A Few LinkedIn Pointers for a Job Search

Do you have your professional LinkedIn profile posted? Even if you're not in an active job search, you still need a LinkedIn1787141145781871883 profile. Some people feel that all social media is an invasion of privacy. However, a LinkedIn presence has become a requisite career cornerstone. You may update your LinkedIn profile anytime you wish – and should. But there is so much more than your profile available to you through LinkedIn to increase your "findability" on the Internet.

Recruiters use LinkedIn as their Number One way to source job candidates for their client companies. Their preference is to find "passive" candidates; i.e., candidates not in an active job search, but interested in the "right" opportunities should they present themselves. Even if you are very happy with your current position, in this ever-churning economy, it is a good idea to have career options. You never know when your company may be sold or file for bankruptcy. You don't want to go down with a sinking ship! Your LinkedIn profile is a type of career insurance. With it, you'll always be "findable" on the Internet for hiring authorities seeking to fill new positions. (Did you realize that having no presence on the web is just as bad as a negative presence?)

Treat LinkedIn as your friend. Use it to build business relationships. Invite people to connect with you if you share a common career bond. Using the Groups feature helps you showcase your career expertise, as well as make new contacts. The Groups tab is found in the LinkedIn top menu line. Answer Group questions, and also ask your own. Besides joining and participating in Groups related to your career field, join a few local LinkedIn Groups where you may meet people face-to-face, even if they are not in your field. You never know who knows someone who knows someone. By the way, you'll find that many groups are open – meaning you don't have to be approved to join. Others are only available to you upon approval of your request to join. There is value for you in both types of Groups.

As a Kansas City Career Coach, I recommend the following LinkedIn Groups for relationship-building online and in person in the Greater Kansas City Area. Contact me if you know of others:

* Kansas City Live Networking
* Linked to KC
* Kansas City Networking Society

If you want to relocate to another part of the country, look for online LinkedIn Groups to join in that area. You may get job recommendations from Group members to pave the path to your new job before you physically relocate. When you make LinkedIn a part of your everyday social networking, you'll be surprised at the rewards you reap.

I would love to hear your comments on how you have used LinkedIn for your career. Please leave your comments below. For more great information, check out Inc. magazine's, "6 Steps to a More Marketable LinkedIn Profile." Another great resource is the book, I'm On LinkedIn, Now What?, by Jason Alba. This book can be found at Amazon.com.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Abilities Enhanced Acquires KansasCityCareerServices

In January, Abilities Enhanced acquired the career coaching business, Kansas City Career Services. This purchase will help our company enhance our presence in the Kansas City area with its own website and new connections. It is with great enthusiasm that I announce this addition to our professional career coaching and resume writing services.

One new feature for Kansas City-based Career Chaos readers is a local blog that will feature Kansas City area job leads furnished by local HR professionals, recruiters and other reputable sources. At Abilities Enhanced, we want to help everyone who yearns for a job. This is our way of promoting employment for all!

In the days ahead you may see messages and activities that will work to link Kansas City Career Services to its parent, Abilities Enhanced. After all, we work in a global space where even Kansas City employees are affected by workplace practices throughout the nation and the world.

I look forwarded to communicating more personally with Kansas City careerists who seek that special place made just for them in the "right" workplace.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Find Career Solutions By Taking Time to Process!

About six weeks ago, one of my career coaching clients took the leap of faith to work with me for three months. Treadmill3Ben (not his real name) had been feeling like a hamster on a treadmill as his head spun in circles trying to figure out what he wanted from a career, or even a job. All he really knew was that what he was doing now was eating him alive. A man of many talents, he couldn't decide what he wanted to do, where he wanted to do it, and how to become successful in his quest. He'd been spinning out of control for months.

Like so many floundering career change wannabees, Ben wrestled with mixed messages all around him. He gave me permission to share his struggle with you in the hope that others could more quickly overcome their own career barriers and make a satisfying career change. One exercise we did was to assess Ben's negative beliefs that have held him back. We all harbor assumptions based on personal past experience or external messages. Here is one of Ben's beliefs and how he processed through it:

Message: My background and experience aren't good enough to find the work I desire.

Source: Hiring managers pile on rejection letters following my job interviews that reinforce that I'm not good enough, that I lack something.

Assumption: I lack the right skills, or I'm not presenting them well enough.

Analysis: I know this is true because I haven't been able to find a job I enjoy. Also, I see the struggles of so many people trying to find work. And the media keeps saying that the economy and the job market are tough.

