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Spring Clean Your Job Search

springSpring is here and it’s time for some spring cleaning. That goes for your career strategy as well.  Have you given any thought to trimming your bloated, outdated resume or banking some of your new networking contacts to help advance your job prospects  this season? Here are 7 easy steps you can take right now to get your career on course and ensure you are prepared for future opportunities.

  1. Ditch toxic people. You know the ones I’m talking about. They are the people who say no one is hiring, you’re too old to find a new job, you make too much money, you’d be crazy to change careers…the list goes on and on. These people rarely add any real value to your career goals. Find people who can support you or hire a professional to help you chart your career course.
  2. Put your resume on a diet. Has the waistline of your resume expanded to 3+ pages? Are you still dedicating a half page to detailing information about your client base in 1999? Is you resume packed with information about company courses you completed back in the eighties? Remove this unnecessary poundage from your resume and create a sleeker, more streamlined message of value. If you like to diet alone, here’s a resume guide to help you. And if you need someone to help you whittle your resume down to a respectable size, let me know.
  3. Give your LinkedIn profile a makeover. How old is the picture on your profile? Does it need to be updated? Is the information current? Does the headline show only your current job title or does it convey more about your message of value and expertise? Have you paid attention to the skills section and have you created a customized URL to improve your chances of being found? If you are totally baffled by LinkedIn and social media in general, we should talk. A resume is no longer enough and you will need a strong online identity to compete for the best opportunities in 2017.
  4. Make new friends. Has your network gone stale? Do people in your professional community know what you are up to and do you communicate with them regularly? Now might be a good time to catch up by phone, grab coffee, or exchange an email to touch base.
  5. Practice interviewing. If a great opportunity became available tomorrow, would you be ready to pitch yourself to a hiring manager? If not, here’s a free app for interview prep that can help.
  6. Benchmark your salary. Do you know what you are worth? Have you been in the same job or same company for a long time and has your salary become less competitive? Check out sites like Payscale and Glassdoor to do a quick audit.
  7. Do something for someone else. Help someone with a personal or professional project, volunteer in your community, recommend a colleague on LinkedIn, or make an important introduction for someone. The more you give, the more you get. Start giving now and you’ll be getting back by the end of the season or maybe even sooner.
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Five Ways to Sink a Job Offer

money

After discussing the salary negotiation process with more than a thousand clients, I’ve found that many of them made mistakes in the past that we corrected during our coaching sessions so they could have better outcomes.

Some negotiate too aggressively, damaging the relationship with the hiring manager; others negotiate for too many things or for too many rounds, giving the perception that their expectations are unrealistic; and still others don’t negotiate at all, leaving the hiring manager to wonder if the person will be effective negotiating with colleagues and clients when this is a necessary part of the job.

Here are the five most common negotiation mistakes I see job seekers make and suggestions for negotiating more effectively.

1. Offer an ultimatum.

Negotiating a job offer is a collaborative process. The person you are negotiating with may very well be your future boss. When candidates negotiate in a very aggressive way, saying they can only accept a job offer if certain conditions are met, they reduce the chances of finding common ground with the employer.

Rather than giving an ultimatum, explain why your request is fair and reasonable. For example, if you are negotiating for a larger car mileage allowance, say something like, “In order for me to offer exceptional customer service, I will need to visit clients at a minimum of two times per month. Given the number of clients I will be responsible for, I believe it is fair and reasonable to request a larger car mileage allowance.”

2. Say you have a competing job offer when you don’t.

When you actually have another offer, a negotiation strategy is to hedge that offer against the other to see if you can speed up the decision process or improve the quality of the second offer. However, if you say you have another offer but don’t, this could backfire as the employer might respond that they can’t make (or change) their offer and wish you the best of luck in the other job.

If you are interviewing for another role and think you might be close to an offer, an alternative is to say, “I want to be totally transparent with you. I am expecting an offer from another company, but I am much more interested in this role. If there is a way to expedite the interview process and I was to receive an offer, I feel confident this would be the job I would select.”

3. Negotiate yourself out of a job.

While the negotiation process may require some back and forth, you want to make sure you are negotiating for what is important and not just for the sake of negotiating. Over-negotiating, or going back to the table too many times, may give the impression that you are not flexible or a team player, and the employer might decide you are not the right fit.

To avoid over-negotiating, create a list of pros and cons following the presentation of the job offer and be prepared to discuss alternative concessions if your original negotiation points are not granted. This will help you avoid too much back and forth and show that you are negotiating in good faith.

