Class of 2011 most in-debt class ever

According to a wall street journal article this morning, the class of 201- is the most in debt class ever.

This should come as no surprise to us given the economic crisis ad the steady rise in tuition at about 5%. While one can talk about how unfair this systematic failure can be (rising tuition despite declining hiring rates out of college), its no use complaining. Take the initiative, don't complain, and use that as more incentive to succeed.

Find a job that you can grow in and not dumpy to pay the bills – it will never last and you will be in debt for many years to come.

Begin loan payments, only if your rates are above around 6%. Otherwise, throw it in the market or invest in a mutual fund or Roth IRA. Subscribe to something like Money Magazine to begin establishing a personal finance intuition.

You will be well on your way to financial independence and career development.

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/05/07/number-of-the-week-class-of-2011-most-indebted-ever

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Blow Away your Job Search Competitors through Differentiation!

Last night I attended a Strategy Summit at Stern. There was a panel of four senior strategy executives representing four different industries: finance, healthcare, management consulting and food services. The panel discussions were centered around the impact of the global recession across the industries to draw similarities and to  compare and contrast. One of the more interesting questions was:
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What strategies did your company employ during the economic recession? More specifically, did they scale back on costs or did they spend money to innovate and create new direction?

The most interesting theme that came from the discussions, was that the more successful companies that weathered the recession tended to focus their attention on going against the norm. Sure, they watched their competitors and sure they analyzed their cost structures, but the predominant strategies employed were around how to take advantage of the recession instead of simply reacting in the expected way.

What lessons can be learned from knowing how companies are strategizing as the recession nears completion?

In your job search, look for organizations that are doing things differently. Companies that are not afraid to be different – to innovate. The easiest examples that come to mind are Google and Apple. Both of these companies are always moving – always innovating. Many websites like Lycos or About.com were one hit wonders which were quickly phased out by their competition. Google, on the other hand, is constantly looking for new tools and applications to add to their suite of services. This keeps them moving.

Be like those innovative companies during your job search. It may be taking you a long time to find a job in this global recession. But don't stagnate. Look diligently every day for new opportunities and look for them in new and innovative ways. Don't simply send your resume out to companies via email or their career website – everyone does that!

Begin networking at a professionals summit. Take a risk and go somewhere that intimidates you. Going to a career fair for college students gives you little chance to differentiate yourself. After all, you are in a room with people that have the same exact experience as you. Instead, pick up a magazine of your profession (e.g. CIO magazine for IT professionals) and check out some IT conferences. Not only will this keep your knowledge up, but will also help you network and maybe find some connections.

Find what you are good at – I can't stress this enough. Clearly define your value proposition which answers the question – what can you do for me that no one else can? All great companies understand themselves and what they're great at, then they leverage it to drive their corporate strategy.

Be the Apple and Google of your profession.

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More College Grads Turn to Entrepreneurial Jobs During Recession

The global economic recession over the last two years has surely affected us all. Although you can't control the recession, the way you interpret the results is completely within your power.

I constantly hear students complaining: “It's not fair! I've spent this ridiculous amount of money on my college education, and for what? To graduate and only find out that there are no jobs available for me?” Maybe it's outsourcing? Maybe it's America being less competitive? Maybe it's that your job is no longer needed due to technology?

It's no use crying over spilled milk!

I recently heard on Bloomberg that there is an increasing trend of young college graduates becoming entrepreneurs, primarily because they can't find a job when they graduate. I admire them and the fact that they decide to take their lives into their own hands and attempt to make it on their own.

But how do you know if an entrepreneur's life is right for you?

Well, the answer used to be about risk. If you want a safe and low risk job, where you have a paycheck coming every two weeks to pay your bills – go find a job somewhere. Unfortunately (or fortunately), you really can't find that safety in the job market these days.

When I graduated college, I was fortuante enough to have three really good options:

  1. Enter Corporate America – luckily I had a great internship at a great company which offered me a great job with great opportunity as a web programmer.
  2. Join a Small Entrepreneurial Business - throughout the school year, I was the lead programmer for a small four person web design firm and I had the opportunity to join full time to help build the business.
  3. Become and Entrepreneur – I have always had the American Dream mentality, in wanting to be an entrepreneur. Be my own boss, but more importantly, be in charge of my own personal destiny.

So how did I make the decision?

