Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Episode 6 – The Follow-Up

A lot of people think that once you've finished the interview it’s all up to the employer. Wrong! You need to make sure the employer remembers your name and stays engaged with you until they make their decision. This isn't even limited to after the interview. You can keep them engaged from the time you submit your application to let them know you are still interested. You just have to make sure you don’t cross the line and become the annoying person who they can’t wait to be rid of.

Step 1

This is a repeat of Episode 2, where I told you to follow the company’s Twitter account or Like their Facebook page. If this is new information to you, go back and read these from the beginning. Why would you start reading from the Episode 6? This isn’t Star Wars, where Episodes 4 – 6 were awesome and then you watched Episode 1 and it immediately made you want to rant about it online….all my Episodes were equally awesome. Keep them engaged through the recruitment process by retweeting, liking, and commenting on their posts. This is done either before or immediately after submitting your application, and continues until you’ve been hired…..or rejected.

Step 2

Keep track of all the positions you apply for. You need to decide, based on each individual position, what would be an appropriate length of time to wait before contacting to check on the status of the competition. Larger companies will have a longer lag time between soliciting applications to the interview stage. A rough heuristic would be one to two weeks from the deadline to submit applications if they haven’t already given you a timeline. Once you have received a timeline, you should avoid asking questions until a couple days after they said they would get back to you. They will get annoyed and start to hate you.

Step 3

Following an interview, some people will instruct you to one or all of the following;
  • ·         Send a thank you email immediately following the interview
  • ·         Send a handwritten thank you note immediately following the interview
  • ·         Call the interviewer after the interview to thank them for the interview

Warning: Doing all of these things lets the employer know that you are not only enthusiastic and excited about the position, but also just a little bit crazy. If you’re applying for anything other than a stalker position, this is not recommended.

Choose which course of action best suits your personal style. You should probably only do one of those things. In the interview, you should ask what the anticipated timeline is for finding out if you were the successful candidate. After the interview, thank the interviewer for their time using one of the three methods above and then after the date they give you, ask if a decision has been made.

Step 4

If you didn’t get the job, ask for feedback. What was it that eliminated me? Most companies won’t tell you what it is, but every now and then you get lucky and they say exactly what it was. Some companies will be as specific as telling you exactly which question you answered incorrectly or insufficiently. You don’t want to keep making the same mistake if it’s something you can help. Don’t wait to get an interview to ask this question. If you don’t get an interview, ask them why you were eliminated. A wise man once told me that “knowing is half the battle.”

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fitness For Fatties

“Every great diet begins with a single step… and there’s like a bunch more steps and eventually the journey ends up sucking and at some points you’re pretty sure you would be thinner if you hadn’t even tried... Doritos?” – Scott Keenan

Welcome to the mindset of the out of shape. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attempted some diet or exercise regime that ultimately resulted in complete failure. For some people it’s ok. They just didn’t get the abs they wanted, or their arms are still a little flabby. For the rest of us, it usually results a quick loss of about five pounds followed by a gain of ten pounds, some mild depression and a lot of cream cheese.

I could manage to lose 10 to 15 pounds every year by giving up junk food for lent only to gain it back immediately upon reintroducing crap into my  diet. I also made several attempts at exercise regimes, which never worked out…mostly because I hate exercising. At some point reality has to sink in. You will not do your body any good by just taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk at lunch. Adjusting only your diet or your exercise regime only does so much. Eventually you have to suck it up and take the plunge with a plan for long term success.

The first step is admitting that you suck. At some points during your diet you are incredibly dedicated, forcing yourself to run an extra 10 minutes after your tired and eating an entire notebook of unlined paper (this is healthier than loose-leaf) in order to extinguish the craving for chips. You have to identify at what point during the day you are an Olympian and force “the you that doesn’t suck” to make the decisions about the rest of the day.

If your gut hangs out over your belt, you have already proven that you cannot be trusted with food. My recent attempts at eliminating junk food proved fruitless as a result of discovering easy pastry recipes. Do you know of a food that you can’t stuff in a pastry and fry, because I don’t. Replacing junk food with chilli pockets did not result in any weight loss. My diet needed a more thorough plan than just “no junk food” in order to overcome the diet hurdles.

Hurdle 1 – Portion Control

It came to my attention that the type of food I was eating was not the problem. I like eating healthy food, I just eat too much of it. When you come home from a long day of work you are in no position to make decisions about what or how much you’re going to eat. The fact is, making something healthy is usually harder than Kraft Dinner or picking up a burger on the way home. Decisions about food intake should be made by the you that doesn’t suck. I found that cooking a big meal at the beginning of the week, portioning it out into Lunch and Dinner sized portions and freezing them made a huge difference. If I spend a couple hours not sucking on Sunday, I don’t have to think about food for the rest of the week. This allows me to focus on work, the gym and my social life without sacrificing my diet.

