When your resume lands no interviews

 Resume magic is doable! Read on.

Resume magic is doable! Read on.

The flipping of a calendar to a new year inspires us to make changes. Aside from annual renewed vigour to lose 10 or 20 pounds, stop smoking, leave the junk food at the grocery store, and call mom more often, few think to revisit their resume.
My last blog gave you ideas on what kinds of updates you might add to your resume, and how to phrase these. In this blog, I offer a few more ideas for those with resumes that constantly fail. Fail to ignite interest, fail to generate any calls to an interview. 
Know Thyself
Perhaps your resume has been cobbled together with bits and pieces from here, there, and everywhere in an attempt to fix what's wrong, cover all the bases, saturate it with key words? It could be such a hodge-podge of writing styles and formatting issues that when it's shared, it fails. The reader could be confused by the jumble, its lack of flow, absent context, and non-existent overall brand and message. And the formatting could recreate a resume into a haphazard mess.
If the resume's message is unclear, it is unlikely to gain traction. My suggestion is to start fresh, and with a focus on being authentic to who you are and how you work, begin anew to build a strong presence.
Ship It Out
Job hunting is a numbers game as well as a strategic one. Yes, your resume must sell you, but you must share that resume a lot. Some job postings are bogus. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy theory to perplex and confound the beleagured job seeker, but I am suggesting that not each job posting is current or valid. Sometimes, for example, an incumbent has already been selected, and the job posting exercise is simply playing out an internal policy.
For this reason, don't ever put all your effort and hope into one job application. Keep applying.
Verfity and Validate
Jim Rohn says it like this: “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
Theres' another saying about stupidity as repeating the same action while each time "hoping" for a different result. 
If your resume is not working, do seek help. It truly doesn't have to be a never-ending cycle of click "send" and wait for a response that never materializes. 

Transparency in Recruitment

Every once in a while the question pops up of how much do you tell, what do you tell, when in the recruitment process. I was reminded of one such example recently.

I had submitted one of my resumes for inclusion in an online training course, Career Thought Leaders' E-summit titled, "Expanding Your Horizons: Writing for International Audiences." The resume I shared was accepted and I was asked to speak to the audience of international resume writers on behalf of Canadian resume norms.

My client's resume and cover letter earned him an interview. And although his situation isn't my best example of being open and transparent (that's coming up next), it does offer a peek into how to address a potential obstacle to hire.

Moving from Canada's west coast to Dubai, after almost two decades in Canada, could be a hurdle for a mid-level manager. I addressed it right up front in the first paragraph of the cover letter, as so:

It is exciting to think of returning to Dubai where I worked for 20 years, and where I learned to speak and write Arabic. At that time, I built relationships and grew business as a Sales Executive; now I would prevent and mitigate risk, and safeguard reputation and assets as a Health and Safety Manager with (name of the company).

Immediately the recruiter knows many powerful details, such as the client's eagerness to return, his many years of local experience, and his ability to speak the local language (he is not native to the region).

But the stronger example was this: I had a young client with brain damage. His mother hired me to create a resume for him in application to an entry level job in a municipality. I addressed the issue of brain damage in the cover letter. My reasoning was this: the issue would be apparent in an interview and some accommodation might be needed; it did not make sense to delay sharing this detail.

I am pleased to submit my application for the position of (insert title) with (insert municipality name). With 2 years of relevant experience, during which I have learned to complete each of the tasks required for this position, and during which I earned a reputation for hard work and reliability, I know that I am qualified. My experience also demonstrates that although I have minor brain injury from a car accident, it has not had a negative impact on my abilities to get the work done.

Not only did this client land an interview, but he also landed a job offer. His parents are thrilled, of course, as anxiety over their son's future is relieved.

But, I've also had clients where I have not shared details. Like one fellow who suffered intense depression following his father's unexpected death. Mental health issues are not always relevant, nor do the situations require accommodations, nor do they impact the work at hand.

In this client's case, I was able to cover his two-year sabbatical in another way, while remaining truthful to his experience. Luckily, how he spent his time was actually related to his job search skills.

If you're not sure how to handle a "sticky" situation, working with a professional can be helpful.

 

Attention HR and Interviewees: Great Behavioural Interview Questions

I have some wonderful clients. Once client, let's call her Monique, stays in touch and sends me random info or updates. She is a true networker. Her name stays in my mind even though it's been about two years since I revamped her job search documents.

Last week she sent a LinkedIin message to share an interesting new group. You'll find it at www.disrupthr.co. I've long said that the recruitment process is broken and this group is setting out to improve recruitment. I'll see if I can join one of the sessions in the future, out of curiousity.

And then Monique shared with me a site she found with great samples of interview questions. Meant for the recruiter, they are excellent behavioural questions. And, I can actually see how someone being interviewed could use this info to his or her benefit, which I will be sharing with interview coaching clients.

You'll find the list at this URL: http://www.va.gov/pbi/questions.asp

Military Transition Resume Strategy

Over the last few years I have written a number of resumes for people planning to transition from military to civilian careers.

It's not an easy change if you think about it. No more uniforms or numerous ranks, different expectations, and fewer training opportunities, at least not at the standard offered by the Canadian military. (As a learning "junkie," I admit I am envious of the quality and quantity of training one can pursue with the military.)

