Get the Most From Your Downtime

By Jeff Schmitt

Woody Allen once said, "80 percent of success is showing up." On the other hand, that other 20 percent can make or break your career.
This is particularly true during downtimes. All year, we battle to create time. But what happens when our workloads dwindle? Too often, we use that time to surf, grab long lunches or gab with our peers.
There's nothing wrong with slowing the pace at times, but downtime is more than looking busy and slipping out early. It is a time to reflect, plan and position yourself to get ahead. To get the most from the slow times, consider the following:

ImagineAs children, we were warned about daydreaming. Our elders feared we'd miss something. In reality, the dreamers are the ones who create lasting change and set themselves apart.
Become that dreamer. Look at your day-to-day routine. What takes up your time, produces bottlenecks and redundancies, and stymies your morale, objectives and growth? Too often, we simply accept the status quo. It saves us from questioning our assumptions and effectiveness. Challenge this and rewrite the rules. Use your downtime to evaluate, test and implement solutions.
Don't forget the big picture. Think about emerging social and management trends (and the undercurrents driving them). How can you apply them to your operations, product development and branding? Focus on areas that can make your organization measurably more efficient and competitive.
Bottom line: Downtime is your chance to leave a mark -- and make a name for yourself. Take advantage of it.

Grow professionallyIn business, you adapt or starve. Your career is no different. Look at downtime as a chance to invest in yourself.
For example, enroll in your company's training programs, whether they're live, online or in audio sessions. Identify books or magazines that will deepen your perspective, creativity and motivation. Attend a course or seminar to stay current with industry developments and best practices. Capitalize on any little edge.
Similarly, visualize where you ultimately want to go in your career. Take an inventory of your skills and experience; identify where you fall short. From there, look for ways to fill the gaps. Shadow a peer holding the position you covet. Cultivate a mentor to keep you on track. Keep your résumé up-to-date -- you never know when opportunity will knock. There's a big difference between activity and productivity. Put a plan in place.

OrganizeClutter kills. Look at your electronic and paper filing systems. Is everything logical and easily accessible? Even more, think about your expected workload. You will always juggle various priorities. However, are there any steps or projects where you can get ahead? Such diligence will only save precious time, energy and focus later.

Participate in team buildingYou spend eight or more hours with your peers every day. That doesn't mean you truly know, trust or respect each other. Maybe you need something extra to pull you together. Consider taking a few days for team building activities, such as scavenger hunts or Outward Bound challenges. Use this time to foster those relationships and informal networks you'll need during the hectic times.

Complete long-term projectsWe all have a pet project that we tinker with sometimes. Why not use your downtime to finish it? Collect all your thoughts. Align your effort with larger organizational goals. Develop a step-by-step plan, replete with deliverables, benchmarks and deadlines. Afterwards, don't forget to publicize how your effort increased revenue, efficiency or customer satisfaction.
Similarly, seek out opportunities to market yourself internally. Conduct a presentation to raise your profile. Propose initiatives requiring collaboration with other departments to help you network (and pad your résumé). Most important, recognize those areas where your employer has a knowledge or skills gap. Commit yourself to filling it. It can only enhance your job security later.

Say 'thank you'Whether you work in the corner office or on the front line, gratitude is becoming a lost art. Too often, we are just too busy to give a heartfelt "thank you." Downtime allows us to do just that. Send a handwritten note to your customers or stakeholders expressing your appreciation. Make follow-up calls -- not sales calls -- to gauge the relationship and patch up any problems.

RelaxYou have been worn down by shifting priorities and strange hours. Take a break ... you've earned it. Recharge by taking a long weekend, exercising or just vegging out. Gather your strength and refresh your attitude. Downtime only lasts so long. Make the most of it.

An interview with a recruiter

Debra Auerbach,

In today's competitive job market, many job seekers would welcome additional job-search assistance. While some job seekers know exactly what they want to do or where they want to work, others need some direction. Recruiters can be a great resource, yet some job seekers aren't aware of who they are, what recruiters do and how best to work with them.

The following Q&A with DeLynn Senna, executive director, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, provides insight into the advantages of working with a recruiter. 

Q: What does a recruiter at a staffing agency do?
Senna: First and foremost, recruiters help people find jobs. Staffing professionals identify matches for candidates with client companies, looking for a fit from both a skills and a corporate culture perspective. Because they have a thorough understanding of what their clients look for in applicants, recruiters make the job search quicker and more efficient. Through their networks, recruiters also are able to target specific companies where candidates would like to work. The services recruiters provide don't end there, however. For instance, they help candidates hone their résumés, prepare for interviews and manage salary negotiations.

Q: Why would a job seeker use one?
Senna: Recruiters can be candidates' eyes, ears and advocates in the job market. They often know of opportunities yet to be advertised and help professionals throughout the job-search process as an adviser, coach and confidant.
Meeting with a potential employer can be a daunting prospect for many people, but recruiters can help job seekers quickly build rapport with hiring managers. Recruiting professionals provide advice on interviewing with each contact, including questions to ask and not ask. In addition, recruiters have insight into current salary trends, what a company is likely to pay and how to navigate compensation negotiations.

Q: Does this usually cost the job seeker anything?
Senna: A reputable staffing firm will never charge a job seeker a fee.

Q: How should a job seeker prepare before enlisting the help of a recruiter?
Senna: Once you're ready to work with a recruiter, make sure your résumé and online profiles are current and they project the image you want people to have of you. Hone your elevator pitch about the type of position you want and why you are a good fit for it, and line up your references.

Q: What does the process of using a recruiter generally look like? How do they work with each other throughout the process?
Senna: The job seeker-recruiter partnership can begin a couple ways. In some instances, a recruiter, through her network, may reach out to a professional to discuss career opportunities. Other times, job seekers will register with the staffing firm. In both scenarios, the next step is for the candidate to discuss his career objective, and the recruiting specialist will then review the person's résumé to see if there is a potential fit with an opportunity at a client company. If there is, the job seeker will be invited for an interview, at which point the recruiter also will conduct a skills assessment and ask for references.
Throughout the process, candidates should keep their recruiter apprised of their search. For example, if you think you'd like to work at a specific organization, tell your recruiter, who may have a contact there and be able to secure an interview for you. Also keep in mind that this is a partnership. Stay in touch, letting your recruiter know what's working and what's not, and be open to her doing the same.

Q: How does a job seeker find a recruiter?
Senna: To find the recruiter that is right for you, research the staffing firms in your area, just as you would any employer. Review local business publications and websites, and tap your network for their recommendations. When evaluating your options, look for a firm that specializes in your field and has a history of success.

Q: What myths would you like to dispel about recruiters?
Senna: A recruiter is your job-search partner. This is not a simple transactional business relationship. Recruiters want to help you find a great job and can be a valuable resource throughout your career.

