Are you following the Universe’s job leads?

ant heroSometimes, the best leads for a job don’t come from an organized source, such as Careerbuilder.com.  Sometimes they don’t come from an established contact, such as a friend at a target company.  Sometime, the best lead is generated by what appears to be a random coincidence.  If you are paying attention, these can be the most profitable ones to pursue.

For example, I received an email the other day from one of my job seeker’s networking groups about open jobs from one of her recruiters.  I wanted to forward it to the other 200+ group members, but before I did that, I wanted to speak directly with the recruiter.  So I perused their website and then called the original recruiter (notice: picked up the phone, not sending an email…)

From that conversation, I found that they actually place more positions than just the niche listed on their website. Even better, the recruiter was drowning in her attempt to rewrite candidates’ resumes.  This generated a way for our businesses to complement each other: we write resumes, and we can provide her with candidates.

All of this happened because I followed a random lead by one person in my network.

The Moral of the Story

It would have been easy to just hit “send” on the email and forward it to all my contacts.  It would have been even easier to do nothing at all.  However, taking the easy way would not expand my network or build new relationships.

You never know where a tiny lead like this will end up, when it is followed with diligence.

Call it a Higher Power, Divine Providence, the Universe’s message or even synchronicity, I believe many things happen for a reason.  Some of the best results in my life – both personal and professional – have occurred because I recognized a tiny nudge in one direction or the other.  Or some little bit of information hits my awareness in a new way.  But the first part is to be aware of these clues while they are happening.

How about you?

Do you have a great story on a casual lead that turned into something great?  Share your story below..

A career lesson from Alice in Wonderland: Where do you want to go?

alice in wonderland cheshire catOne day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll

How many times have people let their career just “happen,” instead of planning on where they want to go?  It is easy to become complacent, letting those dream jobs stay exactly that – dreams.  The difference between a dreamer and a doer are not necessarily the goals, but the decision on which path to follow.

Many times in my professional life I have been told that my career aspirations were unreasonable, unattainable or just to rare to be feasible.  Yet in spite of this, I have met my goals.  Among this was becoming a radio morning show producer – while also being a single mother of three children.  The key for me has been embracing those paths that might have a touch of Wonderland madness to them.

My first step was always making the decision to pursue the dream.  Then I reverse-engineered the path to get there.  In case of the radio job, I started in the mail room.  That seems normal. But in order to support the family while chasing the dream, I actually worked my way up through the accounting office for three years.  Then the opportunity rose to work overnights on the weekend, running the board for the AM station.  The year after that I was producing a morning show.

Both the AM and FM stations General Managers said it was the most unusual career switch they had seen in 15 years.

But rare does not mean impossible.

How about you?

What career do you really want, but have heard that it just isn’t possible?  Or maybe it is a matter or not even knowing where to start?

Whatever it is, make the decision to allow yourself to research the possibilities.  Maybe there is a perfect path in front of you, even if it looks like madness to the rest of the world.

After all, great works are rarely achieved by playing it safe.

Recognizing Scam Job Leads on LinkedIn

warning against fradulent job scamsMost people know that craigslist.com is full of scam jobs.  But did you know that LinkedIn has its share of scams as well?  While it is not nearly up to the estimated rate of 50-70% that craigslist carries, it is still a factor to be considered.

Where are the scams hiding?

Most of the scam postings can be found in the groups, rather than the paid job ads listed through the tab at the top of the LinkedIn screen.  Why?  Posting in groups is free, while recruiters pay $150-200 to list a job in the employment section.  Normally, scam artists are cheap as well as dishonest.

Check out the warning signs:

Of course, reputable recruiters and people post jobs in the groups all the time.  Look for these warning signs for any jobs posted on LinkedIn by somebody you don’t know…

The person posting has no connections

If someone is posting a lot of jobs but has zero connections  on their profile, this could be a problem.  The profile could actually be a dummy account, with no real person attached to it – except to generate leads for the scammers.

A really attractive picture

Sorry, no offense to the attractive people in the world… but if the job poster has a really attractive, professional-grade picture and they are NOT actively seeking connections, then the picture is used to help build a false sense of trust.

