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5 Reasons You Should Volunteer to Find a Job

If you’re new to the workforce or changing fields, you find it hard to get hired. It seems like there are always people out there more qualified and with more experience than you. And while you could take a job out of your area of interest, you’d rather find another way to get the experience you need so that you’re more hireable to employers.

Consider volunteering.

By giving your time to a company or nonprofit that needs your skills, you reap multiple benefits.

1. You Ramp Up Your Skills

If your resume is still a little thin, volunteering is a great way to enhance your current skills to position yourself as an appealing job candidate. Let’s say you have a degree in public relations. Agencies feel you don’t yet have enough experience to interact with clients, but if you volunteer to do PR for a nonprofit, you get the opportunity to write more, interact with the media, plan events, and represent a brand on social media. That already makes your resume look better.

2. You Get to Meet (the Right) People

While your goal in volunteering shouldn’t be to directly get a job with the company you work for pro bono, it can happen. And even if that company doesn’t need you, the people you impress there might be able to refer you to contacts who are looking to hire.

3. You Learn New Skills

In addition to boosting what you already know, volunteering can introduce you to new tools and skills you didn’t already have. Consider it on-the-job training, without the pay. Maybe you’ve been curious about an email marketing platform, but didn’t want to invest in paying for it just to gain the skill. If you volunteer for a company that uses it, you get the opportunity to learn how to use it and add that skill to your resume.

4. You Can Fill in the Resume Gaps

Hiring managers often raise an eyebrow when there’s a noticeable time gap between jobs. If you’re simply trying to find a job during that gap, volunteering can make it look better. It shows that you’ve been proactive in trying to find a job and better yourself professionally.

5. You Can Feel Good

The altruistic purpose of volunteering shouldn’t be overlooked here. By giving your time, you can help organizations or groups that you feel an affinity for. Volunteering about a cause you are passionate about can help you feel like you’re making a difference.

How to Start Volunteering

Convinced that volunteering will help you find a job? Start by being realistic about the amount of time you can commit. It’s better to under commit to, say, once a week, than to promise you’ll help every day and not be able to do so. And keep room in your schedule to continue the job search, and to go on interviews, as that is still your number one focus.

Some places to get started to find volunteer opportunities in your local region.

Volunteer Match

All for Good


Holiday Networking Tips for Job Seekers

With your social calendar full of holiday parties this time of year, take advantage of the opportunity to network and build contacts that might help you find a job. Here are 10 tips to help you.

  1. Schedule as many networking opportunities as possible. This includes holiday parties at companies you want to work for, as well as networking groups, conferences, workshops and one-on one events. While you don’t want to overbook yourself to the point of exhaustion, you want to take advantage of this season, which has more events than the rest of the year. Plus, people are in better moods right now, thanks to the holidays, which is even more of a reason to kick networking into high gear!
  2. Don’t pitch yourself at the party. Focus on making friends. Yes, you want a job. But networking isn’t about pushing your agenda. It’s about making contacts and nurturing them. So you might meet a hiring manager at a party tomorrow. Rather than announcing your needs in the job department, follow up with an email. Then invite her to coffee or lunch. Maintain the relationship, and at the right time, you can ask about a job. Tactfully.
  3. Don’t slack off on the job hunt right now. It might be tempting to forgo your daily job search to wrap gifts instead, but you’d be making a big mistake. Many people assume job hunting is dead during the holidays, but in fact, the holidays are a great time to work on those relationships. Hiring managers are more available with work slowing, so it’s a great time to make contact, either over the phone or in-person.
  4. Strategically plan to be at parties where you know key decision makers will be. If you’re not sure which parties to fill your dance card with, aim for the ones with people who work for the companies you want to work for. If you’re lucky, you might have a friend who works for that company who can invite you to the annual holiday party. But also look at networking groups (check Meetup and see who the members are) to find the key decision makers.
  5. Send holiday cards as followup to meeting people. Networking isn’t just about drinking eggnog with other people; it also includes the follow-up. This time of year, you will stand out by sending a holiday card to your newly-made contacts. Handwrite a short note telling them how nice it was to meet them at the X party. Include your business card if you didn’t already exchange them at the party. Include a personal mention, playing off the conversation you had (“I hope your son wins the soccer tournament!”) to add a little more intimate connection.
  6. Schedule a coffee meeting if you feel the connection is solid enough. As you nurture these contacts, you’ll interact with them more and more. It might start out with a few emails back and forth. But if it feels right (you think the person will be receptive), invite your new contact out for coffee. Your objective here isn’t to ask for a job, but rather to get advice. Maybe it’s to ask what this particular company looks for in an employee, or maybe it’s to get mentored on how you can improve your skills to be more hireable. If your contact is comfortable with you and is in a position to help, let her ask if she can give you a reference or set up an interview.
  7. Find local meetings in your industry and participate. A great way to meet the movers and shakers in your industry is by diving in headfirst. Find groups in your area that meet monthly to discuss topics that relate to your field. This will help you get the behind-the-scenes buzz on who’s hiring and what they’re looking for.
  8. Don’t drink too much! We’ve all heard about the office party that went a little crazy. While it’s fine to have a glass of wine, remember you’re networking to impress. If the hiring manager’s memory of you involves a lampshade, you probably won’t fall high on the hiring list.
  9. Focus on giving, rather than getting. Networking is about creating value. Don’t go into it looking for what you can get out of it. Instead, focus on how you can make yourself useful to new people. Maybe you can recommend a good book to read, or connect a new contact to a graphic designer if she’s looking for one. The more you give, the more people will stick around. And they’ll want to give back to you!
  10. Don’t forget your business cards! This one seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many industry events I’ve attended where people had forgotten their business cards! Make sure yours has up-to-date contact information, and that you have enough to exchange. (Better too many than not enough!)

