Validation for Veterans

A reader writes:

Good Morning, Anita,

Recently, I returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan. Since coming home and taking a much-needed break, I feel that I am ready to join the civilian workforce and begin supporting my family again. Like many other veterans, I am running into some difficulty finding gainful employment and paying the bills. What advice can you give to me and other veterans looking for employment and experiencing the hardships of transition? Thank you!

Dear, Valued Veteran:

First and foremost, thank you for your service to our country and for the sacrifices you have made in the name of freedom. I can speak for many reading this blog that we greatly appreciate your efforts and dedication to the United States of America.

Unfortunately, as you mentioned, transitioning into the civilian workforce and regular life after serving in the armed forces can be difficult. Not only do you face the same challenges as those currently unemployed, but you must also Army_Bootsacclimate to new surroundings and hone your military training to fit open employment opportunities.

To get the ball rolling, make sure that you register with Veteran Affairs (VA) as soon as possible after you are discharged. You should qualify for medical and dental insurance. These benefits will diminish your financial burden significantly if unexpected medical emergencies arise. Co-pays for preventative medicine and routine exams are relatively low for this program and maybe expunged if you are unable to afford them.

Next, I suggest that you take some time to sit down and write a strong and compelling résumé and cover letter describing your skills, experiences, and work ethic. These items are job hunting gold and are necessary in landing your next career. For tips and advice on how to create and perfect these documents, take a quick look my posts How to Tailor Your Résumé and Covering the Cover Letter. If you feel like you need additional help, you can look into services such as CareerPerfect  to write your résumé and cover letter for a nominal fee. The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program also has services that can help.

Some strong qualities and experience to highlight are:

  • Military efficiency
  • Overseas experience
  • Problem solving skills
  • Flexibility and decision-making abilities under pressure
  • Leadership roles
  • Other relevant experiences

Also, take your military occupation code (MOS), area of concentration (AOC), Air Force specialty code (AFSC), or Navy Soldier_Saluteenlisted classification (NEC) and enter them into a skills translator, like those found at www.vetsuccess.gov/military_skills_translators, to turn them into commonly desired skills in the private sector.

Now that you have a strong and noteworthy résumé and cover letter, head on over to my friends at Select Staffing for employment assistance. Visit their website (www.selectstaffing.com), fill out the online application, and call your local office to schedule an appointment with a recruiter. Select Staffing is actively seeking skilled, dedicated, and versatile veterans for a wide variety of positions. They highly value the characteristics, commitment, and skills possessed by servicemen and women and are determined to do their part to help.

I know that they are currently recruiting for the following positions:

  • General Professional
  • Security Services
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Legal Assistant/Paralegal
  • Accounting
  • Data Entry Operator
  • IT Auditors
  • Utility Workers
  • Project Managers
  • Business Intelligence Analysts
  • And much more!

If you are looking to sharpen your skills and become educated in your field of interest, sign up for the GI Bill. Once you have done so, get in contact with Veteran Affairs Education and apply for benefits online to help cover tuition, books, and living expenses while you are in school. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this benefit as you will strengthen your résumé and have better chances of landing a lucrative career.

I found a great webinar that I think would be great for all veterans to watch, titled “Job Search Tips: Webinar for Military Veterans Transition to Civilian Careers” by Lida Citroën. It is a bit longer than my typical videos but worth the time.

Readers, what advice do you have for our recently-returned Veterans?

Veterans, what have you found to be the most helpful with you return to the civilian workforce?

Reasons for No Résumé Responses

A reader writes…

Anita,

I am desperately seeking a job and I feel as though I am sending out résumés left and right with no response. I have experience in a variety of fields and have been stretching the boundaries just to find some type of employment. What am I doing wrong?

Hi, Craving Call-backs,

Thanks for the question. I have a feeling many of you out there are experiencing this problem in your job search. With the lagging economy, fewer employers are actively hiring large numbers of people and the competition for those jobs is much steeper.Keyboard Bite

I have come up with a list of 8 reasons why you may not be getting the “we must hire them” response. Check them out below.