There's also the issue of jargon. Military resumes are almost incomprehensible to civilians, as from rank to duties, a military career is steeped in a language all its own.

In a recent  overhaul of a military to civilian resume, I stripped away words such as heavy machine gunner, combat tour, heavy enemy engagement, private, corporal, battalion, platoon, regiment, warrant officer, and others. But I did leave terms that were relevant to my client's intended job goal in security - safe weapons handling and maintenance, radio communications, conducted operations, and patrolling. I also added a great deal more, selecting jargon, or terminology, appropriate to civilian security duties.

I changed the language to make sure the resume does not bamboozle the recruiter, translating into plain language for readability and sale-ability. I could hardly "sell" my client into a new role with words alien to the reader's comprehension.

It's a delicate balance, keeping info real yet understandable.

My strategies also include finding title equivalences. For example, I helped the recruiter understand my client's title like this:

Manager-equivalent (Master Corporal)

And under the title I offered proof of management level accountability, selecting what defined his role with information that sells him into his preferred, advanced role in security.

Creating a resume's strategy can be a challenge, especially in a major career transition!

Resume content that is concise, tight, yet influential

Recently I worked with a senior manager of operations and business intelligence employed by a large national company. I'll name him Ernesto.

98% of the time I partner with a client to build a resume from scratch, and support the resume with a strategic cover letter and LinkedIn profile.

Ernesto's project was unusual in that his existing resume was "decent" and he needed only a resume and for one purpose: to apply to an internal directorship at the urging of a VP, also Ernesto's former boss.

My client recognized that although he had been asked to apply, which although a good sign is no guarantee. In the VP's words "I cannot guarantee your selection as two other excellent candidates have applied."

Ernesto came to me to ensure that his submission was as strong as it could possibly be and to get some insight into interview strategies: he was determined to excel in each recruitment step.

Although I thought at first I would only be "tweaking" his resume, I did end up rewriting it, top to bottom. (The only section I did not change was the educational one.)

I wish I could show you precisely what I did! As I cannot, for confidentiality purposes of course, here are a few highlights:

- shortened it considerably - the original scrolled onto a third page and had tight margins. I expanded the margins and ensured the resume was two pages as another page was not needed or justifiable.

- rewrote the profile or summary - the original was 104 words on 10 consecutive lines, whereas my rewrite is 72 words presented in three, 2-line paragraphs. Although shorter, its impact is far stronger. Rather than focus on a synopsis of his roles, I created a branding statement. And by leveraging my own love of words, and inspired by Ernesto's description of his work (I sent him a list of specific questions to reply to), I found fresh language to replace several rather typical phrases.

- injected leadership language - for example: business-critical, reversed historically poor resutls, maximized resources, piloted shift and subsequently rolled out new method, and so on, which replaced ho-hum language such as "built, led, developed, delivered, prepared."

- shortened "additional interests" section - (which could also have been eliminated if space was needed), eliminating references to religion-affiliated volunteering as religion and politics are seldom required in a resume. (I have written resumes for clergy and for those whose careers revolve around a particular political party, where obvioulsy related details are needed!)

The final difference is that I created and supported a professional "brand." Ernesto has incredible analytical skills, far above the norm; he has the ability to gather information, listen to concerns, and serve as an objective mediator; and he reliably models and coaches not only skills but a collaborative spirit. The projects in which he is involved benefit greatly from his involvement.

I'm excited to see how Ernesto's career evolves; certainly he is now well poised to climb his preferred career ladder.

Is your resume flawed ... or could it be your perspective?

As a young person, I was often certain that I was right. Now on the wiser side of life, I am quick to consider that I may have something to learn, or at least another point of view to consider. (I find that age, or perhaps wisdom, has drastically reduced my need to  almost always be right. There is something to be said for ageing!)

I realize now that I simply didn't know what I didn't know back then, and didn't even know to consider that something might change my perspective and my mind. Today, however, I seek to discover whether there is something I don't know that could change my mind.

Consider optimism. I am an optimist.

I like the perspective my "rose-coloured" glasses provide, but I am quick to point out that my optimism is tempered with realism.  Seth Godin's blog of the day, The possibility of optimism, adds another layer of consideration to optimism and I quite like it.

Imagine that your resume has not worked for you, that it has not landed any calls or interviews. Based on that track record, you might feel pessimistic about your prospects. However, you've based your sad assumption on the past, that is, your past/existing knowledge of resumes, cover letters, and perhaps LinkedIn strategies.

What if, as Seth points out, you acknowledge that yes, your pessimism was appropriate according to the past, but that yes, optimism may be appropriate in the future?

To quote Seth:

As soon as we realize that there is a difference between right now and what might happen next, we can move ourselves to the posture of possibility, to the self-fulfilling engine of optimism.

I have paraphrased this quote to capture the experience of a thus far unsuccessful job hunter (I will refer to my job hunter as a male in this sentence):

As soon as the struggling job hunter admits that his knowledge of resume strategy may be outdated and less-than effective, he can move himself to the posture of possibility, that is, to seek out a career-fulfilling, optimism-inspiring, modern and effective resume.

Here's another way to approach this: a few job hunters landed an interview for the job you applied to. You know you are qualified, so all things being equal, what's the differentiating factor?

It's in the written word: the successful person used it wisely and the unsuccessful one did not.

