Start Your New Career Today

Phil: “Do you ever have deja vu, Mrs. Lancaster?”

Mrs. Lancaster: “I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.”

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Is your job turning into the same old thing day in and day out? Don’t let your career start feeling like Groundhog Day. Starting a new career can be challenging, but take this inventory to get started.

Do you want a career change?

Answer yes or no to the following questions:

  1. Do you feel comfortable in your position?
  2. Do you feel as though you are using your skills?
  3. Does your education or training match your current position?
  4. Do you wish you were in a position where you faced more challenges?
  5. Do you earn enough on your current salary (including perks and benefits) to meet your needs?
  6. Do you browse jobs openings and “daydream” about having a new career?
  7. Do you feel trapped in your current role?
  8. Is there an ability to move up within the organization?
  9. Is your current organization financially stable?
  10. Is your current organization growing and adding opportunities?

If you answered “yes” to 5 or more of these questions, you may want to consider exploring a new career. Everyone’s situation is different, and experiences can be what you make of them, but if you find yourself wanting a new job, researching what is out there can be the best first step.

Research Resources

Online Assessments

MyNextMove can provide suggestions for careers that may be a good fit. When taking the assessment, you will answer a series of questions. Answer these questions based on what you think you would enjoy doing, not necessarily what may be in your experience. This assessment is especially helpful if you are new to the world of work or may have limited experience.

Are you a veteran? MyNextMove has a Veteran version of this assessment as well to translate military skills into the civilian workforce.

mySkills myFuture assesses your past experience and identifies careers that require your transferable skills. Both assessments provide listings of local schools and training programs that can help you during your career transition. There may even be local job listings at the end of the assessment as well.

For all your occupational and labor market data, review the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This is a nationwide resource. Connecticut Department of Labor has a local occupational handbook, updated annually. (The CTDOL’s Office of Research is temporarily down, otherwise a link would be provided here. This will be updated once the site is available again.)

Local Job Searching Websites

You know all the big name job boards out there, but CTHires is Connecticut’s newest job searching website. The employers are vetted by Connecticut Department of Labor staff to ensure the job openings are legitimate. If you create a job seeker account, you can upload your resume online and have employers find you. You can also use the resume to apply for jobs. With all the customization options, you aren’t limited to Resume Builders from websites of years past.

Bonus tip: You can also use CTHires to explore careers by searching their Career Services page. Career guides, walk-throughs, education and training, and labor market data are all available to you at no cost.

CTJobsChat – LinkedIn Group

CTJobsChat is a LinkedIn networking group comprised of job seekers, recruiters, employers, and American Job Center staff and partners.

We regularly share news about American Job Center recruitment events, training sessions, skill-building workshops, and programs, all available at no cost to the public. Our partners also post job openings and in-person networking event opportunities. Job seekers and other professionals can use this site to build relationships and ask questions. The group members share their advice and experience to assist others in their search for new careers. I welcome you to join today, we’d love to speak with you!

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The American Job Center Network

I can’t speak highly enough about our American Job Centers here in Connecticut. If you’re searching for a new career, the following resources are available to you:

  • No-cost workshops to explore new careers and build skills.
    • Healthcare, construction, science, technology, engineering and math (the STEM careers), check with your local job center to see what career paths are being reviewed in a workshop.
  • Resume critiques from Certified Professional Resume Writers (CPRWs).
    • No matter which office you visit, our collaboration of CT Department of Labor and partnering organizations have many certified resume writers on staff. CPRWs can review your resume so that it stands out from the competition, all while you learn skills on how to market yourself to an employer.
  • One-on-one Career Development Specialists and Career Counselors.
    • If requested, a CDS or counselor can meet with you to discuss career options, review your resume, and identify your transferable skills.
  • Job postings, recruitments, and networking events.
    • Our dedicated team of Business Services Specialists create opportunities in the centers for our job seekers. The Business Services Specialists network with employers and many local employers conduct interviewing and recruitment events for their open positions right at our American Job Center locations. These events are rare in a world of online job postings, and that additional face-time with an employer can give you an edge in this market.
  • Access to the Career Resource Library.
    • Job boards, computers with internet access and Microsoft Word, printers, copiers, faxes, resume paper… All these are available at no cost to the job seeker. Some locations may also have book of resume and cover letter samples, in addition to research materials. There may even be staff available in the libraries to assist with your job search questions.

