This week I was asked by a colleague if I could cover his class while he was out of town. Any chance to get in front of our students I consider a good thing so I quickly said yes. He gave me carte blanche on topics to cover and said have fun. Most people who know me have learned that giving me carte blanche can be a very dangerous thing…but what-the-hey, I’ll take it.
The class was comprised of students who are getting ready to graduate, a few midway through their program and a few that had just finished their first term on career development skills. Giving my normal presentation on career prep wasn’t really going to fit so I decided to open the class with the question, “What do you really want me to talk with you about, what information is going to serve you the best?”
I was surprised at how participatory everyone was and the list of questions they came up with.
1. How do you deal with nerves before and during an interview?
2. How do you address lack of applicable job history or no job history at all?
3. How do you disclose a background issue without disqualifying yourself from consideration?
4. How do you address a jumpy job history?
These were all awesome questions, but for the sake of today I would like to talk about the one we spent the most on…dealing with nerves.
I believe that to some degree everyone is nervous in an interview; it’s a highly subjective session where you are trying to sell your skills, your past performance and your personality with little more than you to back you up. Being nervous doesn’t make you a less qualified candidate it makes you human.
I can give you three sure fire ways to nail your interview and come off knowledgeable, confident and secure…
Yes this is very simple, then why don’t more people do it? Why do so many individuals answer the question, “So what questions do you have for me?” with “I don’t have any.” Really, you don’t have any questions about the organization you are going to tie yourself to for more than half your waking work week hours, you don’t want to know anything about them? You NEED to have thoughtful questions about THEM, otherwise you just told them you are looking for a job and any job will do.
Prepare in advance for the questions they may ask, there are literally thousands of online resources available with industry specific questions. Read them, prepare answers to them, practice those answers and then when you feel you could answer them in your sleep, practice them again.
The internet can be your friend, there is very little that can’t be found out about an organization. Take 30 minutes, find out about the history and future of the company, their motto/mission statement. Use this information during the interview and impress them with the time you took to really find out who they are and how your passions align with theirs.
Prepare, prepare, prepare…yes it is that simple. I’ve had employers call me after one of my graduates interviewed with them just to let me know that the questions my students asked were what got them the job. “If they are that dedicated to find out about who we are and what we do…that’s the kind of person we want working for us.”
Benjamin Franklin told us that, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well I think for the purpose of this article “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of fast talking, fancy resume writing, and shoe shopping.”
June is the end of most educational institutions fiscal year. Graduates are pouring out the doors of academe and jumping in full force to their job searches…NOT! I can’t tell you how many graduates I speak with in June, July and August who tell me that they are going to take the summer off from their job search; “no one is hiring anyway”. Wrong! The summer months may seem like a good time to slow down or stop your career search, but it’s not.
According to a recent article on mashable.com “8 Reasons Why Summer Is a Great Time to Job Hunt” there is a myth out there…much too prevalent, that summertime is a bad time to job search. If you just do a quick monster or CareerBuilder search you’ll see that contrary to popular believe there is as much, if not more hiring going on during the summer. That research does not bring into account the up to 80% of hidden job market jobs that are out there looming as well.
Summer is not the time to slow down your job search but to heat it up. Take advantage of the fact that so many other job seekers are falling into the “no one’s hiring right now” mind set and get a step ahead.
1. People do more entertaining in the summer months; use these opportunities to network your network. Who do you know? Who do they know?
2. Family obligations can be reduced during the summer months. Use this time wisely, get up earlier, look at the job boards, make some phone calls, go to networking events. You’ll see the competition you had two months ago…has gone on vacation.
3. Most of your fellow graduates are headed to the beach so the competition for the jobs out there will be greatly decreased. It’s much easier to stand out as one of 10 then one of 100 or 1000.
4. Employers will be impressed by the fact you are diligently working to find your career not the best new hang out.
Summer has traditionally been the time to relax, have fun and enjoy the weather. A time to slow down and smell the roses; however, remember what your professors, career services advisor and parents told you…getting a job is a full-time job. The longer you wait to start your career, the harder you will find it. Literally tens of thousands of graduates are pouring into the job market at the same time as you. Most will wait to start looking, taking a break to kick up their heels and enjoy some summertime fun. If you take the opportunity to beat them to the punch, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank as you begin your Christmas shopping while they are still wondering how to pay the next month’s rent.
Great article and we’ve all be the witness. New research findings and results aren’t even relevant enough to publish in the newspapers. Why are they funded then? It’s time we took a good hard look at higher education…all education and ask three questions is it relevant, responsible and reasonable?