The question you must answer is whether you want to be right and potentially jeopardize your career to remain right (and pessimistic), or whether you might be ready to explore a new perspective and embrace realistic, optimistic possibility?

Answering the question of how you fixed a workplace blunder

I've been asked about my weaknesses and strengths (once being asked to list five of each, which I respectfully reduced to one each), but so far I've not been asked about making a mistake at work.

If I were to be asked that question, my first reaction would be like the fellow in the photo, although I'd keep that scream silent!

The recruiter's aim would not be to count you out or make you feel "less than"; rather, it would be more likely related to a) seeing how you react to a bit of stress and b) tapping into your ability to take ownership and resolve a situation.

In this blog - How to Tell a Story in a Job Interview - the writer takes us through answering this exact question. It's a great read and well told; I highly recommend you read it.

I agree with everything; however, I see that there's a missed opportunity to further build confidence in the job hunter as a suitable candidate. Here's what's missing.

Pull in the Skills

What a great opportunity to showcase why you were able to fix your mistake by using the skills you posess. Pointing out the skills (keep them relevant to the new job, of course) you called on to resolve the issue is essential to continuing to build yourself up as an ideal candidate.

You'll find relevant skills in the job posting, and these can be hard skills as well as soft skills. Hard skills are the job-specific competencies and soft skills are related to personality, qualitites, motivation, and talents.

Now the answer is complete and influential. You've taken the issue of having caused a mistake and turned it into an opportunity to "sell yourself." Perfect!

New Leaf Resumes offers award-winning interview coaching for those who see the need to polish up interview ability.

How to Impress Your Interviewer without Saying a Word

This post is not about how to impress with clothes, shoes, or style; it's not about how to impress with great answers to interview questions.

This post is about how to impress your interviewer with the written word.

It's about a leave-behind document.

A long-time client, currently working in a great role for a leading financial service, let's call her Jill, needed help. We've been working together for 8 or 9 years now, during which time she has transitioned through three positions. 

Jill recently found out her position was being reorganized and was given a few short weeks to find another position within her firm. Thankfully her resume was up-to-date and we only had to tweak it a wee bit to get her ready to apply for a couple of suitable postings that came available. Contacted with an invitiation to an interview, and wanting to make sure she did everything she could to land the job offer, she asked whether I could recommend anything else to help her stand out.

I suggested creating a T-chart, which lists the position's requirements, as taken from the job posting, and matches the applicant's corresponding experience, skills, and knowledge.

Having created one, Jill asked for my feedback on her draft. Here's what I told her.

Make it easy to scan: Keep your info in bullet form. Start with a strong and accurate verb. Rather than "assisted," pin down exactly what you did to assist - organized, researched, took notes, kept team members accountable. And keep the verb tense consistent as much as possible. Usually the past tense, unless it's very much a present and ongoing example where the past tense would be potentially confusing or an outright lie.

Give it oomph: If you want your information to have impact, add context. Maybe numbers, maybe name dropping, perhaps outcomes or results - there are tons of ways to ensure that the reader truly understands what your contributions meant to a division, to business, to a project's success, to the bottom line.

Get specific: Now's not the time for generalities. Rather than referring to "communications," narrow it down. Blog, news release, user instructions, meeting minutes, executive report - these are all communication pieces but each is appropriate for a different kind of job. Select your specifics strategically, according to what is needed in the position to which you are applying.

This kind of document serves a few functions.

1. It shows the interviewer (or hiring manager) how serious you are about the position. You put in the time to communicate exactly how you are well suited for the job, and by extension, how fast you're likely to become fully productive.

2. It distinguishes you from your competition. How many job hunters are going to go to this trouble? Very few.

3. Going through this exercise will help you interview well because relevant info will be top of mind. You'll spend less time fumbling and you'll be more confident as you'll be well prepapred. 

Standing out is not about bringing copies of your resume on fancy paper, it's not about having a graphic resume (unless you're in an artistic field), it's not about impressing with flair, pizzazz, or smoke and mirror tactics. It's about knowing exactly why you'll be great in the job and being able to communicate it.

Give it a try.

The Importance of Continuing Education in Today's Recruitment

I've been called a "knowledge junkie" by a colleague! Yes, if there's a hot-topic course coming up in my community of private career practitioners, you can almost bet I'm registered.

Last month I took (online) courses to get updated on LinkedIn, ATS, and SEO in the job search. And because I am both a resume writer and small business owner, the last two (onsite) workshops have been more about business.

Last week, for example, I travelled to Toronto to learn "how to write killer web copy." I'm ready to do some website rewrites and updates. And I'm fresh from attending a Monday morning Facebook event, #shemeansbusiness. 

The photo is of me at the event. They had a "photo booth," without a booth, and with state-of-the-art equipment took a mug shot, emailed it to me, and handed me a print photo as well, all in about 60 seconds or less. Amazing.

Continuing education is important not only to me as a service provider, self employed, but also to your employers, however small or large, simple or complex, local or international. As work, products, and services evolve at break-neck speed (that's how fast it feels at times), so too must our skills and knowledge improve and increase.

Those job hunters whose resumes demonstrate a continual evolution of skills are more likely to get short-listed for interviews than those who finished their formal education and then let their education stop.

Sometimes clients claim they haven't had time or just didn't think of it. But, it's never too late to start! I often make recommendations in continuing ed to clients who either need to fill a gap in bonafide skills or who would benefit from pursuing a related designation.

