Working together to create “Opportunity for All” one step at a time

Paula Brand with DOL Secretary Thomas Perez and Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Selznow

Paula Brand with DOL Secretary Thomas Perez and Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Selznow

It is an exciting time to be in the arena of workforce development.  Our field is expanding, more people are realizing its importance and the federal government is taking action affecting our industry and those we serve.   For 2014, the White House and the Department of Labor (DOL) have announced an ambitious but much needed focus on improving our economy by helping the long-term unemployed, improving workforce training programs, and raising the minimum wage.

It was especially energizing for me to be a small part of this movement to help the long-term unemployed.   At the beginning of 2014, I was asked to attend a meeting held by the DOL Secretary Thomas Perez along with Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Officials Eric Selznow, Acting Assistant Secretary and Ben Seigel, Senior Policy Advisor.  The invited guests were a few dedicated job club leaders and a group of long-term job seekers.  The purpose:  to start a dialogue discussing the challenges and potential solutions for the long-term unemployed.

Walking through the long and tall corridors of DOL and waiting for the meeting to start were somewhat intimidating but once it began, the warmth felt by the administration was heartfelt and I was impressed with the genuine concern and sincerity from DOL Secretary Perez.   Hearing the personal stories and struggles of each talented and motivated job seeker was very emotional.  One man who was diagnosed and battled cancer while being long-term unemployed said that by far, being unemployed had more negative impact on his life than the cancer.  While I was saddened to hear this, I was not shocked.  As a career advisor I have seen the effects of unemployment.  Not only does it attack your self-confidence and cause financial strain but the process of finding decent employment in this job market can really take a toll on your soul.   Thanks to these folks for telling their compelling stories.  I know it was hard to share with a room full of strangers but the impact was huge and led to positive action.

As a career and workforce professional, I must take a brief moment to challenge the opinions out there that the long-term unemployed are unmotivated and happy to be receiving unemployment insurance.  There are many honest and hard-working job seekers and there are a variety reasons why it might take someone a long time to become re-employed.  Sometimes people need to change careers, which is a much longer process than just finding a job.  Sometimes the health of the person or a close family member takes necessary but critical time away from the job search.  Below are a couple of posts emphasizing the point that the long term unemployed are not lazy and expecting a handout.  They want to contribute to our economy; they just need to be given a chance.   Eric’s Selnzow’s blog post about our January 8th meeting shared that it is often not a lack of motivation and effort creating the length of unemployment.   Also, John Fugazzie wrote a moving article about the recent efforts from DOL and the White House while continuing to dispel the myths surrounding this group of job seekers.

Then, on January 31, only a few weeks after our DOL visit, President Obama stood in the East Room of the White House and announced new partnerships with companies to improve hiring practices that are singling out people in this “long term unemployed” category.  For more information, here is a fact sheet on this effort Here is a list of best practices and the names of companies already on board.  If you run a company and want to sign on, click here to do so.

Building upon this momentum, in February the Department of Labor announced a Ready to Work Partnership initiative to competitively award around $150 million (in revenues from the H-B1 visa program) to high performing workforce organizations for providing a variety of training and services to get people back to work.

Activities surrounding this topic are continuing.  On May 6th, many of the same group headed to Boston for a conference at MIT addressing long term unemployment and solutions.  And just last week some former colleagues of mine went to the White House to speak with DOL Secretary Perez, Eric Selnzow, Ben Seigel and others to continue this conversation.  Thanks to DOL and the White House for keeping this conversation going and taking action steps to help the long-term unemployed.

There are two lesser known champions who have made great efforts to help job seekers behind the scenes, Ben Seigel and John Fuggazie.  Kudos to Ben Seigel for his efforts for organizing the January 8th meeting that started the ball rolling.  In recent years, he has been dedicated to bringing this issue to the forefront at the highest levels of our government.   Also, many thanks to John Fugazzie, an inspirational leader for job seekers who tirelessly promoted the case for extending unemployment benefits.   John created Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA, Inc. a free, volunteer-led job search support and networking group targeted to adults who are actively looking for work. He writes a regular column for AOL.  Click here  to see his article about the January 8th meeting with DOL Secretary Perez.  Thanks to everyone who is helping in this effort.   It is an important one!