An incomplete profile

Often times, the scam job poster will not bother to fully write out the fake profile.  At most, you may find a brief summary and one or two jobs with no details.  Those are bad signs, especially if their employment history has nothing to do the jobs they are posting.  Which brings us to…

Unrelated to the Group’s purpose

This is true for the person and the job posting itself.  Recently, one of my groups had postings for catering jobs.  This fit with the group, which had a number of chefs in it.  However, the person posting wasn’t in culinary or recruiting himself.

Where does the link go?

If you actually follow the link from the job posting, the website itself will reveal more concerns.  If it has no job listings but asks you to apply “for consideration,” think twice before doing it.  Another give-away is if the site has very little relevant content but a lot of Google ads.  They are just generating side income from those ads while they engage in their primary business… getting your information.

Be safe out there!

Will networking help you find a job?

network connections treeIt is a concept that has been part of the job search world since before I was born: many people find jobs through who they know, not what they know.  But do you really believe that?

The fact is that networking CAN be a valuable tool for your job search – IF it is done correctly.

Quality networking takes time

First and foremost, social media is a very viable tool for genuine networking.  Personally, I work with clients from across the United States and abroad, and a significant number of them came from my presence on LinkedIn.

However, you can’t just send send a LinkedIn invitation to someone and then expect them to do favors for you, like passing your resume on to a hiring manager.  Effective networking requires relationships – find ways to connect with others in a more meaningful way than just clicking a mouse and looking at a profile.

While I personally am an open networker on LinkedIn, I do try to reach out to people beyond just looking at a profile.  If they invited me to connect, I follow up with an email to see how I can help them.  If I am sending the invitation, I point out either a common bond that we have or why we should connect.  Both of these activities set the stage for an ongoing interaction.  Even better, ask for a time that you can actually call the person and really get to know them better.

Build the relationship

Networking must start with what can you do for others.  This can be articles, information, expert opinions or access to your own network.  For example, let’s say your new contact is an Estate Manager in Los Angeles.  After talking on the phone, you realize that he is looking for a great caterer for an event at the residence.  It just so happens that you know a wonderful chef who does catering work on the side – pass on that information. It benefits all three parties involved.

Relationships are also built in face-to-face meetings.  Don’t be scared to get out of your house and meet other people face-to-face.  Plus, don’t overlook the non-business related networking groups.  One of my contacts actually found more job leads in her quilting circle on Meetup.com than the job seeker groups.  Why?  Because of the time invested into the group.  People felt like they knew her after sitting and socially sewing for a few hours.  When people feel like they know you, they will allow access to their own networks.

Be able to articulate what you are looking for

Many people want to help you, but if you can’t tell them how, they won’t bombard you with questions to find out what you need.  For any contact, you should be able to clearly state what your target job and target employers are.

Be specific about those target markets.  Just saying “I am looking for a job” is not going to get you anywhere.  A much better statement is: “I am looking for a project manager position for a mid-sized IT company in the Denver area.  Do you know any companies that may be looking?”

Show genuine interest in others

When we get to know other people – who they are, what they need and how we can help – this is the foundation of effective networking.

Pick your targets for a successful job search

networking for a jobThese days, most people know that you need to have some target employers.  These are normally considered your top 10 list of companies where you want to work.  Unfortunately, the popular top 10 is only the tip of the iceberg – and hardly address the needs of the private service professional at all.

First names on the list

For most job seekers, the first names on their lists are the large companies or corporations in their area.  For people in service, they may include some of the exclusive hotels or resorts in the area.  These responses are normal; after all, companies spend literally millions of dollars to be on the forefront of people’s minds.  However, it is a fact that in America, the majority of jobs are generated by medium and small businesses.  Plus, large companies have more rigid recruiting rules than a smaller business would, making it more difficult to land a job in these environments.

Job seekers should not ignore the big employers in their area, but in any given week, they should only research up to 5 of these large players.  It will save on frustration and be more productive to find out the smaller employers in their area.

Effective research for large companies: find the key players

Researching a big company does take a different strategy.  Rather than only finding out what the company does, focus on who the managers are.  This strategy works for both corporate job seekers and those in domestic staff management.  Many times, the top management of large corporations needs help with their personal estates and homes as well as in the office.  Approaching them through the office can be more effective than trying to reach them at home (which they could consider creepy).

Regardless of your target job, finding out the executives and their contact information is a challenge for many job seekers.  Fortunately, the website www.ZoomInfo.com is a great resource for this information.  A free website like glassdoor.com and LinkedIn, individuals can edit their profiles and attach them to their company profile on the site.  Many of them include their business contact information – including direct email address – on their profile.  Just take a quick search on companies in your area and you will be surprised at the amount of information that these executives have willingly shared.

