Monthly Archives: March 2012

Power of Intention in the Job Search!

Over the last couple of weeks I have been writing about my college-age daughter’s summer internship quest through the streets of New York City.  Barbara’s journey has given me wonderful material for this blog and allowed me to share with you the multiple complex steps of going through an intense job search.  And it’s been at an amazing pace!

What we all can learn from Barbara is the power of intention.  Early on, Barbara knew what she wanted . . . and she was determined to make it happen.  Being a strong “J” on the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI), Barbara figured out what she needed to do: when she needed to do it, and then (with a bit of help from Coach Mom) how to move through these steps quickly but effectively. The result . . . a summer internship at a prestigious firm in New York City for the summer.

This is what Barbara did . . . not alone because a savvy job seeker pulls in all the resources they can.  So she had  excellent help from the Career Center at Syracuse University,  New House School of Communication, and late night help from her ever faithful Coach Mom.

It’s a Journey – Not for the Faint of Heart

It’s tough and not for the faint of heart.  But this list of the “must dos” of a job search will give you some ideas if and when you start thinking about a delicious new career chapter for yourself – or maybe for one of those family members who are also itching for a change.

These were Barbara’s 12 job search steps . . .

  • Clarified exactly what she wanted – the who, what, where, when & why
  • Maximized networking contacts & references to open doors
  • Used professional resources and offers of help appropriately
  • Designed an eye-catching resume specific to the PR industry
  • Created targeted cover letters that matched need to value
  • Personalized follow-up emails to ensure a prompt response
  • Complied a “I Can Do” mini-portfolio
  • Rehearsed telephone interview strategies and questions (& debriefed afterwards)
  • Prepared physically, emotionally & mentally for on-site personal interviews (& debriefed afterwards)
  • Sent personal thank you letters after every interview
  • Graciously handled final offers & negotiated hiring terms/days/responsibilities etc.
  • Celebrated!

Is It Worth It?

If you are ready for a brand new career or to take your career up to that next level the answer is a solid YES. But it takes work, perseverance and a belief in yourself that you can make something happen. It might take longer in this tough economy but don’t give up . . . just give it time. And if you get stuck, call me!


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The Power of Story Telling in Interviews

Do you get a little nervous and tongue-tied when asked to describe your talents, skills and strengths in a telephone or face-to-face interview? That’s normal.  It’s not that you don’t have anything to say – actually you have lots to say – but the challenge is saying something concise and meaningful in a way that captures the interviewer’s interest and conveys the value you can bring the organization.

So try this new, old approach . . . story telling. Everyone loves a good story.  And people remember a good story because it creates a visual image for them.  We come alive while both telling stories and listening to them.  Stories are powerful, but they take planning to avoid the pitfall of a tale that goes on and on.

Selecting Strengths for a Story

Here’s how to get started in deciding what is most important to communicate in an upcoming interview.  First, think of a strength that you want to highlight for the interviewer(s).  This strength should speak to one of these five P.E.A.K.S areas:

  1. Your Personal Characteristics (ability to work in a team, leadership, handle conflict, attitude etc.)
  2. Your professional Experience in this industry or in the responsibilities being requested
  3. Your Accomplishments which you have been recognized for by your colleagues
  4. Your Knowledge (formal education and on-going professional development)
  5. Your range of Skills appropriate to this job opening.

Use the C.A.R. to Create Your Story

Once you have selected the strength that you want to showcase take a minute to rough out one short paragraph that tells the story.  And here’s the trick . . . use the C.A.R. format.  This works beautifully to keep your story short and to the point.

  • C = Challenge (what was the challenge you faced ie. new project, a conflict etc)
  • A = Action  (what was the action you took – focus on your actions)
  • R = Results (what were the concrete results that happened as a result of your actions)

And then the icing on the cake is tieing in the results with the value you could bring this company if hired.  Play with this . . . do one story completely and then a couple more.  Shoot for about 8 – 10 short stories.  Create a cheat sheet for yourself with the C.A.R. format.  For each story hit each of the three points briefly adding in the final touch of the value you would bring.

Practice each story out loud to your dog but don’t overdo it.  You want your natural voice, enthusiasm and energy to come through as you’re telling the story.  After all, you’re talking about you at your best.  Good luck out there, and if you see me along the way tell me your best story.  I’d love to hear it!

