Thank You – It’s Important

My sister lives in the Seattle area and quit working for “the man” several years ago.  She enjoyed a career at home in Internet Marketing.  She was doing well until Google decided to change their algorithms making it extremely difficult for small websites to show up in Google web searches.  So she decided to get back into corporate America and began her job search.  The economy is still in recovery and it took her longer than she expected but she finally did land a good paying job.  She credits her success to one simple tool – a thank you note.  She told me that following up her interviews with a nice thank you note set her apart from other candidates.

Set her apart from other candidates?  That’s odd.  I’ve been doing career research for several years now and every article or website I’ve read recommends that applicants send a thank you note after meeting with their hopeful employer.  Apparently that advice is not well received because many applicants fail to follow up in this very simple way.  Remember that employers will often interview many applicants in a day and they will sit with a stack of resumes and interview notes from people just like you.  In order to be successful in your career search – you not only need to score the interview and impress them with your accomplishments, you must also stay in their mind as someone who follows through a process completely.  The thank you note is the perfect way to accomplish that goal.

My sister didn’t indicate whether she sent a physical thank you card or simply sent an email thank you.  I think both would be sufficient but a hand written note would certainly be more rare these days – and therefore more note worthy in the mind of the employer.  Either way this simple little edge should never be forgotten.  So let me join all those other career advisers in suggesting you send a thank you note after your interview.  It really is important.

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Back To School?

Many people who are in the job market – either by layoff or just for a career change – often look first at going back to school.  A better education is never a bad idea, but there are some things you should consider before you enroll.

  • Today’s higher education can be prohibitively expensive – especially if you plan to attend a good quality accredited school.  How will you pay for your classes and books without a job?  How long will it take you to re-coup those costs?  Will you really get that much higher salary?
  • Technology is changing fast affecting many jobs very quickly.  When you finally get that new degree it may already be outdated.
  • A higher education takes a lot of time – time that you won’t be working and making money.
  • Cheaper on-line classes might not be as accepted as a “real” education.  You might just be wasting your time.

On the job training (OJT) may be a more effective way to enhance your career or train for a new career direction.  The hardest part of OJT is finding an employer that is willing to take the time and effort to train you – but it might not be as difficult as you would imagine.  Many employers would rather have a person trained in the specific way they do business rather than bring on an employee with a head full of preconceived ideas.  Most companies know the value of OJT and are more than willing to provide the opportunity.

Your past experience is your biggest asset when seeking on OJT position.  An employer needs to be able to determine that you are the type of person that will learn quickly with the appropriate ambition.  If you don’t already have years of experience you will need to be able to convince a prospective employer that you are that type of person.  Practice several different ways of conveying that information in an interview – before you go to the interview.  Be sure you can provide specific examples either in your professional life or private life that prove you are able to adapt and learn quickly.

The down side of OJT is that you may need to take a pay cut.  You can’t really expect to get paid a full salary without the full training.  But weighed against the amount of money you would pay for a quality education and the difference in cost to you could be substantial.  OJT is your ticket to self improvement and career advancement at a fraction of the cost of higher education.

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Internet – Foe and Friend

Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Are those Miranda Rights?  Well yes, but it also applies to your job search.  The Internet is a wonderful tool to help you in your job search, but it can also be your biggest enemy.  You may think things you post on FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, and all those other social media sites are private but you would be very wrong.  You would also be wrong if you don’t think people that are hiring don’t do a search on your Internet profiles.  I have several friends that are executives in major corporations and they assure me that they do indeed search on every employee they intend to hire.  OMG!

Some people who are in the job market are aware of this and have started being more “well behaved” on their social media pages.  Don’t forget – the Internet has a history!  Things you posted years ago can still be out there waiting to pop up next to your resume.  But don’t panic – there are a few things you can do to help improve your online image.

