Friday, August 28, 2009

Twitter Tips for Job Seekers

I think most job seekers have gotten the word that they need to integrate social media into their search efforts, but I’m getting a bit alarmed at what some of them are Twittering.

“I’m eating a baloney sandwich.”

“I’m totally hungover from last night. Don’t even know the guy in my bed.”

“I hate my life. I hate looking for a job. “

Then, there are the bios: “A party kind of gal who loves Beanie Babies and eating raw cookie dough.”

Or, “Crazed man with a mission to break as many laws as possible.”

OK, enough. While there are plenty of tutorials about how to Twitter, I’m going to give tips specific to job hunters.

1. Fill out your bio. This is your chance to grab the attention of potential employers or other professionals. Don’t EVER leave it blank. If you don’t care who you are and what you have to offer, no one else will. Keep it professional. If you want to include a personal detail or two, keep it tame: “Cardinals baseball fan” or “avid skier.”
2. Post a professional photo. Don’t use photos that qualify you for the cover of Maxim or show you in your Captain Kirk outfit.
3. Provide a professional link. In your bio, provide more information on LinkedIn or another professionally focused site.
4. Be a valuable Tweeter. No employer cares what you had for lunch. Provide links to current industry news, or information on how to solve a problem – or how you solved a problem.
5. No whining. We all know the job market is tough and looking for work can be difficult. But employers want to get to know people who confront challenges and are energized by them. When you blame outside forces for your woes: “The economy sucks. My state sucks. My school sucks,” employers fear the bitching could extend to them if they employ you, so they move on.
6. Clean tweets, only. Don’t tweet – or retweet – anything profane, racist, sexist or anything you wouldn’t say to your grandmother.
7. No inanities. Employers don’t care if you’re going to bed, what you had for lunch or whether you are going shopping. If you can’t think of something valuable or interesting to tweet, don’t tweet at all.
8. Never use the word “desperate.” I’ve seen people say they’re “desperate” to find a job, either in their bio or their tweet, or both. Big mistake. Employers never hire “desperate” people.
9. Sound smart. Use proper punctuation, grammar and spelling. Using all lower case and lots of text acronyms makes you look and sound like an eighth grader.
10. Forget the personal health issues. You want employers to see you as robust, energetic and raring to go. If you tweet that you’ve got bunions, a urinary tract infection or a “weird rash on your leg,” they’ll move onto healthier prospects.

What are some other tips for job seekers on Twitter?


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Monday, June 1, 2009

Is Stress Making You Want to Kiss Your Job Goodbye?


For me, one of the great things about Twitter is that is allows me to learn more about what people experience at work every day. It's sort of like being an invisible Spiderman, without the goofy costume. I feel like I can jump from cubicle to cubicle across the world, being a fly, er, spider on the wall.

One of the things I know for sure -- from following people on Twitter and from interviewing them -- is that there is a lot of stress in the workplace. People are overwhelmed by the demands of their job, even though they try and put a positive spin on it: "Wow! Just got a new deadline! Anyone want two tickets to the big concert tonight?" goes a typical Tweet.

Heather Blume asked me if I was hearing that more people who already had jobs were actively looking for work. The stress in current jobs, she said, was really getting to them and she had several people a week asking her if she knew of other positions. That was pretty interesting considering the job market is so tough right now and not expected to improve for a couple of years.

So I called Wayne Hochwarter, a professor at Florida State University, who spends a lot of time studying the workplace. He was not surprised to hear how many people were willing to leave jobs -- even entire careers -- and join the job hunt.

“A lot of people just don’t have anything to look forward to anymore,” Hochwarter says.“They can’t even look forward to retirement, because they’re going to have to work longer now. Most people haven’t gotten a raise in years. They’re doing the work of five people now, and they just think: ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”

Blume hears a lot of personal despair every day as she does her job as a Seattle-based recruiter specializing in property management for Career Strategies Inc.

“In the last month or so, I’ve had three or four people a week tell me – on the down-low – that they’ve got to get out of their jobs. It used to be I heard this maybe once a month. Now people are asking me if I’ve got anything for them – they say they’ll take anything to get away from the stress of what they’re doing now,” she says.

