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Your Career & The "Premium Rush"

I live one block off Broadway on New York City's Upper West Side. This morning I was on the way to brunch with a friend, and I saw something unusual: two and a half blocks of cabs and cars all lined up on the street. Parked. Only a few of them were there. The street corners were packed with police officers, people wearing orange reflective vests, and people with microphones and wires in their ears.Traffic_blur

I heard one of them say, "How do you spell brunch?" as he typed out a message on his iPhone? And then, many of them came inside the restaurant to join my friend and I. We sat at separate tables.

I asked a few questions and learned that the crowd I saw had gathered together for a common goal: They are shooting stunts for a movie, Premium Rush. The movie is about a bike messenger, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who gets involved in a chase around the city. You can learn more about it on this blog, or via IMBD.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't in my neighborhood this morning. Apparently the shots that are being filmed are what you will see as he zooms through traffic, but he won't be shooting the stunt.

But before I left the scene, I did take a couple of mental pictures that I do want to share with you. It takes many staff to film a movie...more than I imagined. Did I mention there was an entire side street filled with trailers and production vehicles, too'?

Despite all the job reports--the stories about lack of jobs in entertainment, for recent grads, etc.--there were people of all ages taking place in the shoot. There were people moving large scale equipment, people working to direct traffic, people who specialized in communication, videographers, technicians, and security. If I were in the movie industry, I could tell you who else was there, too. But that's not what I do.

The mental picture I left with is just how many jobs there are--to take part in a big project. Not everyone gets to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt and star in a movie,or to perform stunts, or to work as a senior producer. But if you're in a rush to land the career you want, perhaps a good way to start is by finding out all the task that go into producing the finished product of your dream job--and then look for a side door.

Do you have any experience with this? Share.

To Your Success,


Note to Recent Grads: Advice Worth Ignoring

I worked on college campuses for over a decade before starting my own business, and I've seen a lot of Pomp and Circumstance come and go. I've watched graduates saunter out into great jobs in a strong economy, and I've watched more than a few turn around and go straight back to school in a down economy. But regardless of whether you graduate this year, next year or you graduated five years ago, here are three statements that you can expect to hear--and which I think you should ignore.Hne

1. This is the worse job market in ___ years. You will never get a job. (Assume this is right and don't apply for jobs, you can guarantee you won't get one.)

A CEO I once worked with loved to tell the story of a man who was angry with God because he hadn't won the lottery. He shook his fists and shouted at the sky, "Why haven't I won? I deserve it. I'm a good man, I've worked hard. Why won't you help me?"

The clouds parted, a loud voice spoke. "My son, buy a ticket."

Moral: You have to apply for jobs in order to be in the game.

2. You need a stimulus package to get a job. A recent Op/Ed in the New York Times pleaded for a stimulus package to incentivize employers to offer new grads entry-level jobs. While a stimulus package may very well help, it's important to remember that people are getting jobs--with regularity.

According to the Department of Labor, nonfarm payroll employment has expanded by 573,000 since December. The number of unemployed is under 10% nationally. It's true that there are more unemployed recent graduates now than there were two years ago, but it doesn't mean that you don't have a chance of landing a job. You just need to pay attention to where the jobs are--both in terms of industry sector and in terms of location.

Action step: Take a look at Indeed's job postings per capita or industry employment trends. Consider refining your search based on what you find!

(I found a job in a recession post-college, when I decided to make a contrary move. I moved to DC instead of New York to seek out a job as an Editorial Assistant in book publishing. My job search took three weeks.)

3. You will enjoy living with your parents--forever. Every year, the percentage of recent graduates moving back home to live with their parents increases...While this may not be your plan "A," it may not be your parents either. Take a look at this New Yorker Shouts and Murmur's piece.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry? If your mom tells you they are moving to a new house so that there is less space to clean up, you may want to take this as a subtle hint. (This really happened to a friend of mine...he was finally told "we love you but we don't have anymore room.)

Bottom line: Ignore the naysayers, and the gloom and doom statistics.

