Phase One – Strong Foundation
There are some critical pieces that need to be in place before you begin reaching out to your network and applying for positions:
You Are Here
Try to think of this as a time of opportunity and possibility. If you do, you’ll have learned a lot about yourself and what you want to create in your life on the other side.
Re-Launch You: Liftoff After Layoff
Wheel of Life Exercise
Re-Launch You eBook
This book is downloaded daily. I get thank-you notes from all over the globe telling me how helpful it was. If you’re trying to figure out your right next step, you might want to check it out:
If you actually get a live person to look at your resume, they will do two things: 1. Read the executive summary and 2. Scan down the left-hand side to see who you have worked for and what positions you have held.
During that time, which is about 8 seconds, they will make the decision that they want to learn more – or that you’re not a fit.
You need to have a resume that clearly shows what you have been doing and what you have learned. A resume should also be forward facing.
- What are your best skills?
- What do you want to take forward with you to your next position?
- What do you kind of hate (but might be good at) that would like to do less of?
Beware buzzwords and acronyms. If you’ve worked in a big company, you won’t even notice that you’re using them, but the people who you’re talking with, or who may be reading your resume, could have no idea what you’re talking about.
Resumes Are Static
Don’t change resumes for jobs. It is a recipe for disaster.
Why? Because you will have small word or grammar errors – guaranteed. And you only have one chance to make a good first impression.
Instead, create 1-3 static documents that will work for the types of positions you are applying for.
Resume Keywords. Don’t Game ATS
There is a lot of advice out there around stuffing key words into your resume. Everyone thinks they know how applicant tracking systems (ATS) are being used in corporations, but I don’t agree. Each organization is most likely using different search criteria.
You have no way of knowing what they are actually searching for. It could be a specific competitor that they like to recruit out of or specific skills – or something you would never even think of.
I believe your experience is your experience, and if you are a fit for a job, the key words are probably already in your resume.
But don’t take my word for it, read this very compelling post:
You need an updated LinkedIn profile with a headline that has your best skills or desired titles and industry experience. Think about what someone might be searching for in a candidate (key words).
- Business Consultant | Career Transition Expert | Speaker | Writer | Founder of The Depression Discussions™
- Business Development & Channel Sales Expert | Financial Services, Technology & Real Estate
- Account Manager | Payment Processing PCI Security & P2PE | Higher Education, Healthcare & Enterprise
- Strategic Partnership Development | Deal Structuring & Negotiation | Consumer Data, Technology & Analytics | TV & Media
- Video & Multimedia Production Director | Photojournalist & Storyteller | HD, 4K, Immersive 360
- Art Director, Visual Designer & Project Manager | Guardian of a Brand
You also need a compelling summary of what you’ve done and are looking to do.
In general, it’s better to write the summary in the first-person voice (i.e., I am a…)
The summary needs to be professional, but you can add in a little of your personality, the attitude you bring to your work, and what it’s like to work with you, etc.
You need to be able to concisely tell someone what situation you’re looking for so they know who to connect you to.
You’ll know you’ve nailed it when you see the person you’re talking to mentally scrolling through their contact list thinking about who they could introduce you to.
You may have different asks, depending on where you are and who you’re talking to.
Narrower is better. My friend Steve Woodruff calls this a “memory dart.” Short and targeted works best.
Example: My background is primarily in the pharmaceutical industry and I am looking for a sales rep position with a global brand.
Example: I have 15 years of experience in professional services and I am currently looking to join a mid-tier firm in an internal marketing or other support role.
Example: Having sold the gourmet food business that I co-founded after 14 years, I am looking to take my CPG experience to a larger company in a brand management or business development role.
You need to come to peace with folding or leaving your business.
You need to come to peace after a bad business breakup or a layoff.
Grieving is appropriate. Something has died. Honor the process but don’t stay there too long.
Bad Business Breakup
Sometimes you may need to get over a bad boss, unexpected layoff, or other cause of a bad business breakup.
Are your technical skills where they need to be? Are there some gaps you need to address? Most professionals tell me they should be better at using Excel.
Clifton Strengths – This is the less expensive version for just $20 – Top 5 CliftonStrengths
Meyers Briggs (There are free look-alike tests available.)
How do you tell your career story? What’s the right level of detail?