While Blume says she doesn’t “poach” from other companies, that doesn’t mean she’s not sympathetic to their plight and will quietly put out “feelers” to try and help them make job contacts. One 20-year-veteran of property management recently told Blume that her job was “eating her soul.” Another said she was looking for contacts in “restaurant work” because she was so burned out and wanted to leave the industry where she had built a successful career.

She adds that those seeking work are at all levels. “I tell them to sit tight, or to think about going back to school,” she says. “But if you’re miserable, it’s hard.”

I decided to call David Benjamin, who often posts comments to this blog and someone else I follow on Twitter, and ask what he was experiencing as a recruiting manager for The Sales Matrix in Detroit. What levels of stress was he seeing?

He noted that while he hears the despair and frustration in the voices of salesmen who are out of work, he also notes that those who are still employed “just don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Salesmen hear ‘no' in this economy a lot more,” Benjamin says. “It just wears on you and beats you down. It ‘s such a grind, such a challenge.”

In a study by Hochwarter, he found that 55 percent of bosses have become more demanding of current workers and more than 70 percent of employees say the recession has increased stress levels at work.

“I’ve never been a big believer that we’ve got good managers, and now with this economy, they’ve lost whatever humanity they had,” Hochwarter says. “They know that they’ve got to meet goals or they start chopping heads. Managers really don’t know what to do during a time like this. We haven’t prepared them for anything like it.”

What do you think the impact of this economic downturn and current job market will have on workers?

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Is a Relocation Worth the Risk to Get a Job?



Recently on Twitter I told Ari Herzog that the photo he posted of a recent job fair reminded me of a herd of wildebeests looking for the last watering hole.

I've seen quite a few similar photos: Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people lined up for a limited number of jobs. From the slouching teen with multiple body piercings talking on a cell phone to the over 45 job seeker clad in a Burberry trench coat, tapping away on a Blackberry, they all stand in line trying not to appear desperate that they need a job.

Looking at these photos, I wondered if any of these people thought about trying to get a job in a market that wasn't so saturated with job seekers. But after talking with several people looking for work, I came to understand that many of them simply didn't want to move away from friends and family, and were hopeful the job market would turn around. Still others couldn't move because a spouse still had a job in that city, or because they knew they couldn't sell their home in this crappy housing market.

And then I spoke with Jenny Brooks, 32, who made the decision in June 2008 to move her family to Birmingham, Ala. from Coos Bay, Ore. to launch a public relations campaign for a new client of her Northern California employer. With her employer offering a $6,000 moving allowance and a promise of six months rent paid in the new location while she tried to sell her Coos Bay home, Brooks, her husband and two young daughters made the move to what they hoped was a great career opportunity in a bigger city with more to offer.

Unfortunately, that dream has come crashing down. A couple of weeks ago, Brooks lost her job when her new client filed for bankruptcy. She can’t get her old job back with her Northern California employer, because the economic downturn has also hit that company.

“It was sort of a perfect storm,” she says. “It just all happened so fast.”

While Brooks’ husband was able to transfer within his company to Birmingham, she is now doing freelance public relations work. She says that the home in Coos Bay is “way underwater” – worth less than what the couple paid for it. And, the renters who were occupying a home the couple owns in Phoenix has moved out.

“We took a big risk moving to Birmingham. We gambled and bet this would work out. But it didn’t,” she says.

Cheryl Palmer, a certified executive career coach and founder of Call to Career in Silver Spring, Md., says that in this rough housing and job market, “there’s no straight answer on what to do” when it comes to relocation for a job.

“There are more variables with dire consequences now,” Palmer says. “With the economy shrinking, the potential fallout (from relocation) is that much greater. You’ve really got to weigh some of the factors very carefully.”

According to a Relocation.com survey, people continue to relocate in the U.S., with the South and West attracting the most people. And while there are jobs in those areas of the country, it doesn’t guarantee such a move is right for you and your family, Palmer says.

She recommends anyone considering a relocation should:

· Do your due diligence. Make sure you research the financial health of the company and that it appears to be growing and doing well in spite of the recession.

· Scout the new location. “There is always the possibility that the job may not work out after you take it, so have a backup plan,” Palmer says. “You should know ahead of time what the job market looks like for people in your field so that you have a reasonable assurance that you can find another job.”
Brooks says she and her husband may end up moving to Phoenix, since that’s where they not only own a home, but where they have the most professional and personal contacts.

