Career Breakout: Follow Up IS REQUIRED

The following comment and question was presented by Brent Musell several days. Hope it helps and good luck with your search.

“I’ve been sending out resumes but not getting any feedback. I’m wondering if I should also send a follow-up letter and what needs to be said. What do you suggest?”

I get asked this question all the time by job seekers who fear they’re being impatient with their potential employer. Following up after an interview is a given, but should you follow up after sending a resume? It depends… do you want the job?

Jokes aside, research has found that it is truly beneficial to follow up after applying for a position. According to the Findings of a 2011 Global Career Brainstorming Day, “Follow-up is essential. Up to 40% of job seekers who follow-up after sending a resume to a hiring manager secure an interview.”

Think about this from the standpoint of the employer. Many hiring managers try to weed out the resume ‘spray and pray’ candidates from those that are truly interested in the position with the company. Following up is a great way to show that hiring manager you’re genuine.

Of course, it’s not as simple as contacting the company and saying, “Hey, I’m interested!” There are certain guidelines you need to consider before following up, lest you want to accomplish the opposite (annoying the company):

  • Think of the method you used to apply for the position. Some companies use online applications and resume submission services. Others are more informal, requiring you to directly speak with the hiring manager first. Remember this level of formality before crafting your actual letter.
  • There’s a fine line between sounding confident and sounding desperate. Assert that you are interested in the position because you feel you would best fit their needs, not because you really need or want the job.
  • Limit your follow up to one occasion (two if the application process is lengthy). Remember, your goal is to remind the employer about your application without annoying them.

Career tip: You always want to come off sounding confident and qualified.

With that said, let’s go over some of the tools you have at your disposal:

Phone Calls seem like an obvious choice based upon the immediate response time but it’s not always that simple. First, it’s not always easy to find the phone number of the hiring manager; what’s more, you may not even be able to get a hold of them because of their busy schedule. Repeated attempts to reach may frustrate the individual and make you appear desperate. If you choose this method, make one call and leave a message—that’s it.

E-Mails are quick and easy, requiring little effort on both your part and the employer’s part. The employer can read it at any time and your follow up will not be “live”, so to speak. However, this is also the problem with e-mails; they don’t really demand any attention at all and may become lost in an employer’s Inbox (look at your own Inbox for a frame of reference).

Career tip: If you email, capture their attention with a strong subject line such as “Interested in (position title)” or “Application follow-up” that let’s the employer know not to mark the message as spam or delete it.

Hard copy letters are the most popular and the most effective. In the shoes of the potential employer who receives an average of 50 applications, setting yourself above the pack can be accomplished with a quick, formal, typed letter. Going a step further, the hiring manager (typically) will take your hard copy letter and staple it to your application, giving you a second look to impress.

No doubt you’re wondering about content…

Content and tone sets the stage and will determine success or failure. It’s not enough to simply say you’re following up after submitting your resume. What you write or say is just as important as the act itself. One constant is you should keep it short—best not to use up too much of the employer’s time. Typically two or three paragraphs will do but much depends on the job position and what you bring to the table.

Besides stating your purpose, you always want to leave your contact information, should they need to contact your further. In the case of e-mails, it’s not always easy to determine a candidates name from the message itself.

For phone calls, you especially want to keep the conversation short to avoid a ramble. Something along the lines of, “This is _____ calling. I recently applied for the _____ position in (company’s name and department). I’m calling to make sure you received the resume I submitted. I’m interested in this position, so I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.”

Always remember to format your letter or e-mail properly. Standard business letter format is appreciated by almost everyone. For phone calls, write a script or dialogue and practice it until it sounds natural and not rehearsed.

For serious job seekers, I encourage you to visit www.edu-cs.com for additional information and career/professional development products, books, and resources specializing in your success.

Written by Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services
www.edu-cs.com

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Turning Art into a Career

Artists Square’s CEO, Racquel Cruz, asked fellow artist and member, Jimmy McKinnon the following:

“As an experienced artist, what goals would you advise a new artist deciding to make a career of their artwork?”

