Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another blogging hiatus

Not long after my last post, I wound up in the hospital after emergency surgery on my spine. Everything went well, thank goodness. The downside is that I'm not to sit upright for much more than an hour at a time during this stage of my recovery. So I haven't been able to do much writing.

Hopefully I'll be able to return with some consistency by early December.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Recommit to what you want

It's easy to let exhaustion and complacency derail your job hunt.

It took me three years of on-again, off-again work to leave newspapers and embark on a new career. I would go through cycles of enthusiasm about what I could do next -- start a pet-sitting business! start a personal-shopper business! freelance as a writer and editor! move somewhere new and find another writing job! -- and do my research, only to give up when I was hit with a big assignment at work or a personal crisis. Other times, I made the deliberate decision to stick it out where I was, because the money was good (and I had bills to pay) and the devil I knew was better than what might be Out There.

Sound familiar? I've seen this happen among my friends and clients as well. It's human nature. But a successful job hunt requires commitment, dedication, determination, and hope; without those, you'll have a hard time motivating yourself to keep with it. It also doesn't hurt to have a catalyst or a reminder of why you want a new job.

My job search finally took first place in my priorities when I received a new work assignment that I just couldn't stomach. It was one of those assignments that was historically given to people to help move them toward the door. I took the hint, buckled down, worked my contacts, and within two months received an offer that would teach me a new field (advertising) and give me the excitement I was longing for. (I quit that job seven months later, but that's a story for another post.)

Advice for job-seekers recommends that you work your job hunt like it's a job in itself -- something you do for 20 to 40 hours a week, perhaps every day, with measurable goals. This is difficult to do when you already have a full-time job to juggle with your family life, chores, your community work, your time for yourself, etc. In the end, you need to decide what's most important RIGHT NOW. If your job hunt never makes it into that slot, maybe it's time to put your energy into making your current job the right place for you to be.

As readers of this blog have probably noticed, Make A Change Resumes has not been at the top of my priority list for some time now. I spent the summer working two jobs, six days a week, 50+ hours a week, in order to make ends meet. I was too scared to let go of the second job that brought in money I could count on, in favor of working on my business and my blog, which might not bring in any money for a while. I made excuses to myself all summer, and then over the weekend, I had my decision made for me: I was fired from my second job (in a bookstore, which paid little more than minimum wage) because my exhaustion, and my restricted work hours due to that exhaustion, were things that the store manager no longer wanted to accommodate.

Sometimes it takes an outside catalyst to help us make the changes that our hearts want us to make. I'm grateful to my managers at the newspaper for helping me out the door, and I'm grateful to the book store manager for doing what I could not bring myself to do. I liked working at the book store, but what I really wanted to be doing was blogging and working with clients on their resumes. Now I can. I am recommitting myself to Make A Change Resumes, and I'm excited about it.

Are you ready to recommit to what you want?

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's the little things that matter

Have you listened to your outgoing voice mail lately?

If it's funkier than, "Hello, you've reached X, leave a message," etc., then you might have a problem getting a job.

Kris Dunn, the HR Capitalist, has a great post that explains how your voice mail message makes a difference when he's recruiting:

If I am calling a candidate off a resume and get voice mail, I treat it like a freebie. Good energy and kind of dynamic sounding in your voice mail greeting? Cool, I'm more interested than I was when I called.

So check your voice mail message and change it if you need to. Your friends will forgive you for having an uncool message, and you'll get interviews and maybe even a job out of it. Not a bad deal.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Become a LinkedIn expert

I've said a few times that I'm still learning about LinkedIn and how to use it effectively. What with my new jobs and move, I haven't had much time to breathe, let alone time to delve into the site.

Thank goodness for Web Worker Daily, which has a story listing 20 ways to use LinkedIn productively.

Now I have just one story to read instead of surfing LinkedIn for an hour! The same goes for you, too.

Now you have no excuse -- why aren't you on LinkedIn already?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What not to write: Real-world examples

Recently, my "day job" in human resources gave me the opportunity to review resumes that had been submitted to my company. The experience has left me in awe of what job hunters don't know about writing a resume or a cover letter. Wow! Given all of the resources available these days, both in print and online, there's no reason for a job hunter not to understand what companies are looking for.