Chronological can work well. Start from the beginning after graduating college or business school and go from there.
Try to tell it as a story with a through line, if there is one. Highlight a few lessons learned in each position. Aim for 1-3 minutes of total talk time, depending on your years of experience.
You need to know what positions fit your current life situation – and what types of positions won’t work for you.
- Are you an independent contributor?
- Do you like to work as part of a team?
- Do you like to manage people?
- Do you like small or big companies?
- What industries do you want to work in?
- How much money do you want/need to make?
- How many hours are you willing to work?
- Do you need flexibility?
- Do you prefer maintaining existing systems or blazing a new path?
- Do you prefer project work that has a beginning and end?
- Would you prefer to work for a startup or an established company?
One Question You Need to Ask Yourself
This question is probably the most important one as you determine the right work situation, whether as an employee or a consultant. The question is: Do you want to manage people? Some professionals love mentoring and growing teams, some prefer to be individual contributors. Either is fine, but you need to be honest with yourself.
We all have nagging doubts and wonder if hiring managers will see our value.
Here are some nagging doubts you might have:
- Are small company skills relevant to a bigger company?
- When I ran my own company, I did everything. Where do I fit in corporate?
- I’m a generalist, will anybody take me seriously?
- I’m a specialist, will anyone see that I can do other things well?
- You just need one job. There is one job that will fit you and your situation.
- If you’ve worked in the past, it’s statistically probable that you will work again.
- This is your next job. It’s not end game. These decisions don’t tend to be fatal. You can talk around anything with practice. AND, you always learned something important.
- You are not broken or damaged goods. If you do the work, you can get a good result.
Freedom to Choose
When you are thrown into job search unexpectedly, or if you have been in transition for a while, you can forget that you have agency and can choose what you will – and will not – do.
Video: You Have Freedom of Choice
Stress Management Techniques
Looking for a job is extremely stressful. You’ll want to take resting, recharging, and managing stress really seriously. Consider utilizing the following:
- Creative projects
- Playing with kids
- Playing with pets
Phase Two – Initiation
After we’ve worked on your foundation, we will need to address your inner game, including limiting beliefs and negative self-talk. These inner demons can be brutal!
During the Strong Foundation stage, we have gotten to know you personally and professionally.
NOW it’s time to create a strategy and execute on it.
How HR Professionals Think
Have you ever wanted to get inside the head of a hiring manager or HR professional?
Well, now you can. Sarah and Julie have hired thousands of professionals throughout their careers.
Podcast: Other Side of the Desk: Sarah Thompson by PointA_PointB on #SoundCloud
Podcast: Other Side of the Desk: Julye Berry by PointA_PointB on #SoundCloud
Cover letters should be kept short and sweet – targeted and focused. Think taste, not whole story.
For startups and nonprofits, tap into their vision and mission, and definitely show enthusiasm.
Example 1 – Basic Bullets
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am excited to apply for the <Title> at <Company>. I am an experienced creative and operations executive who has managed my own agency and worked with outside agencies within high-end, luxury brands.
During my career, I have worked for and with fashion and cosmetic brands, including Versace, NARS, Origins, and many others. Some of my accomplishments include:
- Partnering with high-end brands to develop compelling creative that drives sales
- Liaising with agencies and overseeing creative teams to turn ideas into successful campaigns
- Sourcing and developing a team serving global brands
My diverse background would enable me to bring an outside perspective and immediate value to the <Company>. Thank you for considering me, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Example 2 – Bucketed Skills
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am extremely interested in the position of <Title> at <Company>. I’m very impressed with your crowd-sourcing model and would love to be a part of your growth. As <Company> expands into wholesale, I could be a huge asset. In short, I bring:
- Passion and results. I’m a highly motivated individual that works tirelessly to achieve optimal results through active management and process optimization. I’m extremely customer focused, with an emphasis on exploiting analytics and consumer data.
- Retail, wholesale, and supply chain knowledge. Most recently, I managed all of the wholesale operations at <former employer>, partnering with large retail chain stores, distributors, and independent art supply stores throughout North America. I oversaw the entire supply chain from international product sourcing to quality assurance, and compliance with our factories to fulfillment optimization at our Bay Area warehouses.
