Author: Lynn Taylor

Building Your Career Portfolio: Four Career Investments for a Purposeful Lifetime

Written by Carol A. Poore
“When I was laid off, I was shaking so badly that I didn’t know whether I could drive home,” said Kristin, 32, a mother of three who lost a public relations job.  “My heart was pounding and I felt disassociated, like the whole thing was a bad dream.  “After working at the same company for five years, David, 36, was escorted out of his building after being informed that the company was heading in a new direction and no longer needed his type of skills.  Shock, rootlessness and anger are just a few normal responses many feel when they lose their jobs to corporate downsizing.  Since the national crisis on Sept. 11, the U.S. Dept. of Labor states that jobless claims are approaching 700,000 across the U.S. — the highest in nearly a decade.  How can you mitigate career risk — otherwise known as the pitfalls of marketplace change, economic turndowns, downsizing, personal health and life changes, and distasteful company politics that can wreck havoc with one’s life?  The answer lies in building a CareerPortfolio™, a career risk management approach, similar to building a financial portfolio, that can help you develop four, specific career assets, or “investments.”  Why four?  Because these four ingredients offer a well-balanced opportunity for you to earn, learn, and help others throughout the rest of your life.  And, like a financial portfolio, you can diversify risk so that you always have a number of career options on tap.Begin with a Personal Purpose

To build a CareerPortfolio, start by developing your personal purpose.  Your personal purpose is your investment strategy that guides all of your career decisions.

Begin by answering the following questions:

1.    How would I like to be remembered 100 years from now?

2.    What am I passionate about?

3.    Two projects when I made a difference in recent years are (list them).

Now think about the big picture and write down the purpose of your life by filling in the blank: The purpose of my life is to____________________________.

You can revise your personal purpose statement as needed.  It will help you decide what types of opportunities are worth pursuing. You will become purposeful rather than just “busy.”

Develop Your CareerPortfolio™

Now, it’s time to assess the kinds of career assets you either may want to develop.  If you have two or more of the following career assets working in your life, you will be building optimal career wealth over time.

1.  Primary Income Investment — your job, or business that you own, where the majority of your financial income is earned.

2.  Secondary Income Investment — an optional, alternate source of income that allows you to gain additional knowledge, career options, income, and sense of purpose.  Not everyone is destined to own a business.  However, those who choose to develop a business or occasional side project can start out small, and grow the business over time.

3.  Volunteer Investment — finding one or more ways to reach out to your community in a way that is meaningful to you.  When volunteerism supports your personal purpose, you can gain new skills and meet valuable new contacts, all while making a difference in your world.

4.  Lifelong Learning Investment — including mentorship, focused reading and education.

Once you identify your desired career assets, you can put together a step-by-step plan for building your CareerPortfolio.  Your overall life goals, available time, the ability to balance work and family, and stage of your life all should factor into your decision-making.

A CareerPortfolio in Phoenix

Pam Overton, partner in the national law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Attorneys at Law, has built a CareerPortfolio comprising three major career investments: Primary, Volunteer, and Lifelong Learning.

Pam’s personal purpose is to excel at her career, while supporting her family and placing them as her No. 1 priority.  Her purpose includes having a strong charitable and spiritual life to add perspective and balance.

Her Primary Income Investment is her litigation practice, which focuses on complex litigation, business torts, breach of contract and condemnation matters.  In this role, Pam won the Golden Heart of Business Award in 2000. She also was recognized by Today’s Arizona Woman Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Business Women in the State of Arizona” for two consecutive years.

Pam’s Volunteer Investments include serving on the board of directors for Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping women who need assistance in career, financial and life skills to better their futures.  This board of powerful community movers and shakers provides Pam an opportunity to learn leadership skills, provide value to the organization, and learn more about community issues.
Pam’s additional Volunteer Investments include supporting cancer and heart research and development.  She has dedicated many fundraising hours at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School where her children attend school, integrating volunteer service with family life.

For Lifelong Learning Investments, Pam is a member of several lawyer’s professional associations and has served on the Arizona State Bar’s Ethics Committee, sharing and gaining insight which ultimately benefits her clients.

“All of these career investments add valuable perspective to my career and bring opportunities to learn and build lasting friendships,” Pam said.

Pam reviews her career investments periodically to ensure balance, as she and her husband raise their three children.

If you have two or more CareerPortfolio assets in place, you will be far more flexible and confident to face future career changes.  Regardless of your age or place in life, it’s never too late to build a purposeful and rewarding CareerPortfolio.

