Monthly Archives: February 2012

Creating a Portfolio for Job Interviews

My college age daughter, Barbara, was way ahead of me on this one.  Just last week she had sent out close to 20 cover letters requesting interviews for summer PR internships.  She had designed a one page resume that really sparkled and then wrote a personal cover letter for each place to capture the value she would bring to the organization.  She sent them out all within three days and even carefully timed them to drop in the hiring manager’s email box first thing in the morning.

Whatever she said seemed to work – she got four interview requests almost immediately as well as several other inquires for more information.  After the first flurry of responding back to each person, she is nowpreparing for the first phone interview and then will be off to New York City for several face-to-face interviews.

And here’s where she was ahead of me . . . by this afternoon she was already at the printer having several career portfolios copied and bound.  She had selected which documents were most valuable to include (writing samples; two letters of reference; resume etc.) and knew to keep it simple, clear and concise.  She had some business cards made up as well.  You could hear the confidence in her voice as she knew that these marketing tools would be the “icing on the cake”.

Why go to this much effort?  Not many people do but the really savvy job seekers know that it’s well worth the effort.  After all, interviewing for full-time employment; an internship or even a volunteer position is all about marketing yourself.  And walking into an interview prepared with a portfolio that has been customized for a particular position sends a strong message that you’re prepared, self-confident and ready to work.  And bottom line . . . your portfolio provides tangible proof that you are who you say you are – that speaks to your authenticity and credibility.

One of my more popular training courses is “Building a Powerful Career Portfolio” which takes people through the process of complying a career portfolio and then into practicing how to share a portfolio with a hiring manager for maximum impact.  Social media has embraced this message as well.  Your LinkedIn profile, personalized website and on-line presence are essentially the same thing.

But the real benefit to your career portfolio is the acknowledgement that you’ve done some wonderful things over the years (we tend to forget) and that psychological boost feels really good going into any kind of interview.  Plus, it’s great fun to show off to your older brother!

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Cover Letters: Keep Them Simple But Targeted

It can be tempting to minimize the importance of writing a well-thought-out cover letter.  After all, when you’re done writing or rewriting your resume over and over again you are just eager to get it out in circulation.

Slow down and remember that your cover letter is just as important as your resume.  Without it, your reader may never look at your resume.  But with a clear and concise cover letter your potential employer or networking contact becomes interested in learning more about you.  That’s what you want.  And hopefully, your reader is also motivated to invite you to discuss the position further or to come in for a formal interview.  Bottom line . . . your cover letter opens up doors for you to move to that next step in the hiring process.

Keep It Simple & Targeted

But you don’t have to start from scratch.  Use the hard work you put into your resume to identify what makes you unique and valuable to this specific employer for this specific position. Note that I’m saying “specific”.

Your cover letter must be very targeted.  It should clearly tie in your qualifications, skills and talents to what this potential employer is looking for – their needs at this time.  You are positioning yourself as their best solution.

Keep it simple by remembering that your cover letter just needs to do these five things:

  1. Introduce Yourself
  2. Capture the Reader’s Interest in You
  3. Highlight & Link Your Qualifications to the Needs of the Reader
  4. Identify the Clear Value You Will Bring Upon Hire
  5. Motivate the Reader to Call You!

An excellent resource is “Cover Letter Magic, 3rd Edition” by Wendy Enelow & Louise Kursmark, Career Masters Institute, 2007.  I use this book all the time because it gives a clear road map (with six steps) on how to identify your key selling points; condense them into strong summary sentences and then how to integrate them into customized cover letters.  Almost makes it easy to do!



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The Power of Money

I finally got my daughter’s old IPod to work and I’ve been using it while pounding along on the trend mill at the gym these past few mornings.  Just by chance, I uploaded the keynote address of author Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money from the International Coach Federation (ICF) conference in St. Louis, MN 2006.

I closed my eyes and remembered what an incredible presence Twist was on that stage in front of 1,400 coaches from around the world.  And she was talking about this funny subject of money.  It’s a subject near and dear to the hearts of all us entrepreneur coaches but Twist put a whole different perspective to it.

Money Was Invented

Money doesn’t grow in our natural world.  It is an human invention and was originally created to facilitate the sharing of goods and services.  But somewhere along the way we started to give immense power to money – even over human life.  People will go to the extreme all in the name of money – damaging personal relationships; destroying natural resources and always their own soul, values, time, energy and spirit.

Now, rather than relating to money as simply a tool that was invented to make life easier we have come to assume that money is everything –  it has control over our lives and happiness.  Interesting . . .

A Coach’s Perspective

Recently, I met an accomplished young woman executive that was looking to fast track her career into an area that really didn’t interest her.  “Why?” I asked.  “To make more money”.  She gave many reasons around having more material possessions but more happiness?  This conversation was a powerful confirmation of what Twist was talking about.  The power we give money . . . do we really want to give away our heart and soul?

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The Value of a Career Brand

Build your own career brand before someone else does it for you. And they will! Take control over how others see you, how they remember you and then if they want to do business with you. This is your reputation and a positive reputation is essential for a successful career. But it does take some real thought, time and commitment – and only you can do it.

Susan Whitcomb, founder of Career Coach Academy, identifies three “building blocks” we can use to start clarifying our own unique brand.

  • First, think of the Adjectives that others would use to describe you. These are typically the soft interpersonal skills such as ethical, committed, motivated or level-headed.
  • Second, think what Nouns or titles would be associated with you? These are the hard industry specific skills such as a strategist, a troubleshooter, a problem solver.
  • Third, what Verbs would describe the value you bring? This is the result, impact or advantages you bring to your work.

The last step is to identify the key needs of your target marketplace and then how your brand aligns with these needs. Stay flexible and creative. Your brand will evolve and represent you at your best!

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Build Your Own Brand

Build Your Own Brand, by Doug Dvorak, 2010.

The wonderful cartoon on this brand new book caught my eye! Dvorak writes in a simple “cut to the chase” style that captures the essence of building, designing and then maintaining a brand for you as a professional.

He takes us through the steps on building your personal brand and then how to maximize the Internet and social media to promote your brand. Dvorak even has an excellent chapter on promoting your brand during tough economic times – very timely. But my personal favorite is how to add humor to your brand.


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