Your job search isn't about numbers. It may be a numbers game to find positions, but in the end, people hire people--not resumes or online applications. Proof positive: All of the recent grads who were guest bloggers on this site last summer to discuss their "hire me" strategies have jobs. Full-time ones with benefits.

For the most part, the best way to get hired is the same as it was 15 years ago:

  • Know what you are good at
  • Learn what employers need
  • Target the market and research potential opportunities
  • Build a community/network
  • Apply
  • Articulate how you can meet employer needs

Yes, social media has complicated the process, but it's also shortened the distance between people and opportunities. (Earlier today, I reached out on Twitter to share a piece I wrote for Career Hub about Olympic Gold Medalist, Natalie Coughlin. She wrote back. How cool is that?)

What are you waiting for? Get out there! (Then let me know how I can help.)

The College Junior's Summer To-Do List (Guest Post)

Summer is almost here, and you know what that means: sleeping in, road trips, and wasting the day away by the pool. After all, this is your last summer of freedom before entering the year-round working world. It's a great idea to embrace what will soon be the last of your college years, but don't let this summer pass you by, or you just may miss a golden opportunity. So, while you're taking a break from the pool to let your sunburn heal, take a moment to do something that can positively impact your future.

  • Network: This one's easy: Networking doesn't have to be intimidating or hard work. It can actually be quite fun to go to events and meet new people in your community. They might not be keg parties, but have a good time seeking out parties, charity events, and other get togethers where you can get to know the professionals you'd like to work with in the future. They can help you land a job, launch your start-up, or provide guidance along the way.

  • Make sure you're on track: If you haven't already, you should check, double and triple check your requirements for graduation. Nothing would be more tragic than expecting a diploma to greet you next summer, only to find out you're just a few credits shy. Talk to your academic advisor, check out your school's catalog, and be absolutely sure of what you need to take care of next year.

  • Snipe the best classes: On a similar note, as a soon to be graduating senior, it's essential that you make it into the classes you'll need to complete your degree. So this summer, make sure you know when the course listings come out, and be among the first to build select classes for the fall semester.

  • Identify and meet recruiters: Get to know recruiters in your chosen industry. Let them know you'll soon be hitting the job market so that they will be familiar with you when it's time to start looking-and remember to follow up when that time comes.

  • Intern: Yes, it might put a dent in your busy schedule of sleep and partying, but taking on an internship is easily the most valuable thing you can do this summer. Do your time and work with a company that you'd like to be a part of in the future, and you just might find yourself with a job offer before graduation comes. Look for one that works with your schedule, while still satisfying your needs for experience and networking. Let your friends enjoy their hangovers. If you take these steps, you may find yourself enjoying a nice paycheck next summer.

By taking on these helpful summer tasks, you'll be well on your way to a successful senior year and a promising future upon graduation. Be sure to enjoy your last college summer, but don't forget that now is the time to plan for the successful career in your future.

This guest post is contributed by Angela Martin, who writes on the topics of Career Salaries.  She welcomes your comments:

Get a Green Job in Two Years (& Save $$$ on Training)

There's no doubt about it: Green is the new black. It's hip, cool, and sexy to work an environmentally friendly position that allows you to "do good." (Apologies to my mom, the former English teacher, who will scold gently remind me that the phrase "doing good" violates all rules of good grammar. But I digress.)


Virtually every article I've seen about bright spots in the job market recently highlights the increasing demand for green jobs. So does my own homegrown research. Anyway you slice it, green jobs are in vogue--and there are more openings for workers in other field.

But, even with all of the employer demand, there's a slight wrinkle: Many green jobs require technical training and an area of expertise in order to get hired. In many cases, you may find it very difficult to get an interview for a green job if you don't have knowledge of the field or industry in which you'd like to work. Unless you are a technical sales rockstar, and want to work in "green sales" related to a project you've worked on before, you may find that you need additional training--even to get to the interview.

