Job Search Series – Step 7 – Networking

Job Search Series - Step 7 - Networking

Welcome to the next step in the Job Search Series, a series of posts that revolve around getting yourself into a new job. Today we’ll be looking at networking. Networking is reaching out to all of the people that you know to see if they happen to know of any jobs or any ways to help you. Unfortunately if you haven’t been actively networking this process might take a while since your network will be comprised of your friends.

Surprisingly networking can get you a great many leads. I’ve gotten just as many job offers through networking as I have through regular channels. In my current job search the person I’m going to be taking a contract with I knew from my old job. He got in touch with me when he found out I wasn’t working. This is how networking can be very powerful. Companies are always on the look out for good employees, possible clients, and great vendors. Most of these deals don’t happen through direct open channels but through networking.

By relying on people in your network to get a lead on a job or even on a sale you’re essentially coming into the first meeting pre-qualified. For example if your close friend Mike knows a plumber he’s worked with in the past and you need a plumber. Are you even going to bother looking for one or just calling Mike’s friend? This is how networking gets you an in with your job search. Don’t discount it and don’t burn bridges when you change companies. Remember you’re not the only person that will change jobs, you might find that if you change jobs your clients might come with you.

I’ve had a lot of great success relying on the people I know to help open some doors. This doesn’t mean I was forceful or pushy. I would simply let a few people in my industry know that I was looking and if something came up they would let me know. I’m sure you’ve had friends and co-workers mention they’re looking for something and you respond by saying that you’ll keep an eye open. If you can help them out then great if not no one is upset.

When you’re searching for work don’t forget about the network of people you know; you might be very surprised where a job lead might come from. On Monday we’ll cover the final step in the Job Search Series, Following up.

Book Review – It’s called Work for a reason

It's Called Work for a Reason

Recently I’ve seen a bunch of Personal Finance bloggers writing about Larry Wingnet’s new book You’re Broke Because You Want to Be and some of his older work. Needless to say this caught my interest since in general they had good things to say about him. So as I was in the bookstore browsing these caught my attention. Because they had been mentioned by a few bloggers lately it made the books pretty much jump off the shelf. I couldn’t resist and I picked up It’s Called Work for a Reason!. A couple days later the book was done and I have to say that it was a very refreshing read.

The whole premise of the book is Larry’s take on the fact that in general we in North America really don’t do our jobs that well, if at all. I have to say that I couldn’t agree more. Working over the last 12 or so years I have basically come to the same conclusions that he has: people waste a great deal of their time. I know that over those years I’ve been one of those people from time to time so I’m not innocent in any way shape or form. Larry’s book takes a very simple look at the whole issue of work and gives us all very profound kick in the pants. We’ve forgotten that it’s called work for a reason. Its not called lets stand around the water cooler talking about lunch but work.

His straight forward no holds barred style was very fun to read since it hammered the point home with amazing clarity. Success is driven by results not how much time or effort you put in but by the output you produce. One of the things that really jumped out at me wasn’t the fact that in general we don’t work as hard as we could (hell everyone has bad days) but that the style and message of the book was very down to earth and it highlighted what we can do to really succeed in a down to earth manner.

Aside from the overall message of the book there were a few sections that I really liked: the chapter on customer service and the one on sales. The chapter on customer service was quite entertaining with its examples but also very true. We don’t provide good customer service and in general we just don’t understand its impact and importance. Apathy and bad customers service are simply no excuse and that is oh so true.

The chapter on sales was eye opening since it really comes down to sales at the end of the day. If you’re not selling your product or service there is no money coming through the door. No matter how well you’re doing your job or how much you think you deserve a paycheck if there are no sales then there is no money.

I have to say I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who’s working or likely to find themselves working at some point (yes that’s pretty much everyone). The no nonsense, down to earth manner with which he approaches the topic should get a few people to realize just how little they’re doing. All over the world we see great examples of productivity and accomplishments yet they’re not constant and I haven’t seen any major accomplishments in North America for a while. I think Larry’s book might help resolve some of those problems.

Job Search Series – Step 6 – The Interview

Job Search Series - Step 6 - The Interview

The next step in the Job Search Series is the Interview. Getting your foot in the door so you can actually sit down to meet with your prospective employer is where we’ve gotten to now. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that you’ve got the job; you’ve been selected out of a pile of resumes as a potential fit and now you need to prove it face to face.

