The Job Search

Reinvent Yourself – Repackage Yourself

Yesterday, I talked about starting the process of reinventing yourself for a new career, or rejuvenating yourself in your current job. Today, I want to talk about what to do after you have found your new direction – repackaging yourself.

Even after individuals find their true passion, they still sometimes find it difficult to shed the old image and be perceived by others in a new way. By following these tips, you can showcase the new you to employers, as well as to yourself.

Tweak your résumé. Rewrite your résumé to reflect your new image. Regardless of whether you are venturing out on a new direction or just reigniting your passion in your old job, refreshing your résumé will help you stay focused with who you want to be and the direction you want to go. When updating your résumé, use a functional résumé format. This type of résumé focuses on specific skills you possess, instead of the progression of jobs that a chronological résumé format focuses on. Write your résumé with an emphasis on your new career goal. The point is to make sure potential employers can see who you are now, not who you were.

Change inside and out. If you list on your résumé that you’re an outgoing and innovative salesperson, make sure your appearance reflects the attitude. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you have an outdated hairstyle or are in need of a new wardrobe, search online, peruse through current magazines or contact an image consultant for what’s in style in your particular field of work and region. Improving your outward appearance will project confidence to employers.

Make the connection. You have pinpointed your new career goal. Your résumé is updated, and your looks reflect the inner you. Now, you’re ready to start making connections with prospective employers to boost your current career track. When searching for jobs in your market, try attending job fairs and networking with friends to find out what jobs are out there. This will help you test the waters and get the inside track on companies without having to make a commitment. Staying in your current position? Try scheduling a one-on-one meeting with your boss. You can use this time to inform your boss that you’d love to try some new projects or learn new skills.

Creating a new image can be a tough process, but by following these tips, you can make the transition a positive experience.

Tomorrow, I’ll offer tips that will help you sustain the new you.

Reinvent Yourself – Take the First Step

We recently received a question from a reader inquiring whether or not she wasted her time working in a specific industry for too long. She wants to get into a new field of work but feels as though future employers look at her past employment history and typecast her in to one role. Many workers seeking new direction face this issue. So what’s a job seeker to do? This series will highlight general strategies for reinventing your career self.

Whether you’re new to the workforce, considering a career change, or just trying to stay ahead of the competition, reinventing yourself just might help you land or keep your dream job. Reinvention is simply the process of re-examining yourself, taking what you’ve learned over time, evaluating who you are as a person and committing to a positive course of action. Over the next few days I’ll offer several tips on reinventing yourself and starting a new career!

Go back to the beginning. Take a moment to re-evaluate yourself and reconnect with what gets you excited. Assess yourself. Look at the things that you loved to do as a child. If you have a hard time figuring out your passions, ask your friends or colleagues what they think you excel at, or what they believe your strengths are.

Unite the old with the new. Once you have figured out your passions, match them to the skills and experience that you have gained throughout the years, whether during school, at work or through a hobby. This process will help you determine what jobs and careers will best utilize your strengths. Matching your skills and experience with your passions will show you what career choices are most suitable for you. Even if you want to stay on your current career track, this exercise will help you re-energize and focus on what you like best about your job.

Research your findings. Look at what you’ve learned so far in the process to discover the career path that complements your strengths. Ask questions of other individuals within that field. For example, ask those in your desired field about what they would change about their jobs, the pros and cons and tasks they perform on a day-to-day basis. Their answers will help you get a better understanding of what might be expected of you if you picked that career path. If you’re trying to rejuvenate yourself in your current job, ask yourself or someone in your field or company the same questions. This will help pinpoint what it is that you truly love about your job.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss tips on how to repackage yourself from updating your résumé to putting yourself in the right position to move into a new career.

Exploring Your Options: 2 Tools for Choosing a Career

If you’ve ever attended college or vocational school, chances are, you had the opportunity to visit with a career or guidance counselor to help you choose the career path that fits your interests, skills, personality and ambition.