Mistakes Preventing You From Securing Employment Interviews

No matter how strong your skills or experience are, you won't land a new job without first securing an interview with a prospective employer. Job seekers often consider this step of the hiring process the most difficult -- and perplexing. After all, how many times have you considered your qualifications ideal for an open position only to never hear from the hiring manager about the résumé and cover letter you submitted?

If you're looking for an edge, make sure you're not falling into these common traps.

You only focus on the Googles of the world.
Companies that continually grab headlines and are highly recognizable can be exciting places to work. But so are many companies you've never heard of. Keep in mind that organizations that are household names often receive thousands of résumés for each opening. Consider exploring opportunities with small and midsize companies. They make up the vast majority of businesses in the United States and sometimes have trouble locating qualified candidates. If Google is your dream employer, don't give up the good fight, but also keep your eyes and ears open to other opportunities.

You don't follow directions.
Each company has a different procedure it asks applicants to follow for submitting employment applications. Some ask that you use a form on their websites while others prefer traditional phone calls or faxes. Make sure you understand what the prospective employer seeks by carefully reading the job listing. Then, follow the directions to the letter. If you don't, your application may never reach the hiring manager.

You need to revamp your résumé.
Sending out the same cover letter and résumé to all companies isn't likely to capture the attention of prospective employers. Hiring managers want to know why you're a good match for their specific business needs. So, take the time to research employers and customize your job search materials by explaining why you're interested in a particular position and how you could make a contribution to the company.

Your cover letter isn't enticing.
Think of your cover letter as an appetizer that convinces the hiring manager your résumé, the main course, is worth sampling. The best cover letters take select details from the résumé and expand upon them, explaining in depth how your talents and experience can benefit the prospective employer.

You don't reference keywords.
Companies that receive a high volume of résumés often scan applications using specialized software that looks for certain keywords to determine which candidates to call for interviews. More often than not, keywords come directly from the job description. Terms such as "Microsoft Office," "accounts payable and receivable" and "Cisco Certified Network Administrator" are examples. As much as possible, ensure your résumé and cover letter contain keywords.

Your application materials aren't perfect.
Submitting an application that contains typos and grammatical goofs is perhaps the quickest way to foil your chances of securing an interview. The reason: These types of mistakes show a lack of professionalism and attention to detail. So, make sure to carefully proofread your résumé prior to submitting it and ask a friend or family member to do the same.

You don't know who to send your résumé to.
Though it's fine to start your cover letter with the generic salutation "To Whom It May Concern," hiring managers pay special attention to applications that are addressed directly to them. If the job advertisement doesn't include the hiring manager's name, call the company and speak to the receptionist or a member of the person's department. More often than not, you can obtain the information fairly easily if you're candid about your reason for wanting it.

You don't have an 'in' with the company.
Using the name of a common contact to make the connection between you and the hiring manager is by far the best way to ensure your cover letter and résumé get optimal attention. So, keep in touch with members of your professional network; you never know who has a contact at the company you hope to work for.

You don't follow up. 
One way to improve the odds a hiring manager gives consideration to your résumé is to follow up with him or her. According to a survey by our company, 86 percent of executives said job seekers should contact a hiring manager within two weeks of sending a résumé and cover letter. Often a brief phone call or e-mail reasserting your interest in the position and strong qualifications is enough.

You're not as qualified as you think.
The bottom line may be that you're simply not as perfect for the job as you think. Before submitting your résumé, take a close look at the job description and compare your skills and experience with those required for the position. If a job calls for five years of retail management experience, and you have only two, you might not be as qualified as other applicants. While sometimes it's possible to make up for skills gaps if you excel in other areas, hiring managers frequently have specific criteria in mind, and they use it to determine whom they call for interviews.
By avoiding common pitfalls, you can improve your chances of landing a job interview. Often something small -- fixing a typo, for example -- makes all the difference. 

Forget mentors; sponsors can help you reach a top role

By Alina Dizik,

It can be especially tough for female managers to rise to executive positions at many large companies because of the unexpected hurdles. Among Fortune 500 companies, women make up just 2.4 percent of chief executives despite making up 46.3 percent of the labor force. In other words, the glass ceiling still exists. 

But a recent report by the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, a private-sector task force, published in the Harvard Business Review offers new food for thought: Instead of mentors, women (and men) should have sponsors in the workplace. Researchers point out that simply seeking advice from mentors is not enough, and say it takes a lot more to advance your career. 

Here's what you need to know about the benefits of having a sponsor.

Famous politicians use the sponsor approach
Being taken under someone's wing has resulted in much success for those in the political arena. Similar to what presidential candidates do for lesser known vice presidential candidates, vouching for someone publicly can have a profound effect on that person's career. 

Women underestimate the need for sponsors
Having someone publicly put their reputation on the line to help you get to a higher level is something most women don't see a need for, according to the research findings. Almost 80 percent reported that hard work and long hours -- not connections -- were responsible for their advancement. 

Male-female sponsorship can send the wrong message
Finding sponsors can be especially difficult for women because of the reluctance to be sponsored by an older male executive in the company, the report says. Both men and women are skittish about having that kind of relationship because outsiders may see an older, more senior male executive with a younger manager-level woman as insinuating a romantic relationship. Additionally, the lack of family constraints allows men to form more valuable connections, according to findings. In fact, 60 percent of employed women still do 75 percent of the housework and take on most of the child care. 

Large U.S. companies believe in the sponsor concept
On the other hand, companies that were part of the study, such as Deloitte, Intel, Time Warner and Morgan Stanley, re working on new measures to help managers develop sponsorship networks, according to the report. Programs such as Deloitte's Leading to Win, Cisco's Inclusive Advocacy and Intel's Extending Our Research are helping to identify sponsorship opportunities for top female managers.

How having a sponsor can help
As a manager, you can't be at every company meeting or gathering. Have someone who is well-respected in the company publicly vouch for you can extend your eyes and ears in the company. Since your success is also in your sponsor's best interest, it's easy to get valuable advice. While having a sponsor who is publicly on your side is an important career boost, it can be difficult to find a sponsor. The recession has strained many workplace relationships, making many would-be mentors hesitant to take on a protégé, the report points out. 

Maintaining a sponsor relationship is worth the effort
According to the report, women who have managed to find sponsors have had significantly more success in breaking through the glass ceiling to the upper rungs of a company. For example, in the sponsorship program that was launched at American Express, 10 out of 20 female participants landed a higher role within the year. The "Sponsor Effect" study found that it's important for qualified candidates to build political allies within the company and seek both inspiration and protection from upper management.

Six Tips for a Perfect Handshake

By Kate Lorenz, 

Science backs up what the etiquette books have been saying all along: A firm handshake helps make a good first impression for both males and females. A July 2000 University of Alabama study found that consistent with the etiquette and business literature, there is a substantial relationship between the features that characterize a firm handshake (strength, vigor, duration, eye contact and completeness of grip) and a favorable first impression. 