- Cross-functional partnership development. I have a track record of success building cross-functional partnerships between operations, merchandising, customer service, and engineering, resulting in double-digit increases in sales, increased inventory turn and fulfillment rates, and excellent customer experiences.
I’m a team player who is willing to roll up my sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Having recently sold my business, I’m looking to bring my skills to a collaborative environment where I can work with a great team.
I am looking forward to speaking with you and learning more about this position and <Company>.
Example 3 – Passionate
Dear Hiring Manager,
I read with great interest your post for assistance with Special Projects. I am deeply committed to education for all without financial or emotional burden. My mother and other members of my community are teachers, educators, and advocates for the learning disabled and less fortunate. <Company>’s mission and ethos inspire me.
My professional passion is supporting C-level founders and executives to both identify and to execute growth accelerators. I thrive in high-paced environments that require me to juggle multiple priorities, and at the same time finesse the details.
Generally speaking, my sleeves are permanently rolled up. I possess high-grade project management, data analysis, negotiation, presentation, and interpersonal skills. I add the most value when I am able to use both the creative and analytical sides of my brain.
My background includes technology-enabled businesses, corporate strategy development, management, and startups. And I have exceeded expectations in other special projects roles. I look forward to learning more about how I can support the growth and success of <company>.
Top 10 Tips for Acing the Interview
Tip 1: Get Comfortable Selling Yourself and Your Value
Welcome to Sales 101
- If you don’t tell your story, nobody else will
- We are taught from a young age not to brag or call attention to ourselves
Tip 2: Understand the Different Types of Interviews
There are several different kinds of interviews
- Initial screening interview or “check the box”
- HR interview – screening out OR selling you on the company
- Interview with hiring manager
- Interview with colleague / collaborator
- Panel interview
- Video interview
- Presentation interview
- Executive interview
Tip 3: Understand the Different Types of Conversations
Adjust your responses to the way the questions are asked
- Short questions = short answers
- Longer questions = longer answers with stories to back up your points
Tip 4: Have the Right Mindset
It’s all about fit – on BOTH sides
- You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you
- Feel confident about your best skills
- Understand the value that you will bring to the organization
- Be interested, but not attached to the outcome
- Remember that your only goal for that conversation is to get to the next step
Tip 5: Prepare Responses for the Expected Questions
PRACTICE your answers to these questions
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
- Can you tell me about your last position?
- Why did you leave your last position? (Why are you looking for a new position?)
- What are you looking for in your next position?
- What do you feel is your biggest strength?
- What do you feel is your biggest weakness?
- Can you give me an example of something you are particularly proud of?
- There are a lot of qualified candidates, why should we pick you?
Tip 6: Know Your Stories and Metrics
Behavioral questions are easier to answer if you have practiced these stories
- A success story from your most recent position
- A story where something was going wrong and you turned it around
- A story about your biggest professional achievement (can be from any time in your career)
- A story illustrating your biggest strength
- A story illustrating your biggest weakness
Tip 7: Avoid the Thin Ice
Saying less is always best
- Don’t badmouth a former boss or employer
- Practice uncomfortable answers, e.g., you were fired, you quit, your boss didn’t like you, etc.
- Don’t overshare personal information (kids, health issues, going through a divorce, elder care)
Tip 8: Be Thrilled When Interviews Become Conversations
The best interviews go off topic
- If you didn’t talk too much about your background, that can be a good thing
- If you connected on some topic separate from the job/company, that can be a good thing
Tip 9: Have Questions for Them
Always have a few questions prepared in advance
- Can you share what the interview process is like for this position?
- What are the key skills required for this position?
- What are your biggest priorities?
- What does a day in the life of this position look like? How would I be spending my time?
- What are your immediate challenges?
- What is the company’s near-term strategy and vision?
- What are the company’s strategies for growth?
- Do you have any doubts about my ability or qualifications to do this job well?
Tip 10: Make a Great Impression
Be Professional and Confident
- Dress professionally and comfortably
- Don’t fidget, play with your hair, or ramble on and on
- Breathe! Relax, slow down your speech, and enjoy the conversation
Talking About Failure
Nobody loves talking about failure. Resilience is a very desirable personality trait for a candidate, however, and smart companies are looking for that.
Unfortunately, the way you demonstrate resilience is to talk about failure.