The interview helps the employer know if you would fit into the organization by asking you questions about your previous experience. They need to know that you know what you’re talking about (unfortunately a lot of people lie on their resumes). They also need to get a sense for your personality to make sure that you’ll be able to work with them and the others in the company.

Interviews can be very nerve wracking for some people. There are a few things that you can do to make sure that you’re better prepared and do well during the interview. First off you really need to do your prep work. In this case prep work means knowing the position you’re applying for, reviewing your resume and being able to talk about your previous experience, and most importantly do some research on the company. If you have an interview with company ABC, make sure you find out as much as you can about the company. This means checking their website and doing some searches online about them.

As you’re doing your research you should start collecting a list of questions that you’ll want to ask the employer. In some cases they’re answer most of them during the actual interview but you need to keep in mind the type of atmosphere you’re walking into, roles and responsibilities. Ask as many open ended questions as possible.

During the actual interview stay calm and collected. I know that this is easier said then done if you’re interviewing for your dream job. But remember your prep-work will give you something to ask them about and it will show initiative and interest on your end. Make sure that end of the interview you have a good sense of what the company and the job are about.

By coming in prepared you’ll be able to make a good impression. But don’t forget the person on the other end of the desk is human too. There’s a good chance they don’t like interviewing or aren’t very good at it.. Present yourself as best you can, get as much information about the job as you can and that’s about all you can do. Good Luck, knock ‘em dead!

Job Search Series – Step 5 – The Cover Letter

Job Search Series - Step 5 - The Cover Letter

Welcome to the next step in the Job Search Series over the last couple posts in this series we’ve covered: Writing your Resume and Getting out there. Now we move onto a topic that I personally have a love-hate relationship with: The Cover Letter. Surprisingly this one piece of paper can be incredibly important.

What is it?

The cover letter is a short introduction letter to you and your resume. It will have a few polite niceties and a quick description why you as a candidate should be considered for the job. This one pager is attached to the front of your resume when it’s submitted for a job.

Why it’s important?

The cover letter is important because, lets be honest, most people don’t write them. When submitting a job application all they do is submit their resume. By this virtue alone simply creating one will give you a slight advantage and increase your chances of getting an interview. The second thing they give you is some additional space where you can plug your skills. Your resume is nothing more than a highlight reel from your working past and it probably doesn’t cover everything. By adding a cover letter you can highlight your interest in a job or point out a reason why you should be considered.

The main reason I have a real love hate relationship with the cover letter is I have experience with them from the other side of the fence, the hiring manager’s point of view. What I have learnt is the people who went to the effort of writing a cover letter are more interested in the job, they’ve done more research, and stand out of the crowd that much more. Imagine if you were a hiring manager and had a stack of 300 resumes and 10 of them had cover letters; which ones would you start with?

Best approach – write one

By virtue of writing one you are already putting yourself ahead of the game. From a very general point of view introduce yourself and why you might be good for the job. Then write a point or two about your skill for the job above and beyond your resume and you’re pretty much done. I’ve definitely simplified the process but this shouldn’t be a long piece of prose but a short couple paragraph introduction that will entice the reader to look at your resume and consider you.

A well-written introductory cover letter can show the hiring manager that you’re more serious about this job than the rest of the people in the pile that didn’t write one. Even if you’re not as qualified as you could be, that cover letter shows determination and can get you an interview when you might have been previously overlooked.

Job Search Series – Step 4 – Getting Out There

Job Search Series - Step 4 - Getting Out There

Welcome to the next entry in the Job Search Series So far we’ve covered off: Analyzing your past, knowing what you’re looking for and most recently writing your resume. At this point you should be ready to go out there and apply and get yourself some jobs interviews.

By getting out there I am saying that you should let the world, or at least the companies you’re interested in, know that you’re looking for work. Depending on the industry that you’re looking for work in this might mean that you have to go any apply for a position in person or it might mean that you apply for jobs online. There are a number of ways that this can occur but you have to make sure to get out there.