  • Google yourself.  Don’t stop with just your name, do a search on any information that is in your resume.  Search your phone number, email address or even your home address.  Remember Google street view can even show them where you live.   Maybe you will want to leave your address off your resume and just post your phone number and email.
  • If the Google search you just did brought up any skeletons in your computer you may have some work to do.  See if you can delete offending accounts or remove inappropriate pictures.  You may have to make some calls – perhaps even to Google to get some really damaging stuff removed.  In most cases though just deleting the accounts will be sufficient.
  • Read through your wall in FaceBook or your Twitter posts and other social media sites.  Delete inappropriate items keeping in mind that a very religious or political comment can sometimes have adverse affects on your job search.
  • Set up a separate email account with a name that is not easily associated with your own name for adult sites or other sites you would rather your employer not find associated with you.
  • Or set up an email account that you will only use on your resume – preferably one that has your whole name in it like firstname.lastname@gmail.com
  • After you have cleaned up your act as much as you can – Google yourself again and see if it worked.  Keep in mind that it may take days for the search results to update properly.

Now you have done all you can to clear up your dark history – how about making your future brighter?

  • Start being more positive in your online posts.
  • Join some good job related social media sites like Linked In and see if you can get some former employers or co-workers to recommend you.  If you get contacted by a recruiter you can mention your LinkedIn account and they will be able to get a better picture of who you are.  This has helped me in the recent past.  Add the recruiter as a friend – that way they will know the status of your job search.
  • Use FaceBook, Twitter and other similar sites to mention you are seeking employment and what type of work you are interested in – but don’t overdo it.  Your friends and family will be more than willing to help as long as you don’t keep hammering them with requests.  Every once in a while a reminder is OK.

The Internet can be both a blessing and a curse in your job search.  A little effort on your part will help you look much better on the computer screen of your next HR director.  And now if you will excuse me, I think perhaps I should Google myself.  :)

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When Is a Picture Not Worth a Thousand Words

I wondered if a person should include a picture on their resume so I did a quick Google search and I found my answer very quickly.  The short answer is “no”.  In fact including your picture could disqualify you immediately because of the potential of lawsuits that could arise if it can be proven that one candidate was chosen simply on their appearance.  However it may be relevant to include a picture with your resume if you are applying for a job that requires a certain type of person – like a modeling  job or entertainer.

This got me thinking about whether it is appropriate to include your picture on an online job board such as NightOwlStaffing.com.  In fact we provide the ability to load your personal picture and many candidates choose to do so.  I can only speak on my personal opinion, but in most cases I think it would be OK.  An online job site is a little different than submitting your resume for a particular job.  With Job boards such as ours, if you apply for the job online – the resume goes to the employer but the picture stays on the site.  Only those employers who are on our site looking at employee profiles will see those pictures and I believe they intend to do so.  Anything you can include in your online profile that might help you get the interview should be there.  But, you should realize that including a picture is a 50/50 deal.  Your picture might sell you or sell you out.  If the employer likes what they see you have an added advantage.  If not you may be unduly disqualified despite your accomplishments.

My advice is that if you choose to include a picture in your on-line profile, make sure it is a good one.  You should be appropriately dressed in business attire (appropriate for the job you are seeking) and appear as if you are ready for your interview.  Your profile should indicate that you are ready for the job – not the beach, a ball game, or a night on the town.  There is a saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  With that in mind, make sure your picture is recent and that the person that shows up for the interview isn’t someone 20 years older and 20 lbs heavier.  That might be interpreted as a misrepresentation or dishonesty.

Let me just reiterate that these are my personal opinions.  A professional job counselor may have a different opinion on the topic .  Do your own research and use your best judgment.  Don’t forget to smile!

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The Real VIP

Every organization has a very important person that you should find favor with – can you guess who it is?  Some might say the CEO, others might think the HR Director.  Another good guess is your immediate supervisor or department head.  Those are all good answers and of course it is important that you impress all of them with your talents and style.  In my opinion, however, the most important person you should have on your side is the Executive Assistant – sometimes referred to as the Executive Secretary.

