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Dressing For Success: Yes it Still Matters
It’s funny that this still has to be pointed out to people, but it does.

When you are interviewing for a job, you need to dress in a certain manner. Torn jeans, a dirty t-shirt, and uncombed hair will simply not cut it in the corporate world. Neither do gauges, visible tattoos, or  piercings. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of those things, but they may work against you. The arguments I most often hear are, “Things have changed,” and “It’s not my style.” Or more recently from some young, still-in-college, twenty-somethings I know, “But the company I want to work for will have a cool, hip culture and they won’t mind if I have gauges, tattoos, or piercings!” Be that as it may, certain standards are still expected. The best resumes, cover letters and recommendations will still only get you to the first interview. You have to take it from there.

Even in companies that at best could be called slacker style, expect those interviewing for a job to be dressed appropriately. Keep in mind that even if you are planning on working for a “hip” or “trendy” company, you still have to interview with the HR person who might be a forty- or fifty-something person that does not agree with that Coke can-sized hole in your ear. It also means men should wear, at the very least, trousers not made of denim, a pressed shirt with a tie and a jacket; a suit is better. For women, the same attire as for men, if you like, or a conservative skirt and pressed blouse; a suit would be better here as well. The attire should be conservative, clean and pressed. Your goal is to get through that first level of interviewing. Once you do that and you get to speak to the person you will directly report to, check out his/her style. If they seem like they encourage more of a unique style, then you are in luck. If not, you may either want to ask them, or look around at the other employees as you are walking through the office. What do they have on?

The point here isn’t as much about your clothing as the image that clothing presents to the employer. You can have the best resume in the world but if you look like a slob, or have too much (visible) body art, the company is going to think twice about hiring you. You want the company to see you as a serious candidate who takes care of himself and presents himself well. You put out the wrong image when you appear looking like you slept in your clothing, or forgot to wash your hands. If you look like that on the day you are trying to show them your best, what on earth are you going to wear on casual Friday?

Dressing the part is often the first step in getting the part. Look at it like this: If you dress well and everyone else dresses down for the interview, you will have set yourself apart in a good way.

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What Are Your Salary Requirements?
It seems rather unfair that even after submitting a great resume and cover letter you still have to deal with tricky interview questions. The salary question is one of the most dreaded of all interview questions. It’s not surprising that few people are able to answer it in a professional manner beyond the standard “I expect to be paid what I’m worth” statement. For the job hunter, you need to understand what it is that your interviewer is really asking.

When the interviewer asks, “What are your salary requirements?,” what he or she is really asking is whether or not you have a realistic salary expectation and if you are flexible about the amount. This is also why the interviewer would like you to list an actual dollar amount.

Finding out what you are worth is easy enough. Visit one of the websites that offer salary ranges and see what you can expect. Be sure to account for your education and experience. Location is important as well; salaries in New York City are generally far higher than in Trenton, Tennessee. Once you have that information you are ready to respond.

How should you respond to that question? Don’t shout out a number, but state that based on your education, experience and responsibilities of the position that $60-65,000 (or whatever amount you found) would be reasonable. Mention that you are flexible and would certainly consider benefits.

While it is important to be seen as flexible and as someone who can be negotiated with, don’t settle for less than you can honestly afford. Most companies will be fair simply because if they aren’t you will move on to one that is and they have time invested in you. Still, find out what you are worth before your next interview and you will be prepared for this tricky question.

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Job Hunting is a Full-time Job
It’s amazing to me how many people think that as long as they have created a great resume and cover letter all they have to do to find a job is send those to prospective employers or answer ads in papers and online. The reality is that hunting for a job is a full-time occupation in and of itself. The sooner you start treating it like one the sooner you will have a new job.

This means that you get up early every day and begin work. You need to scan newspapers, online ads and wherever you have been looking for jobs. Apply immediately for anything new. Then start networking. Find common connections for the employers you are targeting through social media sites such as LinkedIn. You also want to go to any in-person meetings, open houses, job fairs etc. that are taking place that day.

To be hired, you need to be known. Attend seminars, talks and presentations in your field. Afterwards, introduce yourself to absolutely everyone you can. This is a great way to meet employers that you might not have thought of previously. Don’t hand out your great resume at these meetings but have a business card available that includes your social media links as well as contact information. Exchange the information and be sure to follow-up online.

The inclination to mail resumes and sit back and wait to be offered an interview is great; resist it and you will find yourself hired for a great new job even sooner than you thought possible. You may also make some great new friends in the process.

 

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Deciding to change careers, or even change jobs, is a big decision, and once you have made the decision it is important to make sure you do everything you can to ensure your change is a successful one. This includes showing off the right skills and experiences that will make you look impressive to potential employers.

  • Leadership: Employers are looking for people who can lead themselves but can also lead others if they need it. Leadership skills are important in nearly every career path, so make sure you show it off.
  • Teamwork: When you are working for a company, you are part of a team. No one works completely alone. If you are easy to work with in a team you will be an asset to your potential employer.
  • Customer Service: Customers are everything to a company. And if a company wants to do well they must have exceptional customer service. If you can show that you have customer service skills that are better than your candidates, you will be in good shape to get the job.
  • Work Well Without Supervision: Employers do not want to micro manage their employees. It is not efficient. They want to teach their employees what to do and let them go at it. If you are able to work well without someone constantly checking your work, then you will be able to do well and not only get the job, but you will be able to advance in the company.