1. Applying for a job you are not qualified for. Many of you are looking to find any job available and have tried applying to jobs for which you do not meet the minimum requirements. It seems like it is worth a shot, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to the masses, job descriptions do serve a higher purpose than just putting some text out hoping to hook a few applicants. They clearly spell out the necessary skills, training, education, duties, and responsibilities of the job. If a company is looking for a person with 5-7 years’ experience in the automotive sales industry and you have 2 years of sales experience and love cars, odds are you won’t get the call-back. It’s better not to waste your time or theirs by submitting your résumé. See my advice on when to go for it and when to forgo it in my blog  Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified.

2. Generic cover letter and résumés. Employers are well aware of job seekers that work on autopilot, distributing the same résumé whenever they feel even the slightest pulse. Before you send out a résumé or cover letter, take the time to tailor it to the job you are applying for. For a full list of tips on how to do this visit my post How to Tailor Your Résumé. As for cover letters, do your research and include the hiring manager’s name, company name, and business address, even when it is an email. If you need more pointers, see my other post called Covering the Cover Letter. Remember, it is the little things that get you noticed.

3. Generic job title. As we have seen in the previous section, generic is not the way to go. It can come off as lazy or disinterested. If the job description says they are looking for the Director of First Impressions (or receptionist, in layman’s terms), by all means put that as the job you are striving to obtain!

4. You don’t live there. If you are looking for a job in a city other than where you reside, you will most likely be pushed to the wayside. Employers do not want to pay for relocation and do not want to interview a candidate they know Lost in the Pileis not in the area. If you have friends or family who live near the job location, use their address on your résumé. Check out my post Landing a Job Long Distance for more advice.

5. Keywords in job description not included. With the large influx of résumés coming in for advertised positions, many companies do not have the time to read them all. It is common practice now to feed résumés through software programs that pick up keywords that apply to that position. If you do not reach the set number of keywords necessary to move to the next round, your résumé will be discarded. A great way to lower your chances of this happening is to skim the job description and include as many keywords as you can without being grammatically incorrect or overly obvious. See ATS 101: Demystifying Applicant Tracking Systems.

6. Didn’t follow instructions. Be sure to read the job description very carefully. Some employers have very strict standards and procedures on how they accept applications, résumés, and other materials. If they request that you send your résumé in Word and you send them a PDF, right off the bat, you have shown you cannot follow directions. Who wants a person like that as an employee? If they require that you submit three references and you submit two, odds are that you will be rejected before you can say “hire me.” By the way, this includes salary requirements. I know it seems you’ll be pricing yourself too low or too high, but there are ways to give a number and then indicate you’re flexible.

7. Focused on duties, not accomplishments. Employers want to see what you have accomplished, not what you did on a daily basis. Accomplishments show drive, ambition, productivity, and more. List actions that you can take credit for. Try to use words like managed, implemented, developed, applied, created, etc.

8. Typos in résumés. Punctuation problems, misspelled words, and goofed-up grammar force many employers to slam on their brakes. With computers, spell-check, and (I know I will sound old here) plenty of dictionaries, there is almost no excuse for you to have grammatical errors and typos in your résumé. Do not always trust spell-check; go through the entire document from bottom to top and read every word. Proofread it over and over again and ask for feedback from professionals you trust. If you notice a typo after the fact, do not send a corrected version, but definitely fix your résumé before sending it out to the next opening.  Be sure to check for these common mistakes I find all the time:

  • Is the correct word there, their, or they’re? It’s or its? Where or wear? Figure it out, and be right!
  • Bulleted items should only end in a period if they are complete sentences.
  • Jobs, activities, and accomplishments you have had in the past are in past tense. Those that are current are in the present tense (manage vs. managed, raise vs. raised, negotiates vs. negotiated).

I hope with these tips you can begin to see the résumé response from employers you are looking for. It is also important to remember that recruiters and employers are swamped with job inquiries. Give it about 1-2 weeks before following up with that prospect or putting that position behind you. Keep your chin up and your attitude positive!

Readers, have you had trouble getting résumé responses from potential employers? What have you found to be the best trick to get the call-backs rolling in?

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

Happy Hunting,

Anita

Have Diploma. Will Work.

A reader writes:

Hi, Anita!

I am graduating from college this coming August and have started to take on the full-time job of seeking employment. I will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Management and would like to pursue a career in Human Resources. Can you point me in the right directions to landing my dream job?

Hi!