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Building Your Brand: Tactics for Successful Career Branding

Written by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
What is it that all successful companies have mastered — and what job-seekers looking to advance in their careers need to master? What is it about Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Starbucks, Disney, and McDonald’s? What makes a consumer buy one product over another — and makes one job-seeker much more sought after than others? The answer is marketing, but more specifically it is the power of branding. And branding isn’t just for products anymore.Branding can be described as many things, but it’s best defined as a promise… a promise of the value of the product… a promise that the product is better than all the competing products… a promise that must be delivered to be successful. Branding is the combination of tangible and intangible characteristics that make a brand unique. Branding is developing an image — with results to matchBranding (some call it self-branding when talking about individuals) is essential to career advancement because branding helps define who you are, how you are great, and why you should be sought out. Branding is your reputation. Branding is about building a name for yourself, showcasing what sets you apart from others, and describing the added value you bring to a situation.

Most job-seekers are not proactive in establishing and building their career brand, letting their actions speak for them when seeking promotions or new jobs. But why not take the time to master some very basic tactics that can help build your career brand and make you a much more attractive employee or job-seeker? Remember, if you don’t brand yourself, others will for you. And while you may be happy and secure in your job now, you really never know when that will change.

Management guru Tom Peters, writing in his book The Brand You50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an “Employee” into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion! states: “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are the CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc.” He adds, “You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description.”

This article takes you through five easy tactics for building and strengthening your career brand.

Gain Experience/Track Accomplishments
Building your brand begins with tracking your past accomplishments and gaining strategically important new experiences. Your accomplishments are the foundation of your career brand.

But before you seek out new work, take the time to plan and focus on what you want your brand to stand for — and develop a strategy for gaining experience in areas of your brand in which you are weak.

So, besides doing your job, ask for new and challenging assignments that will build your brand. Consider freelancing or consulting. Use volunteering to gain experience. If you’re a student, seek out multiple internships.

Complete Education/Training
For many careers, a minimum amount of education is necessary, but to excel in your career you may need to complete additional education, training, or certifications. Getting additional education can greatly enhance your career brand.

It may be hard in terms of time and finances, but find a way to do it. Some employers even offer an educational reimbursement benefit.

If you are unsure if you need more education — and you probably do — seek out a mentor, someone highly respected in your field (who has branded himself or herself well), and ask for advice.

Promote Yourself
You can have an amazing brand, but if no one knows about it, you are not going to have much success with your career development. And no one more than you has more reasons to promote your brand.

Throw modesty out the window? There is a fine line between bragging and promoting — and you need to learn it — but it’s always better to err on the side of promoting your brand than not.

One of the oldest tools of promotion for job-seekers is the resume, and you certainly need to start there by listing all your key accomplishments, skills, and education on your resume. You may even have your positioning statement (qualifications summary) on your resume… but don’t stop there.

Begin developing two career portfolios — a print one and an online one. If you don’t have a personal Website, now is the time to buy a domain (such as myname.com) and let the world read all about the benefits of your brand. Your portfolio should include all important brand artifacts: resume(s), mission statement, detailed accomplishments list, samples of work, articles and working papers, speech transcripts, awards and honors, testimonials, and more.

One interesting trend we’ve seen is of employers “Googling” the names of prospective job-seekers — typing each name into one or more Internet search engines — and basing initial candidate screening decisions partly on the number (and quality) of hits for each job-seeker. The lesson? Your brand needs to have a strong online presence.

And finally, don’t forget to promote your brand on the job. Workers often assume the boss knows your accomplishments, but often times s/he does not. Certainly at review time, have a list of all you have achieved since your last review, but also consider finding ways to let the boss know your successes throughout the year.

Become an Expert
Nothing builds credibility in a career brand more than establishing yourself as an expert in your field.

Start by writing articles that showcase your knowledge — and getting them published (ideally) in noteworthy media outlets. Consider self-publishing.

Seek out conferences and meetings where you can give speeches and presentations.

Play up awards and other recognition that can help label you an expert.

Get quoted by offering your thoughts, ideas, and opinions to journalists and reporters.

Consider constructing a professional Website where you can publish all your articles and speeches.

Build Relationships
Nothing in marketing is more powerful than a promotion tool called word-of-mouth, which can be defined as what people say about you.

Thus, nothing is more powerful in building your career brand than what your network of contacts — your friends, colleagues, customers, clients, and former bosses — say about you and your set of skills, education, and accomplishments.

