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Ask Dr. Tom

June 2011 Archives

Often job seekers hit a roadblock in the process of searching for their ideal career. "I've written my resume and my cover letter is coming along, but now what do I do?" is a common dilemma for many. If you have completed the self-assessment stage carefully, you will have defined your 1) geographic area of preference 2) career field of preference. Now it's time to target all the employers in that geographic area who hire for those types of jobs. Here are some tips to get you started in this vital step in the process:

1. Determine the Information You Need
Some key points that you will want to discover might include: the mission and corporate philosophy, the size of the firm, potential growth of industry/field, company short and long-term outlook, type of people they employ, training, products/services, major competitors, types of jobs, turnover, salary ranges, and current news events.

2. Organize Your Prospecting
As you begin to uncover people and places to send your resume, develop a chart to keep track of your progress. Create a spreadsheet with the following headings: Name of Employer, Contact Person, Address/Phone, Date Sent Resume, Follow-up Call Date, Interview Date, Thank You Note, and finally, Offer. This way you have a written record of the action you have taken with each contact. Staying organized also will give you a better sense of the number of resumes you have sent out.

3. Research the Career Field, the Employer and the Job
Companies perceive your research into these three areas as critical in evaluating an applicant's interest, initiative and savvy. The purpose is to gather information to determine if the career field, employer and job are a good match, and to identify the needs of the firm for better marketing of your background. It will give you increased confidence when answering interview questions.

4. Target 3 Types of Potential Employers
You will want to consider your job search in terms of: 1) reach/ideal employers - hard to get into firms 2) middle companies - where you will probably get an interview, and 3) employers that you would consider as safeties.

5. Approach Job Prospecting as a Project
Since searching for places to send your resume will not come to you overnight, be sure you commit time to this project. You will need to put together a regular reading program career books, newspapers, trade publications, websites, LinkedIn groups, annual reports, sales/marketing brochures, magazines and periodicals. You'll get out of this project exactly what you put into it.

6. Identify Places to Find Job Leads
No single source will have everything you need. Your first stop should be your city library. Here you will find directories, reference books, professional association information, and job binders. The Career Center at your alma mater or local community college is another resource. They may be able to advise you of the recruiters they are working with.

7. Use the Internet
Do a Google search on the fields, jobs and companies that interest you the most. Be sure to set up a complete LinkedIn profile so you can begin to build your network of connections that can open doors for you. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are important tools in investigating companies. Make sure you are creating a social media brand that will impress a potential employer.

8. Use Media Resources to Provide Additional Targets
Viewing or listening to CNN news reports, NPR's Marketplace or CBS's MarketWatch can keep you abreast of trends. I strongly encourage you to read the newspaper especially the Business Review. On a regular basis I find companies that are expanding and adding positions. These job openings are rarely advertised in the classifieds.

9. Networking, Networking, Networking
The number one job search strategy is networking. As you are developing your list, be sure to contact your family, friends, fellow alumni, colleagues, and others in your personal and professional network. Ask them if they know of three people that you could speak to for help. Often they can provide leads that are not available in any written source.

10. Overestimate Your List
You will need to determine the size of your list and rank them by hiring potential. Probably, you will need to send your resume to more places that fit your profile than first expected. You may need to send out three to five resumes a week or more for several weeks in order to generate the right number of interviews and offers. Develop a time frame that works for you.

Once you have developed your "prospect list" then you will be ready to implement the various strategies for an organized job search campaign. By successfully researching employers, you will be investing your time wisely.

I welcome your questions and comments.

Keep Climbing,

Dr. Tom

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted Friday, June 24, 2011

The Great Recession has placed us in some uncertain economic and employment times here in Tech Valley. The question is what to do about it from a career development perspective. Let me be frank: most people are doing their job searches all wrong.

If you are looking for a new position, you might be inclined first to go to the Internet and search for a job. Most people don't understand that the Internet is one of the least effective ways to conduct a job search. This is because of the intense competition when any job opening becomes public.

Since most jobs are never posted, tech professionals should spend 80 percent of their time using the most effective technique: networking. This is a planned and systematic approach of reaching out and contacting friends, family, colleagues, alumni and anyone who can open doors for you.

Internet job searching is the most convenient and passive way to find a job and that is why everyone is doing it. Networking is the most-time consuming technique, but the most productive. This also requires you to focus on three to five jobs to target.

I recommend building your "Internet Image" with the big three: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I must stress that as important as social networking is becoming, these are merely "virtual" relationships. You might have dozens of these "friends" in these accounts, but realistically how many of them will really give to you during your next career move. Therefore, it is critical to take your "virtual" network to the next level and nurture a "real" network.

Job hunters need to get out from behind the isolation of computers and reach out and network in-person with such organizations as the Capital Alliance of Young Professionals (CAYP), Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Colonie Chamber, and the Consulting Alliance to name a few. Your efforts will build the strong relationships that will be vital for a job change.

Some reading this article, may feel uncomfortable getting out there, being visible and schmoozing with people you don't even know. It is normal to think this way. My suggestion is you start with the top five people in your "Inner Circle" and ask them each for three pieces of career advice and three contacts. When you contact these people, tell them that your friend suggested they might be able to provide some useful career advice. People like to talk and are happy to advise you. This way you are upfront and not asking them for a job.