Related posts:

White House Blog post on helping the long-term unemployed:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/10/helping-long-term-unemployed-get-back-work

National Economic Council Report addressing the negative effects of long-term unemployment:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/wh_report_addressing_the_negative_cycle_of_long-term_unemployment_1-31-14_-_final3.pdf

DOL meeting on January 8, 2014

DOL meeting on January 8, 2014

Forum with DOL Sect. Perez and long term job seekers

Forum with DOL Sect. Perez and long term job seekers

Dear LinkedIn, Help Us Help You!

I speak for many: I am one of many Career Professionals who promote LinkedIn every day to job seekers, career changers and anyone interested in taking a proactive role in managing their career. I will use the term “we” from this point on and will go out on a limb and speak for all career professionals because I have not found one yet who disagrees with me on this (and I know hundreds of them).

The jury is in: Based on many blog posts, comments in LinkedIn groups and in-person collegial discussions, it’s clear that many of us are frustrated with continually being caught off guard by sudden changes to the site. While it is understandable that LinkedIn must make smart business decisions that cause changes to the site, being more transparent and proactive in sharing information regarding the changes would benefit us, LinkedIn and its members.

Must changes be so surprising? Believe me, with the many changes in the world of work, our industry knows very well that the only constant in life is change. We are not saying don’t change, we’re just saying, please consistently warn us when it is about to happen or at least make it easy for us to know when it has taken place. We have been able to adapt to LinkedIn changes but it can be challenging, depending on the scale of the change. Some changes are small (like changing how to remove a contact) but many are big (like removing entire sections such as the pages providing details on specific Skills & Expertise or Signal). In some cases these changes are announced publicly (usually on the LinkedIn blog) but in other cases, it is done without much notification, if any at all. Sometimes the changes are so abrupt that the LinkedIn Help Center hasn’t event caught up and shows incorrect and old instructions. In other cases, we are in the middle of a live presentation using LinkedIn when we find out a major feature has totally disappeared without warning (this happened to me). I know people who have been prepared with PowerPoint slides for an early morning presentation only to have had the prepared screen shots become outdated overnight. In many cases, the only way to find out about a change is from online posts and verbal dialogues by angered LinkedIn members and trainers.

Let’s try to make it better: Is there a way to involve career professionals with LinkedIn changes in a more meaningful way? I am aware that in past years, LinkedIn created special training and support for journalists and I wonder if it has considered doing something similar for career practitioners. In both cases, these groups provide extended publicity for LinkedIn. That publicity can be good or bad, depending on how these groups interact with and experience LinkedIn. Why not take a preemptive approach with career professionals to help LinkedIn garner more positive marketing and improve LinkedIn members’ experience? If this would be of interest to LinkedIn, I would happy to help in that effort.

This could be a win-win! I truly believe we have valuable insights that would make LinkedIn a better product and that you are missing out on utilizing our expertise. Here are some ways we could be useful to LinkedIn. First, as avid users, we often notice glitches before anyone else. If we had a more effective way to share these with your company, you might be able to catch unintended consequences faster. I’m sure if asked, many of us would even be willing to preview, test and provide feedback on new features. Second, as teachers and evangelizers of LinkedIn, we interact with members and potential users every day. We hear feedback that you never will. We can provide front line opinions on features that people find useful, valuable or annoying. This could help LinkedIn avoid trouble by discarding or adding features that devalue members’ experience with LinkedIn. Finally, we can help others feel less intimidated about using LinkedIn. When we are in the middle of a presentation and jarred by a new change, it reinforces to the audience that it can be hard to keep up with all of the changes. This discourages people from being interested in using the site more often and perpetuates the argument that it’s too much to keep up with so why bother joining or using LinkedIn at all.

Call to act: If you are a career professional who agrees with this point of view, please share this post with others, especially anyone at LinkedIn who might be open to this idea and feel free to reach out to me. If you work for LinkedIn, I would be happy to continue this conversation. Please contact me to discuss ways that we can help LinkedIn succeed.