The ever changing art world can be intimidating to the up and coming artist. When I first started as an artist, my goals were few. We didn’t have high speed internet as we know it today so getting work out for public view was not a matter of placing things on the web. You loaded your artwork into your car and brought it to a show or gallery.

Career tip #1: Setting long and short terms goals will give you focus.

The first goal that I set for myself was to have the supplies on hand to do the project with as little interruption as possible. I kept my tools ready. Knowing supplies were expensive, I made sure to clean and preserve them so they would last as long as possible. In fact, I still have some of my first tools and even kept the old worn out brushes as they tended to give the best effects when looking for new textures.

The no waste goal became essential when figuring material usage and profit margin. Additionally I recommend keeping receipts for all supply purchases; having receipts available can help when pricing a finished piece.

Building a body of work is a challenge for an artist just starting out. Think about it, you have several pieces you want to sell, you want to do shows, and eventually present your work to a gallery as well as build your ever-expanding and always impressive portfolio. With a solid portfolio in stock, you will be ready to pick and choose from your stock and tailor your presentation to say themed shows or galleries.

Another key to artistic success comes in the form of time management. No matter what’s going on in your life, always setting aside time to paint or work on your creative pieces, even when life gets in the way. Work, doctor appointments, food, sleep (which is what I gave up most just to get some painting in) will pull you away, don’t let it. Whether I worked on any one piece for a year or more or did two finished pieces a day, time does get lost when the creative thoughts are flowing.

Career tip #2: Time management is both a long and short term goal no matter how you look at it.

Other than great artwork, nothing impresses a potential client more than a well presented portfolio.  This goal came later in my career only because I didn’t think I needed one. I was wrong. The fact is: everyone wants to see your portfolio and it’s more or less expected. A well-organized portfolio could be the difference between show and sell or no thank you.

Organization is the key: Titles, dimensions, media, and sometimes location are important to document as you’ll need this information to decide pricing, selection for shows or galleries and generally just keep track of your growing career.

Thoughts to consider: Finding the right people to work with is imperative. Will your rights be protected? Are the royalties fair? Is the presentation worth it? Will the quality of the reproductions do justice to your work? These are important considerations when either approached by or searching out a possible publisher.

Networking and a good support system is a very important goal. A click of the mouse can bring your artwork to millions of possible opportunities.  Artist’s Square is a great site to work with. It is secure, has a wonderful host, and is easy to post. I enjoy the input and feedback I get from everyone.

My friends and family are also very important to my continued success.  I value them all greatly as I continue to reach for new goals.

As I found success, the next generation is finding the same tools and goals useful for their success. My daughter, Rhiannon, at seventeen, is already an accomplished writer, poet, artist, and photographer. Early on, she set most of these same goals. She has published poetry, awarded artwork in local shows, and publishers are interested in her short stories. Her portfolio grows everyday as she is tireless in her creativity. Setting goals and having a plan has worked well for her and will for you also.

Thank you Racquel for your question and special thanks goes out to Jimmy. For those wishing to reach out directly to Jimmy and/or view his work, he is an active Artists-Square member, http://artists-square.com/m/photos/browse/album/McKinnon-s-photos/owner/McKinnon. For those not part of Artist’s Square, join and let me know your thoughts.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Follow me @DannyatECS

Career Breakout: Pre-Interview Strategy

Congratulations on receiving a job interview, NOW is not the time to panic but to prepare. Seems like each day “what to do next” interview questions come in. As a result, the following goes out to Bianca who asked:

“I have an upcoming job interview at the Grand Hyatt hotel, what advice can you share?”

An obvious response on my side of the equation is “why would a potential employer want to interview you?” Think about it for a second, what qualities do you offer which are considered valuable? What knowledge, skills, and/or abilities do you bring to the table?

Career tip: Once these questions are answered honestly, the next step is to expand and strengthen your contributions.