And keeping your network strong involves nothing more than relationship building. Keep in good contact with your network and be sure they know of your most recent successes.

But the best brand-builders don’t stop with their current network; these folks are in constant network-building mode. Search out new professional associations as well as the growing number of online networking communities.

Final Thoughts
Once you identify and build your brand, remember to continue strengthening and protecting it. There will always be competing brands (job-seekers) ready to fill any gap you leave behind. You are indeed founder and CEO of Me, Inc., and the more you do to cultivate your career brand, the more successful you’ll be with your current employer and in the job-search.

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How to Stand out from the Crowd in a Competitive Market

Written by Frank Traditi
To stand out from the crowd, conduct your job search like a marketing campaign. The traditional picture of job-seeking is that you look for open positions posted somewhere and follow a formal application procedure to be considered for them. But with thousands of job-seekers applying for only those positions that are advertised, the competition can be overwhelming.
The only way to beat the odds and the competition is to actively market yourself and locate positions before they are advertised. Marketing yourself as a job-seeker means locating the people who can offer or lead you to opportunities and telling them what you are capable of, over and over. You do have to seek them out-you can’t wait for them to find you. There are many ways of telling them what you can do — in person, in writing, by phone — but you must tell them. And you have to tell them over and over. No one will remember you if they hear from you only once.
Just as any company selling a product or service works from a strategic marketing plan with proper tactics to put the plan into action, so should you. In this case, you are the product. Finding job opportunities takes a disciplined approach using strategies that are proven to work.
There are six different approaches to conducting your job search like a marketing campaign. Here they are, listed in order of effectiveness:
1.    Networking and referral-building
2.    Contacting potential employers directly
3.    Informational interviewing
4.    Employing recruiters and agencies
5.    Searching specialized job listings
6.    Using help-wanted ads
Networking and referral-building will provide you with the maximum number of contacts, referrals, and leads, so this approach is almost always the most effective. Contacting prospective employers and informational interviewing are about equal in terms of their potential payoff, but contacting employers is more likely to lead directly to a job. Employing recruiters and agencies will give you more contacts looking out for you and more leads to pursue, but they are unlikely to refer you to others. Using job listings and want ads can provide you with leads, but no new contacts or referrals, so these approaches are much less effective.
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Ten Tips for Creating a Career That Lights Your Fire

Have you ever found yourself so excited about something that the energy it generates just seems to pull you along? Imagine feeling that every day in the work you do.
It’s possible. What’s more, it’s within reach! Here is a Passion Primer to help you begin exploring your passions and discovering ways, whether big or small, to incorporate them into your life.

Get to know yourself
Before you strike off in pursuit of a career that really lights your fire, take some time to do some serious self-exploration.

One of my favorite approaches is creating what I call a Passion Profile. Make a list of all the things in your life — from childhood through now — that you have really enjoyed. Items could be related to work or play, an event, or a period of time in your life.

Once you have your list, pick one item and start digging into the reasons why you enjoy it. Get beyond what you love doing, and break it down into the underlying characteristics. Think of it as identifying your passion’s building blocks.

The question why is a powerful tool for your explorations. Use it liberally, both in this exercise and others.

Brainstorm
Once you have a picture of what lights your fire, brainstorm ways you could incorporate them into your life. Write them down in one session or tuck the question in the back of your mind and carry a small pad of paper with you to record your flashes of inspiration.

Have a brainstorming session with friends. Above all, be creative. Don’t confine yourself to the logical and rational. You never know what crazy idea is going to spark the Big One.

Explore
Ask, ask, ask! Once you have identified some things you think you might be interested in, identify people who are knowledgeable in those area(s) and contact them. Explain that you are exploring your options and ask if you can pick their brains. You’ll get some fantastic insights if you make this a habit, not to mention making some great contacts along the way.

Baby steps
The fear of jumping in the deep end of the passion pool keeps many people from swimming at all. Remember that there’s a shallow end of the pool. It may not be realistic to jump into the deep end right away, but you can still enjoy splashing in the water.
Look for baby steps you can take that will bring your passion into your life. Keep your eyes on the long-term goal, but take action to create your passion in small doses along the way.

Identify your obstacles
What things are getting in your way? Make a list. Maybe they’re real — financial obstacles like a mortgage, the kids’ tuition, etc., or perhaps the need for more training. Maybe they are internal. What’s stopping you? Fear? Self-doubt? Simple inertia?

We all have gremlins. Little voices in our heads that tell us “you can’t do that,” “you’re not good enough,” “what will they think,” etc. What are your gremlins saying? Identifying and acknowledging your gremlins is the first step in taking their power away.