Keep these tips in mind as you network throughout December. Remember, it’s about developing long-term relationships, not getting what you want right now.

Photo credit: Richard.Asia

Only the Employed Need Apply


Waiting In Line For Hope

According to the Wall Street Journal, many employers in this economy think that the best candidates are those who are still employed and are "bypassing the jobless to target those still working, reasoning that these survivors are the top performers." See it

for yourself.

Bobby Fitzgerald, the restaurant owner quoted in this article, seems to think that restaurant servers and managers are only worthy of being hired if they have a current job. Even though he claims 'two dozen or more unsolicited résumés come in each day', he'd rather fly a candidate from Alabama to Phoenix to interview for a job based on the candidate's current employment status - employed.  He's also proud to flaunt his guerrilla recruiting tactics by sending his managers to poach talent from his local competition because he thinks that an employed worker brings more value to his restaurants.

Perhaps it's Mr. Fitzgerald's proud photo along with the negativity and his comments in the article that bother me so much. Millions of professionals are unemployed in the market due to the economic crisis, many at no fault of their own. We're so far past the point of equating the unemployed with damaged. This kind of short-sightedness in this marketplace makes my blood boil.

While it is common, especially during good economic times, to give preference to an employed candidate or to question the reasons behind a layoff, there are many other factors to consider before running off to the WSJ to tell the world about your company's silly hiring policies. Some of these story sources didn't even bother to think about how their comments may affect their reputation. Ticking off the community of unemployed readers and their friends and family members isn't the smartest way to drive business to your company or enhance your employer brand.

Companies don't always make cuts based on performance issues. Entire departments are being eliminated and other companies are going through three of four rounds of layoffs. Sometimes the business just can't sustain even the best performers. And even if the layoff had something to do with the person, such as a cultural or personality clash, it doesn't mean that the candidate couldn't be a top performer in the right environment.

Let's make it clear though. I'm not advocating that preference should be given to an unemployed candidate because he or she is out of a job. I just hope most employers can set aside their preconceived notions about unemployed applicants and evaluate potential prospects based on their relevant experience first, not their 2009 employment status.

Photo credit: Cycrolu

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How To Deal with Multiple Recruiters Who Work with the Same Company

Tug of War

The 10th Kingdom dvdrip


Recruiter A put me in for Position 1 at Company X. I met with Recruiter B to discuss a potential Position 2 at Company X (although I didn't realize it until our meeting that the job was for Company X). I explained to Recruiter B that Recruiter A had already put me in for Position 1 at Company X, so we decided I should try to confirm with Recruiter A that Position 2 was NOT the same job as Position 1.

Before I could call Recruiter A, I received a voicemail from her telling me that she knew of another potential position at Company X (it was Position 2).

So, the "original" recruiter ended up asking me if I wanted to also be put in for Position 2, AFTER I'd already met with Recruiter B to discuss it. Recruiter B has not yet sent my information to the client.

