Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving/Job Search Advice

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, it’s the season to consult Martha Stewart for job search advice.

In a book published in 2005 entitled ‘The Martha Rules’, Ms. Stewart defined ten essentials for achieving business success. Let’s focus on #8 – “The pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges – When faced with a business challenge, evaluate or assess the situation, gather the good things in sight, abandon the bad, clear your mind and move on.”

How do you apply this to your job search? Maybe the thought of competing in this economy is just overwhelming. Or, you’ve been going through a series of first round interviews and none have materialized into a full time offer. You have a business challenge. Time to assess you progress. What have you learned from the process so far? Are you focused on the rejections or the possibilities?

The job search is difficult. It requires a lot of hard work. You may be discouraged by rejection. Rather than focusing on the negative, use this holiday break as a point to leave the bad behind and as Martha says, clear your mind and move on.

To be successful in a job search today you need to honestly evaluate your strengths. What’s your area of expertise? Which employers can best use your skill set? Don’t waste time on job listings that don’t match your talents. If you find a perfect match, but the employer decides you’re not qualified, move on to the next one on your list.

Which brings me to Martha rule #6: ”Quality every day – Strive for quality in every decision, every day.” There are no short cuts. Approach each new opportunity with the energy of your first choice.

The one thing every Olympian should do before they leave Rio 2016

The one thing every Olympian should do before they leave Rio is update their social media identity across all platforms.

For a brief moment in time Olympic athletes capture the global stage and water cooler conversations. It’s not only those who make the podium, but those we discover in the diverse narratives of their journeys to Rio. The majority will return to their home countries as national heroes, contributing to society, away from the media spotlight. A few may return as coaches or commentators in four years. Most will miss the opportunity to capture the Olympic experience as a bridge to the next phase of their career.

In the past I have worked with returning  Olympians who hesitate to include their achievements in sport on their resume. The most competitive athletes are the most reticent to record their accomplishments.

They just don’t think it’s relevant. It is.

In the global workplace, it’s not just the resume; social media communicates talent instantaneously to potential employers. Your professional image is transmitted through your social media identity.

On Saturday, American Virginia Thrasher won the first gold medal awarded at the games in the women’s the 10-meter air rifle. Within a few hours she was taking her first TV interview on NBC, describing her hectic schedule of additional events and starting her sophomore year at West Virginia University.

In describing her life over the next couple of weeks, Thrasher gave voice to the stress that accompanies the life of every student athlete, combining sport with academics. Often lost, is time for reflection on how these experiences transform the athlete into a professional @work.

How do you build the bridge from sport to work on social media?

Take a look at your social media presence across all platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter…

Do all the pieces fit into a unifying narrative? If not, it’s time to edit. As an Olympian, expectations have been raised and your online image should reflect your aspirations vs. social missteps.

Have you created links to videos and press coverage of your accomplishments?

Do you post videos and press coverage on your Twitter account?

Have you checked with third party sites to ensure your profile information is up to date?

Do you have an account on LinkedIn? (If you’re making the transition from sport to your next career, this component of your professional online identity is critical as you build your ‘next career’ network.)

There are many athletes who hesitate to be defined by their sport, but the skills developed in pursuit of Olympic gold closely match those sought by potential employers: teamwork, goal orientation, communications, problem-solving, and resilience.

Whether you are a summer Olympian, or a star on your own professional stage, it’s time to seize the moment and refresh you social media identity.

 

Photo credit: US Women’s Rugby Seven – Geoff Burke for USA TODAY Sports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is for the Class of 2009

This past weekend Paramount Pictures released ‘The Big Short’ based on the 2010 Michael Lewis book of the same title about the build up of the housing and credit bubble in the first years of the new millennium.

There were many casualties of the worst financial crisis since the great depression.  I thought it might be worthwhile, as moviegoers line up for tickets, to revisit that time and the impact on those who graduated from college in 2009.

It took a few months for the ripples of economic crisis to reach college campuses. But in the fall of 2008 corporate recruiters began to cancel on-campus interviews and career fairs shrunk to a quarter of their previous year’s participation.

Students who had entered college in the fall of 2005 faced optimistic prospects as the economy was booming and entry level jobs were plentiful. But the global economy began to turn in the spring of junior year, with many heading off to summer internships in anticipation of transitioning to full time work at graduation.

By final exams in 2008, things were looking bleak. Here is an excerpt of a blog I wrote on December 11th.