Thanks for the question and congratulations on graduating! It is that time of year again when college graduates are getting their minds into full-blown job-hunting mode. With our country’s job market still a little shaky, recent college graduates will Have Diploma. Will Workneed to work harder than ever to gain employment in their field with the perks they desire. I hope most of you have taken the time out of your school schedule and obtained internships or even positions with companies that you wish to work with in the future. If you have not, have no fear.  Miss Anita has some tips and tricks just for you.

To start your search off on the right foot, you must begin developing and building a network through personal and professional contacts. You never know who may have the inside source to lead you to your first out-of-college job. The more you interact with your peers and other professionals, the wider you will make the road of opportunity.

The single most important pieces of paper that you can have during your job search are a strong and compelling résumé and cover letter. Many universities and higher education institutions offer résumé writing assistance and with some tips from yours truly, you will be on your way to employment in no time. I suggest that you check out two of my posts, How to Tailor Your Résumé and Covering the Cover Letter, for some more information on the subject. Be sure to include work and volunteer experience, hobbies, and educational background. Make the hiring managers take notice and have a reason to call you for an interview.Diploma

I know we all fantasize about the dream job that we wish to have right out of college. For some, this may become a reality, but for the most of us, it will take time to obtain the skill sets needed for the position and to move our way up. If you are offered a job that is not in the ideal field of your choice or may not be exactly what you are looking for, take the job. Every job opportunity is a gateway to any number of experiences that will benefit you in the future — not to mention a great résumé builder.

Before exhausting every job board, website, and career center on the web, I suggest filling out an application and scheduling an interview with a temporary agency like Select Staffing. Temporary positions will allow you to dabble in a variety of fields and give you great experience. You can test out what you like and don’t like about a job and learn about the working world. Very often, these temporary positions turn into full-time employment with the company you are working with. For more information, visit their website at www.selectstaffing.com .

Ramit Sethi,  author of the New York Times bestselling book I Will Teach You To Be Rich has a great video and article in Forbes about landing your dream job that I think is worth looking at. Read it by clicking here and view it below!

Are you currently searching for a job out of college? If you have some advice or great stories to share, I would love to hear them.

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

Thanks and hope to hear from you soon!

-Anita

Covering the Cover Letter

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I have two questions that I hope you can address: What’s the secret to a good cover letter? And is a cover letter even necessary these days?

Dear, “C.L.,”

I have been asked to address the cover letter question by a few readers as I know it’s a hot topic when it comes to searching for a job. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I have seen over the years that look like a generic template and a game of plug-and-play (insert name here… insert date here…. etc.) I’ve even seen cover letters that have a different color font where the hiring manager’s name is supposed to go… a tell-tale sign that it is a standard form letter that has been forwarded or used countless times.

My advice is this…

  • If you’re writing a cover letter just because you think it’s the right “protocol”… Don’t bother.
  • If you plan to reiterate the content of your résumé in your cover letter… Don’t bother.
  • If your cover letter is not a quick, relevant read… Don’t bother.

I, personally, only think a cover letter is necessary if you’re changing careers or if you need to clarify certain things that your résumé can’t explain alone. A cover letter can also serve as a nice personal touch if you recently spoke to someone (say, a hiring manager) about a position. You can use the letter as a thank you for their time and consideration as well as to reiterate 4-5 key reasons why you would be a good fit.

I found the following article on CareerBuilder that I think “covers” the cover letter question very well. I encourage you to take a look: http://www.careerbuilder.com/Article/CB-2446-Resumes-Cover-Letters-Do-I-really-need-a-cover-letter-New-thoughts-on-an-old-standard/

Okay HR and Hiring Managers… we want to hear from you. Do YOU think cover letters are necessary? Do you even read them? Please post your comments here!

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

Employers Think I’m a Job Hopper!

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I know one of the things that stands out in a résumé (besides skills) is how long you have been with a company –  (working somewhere for 5 or 10 years, for example,  shows stability).  I also know it is professional to put all your jobs on the résumé, but when I do, I am often asked during interviews, “How come you have so many different jobs within a two year period?” I haven’t been able to find a stable job but have been getting calls from contract and temp jobs that last 4 months, 2 months, 6 months and I accept them (because when you need work, you accept it to pay the bills).

There are great employees out there that have skills that make them the perfect candidate but because of their job history, employers don’t trust them to stay with the company.  

So my question is this, how can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?

Dear, “Stability,”

You have brought up an issue that probably impacts a good majority of my readers… and certainly warrants a full post!