There are a few things that I would do regardless of the industry that I was looking for a job in. First off post your resume online (Workopolis, Monster, Dice), this will provide you with some initial exposure for your resume. Not to mention that this is necessary to use most of those services. Next I would start applying to jobs. If you came up with a list of jobs during your research you could start applying to these (or doing more research about the companies for your cover letter, we’ll cover this in the next step). Finally I would start looking around for job fairs, job boards and in general career related information and postings.

There is no way around the fact that this part of the process can be laborious and take time but it is also necessary. If you’re still working while searching most of the online sites have ‘private’ settings to keep your name protected (just in case). Don’t get discouraged.

Next we’ll move onto the aspect of looking for a job that I like least but its also one that I know is incredibly important: The cover letter.

Carnivals this Week

One of the coolest things in the blogging community and specifically the PF blogging community are Carnivals. If you’ve never seen a carnival before it’s a collection of articles that are submitted to a presenter or host. This person collects and organizes all of the posts that are submitted into what’s typically a very long post. These are great because in one post you get what are probably the best articles on the topic from the past week.

I’ve been participating in a couple carnivals over the past couple weeks and this week is no different. I participated in the Carnival of Personal Finance (#140) and the Festival of Frugality (#113). The Festival of Frugality was hosted by the Mighty Bargain Hunter and was based on the theme of Presidents Day. Here are a few articles that caught my attention from the festival:

Outwardly Simple and Inwardly Rich
Ten Lessons from a One-Income Family
Celebrities and Money: Sarah Michelle Gellar

The Carnival of Personal Finance was hosted by The Financial Blogger and followed a Prison Break theme. Here are some of the articles that caught my attention from it:

You Are Not Your Stuff, Your Stuff Is Not You.
Lessons I Wish I Learned Earlier
The Car I didn’t Buy
Save Time and Money with These Tips for Organizing Your Personal and Financial Records

Job Search Series – Step 3 – Writing your Resume

Job Search Series - Step 3 - Write your Resume

The next entry in the Job Search Series is about: Writing your resume. This entry is very challenging to write about because there are so many different formats for resumes not to mention things that you can actually put on your resume. Unfortunately there is no really right or wrong way to go about this from a style point of view.

In an effort to give the best advice possible when it comes to writing your resume here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest
  • Tailor the resume to the job that you’re looking for
  • Highlight relevant experience
  • Don’t worry about things like length (most of the time this doesn’t matter)

Where to start? Haven’t written a resume before or in a very long time? Look at the notes that you made in the first two steps of this series as a starting point. Your goal is to highlight your past experience and your most positive results from those jobs. Chances are you were able to come up with a long list of tasks, responsibilities and accomplishments but you need to look at the possible jobs that you’re interested in and pick the ones that are most appropriate.

For example if you’re looking for a job in management you want to highlight the fact that you managed people in the past. Making sure that what you’re putting down is relevant will go a long way to helping you get your foot in the door.

As a hiring manager for the better part of this decade I’ve seen a few resumes and in a large pile of resumes you need to make sure yours stands out (for all the right reasons). Getting through the screening process to an interview is a contest; you need to make sure that your resume stands out so you can win it. Here are a few things that I’ve seen and done to make a resume stand out:

  • Clarity – don’t let your statements be too ambiguous
  • Focus on results – saying that you managed something/someone is nice but saying you “managed 7 staff improving the efficiency of turn around times by 25%” is more focused and results driven
  • Creativity – if you’re not 100% qualified point out reasons or items that will help you succeed (think transferable skills)
  • A little humor – A line or two with a small comment to make the hiring manager smile will make you stick out and give you character, you’re not a piece of paper you have a character see if you can incorporate it a little

Remember to keep the reader in mind when you’re writing your resume. You might be an amazing worker but if you’re not highlighting the right things on your resume it might not seem that way. Once you’re written your resume take a bit of a break and then read it as if you were looking through a stack of them – adjust as necessary.

One final point and probably one of the most important: Spell Check! Then pass your resume to someone who is a good writer and have them read it. If they’re not in your industry even better, this will point out grammatical problems and force you to clear up any ambiguity.

In the next step in the series we’ll cover getting yourself out there. There’s nothing wrong with the old fashioned statement of pounding the pavement which we’ll cover on Friday.