Here are a few ideas to populate the Education and Professional Development section of your resume:

1. In-house training. Lots of employers offer in-house workshops and maybe you've taken a few? Rather than titles - if irrelevant - list the category. Communication, Leadership, Report Writing can cross many fields.

2. Self-taught. Do you wait eagerly for the next book, do you head straight for university bookstores when travelling, or do you stay on top of your field of study in some other way - professional associations, conferences? A simple list the books you've been reading either on your field of knowledge or on business, leadership, communication will speak volumes to a passion for your work.

3. Sign up - NOW! There are tons of on-line courses, some free, some inexpensive and some expensive and fully accredited. Sure, a Harvard education is important to some employers, but to most, where you have chosen to study is less important to the fact that you did choose to study. Try Udemy, Great Courses, OntarioLearn.com for starters.

If you're not sure what to study, ask your boss, ask a friend with a history of promotions, ask a manager you've connected with on LinkedIn, or ask a career coach! But don't let uncertainty stop you.

It's your career to manage after all. If you do nothing, guess what? Ain't nothin' gonna happen is my prediction. No step up the career ladder for the ambitious, no lateral move made easy if you find yourself let go, no transferability if you find your job obsolete, and no dream job for those who dare to dream.

If tomorrow the bottom dropped out of resume writing, I have tons of skills to leverage to find a job. How about you?

Empowering All Through Career Management

The photo is one of me, conquering my fear of heights while scaling Mount Benson in Nanaimo, B.C. Although that time I didn't make it to the top, I did make it a third of the way up and one day I WILL make it to the top, and back down again. It's the return that is scariest as that's when you see how high you are and how far you can fall. But I am determined.

Today a LinkedIn connection, Sunitha Narayanan, a Career Coach based in Cinncinati, challenged me to reply to a question posed on LinkedIn. She wrote:

"So, I am borrowing the ice bucket challenge concept and calling out to Linda Tefend, CMF, Morgan O'Donnell. Katherine (Kit) Prendergast and Stephanie Clark BA, MCRS, MRW to respond to the What If Wednesday post by PROMARK Company. Ladies, I am counting on you! Thanks."

And I replied:

"I love TED talks - what an honour that would be and how lovely to daydream about this "What if" scenario! Thank you Sunitha Narayanan!

I would talk about career management - resume, tracking accomplishments, specific tactics to take at work, interviewing - the whole kit and caboodle of proactively, honestly, authentically, whole-heartedly managing one's career.

No tricks, no pretense, no putting anyone else down, as I don't like that, but easy-to-use ideas that empower the average working person and contribute to his/her sense of worth, and also while respecting others.

Thank you again, Sunitha Narayanan for challenging me to this - it was rewarding to put my thoughts into words!"

That is what I am about; that is what I strive for when serving my clients. It feels good to see it in print! If you have a career challenge that you want to conquer, I'd love to be of service.

Resume Rules - Yes or No?

In  April I will be facilitating a class for colleagues on resume rules, leading a discussion on which rules can be broken and which must never be breached.

I have to admit that I live a fairly conservative lifestyle, although my points of view are quite liberal. While I don't break a whole lot of societal rules, I have broken out of an overly regimented life with artistic expression, for example. I do bead embroidery of goddess figures and other non-traditional themes, and I have a half sleeve tattoo of colourful flowers symbolizing my ethnic Ukrainian background, further graced by a glorious Scottish thistle for my husband's heritage.

As for resumes, that's where I really bust out of rule-driven strategies and create authentic and strategic documents that are inspired, top to bottom, first word to last by the individual client. (A recent client asked if I have a stash of profiles that I draw from. Never, ever, in 10 years of service have I  copied or plagiarized from a past client or from a colleague's sample.)

I don't need to resort to "borrowing" from others - this is where that creative edge as well as a real love of stringing words together come in handy. The creativity is reserved not for "creative writing" (as in embellishment) but for creating an effective resume strategy.

Today's resume, taking its cue from the recruitment process, is ever evolving. A rule from 10 years ago may have made sense then, but used today it thwarts a job hunter's success rate.

You've heard the admonishment to "stand out"? At one time this meant using colour paper, fancy fonts, resume templates. Today each of these should be thrown out. Most employers no longer accept paper copies of resumes and the fancy font and templated resume potentially screw up a resume's score on the applicant tracking system (ATS), which is a key step of the recruitment process in about 70% of today's employers.

Ditto for the objective statement, which I continue to see on potential clients' existing resumes. It amazes me how that once ubiquitous, but long outdated resume intro hangs on. Did you know that the ATS are not even programmed to pick up an objective statement? No, rather they are looking for a summary or profile, which when well written answer the question "Why should we hire you for this position?"

There are only two rules that I stick to, without fail. I stick to truthful statements and I represent the client with authenticity. Truth refers to facts and figures and the authenticity to personality, motivation, working style, and so on.

Truth ensures that there is never a question of credibility or trustworthiness (grounds for future dismissal if found out).

And the authenticity contributes to each client more likely attracting a like-minded employer and a team that values what s/he brings to the team's dynamic. That in turn contributes to the job hunter's prospects for succeeding in his/her new position.