Create a Passion Posse
In my interviews with people who have followed their dream, the most commonly mentioned success factor has been the support of the people around them.

Create a Passion Posse to support you in your pursuit. Friends, family, and colleagues can all be a great source of support and inspiration as you make your journey. It can be an informal support network, or a regularly scheduled meeting to exchange ideas and brainstorm solutions to challenges.

Re-examine your definitions of success and failure
What is your definition of success? Is it getting in the way? Our culture places a lot of emphasis material accomplishments and status. Unfortunately, those things get in the way of real happiness for a lot of people, who choose to stay on the treadmill in pursuit of that version of success.

Perhaps you’re not at a point where you can or want to change that definition of success. That’s OK, don’t. Instead, try identifying one or two less common ways of identifying “success” — ones that come from the heart — and try to move toward them as well.

Our definition of failure, which tends to be all or nothing, also gets in the way. If you try something and it doesn’t pan out, how do you see that? Is it a failure? Or is it an opportunity to learn from what you did and apply that knowledge to your future efforts?

If you “fail” in an effort to move toward your passion, it’s not really failure. Think of it as a step in the right direction. Taking a longer term view can help with this.

Make a plan
Map out your Passion Pursuit. Whether that should be a high-level overview or a gradual action plan is up to you — you know how you work best.
Creating a plan will force you to think things through and add some comfortable structure to something that can seem very up in the air and undefined. It will also offer you those critical next steps when you are feeling sluggish or lost.

Act! Today!
The fact is, the time will never be right. Something will always be less than optimum. With that in mind, don’t wait! Do something right now that will move you toward your passion.
What two things can you do right away that will start the ball rolling? They don’t need to be earth-shattering; they just need to happen.

Commit to making it happen
Let it out of your brain and into the open. Say, “I will do this.” Say it out loud to yourself. Say it to a friend. Put it in writing and put it where you can see it. Once it’s out in the open it will have room to grow. And that’s exactly what you want!

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Temping Your Way to a Career Change

Temping is often regarded as a stop-gap income-producing strategy until a “real job” can be found. For those considering a career change, however, temping can be an extremely effective way to break into a field. It’s important, however, to understand that the best way to use temp experiences is intentionally. Sure, you can file and photocopy in some back office all alone — but you can also structure your experience to serve your career change well. Here are some suggestions:

The Temp Firm

Choose the Right One: I highly recommend that you work with a temp agency that offers specialty placements. Want to break into accounting but have only a few accounting classes? Try affiliating with a temp firm that serves clients with financial accounting needs. All of their placements will be financially-related, which is a great way to get some experience in various aspects of the financial field. Similarly, HR and IT specialty firms can be your ticket into the field. There is nothing wrong with working as a filing photocopying phone-answering temp, but it may be significantly more difficult to transition to another role in the company.

Understand How Temp Firms Make Money:
Temp firms make some money on your placement, but the real money comes in their reputation, word of mouth referrals, and placement fees for conversion to permanent. Your temp placement officer doesn’t work for you. He or she works for the company that needs help. He or she wants to place the best possible candidate with the client. His or her goal is to make the client happy – so happy that clients refer others to the service. In temp-to-perm firms, the agency receives a conversion bonus if the client decides to hire you full-time.

Talk to Your Placement Officer:
Let your placement officer know that you are looking to change careers and would like to gain exposure to certain fields. Building rapport with your placement officer goes far. The more he or she knows about you, the better fit hr or she can find — for the client company. But, good fit for the client can also be a good fit for you. Emphasize your transferable skills and your flexibility. Remember, the placement officer is working for the client and wants to make the client very happy. Just out of college or seasoned employee, let her know what kinds of fields are interesting to you.

The Placement
Do The Job Required: I once inherited a temp who had aspirations of moving beyond her current placement. She was a receptionist in a busy office. She was quite clear that she wanted to leave the receptionist tasks quickly and move up to better things. The only problem was that we really needed a receptionist — that’s why we hired her. She had taken it upon herself to correct student resumes and hand them back. As an English major she was confident she was qualified to perform this function. As a staff, we were equally confident she was not. She didn’t last too much longer.

Treat Your Position as One Long Informational Interview:
In addition to doing the job assigned, consider yourself to be on one long informational interview. Ask questions, talk to your supervisor, observe business processes. As a temp, you have an invaluable opportunity to research the inner workings of corporate/non-profit/healthcare/sports management/culinary arts operations. Make sure you transition from “the temp” to “Aurora the college graduate looking to break into advertising.” Again, you may be trading a fine line, but observation is the most valuable strategy at your disposal. There is less pressure on the employer if he or she knows that you are interested in the field as a whole — not necessarily in the next opening in his division.