Request to have a "Coffee Talk" to get to know them and understand what tips they might have as you advance your career. When you meet, have a list of three to five questions in your mind that you need help with. If appropriate, ask them if they have three additional people that would be helpful to speak to about your career. If you have one "Inner Circle" friend with three contacts and each of those "Middle Circle" contacts has three more, you now have nine connections! Don't get overwhelmed with networking - just start with one.

Be sure to implement the "Givers Get" principle. It is in giving that we truly receive. Be sure you are giving back in a creative way to all the people that are helping you. They will feel appreciated and be more likely to give in the future.

It takes time and effort to build your "real" network. I recommend that you have the mindset of networking for life. This way you will have a rich support system established well before you need them in the next employment crisis.

In my private career counseling practice, I know that a person's network of connections are more than willing to help if you are willing to merely ask, and you are focused on what you want. Tech Valley represents a huge geographic area. In reality, it is a small, highly networked community. I encourage you to stay persistent and remember my motto: networking beats NOTworking.

Keep Climbing,
Dr. Tom

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted Friday, June 17, 2011

Most parents have a genuine concern for their son or daughter making informed career decisions, but parents are not always the most objective career counselors. Students don't appreciate being badgered about their career plans. However, parents can listen, be open to ideas and try to help them find information. Here are ten ways parents can help:

1. Encourage them to visit the career center
Most college students don't know what they want to do with the rest of their lives and they are rarely interested in the career services office until the last minute. As a parent, you should become knowledgeable about the many services the career center offers. Gently ask them, "Have you visited the career center?" They may respond by saying, "You only go there when you are a senior." The discussion that follows should not be heavy on content, but do reassure them that career services is not just for seniors, and meeting with a career counselor can relieve a lot of stress later.

2. Advise them to write their resume
Having them write their own resume can be a "reality test" and can help identify weak areas that require improvement. Be sure that they have it critiqued by a career center professional.

3. Challenge them to become "Occupationally Literate"
Carefully ask your son or daughter "Any ideas about what you want to do when you graduate?" This is not your opportunity to nag. If they seem unsure, highlight their assets and strengths. If they appear "clueless", recommend that they get more focused by taking self-assessment inventories. Since a career decision is a process and not an event, discourage them from putting this off until their senior year.

4. Let them make their own decisions
While it is helpful for you to ask about their status, too much prodding can backfire. Make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let them be the ultimate judge. Finding out what they want to do is a lengthy process that evolves. It's okay if they change majors. Many students end up doing something very different than originally planned, so don't freak out when they come up with an outrageous or impractical career idea. Chances are plans will develop and change. Be patient, sympathetic and understanding, even if you don't agree with their decisions.

5. Emphasize the importance of internships
Since colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical. Your son or daughter should sample their career options by completing internships. Having a high GPA is not the be all and end all.

6. Support their extracurricular involvement
Part of college life is to be involved outside the classroom where interpersonal and leadership skills can be developed. Parents need to provide supportive motivation and resist the urge to provide strong recommendations or criticism.

7. Persuade them to stay up-to-date with current events
In our global society, employers will expect that students know what is happening around them. Buy your student a subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Discuss with them some of the major issues.

8. Expose them to the world of work
Most students have a stereotypical view of the workplace. Show your son or daughter what you do for a living. Help them identify organizations of interest to them and engage them in career discussions. Perhaps after experiencing a particular workplace they might recognize the need internships or for a graduate degree.

9. Teach them the value of networking
Help them establish contacts by introducing them to people you know in careers that interest them. Teach them how to network by allowing them to watch you interact with colleagues. Suggest that they contact people in your personal and professional networks for information on summer jobs. Encourage them to "shadow" someone you know in the workplace to increase awareness of career fields of interest.

10. Help the career center
Call your campus career center when you have an internship, summer, part-time or full-time job opening. The staff will help you find a hard working student or graduate. Each year career centers work with dozens of employers eager to hire college students and graduates from their recruiting programs. Join the campus career center's career advisory network and use your "real world" experience to advise students of their career options, or participate in a career panel or workshop.

Keep Climbing,
Dr. Tom

Copyright 2011, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC - Posted June 3, 2011

Dr. Thomas J. Denham

Dr. Tom Denham is the founder of Careers In Transition LLC, a private practice which focuses on career counseling for individuals and consulting services for institutional clients. Dr. Tom has over twenty years of career services experience at Siena and Union Colleges as well as Harvard, St. Lawrence and Boston Universities.

Dr. Tom founded Northeast Public Radio's award winning talk show, The Career Forum and speaks extensively on career management issues. He earned his bachelors from St. Lawrence University, his masters from Boston University and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

He has climbed over 180 mountains including the Adirondack 46, Oregon's Mt. Hood and The Grand Teton. In 2009, he survived a huge crevasse fall on Mt. Rainier by ice climbing his way out. Tom lives where he grew up in Albany where he would rather be ice and rock climbing and raising his 11 year old daughter, Rachel.

Dr. Tom Denham has been a professional career counselor for over 20 years. He helps people explore their options with career testing, make job changes and write resumes and prepare for interviews.

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