Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Archive for May, 2011

How to Handle ‘You’re Overqualified’ in Interviews

So  what should you do if you’re credentialed with good experience and advanced  education, are looking to become re-employed and are even willing to take a  lower-level position? Here are a few tips:

Don’t  Be Tempted to “Dumb Down!”

This  strategy moves your career backward. You typically end up frustrated, not hired  or worse — you find a new job you can’t wait to move out of. Most employers  today actually want you working at your highest ability level since productivity  is key to everyone’s success. They also want to retain you past the many months  it takes to train you for the job, so you can begin to make a contribution to  the company.

Do Some Soul Searching and Savvy Preparation.

Acknowledge  that employers are reluctant to hire a person who is overqualified because they  think the person is unlikely to be happy, won’t stay long, might want the  interviewer’s job or may expect fast promotion. Remember that you can be  threatening to the interviewer, especially if you are truly suited for the  interviewer’s job! He may think you aren’t seriously interested in doing the job  for which you’re being hired — nor do employers want someone who’s burned out or  sees the job as an easy paycheck.

Examine  why you want the position. “I need a job!” is not a response that will endear  you to him. You must use your communication skills to convince him why a  demotion is a good option. You must create a reasonable explanation. Try  this:

“My  current position as Regional Sales Manager requires me to cover 14 states, and  the job had grown into 15 nights of travel per month. This has become an  increasingly difficult sacrifice for my family. I have decided to seek a major  accounts-rep position that allows me to focus on my strengths — selling,  sustaining top-notch client relationships and up-selling — but also allows me to  go home most evenings. This is not an option at my current job. It requires a  lot of out-of-town travel to do the job, which I am no longer willing to do. I  believe my extensive marketing and sales skills would greatly benefit your  organization in a positive way. I see this as a win/win situation for both of  us.”

Don’t  Show Desperation.

You  may feel it, but it will work against your getting hired if you show how frantic  you are to get a job. Too often an executive says, “I’ll start at any job just  to get my foot in the door.” That won’t work — it’s an outdated strategy. Being  willing to take any  job often makes the interviewer disqualify you. She needs a competent  person to perform the specific job she’s hiring for.

So,  you must show not only that you can do it but also that you want
to do
it. You can offer some advantages, gained from your experience, such
as: “My ability to solve problems and train others would be a major plus in the  position.” Many employers are slow to hire, yet pay well when they select
someone for the position, so patience is essential.

Look  Harder for Positions for Which You Are Qualified.

Employers  want a good fit and an individual who delivers results. Customize every cover letter you write and tweak your resume to match the
opportunity. Be sure to address the major needs required and demonstrate results  you’ve achieved in line with the level requested. A former CEO at a smaller  company might only be a midlevel executive at a larger organization, so be clear  as to how you’re leveraging past experience and leadership to help a potential  employer excel.

Networking  Is Key to Hearing About and Landing a New Job.

Ask  colleagues, friends, former employees, college alumni, and other contacts for  referrals to new people who can help you uncover unadvertised positions. An  introduction to a senior executive can open new doors and even create a job when  no advertised one was available. Department of Labor statistics reveal that 63  percent of all jobs last year were found through contacts, so network, network,  NETWORK!

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How to Handle Resume Gaps

Job seekers often assume that in order to score the perfect job, one has to be the perfect candidate. That the right mix of education, titles, and skills is needed in order to land the career of their dreams. So when faced with resume gaps, an individual may rightly feel disheartened. But continuous employment is not the be-all, end-all to nabbing a great job, especially in these times. It is important, however, to know how to treat employment gaps on your resume, in your cover letter, and in your interview.

The Functional Format

One way to gloss over gaps on your CV is to create afunctional resume. This focuses on your skills and achievements, rather than on specific dates. There are certainly other advantages to formatting your resume this way as well, as it allows you to pinpoint exactly what it is that you bring to the table. The trick here is to tailor it to the specific job that you are applying for.

List Your Achievements

Another way to downplay a gap in employment is to highlight your accomplishments on your resume. While you may not have continuous experience, various honors will convey that you have quality experience, and that you have been recognized as having done an outstanding job.

Include Extracurricular Experience

Hiring mangers understand that qualified candidates may have gaps in employment. What they want to avoid, however, is a candidate who is qualified but who lackswork ethic. What did you do while you were out of a job? Did you volunteer or become an active member of an organization? Even though you weren’t necessarily paid for your extracurricular activities, it’s perfectly okay to list them. Highlight your transferable skills here, and focus on how you can apply them to the position you are currently seeking.

Explain Your Reasons

It also works well to just come out and explain why you have a resume gap and what you did to fill your time. Don’t be afraid to address the matter in a cover letter or an interview. Hiring managers will respect your willingness to be forthright about periods of unemployment, and will be interested to learn about the creative, productive ways in which you were able to spend your time instead.

In a time where everyone’s looking for an edge, an employment gap can seem like a major setback. But if you know how to strategically position yourself and your experience, a hiring manager will be much more interested in what you have done, rather than what you haven’t.

10 Tips for Getting the Most from Your Mentor

How can a mentor improve your business and career advancement? Many ways: A mentor can guide you, take you under his wing and teach you new skills. Research has shown that mentoring relationships succeed and are satisfying for both parties when both the mentor and the person being mentored take an active role in developing the relationship.

Here are 10 tips you can implement to ensure you get what you need out of the relationship.

