Tag Archives: career tip

Career Breakout: Standing Out From the Crowd

In response to a common concern, Dianne Irene, college instructor, business owner, professional writer, and career expert, offers the following:

“More and more people are graduating with degrees. How can I stand out from the crowd when I have the same education as many others?”

Education is important, but remember that there are other factors to consider when marketing yourself for a position to a company. Considerations include experience, soft skills, attitude, overall presence, and how well you are prepared. Let’s break down the elements forming your total package.

Career Tip: Think of yourself a complete package of information and performance.

Experience

Experience represents a facet of your assets offering great benefits to a company. True enough, there are still some specializations that value experience over education, but don’t get discouraged if you lack years of industry-specific training. Rather than giving up, highlight your education and experience as a sign of your success with a certain skill or practice. The employer will then know you can indeed perform this skill again.

If you lack experience in a certain area, creating opportunities for your portfolio can be easier than some realize. For instance, internships allow you to practice skills and they can be completed in a short amount of time. Some internship opportunities are measured in hours or a matter of weeks. Also, volunteer work is a great way to practice skills AND put into practice soft skills that are essential to being a part of a team.

Soft Skills

Remember the last time you dealt with a business where the representative lacked soft skills. This probably left you with a negative feeling and may have also left a poor impression on that particular company. To ensure a positive impression, always conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Career Tip: Pay attention to the small details about others that you are interacting with. Watch their facial expressions, their body language, and the tone of their voice.

Attitude

A great attitude does have an effect on those who are exposed to it. Projecting a positive attitude is an essential part of presenting yourself to a company. Maintaining a positive attitude will also allow you to make yourself available to more opportunities.

Presence

Make sure that the obvious parts of how you present yourself are in order. Your hair and clothing should be professional and not distracting. However, you will want to remember the less obvious parts of your presence. Be sure to make eye contact, stand in good posture, and do not forget to smile at the appropriate times.

Preparation

Being prepared for your introduction to a company can be the difference between standing out from other candidates and blending in. When a company is required to interview many candidates, you will want to be memorable.

Do your research on the company. Know who the key people are and what the company has accomplished in the last 5 years. Be sure to research some of the areas of growth potential for the market that your company of interest is in.

Career Tip: If you are up to date on technology, market trends, and company culture then you will have the edge needed to make a memorable impression.

Conclusion

Remember that you are a complete package with many dimensions. Just having a strong education background will not be enough to compete in today’s highly competitive market. You will need to hone in on all of the aspects of what makes a great employee. Highlight your strengths and consider sharpening the things you lack before trying to make that first impression that may last an entire career.

Dianne, thank you for your career insight. The high level of knowledge is appreciated and will be taken advantage of by many of our readers. We look forward to more.

For additional information or assistance in any career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email us directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com. Cutting edge single topic career workbooks and complete career lifecycle books are available at our website (www.edu-cs.com) or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS).

Contributed by Dianne Irene

Career Breakout: Changing Careers Begin With…

I’m thinking about changing careers but not sure about which career to go in. What is the first step?”

This question was sent in by Sandi Collins and seems to be relevant to many people.

Not satisfied with the career you’ve chosen, or is it simply time for something new? Perhaps a career change may be right for you. Contrary to what people might say, it’s never too late to change your path. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, on average, Americans change their careers 3 to 7 times throughout their life.

The first, and most important, step to beginning a career change is to analyze your current career. I know you want to get away from it as fast as possible. But don’t be so quick to jump ship. Grab a sheet of paper or open up a new document on your computer–go on… I’ll wait.

To organize your listing, create a “T-Chart” with two columns. In one column, write down the top ten things you do like about your current career (even though you’re looking for a change, there has to be something you enjoy about it). And in the other column, list what you don’t like about your career. These should be the reasons you’re looking for a change.

Once you’ve completed your list, take it a step further. Looking at your likes and dislikes, what are your skills? In other words, what skills do you possess that you’ve gained and utilized in your current career? Be as specific as possible. To note, hardworking is not a skill.

Career Tip: Changing careers requires diligence, honesty, and more diligence.