Hurdle 2 – What do I eat?

The next issue is making sure what you are eating isn’t that bad. I’m not a lot of help here. I’d go see a dietician. I know you’re supposed to snack often so I started carrying around a bag of fruits and vegetables, divided into portion sizes and snacked at least twice in the morning, and twice in the afternoon. I also hated eating breakfast, so I started taking toast and peanut butter with me to work, so I would at least have something in my stomach in the morning. Carry water with you. If it’s on your desk, you will drink it.

Hurdle 3 – Ignoring the Gym Bunnies

 Everyone at the gym is more attractive than I am. Do they really want to see me there?

The answer is no. You make them sad. I found a gym in my area that has significantly fewer attractive people, so I’ve been going there. My first trip to the gym bunnies’ location was extremely depressing. I immediately start sweating when I bend over to tie my shoes, so after the first 10 minutes on the treadmill, I look like I’ve become severely dehydrated. The people at this gym don’t appear to sweat. They’re all sporting Lulu Lemon’s “no pit stain” collection, with perfectly coiffed hair, reeking of perfume and cologne. They still have perfectly chiseled bodies and tiny little waists. I assume they do the bulk of the workout at home, and just come in for a little warm up, followed by a lot of looking at themselves in the mirror in public. This made me uncomfortable. If these people intimidate you, try finding a gym with a homelier clientele. Though, I think all of us regular people should infiltrate these locations and see if we can get them to just stay home.

Hurdle 4 – Motivation

I don’t want to go to the gym.

Duh! Nobody who isn’t completely full of themselves enjoys going to the gym. There are a couple different techniques for getting yourself there.

The Buddy System – Schedule regular times for you and your friend to go. This way, you know if you don’t go, your friend will be irritated. Also, your friend could be more athletic than you. This could motivate you to try harder and they could give you some tips on how to use the equipment. If you’re like me, this didn’t work because your friends can’t stick to a schedule and when they tried to encourage you to run faster or longer, you gave them the finger and stopped talking to them for a while.

Escalation of Commitment – This is a common error made in business. Basically, you continue to invest time and money into a failing business unit only because of all of the time and money you’ve already invested in it, regardless of its potential for success. In this scenario, the failing business unit is your physical appearance. Buy yourself some expensive running shoes, and some fancy gym clothes that are supposed to be good in all types of weather, and are odour resistant. You’ll have invested enough at this point to keep you going for a couple months. P.S. you still have to wash the odour resistant stuff….it does end up stinking….no matter how much you paid for it.

The most important thing is to not think about the fact that you’re going to the gym before you go. Just put your clothes in your bag and get there. Then it’s too late to go back.

Hurdle 5 – Not Looking Like A Tool

Won’t I look like an idiot trying to use everything for the first time?

Yes….you will, and those people ARE laughing at you behind your back. My gym happens to have orientation sessions for new people (or old people who just haven’t taken them before). When I decided to get serious about going to the gym, I took these courses. The trainer and I decided that I’m probably not coordinated enough to use the free-weights on my own, so I should stick to the machines that don’t actually work your core muscles. I think this was a good compromise.

If your gym does not have orientation sessions, you might think a personal trainer is a good alternative. Nope! A personal trainer is a sadistic sub-human who enjoys watching you suffer AND you pay them for it. If you’re really that hard-up to have your self-esteem undermined, move back home with your parents.

Hurdle 6 - The Relapse

F#@* it

You will most likely lose all motivation and revert back to old habits...possibly even worse than your old habits. I recently put two pieces of pizza between two pieces of toast. I added some mustard and mayonnaise and a little bit of party mix. It was pretty much awesome. When you hit bottom like this, you have to give yourself two weeks of disciplined, back-on-trackedness before you'll feel motivated to start your healthy-living up again. 

Remember, we can't jump every hurdle, but together we can strategically maneuver around them.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Episode 5 – The Interview

Congratulations on getting your foot in the door. Now all you have to do is spend a short amount of time with your potential employer and not screw up.

Step 1 – Suit-Up!

There is a lot of advice available on what to wear for an interview. They tell you everything from what colour or brand of suit to wear to how to knot your tie. Most of this information is bull.

Fact: A Windsor Knot does not make you look more confident. It makes you look like you’re wearing a tie with a Windsor Knot.

The best advice I’ve heard is “dress like you already work there.” Find out what the other employees are wearing and dress accordingly. If the company has a laid-back dress code and all of the executives wear jeans and blazers, following suit could make them feel as though you already belong there. It’s also possible that they will expect you to be a little more polished at the interview and count the jeans as a strike against you. (I bet you thought I was going to give you real advice for a second, huh?)