How the heck do you “sell yourself” in a résumé as a dedicated employee, when your work history is full of short term temp assignments and/or contract work?  Jumping from job to job doesn’t exactly say, “I am a stable person who will stick with your company for years and years to come!”

It does say, however, that you have been working consistently and are versatile; yet reveals the fact that you just haven’t found that position or opportunity where you can commit long term.  For some people, temporary work is ideal for particular lifestyles.  Perhaps you’re a new parent wanting to earn extra income while tending to a child.  Maybe you’re a full-time student, just looking to make some extra cash.  Then there are those that have been laid off from a previous job and are simply exploring new industries and opportunities before deciding on their next career path.

All in all, I think hiring managers understand the reality and importance of temporary work, more than ever.  Rather than viewing it as “instability,” they know that people are simply trying to make ends meet during difficult times.  In fact, many employers have been faced with hiring freezes themselves. Their companies are either cutting full-time staff, or are battling budget cuts left and right!  Keep in mind; this also explains why job hunting is so competitive.  When companies are finally given the trigger to hire someone… they’re going to be ultra choosey and basically search for the pick of the litter. (This is why, as a job seeker, you need to be on top of your game, have a flawless résumé, and be ready to shine in that interview.)

Now back to your question, “How can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?”

You don’t want a two page résumé that includes the days, weeks, or months, of each individual temp assignment you’ve ever had.  At a glance that will surely be a turn off to any hiring manager.

Here’s what I suggest:

Below your name and contact information that appears at the top, begin with a section called, “Summary of Qualifications.” There you will highlight 5 or 6 bullet points of key skills or experiences that directly pertain to the job you are seeking.  Maybe one sums up “’X’ number of years working in the ‘Y’ industry overseeing…. Or developing… Or assisting with….” <insert whatever applies>. Another bullet point may include specific computer skills, or industry/ trade specific knowledge.  Here is where you may list whether you’re bilingual (for example)… you get the idea?

Next comes the chronological list of “Employment” or “Work Experience.”  If you have been doing various temp jobs for the past two years, simply group all of that together as a single listing with the header, “Contract Work” (or something like that) – Then just list the years (NOT months or specific dates).  The key is, you’re still being completely honest… but you’re redirecting the focus from short intervals to a long period that included a variety of positions.

Now, within the section you’ve called “Contract Work,” use bullet points to outline each position in a single sentence (use present tense as what you’re really dong here is drawing attention to your various skills, responsibilities, and attributes).  For example:

Contract Work – (2010 – 2012)

  •  Accountant / Bookkeeper (insert company name) – Data entry, accounts receivable, and records management of a $X budget.  (NOTE: it’s always good to include quantitative figures wherever you can…  gives more substance to your résumé)
  • Customer Service Representative (insert company name) – Inbound / Outbound calls, up-sell to customers, demonstrate product features and benefits of over ‘X’ products and services.

Directly below the “Contract Work” section (that now gives the allusion it was a long term commitment… by bundling your short-term projects), you will list whatever you did before that.  If you were laid off from somewhere after working for 3 years (for example) you will list the date range in years. Then do the same for next job, etc. – No need to go back 40 years… keep it relevant.

End your résumé with your education, certifications, any awards, and/or accomplishments.

While your résumé must be honest and should include as much pertinent detail as possible to attract the attention of a hiring manager, it is in your cover letter or during the interview that you will have the opportunity to explain things further.  Try to keep the focus on your skills that will contribute to the job at hand more than concentrating on dates and time periods. Trust me…  listing a duration of temporary assignments in your résumé (whether it’s a period of 2 months or 2 years) looks much better than having  gaps in your work history.

Don’t hesitate to be honest about your situation.  The way you openly explained it to me in your question made perfect sense and shows your determination and work ethic.

I hope these tips help and wish you much success in landing that long-term position in 2012!
Anita

Job Seeker No-No

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I like to think I am a determined, ambitious, and outgoing person. I’ll practically do anything to get a job at this point (okay not “anything,” but you know what I mean). I have applied to online job listings and have even called to follow up (thinking I’ll stand out) – despite instructions not to do so.
Nothing seems to work. What am I doing wrong?

Dear, “Ambitious,”

I know you are eager to get the job and stand out, but if an online ad specifically says not to call directly… then don’t! By doing so, you are merely showing the potential employer that you do not know how to follow directions – probably not a good first impression!