The Shift of Ben's Belief:

Is it productive to believe this? No, since this limits what I can do going forward.

What is more productive to believe? While my inability to find work may be blamed on the economy and glut of unemployed talent, it could be the result of my needing to learn new job search skills.

What is probable? That my beliefs are a combination of my unrealistic conclusions and the economy in general.

What is possible? I need to find ways to promote myself better, either through a better resume, networking, more nuanced job interview responses/techniques – or all of the above.

What models show me this is possible? I've seen other job seekers succeed at finding employment. Their preparation and dedication paid off.

What action can I take? Remind myself that I am not alone. Every time I receive a rejection letter, I know there are hundreds also receiving similar letters. Understand that the job search search process is a numbers game – I first have to collect my "no's" to get my one yes! And, I have to turn off the television and talk radio; instead, put myself only into positive learning environments.

Wow! And this was just one message! Ben had more to work through, but this one shows you how it is possible to create your own beliefs and not become a passive receptacle for the messages and pontificating around you. Don't get sucked into the prevailing head winds. Stand up and face your beliefs. You decide what you want to believe. The easy way out will not move you down the road to successful career transition. Quit blaming others and start seeking honest answers from within you. Take the necessary time to process. (Not widely known fact: for college graduates with experience, the unemployment rate is only 4.4% – so forget that 8.9%.)

What happened to Ben? Here are some sound clips from his email to me just this week:

"Meg – I think I may have had some sort of epiphany!"
"I started thinking about all of the big ideas from our previous coaching session…"
"The above will sound rambling and disjointed but this idea of [blank] is sticking for some reason."
"I also started thinking about potential applications."
"Anyway, I've been thinking about it a lot. We can discuss this more in depth during our next career coaching session. Just thought I would share." 

I just smiled. I so love it when my career coaching clients discover their "it." A05That's what makes my own career one I truly enjoy.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

A Career Lesson for 2012: Learn From Others’ Mistakes

Reading the article, "Six Tips from Your Future Self," started me thinking about the career lessons I've learned over the years. As a career coach, I now understand how experience is a teacher, but may also be a curse. Sometimes we become so rooted in our ways based on past experience that we fear taking the risk to go after something better or something more. Questions arise such as: What if I fail? What if I lose? What if I don't like "it" after I achieve it?

Let me share some of my personal career lessons so you may by-pass anything similar for your own career: Oops

Pain is too comfortable. It took me several years to learn this lesson. While one may hate their job, it is familiar, and therefore, offers comfort. Such a convoluted feeling! After falling into my first career (a career by default, not choice), I spent over five years trying to figure out how to get out of it. How I wish I'd had access to a career coach back then! The solution to my pain? Change jobs, but stay in the same field. I thought it was the employer I hated, but it was really the work I that I did. My first job in this career lasted nine years. Then I changed jobs twice inside of three years trying to find job satisfaction. Needless to say, this approach didn't work at all. With serious introspection and reflection, I finally began to plot my next move to go where I wanted to be, a process that took a couple of steps before I landed a solid job in my chosen career field.

Beware of blurting out what's on your mind. Oh, the innocence of youth! Yes, I learned to contribute ideas and such in teamwork situations, but inside the context of helping the project or mission succeed – never trashing the idea behind it. Unless you're the CEO, your vision for the company is just your opinion. If you're smart, you will be on the same page as your manager. If you operate from your own agenda instead of your company's, you will quickly get labeled a troublemaker and end up on the short list when it comes time for layoffs.

Respect for your boss is expected; he/she doesn't have to earn it. I'll never forget the day when I told the company president not to call me a girl. A "mature" 25-year-old, I was hung up on the stereotype between men and girls. I wanted to be treated as a woman, not a girl. The president hadn't said anything resembling gender harassment, but stupid me still had to point out that when he called the administrative pool "girls" he was being demeaning. Surprisingly, I held onto my job after that. I even got promoted. I realize now what a good leader he really was.

"Friends" at work are different from friends outside of work. No matter how close you feel to someone you work with, you can never completely trust them when it comes to your career. Maybe that's a bit cynical, but wherever competition is involved, I've learned that each person looks out for Number One first. I guess the true scoop here is that those with whom you work are never your family. The workplace is for improving your company's bottom line, not for building a safe haven for you. And what about dating someone with whom you work? Do so at your own peril!

