Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top 9 Elements for Your Career Portfolio

Do you have the right tools and know-how to manage your Career Portfolio? There are as many different tips, words of wisdom and techniques recommended for creating a resume and establishing an effective personal brand as there are candidates on the market. How will you separate yourself from the masses? Start by promoting your own personal brand effectively by managing your career portfolio.

Your full portfolio should include:

1. Your Executive Summary or Bio– Forget an “objective” section. That is nothing more than saying where you hope to be in a few years or what kind of opportunity you are seeking, which are basically obvious. Instead, draft a summary of who you are as an expert (we are all experts in our own way and the masters of our own experiences). This summary is basically your personal “mission statement” of who you are what you are known for and give the reader an idea of where you can fit in best in the organization. Describe your qualities and achievements which make you stand out, including your Unique Selling Proposition. Make sure to include special awards, accommodations and recognitions you have received.

2. Traditional Functional / Chronological Resume – It’s important you always keep your resume up to date, NOT just when you are seeking a new role. This is a living, breathing billboard of your entire career and demonstrates the value-add you offer a potential employer.

3. Electronic Resume or Personal Website
– There are numerous Free sites available that help you create a graphically stunning and eye catching resume that not only helps enhance your online image, but creates and easy and professional way to disseminate your experience to larger audiences.

4. Detailed Account of Your Marketable Skills, Abilities and Accomplishments
– Create a more comprehensive list than is documented in your resume and should highlight and demonstrate all the major achievements in your career to date. Remember to concentrate on how you achieved what you achieved and be specific about the benefits that your accomplishments realized for your employer.

5. Deliverables and Samples of Work – Most people do not see their job function or career field as having viable work products or deliverables that can easily or visually be represented to a potential employer. This is a common misconception, in fact, every role and career field has tangible and demonstrative proof of your abilities and accomplishments. Pull together examples and lists of reports, white papers, business cases, projects summaries, return-on-investment case studies and customer testimonials that you have produced. These are great examples of your individual contribution, written communication and asset to your business.

6. Awards, Honors and Accolades – Gather any certificates, awards, trophies, contests one, notable achievements or honors that you have received. If any of these awards have garnered any media, press or additional business make sure you denote the added marketing significance you have earned. This significantly enhances your credibility as an expert and solidifies other claims you make on your resume and executive summary.

7. Volunteer and Community Activism Work
- Part of being a successful leader and business driver in any industry or career field is offering and applying yourself and experience to volunteer, not-for-profit and community work. It demonstrates to a potential employer that you are not one-dimensional and are just looking for a job but to give back to the employing organization as well. If you are not currently performing any volunteer or community work, go out and find some groups to get involved with now!

8.Testimonials and References
– Create a “brag book” of recommendations, testimonials, performance appraisals, promotions and letters of accommodations. Many people feel this is too aggressive, narcissistic or cocky to actually create a book of acknowledgement. Is it “cocky” for an organization to create marketing brochures and billboards highlighting awards and trophies they have won? Of course not! You are promoting brand “You”, do not be shy about communicating that to the marketplace!

9. Professional Development & Educational Activities
– Do not forget to include details of training courses, sessions, leadership activities, workshops and even college or graduate studies you have completed. Underscore the professional organizations of which you are a member and details of any of their activities in which you have played a key role.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Secret To Staying Busy...Even After Months Out of Work

In the past, a few months of being out of a job might have been something to be embarrassed about. But now, in this uncertain economy, employment gaps are just an average fact on thousands of resumes around the country. What is certain is how Managers and Human Resources Directors are looking closely at how you effectively you used this “down” time. Never before has it been so critical to show that you have put in the effort to contribute to your community and make a life long difference in your career. And be ready to knock their socks off when they ask this next question…

“How have you spent your time during your layoff?” This is a question I have asked thousands of time over the last fifteen years as a Career Coach and Executive Search Consultant. I am never surprised to hear the most popular answers such as: networking, indulging in hobbies or even the more honest responses of getting more sleep and spending time with families.

But what I am truly hoping to hear from candidates? A convincing conversation about how a prospective employee spent their time to make themselves unique in their industry. In this current recession, it’s time to propel and escalate yourself to the top of the mountain of candidates all vying for the few available jobs out there.