In this process, you discover that there are more career paths, opportunities and directions you can go than you’d ever imagined. Career advisers will tell you to look at your hobbies and interests for clues into what you should pursue as a career track. For example, maybe you like to write – you could be a teacher, a journalist, a public relations specialist. Within that career track, you can drill down further to specific jobs like a graduate professor in medieval literature, investigative reporter for an international news agency or a non-profit fundraising manager.


There are a lot of options out there, making it tricky to find the career path that’s right for you. Here are two tools you can use to explore your career options on your own.


1. Research online.
Whether or not you’ve had the opportunity for career counseling, websites like MyPlan.com are a great way to find information on different careers. Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career, recommends this one as a great resource.

There, you can sign up for a free account and search over 900 job descriptions. You can also sign up to take a free career values assessment or purchase a full career assessment package. The site also offers salary data and descriptions of college majors along with related careers. They have resources for everyone from middle schoolers to adults looking for a career change.


2. Talk to an expert.

Another great idea when you want information about career options is to talk to someone you know who works in the area you are interested in. If you don’t know anyone, ask around. Chances are, your friends, parents, co-workers or classmates will know someone who works in your desired field. Make an appointment to visit them on the job, or meet someplace for lunch to chat with them openly about what they do, the pros and cons of the career, and what they would recommend for someone wanting to start out in that field. Not only will this give you insightful information, it will help you begin to build your network in the field.


When you’re considering your career options, you’ll make the best choices if you’re informed about all the possibilities. You’ll also increase your chance of finding a job you love by considering all your options.


What have you done to learn about different career options? Have you ever had anyone help you decide for or against a career path?

Responding to the Top 7 Interview Questions

On Monday, I posted a list of some of the most common interview questions and asked readers to think about how they’d respond to each one. Today’s post digs in deeper and offers tips on answering these questions.

1. What do you know about our company? Here’s your chance to show off the research you conducted about the organization before the interview. That’s right, you’ll need to find out some basic information about your prospective employer before showing up for the interview. Good things to know include: how long the company has been around, what they do and what’s unique about them. If the company has a website, review the About Us pages. Other ways to get more background include asking friends and family what they know about the company.

2. What are your strengths? When answering this question, think about your strengths which would be most valuable in relation to the job you’re applying for. Sure, being a trivia wiz or a great dancer are fun abilities, but they’re probably not what the interviewer is looking for, unless you’re applying to be the next host of “Jeopardy” or a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

3. What are your weaknesses? This is one of the most dreaded interview questions around. Nobody wants to list off their low points to a potential employer. But don’t despair – answering this question wisely can score major points with an interviewer. Instead of focusing on character weaknesses, like a bad temper or laziness, mention weaknesses that are job specific. Also, be sure to tell the interviewer what you’re doing to remedy the problem.

4. How would your last boss describe you? It’s always a little bit difficult to speak for someone else. In this case, it’s usually best to cite something specific the boss said about you in the past. For example, “My supervisor at Widget Manufacturing frequently praised my ability to work quickly and safely.”

5. Why did you leave your last job? Be careful on this question. You never want to bash your past employer or supervisor. You also don’t want to sound money hungry by listing low compensation as your main reason for leaving. Instead, try to focus on what the job you’re applying for offers that your last job didn’t. For instance, the position you’re interested in might have more opportunities for growth, be closer to your home or offer better hours.

6. Where do you want to be in five years? This is your opportunity to share your goals and interests. But, remember to keep it professional. The interviewer doesn’t need to know that you hope to buy a Harley Davidson or win the lottery. Most interviewers ask this question because they want to know if you’ll stick with them over the long haul. Even if you’re not sure where you’ll be in five years, try to give an answer that shows you’d be open sticking around if things go well.