You will find that Executive Assistants are typically over worked, over stressed and under paid.  They can sometimes be grumpy and short.  Still it is important to treat them with the utmost respect.  If you are like me – this isn’t a terribly difficult task.  I try to treat everyone from the CEO to the cleaning crew with the same level of respect and dignity.  It’s not an act for me because I truly believe that every organization is a team of people who without each other would not be successful.  If you view the workplace in this way it is easy to gain the respect of everyone  from the cleaning crew to the CEO – including the all important Executive Assistant.

If you work 2nd or 3rd shift, your mission to find favor with this VIP is not only more difficult but also more important.  The difficult part comes from not having the time every day to foster a good relationship with the Executive staff.  But if you play your cards right you can turn your disadvantage into an advantage.  As a 2nd or 3rd shift employee, you will see these people at the very beginning or very end of their workday.  A smile and pleasant exchange of conversation during those prime times can go a long way.  Plus, your limited exposure reduces your chances of getting too personal or saying something inappropriate.  Just be sure that every encounter is a good one and when they see your smiling face at 4pm they will unconsciously associate you with the fact they they are about to go home!

The reason your shift makes this connection more important is because you will have limited times when you will be able to speak with an executive if needed.  You will only have perhaps an hour at the beginning or the end of the day to have a meeting.  That’s when it’s important that the person with the schedule will gladly move some appointments to get your meeting set at those critical times.  Executives are typically very busy with tight schedules.  If you fall on the bad side of an E.A. – you can bet you will have a more difficult time scheduling that meeting.

So always remember – those people sitting just outside the big office might be more important than those sitting inside the office.  Be genuine, be nice, and be scheduled.

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Hiring During Holiday Season

There is a perception in the job market that companies typically don’t hire during the Holiday season.  So should you wait until the new year to continue your job search?  Absolutely not – and here is why:

  • Not all companies stop hiring during this end of year season – many others actually do.  I was hired for my current tech job in mid November of last year.
  • Many companies hire temporary workers for the busy shopping season.  Not only will a temporary job provide needed  income or some extra spending money – if you prove yourself as an exceptional employee, you might be kept on after the season and possibly land a permanent job.
  • There are fewer people applying for jobs during this busy time – that means you have a better chance of getting noticed!
  • After the first of the year you will be competing with all the other people who waited to start their job search.  Now is the time to get a head start.
  • Executives have a hard time being idle.  Visiting with family might be a tad boring for them – so they just might sift through a few resumes to entertain themselves.
  • Now is a great time to do something a little extra that will get you noticed in a big way.  When you go in to apply for a job – bring a small gift with you to give to the HR person.  Some candy (not homemade) or just a card will be accepted as a thoughtful gift and not a bribe.  Even just a cheerful “Happy Holidays!” will show you in a positive light.

So while you are out and about shopping – drop off a resume on your way.  Spend some extra time on-line applying for that perfect job.  Tis the season!

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Office Politics

I still have a headache from the recent election and now it’s full steam ahead to 2012.  If you work in a corporate environment , you not only have to worry about political office – but also office politics.  In every work environment you will find a constant struggle with those trying to get noticed, those that are lazy who somehow still get noticed and those that are just total kiss-ups.  Office politics are real – so what is the best way to deal with it?

First – the best way is to work 2nd or 3rd shift!  Office politics still exist on those shifts but it is much diminished.  You deal with fewer people and typically the “Big Guys” are not working those hours.  But you will still have to deal with your co-workers so my best word of advice – and I’ve said it before – is to always do the best job you can do!  Here are some other tips I recommend.