Why is all of this effort so important? Because the next step is to select a career you’re interested in. That involves a great deal of research and planning. With this list you’ve just created at your disposal, you’ll know what to look for and what to avoid in a new career. Without this knowledge, you’re bound to repeat past mistakes, ending up unsatisfied again.

Career Tip: Your goal when changing careers should always be to align your skill sets and interests with a path of your choosing.

As far as tools for research, many exist but not all are worth using. For your convenience, we’ve listed some of our top recommendations:

  • This Internet is always a great resource. One great website we always suggest to our clients is O*NET, an online database containing detailed, in-depth information for almost every career and profession in existence. Their website is http://www.onetonline.org/, and their services are completely free to use. O*NET’s listings contain job responsibilities, tasks, salary, equipment, work conditions, and more.
  • Some people prefer to use the Internet; others prefer a more personal method of research. For those, informational interviews are always a winning strategy. Find professionals in a career of interest and invite them to an interview. Not only will you find the same information you would have when using the Internet, you’re also likely to get full accounts of day-by-day routines, which is important in determining whether or not a career is worth pursuing.
  • The above tools not hands-on enough? Try job shadowing a professional instead. This will allow you to see for yourself what a career will entail. Spend a few hours shadowing several professionals in an area of interest, if possible. Granted, shadowing opportunities aren’t as abundant as many of us would like, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to obtain one. Many professionals are happy to grant the opportunity as it provides them a new networking contact.
  • Time for an insider secret… look for volunteer or freelance opportunities in the field of your interest. While you might think it’s impossible to find, you have to think outside of the box. Thinking about working with animals? Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Want to get into publishing? Write some articles for a local newspaper. These activities aren’t as far removed as you might believe. Not only will they give you a feel for an industry, whether it’s direct or indirect, it also gives you some helpful resume additions.  

Don’t let all of this get to your head, though. There are many steps in the process of changing a career. These are just some of the first steps you should immediately take. You still have to build experience, especially if you have little to speak of. You still have to find an opening, submit an eye-opening resume and cover letter, and conduct a successful interview. It’s a tall order, but you can do it.

For more tips on enacting a career change, and tips to help you land a position in that brand new career, visit Education Career Service at http://www.educs.com/ where you will find cutting edge single topic career workbooks and complete career lifecycle books or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS). Also, send us a tweet at @Dannyatecs. We’d love to hear from you.

Written by Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services

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

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: Art and Local Involvement

Catering to our talented concentration of artistic and creative professionals, Artists Square’s CEO, Racquel Cruz, asked member Dyanne Parker, owner/founder at “Canvas and Cheers, Inc., (where u paint and pARTy) the following question:

Does volunteering and local involvement greatly enhance your art sales for your career goals?

Building relationships is the most important component in building any business. Art is adopted and not just purchased because a client falls in love with the color, subject, style, and mood of the piece. When someone acquires a piece of your art, they buy a piece of you and become extended family. It doesn’t get any more personal than that.

Career tip #1: The art business is personal and involves more emotion than selling a service or a retail product.

Spending almost twenty years in building a community and businesses as CEO of the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, building relationships, serving on Board of Directors, committees and organizing hundreds of volunteer networks guaranteed not only the success of the Chamber but built a network for business to succeed. As a new business or new business leader, a business plan should spell out a plan for acquiring and building a database of key potential clients and how that network of leads would be reached.

Local involvement can greatly enhance your art business.

Involvement is a commitment and has to be built into your schedule whether weekly or monthly. Track your time spent and always track the leads, sales and contacts you make.  Don’t commit to an organization and not follow through as it can cause more negative perception than positive.

Volunteer and donate to great causes. Some of the greatest exposure is not only volunteering your time but also your creative work. Grab attention while contributing to events where your work is exhibited and displayed. Giving back always come back to you.

Auctions are a great venue to showcase your art as many will see it, several will place bids to attain your work, and someone will become the new owner. Donate brings ripples of positive return!

The more people you touch, the more potential you have. Remember that it’s more than just a numbers game; it’s truly building a network of people that you know.

Career tip #2: The key is identifying organizations to build relationships with potential clients that will also create referrals.