Here are five action oriented steps you can utilize today to significantly change the topic from “employment interruption” to a dynamic time where you furthered your career development. It works for everyone from entry level to senior executives and business leaders.

1. Volunteering. Do something with your time that gives back to your community, is possibly relevant to your expertise and/or that will open you up to new experiences. For examples, the Helping Hands program through the United Way and Habit for Humanity often pulls professionals together for various industries and companies. Not only can you give back and feel good about it, you expose yourself to limitless networking opportunities. Share your own expertise by coaching and mentoring the next generation or fellow job seekers in your field only increases your own management experience and sharpens your skills. This is a big seller to a prospective employer.

2. Attend Professional Training & Development. Sign up to obtain additional certifications, attend workshops, audit a course at local community colleges or enroll in online e-courses. All of these activities speak to the attention you pay to advancing not just your career but your skill sets, knowledge base and expertise. A potential employer will get an idea of your motivation and drive as well.

3. Create and Manage your Online Footprint. Make sure your social networks are up to date and secure. Do not just log in and “play” on Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter, but make sure you your privacy settings are accurate and anything you post or comment on represents you and your professional brand appropriately. Employers are using social media as the primary background screening tool prior to inviting a candidate in for an interview. Makes sure your profile promotes you and not hinders you.

4. Competitive Intelligence.
Apply critical thinking to how you approach research about your own industry or a field in which you want to transition. Invest time in becoming an expert in the closely related fields, not only your industry. This will allow you create a 30-60-90 day to plan to a prospective employer and present to them solutions you can bring to their organization.

5. Enhance Your Personal Brand.
Create a personal website for yourself where you can promote your own career portfolio, resume and any special areas of interest to a prospective employer. Check out free sites such as

Once you do land that job, these on-going efforts will serve as instant supports to help keep you focused and protect yourself from falling behind should you ever find yourself in a similar position in the future. Paying attention to all aspects of your career development whether you are gainfully employed or looking for the next opportunity are both sides of the same coin – enhancing your personal expertise, branding power and career presence.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Top 5 Things Hiring Managers Look for in an Interview and Common Pitfalls Candidates Should Avoid

It is no secret that the current economic climate has led to a labor market that is one of the most challenging we have ever seen. There is no shortage of information, tips, strategies and advice out there designed to help candidates find jobs in this extremely candidate rich and competitive market.

The question becomes, how does one make sense of all the available information and how can they use it to truly differentiate themselves from the extremely deep candidate pool?
While it may be true that many hires come down to who you know and the personality fit, there are certain things a candidate must to do to ensure they are the candidate of choice and not the one that falls off the hiring manager’s radar completely. Below are 5 tips from Hiring Managers about what they are really looking for when they interview a candidate and what candidates often do (or don’t do) that removes them from consideration altogether.

5 Things Hiring Managers Look For:
1. A resume that reads NOT like a job description but like a visual portfolio of successes, accomplishments, awards and value-added contributions. Candidates frequently populate their resume with bullet points of duties and tasks assigned to them by their supervisors and they simply list them all out. They do not take the time (or perhaps don’t understand how) to project their documented value of solving pain areas for their employer, customers and clients. For example, if you are an Accountant, Sales Rep or Computer Programmer chances are good the hiring manager already knows “what” you do anyway. They want to know the “How”, “Why” and “Outcome” of the work you do. Otherwise they have nothing to base your ability to do the job at hand and ultimately does not distinguish you from any another candidate.

2.For a candidate to answer a direct question…..”directly” . When asked, hiring managers will almost always cite lack of direct and concise responses to their questions as one of the biggest pet peeves during an interview. A candidate needs to give specific and give demonstrative examples of how they personally have responded in the past and how they will perform if selected for the job in question. Being specific and offering real life and quantifiable examples is the key to helping the hiring manager visualize the candidate in the role. There is nothing more frustrating for a hiring manager than a candidate that just rambles on or gets philosophical about a topic, but does not truly answer the question succinctly. Without real life examples or bottom line results being presented as part of the candidate’s answers, it may give the interviewer the impression the candidate was not as personally involved or solely responsible for the task being discussed. It also conveys a lack of preparation, in some cases, on behalf of the candidate.