What do I do? Recruiter A has already been talking to Company X about me for Position 1, so I am already in the running there. Recruiter B hasn't even gotten to that point yet and the two positions are very similar.


This is a tricky and uncomfortable situation for all involved, but the best way to avoid any problems is to be honest with Recruiter B and tell her you have already been submitted to the company by Recruiter A. When companies utilize the services of search firms, the service agreements usually state that once a recruiter submits a candidate for a position, the recruiter is entitled to receive credit for the introduction, no matter which position the candidate is hired for a period of six months to one year.

In this situation, Recruiter A clearly discussed opportunities at the company with you first and deserves credit (he's likely to be compensated anyways for the placement). Do not allow Recruiter B to submit your information to the company. Just kindly let her know that you clarified the situation and you have already been presented to the company.  Keep the door open to hear about opportunities with her other clients. She should be understanding to the situation. It's part of being in the recruiting business.

Problems arise when the same candidate is presented by two different search firms to the same company. Some candidates believe it is to their advantage to hide previous applications, past interviews, or discussions about the company with another third-party recruiter, so they deliberately omit this pertinent information. I imagine it's because many candidates are not well-versed on how the recruiter/company relationships works and they probably think the more people who put them in front of the company, the better.

This is not the case when working with recruiters.

The consequences of being introduced by more than one recruiter for a position will never result in a happy ending. It damages the relationship between the candidate and the recruiters. Most hiring companies will do whatever necessary to not be involved in a battle between two recruiting firms claiming credit for the candidate. The company will question the candidate's integrity or possibly decide that hiring the candidate will cause issues it prefers to avoid.

These situations can be easily avoided by keeping a few things in mind:

  • Keep detailed notes of the companies and positions for which you have applied, including conversations with recruiters and the positions/companies they have presented. Include position and dates of initial introduction and follow through interviews.
  • Be honest with a recruiter if you have sent your information directly to a company or if you have been presented an opportunity at the company by another recruiter. We don't like surprises.
  • Not all recruiters adhere to the same standards of confidentiality. Make it clear to the recruiters you choose to work with that your information should not be sent to any company without your permission.

This post is part of an on-going series

featuring readers job search and hiring questions. If you have a question you would like answered in this blog, please send it to me here. Your information will be kept confidential.

Photo credit: JPhilipson

Running on Empty Dreams trailer


One Simple Way to Increase Your Chances of Finding a Job on Twitter

Twitter bird logo icon illustration

Hubspot just released their State of the Twittersphere report

. Over the past several months, they analyzed the use of over 4.5 million accounts through Twitter Grader .

Here are the findings:

  • 79.79% failed to provide a homepage URL
  • 75.86% of users have not entered a bio in their profile
  • 68.68% have not specified a location
  • 55.50% are not following anyone
  • 54.88% have never tweeted
  • 52.71% have no followers

You can find the entire report here:

I'm surprised that 75% of users haven't entered a bio and almost 70% haven't entered their location.

If you plan to use Twitter for a job search, completing a bio and putting a location helps those using Twitter for recruiting find you. An easy, one stop resource to find everyone on Twitter doesn't seem to exist. We're relying on Twitter profile sites that index profiles based on the words found in user's bios, Twitter keyword searches, or Google search strings to find and connect with people with similar interests and backgrounds.

Simple suggestion : Let people know who you are, what you do, and where you are located. Once you do that, you've significantly increased your chances of hearing about opportunities from Twitter-savvy companies and recruiters.

Photo credit: Matt Hamm

Six Ways to Stay Positive During a Difficult Job Search

Rejection, especially in this job market, is an unavoidable reality. You won't win every time. It's okay to be disappointed, for a minute, but set a limit and move on. Part of job search success requires self-evaluation. It's important to recognize the possibility you might be doing something wrong and, if so, to be open to positive change.

If you've been on the hunt for awhile and you feel like you're getting nowhere, consider asking your recent interviewers and peers for constructive criticism. Be prepared for the sugar-coated version, but at least you will gain some perspective on what you may be able to change for future interviews.

I find the most frustrated job seekers are those who walk blindly through their job searches. Recruiters and hiring managers are keen at sniffing out those with chips on their shoulders. Not being aware of negative feelings or the inability to control emotions throughout a difficult job search process will quickly send a job seeker to the depths of job search hell, and we all know that is not a pretty place to be.