These are just a few skills you could show off, but they are applicable and desirable for almost any job you could possibly choose. If you can show those skills off, you will be able to show your potential employers what you can do for them.

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Defining Your Career Objective
One of the most often used phrases on a resume is usually found under the heading “Career Objective,”or “Career Summary” and the same phrase is used over and over without regard to profession. It’s a generic phrase that your career objective is to find a job somewhat related to the degree you studied for in college. The exact wording varies slightly, but it all means the same thing: you haven’t put much thought into your career.

It’s understandable when you are unemployed and willing to take basically any position offered that you might use a generic phrase. It’s still a mistake. You need to, at the very least, tailor it to match the specific job you are applying for and to be different enough from others applying for the job that you merit attention from the hiring manager. Better still is to spend the time thinking about your dream job and to state your actual career objective.

It doesn’t matter if your objective is above, or even skewed from, the position to which you are applying. You can address this, briefly, in your cover letter. As an example, if your career goal is to be a computer software designer but the position you are applying for is at the help desk, you can state that while your goal is to be a software designer you are willing to work as a tech at the help desk because it will enable you to better understand the components of software design from the perspective of the user. A hiring manager will likely appreciate your honesty as well as the way you think about those situations.

Remember, if you haven’t been able to define your career goals to yourself, then you will never be able to define them to someone else, and you will certainly never be able to meet them. So spend some time figuring this out and update your resume accordingly.

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The Experience Problem
The experience problem is one that many new graduates and those reentering the workforce both face. Not only do employers want experience, they want recent experience. No one is more desired than one who is already trained and already working. When you are looking for a job from a position of unemployment, then you have to make yourself seem even more desirable than the other candidates.

But how do you get experience when no one will give you a job so you can get experience? One way of doing this is to volunteer. No, you will not get paid but many volunteer opportunities lead to jobs and they can certainly lead to contacts. More importantly, they are something to put on your resume under ‘experience’ and that is a category that needs to be completed.

No matter how much education you have, no matter how impressive your degrees or your university, experience trumps all of that. When including volunteer work you don’t have to specify that it was volunteer unless asked. It’s quite easy to calculate how much your position as a volunteer was worth by exploring one of the online salary calculators.

Another way to get experience is as an unpaid intern. Few companies are going to turn away someone who is qualified and wants to work for free even if it is only part time. The bonus in this is that not only will you gain experience and networking contacts, you could also land a job. If a position in your area opens up the company is going to be more inclined to hire someone who already knows the job and how the company itself operates.

There are ways around the lack of experience issue. It just requires a little creativity and ingenuity.

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Why You Should Always Be Hunting For A New Job
Common wisdom suggests that when you have found a new job you quit hunting for a new one. This is a mistake that the vast majority of professionals make and it’s one that is typically detrimental to their careers. Constantly looking for new opportunities not only keeps you current with what positions are available, it also keeps you fresh in your current position.

Continuing to search for a new position isn’t necessarily an active pursuit. When you are reasonably happy in your current position and not really looking to change either your career or your employer, job search takes on a more passive role. Much of what you do during an active job search is ignored, such as cold calling, applications and interviewing. In a passive job search you keep your resume updated and you occasionally examine what is open in your field.

Networking is still a part of a passive job search, but instead of looking for a new job you are looking for contacts. Meetings, seminars and various network gatherings can be a fun way to meet new people as well as stay current in what your field is offering to new job candidates. It’s also a way to stay current on new trends in your area of expertise as well as current salary ranges; this can be helpful during your next salary negotiation or promotion meeting.

Staying in the hunt for a new job also means that you are ready to hit the ground running should you suddenly need to make your passive search an active one. In an uncertain world it’s good to have this in your career arsenal.

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Projecting a Professional Image
By now everyone has heard about people being hired and then either dismissed during the probationary period or shunned to the back room because of tattoos and/or piercings. Because these displays of individuality are becoming more common, you might not give it a second thought when you arrive at your interview with a nose ring. The truth is: you should be giving your appearance a second thought when looking for employment.

As part of your job search/interview prep, you need to determine the climate of the place where you are applying. Some companies have no problem with body art or multiple piercings. However, other work environments consider them to be detrimental to the company image. While it’s rare that a stellar candidate would be automatically excluded based on this alone, in a tough job market where there are several great candidates vying for every position, it could be problematic.

New graduates need to remember that it’s rare that others of their immediate generation will be the ones hiring. You will generally be interviewed by someone who has been in the workforce for a number of years, so their standards are the ones you need to be mindful of when deciding whether or not to wear your piercings to job interviews or on the job.

On the other hand, some companies may simply not care at all.

Common sense advice: research the company prior to applying for the job. Of course the reality is that often people apply to every place with an opening. Either way, add to your list of things to look into the personal grooming policies of the company regarding tattoos and piercings.

You want to project a professional image that is inline with others at the company. Abiding by the dress code in the environment you’re applying to will save you from entering into an awkward situation with the hiring manager, and, could even be the difference in getting the job or politely being shown the door.

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