3.A candidate who exudes confidence and expertise without ego, arrogance or nervousness. Hiring managers are simply looking for qualified and expert candidates to not only fill an open seat, but to help fill a major problem area within the organization. There are 3 reasons a job becomes available. The opening was created either by a need to back fill a vacated role, new business growth or to replace an underperforming incumbent. No matter which scenario has caused the opening, the vacancy causes pain for the organization. Therefore the interviewer needs to clearly witness and believe the candidate is an expert in their own functional area and that they can apply it to the role in a beneficial way for the organization. They can see right through a high ego, a disgruntled employee or a candidate who is so nervous they look like a deer in headlights. It’s increasingly common in today’s job market to have candidates who are very desperate for any job. No matter how urgently you may need a job offer, you must present yourself as a problem solver and the most competent candidate they will meet in order to rise to the top of selected candidates. Of course, it goes without saying but do not speak negatively of a former employer. This is one of the most common interview tips, yet the number of candidates who do not understand this basic concept is truly daunting. It causes the candidate to come across as difficult and arrogant and immediately be relegated to the bottom of the pile of candidates.

4. Candidates who actively engage with the interviewer by demonstrating a deep knowledge of the entire industry, not just the job. It is imperative that a candidate illustrate how knowledgeable they are about the entire industry and trends that may effect the role or the company. It’s not enough to just be comfortable speaking about the job description. A desired candidate not only has the required skill sets but understands how their skills apply to the industry and the potential employer. Most candidates ask questions related to compensation, reporting structure or other items that are not actually crucial to the overall success in the role. Hiring managers are trying to understand whether the candidate has not only done their homework on the company but the industry, trends and opportunities. They look for an engaging interaction where they candidate asks questions that demonstrate critical thinking and business related skills. This tells the interviewer that the candidate has the motivation and acumen to start the job on Day 1 and solve the specific business problems presented.

5.Whether the candidate effectively closes down the interviewer. What do I mean exactly by “close down” the interview? When asked how an interview went candidates will often say “I think it went well.” My first thought as a career coach is “how do you know it went well? How do you measure that?” Hiring managers are often trained to be very polite during the process because you essentially a visitor to their offices. They may have realized in the first 5 minutes you are not a fit but proceed with the interview out of courtesy. Behaviorally trained hiring managers look to see whether a candidate will end the interview by asking a line of questions o the interviewer to determine if there are any questions, concerns or doubts about their background or fit for the role. Most candidates feel it is a hard sell or presumptive to actually ask the interviewer “where do you see me as a candidate for hire for this role?” Think of it this way, would you spend an hour in a meeting with a boss or colleague and end the meeting without either a list of action items, next steps or to arrange a follow up meeting? It is the same with an interview. You can ask the hiring manager where you stack up against other candidates of interest and what would it take to for him/her to see you as a top candidate. Their responses will help them step out of the courtesy-mode and give you a more tangible and honest answer. The hiring manager will always remember the candidate that closes them down versus those that just smile and answer questions. By “closing down” an interviewer, you not only give yourself one last opportunity to sell yourself but also to project confidence in your abilities to be considered as “the candidate of choice.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are You Minding The Gap?

For anyone that has visited London and taken a trip on the famed "Tube" subway system is familiar with the phrase "Mind The Gap." It is a warning to train passengers to be aware of the gap between the train door and the station platform. What are you doing today to mind your own employment. Are you standing on the train platform or actually going somewhere on the train?

In my work over the past 10 months with displaced and candidates in transition, I have asked the same question. What have you been doing while you have been unemployed to make you more desirable and marketable to potential employers and against your own competition?

In the past an employment gap was something to be embarrassed about or to avoid at all costs, if possible. In today's world, it has become more commonplace and a fact on thousands of resumes around the country. However, the way you represent yourself in the face of your employment gap is what will differentiate you from the rest of the marketplace.

I have asked dozens of candidates how they have they spent their time during their layoff. I wasn't surprised to hear many of their answers. More popular answers were: networking, indulging in hobbies, spending more time with family or even getting more sleep.

But what was I truly wanting to hear? I was looking for a conversation about how they spent their time to make themselves unique in their industry. In this recession its vital to propel and escalate yourself to the top of the mountain of candidates, and quickly, because current trends are leaning towards employment growth starting to open up.