4. Fudge salary information.

While your previous salary should not be the basis for an employer’s offer, tread lightly here. Some employers request to see your W2 or a pay stub to confirm your previous salary and failure to be transparent about this could cost you the job. Bottom line: Don’t lie.

5. Fail to prep your references.

Even though your references might be prepared to say great things about you, they might not be saying the things that will resonate with the hiring manager. For example, if you’ve done a combination of print and digital advertising sales roles and you are going for a role with a heavy digital focus, you want to make sure your references are touting your digital skills and not focusing on your successes in the print world. Prep your references following the stage in the interview process when the employer lets you know they will be checking references. Explain to your references the value you sold to the employer, so they can reiterate these points in their discussion with the hiring manager.

The salary negotiation process is not only important for ensuring the best compensation package. A collaborative process helps get the relationship between employee and employer off to a good start. Eliminate aggressive and combative behavior and replace with harmonious ones to start the business partnership off on the right foot.

This article was originally published on Forbes Coaches Council.

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Five Signs You’re Ready to Work With an Executive Resume Writer

Employing a resume writer to help position you for your next role can be a positive experience — if you’re prepared to work collaboratively and have realistic expectations. Below are five signs you’re in the right place to begin a resume project with a professional resume writer.

resume1. You have time to be part of the process.
Resume writing is a very collaborative process. Expect to spend time being interviewed by the writer or completing some sort of questionnaire so the writer can gather the appropriate information. It isn’t enough to forward a copy of your old resume and expect them to glean the best information from it. If you are extremely busy, under an enormous amount of stress or just not interested in working collaboratively, this might not be the best time to embark on an overhaul of your resume with a professional resume writer.

2. You’ve spent time thinking about the value you can bring to an employer.
The writer’s job is to best represent you and advertise the benefits you can bring to an organization. But she can only write from the information you supply. A good writer will ask targeted questions to unearth the key information she needs to write a strong resume. You must be willing to be introspective about your past experience. You need to start thinking less about your job tasks and more about what makes you good at what you do. If you wait until the day you discuss what you have accomplished with your writer, you are sure to omit key information or forget something that could help the writer do a better job.

3. You don’t expect your writer to embellish your skills.
If you have an expectation that the writer is there to embellish your experience or suggest you have competencies you don’t, forget about it. An ethical writer will only create a true representation of your skills. We don’t make up stuff.

4. You are ready to let go of outdated information and early-career experience listed on your resume.
If you are so attached to the great work you did on a Y2K project in 1999 or your stellar GPA in 1982, you will struggle with one of the real benefits of working with a writer: the ability to look at all of your accomplishments objectively and showcase the ones that have the most relevance in the current market. Approach the process with an open mind and let the writer help you make decisions about the content – what to keep and what to toss.

5. You don’t expect your resume to look just like the sample on the Web site.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great idea to review sample resumes to get an idea of a writer’s style. But don’t expect your resume to look like the one on the sample page. That resume represents someone else’s experience. Your resume must represent you and you alone. Your resume won’t stand out if it’s the same as every other drive-thru hamburger stand. Imagine the resume-writing process as a salad bar that mixes and matches the best choices for each individual.

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Anti-Aging Techniques for Your Resume

anti-agingWhile job seekers can’t turn back the clock, there are some things they can do to remain relevant in the eyes of the employer. By making some simple upgrades to your search strategy, you can potentially eliminate some of the bias associated with older workers. Here are four suggestions.

1. Create a Gmail account for job searches, as some of the earlier providers like AOL and Hotmail tend to skew towards an older audience.
2. Build a thorough LinkedIn profile. Most employers will Google candidates before calling them in for an interview. Being digitally distinct is increasingly important and a LinkedIn profile helps you create an online presence you can control.
3. If you are in a visual field or one where showing samples of your work is important, create a website or use LinkedIn, About.me or Wix.com to showcase your portfolio.
4. List software skills that are relevant but not obvious. Don’t list skills that are a given, like “proficient with Internet” or Microsoft Word. At this point this is the equivalent of saying you know how to dial a phone.

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Five Habits of Effective Executive Job Seekers

handshake

After working with thousands of executive job seekers, certain patterns have emerged regarding the practices of those that succeed. Here are a few I have witnessed.