So how do New Leaf's clients stand out? There is no one answer. For some, I create additional documents that cover aspects of the client's work that would be cumbersome to capture in a 2-page resume. For others, I structure the resume in a unique, but ATS-friendly fashion. That's where my creative edge propels me to reconsider and reinvent, and leave the old rules in the past.

There's one more critical component to creating interview generating resumes: strategy. Without pulling in strategic details - results, accomplishments, recognition - the resume falls flat. It's boring and uninspired, rather than memorable and interesting.

As for resume rules? Be truthful and authentic, but be sure to stand out! If you need help with this, New Leaf is at your service.

Giving Job Search Advice to an Engineer

About five years ago I adopted a new personal mantra: do NOT give advice. A few pieces of "advice" I'd given family members had not panned out quite as I thought they would, and although nothing bad happened, the spectre of a bad outcome lurked in the shadows, making me aware that I'd dodged getting over-involved that time, but I should not tempt fate.

(It reminds me, too, of a time when I took a curve very quickly, too quickly, and almost lost control of my car. I was young at the time, but I realized that I'd best not tempt fate and never did that again.)

Every once in a while it seems that I am tested. Have I truly stopped "giving advice"? And this case, the test of resolve came in the form of an email from an engineer in another country:

I am an Industrial Engineer with around 10 years of experience in the manufacturing field, I have always been working in the field of Continuous Improvement, and I must admit that I feel stuck doing the same thing for so long. Actually, now I have the opportunity to study in Canada (I am from - name of country) and eventually migrate and work there. My big doubt is, should I continue my studies in my field in order to take advantage of my vast experience? or should I study another thing that I am more passionate about and start from scratch in the canadian workplace? I really hope you can help me out to dissipate this doubt. Thank you!

I removed the name of the country simply to ensure that no one could jump to any conclusions.

There is no way that I would  give potentially bad advice or suggestions that could be misunderstood. Here's my reply:

An interesting question, but not one that I could answer for you - that's a large responsibility that could have life-altering consequences, which is a responsibility that I would not take on.

But I can offer a few questions that you could ask yourself that may lead you to a decision.

1. What is this more passionate path that calls to you, and what is the usefulness of this new career within the Canadian context? You could set up a job search (using an aggregate job board, perhaps, like Indeed.ca) for Canadian jobs with the job title of that exciting field that is calling you. You can narrow it down to a geographic location as well. This would give you some hard data and this knowledge may help you decide to stick with the tried and true or to strike out for the new.

2. As you conduct this study, explore too the salary expectations, if earnings are a consideration or concern. Conducting research for both - your current and your proposed - will give you an indication of salary ranges, perfect for contrasting job a with lots of experience and job b as a newbie in that role. Here's a link to Canadian salary information:

http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/wage-outlook_search-eng.do?reportOption=wage

And once here and ready to look for your first position on Canadian ground, if you need a professional's help with the resume, I would love to be of service! Exciting times for you!

The closest I get to advice is "reasoned and seasoned suggestions, tips, and insights."

I am making an effort to build my Facebook readers. If you're so inclined, please check out my FB posts, and if you like what you read there, please do follow! Thank you.

Leading Marketer's Tips for Finding a Job

The list of questions below come to you courtesy of Seth Godin's blog. Mr. Godin is a recognized leader in the marketing field and I am often inspired by his posts. After all, the recruitment process, from the job hunter's perspective, is an exercise in SELF-marketing.

When providing potential clients a resume assessment of their existing document, I mostly see historical job descriptions - dry, boring, clone-like lists of duties. These are by no means resumes; they do not market value, which is one of the tips provided in Godin's blog.

Consider these questions:

Can you show me a history of generous, talented, extraordinary [side] projects? (My brackets - I would rephrase this to "side or job-related" projects.)

Have you ever been so passionate about your work that you've gone in through the side door?

Are you an expert at something that actually generates value?

Have you connected with leaders in the field in moments when you weren't actually looking for a job?

Does your reputation speak for itself?

Where online can I see the trail of magic you regularly create?

Each one of these could create phenomenal resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn additions. This is the type of information that I regularly add to my clients' resumes - if the person can cite an example following my prompts and questioning (I know how to dig deep to unearth resume gold).

For example, here's an idea for the second point - demonstrating passion and going in by the "side door." If you've volunteered to join a committee at work because the project was one that used your talents and integrated your values, that would be a great example of this idea:

  • Volunteered to chair our company's first corporate responsibility committee, leveraging knowledge of the subject from my previous job and tapping into a strong personal value; led team of 10 to deliver company's inaugural corporate responsibility statement, and to plan next steps.

OR:

  • Promoted to Customer Service Manager role, newly created, in recognition of introducing and implementing 3 successful service measures - while in administrative role - that reduced compaints by 30% and increased customer satisfaction survey score by 20 points, unprecedented in company's history.

As for the last point - about an online trail of magic (love that phrase!), at the very least, today's savvy job hunter must have a professional presence in the form of LinkedIn. With its advanced capabilities, you can now add documents and presentations as links to your profile, creating that "trail of magic" that Mr. Godin so eloquently refers to.

Not sure how to realize this form of resume? Not proud of your shabby LinkedIn? I'd love to help.

Staying Positive in the Job Search

It seems to me that each time I read a career-related article lately, it laments a group's limited, dwindling, or seriously compromised prospects in securing employment.