"Handshakes are the only consistent physical contact we have in the business world. They happen first, so they set the tone for the entire relationship," says Jill Bremer, a professional image consultant and co-author of 'It's Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work' (Financial Times Prentice Hall). "People make an immediate judgment about your character and level of confidence through your handshake. I have participants pair up and try all sorts of "bad" handshakes -- wet noodle, fingers-only, bonecrusher, two-handed, upper hand - then teach them the right way to do it." Here are some tips from the experts on the perfect handshake. 

Be a mover and shaker.
It is appropriate to shake hands in any public business setting -- job interviews, business meetings, thank-you gestures. The proper handshake should be firm, with an energy that communicates sincerity, strength and professionalism, says Dianne M. Daniels, a certified image coach and author of "Polish and Presence: 31 Days to a New Image." The perfect handshake is one that conveys a friendly, welcome attitude. "Generally, the person who extends their hand first has the 'power' in the setting," says Dr. Nancy B. Irwin, a Los Angeles-based psychologist and therapeutic hypnotist. "In our American culture, the handshake shows interest, openness and confidence." 

Put them in the palm of your hand.
Dale Webb and Pauline Winick, founders and directors of the Protocol Centre in Miami, Fla. stress the importance of having proper form. Extend your arm with your hand outstretched with thumb straight up. Make sure hands are web-to-web -- slide your hand into the other person's until your webs touch. Give it just two pumps. 

Get a grip.
Limp, lifeless handshakes tend to communicate timidity, passivity or intimidation. The "limp fish" and "barely touching" handshakes project a sense of distance and a "don't touch me" attitude, says Daniels. It's hardly welcoming and no one, including women, is exempt from this rule.

Handle it with gloves. When shaking hands with a more mature person than yourself, Daniels advises to be careful not to squeeze the hand you are offered too tightly -- it could cause pain. This also applies to not rapidly or strongly pumping their arm, as you could cause injury. Many people have allergies, sensitive skin or fragile bones due to health issues, such as carpal tunnel, adds Irwin. 

When to go hand in hand.
When shaking hands to congratulate someone, Irwin recommends the double handshake. This is when you "glove" or "sandwich" the other's hand with both of yours and indicates pride, warmth and sharing. "This can overpower or threaten some people," says Irwin, "so one must be careful and use this when they know someone well." 

Be a right-hand man or woman.
In today's business environment, both women and men shake hands. The idea of a man waiting for a woman to extend her hand first is outdated, say Webb and Winick, and a woman should extend her hand. What about men? "Save the 'I'm stronger than you' type of grip for non-business situations with friends or competitors," says Daniels. "Exerting yourself to give a stronger-than-normal squeeze to another man is not the way to show your dominance, and can set a confrontational tone for the rest of your association." 

Six Moves to Make More Money

Kate Lorenz,

So you've been with your company for a while and have been exceeding all of your manager's expectations. You work hard, are a great team player, come up with new ideas to take the business further and are an all-around joy in the workplace.

If you haven't been promoted or been bumped up in salary automatically, it might be time to take the bull by the horns and approach this topic yourself. While asking for a raise makes many people uncomfortable and nervous, the situation can be a breeze if handled correctly.

The following are a few steps to follow to make sure your request does not fall on deaf ears:

1. Do your research.
Like any other element of your career, it all starts with research. In order to present your manager with a compelling case in your favor, you need to know what the going rate is for someone with your experience and in your position. You can find out what others in your industry and in comparable positions are raking in by looking at online resources, through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or in books like The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries by John W. Wright (Quill).

2. Outline a case for yourself.
When going into any kind of negotiation session, you need to be equipped with the right amount of ammunition. Before you walk into your meeting, look back at your time with the company and highlight your accomplishments. Come up with a list of specific examples of ways you have been a valuable asset to the business. Find facts and figures that demonstrate that you have excelled, using numbers whenever possible. For example, if you developed a marketing plan that helped increase sales, make sure you have those sales figures on hand, as well as your role in the plan and its execution. Be sure to tie your own success into the overall success of the company. If you really want to knock their socks off, put your accomplishments into a formal presentation, albeit brief, that outlines each of your goals and how you have achieved them. This will demonstrate that you are professional, willing to go the extra mile, and have thought about your request thoroughly.

3. Know what's going on in your neighborhood.
There are good times and bad times to ask for a raise at any company. If you approach your manager for a raise in a time of downsizing and cost cutting, you will not only be denied, but will also show that you are not in tune with the company's needs. Make sure you understand your company's overall financial situation.

4. Schedule ample time to present your case, and make sure your timing is right.
Asking for a raise on the fly after just walking into your manager's office to chat will not benefit you or impress your boss. Make sure you have time to present your case, and that your manager has time to think about your presentation. Request a meeting with your supervisor, at least a half-hour long. Think about your timing when you schedule the meeting, too. If your department has a bevy of deadlines to meet at the end of each month, don't schedule your meeting on the 29th. Pick a time when your manager will be sure to be in a good mood and not overly stressed.

5. Avoid threats or demands.
The last thing you want to do is put your supervisor on the defensive. Going into a meeting with the "if I don't get it, I'm leaving" attitude will only tell your company you are uncompromising and only out for number one. Be professional and, if your job is worth keeping, willing to listen to the other side. Keep the meeting positive and your outcome will be more positive.

6. Remember that not all perks are monetary.
If your company is strapped financially but you and your manager still come to the conclusion that it is time for you to be rewarded for your performance, you might be able to negotiate for other perks, such as stock options, more vacation time or other non-monetary benefits. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you are not valued if you do not get exactly what you had expected. 

How to get a face-to-face interview

Dewey Sadka,

Getting interviews? If not, perhaps it's time you learned how others are meeting HR decision makers. Here are some effective but indirect ways to get noticed by the people who can get you hired.

Best Referrals Are a Friend of a Friend
Ask friends, "Do you know anyone who might know someone?" Then, don't be afraid to discuss your job search wherever you go-at the gym, church, ballgames, parties, social media and so forth. When the opportunity presents itself, be open and honest about what you're looking for.

Attend Association Meetings In Your Field
Search for associations in your career field and attend their meetings and networking events. Meet and greet potential employers and other professionals. When you walk into the room, look around and see who is there and who could help you. But be equally generous and see if there are people whom you can help, too.

Find Your Social Media Fit
For example, advertising and branding companies might prefer Twitter. . "Soft sell" your skills by telling them what you dream of doing and having some interaction with the company, even if it's with the social media community manager. Since your career is relevant to the brand, you could find support.