Surprisingly, the American Job Center offers even more services than this, but to get you started in researching your next career, I recommend you visit one of our locations today. Locations, contact information, and details are available here (just select your location). Connecticut American Job Center Locations.

If you begin using one of these resources and have any questions or comments, be sure to let me know in the comments below. I would love to know what you think!

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Realistic #Networking Advice

By Erica Tew, CPRW

What is networking?

It is introducing yourself to people, forming relationships, and maintaining these relationships through effective communication.

Communication is about making decisions. You decide who you want to approach and how you want to do so.  Factors that can influence these decisions depend on what you know about the other party, their preferred method of communication, and the level of your relationship with that person.

When job seekers ignore these factors and abruptly ask strangers for jobs, or to find jobs for them, they are usually frustrated with the lack of success. This is because the strategy is only focused for the benefit of one person, the job seeker.

Why is networking so difficult?

I think it is because we place extra pressure on ourselves when job seeking. Networking becomes another burdensome task, like writing your resume or blocking away three hours of your day to fill out an online job application. Yet we all know networking does not have to be one of those things. If the terminology is causing you stress, drop it and focus on meeting other real people.

To put networking in perspective, think of your circle: your friends, family, and colleagues. Who, within these circles, actively networks? Your 8 year old niece who leverages social prowess and gets invited to Susan’s sleepover party. Your grandmother who raises funds for her church by hosting events and bake sales, managing to get donations from even the tightest of purses. Fred, the guy you hike with on Saturdays, who just landed a new client to get promoted. Your friend from high school who dropped out of college and now runs a successful online business. Networking is actively done by many parties who may never directly label their actions as “networking.”

How do you network?

Reach out to people you already know- family, friends, colleagues, etc. Provide some basics. When people say, “I need a job, any job,” the sentiment is understandable, but it makes the search so broad and open ended it feels insurmountable. Focusing on a specific job will not only help your own search, but it will help narrow down the focus for your friends who may scout around for you.

Explain what types of skills you have and try not to overuse the word “job.” Although you are looking for work, be open to advice and introductions. This is the development of your career for the long term, not only as a means for your next position. Effective networking continues as you regain employment.

Typically, people are more receptive when you ask for their opinion (as long as you ask politely and make sure they have the time to do so). To illustrate this, compare the two statements below:

  1. “Hi, I’m looking for a job. Can you alert me when there are openings at your company?”
  2. “Hi Mark, Hope you are doing well. I was wondering if I could get a few minutes of your time. I’m currently looking for a position in customer service, and was wondering if you had any advice about starting in the field. …”

Which message would you prefer? Although the first would be easy for a friend, it may be a lot of extra work for a stranger. The second is much more personalized and starts with a conversation, making this option more inviting. When you reach out to contacts, especially those you may not know very well yet, try to personalize the message and not ask too much too soon.

Long-Term Success

As you network, focus on creating lasting relationships. Make your contact attempts without holding high expectations. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond. Be open to any advice or feedback from your network. Learning one new thing can have the potential to dramatically improve your job search.

Additionally, actively listening is key to a successful relationship and develops more personalized bonds between people. When meeting new people, listen more than you share. This information will gauge your perceptions about how the contact prefers to communicate and if there is a possibility of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

The strategies in networking assist in a job search because the more people that know you well and trust you, the faster you will get responses back regarding feedback, advice, referrals, or job openings. Networking is not about what others can do for you, but about the quality of the relationships you develop.

Career Fair Success

There are quite a few articles out there about how Career Fairs are fantastic, or how they can be a “waste of time” but my opinion is this: Career Fairs can be a great opportunity to meet new people, market yourself, and build your base of contacts. Any type of job search activity without a plan won’t be successful, which is why preparation is so important. Below, I have outlined some advice which you can hopefully take with you to your next Career Fair.