Your career needs a plan to follow, similar to a business plan. Without a plan, you'll continue to leap at whatever presents itself as new and shiny – not necessarily smart and wholesome. Not too many people know which career position they want three years from now. But imagine if you did! Now you could be developing the necessary skills for that move; acquiring the knowledge you need to succeed in that role; networking with the right people to help you make a smooth transition.

I look back on my career and see it as choppy, at best. I know that making a move for money was not always the best strategy. While I learned a lot about life and work over the years, the only career move I truly made as a planned choice was the one to start my own business. It took me six months of research to confirm that my goal was achievable and good for me. Thirteen years later, I know it was the right move, too. Can you say the same about your current position?

If you're in your '20s, heed what I say here as you begin to design your career. If you're in your '30s or '40s, it's still not too late to shift career course. If you're in your '50s or '60s, you can still find that right career for you – many of us will be working into our '70s, or longer.

Wishing you career success in 2012! Happy New Year!

Meg

Top Five Ways to Enjoy a Giftless Christmas

Wondering where to find your Christmas cheer this year? For those on a fixed income, or no income at all, this season can be difficult, to say the least. Too many in our country are still unemployed, though there are a  few signs of that changing in 2012. With no office party or gifts under a tree, it's easy to slip into a Grinch-like mood. But you don't have to! There are many ways to give of yourself instead of store-bought presents. Find a couple of ideas that fit you and go through the holidays with a smile on your face!Xmas.gifts It is important to give to feel good about yourself.

Spread Christmas cheer by:

1) Volunteering to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Converse with someone who is also facing hard times. You may even see that you have much to be happy about.

2) Creating your own gifts for loved ones and friends. Home-baked goodies are a treat that adults and kids alike will appreciate. What else could you make?

3) Giving handmade gift certificates for services you can perform. Lawn care, babysitting, car washing – what else can you do?

4) Hosting a potluck party for family and friends. Ask everyone to bring a dish to share. Spend the evening singing carols, playing board games, or watching vintage Christmas movies.

5) Inviting friends to drop off their kids for an old fashioned tree trimming party while the adults dash out for their last-minute shopping. Provide popcorn and cranberries to string into ropes and supervise cookie decorating.

I'm sure I've left out some good ideas – what are they? Please leave your comments below to help everyone have a Merry Christmas!

Wishing you career success in 2021!

Meg

Your Career: What Do You REALLY Want?

"I hate my job." How many times have you said this? Do you know why? Like many, you may have a career by default instead of by choice. You know what I mean – a career you fell into right out of college, a career that you've grown by expanding your skills without passion. Or maybe it's a "job du jour," one that you're doing this year, didn't do in 2010, and hopefully, won't have to do in 2012.

I know, the economy is tough right now; new jobs aren't easy to get. But guess what – if you love what you do (and are good at it), you'll move from one company to another with ease as your personality shines through during your job interview. Attitude does matter, and is quickly discerned by hiring authorities. If you are looking for just a job, any job, interviewers will see right through you and choose a little less qualified candidate who shows enthusiasm and energy! No kidding – best skilled doesn't always win.

The big question isn't how do you get a job. No, the big question is this: What do you REALLY want? Most people find it much easier to say what they hate than what they like – does that ring true for you? The only way to get closer to naming what you want is to eliminate all the "hates" off of the table. Make a list and then throw it out the door, burn it, or whatever you need to do to get it out of your way so you can once and for all name "IT," own "IT," and get "IT!"

WHAT YOU HATE is addressed during the first week of the career coaching program, "Now What? 90 Days to a A03New Life Direction." As an Authorized Facilitator for this program created by Laura Berman Fortgang, MCC, I can tell you that it works! If you'd like to learn more about it, visit my Now What? web page. Be sure to download and take the quick quiz to determine your eligibility for this program - how many of items did you check off?

Make 2012 the year you decide to take a risk and go for a career change. When you follow the right process, you'll surprise yourself at what you discover about your career must-haves for your career satisfaction.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

How to Answer Catch-22 Job Interview Questions

We've all been there – sitting uncomfortably in a face-to-face job interview struggling to answer a tough question. For example, "describe an area you're trying improve." Or, "tell me about the worst boss you've ever had." Yikes! How do you answer questions like those without incriminating yourself? Job interview 2Maybe it's time to hire a Career Coach to help you win at job interviewing.

Today's job interviews are all about situational and behavioral questions. Let's face it, you wouldn't be in the interview if you hadn't already met the basic qualifications for the job. Now, you're being scrutinized on your personality, teamwork abilities, "fit" for the company and position, and other difficult-to-assess character traits. (Hope you've done your homework on the company!)

