Saturday, February 28, 2009

in a nutshell

Pop quiz - name some famous couples.  Ready?  Okay... here we go... Lewis and Clark. Rock and roll. Peanut butter and jelly.  Resume and cover letter! [Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?] Where would we be without the favorite companion of the resume – the illustrious cover letter. Oh yes, that swell pastime of sitting and staring at a blank computer screen or piece of paper, trying to summon the gods of writing to help convey your awesome skills and abilities as a potential employee. Sigh, oh how I love delivering myself genuinely time and time again through this one-dimensional communication channel. Arg.

How does one compose a cover letter that connects you with a position and an employer? What words can a person arrange on a page that could possibly launch the hiring manager into action? Surely, putting due consideration into purpose, audience, content, and format are all elements to getting your cover letter to jump to the top of the stack. But let's be realistic and agree that the best way to make things happen is a good old bribe. That never goes out of style. Clearly, I am kidding folks, but here are a few cover letter resources to make the heavens part and deliver you a job, or at darn least an interview!

1) Need some literary handholding? Consider using this pdf worksheet.

2) Maybe you have all the right things to say but you just need a template to get you formatted and moving. My first recommendation is to hit up your local word processing application like Word. If you don’t have Word or are in need of an online template, then Google docs is sporting a great new beta tool you should check out made FOR cover letters.

3) If you are at a total loss and can’t seem to lay anything to a page about yourself, then check out this database of cover letters applicable to many different fields of work.

4) Lastly, this super nice lady has some keen insights about effective cover letters that speaks for itself.

Enjoy, my soon to be employed comrades! 

Monday, February 23, 2009

the whole nine yards

And the resume info keeps on rollin'...

It’s always possible that you, dear user, are an audio learner. If this is the case, then perhaps the podcast is your key method of learning. There are many available online. Anyone can listen in on this Columbia U. podcast but only affiliated students can get the teleseminar materials that are referenced. If you don't attend Columbia, do not fret.  Contact your alma matter to make sure they offer similar support. In the following YouTube video/podcast, you can see how the author uses PowerPoint to walk through the basic components of the resume: 

Before I jump off the career assistance topic of your beloved college or university, I do want to provide you with an excellent info packet that I know has helped me move forward on a few of my resume strategies. Again, I implore you to shake down your universities career resource office to help you in any way they can. For my fellow Columbia students, the Career Education dept offers many resources for our search.

For some of us, this is all too much work and we would rather be logging Facebook hours, watching as many Instant Netflicks as possible [did you know they have a career selection?], or playing Wii until the wee hours of the morning. Sound familiar? If so, there are an amazing number of paid ways to go. Careerbeam offers a service at ten bucks a month with the option to upgrade to some super sweet online product offereings like a seminar series. Another pay for resource is Peterson's Resume Edge. These guys work with the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo Hot Jobs.

If you’ve got the green backs and are looking for a resource that’s not online, then consider different software packages. About a thousand years ago, I got the Resume Maker suite that helped me put my first out-of-college resume together. Granted, the software doesn’t give you that much-needed-experience-just-out-of-school, but it did help me craft what to say about where I wanted to go. Although I am talking about having been a recent college grad when I was working with this resume resource - don’t dis it as a vet of the working world. It works for all experience levels.

This next resume resource does sneak into the social networking area, but it’s just too cool to step over or wait for. This web resource, from Peterson's RE, helps you publish an online resume. Looking to share just a link instead of passing the paper version? In ten minutes, your resume can have a URL of its very own. Here’s my jake version:

Now THIS, my friends, is an interesting place to sit online. At the Visual CV web site, users are not only able to establish themselves online, BUT may also add many different multi-media elements to round out the resume to provide more of an electronic portfolio. What better way to impress prospective employers than with actual work or accomplishments?! Check out what this guy did.
This is definitely a great place for folks who need to showcase their projects or talents. Don't just leave this for the artistic types. Upload examples of campaigns you've worked with, proposals you've developed, or any variety of bigger then text examples of your accomplishments.

