Tips to Adapt to Tough Economic Times

istock_000001275566xsmall-150x150I wanted to share insights C. Michael Reimringer recently shared with a networking group about how to cope and adapt to tough economic times. As he noted to me privately, many of these same actions were taken by our elders during the Great Depression. In 2008 our economy experienced similiar challenges and as you work your way back to getting on your feet, his comments may spark ways for you to adapt in your own life.

The new reality of jobs in the United States is we must adapt. Education, certificates, and accomplishments matter less as we get older (older than 21!!). Open our minds and explore all options. Reduce expenses wherever we live – when and if we find a job, it’s a bonus! Have fun cheaply!

All things we are already doing, however reluctantly, but now we actively plan and do deliberately now and forever more. Adapt to:

Less income by spending less:

  • Compare and reduce expenses depending on the options we choose,
  • Move to less expensive housing if feasible,
  • Cook and eat at home more,
  • Entertain by sharing a meal with friends and play cards or a board game or watch TV,
  • Exercise and eat healthy to reduce health care expenses,
  • Keep our current clothes, car(s), electronics, etc, working by repairs,
  • Buy used clothes, cars, and electronics rather than new or do with less,
  • Eat out for lunch once a week at a local restaurant rather than dinner,
  • Borrow movies and music from the local library rather than buying new,
  • Drive less to save gas and reduce car repairs by combining errands and shopping closer to home,
  • Explore new ways to reduce expenses and involve your family in the process if they are present.

Jobs reality by job hunting differently:

  • Talk with friends, family, current and former coworkers to find contract, part time, and full time jobs,
  • Job hunting by submitting electronic resumes usually does not work so don’t spend much time on it,
  • Job hunting depends on networking with people you know or meet and ask about jobs they may know of,
  • Jobs may be part time, contract, or full time,
  • Jobs may or may not be in work you want, enjoy, or have previous accomplishments and experience,
  • If you have a particular specialty, explore consulting or contracting in a different city or a different state,
  • Take advantage of RochesterWorks! and public libraries by using their resources,
  • Join one or two jobs networking groups, meet people, explore possibilities,
  • Move to a different city IF you receive a job offer, evaluate all options, and your family agrees it is viable,
  • Explore new possibilities (franchise?) and involve your family in the process if they are present.

Recognize and appreciate our own value and everyone around us regardless of money or job (if any):

  • Find joy in going out with family or friends to a park, picnic, or reduced price entertainment,
  • Find joy in belonging to a faith community or any other type of community and being active in the group,
  • Find joy by going for a walk every day even if our health only permits a 5 minute walk,
  • Find joy by talking with our health care provider and increasing our daily exercise gradually to 45 minutes,
  • Find joy by spending time with friends, family, and people we know,
  • Find joy by doing volunteer work with children in city schools to improve their reading and math skills,
  • Find joy by joining a choral group and singing at nursing homes and other locations,
  • Explore other things you have never tried and involve your family in the process if they are present.

As you face tough economic times, are there any tips that have worked for you?

Who, What and Why before the Resume

istock_000002137707xsmallTransitions are difficult for job hunters and career changers. You often fret about getting things right and defining what is the most important thing to get done first. Frustration and confusion sets in early, especially when everyone you ask has an opinion…and it is different.

More often than not, the resume rises to the top because it is your calling card or introduction to a potential company or recruiter. Without a strong resume, you can’t get that coveted interview … right?

The resume is easy to fix or tweak quickly. But you’ll soon realize that everyone has an opinion especially when you ask people who are not professional resume writers.

When I look at the resume, it sometimes become obvious why you are not getting contacted for jobs. It is quite simple – your resume fails to tell your story or to peak the interviewer’s interest. More time and attention has been spent on wordsmithing than being clear about who you are, what you want, what you have to offer and why you are the best person for that particular job.

Once you become clear about who, what and why – you narrow the job choices. You focus your efforts on jobs that meet your criteria instead of applying to everything that remotely sounds like you.

