The Best Grad Gift: Career Contacts

Anita,

I’m graduating soon, and I’m nervous about finding a full-time job in my chosen field before all the gift money runs out! Can you help?

Dear “3.57 (that’s contacts, not GPA),”

Graduate introductionYou may have heard the networking theory “six degrees of separation” – you can be connected to anyone in the world through a chain of six acquaintances. Facebook crunched the numbers and determined the new normal in our social media age is only 3.57 connections.

It’s time career contacts rise above cash as the prized graduation gift. Parents, aunts, uncles, family friends, listen up! The best start you can give a grad is to introduce them to someone who can help their career. Don’t limit contacts to someone you know has an job opening. A seasoned professional in the same industry may be happy to meet with a recent graduate for 30 minutes to answer neophyte questions. A useful contact may not be able to offer actual employment, but could be the second link of the 3.57 connections needed to land a position.

Here are two ways to introduce your LinkedIn contacts to one another. A personal telephone call on behalf of a high-achieving young person you feel comfortable vouching for may be more effective than an e-introduction.

Back to you, graduates. It’s important you do your part. First, make sure you have a great résumé. Check out my blog post, Creating a Résumé from Scratch. Print on quality paper stock from a professional printer (pay for them if you must with some of those graduation gift checks) and always have copies ready for networking opportunities. Provide an electronic PDF version for any “angels” who may wish to forward it to their contacts via email.

Create a LinkedIn profile with a business-appropriate photo – no duckface! Check out Social Media Today’s blog, How to Use LinkedIn for New Graduates, to build a killer profile. Savvy networkers use the Alumni Tool on LinkedIn to widen their contacts further.

Whether communicating on LinkedIn, by email, or via telephone, explain why you’ve reached out to the connection (“My uncle, NAME, suggested you would be a good contact in the ____ industry. I’m interested in getting into the field and was wondering if you would have time to offer some advice?”). Most workforce veterans will be flattered and willing to help.

After any conversation – virtual or in-person – always thank the person for their time, even if the meet-and-greet didn’t didn’t result in a job offer or even what you may consider useful advice. You never know who your benefactor may know!

Readers: When you were fresh out of school, how did a contact or introduction from friends or family further your career? 

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Hi. Anita:

I have just started looking for a new job, and recently I have been hearing about employers searching Facebook profiles before even interviewing a candidate. How can my profiles on social media sites impact my chance of finding employment? Thank you!

Dear, Fellow Facebooker:MW_Laptop

Social media and networks have become an extension of our lives. We can catch up with old friends, learn about the latest news,  and even get leads to open positions. But with all the positives that can be enjoyed, take your social experience with a grain of salt. Yes, employers are most definitely looking at the Facebook profiles of their candidates. After reading a post at one of my favorite blogs, TradePost, I was alarmed at how quickly Facebook screening is becoming a big issue in the employment world. For an idea of what I am talking about, read “Asking for Facebook Passwords: Good Screening or Bad Idea?

Here are some of the dos and don’ts to adhere to if you hope make a great first impression.

  1. Make your profile private. Put the security gates up before you start your job search. You can even hide your profile temporarily or make your name not appear in search results.
  2. Keep your pictures G-rated. This includes your profile picture, pictures you have uploaded, and ones that your friends have tagged you in. Even if your page is blocked to the public, there may be a chance that the hiring manager is a connection with a mutual friend and can see your pictures. As a rule of thumb, steer clear of pictures of drinking activities, illegal drug use, sexually explicit images, and anything that you wouldn’t share with your grandparents.
  3. Restrict wall posting privileges. We all have some friends who haven’t quite figured out what is appropriate (and what’s not) to post to Facebook. Be cautious on how much slack you give to these troublemakers and limit their ability to comment/post on your wall.Facebook_Glasses
  4. Untag yourself from professionally unflattering photos. Yes, we all have some great pictures that bring us back to our college days. Great for reminiscing, bad for business. Again, a G-rating is preferred.
  5. Avoid controversial topic discussion. When it comes to politics, religion, and other social issues, it is best to remain neutral while hunting for a job. You are entitled to your own beliefs, but it is best to keep them under the radar on your Facebook profile.
  6. Accept friend requests and invites of people you know. It isn’t uncommon for people to create fictional profiles to gather privileged information. If you have anything that you wish to hide (hopefully you have gotten an idea of what I am talking about by now), do not give strangers access to your profile.
  7. Whatever you do, do not provide employers with your log-in credentials. It may hurt your chances of getting the job offer, but this a serious breach of privacy – and several states have even made it illegal for employers to ask. I most certainly would not want to work with a company that was comfortable crossing those boundaries.