Lastly, if you are looking to work the system to make money, then this recent paid search ad might interest you:
Do you have any other unique resume approaches that have been successful for you? Blog me back, baby!

everything from soup to nuts

As I sat watching the Oscars last night I wondered what some of the beautiful people’s resumes read like. What are the words that describe these folks in the dazzling tuxes and sparkling gowns? I know I can check out the always illuminating IMDB but have you ever seen an actors resume? They have to list ANYTHING that could get them a gig. I’m sure speaking foreign languages, juggling cats, crying on the spot [always wished I could do that] all pop up on the old thespian resume.

But take a look around you. Everyone is becoming a superstar online. The Internet gives us access to managing our own personal brand image. We may not be dating Leo, we may not wear Galliano but because of the web we now have the opportunity to represent online like never before. This idea plays out more around social networking which we’ll get to soon enough but where has it always been present? On paper, folks - your good old-fashioned resume.

In the last six+ years of living in the city, I have gotten the advice from several professionals about always having the resume waiting in updated form. Here in the city, there is an Always Be Looking attitude amongst young executives. Despite that advice, I really only updated my resume when a job change was just around the corner.

For me, that was managing who I looked like on paper every couple of years. Now because of sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIN, folks are managing what they look like on a daily basis. But let me pull back on the social networking rains for a sec. What we are talking about today is a person’s resume. That special piece of paper that can sum you up in seconds and tells the world of your accomplishments. Yes that, dear friends, is what were going to dive into now.

It’s safe to say there is a truckload of info about resumes out there on the net. Some are harmless like a mom and pop web site but others might strip you of everything, including your digital dignity. [didn’t think you had that, did you?] 

This week, I will to point you in the direction of a few different online resources. As usual, I hope you leave a comment if you happen to know of or use a service that is stellar and can help everyone else.

Just wanna be honest with you folks. There’s a few things that I do well, but can’t say that I am a pro resume writer. What I can do to assist you in this area is track down good ideas. I will not personally be telling you – This Is How You Do It. There are a lot more qualified folks out there to help. Here are some of them…

The team at Career Planning has a plethora of articles to help us. The resume section is quite robust and leads a person from start to finish. Check it out:

Resume Writing Basics
Review: The Resume Catalog
Lying On Your Resume
Putting Together An ASCII Resume
Keyword e-Resume Tutorial
Free Resume Banks
Why Employers Use Resume Banks

Don’t know about you guys, but there’s nothing I love more in the world then a super fun check list. The team at Monster walks us through the Have You's of proper resume writing:

More 2morrow on The Wonderful World o' Resumes...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

take the ball and run with it

It’s time. Time to put down the remote control. Time to put your iTunes music organization project on hold. Time to be in action. Think back to what we have been through, my 18 blog following buddies! After we met online we talked about a number of career obstacles and opportunities, like what difficult times we’re facing on the front lines of unemployment. We considered what life would look like if we had a career coach. We even dabbled in continuing education. But in the end, y’all, we’ve got to put down the snackie cake and get a move on. We can do it together. Hold hands as we cross the information super highway. Next stop – research and preparation.

Let’s be clear about what we want here. Make a list of what you want in exchange for a paycheck every week. Take a look at your past experiences and see what worked for you and what didn’t. We can’t launch into action looking for something if we are unclear about what we are searching for. For example, I would flounder in a job that didn’t challenge me. I need fast paced environments and to be surrounded by people that are thinkers, creators, and committed to open communication. That declaration itself automatically eliminates a ton of industries, jobs, and companies that would not be a good fit for me. Think about it for yourself. Know where you need to go.

For those of you sitting at a computer terminal in an Internet cafĂ©, put another five bucks on your machine tab because it’s research time. Jump onto companies web sites. Check out their About Us, Media, or Press Room sections. Companies might seem like giant faceless entities, but behind those corporate glass doors are people just like you and me.

Clearly, company web sites will tell you simply wonderful things about the organization but don’t stop your search there. What is the rest of the world saying about the company you are thinking about working for? Check out news and information sites, recent articles and online profiles. For this, head to Hoover's or Vault. A little light reading could also come from picking up a (public) company's annual report. Super fast short cut: Google them.

A quick way to put your ear to the ground is to check out career groups and forums. Craigslist has sprung up everywhere. Start listening to your job market area today, click here for NYC.