Many colleges and universities are rapidly expanding their environmental science and curricular offerings in order to meet student interest and employer demand for green jobs. But college can be expensive. Which is why I really loved this article from CNN Money on how you can train for a green job in two years.

The secret (according to the article) is to attend community college. Many community colleges are offering innovative two year programs designed specifically to meet regional industry needs: it's a great way to hedge your bets for employment security. So check it out, if you are so inclined.

I'm going to digress (again), and close with a bit of a love letter three reasons why community colleges can be terrific places to boost your credentials:

1. They cost less than many other colleges and universities.

2. In general, the academic job market is very tough for individuals who want to teach at the college and university level. And frequently, positions go to people based on their scholarly and research work--not just based on their love of teaching.

So frequently, you can find devoted and --outstanding teachers--at the community college level. People who want to teach--not to publish the definitive last word on ____________.

3. Community colleges often have great feeder relationships with other schools--and you can still get a four year degree by transferring if that's what you want.  Some states have stellar linkage programs between community colleges and state universities (The University of Virginia, for example, has great relationships and linkage programs with community colleges in Virginia.) If this is something you are interested in learning about, research this.

Over the 8 years I worked at Ivy League schools, I met with several individuals who went to community college before "getting into an Ivy." All of these students had a great experience at the community college level. They credited their Ivy League admission in part to great teachers and mentors who believed in them and encouraged them. One of these students, a Philosophy major who had earned a 4.0 GPA at her new school, said that she missed her community college professors because they spent more time with her.

I'm not saying that community colleges are better than Ivies, or that Ivy League professors don't care about their students. I'm just shedding light on the options--and a potentially hot one for this economy. Take a look--especially if you are thinking about going green!

To your success,


On the "Cookie Cutter" Approach to Job Search: Do You Need a Recipe?

This is my first post as part of new online initiative of over 20 career experts called the Career Collective. Through the Collective, career professionals share their individual perspectives on a common question. We will do this once a month. (Many thanks to Miriam Salpeter and Jacqui Poindexter for starting this initiative). Today's question:


     Are you a ‘cookie-cutter’ job seeker? Do you find that you...

a) Are you witnessing job seekers who try to mimic everyone else in their job-search tactics (i.e., resumes that all say the same thing, job search action steps that mimic what everyone else is doing, etc.)?

b) Are seeing unfocused and/or fearful attitudes (I don’t want to limit my possibilities so I’m throwing out a very big net) derailing job seeker efforts?

    What advice would you give to help job seekers differentiate in this tough market?

In a marketplace filled with advice on how to differentiate yourself, I'm going to advocate for the importance of covering the basics. As my friends have shared with me in the past, "common sense isn't all that common."

Recently, I had dinner with my friend, "Julie," a very senior recruiter. Julie has survived three rounds of layoffs in her New York firm--she's the only executive recruiter left standing for her industry sector. I asked her how she looks at resumes, and she told me how much she loves a traditional format: she looks first for job titles, and then she looks for key performance indicators. Summaries, she said, can be helpful, but only if they highlight and present essential information.

As a resume writer and career coach, I focus on helping my clients differentiate themselves in the market. I like using summaries, alternate forms of organization, and taking a fresh approach to presenting information. But, I think it's also important to note that the essentials are equally important--after all, employers always have key questions in mind when they browse your materials. After all, this is what Julie and her peers look for:

How did you find out about a position?

How do your skills and experience fit the job?

Why are you interested in this job, and in this opportunity--at this organization?

When I worked as a recruiter, less than 30% of the cover letters I received answered all of these questions in a concise and comprehensive way. The ones that did received the strongest consideration. The candidate who applied for every position we listed was never seriously placed under consideration.

As a job seeker, it's important to answer the essential questions first and foremost. Once you've covered these basic ingredients, you can add the other elements that enhance interest: a demonstrated understanding of employer needs, information to show you've researched the organizational culture, a concise summary that showcases your writing ability and unique skills, a unique format that demonstrates your individual style....These are the "value adds" that can push you over the top--but don't ever forget the basics that get your resume read in the first place. Bottom line: You can include your own spin and creativity in the process, but make sure you've got all the basic ingredients as well! Show that you know how to follow the recipe first!