Referral Do's & Don'ts
When finding the right people to refer you, especially at a networking event, avoid pitfalls by being the person they want to give support.
1. Don't be nervous or shy. Smile. Keep it light. Others will see you as confident.
2. Don't make it all about you. After saying hello, get them to talk about themselves. Listen for how you can support them.
3. Don't ask for a job. Chances are even if they work at the perfect company for you, they're not the decision maker.  And if they are, don't put them under pressure. Remember they'll need approvals from others.

How Do You Win Support?
Now that you've created an open listening, here's what to do.
1. Do speak with enthusiasm about the job/career you're seeking.  Ask for a business card. Then ask, "Do you know anyone that you can refer me too?" 
2. Do end the meet-up by looking them right in the eye, giving a thank-you handshake and sending a résumé right away.
3. Do send them industry articles. Take their advice and tell them how you did it. If they're not sure about your experience, offer to work as an intern or for a smaller salary.

What If It's Not Working?
Perhaps it time to transition into a more in-demand field?
1. Apply for a related more in-demand occupation. Look online for career niches or specialties within your chosen field.
2. Search them on Click on similar occupations.
3. Consider getting more opportunity and pay with a certification course or additional training.

Customize and Critique Your Resume
Brand your résumé by customizing it to fit the job. After you've developed three or four. You'll find you can use them over and over.

What's Your Hire-Ability Value?
Before you start, ask yourself these bottom-line questions.
1. "Where in the marketplace are my skills and experience most valuable?"
Maybe you can focus on less competitive areas with more job openings to get your foot in the door while still utilizing your talents and getting noticed.  
2. "What can I do to emphasize that I'm the most desirable job fit?"
3. "How can I overcome a no-hire weakness?"
For example, offer employers in the cover letter, "I'm willing to work as an intern to gain experience and skills."   

Would You Hire You? 
Get to know the company and any of its key personnel beyond the job description. Check out the website. Research the company online. The more you know, the more you can target your résumé to overcome rejections.

Are You Emphasizing Your Assets? 
Add more emphasis on the skills that match their requirements. Elaborate more on the duties and accomplishments that they will find desirable. Then, adapt your goal and job description's wording so it's clear you and the employer want the same thing.

Are You Using Their Words?
Words can be misleading. Each industry is different.  Rewrite your past experiences to better fit. Wherever possible use the words in their job posting to customize your résumé. Take out what's not related without showing an employment record gap.

Your Final Resume Critique
Now, take a break to clear your head. Then review your résumé. Will it grab the employer's attention in 10 seconds? If not, what else can you do?

Enlisting a Recruiter: Five Tips

Mark Krajnik,

One effective approach to finding your next career opportunity would be to find a recruiter that specializes in your marketplace to align with as you begin your search. There are literally thousands of recruiters out there, so how do you choose wisely? You can work exclusively with one recruiter, or align with several recruiters; either way, you want to give yourself the best opportunity to find that perfect career opportunity.

Here are five questions to consider before making your selection:  

Do they have a niche?
The first, and most important thing to consider is, "Does the recruiter have a specific niche marketplace that he or she focuses on?" Every recruiter knows that the more focused they are in a specific vertical, the better opportunity they have to capture that marketplace and create synergistic relationships on both the candidate and client sides. Have the recruiter list the most recent searches that they (not their office or team) have successfully completed. You want to align with an industry insider, not just another recruiter chasing a fee. Ask for references from a current relationship from both the candidate and client sides.

Do they listen effectively?
Any peak performer in the recruiting world knows it's not about them. It's actually about you and the client. Are they willing to listen to your concerns, what is driving you away from your current situation, what needs exist for you and your family? If not, move on. Top level recruiters are often the best listeners, and this allows them to provide better matches with their existing openings.

Are they too busy?
Top level recruiters are often extremely busy. They typically have more job orders than they have time to fill, and are constantly looking for the "perfect" candidate to fill a need. Is he or she willing to spend the necessary time to gather a complete picture of your current situation? Does she have the time to invest in your career search? If not, when is a better time? There are only so many hours in a day, and just like you, the top level recruiters like to have a balance between work and home.

How's their follow-through?
Does the recruiter do what he says he will do? If he set an appointment on your calendar, is he dependable? Or does he consistently have to reschedule because "something came up?" Be certain that you partner with a recruiter who will respect your time and confidentiality throughout the entire process.

Will you work with them beyond this current search?
Is this just a means to an end or does it hold promise for a continued relationship beyond your next career move? If it's transactional, and the recruiter has what you want, then go for it. Carpe diem. But, you should consider this to be the beginning of a long-term, mutually beneficial business relationship. With that methodology, you may become their hiring manager down the road. They will become an invaluable resource to you as your career takes off. By knowing the answers to the five questions above, you are in a better position knowing that you have a qualified and effective partner on your team.

Handling a Recession's Effect on Your Career

Robert Half International
In a recession, one thing is certain: Change is coming, especially as firms tighten their belts, reorganize, merge with other companies or close. Needless to say, preparing yourself for these types of transitions is crucial to your career success. Here are some of the changes you may experience during this recession and how to handle them: 

New prioritiesAs organizations come to understand the new economic reality, projects that create immediate revenue will become the focus. So, a long-delayed product launch may immediately shift to the front burner. Since resources will be needed for these revenue generators, you may find yourself moved quickly onto new projects. Therefore, it's important you remain flexible and work with your manager to identify assignments that most impact the bottom line.

Added responsibility
Some companies may need to reduce head count while others may implement a hiring freeze. In either situation, remaining staff members will likely be asked to take on additional work. Some of these responsibilities may fall outside your normal role, so show a willingness to learn new skills. Your firm may even offer to subsidize training, so inquire with your manager about what the organization provides. In addition, identify tasks that can either be delegated or put on hold while you tackle any extra duties you've been assigned.

Internal moves
Companies that are set on filling open positions may decide to look internally to reduce the cost of recruiting new talent. That means there could be an opportunity for you to advance within your organization. If your firm does not have a formal process for posting internal openings, maintain a strong network of contacts within the organization so you can learn about vacant roles. Make sure your network includes individuals outside your department and at different levels of responsibility. Speak to your manager about specific positions that interest you; he or she can help you learn more about the job or provide support for your campaign.  

More reporting
When finances are tight, managers need to take a closer look at how money is being spent. Don't be surprised if you're asked to provide detailed reports on how many hours a project takes and the cost involved. By carefully tracking that information, you'll be prepared should your boss request it. Also, look for ways to save the firm money or improve efficiencies. Being proactive with these types of recommendations will show your manager that you have a big-picture mind-set.

Fewer perks
Whether it's scaled-down celebrations, smaller bonuses or an end to free doughnuts on Monday, don't be surprised if some of the perks your firm has traditionally offered are sacrificed in an effort to reduce costs. Even if you've grown accustomed to these extras, don't let the changes negatively affect your mood. Understand that sacrifices need to be made in order to ride out this economic storm.

