The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

What questions would you like this blog to answer?

Hey you, reader of my blog! I want to hear from you.

If you’re a subscriber, you may have noticed my new blog title – The Great Job Sooner Blog. It’s a new beginning, and a good time for me to ask you how I can serve you better.

What burning questions do you have about how to get interviews, get offers and get hired?

What’s puzzling, confusing, frustrating, depressing or even infuriating in your job search – that maybe these articles can help you resolve? No question is too small or too large. (Well, maybe too large. “What is the meaning of life?” may be beyond the scope of this publication.)

I welcome your input. Just click the blue “Email Me” button (way up there at the right, just a bit lower than the menu bar) or even the “Free Consultation” button. They both send messages to the same place: my in-box.

I’m looking forward to your input and making this blog as relevant and helpful as it can be. Thank you!

LinkedIn’s New Look – 5 Steps to Make It Work for You

LinkedIn’s new desktop layout provides a more seamless experience across mobile and home – but will it make you look good?

Here’s what you need to do to ensure your profile is branding you the way you want it to – starting from the top and working our way down.

One: Brand Yourself with that Summary “Teaser.”

One of the first things someone viewing your profile will see, in the top box (often called the Snapshot), is the beginning of your Summary – the first 92 characters on mobile, 220 on desktop – along with a “See more” link. Not everyone will click to see more, so make sure those first words contribute to a relevant, positive first impression that supports your professional brand.

The truncation process eliminates line spaces, so you may find that those first 92/220 characters include words or sentences jammed together with no space in between, like this:

CATHY L. CURTISSustainability Consultant – Corporate Social Responsibility – Communicationscathylcurtis@gmail.com

To prevent that, use dashes or symbols (from the “Symbols” font on your computer) to separate the words, like this:

▒ CATHY L. CURTIS ▒ Sustainability Consultant – Corporate Social Responsibility – Communications –  cathylcurtis@gmail.com

Two: Pay Attention to Your “Articles and Activity.”

Since your recent posts and post “likes” now show up at the top of your profile, they’re much more noticeable. So make sure your posts support your professional brand. If you wouldn’t talk about a certain topic in a large meeting at work, don’t post it on LinkedIn. And if the last time you posted was a long, long time ago, it’s time to share some news or an interesting work-related article.

Three: With Job Descriptions Hidden, Make Sure Your Titles Speak for Themselves.

Your job descriptions are now hidden until the reader clicks for more. If there’s something super-important in the description – like the fact that “Analyst III” actually means you built websites – add some description to the job title field, in parentheses like this: “Analyst III (Web Development & Design)”.

That’s actually been a good idea all along, since job titles are a very important field to load with key words if you want your profile to come up high in searches for people with those skills.

Four: Claim Your Accomplishments.

Several sections that once were separate are now grouped under the heading “Accomplishments”:  Certifications, Courses, Honors / Awards, Languages, Patents, Projects, Publications, Test Scores and Organizations. You don’t need all of these things, of course. But by labeling them “Accomplishments,” LinkedIn has made them more important. Enough said.

Five: Be Aware of Other Changes.  

You no longer have a choice about the order of the sections. If previously you had Education or Certifications near the top of your profile to emphasize it, that’s no longer an option. Instead, use your Summary (especially those first 92/220 characters) to draw attention to what’s important.

Groups have not disappeared, but it’s less obvious how to find and interact with your Groups. Click the magnifying glass next to the search field at the top and then click the “Groups” tab that appears. Or scroll down to “Following” near the bottom of your profile and “See more.” Various changes have been made to how your Groups function, mostly to make it less spammy. Here’s more on that.

Advanced Search is still there, you just have to click the magnifying glass first.

The new Notifications page makes it easier to engage with post activity.

LinkedIn Posts is now called Articles and works differently in various ways. The bad news is that your articles are no longer shared with all your Connections. Here’s more info on changes in this area.   

Exporting your LinkedIn connections is now done under Account>Basics.

There’s a new messaging feature similar to Facebook Messenger with a chatbot for scheduling meetings with Google Calendar.

Tagging of contacts is no longer available, but you can do that and more with add-ons like Dux Soup.

Capitalize on the Power of LinkedIn to Build Your Brand

Despite Facebook’s recent entry into the job posting world, LinkedIn remains the preeminent professional networking site. Use it to your advantage!

“Why do you want to leave your job?” (Interview Question)

Why do you want to leave your job? (Interview Question)Why you want to leave – this interview question is a minefield if your mind immediately goes to places like: My boss is a micromanager. The politics are toxic. The company is broken.

How can you answer this question in a job interview without sounding like a whining bad-mouther?

