Go Google yourself

It’s Valentine’s Day, so many of us will spend time thinking of our loved ones today. But don’t forget to consider the person that each of us truly loves most – ourselves. When you’re not spending time picking up flowers for a partner or meeting a friend for a late Galentine’s Day drink, show yourself a little attention by typing your name into Google or another search engine.

Why Google yourself?

We might think we’re aware of the information about ourselves that appears on our social media profiles and the websites that we’re mentioned on, but over time, not-so-flattering things can slip through the cracks.

Googling yourself is the best way to know how you come across to people that want to learn more about you. In professional settings, these folks include hiring managers, recruiters, colleagues and clients.

Frighteningly, nearly half of American adults report that their Google results aren’t positive. Don’t be part of this statistic! It’s imperative that you know about anything that could tarnish your reputation so that you can be proactive about removing these digital “blemishes.”

When reviewing your search results, keep the following points in mind:

  • Public vs. private social media profiles: If your profiles on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are public, ask yourself if the content that you post and share is appropriate in a professional setting. If you use social media heavily for both business and pleasure, you may want to consider creating two profiles. Make the personal profile private, then share baby pictures and rant to your heart’s content without worrying what a potential employer or client might think.
  • Media contact on news releases: If you’ve ever worked in communications or public relations (like me!), your name may appear on press releases as a media contact. Know the details of the campaigns that list you as the media contact in case you’re asked about them in a job interview or a manager.
  • Negative information about yourself: If you find negative or embarrassing public information about you online, such as in news stories, videos or other third-party content, you can consider creating new, highly-optimized positive content about yourself that will appear higher in Google search results. The idea is that the new, positive content will bump the old, negative content to the second or third pages of the search results. Who looks at the second or third pages anyway? Learn more about this approach here.

While you’re thinking about number one today, take the time to set up a Google Alert for your name. You’ll then receive an email whenever there’s a new mention of your name online, so it will be easier to keep tabs on yourself.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

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The secret things resume screeners look for

Searching for a job is a job in itself! We put hours into our resumes. We often think that this effort won’t go to waste, as many of us assume that the person who reviews our resume will spend lots of time doing so. However, a study of the people who screen resumes revealed that they do so for only six seconds on average.

Yes, I said six seconds. To put that in perspective, it probably took you nearly 25 seconds to read the first paragraph of this blog post.

So, how do you get a person who reviews resumes, also called a resume screener, to take a longer look and consider you for the job?

Understanding the information that a resume screener is looking for, and providing them with it in an efficient manner, is critical.

Person typing on keyboard next to yellow watch

Focus on key areas of your resume

There are four key parts of your resume that resume screeners hone-in on to check if you’re a good fit for the job. These sections, and things to think about as you prepare them, are below:

  1. Work objective or career summary – In the interest of space, you may only include one of these sections at the top of your resume. Here you can highlight the value that you can bring to the organization right off the bat. Review the job description to understand key words and make sure they’re present here too.
  2. Relevant skills and qualifications – Are your skills and qualifications tailored to the job you’re applying for?
  3. Employment history – Have you demonstrated an upward trajectory in past roles with promotions at the same company, or when moving from one company to another? Are the jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for? Are there gaps in your employment history that you should proactively explain?
  4. Industry experience – Are your previous jobs in the same industry as the company that you’re applying to work at? If not, demonstrate how you’ve gained knowledge of the industry, and showcase transferable skills. 

Attention to detail matters too

If the role you’re applying for requires attention to detail and accuracy – and let’s face it, most jobs do! – you must review your resume with a fine-tooth comb. Common red flags for resume screeners include:

  • Incorrect company name or job title – Yes, this sounds obvious. But if you’re applying for more than one job, or if you’ve older versions of your resume, it can be easy to accidentally submit a document with incorrect information in these fields.
  • Errors – Typos and grammatical errors are prime examples. Factual errors, like discrepancies in past job titles between your resume and cover letter, or incorrect dates of previous employment, should also be avoided. Consider asking a trusted friend or family member, or a third-party resume/career services consultant, to proofread your documents to reduce errors.
  • Skimping on your accomplishments – Connect the dots for the screener by clearly stating your achievements in previous roles and make a positive impression early in the hiring process. This can be done in both your cover letter and resume, but don’t be too repetitive between the two.

