Tag Archives: resume and cover letter

Career Breakout: Ink or Excuse?

In response to our most recent article dealing with tattoos, Christopher responded in the following manner…

I also have tattoos that are mostly where no one can see them but the few on my wrist are obvious. What do you suggest I do? I am a hard worker getting ready to graduate college.”

First of all, being unemployed and owning tattoos are not exclusive to each other. In other words, career success and ink can cohabitate. Not knowing your exact situation or background, I offer these general guidelines and job hunting strategies to enhance your personal career success:

  • Prepare an effective resume AND cover letter highlighting your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Overall, companies look for candidates with a proven track record. The reasoning here being that if you improved operations or increased sales with another company, you will do it again for their company. As a result, time to brag about achievements is NOW (detail accomplishments and responsibilities with numbers when possible)… simply stating you managed a sales team is not enough. To place your resume on the right pile, state the number of people you supervised and the bottom-line result due to your hard work and superior team leading skills.
  • Once you gain an interview, dress the part. Males should wear a suit accompanied by a tie (get over the tears and just do it) while the ladies should dress      professionally in a business suit of their own. Remember first impressions can ruin an opportunity.
  • Speaking of first impressions, let’s focus on your tattoos. As you will be wearing a long sleeve shirt (to go with your suit), unless there are facial markings, our concern      resides on the wrists. Wearing a watch on your right hand may shield a sliver (or most for some) and should be considered. I suggest the right hand as that is typically used during the initial handshake. Regarding your left hand, do not keep it in your pocket as that will raise suspicion.
  • If your tattoo catches a concerning eye, facial twitch, or remark, be honest but do not state any prejudicial quips. For example, don’t make mention that during a college drinking binge in Las Vegas you woke up in a bathtub to notice a      permanent mark or during a three-year stint with the state it was part of a gang initiation. Not sure why but some companies don’t think kindly on such information. Being honest (but not prejudicial) may work in your advantage.
  • Be prepared to counter negative responses or smirks with a positive. After your reply transition and refocus the interview on the many advantages you bring to the company. You may be surprised at the positive responses received once the white elephant in the room is recognized. You may be even more surprised by knowing how many of those same hiring managers have tattoos.
  • To summarize, be confident and always brand yourself as a problem resolver, not a problem maker.

It is true that many “conservative” companies are not tattoo-sensitive and discriminate, but the number of those organizations is shrinking. No matter the situation, see through the eyes of the employer and respond to his or her concerns. To be blunt, hiring manager concerns boil down to two things:

1. Can you increase sales, bring in revenue, or expand the customer base
2. Can you decrease costs, develop new methods of production, or enhance team development

Quite simply, it’s all about the bottom line. Tattoo or no tattoo, you are the right candidate if you can satisfy one of the above conditions. Going into an interview passively or not confident due to a few ink spots is not conducive to your career. Quite honestly, in the midst of the total package, it’s all about the money so get over any excuses and get into your groove.

If you have any questions for our career professionals, we are ready.

Interested in learning more about Education Career Services library of career resources, books, and workbooks, visit our website or go to 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

Job Posting 102: The Sequel

Based upon several questions from Job Posting 101, the following essay was born. For those readers feeling lost, check out the original essay and if three minutes flat, you will be driving steady.

How long should a cover letter typically be?

According to the National Resume Writers Association and the Professional Resume Writers Association, a cover letter should be in the four to five paragraph range.

The opening paragraph should be an introduction, including what you are applying for and a brief summary as to why you are a good candidate.

Second and third paragraph must support your claim to be the right candidate—in other words, explain by giving detailed accomplishments which can be directly tied to the posting. Without any doubt, now is the time to personalize the cover letter by paralleling your skills and contributions to the company. This means a little research on your part but well worth the effort.

Finally, the last paragraph is the call to action. Summarize why you are the right candidate and encourage the next move, an interview. In total, your cover letter should not be over a page and will typically take ¾ of the page.

