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Four Important Questions to Ask Your Interviewer; Do You Really Want to Work for This Person?

Many job seekers miss a golden opportunity when they are asked towards the end of an interview if they have any questions. If they feel the interviewer adequately explained the position, they make the mistake of answering "No" to this question. But this is the perfect time to find out if you really want to work for this person!  After all, even a wonderful job can turn into a miserable experience if you don't get along with the person you work for.

Are Your References Ready?

One of the most common forms of background check performed by companies hiring new employees is the reference check. They typically request that candidates provide them with three names of previous bosses. If you don't have three former bosses, then provide co-workers, teachers, college professors and/or professional colleagues as character references.

The Background on Background Checks

In one of my past lives I held a Top Secret clearance as a Civil Service employee working for the Air Force. So I am familiar with background checks. But many job seekers are not. Here's a little background on background checks...

How to Overcome Being Overqualified

Have you ever gone through the interview process, felt confident that you'd performed extremely well, and then heard these dreadful words:  "I'm sorry, but we feel you're overqualified for this position."

Top 10 Tips for Career Advancement

Here's a list of the top 10 tips you can use to advance your career:

The Chicken or the Egg?

Even before I checked my calendar on Monday morning, I knew the appointment would be there. Passed over for promotion again, Ralph wanted specifics on why I hadn't chosen him for the position. This was not a new conversation. I thought of Ralph as my chicken and egg dilemma. Ralph was the chicken. He believed he would make a great Team Leader, and when I promoted him, he would step up and show me how well he could lead. My position was that of egg. Prove to me you have leadership skills by demonstrating leadership in the job you have now, and I'll consider giving you the next position.   Here's the question: is it better to do the work, knowing you will ultimately be rewarded for having done it, or should you wait until the reward is there before you do the work? Like the proverbial question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, people differ widely on the answer and run their careers accordingly.   Here's the way I see it - one has more to lose by taking the position of the chicken and waiting for someone else to anoint them, than by being the egg and anointing oneself. If I had waited to be a leader until someone offered me a leadership position, I might still be wishing and hoping for someone to notice me. When I wanted to be a manager, I did the work of a manager by taking on more and more responsibilities. And, I got promoted. When I wanted to be a director, I did the work of a director, without questioning compensation or title. After proving myself, I got the job, the title and the compensation. Same with being a vice-president. Doing the job first, gave me the job.   It's the same now that I'm out of the corporate arena. Take my dream of being a writer. Changing careers after twenty-something years in management, I could have waited to write a column until I secured a writing contract for one. But, why would someone pay me to write without reading my words and knowing I can. Chicken and egg again.   What works for me has been consistent. When I do the work first, the rewards follow. I think of it like exercising. Doing it gives me better results than thinking about it. No one likes to be called a chicken, so ... be the egg.   (c) 2004 Nan S. Russell.  All rights reserved.

Taking Your Words Seriously

When we ordered the stained glass window as an accent piece for our home, the artist-proprietor told us he was a bit behind. ?So," he said, ?to be on safe side, plan on six months." That was two years ago. We still don?t have the window. Each time we call or stop in, he has yet another plausible reason why our project isn?t done, the appropriate apology and a new promise of a delivery date. What he doesn?t have is credibility.   Wishful promises don?t cut it in small-town businesses or big-city corporations. It doesn?t matter what role you?re in. If you tell me you?ll do something, I expect you will do it whether you?re a business, an employee, a co-worker or my boss. You?re the one setting my expectations, so why wouldn?t I believe what you tell me?   It baffles me. I?ve found in twenty years of management few people meet or exceed the expectations they set and they control. I?m not talking about deadlines other people set for you. I?m talking about the ones you establish. Maybe it?s because few people take their own words seriously. If you do you can differentiate yourself at work. People who consistently do what they say they?re going to do, without sandbagging, are memorable. They?re the people with credibility. They?re the ones you want to hire and promote and do business with.   People fail to establish credibility without even knowing it. If someone tells me she?ll provide information by Friday, but what she meant was ?around Friday," she?ll feel she met her obligation to me when she pushes send on her email Monday morning. I?ll view her as lacking credibility when the information for a project I wanted was late. However, if she told me I?d get the information no later than Tuesday and delivered it on Monday, while her delivery date remains the same, her credibility soars. By managing the words that define what others can expect from you, you can surprise and delight your co-workers, boss, and customers.   To do that, replace casual-speak and wishful promises of what you?d like to have happen or believe can happen, with commitments of what will happen. But here?s the key. You can?t commit what you can?t control. If I tell a member of my staff he?ll get his review next week, but I only control when I finish writing it not when it?s approved, the likelihood of me failing to meet an expectation I set with him is strong. But if the review is written, signed by my boss, and in for processing at the time I set the expectation, I?ll meet it.   Our delinquent artisan could have called three months into the project, told us he accepted an unusual opportunity to restore an historic building, was putting his other projects on hold until that was complete, and offered us the choice of waiting until he resumed work or getting our deposit back. He could have preserved his credibility and the relationship.   Actions may speak louder than words. But it?s our words that provide the backdrop for whether our actions measure up. If I?m your customer, your boss, or your co-worker, I?m taking your words seriously. I think you should, too.   (c) 2004 Nan S. Russell.  All rights reserved.