I hope this will help all of my readers become savvier when it comes to their Facebook profiles. Managers and Supervisors, a must-read for you as well is another post of mine called “Facebook – A Hiring Manager’s Best Friend.”

Readers, what do you think is the most damaging discovery an employer could make through Facebook? What is your #1 Facebook profile no-no?

And if you still don’t believe me, check out this news clip about Facebook privacy and employment:

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Job Seeking On the Go

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I am currently on the hunt for new employment opportunities and, with my busy lifestyle, I am finding it difficult to look for jobs while I am out and about. Recently, I have noticed that a number of companies have developed applications for mobile devices.

What are your thoughts on these applications, how will they help me, and where should I start my first download to maximize my efforts?

Dear, Tech-savvy searcher:

Thank you for the question about such a hot topic, considering 77% of job seekers use mobile job search applications. Nowadays, you can find a mobile application for almost anything you can imagine. Everything from child distractions to restaurant finders to major time wasters! All are right at your fingertips. But the best SF Mobile Appthing to come to job seekers since the résumé are employment apps for mobile devices.

As you have mentioned, only a few companies have put their resources into developing productive and user-friendly applications for job seekers. And since yours truly has finally stepped into the 21st century and picked myself up a nifty smart phone, I figured it would be best to take a test-drive of these applications.

Some great things to note about job seeker apps on your mobile devices:

  •  Many of the best applications are FREE to users. Utilize the free options before trying any of the pay-per-download apps. I think you will be just as surprised as I was by the functionality of these free apps.
  • At all times, you are able to have the tools needed to apply immediately to an opportunity. You can provide contact information, apply with your LinkedIn profile, and more with a few taps on the screen.
  • GPS is often used to determine the distance that you are from a job you are interested in.
  • Scroll through and share positions that you, your friends, or your family may be interested in.
  •  If you are currently employed, you can discreetly search and apply for positions on your lunch break.

BlackberryMy friends at The Select Family of Staffing Companies have just released a mobile application (that you can download today by clicking the appropriate link) for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android smart phones called Job Finder from Select Family. CareerBuilder also has a great app that is worth looking into. Both are highly ranked by users and provide job seekers with the tools to locate their next employment opportunity.

I challenge you to try tools such as Job Finder from Select Family or Jobs by CareerBuilder today and report back on how they benefitted or hurt your job search.

I can’t wait to hear what your thoughts are on this new technology!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Networking Know-How

A reader writes:

Hi Anita! I am new to the area and in search of a new job. I have heard and learned from reading your blog that networking is one of the most important aspects of job hunting. Can you offer any advice to help break the ice and get the most out of professional networking?

Dear, Need-to-Network,

Thank you so much for the great question. I have said time and time again that networking is extremely important when it comes to finding your next position. The more people you know, the more likely you are to bridge the gap between Business Man with Cardbeing a stranger or being the candidate that comes highly recommended. Getting your foot in the door and your résumé to the top of the pile is an incredible advantage in today’s world.

First off, get yourself a professional set of business cards with your contact information on them. Even if you are not currently employed, you should still be prepared. Being able to exchange business cards is networking gold! Think about it. How embarrassing is it to be empty-handed when you finally meet the CEO of the company you are dying to work for and he/she asks for your info. You just blew that first impression. Companies like Vista Print offer deals where you get 250 business cards FREE! All you pay is shipping and processing. Now you have no excuse not to have them! Include your name, address, telephone number, email, and other vital contact information.

One of the big No-Nos in networking is focusing your attention elsewhere, as in playing with your phone or carrying on a text messaging conversation. It makes you look Thumbs up from Womandisinterested, unapproachable, and worst of all, unprofessional. Do yourself a huge favor and leave your phone in the car or keep it in your pocket on silent. You are networking to meet new people, not to catch up with old ones.

Many of us, including me (I know, HARD TO BELIEVE), can find ourselves at a loss for words when placed under pressure or in a new social setting. Before you go to an event, prepare and arm yourself with what we call an “elevator speech.” When a hiring manager or person of interest asks you “what do you do?” or “what are you future career goals?” you will be ready to give them a response with a punch. You will leave them with an impression that you are smart, confident, and maybe even their next star employee!

Keep your spiel short, sweet, and strong for the most impact. Also be ready with follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving. (Check out my “Sell Yourself… Quickly” post for more tips.)