  1. Decide what you want short-term. First I decided I had to figure out what I really wanted. I realized that while I was a young recent college grad, I wanted to have the ability to experience as much as possible from life while I didn't have a family. I wanted the ability to travel, ski, go out with friends and not worry about running out of money.
  2. Decide what you want long-term. I also realized that longer-term, I wanted a good safety net so I can live comfortably during retirement. My thought at the time was that I was unwilling to sacrifice today for tomorrow, but still wanted to make sure I was prepared for the long-term.
  3. Decide on a strategy to get your long-term goal and choose the one that will most likely make you succeed. I realized there were a lot of strategies to achieve my long-term goal. I could risk it out in the entrepreneurial world, I could try and help the small business grow and reap the rewards, or I could take the safe route in a corporate job and be sure that I would achieve my short-term goals.

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I decided to take the least risky route and take a corporate job. I'm really glad I did. In my corporate job, I have learned extremely valuable lessons about how the business world works. I learned the ins and outs of all aspects of mature businesses and have learned countless technical skills that would have been very hard to learn as an entrepreneur.

Some entrepreneurs will argue that it's actually a bad thing. Entrepreneurs believe that in order to truly be innovative and successful, you can't be “brainwashed” into the way of doing things in the corporate world. While I somewhat agree and understand that perspective, I also think it's important to understand that corporate world and how it works.

If you are an entrepreneur, you want to understand how to sell B2B, you should know how business works out there! As a recent college grad, it's really difficult to understand that world without living in it for a few years.

Sure, eventually I may become an entrepreneur or self-employed, but I'm still learning every day and enhancing my skills at my corporate job. I really feel like I'm growing as an individual and I have the ability to excel at my job.

I think it's really great that there are more college entrepreneurs for a lot of reasons.

  • Drives Innovation – the only way to gain true disruption to the status quo is to come with a brand new perspective. If you are not “brainwashed”, that perspective is much more likely to come out.
  • Creates New Jobs – there are only a certain amount of jobs in the job market these days. The only way to create new jobs for America is by creating new companies that create new products for a new customer need!
  • Changes Mindset from being “factory workers” to leaders - Seth Godin claims that everything (and everyone) can be commoditized in this global world (Linchpin) and I think that's true. The only way you can truly succeed is through original thought and then having the courage to see the idea through fruition. There are plenty of web programmers out there who can push out code – there are few that can create new applications that have never been developed before.

Bottom line is you have to continuously evaluate whether you are getting nearer towards your short-term and long-term goals. You have to understand the risks and weigh the options every few months.

If you think you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur… by all means do it! Try now while you are young and have relatively less responsibility. But if you feel like you need more on-the-job education, the corporate route is not a bad option either.

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Should I take just any job or wait for the one I want?

Your job decision is driven by a number of competing factors:
• Student loans that are due.
• You want to move out on your own.
• You want to purchase a car.
• You want to do the things you studied about and were excited about in school.
• You want to move into a new geographic location.
• Your family and/or significant other have expectations you would like to meet.

……and others that I am sure each of us could continue to add to this list.

When looking for a job you need to balance all of your drivers and identify which ones are most critical for you. Steven Covey in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” book defines Habit 2 as “Begin With The End In Mind”. As you consider which job to take, knowing the end you are seeking will help you make the right choice. The one thing you do not want to do is to think with your gut. i.e. get excited that you have a job offer on the table and simply take it because it’s there.

Defining your “End” in the ideal world is straight forward. You would consider only a few critical issues:

What kind of work excites you and what are your strongest skills?

In this ideal world the work that excites you and your strongest skills are also perfectly aligned. All other factors are superfluous and can be ignored.

But in the real world your “End” is never that clear. In defining it, you will need to balance all your identified competing drivers and desired outcomes. It’s best to be methodical in making your decision. When working on solving problems, I always found it best to put everything down on paper (or computer screen). Somehow the act of writing (typing) legitimizes issues and prevents you from overlooking any.

Capture your current drivers for getting a job, your short and long term goals and then use that list when evaluating which job to apply for and/ or which job to accept. Ideally this balancing was performed up front and served as a basis for deciding which jobs to apply for.

If you did not do this and instead opted for the shotgun method of job hunting; not to worry! You can sit back and with offers in hand and perform the same exercise. But whether you do this up front or at the end, make sure to understand the “End” you are looking for before you accept a job.

So in looking back at the question “Should I take any job…”,the right answer is NO.

Accept the job that best aligns with your goals.

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How to Choose the Right Job Out of College

Let's face it – as a recent college graduate, you are in the very first stage of your career. You successfully completed all your required courses and have that valuable degree that boasts at least part of your worth as a prospective employee.