Updating Your Plum Job Now That Youre a Parent

It's startling to discover how having kids changes the way you see the world.  Just compare your "before kids" vs. "after kids" views on what counts as: A good place to live. A desirable car. A great restaurant. A wonderful evening. Your ideal or "plum" job.

15 Tips for Writing Winning Resumes

The thought of writing a resume intimidates almost anyone.  It's difficult to know where to start or what to include.  It can seem like an insurmountable task.  Here are 15 tips to help you not only tackle the task, but also write a winning resume.   1. Determine your job search objective prior to writing the resume.  Once you have determined your objective, you can structure the content of your resume around that objective.  Think of your objective as the bull's-eye to focus your resume on hitting.  If you write your resume without having a clear objective in mind, it will likely come across as unfocused to those that read it.  Take the time before you start your resume to form a clear objective.    2. Think of your resume as a marketing tool.  Think of yourself as a product, potential employers as your customers, and your resume as a brochure about you.  Market yourself through your resume.  What are your features and benefits?  What makes you unique?  Make sure to convey this information in your resume.   3. Use your resume to obtain an interview, not a job.  You don't need to go into detail about every accomplishment.  Strive to be clear and concise.  The purpose of your resume is to generate enough interest in you to have an employer contact you for an interview.  Use the interview to provide a more detailed explanation of your accomplishments and to land a job offer.   4. Use bulleted sentences.  In the body of your resume, use bullets with short sentences rather than lengthy paragraphs.  Resumes are read quickly.  This bulleted sentence format makes it easier for someone to quickly scan your resume and still absorb it.   5. Use action words.  Action words cause your resume to pop.  To add life to your resume, use bulleted sentences that begin with action words like prepared, developed, monitored, and presented.     6. Use #'s, $'s and %'s.  Numbers, dollars, and percentages stand out in the body of a resume.  Use them.  Here are two examples: Managed a department of 10 with a budget of $1,000,000. Increased sales by 25% in a 15-state territory. 7. Lead with your strengths.  Since resumes are typically reviewed in 30 seconds, take the time to determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective.  Put those strong points first where they are more apt to be read.   8. Play Match Game.  Review want ads for positions that interest you.  Use the key words listed in these ads to match them to bullets in your resume.  If you have missed any key words, add them to your resume.   9. Use buzzwords.  If there are terms that show your competence in a particular field, use them in your resume.  For marketing people, use "competitive analysis."  For accounting types, use "reconciled accounts."    10. Accent the positive.  Leave off negatives and irrelevant points.  If you feel your date of graduation will subject you to age discrimination, leave the date off your resume.  If you do some duties in your current job that don't support your job search objective, leave them off your resume.  Focus on the duties that do support your objective.  Leave off irrelevant personal information like your height and weight.   11. Show what you know.  Rather than going into depth in one area, use your resume to highlight your breadth of knowledge.  Use an interview to provide more detail.     12. Show who you know.  If you have reported to someone important such as a vice president or department manager, say so in your resume.  Having reported to someone important causes the reader to infer that you are important.   13. Construct your resume to read easily.   Leave white space.  Use a font size no smaller than 10 point.  Limit the length of your resume to 1-2 pages.  Remember, resumes are reviewed quickly.  Help the reader to scan your resume efficiently and effectively.   14. Have someone else review your resume.  Since you are so close to your situation, it can be difficult for you to hit all your high points and clearly convey all your accomplishments.  Have someone review your job search objective, your resume, and listings of positions that interest you.  Encourage them to ask questions.  Their questions can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your resume.  Revise your resume to include these items.  Their questions can also point to items on your resume that are confusing to the reader.  Clarify your resume based on this input.   15. Submit your resume to potential employers.  Have the courage to submit your resume.  Think of it as a game where your odds of winning increase with every resume you submit.  You really do increase your odds with every resume you submit.  Use a three-tiered approach.  Apply for some jobs that appear to be beneath you.  Perhaps they will turn out to be more than they appeared to be once you interview for them.  Or perhaps once you have your foot in the door you can learn of other opportunities.  Apply for jobs that seem to be just at your level.  You will get interviews for some of those jobs.  See how each job stacks up.  Try for some jobs that seem like a stretch.  That's how you grow -- by taking risks.  Don't rule yourself out.  Trust the process.  Good luck in your job search!    Copyright 1999 - 2004 Quest Career Services, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