“When the semester began in August, not even the experts could have predicted the level of change we would experience this fall. While each academic year provides opportunities to embrace challenge and celebrate success, these past four months have created historical moments with the potential to redefine our place in the world.

As you are writing your final papers and studying for exams, let’s take a minute to review what we have learned.

First, we are in an age of globalization. If you have been hiding under the covers for the past ten years, the economic downturn brought the reality of the global banking community to the forefront. In a few short months we have learned more than we may have wanted to know about real estate, mortgages, investment banking, insurance and the auto industry. And we now have a better sense of how our domestic economy depends on the health of these industries. For many of us, the impact of the downturn in the economy has hit close to home with friends and family out of work.

Change can be difficult. If you are a freshman this year, your transition from high school to college is a fresh memory. There was the excitement of a new place mixed with missing friends and family. With every new opportunity to change there is a sentimental longing for the past. For seniors, there is the anticipation of the next step: graduate school, professional school, a new job or and entrepreneurial start up. It is a time of hope mixed with uncertainty.

You are a part of a historic moment in time. Become an active participant. If opportunities in a career field are limited, look toward the new careers emerging as a result of change. All you have learned this semester in your classes, organizations and internships have provided you with a solid foundation to adjust and adapt. This is your strength.”

If the rumors are true, the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this week, bringing an end to the economic downturn that began in the spring of 2008.

I think it’s important not to forget the lessons learned in 2008 and 2009. Check your social network and schedule a sit down with a 2009 graduate. Get a first person account of how to recalibrate a career path to eventually arrive at success.

 

What are you planning to do after graduation?

It’s the question that can cause one to instantly lose their appetite. It’s Thanksgiving and just as you are about to digest your first bite of turkey, someone decides it’s the perfect time to quiz you on your plans after graduation.

Here are a few ideas to manage the conversation.

If you have a job offer, focus on discussing your plans for starting your career. You may find that family and friends have contacts within the organization or career field you are entering. Ask for names and start to build your professional network.

If you have recently started your job search, share your experience to date and ask for advice. My favorite response is “I am considering a number of options, what ideas do you have for me?” This turns the question around and you may gain some new insight in the responses you receive.

Let’s say you have been focused on midterms and getting through the semester. You haven’t started to look for a job or internship. You may still be undeclared, considering a variety of concentrations. Ask for advice. Talk about the classes you enjoy the most and your activities outside the classroom. This gives people a starting point to respond and suggest possible options.

Whenever possible, give people something they can work with. The more specific you can be in talking about what career interests you have, the better the chance they will be able to help and provide a referral. Bring home a few copies of your resume. I am not suggesting you leave them on the dining room table, but it is a good idea to be prepared.

Planning for the Thanksgiving Career Conversation

It’s the annual celebration of Thanksgiving, that time of year when families get together and complain about dissatisfaction with work. What if we approached the holiday season as an opportunity for taking action on shelved career plans?

We tend to think of the holidays as a time to get away from our workplace. And yet, it can be a time to reconsider career choices and solicit input from family and friends.

Let’s reimagine the pre or post-dinner conversation that has previously been a competition to demonstrate who has the worst boss, longest hours, deadest of dead end jobs. Consider a conversation where you identify your spot on your career timeline, articulate your goals and ask for guidance on next steps.

Your friends and family are your most trusted advisors. They’re the folks who know all your faults and are still there. Don’t waste their time with a whining session. Respect their abilities to listen and share feedback.

Start with the past year and what you have accomplished. Even in the worst job situation we can salvage a few learning experiences, from both failure and success. Come up with a way to communicate your skills, leaving out acronyms, to enable folks to envision how your strengths apply across fields.

Next, recall that dream job that has been tantalizing you, but disappears in the fog of the everyday demands of the workplace. Got it? Now you have your baseline and end goal. Don’t be shy about sharing it.

What’s missing? The interim steps to get you from point A to point B.

And this is where those negative conversations turn into positive and productive discussions. Now that you have shared your goals, folks are empowered to help: adding to your list of skills based on a long term view of your career, providing input on strategy and offering connections to keep the conversation going after the holidays.

It’s not just the folks who are contemplating career transition that can benefit from these holiday interactions. If you think all is well in your career, a close confidant can often detect warning signs you may be missing in your optimism.

The real value of your family/friends ‘board of advisors’ is their ability to hold you accountable to your dream. You will see them, same time next year, and they will ask you how far you’ve travelled on the road to your destination.

 

 

Acting is not interviewing

Are you so prepared for your interview that your friends and family would’t recognize you? In an effort to be the best candidate for a job it is possible that you try to ‘game’ the process and ‘act’ your way through the interview? Does your personality somehow get lost in the process?