College, of course, does not prepare you for a very specific job. Instead, it prepares you with the fundamental frameworks and knowledge you need to start off on the right track in your new position.

You might have majored in something like nursing, physical therapy, computer science, finance, teaching, economics, business, or marketing. With a teaching degree, for example, you could be a science teacher, a professor, an elementary school teacher, a curriculum designer, a high school administrator, or an eLearning specialist.

But how do you choose what career suits you best?

On top of that, your prospectives employers want to know that you are committed to the exact job they are hiring for. Why would a high school Principal invest time and money in you as a high school administrator when you are also debating becoming a college professor?

Employers want to know that you are looking for a job for the long haul and it's your responsibility to prove it to them!

Before you make a decision, here are a few guiding principles to consider:

  1. Experiment! And find your passion. You are at the beginning of your career and should experiment as much as possible before you really commit your time and effort to a very specialized career. You will never succeed in a job that you are not passionate about, so it's important to find that passion early on.
  2. Past, Present and Future Story should make sense. At the same time, you have to have a good story to convince your prospective employer that you are there for the long haul. For example, it's reasonable to say that you want to be a web programmer because you majored in web programming and eventually you want to manage a web development company. It's also reasonable to say you majored in education, want to be a high school teacher now but then eventually work towards becoming a college professor. This shows that you are passionate about teaching and have career direction. It shows that you have made a well-thought-out decision about your career.
  3. Spend time finding the right job, but not too much time. While it's quite understandable that it might take some time to find the right job out of college, prospective employers frown upon large gaps in time while not pursuing your career of choice. Sure, it's reasonable to say that you took two or three months to travel after college, but it's not okay to say you bar tended for a year because you didn't know what job you wanted out of college. If you need to take a job to fill in the gap between graduation and your career, take it to pay the bills. But don't get stuck in that job for long! Continue diligently working towards finding the career you want.
  4. Talking and Networking are the Key! Talk to as many people as you can about as many jobs as possible. Ask them what they like and don't like about their jobs. Ask them what their day consists of. Ask them what their future prospects are. Make as many professional contacts as possible. Feel free to use professional networking websites like LinkedIn and the online professional communities therein to learn more about various careers. Not only will this help you make the decision, but will also help you sell yourself to your prospective employers.
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If you need more help on how to choose the right job out of college, check out Module 5 on Choosing Between Offers. It will walk you through how to choose the right position.

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Hiring Managers Focus on Value… Not Your Experience, per se

Have you ever taken a class where the professor absolutely terrible and simply could not teach to save his life despite his tenure?

In business school, I took an advanced finance valuation class with a nobeloriate economics professor who was constantly interviewed on Bloomberg and quoted in The Economist. I was really excited for the opportunity to learn from this world-renowned opinion leader.

During the first class, however, I came to the realization that I would not learn anything from this man. He rambled, did not formulate coherent and logical thoughts, and didn’t really seem to care that his students learned anything. I stuck with it for the rest of class, squeezed by with a B and left the course disappointed to say the least.

I made a classic ”hiring” mistake in choosing to take a class with this guy.

Decent hiring managers and recruiters look beyond the awards, accomplishments and years of experience of a candidate. They are able to assess whether you have the potential to produce the value they are looking for in a job. If you look at it from their perspective, they don’t care that you took relevant courses, have a decent GPA and earned a few academic excellence awards – they care that those are proof of the value you are capable of producing. So what does that mean for you?

When writing your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letters, make sure you focus on how your experiences prove that you can generate value for the company. Use the 4S Test to ensure that you are using your experience to clearly articulate how you will produce value.

With the proliferation of technologies like TripAdvisor, Twitter, or Digg, consumers are able to use access to others’ experiences to rate the value of what they are getting.

On Twitter, if you find a Twitter user who produces valuable information, you will follow him or her. If you don’t see value, you won’t follow them. On Trip Advisor, travelers rate their experience at various resorts and hotels. It doesn’t matter how well the hotel advertises and markets their hotel – if TripAdvisor says that the hotel was terrible, travelers will not go there.

The point is, don’t rely solely on your job experiences, course work and awards to prove that you will do well in a potential job. You really need to exhibit value to the employer for them to hire you.