Ladies… It doesn’t matter how big or small they are. You still MUST cover them up. Even the women in the room are staring at them…fail!

Most advice will tell you to wear something conservative with neutral colors. This is your safest bet, as the employer will focus more on what you have to say than your appearance. However, a friend of mine landed a sales position with a Fortune 500 company after showing up to the interview with purple streaks in her hair. The employer thought it showed she had spunk (I’m sure she said a couple things in the interview to lead them to believe that as well).

Step 2 – Do a Little Homework

Learn about the company you are interviewing for. Get a little history and a general working knowledge of what they do. Focus specifically on the position you have applied for. They will want to know why you are the perfect fit for that position. You want to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the industry you work in, while being as specific to the position as possible. Let’s pretend you’re applying to a government position. Learn about the branch, it's function, and be able to talk a little about the legislation they would use most often.

The job ad will have listed both technical skills and behavioural competencies. Be prepared to talk about your past experience/current proficiency with these technical skills.  

Example:  Must be proficient with Microsoft Excel

“In my last position, I was required to create and maintain a database of all employee vacation and sick time in an excel spreadsheet that calculated monthly totals and averages. I also took an Operations Management course where I learned to solve complex mathematical functions using Excel’s Solver function.”

Human Resources is going through a phase where everyone thinks Behavioural Event Interview Questions are pretty much the best thing ever. To prepare for these types of questions look at all of the competencies listed in the job ad and think of examples of times when you exhibited those competencies.

Step 3 - Stay Positive

Keep the tone on the positive side. Don't bash old bosses or companies. Keep your answers positive too. If someone asks you how you respond to change in the workplace, they are most likely looking for someone who would respond positively to change. Your answer should not include the fact that you are able to adapt, but don't like to (It sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised).

Step 4 – Don’t Not Prepare
Yeah it’s a double negative….no I don’t care!

If you received any communication prior to the interview, read it carefully and follow any instructions. Failure to do so will result in the recruiter raising one eyebrow and bein all “are you serious?” It will enrage them to a point that will make them want you to fail miserably.

Step 5 – Don’t Stress

Sure your entire future could be decided by this one short meeting, but don’t worry about it. It’s the interviewer’s job to make you feel comfortable, and help you explain how you qualify for the position. When you’re not comfortable, it makes the rest of the room uncomfortable. This makes the interview awkward for everyone. You don’t want the recruiter to be glad the interview is over. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Episode 4 – Your Cover Letter

After my last helpful post about how there’s no real rhyme or reason to how you throw your resume together, I’m sure you've been on the edge of your seat waiting to hear my advice on cover letters. These are the most irritating part of the application process. They are time-consuming, and while you’re writing them there’s a little voice inside your head saying “they’re totally going to throw this thing in the garbage and not even read it.” Worry-not my friend, that little voice is only correct 90% of the time. The important thing to remember is that if they DO read it, you want them to be impressed enough to call you for an interview.

Your resume may map out your relevant, previous experience, but your cover letter bridges your experience to the job you’re applying for. It says “Hey! See all those things I did in the past? Here’s why you’ll like that I did those things before.”

Step 1 – Content

Remember how frustrated you were when I explained how no one knows what should go on a resume? Well you’re about to feel it again!

Your cover letter should address the major skills and competencies listed in the job ad and explain how your previous experience proves that you possess those skills and competencies. Using key-words found in the job ad and illustrating how you’re a “perfect match” for the position causes the recruiter to realize “Hey! This guy read the ad and everything!” It makes them happy, especially if they wrote the ad.

This is also the appropriate time to explain gaps in employment. Be sure to note any other work you were doing at this time Examples: volunteering, running a home business, blogging…whatever moms do after they have kids.

Step 2 – Format

Who knows? Use a proper business letter format complete with addresses and dates. Use the same letterhead and font as your resume. Include an introduction and conclusion. I once read one that had bulleted points instead of paragraphs and it didn’t suck (I also read one once that did though).

A career counsellor once told me that the first paragraph (after the introduction) should be how my skills qualify me for the job, and the second should be examples of competencies that make me qualified for the position.  You know what I think of career counsellors…sounds like b.s. to me.

Good Luck!

Step 3 – Personalization

Aside from including the name and address of the recruiter (you should always try and get a name of someone to include in the letter), make sure to include a short tidbit of relevant information about the company you’re applying to. For Example: Company ABC has a reputation for its unique corporate culture, which complements my personality perfectly….or something like that. This lets the recruiter know you are purposely sending a resume to THIS company because you actually WANT to work there, and not because you are looking for a job. It also doesn't hurt to drop some names of people you know in the company…unless the people you know are terrible employees…then don’t mention them.