Job candidates should also know that some companies use software, not people, to vet resumes as they are received. Learn more about how this software examines resumes here.

What other tips do you have for catching the attention of resume screeners? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Set goals, not resolutions

Happy new year!

A new year brings a fresh start. It’s a great time to commit to making positive changes, both personally and professionally. Many of us set new year’s resolutions, despite the harrowing statistic that 80 per cent of them fail by February.

Want to avoid becoming a statistic and make lasting changes this year? Try setting SMART goals rather than simply making resolutions.

What’s a SMART goal, you ask? SMART goals are:

Specific – Call out the who, what, when, where and why. What exactly do you need, or want, to do?

Measurable – Numbers are everything! Without metrics, you won’t be able to know if I’ve achieved a goal, or how far you need to go to get there.

Attainable – The end result needs to be attainable based on your skills and experience.

Realistic – Be honest about what you can achieve. Consider your workload and available time to tackle the steps you need to take.

Time-bound – Map out the milestones between now and a deadline for achieving the goal.

Find out more about setting SMART goals here.

Goals, career, job, resumeAt the start of 2018, I set a goal to gain recognition of my project management expertise and skills. I applied the SMART model to this goal so that I knew when I achieved it. Success meant obtaining my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification by February, and applying my knowledge to manage a significant project at work from March to August.

This year, I have some new goals on my mind. They are to dedicate more time to Pencil Skirts & Punctuation (as a reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that one!), and to run a 10 km race in June. My next step will be to make these into SMART goals.

Have you set goals for 2019? Take a few moments now to jot down what you’d like to achieve. Follow the SMART model and make it more likely that you’ll get there.

As we move through the year, I’ll continue to check-in to see how I’m progressing toward my goals. Hopefully, I do well enough to share my progress here. Until then, I wish you a healthy, happy 2019!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Freelancing: Friend or foe?

A recent Fast Company article on the current state of the freelance job market revealed, at least in the eyes of this media outlet, that “working for one’s self used to be the definition of the American dream – and, apparently, it still is.”

The article reports on the Freelancing in America 2018 study, which concluded that “Americans increasingly prefer to work where they want, when they want, and on the work of their choosing.” One in three American workers freelances, and 61 per cent of freelancers said they’ve chosen to work this way versus working in staff jobs more by necessity. Millennials are leading the pack. Forty-two percent of of 18-to-34-year-olds now freelance, up from 38 per cent in 2014.

The report on the study results makes it seem like freelancers are eating their cake and having it too. It reports that full-time freelancers are 21 percentage points more likely to say their work also allows them to live the lifestyle they want (84 per cent of freelancers say this versus 63 per cent of non-freelancers).

Freelance, resume, job, career

This paints a rosy picture of freelancing as one’s primary form of employment, which appears to be coveted by younger workers. But what the researchers don’t seem to ask is what about the labour market has made freelancing float to the top? And, has it become more common by choice or necessity?

According to Forbes, the driving forces behind the freelance job economy are becoming more prevalent. These include education not meeting the skills that employers need, using “gig” workers to reduce employment costs (freelancers are often paid low wages and don’t receive health benefits), and bringing freelancers in to meet short-term project needs. The availability of communications technologies that support freelancers is making the growth in this job category possible.

Twitter responded by highlighting the complex issues at the heart of the study results, while also calling out Fast Company’s use of the word “deciding” in their headline. For example, @RevEricAtcheson explained some of the reasons that freelancing is a necessity, not a decision, for some. He said:

“Deciding to freelance” sure is a funny way of spelling “navigating a job market that has eliminated pensions, affordable health insurance, cost-of-living raises, and many other trappings of steady employment our parents and grandparents benefited from for decades.”