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to others. This is probably the most difficult part of networking. It would probably be easier to be a wallflower and blend in with the crowd, but that is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. If you see a group of people talking, pick up your head, perk up your posture, and stroll over and introduce yourself. The more you do it, the less awkward it gets. Before interrupting their conversation, however, do be sure you read their body language; if they’re having a serious and intense discussion, wait a bit before going over.

Check out this video on Networking’s Golden Rule for one final tip:

Readers, what tips and tricks have you found helpful during networking opportunities?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Online Application – No Calls

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I applied with my local temp agency (completed the online application), but I have not received any calls. Am I doing something wrong?

Dear, “Applicant,”

I am so glad you brought up this question because I think it applies to several of my readers. Just because you filled out an application online, does not mean you’ve been “hired” by the agency. The fact is, you’re not even done with the hiring process!

  1. Call your local branch after submitting your application online.
  2. Confirm they received your information (they may ask for your social security number so they can look you up in their system).
  3. Schedule an appointment to come into the branch. During your in-person meeting, you will conduct an interview, complete a few more assessments, and finalize paperwork as part of the hiring process. Keep in mind, this may take at least a couple of hours… just warning you to plan accordingly and to leave the kids at home!

As you prepare for your meeting at the branch office, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • You will need to bring two forms of ID (showing your eligibility to work in the United States).
  • Bring a copy of your résumé if you have one.
  • Bring 2-3 employment references.
  • Dress professionally – you want to leave a good first impression with the recruiters.

Let the staff know your availability and the type of work you are seeking. Depending on your skills and the types of positions available… you may walk out of there with a job immediately! If not, don’t be discouraged. New openings pop up all the time. Recruiters will call you, but it’s up to YOU to remain in contact with them as well. Especially in a down economy, these recruiters can get hundreds of résumés a week, so you need to make sure your name stays top of mind by staying in touch with them.

Good Luck!
Anita

Why So Many Interviews?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita,
Is it typical for companies to interview a candidate multiple times? They often end up asking the same questions! What’s the deal?

Dear, “Interview Insanity,”

Thanks for posting your question. I know that being asked to come in for an interview can be the most exciting news EVER, yet at the same time, it can create anxieties beyond belief.

To top it off, after finishing that first round, you may be asked to come back again, and again, and AGAIN! What a way to get your hopes up, right?

The deal is this… the larger the company, the more likely you WILL be asked to come back for multiple interviews. Many businesses have a policy that says, “It takes 3 to hire… and 3 to fire.” In the case of the hiring process, it is common for candidates to meet with their potential direct supervisor, then possibly with someone at the executive level, maybe a different department head, and even HR. Depending on the position and organizational structure, the list could go on and on.

The real bummer is that often you’ll find you are being asked the same questions by these different folks over and over again. To me, that’s just a big waste of everybody’s time!

Managers (this is for you): Please be sure to communicate with one another throughout the interview process. Find out what questions have already been asked and how they were answered. Share notes and feedback so that you are gathering new content each time and not sounding like a broken record to the poor candidate trying to impress you!

Now, where were we?

In some cases, this group of people may be joined together at the same interview – which reduces the number of return visits, but can be a little intimidating, to say the least. (As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, come prepared with multiple hardcopies of your résumé in case you need to pass them out to multiple attendees.)

So you may be asking yourself, “If I am asked to return several times, does it mean I have a good chance of being hired?” Well gosh darn it, you’d think so! The reality is, however, companies typically narrow down their selection throughout this process. For instance, in the initial interview, you may be up against 7 other candidates. By round two, it may be you against 3 others, then down to the top 2 for yet another round. It all depends. After meeting with so many people from the company, it is natural to get your hopes up. Just remember that if it turns out you are not selected, you need to maintain your composure, avoid burning bridges, and move on.

So tell me readers, how many times have you been asked to return for subsequent interviews? Did you get the job in the end?

Post away!
Anita

Other Ways to Find Jobs

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

Could you please address ways for finding employment opportunities outside of job boards and “want ads,” such as networking and how to do that effectively?

Dear, “Opportunities,”

Believe it or not, employment opportunities are all around us – everyday… everywhere we go.  It’s just a matter of discovering them, getting the word out, and playing off the old saying, “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know!”

Here are a few places to search (outside of job boards and want ads):

  1. Social Networking sites:  The whole purpose of sites like Facebook is to make connections, stay in touch with friends, family, co-workers, etc., and share what’s going on in your life.  Just as cute or funny pictures tend to spread like wildfire online… the fact that you’re looking for a job is no different.  Get the word out to the people in your social network.  Who knows, they may have a relative, buddy, or colleague that is hiring or would be open to meeting with you!