Attend Every Available Event and Training Opportunity: If the company offers brown-bag lunches or seminars, ask if you can use your lunch hour to attend. Generally, internal events such as these are, well, internal. Take advantage of your insider status to learn more about the field. Optional events? Go. Drinks after work with the office gang? Go. Take very opportunity to learn about the company and industry.

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Job-Hunting in Times of Uncertainty

Five Overlooked Strategies to Help Make Your Job Search More Productive — and Successful

 

In times when the economy falters, when financial markets fall, and when companies of all sizes in many industries announce plans to reduce their workforce, job-seekers tend to get a bit concerned about the length and success of the job search they may face. It almost goes without saying that job-hunting in a boom economy is quite different (and much easier) than job-hunting in a slumping economy.
Different, yes. Harder and often more time-consuming, yes. Impossible, no. Job-hunting is an art that simply takes more time and work to perfect in uncertain times than in good times. You will have to work harder and smarter at finding new opportunities, but they are out there, and if you take advantage of these five strategies you will be much better positioned to land a new job.
Utilizing the Power of Networking
What’s the most important tool of job-hunting, especially in times of uncertainty? Not a resume nor interviewing skills…but networking. Why networking? Networking is the most effective tool of job-hunting because if you use your network properly, you will hear of multiple job opportunities, often before they are even listed (if they are ever listed).
Some job-seekers shy away from networking because they equate networking with taking advantage of people, but if done correctly, networking can be a rewarding experience for all parties involved. Networking is not asking everyone you know for a job. Networking means developing a broad list of contacts — family, friends, and people you’ve met through various social and business functions — and using them to your advantage when you look for a job. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network.
Now is the time to broaden your network — even if you are not currently looking for a new job. You never know when you’ll need your network, so make every effort to grow it.
Need more information about networking? We have lots of networking tips, names and contacts for numerous networking and professional organizations, networking do’s and don’ts, and much more in the Art of Networking section of Quintessential Careers.
Finding Hidden Job Opportunities
In good times job openings are plentiful, but in uncertain times the job openings disappear. Job-seekers are left scrambling for the few “open” jobs. But there are always other job possibilities lurking in the background, and it is up to the persistent job-seeker to find those hidden job opportunities and/or to create new opportunities.
Finding hidden opportunities. Job-seekers must take full advantage of their network to uncover as many potential job openings as possible. Hunt down every lead. Consider using cold calling techniques to find other opportunities. Focus more of your time and energy here than trying to respond to every job posting at Monster.com or the other job boards.
Creating new opportunities. As companies downsize and consolidate job functions, many opportunities may arise for a job-seeker with the right skills. Determine your most marketable skills, examine the ongoing needs of the employers where you want to work (including your current employer), and develop a proposal showcasing how the employer would benefit from hiring you.
Sharpening the Focus of Your Resume
One of the most important tips you can take away from this article is this one: resumes are supposed to document your skills and accomplishments, not your duties and responsibilities. Make a list of the two or three accomplishments from each of your recent jobs — and then use them on your resume. Try to quantify accomplishments as much as possible. Read more.
Decide whether a traditional chronological resume format is better for you or whether you need a functional resume format, or some type of hybrid format. Read more.
Consider developing a “qualifications summary” or “key accomplishments” section for your resume. Think of this section as the executive summary of your resume. If the employer reads only this one part of your resume, will it be enough to entice the employer to read the rest of your resume?
Develop multiple resumes, perhaps even customizing each resume you send to the specific job and employer. Also consider multiple resume formats, from the standard formatted paper resume to a scannable text resume and Web-based resume.
Finally, remember that a resume is a living document. You are never “done” with your resume. You should update and edit your resume(s) regularly, adding new accomplishments and skills, sharpening the focus, removing outdated material.
Need more resume help? You can find lots of free resume resources, including our resume tutorial, resume do’s and don’ts, resumes samples, and much more in the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
Developing a Dynamic Cover Letter
A cover letter is an integral tool of your job search. Perhaps in the past you have been able to get good jobs with a mediocre cover letter, but in uncertain times, your cover letter becomes the main tool that can determine whether your resume is read and whether you are even considered as a candidate for a position.
How can you improve your cover letter? Let’s review the two most important parts of the cover letter: the introductory paragraph and the ending paragraph.
The first paragraph of your cover letter must sell the employer on the benefits/skills/talent you will bring to the job – a mix that no other job-seeker has (what we call your Unique Selling Proposition) and one that has a clear benefit to the employer. Do not waste this critical opening paragraph.
Weak opening paragraph: I am writing today to apply for the account manager position you have posted on your company Website.
Better opening paragraph: I have increased the size and sales levels of my client base in every position I have held, which in turn has increased the revenues and profits of my employers. I want to bring this same success to the account position you have posted on your Website.
The final paragraph of your cover letter must be proactive. You must ask for the job interview (or a meeting) in this paragraph. You must express your confidence that you are a perfect fit for the job. You must also put the employer on notice that you plan to follow-up within a specified time.
Weak closing paragraph: I hope you will review my resume, and if you agree with what I have stated here, consider me for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Better closing paragraph: I am eager to help advance the success of your company, and I am convinced that we should arrange a time to meet. I will call your office in the next week to schedule an appointment.
Need more cover letter help? We have lots of free resources, including a cover letter tutorial, sample cover letters, cover letter do’s and don’ts, and much more in our Cover Letter Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
Mastering the Art of Follow-Up
In good times, some job-seekers may be able to get away with being impolite in not sending thank you letters and being lazy by not following up all leads, but in a tight or uncertain job market, job-seekers must follow-up every job lead, every job application, and every job interview.
Some job-seekers may see follow-up as too aggressive, but the cliché about the squeaky wheel getting the grease applies to job-seeking. As long as you don’t contact the employer too often or act abusive, following up with emails or phone calls is a way to stay at the forefront of the minds of the employers, as well as a way for you to stay on top of the status of the search. Each time you follow-up, your strategy should be to reinforce the perception that you are the ideal candidate for the job; the job-seeker with the unique set of skills and experiences required for the job.
Follow-up each cover letter and resume you send with a phone call or email requesting an interview. Follow-up each interview you have with a thank you note or letter to each person who interviewed you. And follow-up your thank you note with a phone call or email to again express your interest and fit with the job and check on the status of the search.