Want to see how other members of the Career Collective have answered this question? Check it out, and let me know your favorite "recipes" for a non-traditional approach!

Career By Choice's Expat Success Tips -Ongoing Career management is No Longer Optional for the Expat in Today's New World of Work 

Gayle Howard: Sabotaging Your Prospects: Cookie-cutter Style

CAREEREALISM: Cookie Cutters are for Baking...Not Job Searching!

Sterling Career Concepts: Job seekers: Break out of the mold!

Dawn Bugni, The Write Solution: Is your job search "cookie-cutter" or "hand-dropped"?

Rosa Vargas, Creating Prints Resume-Writing Blog: Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune

Heather Mundell, life@work: How Not to Be a Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Sweet Careers: Passive Job Seeker=Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Barbara Safani Career Solvers Blog: Cookie Cutter Resumes Can Leave a Bad Taste in the Hiring Manager's Mouth

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Career Trend Blog: Eating Bananas Doesn't Make You an Ape

Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers: How Can a Job Seeker Stand Out?

Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Blog:Avoiding Being a Cookie-Cutter Job-seeker In Your Resume and Throughout Your Job Search

Heather R. Huhman, Break the Mold: Don't Be a Cookie Cutter

Rosalind Joffe, Forget the cookies! Start with vision

Career Sherpa, Hannah Morgan: Are You a Cookie Cutter Job Seeker?

How to Navigate a Career Fair

After attending several career fairs in Manhattan with only 14 employers, I'm starting to see small signs of a turn-around: longer (if not "2006 long") lists of employers attending career fairs. Nice. With that, and the impending arrival of fall career fairs come September, here are my suggestions for navigating a career fair.

1. Take it seriously. Unless you are a visual art major and it's a "casual career fair," dress well--no 479608_shaking_hands jeans, tight clothes or white sneakers. Think: Summer's over, even if it's still warm outside. Ties, jackets, dress pants, dark shoes and socks for men. Shirts that don't show the navel and skirts or pants that don't defy gravity for women. Err on the side of conservatism. "She wore WHAT?" is always a perennial discussion among recruiters.

(Also, breath mints are always in vogue. Chewing gum at the fair or smoking outside--bad idea.)

2. Bring copies of your resume, but don't be disappointed if the employer prefers not to take it. Companies have rules and internal procedures regarding applicants. Occasionally, these rules will dictate that they can't take resumes. (Did you know some employers are legally required to preseve any comments they write on your resume at a career fair?")

Most employers will require you to apply for positions online to be considered as an official applicant. So don't be turned off by the line, "To apply for a position, go to our website.

3. Know who you want to talk to in advance, and have something interesting to say. Chances are good that you've heard a lot about the elevator pitch, and for good reason: You'll have under 30 seconds to introduce yourself to employers.

Here's a cheat sheet to know what to say: Every good introductions should include two pieces of information:

  • A summary of who you are and what you are looking for, and
  • An ice breaker that shows you are familiar with the organization's project and services--and culture. (I often recommend searching Google News by organization name, reviewing websites, and reviewing employer profiles such as Hoover's, Vault, and WetFeet.) Many job seekers don't do this, and taking the time to read in advance can help you stand out.

Not sure what you want to say? Check out, and the site's pitch wizard. It will help you condense and revise your "stump speech."

4. Don't be afraid to spend time with the "lonely employer." Job fairs can feel like popularity contests with lots of candidates in one line, and other booths that are almost empty. Stop by and say hello to the quiet tables, too. You may be surprised at what they have to offer, and it can be a great time to get one-on-one advice from the employer's perspective.

5. Get to know other job seekers at the event--especially when you are in line. Your next lead could come from the person standing in front of you or behind you in line. Making friends with others interested in the same company may seem self-defeating, but it isn't--especially given that you may have different interests, skills, and experience in terms of job function. Remember the common job search rule of thumb that over 60% of job offers are the direct result of networking!