Simplify Your Monthly Budget With a Credit Card

This is a guest post by Debbie Dragon she is a writer for Creditorweb.com, where she writes about credit cards and other financial topics for consumers.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with your monthly payments, the first thing most people will tell you is to stop using your credit cards. This is pretty good advice if the problem is you use credit cards because you don’t have the money to buy something and it causes you to spend more than you can afford. Obviously- people who are in this trap need to put a stop to their excessive spending and take control of their finances. If you think you are paying some of your bills late because it’s easy to forget to write the check and get the payment in the mail in time, particularly when you have multiple accounts and they’re all due at different times of the month, then you may want to try a different strategy that involves using a credit card… a lot!

People who are generally disciplined with their finances, but just find that their busy lifestyles make it difficult to keep up with their multiple payments and due dates can benefit greatly from using a credit card to pay for all of their monthly expenses. There are a few things that you will not be able to pay for with a credit card- typically, your mortgage or rent payment, and most loans can’t be paid with a credit card. What you’ll want to do first is make a list of everything you pay for on a monthly basis: get as detailed as possible and include your daily stop for coffee on the way to work, and whatever else you are in a routine of doing.

Next, take your list and determine which accounts will allow you to pay with a credit card and which accounts will require a check. For the accounts that will not allow you to pay with a credit card, see if you can schedule payments to automatically come out of your checking account, and once you set it up, make note of the date they’re scheduled to come out each month. For all other accounts, find out when they are due, and mark it on a calendar for an entire year in advance. Keep the calendar displayed in an area that you can’t help but see every day- like next to the coffee pot or bathroom sink. Once you get in the habit of looking at it everyday, you’ll see what date you need to mail out the few bills that can’t be paid via credit card and should be able to keep track of them now that there are only a couple!

For all accounts that can be paid via credit card, set them up so that they are paid automatically on the date they are due.

Throughout the month, whenever you stop at the store, put gas in your car, or make any kind of purchase, use that same credit card. By doing this, you shouldn’t need to carry much cash around with you, if any at all. If you feel better having some cash on you, just keep a small amount and only use it if for some reason you can’t use the credit card.

By using a credit card for all of your purchases and expenses, you’ll only have to make one payment each month to pay your credit card. You’ll also have an itemized list of everything you’ve paid for in a month, so that you can closely monitor what you’ve spent money on, and see where you can cut costs if necessary.

You can take it a step further and use a credit card that has a rewards program. That way, you’ll be gaining the most rewards possible by using the same card for all expenses all month long; and since you’re going to use your income to pay it all off at the end of each month, you’ll never carry a balance and save on interest and finance fees. It’s important to note that just because you’re using a credit card, you don’t have permission to buy more than you would if you were using cash all month!

The idea is the credit card statement gives you an at-a-glance look at your monthly expenses, and you only have to remember to make that one payment each month to simplify things.

Job Search Series – Step 2 – Know What You’re Looking For

Job Search Series - Step 2 - Reasearch

This is the second step in my Job Search Series, knowing what you’re looking for. In the previous step we looked at analyzing your past to know what you’ve done and where you came from work wise. Now you really need to know where you’re going or where you would like to be going.

If you happen to know exactly what you want to do then that’s great, amazing even, but a great many people when faced with the prospect of changing jobs aren’t quite that certain. Over time our jobs change and evolve to the point where we really aren’t doing what we started off as. Not only this, but you also need to consider what would make you happy and be fulfilling work. This step like the first step is incredibly important because you can later adjust your resume to suit.

We’ve got our notes from what we’ve done in the past; so where do we go from here? What I’ve done in the past is I’ve gone to online job sites and done some research. These sites have thousands of postings with hundreds of job titles. By going though these listings you can see if the tasks you’ve done in the past are those of a Project Manager or a Business Analyst or essentially whatever. Going through various postings will give us a better understanding of what the jobs entail and what might be expected of us if we were to take those jobs on.

If you happen to know what title you’re looking for (say a Project Manager) don’t think that this step doesn’t apply to you. There are many different roles and responsibilities that can pertain to any particular job. You want to make sure that you’ve got a good understanding of what the expectations might be and to make sure that they are appropriate for you.