If you are a percent person – I’ll leave you with this:'s survey "2009 Job Forecast"
  • 19 percent of workers' New Year's resolutions include finding a new job. The same amount plan to leave their current job by the end of the year.
  • 47 percent of workers planning to find a new job this year cite better compensation and/or career advancement opportunities as their primary reasons. 
  • 8 percent want to venture into a completely different career than their current ones. 
  • 80 percent of workers claim they aren't actively looking for a new job, but they would be open to one if the right opportunity presents itself.
  • 35 percent of workers did not receive a raise in 2008.
  • 80 percent of workers did not ask for or receive promotions.
  • 54 percent of workers say that their workloads have increased over the last six months.
  • 20 percent of employers say they take two months or longer to fill their open positions. 
  • 23 percent of employers will decrease their recruitment budgets this year.
  • 19 percent will devote more recruitment dollars to online hiring, such as generalist sites, niche boards and local job boards.

Monday, February 16, 2009

step up to the plate

It’s becoming clear to me that I am in a circular conversation that I can’t get out of. ["Look kids, Big Ben – Parliament."]

Nik: Hi [insert new persons name]
New person: Hi, nice to meet you. So what do you do?
Nik: Oh, well I’m looking for a job.
Person: Interesting. How’s that going?
Nik: [gulp of stiff drink] Gonna start looking tomorrow!
[and repeat]

That’s pretty much how it goes here in the city. What’s your name? What do you do? These questions give most New Yorkers the two-second insight they need to sum up a person. [if you get a ‘where do you live’ question, then another whole level of deep and rich demographic info is available to judge a person by]

It’s easy to see how looking for a job can get a guy or gal down in the dumps. The good news is – there’s good news. Resources are out there to help us in either direction we decide to go:

5 Custom Solutions by Marty Nemko breaks down your sad stories and offers a nifty two-week get’er done schedule. I like day seven.

10 Reasons Procrastination Is Good For You by Mark D Fillz gives ten swell reasons to justify your sad stories. Again, I like number seven.

But really there are tons of options to keep up the positive attitude during our job safari search. Have an iPod or MP3 player? Download an audio book. You can nab Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat Guide to Your Job Search for under ten bucks on iTunes.

Personally, I am a fan of thinking happy thoughts.

schedule a knowledge transfer

Friends, buddies, peers, peeps, homies, random strangers – hello again from the online waters of BKLYN! 

Have you ever considered continuing education? Maybe for some of us it’s finishing that high school or college degree. For others, it’s the conversation that flirts with going back and getting the old masters. We’re also talking about straight up continuing ed. Come on, fellow procrastinators - this job market stinks. [NY just passed the THIRD emergency unemployment extension for a total of 33 extra weeks] What better thing for you to do with your time then become super educated, never mind the outrageous student loans. You know your credit card debt wants a friend.

I am Nikki’s contempt for mounting grad school loans [mind the language kids]. But aside from my moaning, becoming more qualified to have that job you always wanted is a route for your unemployed spinning wheels. There are some pretty solid benefits to getting back into academia beyond student rate discounts at museums. For instance, networking, which we’ll talk about later, is a great student perk. Networking with fellow students [at the grad school level this can be an impressive crowd] or industry leaders can open conversations for future opportunities.

Most prestigious college and universities, as well as your more affordable community colleges, offer opportunities to peek into areas of study without making the commitment to full-time student status. Consider, if you will, the NYU continuing ed catalog. It offers more class then some colleges. If you can’t find a class you want, you can at least collect many of the thick books and build a house with them. [you know somewhere in the city, some smart homeless person is sitting like a king in his own catalog castle]

Bottom line, higher education has frequently been the shelter for professionals during difficult economic times. Consider coming in out of the cold. For those of you who suffer from banner blindness, the University of Phoenix offers distance learning. Maybe it’s right for you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

let's take a look at the big picture

Sometimes you just need professional help and no I don’t mean the psychiatrist sort [although that’s never a bad idea]. I mean more like a professional career development coach. I recently attended a workshop here in NYC called Discovering Your Soul’s Work. During the lunch break I caught up with the woman running the course. Allie Roth is the founder of the Center for Creativity and Work and is a career coach with more than twenty-five years’ experience in creativity, wellness and career development.

