Archive for April, 2010

What new (and old) grads should know about job hunting

Congratulations, graduates — now you get to find a job! With the graduation season about to get into full swing, it seemed an appropriate time to provide some tried-and-true job hunting advice, which most grads don’t seem to get in college (yep, parents, all that expensive education doesn’t appear to include a course in how to find work)! And no matter how long ago you graduated, a little refresher course in the basics never hurt anyone.

First, just a few facts about what the Class of 2010 will find out there in the real world: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the job market is looking up — employers anticipate hiring 5.3 percent more recently minted college grads than they did a year ago. Yet because the market was so terrible the past two years, many new and recent graduates went back to school for another degree, or stopped looking. Hence, the job market this year for recent grads will be more crowded — and some who took a basic job just to have one will be trying to trade up now as well!

But new grads shouldn’t despair and should get going. And communications and journalism graduates — despite all the gallows humor you’ll be treated to from friends, family and even those in the business — will have opportunities, too, they just need to be open to them.

So here is a quick summary — without the expensive college-degree price tag — of how to proceed in your job hunt: (more…)


April 30, 2010 at 11:41 am 1 comment

What to do when asked for salary requirements

Several email correspondents have been faced with this dilemma recently: After an interview (or several), a hiring manager asks them for references and “salary requirements.” That’s generally good news — they must be really interested — but the dilemma for these mid-career folks is how much they should say they expect to earn in the job. If you go too low, you’re potentially cheating yourself out of a salary you deserve (see Jan. 29 post, “Don’t undersell yourself in job negotiations”)  but if you aim too high, you might be pricing yourself out of further consideration for a position you really want.

This is a tricky situation, especially these days, where salary is a definite consideration before an employer will move to the final rounds of the hiring process — that’s why they’re asking what you want to make. With budgets still tight for many organizations, they often have a set amount they are paying for a position and hiring managers may have little flexibility to budge from those guidelines.

But if you want this job and are willing to put some time and research into this stage of the process, there are some ways you can effectively address the salary requirements issue. Here are some tips: (more…)

April 29, 2010 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

Ways to stop procrastinating on your job search

Conducting a job search is hard work and can be tough on the ego — you’ll hear an awful lot of “no’s” or “not now’s” before you can get to that “we want you” call. Consequently, many people relegate job-hunting tasks to the bottom of their to-do lists — thinking that they’ll get to it later when they’re not “quite so busy.” Yet, unless you combat that procrastinating tendency, all you will do is delay the inevitable and it won’t be any easier to find a new job in a few months than it is now.

In some ways, those who lost their job have more of a built-in check against procrastination in their job search (as they need a new job to pay the bills!) than those who are conducting a job hunt while still employed. It’s a lot easier when you have a job, no matter how miserable you may be in it or how numbered your days there may be, to tell yourself that you’ll start looking later. Procrastinating always seems easier than doing. Yet procrastination — born of fear, uncertainty and worry about the future — is just a form of inaction; by replacing it with action — even little steps — you will be closer to getting a job. Often, getting started is the hardest part.

Here are some tips for curbing a tendency to procrastination and energizing a job search: (more…)

April 28, 2010 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

How to handle uncomfortable questions in an interview

It’s a job candidate’s nightmare-come-true: All is going well, you seem to be developing a good rapport with the interviewer, and then wham, seemingly out of nowhere they toss out an uncomfortable question that you didn’t see coming. What to do? Obviously, covering your ears like a three-year-old and refusing to answer, or ducking under the desk will end your candidacy pretty quickly. But how can you answer an uncomfortable question (especially a surprise one) in a direct and honest way without making yourself look bad?

Because you can’t wave away such questions, much as you’d like to, the best strategy is to prepare for them. Then, if they’re asked, you’re ready, and if they’re not, well, at least you prepared well. Often these type of questions have to do with personnel matters — people you may have worked with in the past who may not have seen you in the best light; so-called reputational issues. (Remember what a small town Washington can be.) Someone may be spreading unflattering stories about you and you need to address them, especially because if you don’t, you’ll look weak. Or, sometimes, an interviewer may have legitimate concerns about some aspect of your candidacy that could make you uncomfortable.

Hiring experts say that in such situations you should, above all, remain calm. Don’t act defensive but don’t go on the offensive either. The interviewer may be testing you a bit, to see how you react under pressure. Or they may be baiting you. Or they may be asking a similar question of all candidates. In any case, here are some tips on how to handle potentially awkward or uncomfortable questions in an interview: (more…)

April 27, 2010 at 2:37 am 2 comments

How to network with the well-networked

When asked what advice helped them land a job, the newly hired often point to tips about networking — saying that figuring out how to network effectively cleared a path to their new employer. One friend and reader of this blog said she found one piece of advice — network with the well-networked — especially helpful. But, she said, it took her a bit of work to figure out just how to identify and then how best to approach these folks.

I heartily recommend networking with the well-networked — and so glad it worked out for my friend! — because it makes sense on several fronts. First, the well-networked have more contacts to share (and let’s face it, networking is a numbers game). Secondly, people who are good at networking presumably enjoy meeting people and connecting people with one another, and are more likely to do this for you than someone who isn’t good at it and doesn’t like it. Also, the well-networked often are looking for opportunities to expand their circle so they can help others (and improve their own networking reputation) so they’re more likely to let you in.

Yet identifying and connecting with good networkers in a meaningful way can take some doing. Here are a few tips: (more…)

April 26, 2010 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

When are you providing too much detail?

Specificity and attention to detail are usually viewed as favorable traits in a job setting, and the same is true in a job hunt. Prospective employers typically give points for detailed responses in interviews and other communications, and specificity is important in one’s cover letter and resume. This is good news for journalists and public policy types who tend to excel in this area.

Yet, sometimes less is more — and too much detail can sink one’s chances at snaring a good job. A hiring manager may worry that as an employee you’d waste their time by going on and on about fairly insignificant matters, or that you won’t be able to focus on the broader outline of the job. This is especially true of management candidates, who need to look at the big picture and need to be able to juggle a million details, rather than getting caught up in only a few of them.

Here are some tips for providing just the right amount of detail while job hunting: (more…)

April 23, 2010 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

What job hunters can learn from house hunters

Recently, an email correspondent wrote saying that she was frustrated and exhausted by a long and ego-deflating job search and wanted some real-world clues on how to proceed in an effective way. For a change of pace, I turned not to hiring experts but instead asked for advice from a few friends in the world of real estate — who in recent years have had their egos bruised a bit as well as the housing and commercial real estate markets nosedived.

When you think about it, it turns out there is a lot about house hunting that is applicable to job hunting, and vice versa. The home seller has something the prospective home buyer wants — just as the hiring manager has what the prospective employee wants, or potentially wants. They often find each other through third parties. They need to meet, to negotiate and to come to some mutual agreement — and sometimes they just walk away from each other.

Given these similarities, here are some thoughts on what job hunters can learn from the advice often given to house hunters: (more…)

April 22, 2010 at 3:06 am Leave a comment

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