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New Year, Boost Your Career! 9 Strategies For A Successful 2017

Yahoo!!! (iStock.com)

Yahoo!!! (iStock.com)

It's the end of 2016. And what an interesting year it's been – please join me in welcoming 2017!

Many people use the new calendar year to mark a new beginning. If boosting your career is part of your agenda, here are X strategies you can use to position yourself for a promotion, or get that new job you've wanted.

1. Maximize Your Annual Performance Appraisal. Most employers do performance evaluations in the beginning of the year. Come prepared with your list of accomplishments. Quantify the value you've brought the company. If you're angling for a promotion, a strong performance appraisal is essential. Go in with your eyes open - if you're surprised by what you hear from your manager during your review, you haven't truly been paying attention to feedback throughout the year. If there are any development opportunities identified during the review, own them and discuss how you have worked to overcome them and plan to correct them going forward.

2. Create An Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP is a tool to help you in your personal development. Prepared in conjunction with your manager, it documents your strengths, your weaknesses, and your career goals, explores career possibilities, identifies training opportunities, and provides you with a road map how you plan to get there. Preparing and adhering to an IDP also serves the critical function of reinforcing to your organization's leadership your commitment to your professional development. It's also a good opportunity to ask yourself if you really want a promotion and all the headaches which accompany it. Also, here some specific strategies you can follow to prepare yourself for that promotion.

3. Find A Mentor. It can be helpful to find somebody inside or outside your company who has achieved career-wise what you are looking to do. A good mentor is helpful because they aren't typically your manager (so you can be freer to discuss concerns and personal areas of development) and they can provide you an outside perspective as well as helpful guidance.

4. Benchmark Your Skill Set. It's helpful to know what the job market looks like for professionals such as yourself. Check out the job listings on LinkedIn and Indeed. Take a look at what you could earn with another employer by using salary data on Salary.com or Paysa. You might find out that your current employer is compensating you quite well and above market averages; or, not so much. Do you know some agency recruiters (i.e., headhunters) who work in your field? Pick their brains about the job market, too.

5. Get Your Resume In Shape. It doesn't matter whether or not you're planning to leave your current company. Even if you're applying for an internal opportunity at your employer, or you've been tapped to interview for a promotion, you'll need a resume which reflects your accomplishments and personal growth, and is strategically targeted for the job you're hoping to get. Here are 6 things you can do to strengthen your resume today.

6. Polish Your Interviewing Skills. Again, even if you have no intention of leaving your company, it's become increasingly common to have employees interview with their own organization's leaders if they're being considered for an internal move or a promotion. Learn as much as you can about behavioral interviewing - that's when an interviewer asks you about how you've dealt with a difficult situation in the past to get an idea about how you would handle it in the future. Here are some additional ways to make the interview work for you.

7. Network. Your reputation is only as good as what people hear, and if they're not hearing anything about you, then you really don't have a reputation to speak of. Join the board of the local chapter of your professional trade group. Volunteer with a nonprofit. Attend those college alumni events. You don't necessarily need to work a room to get noticed, either. Often, familiarity breeds awareness of your career and your skills, and you'll often find that people will keep you in mind and recommend you if they hear of any appropriate job opportunities. And yes, connecting and engaging with your peers on LinkedIn certainly counts as networking. Want to get noticed on LinkedIn? Here are some tips.

8. Keep Learning. Considering how quickly the required skills are changing due to technological advances, it's lethal to stop upgrading your skills. Take classes through your trade group. Go back for your Master's degree. Take a course on Coursera or LinkedIn Learning. If you don't know the essential emerging technology in your field, it's guaranteed that somebody else will know it – and they'll be a more desirable job candidate. All other factors being equal, skills trump all.

9. Dress The Part. Your appearance speaks volumes. People perceive your professionalism through your attire. Take the opportunity to upgrade your wardrobe, and reinforce your manager's and your peers' positive impression of you. It might be time to put the jeans away, and wear a nice pair of slacks.

Here's to a prosperous 2017!


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

 

Do Cover Letters Still Matter?

This should convince them!

This should convince them!

Every career adviser will tell you that when you prepare a resume, that you need accompany it with a personalized cover letter.

What exactly is a cover letter, anyway? It’s a one-page document that accompanies your resume, customized and addressed to the person whom you’re sending your credentials. Usually, it summarizes a few key accomplishments found in the resume, reiterates your excitement in the reader’s company and is intended to impress.