I never include a cover letter as I don’t feel I am a strong writer, and fear that it would hurt me rather than help me.

Cover letters must be included. Though you may not feel as you are a strong writer, nothing shows the reader interest like a cover letter which utilizes key words from the job posting and company research. Definitely have another proof your work; don’t rely on the spell checker. According to career management associations, over 35% of hiring managers will NOT review applications without an accompanying cover letter. The key is to highlight the value you bring as well as a positive attitude (yes, attitude is portrayed in cover letters by choice of words).

Think about the reader for a moment when writing your cover letter and resume. If you were looking for a qualified applicant, what would you look for? Once you have that, all you have to do is fill in the puzzle.

I am currently looking for a job and have been since November. My resume includes jobs that I have had for the past 10 years (about 5 to 6 jobs). I think they are all pertinent and keep them there because I want employers to ask me questions about them so that I can explain strong points and such.

You picked a difficult time to seek employment but nowadays, there are no easy times to be unemployed. Though many find a job within months or even weeks, the average time between jobs is roughly nine months. In other words, do not become discouraged with the delay. I know it is easy to lose confidence but I have a feeling the right position is just around the corner.

According the associations, dates of employment need not go beyond ten years (unless directly related to the position and is not open to age discrimination—in other words, do not go back to the 1960’s). There are formats one can use to highlight your knowledge, skills, and abilities without fear of age discrimination. A popular format, semi-functional, may be worth checking into. If you are not familiar with this format or need guidance, please let me know and will do my best to get you where you need to be.

Going through 5 or 6 jobs in a decade is not as bad as it used to be. In today’s volatile employment market, it is not uncommon. There are ways to incorporate accomplishments without highlighting each position. Let me know and we’ll learn a few techniques. Anyway, do not feel intimidated by having several positions over these years. Without knowing your specific situation, I am unable to offer a clear way to turn this into a positive… and there are ways.  

One of these jobs is a Disney job. I recently was told that I should remove it because it’s not only the oldest listing, but employers have been known not to hire people because they work at Disney. Have you heard this?

Disney is on the blacklist? Geepers, this is the first I heard of this. Then again, if you were the Tigger character who was accused of fondling patrons, you may want to omit such information. Then again, working at Disney can be a great experience too. Think about the customers going through the gates each day. Even without trying your client and problem resolution skills will have improved. All employers want employees who know how to handle client disputes, who know how to engage in corporate branding, and know how to remain positive even under the most extreme situations. In other words, work the Disney deal by highlighting the many core and transferable skills developed. As for Tigger, he total cool so I would hire him (or her?) on the spot… so if you know him personally and if he is looking for a writing gig, let me know.

I hope the response helped. I do encourage you to ask a few specific questions and will be glad to expand on a topic or format.

With this, I will call it a day and wish you the very best in your journey.

Dhuffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Author, publisher
Education Career Services, LLC

Responding to a Job Posting 101

A few weeks ago I placed a job posting for an editor/writer/researcher with the UCF Knight listing. Though UCF carries a solid academic program, the response to my job posting was a tad concerning. As a result, I spoke to several university career directors from across the United States and it appears to be an epidemic. No doubt you are wondering what has gone viral. 

Over the past few weeks I received close to 45 responses to a very specific posting. The next few minutes of reading is simply meant to be a learning experience and not intended to hurt any feelings.

1. Five candidates submitted a cover letter though the posting made it clear that a cover letter was required. For those sending resumes out, ALWAYS provide a cover letter. Those who do so, begin with an advantage. As a matter of record, according to the Professional Resume Writers Association, over 35% of hiring managers will disqualify a candidate if a cover letter is not submitted.

2. Keywords missing in action. I can count with one finger how many applicants actually took the time to incorporate keywords from the job posting into their cover letter and/or resume. Think about this for a moment and envision what a hiring manager would feel if the applicants do NOT use keywords from the posting or company web site. Nothing says lazy like lazy… are you feeling it?

