All posts by TaKeisha Walker

Tracking Your Career Accomplishments

Accomplishement Jar_Rev

Here’s a fun way to keep your resume alive and your career mojo moving.

Late last year, I noticed people making “good things” jars. The idea is simple, write down the good things that happen to you throughout the year, decorate a jar (I am sure a vase will do in a pinch), and collect the stories.

So I decided to make one but instead of happenstance, happy moments that magically occur, I decided to record and collect career accomplishments and skills that I build throughout 2017.

It’s my “Accomplishments” jar and at the end of the year, it will be filled with career milestones, new skills that have been developed, and personal and professional achievements.

The lack of any of the above will provide me with insight on areas that need to be worked on.

I tell people that resumes are living, breathing documents that need to be visited on a regular basis. This statement is not new, but very few people are revising and updating their resumes on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis unless they are actively searching for new opportunities.

A few recommendations for maximizing the usefulness of your “Accomplishments” jar.

  1. Prominently place your accomplishment container
    Put your jar in a space that is visible to not only you but to visitors to your home and office. It is a great way to start conversations with others about your goals. They may have opportunities or advice that can help you fill your jar with a few more accomplishments.
  2. Think about your language
    We work hard to achieve and grow as professionals. Make sure every accomplishment you drop in the jar acknowledges your effort. No one gives us anything. We earn what we get and if you can not comfortably say that, there may be some things to rethink.
  3. It is not just a good idea or decoration
    This fancy little jar provides a nice, sort of fun, way to track your career development on a regular basis. Just think of it as a creative way to keep that resume up to date.
  4. Separate accomplishments from skills
    Be creative when documenting your growth throughout this year. Perhaps you can distinguish achievements from newly developed skills by using various paper colors. Making a distinction will provide an easy visual of where you are making progress and where gaps may be forming.

It is important to celebrate, document, and assess your career development. Doing all three while mixing in a creative, craft project is a win-win. Let the collecting begin!

Searching while Unprepared

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Finally the ultimate no-no. If there was ever a career habit to break, it is this one.

5. Seeking jobs instead of building a career path

Kudos to you for firing off resumes one right after another. Have you stopped to think about what it is you actually want to do?

I know; you want to earn a check so that you can eat. Got it, please know that I do not think that it is a bad goal.

With all due respect to eating, however, be strategic about the positions you are applying for. Are they in your field of choice? Will they help you build a skill set that will serve you in the long run? Will the position help you make connections that will assist you in moving to the next level? Do you have a career path in mind or are you diving in head first and deciding to think about it later? Please don’t let the answer to that question be “yes”.

Think about this way, you typically decide where you are trying to go before you start your car. My car will not even allow me to set my navigation system when the car is in motion.

If my car is smart enough to know that there should be a plan for how we are getting to our destination before we take off, shouldn’t you be that smart? I know you are as savvy as my Hyundai.

Do some goal setting and develop at least a one to two-year plan and make sure that the positions you are applying for support your goals.

This is not a habit you need to break because it is out of date or simply annoying; proceeding with an unfocused job search is a waste of time. Successfully getting hired for a series of jobs does not build a career path.

Professional Ghosting

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Remember telephone books? When was the last time you used one? Today we all Google what we need and companies that can not easily be found in these search results typically don’t get as much patronage.

The same principle applies to you. It is important to have an appropriate, online presence.

4. Having no professional, digital presence 

I reconnected with a former co-worker a couple of weeks ago and he said that he was not on Facebook. I immediately thought he was lying and probably trying to hide something.

I know that there really are people who don’t use social media but it’s weird. Many employers search for applicants online and having no digital presence can be just as harmful as having inappropriate search results.

Just to clarify, I am encouraging you to develop a professional digital presence. There are some simple ways to start:

  1.  Sign up for LinkedIn
  2. Update the LinkedIn account you signed up for years ago
  3. Start a blog about issues pertaining to your area of expertise

Taking one of these suggestions provides another method of defining yourself as a professional. You can discuss accomplishments, demonstrate knowledge, and of course grow your network online.

The Case of the Vanishing Cover Letter

img_5947When you are going through the job search process, you often have a very limited amount of contact with employers and hiring managers. If you are applying for a position without any connection to the company, you only get to present yourself on paper and hope that who you are and what you bring to the table comes through.

