Is it Time to Make a Career Change?

Do you have the nagging feeling that you are meant to be doing something else?  Are you frustrated and unfulfilled in your current position? Sometimes a simple job change is not enough.  If you are considering a career change, here some things to consider carefully to determine if you are ready for a career change.

  • Honestly Assess Your Current Feelings – Keep a journal for at least a month of how you are feeling about your current work situation.  Do you have trouble waking up in the morning and motivating yourself to go to work?  Do you feel depressed on Sunday evening at the thought of returning to work on Monday?  Are you experiencing an increase in headaches, stomach disorders or general stress symptoms?  Are you constantly thinking that this is not what you want to do when you grow up?  Does the thought of doing this work for the rest of your career depress you?  Do you have unique talents and abilities that are not currently being utilized?  It can be important to “trust your gut” but keeping a journal helps identify the day to day frustrations compared to the underlying issues.
  • Honestly Assess Your Personal Reality – Do some honest self-assessment exercises to clarify your interests and abilities.  There are useful tools available online as well as professional resources to conduct these assessments.  Your alumni career center may also have tools and advisors to assist you.  Do a sanity check by asking friends and colleagues about your strengths and abilities.
  • Do Your Homework – You may think you have determined what you want to do but now you have to reality test it.  It is important to learn more about the career you aspire to before leaping ahead with your plans.  Conduct informational interviews with individuals doing the job you think you want.  Learn what they do each day, what skills are critical to success and what experience a hiring manager expects for that position.  Is there any opportunity to test a new career path by volunteering or working part time?  Non –profits often welcome assistance and it could be a chance to try to new type of role as a volunteer.  Are the educational credentials you are lacking or key certifications expected in this new role?  Identify what you are lacking and implement a plan to address those shortfalls.
  • Plan Ahead – Maybe your dream job is a step or two away since you currently lack the experience or credentials required.  Identify opportunities to build the skills you are lacking to move you closer to your dream role.  Incremental progress is important.
  • Identify Targets – Do you research to identify companies who would offer the type of position you desire.  Identify contacts in those companies and conduct informational interviews.  Do your research on those companies.  Review job postings to monitor their requirements.  Build your knowledge of the company and the role to increase your opportunities for success.
  • Define and Execute Your Plan – If after all your exploration you determine it is time for a career change, define plan.  Identify your target companies and research each one.  Identify networking contacts at each target company.  Conduct information interviews.  Be sure to update your resume highlighting your transferrable skills.  Prepare your pitch on how you will present yourself at networking events and interviews to highlight your desire and motivation for a career change focusing on your transferrable skills.  Use what you have learned to provide context.  Identify opportunities to gain needed training or experience.  Use your passion to keep you motivated and track your progress.

We all spend too much time working to be miserable doing it.  Find work that you love and do it well.

Do I Really Need to Use Linked In?

I am often asked by job seekers if it is really worth their time and effort to use Linked In in their job search.  Bottom line:  use it only if you are serious about finding your next job!  Why is Linked In so important in your job search?

  • Building Your Professional Network – The single most important thing you can do in your job search is networking.  Linked In makes it easier than ever to identify contacts in your target companies.  It is highly unlikely you will land your next position by simply applying online.  You need to build a network of supporters at your target companies so that when the perfect opportunity is posted, you have an inside connection who can pass your resume to the hiring manager.  It is challenging to stand out in the flood of online applications but most hiring managers will take a look at resumes referred from a trusted colleague.
  • The Value of Second and Third Degree Connections and Groups – In the past networking was more challenging because you had to rely primarily on people you knew personally already.  With Linked In the true power comes through your second and third degree connections.  People you know also know many other people.  This greatly expands the pool for identifying contacts in your target organizations.  With group you can make connections without waiting for an introduction.  Leverage alumni groups for school and former employers as well as affinity groups for your profession.  This enables you to expand your network exponentially.
  • Informational Interviews – A critical component of your networking strategy should be informational interviews to learn more about the companies on your target list and their career paths and hiring practices.  Linked In enables you to identify relevant connections for informational interviews.  Then ask each contact for additional introductions.
  • Reconnecting with Former Colleagues – You may have lost contact with former colleagues once you left the company.  Find them on Linked In to see where they are now and who else they may know to assist you in your search.
  • References – It is critical to have references for your search and chances are your references may have moved to other companies since you last worked together.  Linked In is a convenient way to find them and to reconnect with them.  Be sure to ask permissions to list them as a reference and verity their contact information in advance.  When you expect a company will be contacting your references, let them know in advance to expect the call and provide background on the position and why you feel you are good fit.
  • Helping Others Find You – While Linked In is extremely valuable in helping you find contacts, it is also becoming a valuable tool for recruiters to find specific skill sets and experience.  Be sure you have a compelling and descriptive heading, not just your current title.  Have a complete profile so potential employers can quickly see the highlights of your experience and education.  Include a summary to focus on your key transferrable skills and your major professional accomplishments.  Make it easy for recruiters to find you.

4 Outside-the-Box Career Tips for College Grads

Looking for some pointers prior to graduation? Appearing in the Huffington Post, this piece will give you tips when looking in today’s job market! Please read the full blog here 4 Outside-the-Box Career Tips for College Grads!

 

 

What Not To Do In Your Job Search

By nature I tend to focus on the positive so for a job search I suggest tips for successfully landing that next job.  But, I’ve been asked specifically if there are things it is important to avoid in the job search.  Here are tops of what not to do in your job search.

  • Rely Solely on Online Applications – While most companies require that you apply online, if all you do is sit behind your computer and submit applications your chances of success are slim.  When you are not receiving calls for interviews, submitting more online applications does not solve the problem.  Networking is critical to success in the current job market.  If all you do is apply online you are expecting a hiring manager to find you as the proverbial needle in the haystack.
  • Write a Cover Letter All About You – Your cover letter needs to make the hiring manager interested enough in your qualifications to want to read your resume and schedule an interview.  While it is important to share highlights of your experience be sure you focus your letter on the relevant skills and experience to address their specific needs.  Customize your letter to the specifics of the job description.  Be careful not to start every paragraph or sentence with “I.”  Make it clear to the hiring manager how you can address their specific needs.  They really are not interested in what you want or unrelated things you did in the past.
  • Arrive late for the Interview – Really?  Demonstrate your professionalism and time management skills by arriving a few minutes early.  It also demonstrates your interest.  If you are not sure how to get there, do a dry run the night before. Allow extra time for traffic and have an idea in advance of where you can park.  Put your best foot forward.
  • Come Unprepared for the Interview – You should always be prepared to sell yourself but be sure to do your homework about the company, the position and those you will be meeting.  It is very easy to do online research.  Review the company website.  Have questions prepared for your interviewer.  Demonstrate your professionalism.  Never ask “so what does your company do.”
  • Fail to Follow-up with a Thank You Note – It is rude and unprofessional not to say thank you.  The interviewer shares valuable time with you.  Say thank you at the end of the interview.  Send an email as soon as possible to say thank you and to express your interest.  Refer to something specific you discussed.  Mail a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours.  People receive so little snail mail these days, it will be remembered.  Many hiring managers will eliminate a candidate who does not send a thank you note.
  • Ask about Salary, Benefits or Time Off During the Interview – You need to sell yourself during the interview.  Asking questions during the interview about salary, benefits or time off sends the message that you are not really interested in the job itself.  Wait until they decide they want you on their team to inquire about the compensation and benefits.  Make the sale before you start negotiating.

Avoid these common pitfalls in the search process to increase your success.

Advice For New Graduates Seeking Employment

Congratulations you’ve graduated but now what are you going to do?  If you are not employed at graduation, finding a full-time job needs to be your primary focus and priority.  Resist the urge to perfect your tan or spend the summer travelling.  Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself so you need to get focused and get started.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them.  You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.
  • Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags.  As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools.  Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.  Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information.  Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job.  Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.
  • Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries are of greatest interest to you?  Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets.  With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews.    Your target list will help guide your job search efforts.
  • Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive responses of hundreds of resumes.  To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.  Networking is NOT asking for a job.  It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value  etc.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies.  Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies?  What about former co-workers or classmates?  Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts.  Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked.  Sign up for linked in and identify contacts there as well.  Consider preparing a networking profile to help contacts see what you have to offer and the companies that interest you.  Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It does make a difference.
  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare.  Utilize your career services office to help you prepare for interviews.  Ask for a mock interview with feedback.  Research the company thoroughly.  Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers.  Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.
  • Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note.  It can break the tie between two finalists.
  • If you need to work part-time- Maybe you don’t have the luxury of dedicating yourself full time to your job search.  If you need to work part-time or on a temporary basis, be extremely selective.  Think about skills that you need to develop and focus on a job that helps you develop or refine those skills.  Look for ways to get exposure to an industry or company of interest by taking a temporary or part-time position to gain experience and visibility.  The enhanced skills and experience will help you further your job search instead of only putting money in your pocket.  If your goal is to work in an office, try to find office experience rather than becoming a store cashier or a waiter.  Focus on transferable skills.
  • Add Value to your resume, volunteer – Can you volunteer a few hours a week to add value to your resume?  A non-profit may be happy to help you gain some much needed experience while they gain coverage for summer vacations etc.  Find an organization you care about and explore opportunities to help.  You can gain office, finance, marketing, sales, communications, technology or other experience while helping them address a critical need in their organizations.  Not only does this add value to your resume, it also shows the employer that you care about giving back and that you showed initiative and creativity in gaining some experience.
  • Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about.  Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.

So, plan your journey.  Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search.

 

Types of Interview Questions

Job seekers often ask why interviewers ask such a variety of questions and what connection those questions have to the specific position.  With most interviewers, there is logic to the types of questions they ask.  Bottom line, interviews are trying to determine if you have the skills and experience to succeed in the position, if you will add value to the team and if you fit the team and the organization.  In additional to your qualifications, they want to be sure they want to work with you every day.

Most interview questions fall into a few broad categories and are asked for specific reasons.

General Interview Questions

  • Why are you looking to make a change from your current position?
    What is about this company and position that interest you?
  • Why did you pursue an MBA?
  • Why did you select Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business for your MBA?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What do you know about our industry?
  • What did you do last weekend?
  • What book did you read most recently?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your areas for development?
  • How would your manager and colleagues describe you?

These questions cover a broad range of questions.  They help the interviewer get to know you as a person, to assess your interest in the position and the company and to determine how well prepared you are for the interview.  They also gain insight into your decision-making process.

Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Give an example of a time you had to juggle multiple priorities and what was the result.
  • Tell me about a time you were on a team that had conflicts about how the work was going to get done.  How did you handle it and what were the results?
  • Share an example of a time you advocated for your idea and had an opportunity to implement it.  How to did you accomplish that and what were the results?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.  What happened and how did you respond?

What employers really want to know is how you will perform in their role but since they can’t see the future, they rely on prior experiences to predict future behavior.  Employers will tend to ask questions about qualities that are important to them in their work environment.  Be sure to briefly set up the situation, explain the actions you took and summarize the results you achieved.  Don’t spend so much time explaining the situation that you lose the results.  You want the interviewer to see you as a successful member of the team.

Technical Interview Questions

  • Give me an example of a complex use of Excel.
  • Explain the steps you took to complete the monthly closing process.
  • Walk me through the monthly analytics you review to monitor success of your online marketing initiatives.
  • Describe the process to evaluate current suppliers and identify new suppliers.

These questions will vary depending on the level of the position, the field and the types of job responsibilities.  Hiring managers want to glimpse the details behind what’s on your resume.  What did you actually do in that role?  What skills did you use in your position?  They are looking for more specifics than you can provide on a resume.

Mini-Case Questions

  • On a Tuesday morning in May, how many cars would you expect to see in the parking lot of ABC Retail and why?
  • If the CEO stopped at your desk and asked for data to support a recommendation to stop accepting checks from customers, what information would you need to gather to help support or deny this recommendation?
  • If you develop a new software application targeting parents of preschool children, what would you estimate the target market to be?
  • How many golf balls would it take to fill the lobby of this building?

Hiring managers are looking to assess your thought process.  There is not a specific right answer to these questions.  They know you need to make estimates and assumptions.  Walk them through your thought process and acknowledge your assumptions.    Thinking on your feet may be critical for the job so demonstrate your thought process in how you answer mini-case questions.

Random Questions

  • If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
  • If you could choose one super-power, what would you select and why?
  • What was your favorite thing to play as a child?
  • If you learned you had only one month to live, how would you spend your time?

Some interviewers love to throw out random questions to see how the candidate responds.  Show them you can think on your feet.  The specific answer is less important that having an answer and providing a reason for your response.

If you are prepared for all types of questions and have done your research on the company you should be well prepared for success.