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That said, freelancing has other pros and cons that should be considered. It can be a way for people to generate an income for their side hustles. Or, freelance work could allow a person to gain experience and references in a new industry as a stepping stone to a career shift, while still working full-time elsewhere to make a living. Saving time, energy and money on a daily commute by working as a remote freelancer might be a perk for some people, while others might miss being around colleagues on a daily basis.

So, although freelancing’s attributes are a good fit for some people, for others it’s likely done out of necessity if a full-time position, along with its security and relatively higher pay level, can’t be obtained.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the freelance job market? If you’re a freelancer, what advice would you give to others? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Twitter.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

3 things not to say in a job interview

Picture yourself at a job interview.

You might be seated across from a hiring manager in a boardroom, or sitting with your potential new boss in their office. You’re wearing your favourite interview-appropriate outfit. You’ve prepared for the interview based on tips from recruiters. You answer the interviewer’s questions and clearly, concisely and convincingly share information about yourself, your capabilities and your accomplishments. You convey why you’d be an awesome fit for both the role and the organization.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

But keep in mind that while you’re in this interview, there could be a few things that you want to know about the job, or that are motivating you to apply for it, which you should keep to yourself. Otherwise, you could risk tarnishing your image with the interviewer, or risk your likelihood of being hired.

Here are three things to never ask about or say in a job interview:

  1. Don’t say the job you’re interviewing for is a stepping stone to another job. Think about if you were dating someone and they told you they were waiting for someone better to come along – you’d feel pretty bad. That’s how a potential employer would take it too.
  2. Don’t complain about your past employer. It can indicate that you’re immature or unable to build professional relationships.
  3. Don’t ask about vacation time. You may seem like you’re already eager to step away from the role and your responsibilities. You’ll learn about (and maybe even be able to negotiate) vacation time if you receive a job offer.

Can you think of any other things to avoid saying in an interview? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Pitch Charming: How to create an elevator pitch

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

This was the question that Steve Jobs of Apple posed to John Sculley, an executive who was working at Pepsi, who Jobs wanted to take on the role of CEO at Apple. Despite being offered a generous salary and impressive stock options, it was this one line that stuck with Sculley and made him take the job at Apple.

On his CBC Radio show Under the Influence, marketing and advertising authority Terry O’Reilly described this example as the “best elevator pitch in history” in an episode of the same name.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyWhat’s an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch is a short, concise encapsulation of an idea. But, it’s so compelling, that it ignites action. It’s an icebreaker that will hopefully lead to having a more in-depth dialogue in the future.

The most important thing about an elevator pitch is its length. Think about it as how you’d describe something to someone in the brief time it takes to go from the first floor to the second floor in an elevator. However, some people say it can be as long as 60 seconds. My rule of thumb? The shorter, the better. There’s only so much the audience can digest and remember in a brief amount of time.

O’Reilly describes the elevator pitch as the test of an idea. If you can’t short-form your idea, it lacks focus and clarity. This is why an elevator pitch is a core communications tool that’s often used to describe companies, brands and marketing campaigns.

Pitching your personal brand
When it comes to your career and marketing yourself in the job market, an elevator pitch can be a compelling way to express your personal brand. Your personal brand is the image or impression that you can establish about yourself and your career in the minds of others, including contacts in your network, your employer or potential employers. Learn more about cultivating your personal brand here.

Distilling this information into an elevator pitch can convey that your career has a clear direction, that you understand your strengths, and that you know how you can provide value.

What will your elevator pitch look like? Here’s a simple recipe:

Step 1: Start with what you do
Step 2: Then, add context to convey the value you bring
Step 3: Finish with where you’re going next

When you add these together, the finished product can look something like:

“As an accounting expert with my CPA and five years of experience working at a global accounting firm, I’m now focusing on increasing my management experience while providing counsel directly to clients.”