6. When you talk to employers, keep your conversation focused and brief. Introduce yourself with a small handshake. Job fairs often feature long lines of candidates, and can be daunting to employers. Keep your ears open as candidates before you talk to employers, and consider introducing the employer to the candidate behind you in line if the discussion veers along a path of mutual interest. You demonstrate you are a team player when you introduce your "competition" with ease and present their interests, "This is Ben and he's also interested in brand management." When you demonstrate a high level of cooperation and courtesy, you can make an employer more willing to share their own business card--which, in turn, gives you a great vehicle to follow-up after the event.
7. Come early or stay late--and help employers or event organizers out if they are interested. Career fairs can be an exhausting endeavor for employers and fair exhibitors: Volunteering to help someone out can be a very smart way to get your foot in the door later--and to stay top of the employer's mind later.

This is my career fair "short list." What is yours?

Preparation, Pitching, and the Perfect Interview

This is the second installment in a three part series from recent grad, sports fan, and PR enthusiastic Megan Ogulnick. Megan is currently searching for her first full-time job, you can find her on Twitter: @MOgulnickMegan_ogulnick

Baseball is one of the most superstitious games in the world. Players may say you make your own luck, but watch that same player as he makes an effort not to step on the foul line. Between eating fried chicken before every game, taking batting practice in multiples of 3 or wearing the same warm-up jacket before each start, baseball players have numerous ways they get ready for a game. Of course, not all of them have to do with superstitions. I met Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, in Texas during a 3-game series against the Texas Rangers. Since my uncle works for the team I got to be in the park before everyone else. Regardless of the scorching heat, Dempster ran bleachers around the entire stadium before each game. Just one of the ways he prepares. Whether it's taking batting practice or watching film, baseball players do whatever they can to fully prepare for each and every game.

This same attitude can be applied to the job search. Sure you won't find me eating fried chicken before every interview, but I do have my set ways of preparing. Here are some steps I take in preparing for an interview:

1. Research: As soon as I have an interview set up, I make it my goal to find out as much as possible about the company. Look on the web, ask friends, ask family or anyone you may know in the industry. It is important to know the company’s reputation, objectives, values and goals. Know their brands, products and important clients. The more you know about the company, the better equipped you'll be to customize your answers. Interviewers will be impressed with your knowledge of the organization and it will show your dedication to the position.

2. Review Your Qualifications: You know how great you are, but it's important to be able to articulate that. Before going into an interview think about the skills necessary to succeed in this position. Do you need to be organized, have good time management, have good writing skills or be good with people? Now, customize your own skill set to the position you are applying for. In addition, be able to articulate how you have put those skills in action recently. Use examples to prove your point and demonstrate your skill set.

3. Prepare Questions: The job seeker isn't necessarily the only one being interviewed. It is important for the interviewee to ask questions as well to see if the company is a good match. Before heading to an interview prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Examples of these are, "What are the responsibilities of the position?”,  "What qualifications or skills are you looking for this person to hold?" and  "What are the goals for this position?". Interviewers will evaluate you not only on your answers to their questions, but also the questions you ask them. I try to prepare at least 5 questions prior to each interview.

4. Be Prepared!: I know this seems obvious, but this is key. Besides what I discussed above, also make sure to have extra copies of your resume, have your portfolio prepared (or multiple copies if you’d like to leave a few behind) and have your outfit ironed and ready the day before. Know exactly where you are going and allow enough time to purchase train tickets, get gas or take the bus to wherever the interview is. Don't wait until the last minute to get everything organized. You want to have a clear head going into the interview and being prepared ahead of time will help you with that.

I recently spoke with CJ Wilson, a relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers, about preparing for games. "The key is to focus on the process of what makes you successful. We make a routine where we do stuff in the same order so that our minds and bodies have all the tools needed to go out and do the job." If you’re a real sports fan you know what you need to do to succeed. We see and hear about it everyday. Players taking batting practice, pitchers having a catch on their off-days, teams watching film before an upcoming game. Whether in sports or in your job search, if you prepare properly you’ll have all the tools necessary to succeed. I’ve always been complimented on my interviews and that’s because I follow the steps I laid out above. I research, I prepare and I set myself up for success.