I know it's easier said than done, but keeping your chin up and sending out positive vibes throughout every step of an interview process is critical to your success. Here are 6 ways to stay positive during your job search:

1. Take responsibility for your happiness.

Too often we let other people determine our happiness. When you let a potential employer, or anyone else for that matter, control your feelings, you'll never end up very happy. Happiness, bitterness, or frustration are all choices. How you decide to react to any situation in a job search is up to you. Many issues in life you won't have any control over. The key is knowing what is within your power (yourself) and what is out of your hands (everyone else).

2. Reward yourself for the small successes along the way.

Celebrate when you get a phone interview or second-round interview. Okay, it's not a job offer, but it's a step in the right direction. Even if you aren't selected for the job, it means your resume is communicating the right things to a potential employer.

3. Find a job search partner and surround yourself with positive people.

Networking should play a huge part in your job search, however, if you find yourself surrounded by "Debbie Downers", find another group! This goes for a job search partner, too. While finding someone to talk to who's in the same boat as you and who understands the frustrations is very helpful, make sure you help keep each other motivated and positive.

4. Set goals. Get up and get out.

Don't allow yourself to sleep in and lounge around. Take your job search seriously and search every single day. Set daily goals and track your progress so you have a good idea of where you are heading. Setting a job search schedule will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.

5. Find time to do things you enjoy.

Keeping your life balanced will help you stay positive and keep things in perspective. Explore a new hobby. Catch up on your reading list. Eat right and exercise! Stay engaged with your family and friends.

6. Consider exploring a cause you are passionate about through part-time volunteer work.

Not only can volunteering lead to possible job leads and new connections, but it's a good way to add structure to your days and feel like you are contributing to a positive cause.

How do you stay positive when life gets you down?

Photo credit: Wavy1

Frustration and Negativity: Job Search Sabotage


Rough day

Yesterday, I posted the example of the worst job inquiry I've ever received which has prompted a few questions from people who have been unemployed for an extended time and relate to the frustration pouring out of the letter. Frustration is an undeniable and natural reaction during the job search.

Simply put - the economy sucks right now. Many very talented people are out of work or under-employed. This is even more of a reason you need to put the extra effort into the job search and into how you present yourself throughout the process. You are your number one fan and it's up to you to sell yourself every time you walk through an interviewer's door or send an employment inquiry. It is your job, despite your frustration, the economy, the doom and gloom, the rejection letters, and the unwillingness of others, to put your best foot forward and do it with a smile on your face if you plan to go back to work anytime soon.

A company will not hire you because:

  • You have been unemployed for X number of months or years
  • You have personal financial obligations or need health insurance
  • You are going through a divorce
  • You need more of a work/life balance
  • For any reason thrown out there that has to do with your personal needs

    A company will hire you because:

    • Your background fits the job
    • AND your professional experiences and skills add value to an organization
    • AND your energy and enthusiasm are contagious and the team wants to share office space with you
    • AND you have a positive attitude and a willingness to learn new things

    It is your responsibility to demonstrate this to any prospective employer. Check the negative attitude and frustration at the door. It's easy to get down on yourself and anything else the stands in your way during a long job search, but voicing it, even eluding to it, will not help you one bit.

    The question is how does one stay positive during a job search when nobody seems to want to help you? Where do you channel the frustration? How does one revive and advance their job search when the possibilities seem limited? More about that tomorrow.

    Photo credit: JustMichele

    Lilo & Stitch divx


    How Not To Ask For Help In The Job Search

    The example below is one of the worst examples of an employment inquiry I have ever received. You don't need to read more than the first paragraph to see where this is heading. But read it thoroughly, maybe even twice.

    Is it just me or does the negative tone and desperation of this email just make you cringe? Aside from the negativity, the unnecessary sarcasm, and a few typos, it is obvious that this candidate sent this blanket inquiry to dozens of recruiters. Big time fail. I can't imagine I'm the only person who wouldn't feel comfortable putting someone who presents himself like this in front of a client.

    A couple weeks ago, Stephanie Lloyd made a good point in her guest post on my blog about how candidates shouldn't come across as desperate in their job search. Career Hub also did a good piece recently called 10 Ways To Avoid Sabotaging Your Job Search By Being Desperate Godsend hd

    The Relic video .

    Telling candidates not to sound desperate always raises a lot of questions, especially for those who are out of work and need a job to pay the bills. We all need to pay the bills. We may have alimony, mortgages, credit card bills, student loans, and child support - the list goes on and on. Your financial obligations are a given, so bringing it up in the job search is completely unnecessary. I get numerous inquiries each week asking for help with blatant statements about personal financial situations. Don't be that person.

