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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.

Making the Connection in a Job Interview

Interviews are more than a series of questions and answers. To make the most out of your interview, make a connection with the interviewer by initiating small talk. This will allow the interviewer to see a little bit more of your personality, establish rapport and leave them feeling as if they know more about you than just what’s on your résumé.

Effective small talk can help you set yourself apart from the competition. To help you get started, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind when engaging in small talk.


Do stick to safe topics. Asking the interviewer if they had a nice weekend or commenting on the weather, is a great opener when beginning the interview. This gets the conversation going and helps the interviewer see that you’re comfortable interacting with others under stressful situations.

Don’t overuse flattery. Most interviewers don’t appreciate false praise. While being positive and friendly are great traits, telling the interviewer that you love their suit or wish you had a haircut just like theirs is a little much. So, try not to over do it on the compliments during an interview.

Don’t be negative. If the interviewer asks how your drive in was this morning, avoid negative remarks such as: “The traffic was horrendous, the lights took too long, and there wasn’t a parking spot close to the building.” Instead, focus on positive thoughts – your excitement for the interview, pleasant songs you heard on the radio or how peaceful the drive in was this morning. Overwhelming negativity can end your interview before it even starts. Interviewers want positive people working in their company, not negative individuals who will constantly complain.

Do open up when appropriate. If the interviewer mentions that he enjoys the same hobbies as you or attended the same college, take a moment to comment on the topic. This demonstrates your interest and connects you with the interviewer.

By making a connection with the interviewer, you can increase your odds of getting the job because now you’re more than just a piece of paper – you’re a real person with a story to tell.

Do you have any tips on how to initiate small talk in an interview?

Can’t Walk and Chew Gum

I reviewed my resume this morning. I’m not looking for another job – I was checking to see if I listed multitasking as a skill set that I possess. Thankfully it was not.

Attention everyone, “I stink at multitasking.”

At home I can do laundry, prepare dinner, empty the trash and check e-mail. What usually happens in the middle of this activity is I’ll lock up and forget what I was going to do. I’ll actually stand in the middle of the living room until I remember that I was headed to get a tissue.

Put me in front of the TV and rest of the world ceases to exist. My wife can ask me a question three times and I’ll not hear her. It’s frustrating to her because she multitasks well. She can have a conversation while reading a book and watching TV.

At work, my lack of multitasking ability is beneficial. Concentrating on one task and doing it well is, in my case, a stronger attribute because when I multitask to get everything done sometimes my work suffers.

When I approach a project, I break it down into multiple tasks. Take this blog post for example. I will research, write, edit, proof and post – five steps. That’s not multitasking – it’s accomplishing one task at a time. I have a to-do list each day of three to five significant work projects that need to be tackled one at a time.

I decided to admit my multitasking deficiency when I read an article in the New York Times that challenged “any man to talk on the phone, send a fax, reply to an e-mail, change a diaper, get a toddler a snack, monitor what your school-age children are watching on TV and add to the grocery list – all at the same time.”

I wasn’t up to the challenge. At best, I can listen to music while working, but that’s like counting breathing while walking as multitasking.

Do you think women are more naturally prone to multitasking? Are you a multitasker or a uni-tasker like me?

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Does Your Job Have Staying Power?

Bug breeder. Road kill collector. Catfish noodler. Alpaca shearer.

Those are a few of the positions Mike Rowe lists on his résumé. Rowe is host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, a show that exposes people to all kinds of jobs that they don’t necessarily see in the classified ads each week.

If you asked 100 elementary school children what they wanted to be when they grow up, I’d bet no one would mention any of the jobs that Rowe has tried out on his show. But doctor, teacher, politician and artist would probably rank high on the list.

Those four also showed up on list of occupations that will “stand the test of time,” according to CareerBuilder.com. Also included on the list of professions there will always be a need for:

Barber
Construction worker
Farmer
Law enforcement officer
Mortician
Religious leader
Scientist
Soldier
Tax collector
Waste disposal manager

Can you think of other jobs that are necessary and will still be relevant in the future? What about your job?

I love my career, however I’m not sure my position will be around in 50 years. But then again, I probably won’t either.

Cover Letter Tips: Make It Short and Sweet

Keep it simple
The ideal length for most cover letters is two or three short paragraphs on one page. Most likely, if your cover letter is too long, it won’t get read. Your goal is to explain why you want the position in as few words as possible. This means that your wording should be easy to read and understand. By staying away from long, rambling paragraphs, you’ll keep the reader’s attention. Impress the recruiter with your qualifications, not your fancy writing.

To avoid seeming flashy, use a simple font in black or charocal. If you’re e-mailing your resume or posting it online use a sans serif font like Arial or Helvitica.

Pay special attention to punctuation and grammar as well. A recent survey revealed poor grammar as the top reason why employers ignore applicants’ cover letters. Keep in mind, your cover letter is a written introduction of yourself. What first impressions will you send to potential employers?

Cover Letter Tips: Stick to the Basics

Remember that your cover letter should include three basic parts: an introduction paragraph, a qualifications paragraph and a closing. The introduction paragraph should tell the employer why the position interests you. What is it about the company that you like? Research the company to find its mission, basic goals and achievements. Explain how you fit into this culture, but keep it short!

The second paragraph should be a brief description of why you qualify for the job. Specify skills you have that are listed in the job description for the position. Don’t paraphrase your resume. Instead, focus on telling how your experience and career goals are relevant to the position.

In your closing, restate your interest in the position and your intent to follow up. Include your availability for an interview and give a date that you’ll call if you don’t hear from the employer. Taking the initiative to follow up will show that the position is important to you. Also, make sure your contact information is correct and easy to find.