1. Follow up on all introductions. Surprisingly, many job seekers don’t follow up on introductions made on their behalf. Even if you are not sure it the person you are being introduced to can help you, follow up. It shows your contact that you value the introduction and it shows respect for the person you are being introduced to.
2. Become a resource to executive recruiters. Many executives ignore calls from headhunters when they are gainfully employed, only to wonder why those same recruiters don’t return their calls when they themselves are in a search. Become an ally to recruiters. If you are not right for a role they are recruiting for, see if there is someone you know who might be a better fit. Recruiters will remember your actions and be more likely to respond if you need help from them in the future.
3. Delegate job search tasks that are not their area of expertise. Successful executives delegate tasks that they know others can do better and don’t feel the need to control everything. Executives who can realize that they are not expert resume writers have the ability to hire a professional to manage this process and they are able to trust that they are in capable hands.
4. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Job seekers who believe they are great interviewers may not be as great as they think. Just because you are comfortable talking to people, doesn’t mean you are communicating the right things. Successful executive job seekers take the time to craft their elevator pitch and prepare stories of career accomplishments that will resonate with hiring authorities.
5. Display kindness and respect to everyone. Even if you are interviewing for a C-suite position at a company, everyone you meet during the process should be treated with kindness and respect. The same executive team that interviewed you may ask the receptionist or administrative assistant how you acted towards them while waiting for the interview to begin. Someone from the team may be riding up in the office elevator at the same time as you and share observations. Be polite to everyone, regardless of their position at the company.

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Interview Lessons from Mariah Carey

interviewBy now you’ve probably heard about Mariah Carey’s unfortunate performance on New Year’s Eve. Some of the things that occurred reminded me of similar things that can happen if you are unprepared for an interview. And while you most likely won’t be interviewing in front of a million or more people, here are five takeaways that can help you be prepared for your live performance.

1. Know your material cold before the big day. It’s unconfirmed whether Mariah forgot the lyrics to her songs or just didn’t want to sing live, but either way, she came off as unprepared. Many job seekers choose to “wing” their interviews rather than rehearsing beforehand and often their interview performance suffers because of it. Craft an elevator pitch to communicate your value proposition and be prepared to give accomplishment-focused, metrics-driven examples of how you have helped the companies you’ve supported do things smarter, faster, or more efficiently. Just regurgitating your resume or speaking about general job responsibilities won’t cut it.
2. Test for any technical problems. Was there a technical malfunction during Mariah’s performance or did the singer just get caught in a lip synching fail? In any event, it always makes sense to test your equipment before any type of performance or presentation. If you are conducting an interview via Skype, make sure your background is not distracting, your lighting isn’t too bright or too dark, your sound is at an appropriate level, and you have a working mike. If you are interviewing in-person, map out and time your route to the office beforehand to ensure you are on time and check your wardrobe for any potential malfunctions (missing buttons, etc.).
3. Expect a few curveballs. Whenever you do anything live, there is always the chance that something will go wrong. The key is to recover quickly. While unfortunately this wasn’t the case for Mariah, you can anticipate certain challenges that may occur the day of the interview. The one people fear most is not knowing how to answer a particular interview question. I like to remind people that they are the most qualified person in the room to talk about themselves. If you get a question you are not quite sure how to answer, you can ask for clarification or say, “That is a great question; let me think about it for a moment.” Then you can draw upon one of your success stories that is most similar to the competency they are trying to understand if you have.
4. Be honest. I’m not convinced that all Mariah’s comments were true. Perhaps she was embarrassed and said certain things to cover up that embarrassment. Lying is never a good strategy. Especially during interviews. If you are asked if you have experience in an area you do not, be honest. You can follow up by showcasing something that is similar to the competency you are asked about or give an example of a time when you didn’t have experience in something, but were able to learn that skill quickly.
5. Be gracious. Following Mariah’s performance, her team blamed everyone but Mariah and even suggested that Dick Clark Productions compromised the performance. Even if your interview doesn’t go well, assume good intent. It’s unlikely that someone is trying to sabotage your interview performance by asking certain questions.

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Career Solvers Nominated for TORI Award

I am pleased to announce that Career Solvers was recently nominated for a TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) Award by Career Directors Intoriternational. Career Solvers has been nominated for this award 29 times since 2006 and won 11 awards for Best Executive Resume, Best Technology Resume, Best Sales & Marketing Resume, Best International Resume, Best Creative Resume, and Best Cover Letter.

The competition draws hundreds of entries from resume writers from all over the world and it is an honor to be a nominee this year.

 

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How to Get More Than the Average 2.9% Salary Increase in 2017

money-2According to the 2016/2017 Mercer US Compensation Planning Survey, the average salary increase budget is expected to be 2.9% in 2017, up slightly from the average increase budget of 2.8% in 2016. So how can you be perceived as a top performer in 2016? Here are some tips.