You have probably heard some advice about casting a wide net; I recommend a narrow net provided you are clear about who, what and why. Too much time is wasted chasing job opportunities that are not a good fit personally or professionally.

So, let’s get back to the who, what and why. At first you may say, I know who I am and what I want. If that is true – is it reflected in your resume and actions? Or do you find that you are schizophrenic in your approach? Ask someone who doesn’t know you well that will give candid feedback. No tip toeing around here.

If you are clear, anyone should be able to pick up your resume and know exactly what kind of job or career you want in life. If it is not clear, don’t worry – you are not alone.

When you go through any type of transition in your life – a loss of job, divorce, move to a new area or other significant change, take an opportunity to recreate or cast your life in a different way. Even if you are happy with your life, it is a time for reflection and reaffirmation.

Once you become clear, that’s the time to put it all down on paper.


Overcoming the resume pimple

That’s right; resumes get pimples just like people do. To be honest, there are more resumes with pimples than without pimples. So how do you overcome the resume pimple? Is there a magic cream to use that erases all the blemishes?  No, not quite, but there are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting in front of that hiring manager or recruiter.

Here’s the thing about your resume pimple. You are not alone. Just about everyone has something that they want to cover up or glide over on their resume. Here are a few of the things that people have talked to me about:

  • You want change careers and your resume doesn’t reflect what you can or want to do.
  • You were fired from your last job.
  • For many years you did not work because you were a homemaker, but you have the education.
  • Your skills are outdated.
  • You’ve been laid off for several years yet no one has hired you.
  • You have a disability and it affects the type of work you should be doing and/or accommodations you will need.
  • Your resume is poorly written.
  • All your jobs have been one year or less without a career progression.
  • You are about to or have just graduated from college and have minimal experience.
  • You want to move to a new area.

The list could go on…and I am sure you have your specific pimple that you are trying to address.

What is important is how you present your information in your resume and how you convince the hiring manager or recruiter to talk to you in your cover letter. Your secret weapon is the cover letter. There are no rules for cover letters and if you are applying to an online system, there is often a place to upload a letter. In your cover letter, you can explain why your pimple is not really a pimple.

Once you are in the interview, expect to be questioned about your resume pimple again because they will want to hear about why the pimple exists and what you are doing to correct it. If you have not taken any steps to correct the situation, the employer will be less likely to hire you. They are looking for employees who are proactive about difficult situations, not someone who sits on the sidelines.

How to Ace Your Employment Interview: Part 2

In How to Ace Your Employment Interview Part 1, Suzette Smith, The InnerView Coach, shared insights into the hiring process from the perspective of a Human Resources Director. In part 2, we’ll delve into why confidence and other traits are just as important in the interview process.

What is Being Assessed in the Interview

When you first enter into a room with the interviewer, they will be assessing your confidence and poise throughout the time you spend with them. Are you at ease or are you fidgeting and distracted? When uncomfortable questions are asked, how do you respond? Are you able to communicate your skills and abilities in a sound and logical way? Are you ready with at least five questions with potential follow on questions and finally, a closing question?

InnerView Coach - Suzette Smith

InnerView Coach – Suzette Smith

According to Suzette, there are 36 signs of self-confidence that she looks for when interviewing people. How many actions can you relate to?