  • Always take the high road.  Politics can be nasty depending on who you are dealing with.  But I have always found that when you risk your character against someone who is ruthless, you will lose twice.   If you step on someone on the way up, they won’t try to catch you on the way down.  Further, they may get promoted to another position in the future where working with them would be very uncomfortable
  • Stand by your commitment, confidence, and achievements and you will likely get farther in the long run.
  • The above 2 suggestions are not meant to imply that you should sit back and let someone step on you on their way up.  Always be conscious of what your co-workers are up to.  If you have a ruthless person working with you – you may need to be pro-active to prevent them from taking advantage of you.
  • Always be aware that a ruthless person may be posing as a friend.  They may get close to you and talk in confidence to get information on your plans.  It’s OK to have friends in the office, but be careful what you share with them.  If you plan to talk to the boss about a big idea you have, you might consider keeping that information private.
  • If you do get that big assignment or promotion, It is OK to be happy about it but try not to gloat – especially with someone who may have been competing with you.  Be sincere and let people know that you hope they do well the next time.  Remember, you may be working with them on another project in the future.

So the short version is watch out for the bad guy – and don’t be the bad guy.  If you keep that attitude you should be able to handle most office politics situations while still looking like a great employee.

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Stay Where You Belong

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the corporate world is that everyone needs to claw their way to the top of the executive ladder. After all, corporate structures are shaped like a pyramid with very few people at the top. Rather the goal should be to find the spot where you are most effective and then try not to be promoted  into an area over your head. There are some cautions to this approach because you don’t want to appear to be unmotivated and there are ways to work around this obstacle.

If you are one of the many people that find you operate at your peak performance after normal working hours, you have an extra hurdle to get over. Even though many business operate 24 hours a day, management often holds the mistaken mindset that the “real employees” work during the day and those people working on the night shifts are just keeping the business going until the “real employees” can get back to work at 9am.  So what do you do when you find yourself in an after hours job that you truly enjoy, where you feel most effective and productive? You stay there.  But in order to do so you will need to prove your worth to the management team – constantly.

Personally, I hate marketing and try to avoid it in my daily life. But when it comes to your career – you need to be able to sell yourself – especially to those who are not there to see your work. Your work performance will be judged by what they know about you – and since they don’t see you much you need to “sell yourself” to management. Here are some tips to that end.

  • First and foremost – be the best you can be! That is good advice no matter who you are or what you do.
  • If possible, try to schedule your shift so there is some overlap with the day shift. It is much better to start at 4pm than 6pm. However, some shifts are not negotiable.
  • Keep track of your daily accomplishments and email your supervisor (and the next level up if appropriate) at least weekly.  They will appreciate this effort because they need to justify your presence too.
  • Innovate!  Nothing makes you stand out more than a great idea.  Prove you are not just good on the night shift, but BETTER on the night shift.  Just make sure you are given proper credit for the idea.  It might be a good idea to copy the next level up on any communications – even if it might seem inappropriate.  Just be careful not to annoy them.
  • Attend corporate functions.  This may be difficult at times and will require you to come into the workplace at odd times, but it is important for people to get to see you and know who you are.  Make the most of the visit by engaging in conversations with the management team.  Subtly sell yourself without being arrogant.  Holiday parties or luncheons are a great venue for this.  Didn’t get invited?  Make sure your Supervisor knows you should have been.
  • Suggest that staff meeting be held at 4:00pm rather than 11:00am so the evening shift can also attend.  You’ll be recognized for your effort to be included and you will also have input into decisions being made.
  • Announce your arrival.  Get to work a few minutes early and say Hi to the people who are just ending their day.  But don’t be surprised if you don’t get a “Hi” back.  Most people will look at their watch and say “is it 4:00 already?!”  If you are working 3rd shift – make sure you stay and greet the day shift as they arrive.

Only you know where you best fit in your organization.  Only you know what time of the day you are at your peak.  When you find your perfect spot don’t feel guilty for wanting to stay there.  Your company needs you in that spot – you just need to let them realize it.

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Don’t Take It Personally

You left the job interview certain that you had landed the position.  They like you, you liked them, there was an agreement on pay range, and you are totally qualified for the position.   So why haven’t they called?  Let’s assume for this article that you did everything right – including a thank you note (at least by email) and a follow up call several days later stating your continued interest in the job.  You did do those – right?  Right.  So what’s the problem?