Dear readers, I want you to have every opportunity to land the job of your dreams, and the first step is submitting resumes and cover letters that are worth reading. In that spirit, I present to you the following examples of what not to write, and why:

1. Objection! The "objective" section of a resume, which Microsoft Word ever so nicely supplies on its resume templates, rarely adds value to your resume. But when the heading says "Objection" -- in 20-point type, no less, and at the top of the page -- it's really not doing you any good at all! There are two lessons to be learned from this example: First, always have someone else proofread your resume to catch mistakes such as this one. Second, do away with the "Objective" section all together. Replace it with a "Summary of Qualifications" section that tells a potential employer what you have to offer. Your resume needs to tell a potential employer what you will do for the company, not what the company can do for you. An "Objective" talks about what the company can do for you. So get rid of it.

2. "
I consider myself: multi-tasked." I found this grammatical mistake in a cover letter, and it made me shake my head. Grammar in the English language can be difficult to master, but this mistake could have been easily corrected by having someone else edit the letter, or even reading the letter out loud before sending it. (That's a great editing tool, because reading something aloud gives you the opportunity to hear how it will sound to the reader.) The lesson here is to keep your cover letter simple, using declarative sentences in the present tense. Write it the same way you would say it -- you aren't trying to write the Next Great Novel. Simple is better here.

"My leadership skills and abilities will help aid the driving forces in a team-oriented environment, maximizing the productivity within a corporate structure." Say what? This sentence, also from a cover letter, is just plain gobbletygook. There's no content there! I think the writer was trying to say that he or she works productively as part of a team, but I'm not entirely sure. You should KISS your cover letter: Keep It Simple, Silly. Reading this sentence made me think the worst of the job candidate -- that if he or she was padding a simple sentence like this, then as an employee would he or she put a lot of effort into looking like he/she was working when he/she really wasn't? At the very least, the sentence made me think that the writer thought I'd fall for the idea that "big words" means "intelligent." A word to the wise: Recruiters and hiring managers aren't stupid. Tricks don't work on them, so don't bother. Just be yourself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Richmond professionals: Check out the HYPE

I just heard about a new networking group for young Richmond professionals, ages 21 to 40ish:

Helping Young Professionals Engage (HYPE) is a new program geared towards young professionals. Its goal is to bring together young professionals (21 - 40-ish) in the Greater Richmond Region through social, educational and professional development programs and networking events.

The group is holding two events in June and one in July, according to the Web site.

HYPE is sponsored by several big businesses in Richmond, most likely to work toward retaining talented professionals so they won't go off to the "big city." I love Richmond and think that it's a great place to live and work, so hats off to the businesses to realize that they need to help young employees find their niche here.

I don't know if my schedule will permit me to attend an event anytime soon, so if you check out HYPE, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Less Is More

Over at CareerHub, professional resume writer Louise Fletcher has a great post about the importance of brevity in a resume. She makes an excellent point:

Your resume is a marketing brochure not a product catalog. It has to say just enough to make the sale and not one word more.

This concept is more difficult for mid-career people to grasp than for those just starting out. Career seekers who are just starting out naturally have less information to grapple with. But for mid-career folks, leaving information out of a resume can be a scary idea. After all -- the thinking goes -- if you don't put it in your resume, how will a potential employer know everything you can do?

The answer is, they'll learn about you at the interview.

I think of the resume as a tool that provides enough information for a recruiter or hiring manager to want to schedule an interview to learn more about you. Keeping the resume brief gives you the opportunity to talk about the details of your experience during the interview, when you can connect your experience with the duties and description of the job you're applying for. That makes for a more effective interview -- which makes you a stronger candidate for the job.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Great advice from HR bloggers

If you're looking for something to read while I'm on hiatus, check out these folks:

Ask A Manager: This is a new blog with just a few posts, but each post offers excellent advice. Of note is the post about cover letters. I had no idea that so many job seekers didn't write cover letters until a few weeks ago, when I began my HR career and saw the submissions for myself. Ask A Manager explains exactly why the cover letter is so important -- so write one.

