New Year / New Attitude

With the coming of a new year we can finally say that things are going to get a little better. But then again, economists and job trend analysts are about as fickle as the weather. Fortunately, each one of us has the power to develop professionally no matter what storms may come. As a career coach, an author of over a dozen career books and single-target workbooks, and a seasoned hiring manager/CEO, I can honestly state that most career progressions and/or new employee hiring is directly related to the candidate’s attitude being projected.

What does this mean for YOU? Glad you asked…

In today’s tight employment market, companies are seeking candidates who can carry more than the typical eight-hour load. You heard it, today is all about “what can you do for the company, now!” Herein resides the foundation of this article: selling YOUR knowledge, skills, and abilities in a confident and progressive manner. Easier said than done? Not really.

Quite bluntly, attitude and perception (the way others see and define you) are directly related and is a powerful tool to construct or destroy relationships, personal and professional. Taking it to back to the New Year and a new (or improved) career, the manner in which the package (YOU) is presented weighs heavily on the result.

One thing we should make initially clear to candidates lacking a great deal of career-related experience, rarely do the interview, job, and/or promotion go to the most qualified… more often than not; offers go to the individual with the right attitude.

How to enhance perception positively depends on how you package and distribute attitude. Let’s take a quick look at three mediums career seekers use and how attitude influences perception.

Informational Interviews: Defined as an informal discussion with the intent of gaining job information from an individual in your field of interest.

  • Proper attitude is upbeat, confident, respectful of the advice and time given, well      researched—asking relevant questions, and always professional.
  • Improper attitude can be defined by being pushy (asking for a job), irrelevant, sloppy, not  timely (being late or overextending), entitled, and non-appreciative.Under this example (and I’ve had plenty of both), attitude guides reaction and ultimate consequence… but you know this.

Career Documents (resume and cover letter): Defined as the primary medium used to formally exchange information related to a specific position.

  • Proper attitude is displayed by keeping information relevant, error-free, confident      (quantifying accomplishments), proper spacing (plenty of white space but not too much), and written professionally.
  • Improper attitude  is defined by taking a lazy road (using templates or self-propagating formats), using illegible fonts (or too small), filled with errors (could be an automatic deal-breaker), and is passive by nature.Under this example, a hiring manager gets a “gut” feeling as to the type      of person the author is. In other words, displaying improper techniques rings bells of keep away, even if you happen to be the most qualified candidate.

Formal Interview: Recognized to be the place where qualifications are confirmed. Most importantly, this is the setting defining how you “fit in” with the company.

Taken from experience, face-to-face attitude and perception never meant so much as during a formal interview. Naturally if the first two elements discussed above are out of sync, a formal interview will never be offered.

  • Proper attitude:  timely, respectful, firm handshake, asking the right questions  (well-researched), listening and responding directly to each question, behaving in a courteous manner, responding professionally, recognizing all parties involved (including the receptionist), and sending a handwritten follow up to be sent via snail mail.
  • Improper attitude is reflected by being late, loud, disrespectful, diverting questions,      sounding rehearsed, lacking eye contact, offering a limp handshake, not researching the company, being distracted, reeking of smoke, not offering any solid examples as to how you will create an immediate value, and oozing of arrogance.If you are currently employed, the importance of perception cannot go understated. To encourage promotions and/or job stability, take advantage and express the right attitude hour in and hour out. With downsizing and shrinking budgets, peers, managers, corporate executives all are eager to fill positions with individuals recognized as problem solvers. Candidate attitudes and the perception of others play a huge factor in shaping career success, an often ignored fact held by many.

    The New Year promises to be one of continued adjustment, personally and professionally. Irrelevant of your circumstance, the manner in which you expresses attitude directly correlates to the picture viewed by others. Now is a perfect time to reflect on this year’s goals, develop a plan to achieve each objective, and reinforce the value of a positive attitude. If you have not bought into the fact that attitude and perception is the foundation of success, try it for three months and prove me wrong. Consider yourself as being double dared. Interested in purchasing Education Career Services career resources, books, and workbooks, visit our website or Amazon.com (search Danny Huffman at education career services).

    Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
    www.educationcareerservices.com
    Twitter: @dannyatecs

Career Dissatisfaction: Informational Interviews, Part 3

We last covered O*NET’s website and how its in-depth database of career information can be an effective tool for preventing career dissatisfaction. While I discussed its many uses, I neglected to mention (trust me, this was on purpose) a major shortcoming of the online database: it’s very impersonal and not always a good indicator of whether or not you will enjoy your work environment.

Sure, O*NET is highly accurate and updated regularly but will it truly give you a feel for the career of your choice? Chances are that it won’t; it should, ideally, be used to weed out careers in which you have no actual interest or compatibility. In order to truly understand a career you must invest a deal of time and personal interest into it.

One effective means of doing this is conducting an informational interview. No, you’re not looking to be hired; you’re looking for information from the most reliable source: a professional in your current field of interest. This information gathered, like O*NET’s, is intended to help you make an informed career decision before you dive into a job or occupation headfirst. Yes, I said gathered. The main difference between a job interview and an informational interview is, in an informational interview, you will be asking all of the questions.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go over some of the advantages of conducting an informational interview (think of this as added motivation). For one, it’s a great way to network with professionals, increasing the amount of people in the industry you know, which certainly never hurt anyone. Furthermore, since you will be asking the questions, you’re in control of what you learn. Take that opportunity to ask about typical day-to-day activities and relate them to your wants and interests, making sure to note whether or not you can see yourself happily performing these tasks. These interviews also involve much less stress, allowing you to ask questions that are typically taboo during a job interview (for example, benefits, salary, vacation time, etc.).

So how does one go about obtaining an informational interview? Perhaps by social networking; by taking out an ad in the classified section of the paper; by sending an e-mail or personal letter to businesses; or maybe even a simple phone call? Well… yes, actually. All of those are common methods for securing an informational interview with an individual.

Keep in mind, these interviews are informal, so the questions you ask can be very straightforward and honest. Nonetheless, even though informational interviews are informal, there are still some basic ground rules to follow: dress appropriately, be polite and punctual, and, most importantly, prepare the questions you will be asking ahead of time.

There’s nothing worse (and unprofessional) than wasting a participants time by being unprepared. Not only will this lessen the information gathered due to ineffective questioning, but it could also cost you a needed contact, referral, or recommendation. Take the time to think—truly think—about what you need to be asking. You only get one shot with an individual; make it count… trust me.

So—I’m sure this is the part you were waiting for—what questions should I ask during an informational interview? That depends upon you (time to get introspective). You’ve already used O*NET to find careers you’re interested in; now, it’s time to put that career to the test to see if the reality will be right for you, both now and in the future.

Here are some good questions to ask that may prevent future career dissatisfaction:

  • Describe a typical day for yourself to me. Do you have a set routine?
  • On average, what salary level can I expect in this career?
  • What benefits does someone in this profession normally receive?
  • What advancement opportunities, if any, exist and how would I take advantage of them?
  • What settings or environments can I expect to commonly work in?
  • Where is this job heading in the future? What changes can I expect?
  • Does a chain of command exist? If so, who will I be working under or over?
  • What other career professionals can I expect to work with?

 These are just a few of the many examples of questions you should consider asking your interviewee. Be personal by asking questions as simple as possible. If you’re worried you will grow bored of the job, express that to him or her. You have an opportunity to ask questions that are normally off-limits. Don’t waste this chance by asking questions that are easily discovered online on websites such as O*NET.

As a rule of thumb, if you can easily Google the answer, it’s not worth asking.

Remember the person you’re interviewing is participating in this interview mostly for charity. After the interview is over, always send a thank you note. While the choice is up to you, a handwritten note is more personal than an e-mail and shows your appreciation for their time and help. Also, they will be more likely to remember you this way. E-mails get stored inside computers; letters and notes end up on desks and generally stay there for a while.

All of this may seem like a tall order, especially when it’s easier to choose a career and deal with the consequences later. Consider this, you wouldn’t buy a house without walking through it; you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it; and you certainly wouldn’t marry somebody without getting to know them. Why would you make an important life decision such as a career choice without discovering all the facts?

As I pointed out in part one of our series, a majority of Americans are unsatisfied with their current career. These “dead-end jobs”, as they are lovingly referred to, can be prevented by an investment of your time and effort. Do you want to be another statistic? I didn’t think so.

Presented by Brandon Hayhurst
www.EducationCareerServices.com
Twitter: @dannyatecs