7. Why do you want to work here? The winning answer for this question is not: “Because I need a job.” While that may be what’s running through your mind, the interviewer is looking for specific reasons their job opening appeals to you. When answering this question, think about how your skills would benefit the company. For example, “I want to work at XYZ company because your need for an energetic office manager is a great fit with my background and personality.”

What interview questions do you have a hard time answering? How do you prepare before an interview?

Top 7 Interview Questions

Do you have an interview coming up and need to get prepared? By reviewing common interview questions and developing your responses, you can make a good impression by appearing well-spoken and thoughtful.

While every interview is a little different, there are some questions that are standard. Since the chances are high that you’ll be asked at least a few of these questions, it’s a good idea to give some thought to what your answers would be. Nothing’s worse than drawing a total blank during an interview, so take a few minutes to think about how you’d respond to these popular interview questions.

1. What do you know about our company?
2. What are your strengths?
3. What are your weaknesses?
4. How would your last boss describe you?
5. Why did you leave your last job?
6. Where do you want to be in five years?
7. Why do you want to work here?

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some of the better ways to answer these questions.

What Makes a Job Great?

Everyone is motivated by different things. That’s why the perfect job for your best friend or next door neighbor might not be the right job for you.

Have you ever sat down and really evaluated what makes you happiest (or unhappiest) at work? Many people just assume money is the only factor to consider when taking a new job, but in fact, good compensation alone will rarely make people love their jobs.

In order to find a job that’s a perfect fit for your strengths, personality and values, you must first know what you’re looking for. Take a moment to think about what would really provide you the most satisfaction at work.

Five Tips for Getting Past Résumé Gaps

A reader recently asked a great question in response to our post about telling the truth on your résumé . She asked what to do when you have a spotty work history with many employment gaps but for good reason. We think this is a great question.


Employment gaps happen to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Those who’ve been stay-at-home parents, had the opportunity to travel, attend school, serve as a volunteer, or be a care-giver for a loved one, often choose to return to the workforce after a period of time. Unfortunately, because employment gaps are typically associated with poor performing workers, employers tend to look negatively on all applicants whose résumés reflect a large period of time without work. This can make it tricky to get in the door for an interview and show that you’re a qualified candidate.


But, there are some résumé techniques you can use to highlight your capabilities and not the gaps.


1. Focus on skills. Using a skills-focused résumé can help you emphasize your qualifications over your work history. Try opening your résumé with your objective and then give bullet points with key skills or qualifications you possess and those you’ve attained while on hiatus instead of launching into your employment history.


2. Use a functional format. Instead of relating your work experience in a chronological format like a traditional résumé, use the functional style. This type of résumé groups experience not by chronological order but by relevance to the position at hand.


3. Highlight unpaid experience. If you served as a volunteer for a religious or civic organization during your employment gap, list the position you held along with the title “volunteer” and describe the transferable skills you used in that position to show that you have unpaid experience in the field you’re applying for.


4. Don’t fudge on the dates. It’s critical not to exaggerate or lie about the dates of employment you’ve held. It’s easy for employers to verify employment dates, and fudging the facts will only make matters worse.


5. Send a cover letter. It’s typically not appropriate to write “Stay-at-home-parent, June 2004-August 2007” on your résumé, but you can talk about your situation in a cover letter, if you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t get into the nitty gritty, and whatever you do, don’t complain about your situation. But you can explain your situation, highlighting how it pertains to the position at hand. For example, you could say that for three years you used time management, care-giving and financial skills by maintaining the family budget and caring for your child at home.


Be honest with prospective employers about the reasons you have a work gap, and keep in mind that if you’ve been busy with other pursuits while away from work, you’ve probably gained a variety of transferable skills that may make you a prime candidate. Your break from the work world may just make you the perfect candidate for the right employer. In fact, recruiters are beginning to look for returning workers with past experience to fill the void of Baby Boomers who are beginning to retire. Using these tips to highlight everything about you that makes you the right candidate can help you make sure recruiters look past the gaps and see what you have to offer as an employee instead.