Evil HR Lady: She's not really evil, but her advice cuts to the chase, which some people consider to be evil. She also explains why HR folks are often seen as being evil: because we make managers do their jobs (among other reasons). Her blog will teach you things you never knew about why bosses and companies behave the way they do.

Fortify Your Oasis: I'm not sure whether I agree with Rowan Manahan, but his posts provide plenty of food for thought. A recent post talks about the importance of the opening moments of an interview, which I had never thought about before. See what I said about food for thought?


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Brief blogging hiatus

I apologize for my absence from the blog recently. In the past few weeks, I've started two new jobs and signed a lease on a new apartment. I'm now in the middle of packing for the move, which happens next week -- and I'm trying to rest my back, which I injured last weekend. It's been an exciting month for me, to say the least, even with the back injury!

But something had to give (besides my back), and that was this blog.

I will resume blogging during the week of June 5. In the meantime, check out the resume resources and career blogs listed in the menu to the right. I particularly recommend Career Hub and the free e-books on job hunting, resume writing and interviewing that you can download from the site.

Happy reading!

Friday, May 11, 2007

5 million chances to network

Carl Chapman wants you to join his LinkedIn network.

The founder and main blogger at "Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter" has issued an open invitation to connect with him on LinkedIn.

It's an amazing opportunity, as he has close to 5 million people in his network. Joining his network will put you two degrees away from an untold number of recruiters and the positions they're looking to fill.

What I find interesting is not what Chapman is doing -- it's why. His reasoning speaks to why LinkedIn can be a powerful tool in your career arsenal.

"Connecting isn’t really about what you can do for me; in fact it isn’t about what I can do for you," Chapman wrote in his blog. "No, connecting is more about what we can all do for each other."

Chapman references a blog article by recruiter Shally Steckerl, about the benefits of building a deep network on LinkedIn. According to Steckerl, becoming a promiscuous linker will increase the value of your network for your first-degree contacts and help you make closer connections with your first-degree contacts.

There's a lot that I don't know about LinkedIn and how to use it to the fullest, and I'm hoping that access to Chapman's network will help me learn. His network can do the same for you. Making closer connections with your first-degree contacts will help you find the hidden job market, and joining Chapman's network might be one of the fastest ways to tap into the power of LinkedIn.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On the Web: Tips and tricks

10 Dumbest Resume Blunders on Outrageous examples of what not to do. Ever!

10 Tips for Finding a New Job at This list covers all aspects of the job hunt, from knowing what you're looking for to interviewing to going through a background check to get the job. Great advice.

25 Most Difficult Job Interview Questions (and their answers) on Interviewing favors the prepared candidate, and this list will get you prepared.

5 Reasons to Send Thank You Letters After an Interview by Barbara Safani: Sending thank-you e-mails or letters to everyone you interview with will put you ahead of the pack. Job seekers often forget this simple step, so remembering it will make you stand out.

Tips for Writing Thank You Letters from This list provides several resources for jump-starting your thank-you notes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lying on a resume: Just don't do it

As children, we're told that lying is bad. Maybe we get caught in a lie by our parents or teachers and we get punished. Many people grow up with the reminder of the punishment and lying -- aside from little white lies such as "Yes, that hair color looks fantastic!" -- is something that most people would never, ever do.

But there are plenty of people who do lie. Every few years, someone gets caught in a lie by the nation's press, and we're reminded again that lying is bad. Think of disgraced "journalists" Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass and Janet Cooke, who actually won a Pulitzer Prize before her story was found to be a hoax. Martha Stewart, the folks who ran Enron, and Scooter Libby over at the White House are all recent examples of the consequences of lying.

Yet the lying continues.

The most recent example of lying to get ahead is Marilee Jones, a dean at MIT who resigned from her position when it was discovered that she had lied about her credentials to work at the university.

Aside from losing her job, Jones has lost something much more important: Her good name. Her brand, if you will. She'll never be able to apply for a job again without this following her.

If you lie on your resume, you most likely will not be exposed in major national publications. But you'll suffer the same fate that Jones will -- getting another job will be difficult. While former employers are legally not allowed to destroy your reputation when your job history is checked by a potential employer, it is possible to imply the circumstances around your departure without saying anything that violates the law.