    LinkedIn is another, highly respected social networking site that specifically caters to professionals.  Like Facebook, this is a free site but in the case of LinkedIn, the objective is to complete a professional profile about yourself – like a résumé.  You will have the opportunity to state your work history, areas of expertise, and interests.  Before you know it, you can get “linked” with other people who either share your interests, profession, or that even worked with you (or went to school with you) in the past.You can easily run searches for people and companies in your area (or anywhere for that matter).  From there, you’ll see how you may be connected (through somebody else) to potentially key contacts.  Again… it’s all about the people OTHER people may know that can get you hooked up with great opportunities.  Likewise, businesses often list job openings on LinkedIn (that may not appear on standard job boards).One more comment about LinkedIn – Another cool and effective feature is the fact that you can request “Introductions” and/or have people “Endorse” (recommend) you for your great work.  It’s like an instant referral system that potential employers can look at and see how wonderful you are!

    This leads me to my next reminder:

  2. Referrals from Family and Friends:  I know I basically covered this in point #1, but it’s worth stating on its own… particularly if you have not yet explored the social networking scene online.  Spread the word to friends and family that you are looking for work.  The people who care about you the most will put on their thinking caps and pass along any recommendations or suggestions.  I firmly believe “it’s a small world after all…!” (Sing it if you know it!)
  3. Volunteer Groups: Participating in volunteer groups or charity events is another great way to network with people.  I’ve said this in previous posts, and I’ll say it again…  People generally prefer working with people they like.  If you already share a common goal or interest, you’ve already broken the ice and accomplished a major step.  Befriend as many people as you can and get involved.  Who knows, the person running the race, planting a tree, or picking up trash by your side… may have a job opening that you can fill!
  4. Church Groups / Alumni Groups: These are just a couple of other resources that come to mind when it comes to networking opportunities and finding possible jobs.
  5. Toastmasters: This is a nonprofit, international leadership group that has been around since 1924 and helps people develop their public speaking and leadership skills.  Groups meet regularly to network and interact in a comfortable setting. Part of the problem many job seekers have is a lack of confidence in front of strangers.  Before convincing someone else that you should be hired… you need to convince yourself! It’s groups like these that help you build that much needed self-esteem.One quick tip… when attending a networking session, don’t feel like you need to own the room or be the center of attention.  Try to make meaningful connections and spend quality time with individuals… that’s what ignites long term relationships (not the quick handshakes in passing).
     
  6. Internships:  Sometimes you can get your foot in the door by doing paid (or unpaid) internships for businesses or organizations.  If anything, this is a great way to gain first-hand experience in a particular industry and again, it exposes you to a whole new set of people (and potential hiring managers).  I frequently encourage college students to do internships while in school (to help build an effective résumé).  Whether you’re interested in working in the medical field, a law office, a publishing company, or government agency (as examples)… this may be a good route to explore.  Pick up the phone and ask around, or stop by in person (professionally dressed!).  You never know… unless you ask! 
  7. Temporary Agencies:  Last, but certainly not least, I highly recommend going through a temporary agency.  Let a professional recruiter do the searching for you at no cost (it doesn’t get any better than that, right?)  Many companies do 100% of their hiring through services… in some cases; it’s the only way to get in. I highly recommend my old friends at Select Staffing (www.selectstaffing.com).

Hey Readers… Please share some additional methods for finding job opportunities and/or networking (aside from standard job boards or help wanted ads).  Blogs like this are an excellent forum for networking and helping one another.  We’d all love to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions!

Anita

Hiring Process

A reader writes…

I know that staffing agencies offer “temp-to-hire” as an option for adding employees, but they also offer “Direct Placement.”As a hiring manager, is one way more advantageous (or cost effective) than the other?


Dear, “Hiring Manager,”

The beauty of staffing agencies, as you mention, is that they offer businesses a variety of options.  It’s this flexibility that attracts companies all over the country (and world) to the staffing industry.

In my opinion, either option is advantageous and cost effective.  In both scenarios, you are free from having to deal with advertising, resume mining, interviewing, etc.  The steps involved with hiring qualified candidates can be all-consuming and very costly.  You save yourself a bundle (in terms of time, resources, and expense) within the search process alone.

If you choose to go the temp-to-hire route, you will be billed an hourly service rate for the work completed each week (most services pay temps and bill companies on a weekly basis).  While “assigned” at your company, the individual is actually an employee of the agency.  This means the service will handle all of payroll and will cover all fees related to benefits, workers’ comp, taxes, and insurance.  Likewise, in a temp-to-hire situation, you get the opportunity to assess the candidate (while on the job) to see if he or she is, in fact, a good fit for full-time placement. If they don’t work out… no problem, the agency will find a replacement — typically at no extra charge.