3. Diluted job objective/summary. Most of the applicants did not have a summary letting me know why I should even consider them for the position. In other words, the vast majority of responses used the gun-shot approach. For those looking to impress a reader, showcase the immediate value you bring in the top section of the resume and support it through your cover letter.

4. Grammer. Ooops, I meant grammar. No matter what you do, always proofread before hitting send. Simply running a spell check sponsored by Word does not do the trick (another testament to laziness). Over half of the resumes were filled with grammar issues, misspelled words, constant use of first person (don’t get me started on that topic), and spacing concerns.

Needless to say, I did send positive replies to five potential candidates, requesting a 300 word sample of their writing skills. Naturally I gave them the topic. As of this evening, not one of the five have returned their writing sample. Once again, I am not impressed. Consequently, I am still looking for a writer/editor/researcher.

Though the above does not go beyond a surface conversation, the message is quite clear. For those responding to job listings, always engage in due diligence, research the company, examine the job posting, incorporate keywords from all sources, and produce a polished product designed specifically for the posting. I know it means a bit more work on your side, but it does offer great rewards.

If you have any questions or would like specific insight on a career-related topic, please let us know.

dhuffman
Author/Publisher
Education Career Services

Help or no help

Last week I received a call from an employed lady on the verge of being replaced by a mechanical employee. She is a trained medical code and her duties were being mechanized. Needless to say, she found my name and wanted professional career guidance.

Oddly enough, the first question asked was my charge. Okay, I’m sensitive to the fact that everyone is seeking a bargain, be it in product or service. My typical response: “I am too busy to do the work for you but will be glad to offer suggestions and walk you along as this journey unfolds.” My professional philosophy is straightforward, why pay me a bucket full of bucks if I can guide and develop the process so you can do the work? This kind of reminds me of the teaching a man (or woman) how to fish instead of simply serving a fish on the plate… perhaps you are familiar with the story?

Needless to say, my next step is to have the person on the other end of the phone send me a pdf of their material so we can discuss a strategy. Sounds like a good plan thus far? I thought so… but if this were the case, why do so few take that next step and send their material electronically? Could it be that when it comes to career management and the development of materials, very few people want to take part in their own marketing? Or perhaps could it be that the vast majority of employed (and unemployed) individuals out there are lazy?

I am tending to believe people are lazy. The medical coder referenced above was obviously displeased when I explained how I would be glad to help her along the path but would not do all the work. As a career coach and writer, I want the people I work with (and for) to take ownership and possess pride in the product. By playing an active role in the process, I believe this can be achieved.

By the end of the conversation with my medical coder, I was pushed to give her a price and told her my range varies between $250 to $2,000 (depending upon the complexity of the client and work involved). After her hesitation, I knew I would never hear from her again which disappoints me as I informed her I would not charge her for my time. Guess she wanted more than my time?

When it comes to career management, what are your beliefs? Trust me when I say very few people are gifted writers, in any genre. If you find yourself needing help with your career management materials or if you have interview questions, where do you find research or who do you call? How about a few tips?

DO NOT:

● rely on the Internet for resume samples
● use a template to create your resume or cover letter
● allow anyone else to take full control of the process

DO:

● ask for (and accept) guidance, three of my favorite spots to locate qualified writers and/or career coaches are the Career Management Alliance, the National Resume Writers Association, and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches
● take an active role
● get help

Career Management is about taking control of your life and destiny. For those lazy ones out there, you can always give me a call and for the right price, no doubt we could work something out.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com

Politicians and Career Numbers Do NOT Mix

With so much going on these days, it’s hard to define what is really going on… if you know what I mean?

Elections are around the corner as the foundation of each candidate’s platform seems to be employment, or, should I say, the lack of employment for so many. This got me to thinking (not always a good thing) about what are the real numbers these politicians are referring to and can a local politician really do anything to improve our dire employment situation? I think the second part of the questions is straightforward.

I am under the impression that our local politicians can do lots of rhetorical talking but cannot do the walking… just whistling my own tune here. 

Bringing us to the first part of the question, what is really going on with the numbers? As an active member with the Professional Resume Writers Association (PRWA), I receive (unbiased) data which oftentimes hits the mark. With this extended Segway, let’s highlight what a PRWA article, written by Diane Hudson Burns, CPRW, CEIP, CPCC, CCMC, entitled “Takeaways” has to tell us:

     * 45% of 14.6 million jobless Americans have been unemployed for six months or more
     * Unemployment in August 2009 was 9.7%; in 2010 it was 9.6%
     * Due to such high volume inbound receipt of résumés, and candidates applying for multiple jobs at the same company, many companies never even look at all the incoming résumés, thus the creation of the “black hole”
     * Some big companies receive more than one-million résumés annually
     * 64% of all statistics are made up on the spot
     * 85% of people on LinkedIn are using it is as a social “database” as opposed to a social network
     * Employers who hire disabled veterans receive a $4,500 tax credit, and employers who hire any veteran who left service in the past 5 years receive a $2,400 tax credit

Diane and the Professional Resume Writers Association provides a wealth of information on a monthly basis. As a professional resume writer and career coach, I know the importance of understanding what is really going on. 

With elections coming up in a few weeks, how many of our politicians really know what the numbers are. One thing I don’t wonder… local politicians talk about what they will do to improve the numbers but NONE will actually do anything to improve the situation. Heck, just look at what our country leader has succeeded in doing? Need I say more?

On this note, gonna call it a day,

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com
blog: http://www.careerbreakout.wordpress.com

Federal Job Access

Hard to believe how so much can change in only a few months. Needless to say, the summer months are just about a memory and now it is time to get back into the swing of career management. Hope you did not miss me too much (but a little is fine).

A few weeks ago I spent two days in a career management workshop with the career professionals from Central Florida Workforce. Their knowledge and passion to assist all individuals seeking career advice, guidance, and support is most impressive. With so much change in the Central Florida employment landscape, keeping up to date on methods, practices, and applications benefits everyone. With that said, I appreciate being allowed the opportunity to work with such a dedicated crew.
While on the subject of change, there are huge changes on the way regarding government hiring. According to a recent article from the Career Management Alliance, there will be between 300,000 to 400,000 new federal hires in the next few years. Much of the increase is because President Obama is pressing to hire less contract workers and more permanent employees (a direct shift from former President G. W. Bush). What does this mean to you? A heck of a lot!

Not only will the federal government be seeking a huge employee base, the application process is also getting much more user-friendly. We’ll talk about these details in the next few weeks but here’s a quick nibble:

  • Dramatic recruiting practice changes
  • Federal Resume just got simplified
  • KSA essay style application questions on the way out
  • Rule of three being eliminated
  • Decision-making on the fast track
  • Keeping applicants in the know

Yes, there are many changes making the federal job application process much easier. There are good points to this and some not so good. For example, with simpler access comes more job applicants. As opposed to under 50 applicants per job posting, expect to see this number multiplied. Additionally, without a set template resume format, hiring managers will have to relearn how to read applicant resumes. This can be a good thing for you if you create a skills-based resume.

For the vast majority, most resumes are NOT skills-based and follow a one-size fits all format. If this is your career management strategy, keep it turned into this channel and you will soon be on your way to learning how to turn your template-looking resume and cover letter into an aggressive (and effective) career marketing tool.

For those interested in learning more about the federal job market, I encourage you to visit www.usajobs.opm.gov. In the weeks to come, we will navigate this site and delve deeper into the federal job market… so don’t fret if you get a tad confused; we will work it out.

On this note, gonna call it a day,

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Education Career Services, LLC
dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com