The unfortunate reality is that some businesses may need to let people go. No one wants to think about that possibility, but you should be prepared nonetheless, especially if you know that your firm is struggling. Make sure your résumé is current, noting how you've added value to your company, and increase your networking activities so you're ready should you find yourself suddenly forced to find a new position.
The current recession poses a number of challenges for not only job seekers but also those who are employed. Keep in mind, though, that the economic downturn can also present you with opportunity. Changes made within your organization may allow you to build marketable skills, take on new assignments or even prepare for future advancement. And by being flexible and open-minded, you'll demonstrate your ability to deal with any hurdle that comes your way.

Q4 job outlook mirrors pre-recession hiring

job forecast
As we head into the last few months of the year, a time when companies are often the most cautious with hiring plans, signs are pointing to a positive quarter for job seekers. According to CareerBuilder's latest job forecast, 26 percent of employers surveyed plan to add full-time, permanent staff in the next three months, up five percentage points from 2011 and closely mirroring pre-recession estimates of 27 percent.
This is the most optimistic fourth-quarter projection since 2007, and since companies historically have been more conservative in their hiring estimates than actual hiring activity, these figures could end up even higher. Throughout the first three quarters of 2012, the country has experienced slow but steady job growth, and these numbers show that the economy is laying a solid foundation for stronger job creation in 2013.

Q3 hiring up from 2011

Looking back at the third quarter, hiring activity improved from a year prior. According to the CareerBuilder study, 32 percent of companies added full-time, permanent employees, up from 26 percent in 2011. Twelve percent cut jobs, on par with last year (11 percent). Fifty-six percent made no change to employee levels.

Temporary hiring continues to increase

One indication that economic uncertainty still exists among employers is the continued move toward temporary hiring. Temporary employees are accounting for a larger proportion of the employment mix, with 38 percent of employers hiring temporary or contract workers in Q3, up from 32 percent last year.
We'll see this trend continue in Q4, as 33 percent plan to hire temporary workers throughout the next few months. However, this may partially reflect hiring needs for the upcoming holiday season. What's more, some companies that weren't ready to take on permanent employees earlier in the year may do so in the fourth quarter; 23 percent are planning to transition some contract or temporary staff into permanent employees in Q4, up from 17 percent last year.

Hiring by company size, region

Hiring is up from last year among companies of all sizes, increasing by at least four percentage points year-over-year across the board. The biggest companies -- those with 500-plus employees -- plan to hire the most workers; 34 percent expect to add full-time employees in Q4, up from 27 percent last year. Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are the most conservative, with 16 percent expecting to add employees in the fourth quarter. However, this number is up from 12 percent last year.
The latest regional employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the West continues to record the highest regional unemployment rate, at 9.4 percent in August, but this number is a marked decrease from 10.4 percent a year prior. This continued job creation is reflected in CareerBuilder's forecast, with 31 percent of employers in the West planning to add full-time, permanent staff in Q4, more than any in other region.

Election effect

As we head into the final months of 2012, there are still many variables, including the presidential election and the European debt crisis, which could change the course of the job market. In fact, 22 percent of employers said the outcome of the election would likely affect their pace of hiring in 2013, while 48 percent said it would have no impact and 30 percent were uncertain.

Job turnover increasing as worker confidence grows

Perhaps one of the strongest indications of an improving economy is the growth of consumer confidence. Workers are becoming more confident that jobs are available, and they're pursuing other opportunities. Eighteen percent of hiring managers reported that top performers left their organization in the third quarter, while 26 percent of workers plan to change jobs in the next 12 months. The top positions companies cite as having the most turnover include sales representatives, administrative assistants, information-technology managers/network administrators, engineers and customer-service representatives.
In addition, workers are being more selective about the job offers they accept. Half of employers who extended a job offer in the past year reported that a candidate rejected the offer, primarily attributed to candidates taking another offer or the company not meeting their desired salary.
With job seekers feeling more confident in their job search and negotiations, and employers looking to hire at pre-recession levels, the final quarter of 2012 looks to be a step in the right direction for workers and businesses alike.

Source: careerbuilder

Is fear stalling your career?

Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy -- especially when it comes to progressing in your career. Most people fear certain things, such as a change in their role or facing rejection when vying for a promotion, which can affect their ability to move up.
Think fears might be holding back your career? Here are common worries that can hurt your career and how to move past them: 

Fear of failure
Fear of failure can creep in at any moment and paralyze your success at work.
"We occasionally encounter job seekers who are so concerned about failing, they refuse to take on additional projects, challenges or new positions because they're afraid they will make a mistake," says Jessica Hernandez, president of Great Résumés Fast.
To help build self-assurance, Hernandez suggests that candidates who are afraid of failure should "start out small, taking on new challenges and tasks that aren't as intimidating and gradually build up their confidence to tackle larger projects as they come along."

Fear of rejection
Whether you're afraid to flunk a job interview or to ask for a promotion, being afraid to get "no" as an answer can keep you from even trying to move ahead. Job seekers can be especially sensitive to rejection.
"For job seekers, rejection means that they have failed in some way, regardless of whether the company was a good fit to begin with," says Anthony Morrison, vice president of employer solutions at Cachinko, a job referral firm for Facebook users. No matter where you are in your career, think of rejection as a learning experience that will help you improve your job-search strategy, Morrison suggests. 

Fear of change
Approaching your career with a don't-fix-what's-not-broken mentality can be a negative. While dealing with change can be difficult, being afraid of change can equal missed opportunities.
Fear of change "holds a candidate back, because they'll never step out and take the promotion or accept a better opportunity with another company," Hernandez says. "It can potentially reduce a person's growth potential and their lifetime income by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Fear of relocation
A side effect of our slow economy has been that job seekers have had to be more open in terms of where they will work, and that can be scary for workers who have families or who have lived in one area all of their lives.
If you're considering a job in another city or region, don't let fear stop you from a potential opportunity. You might really enjoy your new location, or you may find that your employer is open to you telecommuting.
"Candidates looking for jobs should be open to doing interviews via Skype and the possibility of telecommuting, temporarily or permanently," says Morgan Norman, founder of WorkSimple, a social goal management program. Don't be afraid to look outside of your geographical area. If companies think a particular candidate is a good fit, it may be possible to arrange a way to do some work remotely, he says. 

Fear of taking on a leadership role
Hiding in a cubicle is easier than speaking in a boardroom, and that's one reason some may be afraid of moving into a management role. While increased job responsibility can sometimes be overwhelming, the positive outweighs the negative, says James Alexander, founder of Vizibility, a personal branding platform provider.
Not reaching for more opportunities can set you back in the long run.
"In order to progress professionally, it's important to take on [tasks] that you may not always be comfortable with," Alexander says.

