February 25, 2009

The Skills Employers Are Looking For...

I often use this quote when I speak around the country to describe what employers are expecting of new hires at this time.

“A generation ago in the U.S., the assumption was that as long as employers had bodies, they would train them. Now, the assumption is that employers shouldn’t have to train or develop anybody. [They] should be able to hire people who are ready to walk in the door today and contribute exactly what needs to be done.”
—Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management
Wharton School of Business
So what skills are employers expecting you to walk in the door with today? According to an article by Larry Buhl for HotJobs, there are six soft skills that are highly desirable. Here they are:
  1. Leadership/Team Building
  2. Team Player
  3. Goal-oriented Self Starter
  4. Excellent Communicator
  5. Flexibility or Multi-tasking Ability
  6. Sense of Humor
The article goes on to say that your innate gifts and talents are what get you in the door, but your ability to demonstrate these skills is what lands you the job. Given the conversations I've had with HR Personnel and recruiters, this seems to be the hiring trend. So make sure your résumé sings with the value you can provide. Additionally, you will need to have interview answers that display some of the aforementioned soft skills. Keep in mind that no one expects you to be Superman or Superwomen and have all the skills on this list. Just focus on demonstrating 2-3 of these and you should be in good shape.

To read the full article mentioned above, click here.

February 24, 2009

How Many Pages Should My Résumé Be?

One of the most common questions I hear from clients or audiences around the country has to do with résumé length. The reality is that recruiters and HR personnel want to see your value described in the most brief way possible. Most of the time, a one-page résumé will fit the bill. So when is a two-page résumé acceptable? Here are some guidelines:

1.) If you have significant high-profile or high-impact experience that you want to feature. In this case, age does not matter. Let's say you are about to graduate from grad school, and you've had internships at the White House, a high profile law firm, a stint in the Peace Corps, a few normal jobs and you were an officer in a fraternity/sorority. You may need two-pages if the skills and expertise garnered from these experiences is significant, which is hopefully the case.

2.) You have many years of work experience. Seasoned veterans who have been in the work force for 15 or more years will likely run into this. The key here is that we don't necessarily want to read 10 bullet points about every single job you've had since you graduated from college/high school. Additionally, the expectation is that you will not exceed two pages.

3.) You are pursuing an executive position at a company. While I've been going on and on about how recruiters expect the most brief résumés possible, here is the exception to the rule. When applying for executive positions at companies (i.e. VP and up), the unspoken rule is that you should have at least two pages of experience if not more. While I've seen up to six-page résumés for senior officers, you generally want to stay at around 3 pages.
If you do decide to write a two-page résumé, make sure your second page is at least half full. If you can't fill half of the second page, then look for ways of compressing bullet points, removing extraneous information or reducing fonts/margins (while keeping your résumé readable & attractive!) to make it one page. As always, good luck and happy hunting!

February 20, 2009

Getting Caught Job Searching by the Boss...OUCH!

I was talking to a client recently (Let's call her Anne.) about her fear of losing her current position. If you're feeling really nervous about your job due to the economic meltdown, then, it's time to be pro-active and start looking. You just can't put a price tag on mental and emotional health. 

Well, that's just what Anne did. She posted her résumé on every major job site. That's when she got called into a meeting with her boss (Let's call him Bob.). Bob had found her résumé and wanted to understand why she was looking for another job. What would you say in this situation? 

I would recommend using a line like the following (modified to fit your style, of course):

"Bob, the reality is that I'm uncertain about the future of this company or my job given the current economic environment. This is not personal. I was just trying to make sure that I was ahead of the game, in case anything drastic and unforeseen were to happen."

Luckily, Anne and I had already discussed this possibility, so she was ready for Bob's question. Nine out of ten times, your boss is going to be completely understanding given the context. I know some people think that posting your résumé all over the place could get you fired, but the reality is that most states are "at-will" states. This means they can fire you for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all. That said, most employers wouldn't fire you for trying to remain employed in a crisis state, and neither did Bob. And now, Anne has a little more peace of mind. Priceless.