During our interview, Allie shared with me that we can’t separate our careers from what is happening in the economy. Allie definitely hit a cord with me when she mentioned individuals feeling like they forgot their souls and have lost the focus of who they are and the greater contributions they could be making. During the class, Allie talked with the two dozen or so students about feeling overwhelmed by these issues, but perhaps these hardships in our lives have happened to help point the way.

Quieting the mind, not giving way to the voice of fear, urgency, and external worry are all different suggestions she offers to find balance and positive footing. Doing this gives way to letting “creativity surface” and being able to find “your work in the world”. One method Allie suggests is journaling. There are tons of different online options to do this. I like Live Journal

"Technology can be a distraction. It can also enhance the human experience. We’re living in an exciting time” Allie tells me. So where do I go with this? The two-decade veteran tells me to reframe my current job to fit a new career platform. Ok, what if I don’t have one? Next recommendation: “What do you have in your life right now that creates an opportunity to bridge to where you want to be?” Great, just what I wanted, career homework.

Friends, you will be glad to know that if you are feeling left out of my workshop experience that somewhere near you a coach is glad to help. Interested in Allie? Good news, you can connect with her via Skype. Don’t look for the woman in Second Life. She’s keepin’ it real in-person, by web cam, or email.

If coaches aren't your thing, maybe you have heard of the Myers-Briggs analysis. This is what I think/this is who I am/this is what I should do – kinda thing. Answer a bunch of questions; see where you fall on the map. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about or have never taken the test, don’t fear – click here. The provided link takes you to a site that does a free, mini example of assessing who you are and what you might possibly be interested in doing based on your answers. FYI folks, there are more robust systems out there for self-assessment, but being low on dough or lacking the desire to give away my private contact info – this is what I got. Know of something else? I would love to hear. As it stands, the quiz told me that I am social, enterprising, and artistic. Last note, this is just a sneaking suspicion but I think the site might be funded by big brother!  ;-)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

it's crunch time

Having a father that worked for his entire adult life at one job has left me with the experience of seeing that at any given downward economic time, his friends and co-workers could be laid off. Our parents [I’m 32] were in for the long haul when they came out of college. Here, now, in NYC - it’s more like every 2-5 years we make a switch. Maybe if we look at this moment like it is as it should be – we can find opportunity amongst the madness. What can I learn from where I am right now?

Personal example: I am currently unemployed [for real].
Opportunity to be realized: I have the time to seriously vet out my options and match my interests and experience to the best possible company/organization. I’m not stuck in something just to pay the bills.

In reality, I’ve got handfuls of friends that are sitting on the bench and not out on the court playing full-time. Seriously, think about it for a sec. How many of YOUR friends and family don’t have a job? [no really, stop and count then post your number or story on the blog] I have so many friends out of work in so many different positions that I could gather us all and start a company just by being able to fill positions because of enormous skill and talent availability. Heck, even in my grad school classes or sitting around with friends getting a drink, a general roll call is given to find out who still has work. Good news/bad news, this too shall pass – but WHEN?! These guys say there's hope in the next couple months, but hey you employed people, does this seem likely? 10 Predictions for 2009. So what do we do now? More on that to come. Can you feel the tension building?

there is no *I* in team

Greetings online friends and neighbors. I've got an invitation for you. I ask you to join me on an adventure. An electronic adventure to explore the online world around us and how we can navigate this landscape to get paid and be happy. We’re talking about exploring ourselves through Internet career development, folks. 

Some of us will take this journey from the lonely waters of unemployment. Some of us are reading ahead because they feel the world is about to crash around them and are looking for safe ground. The lucky folks who still have a place to go 9-5 might be feeling like there is something else out there, that this just isn’t it. Greater good people, greater good. Does living the dream, doing good, and giving back through your job feel good to anyone else out there? If I got a yes from you, then you got a friend in me. 

So how’s about you and me head off into this crazy online space and see what we can find about who we are, what skills we have that we alone express uniquely, and how those elements construct to build a purpose for us. How will we make all these connections? Come with me and I’ll show you. Just a heads up - I’ve got a few ideas but this is a journey for all of us. I might uncover only a fraction of what’s out there. It’s a dense jungle of possibilities that is easier explored and compiled together. So how about it - you in?

If you decide to forge ahead, turn to page 4.
If you decide to turn back, turn to page 5.

Stay tuned...