Fear of losing work-life balance
To some employees, a more prestigious job title or starting at a different firm just means more time spent away from the home. But fearing that increased job responsibilities will disturb your work-life balance can set you back in the long run.
Instead of staying under the radar, think of the perks: better pay, higher role, etc. Taking a risk with a new position doesn't need to mean you'll be at work 24-7. You can always talk to your manager about ways to create more balance (working from home once a week, coming in early so you can leave a little early to pick up your kids from school) once you've started, but don't discount the job or role just because fears creep up. 

Fear of changing industries
Switching industries can be another fear for job seekers who are used to working within one particular industry. Often, the fear is unfounded, and it's important to apply wherever your skills are needed.
"These job seekers should know that many skills are not only needed, but also transferable within different fields," Alexander says. "Do your research and try to connect with human resources professionals to gain a better understanding of the position. That way, you'll have a better idea of where you can apply your skill set within the organization." 

America at age 24: An education and employment snapshot

Studies are often conducted to get a glimpse into the behaviors and characteristics of a certain population subset. Yet while these studies provide interesting insight, they don't always give us the full picture since they often represent only one moment in time.

That's why the Bureau of Labor Statistic's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1997 is so fascinating. Findings from the study -- called longitudinal because it follows the same group of people over time -- were just released on the education and employment experiences of Americans at age 24. The study follows a nationally representative sample of approximately 9,000 men and women who were born between 1980 and 1984, were 12 to 17 when first interviewed in 1997, and were 24 to 30 when interviewed for the 13th time in 2009-2010. The recently released data are from this 13th round of interviews.

Here's a recap of some of the most compelling results:

  • Bachelor's degree attainment over three-year span: Twenty-three percent of young adults had secured a bachelor's degree or more by the October when they were 24. That compares with 18.7 percent who had done so by the October when they were 23 and 9.7 percent who had done so the October when they were 22.

  • Education gap between men and women: According to the data, nearly 28 percent of women had received a bachelor's degree by the October when they were 24. That was 9 percentage points higher than men; only 19 percent of them had received their degree by that age.

  • Military versus post-secondary education: Seven percent of male high-school graduates who had never enrolled in college were in the U.S. Armed Forces during the October when they were 24, as were 7 percent of the 24-year-old men who had attended college but had not earned a bachelor's degree and were no longer enrolled.

  • Education and ethnicity: Non-Hispanic whites are nearly three times as likely as Hispanics or Latinos to have received their bachelor's degree at age 24. Twenty-eight percent of non-Hispanic whites had received their bachelor's degree, compared with 11 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 10 percent of Hispanics or Latinos.

  • Average number of jobs held: In looking at work experience, those born from 1980-1984 held an average of 5.4 jobs from ages 18 to 24. From a gender perspective, men held an average of 5.1 jobs, while women held an average of 5.6.

  • Relationship between high-school graduation and employment: By the time they turned 25, 6 percent of the young adults who had not received a high-school diploma had never held a job since turning 18. 

Source: careerbuilder

Retiree Job Trends

For baby boomers, a funny thing is happening on the way to retirement: more work. Although this generation of forty- through sixty-somethings is nearing what was once the traditional retirement age, their futures are filled with more paychecks and less leisure. Some will keep working to keep busy. Others can't afford to quit. What you're left with is a work force with an unusually large amount of older workers changing the rules of retirement. 

Boomers who aren't retiring have plenty of options
If baby boomers were following the patterns of their parents and the generations before them, they would be at home indulging in their favorite hobbies or relaxing near a beach. However, in much the same way they revolutionized cultural norms in their youth, boomers are redefining the concept of retirement.
How? By not retiring -- at least not in the traditional sense. Workers in their late 50s or older are choosing different paths, or creating them, rather.
Christine Moriarty, a certified financial planner, sees would-be retirees fitting into one of three categories. First, entrepreneurs who have the financial security to retire but don't want to leave a job they love. Then there are those workers who do leave their jobs in order to pursue a lifelong passion, also known as "encore careers." Finally, there are workers who keep working due to inertia -- they don't know what else to do, so they keep showing up for work.
Of course, traditional retirees who stop working and pass the time with their favorite activities still exist. You just might find fewer of them in the coming years. According to a MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey, 79 percent of boomers between 50 and 59 intend to work past the traditional retirement age for the pay and benefits. Only 64 percent of boomers between 60 and 70 have the same plans, a sign that the younger boomers are not ready to move on.

Why now?
We're living longer now than before and need something to keep us busy. An American born in 1950 was expected to live to be 68 years old while the average person born in 2005 will live to be almost 78, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retiring at 55 leaves you with plenty of time to fill, a fact that Nancy Merz Nordstrom understands.
"I was a typical wife, mother of four and a secretary, until I was unexpectedly widowed at age 48. At age 51, I went to college. At age 53, I found my life's work," she says. She got remarried, became the director of Elderhostel Institute Network, an educational network for older adults. "At age 61, I wrote my first book. And today, at age 63, I'm busier than ever with my career and family."
In addition to having all that extra time to work, workers with longer life expectancies have more opportunity to accrue bills. Daily needs like food and taxes won't ever disappear. Add to that the cost of medications and doctor's visits and living longer becomes a pricey privilege.

What are your options?
Millions of mature employees who want to keep working decide to leave the familiar behind and venture into new territory. More than 50 percent of encore career workers have left professional and management careers and 30 percent are now in education, according to the Encore Career Survey.
Plenty of workers are staying in their field and bringing their decades of knowledge and experience with them. One of the most popular paths for an encore career is that of a consultant. Companies hire a consultant to examine their business practices and look for ways to improve efficiency and remain competitive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of consultants will increase 22 percent between 2006 and 2016.
Consulting can be part-time or contract work, allowing mature workers to strike a balance between work and retirement. Thanks to technology, consultants are part of the growing number of employees who work remotely, a workplace trend initiated by younger workers but benefitting everyone. The freedom to work from home lets mature workers travel or move without quitting their jobs.
"This is already happening today," says Ilya Bogorad of the Bizvortex Consulting Group, a management consulting company. "It is likely that in the very near future corporate HR departments will have to learn how to work with distributed teams composed of such consultants."

Confessions of Hiring Experts

If you worry about every possible way you can blow a job interview -- from mispronouncing the boss's name to babbling incessantly when you don't know what else to say -- you're going to walk in there feeling like you're destined to fail.  True, job interviews are rife with opportunities for you to embarrass yourself, but hiring managers are more forgiving than you might think.