An easy task? Not really but one which must be performed. Here are a few steps I suggest you take prior to the interview:

  • Review your resume and cover letter, making sure you can respond to any questions in a confident and quantifiable manner. For instance, if you trained peers, be ready to detail the number of peers, your direct involvement, and the outcome.
  • Research the job position, description, and company. A typical question asked is “what do you like about our company” or “what interests you most about the      position.” A huge turn-off is when the applicant is unable to respond adequately or states he or she did not have time to research… a big time no-no. http://www.onetonline.org is a good job position description source.
  • Dress professionally… there is no compromise when it comes to how you look. Remember you will be representing the organization.
  • Be kind and courteous to all you come into contact with, including and especially the receptionist. Professionalism goes a long way!
  • Ask pertinent questions when given the opportunity; this is where research comes into play.
  • After the interview, send an electronic thank you note AND a hand written thank you note. This display of professionalism is often neglected.

Though the above points are not all-inclusive, this is a great foundation no matter the level of experience you happen to be at.

Oh yes, one more before this concludes: BE and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

I hope this helps and you secure a successful interview. Let us know how it goes…

Education Career Services, pens and publishes career development textbooks and single target booklets. Our “Interviewing Like a Star” single topic guidebook offers hard hitting questions, truths, activities, samples, and proven strategies to improve your career station. If interested in this or any career collateral, go to our products page on our website (www.edu-cs.com), or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).

For additional information or assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

You said what? No you didn’t!

I was sitting in the lunch room, minding my own business when one of my employees decided to make an entrance. The first thing out of his lips was how anxious he was for the weekend. Granted, this weekend is a three-day event for many (though not for me or my writing staff) so I can appreciate his zealous expression. Unfortunately, I don’t think it career sound to talk to the person signing the paycheck that his mind, heart, and soul are two days from now (and work).

As a result, I began to wonder what other inappropriate things are stated to bosses (or fellow employees within earshot of their boss) without realizing the consequences. With this, I began a quick list and welcome your input beefing it up (think of the benefit an extended list would do for our children and their career aspirations).

Here you go; the “you said what?” list follows:

  • I can’t believe the wild night last night, I got so wasted I can hardly function with this splitting head ache (how many times have you made such statements? I’ve heard this way too many times and in several ways)
  • I checked salary.com and I think we need to have a chat later this afternoon (as an employer, I hate it when this happens as each company is different—as are employees’ salaries)
  • Just got my period and have the worst PMS (no additional comment required)
  • Does anyone have any Visine?
  • Hope I don’t have to do a drug test today
  • (when speaking to a peer at the next cubicle) Hey, check out this job on Monster.com
  • Let’s shut down, it’s 15 minutes before quitting time and it takes 15 minutes to get ready to leave
  • I was not late… I was sitting in the parking lot for the last ten minutes so I was technically here (I actually had a receptionist use this excuse twice… second time she was let go)

No doubt you can think of many more. Who know, perhaps you even “accidently” said too much at the wrong place and time. My words of advice: put yourself in your employers shoes… think about what you say BEFORE you say it.

If you would like additional information or assistance in any other career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section. If preferred, email us directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS).

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Follow me @DannyatECS

Career Breakout: Kickin’ It Old Skool

Dr. Kathryn Broyles, Ph.D., Program Director of General Studies at American Public University/American Military University highlights the benefits of organizing the old fashioned way, Index Card Cache:

In the 2007 comedy, Kickin’ It Old Skool, former 1980‘s break dancer Justin “Rocketshoe” Schumacher, emerges from a twenty-year coma to encounter a shockingly different world from the one he’d enjoyed as a boy- a boy bound for dance success. Fast-forward 30 years, you may find Justin and you may have a few things in common.

Your dismay at facing the job market–after a long hiatus as a stay-at-home parent or after a long-term job has disappeared in the latest economic upheaval–may not be quite as surreal as Justin’s, but no doubt you’re finding you’ve got a lot of adjusting to do and need some new skilz.