“You still get jobs based on who you know. Anyone can get a job at a fast-food restaurant. But can that really support a family? You’ve got to think long term,” Brooks says. “We really don’t have any contacts in Birmingham.”

· Get as much financial assistance as possible. Palmer says that some companies will help you sell your home as part of a relocation package, which is usually a positive sign that the company would be worth relocating for. In Brooks’ case, she says that the move actually cost about $2,000 more than she was given, and that doesn’t include the $1,000 it cost the family to set up a household and pay for things like utility deposits. “My advice would be to ask for everything (in relocation reimbursement). It’s your future and your family’s future,” Brooks says.

At the same time, you may have to consider footing the bill yourself if you want the job badly enough, Palmer says.

“The industries that really need people – such as nursing, or the employers in states like Wisconsin that are really looking for workers – they may offer assistance,” Palmer says. “But I’ve also advised some of my clients that if you want the job, you may be able to sway them to hire you by saying you’ll pay for relocation yourself.”

Despite losing her job and now being saddled with two mortgages, Brooks remains positive about the changes facing her.

“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve come into contact with amazing people. This move was something we needed to do. So I’d tell people not to let fear tell you what to do,” Brooks says.


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Monday, January 12, 2009

How Teaching Can Make You Unforgettable


Recently, I posed this question on Twitter: "What was the name of your favorite teacher and what did he/she teach?"

I immediately got nearly a dozen responses, and the enthusiasm was palpable. English, history, economics, drums and literature teachers were lauded by fellow Twitterers who noted how the favored teacher was "encouraging," "brilliant," had "patience" or a sense of humor.

What I also found interesting was that no one forgot the name of that great teacher, which is kind of amazing when you think how many people claim they are "bad with names" even if they've met someone in business many times.

So, this got me to thinking about the power of teaching, and how we can use that in our careers.

While using LinkedIn and Facebook and other online networking tools can be helpful, and attending business and industry functions can be beneficial to your career, don't forget that teaching may have one of the greatest positive impacts on your success.

Teaching, I believe, can take many different forms in the workplace. You can teach the new employee how to use the phone system, you can teach an older employee how to streamline a process, you can teach your boss how to access material on the Internet or you can teach a co-worker how to handle a difficult colleague.

The point is that you're doing what great teachers do: Giving of your time and efforts with the purpose of passing on the gift of knowledge so that the student's life will be enhanced, better and richer for having met you.

Don't ever believe that you're not patient enough, or smart enough or giving enough to be a teacher in the workplace. Even the smallest effort to pass on your knowledge can have a huge impact on someone else, and that's very valuable in a workplace culture that is often so fast-paced and stressful that we forget someone's name the minute we delete their e-mail.

Think back to your favorite teacher. What did he or she offer you that made you always remember him or her? How did they help you expand your mind and absorb the knowledge they offered you?

Now, consider what you have to offer someone else in the workplace. How can you use that knowledge to make yourself memorable, to form a connection that will last? Because let's face it: Solid connections in the workplace not only benefit you now but in the future. Who do you think will help you when you're looking for a new job or an important business contact -- the person you helped teach, or the person you brushed off because you were too busy to help show the ropes?

"Teaching," Albert Einstein said, "should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”

What are some ways you can "teach" in the workplace?



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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Time to Get Serious About Eliminating Distractions on the Job


The directive is pretty clear from the employment world in these tough economic times: "Remain relevant." But the unspoken addition is this: "Or you could be out on your ear."

Right now, it's critical that you become more focused than ever on your job and your employer. That means the first thing you've got to do is cut down on distractions. Because if you're distracted, you're not as productive, as creative or as critical to your company. While we all know we should turn off the e-mail and check only every couple of hours, there are other distractions that we are less inclined to eliminate.

It's time to get serious. Things are scary out there, and no one can afford to perform at less than 100 percent. It's time to get real, and get tough. Let's talk about some ways that you need to kick your own butt into gear:

* Stop socializing online. I know this is going to get some heat from some people, but I think it's gotten out of control. Right now, we all need time to let our minds relax and recharge by going to a local park with our family or friends or reading something enjoyable. I know one person who recently decided to stop using Facebook. He told me it was something he had been thinking about for a long time, but this week he was brutally honest with himself and said he knew his work was suffering because of the constant distraction of keeping up with his Facebook page and the "social" aspect of it was just too stressful. Here's an interesting aside: Facebook didn't want to make it easy to end the addiction. It asked him the reasons for leaving, and each time he clicked on an answer, a solution popped up. Harden your resolve and step away from MySpace, Twitter and Friendster. If you can't go cold turkey, eliminate all but one or two sites, and never check it at work, unless these sites are part of your job description.