There is one downside that you may want to consider regarding the temp-to-hire option.  If you’re looking to attract a stellar candidate (who is already employed, but has the precise skills and experience you need),  they may be hesitant to jump ship from the stability of their current, “permanent,” position and move into a “temp” role – even though the intent is for the job to evolve into something more permanent.  It feels risky and uncomfortable – and may deter certain top performers from even expressing interest.

The “Direct Placement” option, on the other hand, is fairly cut and dry.  You would basically be charged a one-time placement fee (industry standard is about 20%-25% of the candidate’s annual salary).  Oftentimes, this fee comes with a guarantee (which may vary between 30, 45, or even 60 days), whereby you would receive a refund if the person completely flakes out on the job within a set period of time.

As you can see, there are several variables and a lot to consider.  No matter how you look at it though, relying on a service to fill your positions definitely has its advantages!

To the job seekers reading… 
I realize this sounds a bit abrupt, but it’s good for you to know what goes on from the hiring perspective and is all the more reason you should be your best and take long-term placements seriously if you want to land that full-time career.  While working a temp-to-hire position, you’re being reviewed and evaluated.  More and more often, staffing agencies are the gateway to getting in with big firms!

Managers OR Job Seekers – Do you have any “temp-to-hire” or “direct placement” stories you’d like to share?  Post your comments!
Anita

Job Offer

A reader writes…

I received a job offer from another company AND a counteroffer from my current employer.  Should I stay or should I go?

Dear “Joe Strummer,”

You must be feeling pretty hot-to-trot these days! Not only does a new company want you… but you’re being asked to stay (with probably a pay increase, promotion, or perk) by your current  employer.  Now before your head gets too big… I suggest you check your ego at the door and get ready for some serious soul searching. You have a lot at stake here, and you don’t want to blow it!

Let me start by reminding you that this is a personal decision.  There’s a reason why you were looking at new opportunities in the first place (unless a headhunter discovered you).  Maybe you feel you’re in a dead-end position, you could use a new challenge, or – you simply hate your boss!  Whatever the circumstance, you’ve explored outside of the “cubicle.”

Some might say that a counteroffer is like a kiss of death and that you should go with the new job opportunity.  What they mean is, even though you’re being given a counteroffer, your current employer knows you’ve been looking around, and your status as a “team player” will immediately become questionable.  Can you be trusted to stay on the job and carry out your responsibilities? Or are you going to jump ship the next time another opportunity rolls around?   The sense of “partnership” may go out the window.

On the other hand…

  • I’ve never seen anyone get fired for sharing an offer letter from another company.  In fact, it can serve as a wake-up call to your current employer.  As time goes on, your skills, experience, and contributions to the company get lost in the shuffle.  A job offer from another company is like a slap in the face.  If you’re a key player, your current employer will do what they can to keep you. Bear in mind, this conversation with your boss is never easy and can be completely nerve-wracking… Who knows how he or she will respond!
  • Here’s something else to consider… maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side.  After receiving a job offer and a counteroffer, maybe you should re-assess yourself and your situation. Is your current position as bad as you thought? Changing careers can be risky – you’re suddenly the new kid on the block in a completely different environment.  However, if you choose to stay put, keep in mind that your manager knows you considered leaving… he or she may lack trust in you.
  • Is it about the money?  While salary is a key factor, most employers will say that job satisfaction comes from other areas such as company culture, work/life balance, skills enhancements, etc.  The fact is, none of these people have to pay YOUR bills… so it’s up to you to decide whether money is the real reason for looking elsewhere. Depending on your situation, a job may actually be all about the money. If this is the case, it never hurts to make some sort of attempt to increase your salary.
  • Are you feeling guilty? You’ve been with a company for several years, and you feel pretty loyal.  The idea of sharing an offer letter from another company feels like you’re “cheating” on a partner, right?

Who needs the slap in the face now?
You.

Company “loyalty” fell out the window a long time ago. Despite your hard work, the fact is, a company can (and will) drop you at any given moment.  It’s not like it was back in Grandpa Joe’s day when people spent their entire career at the same place, come hell or high water!  Times have changed.

So what’s my advice?  Be loyal to YOURSELF.  Consider all of the pros and cons, be confident in your approach, and stick with your decision. This is a good “problem” to have, and you’re probably envied by many of our readers.  Good luck!

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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