LinkedIn: Should a job seeker pay for an upgraded version?

My spring was filled with many LinkedIn activities that kept me too busy to blog until now. It started with a LinkedIn workshop with my colleague Shahrzad Arasteh (We do this every few months in Annapolis. The next LinkedIn workshop is on the morning of Saturday, July 13 and we will definitely be sharing information on the recent changes to LinkedIn). In April, I was honored to speak at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for their 7th Annual Fellow’s Retreat for the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID). And finally, I was asked to write a journal article about LinkedIn for the summer issue of a career counseling journal.

 

PaulaNIAID-001-300x200

Paula Brand speaking at NIAID’s 7th Annual Fellow’s Retreat

Of the many times I teach about LinkedIn, there is one question that comes up the most. This post is devoted to that question: Should I pay to upgrade my LinkedIn Account? The answer depends on your purpose, but for the most part I would say no. If you are a recruiter: yes it’s worth every penny. If you are a business owner marketing your products: this can be a great way to reach potential customers. If you are a job seeker, I say save your money and read on.

Anyone can open a basic account for free. All of the techniques and features I share in workshops are based on the free account. There are benefits of upgrading but for most of us, they are unnecessary. The main advantages of upgrading are the ability to send InMails (InMails allow you to send a message to anyone in the LinkedIn community, regardless of having any other connection to them) and more powerful search options to find people. There are other smaller benefits but those are the big ones.

You could wait to be offered a free trial of the upgrade. I regularly get solicited for a free month of the various upgrade services packages. At times, I have been tempted to test these out. However, the deal is that you must agree to be automatically billed, and then you will be given the discount after the fact. Also, you will have to go through the task of cancelling if you don’t want to continue. I don’t like those types of arrangements so I have begged off for now.

The bottom line is that if you are in job search, there are plenty of things you can do on LinkedIn that cost you nothing and there are probably more urgent needs for your hard earned money. For free, you can:

1) Create a keyword rich profile that will attract recruiters and HR professionals.
2) Join and interact in groups to position yourself as a subject matter expert.
3) Connect with people in your field to network into the hidden job market.
4) Search for jobs posted only on LinkedIn.
5) Research your target companies on LinkedIn to gain insights, to prepare for an interview and to learn more about the culture of an organization.

Most job seekers need to spend their money on more pressing needs. So before you decide to shell out the money to upgrade thinking that this will be the silver bullet to get yourself hired (by the way there is no silver bullet for landing a job – it takes hard work and a lot of networking!) ask yourself how much you are taking advantage of all of the free features you can use today without breaking your bank account.

LinkedIn changes: 8 tips to keep you up to date with this ever-evolving website

There have been so many changes with LinkedIn over the past six months, you may have had trouble keeping up. If that’s the case, read below to get a summary of what’s new and what’s gone within the LinkedIn system. The most visible change was creating a new “simplified” look for profiles which were rolled out to the millions of LinkedIn members over many months. Less obvious changes include the removal of some features and the addition of new kinds. Let’s jump in!

WHAT HAS CHANGED

1) The Answers feature is gone. As of January 31, 2012, LinkedIn has removed Answers. This feature allowed LinkedIn members to seek advice from all LinkedIn users but more importantly, it allowed experts to shine. Thought leaders would answers questions and strive to be rated as the Best Answer, providing a spotlight on their expertise. One way around the loss of Answers is to ask and answer questions within your Groups. Though not as powerful, because Answers provided a much larger audience (every LinkedIn member), Groups provides a more limited but targeted audience. There are some other ways to work around this loss, provided by a blog post from Linked Strategies Group LLC . If you had ever used Answers, you might wonder where the information went. This post by Jason Alba explains that the history of previous Answers has disappeared.