Renowned Harvard professor and business guru Clayton Christensen (the subject of this earlier post) gave an interview to The Economist following a recent lecture at Oxford. The Economist article can be found here. Below are some excerpts concerning Christensen’s take on higher ed and, in particular, the high cost of an undergraduate education as well as the precarious financial position of many colleges:
Historically there has never been competition [among colleges and universities] on the basis of price. Colleges would compete by adding professors, enhancing programmes or building nicer facilities. So they competed by making institutions better. This initiates retribution [from other colleges] which make things better and better. And every step adds cost. So the cost of higher education has increased faster than healthcare. And there just isn’t any more space in the budget to do this. So this year you are seeing, in a fixed cost…
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I’m sure that during the course of your career, day, week, month, fiscal year…you have had one coworker make this comment. They don’t feel fulfilled in their current role, for many different kinds of reasons. They want to make a change but don’t know where to start. I have a colleague in this dilemma currently. She is a very energetic, talented, educated and highly skilled young woman with great work experience. But like many of us her career has taken some turns and her work history is more like the Great Wall of China than the I10 from AZ to CA. It took some turns and at times seemed to have little direction. However she is where she is and would like to have some direction before she sets off on her next road trip.
In one of our many conversations I began to ask her some very basic questions. And after she answered I had to respond, “No even more basic than that”.
1. What do you like to do?
2. What makes you really happy?
3. What are your strengths?
4. What do you feel are your greatest opportunities for development (fancy way of asking what are your weaknesses)?
5. Where do you want to live?
6. Is there a particular field or industry that inspires or intrigues you?
7. Do you have friends, family that you really look up to and what do they do?
8. When you think of people that really inspire you, what about them do you admire?
9. When you chose your major in college, why did you chose it and how do you feel about it now?
10.(Here’s the kicker) When you think of your life 5-10 years down the road…how do you see yourself?
Yes these questions are basic inventory questions. Some of which you may get asked in an interview, there is a reason for that! Many of us aren’t born with the innate desire to do just one thing in life. Some are, some aren’t…for those of us who are in the latter category, we have a tendency to follow our career path like The Great Wall with all its twists and turns. We make decisions as they come along, not giving a whole lot of thought to the Plan.
Working with college students, especially those who are just getting started, I have a very standard speech. I ask lots of questions, many I’ve listed above. Mostly I tell them that choosing a major is not dissimilar to purchasing a home. A house is not a piece of disposable property. It’s something you are going to spend a lot of time in, money on and energy with. If it isn’t going to last you through your 5-year plan (unless you’re a house flipper) you may want to keep looking. We need to think of our educational/career choices the same way. We need to look down the road to where we want to be. Why do we admire the people we do, what they have we don’t, how we get there, what really makes us happy and drives us to perform. If you can’t really answer these questions honestly, well honestly it’s not the best time for you to be looking for a new opportunity.
There are literally hundreds of articles being written and published on the risks involved with making a career change; especially in the face of high unemployment and a recent recession. There are some very common threads with the advice given; and believe it or not they are pretty much in line with the questions I asked my coworker. In addition to your employment inventory; make an assessment of the possible risks that may be involved with making a career change.
I think what my coworker discovered through this exercise is that it isn’t a new career she needs; it’s direction. Her job isn’t the challenge; her lack of a real plan for her future, where she wants to be not only professionally but personally is the issue. Now, that may mean a change for her in the future, but it will be one born of a plan and for a purpose.
Yes there are times when a career change is what’s needed to achieve that plan. I have made a couple myself; one born of frustration without real purpose and one made with intent, thought and commitment to my future. I am where I am today because of the latter, despite the first.
So the next time someone you know asks you the “I need to do something but I’m not sure what to do” question…remember, location, location, location. Don’t make the investment without the inventory, without real thought of the effect on the future. My mom once told me, “when you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything”. Made no sense at the time but now I live by it. How often do we have the desire to do something, when the best course of action is to sit tight, evaluate, plan and when appropriate, execute.
“When you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything.” Thanks Mom!
The internet, business periodicals, the news…you hear it everywhere. Employers are looking for culture fit, the employee who has it all, but above all will fit into the “culture” of their organization. While I was thinking about this topic I did a Google search on ‘Culture Fit’ and do you know what I found, 371,000,000 listings. Yes that is three hundred and seventy-one million listings. Under ‘culture fit definition’ I found 4,430,000 listings. Why am I telling you this, well either the topic is pretty hot, it’s under debate, yet to be accurately defined, nebulous, vague or all of the above. My choice is, all of the above!
Culture fit is most commonly defined as: Exhibiting a good fit with the company’s culture. That leads to the question, what is your company’s culture? How is it measured, defined, organized, presented, etc? I think you may be starting to get where I’m coming from. How can we begin to prepare individuals to enter a work force where the primary hiring decision is based on a nebulous, undefined, immeasurable concept that many hiring managers have difficulty explaining themselves?