The best single thing you can do to prepare for a job interview is to hone your storytelling skills. Let me explain. Employers invest a lot of money into the hiring process. To ensure that hiring you would be a good investment for them, they want to measure your job "stickiness." In other words, will you get along with co-workers and supervisors? Will you follow through with projects from cradle to grave? Will you become an asset to the company (or not)? Will you stay for a good amount of time before leaving them to go elsewhere? These will be the questions in their minds as employers verbally ask you tough questions. Employers need reassurance that they're making a sound financial decision in hiring you. You can help them do that by answering their questions not only with facts (the what), but also with examples (the how).

A common model to follow for your job interview stories is the "CAR" method. Respond to most questions with your answer followed by your words, "Let me tell you about a time when…" Back up your statements with real life stories. First, state the Challenge (or situation) that you faced. Next, discuss the Actions that you took. Finally, list the positive Results (or outcomes) of your actions. Be truthful, but never negative.

Even for those questions that beg for a negative answer, you can turn them around by using the CAR method. Choose examples (stories) that may have started out in negative territory, but end in a positive place. Of course, preparing for an interview in this fashion does take some time. But if do it, you will definitely bypass any possibility of incriminating yourself! This is where your Career Coach becomes an invaluable partner.

A colleague of mine, Randy Block, wrote a good article, "36 Tough Interview Questions," that can help you create your personal stories. Better yet, hire a Career Coach to help you master this process. Get the feedback and support you need as you prepare to get your next job.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Take a Chance: Let Your “Snowflake” Shine

"Know Thyself." William Shakespeare

As the first chilly day of fall arrives, my thoughts wander ahead to the snow to come – not too far into the future, I fear. Have you ever seen a magnified snowflake? Or compared two magnified snowflakes next to each other? While appearing the same to the human eye, when examined under a microscope, each Snowflakesnowflake is very different from the other. Look closely at the design and makeup of each – can you see the unique pieces?

Like snowflakes, each of us is unique, though similar, to all others. It is our uniqueness that we celebrate while honoring all people's similarities and diversity. There's so much discussion these days about "fitting in" and "being part of a team." Yes, we operate in many societies – family, workplace, associations, clubs, churches, and more. Being able to blend smoothly is a big part of success inside these groups. But don't forget that there are still some things that we have to do alone, things that require us to call upon our uniqueness. While birth and death first come to mind as totally alone activities, another that requires our unique abilities is changing careers or finding a new job.

I think that's why job seekers find job search such a challenge. Job search is a lonely activity. It requires self-motivation, perseverance, and commitment with little reward from anyone but yourself. YOU have to research companies; YOU have to choose the companies for resume submission; YOU have to prepare for job interviews and then go to them alone!

Just for fun, try doing a mind map of your personal "snowflake." Start with listing your values – those things that must be honored at work for you to be happy with your job. Then, list your motivators – what makes you want to get up and go to work in the first place? Finally, what are your deal-breakers – those things that are non-negotiable at work (e.g., overtime hours, benefits, paid holidays, minimum salary, travel, etc.)? Now, what does your snowflake (mind map) look like?

NOTE: Be careful when listing your deal-breakers. Make sure they are really non-negotiable. Sometimes we have a tendency to feel we can't live without something, when in reality, that's just a preference, not a deal-breaker.

If you discover that your current career or job does not match your snowflake profile, zero in on those things that need to change in order for you to have a complete fit. If you can make those changes by yourself in your current role, fine. If not, it's time to start your discovery process to find your ideal career or job. For most of us, we are our worst enemy when it comes to change. It's easier to blame outside conditions rather than accept the responsibility to proactively change. Even if we hurt, that feeling is familiar, so therefore, comfortable. Change is risky – not at all comfortable – but very doable.

A career coach is your ideal partner when it comes to career reinvention. And Fall is the best time of the year to invest in the career change process. Get your career in gear for the new year! When 2012 arrives, you'll be glad you took this time.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Don’t Have a Mentor? Why You Need One!

Each of my new career coaching clients is asked a question on the enrollment questionnaire, "Do you have a mentor (or role model)? If so, who?" We all need inspiration to be successful, especially in this crazy work environment. However, most of my new clients don't have a mentor. Do you? Many answer that question by naming a parent, sibling, or friend. That's OK, but did that person really inspire you in your work? That's what a true mentor can do.