Some reasons for leaving are easier to talk about:

  • You like your current job, and are only interviewing because you saw another opportunity too exciting to resist.
  • You are successful in your current job but wish to make a career change that your current company can’t offer you – e.g., a shift into a different industry.
  • There is no path for advancement from your current role.
  • You need to relocate to a different city or state, and your current company can’t transfer you.

It’s more difficult if you’re leaving because of a problem – that the company is poorly managed, your boss is difficult, or such. It’s ironic that while the number one reason most people quit jobs is because of their bosses, that’s the last reason you can safely talk about in an interview. And it’s poor practice to criticize your current company, especially if you would be revealing issues that are not publicly know

Here’s an approach that will help.

When you really think about it, there are probably several reasons you’re leaving, not just one. Look at the four examples in the bulleted list above – do some of those apply? And what else? Make a list of all the reasons – “Why will I leave thee? Let me count the ways!” – and then craft an answer focused on the reasons that present you in a good light.

Now, you’re still basically talking about a negative – that you want to leave your job – so surround it with positives: the successes you have had there, what you have learned, and the reasons why you’re excited about the new opportunity.

“This job was my first foray into tech, and that was a great step for me. I’ve learned a lot about what customers want in an app. And I’ve learned that while I’m good at project management, I’m even better at understanding the customer. I want to move into a customer success role like this one. This opening is ideal for me because…”

(And they never need to know about your boss’s lousy management style!)

Watch for future posts focusing on other tricky job interview questions such as “Were you ever fired? Why?”

How to Find Skills-Based Volunteer Openings

What are the best websites to find skills-based volunteering opportunities?Looking for a professionally challenging volunteer opportunity? Skills-based volunteering can be a great job search strategy, a way to gain experience and contacts in a new field or update your skills when returning to the workforce after a lengthy break.

The tricky part is finding volunteer opportunities that are relevant to your career goals.

For example, I have a client who’s looking to volunteer as a curriculum developer. Only a few websites do well with lesser-known occupations like that. Many don’t focus on skills at all.

The following are most useful websites I’ve found for skills-based volunteer opportunities:

LinkedIn for Volunteers

Craigslist (Click the “volunteer” link in the “community” category.)

Idealist

All three of these sites allow you to easily create advanced searches for volunteer roles that fit your skills and geographic criteria. You can save your searches and get notified when there’s a match. Furthermore, on all three I was able to find openings requiring highly developed, specialized skills.

Beyond websites: other ways to find volunteer opportunities.

As with any type of job search, don’t spend more than 25% of your time applying “cold” (without a personal connection) to roles you’ve found online. The best roles are found (or created) through networking and referral. Often, an organization needs help but nobody has gotten around to posting an announcement. That’s where networking can get you in the door.

Make a list of organizations you’d like to volunteer for, and start following them and reaching out to people who might be in any way connected to them. Use your personal and social media networks. Cultivate referrals to managers and seek informational interviews.

Joining a professional association is another great way to make your skills known, spread the word and make contacts. Volunteering for association events is an easy way to build relationship, and working an event is often a great way to attend free or at a reduced cost. Plus, many associations make a point of matching individuals to organizations that need pro bono assistance.

Skills-based volunteering can be a very powerful part of your career development and job search strategy!

Psych Up for Interviews with Guided Visualization

Psych Up for Interviews with Guided VisualizationWhat do Bill Gates, Jim Carrey, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan have in common (besides being rich and famous)?

All have used creative visualization to help them get to where they are today. Why not put this tool to work in your job search?

Five reasons to use visualization – a.k.a. mental imagery or mental practice – to prepare for your job interviews:

  1. It’s a great way to reduce nervousness, allowing you to realistically “practice” being calm and confident
  2. You don’t need a mock interviewer to practice this way. You can do it on your own.
  3. It’s a great way to address hard-to-change habits like saying “um” too much, slouching, fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, and so on.
  4. It’s the only way to do a practice interview with the actual interviewer at the company where you’ll be interviewing. (Tip: If possible, look up the interviewer on LinkedIn or Google so you can picture them accurately, and look up the building on Google Maps.)
  5. You can use visualization wherever you want to – in your parked car (not while driving!), on the train – or almost anywhere.

Why “guided” visualization? Using a recording to guide your visualization helps keep you from being distracted by random thoughts and worries. It makes your visualization more powerful.

So, who’s the “guide” of a guided visualization? It could be you! Last week, in an interview on VoiceAmerica’s internet radio show “Career Confidante,” I explained how you can make your own guided visualization recording.

Alternatively, you can contact me for a customized psych-up recording tailored to your needs.

Read my three-part blog series on Mental Practice for Job Interviews for more information on how to psych up for a job interview that gets the job.

Salary Negotiation – How to Do It!

Here's a simple introduction to the basics of negotiating your compensation package.In Monday’s post I listed 7 Reasons to Negotiate a Job Offer. That was the “why,” for those of us who are tempted to shy away from questioning the initial salary, benefits and other details of a compensation package.