How you can start today to significantly change the topic from “employment interruption” to a dynamic time where you enhanced your professional development and advanced your career. It works for everyone from entry level to senior executives and business leaders.

1. Volunteer. Find something relevant to both your business and your interests. For example, The United Way's Helping Hands Community Events. Volunteering helps you give back which puts you in a positive frame of mind and counter any negativity resulting from your job loss. It also provides you the opportunity to meet, greet and network with potential employers in a unique and creative way, which ultimately will differentiate yourself from competing candidates.

It also offers you a forum to highlight your own expertise. Volunteer to coach and mentor the next generation or fellow job seekers in your area of expertise only increases your management experience. Offer to mentor students, volunteer to provide business coaching to small and start-up organizations, offer to hold free round tables and discussions with fellow domain experts at your local Starbucks, get involved in fundraising and get involved in community outreach programs. You will be blown away at the good will and leads that open up by getting involved in your own backyard.

2. Professional Training and Development. Obtain additional certifications & degrees, attend workshops, source local community colleges and/or participate in online e-courses such as webinars and podcasts.

3. Create and Manage your Online Footprint. Make sure your social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are up to date and secure and your online reputation clean. Establish a blog in your area of expertise and participate in commenting on issues related to your field, which shows your continued visibility and presence in your area as a true expert and leader.

4. Competitive Intelligence Research. Applying critical thinking in these ways demonstrates your ability to approach research and competitive intelligence you have garnered during this time about your industry. Invest time in becoming an expert in the closely related fields, not only your industry. Will make you an even stronger candidate at this time than you were even before you were laid off.

5. Create Your Own Website to Present Your Resume. Go to free website template sites such as which will help you easily create a small website where you can list your resume and link to other sites relevant to your. For example, create a free 1 or 2 page website that houses your resume, a link to your blog and a link to your Linkedin and Facebook account. This shows you are tech savvy and understand how to professionally market yourself. It also helps potential employers when they Google you (and they will) to find all your pertinent professional information in one place.

Once you do land that job, these on-going efforts will serve as instant supports to help keep you focused and protect against being steps behind if you are once again laid off in the future.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Come Back Tour or Out-Dated Rock Star

I recently attended a concert by the rock band Creed. It was their “comeback” tour and first time on stage together in close to 5 years in support of a new album appropriately titled "Full Circle". Now, late 1990's bands may not be your thing. But as I stood in the crowd that night and watched and listened to the show and took in the fan reaction, it made me think that an aging super star rock band embarking on a "comeback" tour is not unlike what many of people are currently experiencing as they are faced with re-inventing themselves in an effort to land a new job after a recent layoff or salary reduction as a result of the current recession.

I am sure in some way, Creed had to wonder if their music would still be relevant and if they have enough fans to fill up a concert hall. In order to re-introduce themselves to their fan base and to inform the market that they were back on tour, the promoters took a unique approach. Instead of simply putting out some advertising and announcing tickets will be sold on, they actually pre-sold a limited number of tickets at an incredibly reduced price at a preceding concert at the same venue. In conjunction with the normal channel of promotion and ticket sales, they took a much more targeted approach to personally reach out to concert goers already attending a show of a similar genre. This personal touch helped to quickly spread the word and alert fans to their upcoming reunion tour in real-time which allowed them to grab friends and buy tickets right there on the spot. The promoters were able, I am sure, to gauge how much and what type of further promotion was needed to fill out the venue after they reviewed the results of the person-to-person ticket sales.

The place was packed the day of the show (minus some stragglers that stayed away due to the threat of rain) and the energy inside the building was infectious. There was a collective interest in wondering whether the band would actually be as good they were in the past. Could they still deliver like they did 10 years earlier when they spawned six (6) Top 40 hits and a #1 album on Billboard? Everyone knew the reasons the band broke up 5 years earlier. The break-up was a result of the many personal difficulties of Scott Stapp, the band’s lead singer. Eventually Stapp went on to record a few solo albums and the 3 remaining band members formed another band. Although both parties reached some success, it was nothing like they experienced together as Creed.

