Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Job Search Tools

Bruce’s Top Ten List got me thinking along similar lines, so here are the 10 things I think are the best tools in job search.

1. Friends; Kind of weird to put our friends in the category of tools, but they are the single most important piece of your job search. Study after study and anecdote after anecdote tell us the same thing, The precise numbers vary, but they all say, “More than 80% of all jobs come with some level of personal introduction.” In other words, a friend introducing you to someone who introduces you to ….. So your friends are your most important tool in job search.

2. Pay-it-forward networking. This is a direct corollary to 1. We make friends by helping people we genuinely like and the people we like are those very friends reviewed in 1. Look at the book “I’m at a Networking Event, Now What” by Sandy Jones-Kaminsky, it provides simple clear tools for effective networking. Its all based on the idea of helping first. Useful networking starts with relationships that go beyond a simple business card and elevator pitch. That comes from trust and common values etc. There simply isn’t a better, faster way of doing this then helping.

3. Linkedin. Speaking of our friends or “network”, Linkedin is the best tool for documenting and mining that network. It’s work related social networking and allows us to understand how to help our friends and allow our friends to help us.

4. Internet “aggregators” . Tools that allow us to set up one search that covers a bunch of web pages on a regular basis. For example, Indeed.com covers several hundred job boards, so we can set up a single search that routinely sends the results to your email, or on an RSS feed. Another one is Linkup.com, it searches company pages with opportunities. Google Alerts does the same thing with information, so if you are focused on a particular company or job title, virtually anything, it will give you a daily list of updates

5. Work-Life DB™. This is a tool we created (and trademarked) and I haven’t found anything as effective or as complete in helping a person document their success and their history. We all know and pay at least lip service to the idea that job search is a sales position. The first step in effective, ethical sales is product knowledge, in this case that translates to the history of our success.

6. Strengths Finder. A corollary to 6. This is an outstanding test/process that helps us refocus our heads on our strengths, those things we naturally do very well… which is the same list of the things we do in a non-voluntary way. Check out my earlier post on this, it’s very cools stuff.

7. Public Libraries. Given that research is one of the crucial steps in job search, there simply isn’t a better place to do research. Locally, King County Library has this amazing list of research tools for job search and researching companies.

8. GIST. If research is one of the keys to success in the job search, then this add-in to either Gmail or Outlook is an amazing shortcut in that process. It automatically collects basic info, actually more than basic, about our contact list. Once someone is set up as a contact, Gist will provide you with an ongoing way of staying current. Is someone on Twitter? It will give you their last 5 tweets each week, Blogger? Their last posting. Linkedin? Any changes.

9. Bing/Google. Our old friends the basic search engines. What can I say that hasn’t been said? I include both because Bing has become a very useful tool and isn’t a clone of Google, so running searches in both tools provides additional information and both are very helpful.

10. Job Clubs. Groups like Notes From the Job Search (check out our schedule in the right column) provide support as we go through job search. So much of job search is incredibly difficult simply because of the isolation inherent in spending time looking for opportunities. Even the most qualified candidates can spend weeks and months sending off 10’s, 20’s even 100s of resumes without any response, so how the dickens can we remember that much of the craziness isn’t personal. Heck, it’s not even related to the quality of your applications. Finding a peer group going through this makes it much much easier.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bruces Top 10 Tips

If you are a regular reader then you know that occasionally one of the participants of Notes from the Job Search writes something to be posted on the blog and this is one of those.  It comes from Bruce Menzies, a network admin type who is in the habit of approaching life as a "learner" and who is also very articulate.  There are a couple of points here I quibble with (you'll notice I use Hotmail, not Gmail) but that's as close as I get to disagreeing with any of it and there are a couple that are incredibly wise! 

Bruce's 10 tips and tricks for Internet and Job Tool Success 2011

1. Get Google accounts (Choose something with your real name) + (another without your real name/ID..its your junk account). Learn to use folders and docs in Google Mail and Docs.

2. Get a Google Voice account with the zip code of your target job city/area. Forward that number to the device (cellphone, land line etc) of your choice. Customize it so it says your first name.

3. Learn Blogging (Google: 'How to use blogger' or use the teachparentstech.org website). Please read the wikipedia.org entry for 'Blog' to understand the implications of blogging. Consider the 'Legal and Social Consequences' section along with the last 4 sections of the wikipedia entry for 'Blog'. This is only for those interested in Blogging.

4. Get a WA state business license (Google: Washington Master Business License) $15 + $5 for each DBA name. Get an EIN tax number. This actually is a good thing. Read up on 'why having a business license is a good thing'....and its cheap!!

5. Research employment/temping trends. Find the skills (which compliment yours) that employers are looking to add. Don't assume you have these already. You don't...really. Use Temp/Contract companies as a resource to query for the most asked for skills. (Get a Temp-Company contacts name. Go to them. Query them in person. Don't ask these questions over the phone). You can show, but don't give them a resume....not just yet. Unless they have 3 possible positions for you that you like.


6. Get a library card...USE the library and its digital media. (This cannot be over emphasised.  If you are a King County resident -- Seattle counts -- the you can get one via kcls.org.  Steve)

7. Information is power and it makes you smarter!!! Chill-out at Barnes and Nobles/Borders bookstores. You don't need to buy anything. READ up on new relevant skills while there. Take notes!!

8. Use posted jobs descriptions as a template for your personal functional resume. (ADD THE MISSING SKILL SETS which appear as common). Use Indeed.com to get notifications of Jobs. Get the latest demo/trialware of new software for improving your tech skills and practice.