BEFORE THE CAREER FAIR

Before you attend the fair, get a list of companies attending and see what jobs are currently available. In the majority of cases, you may be able to apply online prior to the event. Make sure your application and resume are edited for each position, showing how your skills and experience can benefit their company.

Make copies of your resume, even if recruiters at the event tell you to just email it (which you may hear a lot). It is better to have it and hand it to an employer, than leave it at home and show up empty handed. Networking cards are also an effective option- a way someone can contact you, alongside your name and a branded line about the skills you have and the type of position you are seeking. Networking cards are smaller and more convenient than carrying around someone’s resume.

Plan out what you are going to wear. Just like an interview, make sure you try on the outfit ahead of time, and make sure it is presentable and professional. Planning what you wear at the last minute will create an added level of stress. Although Career Fairs aren’t as formal as an interview, you should still use this event as an experience to market yourself and leave a positive impression.

Logistically, seek out the location of the event and get an idea of the parking situation. Show up early, but don’t walk into the event very early. I recommend aiming for 15-20 minutes before the event starts. In some cases, there is a waiting area where you can go grab some coffee. Some employer may arrive late because of long travel distances and traffic, so give everyone time, but being early won’t make you hike too far to find your car when it’s done.

DAY OF THE EVENT

As you get to the event and start heading into the building, get a map of the employer layout. Every employer will have some type of signage, but some may strongly overpower others, and a 6 foot standing banner could block a table in a further row. Take time to walk around casually, to scope out the situation.

A common mistake is to rush to your dream employer and get meeting them out of the way. Even if they are your main goal for attending the event, you shouldn’t rush towards them. Give yourself a chance to get comfortable, and introduce yourself to one or two other companies. This will help you work out any potential issues in how you are introducing yourself.

These events will also have school, military, or job center representatives as well- so if you want to pursue any information outside of jobs, there may be opportunities to do so. In Connecticut, we even offer Resume and LinkedIn profile critiques at our Career Fairs, in order to provide a variety of services to keep job seekers competitive and market themselves well.

As you talk to employers, vendors, and representatives at the event, don’t forget to talk to fellow job seekers as well. More popular employers may have longer lines, so don’t be afraid to flash a smile and introduce yourself. Light small talk or a small joke can break the ice and potentially lead to a great networking opportunity. Whenever you talk to anyone, exchange business or networking cards. Take a minute after you part ways and jot a few notes down about them on the back of their card. Write down the topic you discussed, or maybe a personal detail that came up. Small details will help you remember the person and will make for even stronger thank you cards.

AFTER THE CAREER FAIR

When you leave the Career Fair, you will hopefully have quite a few business cards from employers, and maybe some cards from vendors or fellow job seekers as well. Here’s your time to draft up some follow up emails. In general, keep these emails short; around two to four sentences. Long emails may be overwhelming, but a quick, simple email will continue the positive impression you left with the recipient the day prior.

For the content of the email, tell the contact it was nice meeting them at the Career Fair and you wanted to follow up, sharing that you would be happy to be of help to them if they request. If you are writing to an employer, attach your resume or any other documents that may have been requested. If there are further applications or forms you were directed to, make sure you review our tips for online applications.

As an option to replace contacting via email, you can also see if the person you met is on LinkedIn. I recommend reaching out on LinkedIn to those you met who are fellow job seekers. If you are seeking to get in touch with a recruiter or company representative, then read their LinkedIn profile first. Although I wouldn’t be, some may be not like connecting too soon. As everyone is different, you will notice everyone has a different attitude about connecting with others on LinkedIn. If unsure, I would say email is your safest bet.

Overall, Career Fairs can be a great opportunity for networking events. If you want to meet a representative from a company you have been targeting for some time, then it is in your best interest to get out there and meet with the employer. If nothing else, making connections with fellow job seekers can strengthen your job search dramatically. Practicing how you introduce and market yourself to an employer will also be a skill you will use throughout the rest of your career. So let me know in the poll below, do you find Career Fairs beneficial?