It’s never a good idea to let the job search process change who you are. If you do, the job offer, if it comes will be based on a false set of impressions. More likely, you will not get the offer because a good recruiter will recognize that something is missing.

I recall a series of interviews I conducted with candidates for an international internship program. One of the finalists met all the criteria on the resume. However, during the interview I was never able to connect. The answers to the questions were all good, but I felt I was talking to someone who was trying to get it right – like trying to ace an exam. There was no ‘there, there’.

I wanted to say. “Let’s start over. Go out the door and come back in. But come back in as you.”

Have you ever anticipated a theater performance only to arrive and find a paper insert in your Playbill announcing ‘actor x will be played by y today’? Your immediate reaction of disappointment is the same a recruiter experiences when they are excited about meeting a potential employee and encounter the understudy.

Don’t lose yourself in the quest for work. Take the time to do your research in preparing for an interview. (If you are not a ’suit’ type you should not be interviewing with ’suit’ requiring organizations. If you don’t want to work in a cubicle, why would you send a resume to a cubicle farm?)

Review your resume prior to sitting down with a recruiter. What do you want to communicate that will connect your unique capabilities with the organization’s needs? Outline, don’t script.

Engage in the conversation. Be ready to follow a tangent at the recruiter’s lead. Listen.

Never abdicate ownership of your job search process. Don’t let anyone try to transform you into a character actor to get a part. If you don’t have to memorize your lines, you will leave room for spontaneity and give the prospective employer a chance to get to know you.

The ‘deer in the headlights’ interview question: What do you do for fun?

The interview has been going well. You have been ‘on point’ with your answers about education and skills, and then from out of nowhere comes the curve ball question: What do you do for fun?

What? What do I do for fun? Are you kidding me?

No, it’s actually a very serious important question. How you answer demonstrates the added dimensions you will bring to the workplace.

This is my ‘personal favorite’ interview question. My intent is not to ‘catch’ folks off guard. My goal is to determine if you will succeed as part of an organization. Are you a fit with the other members of the team? Do you have the potential to build successful relationships with clients?  It’s one thing to be driven and intense. It’s a totally other thing when you scare colleagues and customers with that intensity.

The ‘perfect resume’, relevant work experience and great references unlock the door to the interview. Once the interview begins It’s critical to let your humanity shine through. Folks will be spending a lot of time with you in the workplace. A sense of humor can go a long way to diffusing tension. A conversation about interests offers a bridge to developing trust.

I am astounded by how many people are totally sidelined by this question – lots of silence before a stammering attempt to come up with the ‘right’ answer.

There is no right answer. This is the question about who you are outside work. This should be the easiest question to answer.

I know I have the right candidate when the question diffuses tension and a smile transforms a previously sober candidate into one who is sharing a passion that may have no perceived relevance to the job description.

And this is where the majority of candidates get it wrong. Your passions outside of work inform and energize your life at work.

Think about your answer – not too much. Your response should be spontaneous, but you shouldn’t be surprised.

Time to ‘spring clean’ your social media profile

Can you feel it? The economy is growing again and folks who have held tight to positions for security are now loosening their grip, updating resumes, scheduling information interviews and testing their value in the market.

Latest industry reports indicate that more people are changing jobs as the economy improves. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released statistics showing a 9.6% growth in job opportunities for recent college graduates.

Before you begin your exploration into the brave new world of job search, check your online presence. It may need a bit of ‘spring cleaning’ before you send out your first resume.

Hiring managers are active participants on most social media platforms. These online profiles have become another prescreening opportunity to determine, prior to a face to face meeting, if you are a ‘fit’ for an organization.

Employers attending the Fashion Institute of Technology’s annual Industry Expo this week in Los Angeles were asked if social media is the new background check. 

“You can tell a lot about a person just by viewing the “About” section of their Facebook profile, the topics that they tweet about, and the content of their Instagram page. Stephanie Sherwood, the College Relations Specialist at BCBG, cites that she views her candidate’s profiles to “understand their own personal brand,” and by personal brand she means their “creativity, sense of style, hobbies, and overall personality.” In other words, if you’re in the running for an open position at BCBG, and you’re wearing an oversized hoodie, a pair of baggy sweatpants, and Nike tennis shoes in your profile photo, there’s a slight possibility that BCBG would pick another job candidate over you. Sherwood also states, “[Social media] is a fun way to see if [candidates] are a good fit for our brand.”

