If hard skills get you hired, what gets you fired?
I’m sure everyone has heard from some source recently that soft skills are lacking in their job candidates.
What exactly is this? Working with college students and graduates, I like to show them this video“Entitlement Creed”
I love how it sums up much of the soft skills gap so simply that it borders on remedial. However, I still hear from students and graduates alike:
- So I was late a few times, what’s the big deal?
- Yes I use my cell phone at work, that’s my personal business not theirs.
- They won’t let me check Facebook at work.
- They don’t like my language, but everyone uses bad words these days.
Yes these are real examples. Add these to the list of entitlement issues prevalent in our culture and we have a real problem.
A mentor told me that once you are labeled as; clown, lazy, foul mouthed, distracted, unreliable, unmotivated or entitled, it will take a very long time and a ton of effort to change that perception.
This is so true! It took me all of 6-months (probably less) to be labeled as a ball-buster that’s difficult to work with, and around 18-months (or longer in some cases) to repair and rebuild that perception. Not to mention an uncounted amount of home baked goodies. But it was completely worth it.
Trouble is, once individuals realize they’ve created the perception (if they ever realize it), they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in to fix it. They chalk it up to “This is the way I am.”or “They have to accept me as I am.” Then my personal favorite. “It’s their perception, their problem, not mine.”
I love the last line from the video, “If you think we’re asking too much (say the employers), then you’re entitled to look for another employer who will not ask these things of you. But the odds of you finding one aren’t good.”
Take ownership of your own behavior. Take inventory of what others say about you professionally, how are you perceived? Then dig in, dig out and make a difference. That is how you keep a job.
For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”
How much time do you spend getting ready for an interview? When I ask my students this question, the normal answer is a tirade upon how long it took for them to pick out an outfit (the winner thus far is two weeks), picking the right hair style and make up, and coordinating shoes and lip gloss. For my male students, it’s the Shakespearian, “To iron or not to iron” conundrum.
What many people fail to realize is that an interview, believe it or not, is a smorgasbord of sensory experiences. The interview encompasses all of your senses and after taking a minute to review them, you may be surprised how missing just one can cost you the job.
This is the first part of a series regarding the five senses of an interview.
Let’s take these one at a time…
Sight – This, of course, is the most obvious; it takes into consideration… your clothes, shoes, jewelry, make up, hair, etc. It also takes into consideration your walk, your smile, your cell phone, your watch, eye contact, etc. One of the things that novice and professional job candidates alike fail to recognize is that sight encompasses ALOT!
- Are you talking on your cell phone when you walk in the door? BAD
- Do you keep checking your cell phone or watch? BAD
- Are you standing up straight and presenting a professional confident demeanor? GOOD
- Do you look people in the eye when you introduce yourself and shake their hand? GOOD
- When you are sitting waiting for the interview to begin, are you sitting up straight? GOOD
When I’m working with students to hone in on their soft skills, especially their interview skills, I tell them the purpose of the interview is to make sure that the hiring manager can actually visualize them doing the job. You never know what kind of prejudices the employer may have, so you want to present a clean, professional slate that they can see fitting into their culture. If you have tattoos, facial piercings, stiletto heels, low cut tops, high cut skirts, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair…what does that say about you and the image their organization is trying to present? Yes you may look great, for Friday night, but not for Monday morning.
Remember to think of the job you want and dress for it: not too much, not too little, but just right. Give yourself the best foot forward to get the job, and then let YOU shine through. An interview is not the time to make a social political statement; it’s the time to show the employer you are the best fit in skills, culture, and professionalism.
- When in doubt, look in the mirror. If you think your skirt may be too short or your top too low…it probably is. Change it.
- If you’re wondering, “Iron or not to iron,” throw it in the dryer till it’s flat.
- Is your make up Friday night fresh or Monday morning professional? Fix it.
- Can you hear your shoes or jewelry coming down the hall? Change them.
- If you are expecting a call that’s so important you have to take your cell in with you…Reschedule the interview.
- Take a look in the mirror, and ask one simple question: “Would I hire me?”
Take a deep breath, walk into the office, smile, introduce yourself with confidence, look them in the eye, and let them know you are the best person for the job.
Check back on Tuesday, August 13th where I’ll discuss how it’s not your nose but theirs that matters.
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.
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!
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.
My days are filled with a revolving door of students, faculty, staff, co-workers, employers and just all the other stuff that comes along through the course of a regular work week. Every now and then, however, something truly amazing happens that deserves recognition.
I don’t know about you but my reading these days is replete with articles, research, books, etc. that fill pages with the unpreparedness of college graduates entering the workforce. They are entitled, lazy, unmotivated, uninspired, confrontational, uncommunicative, irresponsible and completely unaware of the “real world” and what it entails. Ok just to clarify, no my words, or necessarily my opinions. I work with all generations as our student body spreads the gamut of generations, of which all have their unique set of challenges.
Friday’s are normally quiet days for us here in Career Services. No students on campus with the exception of the occasional drop by, we get lots done. Today however, I was met with inspiration. I had several students stop by today asking for me to look at mission statements, final projects, resumes, etc. It took me a few students to realize they were all from the same Career Development class.
I got out of my office leaving my Friday afternoon music mix playing and walked over to the library. I was greeted not by just a few classmates but the ENTIRE class. Yes they came in to get some assistance from me and my team, but more importantly from each other. All on their own, they decided to come in on a non-class day to work TOGETHER on their final projects and get some additional help with their resumes.
Yes I said the entire class! Did it disrupt my otherwise quietly productive day, absolutely! Did I care, not at all. These moments are the ones that I crave, when a student finally comprehends a topic, aces a test and can’t wait to tell me or even when they come by to let us know they just got hired for their dream job.
In this moment I was reminded that, although our newest generation may have their unique challenges they also bring with them a brilliantly unique set of gifts and strengths. One of their gifts being that of social ability and not just on the internet, (although I bet the internet was used to achieve this scheduled grouping of merry men and women).
I guess my point is that, people may, and often do, surprise you. Don’t discount a student or a whole group of students because of their age, demographic, socio-economic standing or ethnicity. They are, as they keep telling us, individuals and should be treated as such.
I learned a valuable lesson today, there will be those who challenge you, those who disappoint you and those who may let you down. What I live for are those who surprise, amaze and inspire me to keep doing what I do to the very best of my ability. I want to be the shoulders others stand on to achieve their goals…while I watch them rise to the top.