Women have trouble getting ahead, new Canadians struggle to land jobs in their fields, young people cannot gain traction, and in this weekend's Globe Careers the title reads "The plight of the middle-aged white guy."

Apparently no one is landing jobs or is happily, productively employed.

Obviously I am exaggerating and the articles all have sound statistics to back up the proposed premise. But one cannot help but wonder how so many sectors struggle.

My suggestion is to not allow yourself to dwell on the many limitations and restrictions that might impede your job search; rather, keep those rose coloured glasses firmly perched on your nose and to quote a popular British saying, Stay Calm and Carry On.

Along with the above-mentioned demographic challenges, my clients often admit to feeling "less than" due to any number of challenges related to having "enough" education, experience, skills, knowledge ...

Truth is, many people achieve than 100% employability perfection - however one defines this word. Nonetheless, Canada is built on a strong workforce and there are many young people, old people, new Canadians, women, and "middle-aged white guys" gainfully employed.

Yes, there are strategies that one can and should use to overcome barriers to employment - for one's own self-confidence as well as a way to get beyond flaws in perception of perfection. If you need help with these, New Leaf would love to be of service. We balance our rose-coloured optimism with practical steps.

If you're in a job search, it's a good idea to ignore those "dooms-day" articles that tell you why you might not land a job. You can choose to join the ranks of successful job hunters. Let New Leaf show you how!

Tips for Composing Your LinkedIn

Many job search "must haves" have come and quietly gone over the years: video resumes and personal website portfolios come to mind, as well as a smattering of LinkedIn-esque sites (Naymz and Plaxo are two I recall of many more).

But the only one that stuck is LinkedIn (LI). (And it looks as if it may become the top recruitment site in time as it not only serves as a professional database but it's also a favourite hang-out for recruiters.)

N.B. Before you update your LI profile, which may signal your job search to all in your network, if you are in a confidential job search or simply proactively managing your career, I'd advise that you turn off the option to broadcast your updates.

Here are a few tips for composing a strong, recruiter-attracting LinkedIn:

  • Write in the 1st person. Yes, go ahead and own your talents, attributes, skills, and accomplishments by writing "I" statements, but please don't begin each sentence with "I." Balance reference to yourself with reference to your team's collaborations and to your employer's goals.
    Although writing in 1st person isn't a rule, it's expected today. The reason may have something to do with today's hires increasingly considering a good fit - with the team and with the corporate culture - and injecting your personality into this piece provides insight into how you'll fit in.
  • Get a good photo taken. A snapshot of you at the cottage, beer in hand, or at a party with non-professional clothing are not wise choices. You want to project professionalism, not fun times. A picture paints a thousand words - make sure your photo doesn't thwart your hire-ability.
  • Use key words. Although your LI is not a resume, and shouldn't read like your resume, still, it MUST contain key words. If it does not, your profile/name is unlikely to land in a recruiter's search. Therein lies LI's magic: you can be found by a recruiter who is searching its immense database for suitable candidates for an opening that you may not even be aware of.
  • Use all 2000 characters. You're allowed to write quite a bit, so make good use of the space. Along with key words (those hard skills associated with your field), demonstrate your value with results and accomplishments.
  •  Write a compelling headline. That's the space below your name. Rather than your current employer and title (that's the default that LI will plunk in if you don't change it), create a mini-salespitch. In 120 characters, you can actually share a lot of info - if you're creative and keep your target audience in mind. Check out my LI headline for proof.

LinkedIn is now a definite must for most professionals, but here's a short list of those who don't yet need this job search tool: teachers, social workers, Canadian government staff, and because I've had two of these clients: spies! But everyone else? If you don't have it, you risk losing out to the candidate who has matched you step-by-recruitment-step, but who outshines you with a knock-out LI profile.

I love composing these for my clients; if you need help, get in touch.

Regretfully, I do not have fail-proof answers

In today's internet world, where easy answers run amok, people really want fail-proof, step-by-step answers to a broad range of problems, careers included (think 10 easy steps to the perfect - and insert your demon - resume, interview answer, networking, job search strategy, and so on).

I wish life were that easy, but those 10 easy steps to weight loss may work for one out of 10, but not for those nine who also try it. Life, all aspects of it, is not made in a one size fits all.

When it comes to careers and job searches, the variations, customizations, and perplexities are numerous. Beyond how individuals differ, which is enormous, you have to add in how industries differ, cultures vary, and job descriptions and expectations conflict.

References

For example, one client, an HR Senior Manager, emailed in a conundrum: a finalist for a job she really wanted, she was asked for references. Upon providing these she was told that one of her references HAD to be her current Director. In a confidential job search, and afraid of losing her job if her job search were known, she turned to me. I had no easy, perfect answer. Her choices were these:

  • include her Director's name as a reference and hope she a) landed a job offer OR b) didn't lose her current job if she didn't land the job offer; OR,
  • inform the HR recruiter that she is in a confidential job search, unable to provide her current Director as a reference and hope that a fellow HR staff would understand her inability to comply.

Neither answer is a sure thing.

Trouble with a New Manager

I've had dozens of clients who loved their jobs, had great accomplishments to share, and envisioned remaining in their positions until retirement UNTIL a new manager came on board, immediately displayed dislike of my client and quickly demonstrated that my client's job security was in jeopardy. Many get let go, without real cause, but the labour laws don't help. (I know this from personal experience. After I was let go from a job that I really needed, I called the labour office only to be told that I can even be let go for refusing to dye my hair back to a more acceptable hue.)