So don't lie on your resume. Ever. Don't even embellish "just a little bit." Your resume is the document that represents you, and its integrity reflects your integrity. State your accomplishments, but don't overinflate your achievements. Don't make up statistics to prove your worth. Sell yourself as you truly are, and employers will respond in kind.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Looking for jobs in new places

The easiest places for job hunters to begin their searches are the classified ads -- either in printed publications such as newspapers or trade magazines, or on online job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, or Yahoo's Hot Jobs. In the last year or so, Craigslist has become a hot spot for help wanted ads as well. And there are many online job boards that cater to specific fields, such as for journalists and for the tech field.

These resources will get your job hunt off to a solid start. But they are by no means the only resources that you should rely on to help you find a job. In addition to using your network, you'll need to do some research to find out who is hiring.

Many companies have taken to advertising open positions on the "Careers" pages of their Web sites, and not anywhere else. This way, they are guaranteed that job candidates will be familiar with their history, mission statements, products, and anything else that can be read on the Web site. While this is great for the companies, it means that you'll need to invest some time into finding companies in your area that offer the types of jobs you're looking for.

To get started, try these research methods:

1. Check the archives of your local newspaper. Or better yet, get a subscription and read the paper every day. You'll find news about local businesses in several of the paper's sections, and reading the paper regularly will familiarize you with local hiring trends and business growth. Here in Richmond, the local newspaper publishes several annual features that you can use to find hot area businesses. Check out the Richmond Times-Dispatch's list of the area's Top 50 employers and the fastest-growing Rising 25 businesses. These lists area great resources, because these companies are most likely to be hiring and relying on word-of-mouth advertising to find new employees.

2. The Yellow Pages. Believe it or not, traditional phone books can be great job-hunting tools, particularly for career changers and college grads. Look up your field, or topics related to your field, in the Yellow Pages to find local companies that can use your skills. Then use the Internet to research the companies and find out whether they're hiring.

3. Head to the library. The reference librarians at your local library should be able to supply you with tools to help you with your local job hunt -- it's among the services that they offer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Finding the hidden job market

A nonprofit executive in Richmond once told me that employers do everything they can to fill open positions without posting a "help wanted" ad.

Employers want to hire people they know, or at least people known by employees (who are known quantities and presumably won't recommend someone who would reflect badly upon themselves). It's expensive to hire and train a new employee, and employers want to make sure that money isn't wasted. They want the closest thing they can get to a guarantee that the new hire will fit into the workplace and stay for a decent length of time. Publishing "help wanted" ads and interviewing unknown candidates is the least efficient way for companies to achieve their goals.

"You can't tell enough about a job candidate by reading a resume and conducting a 15-minute interview," the nonprofit executive told me.

This means that the majority of available jobs are not publicized before they are filled -- they make up the hidden job market. If you want a job, you'll need to find a way to tap into it.

This can be a challenge for new graduates. Unless you've had an internship, you may not have any contacts in the field you wish to break into. But don't panic -- you probably know people who know people who can help you.

"Networking" is the fancy term for befriending people who can help you along in your career. Asking friends, family and business contacts to help with your job search is also called "networking," as in, using your network (which is why you have it). It takes courage to ask for help the first few times, but it will get easier as more people agree to help you. And they will say yes; anyone who has looked for a job knows the importance of personal recommendations. It's about karma, at least a little, because what goes around comes around. You never know when you'll be in a position to help someone who has helped you before.

The networking methods you'll use to find the hidden job market will depend on who you know, how you know them, and what type of position you want to land.

Online networking for new grads. Believe it or not, Facebook and MySpace can do more than tell you things you didn't want to know about your friends. Take a look at the people you know in those online communities, then take a look at who they know. Who are you connected to who works in your field? Can your mutual friend introduce you to a potential contact, either online or offline? Use the meeting to ask questions about how to find and get an entry-level position, and ask whether your contact has heard of anything that's open. Pass along a copy of your resume and be clear about your skills and what type of position you're looking for.