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Job-Hunting in Times of Uncertainty

Five Overlooked Strategies to Help Make Your Job Search More Productive — and Successful

In times when the economy falters, when financial markets fall, and when companies of all sizes in many industries announce plans to reduce their workforce, job-seekers tend to get a bit concerned about the length and success of the job search they may face. It almost goes without saying that job-hunting in a boom economy is quite different (and much easier) than job-hunting in a slumping economy.

Different, yes. Harder and often more time-consuming, yes. Impossible, no. Job-hunting is an art that simply takes more time and work to perfect in uncertain times than in good times. You will have to work harder and smarter at finding new opportunities, but they are out there, and if you take advantage of these five strategies you will be much better positioned to land a new job.

Utilizing the Power of Networking
What’s the most important tool of job-hunting, especially in times of uncertainty? Not a resume nor interviewing skills…but networking. Why networking? Networking is the most effective tool of job-hunting because if you use your network properly, you will hear of multiple job opportunities, often before they are even listed (if they are ever listed).

Some job-seekers shy away from networking because they equate networking with taking advantage of people, but if done correctly, networking can be a rewarding experience for all parties involved. Networking is not asking everyone you know for a job. Networking means developing a broad list of contacts — family, friends, and people you’ve met through various social and business functions — and using them to your advantage when you look for a job. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network.

Now is the time to broaden your network — even if you are not currently looking for a new job. You never know when you’ll need your network, so make every effort to grow it.

Need more information about networking? We have lots of networking tips, names and contacts for numerous networking and professional organizations, networking do’s and don’ts, and much more in the Art of Networking section of Quintessential Careers.

Finding Hidden Job Opportunities
In good times job openings are plentiful, but in uncertain times the job openings disappear. Job-seekers are left scrambling for the few “open” jobs. But there are always other job possibilities lurking in the background, and it is up to the persistent job-seeker to find those hidden job opportunities and/or to create new opportunities.

Finding hidden opportunities. Job-seekers must take full advantage of their network to uncover as many potential job openings as possible. Hunt down every lead. Consider using cold calling techniques to find other opportunities. Focus more of your time and energy here than trying to respond to every job posting at Monster.com or the other job boards.

Creating new opportunities. As companies downsize and consolidate job functions, many opportunities may arise for a job-seeker with the right skills. Determine your most marketable skills, examine the ongoing needs of the employers where you want to work (including your current employer), and develop a proposal showcasing how the employer would benefit from hiring you.