And your personal blog? Think about taking a break. I find many people who started blogs now believe they're nothing more than burden -- just one more task they have to take care of. It's really OK if you decide to take a break or stop altogether -- it it your blog, after all.
If you're not sure how much time you're spending on your social network site, get an old-fashioned timer and set it for 30 minutes. Every time you have to reset it, mark it down. I did this, and was stunned to see that an hour had gone by -- it seemed like I'd only been on it for 15 minutes.

* Quit texting: "Where R U?" may seem innocent enough, but it's the first salvo in a time suck that will have you texting yourself right out of a job. Turn off your personal cell phone or Blackberry and only check on your lunch hour for emergency messages. Ignore everything else until after work.

* Do something monotonous. I came up with my book idea while blow drying my hair. Another friend came up with a great marketing idea while taking a shower. Stop trying to entertain yourself all the time, such as listening to a podcast while working out, or watching YouTube on your laptop while waiting in a airport. Let yourself get bored -- you'll be amazed at how it will turn on your brain and get you thinking more creatively and freely. (I get some of my best column ideas while doing laundry or driving.) It's those creative thoughts that are going to make you stand out at work, to help you remain relevant to your boss.

* Be selective with your information input. The Internet is wonderful because it offers us 24/7 information. The Internet is terrible because it offers us 24/7 information. With the financial mess and the upcoming election, it's tempting to check CNN every 10 minutes. Don't. It won't do your job any good to focus too much on things beyond your control right now. Get your news fix before and after work, either in print or on air, then move onto something else.

* Keep moving. Yeah, exercise is good for you, but moving feet are also a good idea at work. Don't stop to chat in the bathroom, around the coffee pot or anywhere else that seems to be a "bulls**t zone." Just keep moving with a friendly wave and a "I've got a deadline" comment.

What are some ways you've found to cut down on distractions?

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are You Being Naive -- and Just Plain Stupid -- About Your Online Reputation?


If you do nothing else today, Google yourself.

I do not say this so that you can stroke your own ego by seeing how many "hits" you get. I say this to save your ass.

There's enough instability right now in the economy that everyone -- and I mean everyone -- needs to be in active job-hunting mode. That means in addition to ramping up your networking efforts, you need to immediately take steps to clean up your online footprint.

Last week I sent out a HARO request for my Gannett News Service/USAToday.com column asking for input on how to manage your online reputation. I received so much good stuff that I couldn't use it all. I also learned some disturbing information during my research: Most people only check out what's online about them several times a year.

Yikes.

That means anyone could be writing snarky comments about you, posting photos of you in a Borak-inspired swimsuit from your last drunken vacation or even making erroneous statements linking you to unethical or illegal activities and -- if you're rarely checking online -- it might be months before you discovered it. By that time, a lot of damage could be done to you professionally.

And that, my friends, could be disastrous at a time like this when we should all be actively promoting ourselves in the marketplace.

So, I'm going to share some really good advice and comments from online reputation management folks that I couldn't fit in my column:

* "Search for your name in Google, Yahoo! and MSN right away. (Google covers most of the Web, but MSN and Yahoo! may pick up web pages that Google missed or ignored.) Learn how to manage your privacy settings within each social network you use. (This is usually hidden away under "profile" or "preferences" tabs.)
-- Nestor G. Trillo, SEO expert, Avaniu Communications

* "Google offers a great service. You can subscribe to alerts, which will provide you with daily notices if your name is used on the Internet. The service is free and worth doing if you have a reputation to protect." --Chris Reich, business advisor,Teachu.com

* "Be transparent - this doesn't mean allow yourself to be trashed. It means fight back with facts. It also means telling the whole story; of using social media as a 'bright light' when dealing with false statements. Have lots of friends - they will come to your rescue and defend you. Don't be something online that you aren't offline. In short, your brand is your brand regardless of the medium." -- Justin Foster, founder/partner, Tricycle