Now let’s talk about how to do it.

Send the right messages.

Your demeanor and attitude in negotiation will be taken as an indication of how you’ll be as an employee. So approach the negotiation from a positive, collaborative, win-win perspective.

Keep expressing appreciation for the offer, for the employer’s willingness to discuss the terms, and for any concession made, even if it’s just that they will “look into it and get back to you.”

This way you can be assertive without damaging the relationship, protecting the mutual feeling of excitement about working together.

Nail the basics.

Of course you need to do some research to determine the going rate for your skills and experience (via Salary.com, Payscale.com, GlassDoor.com, Google searches and word of mouth). Be clear in your mind what your ideal offer looks like, and what’s the least you would accept.

You probably also know that there is an advantage in waiting for the other party to name a figure or range.

And of course, as in any sales conversation, it’s important to emphasize the benefits you’re offering to the “buyer.” How will you help them make money, save money, save time? Have examples ready.

A helpful formula for discussions:

Here’s something that may be new to you: a simple step-by-step process or framework to follow once you have an offer.

At the moment they make the offer:

  1. Express appreciation. (I’m going to say this over and over! It’s important to keep a positive climate throughout the process.)
  2. Ask for a little time to think it over if you don’t feel ready to negotiate on the spot. Set a meeting to discuss the offer. (Avoid doing it via email!)
  3. Determine at least three aspects of the compensation package that you’d like to discuss.

Potentially negotiable items may include salary, start date, salary review date (one year? six months? three?), bonuses, stock options, vacation and other benefits, flexible scheduling, telecommuting, perks and more. Even the job title and responsibilities may be negotiable in some cases.

At the meeting:

  1. Express appreciation again!
  2. Name the items you’d like to discuss, then suggest what you’d like to start with. (Usually, salary is the best place to start.)
  3. For each item, say something like this:
    • What you’ve offered is…
    • What I have in mind is… (or “is more like…”)
      • because… (provide reasons based on the value you bring, objective facts about local compensation, and/or how your request is a win-win).
    • “Can you help me with that?” or “What might be possible around this?” or “What can we work out here?”
  4. Express appreciation for any consideration made. Then move on to the next item.
  5. At the end of the discussion, agree on the next step and when it will take place.

There may be further counter-offers and discussions. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long this process can continue. Listen carefully – listen between the lines – and use common sense.

Stay calm, listen carefully and see it through.

If you feel pressure to decide immediately, ask yourself where that’s coming from. Does the employer really need a quick decision? (What have they said about their timeframe?) Or are you creating a false sense of urgency because you’re anxious? Stay calm and move forward with deliberation.

When an agreement is finally reached – and it will probably be better than the initial offer – get it in writing. Express appreciation yet again, and with great enthusiasm.

Then congratulate yourself and celebrate, not only for obtaining an excellent package, but also for building a vital skill that will serve you for the rest of your life.

7 Reasons to Negotiate a Job Offer

A surNegotiate Your Job Offer - Really!prising percentage of us think we can’t or shouldn’t negotiate when offered a job.

We may be afraid the employer will withdraw the offer or find us ungrateful or arrogant.

Or we don’t really know why we don’t negotiate. “I just can’t see myself doing it!”

Before you decide “I can’t” or “It doesn’t make sense in this economy,” please take a moment to think about it.

(My hope is that this post will motivate you by showing you why you should negotiate. In a post later this week I’ll explore the how, including a simple formula for the negotiation discussion.)

Why negotiate?

1. Because it’s not just about your initial paycheck. Future raises will be a percentage of that. The same may be true for bonuses and benefits. And future employers will ask about your salary history.

2. Because any aspect of the job may be negotiable. Do you want to telecommute one or more days a week? Leave early for classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays? This is your best opportunity to get adjustments in any aspect of the job. These are concessions an employer can make regardless of the economy and the budget.

3. Because it’s safer than you may think. Once they’ve made a firm offer – preferably in writing – very few employers will withdraw it just because the candidate made a reasonable attempt to negotiate. The worst that’s likely to happen is that they won’t budge.

4. Because many employers expect you to negotiate, and may respect you more for doing so. They often plan for it, leaving “wiggle room” above their initial offer. Negotiating shows you are a savvy professional with confidence in the value you bring.

5. Because assertiveness and negotiation are important on-the-job skills. This is especially true in management, sales, human resources, project management, anything involving vendors, etc. – and potentially in any job. Demonstrate these relevant skills!

6. Because you don’t have to feel totally confident to succeed in it. Confidence helps, but negotiating nervously is better than not doing it at all. The mere fact that you’re negotiating shows that you mean business.