2) Most apps have gone away, sadly Events is no more. A few still remain (such as Slideshare and Boxnet) but most have gone away. The omission I mourned was the loss of the Events app. Though some said they wouldn’t miss it, I think it was a great loss. Some people agree with me. Here is a post by Julius Solaris from Events Manager blog. Events allowed you to showcase conferences you had attended or would be attending, thereby displaying your commitment to your field. It allowed people to seek out others going to the same event, which encouraged taking on line networking to the personal level. If you were organizing an event, it allowed you to promote it (though I agree most people did not maximize this angle). LinkedIn suggested using Eventbrite and Meetup as replacements but these are inferior alternatives. Though both sites are useful for organizing events, they lack the ability to showcase where you will be going and where you have been right on your profile. For more information, here is a useful blog post by Jason Alba on the apps that went away.

3) Snapshot changes. In trying to create a more “simplified” profile design, LinkedIn has hidden some of the information that used to show up in your snapshot (the top area of information next to your picture). In this area, you must now click on Contact Info in order to see someone’s e-mail, Twitter handle or websites and only employer names show but not job titles. Websites can still be added and customized but most were dropped in the profile changeover so you should make sure yours still shows if you had any websites listed pre-changeover. One thing that is not hidden is your profile picture. In fact, the picture is now much bigger so keep this in mind. You may need to change or edit your previous picture to create the best possible impression. Also the font of your headline (the line right below your name) is bigger too.

4) Influencers and company pages. One major new feature is Influencers which allows you to Follow people, much like Twitter. LinkedIn started out with 150 people deemed as influential (think Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, President Obama, etc.) and more are being added regularly. Company pages are not new but have been enhanced. The pages are better designed but still offer the same excellent research information as before. Be sure to use these company pages to see who you know at a company and to do your homework before an interview.

WHAT HASN’T CHANGED

1) Getting a vanity URL. You should still get yourself a “vanity” or personalized URL. This is essentially your internet address that can be used to get to your profile instantly. It’s free and very easy to do. To learn more about why you should do this and how, go to my previous blog post about getting a vanity URL.

2) Complete your profile. You should complete your profile as much as possible. Only adding your name and current title is not enough. You should have more than one job (preferably a few), a picture (this will increase the chances of people accepting your invitations and viewing your profile) and a summary (to give a professional but friendly “big picture” view of who you are). There are many other sections you can complete including education, certifications, languages and projects. The more you share, the more likely people will find you.

3) Connect and share. You should still network with others and use this platform to share useful information with others. Making LinkedIn connections (you should at least have 50) and sharing information with others is still one of the best uses of LinkedIn. Adding connections increases your sphere of influence, increases your ability to connect with others beyond your inner circle and displays your level of “connectedness.” To share, you can post activity updates to let others know what you are doing and post articles with timely information. Activity posts are more prominent in the new design of your profile and now the last few posts appear just below your snapshot. Use this to your advantage by posting more often.

4) Endorsements are here to stay. The endorsements feature appeared in September 2012. It allows your connections to “endorse” the keywords in your Skills and Expertise section. It was controversial at first and continues to be. On the down side, many people dislike the facebook feel of a popularity contest, question those who endorse strangers and think that the ease of which one can endorse lessens the value of it. On the upside, you can use the feature to your advantage by having colleagues endorse you for skills you want to promote. As a result you can be found by others based on your areas of expertise. Recruiters and talent scouts continue to use this keyword rich section to find those with the aptitude they seek. Here is a recent article by Patricia Kitchen that shares some ways to make the most out of LinkedIn endorsements.

So there you have it. You are now caught up on the most major changes with LinkedIn over the past six months. There are a few other minor changes I’ve noticed, but I didn’t mention them because I am hoping they are glitches that will soon be fixed by LinkedIn. Based on past experience, I am sure more changes are coming so maybe I’ll have to write another post like this in six more months? For now, please use this information to help you make the best use of LinkedIn and share any feedback. Which of these changes do you like? Which are driving you crazy?

The White House encourages you to join a job club (and so do I)

I would like to devote this blog to a recent personal experience, which was both an unexpected surprise and an enjoyable event in my career path. I was honored to be invited to speak as a panelist at the White House Job Clubs Forum on Sept 20, 2012.   This once in a lifetime event came as a result of my involvement with job clubs in my area (I run a local job club through the Arnold Station Career Center and I assist job clubs in Anne Arundel County, MD).   I hope by sharing this information, you might be encouraged to get involved in a job club near you. Job clubs offer support, networking and excellent resources for job seekers. They also help employers connect to qualified candidates. Most powerfully, they create an environment where members become contributors.

