Posts Tagged ‘Job Hunt’

The Job Coaches: Increase your stock value at work

October 21, 2011

photoEverywhere you turn these days, the conversation is about the state of the job market.

Pundits debate the recovery given still sky-high unemployment rates and people everywhere are more concerned than ever about finding jobs and keeping jobs. What does it take to make sure that your name is on the short list of people who are valued and viewed as “keepers” in the slippery world of business today?

1. Understand the business. I’m talking about the big picture of the business. It’s not enough just to master your job or even your functional area. Think in systems terms about how what you do every day affects the success of your business on a macro level. Study the marketplace. Understand the context in which your business operates and who its competitors are. Figure out how the job that you do contributes to the ultimate experience of your company’s customers.

2. Get clear on the strategic direction of the business. Time and time again, when I ask people what they need to be successful at their jobs, what they say to me is, “Just tell us where we’re headed.” If you don’t understand your company’s vision, it’s hard to add relevant value. Don’t be afraid to ask your company’s leaders to share their vision for the organization. And if you’re one of those leaders yourself, remember that a huge part of your job is to clarify strategic direction for the people you’re depending on to get the job done.

3. Build relationships. High tech or not, every business is a people business. The quality of your relationships often contributes as much if not more to your success as the quality of the job you do. Take the time to invest in connecting with the people that you work with in a way that builds trust and respect.

4. Be proactive. The business environment in which we operate today is far too complex for most directives to come in the form of a tidy list of instructions. One of the most important skills you can develop is the ability to ferret out critical information, study it, and then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you what to do, or you may just find them telling you where the door is instead.

5. Take on the tough assignments. If you know or suspect that you have the ability to successfully complete challenging projects that have not yet been offered to you, ask for them. If you know that there are assignments that other people shy away from, put your name in the hat. Your visibility can increase exponentially if you take on the thorny jobs and do them well.

6. Focus on outcome vs. activity. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the significance of their jobs is all about how they spend their time each day, as if being busy is what matters. Businesses value results, and what you do to produce them is far less important than your bottom-line ability to deliver the goods. Make sure you understand exactly what results the company is looking for, how they are measured, and how you can exceed their expectations.

7. Understand the culture. Every organization is unique in terms of what it values, how it operates and the kinds of behavior that are expected and rewarded. Getting a handle on the culture of your company is kind of like mastering the unwritten rules. The playbook may be elusive, but it’s important. Make it your business to understand what matters.

8. Manage perceptions. The currency of value in any organization is how you are perceived by others. You may be the most talented person in the world, but if the decision-makers in your company don’t see that, it doesn’t count. Make sure that your behavior, how you communicate, dress, act, etc. reflect the image that you want to convey and the substance of what you bring to the table.

9. Be a team player. Virtually any environment these days, regardless of industry, relies on teams to deliver its products or services. Being a good team member requires compromise, adapting to different styles, and learning to collaborate in a way that produces results that you couldn’t achieve on your own. Invest in developing a camaraderie and flexible working style with your team members that makes it a pleasure for them to work with you.

10. Study the superstars. Every company has them — the top producers, key contributors. Observe how they operate. What makes them effective? How do they communicate? What do they prioritize? What can you learn from them? Sometimes the best way to get ahead is to heed the example of those who have gone before.

Advancing your career is largely about increasing your own stock value at work. Make sure that your strategy helps you to bring the best of yourself to the business, and have others take notice!

Barbara Poole is a master-certified coach and president of Success Builders, Inc.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, February 5, 2010.

The Job Coaches: Plan for references, background checks

October 14, 2011

photoQ: A company that interviewed me wants references and is going to do a background check. What do I do?

A: Most companies check references and do background verifications for security and legal reasons. They also want to assure that your resume and application contain the facts. References are a make-or-break part of getting a job offer. Successfully handling this part of your job search requires some prior planning.

Who should be on your list of references? Prospective employers want to talk to people who can vouch for your work accomplishments. Excellent choices include former supervisors (ideally your most recent), indirect supervisors (your boss’ boss), customers, vendors, professors/advisers, clients, colleagues and direct reports. Employers will question your credibility if you include close friends and relatives as references.