  1. Be clear on why you want a mentor and why you are meeting.
    Define what type of help you’re looking for in a mentor. Are you looking for someone with similar skills or someone with a very different skill set who can coach you? Are you looking for someone who has gone up the corporate ladder and can advise you on the ins and outs of corporate politics?
  2. Establish goals for the relationship.
    Discuss and agree upon the goals of the relationship and what you, personally, are doing to make it a successful venture. Review these goals from time to time to be sure the relationship is working; if not, adjust and refocus.
  3. Network, network and network to find a suitable mentor.
    Once you decide on the type of mentor you need, participate in functions and professional associations where you might find this type of person. For example, scour your chamber of commerce events, alumni and professional associations or even your owncompany. If you do choose someone from your own firm, it’s best to select someone other than your direct supervisor.
  4. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor.
    You can establish multiple mentoring relationships with individuals who can help you grow in different aspects of your life. Think of it as building your own personal board of directors. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a ‘peer mentor’ or someone at your level who has complimentary skills and experiences — even if you think you’re on the same level, you can learn a lot from their previous experiences.
  5. Establish communication methods and frequency of contact from the beginning.
    Talk with your mentor to determine the lines of communication that will work for both of you. Will you meet face to face or communicate mainly through e-mail and the telephone? Make sure you meet/talk enough to suit both of you.
  6. Manage expectations and build trust.
    Mentoring takes time and implies sacrifices for both the person being mentored and the mentor. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and the other priorities in her life, such as family, travel and community activities. Avoid any trust-breaking behaviors such as canceling appointments or not following through on leads and contacts given to you by your mentor.
  7. Acquire mentoring skills and competencies.
    Pay attention to great skills that you notice in your mentors; these skills include listening, guidance, recommendations and wisdom. When you receive corrective feedback from your mentor, don’t be defensive. Listen, digest and take immediate steps to apply what you have learned.
  8. Be respectful of your mentor’s time.
    Do not overburden him by demanding too much time or too many contacts. Understand that the moment you decide you need information might not be the best time for him, so be patient.
  9. Express your gratitude.
    Your mentor is likely to give a lot more than you do in the relationship in terms of time and contacts. Be sure to express regularly that you value and appreciate your mentor’s guidance.
  10. Vary the activities you do together.
    There are numerous activities you can do with your mentor, such as talking about your past experiences, goals, plans, and skill development and attending meetings, conferences, and other events. You can also shadow your mentor at work or exchange and discuss written materials like your resume or an article one of you has written.

ROADMAP TO YOUR JOBSEARCH

Today’s job searches are taking longer to produce results than even a year ago. But that reality doesn’t have to put a damper on your campaign to land that plum position! Stack the odds in your favor by creating an effective road map that covers all the best job search strategies.

First Impressions

Begin the journey with a professional cover letter and resume. You want to engage hiring managers and build interest in you as a viable candidate. That first impression can become a wave you ride into the interview room. Carry that professional image through in every interaction you have within your network or with any representatives of the companies you contact. Meet every deadline. Arrive early for any type of appointment. Be prompt and courteous. Above all, behave professionally.

Actions Speak Loudly

Follow up with hiring managers to produce results long after the first contact you have with a company. You might call to be sure your resume has been received or to inquire as to the need for additional information. Sending a thank-you note following an interview is par for the course, but also send one to acknowledge any assistance you received, such as to the contact who helped get your resume to the right individual. Even if you don’t land an interview initially, state your intent to touch base periodically. See this as part of your network building. By sharing the latest industry information or just chatting informally, you can turn these contacts into enjoyable social encounters. Your persistence and interest in the company are communicated by consistent actions, which carry much more weight than empty words.

Network Effectively

Take advantage of job fairs, community gatherings, andprofessional organization events to keep your finger on the pulse of local and national job markets. Not only are these excellent opportunities to network, but also to understand movement in key positions at companies of interest. Consistent networking, even if you aren’t actively looking for work, can lay the foundation for subsequent job searches. Read local business publications to stay on top of regional business news and opportunities. You may discover new businesses before they open where you can submit an early resume ahead of the competition.

Do What You Love

Professional passion and interest in your field of work cannot be overrated. Only you can determine whether this is the time to follow your heart and create a new direction in your career or if it’s better to stick with a sure thing. Though family and financial obligations may be pressing you in one direction, if you are unhappy in your current situation, it may be negatively affecting your overall quality of life as well as your job search. Although it may seem like a bit of a detour, review what makes you happy and do what you can to increase a sense of meaning and satisfaction in your life. Believe it or not, that kind of energy can also fuel your job search forward.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are continually looking for opportunities and feel stymied by the lack of results. The sheer number of job listings and sites makes the job search feel even more challenging. Realize it is not necessary to mobilize every strategy in your job search road map at the same time. Keep diligent records of your job search and organize contacts so you don’t inadvertently duplicate your efforts. You may also use a spreadsheet for usernames and passwords to various job sites.

Pick Up the Phone

Use the resources available to you. Call the new company in town and introduce yourself. Share your interest in the company, but more importantly, use your elevator speech to broadcast your skills and value. Follow up with a resume. Ask for a meeting. Give hiring managers good directions in identifying your strengths and linking those to the needs of the company.

Work to gain clarity in your job search for greater effectiveness and consistent progress on the journey. Target positions and employers you are interested in and systematically follow your road map for success!

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