Visiting the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was a very unique experience. The intricate architecture and design was amazing from the outside all the way into the Indian Treaty Room where the event was held. Hope and excitement were in the air at the start and followed throughout the event. Administration officials shared Obama’s support for the job clubs initiative. One of the highlights was hearing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’s words of encouragement to job club supporters and recognition of the power of job clubs.

The information and camaraderie were excellent. It was a great way to share information and make connections with others contributing to the job club movement. Panelists shared their learned experiences in running job clubs and the success clubs have shown in preparing people to get back to work. Topics included: the development of job clubs within faith-based communities, job club efforts within the workforce development system and model programs for the future of job clubs.

As I listened to the speakers throughout the day, I was reminded of the many ways job clubs touch peoples’ lives. There were accounts of employers working together with job clubs to fill positions. There were stories of tireless leaders who give their time to assist job seekers. There were chronicles of people who gained employment through a job club connection as well as those who stayed on to help the job club, after becoming re-employed. All of the speakers demonstrated that job clubs have the power to change people’s lives.

Job clubs are helping others make connections and access resources, moving people toward jobs and offering the support needed during a job search. They have always been around, but until now, they have not had the national recognition they received at this event.   My hope is that this occurrence will create many ripples that will further this movement because job clubs are an important part of getting through these difficult economic times. Across the nation, they are helping people get back to work by providing support, hope and humanity to the un/underemployed. If you are in job search, I challenge you to attend a job club in your area.

Useful Links:

To find a local job club near you, go to: https://partnerships.workforce3one.org/page/resources/1001107639349545113

To find out more about job clubs, go to the Department of Labor Center for Faith Based Neighborhood Partnerships homepage: https://partnerships.workforce3one.org/page/home

Kudos to Ben Seigel for organizing the event. His efforts are a great benefit to job clubs across America. He blogged and provided a nice summary of the event:

http://social.dol.gov/blog/all-hands-on-deck-job-club-leaders-gather-at-white-house-forum/

Everything I needed to know about career management I learned from my parents

At this time in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I would like to honor my parents who have always been loving, dedicated and supportive. By teaching me to be a good person, my parents indirectly taught me how to be a good job seeker and career manager.   Many of the lessons I learned at a young age are still applicable now. They are especially important in job search and in managing an effective career. I would like to share the top six skills my parents developed in me and I suggest you practice these in your job search and career management.

Integrity and respect:   Both of my parents have great character and taught me that your reputation must not be taken for granted.   Integrity is essential – do what you say you will do and keep your word. Treat others with respect and your reputation will speak for itself. Our family members were always treated equally and with reverence. Likewise, we were taught to treat all respectfully. Treating others with respect will take you far in your job search and in your career.   For example, in job search never be rude to the receptionist. You may not realize it but this person has more power than you think. If you treat this person with disrespect, your résumé is likely to end up in the trash. After interviewing, the hiring manager may ask the receptionist how you behaved in the waiting room. The answer may determine if you proceed in the selection process.

Take risks: My father was an entrepreneur before it was a trendy thing to do. He was gutsy and started a business while my Mom wasn’t working and they had six children to feed — nothing like ensuring success through necessity. But seriously, my Father worked very hard to establish his business. He saw an opportunity, took a chance, worked hard and it paid off.   He created one of the first Executive Recruitment firms in the world, which began as Battalia & Associates and has evolved into the successful business of Amrop Winston Battalia . Entrepreneurship is not for everyone but it can be a great path for some. Are you avoiding it because you have done the research and know it’s not a good fit or are you just afraid to move forward?

Work hard even when no one is watching: Both of my parents are extremely hard workers and that has certainly been passed on to me. They illustrated that hard work pays off and expected each family member to pull their weight around our house.   As a result, I learned to “earn my keep” and carried this with me to other places. As an example, I was often invited to friends’ homes for dinner and I frequently offered to do the dishes.   It gave me pleasure to see the parents’ pleased reactions and satisfied my urge to be helpful.   Not surprisingly, I was often invited back!   In your work and job search, if you work hard and excel at what you do, you will develop a reputation for these qualities.