Get out there, contribute time and art. It will come back in great relationships, success in business and friendships.

Thank you Racquel for your question and special thanks goes out to Dyanne for her helpful insight. For those wishing to reach out directly to Dyanne, she is an active Artists-Square member, http://artists-square.com/DyanneParkerArt. 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: Interview Preparation

Throughout our Career Breakout series, career professionals from across the country offered to take the reins now and then, sharing their career expertise and diverse background for your benefit.

In response to today’s question, Kathryn Broyles, Ph.D., Program Director of General Studies at American Public University/American Military University, will be taking control.

“I’ll be graduating in May and looking for a job. I have an interview scheduled but have no ideas on what to do besides show up with resume in hand. What do you recommend I do to prepare for an interview?”

Interviews are crucial to snagging the job you want. If your professional documents have made it past the initial HR screening and on to the desk of a hiring manager, feel confident that you’re being seriously considered for the job. Congratulations on having an interview scheduled!

However, recognize that it’s rare for a company to interview only one person for a position. Therefore, it’s essential that you put your best foot forward and make a good impression on the interviewer as well as on anyone you come in contact with as you make your way to and from the interview. You never know who’s a friend of whom or what tactics an employer might be using to evaluate all aspects of a future employee’s “fit” in a new company.

Career Tip #1: The individual you think is “just the receptionist” in fact might be a very important voice in the office whose opinion is respected, so being rude or disrespectful, or underestimating the value of such individuals can mark you as unprofessional and can even lead to your eventually not getting the position.

A few companies actually resort to creative ways to evaluate the tendencies of future employees and whether or not they’re a good “fit” for the company. It’s been reported that some companies even monitor what magazines you pick up off a coffee table as you wait in the lobby for an interview. Do you go for light reading? Are you attracted to business journals or company brochures? Are you pleasant to those around you? Do you make eye contact and seem poised and confident?

In today’s job market there more qualified people for every position than ever before and competition is stiff, but at least you can be confident that you’ve put your best foot forward and done nothing to hamper your chances. You may even find that you end up in the future with an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Career Tip #2: A great strategy is to see every moment you’re in the vicinity of a potential employer as an opportunity to learn, to make contacts, and to make a good impression. If you adopt this as you’re attitude, you can’t go wrong. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the position, of course.

Okay, we’ve ventured slightly off the path to disclose hints about “how to be” when you show up for the interview, yet you asked specifically about “how to prepare” for the interview and what to take with you. Time to get back on track…

First, here are several steps which, taken together, can help you prepare for the interview:

  1. Do your homework
  2. Know where you fit and why
  3. Be ready to ask questions as well as answer them

Let’s take a look at number one, “Do your homework.”

Given an interview has been scheduled, it is safe to claim that you know the name of the company you’re interviewing with and you may even know the specific position for which you’re interviewing. Now what you need to do is to learn as much as you can about the company itself as possible.

Companies, like people, have “values” and “culture.” If you’re a fan of Thirty Rock or The Office, you already know this. These shows, of course, are exaggerations of a kind of company culture taken to the extreme to get a laugh from the audience, but they still point to an important fact: companies and the people who work in them, together create a kind of culture shaped by what the company values and its work environment.

Career Tip #3: Companies have, in effect, “personalities.”

As you head into an interview, ask yourself:

  • What kind of company is this?
  • What sort of personality does this company have?
  • What does it make?
  • What does it value?
  • What kind of culture does it support and create for its employees?

Trying to find the answers to questions like these by researching the company website, studying any materials its published about itself in ads, in brochures, and on the web, as well as reading about the company at the Better Business Bureau, or if its big enough, in past articles (on the web or at your local library) of The Wall Street Journal, Business Weekly, or Fortune is an essential part of preparing for an interview.

This looks like the perfect lead for a break. Join me in a couple days as we complete number one and journey to numbers two and three.

Thanks Kathryn, your advice is greatly appreciated. For those interested in learning more about American Public University/American Military University, where they are expanding access to higher education with more than 100 affordable degrees and certificates to prepare students for service and leadership in a diverse and global society, visit their website at www.apus.edu.

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