How do I know what people will say? Always invite someone to be a reference. A first-rate initial question is: “Are you familiar enough with my job performance to give me a positive reference?” If someone hesitates or is lukewarm with their response, that’s a good sign to pick someone else. You must know in advance that your references can confirm the content of your resume and speak confidently of your contributions, strengths and performance. If your references work for a company that limits the information they can share to just dates of employment, job titles and salary history, you need to be aware of that; so ask.

Is there a way to prepare my references for calls? Provide your references with a copy of your current resume along with a list of companies or people to whom you have given their name. Secure current information from your reference: current job title, company, address, telephone numbers (home, work and cell) and e-mail address. Ask them if they prefer a phone or e-mail contact, and include that information in the list you give to potential employers.

Will I have to sign any releases or waivers? Don’t be surprised if a possible employer asks you to sign a release so they can check your references. They are simply protecting themselves from possible liability. If a company is using an outside company to conduct a background check, you must provide written authorization to them before the review happens.

What kind of information is included in a background check? While the list of items checked varies from company to company, any of the following (and even more!) could be researched: criminal history, previous employment, driving record, military experience, Social Security number, court records, credit history and education.

What do I do if something bad turns up? Upfront honesty works best. Employers typically check your background once they are interested in you. So disclose that DUI from your college days. Tell the truth on your resume – don’t inflate job titles or college degrees. If you were fired or involved in other difficult situations, work with a job coach to develop an interview response. More and more companies are also checking you out online — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — so clean up anything that could be embarrassing or compromising.

With some thoughtful preparation, you can ace the reference and background check part of your job search.

Jane Perdue is the principal/CEO of The Braithewaite Group.

The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment. A donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, August 28, 2009.

The Job Coaches: Distinguish yourself online

September 23, 2011

Q: I’ve applied to dozens of jobs online, but can’t even get an interview. What am I doing wrong?

A: Probably nothing! Remember, you’re just one of thousands of people out there searching for a job. Hiring managers who post jobs online probably receive upward of 100 resumes a week and have various ways to winnow their list down to the top candidates to interview, so even if you’re following instructions perfectly, you may not receive a response. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of scoring an interview.

First, don’t be “Ms. Everycandidate.” If a cover letter (via e-mail, of course) is requested, don’t send a form letter. Don’t state the obvious, such as “attached is my resume” (because it is attached) or “I am applying for job XYZ” (because you are). Customize each e-mail to the position and company you’re applying for, and let your personality shine through. Your first two sentences should grab a hiring manager’s attention. For example, if you’re applying for a job in the graphic design field and you have 10 years working experience and a great portfolio, your first sentence could be “I’m perfect for the position you’ve posted because …” (and then state your most valuable attributes).

Also in your cover letter, you should indicate that you know something about the company. Do your research; at the least, visit the company’s Web site, read recent press releases, Google the company and find something positive that you can mention that explains WHY you’re interested in working for this company. A hiring manager will appreciate a candidate who has done her research, and it will improve your chances of getting your foot in the door if it is clear that you’re not just sending the same e-mail you send when applying for any job.

Second, there are a few things you can do to impress prospective employers when applying online. Even if you have a wonderful resume in Word format, consider signing up for It’s free, it’s easy, and you can set up your own resume Web site with links to former employers, scan letters of reference and upload them, and include samples of work you’ve done in the past (depending on your industry). Once you have your VisualCV set up, you can simply send a link to your resume online when applying for jobs. And because VisualCV is fairly new, most prospective employers will be impressed simply by the fact that you have an online resume.

Additionally, VisualCV is adding new employers to its job search feature every day, so you can actually apply for jobs within (and prospective employers can search candidates — they might even find you before you find them!).

Additionally, if you’re not already on LinkedIn, you should be. I know, I know — “I’m already on Facebook/MySpace/Twitter … why do I need ANOTHER social media account?”

LinkedIn has some great features for searching for jobs online, joining groups that are specific to your industry, and interacting with people who can connect you to people who work for or make hiring decisions for the companies you want to work for. Monster and CareerBuilder are great tools in an online job search, but having your resume and profile on LinkedIn and reaching out to make connections is a more personal way to find the right job for you.

With our unemployment rate in double-digits, adding some online networking components to your job search can help you stand out as a prospective candidate. Happy hunting!

Kelly Love Johnson is the author of “Skirt Rules for the Workplace: An Irreverent Guide to Advancing Your Career” (Globe Pequot Press, 2008). The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment. A donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, September 4, 2009.

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