5 Key Factors to Consider When Selecting an Outplacement Firm

With today's economy, more and more companies are finding themselves faced with the situation of having to reduce headcount to remain competitive.  Here are five key factors to consider when selecting an outplacement firm if your company is ever faced with a workforce reduction.   1. Types of Services Provided.  One decision you will need to make regarding outplacement is whether your displaced workers would benefit most from group or individual one-on-one outplacement.  For the majority of outplaced employees, if your budget permits, individual outplacement is the preferred option since it provides one-on-one support that will help them move forward more quickly than they would on their own.   If you decide they would benefit most from individual outplacement, you will then need to determine what services would be most valuable to your displaced employees.  One option would be to select an outplacement firm that develops their resume and cover letter for them.  Another option would be an outplacement firm that offers office space and a computer for the displaced worker to prepare their own job search materials.   2. Areas of Specialty.  Another factor to consider when selecting an outplacement firm is whether it is important to you that they have experience working with the type of displaced employees you will be sending them.  A related factor is whether it is important to you that the outplacement company specializes in dealing with companies like yours.    If their areas of specialty are important to you, review the outplacement company's web site and other marketing materials to see what their specialty is or ask them directly.  If an outplacement firm's expertise lies in serving large companies displacing administrative staff and your small business is displacing experienced managers, this outplacement firm may not be the best fit for you.    3. Experience with Current Job Search Practices.  How important is it to you that the outplacement firm be experienced with Internet job search techniques?  Is it likely that the Internet will play a key role in your displaced employees' job search strategy?   If you determine that Internet savvy is an important evaluation point for an outplacement firm, check to see whether the outplacement firm recognizes the importance of the Internet by having a web site.  Are they aware of the top online career sites?  Do they offer a service to post displaced employees resumes on these top online career sites?  Do they have the ability to distribution resumes electronically to a select group of employers and recruiters?    4. Length of Time Support is Provided.  Another factor to consider when selecting outplacement services is the amount of time you feel the displaced worker would require outplacement support.  In general, the more senior-level the position, the longer it will take the displaced employee to find suitable employment.    A second time factor to consider is whether the displaced worker will receive ongoing one-on-one scheduled sessions with a career transition consultant or whether the ongoing support merely includes access to job search support materials.          5. Costs.  Outplacement costs must be considered when selecting an outplacement firm.  Check to see whether outplacement costs are clearly defined and stated on the outplacement firm's web site and in their marketing materials.  Are you charged only if the displaced employee elects to contact the outplacement firm for support or are you charged regardless of whether the displaced employee receives support?  Are there affordable packages available that provide the services you feel your displaced employees would most benefit from without providing unwanted services?     Another cost factor to consider is whether the outplacement firm gives you the able to select outplacement services a la carte to meet your needs.  Also determine whether the outplacement company has a minimum fee requirement or whether they will charge you only for the number of displaced employees you actually have even if the number is as few as one.   By considering each of these five factors you can develop effective selection criteria for deciding on an outplacement provider to best meet the needs of your displaced employees while adhering to your budget constraints.   Copyright 2001-2004, Quest Career Services, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Changing Values Landscape of the U.S. and How It Impacts Midlife Job Searchers

Imagine a huge river that has been flowing for centuries:  See the thick underbrush that has grown up on either edge of the river?s expansive banks and the moss-lined stones that litter its shallow edges.  Feel the power of water so deep and so strong because it has been pulsing through this landscape since the Renaissance, yet now this mighty river approaches a ?Great Divide? such as has never been seen before in human history.

The Changing Values Landscape of the U.S. and How It Impacts Midlife Job Searchers, Part Two

The values landscape of our nation is changing, and with it your personal values landscape is changing as well.  What does this mean and what does it have to do with midlife?

The Perfect Resume

The perfect resume offers Logical Proofs:     Facts Quantifiable data Logical conclusions Achievement and success statements Relevant professional goals/accomplishments Limits the use of jargon Maximizes use of occupation/industry-specific key words Your capabilities and skills Clear, specific, measurable, and quantifiable words and phrases Sells you based on your achievements to date

Crafting A Stellar Career Summary For Your Resume

Are you a career changer?  Or, are you satisfied with your stable career but interested in updating your resume?  Are you a professional who has tried different things but are still searching for the kind of work that best suits you?  Whatever your career situation, what your resume most needs is a stellar career summary.

Managing Emotions During Career Change and Job Search, Part One

How can you manage your emotions during your career change or job search?  To answer this practical and wise question, let?s first define what emotions are.  Emotions, also commonly referred to as feelings, are energy released in your body in response to perceived events, that is, to data received via your five senses.

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