Monthly Archives

February 2012

Career Tools, Job Search

Target Companies

There are a couple of routes to take when job searching.  The most common and least effective route involves scouring the job boards and applying (along with the thousands of others) to the jobs posted.  The method most career coaches recommend is to create a marketing plan that includes your summary/pitch, objective, competencies, and target companies.  Once you have established this plan you can then focus your job search on making connections within those targeted companies and eloquently stating your objective (pitch) when you begin to meet with people.  

A great way to search for ideal companies is to research what companies are doing well and why.  Forbes recently compiled this list of the 20 most promising companies of 2011 listing company description and profits.  Take a look and see if any of these companies value your competencies and should make it onto your marketing plan.

Career Tools

Simple Language

 A plethora of academics use baroque vernacular to articulate significance. Huh?  Let’s try that again.  A large number of students use big words to try to sound important.  Does it work?  Not really, according to this recent Inc.com article.   The reason you should probably ditch your thesaurus? You want your writing to be inclusive and appeal to a large audience.  Using unneccessary big words can often hinder your message from spreading because readers want to read something quickly and easily.  They do not want to pull out their dictionaries to decipher what was said. 

 This is particularly relevant to job seekers.  I have seen numerous cover letters that are sprinkled with large, unnecessary words that bring back memories of spelling bees and ACT tests.  I have also proof read networking introduction emails that have made me cringe with the obvious use of flowery language that somehow makes the writer seem less confident and more vulnerable.  Definitely not a good message to portray when you are job seeking.  Aside from wasting a recruiter or hiring manager’s precious time (typically recruiters spend on average 10 seconds per resume/cover letter combo), it takes away from the job seeker’s authenticity.  When you use words that you normally wouldn’t you aren’t portraying your true voice or brand.  Recruiters pick up on this and dismiss your application materials and with that you as a candidate.  So, next time you are tempted to highlight the thesaurus icon on your word document, really ask yourself if the word you are replacing needs an overhaul.  My guess is probably not.  You are better off, as the article states, being like Apple and keeping it simple to appeal to the masses.

Career Tools

Smartest Guy in the Office

Think it pays to be the smartest person in the office?  Think again. JobTrack.com recently featured an article by Joan Lloyd on this subject.  Lloyd discusses the dismay/confusion a consistent over-achiever felt when passed up for a team leadership role.  The reason this “smartest guy in the room”  wasn’t the obvious choice?  He was too arrogant, not collaborative, and quick to dismiss others’ ideas.  All his  life he was praised for his intelligence.  Things came easy to him, and perhaps a bit too easy.  He never learned the social art of interpersonal skills, teamwork, and motivation, all which are key attributes in  any effective leader.

 As I read this article I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with a hiring manager in which he relayed his interviewing experiences with college grads.  He noticed that many were quick to show confidence, had answers for every problem, but lacked any true personality.  When it came time to discuss teamwork examples, many candidates fell short or used words like “I” and “me” when discussing team successes.  A definite red flag to any hiring manager or recruiter is when a candidate doesn’t share the victory with others.  Make sure when interviewing you come across as a genuine leader by:

  • Speaking highly of past colleagues, companies, and schools
  • Answer teamwork examples with a “we/us” mentality
  • Be authentic.  Don’t remain stiff.  Interviewers want to see the true you.
  • Relay stories that demonstrate a history of seeking guidance from others, problem solving, and learning from your mistakes.
  • Listen to your interviewer.  Really listen.  Show that you want to hear what they have to say, that you understand direction.  Make sure you are answering the questions they are asking, not just the ones you want to answer.

 As Lloyd frankly states, “the smartest guy in the room is the one who makes others feel they are smart too.”  Or as any career counselor will tell you, likability is a key factor when it comes to landing a job, promotion, or team lead role.  People want to work for and with people who earn respect AND show respect.

 

Career Tools, Careers, Personal Development

A student’s take on balancing career, school, and parenthood

This post is by Liz Martin, an evening MBA Student

Juggling the responsibilities of work, school, and children is a bit like juggling flaming torches at times, but there are more St. Thomas MBA student doing it than you might realize. That was the impetus for The Balance Beam, a series of lectures and workshops for employee/student/parents.  As we waited for the first meeting to start, other mothers and I compared notes on our three-year-olds. Turns out I wasn’t the only parent who thought that we’d made it past the “terrible twos” only to be confronted with the “tretcherous threes”.

Career Services’ Maggie Tomas began by inviting a discussion of the term “balance” and asking the group how they felt when they heard the term. We threw out terms like “stressed” and “doing it all”. Heads around the room nodded knowingly as Maggie described her morning of trying to get ready for work while one child  grabbed the toothpaste and ran while the other was asking for help.

Personally, I’ve been doing the work/school thing since 2006 and the work/school/mom thing since 2008. And I’m scheduled to graduate in 2015. Yes, I’m on the slow track. But because this has been and will be my life  for a while yet, I need to find a way to juggle those flaming torches as well as possible. I’m looking forward to the next meeting of The Balance Beam. But I also love to share what’s working for me. So in that spirit, here are some of the tools, methods, and lessons I’ve learned so far. (Please note, this does not in any way mean that I’m perfect. I’m not. There are plenty of people to ask about that. But these are some things that have worked for me.)

  • Access everything everywhere. I have a smart phone and a laptop, and I have 99.9% of my work and school “stuff” in the cloud. That means I can access my phone numbers, my class notes, my papers, my work calendar, my family calendar, my grocery list and my to do list from almost anywhere with an internet connection. To do this, I use Cozi, a free online family organizer for my calendar, shopping lists and to do lists. I use Evernote to capture my class notes and write my papers. I link Evernote to Study Blue so I can study during my bus commute.
  • Lists. I subscribe to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology. I highly recommend reading his book, but here are some of his key principles:
    1. If it’s on your mind, write it down. Your brain needs to be working on other things, not trying to make sure you remember to stop for milk on your way home from class.
    2. Organize your “to do” lists by context. In other words, by what you can do with the resources available. I have an “@ phone calls” list that might include everything from finding a babysitter to calling my sister to checking in with my project partners. I also have an “@ home” list (things I can only do when I’m home), an “@ errands list”, and an “@ online” list for things I can only do with an internet connection. As a regular bus commuter, I also have a “@ bus” list for light reading and a “to read” list for longer stuff.

 Resources:

Cozi (www.cozi.com)

Evernote (www.evernote.com)

Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)

Getting Things Done (www.davidco.com)

Study Blue (www.studyblue.com)