This situation is devastating. It can demoralize, throw a career in upheaval, and cause financial strain on top of the emotional angst. Is there a reliable answer?

I'd say not really. Yes, you could try speaking to HR, you could even approach the manager him/herself to discuss. But in my experience the outcome is rarely satisfactory. It's likely worth a try as what do you have to lose? (And if you plan to take a pro-active step, consider getting coaching first. (Lianne Krakauer, career coach can help.) But while trying, I recommend doubling up on networking outreach and getting your resume up to date.

Resumes

I've said it before and this won't be the last time either: there is no one, perfect, suit everyone everywhere all the time resume. It's an impossibility. Just from perusing the internet you can read conflicting advice: one page resume only vs take as many pages as you need; write a reverse chronological vs submit a functional. Other advice includes don't use these words, don't use the first-person "I" in your resume, don't use these fonts, etc.

I have two rules: write only the truth and write to reflect the authentic you. All else? Guidelines only.

One of my award-winning resumes, which has served my client very well indeed, uses "I" in the resume's profile. Yup!

One of my cover letters uses the closing salutation "Namaste" and again, landed my client a great position.

Although I have no fail-proof, guaranteed-to-work answers for all career puzzles, I do offer seasoned and reasoned insights and perspective, which I offer all of my resume clients. In fact, today I received this email from a repeat client:

Your explanations make sense to me.
I am comfortable with your reasoning and will leave things as they are. No further changes needed.
I received good feedback regarding my resume, last time we did this, so I will adhere to your wisdom this time.
 
I shall go fishing and see what I catch. Wish me luck.
Thanks for your help. I’ll keep in touch

 

Is it a good idea to take a step down to make a step up?

Recently two clients have made decisions to take positions that represented a step backwards. Although there are certainly times when this makes sense, in these cases my instincts say that's not the best strategy.

Here's why.

The first one, as senior manager with global accountability, took a junior management role. This would make sense if a) the opportunity was with one of his identified preferred employers or b) the opportunity was in a new sector that he wanted to transition into. It was neither. Now, only a few months into the job, he has had me integrate this new job into his resume as he wants out. The culture is wrong for him, the position far too junior, and the management style - micromanaging - doesn't allow him to proactively make improvements. All of this makes the possibility of great resume content for the next great job almost impossible to achieve.

The other client is making a transition into a new world, that of HR. She completed her CHRP, achieving top marks, and holds transferable knowledge and skills from her current role, credentials that further sell her into an HR role.

Transitions tend to take longer than lateral or small step up career moves (many factors to consider, so this statement is but a generalization). The typical job search takes 3 to 6 months, with true career transitions coming in closer to the 6-month period. This client wrote to say that she is considering taking a low paying, non-HR position, which is also not related to her previous role in which she achieved  expert-level recognition. This is not a strategic career move. If one is committed to making a change (and she'd be fabulous in HR as her attitude, strengths, and interests are perfect), one really needs to make a full effort, giving it about six months.

(In Canada, EI or severance pay help bridge that time gap, and I do encourage folks not to panic, but to keep working that job search. Life often demands sacrifices: choices mean letting something go in favour of that new "something." One simply cannot "have it all," as some career books suggest.)

In the first case, my senior manager client landed interviews, but only this one offer. My advice is to immediately ensure your interview skills are second to none with interview coaching, so as not to lose out on a great opportunity as the number two choice.

In the second case, my client musn't panic and take the first thing offered (and shouldn't even be applying to low-paying, non-HR related position). A concentrated, dedicated, energetic effort, and strong belief that with a strategic resume a transition is possible - these are the ingredients of a successful job hunt.

As a service provider, I encourage my clients to reach out to me when doubts arise or challenges present themselves. I have oodles of resources ready to share and lots of reasoned and seasoned insights that can overcome negative effects like wellmeaning but ill-informed naysayers. You know, those friends and family members who "read something somewhere" or heard from a neighbour about someone they know who thought s/he could land a job but didn't and is now desitute, last known address a park bench in a local town.

Without a doubt those folks who cannot land interviews were not leveraging the power of the written word (as in a strategic resume), and were not backed by a service provider whose one goal is to see each and every client gainfully employed in his or her field.

Nor did they integrate interview skills that teach them how to sell themselves - their skills, knowledge, talents, strengths, attributes, reputation, and proof of abilities - with coaching from an award-winning employment interview coach - yours truly!

I love helping job hunters succeed and measure my success as a service provider by each individual client's success in landing interviews, and with interview coaching, job offers.

My interview coaching is available to all, whether I helped you with your resume or not.

Toxic Workplace

I am working with a client, let's call her Clare, who needs out, like yesterday. Her company isn't the problem, but her new manager is. Well, her manager isn't that new - she's been the manager for a couple of years - but Clare believed she could make it work.

It's hard to change jobs, I get that. Finding a new job can be a full time job in itself - finding suitable job postings, filling in sometimes long application processes, getting booted out of the system because you timed out and having to start again, finding time to network - this is all time-consuming stuff. And there's still the household chores to do!