Once you find the key players, don’t be shy about contacting them directly.  At the very worst, your resume will be either ignored or sent to the HR department.  You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So how do I find these smaller companies?

One of the biggest challenges for job seekers is coming up with the names of the small and medium businesses in their area.  Fortunately, there are local resources to generate names:

  • ZoomInfo.com: includes smaller  and regional companies as well as the large corporations
  • Manta.com:  List of smaller companies, usually based on the Secretary of State’s listings
  • Colorado Business Magazine (www.cobizmag.com): produces annual lists of local companies to watch
  • Denver Business Journal: check both articles and the data base listings.  Check library for the annual Book of Lists
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Better Business Bureau

Create target networking groups

In addition to identifying the companies, keep an eye out for networking opportunities – both online and in-person.  The job search has gone social!  The age-old advice of it’s not “what you know but who you know” is still very true.  But thanks to social media, it is easier than ever to connect with individuals.

Create a networking plan, which should include LinkedIn groups and live events through such avenues as Meetup.com or professional associations.  They don’t have to be all business-related either.  One attendee at my networking group pointed out she got more job leads from her quilting circle on Meetup than she did from formal business after-hours events.  Why?  Simple – in the casual setting, people really get to know each other.  And when people really know you, they are willing to pass on potential job leads.

Are you being productive or just busy?

It could be considered the curse of every job seeker – even every worker, for that matter.  Are you being productive, or just busy?  Are your efforts leading to reaching a clearly defined goal, or are you just in motion?

I have to watch my efforts in these areas as well.  For me, I have to recognize what are the activities that Feel important, but in actuality, have little productive effect.  My biggest drain? Email.  They pop up on the corner of my computer screen, enticing me to stop what I am doing and jump on the latest incoming message.  The problem is that few of them are deserving of this instant attention.  It takes discipline on my part to not spend all of my time in my Outlook inbox.

When looking for the busy makers in your own schedule, ask yourself:

1. Does this fit in with my plans for today?

A successful job search requires a real plan of action, every day.  Without clear goals or a set schedule for the daily activities,  it is easy to become distracted with things that keep us busy but not productive.

Write out your plans on a weekly basis, not just daily.  Create a broad strategy and then break it down into the daily tasks along with what day they will be done.  For example, Monday could be your day the check Monster, Tuesday is CareerBuilder, and so on.

When new opportunities or activities pop up, be sure to test it against your action plan for the day – which activity would be more productive towards reaching your end goal of finding a job?

2. Am I falling into bad habits?

Actions that we repeat become our habits. Habits form our daily behavior and, ultimately, our productivity.

I will share one of my bad ones: for a while, every time I logged into my computer, I would check Facebook – my personal page, not my business information.  Before I knew it, I was checking Facebook 3 or 4 times a day.  It became automatic.  The problem? It soon added up to significant time wasted because I was only “taking a minute to check.”  Sure, I am really up-to-date on grumpy cat pictures, but that is not productive – it is just busy.

Look for those small habits that eat at our productivity.  If we practice the discipline to only engage at certain times, we won’t lose precious moments.

 3. Am I falling for instant work gratification?

Job searching can be tough, simply because there is often a lack of visible progress.  Laundry, on the other hand, has an instant work gratification aspect.  It starts with a pile of dirty clothes and ends with clean, folded clothes in a drawer.  There is a sense of accomplishment because one can see a measurable and tangible result.

This happens with other work as well, not just laundry.  It could be helping a friend, volunteer work or catching up on your social media.  Whatever it is, just keep in mind your job searching priorities for the day and make sure those are met first.

October 2012 Holiday Hours

Cannibal pumpin jack-o-lanternEvery year, people ask me what I am doing for my wedding anniversary.  And it is always the same answer:

Scaring children.

This year will be no different.

To properly horrify our house, The Personal Touch Career Services will be open limited hours as we take some vacation time from October 29, 2012 to November 2, 2012.

If you need to reach us urgently, please contact Donna at 720-341-8229.

Thanks, and have a terrifying Halloween!

The Master Application: What it is and why you need one

Have you noticed that more and more companies and agencies are requiring lengthy, complex online applications?  It’s not your imagination – over the past few years, applications have become more important than ever before.