Here are some ways you can being to uncover the culture of a prospective organization, questions you can ask and research you can perform to find out if you are a fit for them and if they are a fit for you.
1. Do your Research – now days most organizations have a website, or digital footprint of some kind. It’s amazing what you can find out about a company from a simple Google search. Check out the employment or careers tab on their company website. See if they have a ‘Why Work for Us Section’. Click on the ‘About Us’ tab or the ‘Mission and Vision’ tab. Is there a link that connects you to recent news about that company? There is no end of ways you can find out what, at the very least, that organization wants you to think is the culture.
2. Be Prepared – You will not be asked yes or no questions. You will be asked to give very specific examples of an experience you had in dealing with a difficult customer, coworker, supervisor or project. What you did to resolve the issue and what was the result?
A. What is your favorite movie?
B. What’s the last book you read?
C. Where’s the last place you went on vacation?
D. What TV shows do you watch most often?
E. If you were an animal which would you be and why?
3. Ask Questions – Whether it’s a phone interview, an in-person interview or an exploratory interview, ask questions. Not the kind that every job board in the world says you should ask; the questions you really want to know the answers to.
A. What does it take to be successful here?
B. What does a normal day look like?
C. How can I add value to this position, department, and organization?
4. Be Energetic and Enthusiastic – I can’t tell you how many times I have followed up with an employer after one of my students has interviewed only to find out that the student in question acted like they just woke up, or were still asleep.
A. Smile, first impressions are lasting and you never get a second chance.
B. Be confident, you will be representing their organization to the community; this is your chance to shine.
C. Show them your contagious energy. No you don’t have to channel the really annoyingly energetic girl from the Starbucks drive through, however you do need to show them you are excited about this opportunity with them.
Culture fit may be the hot HR buzz words right now, but the idea has been around for a long time. Traditionally Ivy Leaguers sought out other Ivy Leaguers. Organizations have always hired those individuals they feel will best compliment the image they want presented to their customers, clients and community. They are looking for employees who will share their values, passions and drivers. It’s not rocket science! You aren’t going to hire an Eeyore for a Tigger position.
Find out what you can before the interview, go in knowing the job you are applying for, bring thoughtful questions, smile and shine.
I am continually disheartened by the number of my students/graduates who give up after their first ‘no’. When did we stop teaching determination or good ole fashioned stick to it? According to research 80% of sales are made on or after the 5th contact; however most folks give up after the 2nd attempt. How does this relate to finding a job? How many applications on average do you need to send out before you get the call? You can find research that states anywhere from 3 applications to 50 applications are what it takes to get the elusive interview. The point I want to make is you don’t stop! You can’t! In today’s economy there are literally hundreds of thousands of folks looking for work.
I don’t believe the key to success is the quantity of applications but the quality of what you are submitting.
- Have you filled out the application completely? Accuracy and attention to detail are so important. Never put ‘see resume’ on your application. Most systems for filtering applications are automated. The systems are looking for specific key words on your application. If you don’t use those keywords your resume will never make it to human eyes.
- How do I know what key words to use: Hint – look under the section of the job posting that states ‘required skills’. If they are required you can be pretty sure they will be looking for those exact words and phrases on your application.
- List at least 10 years of job history. Make sure you list all your skills (including the corresponding key words). Double check to make sure your start and end dates match those on your resume.
- Make sure you have your references lined up and prepped! If you list someone on your resume, make sure they know you’ve listed them and what jobs you are applying for.
- Don’t undersell or oversell yourself in the salary section. There are great tools on Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com to calculate the salary range for positions in your geographic area. Do your research!
- Be prepared for the phone call!
- Make sure you have a professional voice mail message. Stay clear of music, your children’s voice mail message or the “hello, hello, just kidding I’m not really here” type of messages. Recruiters WILL hang up and reach out to the next candidate.
- Answer the phone with an enthusiastic upbeat voice. Hiring managers are looking for cultural fit; they want to know how you will be answering their phones so answer each call like it’s a phone interview.
- Make sure you do your research on the company and keep track. Some of the most horrifying feedback I get from employers is when the student/graduate doesn’t even know the position they applied for. If you can’t answer the question, “so tell me what you know about this position or our company”, you just lost that job.
- Spending a little extra time filling out applications and preparing for the phone interview goes a long way. It doesn’t mean you will get the first job you apply for but it will greatly increase your chances of getting the phone to ring and winning the jackpot with an in-person interview.
If most sales are completed after the 5th attempt, figure it’s going to take at least that many applications and follow-up calls to get your foot in the door. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. The only difference between you and someone who has landed their dream career is that they have already been told ‘no’ more times than you.