networking

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.

 

5 Great Ways To Use LinkedIn to Network Your Way Into a Job

Networking has changed over the years. It used be that the only way to network your way into a job was to do a lot hands-on networking - as in, pressing the flesh. In other words, you had to go to an event, work the room, and hand out business cards.

Nothing replaces human contact, those networking events still matter, because you get the chance to meet people in person and make a positive impression. Keep in mind, interviews still (usually) happen in person, and most major decisions are made with face-to-face contact.

But LinkedIn is an amazing tool. It's changed the networking game. In many ways, it's democratized networking, making it easy to make meaningful connections. For the job seeker, it's a boon, because it gives visibility into key contacts as potential employers. 

Here are 5 great ways you can use LinkedIn to network your way into a job!

  1. Grow your network, strategically. This is a long-term strategy. Add people with whom you've had contact, whether it be in person, by phone, or by email. The more people your contacts know, the more people you'll be able to access in their network. By the way, LinkedIn is crawling with recruiters - they're good connections to have.
  2. Build your brand. Your LinkedIn page is your platform, and an opportunity to present yourself in a positive light. Develop a clean, crisp, and professional profile for yourself, and obtain good, solid recommendations from former bosses and coworkers. Write blogs (LinkedIn calls them Posts) that highlight your expertise in your professional area. All recruiters I know use LinkedIn to actively search for talent. Many will check out somebody's LinkedIn profile after receiving a resume to get an idea of the person's presentation. You have full control over your profile and what's published under your name on LinkedIn, take advantage of it!
  3. Get introductions through LinkedIn. If you see that one of your connections is directly connected with a key contact at a company you'd like to reach, ask your connection for an introduction. Better yet, ask them if they have the person's email so you can reach them directly.
  4. Apply on the job boards, then reach out to a company contact via LinkedIn. Go to Indeed, Monster, or any job board, and complete the online application for a position. Then, do a search on LinkedIn for a company recruiter, HR person, or appropriate line manager, and send them an InMail letting them know you've applied to the position, you're qualified, and you're interested. Sometimes this can get you moved to the top of the resume pile; recruiters will easily get over 250 applications for an open position online, and they won't have time to review everybody. By taking this approach, you present yourself as a potential solution to their problem.
  5. Ask for informational interviews. People, by nature, like to help. Find a strategic contact at your target company through LinkedIn, then send them a note requesting an informational interview. Offer to bring your contact a cup of coffee in exchange for their time. Remember, don't ask for a job - your only mission here is to get information. If you present yourself well, you may be considered for open positions, or your contact might refer you to somebody they know for an opportunity at another company. The key here is to come loaded with great questions and a heap of modesty.

Remember, maintain every relationship as if it's critical - because it is. Don't just be a "taker"; make productive introductions on behalf of others, too. Not every connection has an immediate payoff, but you can certainly move the job search 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.

 

We're All Replaceable - Are You Prepared?

I recently read an opinion piece in the New York Times by Dan Lyons, who worked at a software company where it was a matter of routine to . In the article, he details how involuntary turnover (i.e., getting fired or laid off) was the norm. The fact that you could be fired on any day for any reason was routine.

Rough and tumble corporate cultures are nothing new. There was an article last summer, also published in the New York Times, about the bruising culture at Amazon, where they detailed the employees' tears that seemed to be the norm, at least at the time of publication. I myself have worked in an environment where the management model was capricious, to say the least.

While not every company is a meat grinder, the truth of the matter is that deliberately tough work environments exists, and employers aren't necessarily selling themselves as best-in-class places to work. They demand results, and the agreement is simple: We give you a paycheck, you work in the environment we choose to foster.

Websites like Glassdoor will show you reviews of companies' work environments by former and current employees. My guess (and it's just a guess) is that this increased level of transparency has led some companies to embrace the fact that working there isn't going to be a Shangri-La. It's kind of freeing for executive leadership, in a way -  if people know you're not too worried about employee engagement, you can focus that energy on producing results.

Going back to the opinion piece mentioned at the beginning of this post, the detail that really caught my attention was that Lyons' employer evaluated employees in their appraisals with a metric called VORP - value over a replacement player.

This is a baseball statistic that general managers use to decide when to trade or cut their players. In other words, if there's a second baseman on the market who can do the same jobless, or deliver better stats for the same pay, it tells the GM that they may want to make a change at second.

This, according to the article, is transparent to employees, they can tell immediately how much the organization values them. What's scary about this, in my opinion, is that Major League Baseball is a truly elite work environment - at any given point, there's only 750 positions available at the highest level. And these players are paid elite money to deal with the uncertainty - and the level of performance they are expected to deliver.

The average MLB player knows the odds - there are hundreds of thousands of people competing for his job. And his career averages 5.6 years in length. Longevity isn't necessarily part of the equation.

But the fact that this practice has entered the mainstream should serve as a wake-up call to employees in general. We are all replaceable. There is always somebody ready to come along and do our job.

The best thing to do, is to be prepared.

  • Be self-aware. Are your skills up to date? How about your soft skills, do you get along well with others? Your employer and coworkers are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and you should be, too. If you realize you're lacking in a certain area, work on developing your skill set. Make the time, it's worth it.
  • Know where you stand. Have regular touch-bases with your manager. Engage in open dialogue about your performance and expectations. Make sure you're both aligned.
  • Keep your resume current. And your LinkedIn profile, too. Change may come faster than you anticipate, and not necessarily on your terms. You need to be ready in case opportunity knocks.
  • Always. Be. Networking. The worst time to start building up your connections is when you need a job. You should have that network in place and give it some TLC. Pay it forward - help people in your network when you're in a position to do so, so that others have a reason to give you a solid. Be nice to people, it pays dividends.

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.