Sharpening the Focus of Your Resume
One of the most important tips you can take away from this article is this one: resumes are supposed to document your skills and accomplishments, not your duties and responsibilities. Make a list of the two or three accomplishments from each of your recent jobs — and then use them on your resume. Try to quantify accomplishments as much as possible. Read more.

Decide whether a traditional chronological resume format is better for you or whether you need a functional resume format, or some type of hybrid format. Read more.

Consider developing a “qualifications summary” or “key accomplishments” section for your resume. Think of this section as the executive summary of your resume. If the employer reads only this one part of your resume, will it be enough to entice the employer to read the rest of your resume?

Develop multiple resumes, perhaps even customizing each resume you send to the specific job and employer. Also consider multiple resume formats, from the standard formatted paper resume to a scannable text resume and Web-based resume.

Finally, remember that a resume is a living document. You are never “done” with your resume. You should update and edit your resume(s) regularly, adding new accomplishments and skills, sharpening the focus, removing outdated material.

Need more resume help? You can find lots of free resume resources, including our resume tutorial, resume do’s and don’ts, resumes samples, and much more in the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers.

Developing a Dynamic Cover Letter
A cover letter is an integral tool of your job search. Perhaps in the past you have been able to get good jobs with a mediocre cover letter, but in uncertain times, your cover letter becomes the main tool that can determine whether your resume is read and whether you are even considered as a candidate for a position.

How can you improve your cover letter? Let’s review the two most important parts of the cover letter: the introductory paragraph and the ending paragraph.

The first paragraph of your cover letter must sell the employer on the benefits/skills/talent you will bring to the job – a mix that no other job-seeker has (what we call your Unique Selling Proposition) and one that has a clear benefit to the employer. Do not waste this critical opening paragraph.

Weak opening paragraph: I am writing today to apply for the account manager position you have posted on your company Website.

Better opening paragraph: I have increased the size and sales levels of my client base in every position I have held, which in turn has increased the revenues and profits of my employers. I want to bring this same success to the account position you have posted on your Website.

The final paragraph of your cover letter must be proactive. You must ask for the job interview (or a meeting) in this paragraph. You must express your confidence that you are a perfect fit for the job. You must also put the employer on notice that you plan to follow-up within a specified time.

Weak closing paragraph: I hope you will review my resume, and if you agree with what I have stated here, consider me for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Better closing paragraph: I am eager to help advance the success of your company, and I am convinced that we should arrange a time to meet. I will call your office in the next week to schedule an appointment.

Need more cover letter help? We have lots of free resources, including a cover letter tutorial, sample cover letters, cover letter do’s and don’ts, and much more in our Cover Letter Resources section of Quintessential Careers.

Mastering the Art of Follow-Up
In good times, some job-seekers may be able to get away with being impolite in not sending thank you letters and being lazy by not following up all leads, but in a tight or uncertain job market, job-seekers must follow-up every job lead, every job application, and every job interview.

Some job-seekers may see follow-up as too aggressive, but the cliché about the squeaky wheel getting the grease applies to job-seeking. As long as you don’t contact the employer too often or act abusive, following up with emails or phone calls is a way to stay at the forefront of the minds of the employers, as well as a way for you to stay on top of the status of the search. Each time you follow-up, your strategy should be to reinforce the perception that you are the ideal candidate for the job; the job-seeker with the unique set of skills and experiences required for the job.

Follow-up each cover letter and resume you send with a phone call or email requesting an interview. Follow-up each interview you have with a thank you note or letter to each person who interviewed you. And follow-up your thank you note with a phone call or email to again express your interest and fit with the job and check on the status of the search.

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Meet Lynn Taylor

Lynn Taylor, MBA, CCDF, is President & Founder of TaylorMade Careers LLC, a full service career management & organizational development firm. Prior to launching TaylorMade Careers, LLC, a human capital solutions company, Lynn, a certified career development facilitator, served as the Director of Human Resources for a leading technology and consulting firm. In this capacity, she was responsible for driving the company’s aggressive growth initiatives and for people development and talent acquisition. During this time, she successfully spearheaded and developed a strategic college recruiting & retention initiative that bridged business strategy with measurable talent outcomes and achieved organizational alignment. Lynn developed client service methodologies, human performance solutions and provided HR Assessment, HR policy & procedures Implementation and talent management.  She has senior level work experience in numerous Human Capital management disciplines including: Recruitment, Management Consulting, Organizational Staffing/Training & Development, Corporate HR, Career Development/ Outplacement, Entrepreneurial Finance, Leadership Development, Career Assessment/ Coaching, Behavioral-based Interviewing, Strategic Management & Change Management/ Organizational Transformation & Behavior. Her broad business leadership background includes investment and portfolio management.