“I am a public relations specialist with three years of experience in the technology industry. I’ve worked on award-winning campaigns and have secured top-tier media coverage. Now, I’m building my project management and strategic planning expertise.”

If you’re struggling at first with creating your elevator pitch, don’t worry. Distilling an idea – or something as complex as your career – to its very essence is an art. For inspiration, listen to the full Under the Influence episode for examples of the elevator pitches created by leading companies and brands. Try running drafts of your elevator pitch past friends, family members or peers at work and ask for their constructive input.

Want to learn more about crafting an elevator pitch for your personal brand? Find more tips here.

When you’re done, and if you’re feeling brave, share your elevator pitch in the comments!

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Pexels.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Job recruiters share how to get hired

If you have a job interview coming up, you probably want to make the most of your face time with the company. Whether you’re working with a third-party recruiter or an in-house hiring manager, these nine tips from recruiters, compiled in a video by Buzzfeed, can help you prepare for your interview. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch the full video!Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyTip 1: Don’t lie
In an interview, people might say that they’ve worked at a company when they haven’t, or that they have a degree when they don’t, thinking it will give them a competitive edge in the hiring process. If the recruiter, hiring manager or the company’s pre-employment screening department are thorough, it’s likely that the truth will be revealed. Depending on when that happens, you may not get a second interview, or a job offer can be rescinded. The worst part of that scenario? You’d never know if you would have been successful with the company had you just told the truth.

Tip 2: Nail your resume
What are recruiters’ top tips for a great resume? They include:

  • A resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages (or one page double-sided)
  • Highlight the things you’re most proud of first, then list your work experience
  • Avoid using unprofessional fonts like Comic Sans or symbols like Wingdings
  • Only include information that’s relevant to the position, without oversimplifying too much

Tip 3: Do your research
Find out about the company and the role that you’re applying for. Learn as much as you can by visiting the company’s website and social media channels, look them up on Glassdoor, or have an informational interview with a current or former employee. Know what about the company makes you want to work there. Bring print-outs of your findings (like a recent press release) to an interview to demonstrate that you did research and understand the company.

Tip 4: Don’t come in sick
If you have a communicable disease, like pink eye, a cold or the flu, be honest about it with the recruiter, hiring manager, or other person who arranged the interview. Be as flexible as you can about rescheduling it.

Tip 5: Dress appropriately
Do research on the company’s dress code as you prepare your outfit for your interview. Then, dress one “notch” above it. For example, one recruiter described his office as “business comfortable” and would want a candidate to demonstrate that they fit into the dress code. Depending on the industry you’re in, wearing a three-piece suit to an interview may not be appropriate. Find more tips about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 6: Know your greatest weakness
This question can indicate how honest and self-aware you are. Recruiters or hiring managers can generally tell if you’re being genuine. When sharing an actual weakness that you want to work on, be sure to follow it up with how and why.

Tip 7: Know when to negotiate
Be transparent about your salary expectations from the beginning so that both you and the recruiter or hiring manager can find a salary level that all parties are happy with. However, be aware of the salary band for the role you’re applying for. It’s unlikely that a company can exceed the band’s upper and lower limits.

Tip 8: Ask questions
Have at least three questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager at the end of the interview. Where do you start? The following questions are helpful because the responses can serve as a “cheat sheet” for what to do in the first three months on the job if you get it.

  • What can I do in the first three months to be successful?
  • What do the first 30 to 90 days look like in this job?
  • How can I immediately add value in this role?

Tip 9: Keep calm and carry on
Sometimes a person who isn’t hired may overstep when engaging with the recruiter or hiring manger after getting the bad news. Requesting a Linkedin connection is fine, but following and messaging them on other social media channels or showing up at their office won’t be well-received. If an opportunity doesn’t work out, stay calm and professional. The recruiter may end up having another job that’s a better fit down the road.

Do you agree with these job recruiters’ tips? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Buzzfeed.com.