7. Because if you’ve never negotiated salary before, you’re going to feel a great sense of empowerment once you do!

How to negotiate?

In my next post, I’ll go beyond the usual tips about researching how much you’re worth, etc., to lay out a simple, step-by-step framework for opening and conducting negotiations once you have an offer in hand.

Be prepared in advance, because an offer will happen!

Networking Is *Not* Bothering Your Friends

Networking is NOT "Bothering Your Friends"I’m going to tell you a secret. I dislike reading job search books.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job by Orville Pierson, and not just because it’s well written and has an encouraging tone.

This book does a great job of dispelling the myths that making your networking a loss less enjoyable and effective than it could be – or stopping you from even doing it.

In job search networking, the one most important thing is to make everyone you talk to comfortable. Why? If they’re not comfortable, nothing will happen … If they’re not comfortable, you’re not comfortable.

Isn’t that awesome? It seems there’s actually a way networking can be comfortable.

Another big stumbling block for many of us is that we don’t want to bother people. We don’t want to impose.

Here’s what Pierson says to that:

“Don’t forget to look at it from the other person’s point of view. If you were a friend of mine and had something important happening – like a job search, maybe – and you didn’t include me, I’d wonder if we were really friends. If I heard from others about it, rather than from you, I might actually be offended.

“Now … it’s also true that you need to help your friends help. They probably don’t know much about a highly effective job search. Most people don’t. Everyone thinks of ‘job openings’ or ‘who’s hiring.’ Then they feel helpless and unable to assist you because they don’t know much in either of those categories. When they’re uncomfortable, the discussion becomes awkward.

“Don’t let that happen. … Help them help you.”

How do you learn to “help them help you”? Read the book. Or, for a quicker introduction right now, read my article “Networking with a Marketing Plan.” 

I’ve been coaching my clients in networking approaches very similar to those of Pierson and LHH. I actually worked for LHH for a year in 2008, right after I was laid off from my last corporate job at the beginning of the Great Recession. I never met Orville, but I taught job-search classes that he probably designed, and I saw how well it worked for those clients.

As one of my own private clients wrote more recently,

Thea’s approach put my contacts and me at ease.

If you’d like customized, one-on-one assistance in setting up networking habits and activities that will help you get a great job sooner, I’m here to help.

And you don’t have to “bother” anybody!

“Auld Lang Syne” and Networking?

It is just way too slick to mention this much-loved old New Year’s Eve hymn in the same breath as a suit-and-tie word like “networking.”

But there’s good advice in this familiar song, whether you want to look at it as a spiritual inspiration or simply a practical exchange. Ideally, both.

Your community, going into 2014, has grown. There are new people in your network. And there old friends and acquaintances you haven’t talked to in a while. Those relationships are real, even the minimal ones. Why not keep in touch?

Here are some ideas:

Make a “walk date” with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Get some exercise and catch up at the same time.

Actually read your LinkedIn updates (and I’m talking to myself here, mea culpa!) and look for opportunities to congratulate, comment and catch up.

If you’re not on any social media yet, consider that “I just got online” might be a great “excuse” to catch up with people.

Random acts of appreciation: Who have you been grateful to during the year, for a large favor or a small? It may have been an introduction, advice, a recommendation, or a word of encouragement. Why not say “I still appreciate it! So how are you, anyway?”

“We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,” as the song says. Or maybe get together for coffee.

Job-hunt in December! Here’s Why.

Job-hunt in December! Here's Why.Contrary to popular belief, December is a really smart time to work on finding a new job, for several reasons.

First and foremost, there’s less competition. Recruiter survey data cited by Monster.com show that although hiring may be at lower levels in most industries, “recruiters are determined to fill the year’s remaining openings by December 31, and the supply of applicants dwindles as Christmas and the new year approach.”

Meanwhile, there are unique networking opportunities as holiday socializing provides natural occasions to reconnect and meet people.

While the holidays may be an extra-busy time for some, for others there are lulls. A coffee date or informational interview may be more do-able than usual. Even if your invitation or request is turned down, you’ve reminded someone of your existence right before January and February, two of the busiest hiring months of the year.

To jump in January, get ready in December. Prepare to respond quickly to opportunities by improving your resume and online presence (especially LinkedIn), preparing a list of SOAR stories and polishing your interview skills.

This is also a great time to make a list of companies you’d like to work for, prepare a personal marketing plan and launch a proactive campaign to gather inside information and contacts before positions open up.

Finally, if you’re planning to seek assistance from a resume writer / career coach, decide who you want to work with and schedule time with that person. Calling a career coach in January is like calling a tax person in April; they may be too busy to help you on short notice.

Whatever you do for your career in December, give yourself a big pat on the back for being wise, diligent – and ready to land a new job. It may be the best Christmas present you can give yourself!