  1. I can easily name my personal and professional strengths
  2. I like being me
  3. I surround myself with high-quality people
  4. I can laugh at myself
  5. I am a positive person
  6. I am resilient in the face of challenges
  7. I don’t worry what others think of me
  8. I look in the mirror and like what I see
  9. I am good company to be around
  10. I am not afraid to make mistakes
  11. I don’t doubt my own ability
  12. I know what I want in life and am moving towards it
  13. I am in control of my life
  14. I know my weaknesses and I am working to minimize them
  15. I’ve succeeded in the past and I will succeed in the future
  16. I am always thinking of ways to be more successful
  17. I actively contribute to the successes of others
  18. I am a confident communicator
  19. I don’t mind speaking in front of groups
  20. I can say “no” without feeling guilt or fear
  21. I don’t get nervous when meeting strangers
  22. I can keep a conversation going
  23. I am not afraid to complain if I get poor service
  24. I am not shy about contributing my ideas at meetings
  25. I have no problem asking for what I want
  26. I am interested in what others have to say
  27. I can tell jokes with ease
  28. I enjoy having fun and relaxing
  29. I take pleasure in my achievements
  30. I never think that when I experience pleasure it is underserved
  31. I don’t have to work hard at having fun
  32. When I succeed I never respond by feeling defensive or anxious
  33. If others don’t like me having fun, that’s tough
  34. I smile a lot
  35. I don’t doubt my ability to do a/the job
  36. I speak with ease to people in positions of power

Other Important Interview Characteristics

As with many jobs, attention to detail is an important skill set. The interviewer is looking to see if you are listening carefully to the question and answering it. When you provide an explanation, is your answer detailed and accurate?

Have you done your research – what is your knowledge of the company? Recent announcements, financial statements and publications provide rich source materials for developing killer questions. Dig and find out information about their:

  • Annual sales
  • Leadership team
  • Products and services
  • Recent news

When you impress the first interviewer, you are more likely to impress the other people you will be talking to. Your first impression sets the pattern for your personal effectiveness in the organization.

Employers want employees who have maturity in their experience for the job and how they act. Perseverance is a positive trait.

Your overall impression is critical – do you they see you as a team player? Do you have the soft skills the employer is looking for? Suzette shared her list of soft skills she looks for in an interview, they include:

  • Attitude
  • Motivation
  • Initiative
  • Stability
  • Planning
  • Self-Assessment
  • Social Skills
  • Problem Solving
  • Resourceful
  • Sense of Urgency

Savvy interviewers will ask you questions that show the skills they are believe are important to their organization. They may even rate you on them – Suzette uses a four point scale to rate candidates on how well they show these skills through their answers. The scale is:

Outstanding = 3

Good = 2

Adequate = 1

Poor = 0

She uses this scale because after interviewing dozens of candidates, it gives her a way to sort through those that are the top contenders for the position.

Closing the Interview

As yourself this question: Do I really want this job? If you do, then you can ask for the job at the close of the interview. However, ask for the job with finesse. How do you do that?

Let the interviewer know you are excited about the job and you believe you would make a great asset to the team. Do not say: I want this job, hire me. Being direct puts the interviewer on the spot to make a decision they are probably not ready to make.

Do ask: When will you make a decision? Try to get a date from them so that you know when to follow-up with them. Inquire how you can best follow-up – by phone or email.

Immediately after the interview, send them a handwritten note thanking them for their time and expressing your interest in the position.

One week later, follow-up on the position and continue to follow-up every week by either speaking to someone one leaving a voice mail.

Follow Suzette’s tips on how to Ace Your Employment Interview and you will be on your way to working with a new employer.

How to Ace Your Employment Interview: Part 1

Carol Larson introduces Suzette Smith

Carol Larson introduces Suzette Smith

The Rochester NY Employment Network sponsored The InnerView Coach – Suzette Smith’s presentation: How to Ace Your Employment Interview this month. The focus of her presentation is how do you master the soft skilled questions you face in an employment interview. Those interview questions are often the ones that trip you up.

To warm up the group, Suzette put them to work right away in a mixer exercise. Everyone was to pair up with someone they did not know. Here are the questions that she had each person practice with from her Ace Your Employment Interview model:

  1. What do you admire most in others? Why?
  2. Do you feel you’ve made a success of life to date? Give an example.
  3. Have you ever felt like giving up? Tell me about that.
  4. How do you deal with continually changing situations?
  5. Where do you want to be next year? In three years?
  6. What is the most useful criticism you have received? From whom?

The group found some interview questions to be challenging to answer. The reason companies ask probing questions is to decide if you are a good fit for their culture and value system – which should also be important to you!

