Questions and Answers with Career Expert Jan Melnik
Please note: On a somewhat infrequent basis, Quintessential Careers asks noted career experts five questions related to their expertise and publishes the interview in the current issue of QuintZine, our career e-newsletter. Those interviews are archived here for your convenience.
Jan Melnik is an author, Master Resume Writer, Credentialed Career Master, and Certified Professional Resume Writer.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||How can people determine which, if any, of the home-based career opportunities we see advertised on the Internet are legitimate? Are ANY of them legitimate? If not, what’s the best way to identify a viable home-based opportunity?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Ah, this is a difficult question. I guess I’m from the old school and would tend to be leery of anything I saw that required an individual to invest money to start a legitimate business. The majority of home-based businesses that I know to be successful (and legit) were built the old-fashioned way — through hard work, perseverance, and due diligence. To investigate any opportunity, though, the rules would appear to me to be the same. Talk to those who are doing what you think you want to do. If it’s a local contact, offer to take that person out for breakfast — or come directly to his or her office with coffee/bagels in hand to spend an hour picking his or her brain for details about how he or she got started, secured clients/business, affixed fees, etc. Definitely check references. If it’s an individual already operating, ask if there are several clients with whom you can speak.
It clearly makes sense, in my opinion, to begin a business in an area where one has expertise. I have been very successful operating a home-based resume service for the past 20 years, and when I wrote the book, How to Start a Home-Based Resume Service, it drew on not only my actual experience of being in the business but the experiences of colleagues from around the country (as opposed to being a start-up business book written by a panel of professional business writers who’ve never operated the businesses they’re writing about!).
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||How can the home-based worker discipline himself or herself to work outside the organizational structure of a typical workplace?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| It’s important to identify appropriate work patterns based on (a) client needs and (b) individual personality lifestyle type. Take advantage of whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, and map your workday accordingly. Take heavily into account the needs/wishes of those who may share the same domicile; if you live alone, you have the greatest luxury of cultivating precisely the type of working schedule that suits you. If you have a significant other/spouse and/or children and/or elder parents, your work schedule will probably require greater flexibility. Commit to working while at work and playing when not. In other words, when you turn it off at the end of the day, be available to family/friends and not compelled to check “one more e-mail.” When you ARE at work, discipline family members and friends to your schedule and let them know “it’s just as if I were in a real office working — I can speak occasionally on the phone for a few minutes, but I’m not free to go out to lunch and take a two-hour shopping trip every other day!”
Build intrinsic measurements into your day — whether you’re first starting out and you want to track number of new prospective client contacts made or you’re well on your way and you are measuring billable hours per day — make it something that will serve to define progress and success. Successful entrepreneurship is among the most satisfying and gratifying accomplishments there is!
|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 most common mistake that I see clients making at virtually all levels — from new graduate to CEOs with 30+ years of experience — is relying solely on the Internet and believing that spending 6-8 hours a day doing nothing but e-mailing and posting online is “productive.”|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Along those lines, we are hearing increasingly from job-seekers about frustrations with Internet job-hunting. Are the old rules of job-seeking and follow-up changing? How will job-seekers need to adapt to the new rules of Internet job-hunting?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| First and foremost, I believe it’s imperative that job-seekers in all professions recognize that the Internet is but ONE tool in their toolbag — and to rely exclusively on the Internet is to make the biggest mistake there is in professional job search. It is important to use the Internet for the variety of ways that it can be incredibly useful — resume distribution, immediacy of forwarding information to an already “warmed” contact, online posting to a corporate job site, research of specific companies or industries, online “talks” with recruitment professionals at select sites (e.g., SpencerStuart), and rapid communications between networked contacts. However, these activities should complement “traditional” job search tasks — networking, trade journal classifieds, networking, major paper classifieds, networking, recruiter contacts, networking, research interviewing, oh — and did I mention — networking!
For those opportunities sourced through the Internet, some useful strategies for rising to the top of the pile include:
Never hesitate to follow-up by e-mail (if that’s the only contact point) after an e-mail resume has been sent — a few days to a week — make the follow-up short, succinct, AND attach only the MS Word resume to the follow-up e-mail as a convenience.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s one job-hunting secret you share with clients but may not be widely known?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:||Appropriate follow-up that is professional, consistent and persistent can pay off. What do I mean? I always recommend that after forwarding a resume and cover letter (whether electronically or “the old-fashioned way” — through the mail and/or fax), a follow-up phone call is appropriate within a few days “to ensure receipt.” My strategy for conquering the voicemail trap (once you’ve reached the voicemail box of the actual person with whom you wish to speak), is to professionally leave your name, number, purpose of your call (“following up to materials sent earlier this week … would like five minutes of your time”), and the promise that you’ll call back in 24 hours. Then do it (call back 24 hours later and leave an identical, professional message). Allow NO hint of frustration to creep into voice. Ensure you are leaving multiple contact numbers for ease of call-back. Always state your name clearly and fully. And leave this message for as many days as it takes to get through. Even the most resistant contacts will eventually break down — and typically be impressed by your professionalism and consistency — plus this type of persistence pays off especially well for those in marketing and sales professions.|
Jan Melnik is a Master Resume Writer, Credentialed Career Master, and Certified Professional Resume Writer. She has operated a private practice, Absolute Advantage, for 20 years and works with middle and upper-tier executive clients across the country in all aspects of job search and resume development. She is the author of several extrepreneurial start-up books and a contributing editor to more than a dozen professional career books. Her practice has been profiled by the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Woman’s Day, and Country Living, as well as featured on “Oprah.” She is the careers and at-home entrepreneurial expert on “Money Watch” radio, a nationally syndicated program and does guest appearances on local television and radio shows. She recently completed a three-part career/job-search series for NBC. Melnik divides her time among her busy practice, an active family that includes three sons, and work on several new books, including two novels and a new careers series.
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