Hiring managers and recruiters are likely being contacted by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of candidates, and they do not have the time or desire to speak with every single interested person.

The best thing to do when is applying (to help you stand out) is to:

  • Have a concise, professional cover letter that addresses your interest and explains how you can contribute to the position.
  • Tailor both the cover letter and your résumé to the actual position you’re applying for. Doing so shows that you’re paying attention to the unique requirements of THIS job and not just sending the same-old generic résumé you send to every job. Believe me, hiring managers notice!
  • Carefully check for typos.
  • Make sure your contact information is accurate.
  • Do your best to tailor your résumé for the specific position.

Good luck to you!
Anita

 

Lazy Lookers

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita,

I manage my company’s website and frequently receive webmaster emails with a résumé attached. No subject line. No explanation. Nothing. It drives me crazy. What would you say to people who are clearly just throwing their résumé at the wall to see what sticks? As a hiring manager, would you even consider these “candidates?”

“Dear, Webmaster,”

My answer to you is plain and simple. NO I would NOT consider these unsolicited candidates, and I would say to these people that they should stop being so lazy. (Job seekers… I hope you are paying attention!)

No company (that I’ve heard of) would welcome a random résumé that doesn’t include some sort of introduction, salutation, or cover letter explaining its purpose – or even the job of interest. The “spray and pray” technique (in which job seekers blast their résumé at any and every website in hopes of getting a call) has no chance in my book. As most of my readers would attest, the hunt for a job requires a lot of leg work, strategy, practice, and determination. While I realize people are desperately trying to get their name out there… I am not a big fan of this approach and would be surprised if any hiring manager actually took such résumés seriously.

Maybe I stand alone on this one.

Hiring Managers / Supervisors / Recruiters… how do you feel about receiving résumés on your website (sent to the generic “webmaster” email address) without a subject line or any explanation whatsoever?

Look forward to hearing from you!
Anita

Résumé Required?

A reader writes…

Is it necessary to bring a hard copy of my résumé to an interview?

 

Dear, “Above and Beyond,”

Now that résumés are so often submitted through online applications, posted on job boards, or emailed directly to potential employers, many job seekers have stopped bringing a hard copy with them (assuming it’s unnecessary).

Well, you know what they say about people who “assume…!”

The fact is, you absolutely SHOULD bring a copy.  Even better, bring a handful of copies – after all, you never know how many people may be meeting with you during the interview process, right?

It is the polite and professional thing to do.  Not all hiring managers are well prepared.  (Ok… there are a few out there who would not only have your résumé printed out – but they would have notes, questions, and comments hand-written in the margins!)  Not everyone is on the ball like that – though I can name a few people!

By handing over a résumé, you are simplifying the process and leaving behind a tangible piece of information that will sit front-and-center on the hiring manager’s desk. You probably won’t lose points for not bringing one, but you just may earn big points for being extra prepared and thorough!

Be sure to have it printed on nice, quality résumé paper – no flimsy typing sheets, nothing glossy or hot pink, and for heaven’s sake… no spritz of perfume or fragrance!

If you need any help with content or formatting, I highly recommend this professional résumé writing source.

Good Luck!
Anita

How education impacts your job

A reader writes…

Hello Anita,

I have a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Latin America Studies… how am I going to find a job with this background? Please help! 

Dear “Margaret Mead,” (only the Cultural Anthropologists out there will get this random reference!)

Interestingly enough, I too, have a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Spanish Literature.  Who knew I’d be working in the employment services industry for so long?!?  Sometimes it’s not WHAT your degree is in but the fact that you HAVE a degree that matters.   Unless you plan to get a Master’s or Ph.D. so you can become a professor, continue research, or work in a museum…. your specific area of study may not pertain to your future job.

It’s your education and the skills you’ve obtained in school (learning, writing, communicating, analyzing, etc.) that will play an important role in any career path.  If you’re just starting to build your résumé and lack actual work experience, you should definitely include internships or community services.  Focus on your contributions, the skills you had to apply, your level of involvement, tasks you had to manage, or people / projects you supervised.  These are attributes that will transfer to several types of positions and industries. 

Remember, you need to be realistic as you’re starting out in the working world.  Be open to entry-level (and often lower-paying) positions to get your foot in the door.  In time, as you learn new skills and become proficient in your particular trade, the possibilities for growth and advancement may be endless!

Good Luck!
Anita

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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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