While there are many tools available to you to aid your search for a new job or a better job, many of which have been addressed throughout this column, there are still some Old Skool tools that should be in your tool box.

Career tip #1: An old-fashioned work ethic, a neat appearance, and a willingness to learn are all Old Skool moves that never go out of style.

An Old Skool tool that I want to bring back into vogue with this article is the lowly index card. Yes! That tiny 3×5, lined on one side, press of tree pulp you put to serious use back in the day–making cheat notes for tests, flash cards for spelling b’s, and categorizing quotes for a research paper too impossibly long to write well.

What can an index card do for your job search, you ask? A lot! Besides being a great place to jot down key contacts whose names you want to pronounce correctly in your upcoming interview, or serving as flash card reminders of the savvy questions you intend to ask if you make it past the headhunter and HR, and into a real interview with a real supervisor, index cards can help you on a daily basis keep track of all that you offer a prospective employer.

Creating your ICC (Index Card Cache)

What is an index card cache? It’s a collection of cards upon which you regularly record accomplishments in your work and private life. Any time you do ANYTHING, even if it seems unimportant at the time, goes on a card.

Got employee of the month? Goes on a card.
Offered a suggestion to a restaurant manager that, when implemented, improved your favorite buffet? Goes on a card.
Was dragged to a French language course by your girlfriend in preparation for a vacation or just because she thought it would be romantic? Goes on a card!

Hopefully, you can see where I’m going with this.

Career tip #2: Every event, every accomplishment, every award, everything that happens to you or that you happen to do worth noting goes on a card.

You never know what might be important in the future. Even when you’re not on the job market, keep your cards. Even when you’re in a job you love, keep your cards. What you’ll find over time is that any time you need to sit down to create or update a resume, write a letter outlining your accomplishments, or even make an argument for a raise or a promotion, you’ll have at your fingertips every detail you need to make a document (or an argument), that rocks! Why? It’s all in your ICC!

Thanks Kathryn, bringing back the basics is often the most effective method guiding success.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @DannyatECS

Career Breakout: Employment after Arrest

The issue of career placement for those with barriers is not going to go away. Consider that these past four decades have created an American working age population that includes up to 14 million people with felony records—about one in every fifteen between the age of 18 and 64.

Not too long ago I attended a “Showcase for Ex-Felons” in St. Petersburg. During the day’s event, I had the opportunity to discuss and coach quite of few capable professionals who happen to have made a mistake and are paying for that mistake eternally. After five hours of face-to-face, a common theme threaded each candidate:

“No one is willing  to give me a chance. What can I do?

Much like in all elements in life, gaining employment comes down to risk versus benefit.

For an individual with a career barrier, finding, securing, and retaining employment could mean the difference between recidivism and freedom. Fair or not, understanding and taking a proactive approach means recognizing many companies discriminate against those who have made mistakes. An obvious example can be found on most job applications in the form of the “check the box if you have been arrested.”

In today’s tight employment market, employers often refuse second looks once the “box” has been checked. Though “ban the box” campaigns are pushing forward, only a few states (not Florida) have adopted the policy. If you are asked to complete an application with this question, honesty is always the best policy… being dishonest on a job application is cause for immediate termination. Though a catch 22 exists, the path taken should be the honest one.

Career tip #1: Overcoming a barrier can be a true test of your career skills, but success can be found if the tools of the trade are not compromised.

Much like all job seekers, conducting extensive company research, preparing to respond to the most difficult interview questions (oftentimes revolving around your arrest), and building the most effective skills-based resume and cover letter available. And yes, there are tools and methods used which will highlight your strengths. For instance, prior to launching your career search, create a well-written letter of explanation… details and samples are provided in our Overcoming Career Barriers: Mission Possible” guidebook highlighted shortly.

Without knowing your specific background and your situation, general rules of engagement should be followed:

The first step is to reboot your perception as other’s see you. As a company owner, I know there are benefits of hiring an individual with a humbling experience; enhanced appreciation for the opportunity as well as a more dedicated, loyal, and productive attitude over those without a blemished background—relaying these elements to a potential employer quickly lessens risk.