5 Tips: What to Do at the #Interview

When you make it to the interview, you want to be on point. Prepare answers ahead of time that show situations, actions you took, and results to respond to many behavioral questions. Research the company: the company culture, mission, news, and services, can help you relate your skills in a way that shows benefit to the hiring manager. The interview will go even smoother if you follow this advice:

1. Silence your cell phone

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Most people will say to shut off your cell phone or leave it in the car. However, if you use it to schedule appointments, you may want it handy if asked for a follow up appointment or date for a second interview. If your phone does go off, it’s not an immediate “fail.” It all depends on how you recover. Don’t look at who is calling; just shut it down and apologize immediately to continue.

2. Smile

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Sure, interviews make everyone nervous. It may be a combination of nerves and adrenaline, but researching and practice will help build your confidence before the interview. If you’re too worried about how you sound or are constantly wondering if you relayed everything you wanted to say, your face may not read that you’re someone who is excited about the opportunity. Take a moment, breathe, and smile right when you shake hands. If this is a phone interview, smile as you talk as well. Your voice transforms when you’re smiling and makes you sound more enthusiastic and engaged. Plus, everyone likes being around a friendly person. Would you want to work everyday alongside someone who constantly keeps a serious face on?

3. Don’t talk money or benefits

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Unless specifically asked by the interviewer, do not be the first to bring up pay or benefits. Save these questions for the job offer. The interview is a business meeting where you and the employer are trying to see if you will be a quality match for the position. Show that you can do the job and you want to work for the company. It can be a major turn off if a candidate doesn’t use this time well, but rather just asks how much they would make. If the interviewer does bring this information up first, research average salaries from Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information website. Always provide a range for salary to avoid being too expensive or underselling yourself. For more information on Salary Negotiations, see George’s post.

4. Speak clearly and avoid the “Yeahs, Ummms, and Likes”

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If you need to briefly pause and think about your answer before responding, take the time to do it. The interviewer may need you to be a representative of the company, and depending on how you present yourself, speech included, your casual way of speaking may be off-putting. “Umms” and “Like” are fillers that can be reduced by practicing your answers beforehand. I am guilty of the “Yeah” abuse, but in an interview, the answer is always “Yes”.

5. Dress Appropriately

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You can never go wrong with a button-down/blouse and dress pants/conservative skirt. This rule can be modified from company to company. Some company cultures prefer very professional attire. If that’s the case, then suit jackets and ties should be worn. Everyone can benefit from having at least one great suit in their closet. If the office is more casual, perhaps replace the dress pants for some khakis. Research the company and try to match what the manager would be wearing. Ask ahead of time if you think you may be touring any facilities that may require boots, a hardhat, or similar special circumstances. In general, I don’t know of a time where shorts, flipflops, sweatpants, anything low-cut, or anything revealing could be considered acceptable interview attire. Try on your outfit ahead of time to ensure proper fit, and remember: you want to be noticed for what you said, not what you wore. For more on this topic, check out Uriela’s blog post about appropriate interview attire.

If you have questions or concerns about these suggestions or anything related to your upcoming interview, please drop us a line in the comments below!

[All gifs thanks to giphy!]

Success and Progress in #JobSearch

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Yesterday I was at home, Netflixing a television show I’ve come to love, and I heard this bit of advice, “Life will knock you down more times than you will ever image, so you can’t knock yourself down.”  It came when a high school junior didn’t want to attend college interviews because she felt she always ruined her good opportunities. What seemed at first like depressing reality ended up being motivating wisdom.  If you don’t believe you can do something, or succeed at something, why would anyone else believe you could?

This ties in to job search and any other career struggles we may face.  If you don’t believe you’re the best person for the job, is that same feeling becoming apparent to your boss or the hiring manager conducting the interview?

With all of the troubles life throws at you, don’t have your own negative self-talk be another obstacle. Success comes from trying.  You can’t fail if you don’t try, and sometimes the greatest successes come after what seems like the biggest failures.  I could share the countless times I’ve felt like I completely messed up in my career- some experiences ranged from being too young to understand professionalism with proper communication, and some have just been downright embarrassing- and although it might make some of you laugh, it would detract from my overall message.  The point is it was during those points that I really began to shape who I was.  We have the freedom to make choices; in how we act, what we say, how we treat others- and those choices influence our opportunities.