The comeback concert, in my humble opinion, was a success. They played all their old hits. The music was performed almost flawlessly, the stage show was fantastic and the band members had a sense of re-connection and pure joy in playing together that was really evident even if you were watching from my vantage point – all the way up on the grassy hill of the outdoor stadium. Scott Stapp thanked the fans appropriately and proceeded to demonstrate why the band was so successful in the past. They rocked the house with heavy guitar rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics. By the end of the show when they debuted their upcoming new song "Overcome” I felt a very profound sense of the "Full Circle" that the band was delivering.

I also saw an immediate connection to the activities job seekers must consider and enact when trying to secure a new role in this challenging labor market. Candidates from entry level to senior executives are being forced to re-brand, re-position and re-deploy themselves in order to seek new viable opportunities. They must be very clear about their “comeback” and what it is they do best and how they deliver results that will get people’s attention. It’s not enough today to simply have a good resume and a large number of LinkedIn contacts. Each candidate must look at their “stage” and put together a “show” that will be memorable and unique and make people want more! (Which is exactly what Creed did when fans cheered them back on stage for 2 Encores).

Plan Your Comeback!

The “IT Factor” – there are literally thousands of aspiring bands and musicians. What makes the few rocket up to superstardom, resonate with fans and create music that is memorable and stand the test of time? It’s the “IT Factor!” Every rock star has a charismatic, confident and crystal clear way of conveying their talent in away allows fans to connect with. Everyone has their own charisma, expertise and ability to rise to the top.
So ask yourself…”Am I conveying my abilities, value, successes and return-on-investment to a potential employer in a way that they can connect with and jump at the opportunity to hire me?"

Are Fans Still Interested in Your Music? You have accomplished, learned, mentored, developed and experienced many skills in your career to date. Perhaps you have been out of the workforce for a period of time raising a family or re-tooling yourself towards a new function since you got laid off. This is not unlike Scott Stapp’s personal troubles with Creed, yet he came back better than before. Struggles, issues and obstacles cannot erase your talent or experience. Just look at Creed, they came back and hit the ground running after 5 years off the stage! Your value is ageless and timeless. You must present your value to an employer so they get excited to see you on the market rather than question your fit for the role.
So ask yourself….”Am I demonstrating the true value of my expertise? Is my message being clearly delivered?”

You Booked The Concert Hall, Can You Fill The Seats? Concert promoters book venues and then work to fill the arenas with fans. A job seeker must work the appropriate steps in order to inform the potential market they are available and ready to solve an employer’s problem by getting hired into a key role. Simply blasting your resume on every job board to applying to every open position will not get you any closer to ensuring you are targeting the right people and opportunities.
So Ask yourself……”Am I utilizing my LinkedIn network (you DO have a LinkedIn account right?) to the best possible advantage? Am I presenting my 15-second pitch to the right people in the right way about my expertise and value to an organization so they can help spread the word?”

How Many Encores Will You Receive? You have the star power, you create your own timeless music and you deliver it to the crowd and now you are ready to perform. You get invited in for an interview.
So ask yourself…….”Now that I am in front of the hiring team, are they connecting with me and sensing my passion and enthusiasm and ability to deliver? Will they invite me back?”

You are a Rock Star not a One-Hit Wonder – plan your comeback tour today!

(Stay Tuned for More Tips on "How" To Plan Your Comeback!)....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Landing an Internal Jobs - 6 hings To Stand Out From The Crowd To The Corporate Recruiter!

There is no questioning the tough climate we are living in at the moment in terms of the availability of new open jobs. The tide appears to be shifting, however, and many experts and top recruitment professionals are pointing to a slight increase in new openings over the next 1-3 months. We are living in a very candidate rich market, but one area that should not be overlooked for new opportunities is within your own organization. As companies continue to re-align their organizations as result of recent downsizing, mergers & acquisitions, financial belt-tightening and/or competitive pressures; internal openings are becoming more readily available.

In recent weeks, I have worked with a number of prospective candidates to provide career coaching, resume writing and interview preparation services. Many of these candidates are currently seeking new opportunities while many others are simply hoping to hold on to their exisiting roles or at least their current company. I have watched many internal candidates conduct their job search very differently (and not very well) when targeting an internal role versus an external role. Many candidates are doing more damage to their efforts than helping their case.