    Tips for writing a good employment inquiry letter:

      1. Make it personal. Remind the person where you met, how you found his or her name, or who gave you the recommendation.

      2. Explain why you are writing and exactly what information you would like to find out. People don't know how to help you if they don't know what you need.

      3. Stay positive and cheerful. Do exactly the opposite of the example above.

      4. Market an accomplishment or two. Make people want to call you.


      Write an Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

      Me & My Mac

      I'm not a huge fan of cover letters. The "Is a Cover Letter Necessary?" topic is a highly debatable topic between recruiters. Most will tell you cover letters are absolutely necessary, but there are some of us out there who will openly admit that we always look at your resume first. It's true. A cover letter is secondary. If the resume fits the job specs and you didn't send me a cover letter, I could care less. I'll still interview you.

      Before you get too excited, I'm not recommending a complete omission of the cover letter. Some companies put a lot weight on deciding who comes in for an interview on the letter itself, so it's better to have one ready. I'm just sayin'.

      The type of cover letters I prefer are more like introductory letters embedded in the email. I'm not talking about that cover letter everyone learned about in college. You know the one: traditional, long, full-page 5 paragraph monster filled with boring adjectives that everyone uses to describe themselves. Blah! This introductory email is brief, direct, and cuts to the chase. It tells me everything I need to know to decide if I should open the attachment before moving on to my other emails.

      A good introduction includes:

      1. A brief description about why you are contacting the person and how you found him or her.
      2. The position you are interested in exploring (a link is helpful if you found it online somewhere).
      3. Top three reasons you fit the position. Be specific. Add a previous accomplishment that addresses the possible challenges in the position.
      4. A bit of personality.
      5. A closing statement and contact information.

      Four Christmases ipod

      Scarface movie

      Here is a basic introduction letter outline of someone I would be inclined to call.

      Hi Lindsay,

      I began following you on ____ and I recently came across your current search for a (position title) in (city). (Add link here if you have it).

      If the position is still open, I'd like to put my hat in the ring. Even though (industry) is a new field for me, I'm a fit for the position's background criteria.

      * 10+ years in corporate communications (in-house at (company) and two agencies: (company) and (company).
      * Built out the PR function and brand from the ground up for a major (industry of company).
      * Reported directly to the (title of person reported to)

      I was the (insert your title here) at (company). But don't let the title fool you: I built the PR program from scratch starting in (year) as the company's first departmental hire. By the time I left in (year), (I accomplished this which meant $$, %, or something significant). I left (company) to (reason for leaving) and ....

      I've attached my resume and would like to learn more about the position. Please let me know if you're interested in speaking further. I can be reached at _____.

      Best regards,

      The accomplishment and the three bullet points should be address some of the requirements or challenges you might face in the position.

      Customization and personalization are the keys to writing effective cover letters. While your cover letter may include some of the same material, it needs to be changed for each individual position. If you are an accountant in New York and you're moving to Canada, you'd naturally want to highlight the fact that you're familiar with a Canadian professional tax software package since there are obviously going to be differences in systems from country to country. A job search is a job in itself and requires some extra effort for each position for which you apply. Blanket cover letters reek of laziness and do little to set you apart from your competition, so don't go there with your intro.

      Do you think cover letters are always necessary?

      Photo credit: Kwerfeldein

      How Do I Know If This Is The Right Job For Me? - PRNewser


      The Truman Show divx

      Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot film Imprint the movie The In-Laws trailer

      Most people will ask themselves this question at some point during a job search. In the current state of the economy, professionals feel they aren't able to be as picky as they were in previous years. The pressing need for a paycheck deposit undoubtedly outweighs or hides any negative aspects of the job. But accepting your next position is a serious decision and it's important to consider several factors before rushing to the alter. After all, this is the place and the people with whom you will be spending a majority of your waking hours.

      I spend a lot of time talking to people about why they have made job changes or what changes in their current position would make them happier. The top three reasons I hear are...

      Management issues, no room to grow, and geographical constraints/relocation.

      A company is always changing and sometimes those changes are unforeseen. Regardless, these are the issues you should evaluate before making a decision and the best way to do that is through asking good questions throughout the interview process.

      Visit PRNewser for the rest of the article here: From The Recruiter's Desk: How Do I Know If This Is The Right Job For Me?


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