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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!

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”

blue-toilet-paper_tsw-eds

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

2017-meme

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.

Infusing your career search with holiday cheer!

holiday-table

Tip 2: Ask Santa for help for with your career

There is still time to respond to the question “what do you want for Christmas” with a request for career-related items. Whether it is clothing, technology, software, or simply business cards Santa has room in his bag for a variety of gifts. Instead of receiving that countertop growing garden, ask someone to gift you an annual membership to a professional association. Decline the chia pet and request 100 business cards.

While everything goes on sale during this time of year, people are also more giving of their time. Our friends and family have talents that can be very beneficial to our career progression. A novel idea would be to ask a friend to design your logo or give you one or two lessons in a particular software that they have mastered instead of buying you an actual gift.

This approach is a great way to keep your career goals at the forefront during the holiday season while making sure that your network knows what you are working on.

If you missed tip one posted earlier, check it out here: http://bit.ly/2gYTyXX.

 

 

The Clock Changes but Time Management Issues Stay the Same

melted-clockA few weeks ago I called a co-worker who works remotely to complain about how little time I have to actually get things done. I wanted to make sure he could focus on my complaining so I acknowledged the irony of using my time to place a call to complain about not having enough time.

Every day I work with people to set their professional goals and help them identify barriers to success and I would guess that ninety percent of the time, people name “time” as one of their biggest challenges. No one has time to spare or invest, or commit toward their goals. I have made very similar complaints during my own journey.

But, is it true? Do I and they really not have the time to do the things we say we want or need to do? A couple of tactics that I have used to answer these questions and help me feel more in control of the time that I do have are

1. Know where your time is actually going

A year ago, I developed and tested a time management chart before asking my staff members to record their activity for a week. I wanted to find out how labor intensive it actually was to document activities by the hour.  What I found was that I could better use my time in the office. I was having a number of unproductive conversations (not always initiated by me), shifting focus from one activity to another instead of following things through to completion, and spending far more time working on other people’s issues than I should have.

Now, when I am feeling stressed to my limit, I take a day or two to conduct an inventory of where my time is going. I look at my time during the work day as well as what I am doing during non-work hours. Most of the time, I find spaces that could be used to work on a specific goal of mine.

2.  Make you and your goals a priority

It is very easy to let everyone else’s priorities trump your own. In the midst of caring for and spending time with our families and friends, work, and all of the unexpected shenanigans that we can’t seem to avoid, it can seem frivolous to take the time to do something as simple as give your next professional move some real thought.

No matter how trivial or wasteful it sounds, YOU HAVE TO! Your goals have to be a priority for you and you need to make sure that anyone who cares about you knows what your priorities are.  When you list of your priorities in life or just for the day, include at least one thing that brings you closer to accomplishing one of your goals.

3.  Learn to multitask

It would be great if we could all get a six-month sabbatical (I would settle for a 72-hour break), to think, research, and actually work on a goal that I set. Alas, it ain’t going to happen. I can make use of the time that I have. For instance, I am typically alone in the kitchen when I am cooking. Once I have prepped everything and put the food on the stove, I have at least 15-30 minutes to focus. That is my time to finish a self-assessment, update my resume, or work on my LinkedIn profile.

Don’t categorize your activities so tightly that you don’t use all of your time wisely. When children are doing their homework, do your homework. Work on that goal. When you are supporting your kids or family members at their game, instead of Instagramming, Facebooking, or whatever activity you are doing to pass the time; work on that goal.

Finally, be very mindful of where you put your time and energy. Are you focusing on the “right” things? Does it matter to you and your end goal? If you are spending a lot of time on irrelevant things, recalibrate immediately.  Make every moment you actually have count toward what you have decided matters.