Webinar: How to Have a Great Interview
Video: Morning Routine Question
A question that startups and mission-driven companies like to ask is whether you have a morning routine. Here’s why I think they ask it, and how you might prep to answer that one.
Video Interviewing Tips
- Remember to put your laptop on top of some books or something so that the camera is slightly above eye level angling down at you.
- If there’s a countdown timer, smile as it’s counting down so you’re coming off the smile as you go live. You’ll seem friendlier and feel calmer.
- Check your lighting, camera, and mic prior to starting the call.
- Confirm that your background isn’t cluttered or unprofessional.
- Frame the shot so you can use your hands and the person you’re talking to can see your hands. You will appear more trustworthy.
- Sign out of any software that runs in the background (Skype, Carbonite, Dropbox, etc.) as it can use resources and mess up your connection.
- If you have a Windows laptop, turn your computer on in advance to make sure it’s not doing something stupid with updates.
Direct Outreach to People You Know
In general, people want to help, but everyone is busy and distracted these days. Try to keep that in mind.
I am reaching out to you because you are someone who knows me well, and someone I trust. After working on my business for several years, I have decided to explore options for my next position at a funded startup or small- to medium-sized business.
I am looking forward to leveraging my background in leading-edge technology, IT infrastructure, project management, and product development. The right role could be Chief Technology Officer or Technical Product Manager.
I would very much appreciate it if we could schedule a short 20-minute call to get your input regarding organizations I should consider, people I should meet with, etc. Attached is a copy of my updated resume.
Thank you so much and I look forward to speaking with you soon.
It was a pleasure meeting you and other <name> group members during my visit to <company> to interview for the <title> position.
It was good to learn more about the company and the position, and the culture of the company. The position sounds like a good fit for my background, with the ability to learn and build on my experience and skills.
I am excited about this opportunity and am looking forward to taking the next step in the interview process.
I enjoyed meeting you and other members of the <xxx> group during my visit to <company> to interview for the <title> position.
It was good to learn more about <company name> and how you came to the company. I also appreciated hearing more about the position, growth of the company, and the culture of a family-owned business. The position sounds like a good fit for my skills and experience in <job function or industry>.
The interview process confirmed that I am very interested in working for <company> in the <title> position. Thank you again for your time.
The fast path to the cash in job search is always through people who know, like, and trust you. This can be friends and family, but more likely you’ll need to reach out to former colleagues, bosses, and vendors.
How to Reengage with Former Employers and Colleagues
Professionals can have a lot of stickiness around this, especially if you need to reach out to someone you haven’t had any contact with in years.
In general, I find that people are happy to hear from you and they may even say that they have been meaning to reach out to you.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t hear back the first time. People are busy and often mean to respond, but then something more important comes up. Wait a reasonable amount of time and try again.
How to Do Cold Outreach to People You Don’t Know
Michael Port is a mentor of mine. He always says that you need to make requests that are proportionate to the amount of trust you have built over time.
What this means is asking for 20 minutes is more appropriate than coffee when you don’t know someone. And lunch would probably be much too big of an ask.
The exception to this could be if you were introduced to this person by someone they trust.
However, it’s best to remember that relationships take time. Start with a small request of someone’s time, and if there is a connection, they will probably offer to continue the conversation another time.
Obviously, LinkedIn is a great place to reach out to people, but you need to be polite and respectful. If someone can make an introduction, that’s better than a cold outreach.
However, sometimes you need to do a cold outreach. Try to have a compelling subject line and a very short note that shares what you want and why you would like it from them.
Please don’t gush or send a “word salad” email. Nobody has time for that.
Everyone is a publisher these days. Potential employers can’t see inside your head. Show them what you know with:
- Online portfolio of your work
- SlideShare presentations (SlideShare.net)
- Blog posts
- Industry perspective / analysis
- LinkedIn articles (LinkedIn Pulse)
- Getting quoted somewhere
Create a wish list of 10-20 companies you would like to work for and start researching if you know anyone who works there.
Don’t know where to start? Do a search for “best boutique consulting firms Chicago” or “best places to work in Dallas” or “real estate development firms in New York” – have fun with this!