If the resume is your personal brochure, then the cover letter is the brochure for the brochure. In essence, the cover letter is the pitch to the reader why they should invest the time in reading your resume.

Cover letters were invented and became standard practice in the days when job applicants sent a resume to an employer as a letter by (get this!) the postal service. As in, paper mail. As in, you stick the resume and cover letter in a stamped envelope and drop it in one of those big blue boxes they used to have on every corner. The corporate mailroom would receive the envelope, it would mellow for a few days, and eventually the office delivery person would drop it in the recipient’s inbox (a physical tray which sits on the corner of a person’s desk, usually labeled “IN”) where it would sit for a couple more days. Eventually, the recipient would use a letter opener (a device which looks suspiciously like a dagger) to open the envelope, glance at the cover letter, and decide whether the resume was worth a read.

Got all that?

Incidentally, next time you complain about how nobody gets back to you the resume you sent to Company X, keep in mind that it used to cost real money - in postage and stationery - to send an application to an employer. I’m just saying that life wasn’t always better in the old days.

Times have indeed changed. People don’t apply for jobs the same way. In most cases, an applicant sees a job online and applies either through the corporate website or via a job board like Monster or LinkedIn. Often there isn’t even an opportunity to include a cover letter with your resume.

And here’s a dirty little secret of the recruiting world – most recruiters, who act as gatekeepers of the application process, don’t have the time or interest to read a cover letter. They usually take a look at first half of the first page of the resume and decide whether to keep reading. A cover letter, if included, is usually an afterthought. A nicety. An attachment, if you will.

And yet, there is a time and a place for a cover letter. It’s a valuable tool for certain situations, because it shows that you care.

A cover letter is appropriate – even essential - in the following situations:

  • You are targeting a position in a specific company and you have the contact information of a particular individual or department. If you really, really want to work at Chester’s Advertising Agency, and you have the CEO’s contact information, you have a unique opportunity to make a positive impression. A cover letter allows you to show the passion for working at Chester.
  • You are attending a career fair and want to stand out from the pack. You’ve done your research and identified five employers you would really, really like to work for. Handing the recruiters a cover letter customized to their company along with the resume would demonstrate that extra little bit of effort.
  • Somebody has referred you to an individual at a company. Let’s say that your friend Moe provides you with the contact for their friend Homer who works at the nuclear power plant you’d like to work at. If you don’t include a cover letter with the resume, Homer might never figure out it was Moe that referred you. And you’d like to make Moe look good for referring you, wouldn’t you?
  • You’re emailing a resume to a company. Sometimes job advertisements ask applicants to send an email resume. In the body of the email you should have something to say. A cover letter – even a brief one – helps interest the recipient.

A cover letter doesn’t matter so much when:

  • You apply to a job through a company’s website or a job board. Often there’s not an opportunity to even include a cover letter. Even if you attach one, it’ll likely be ignored.
  • You’re canvassing a job fair. You’ll come across a great number of employers you’ve never considered. They won’t expect a cover letter, and it would be impractical to provide one for every exhibitor.

Either way, it’s best to be prepared. Have that cover letter ready, you never know when you’re going to need it.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

 

Ten Reasons You're Going to Get Hired!

Ten Reasons Get Hired
Ten Reasons Get Hired

Yesterday, it was all about why you can't get the job. Today, let's explore everything that's going right for you - here's the reasons they're going to hire you!

  1. "My guy just quit today. Let's see if this uniform fits you."
  2. You're so tall! And that full head of hair is such a nice shade of silver!
  3. The boss sees on your resume that you were in the college bowling club. They really need a fourth for league night.
  4. You went to Northwestern. Their manager went to Northwestern.
  5. "Wait, you heard about this place? And you still want to work here?"
  6. You whitened your teeth yesterday with Borax. Your gums hurt, and your liver wants to escape, but your smile looks so good!
  7. "I can't believe you like money too. We should hang out."
  8. The manager hates her objectives. But she realizes she can get you to do them for her.
  9. The job's been open for eight months. GIVE ME A BODY!
  10. You have a degree. And an immaculate employment history. And a clean resume. And no dandruff. And you used a good deodorant.

Life may not be fair, but it sure as hell is interesting. Do the best you can do in terms of preparing for the interviews, and you'll do what you can to stack the odds in your favor.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.