We consulted some hiring experts about what is really going on inside their heads when interviewing job applicants.  They offered the following insights: 

They like you -- they really like you
"I tend to walk into every interview wanting to hire that person," says Christine Peterson, Senior Vice President of Marketing for TripAdvisor.  In addition to having the right skills and experience, she says, candidates who come across as "nice, smart and fun...are going to have to work pretty hard to convince me NOT to hire them," Peterson says.  She's seen her fair share of applicants who didn't meet these standards, including one otherwise-qualified candidate who was cut from consideration after she insisted that the receptionist who greeted her for her interview throw out a perfectly good pot of coffee and make her a fresh pot.  While Peterson is willing to give most applicants the benefit of the doubt -- after all, they put in the time and effort to submit an application and come in for an interview -- she believes no amount of qualifications will make up for "jerkness."

They don't want to hear what you think they want to hear
"Interviewers have gotten very smart to pick up if someone's saying just what a book is telling them to say," says Mary Gormandy White, a professional consultant in Mobile Ala..  By only saying what they think the employer wants to hear, job candidates are simply putting on an act, and employers can see right through that.  "You have to be yourself in an interview and you have to be sincere," she says. 

They don't expect you to have all the answers
"Employers are more interested in how you find answers to things you don't know than in having you pretend to know something you don't," says Linda Finkle, executive coach at a management consulting firm based in Potomac, Md.  In some cases, she says, the interviewer may ask a question that he or she doesn't expect you to be able to answer simply to see how you handle it.  If you ever find that you don't know the answer to an interviewer's question, the best thing to do is to admit that you don't know, but either add that you could give an educated guess or provide a way you might go about finding the answer.  Most importantly, if you don't know, don't try to fake it.  "Not knowing is OK.  Making something up or pretending to know is not," Finkle says.  

They want you to want them
According to Michele Minten, director of Centralized Recruiting for a Chicago-based recruiting company, one of the worst things a job candidate can do is not express genuine interest in the job or the company.  As much as the recruiter wants to sell the candidate on the position and company, he or she also wants to know that the candidate actually wants to work in that position or for that company.  Peterson agrees.  "When I hear applicants expressing energy and enthusiasm for our company and our product, I want to hire them," she says.

How to keep networking during summer vacation

For many people, regardless of age, summer is a time when work is low on your list of priorities. Perhaps all those years of three-month summer vacations as young students conditioned us to think of June, July, and August as reprieves from using our brain. Even many offices let their workers leave early on Fridays during the summer.

For job seekers, the summer months can be particularly troublesome due to several factors. Aside from wishing they were outside sunning at the pool rather than inside typing up a résumé, many job seekers have children at home for three months and need to entertain them. Not to mention scheduling conflicts of the employers who are off at some resort enjoying the sun and don't have time for interviews. Despite these problems, however, summer isn't a lost cause for job seeking.

Why summer is a good time to job hunt
"Conducting a job search during the summer can be tricky, and it is important to avoid the biggest hazards for job seekers during the summertime -- timing and schedules," says Patty Coffey, a partner in the information technology division of staffing firm Winter, Wyman. "Candidates shouldn't feel discouraged if the interview process takes extra time, and those who can withstand a longer process may just find that perfect job."

In fact, Coffey offers these five tips for job seekers to keep in mind during the summer:

Some industries slow down in summer
"Employees of many companies may actually have more time to interview candidates in the summer, when they aren't on vacation, because it isn't a busy time for their organization," she explains.
Don't assume no one's hiring
"Companies still need to hire even when it is 95 degrees outside," Coffey reminds. "If you stop your job search, you could miss out on some great opportunities. And you may face less competition if other job seekers are buying into the summer slowdown myth."
Be prepared to act quickly
"While summer vacation schedules can prolong the interview process, they can also expedite it," she cautions. "If the schedules of all involved align, companies will speed up interviews -- to even just one day -- to avoid the complexity of scheduling multiple meetings."
Starting in the summer gives you more breathing room"Summertime is typically a less hectic time to transition to a new job. Prospects can get acquainted with the company when fewer people are in the office and things are slower. It can also be less traumatic for families if a move is involved, since children wouldn't have to switch schools mid-year," Coffey says.
Use summer hours to your advantage
Many companies have a more lax schedule in July and August," she reminds. "Bosses are often on vacation or may take a long lunch, so employees can slip away unnoticed. Vacation days are more accepted -- boss won't think it is odd if you take a vacation day or two in August. In fact, you could even consider taking a 'job search vacation' where you conduct a week-long blitz of intense searching and interviewing."
How to network and make connections in the summer
Now that you know summer is the perfect time to job hunt, and maybe even the secret to landing a job while everyone else has given up, you need to know how to do it. We asked some career experts to give their best advice for making the most of summer picnics and sports games in order to advance your career. Here's what they think you should be doing:
"At the summer barbecue or pool party, networkers should listen as well as talk. Listening establishes rapport and people are more likely to help you when they feel listened to. Job seekers should never say, 'I'm unemployed.' It sounds passive and negative. If you are networking and not employed, the best thing to say is 'I'm in [a] career transition.' It puts you in the driver's seat. If you were caught in a downsizing, never say 'I lost my job' or 'I was laid off.' Instead say, 'My position was downsized' or 'my department was eliminated.' Then, it sound less like the layoff was about you and more like it was about the financial operations of the company." - Marky Stein, career coach and author of "Fearless Resumes: The Proven Method to Get a Great Job Fast"
"The challenge of summer networking is that so many of the venues and places are outside. Most of us are not walking around with our briefcases and resumes in hand. We forget that these summer places offer real opportunities.
"[My] Best advice: Keep your business cards with you wherever you go -- in your pocket or wallet or glove compartment of your car. If you have a smartphone, learn to use it by immediately uploading a new contact into it and beaming your contact info to the person you have just met. Be careful: since these are usually social or recreational, do not come across as too pushy. Keep it low key!" - Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University
"The best thing about networking [at picnics, softball leagues or tennis matches] is people get to know the real you, the person behind the suit, the face and the personality. Be yourself! And connect with them on LinkedIn.
"Considering most conversations either begin or end up focusing on what you do for a living, have that elevator speech planned but don't sound too canned. Bring business cards or connect with new contacts on LinkedIn but know going into it what you're looking for. Identify what you want such as a company you want to work for and/or specific jobs and put yourself in the position to ask new contacts for help." - Vicki Salemi, author of "Big Career in the Big City"
"At times, professionals forget the conversation starters and ways to look for making connections to build their networking. Ask probing questions to find out more about the other person. Don't talk all business but ask them about their personal interests outside of work, their family, their occupation and what made them select that industry, where they like to vacation and what are their dreams and aspirations. When you find a common connection that is when the real magic begins to happen.
"I challenge people to keep asking questions on various topics until they find a common interest. I've personally done this and found people who attended the same university, from the same home town or like to vacation in the same type of relaxing vacations. This is how to build a professional network that can lead to long-term rapport." - Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Illustra Consulting, a corporate and individual professional consulting firm

How to escape an awkward networking conversation

There's nothing worse than being stuck in an awkward conversation at a party with no escape. After several painful minutes of talking about the weather and the latest football game, you finally blurt out, "I have to go to the bathroom!" and quickly run away.