Here are some ways you can prove your value to potential employers:

  1. Create a professional blog or twitter handle (see Module 3 for how to create a professional blog that will market you professionally). By posting innovative ideas and thoughts, you can show your prospective employer that you are a good problem solver and innovative thinker.
  2. Offer to do a quick project for them for free. For example, if you are a graphics artist, programmer or columnist, offer to produce a small piece of work for free to solve one of their problems. Not only will this increase your chances to prove that you can produce value, but it will also allow for further understanding of the company’s current situation. If you know what problems the company is dealing with, it opens the dialogue for future opportunities for you to help.
  3. Guest lecture at your old high school or mentor students in your field of study. If you have multiple guest lectures, it means that your high school found value in your speech. If you have multiple mentees, it means you are producing value to those students. It further proves that you are valuable to others.

Bottom line – don’t just throw around experience – satisfy their qualms by really proving to them that you will be a value producing employee.

 

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Prepare a Career Roadmap

Career roadmap signDeveloping a career roadmap for yourself is probably the most important introspective exercise that you could go through while preparing yourself for the job application process. It helps shape what you want and explains why you want it. It creates a story that is compelling and convincing. It shows that you have meticulously planned your life and that your success at this next job fits perfectly with your plan for your future.

If you can convince yourself and your prospective employer that this job is exactly what you want, your prospective employer will feel much more confident that you are going to work extremely hard and diligently to achieve your goals – which is inherently, in your employers best interest (see symbiotic relationship between you and your employer).

So where do you start? This exercise should take approximately 45 – 60 minutes. Start with a clean sheet of paper, a pencil and a room with no cell phones, computers, people or TV to distract you. If music makes you creative and productive like it does for me, turn it up to 11. Then do the following to create your career roadmap:

Preparation:

  1. Place the paper down on the table in landscape format.
  2. Draw a horizontal line across the middle of the page. This line represents your life.
  3. Draw a short vertical line down the middle of the page, intersecting your horizontal line. This line represents today.
  4. Starting at the left-end of the page, draw a vertical line representing your high-school graduation and beginning of your college career.

Your History:

  1. Above the horizontal line, identify 1-3 major accomplishments or experiences for each year between high school graduation and college that directly relate to your area of study or professional interests. Be concise. Really work to identify the most important accomplishments. Maybe it was a successful project, a recognition, successful completion of an internship, an inspirational class, or a career-shaping career interview with a mentor.
  2. Below the horizontal line, identify 1-3 major skills or strengths that you developed for each year between high school graduation and college that directly relate to your area of study or professional interests.
  3. Once you are done, review all your experiences and accomplishments above the line and draw a star next to the the top 2-4 you are most proud of.
  4. Then review all your strengths and skills and circle the top 2-3 that are your greatest strengths.

Your Future:

  1. Next, close your eyes and visualize your ideal career. What are you doing? How do you describe that career to your friends? What does your day look like? Who are you working with? What kind of company are you working for? What is your boss like? Who are you helping in your job?

10.  With the answers to those questions in the back of your mind, start at the middle of the page above the horizontal line and identify the 5-7 professional career accomplishments you would like to have in the next ten years. Is it to manage a department of your own? Is it to manage a portfolio? Is it to manage people? Try and stay away from goals like “managing a lot of people or making a lot of money”. Really get at the crux of the goal. Is it to help as many patients as possible? Is it to work for a great company that makes a difference in the environment? If you have a mission statement, think about the steps you need to achieve that vision? These will form the basis of your career roadmap.

11.  Below the horizontal line, write down the major skills and strengths you will need to achieve those 5-7 accomplishments. Do you need to learn how to manage a team of people? Do you need to learn how to work with customers or patients? Do you need to learn more about how businesses operate? Do you need to become a better writer? Do you need to learn to speak a new language? Or program in a new language?

Tell your Story:

12.  Now pretend you are retiring as a successful professional. You accomplished everything you wanted to achieve in your career. On the back of the paper, write down how you did it.

13.  Write down bullets with transitions from each experience. Use the strengths and skills you developed below the horizontal line to use as a transition between accomplishments. For example, if you want to become a manager of people, tell the story of how you did it: I new that I wanted to be a manager of people because I wanted to make a greater impact in the world, so I applied and achieved my MBA to hone those skills. After I managed a small group of people, I developed leadership abilities by becoming a mentor to some of my employees. Really work to visualize the story in the past tense.

14. You might be wondering what you should do with the stars and circles on the left-hand side of the page. These will help tell the story of the transition between the past and the present. When you start preparing for your interview (module 4), hone in on the major accomplishments of your past and the strengths you developed.  Talk about how each of your top 2-4 accomplishments and top 2-3 strengths or skills make you the perfect candidate for this particular position.