This is why I am completely gobsmacked by the fact that people pass on one more chance to introduce themselves and tout their experience by not submitting a cover letter.

3. Submitting resumes without cover letters

This is just lazy. I know not all positions require a cover letter but submitting your resume without one is you missing an opportunity. Cover letters allow you to clarify and expound upon accomplishments, skills, and situations that are not always clear on a resume. Even if your cover letter isn’t perfect, it helps show a hiring manager who you are.

It is a myth that no one reads cover letters. When I am hiring I read them.

In many cases, resumes go through a screening process by software or a human. By the time, I receive a resume, I am pretty sure that the person is qualified for the job. What I don’t know is if this is a person I want to speak with. Will they be a good fit for the organization? Who are they? Cover letters may not get you the job, but they can certainly help get you an interview.

Always submit a cover letter. Don’t let anyone tell you they are not necessary. You may never be able to whip out a fabulously, creative document that becomes the standard for all cover letters going forward but you are certainly capable of developing an honest statement that answers three questions:

  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. Why this company or organization?
  3. How will I be a value add hire?

”References Available Upon Request”

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Remember colored toilet tissue? It was odd, unnecessary, and probably a health risk. While including “references available upon request” may not cause a tumor, the other two adjectives fit. Much like that colored toilet paper, we have another customary resume declaration to leave in the past.

2. Adding “References Available Upon Request”

This habit is probably the most maddening. I want to shake clients who use it and automatically toss resumes that include it. It is a space waster and a simply ridiculous statement.

As a hiring manager, I realize that if I ask you for references you will give them to me. I would love to once, run into a candidate who says “no, I will not give you references”. It would make for a great story and make me wrong about this useless statement.

Instead of taking the time to append this awkward statement to the bottom of your resume, put your energy toward:

  • Reaching out to your references and letting them know that you are searching for a new role.
  • Asking new contacts if you can use them as a reference
  • Making sure you have correct and up to date contact information for them
  • Sharing job descriptions with them in order to make their reference targeted and informed
  • Asking them to write LinkedIn recommendations for you (those carry more weight than the canned endorsements that LinkedIn prompts from members of your networks)

Please, avoid the ire of hiring managers by removing this anti-climactic statement from the bottom of your resume. It serves no purpose and sticks out the same way a roll of blue toilet tissue sticks out in a modern twenty-first-century bathroom.

Terrifying Career Habits to Leave in 2016

We are officially 23 days into the new year and most of you have scrapped or at least modified your resolutions for the year. It’s okay, we can resolve to leave resolutions in 2016 and turn our attention to making changes that can actually help you move your career forward.

Every day this week, I will provide one common, career related mistake that you can definitely leave in the past.

1. Including an objective statement on your resume

Please believe me when I say everyone is over objective statements. Very few give insight on who you are as a professional, they take up space on your resume, and are a complete and total insult to people reviewing your resume.

Do you really need to use space on your resume to say that your goal is to get a job with the company? Submitting your resume makes that clear.

Instead of including an objective statement, put your energy into:

  • Crafting accomplishment statements for roles that you have held in the past. Focus on telling the hiring manager what you have accomplished, not just what was prescribed by a job description.
  • Highlighting skills specific to your industry. Do some research and make sure the language you use to describe your skills and experience is up to date and relevant.
  • Writing a cover letter that explains your skill set, accomplishments, and of course why you will be a “value add” to the company and department.

In 2017, quit it with the objective statements. If your objective is to get hired, they do not help!

New Year, Strategic You: Resolve to Build

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Happy New Year All!!

With a new year, comes the pressure to resolve to be different. We are three days into 2017 and I can’t even count all of the blogs, memes, posts, and tweets that I have seen advocating leaving the past behind, becoming a new you in the new year, and of course reinventing yourself.

My 2017 advice, however, is different. Whether you apply this to your personal or professional life, DO NOT reinvent. Instead, build upon and explore.

Do not leave interests and skills in the past. 2017 is the year to build on the foundation that you have created and recognize the awesomeness that is you.  Figure out how to explore and grow the talents that you have. Reconnect with and activate the power of your network this year.

While not everything needs to be carried into the new year, take a moment to take inventory and make sure you don’t leave valuable assets in the past for the sake of reinvention.