard informational interview questions, he also asked them about specific organizations he was interested in. Had they heard news about the organizations and what was going on with them – growth, change, etc.? How did people get hired there? Did this person recommend working there, or warn against it? Often a contact would introduce him to someone connected to an organization that interested him.

Was this whole process easy or hard? Fun or not?

I asked Dan whether he’s an extroverted person who loves reaching out and meeting lots of people. The answer was – no!

“I am absolutely an introvert,” he said. “I had to force myself. I set a numeric goal: at least three info interviews a week.”

The first couple of interviews were the hardest, so he started with easy ones first: former work friends and a mentor. Once he had a few of these meetings under his belt it got easier.

“There were fun moments. I had a lot of great conversations. It was interesting to hear about people’s career journeys. People really opened up.”

“And it got me out of the house and kept my spirits up.”

How did all these info interviews lead to his current job?

Ultimately a contact introduced him to an executive at an outstanding organization he had admired for quite some time.

“I had to ping [the executive] three times before she got back to me. Finally I had a great 15-minute phone conversation with her as she was unloading groceries, and then a few weeks later she sent me a listing for a consulting job. That ended up being my source of income for six months, and finally turned into the job I have now.”

Dan now works in an organization he has long wanted to join, doing work he loves, with the strong educational focus that’s important to him.

How did he feel about starting as a consultant?

The words “consultant” or “contract” raise a shudder of discouragement from many job seekers. I asked Dan how he felt about taking this role.

“Well, I didn’t want to be a contractor; it was a little uncomfortable and strange. But oddly enough, now as I look back on it I sometimes think ‘Hey, it was nice to work from home in my pajamas.”

Is Dan’s story unusual?

It may seem like 32 informational interviews are a lot, but that’s only about three a week for three months. Other job seekers have filled their schedules with one or two meetings daily, with the result of becoming employed within a few weeks.

Conclusion

Informational interviews are a form of networking, which is the fastest way to get a job. Not to mention the fact that the word-of-mouth opportunities you discover are often better jobs those that are advertised!

Three 15-Minute Job Search Projects for Labor Day Weekend

With summer vacations ending, companies will be increasing the pace of their hiring activities. Here are a few small yet powerful things you can do to boost your job search momentum in 15 minutes each – less than an hour out of your Labor Day weekend.

Network at those barbecues and parties – but do it the smart way. Make a list of companies you might want to work for (you can do a quick-and-dirty, top-of-your-head list in five minutes, although eventually you’ll want to build it out to the recommended 40-50 employers). Then mention it to people you talk to over the weekend. Instead of asking people whether they know of any openings – which is usually a very short and sad conversation ending with “No, but I’ll keep you in mind” – ask questions about your target companies:

“Did you know I’m looking for a new job as a (whatever)? I’ve got a list of companies I’m interested in, like X, Y and Z. I’m trying to learn more about them, and not just what I can find out online. Do you have any advice?” Depending on who you ask, you may end up with some useful leads.

Make a plan to improve your resume and other job search materials, even if you don’t have time to work on it now. Get the ball rolling by buying a smart, up-to-date book like Modernize Your Resume by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.

Or spend a few minutes searching online for a good resume writer. Look for someone with experience, formal training, glowing recommendations on LinkedIn and/or Yelp, and certification by one of the major professional associations (listed in alphabetical order): Career Directors International, Career Thought Leaders, the National Resume Writers Association or the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Contact your top three candidates and ask for a free consultation.

Or contact me for a referral. I rarely write resumes myself, but I know who’s good out there, and will be happy to make an introduction.

Start getting ready for phone interviews, which can happen unexpectedly. A “quick chat” with a human resources person can happen anytime if you’ve submitted a resume, and even if you haven’t, since recruiters are increasingly trolling through LinkedIn and other online sources to find likely candidates. Look into interview coaches (the advice in the previous paragraph applies here, too, and of course I myself provide interview coaching services), or get a book for a frugal, DIY approach. My own Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview is a steal at $4.99 for eBook, $10.99 for paperback – and Forbes said it’s “Excellent,” by the way.

An added plus is that preparing for interviews will boost your confidence and readiness for networking conversations. And because you’ll be coming up with stories about your work accomplishments, you may discover new material to improve your resume as well.

After you’ve spent 15 minutes on one or more of these projects, pat yourself on the back, forget about job search, get outside and enjoy some sunshine! Exercise and fun will replenish the energy you need to take your next steps. Good luck!