If you want the complete module on how to build and plan your career roadmap, and then translate it into your interview, see module 4. It will also provide samples and templates of valuable career roadmaps.

Career roadmaps help you formalize your story – both the past and the present. If you can tell a convincing story of how you are going to achieve your professional goals and those steps are in line with what the employer is looking for, you are far more likely to get that dream job.

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Visualizing the Perfect Job Interview

The perfect job interviewProfessional athletes have a lot to teach you about the perfect job interview. When you talk to any successful competitive athlete he or she will attest to the value of visualization strategies. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, Lindsey Vonn crashed very hard on one of her runs, to the point that she had to be helicoptered to the nearest hospital where she suffered a badly bruised back and hip.

But the next day, she was back on the slopes racing where she placed 8th despite her injuries. When asked how, she talked about how she visualized the race at the hospital at least twenty times. She said she saw every mogul and visualized every turn. She visualized the transition from one edge to the other and she visualized how she was feeling at every turn. At the race, her subconscious brain took over and executed the race just as she saw it the day before.

It’s not just athletes who use visualization techniques either. Every time I prepare for a classical piano concert, I visualize every note I will play. I think about how I will feel in front of the audience and visualize in my mind how I will transition from the pre-concert jitters to a fully-confident perfect execution. With these visualizations, I can put myself into a state where I’m guaranteed to succeed.

Preparing for a perfect job interview should not be any different. Starting about a week before your interview, start with a full review of your resume, LinkedIn profile and website portfolio. If you haven’t prepared any of these, sign up to receive the free mini-course module which will walk you through the process of creating a killer resume to get your foot in the door, a professional LinkedIn profile which will provide substantive evidence that you are qualified, and a website portfolio that will exhibit the work you have done in your past.

While reviewing your resume, practice out loud how your interview will go. Most interviewers will at some point during the interview ask about the experiences on your resume. Visualize the question being asked and begin preparing:

  1. Write it Down: Start by jotting down some major key points you want to mention in each resume experience.
  2. Practice it in Your Head: Once you have the major key points written down, begin practicing the answer in your head.
  3. Say it Out Loud: Once you are comfortable with the material in your head, start practicing it out loud – at first to yourself, and then ask someone to sit in front of you and ask the question.
  4. Visualize the Entire Interview at least five times: Really visualize what the perfect job interview would be for you. Start with how you walk in, how you shake the interviewers hand, how you are sitting, how you are feeling, and the tone of your voice. Visualize the facial expressions on your face and how you answer the questions.

Practicing the questions about the experiences on your resume will put you in a confident state in answering other questions the interviewer may ask you.

If you really want to nail the interview, identify various questions an interviewer might ask you given your job application, resume, LinkedIn profile and website portfolio.

Some example questions are:

  1. Why did you pick your college major?
  2. What are you most proud of?
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Where do you see yourself in three years? Five years? Ten years?
  5. Tell me about this volunteer project you worked on.

Visualization is an extremely powerful tool in every aspect of your life. It works while pursuing athletic goals, preparing for presentations or even tough conversations with your significant other.

Visualization allows your brain (your most powerful tool) to prepare itself for the action once you are really there. Throughout the Job Out of College training modules, you will encounter visualization exercises to help guide you through the application process. Although it may seem “hokey” – it’s powerful beyond belief and will surely lead you closer to achieving the career of your dreams, which starts of course with the perfect job interview.

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Should I take any job I can get when I graduate?

So you’ve been trying to find a job for the last few weeks or months, but nothing seems to pan out. You did most things right: you did well in school, you took a few internships, you know exactly what job you want, but every time you apply for the perfect position, you end up not getting the job. Your money situation is get tough, your parents are on your back, and you are starting to get depressed that your friends are all starting their careers while you sift through job applications. You are starting to wonder if you should just take any job to make ends meet and at least not have a huge gap in your resume, only to have to explain it to a prospective employer later on. After all, you can work and then look for jobs at night, right?

We have seen this scenario many times before. Unfortunately, with tough economic times and with lots of experienced individuals out in the job market, it’s making it even more difficult to land a job out of college than ever before. So what’s our advice?

Really push yourself as much as possible to look for the job that is right for you.

Don’t just take any job that pays you money, keeps your parents off your back and keeps you occupied during the day. Every day that goes by that you work in an “in-between” job, you are subconsciously convincing yourself that your life is good right now.