9. Network in person: Informal meetings, interviews and using Linkedin. Starting with our Job Search group. Linkedin is not a social network. It is for business and resource networking. Join and use it!!! (Facebook is NOT for personal business or their connections...really).

10. You should not expect a new job/position with exactly the same previous title, responsibility, tasks, etc. Be flexible like a willow tree. (Google: Lessons from a willow tree)

Happy New Year 2011,
-Bruce

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buzzwords

It’s amazing how persistent generalizations are. Recently, Manu Sharma posted a blog entry detailing the 10 most overused buzzwords in Linkedin Profiles in 2010.
In early 2009 Squawk Fox posted a great article titled “Six Words that Make Your Resume Suck

What I find especially interesting is how much the two have in common. Both are spot on, but I do admit I think Squawk Fox’s is better, it is crystal clear, funny, and he provides useful alternatives to the clich├ęs.

Start with the bad words… No, not four letter words, just meaningless ones. Manu Sharma’s list:

  1. Extensive experience
  2. Innovative
  3. Motivated
  4. Results-oriented
  5. Dynamic
  6. Proven track record
  7. Team player
  8. Fast-paced
  9. Problem solver
  10. Entrepreneurial

Now from Squawk Fox:

  1. Responsible for
  2. Experienced
  3. Excellent written communication skills
  4. Team Player
  5. Detail Oriented
  6. Successful

Notice the overlap? What do they have in common? I think it’s reasonable obvious, The words on these two lists claim characteristics, rather than demonstrating them.

There is a place on your resume where these are acceptable, even desirable. Using a “Core Competencies” section on your resume, you are telling the reader that you are claiming certain characteristics and/or skills. The rest of your resume is all about demonstrating them.

Linkedin doesn’t really have a “Core Competencies” section, so we aren’t going to be able to set up that kind of a section, and sometimes, the words/phrases above are part of likely “key words” that hiring managers may look for. So how do we balance?

Take “Team Player” which is on both lists, does that mean you were on your high school volleyball team? How about telling us about a team you were on? Plagiarizing from Squawk Fox, let’s replace “Team Player” with specifics:

  • Worked with clients, software developers, technical writers, and interface designers to deliver financial reporting software three months before deadline.

In Linkedin, we could do:

  • Demonstrated Team Player, having worked with clients, software developers, technical writers, and interface designers to deliver financial reporting software three months before deadline.

These are sooo much more powerful! As a hiring manager, these bullets jump off of the page and tell me why I want the guy/gal who wrote it.

So here are a couple of great links and some outstanding advice. Take a look at your profile, take a look at your resume and see if you can implement it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Web mistakes

One of the results of the article in the Seattle Times has been that I’ve been contacted (out of the Blue) by folks with useful stuff they want to share. One of those is a group/web page named OnlineTraining.org. What they do is help people evaluate various online training resources. What specifically caused them to reach out (I suspect at least) was a desire to get a new blog post noticed.

The title is “The 10 Worst Web Mistakes to Keep You from Finding a Job” and it is worth noticing. Their choice of mistakes is spot on and goes well beyond the obvious. We all know that pictures of someone having too good a time can kill an opportunity, even if the good time was years ago, but how thoughtful are we with the contents of our Tweets?

At any rate, it’s one of those that should be required reading for all of us involved with job search.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Resumes that Resume Careers

It’s interesting, every time I go to Deborah Drake’s group for reluctant bloggers, I seem to come back with something worth blogging about. This time, I met another career coach, one who is an author as well. His name is Don Burrows and the book I’m referring to is “Resumes that Resume Careers”. Don’s background is HR, where he spent 30 years of his career and where he was able to function at levels varying from recruiter to Director. The book is packed with wisdom, and while I would love to recap most it, I would really need to copy the whole thing to do it justice. So I’ll suggest you find a copy.

It does have a central theme and that is to write “functional” resumes. It’s an unusual choice as this is the first place I’ve seen the recommendation in a while. As a manager, and as an applicant, it’s what I wanted and what I usually used. However, as a Coach, my normal recommendation has become a “hybrid” format: One that looks like a reverse historical resume, but focuses on accomplishments/functions/functionality and if someone is looking for work in their current profession, I’ll continue to recommend it. The primary reason is that it has the added value of avoiding HR’s filters.

If you are making any kind of break from what you last did, then Don’s suggestion is something you should consider very carefully. His premise is that companies and recruiters care about what you can do for them. He’s right. The person most likely to be pleased with the format is a “hiring manager”. If you have problems that need to be solved, then the easier it is to visualize someone doing so, the easier it is to hire them.

One of the interesting things about the increased use of electronic DBs to store and retrieve candidates is that they aren’t going to care about format. We care, and HR cares. As Don says, “The goal of a resume is to get a recruiter to call YOU for an interview.” In other words, we want to be found when a recruiter is running a search and we want to give this recruiter enough pertinent information so they see us as close enough to a solution to talk to.  A functional resume is very specifically designed to do that.

A little later in his book Don writes, “Please don’t ever forget: the company is not in business to satisfy your wants and needs. YOU are the product and before they will “buy” YOU, they want to know what YOU have accomplished elsewhere and what you’ll do for THEM.” Your resume isn’t really about you at all. It’s about some job and how you will be able to perform it.

Beyond this, Don and I have lots of disagreements about a bunch of little things, like whether to include an objective and how to develop it etc. but those really boil down to style. If you read Don's book and follow his suggestions, you will come up with an excellent resume, one that looks a lot like the ones NFJS recommends.