What is it about us human beings that we choose to wait, try, hope, maybe even cast spells of conciliation? It seems we'll try everything other than the one thing that could help: talking. And not that talking will necessarily fix the issue, not at all. Dismal results to our attempt to discuss the issues will tell us earlier that it's time to skeedaddle! But it will tell us one way or the other, to stay or to go, saving months or years of frustration and possibly tears ... maybe even falling into poor health as chronic stress has a way of letting us know, through serious or debillitating symptoms, that something has to change.

If your workplace is toxic or your manager is out to get you fired, please don't wait until you truly cannot stand one more day. Even a strong job search, with outstanding self-marketing documents, takes time.

Unfortunately that scent of desperation is not attractive in the job hunt. It signals a lack of initiative, perhaps poor judgement, the ability to ignore what should be addressed, and poor communication skills as well - none of which promote you as a viable, strong candidate. Like in dating, desperation is not "sexy."

There are steps to take to ensure your job search is confidential: turn off your activity alerts on LinkedIn and don't participate in its job search groups! If you need more suggestions for launching a confidential job search, consider hiring New Leaf for a job coaching session. Don't wait, like Clare, until you're on the verge of either quitting or taking a leave of absence, neither of which are good job search strategies.

The Art of the Interview

Next to public speaking, is there anything more stressful than the job interview? Sure the odd interview team makes you feel at ease, but many have you perspiring and stressed out.(There is an interview style called the "stress interview," but the style is not overly popular - thank goodness.)

It's just that so much seems to hinge on how well you do in the interview. Yes, a job offer, but also what that represents: a good living, security, that Tuscan vacation you're dreaming of ... or maybe catching up on bills and rebuilding your savings.

Sheesh! No wonder your armpits are leaking!

Here at New Leaf, I've been building an interview coaching system for some years. I'm so happy to share that it has been formally recognized for its value by Career Professionals of Canada. The other day I received an email from Sharon Graham, Executive Director of CPC, who wrote:

Dear Stephanie,

 Career Professionals of Canada’s Awards of Excellence program was developed to recognize members of our community as Canada’s Top Career Professionals for outstanding performance and contributions to the industry and community.  This year's competition was extremely tight as we were fortunate to receive several excellent submissions.

 It is our great pleasure to offer you congratulations as the 2015 Awards of Excellence recipient in the Outstanding Employment Interview Strategist category.

I'm thrilled! There are few interview coaches in Canada and we are needed, if only to help relieve acute pre-interview stress! But more to the point, to help job hunters jump this final hurdle on the final stretch to employment.

My system marries a generous hour of a lesson in strategy with an eBook that you can refer to time and again. Some clients elect to hire me for another session to practice the tools I taught them and get feedback on their efforts, but many interview happily with the basic lesson.

My system is simply full of immediately actionable tools. In fact, my first-ever interview coaching client literally begged me to take her on as a client  after having been told that she interviews poorly; she was desperate to make that critical transition into management. (I hadn't written her resume and doubted the lesson's impact without customized input, hence my hesitation.)

Can you guess? Yes indeed, she landed the job offer two days after her coaching session. In fact, she received a call on her way home from the interview. And the interview team? They shared that she was the strongest interview candidate they had ever had.

The tools I teach go beyond the job interview: they are equally useful in your annual performance review.

If you're interested, give me a shout!


 

Post-Interview Wait-a-thon

A client this week lamented on the lack of post-interview manners (on the part of recruiters, alas!). Like being ignored after a date that "seemed to go well but who really knows because s/he hasn't called and it's been a week," being ignored after an interview feels awful, especially if you felt it went well.

The parallels between dating and job hunting are interesting. You put your best face on for both, you stick to safe subjects (maybe no religion or politics on the first date/interview), and then you wait.  A recent Globe Careers article, "Interviewed for a job? Prepare to wait" speaks to the hoops job hunters must be prepared to jump through in today's recruitment process. One line in particular jumped out at me: "... following up within 24 to 48 hours remains critical. Write a personal e-mail to each interviewer, keeping in mind that they may compare notes."

Yup! I agree. To capitalize on the opportunity to pen a potentially tie-breaking email wait until after the interview to see if there's a specific topic or question that requires clarification or amplification. (I had a client who admitted to snail mailing thank you notes BEFORE her interview, hence this clarification on the timing.)

When clients ask for my input, I offer the following ideas:

- a short but specific email is preferred to a generic, cliche-ridden one. Skip the reference to "insightful questions" in favour of "wow, I loved the question about how I handled a Help Desk disaster, and after thinking about it on my way home, it reminded me about the time I ..." You can see how this approach allows you to add valuable info that provides insight into your skills, knowledge, and value in this new position.

- write a separate email to the HR rep and the hiring manager. Each has a different agenda or "buying motivator," and thus your email message to each may differ.

- whenever you're writing a message that you want to be influential, you must account for the recipient's "buying motivator." (Google that! Business buying motivators usually relate to the bottom line: saving money, earning money, saving reputation, earning reputation, etc.)

And if and when they compare emails, rather than identical content, they will have messages that although customized to each reader, build trust by building your brand, reinforcing the overriding message that you are a great recruit.

Marie Burns of TalentAmp of Boston, the recruiter who in this article voiced the opinion of writing emails within a 2-day period, went on to say: "not writing a thank you can lose you the job."

Powerful reason to make the post-interview thank you email a routine in your job search strategy.