It’s never too late to start:  After raising six children, my Mom went back to school at the age of 34 to get her Bachelors Degree. After finishing, she decided to keep going and attended law school. Right after passing the New York Bar Exam, she started working at a local firm, became a partner and today is running this successful law practice. This taught me that it’s never too late to start a new career and to pursue your dreams.

Be active in your community:   Besides always being active in PTAs and community initiatives, my Mother started an organization called ICARE to help people find stable housing. In short, when she sees a need, she fulfills it. She has also served our town as Supervisor, Judge and even ran in a Congressional primary.   My Father has been equally active in the community. He is currently a volunteer with the Senior Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) but he has served in many other roles and volunteered on numerous boards over the years. He even traveled to Zimbabwe to share his knowledge and help an entrepreneur start a recruiting firm. Volunteering can be an important part of a job search. It’s an excellent way to share your skills and to learn new ones. Remember the more you give, the more you get.

Build and nurture your network: Because they were so involved in their communities, my parents naturally created a strong network. Both of them still know who to call upon for a certain skill or expertise and they freely share resources with others. They understand the power of connections and they strive to create a network of people and resources that can be utilized to help others. Of course, they also know that networking in not a one way street and that the best way to obtain assistance is to offer help to others first.

Show appreciation:  My parents always stressed the importance of thanking people. We had to write thank you notes to our grandparents and others after receiving any gift. I have embraced this habit and always impress it upon job seekers. As I say, people always remember those who thanked them (and those that didn’t).

On that note, I would like to end with a message of gratitude. I thank my Mom and Dad for teaching me these important skills that I will never forget!   I hope these tips help you as you move forward in your career journey.

One easy step to improve your LinkedIn Profile – CREATE A VANITY URL

WHAT IS A VANITY URL?

It is a fast and easy way to customize your social media presence when using LinkedIn.  The “vanity URL” concept is similar to the idea of getting a vanity car license plate – it makes your name and brand much more memorable.  Aren’t you more likely to notice and remember driving by a car with the plate “DAY-DRMR” or “IMGR8” versus a randomly assigned plate like J3R9S6?

WHY SHOULD I CARE? 

Two big reasons- clarity and branding.  First, LinkedIn assigns everyone a messy URL initially, which is why you should change it.

Additionally, a Vanity URL helps in your branding and marketing efforts and shows you are somewhat savvy in using LinkedIn.  As Donna Sweiden shares as tip #4 in her blog 7 simple updates to your LinkedIn profile, it improves your Google ranking.  Once your profile is set up, share your customized URL so people can easily find you and your expertise.  Place it on your résumé, business cards and electronic signatures.  This is important for people concerned with managing their careers effectively no matter what their status is:  employed, unemployed or underemployed.

HOW TO GET A VANITY URL:

LinkedIn often changes things up, so I can\’t promise these will be the exact steps when you try this, but here it goes.  Once logged into your LinkedIn account, click on the Profile tab located at the top left of the page.  Then slide your curser to the drop down choice of Edit Profile. Click on the Edit link (usually in blue letters), just to the right of your currently assigned URL.

It may take you directly to an edit screen but more likely, you should now see somewhere in the upper right-hand side of your screen the words Customize your URL Link (usually in blue letters) – click on the link on these words.  Then, a box will “pop up” with the URL started as http://www.linkedin.com/pub/, plus a blank box at the end will allow you to type in the customized URL you would like.

Start by typing in your full name and see if it\’s available (no spaces allowed and it will all show in lowercase no matter how you type it).  If it is available, you will see a green check mark. If not, you will see a red X mark.  Keep trying until you get one you like that is available. If your name is taken, look to add other letters that have meaning for you or your profession. So, if the extension of joesmith is taken and he is in the field of sales, he could try joesmithsalesexpert.

Like others, when I first got on LinkedIn, I was assigned an unmemorable URL.  Now you’ll see that my Public Profile (URL) on LinkedIn ends in paulabrandcareers.  When I initially attempted to obtain a vanity URL, I typed in my name and paulabrand was taken, so I added the word “careers” and my URL is now http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulabrandcareers.