Not only that, the applications are asking for information that is not typically listed on a resume, such as the exact address and phone number of previous employers.  Even worse, some are asking for the really dreaded content, including salary history, Social Security numbers, reasons for leaving and other uncomfortable details.

However, if you were like me, you may not have done a lot of development for your applications.  Let’s face it – career coaches and recruiters have hammered the importance of the resume, but do not offer much guidance on an application.  Fortunately, I recently learned that applications are often more important than the resume alone.

Simply put, a Master Application is a comprehensive document that includes all of the critical information from your past experience.  It is not necessarily submitted to any employer, but is a source for your own reference. Once created, you can copy and paste the necessary information into the potential employer’s online application.

This is a huge advantage for a number of reasons:

  • Limits spelling and grammar errors
  • No need to scramble or Google to find past employers’ contact information
  • Plan ahead on how to answer difficult questions
  • Get through the applications quicker

Of course, resumes are still very important.  However, keep in mind their purpose: a resume is a marketing tool, designed to highlight specific skills, duties and accomplishments that relate to the job.  By comparison, any application is a legal document, often requesting more information than what is on your resume alone.  Just keep that in mind before you click “submit!”

Conference Etiquette for Job Seekers

With the DEMA conference just a couple of weeks away, it is time to start preparing for the unique opportunities that come with meeting other industry professionals from across the country and abroad.  For job hunters, this raises the stakes even further.  The conference is an excellent opportunity to meet face-to-face with agencies, employers and experienced private service professionals.

But how does one capitalize on these new contacts without being pushy, rude or self-absorbed?

Try these conference etiquette tips to make the most of this opportunity:

1.       Seek relationships, not contacts.

A contact is nothing more than a name, phone number, email address and LinkedIn profile address.  Job seekers could have found that information at home!  Instead, use the conference as a chance to really get to know other people in the industry.  If you can build a friendship or a mutually beneficial professional relationship, people are more likely to help you in your job search.  After all, nobody appreciates being leveraged just because of their work title or their placement agency name.

2.       Show genuine interest in others.

So how does one build a relationship?  By caring about the other person.  Don’t spend all of the networking opportunities talking about only their work or your career goals.  Find out some personal information about them.  Find ways that you could help them in their own careers or lives. 

3.       Have fun, but not TOO much fun

Over the years, I have heard plenty of stories of people who forget that a conference is a professional event.  Watch how much you drink.  Don’t fall into gossip about past principals, co-workers, agencies and so on.  Above all, don’t let your new professional relationships get toooo personal… ’nuff said.  You don’t want to become the next piece of gossip!

4.       Dress for the part

Most conference attire ranges between business casual and business dress.  Remember, you will be meeting people for the first time, and you will be judged by how you look.  Think about the image you want to create in their minds. 

For extra activities outside of the conference or in evening networking sessions, casual attire is acceptable, but stick to the conservative side.

5.       Don’t throw the resume too soon.

As the DEMA conference will be an excellent time to network with agencies and employers, don’t drop a resume bomb on somebody in the first 10 minutes of the conversation.  You do want to bring several copies of your resume with you, however, be selective about who receives it.  Be sure that the agency fits in with your professional goals.  For example, you wouldn’t list yourself with a nanny agency if you are a private chef. 

Always ask IF the agent would like a printed copy of your resume. Many agents don’t want to carry around loose papers throughout the conference.  In that case, offer to email it to them later – OR…

6.       Put your social media information on your business card.

LinkedIn.com is not only a powerful networking tool, and it can serve as your online resume as well.  When handing your card to someone, be sure to point out all of your contact information, including your online presence.  Some job seekers use their own website for their resume; that works too, although it loses the ability to tap a network.  If you want to look really slick, grab one of the free QR Codes and place the scanable square on your business card.  Then smart phone users can grab that image and be instantly taken to any website you desire.

7.       Follow up with people

Even during the conference, you can build your network.  If you have a smart phone, use your LinkedIn.com app to invite them to connect with you.  If the agency has a Facebook page, start following right away – maybe they are posting about the conference right now! 

After the conference, be sure to follow up on those new relationships.  If you didn’t get the chance during the conference, connect on LinkedIn.com.  Send them the resume you promised.  Call to see if they need any other information.  Consider this: you made a promise to your new friend that you would send information.  This is the first test to see if you are a person of your word.

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