Lynn earned two MBA degrees in Human Resources Management and Finance from the Michael J. Coles School of Business, nationally recognized by BusinessWeek and Success Magazine in Entrepreneurship. She received her B.S. from Texas Tech University. Lynn is an adjunct professor in Management & Leadership and is currently a PhD candidate in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology.  She is a licensed educator in business and technology education and is certified in Career Investigation & Connections by the Texas Education Agency.

Founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999, TaylorMade Careers LLC, started as a resume writing business but has evolved into a full service human capital solutions company offering tailored services from organizational development consulting to career management, transition & outplacement solutions. Her company has been recognized for its success in delivering quality educational programs tailored to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs.  Lynn has appeared in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and was a nominee for the Rising Star of the Year-Women Entrepreneurial Award in May 2003 by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Atlanta Chapter. Lynn is an advocate for women entrepreneurial issues and serves as career consultant for Women for Hire Diversity Career Fairs.

As a motivated leader, consultant and speaker, Lynn has remained at the forefront of career development trends and entrepreneurial finance topics by identifying sources of innovation in the areas of Leadership consulting, talent management & development and human capital solutions. Her speaking engagements include presenter at the Georgia Women Entrepreneurs Conference held in Atlanta, GA in May 2006. She presented the workshop Five Tips to Managing the Multiple Stressors of the Woman Entrepreneur. Lynn was presenter and organizer of the change management seminar Women on the Move — The Art of Personal Brand Marketing in a Challenging Economy at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, GA in 2003. She has also presented on finance topics including The Fed Monetary Policy and its Effect on Inflation.

Lynn currently lives in Austin, TX where she serves as Membership Director for a prominent national business professional organization committed to the creation of intellectual and economic wealth. Lynn is an active member and holds leadership positions for numerous community, business professional and career industry associations.

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Programs

Our goal is simple: To develop and deliver the highest quality human capital solutions customized to deliver exactly what you need, when and where you need it.

TAYLORMADE’S DIRECTIONAL PROGRAMS INCLUDE:

• Career Transition/Outplacement
Our outplacement and career transition programs integrate career consulting, training, coaching, job connections, research and administrative services to help individuals find appropriate new employment as quickly as possible.

• Leadership Consulting
Our leadership consulting services offer consistency in quality and approach, allowing you to measure and leverage your investment across your organization. Our leadership consulting and executive coaching programs are integrated into your day-to-day operations, where they can be sustained to deliver optimal results.

• Career Management
We offer a full range of Career Management Services designed to help your employees increase their performance and contribute to the growth of your organization.

• Consulting
We’ll help you manage all internal and external implications with foresight and insight to ensure that your organization is counted among those who have right-sized and succeeded.

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Staffing

TaylorMade Staffing recognizes that employers have sudden work overloads, face critical deadline situations or have specific projects that require highly skilled employees that can quickly step in and get the job done. Our company stands ready to fill your staffing needs on an immediate, short or long-term basis.

Our services can be divided into four categories:

Temp Staffing, Temp-to-Hire, Direct Hire

Our team of administrative and office experts have specialized expertise in a specific business sector or job type. We provide our clients in various industries with temporary and permanent employees based on the client’s needs and the candidate’s skills/competencies, capabilities and requirements.  We match our candidate’s profile to the client’s specific request. Several positions in which we staff for include: Administrative/Executive Assistants, Data Specialists, Receptionists, Client services and Clerical.

In-house/Onsite services

This is a tailored-customized solution for managing a high-quality workforce with client-specific skill sets.  We work on site exclusively for one client, providing a number of well-defined job profiles. We strive at enhancing efficiency and labor flexibility. We work with the client to determine specific performance criteria, and we provide total HR management, including recruitment & selection, training and retention.

Interim/Project Professionals

We recruit interim specialists and consultants to fulfill the role of interim managers, project managers or specialist project team members for senior level positions. These specialists include engineers, IT or Finance and other professionals including disciplines such as HR, Sales, Legal, Marketing & Public Relations.
Executive search

For middle and senior management positions, we recruit employees with professional qualifications for permanent positions with clients. This service includes tailored recruitment and training programs that are fixed fee-based.

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