SO WHAT’S STOPPING YOU NOW?

It really is easy and takes only a few minutes.  Now you know how, so make use of this feature! Take the time to do this for your best career management when using LinkedIn.  Please share this tip with people you know.

Truth Revealed: Why you should keep your job search active this holiday season

Many people looking for work decide to take a rest during the holidays. This is an understandable temptation, but not a wise move. As other career professionals have pointed out, you should not buy into this mindset. Career Coach Jay Block shares his reasons in Don’t Believe the Myth: Get Hired Over the Holidays while Debra Donston-Miller’s article on Ladders.com gives a welcome point of view from the employer perspective. Master Career Development Professional Barry Davis expounds on this topic in his blog titled, Tis the Season… to Keep Active!

Since others have shared some useful information already, I will keep this short and to the point by summarizing the good advice and adding my own two cents.  My “first cent” is to prove the point that people do get hired this time of year.  Just this past week, one of my clients had not one, but two job offers.  Here’s the rest…

1) Play the odds – Since many people do believe this myth, you will have less competition in this season. Why not use that to your benefit? If you knew your target company received a substantially lower amount of resumes in a certain month, wouldn’t it be a good idea to make contact in that month?

2) Tis the season to connect – There are a multitude of social events that only happen this time of year. You should take advantage of these opportunities to reconnect with people you don’t normally see and meet new folks outside of your regular social circles. Most contacts leading to a job are not from your most inner circle, but from the wider spectrum of connections you develop by following leads.  Holiday events can be a great way to make those connections in person.

3) Slower or faster? Or both? – In terms of timing, the pace of the hiring process may be slower than normal because of the challenge of trying to coordinate interviews around staff vacations. However, in some cases it may be faster than normal. Often companies are eager to fill a position ASAP to maintain productivity. Some positions must be filled by the end of the year or the department will have to forgo the funding for it. And of course for certain industries, like retail or shipping, this time of year often creates a need for jobs that only exist right now (proving yourself in these seasonal jobs can sometimes lead to something else).  In all of these cases, the holiday season will not hinder the company’s need to fill the position. Present yourself as the solution to that need.

4) Giving hearts or stressed out minds? – Most articles say that people are more friendly and willing to help at this time of year. I would agree that is true in many cases. However, some people are very overwhelmed and busy during the holidays and therefore returning a call from you may (understandably) not be their number one priority. Even with good intentions, they may lose your information or just honestly forget to return your call. If this happens, try at least once more after January 1st. Leave a second message wishing them a happy new year and of course provide your contact information one more time. This might be just the reminder they need.

So what’s stopping you?  Go ahead. Make that call you have been putting off. Contact that supervisor you haven’t talked to in years. Wish that long lost friend a happy holiday season. For the next few weeks, you have a great excuse to make these connections, so make the most of it. Good luck connecting and happy holidays!

Managing Your Career 101

There is a lot of advice on managing your career. I can boil it down the seven I deem the most important. No matter what your occupation, these actions (or lack thereof) can make or break your career.

1) Set goals for yourself. Ask yourself where you want to be in 2, 5, 7 years from now. Then make a plan to get there. Write down your goals and post them someplace visible.

2) Always network. This means always work to build relationships, not only when you are in job search. Even when you are working, still make time for networking

3) Do what you say. Build a reputation of standing by your word and getting things done. If you do this your reputation will build itself.

4) Understand yourself. Take some assessments or just take some time to reflect but you must know your strengths and areas of improvement. The better you know what your value is, the more likely you find a good fit in the workplace.

5) Be valuable to others. Remember that you want to give more than you receive. I believe it will come back to you in some way. I’ve seen it time and time again.

6) Keep an open mind. You can plan very well but then something unpredictable may happen to change the equation. Don’t be so set in your plan that you miss surprising opportunities.

7) Seek out a mentor. Find someone in your field (or the field you want to be in) who is well respected and ask them if they might take you under their wing to offer advice and guidance.