Tag Archives: Informational Interviews

Career Breakout: Where the jobs are…

“I can never find any good job listings. Am I missing something or searching in the wrong place?”

This question was sent in by Kirsty Walden, who, like many, can’t seem to find any of the jobs they’re looking for. To answer her question directly… yes, you are searching in the wrong place.

According to the Career Thought Leaders Group, 80% of job listings are located in what is known as the “hidden job market.” This means your searches on sites such as Monster.com, or even local newspaper listings, are only advertising a minority of the jobs that need to be filled. In other words, you are, like many others, concentrating on 20% of the jobs out there. How can this be? You ask naïvely…

You see, the truth of the matter is, not all companies advertise jobs that need to be filled. Before shaking your hands in the air, there is logic to their madness. Companies that hire/promote from within, for example, will not spend the money to advertise. Would you? Additionally, given tight budgets and vast pool of qualified applicants, many companies don’t have the time or resources to create several listings for an opening. So why not tap a free online resource of global applicants and place an advertisement at a lower cost (if at all) via the World Wide Web?

Regardless of the reasoning, the key thing to remember is there are many perks for searching in the hidden job market. You want to be looking here, trust me. After all, would I steer you wrong?

Once you’ve found the hidden job market, you can expect less rejection, less waiting, and, best of all, less competition. According to Dice, on average you’ll be competing with fewer than 10 people for a position.

While this may sound too good to be true, I challenge you to think otherwise. Many people, like Kirsty, don’t know there is a hidden job market. The mainstream approach is to visit a common job search engine such as Monster and hope for the best. While this is not a bad approach and should be your first of many steps, strategies such as these don’t often lead to hiring.

A better approach, instead, is to find jobs in this hidden market by networking–it’s one of the most useful skills you should master as a career professional. It’s not hard to master either; it simply takes time and effort.

Here at Education Career Services, we teach the 1:50 rule. For every 1 person, there are at least 50 potential contacts to be used. These contacts can be from your personal, social, or professional life.

Career tip and activity: Make a list of all these people mentioned above, noting what industry and career path they are part of. Ask them if their companies are hiring in your line of work.

The results will be surprising!

One of the many perks of networking is familiarity. If one of your contacts does find a job opening for you, they can put in a good word… placing you immediately in the advantage. Likewise, hiring managers will be impressed by your ability to find the opening, rather than browsing online listings. Any advantage is a good advantage.

Don’t give up on the networking strategy. If none of your direct contacts have anything for you, expand your network. Find contacts of your contacts, then ask them for an informational interview or send them a networking letter introducing yourself.

Career tip: The job market is a system powered by who you know; therefore, the more people you know, the more power you have.

The important thing to remember is don’t be discouraged. Contacts may not always have useful information for you or job openings that need to be filled. That’s to be expected. However, you never know when a contact of yours will suddenly have an opening or a tip for you. Maintain that network and it will pay off eventually.

If you would like 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 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).

Written by Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services

Career Breakout: Ready or Not, Here YOU are

(Missed) Opportunities often come and go at the oddest of times and the most peculiar places. When it comes to networking, are you prepared?

While sitting in a reception area waiting my turn for a cut, the silence amongst the group of four was deafening. Thinking as a career coach and author, I wondered why no one was taking advantage of a perfect networking environment. After too-much silence, I took the first step and broke the ice by asking a young lady sitting next to me about the cause of a minor leg injury (her left ankle wrap was a giveaway).

Conversation lacked reciprocation and so I pushed it a bit further with questions regarding her many tattoos. I quickly learned she and her friend, sitting directly across, were recently in Virginia. I then asked what it is they do:

I am an unemployed call center supervisor, ”stated one while the other stated she was also unemployed. Here’s where the “Ready or Not, Here YOU are” comes full circle as the remainder of this discussion was directed toward the “other” unemployed individual (we’ll call Irma):

You’re unemployed. How long have you been unemployed?” I asked
Since January, but I really need to find a job.” Irma replied.
What is it that you are looking for?”
It doesn’t really matter, I just need a job.”
What were you doing?” I asked knowing this lady needed to understand the value of an introductory statement/elevator speech.
An administrative assistant.” Irma responded with nothing more to share.
Seeing an opening, I pounced with “why would someone want to hire you?”
I’m a hard worker and good at what I do.”