There are some questions you should be asking right up front according to Suzette and those include:

  • What is the job description?
  • Who will you meet with?
  • Will you meet the hiring manager or their direct reports?
  • What is the dress code?
  • What is the phone number of the person you are interviewing with? (Just in case you are delayed because a good reason.)
  • What is the address? Some companies have multiple locations – make sure where your meeting is being held.

Employment Interview Preparation

Prepare at least three success stories or achievement stories for your interview. Highlight your big accomplishments whether they are work, school or life related. You want to show hard to measure qualities such as what is your value system. Be sure that in the process you are interviewing the employer to learn that their value system is a match with yours!

At some point the question of salary will come up. Be ready to discuss the question by not answering the question directly. It is acceptable to respond with:

You expect a salary commensurate to your experience and the job demands.

If they ask you what you are making, you can respond with:

You are confident the range will be fair given that you are looking a position in the same field.

If you are pushed to state a salary, ask the employer to state a salary amount or figure to you. If the salary is in your range, say so, if it is out of your range, ask them about the other benefits they provide and evaluate if those benefits close the gap.

What to Bring to the Interview

Don’t assume that the interviewer has a copy of your resume – bring several copies for when the employer decides to add people to your interview schedule. Have a list of references handy because if the employer is interested, they may ask for them. Your references can be a mix of earlier bosses, colleagues, co-workers and one personal reference. Bring samples of your work that demonstrates your skills and capabilities.

Know you resume inside and out. Suzette shares stories of people who did not know when they worked for an employer or what they did….a clear sign that your resume may not be conveying the truth.

Plan on being at the interview 10-15 minutes early and warmly greet the receptionist. Hint: Your interview stats the moment you enter the building and talk with the receptionist.

During the Interview

Your future employer is evaluating you on many aspects, so pay close attention to each of them and find the areas where you need to adjust to make a better impression.

Pay close attention to your personal and physical appearance. Suzette recommends men wear a dark suit, light shirt and red tie. Women should be professionally dressed with a skirt or pant suit. If you wear a beard – trim it and by all means – leave the gum home.

Your voice and speech is important – are you clear and easy to understand? Do you have any annoying or bothersome habits? If you are not sure, ask your friends and family – they will be sure to tell you!

Do not overlook your body language and that includes:

Is your educational level and background a good fit for the job? You’ll find that some companies are sticklers for meeting minimum educational requirements even though your experience and technical abilities may be strong. Some employers embrace certifications, so keeping them current or obtaining them while you are looking for work is prudent. When you know the employer’s philosophy going into the interview, there are fewer surprises.

Employers will be assessing how ambitious you are when they ask what your future goals are. When they ask this question, they are determining how you plan (your career) and if you are realistic in your goals. It’s safe to share your three to five-year goals with them.

Intelligence ranks high on the list of capabilities that employers want to attract. During the interview, are you grasping the concepts easily or do you struggle to make sense of the discussion? If you find yourself lost, take a few notes and spend some research time afterwards – it will help you prepare for later interviews. Finally, are you asking thoughtful questions?

In Part 2 of “Acing Your Employment Interview” we’ll take a look at how being confident and being ready will help you get the job of your dreams.

Taking your Job Search by Storm with Absolutley Abby

Absolutely Abby sharing her Job Search secrets

Absolutely Abby sharing her Job Search secrets

The job search process can be daunting. Just like preparing for a big storm to hit, there are some things you can do help prepare for a successful job search. Absolutely Abby spoke to the New Horizons Network organized by Pete Chatfield last week about the Six Ways to take your Job Search by Storm. Here’s the recap if you missed the session.

Be Prepared

There are four key areas where preparation will make a difference.