Document your accomplishments regularly throughout the year
Keep track of all the projects you manage. Upon completion of each assignment, write a note to yourself detailing your contribution and how your efforts helped the company make money, save money, save time, grow the business, or retain customers. Quantify your accomplishments with dollars, percentages, and other appropriate metrics. Actively seek out opportunities to improve efficiencies and profits regardless of the task at hand. By showing and quantifying your specific value add, you build a better business case to support the requested salary increase.

Become hard to replace
Create opportunities to diversify your experience by offering to learn how to perform tasks that support your main role and make you more efficient at what you do. An alternative strategy is to become a subject matter expert in one specific aspect of the job so you are seen as the “go-to-guy” for a particular type of information. No want wants to lose the “go-to-guy” because then they have to do it themselves.

Take on tasks that no one else wants to do
This does not mean taking on grunt work. It might just mean mastering a new technology that no one else feels comfortable with or taking on an assignment that is outside of the traditional scope of the job. Employees who demonstrate this level of flexibility tend to get more flexibility from their bosses on other issues, including compensation.

Accept high profile assignments close to review time
Since it is easier for people to remember what has happened most recently, why not take on an important assignment to coincide with an upcoming review? The project is bound to become a focal point of the performance review discussion and the boss can quickly remember and document the achievements relevant to the project.

Your success negotiating a salary increase or promotion hinges on your ability to discuss the increase in terms of what is fair and reasonable. By including some of these ideas into your career management strategy, you can keep the conversation focused on measureable achievements and build a compelling business case for the requested pay raise.A

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How to Conduct a Job Search Without Your Boss Finding Out

Confidential Job Search EBookAre you trying to look for a new job while employed and struggling with how to do so without attracting attention from your boss or other stakeholders at your current company?

Our ebook, Job Seeker’s Guide to a Confidential Job Search can help. Learn how to leverage LinkedIn for your search without making your search efforts obvious and discover other do’s and don’ts for conducting a successful search. Download it now at http://www.careersolvers.com/confidential-job-search.html

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How to Nail a Phone Interview

phoneMany first interviews are conducted by phone. It’s important to take phone interviews just as seriously as in-person meetings. Here are ten tips for optimizing your phone interview experience.

Schedule the meeting during a time when you won’t be distracted.

A phone interview should be scheduled like any other interview. At the designated appointment time, make sure the dog is in the backyard and someone else is watching the kids. If a recruiter or hiring manager calls you without advance notice and wants to interview you on the spot, use caution. If the interview “conditions” are not optimal at the time of the call, it is best to tell the interviewer that you are very interested in the position, but need to schedule another time to have a conversation. That time can be as soon as ten minutes later, just make sure that you can take the call without being distracted.

Conduct interviews from a landline.

Cell phones are a boon to modern communication, but the quality is still not the same as that from a land line. You don’t want to frustrate the recruiter or the hiring manager with a bad connection. Plan your interview from a reliable phone line.

Create an office space.

Dedicate an area as your office. This could be as simple as a card table with a phone and your documents. Conduct your interviews from your “office”. Being seated at a desk or table allows you to create an environment similar to an in-person interview.

Put a mirror in front of you.

This helps you focus and it anchors your conversation to the visual representation of a person. Monitoring your facial expressions helps you see if you are communicating your enthusiasm to the recruiter.

Have a glass of water nearby.

If your throat is dry or you get a tickle you can take care of it before it turns into a cough and disrupts the flow of the interview.

Have your notes in front of you.

A phone interview is like an open book test. You can have your company research and answers to potential interview questions right in front of you. Try putting key information on colored index cards and organize by category.

Vary Your Voice.

Since the other person can’t see you, it is critical that you vary the tone and cadence of your voice to communicate interest and develop rapport.

Use pauses effectively.

Pauses in an interview situation are always difficult and they can be especially awkward during a phone interview. Rather than wondering what the person on the other end is doing or if they are still there, use the silence to ask a question. For example, if the interviewer has just asked you about your strengths and your response is met with silence, make that an opportunity to ask a question like “What are the key strengths of your ideal candidate?” This takes care of the silence and allows you to learn more about the position.

Don’t multi-task.

We have grown so accustomed to multi-tasking, however it can be counterproductive during a phone interview. Don’t check your email or stick a casserole in the oven while you are engaged in a phone interview. Act the same way you would for an in-office interview and maintain your focus.

Practice.

Record some of your answers to prospective interview questions. Play them back and critique. Are you easy to understand? Is your presentation riddled with long pauses and “ums?” Do you communicate interest and enthusiasm? If necessary, rework your answers and your presentation.