Fight that downward spiral towards mediocrity with all your strength!

You may not find your dream job right away – in fact, it’s highly unlikely (check out Passion Module). However, you can take a first job that will set you up for the career of your dreams.

Prospective employers are looking to see that you are truly passionate about the job you are applying for. For college graduates, employers want to see that you are pursuing a career in a methodical and well-planned roadmap and not just looking to take any job that comes along.

They want to know that you chose that entry level job at a financial firm because you wanted to gain exposure to the “business of finance” since you eventually want to become a portfolio manager. Or they want to know that you took a secretary position at a health center because you want to network with doctors to eventually become a nurse practitioner.

So what are some guidelines in determining whether your first job sets you up for success?

  1. Is it in the industry that you studied in school? If you studied finance and wanted to be a broker, are you working in a financial company?
  2. Can you tell a story that supports your career roadmap? Can you explain why you chose the job besides simply “I needed a job because I needed money at the time”
  3. Will it develop your professional skills? Even if you are working in the right industry, does the job grant you access to develop your skills through experience? Does it allow you to talk to doctors about the medical profession in the off-times? Does it give you access to health care professionals to learn a few things about being a nurse practitioner?

If you are really pressed for money and must take any job you can find (and it’s impossible to meet these three criteria), make sure at you are doing everything in your power to do something in your off time that helps develop you. For example, you could:

  • take an extra course at a local community college
  • join a networking group in your industry
  • volunteer at your high school and give guest lectures on your college major
  • write a professional blog every night to maintain your skills in your major

It’s very easy for individuals to get comfortable in their lives. You have a job and you make ends meet. Its not your dream job, but you are living comfortably enough to stay off your streets.

Get angry! Find the fire and realize that its not the job you want and that every day you work in that job gets you exponentially further away from your dream job.

Work every day to pursue the jobs of your dreams that you are passionate about and don’t just take any job that comes along just because it’s been offered to you!

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The benefits of connecting with others like you on LinkedIn

 

vault door

LinkedIn can help you open doors that would otherwise remain sealed.

Know why LinkedIn is so powerful? Because of the old saying that if you can’t get through the door, you should try a window!

Sound words of advice instrumental in maintaining the “stick-to-it-iveness” for success in any endeavor!

Regardless of my attempts to meticulously follow job search instructions from a multitude of expert recruiters, I could never get past the gatekeeper or beyond the “black hole” of applying online for the jobs in which I would honestly work free of charge for the experience. Motivated and inspired by my desire to become a linchpin for organizations (see Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?) I ventured out of my comfort zone and decided to join the ranks of the multitude of socialites connected through LinkedIn. I created an account with minimal credentials just to get my foot in the door and to see what the hype was all about. (Steps on how to create an account will follow.) Nothing I have attempted to do before in getting a job has helped me more to understand who I am and what I am passionate about doing in my life, than this simple membership in a network of people like me. Allow me to share some advice on just one approach you might consider in expanding your job search methods.

Some first steps

Always proceed methodically and cautiously in setting up a profile in LinkedIn or in any other social media network. After all, first impressions are the most important especially in cyberspace with its instantaneous availability of information broadcast throughout the world. Start by simply “checking out the place.” It can take weeks to tweak and refine your self-image, but the experience can be enlightening and gratifying. It can certainly facilitate your ability to understand exactly what putting your best foot forward really means.

Join groups to “meet” people with the same passions and interests as yours. The enthusiasm, knowledge and further pursuits of group members in your field of interests are infectious and inspiring in the best of ways. Make note of how groups communicate with members and how individuals express and promote themselves. Choose someone to model by determining who and what sounds good to you. You have to be in it to win it, so be a productive and active member in your group. Get in on the discussion when you are ready, and “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others…” (Desiderata, Max Ehrmann).

Accept invitations to connect with people you know who now see you in the network. Search for friends and acquaintances and reciprocate to see what they have been up to while doing good things with their lives.

What amazes me most is how quickly I was able to connect on LinkedIn with someone previously protected by a gatekeeper whose words “You shall not pass!” continue to echo in my ears until today. My invitation to connect with this particular hiring manager was accepted! I made it in through the window, and now I’m getting ready to demonstrate what I can potentially bring to this organization’s table. This next task will require me to summarize my qualifications and achievements by implementing the “4S Test”. Take care to prepare your LinkedIn profile the right way the first time. It is the most critical step in getting in through that window.

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