You can take this opportunity to introduce the company to your personality. If, like me, you’re eleven different kinds of adorable (note the quantifiable information) you can slip some elements of your persona in via a short tasteful joke. Be warned that this is a personal choice. You have no way of knowing whether this will work for you or against you.

Putting a cover letter together is a little like putting together a menu for a dinner party. You can nail the planning stage and execute perfectly, but at the end of the day it’s the taste of the individual that matters. You could play it safe and stick to a traditional recipe that is good, but bland OR you could try something unique that has the potential to really impress or disappoint the recruiter. Through no fault of your own, the reaction could be anywhere from inappropriate, euphoric moaning to anaphylactic shock.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Dude Where’s My Job?: Episode 3 – Your Resume

When you read this title, you probably thought “Oh good, someone is finally going to tell me the formula for writing the perfect resume.” I’d like to go ahead and crush expectations immediately. The truth is, nobody knows what the hell is going on when it comes to resumes, and anyone who claims differently is a filthy liar. The only person who knows exactly what will impress the hiring manager is the hiring manager, but here are some simple steps you can take to set yourself apart for the rest of the world.

Step 1: Pay Attention To Your Content

Read the Job Ad carefully. Make sure you address all of the essentials mapped out in the ad in your resume. This includes:
  • ·         Relevant Experience
  • ·         Relevant Education
  • ·         Competencies
  • ·         Training
  • ·         Skills

A good way to make sure you cover everything is to create a chart where you have all of the information contained in the ad on one side, and then content from your resume on the other side. It sounds like a given that you would do this, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t.

Example: Think of the poor recruiter who is screening this resume. He probably screened hundreds of applicants and got to your resume where you assumed that because you have a college diploma, you didn’t need to talk about your high school diploma. The truth is there are some college programs that don’t require the high school diploma, so if the ad states you need it…you need to have it there. When it’s absent the recruiter has the option of screening you out or calling you. What do you think is going to happen in a pool of 300 applicants? If they are nice enough to call you (or they were forced to), they probably had to do it for at least 20 other people. They hate you now… in the face.

Tips on Content

  • Quantify your experience as much as possible. People have faith in numbers. If you increased something by XXX percent or managed a process for XXX number of clients/employees, include the numbers…unless they’re not impressive…then don’t.
  • No one ever thought an objective statement was a good idea. No one knows where they came from, but they keep showing up….they should stop doing that. A bulleted list of skills and training that highlight why you are perfect for the position would be much more beneficial.
  • Links!!!! They are the best ideas ever!!! If you’re applying to a position where experience with social media is an asset, include links to your social media accounts. When listing your experience, the name of the company you worked for should be a link to the company’s website. (I stole this idea from @MsJuliaRS and I don’t feel bad about it.)

Step 2: Know Your Audience

How is the job ad written? Is it very formal and stuffy? Was it creative? Was it awesome? Were there pictures? Try and adapt your resume to the style of writing on the job ad AND the company’s website. There are a million different multimedia tools to present yourself, you just have to find the best one. This is a personal choice. If you’re applying to an ad that was written in a very formal way, but you’re a very creative person, you have to decide whether you want to stand out due to your creativity or if you want to show them you are a good fit with their culture. Either way is hit or miss. The important thing to note is that you ARE adapting your resume to each individual ad.

Dear people sending the same generic resume to all job ads.

Recruiters are looking for people who are a “perfect” fit for the position. A generic profile says “Hey! I saw your ad and it didn’t excite me enough to make me want to put forth any extra effort. I’m cool if you give me the job, but I’m not gonna try really hard for it.” Epic Fail!

Step 3: Formatting

Unless the company indicated standards for the format, all bets are off. Your font should be big enough to see and not something ridiculous like Wingdings. If you’re applying to a large organization with a well-developed HR department, they will most likely be looking for a chronological resume. If you’re applying to a leadership position in a medium to small sized organization, they may appreciate a competency based resume…but really…who the hell knows? Just do what you think is best after completing step 4.

Step 4: Ask For Feedback

Everyone and their dog has some kind of advice for you when it comes to your resume. Get as much of their opinions as possible, but assess their feedback and make your own decision. I went to see a career counsellor for advice on job applications once… she was six different kinds of useless (see how I used numbers to quantify that?). All she did was show me how to format it “properly” and sent me on my way. If you ask someone for help and they give you advice without seeing the ad, they are useless. If you know someone in the company you are applying to, ask them. If possible, ask someone in HR or management.

Step 5: Proofread

Mistakes = Fail….don’t make them.

There are no real rules when it comes to resumes, and there are a million different options. Just try and appear to be the best (insert job title you are applying for here) on paper (or other forms of media). Make sure when you finally send it, you’re proud of what was there. You don’t want to kick yourself later for taking a risk (or not taking a risk) because of someone else’s opinion.