You can find yourself in the same situation at a networking event. Except at these, you have no choice but to act polite and professional, because important career relationships may be at stake. Conversations can hit just as much of a dead end, and without having a clear exit strategy, you may waste valuable networking time.

"The secret to exiting an awkward networking conversation is the same as the secret to getting out of anything you don't want to do: preparation," says Robby Slaughter, author of "The Unbeatable Recipe for Networking Events." Following this sage advice, here are some tactics for escaping those uncomfortable exchanges and coming out with your career connections intact.

The bait and switch
Want to get out of a conversation while still appearing helpful? Try handing the person off to someone else who is better suited to chat. "Use the downtime in the conversation to ask the person what they are hoping to get from the networking event, and facilitate an introduction to someone else who can help them," says Kristi Hedges, executive coach, leadership development consultant and author of "The Power of Presence." "For example, if they're looking for a job, introduce them to a recruiting friend or someone who has just found a job. When they are situated, you can warmly excuse yourself in order to catch up with some other folks there."

The concerned conversationalist
When you've reached the point of no return in a networking conversation, make ending the conversation about the other person -- how you must be keeping him from other important people, places or events. But be sure to close with a clear parting statement so there's less of a chance for lingering.
Sheila C. Sheley, president of Sheley Marketing, suggests using one of these lines:

  • "You probably want to find a seat before they start the presentation. I hope you enjoy it."

  • "You should get in that line for the bar before it gets too long, and I should go return a call from my office. Nice chatting with you."

  • "I'm sure there are other people here that you want to meet, so I'll let you continue your networking. Have a nice evening."

The open-ended closer
Another conundrum that comes along with networking is the inevitable exchange of business cards and the promise to keep in touch. But what if you don't really want to reconnect?  "If the other person wants to continue talking later, but you aren't interested, sometimes you can respond as if you assume it is a general expression of interest and not a specific request," Sheley says. "You could respond with something like, 'Yes, it was nice talking to you, too. I'm sure we'll run into each other at another one of these events,' or 'Perhaps our paths will cross again soon and we can talk more about that.'"

The "It's not you, it's me" approach
The risk you run with "the open-ended closer" is that you're still leaving the door slightly open for another conversation. If you want to slam it shut, try placing the blame on your schedule or current career situation.
Slaughter gives these two examples of how to be direct with your rejection:

  • "I appreciate your offer to meet up for coffee. But I respect you and want to be honest: I already have a trusted partner who works in real estate to whom I send all of my referrals. I'm sure there's someone in your network who has total confidence in your professionalism and does the same for you."

  • "I'd love to expand my network, but I am completely booked up right now with current projects and am not taking any new meetings for the next six months. If you'd like to reach out to me in six months, perhaps we can get a cup of coffee then."

The written rejection
Meghan Ely, networking event regular and owner of OFD Consulting, a niche marketing firm for the wedding industry, has had success with this trick: "If the person wants to continue the conversation at another time but I have no interest, I will still exchange cards if they insist but will ask them to contact me directly. If they do reach out, this gives me the opportunity to be a bit more eloquent when it comes to my approach. With these scenarios, I would simply be polite but firm and say something along the lines of how I appreciate them reaching out, but I don't think my skill set/area of expertise, etc. would be of benefit to them."

The phone call fake out
This is likely a last-resort tactic, but if you've tried everything else and you still can't escape, you can always pull the fake phone call from a friend. "You can always recruit a confederate who knows that you are trying to escape a situation," Slaughter says. "They can call you on the phone and pull you into an 'important conversation.' Your ally can also rescue you directly: 'Mind if I borrow Fred for a minute? He's needed on the other side of the room.'"

Source: careerbuilder

5 Ways to Get the Job You Want -- in Any Economy

With all the bleak economic news and reports of massive layoffs, it's easy to lose sight of an exciting fact of work:  There have never been more opportunities and possibilities for talented people than exist today.  The rate of new business formation in the United States has passed more than 1 million new companies per year.  Employers everywhere are looking for bright, resourceful and committed people to help their businesses grow.  The best way to help the best companies find you is to become a self-directed job searcher. 

Regardless of your employment experience, your target industry or the economic climate, you can get a job -- a great job -- if you are willing to work hard and know how to work smart.  Here are some of the very best ideas, strategies and methods for putting your career back on the fast track.

1. Take control of your career
The average person starting work today will have 11 full-time jobs and as many as five different careers over the course of his or her lifetime. To weather the storms of lifelong career change, you must be proactive, not reactive.
Begin by seeing yourself as self-employed. See yourself as the president of a company with one employee: you. See yourself as having one product to sell in a competitive marketplace: your personal services. You are completely responsible for research and development. No matter who signs your paycheck, you are always on your own payroll. This attitude is the starting point for getting the job you want for the rest of your career.

2. Take stock of yourself
Before you go out and look for a job, do some self-reflection. Make a list of all the things you can do for which someone would be willing to pay. What have you done especially well at your previous jobs? What sort of activities in your work and your personal life do you most enjoy? The good news is that you will always do the very best at something that makes you the happiest. To help yourself follow the right career track, describe your ideal job. The greater clarity you have about exactly what it is you want to do and how much you want to earn, the easier it is for someone to hire you.            

3. Understand the job market
All labor, including your own, is subject to the economic law of supply and demand. The only way to ensure you get a rewarding job is by doing something important for which there is a demand in the marketplace and in which you are difficult to replace. A change in technology, consumer preferences or the economy can make a particular talent or specialty obsolete almost overnight. You must continually upgrade your knowledge and skills and adjust your efforts so that they conform to the needs of the current job market. In a free society such as ours, everybody works on commission.                 

4. Don't mistake unemployment for a vacation Look at your job search as a full-time job, taking 40 to 50 hours a week. Get up and get dressed each weekday morning as if you were going to work, eat a light, high-energy breakfast and then get going. Looking good and staying productive not only improves your attitude, but also impresses other people, both those inside your own house and those on the outside. Remember, you should never see yourself as unemployed. You are a fully employed person in a temporary state of transition. 

5. Sow seeds everywhere Most of the jobs available are not advertised. They are hidden and waiting for you to discover them. Along with regularly surfing Internet job sites, be sure to list your qualifications and interests on every site that might attract employers seeking someone like you. Visit community job fairs and talk to exhibitors. Keep an eye out for news of new product releases and then seek out key people in the company. A business expansion represents job opportunities. Gather information about a prominent individual in an organization you would like to work for. Ask that person, by phone, by e-mail or in a letter, to grant you a 10-minute informational interview. Almost invariably, your interest, knowledge and gratitude will pay off in a job offer.  

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