Questions and Answers with Career Expert Freddie Cheek
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Freddie Cheek is a job-search trainer.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest “reality check” your clients encounter in the job search? What surprises them most?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Whenever I present job-search workshops or provide individual coaching, I give my clients a handout with a set of Job-Search Truths. The job search is often a tough and disappointing process with many valley and few peaks. If we are realists and have our eyes open, we can and will succeed. This dose of reality will usually put my clients on the path to success:
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||We find that many entry-level job-seekers and new grads really have no clue of what to expect in terms of a job-search. What can be done to better prepare job-seekers for the reality of a prolonged job-search?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| First of all — create a comprehensive job-search campaign with reasonable and attainable goals. That goal is not a job. The goals are: X number of resumes submitted per week, X number of phone calls to employers, X number of networking contacts. Once you set your weekly productivity goals, keep track of how you do each week to make sure your activities are steady and consistent. Periodically review your efforts to identify what is working the best and what you are not doing regularly but should be.
Keep extremely accurate and useful records. These records will help you avoid duplicating efforts or accidentally missing opportunities. Create and practice what you will say in a networking conversation, follow-up phone call, and interview. Consider a variety of responses so your comments stay fresh.
Begin early. Don’t wait until school or classes end to start looking. In this process, the early bird does get the worm. You may be able to get a head start on your classmates if you begin the process a few months before graduation.
Hold off on vacations until you land that job. Do NOT take a “breather” while you rest and recreate. The job search can be a long and drawn-out process. Stay the course, and don’t end up with peaks and valleys of activity. I just had a client miss an interview because she didn’t check her email during an extended weekend break. She just didn’t feel like turning on her computer for a few days. When she finally did check for messages, she found a request for a meeting on the only day the VP would be in town — the day before she checked her email.
Seriously consider taking temporary or part-time jobs. Having an income will help you through the job-search process and will place you out in the world of work. Employers are always more impressed with someone who is working a “while I look” job as opposed to someone who sat home and waited for a job.
And don’t sit at home and wait for a job. Get to the library, alumni office, employment office, free or inexpensive continuing education classes, etc. Employers rarely knock on your front door checking to see if you want a job. You need to be out and about, talking to people and researching opportunities. The danger of conducting only an Internet search is that you never meet with people.
Ask for help. Use a professional coach or resume writer. Find a job-search buddy who can boost your morale or join a job club through a community group. One of the worst parts of this process is the isolation. You begin to think that no one else is having this much difficulty getting a job. You begin to doubt yourself.
Finally — take care of yourself. Eat well and exercise regularly. Get lots of rest (no late-night parties) but don’t sleep in each day. Get up and keep to a routine — get dressed and go to “work” every day. Treat yourself to a reward when you accomplish difficult tasks (there are lots of no- or low-cost things to do).
The awful truth is that you will be in the labor market for your whole adult life, and you will always be “working” to get a job, keep a job, advance in your job or get a better job. The strategies and behaviors you develop now will help you throughout your entire professional life.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s one job-hunting secret you share with clients but that may not be widely known?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Sometimes the best advice is the most obvious but also the least known. The very first advice I give to clients is to completely change their mind-set and approach. We don’t even use the label “Job-Seeker,” which is essentially misleading. Clients who pursue employment as a job-hunter have already lost half the battle.
Instead, I coach my clients to be “Job Fillers.” When you create job-search documents and prepare interview answers, keep asking yourself, “If I were the employer, what would I want to see and hear?” Ask yourself, “How can I contribute to their success, fill their needs.”
If this advice seems basic, let me tell you that most job candidates don’t take this approach. They keep thinking, “I want this job, I need an offer.” The whole focus is on them. Communication experts agree that the key to effective speaking and writing is to focus on the listener and reader. What does your audience want to know? It’s not really about what you want to say, but, rather what they need to hear.”
Instead of asking for a job description or what “I’ll” be doing on the job, ask the employer what he/she needs to be done. “What are the major projects and tasks that the company needs accomplished?” You’ll notice I didn’t say the major tasks of the job. Find out what the company or department needs as a whole, and then state how you can help fill that need.
The best way to do this is to share experiences and successes that you’ve accomplished with past employers. “I had a similar challenge at XYZ and this is how I handled it. The outcome was…” Mention your participation on a team and any leadership or mentoring role you took. Then link it to the employer’s goals and objectives.
To employ this technique, you have to ask questions about the company, and I don’t mean the vacation schedule. You have to know the kind of person the employer wants and the skill sets needed. Only then can you successfully answer interview questions. And the process starts before you even create your resume. Think about what you do well and imagine how companies can benefit from your joining their staff. The product of this thinking will be your marketing strategy.