If unable to answer the mentor question, I suggest to my career coaching clients that they research biographies and autobiographies of successful people, particularly in their fields. It is possible to glean "mentor-esque" inspiration from reading about accomplished individuals, and applying that inspiration to your own life and career.

One creative, brilliant person that most would happily call a mentor left us this past week. Steve Jobs A lot of glowing information has been written, spoken, and broadcast about Steve Jobs. And all of it is rightfully justified. He was thoughtful enough to produce his biography which is due for release in a few weeks. But even without that, you may learn a lot about him just by researching on the Web. I recommend that college students, as well as all others, spend some time learning about the life and gifts of Steve Jobs. Here is your "mentor" for almost any career.

Perhaps what has impressed me the most is what Jobs said in his commencement address to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. At that time, he knew his life would not be as long as most, so he used his address to inspire young adults to make best use of their own lives. He encouraged them to discover the career that made them happiest as that is the only way to go through life – living your dream. His bottom line was, "Don't settle." These words are simple, yet so powerful! Watch this speech for yourself that is posted by author, Daniel Pink, on his blog.

Don't get to the end of your life, or even retirement, and feel you lacked the will power, direction, or whatever it was to allow yourself to be able to work your passion. Yes, money is important, but most of the time you can find a way to follow your dreams after they filter through a business reality.

Now that we've entered Fall season, it's a time to start making career plans for 2012. What big career dream do you have that has gone by the wayside? Or is it that you just can't come up with any great dream at all? Start with a career coach to discover and clarify, then move forward with a mentor who can give you long-time support as you shift career gears and reclaim your career passion!

Wishing you career success now and in 2012!

Meg

Five Key Resume Writing Fallacies Revealed

OK, let's face this issue head on – professional resumes written by trained, credentialed, professional resume writers do NOT cost $50. Overwhelm There, I've said it – not so hard to do. If you want a well-crafted, marketing tool to help you get a job interview, you'll need to invest time, energy AND dollars into the professional resume writing process. That's the only way to develop the most important document you need to have to conduct a successful job search.

1. Resumes should only cost around $50 – NOT. (See above.) Get over the resume sticker shock. If you get a good job, what percentage of your first year's income would be your investment? One percent or less? Now, isn't it worth it to invest that much in a professional resume? Added bonus: wouldn't it be a relief to not have to stress out over drafting your resume all by yourself?

2. Resume writing is just a typing exercise – NOT. C'mon, do you really want to use a template you found on a computer to create the most important document used in your job search? To compete as part of today's saturated candidate pool, you must stand out! Your resume has to make your case for you, or you'll never get a job interview.

3. Resumes are easy to create for yourself – NOT. Even a resume writer struggles to create one for himself/herself. It's much too difficult to be objective about your own career experience and accomplishments. You need an unbiased eye to dig out what's most important to include in your resume based upon your current target market. Remember, the best resume is the one that's most narrowly niched. Employers never want to hunt for the reason why you submitted your resume to them. Actually, they WON'T do that – they'll throw away any resume that's too general and you'll never find out why.

4. Resume writing is just recording your work history – NOT. Resume writing is a form of technical writing – not reporting, essay, or poetry. It is a skill, craft, talent that is finely honed with frequent practice – after the "rules" are learned. Your "story" must be told in reverse chronological order, painting the picture of how you want to be perceived today in the world of work. It must include examples, accomplishments, and results that demonstrate your value, your problem-solving ability, and why you should be hired above anyone else. Your resume represents your career brand.

5. Resumes should be written by the job candidates themselves – NOT. This is a fallacy perpetuated by human resources. (Please – no fair throwing darts at me for this remark, HR, but your comments are welcome below.) Usually, how successful is a defendant who doesn't hire an attorney but represents himself/herself in court? Do you try to extract your own tooth to save money by not going to the dentist? How about diagnosing your own illness by researching on the internet instead of going to the doctor – how does that work for you? You are probably very good at what you do for a living and have a lot experience with talent to back up your actions. So, if you aren't good at writing your own resume – what's the big deal? Hire the best professional resume writer to partner with you on the project and I know you'll be happy with the resulting product.

I'm fully aware that my opinions expressed in this post may ruffle some feathers. However, based on 12 years of owning my boutique career services firm, I know this information to be true. Most of my clients are walking testimonials to the credibility of my remarks here. If you don't hire a professional resume writer to craft your career marketing materials, I wish you all the best and hope you prove me wrong. Tell me about your success (or not) in the comments section below. I want to hear it all!

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg