How to Successfully Find a Job in 2017

Gone are the days of waiting for the fat employment section in the Sunday paper each week but no one really misses those days.  That was not an efficient way to find a job.  What is frustrating as a Career Advisor is to see students not properly leveraging the outstanding tools available to help them find their next career step in 2017.

Job seekers who are stuck behind their computers submitting online applications are not likely to be successful.  Their application is a needle in the haystack.  Submitting an online application and then trying to find an insider contact is also not a recipe for success.  People will quickly realize that you are only using them to advance your application.

You must follow the process to conduct a success search.

Develop Your Target List – Think about what you want to do.  What skills and experience qualify you for this position?  In what industry do you hope to work?  Where in the world do you hope to work?  What functional role are you seeking?  What do you need in terms of company culture and values?  Start drafting a list of companies for whom you would love to work.

Informational Interviews – Leverage your various alumni, family and friends and former colleagues’ networks to identify contacts who work in your target companies.  Set up informational interviews to learn more about the company and your area of interest.  What is the hiring process like?  How does the company support their employees?  What does the person like about working there?  What would they change if they could?  You will likely learn things you like and things you don’t.

Continually Refine the List – Based on what you learn in your informational interviews, continue to refine your target list.  Some companies or types of roles will fall off the list and you will learn about new companies to explore further.  Continue to build and refine your list as you continue to conduct informational interviews.

Build Networks within Your Target Companies Throughout this process you are building relationships with people who work in your target companies.  Keep detailed records of your contacts.  Be sure to thank them for spending time with you and helping you learn.

Identify Opportunities – Once you have your target companies updated and your network in place, you are ready to start exploring opportunities.  When you see an opportunity at a target company, reach out to your contact to see what insight they can share.  Ask if they would be willing to pass your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.  Maybe they can submit it in their employee referral program.  Having an internal advocate moves your resume to the short pile instead of the mountain that arrives blindly online.  This is a huge advantage.  Your internal advocate can also share additional insight and perspective to help you prepare for the interview.

If you think you can shorten your process by applying to online applications all day, you will be seriously disappointed.  Invest the time in researching, learning and building your network and you will significantly increase your success.

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Are You Stuck in a Job Search Rut?

You have decided it is time to look for another job.  You may be unhappy or frustrated in your current situation or maybe you need a challenge and an opportunity to learn and grow.  Many would think that making the decision is the hard part but I see many people decide they need to change jobs and then they get stuck and make no progress.  Why does this happen?  What can they do about it?

Attitude – If you consider the process of looking for a job, yet another chore to add to your to do, it will be.  When perceived as one more thing to do, it is easy to procrastinate.  Instead, see this as an opportunity to invest in your future.  Take the time to research industries, companies and roles that may be a fit for you.  Do informational interviews with alumni and other contacts.  Use all this input to clarify your targets and build a list.  When you approach the task with an attitude of investing in yourself, each step of the journey feels like progress towards your goal.  Don’t just complain about your current situation or your inability to find a new job quickly.  Do something about it.  Set targets and hold yourself accountable.

Perfectionism –   Yes, you certainly want your resume and Linked In profile to have no errors but if you are waiting for it to be perfect you will never get your search started.  Each position may require edits to your resume to best tailor it to that specific role.  Don’t immobilize your search by waiting for your materials to be perfect.  Get feedback and a careful review and then get moving.  You can always tweak it as you go along based on the feedback you receive.  Don’t derail your search by waiting for perfection.

No Heavy Lifting – You want a new job but you don’t want to invest the time in research and networking.  What you get out of the search will be a direct correlation to what you put in.  Sitting behind the computer screen and submitting online applications will not a road to success.  Research shows that more than 75% of all jobs are filled through networking.  Get off the couch and start networking.  Build a target list to focus your networking efforts.  Know where you want to go and do something every week to move you closer to your goal.

Too Stressed – I often hear job seekers explain that they are too stressed in their current job to invest time and energy in a search.  Doing the same thing over and over is not going to change the result.  You will continue to be stressed if you stay in that job.  Set realistic goals and do something every week to move your search forward – build a target list, research top companies identify alums in your top companies, schedule a networking meeting each week.  Small steps on a consistent basis will move you forward and will change the situation you are in.  Once you feel you are doing something to begin the process of change, you feel more control which often helps reduce your stress even before you achieve your goal of a new job.

Get out of your rut and begin the journey to the next step in your career.

Job Search Advice for New Graduates

Congratulations you’ve graduated but now what are you going to do?  The clock is ticking on your students loans and mom and dad keep asking you about your job prospects.  What is a new graduate to do?  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.  Do your research on which companies have opportunities in your field and who has been hiring.

 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 hundreds of resumes in response to a single posting.  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.

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 gain 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.  Be careful with your security settings.

 So, plan your journey.  Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search.  Enjoy the interesting people you meet along the way and all you will learn about different companies, functions and roles.

 

 

Energizing Your Spring Job Search

Spring is not just the time for cleaning your house and yard.  It can also be the perfect time to refocus and re-energize your job search.   This early in the year there is typically hiring activity going on and those calendar year companies don’t have budget freezes in place just yet.  Many companies are preparing for the college grad hiring process and that often brings some internal movement and opportunities.

Spring can be an extremely busy time for successful job searchers, so here are a few tips for making the most of this time.

Networking

The single most important thing any job searcher can do is networking.  The weather will be slowly improving so people are more willing to get out of the office for a cup of coffee and conversation.   Identify the target companies on your list.  Use your alumni database, Linked In, former colleagues, etc. to identify contacts in those target companies.  Request an informational interview to learn more about the company, but do not ask for a job.  Rather, ask how the company hires, what skills are required for success, and how the function you are interested in fits in that organization.

Set specific networking goals for the spring and hold yourself accountable.  Meet people for coffee, lunch, a quick meeting or even a walk outside.  Take advantage of this time of year to make as many connections as possible.  Always ask your networking contact who else they think you should be talking to, given your career interests.  Ask what professional association meetings you should be attending.  Take advantage of these opportunities to meet others in your chosen field.

Have a Plan

You wouldn’t plan your vacation without a destination in mind and at least a rough plan of how you are going to get there.  Your job search deserves at least that much attention – if not more.  It is hard to get where you want to be without a clear sense of where you are going, so create and follow a specific job search plan.

Identify the type of position you seek and the target companies where you most want to work.  Develop a networking strategy and list of contacts for each company.  Have a plan to make new networking contacts every week.  Always thank your networking contacts for their time, preferably in person and follow it up with a written note.  Thank them again if they refer you to a valuable connection.  Keep your network posted on your progress.

Stay Positive

No one wants to hire a complainer or a “Negative Nellie.”  Stay positive and stay focused.  Enjoy the networking along the way; you may just surprise yourself with how rewarding it is to make new connections, learn new things and expand your personal and professional networks!

Reflect on the interesting people you meet and draw inspiration from their career journeys.  Be positive about yourself and the skills you bring to the table.  Demonstrate that you have a vision for what you want to do in your career.  Show appreciation for their time and enthusiasm for additional contacts or activities they recommend.  It is hard to sell yourself to others if you are not confident in your own abilities.

Also, be open and accepting of feedback.  You may not want to hear it but, you need to hear it in order to grow and get to the next level.  Learn from others who have more experience.  At least seriously consider the advice they offer.  Be willing to learn and to try new things.  Remember, you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken.

Use that burst of spring energy to ramp up your job search and to increase your likelihood of success.

 

Do I really have to write a customized cover letter?

I am often asked this question.  It is so much easier to just send a resume.  Is it really important to write a customized cover letter?  Yes, if you hope to be invited for an interview.  If you don’t want the job, don’t bother but then why even send your resume?  If you are interested in the job, a cover letter is a critical component.  The cover letter may well be your opportunity to stand out from the mountain of online applications.

Why is the cover letter so important?  This is your opportunity to connect the dots for the hiring manager.  You read a job description and said “this is good job for me because…”  You need to make those connections obvious to the employer.  What do they gain by hiring you?  Focus on your relevant experience and transferable skills.  Differentiate yourself in the process with a strong cover letter.

How professional should it be?  It should be a business letter, your name and address on the top in the same format as your resume, date, address block, salutation prior to the body of the letter.  Demonstrate your professional writing skills in your cover letter.  It should never be more than a single page.  Sincerely is the acceptable close, never fondly or other approaches.  Use “Dear Mr. Smith” not “Dear Joe”, or “Dear Joe Smith”.  Your letter should contain an introduction, body and then a strong close.  Do not just summarize your resume.  Do not over use the word “I” and be careful not to start most sentences or paragraphs with “I”.  Focus on the needs of the company.

What are some of the current trends in cover letters?   An alarming trend is the number of candidates who do not bother to write a letter, this tells the employer it wasn’t worth the applicant’s time and effort.  Many applicants focus their cover letters on what they want and need when the focus should be on how you can address the needs of the employer.  Many applicants over use the word “I” in their letters.  Do not start every paragraph with “I” and do not start every sentence with “I”.  Do your first draft and then go back and eliminate half the “I”’s by restructuring the sentences.  Your letter serves as a professional writing sample so demonstrate strong grammar, proper structure, correct spelling etc.  Lack of attention to these details is a quick route to the no pile.  Make your letter engaging, tell your story as if you were talking to the person live.  Make them want to talk to you!

Does it have to be customized if my resume stays the same?  Yes!  You need to customize every letter to the specific needs of the company and the specific requirements of the position.  Show them why you are a strong candidate for this job.  Most hiring managers can spot a template letter and it will quickly move it to the “no” pile.  The major risk of not customizing your letter is that you are perceived as more of a robot than as a unique individual with relevant skills

Do not use a template and Beware of cut and paste – Most hiring managers can spot a template letter very quickly and then move it to the no pile just as quickly.  Generic language and no focus on the specific job tell the employer you were not interested enough to prepare a customized letter.  Even if you think you are being careful cutting and pasting into a template for minimal customization, errors occur much too frequently.  Employers lose interest very quickly when your letter refers to the wrong company or position.  You can talk about your attention to detail all day but if you make these types of errors in your cover letter no one will believe you.  Demonstrate your skills and your interest with your letter.  Demonstrate your interest and passion by being you in your letter!

A strong customized cover letter increases the chances that you will be invited for an interview while a poor letter earns you a quick trip to the no pile.

Focus Your Job Search This Fall

As life settles into the fall routine, this is the time to get serious about ramping up your job search if you hope to be in a new job in 2017. Don’t waste time focusing on what you should have done over the summer, give your search a fresh start with renewed focus and energy.  Finding a job takes some time, effort, and focus so it’s critical to define a plan and get started sooner rather than later. Here are some suggestions for “falling” into some good job search habits this season:

  • Create a plan – Define specific goals and an actionable plan of how you will go about achieving them.  It’s the old, “You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.” First, start by assessing your skills, strengths and interests.  Then, think about the type of work you enjoyed in current and prior roles, as well as internships, part-time jobs or even on-campus work or volunteering.  Next, think honestly about your core competencies and in what industries and roles those skills will bring value. Document your plan and measure your progress against it. Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable – and 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, right? Well, 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 whom you could use for references and collect their current contact information. Of course, remember to 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 and industries are of greatest interest to you? Start your wish list with current preferences, then so some research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and require your same skill sets. Consider company size, location, corporate culture, etc. while building your list of approximately 40 – 50 companies. Prioritize them by first ranking on a scale of 1 – 5, based on your interest. Next, check job boards to see if those companies have posted positions in your field within the last six months, and rank accordingly. Finally, search your alumni database and LinkedIn to identify where you have possible connections, and do another round of ranking based on connections. Start your research with the companies ranked the highest across all categories, and work your way down the list. This will not only help guide your job search efforts, but as you learn more about these companies, you can continue to refine your list.

 

  • Network, network, networkThis 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 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response, so 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, however; 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. This involves a significant amount of listening. Wondering how to begin? 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 fellow alums a few minutes, if asked. Sign up for LinkedIn, 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: It is the single most important thing you can do to find your next opportunity. I tell students they should spend 10 times more time networking than they spend reviewing online job boards.

 

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – When you are invited in for an interview, be sure you thoroughly prepare. Practice, and ask for feedback. Use your career services office at your alma mater or rely on trusted friends and colleagues. Think about how you would respond to frequently asked questions. Research the company thoroughly, and prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming in well-prepared.

 

  • Always say ‘thank you’ – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note, so stand out from the crowd. If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you, but follow it up with a hand-written note. I‘ve seen a handwritten thank you note break the tie between two finalists.

 

  • Protect your social media presence – Some potential employers will check applicants out online before making an offer. Use good judgment on questionable 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.

 Your job search is a journey, and with a little advance planning, you can make it a smoother, more successful ride. Get out from behind the computer, and start networking your way to a more effective job search. Being competitive in this job market is NOT about how many online applications you can submit; it’s about building relationships in your target companies so you have advocates there when the right job opens up. Use this fall season to invest in your future career success.

 

Beginnings and Endings Fall 2016

This is an exciting and busy time on campus in the MBA Career Center at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of business.  We just celebrated honor society induction and graduation with our Class of 2016 and welcomed the Class of 2018.

Welcome Class of 2018

It is exciting to welcome the MBA Class of 2018.  We are delighted that they have chosen Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim Graduate School of Business.  They have made a major decision to invest the next two years of their lives in our full-time MBA program.  They are seeking a significant return on that investment in terms of their careers.  They will take many exams, write papers, prepare case analysis and complete group projects over the next two years.  While developing their knowledge of business disciplines, they will also be learning how to advance their careers and prepare for their job searches.

The new class will be busy this fall preparing for their corporate residency job searches next year.  Through both their weekly career management classes and their work with their career advisors, they will develop professional resumes and cover letters, enhance their elevator pitches and their networking skills and they will practice interviewing.  In addition, they will hear from professionals in a variety of companies to help them learn about a wide range of career opportunities.

Experiential learning in not just about the six month residency.  We will also give students valuable opportunities to practice and enhance their networking skills in executive luncheons, Insider Insights sessions, networking events and mock interviews.  They will be expanding their professional networks while they prepare for residency recruiting.

Class of 2017

Our MBA Class of 2017 students are not on campus right now because they are out working on their six month residency assignments.  I’ve been conducting residency check in visits the last several weeks and continue to be impressed by the work our students are doing.  Their managers are sharing very positive feedback about the value they are bringing to their organizations.  Students are gaining valuable work experience while applying what they learned in the classroom.  Employers gain a six month resource for critical projects and they value to fresh perspectives the students bring in addition to their strong work ethic.

Congratulations Class of 2016

What could be more exciting than watching our students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas at graduation?  They have successfully completed all their requirements for an MBA.  Studying is over.  It is rewarding to watch them take the next step in their careers moving on to leadership development programs and other exciting new roles.  Their hard work has led them to an important next step in their careers.  We enjoy celebrating their success with them and their families.  We now have the opportunity to work with them throughout their careers as alumni.  I look forward to seeing many of them back on campus in the future hiring students for their organizations.

I was particularly proud of the students inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society for their outstanding academic achievements.

In the circle of life we celebrate both the beginning and the endings and wish the students all the best throughout life’s journeys.