  1. Research the company before you get into the interview. If you have not done your homework, when the recruiter or hiring manager starts to talk about the company, do not act surprised. If you act surprised, they will think you did not do your due diligence.
  2. Prepare for the “whys”. The recruiter or hiring manager want to know – why do you want to work for them. This question may sound simple, but it really is an important question. Companies want people who are excited about their product and services and if there is special meaning or connection with the mission they will be more interested in you.
  3. Prepare your SAR’s. SAR stands for situation, action and results. Develop and practice at least 8-10 situations where you can explain your talents, abilities and results and be ready to use them during the interview process. SAR’s are great for answering behavioral interview questions and the weakness and strength questions.
  4. Prepare questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager during and at the end of the interview. Here are some of the questions you might think about asking:
    • Is there anything I said that would cause you not to pass me along? While a negative question, it does force out the objections about hiring you.
    • If there was one thing you could change about the culture, what would it be?
    • How well does my profile match up with the candidate you are looking for?
    • Why do you like working for the company?
    • Six months from now and you said I exceeded results – what would I have done?
    • What are the challenges that keep you up at night and how can I solve them?

Bottom line: The better prepared you are going into the interview, the better impression you will make.

Be Prudent

Abby was very clear about this – you cannot complain about anything or anyone while you are in an interview.  Not the weather, president or that your favorite team lost a game, the economy, your last job or boss or the fact that the recruiter doesn’t follow up with you. You never know who is listening to you and what impression you are leaving with them.

Bottom line: People like to help others who are positive.

Be Persistent

One of the secrets to a successful job search is being persistent with your targeted companies. There are a number ways you can get their attention and stand out of the stack of resumes sitting on their desk. Here are some of the ideas that were shared:

  • Send a shoe with a note – Just getting my foot in the door.
  • Send an ice cream scooper – Get the scoop on me!
  • Personalized fortune cookie with your unique saying.
  • Send a cookie clock – it’s time to hire (you).
  • Fax your resume – no one uses the fax so when it goes off everyone wants to see who is sending a message.

Bottom line: Take a risk and be unique!

Be Pliable

Companies want to have employees who are pliable and flexible. Here are some of the areas where you may need to review how pliable you are:

  • Relocation to a new area
  • Commuting time or distance
  • Hours of the job – many businesses run 24/7 or with extended hours
  • Starting a business on your own
  • Using temporary jobs, consulting or contracting as a springboard

Bottom line: The more pliable you are, the more opportunities there will be to explore.

Be Pleased

Finally, even if you don’t have job think about all the things you have to be thankful for. Even though you may be struggling financially, you probably still have:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Health
  • Cars
  • Heat
  • Family
  • Kids
  • House

In a storm, people do without many of these things we take for granted and then realize what they really do have.

If you find yourself getting down, make your top 10 list and put it in a place where you can review it every day. Another option is to volunteer in your community, it will invigorate your sense of giving to other in greater need than yourself – the added bonus – it is a great way to network and build skills.

Bottom line: Don’t take for granted what you do have in your life.

General Job Search Questions

Toward the end of the presentation, Abby fielded more questions from the group. Here are some of them:

  • How do you ask a manager if they are a micro-manager without asking them outright? Here are two suggestions:
    1. Simply ask, “What is your management style?”
    2. Find someone who has worked for them in the past and ask them – but be sure you do it after you get the offer.
  • How many SARs stories do you need to develop? At least 10 of them and you must memorize them.
  • How often can you follow-up after sending in your resume? Once a week – after the deadline for resume submissions has passed.
  • References – do I need them? Yes, you need three of them and they need to be from different companies and bosses that you have worked for.
  • Salary requirements – what do I say when I am asked? On your cover letter show that salary is negotiable. If you don’t state that, you will not get a call. You can also state a salary range or minimum salary. Remember not to add any bonuses into the salary unless you are in sales.

Bottom Line: Weathering the Job Hunting Storm can be done.

You can review the other two Absolutely Abby sessions here:

Absolutely Abby: Success for the Seasoned Search - The Benefit of Being Overqualified

Exposing the Hidden Job Market with Absolutely Abby


Exposing the Hidden Job Market with Absolutely Abby

Absolutely Abby talking with a job hunter

Absolutely Abby talking with a job hunter

There is an elusive hidden job market – how do you find it and use it to your advantage? Absolutely Abby shares those secrets with John Adams’ group Always Be Connected Power Networking Group (ABCPNG) this week.