One of the biggest hurdles we deal with in the job market is the Human Factor.  That’s right folks, we are humans dealing with other humans and as such there is a myriad of factors that can contribute to the decision made by the employer.  Maybe there was someone equally qualified and thorough in their interview and the employer had a tough decision to make.  Many times there are more than one perfect candidate for the job.  One will get the job – and unfortunately the rest won’t.  It’s not that you did anything wrong – you just didn’t get picked – this time.   Maybe the employer just didn’t get a good vibe from you even though everything went well.  Human interactions are complicated and based on much more than just what you wore, how you presented yourself or even if you had a common interest.  Just like personal relationships, professional relationships are somewhat chemical in nature and even though you did everything right – you just were not what they were looking for.  The point is – its not personal – it’s just business.

On the other hand if you have had several great interviews – especially a great 2nd or 3rd interview and you haven’t been offered any jobs, you might want to take a closer look at your approach.  It might help to talk to a friend in detail about what happens in your interviews and what topics you discussed and how you answered those questions.  A good friend will need to be necessarily judgmental in order to be effective so again, don’t take it personally but learn from their comments.  Talk to more than one friend if you can and see if you notice a common response.

There is one thing you definitely should take personally.  If you have sent out many resumes but haven’t received even one call – there may be a problem with how you present your information.  We live in an electronic society and most resumes don’t reach a human eye until they first get singled out by a computer.  Your resume should be targeted specifically for the job you are applying for and be formatted in such a way that it will get singled out in an electronic scan against hundreds of other resumes.  It might be time for you to get some professional advice on your resume.  There are many resources available to help you – from personal consultants to electronic programs to help you build your resume.  I’m including a link to such a program in this post but there are many to choose from varying in price range and features.  Do a careful search and get the help you need to have your resume get noticed.

Resume Companion

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NightOwlStaffing.com – What’s it all about?

Welcome to the NightOwlStaffing.com Blog!  This blog will keep you updated on what’s going on in the job market – after 5pm.  You might be asking yourself with all the job sites out there right now – why NightOwlStaffing.com?  The following recent PR article explains how the idea of an after-hours job site came to be and how it can work for you.

The following is reprinted:

A new job site has hit the web – and it’s not your ordinary monster.  This one is for the night owls!  Dennis Becker of Fort Lauderdale has just launched a niche job website at http://www.nightowlstaffing.com.  The idea was conceived after Mr. Becker decided to leave his 2nd shift job of 13 years in a very difficult economy to pursue his dream of a cross country bicycle ride from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Seattle Washington. “I’ve never been a morning person” recalls Dennis “and I feared it might be difficult to secure another 2nd shift job in the IT profession.  The problem is that most job sites cater to the 9 – 5 work schedule and so a person interested in working after hours uses their key search terms to find their desired shift and not their desired job.  That can limit productive search results”.

Dennis imagined a site where jobs were listed specifically for evening and nighttime shifts – virtually eliminating that part of the search.  Now you can focus on the type of job you want which results in a much more productive search.  NightOwlStaffing.com is exactly that site – and it is totally free for both employers and job seekers.

Commerce doesn’t stop at 5pm and there are a lot of job opportunities available in many fields including Manufacturing, Airports, Hospitals, Call Centers, Service Industry Security, IT and many more.  Working non-standard shifts has many benefits as explained by Mr. Becker.  “I call it – not living with the masses.  I go to the grocery store, gym, bank, etc. when everyone else isn’t.  Plus, most companies will pay more for people willing to work after hour schedules.”

Dennis was lucky and did find another 2nd shift job in the IT field.  Now he hopes NightOwlStaffing.com will help other people secure their after hours jobs as well.  Businesses are encouraged to post their later shift jobs on NightOwlStaffing.com  (including logos and links).  Job seekers should post their resumes now to get a head start.  Signing up is easy, fast and best of all – totally free.

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