Not satisfied with rhetoric, I then asked her what I typically ask all applicants during the interview process: “I have two other applicants also claiming to be hard workers and good at what they do, why should I consider you and not the other two?”
I am a hard worker,” she repeated and added “I offer the total package.”
Not knowing what that meant, I asked her to give me an example of a situation requiring her action, what she did, and what was the result.

Thrown back a bit, more non-specific, non-quantifiable verbiage flowed from her mouth.
“These are nice qualities just about EVERYONE will say, but I need more… I need examples, confirmation, something believable giving you an advantage.”

After a short pause, I informed the two that I own a career management and publishing company and know how difficult it is to locate and secure jobs. Without pause, Irma asked “can I have a job.” I responded that “nothing was available but one never knows what will happen next month or perhaps someone else I know has a need for an administrative assistant possessing the total package.”

I then asked for her card just in case, Irma had no card.

Once my hair succumbed to butchery, I politely paid the receptionist and, as I was leaving the establishment, gave the unemployed a card with my email address and website information. Three days later, still no word, no email, no connection from Irma.

Taking advantages of golden opportunities means being prepared at all places and at all times. After all, no matter where you are, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THERE.

Reviewing Irma’s missed opportunity, what went wrong?
●   An initial reluctance to begin or take part in a conversation
●   Lacked an elevator speech or 30-second commercial
●   No true professional objective
●   The inability to quantify value in the workplace
●   Too much talk, not enough action
●   No introductory or business card
●   Asking for a job
●   Neglecting to follow-up

No doubt the above does not reflect all of the things that went wrong but it is enough for now.

Let’s place you in Irma’s shoes… Are you prepared? Before answering if you are Ready or not, take a few moments and respond to the following
●   What distinguishes you from the other two finalists (be specific and offer examples)?
●   Do you have a business or introductory cared with you at ALL times?
●   Do you know what you are looking for in a job, really?
●   Why should I hire you?

The next time you are standing in line, waiting for your appointment, or even riding an elevator, take a deep breath and put yourself out there.

After all, no matter where you are, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THERE.

ECS offers cutting-edge books and workbooks designed to give you a competitive edge. Throughout the pages, prepare yourself with hard hitting questions, truths, activities, samples, and proven strategies to improve your career station. For additional information, go to our storefront 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: Performing Due Diligence

A few days ago I noticed a question on LinkedIn which I believe is a fairly common concern for most people seeking a job or those undergoing a career jump. Though the individual asking will be graduating soon, the issue is relatable for all levels. Here’s what Priya had on her mind:

Just graduated, what is the first step in finding a job?”

As a career textbook and publishing company, we hire a great many soon-to-be and fresh graduates. Nothing is more powerful for the candidate than displaying confidence and taking an initiative.

For the recent graduate, I suggest performing several weeks of due diligence in the form of researching companies of interest. After examining their blogs and website information, develop a single page introductory letter (filled with plenty of professional courtesy) and snail-mail prospective contacts within the selected organization.

Career Tip #1: Keep your letter to four paragraphs packed with personality and company benefit.

Your introductory letter is NOT a plea for a job, rather this letter briefly describes your education, knowledge, interests, and desire to learn more about your field of choice by eliciting a quick 15 minute (roughly) informational interview. Many graduates would be shocked to find out that the vast majority of executives and company personnel are willing (and desire) to share their experiences and methods to graduates beginning their journey(it’s kind of an ego thing too).

Remember that this is NOT a time to ask for a job. At the conclusion of your informational interview, ask if he or she has a few minutes for a face-to-face meeting where you can learn more about the hands-on environment within the company. Your goal is to develop a relationship and having the other person’s buy-in as this informational relationship bridges into a professional one.

Due diligence, research, and building a professional network conceived by an informational interview is one of the most effective techniques for career success, no matter your level of experience or education.

Career Tip #2
: Take advantage of your research by incorporating key concepts within your introductory letter.

Though the question was posed by a recent graduate, the benefits of performing due diligence by way of research and developing relationships can benefit everyone.

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

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

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