Whether you're a baseball player or recent college graduate, preparation is key.

Megan applies lessons and inspiration learned from sports for her job search. How do you set yourself up for success?

On Careers in Comedy and a Secret Source of Career Info

Several months ago, I wrote about Alexandra Levit's, How'd You Score That Gig?, a book which includes a great personality quiz, the results of which correspond to cool careers by personality type. It's a great way to jump start your career search if you want to do something new but you aren't sure just where to look yet.741336_innocence_4

But what if you know what you want to do but don't know how to begin? A great way to start is to listen to other people's stories; you can learn a lot by learning how other people have prepared--and trained themselves.

Naturally, there are many books you can listen to, but if you want to shake things up, check out the "Sound of Young America,"  a radio show distributed by Public Radio International. It's one of my new favorite finds, especially because I love the background story and description of the show:

Produced in the Los Angeles living room of host Jesse Thorn, a 25-year-old unemployed receptionist, The Sound of Young America is an edgy, irreverent comedy and arts interview show that bills itself as the “anti-Prairie Home Companion.”

Today, I'm listening to an episode about the careers of comedians and comedy writers Dana Gould "The Simpsons" and John Mulaney "Saturday Night Live."  Check out the Sound of Young America and listen an episode or two.

Do you have any "under the radar" sources of career how-tos? If yes, please share!

No One is Paying Me to Say This: How to Avoid Web 2.0 Job Scams

Companies, organizations and individuals who help people find jobs are "hot" these days. So is the entrepreneurial spirit. With new companies and "fresh approaches" to the job search rapidly emerging on the scene, there are plenty of opportunities to get "burnt."Aa_frog_8It's important to learn how to spot the frogs among us.

Today, I'm going to talk about how you can find those groups and individuals who have your best interest at heart. I am going to use as an example because I am a program organizer and facilitator.

Recently, the AP reported that over 2,000 job search groups had been created through in January alone. Many of the groups are hosted by professionals with industry experience similar to my own: They are career counselors, coaches, recruiters, former HR directors, etc. Some are created by enthusiastic volunteers. Others are hosted by entrepreneurs, recruiters or marketers who use membership lists to grow their businesses, and who rarely offer programs. A few run groups primarily for pitching you their product or service. (Tip: When joining a MeetUp group, don't just look at rankings--look at the last program date. This tells you how active the program is.)

If you are seeking to join a career support group or pay-per-premium access website, be savvy: if required to pay upfront for access to job listings, interviews, or "placement services," ask questions before you enter into any agreement. If it sounds too good to be true, it might be. Here are three acid tests you can apply before you sign anything.

1. Ask for two or three names of customers you can contact for references.

2. Ask--or try to figure out--how a company makes money. What's in it for them if you join? Shortly before the bust, there were companies with 50,000 resumes but only 15 employers. (The business model focused on advertising by number of resumes posted, not on the number of employers using the site.) Make sure your odds are good...and that your participation counts for more than helping someone "make bank."

3. On job posting sites, conduct general searches to assess the number of listings. If you are invited to upload your resume on a relatively new company website, ask how many unique employers they have reviewing resumes. Again, make sure the scales are tipped in your favor.

Finally, if you live in the New York metropolitan area, I encourage you to sign up for the MeetUp group that I facilitate. We offer regular programs on a diverse range of topics, from LinkedIn to using a "Six Sigma" approach to your job search. We have an active membership, and offer free online resources and weekly tips. Our members evaluate all of our progams, so you get objective feedback on how we're doing. We don't always get a five star rating, but that's what we aim for and the feedback helps us improve...

Speaking of feedback, we love comments. What's on your mind? And what topics would you like to see next on this site?