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Preparing for Behavioral Based Interviews

What is behavioral interviewing?  This relatively new interviewing strategy is based on the premise that relevant past behavior in a work setting can be a very good predictor of future performance in a similar work environment.

It makes perfect sense . . . and for experienced professionals this kind of interviewing allows them to shine by highlighting their experience, accomplishments and expertise through short, powerful stories.

What Does This Mean for Me?

It means that you can relax a bit.  Behavioral based interviews tend to have more of a conversational feel to them.  You’ll see that they flow naturally and logically as the interviewer looks for your concrete examples of what you have done in the past and how that relates to what you could do for them in the future.

A close cousin of these “past-focused” questions are “future-focused” questions which are looking for your ability to handle a new situation.  These are often called competency-based questions because they are looking to future behavior specifically.  You will probably be asked both kinds of questions throughout the interview.

First Step in Preparing for Behavioral-Based Questions

The hiring manager will be asking targeted questions tied directly to the desired knowledge and skills competencies usually detailed in the job description.  So that’s where you start . . . take the job description and yellow highlight the key compentencies they are asking for.

You will usually see they are looking for this five compentencies:

  • specific knowledge
  • demonstrated skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • proven experience and
  • accomplishments in the chosen area

In my next blog, I’ll teach you how to tell a powerful story using C.A.R to illustrate each of these areas.  It’s an easy way to remember and tell an interviewer your career strengths.  You will be surprised how easy it is!

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Job Interviews: What to Do Before

Conducting a successful job search is like running a marathon . . .and my college age daughter, Barbara, is preparing for that next lap.  She aced a telephone interview last week and now moves on to several face-to-face interviews scheduled down in New York City.  Even though these interviews are for summer internships the process is almost exactly the same as applying for full-time employment.  Great practice!

So here we go . . . preparing for a personal interview starts way before you even walk in the door.  “It does?” says Barbara.  “Oh, yes” says Career Coach Mom.  As I’ve coached hundreds of job applicants over the years, I already know that you have a great resume; have reviewed questions you may be asked; prepared several success stories and taken the extra step of complying a career portfolio that you can leave with the interviewers.  But there is more . . .

5 “Must Dos” Before the Interview

Here are my five “must dos” to ensure that you are feeling fully prepared, rested and at the top of your game for those face-to-face interviews. Don’t take it lightly – this is part of a successful job search strategy.

  1. Confirm where the interview will be held (address, office number etc.).  And then make a trip over a couple of days ahead to make sure you know how to get there – subway stops, freeway exits, street numbers etc.  Nothing is worse than finding yourself lost and then running late to the interview!
  2. Plan your evening before your interview carefully.  Keep it low stress and make sure to get to bed a bit early.  Relax but stay focused on the next day.  Try not to get distracted or distressed by other issues or concerns – those can wait for now.
  3. Leave yourself at least double the amount of time you think you need to travel to the interview.  You never know what can happen – road construction, traffic jam, subway delays etc.  You will be much more relaxed knowing you have a wide cushion of time.
  4. Arrive at least 20 – 25 minutes early to give yourself time to check out the waiting area; zip into the restroom to freshen up; turn off your cell phone and then to be ready when they call you.
  5. Breathe! And smile . . . let your natural style and personality shine through.  The bottom line is that your ability to positively connect with the interviewers is going to make or break the interview at this point.  And at this point, you will be so glad that you feel good; you look good and you know that you are are right on target with your answers and follow-up questions.

Once it’s all done, celebrate.  Treat yourself and your support team to a nice dinner, glass of wine or maybe a day off from the job search.  Enjoy – you’ve worked hard for it!

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Three Steps to Start to Write a Cover Letter

It’s that first impression that can make or break a final job offer. Writing a powerful cover letter is an art especially in this rapidly changing job market. Your cover letter needs to open the door for you to get that all important interview. It introduces you and directly ties in your qualifications to what the potential employer is looking for – in other words – the awesome value you bring.

But slow down. Don’t start writing yet. These three steps come first – then the writing is easy. First, identify your key selling points and then condense each into a strong summary sentence. Second, do market research on your targeted potential employer – what are their needs and problems. Third, think about how you can be their solution to these issues – this is the value you bring to them.

Now you can do a draft cover letter. Keep it simple by remembering that your cover letter just needs to do these five things:

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