Another aspect of this research is that it helps you identify possible companies and their attributes, values and work environments. Unless you need a job immediately to pay overdue bills you can be a little pickier with the choices that you’re making. If you didn’t like your company because you had to deal with too much politics then you want to identify that as something that you are looking for in your next company. The work environment is something that makes or breaks a job in my opinion.

Once you know the type of company and the approximate job that you want keeping in mind reality (we’d all like to go from office clerk to president) you will have everything you need to write that resume and apply for the jobs. In many cases you might even have the jobs already picked out. If you’ve got your resume written you might want to adjust it but we’ll cover that off in the next step.

Some job search sites that I’ve used in the past: http://www.workopolis.com
http://www.monster.com
http://www.careerbuilder.com
http://hotjobs.yahoo.com/
http://www.dice.com
I’m sure there are a lot more sites out there but I’ve managed to get good results just using these. Since I’m in the middle of looking for work myself if anyone has some good sites definitely pass them along.

The next post in the series Step 3 – Write your Resume will be posted up on Wednesday so definitely keep an eye out for it.

Job Search Series – Step 1 – Analyze your previous experience

Job Search Series - Step1 - Analyze your previous experience

The very first thing you need to do when you’re starting a job search, in my opinion, is you need to stop and take a step back. By taking a step back you can look at your previous experience and see what you’ve done in the past. For me this is the starting point because what you’ve done in the past will help you and others determine if you’ll be good at doing things in the future. It also gives you some perspective as to where you’re coming from which will help us in Step 2 – Know what you’re looking for.

I start my analysis by listing all of my previous jobs/titles and responsibilities that I’ve had. If you haven’t looked for a job in a long time this can take a while. Really stop and think about what you’ve done and what your responsibilities where then compare that to what you actually did (they don’t always match up).

Next you need to write down aspects of each job that you liked and didn’t like. Pretty much every job that we will ever have comes with its good side as well as its bad. The goal is to make sure that the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. Personally I find that unless I stop to think about it some of the more pleasant aspects of a job are lost in the negativity that is driving me to look for another job. Remember you want to highlight the positives as items that you might want to look for in the future.

Now you also want to look at the negative aspects of each job. If you’re searching for a job you’re either out of work or have decided to move onto something better. Either way there is a good chance that there was something negative or a series of negative aspects that got you to the point of searching for a job. Because the aspects themselves are negative we don’t need to treat them as all bad. We’ll use these or parts of these in Step 2 to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap again.

Finally, the good and bad of the job aside, think about your actual performance on the job and be realistic; was it the best that it could have been? The answer will hopefully be yes but it might not be. Don’t get discouraged if it isn’t. We take on jobs and responsibilities that sometimes we don’t like and aren’t great at. Our performance at these jobs is often not optimal but that doesn’t make us bad people. Looking at this realistically and honestly will give us a good starting point when we get out there to look for a new job.

From a personal perspective I am highly critical of my own performance and this part of the analysis always gives me some trepidation. I start beating myself up over things that went wrong where my performance could have been better than it was. Don’t get caught in a negative rut when you’re doing this. Use it to discover things about your working experience that will help you down the road. For example over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not a highly detail oriented person. A lot of the times where I feel I could have done better performance wise have involved highly detailed tasks. I used to beat myself up over this because I know I can do a lot better when it comes to this. Rather than dwell on this I can identify that although I can do the detailed work I probably shouldn’t be looking for a job that is 90% detail work. We can highlight the jobs and tasks that we excel at based on our performance to help us identify the jobs we’re good at and we like.

Surprisingly if you’ve never done an analysis like this you might learn a few things about yourself. You might learn that you like to coordinate projects or that you’re not a detail oriented person or countless other items. You might find some holes in your training that you can fill in before you more onto your next job. Be honest with yourself and if it helps to have someone help you go through this then by all means do it.

Remember if you haven’t written your resume in a while this exercise will help you not only come up with the points that you’ll put down on the resume but it will also help you highlight your strengths. Also knowing where you’re coming from will make the interview process a lot easier because you’ve gone through and thought about your past rather than try to talk to it on the spot.

On Monday we’ll move onto Step 2 – Know what you’re looking for where we’ll take what we learned in this step to give ourselves some focus before actually writing or changing our resume.