Ways to Search for Job Postings and Search Terms
Title – Director of Sales, Controller, Consultant, Content Manager, Data Analyst, Social Media Manager
Skills – Business Development, Data Analysis, Financial Forecasting, HTML, Content Development
Industry – Specialty Food, Financial Services, Professional Services, Manufacturing, Pharmaceutical
Type – Part-time, Full-time, Contract, Temporary
Often, you may need to use a combination of these to generate relevant results on indeed.com or other job posting consolidator site.
There is a high turnover for recruiters. If you have a conversation with someone that you don’t like, chances are they won’t be there the next time you interact with that firm.
Seriously, the turnover is extremely high.
HOWEVER, the good recruiters are gold, but they are rare.
A good recruiter can give you the inside scoop on the corporate culture, the personality types of the individuals you will be meeting with, their pet peeves, what skills / personality traits successful candidates need to have. All of this can be really helpful.
Recruiters will hound you when they have something for you and will not answer your calls when they don’t. Do not get your feelings hurt and stay on them. It is not a no until you actually hear them say it.
Don’t count on recruiters getting you a job, but do throw them into the mix because you never know what’s going to work!
You need to spend your time doing the activities that are more likely to yield a successful outcome.
- Online applications
- In-person networking
- Direct outreach to network
- Informational interviews
- Cold outreach
Depression and Job Search
Phase Three – Liftoff
The recruiting process at most companies is stupid and broken.
Repeat after me: Hiring is never anyone’s top priority – no matter what they tell you.
Productivity in Job Search
Using a variety of tactics (because different things work for different people), you will gain momentum over time.
Continued, dedicated action leads to conversations, which lead to interviews, which lead to job offers.
Clients have told us that at a certain point they felt like they reached critical mass and everything just started to fall into place.
The Emotional Roller Coaster
You will have ups and downs. This is guaranteed.
On the days when you’re feeling good, try to do a little more.
On the days when you just can’t make it happen, do one thing to move your job search forward and then call it a day.
The fastest way out of a bad headspace is to help someone else. It could be with their job search or with anything.
Seriously, the more you know about other people’s problems, the more likely you are to want to keep your own.
The Story You’re Making Up
We are hard-wired to make up stories to explain things. Our brains even get a chemical reward for doing this. The problem is, in business and job search, we often don’t have any data points so our stories aren’t even true! Here’s a practice that will make your life SO much easier.
The Middle Phone Call
Not receiving the middle phone call can feel like getting the middle finger, but this is rarely the case. People often won’t call you when there’s been a delay in the decision timeline, and this can make you crazy.
Balance is the wrong goal. Here’s what can work better.
Self-care is not self-indulgent – it’s critical!
You thought you could do it, but now…
When you get into the interview process or start negotiating a job offer, you may start freaking out about whether you can do the job or not. Please know that this is completely normal and happens to most people.
Be gentle on yourself and remember that you’ve walked into new situations before and figured it out.
It’s a job; it’s not end game. Most decisions will not be fatal.
Make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time and be OK with it.
If you make a mistake or have to take something to keep the lights on, you can talk to your decision process and what you learned from making that mistake.
We’ve all made mistakes. It’s almost never end game.
Turning the Ship
You may not end up where you thought you would as you go through job search.
Be open to different opportunities than you were initially targeting. The rate of change in business is staggering. There are so many jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
And, things don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Stay curious. Talk to people. Try to have fun with it.
Ask former managers, colleagues, and close friends where they see you. You might get some new ideas!
Runway Job vs. Career Path Job
Depending on where you’re heading, the right decision may not be a career move. It might be getting something that won’t require a crazy amount of your time and energy and will pay the bills while you’re building out something else on the side.
Or getting additional training or certifications.
Or getting an advanced degree.
Your Right Fit
You need to get crystal clear on what opportunities are right for you – and what are not a fit.
This is highly personal and will vary substantially, depending on what else is going on in your life.
- Sometimes money is a top priority.
- Sometimes flexibility is a top priority.
- Sometimes something relatively low stress is a priority.
- Sometimes something that doesn’t require a lot of brain space is a priority.
Negotiating Job Offers
It’s much easier to negotiate if you feel that you can walk away.
If you can’t actually walk away, figure out what you truly care about and try to get the company to give you that.
Please note: Your ego may try to sabotage what’s really important to you. Watch out for that!