What is the hidden job market? The hidden job market is simply the jobs that are not posted or communicated to the open market. The hidden jobs are positions that managers have that get filled before there is any formal communication about the job opening.

These hidden jobs are not deliberately being withheld from you – the fact is you are just too late to be in the running because a qualified candidate was found very quickly. Let’s walk through an example that Abby shared where up to 15 people know about an opening before the job is posted or goes public.

When an employee leaves the company, the manager has an opening. The hiring manager (1) will have to get agreement from their Director (2) and VP (3) about replacing this person. If the company is small to medium-sized, the position may need the leadership team (4-7) to approve the position too. Everyone in the department knows that there is an empty chair, so they know that there is an opening (7-10). Human Resources (11) knows about the position because they did the exit interview and are involved in approving the replacement. Finally, the recruiter (12) gets involved when the position is ready to be sourced.

While the job is still in the hidden market, this group of 10-15 people has considered 100 or more people before opening the position up publicly. It is in the company’s financial interest to find someone without going public because they can avoid recruiter fees or advertising fees. How are they sourcing these people?

There are a number of approaches they might take to find the right person:

  1. Do we really need the position? There is the possibility the position can be eliminated or combined with other positions in the company.
  2. Can we promote someone or move them laterally into the position?
  3. Are there any past employees who we could bring back?
  4. Let’s ask around and see if someone internally can refer a good candidate.

During this discussion time, the hiring manager may be exposed to up to 100 people as potential back fill for the job before it has been publicized. Just think about how you can be one of those people!

Absent a stellar candidate for the position, the hiring manager develops a job description and posts the job internally and externally. Now the job is not hidden.

In reality the hidden job market is not hidden – it is just hidden from you. There is a lot of activity going on to fill the position even if it is behind closed doors.

How you Tap Into the Hidden Job Market

Since you don’t know where the hidden job market is, it is important to network broadly and let everyone know you are looking for employment. Let’s suppose in your networking activities you met with one of the leadership team members. When the hiring manager asks internal people if they have referrals your name may be recommended.

Let’s say you don’t have a strong network of the right people who would know about the positions. Where do you connect with them? You have to go where they are spending their time and that could be anywhere. A little research can go a long way in finding out where to meet them on neutral ground. You may find them in the following places:

  1. Professional Associations – Learning more about their areas of expertise is a top priority
  2. Seminars and events – Managers and leaders are always looking to advance their skills
  3. Chambers of Commerce – Look for local leader groups or business card exchange sessions
  4. Charities – Investigate where they make donations or serve on boards about the causes they are passionate about.
  5. Attend a stockholder session – Just buy one share of stock and you have ticket to the meeting.
  6. Informational interviews with people in companies you want to work for.

Any of these avenues can open the door to meeting and establishing a networking relationship with someone who may be able to help you uncover the hidden job market.

Informational Interviews

Let’s not discount the informational interview approach especially when you are targeting a specific company. Informational interviews are different from traditional interviews in that when you engage in the informational interview, you DO NOT ask for a job. The purpose of the informational interview is to learn about the person you are talking about. Approach the situation as if you were a report and remember – the focus is on them and not you.

When you set up an informational interview, set it up for 15 minutes. There is a good chance if you have them talking about their successes and interests they will invite you to stay longer. Before leaving, ask them: Are there any other key people who you may learn from? Asking this question opens the door to more introductions.

Put your Network to Work

Your current network has to know what you do and how to explain it. People who do not work in your area of expertise may have a hard time explaining or even understanding what you do. When they are not confident about it, the tendency is to stay quiet – because they don’t want to say something wrong.

To help your network, describe what you do in simple language so they get it. Once they get it, you will have lots of advocates and they their ears will perk up when they hear about jobs that may be a good fit in the public or hidden market.