There are several things to remember when posting for a role within your existing organization. Perhaps one of the most important things is to make your internal corporate recruiter an advocate on your behalf, not an obstacle to overcome. Follow these guidelines below to avoid common pitfalls and to increase your probability of becoming the chosen internal hire.

Your Internal Recruiting Advocate

1. REMOVE ALL UNNECESSARY ACRONYMS FROM YOUR RESUME. Just because you may work for the same organization does not mean the the corporate recruiter fully understands or can communicate the meaning of those acronyms you use in your role every day to a potential hiring manager. The corporate recruiter is often responsible for recruiting for many functional areas within an organization and may not know the exact difference between a GSO (Global Sales Office) and an EST (Enterprise Sales Team), for example. So spell it out. Make sure your resume is clear and can easily articulate your background and qualifications as it matches up to this new role.

2. DON'T ASSUME YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY GET CONSIDERATION BECAUSE YOU CURRENTLY WORK FOR THE COMPANY. The corporate recruiter is tasked with presenting the most highly qualified candidate in the market for the role. It may be you, but there is also an abundance of top talent in the market today, so you will not necessarily have a leg-up simply because your current business card has the company's name on it. Shift your thinking to making yourself stand out above all the competition, not just internally. In fact, you may have to work just that much harder to prove your worth to a new division of your existing company than an external person has to the organization overall. Why? Because the external person is being evaluated and matched up to one specific set of qualifications for the new role. You will need to illustrate to the recruiter and all internal decision makers why it makes sense to transition you from your current role and function to this new job within the company. Some hiring managers and recruiters have a thought process that if you have the proper skill sets for this new role, why wouldn't you already be in the role? It may not be a logical conclusion, but can play a role in the selection process. Therefore, you must be prepared to address this perception.

3. CAPITALIZE ON YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE COMPANY'S CULTURE AND BUSINESS OBJECTIVES. You are already part of the organization. You attend monthly or quarterly meetings, you have a insider's view of the mission, value, goals and objectives of the organization. In your discussions with the corporate recruiter, be creative! Show them in a clear and concise way the successes and value you have brought to the organization in your existing role and how that aligns with the company's goals. For example, don't assume that just because you are part of a sales force that just successfully launched a new product, that you will be seen as a key factor in that success. Illustrate your personal contribution to the success of that sales effort through the use of documentation, internal references, a brag book, a Powerpoint presentation or any other form of data or accolade. Make sure the recruiter has the clear picture of brand "YOU". It makes it tangible and concise for the recruiter and they, in turn, will be able to present you to a hiring manager in a way that makes them a real advocate on your behalf, rather than just submitting another resume.

4. SELL YOURSELF TO THE CORPORATE RECRUITER. Do not be afraid to ask them to share their knowledge of what the hiring manager for the internal role is truly looking for. Ask them why the role is open in that other department. Create a relationship with the recruiter. If he/she can relate to you, they will be more likely to want to help you in the best way they can. They may be able to provide insights to corporate or departmental changes that will only be an asset to you during the interview process. Do not view the discussion with the recruiter as a necessary evil in the internal posting process. Use them as a resource to gather as much information as you can, and in return, apply that knowledge to become the best prepared and qualified candidate.

5. OFFER REFERRALS TO THE CORPORATE RECRUITER. Even if you are not selected for the internal role, offer your recruiter other referrals - both internal and external. The recruiter will, in all likelihood, have other open positions available in the very near term and your referrals will keep your name visible to the recruiter and top-of-mind to hiring managers. You have a unique perspective on the organization because you are on the inside track and will be able to recommend the best people. This will raise your internal profile and demonstrate your willingness to help the company achieve its overall hiring goals and not that you are simply looking out of number one. Even in a competitive world that we live in today, when you help others without asking for anything in return it will come back to you tenfold!

6. BE GRATEFUL! Its not enough to say you are grateful to have a job while so many others are on the street looking for their next role. Act grateful. Be grateful. Do what you can on a daily basis to continue to improve yourself personally and professionally. It will only make you that much more of a valuable asset - in your existing company or for a new employer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

NEW CareerDevelopment 4 U Services

Welcome to JoyMark Associates, LLC, providing Recruitment, Resume Writing, Interview Preparation and Career Coaching services.