February 18, 2009

Does the Job Search Have You Feeling Shy? (Part 2)

I recently posted about how introverts could succeed in the job search, despite potential hang-ups with networking and interviewing. However, I forgot to forward the information for a great book on the subject. Here it is.

The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career The purpose of this book is to present strategies used by successful people - including numerous celebrities - in managing their introversion or shyness while becoming successful in professional endeavors. If you've ever felt that your personality was getting in the way of achieving your goals, if you've ever felt there was a gap separating you from most other people, this book will open up new possibilities. You don't have to undergo a personality makeover to be successful in your job search and career. Learn to understand, appreciate, and celebrate your unique strengths.

February 16, 2009

Does the Job Search Have You Feeling Shy?

The job search process is one of those rare things that rewards its participants for being outgoing, well-spoken and downright gregarious. But what if you're one of the 50.8%* that are natural introverts and would rather hole yourselves in a dark cave a la Thoreau than to face the networking throngs? How do you succeed then?

According to a recent Fortune Magazine article by Anne Fisher, introverts can leverage several of their strengths to nab the job. There is some really sound advice here, with which I fully agree. So introverts, take heart and learn some strategies that will help you improve your job search chances!

Read the full article here.

* Fisher, A. Fortune Magazine, Job Hunting for Introverts, Feb. 2009

February 13, 2009

Growing Your Potential as a Team Builder & Leader - The Barack Obama Way

I spend a lot of time on the road coaching and training clients great and small, and one of the biggest issues that affects them is how to make their teams (in both career and college) more productive and motivated. As they say, it usually starts at the top with effective management and leadership of those teams. So, what does that looks like?

Well, much has been written about the man, the myth, the (already) legend: Barack Obama. So it may come as no surprise that an examination of his communication and leadership tactics has been compiled by Harvard Business. Take a gander at what makes him successful in leading teams, reaching across the aisle and winning support for his ideas.

Read How to Communicate like Barack Obama here.

February 11, 2009

Three of the Trickiest Interview Questions

If you have done more than a few interviews in your life thus far, then you've probably had one of these three tricky interview questions thrown at you. Here they are:

1.) Why should I hire you?
2.) What makes you special over any other candidate?
3.) Tell me about yourself?

The most difficult of these is usually the last one, because it is so nebulous. However, if you'll notice, they're all asking pretty much the same thing.

Translation: Give me some skills and experience that will make me think you'll add value to the organization.

You need to think about crafting your answer to discuss your background and strengths in a way that brings a benefit to the organization. The most common mistakes people make when answering these is 1.) Not knowing what the organization is looking for and 2.) not sticking to strengths and work experience.

As I'm sure you've heard before, you'll need to do some research on the company and the desired position, and know how you can bring positive to all parties. This involves not just external Google searches, but also your own internal assessment of your strengths and talents. You can avoid the second mistake by remembering that employers want to know "what's in it for them" if they hire you. While stories of your family and youth may help them get you know you better, it is not what they're looking for. So keep it professional and work experience based, and you'll be that much closer to landing your next job.

February 10, 2009

How to Present Yourself at a Career Fair

Career fairs are becoming more popular for obvious reasons. So how should you present yourself at one? What are some no-no's to keep in mind. Watch the great video below from the wonderful folks at CareerTV.net to learn more.

February 4, 2009

A Great Interview Question to Try

I happened to stumble across a great question to ask at the end of the job interview and wanted to share. It's from John Rice, founder & CEO of MLT--an organization that develops minority talent for MBA programs.