What does your online profile communicate about you? When was the last time you updated your profile? Does your online presence describe a professional who is serious about work and career? Have you shared links to your portfolio? Are you posting articles that demonstrate your knowledge of market trends?

Many applicants replay interviews over and over, trying to figure out why they did not get a job offer, when all the initial indications from the employer signaled that they were the lead candidate.

The selection process is subjective. There are many factors that influence an employer’s decision. One of the most critical is trust. Can the employer trust that you will represent their organization in a professional manner? Will your performance over time reflect positively on their hiring decision? Are your values in concert with the workplace community you aspire to join?

If you find you are always in the pool of finalists for a position, yet never hired, it’s time to ask: Is there something in my multi-platform, social media existence that might cause an employer to hesitate?

Your online presence is a snapshot in time of your character and a narrative of your reputation. Take the time to ensure you present a consistent, professional image to the world.

The Mysteries of Networking – Part One

How do you ask people to help you figure out what you want to do with your life? Everyone talks about networking being a critical skill in a successful job search, but few people do it well. Many people are just shy. Others feel intimidated by a process that seems to be asking for something without providing something in return.

A number of years ago I was working with an executive in the advertising industry. She had just been ‘downsized’ from her leadership position in a merger. As we discussed her next steps, it became clear that she had no confidence in her ability to reach out and connect with those who could help her build a bridge to her next assignment. Like many, she perceived networking as asking favors from strangers vs. a way to build relationships to sustain a career over time.

It doesn’t matter if you self-identify as an introvert or extrovert, networking is a challenge until you understand why you are doing it.

Start with the basics. Know your talents, abilities and aspirations. Then craft a short narrative to share with those you meet. Practice. If you don’t find yourself getting excited about your message, no one else will.

Put yourself out there. Online social networks offer a place to catalog your contacts, update your profile and share professional insights. They are not a replacement for social interaction. They are however, living organisms that need nurturing over time, not just when you experience a career drought.

Enroll in a continuing education course. Get involved in community activities. Join a professional network. These are all low risk opportunities to connect with others. Your goal is to find ways to relate to folks with common interests and lower the anxiety level when meeting strangers.

Professional networking is a way of connecting with people with a similar career interest; sharing information and contacts in the field. People love to talk about what they do. Don’t be intimidated, but be realistic in your expectations. In today’s workplace, the priorities of the work may take precedence over returning a call or email. Be sensitive to business cycles when asking for a meeting and be patient.

Be prepared for the conversation. This is not the time or place to ask for a job. It’s a time to listen, obtain good counsel and establish a foundation to continue the connection over time.

What can you give in return? An answer should organically grow from the discussion. It may not be a fair exchange at the time. But as you continue your networking activities you may find a reason to circle back and reconnect.

Networking is first person research. You know people. It’s time to start the conversation.

Saying Thank-You, email or hand-written?

The handwritten thank-you note is quickly becoming a relic of an earlier job search age. An increasing number of employers accept an email acknowledgement. However, some employers still place value on candidates who take the time to pen a note on real stationary, with real ink. The key is to do your research and say ‘thank-you’ consistent with the practice of the organization.

Job search is a competitive activity. You spend hours strategizing on how you will set yourself apart from others, with resume critiques, mock interviews and etiquette workshops. You arrive on time for your appointment, feel comfortable that you have made an impression, and on the way home, recall the key interactions of the day.

Who did you meet? What were their ‘hot button’ issues? How did you respond? Was there a question posed that you could not answer?

And you begin to envision a future as a part of this organization’s community.

Take time to acknowledge your appreciation for the opportunity to compete for the position, reiterate your approach to the ‘hot button’ issues and revisit the question that stumped you in the interview. With a bit of research and reflection you will be able to craft an answer and demonstrate your continued interest in the position.

What is the best way to follow-up on the interview? If you want to continue your candidacy, a thank-you is your next step. It gives you a forum to summarize your interest in the position, provide an answer to the question you missed and add any additional thoughts on how you might solve a problem facing the organization.

The key here is to be personal and timely. The thank-you note, like a cover letter should reflect the shared interview experience.

Even if it’s clear you are no longer in the running, send a note. It establishes your professionalism and might translate into another opportunity in the future.

Email or handwritten? Your research should give you a hint to the culture and what might be appropriate. Some view a snail mail thank-you as less competitive than one emailed. Try a combination. Send an electronic note and follow up with a written note within 24 hours.

Less than 20% of candidates thank interviewers for their time. A thank-you note could be your competitive advantage.