Online networking for professionals. If you've already embarked on your career, try The site uses your resume information to connect you with colleagues and graduates of your alma mater. Your contacts can introduce you to people in their networks, and they can recommend your work in a comment that gets attached to your personal profile. Recommendations are a big part of what makes LinkedIn work so well, as they give you "known quantity" status when you approach people about open positions in your field.

Offline networking. Do not discount the importance of face time, even in this world of digital connections. Join your field's professional association and get to know people who work in your field. Go to meetings and participate in events, even if you're not looking for a job. You'll have a good time, you'll learn more about your field, and most importantly, you'll have people to ask for help when you embark on your next job search.

Networking with your parents' friends, your friends' parents, and anyone else you know. The idea here is that you never know who might be in a position to help you. Do you play on sports teams, or sing in a choir, or do volunteer work? The people you've played with might know people who know people who can find you a job. Ask them. After all, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tell companies what you can do for them

What value can you bring to a company?

If your resume answers this question, you're on your way to getting an interview and one step closer to getting the job.

If you're resume doesn't answer this question, it needs to.

Experts say that recruiters and hiring managers will spend no more than 30 seconds glancing over your resume, and maybe less. Your information needs to be easy to read and quickly understandable, because a recruiter with a stack of resumes doesn't want to spend five minutes figuring out exactly what you did at your last job. If your resume is hard to read, it won't be read at all. Sad but true.

Your resume also needs to show what makes you different, and better, than the other candidates for the job. Give the hiring manager a reason -- or even better, several reasons -- to pick you out of the crowd and make you an offer.

Those reasons can be found in your accomplishments. Hiring managers believe that what you've done for your previous employers indicates what you are capable of accomplishing for them. Describe your accomplishments using language that can be understood by people who are not in your field, and you'll have a winning resume.

Try using these techniques to highlight your value while writing your resume:

Discuss outcomes. What happened as a result of your efforts? Put your work in context. If your resume says, "Served as an integral part of Project X," the reader has no way to understand what you did and what difference it made. A bullet point that says, "Reorganized the sales team to cover more territory, resulting in a 25 percent increase in sales," illustrates that you're a strategic thinker who knows how to manage employees to achieve desired results.

Use numbers. For example, instead of stating that accuracy is one of your strengths, include your accuracy rate as a percentage. If you increased sales, as in the example above, it gives the reader an exact picture of your accomplishments when you say how much you increased sales. Numbers are facts, and quantifying your achievements is the fastest way to convey your value.

Don't use jargon. No matter what field you're in, do your best not to use abbreviations or words that have meaning only for people who know what you do. The majority of resumes go through the human resources department and will be screened in or out of a candidate search by someone who is not an expert in your field. Your resume will be more effective if it can be understood by everyone who reads it. There are some fields, such as technology, where using jargon and abbreviations will be necessary. In those cases, include enough context so that the reader doesn't have to understand the jargon to understand the effect of your work.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Welcome! Are you ready to make a change?

In my professional life, the only constant has been change.

I began my career as a newspaper journalist and spent more than a decade learning to roll with changes, sometimes on an hourly basis. A year ago, I jumped into advertising, an industry that could teach journalists a thing or two about living with constant change.

This year, I'm starting my own business, one that's devoted to helping you navigate change.

In three years of studying the job market, I've learned just how much the workplace has changed since I graduated from college 12 years ago. Today's recruiters and hiring managers want to know what you have done for your employers -- and what you will do for them. Resumes need to highlight accomplishments in quantifiable terms, in order for companies to understand what you can do to enhance productivity and the company's bottom line. Interviewers ask behavioral questions to find out how you've responded to real-life work situations, in order to determine how you'll behave if you work for them. And in order to get someone to read your resume, let alone to invite you for an interview, you need to know people who can recommend your work.

In short, job hunting in the 21st century is challenging. And you deserve to have as many resources as possible to help you navigate the experience and find the job you want.

That's where Make A Change Resumes comes in.

The goal of this blog is to connect you with news, tips and information that will assist with your job hunt. My goal as the owner of Make A Change Resumes is to create a resume for you that will showcase your accomplishments and tell recruiters and hiring managers why you're the person they need to hire.

Consider me as the newest cheerleader for Team You. Let's make a change together!