Here it is:

"One question that can help you demonstrate that you are thinking about the firm/job in a way that suggests you are a strong candidate is:

'From your perspective, what are the top performers in the job we are discussing at your firm doing to distinguish themselves from everyone else?' "
Not only does this question help you understand what skills the company finds valuable, but it shows that you are interested in being a top performer. The only changes I'd make are to give the interviewer a specific number of items, and to target the question so that you are getting at the soft skills they want. The idea is to get to the core of what's truly valued in the company. Here's the edit:

"From your perspective, what are 2-3 things that top performers in this job are doing to distinguish themselves from everyone else? Specifically, what are they doing differently to build key relationships, fit in with the culture and support key company objectives?"

You can read the full article from Mr. Rice here. Until next time, good luck and happy hunting!

February 3, 2009

Are Women Better Positioned for Success in These Hard Times?

A recent New York Times article contends that "men base their sense of self on the maxim that ‘I have worth because of what I do.’" As a result, these tough economic times in which there are mass layoffs have taken their psychological toll on men. In fact, there has been a marked increase among men in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression as a result of the crisis.

On the flipside, women have been more resilient through the downturns. Research suggests that this is because women base their self worth more on other values like relationships rather than what they do as a career. You might think this is a great thing on the surface. However, the article goes on to say the following:

"YET while men may appear to reel more socially and psychologically from job loss, they fare far better when it comes to re-employment.

In a 2002 study, two sociology professors at Wichita State University, Charles S. Koeber and David W. Wright, found that women who were laid off and went on to look for another job were re-employed less often than men in the same position. This was especially the case if the women were married, had previously held a part-time job or had worked in something other than a highly skilled, white-collar job.

The implication, Professor Koeber says, is that women have more of a burden than men to show their commitment to a job after a layoff."
To be honest, I was completely annoyed with the sobering reality proposed by these research findings. Despite our ability to better handle the stress of the working world and build relationships, women still face an uphill battle in getting re-employed. This is particularly scary for married women. So just how do we prove our value and commitment to potential employers? More on this soon. In the meantime, I'd like to hear any opinions related to this article.

February 2, 2009

Why Michael Phelps' Apology Is Completely Meaningless

I've decided to take a break today from career mania to talk about another of my pet topics - media manipulation. Being in the midst of Hollywood and corporate marketers alike gives me a unique vantage point by which to observe the "media machine," as I like to call it. By now, you've probably heard all about Michael Phelps' intimate relations with Mary Jane. And if you haven't, you can read about Michael in all his wacky weed glory here.

But that's not the interesting part. Instead, think about how many stars and athletes give public apologies related to their "questionable behavior." Are they apologizing, because they are sincerely saddened about how their actions have affected your world? Do they truly hope that today's youth won't follow in their footsteps? Or is there something else behind this? Let's look at Michael's apology:

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."
Here's my interpretation of what this is saying

"Oh, crap! I was caught smoking marijuana at a college party (of all things), and now I may not be able to participate in the 2012 Olympics due to their 4-year drug ban. Oh, and all my big, fat endorsements are in jeopardy. S***!!!! Next time I smoke, I'll make sure all cameras and cell phones are checked by my body guard."
As much as I'd love to think that Phelps is altruistic beyond compare and is trying to make sure today's youth is influenced in a positive way, let's face it. The guy has endorsements worth over $100 MILLION! His ability to compete in the next Olympics is at stake, which could be his death knell. Why? Because winning more medals is what will keep giving him more endorsements. This is the quintessential cycle of the media machine.

In an interesting full disclosure, News of the World magazine (which broke the original photo) shared the following about Phelps' PR aides. "Phelps is represented by marketing giant Octagon, which works with huge brands such as Mastercard and HSBC. They admitted proven cannabis use would be “a major taint” on Phelps’ character. Spokesman Clifford Bloxham offered us an extraordinary deal not to publish our story, saying Phelps would become our columnist for three years, host events and get his sponsors to advertise with us. In return, he asked that we kill Phelps’ bong picture."

So next time you are in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and you see that box of Wheaties, think of poor Michael. And then keep walking and think about how you can earn $100M for yourself!