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 If you have an outdated hairstyle or are in need of a new wardrobe, search online, peruse through current magazines or contact an image consultant for what’s in style in your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?

Don’t Complain, Communicate: Boost Your Career with 7 Tips

Yesterday, I covered why complaining is dangerous to your career. That said, it’s important to understand the fine line between communicating and complaining, because one can hurt your career while the other can enhance it.


One of the most critical skills for employees seeking to grow professionally is communication. Sometimes, it’s necessary to communicate about negative things. Perhaps you need to tell your boss about an abusive co-worker. Maybe as a manager, you need to deal with an employee who messed up an entire product line.


Excellent communicators know that even when they’re dealing with negative subjects, they can keep things positive through what they say and how they say it. You can communicate professionally and make sure you don’t cross the line into the complaining zone by following these tips.


1. Prepare first. When you don’t take time to prepare your thoughts, it’s easy for communication about negative things to become complaining. Think of yourself as a politician who has bad news to deliver to the media – you wouldn’t go into it without well thought out points. Take the time to sort out your ideas, cool off if necessary and prepare your comments before taking on a conversation about a not-so-happy subject.


2. Communicate formally. Most gripe sessions are spontaneous, unplanned, secret and informal. To keep yourself from falling into the complaint trap when it’s time to bring up something negative, do so formally with an in-person meeting.


3. Don’t make it personal. This one is tricky, especially when other people are involved. But you should avoid making things personal when dealing with a negative situation. Otherwise, you’ll become too emotional and won’t be able to handle the situation with a level head. To keep things professional on the job, discuss issues, not people.


4. Discuss the problem briefly. Make sure you outline the basic issue, but don’t give more than a few minutes to communicate it, or you will end up in the midst of a gripe session. If you’re talking to someone else involved in the situation, you will need to take responsibility for limiting this part of the discussion, or you may find yourself dragged down a long path of negativity.


5. Focus on solutions. To keep the conversation grounded and to avoid getting personal, focus on talking about solutions, outcomes and opportunities. Sometimes, worst case scenarios are opportunities in disguise. Talk about what positive changes can be made or what needs to be done to address the situation fully.


6. Follow through. Because it’s a self-serving, emotional process, complaining rarely results in action. It usually starts and ends with negativity. To make sure your hard work and effort in addressing a bad situation properly don’t end up getting lumped in with complaining, follow through on your proposed solutions with actions to change things for the better.


7. Be positive. People often say that complaining is contagious, but positive communication is as well. No matter what negative things are going on, put a smile on your face and focus on the positive aspects of your work, life, co-workers, family and employers. You will realize that thinking positively changes your perspective and helps you communicate rather than complain – and it rubs off on the people around you, too.


Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself complaining when you were trying to communicate? How do you make sure you stay professional and avoid workplace negativity?

5 Reasons Complaining Can Hurt Your Career

Everyone can think of someone who never stops complaining. They have too much work to do, dislike their boss, have annoying co-workers, struggle financially, have family problems, etc. The thing is, they may have very valid complaints. Maybe their boss is a micromanager and they have a co-worker who refuses to act professionally. They may be bogged down with boring tasks or have too many things assigned to them.


Regardless, you’ve probably had moments where you’ve pegged this person as negative, self-absorbed and socially inept. Perhaps you’ve found yourself complaining about their constant state of negativity – after all, it brings down morale, ruins your productivity and is distracting.


But, if you’re honest with yourself, you probably have to admit that you complain at work too. It’s natural to want to talk to your co-workers about issues, frustrations and struggles – work related or otherwise. But complaining at work is a dangerous habit. Here are five reasons complaining is bad for your career. 


1. Complaining plants seeds of negativity. You may start by complaining every once in a while about your finances or your spouse. But complaining about one thing sparks complaining about other things. When you give in to the habit of complaining, it increases your stress level, pushing you into the downward spiral of negativity. Before you know it, you may be complaining about everything from your car to your boss. Your outlook on your job is bound to get worse the more you complain.


2. Complaining about your workload makes you look incompetent. Wasting time complaining about how much you have to do merely demonstrates to your boss that you’re not focused, skilled at time management or capable of doing your work. Smart employees know to approach their boss for help balancing their workload instead of complaining about it.


3. Complaining about your tasks makes you seem entitled. Complaining about not liking the work you are assigned makes you seen ungrateful and high maintenance. It also demonstrates to your boss that you don’t have the skills or confidence to propose new tasks or projects.


4. Complaining is a sign of a bad leader. Leaders don’t complain; they foster change. Complainers make bad leaders. They encourage other people to complain rather than taking action to improve things. This puts the entire team in a negative environment that kills productivity, cooperation, creativity and innovation.


5. Complaining stunts career advancement. Here’s the thing about complainers – they rely on complaining to cope rather than relying on their skills and abilities. Being dubbed the complainer can kill your career advancement opportunities because it becomes the attribute that sticks out most in your employers’ minds, no matter how good your work may be.


It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a difference between communicating and complaining. Communicating focuses on solutions and positive change, while complaining is usually self-serving and focuses on how you feel. Check back tomorrow for more on how to get past complaining and start communicating.


Do you have a co-worker who always complains? How often do you find yourself complaining at work? What do you complain about? Have you ever considered how complaining can affect your career?

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.