Courage (Or How to Ask for Advice)

One of the benefits of maintaining your own blog independently is the freedom to write about issues that rise to the forefront--and are sparked by casual conversation. Today, "Max," a former student of mine wrote to me and raised an issue worth repeating: In a tough market, how do you gauge a safe move? And how do you pursue your career goals when you know what you want to do but the market isn't cooperating?

In Max's case, he spent a year working in a prestigious New York law firm--then decided he was ultimately more interested in working in corporate finance in a role frequented by bankruptcy attorneys. His observation: "I know I don't want to practice law, but if school will help me land this role than that's the path I am going to take--especially since everyone I know who has my "dream job" has worked as an attorney!"

I advised Max to apply the brakes before going to law school and seek out the advice of other people who work in his dream job before applying. After all, law school is an enormous commitment of time and money--and there may be more efficient routes he can take to achieve his career goals.

Over the years, I've found that a vast majority of people enjoy it when you show interest in them and their work. After all, many people love to talk about themselves.

That being said, asking for advice can be tricky and awkward, especially if you are asking people you perceive to be experts. For this reason, and because the following experts have provided insight on this issue with great eloquence and candor, here are three posts I highly recommend.

  1. Be Wary of Pedestals
    From social media guru Chris Brogan (whom I don't know yet but hope to meet soon, and am now slightly less intimidated by--you'll understand why after reading the post)
  2. "How to Ask Questions and Not Be Perceived as a Dumb---"
    Dan Erwin, a management consultant, shares a great strategy for developing relevant questions. Equally important: he provides information on "who to ask," how to "make the ask" and "how to follow-up."
  3. How to Write an E-mail that Generates a Useful Response
    The Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk shares tips on "how to ask by e-mail."

Do you have any additional tips on best practices for asking for advice and information? If yes, please share...

Send Part II: 3 Ways to Find Answers to Questions

It has often been said that interviewing is like speed dating with the intention of an arrangedIS289-089marriage: employers and candidates meet and talk for a short pre-defined period before making a long-term decision. When the stakes are high, a good strategy for decision making is to identify what you need to know before the interview. And on the career front, there are always many options of information pre-interview that you can use to your advantage. Here are three strategies that you can use:

1. Know what you need to ask. Conduct a pre-interview with an outside party.

One of the quickest ways to break into a new field or land a new job quickly is to identify the best questions to ask during the interview. Nothing turns a potential employer off more quickly than having an interviewee with no questions (they'll either think you know everything, are disinterested, or not generally engaged.)

A great way to explore opportunities and prepare for interviews is to ask people outside the organization who work in a similar capacity specific questions. Examples:

  • What is the biggest misunderstanding that candidates for this type of job have about the position?
  • What is your greatest need? Is this need unique to your organization or do others who work in similar areas often face this challenge?
  • What's the best way to research your field?

2. Know how to ask

It's easy to get lost in the e-mail queue. If you're asking a question via e-mail, make it easy to answer. Here are two great resources on how to make this happen:

  • Send

    Before you hit "send," you may want to check out this book which I reviewed last month. I've heard of more than one Manhattan firm at which this is REQUIRED reading.

3. Know Who to Ask

If you are interested in a specific opportunity, be very strategic about what you ask--even if you're asking friends who currently work in a similar capacity. Know the answers to your basic questions before you create a list of questions for decision makers.

Here's is a real-world example of how one college student landed her dream internship with a boutique, big-name film production company:

She rented every single movie the production company had made and spent a weekend taking notes. When she was asked to name her favorite scene in a movie and what she would change about it, she said, "Since I'm interviewing with you, I'm going to take a scene from one of your movies. I loved ___, and especially liked the camera angles on _____, but did you think about _____?"

By the time she finished the question, she essentially had landed the interview: she had already demonstrated that she was ready.

She told this story the next fall, while serving as a student panelist for a program  on "Careers in Entertainment." As she recounted her interview preparation, another student panelist had his mouth open. When it got to be his turn he said, "I just learned how I lost that internship."

Trying to figure out what to ask? A great starting point is the Question and Answer section on LinkedIn. Through this feature of LinkedIn, community members both ask and answer questions. You can search previous answers and--if you don't find one that suits--ask your own (this may also result in additional leads for your search).