At the very least, employers will be impressed with what you have to offer. They may even recognize several areas in which you can contribute. I’ve seen employers customize jobs to utilize candidates’ strengths. With this approach, you get the job you want that best suits you and the company gets the answer to its needs.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the best way to uncover job leads — or do you advise multiple methods? What’s the best combination of methods and what percentage of a job-seeker’s time should be spent on each?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| If you want to uncover every possible job opening, then you must cover all the bases. First commit your time and energy to an intelligent and comprehensive job search. The truth is that almost every method works to some degree, and I’ve had clients find dream jobs using every job-search technique. As long as the method is professional, legal, and ethical — I say why not?
Now, I don’t recommend the gimmicks. Don’t mail yourself to the employer or put your resume in a box of candy. I’d call the police if a candidate jumped out from a bunch of ferns. And would you really eat food from a stranger? However, everything else works and when done in combination will enhance your success.
Networking is by far the most effective, but some people just can’t bring themselves to approach others, even people they know. Instead, be sure to tell everyone you know what you do for a living, your strengths and successes, what you want in a new job, and how you will help an employer. Then ask them to let you know if they hear of an opportunity or to please share your resume with their friends and co-workers.
Following up resumes you’ve sent is a great way to generate interviews. However, some people are just not comfortable on the phone. Rather than spoil a genuine opportunity with a poor phone presentation, eliminate that step, create a phone script that you can rehearse and keep handy, or send an e-mail.
My clients have great success just researching the places where they want to work and mailing, faxing, or posting online resumes directly to that company. Find the company’s Web site or look employers up in the phone book and apply. We know that as many as 80 percent of job openings are never advertised or posted. Almost daily I get calls from clients telling me that companies were pleasantly surprised to get their resumes or thought they had inside info about upcoming openings.
Newspaper ads? Yup, they work. All of my clients get interviews through ads, and I’ve even found a great job through an ad. Check your local newspaper’s employment section or online ads. And don’t overlook “Pennysavers” and free employment newspapers.
Employment agencies and the Department of Labor (DOL)? Sure.
Sign up with employment agencies and recruiters, as long as you don’t have to pay them anything — ever. Don’t forget your school’s placement office — they get postings, as well.
Finally, use those Internet search engines, if they appeal to you. We know that the most popular Internet sites account for only a very small percentage of hires. But, if you post your resume to them or use job-finding scouts, you won’t waste very much time. One caution: Don’t spend days conducting an online search to find two openings. That’s not a wise use of your time and resources.
In summary, try everything and see what works for YOU. Different people have success using different methods. Cover all the bases, and give yourself as many options as you can.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest mistake job-seekers make that your advice could correct or prevent?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| The road to successful employment is littered with candidates who missed out on opportunities or turned down potential prospects. The biggest mistake people make is to be too picky or fussy up front. They cheat themselves out of great jobs when they have too little information.
Almost daily I hear clients tell me, “The posting sounds like a boring job or probably pays too little” — or — “They probably have a lot of better qualified people applying” — or — “They want someone who is much more experienced at this than I am.” You get the picture. Here are my top three tips to avoid this pitfall.
Obviously, don’t apply for a manager job when you’ve never done that kind of work. And when a position requires a professional license or advanced degree, they mean it. Of course, do not waste an employer’s time by applying when you are unqualified. But, if you CAN do the job well and come close to the desired qualifications — apply.
The time to be picky and fussy is when you receive a job offer and even then you might be wise to compromise a little. Consider taking a job that comes close and then work to improve it. Negotiate for what’s missing — ask for training opportunities, tuition reimbursement, better vacation or benefits, quicker reviews, etc. If you can’t get any of those, try to customize the job over time to eliminate the work you like least in favor of doing more of what you are best at. The company will also benefit from utilizing your strengths and letting someone else handle the work anyone can do.
Job-search trainer Freddie Cheek, M.S. Ed., is a Credentialed Career Master (CCM), Certified Professional resume Writer (CPRW), Certified resume Writer (CRW) and Certified Workforce Development Professional (CWDP). She is also a certified English teacher. Freddie has 23+ years’ experience in job-search training, career counseling, adult education, job placement, resume writing and human resources. She is co-owner of Cheek & Cristantello Career Connections, a career counseling, job-search training and resume writing business with federal, state, and local contracts. Examples of Freddie’s resume and cover-letter writing have been published in eight books, as well as the Best of the Best section of the ResumeMaker Deluxe software. Contact her at Cheek & Cristantello Career Connections, LLC, 4511 Harlem Road, Suite 3, Amherst, NY 14226, phone: 716-839-3635, fax: 716-831-9320, email: email@example.com, Web site: Cheek & Cristantello Career Connections.
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