Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle

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Tips for Career Searching

Introduction

I was laid off, and started looking for new work. My guess is that you are in the same boat, or you wouldn't be reading this. What follows are some of the things I have learned, web sites I have found, etc. Hopefully they will help you in your search.

My severance package included some classes with Right Management (one of the few companies doing well at this point). I also joined an IT networking group. My church also has materials and classes on career search. I have taken bits and pieces from different places, along with things I have uncovered during my own searching. This list isn't complete, but it should give you some ideas of how to search for your new career opening. If you find any great sites that I don't have, or have discovered some really great information, send e-mail to bill@BillPringle.com.

Elevator Speech

One of the first things you should do is to look at yourself and decide what are your strengths and interests. Figure out what you want to do with your life, and why you think you would be (or have been) good at that kind of work.

Once you know what you want to do and why, create a 30-second commercial, sometimes called an Elevator Speech. This is what you will say when somebody asks who are you or what do you do? The idea is that if you are on the elevator, you can give your commercial in the time it takes to go between floors. The purpose of this speech is to present yourself in a positive light, and help the person remember who you are. You want them to remember you regardless of if they have a job opening, because they might hear of a job and hopefully think of you.

When appropriate, you should end your speech with a question, like "If you were me, what would you do? Who would you talk to?" or "Who within your company would find value in me?". If you can turn your contact into an advocate, you have a much better chance of finding something.

Create Your Resume

Your resume should reflect your strengths. It does not have to be your complete work history, nor should it reflect your personal life. Concentrate on what you are interested in and/or reasons that are relative to the job you are seeking. Play down anything that you don't like doing, even if you are good at it. (You probably don't want to get paid to do something you hate.)

List the companies you worked for in reverse chronological order (most recent one first). For each company, the company name and address, the dates you worked, your title, and your accomplishments.

Don't list what your responsibilities were, list your accomplishments. Make sure you include the results of your actions. Include numbers when they are good, but you can leave them off if they aren't impressive. For example, if you increased productivity by 5%, you might want to simply say you increased productivity, but if you increased productivity by 40%, you probably want to include that statistic.

For each example, start with the result, then the challenge or problem you were addressing, and maybe how you accomplished the task. Don't include too much detail, and avoid using abbreviations and technical terms that might not be understood easily. If you need to use an abbreviation, include what it stands for.

You only need to include the last 10-20 years on your resume. Anything you did before then probably isn't of interest. If you have any gaps in your work history, try to indicate why there was a gap. You can lessen the gap by including only the years of employment rather than the month and year. If the gap is obvious, make sure you have a good explanation.

Networking

I had never applied for a job before being laid off. I would get a call from somebody who wanted to talk to me about a job. My guess was that probably won't happen to me this time. (As it turned out, it did happen. A friend of mine asked me to join a start-up company.) One of the best ways to land a job is through somebody else recommending you for the job. To help make that happen, you need to network with people.

An excellent resource for networking is the web site LinkedIn. You connect to the people you know, and you can get access to their connections as well. You can search for people at a given company, and how you are connected to them. You can ask a friend to introduce you to somebody, and then have them introduce you to somebody else.

While LinkedIn is very handy, you don't want to ignore face to face networking. Talk to everyone you know. Your next door neighbor's kid might be friends with the child of the CEO of a company that is hiring. Set up a networking interview with somebody, explain who you are and what you do, and then ask them what you should do, who you should talk to, etc. When setting up the interview, make it clear you don't expect them to find you a job; you are looking for advice about your career. (Of course, you hope that they can help you, but you don't want them to think you expect this.)

When you have a networking interview, give your elevator speech and ask them for suggestions of what to do next, who to contact, etc. If you are looking at changing careers and don't know much about the industry you are entering, you might want to ask them about what you might expect. If they recommend somebody, ask them if you can use their name when you contact them. Giving the name of someone a person knows makes it more likely that they will meet with you.

Networking is not the end, nor is it the means to an end. It is a way of life. Even when you are not looking, it is good to keep in touch with people. If you help others get jobs, they are more likely to help you when you need their help.

Interviews

While building your resume, make a list of your greatest accomplishments. Practice talking about each accomplishment, emphasizing how you helped the project suceed. At any time during the interview, if you are asked a question where one of those accomplishments could fit, then answer the question by telling what you did. Even if it isn't a perfect fit, make sure you discuss each of your greatest accomplishments during the interview.

Your answers should concentrate on your professional experience, not your personal life. Be as positive as possible, and don't take the questions too literally. For example, if they ask you about how well you got along with your latest manager, don't be afraid to talk about a former manager if it makes more sense. (Maybe you only had your latest manager for a short time, or maybe you think they had it in for you.) Be very careful when asked about things like "What is your greatest weakness." You have to say something, but be careful: don't say anything personal, and don't talk about something that you haven't overcome. One approach is to talk about something that is universally considered very difficult within the industry, but even then you should make sure you demonstrate how you have resolved the issue. For example: "I tend to be a results-driven workaholic, and I used to get very frustrated when working with people who weren't as dedicated to the project. I have learned not to expect others to have the same drive as I do, and not hold them to my standards."

Before the interview, make up a list of questions you have about the company and job. Bring that list with you. Also list your greatest accomplishments. During the interview, take notes. Each time you tell one of your greatest accomplishments, put a check mark so you know to pick a different story. At the end of the interview, when they ask you if you have any questions, go through your list and ask any questions that haven't already been answered. Even if all your questions were answered, try to ask something. Maybe ask them about the kinds of things they do, what are their favorite aspects of the company, etc.

Also, if you notice any stories you didn't get a chance to tell, try to work them into the discussion, maybe by asking a question related to the experience. (For example, "How do you handle such-and-such." after the answer, you can say something like "that how I handled a similar situation", and go on to tell your story. If they handled it differently, you might say "That is interesting, when I had a similar situation, I handled it by ..."

Here are some web sites that I have found useful. If you know of any others, send e-mail to bill@BillPringle.com

LinkedIn
This is a professional social network, where you can connect to friends, see their friends, etc.
You can use this site to keep in touch with colleagues, but also to look for contact persons at companies you are interested in.
Depression 2.0 Survival Guide for High Tech Professionals
This article gives suggestions for things to do before you get laid off, what to do as soon as you get laid off, and suggestions on how to conduct yourself after you are laid off.
This article has a number of very good suggestions. It also gives several suggestions for further research.
How to Switch Careers in a Recession
Some suggestions on how to change careers.
How to Create a Better Life After a Layoff
This is the story of a man who was laid off and started his own business.
Laid Off? Boost Your Network and Increase Your Human Capital
The story of a woman who got laid off, volunteered for a non-profit, and landed a job.
Job Search Scams: 6 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
Identity theft rings have set their sights on the 15.7 million Americans who are unemployed and looking for work. Here's how to ensure you don't end up a victim.
A Cover Letter Is Not Expendable
Article claims that you should still send cover letters when possible.
Answering Interview Questions
This site talks about how to conduct yourself during an interview. It lists common questions, possible reasons they are asking them, and possible approaches on how to answer them.
Take a look at the section "How to answer the 64 toughest questions."
Salary.com and payscale.com
These sites will let you research the salaries of various jobs. You can determine the salary range of a job you are applying for.
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics
This is an excellent site if you want to learn about an industry.
Securities and Exchange Commission
Use this site to research a specific company that you are interested in.
indeed.com
This web site is a consolidation job search site. It will search a number of sites, newspapers, etc. and list the jobs that were found.
100,000's of Government Jobs
This site has a consolidated list of job listings for government positions.

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