Career tip #2: If you offer limited experience and education, the task is not going to be easy; resolve will be found by tapping into the many transferrable skills you have gained over the years.

Second step guiding success: There is no time to become discouraged though closed door after closed door can be difficult to face daily.

There are many steps in the process and we will touch upon each as time allows. For now, let’s work on developing a letter of explanation and rebooting other’s perception and that begins by dressing and behaving professionally… anything less is not acceptable.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, incarcerating its residents at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other industrialized nations… we could go on and on but talk means nothing without action.

Education Career Services, pens and publishes career development textbooks and single target booklets. Our “Overcoming Career Barriers: Mission Possible” single topic guidebook offers 80 pages of hard hitting truths, activities, samples, and proven strategies to improve your career station. If interested in this or any career collateral, go to our products page on our website (www.edu-cs.com), or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).

If you would like additional information or assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Resume Language: Grammar, Consistency, and Point of View

Although the rules of grammar, such as parallel sentence structure, consistency, and punctuation, do apply, the statements we create for resumes are somewhat fragments in bullet or paragraph form simply because we eliminate the pronouns (he/she, you, we). However, this doesn’t mean correct grammar in any other sense of the word should be absent.

Career Tip #1: Above all things (along with accuracy), grammar adds to the professionalism of any document.

What would you be more inclined to read—a document filled with glaring errors or a document that reads smoothly? Keep in mind that people who read resumes on a daily basis, such as human resources professionals, hiring managers, and executives, probably see a whirlwind of poorly-written documents one right after the other. And although applicants may not be writers by profession, they are expected to know and apply basic rules. Otherwise, that resume is at risk of automatically going into the “no” pile.

When creating a resume, always keep your target readers in mind. Are these people going to be able to read this without tripping over ideas or punctuation? Are they going to understand what I meant to say there? Because resume writing differs from most other types of writing, make sure your writing is clear and concise (without being overwhelmingly choppy). For instance:

Option 1
Responsible for the automation department and a $100M budget; led 45 personnel in system testing and verification; managed relationships with vendors.

Option 2
Oversaw automation department, controlling $100M budget, leading 45-person team in system testing and verification, and managing vendor relationships.

Both options say the exact same thing, but Option 2 lets the reader flow with the sentence as opposed to stopping at every semicolon and also connects ideas/responsibilities in one sentence. The use of the comma after “department” and before “controlling” connects the second part of the sentence to the main idea, which is overseeing the automation department.

Career tip #2: According to the Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW), the use of either third-person or first-person is fine as long as it is consistent throughout the document.

Why eliminate these words? Again, it enables the reader to flow with the document as opposed to feeling like they are reading a biography or letter. Since they are more concerned about the value they can get from the applicant, they need something they can skim through. Being consistent is important because the omission of pronouns can confuse the reader if it suddenly switches from first- to third-person.

Using Option 1 from above: “[I was/he was] responsible for the automation department and a $100M budget; [I/he] led 45 personnel in system testing and verification; [I/he] managed vendor relationships.” Although they both work in this instance, it does not always. As an example:

First-person: [I am a]Senior Executive offering world-class experience in sales, business development, partnership building, and operations leadership. [I] Create strategies to reach target consumers while expanding profitability through product development improvements.

Third-person: [He is a] Senior Executive offering world-class experience in sales, business development, partnership building, and operations leadership. [He] Creates strategies to reach target consumers while expanding profitability though product development improvements.

Generally, the third-person approach is more commonly used and has its advantages in terms of easier readability for your target audience. Consistency in all areas of your resume is vital, including spelling, capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and font, because you don’t want to confuse readers. The only questions you want them to ask are: Could you provide me with more information? or When are you available for an interview?

If you would like additional information or assistance in any other career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section. If preferred, email us directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com or visit us at Amazon.com (search Huffman at ecs).

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Follow me @DannyatECS