* "We recently interviewed an individual for a C-level position with our company. He interviewed extremely well and the final check we did was his reputation in Google. What we found was alarming, not the least of which was a class action lawsuit against his old company." --Fionn Downhill,CEO, elixirinteractive.com

* "I had a client, Josh Deming (not his real name) who had a reputation as a hard- nosed manager. After losing his position after an acquisition, he found himself in a job search for the first time in a number of years. Because he was highly respected, he thought the search would go quickly. On several occasions, he would get to the final stages prior to hiring with a company showing great enthusiasm, only to suddenly be dropped from consideration.
At this point Josh came to see me. We did a Google search and found that when we searched "Josh Deming", No. 5 in the Google search results was a link to an industry forum page where Josh was being trashed anonymously by some people that had worked for him calling him an unfit manager.
Here's what we did.
1) We changed everything (resume, cover letters, online profiles, etc.) to "Joshua P. Deming", his full name. People will typically Google what is on the resume. When "Joshua P. Deming" was Googled, nothing negative showed up.
2) We took advantage of a few key online profiles. Everyone should take advantage of LinkedIn. Google loves it and for most people, if they have a LinkedIn profile, it will show up first if you Google them. Professionals, executives and managers should also take advantage of VisualCV.com and ZoomInfo. All of these are relatively simple, don't require a lot of maintenance, and will boost online visibility.
3) We had Joshua write a book review on his favorite management book and post it on Amazon. This gave the opportunity to show a little thought leadership and demonstrate his management knowledge to help counter the negatives should a potential employer stumble upon the comments in the industry forum.
The result was that within weeks Joshua was hired." -- Don Huse, president/CEO, Venturion

* "...People have to realize that anything you put online stays there and can be used against you. It's all well and fine believing that your Facebook profile can only be viewed by your friends, but what's to stop one of those friends from copying what you write and posting it elsewhere? This recently happened on Twitter. A friend of mine had comments that were made privately, to a closed group of friends, posted on a blog, as part of an post attacking someone else in the marketing field." -- Simon Heseltine, director of search, Serengeti Communications Inc.

What else should someone do to manage their online reputation?


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as an Overnight Success?

Recently I was having a discussion with some friends about the term "overnight success."

We all agreed it was a load of crap.

I mean, who really has overnight success except people in novels or movies? Most of us labor -- unknown -- in the trenches for years and years before we receive recognition for our wonderfulness from anyone except the family dog.

In the meantime, we fight off jealousy as we see others achieve what we think is instant success, and get depressed when that project we worked so hard on fails. Big time. Down-the-toilet kind of failure.

And it's equally hard to be patient when the Internet makes it seem like everything should happen at light speed. We are constantly exposed on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to other's achievements: "I landed that big account!" to "I got the promotion!" to "I've been named the new Queen of England!" can be hard to swallow with grace each and every time.

We wouldn't be human if we didn't admit that some days are hard. We want to give up. We want to throw in the towel and admit that we're just losers and the success we desire isn't coming our way.

But wait.

I think success is a state of mind. It isn't the big account and the tiara. It's knowing that each day you get up -- and despite the odds -- you continue to slug away. You continue to dream. And at the end of the day, maybe you aren't known to Diane Sawyer or Warren Buffet. Maybe your boss's boss doesn't even know your name.

But you haven't given up. And that, in my book, is success. Because others will give up, they will concede that they're not going to achieve what they desire. And that's where your perseverence will pay off.

Here are some things to get you through the tough times until you become that "overnight success":

* Create a better now. Get more sleep, exercise, eat healthier, spend more time with people who make you laugh and who believe in you.

* Keep your perspective. Did you ever stop to consider that what you have right now is a dream for someone else? I often think about this when my husband and I drive through really ritzy neighborhoods and dream about living in those homes. Then, I see someone drive through OUR neighborhood and realize they think we have the dream home. Think about what you've achieved already in this life, and don't take it for granted.

* Be patient. Think back to when you were in high school, and everything that has happened in your life since that time. Are you the same person as you were then? Of course not. You have changed and grown and only through time and different experiences have you evolved. You will continue to grow and change and learn, and that takes time.

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent with wild success. -- Steve Martin, "Born Standing Up"

What do you think about overnight success?


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