I'd love to follow-up this post with one on "the best question I ever asked" and "how it helped." Send your success stories my way!

Where the Jobs Are, How to Stay Out of Your Own Way

This fall has been fascinating, challenging, and occasionally exhausting. Living in New York, I've had a front row view of domino-effect of changes on Wall Street which has been supplemented through work with individual job seekers and a consulting gig at a university with a strong Boa_Constrictorcampus recruiting program.

On occasion, I've been at a loss for words. Many of the "safe industries" that I have traditionally recommended to students and young professionals--healthcare, government, biomedical, IT--have also taken some very public hits. (When Dow Chemical announced major layoffs, it really made me nervous--especially since chemical engineers had the highest starting salary of any 2008 graduates due to the "need" for their skills.) 

I've spent a lot of time talking to individual job seekers, and I've noticed a similar response to the economy, "I'm going to stop looking now, because I don't see how I can possibly find a job in this market." I've heard this response from current college students, young professionals, and the recently laid-off. I call this response, the "boa constrictor" because it reminds me of Shel Silverstein's poem about being swallowed by a giant snake:

I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

It's easy to personalize the economy: i.e. " layoffs and hiring freezes at <<insert company name>> mean I'll never land a new job. I'm going to get clobbered in this market. I have no chance."

DON'T LET YOURSELF THINK LIKE THIS. It is the equivalent of letting yourself get swallowed by a boa constrictor.

In reality, employers are still hiring. Perhaps not in the same volume or with the sexiest salaries ever--but there are still opportunities. And pursuing new opportunities is much better than staying home and putting yourself out of the game altogether.

In that vein here are two great posts providing tips on "where the jobs are" :

Reasons to Give Thanks: There is No Shortage of Jobs for Young People (Penelope Trunk)

Bright Spots in the Bad Economy: Five Places to Look for Jobs Right Now (Lindsey Pollak)

And one article on how not to stand in your own way.

Ten Ways You Stop Yourself from Getting the Right Job (Sital Ruperalia on Career Hub)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what's working--and what hasn't worked.

To Your Success,

The Value of Being Curious

One of my favorite lines from Alice and Wonderland is "Curiouser and curiouser." I've forgotten when she says it in the story, but I'll never forget when my cousin, Zoe, first heard the phrase. Even at the tender age of five, she just knew it was important--and fun--to be curious. "I'm curiou-ker and curiou-ker" she shouted as she ran around the house.

She's held onto that idea. Last week, I talked to her after her basketball practice and she told me all the things she was learning to stay on top of her game. On Sunday, I talked to her mom and she told me she'd been the star player in her latest matches.

In my own life, I'm  "curiou-ker and curiou-ker" about careers. I love to ask people what they do, what they like about it, and to investigate pockets of supply and demand in terms of job functions and the overall employment market. I call it fun.

I also read blogs about careers, and one of my favorites is Penelope Trunk's The Brazen Careerist blog. She always makes me think, and so do the Gen Y bloggers at her company. I've never met her, but I love her voice. She's got a great style, and she seems to say exactly what's on her mind--especially when it's controversial. I love that, but am more deliberative by nature and nurture. (I was born in Texas and own multiple pairs of boots, but worked in academia for years and became cautious about what was "said" and what is left "unsaid."). In spite of--and perhaps because of--our differences, I love reading Penelope's work. Sometimes I disagree with her, but often I think she's spot-on in her advice.

Today, she writes about learning--and the value and importance of being curious in our current recession.

People who are always curious and always learning are keeping the recession from killing their career trajectory. You don't need to have a job to be learning, you don't need to have a great title to be stretching your skills. And really, really, you don't need to go to graduate school and earn a degree to prove that you are learning.  In fact, maybe you need to take a job you're not thrilled with, but remember that no one can dictate your learning curve. You control that.

I couldn't have said it myself. What are you curious about? And how do you show the world about your curiosities?