Routine means both a regular schedule and unsurprising, predictable, and monotonous.  If everything always runs smoothly, there will never be a reason to change or analyze your actions.  How we recover and progress forward from the obstacles in our lives, professional or otherwise, will shape the course for the rest of our lives.  That is why when you’re job searching, it is most advantageous to keep a routine, but vary the ways you job search every day.  If while you were working, you woke up at 8AM every day, continue to wake up at 8AM every day.  If you went for a run every other day at 2PM, keep doing that.  During your job search hours, switch the activities.  Perhaps one day you can complete applications, and another you can work on your resume.  You could take a free workshop on interviewing techniques at a local job center, and later on attend an industry networking event.  Maybe every Friday you attend a job search club as well.  Keep a routine, but don’t make your job search routine.  You have to vary the ways you market yourself to get results, and part of that comes from trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone a bit, and not being afraid to fail.

If networking in person or writing an email to someone you’ve yet to meet gives you some anxiety, then meet with a career advisor or research best practices so you don’t try to “go in cold.”  Education is one of the biggest ways to gain confidence because the more you know about a topic, the more comfortable it is to approach that topic.  If you’ve had a bad experience at a potential networking opportunity, remember that we consider an experience “embarrassing” when we think we are not meeting our own standards of what is acceptable.  There’s no need to over-apologize for embarrassing moments, but try to learn from it or laugh about it.  We are our harshest critics.

It’s okay to be afraid, and you have to put yourself out there to get noticed.  Just don’t let the fear of something going wrong stop you from doing anything you want to do.  Things will go wrong.  Something always does.  The question is, will a failure set you back from progress, or will you keep trying?  Success is temporary, but it makes all the struggles in between worth it.

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Take Your #Job Seriously, but Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

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Personal ownership to success is kind of lonely.  True success doesn’t come from one person being the sole expert in a subject, but rather shaping an idea over time with trusted colleagues.  Collaboration yields greater learning, and the sharing of ideas helps projects progress.  When working alone for too long, you may meet innovation’s biggest enemy: complacency.

Positive feedback is nice, but it doesn’t help us grow or achieve much.  Quality work thrives on constructive feedback.  In art school, we were never allowed to say, “I like it,” or “I don’t like it,” because they were meaningless, cringe-worthy phrases.  Explain why something works or doesn’t work so the project can progress.  Find those familiar with your work’s subject matter so you have a knowledgeable perspective reviewing the work.

“The truth will set you free, but at first it will make you angry.”

As vital as they are, change and collaboration can still be very difficult.  To be honest, not everyone is great at giving feedback, and you may encounter the person that can immediately take the wind out of your sails after weeks of hard work.  If that’s the case, thank them for providing their thoughts and tell them you will consider their suggestions.  Then on your own, objectively weigh all remarks to see if they would improve your work.  This is a discipline and a balancing act.  Trust your own knowledge that has taken you to where you are, but seriously consider the suggestions of others, as abrasive as they may come off at times.  Any review of your work is not a personal attack on your own character, and the sooner this is understood, the stronger you will become.

When facing criticism, there can be two extremes if confidence is lacking.  There can be the person without a backbone, who changes everything they do based on anything anyone says, resulting in some confused end-result that lost its original focus.  The opposite can be one that gets immediately aggravated that the feedback is not all positive, and shuts down, closing the door, and holding a grudge against the person that originally tried to help but did not “sandwich” the criticism around positive reviews.

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There have been times I spent hours working on a painting, and a critique tells me it would be more effective in a different color palette.  I can’t just click my mouse and change it when we are working with fussy oil paints, so at times I would receive the advice, but then choose to keep my painting as is.  Other times, I would agree with the criticism as I shared the doubts of my work but didn’t know how to articulate it.  Quite literally, I was so close to this painting, that I rarely took a step back to realize I was screwing the whole damn thing up.  I had people around that said it was “good” but I knew myself that it was far from “good.”  Yes, we are typically our harshest critics, but criticism is needed to find the best approach for a project and so that we don’t spend an entire weekend in a room without windows, surrounded by fumes from open canisters of  turpenoid, thinking the quality of work is still going strong.

Moral of the story?  Don’t spend an entire weekend locked in a room with turpenoid fumes.