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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Transitions

ask for the job

When I tell my coaching clients that they should ask for the job in an interview, I often get slack-jawed stares and looks of horror.

“What?! What do you mean? How could I possibly be so bold?”

You can. And you should.

Keep in mind that you are one person amid a sea of candidates. Think of yourself as part of a gigantic choir. How will you make your voice stand out? How will you deliver a solo that can be heard above the rest?

I have several strategies for developing your “solo” (if you’d like to learn more, let’s talk), but one of my key strategies is to have the confidence to ask for the position you’re seeking. Note that this is different than begging. You’re not on your knees, desperately pleading with the interviewer. Instead, you’re self-assured, enthusiastic, and authentic. You demonstrate that this job means a lot to you and you know it’s aligned with your skill set.

So, HOW do you ask for the job?

Start by affirming that, yes, this is the right fit for you. Research the company and the position. Read reviews on Glass Door. And listen to your gut–if you walk into an interview and notice that everyone in the office seems to be anxious and stressed, this might not be the company for you. Or, if your interviewer is curt and unfriendly, that might be a warning sign for what’s ahead. Trust both your instincts and your research. If you’re impressed with the company and you get a good feeling when you walk through the doors, that’s a good sign that you should make the bold move of asking for the job.

When you’re asking for the job, timing is everything. Your ask should come toward the end of the interview. Usually, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions or anything you’d like to add. This is your chance to make your move.

Start by complimenting the company (but be sure you’re sounding sincere). Say something like: “When I researched ABC Company, I was really impressed by your annual growth and the way you give back to the community. Now that I’m here in person, I’m even more impressed by the atmosphere and the way everyone has treated me with such warmth since the moment I walked through the door…”

Then, deliver your ask. Be confident. Practice asking for the job in front of the mirror so you become accustomed to how it might sound. Here are a few ways to do your ask:

“Your company seems like a great fit and I can picture myself thriving here. What can I do to convince you that I’m the right person for this position?”

“I can tell this position aligns with my skill set and I would very much like to work here.”

“This job sounds like a perfect match for my skills and experience. What can I do to demonstrate that I’m ready to work with you and your team?”

“I’m even more enthusiastic about this position than when I came in this morning and I’m confident I would be a good fit. What is the next step in the hiring process?”

REMEMBER: Go into your ask with grace, confidence, and the realization that the interviewer may respectfully decline OR hire you on the spot. Are you ready to get out there and put your new skill to work?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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tips for successful networking

Even if you’re not looking for a new job, networking is still a valuable pursuit. It’s a chance to learn more about your industry, the jobs you didn’t know existed in your field, how to advance your career, or how to start your own business. For some people, networking can feel like shallow interactions that are barely masking the attitude of “what can you do for me?” but this doesn’t need to be the case. With a positive disposition and helpful strategies in place, networking can be the start of a nurturing, collaborative, trustworthy community for you.

Practice your intro

You may not be selling a product or an idea, but in networking scenarios, you need to market your skills and talent. When people ask you about your job title and your pursuits, have a clear, short summary ready to go. Practice it in the mirror or record yourself, if you can; hearing your voice played back can help you determine where to pause or when to punch up your pitch for optimal recollection, for you and your potential contacts.

Set goals for yourself

Networking goals will vary between people and industries, but it is important to set them. It’s far too easy to sweep that type of work under the rug, but setting goals will keep you accountable. Create goals that are achievable: attend at least one networking event within the next month, reach out to three new people in your industry, or schedule a meeting with an existing contact. Once you meet those goals, make new ones.

Treat every encounter as important, because it is

While it is easy to think of networking as a means to a new job, there is more to be gained from these interactions. Don’t dismiss someone because they can’t help you right now: the benefit of continued communication could come around in three months or three years. Keep in mind that they could also introduce you to someone else who needs your skills.

Follow up

After you meet these new contacts, you need to reach out before they start collecting dust. Use the method of communication that works for both of you: phone, email, Skype, or face-to-face. Check in regularly and ask them about what they’re working on, what projects they see for the near future, and the skills and experience needed to complete their work. If your skills don’t align with their needs, you might recommend someone from your network. Consistent, thoughtful communication will hopefully result in contacts thinking of you when relevant opportunities come across their desk.

Bring people together

As you your network grows and you learn about the skills and needs of your contacts, you may realize that one needs the services of the other. This is what networking is all about: helping people connect. Hopefully, they will get a chance to repay the favor: when one of those contacts comes across a job posting or freelance opportunity in your field, you know they will think of you first.

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5 Minutes to a Better Cover Letter2If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of a compelling cover letter. It’s how you can stand out from the crowd, how you can demonstrate a slice of your personality that you really can’t convey in your résumé. It’s also a great way to take a deeper dive into some of your past experiences and really highlight your accomplishments.

How do you write a cover letter that gets noticed? Seems like a daunting task, right?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve laid out several simple pointers below that will guide you through the cover letter writing process and help you create something that is polished and memorable.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Cover Letter Basics:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc.)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Beyond the Basics:

  • Focus on two (or, at the max, three) major accomplishments in your career and really dive into them
  • Use concrete facts whenever possible. For example:
    • I saved XYZ Company $3.5 million dollars in their annual budget by…
    • During my time at ABC Inc., I trained over 200 people in…
    • I helped Company X grow by 4% through my….
    • I was the top salesperson at ABC, Inc., selling $$ annually
  • Let your authentic voice come through, but don’t sound too casual. It’s a fine line to ride and you may need a friend to weigh in.
  • Do your homework. Understand the company’s values and what they’re looking for in a new employee and make sure you highlight those parts of your experience.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Margaret Smith Career Coach

I’ve worked with several people over the years who have told me they were hesitant, at first, to seek out a career coach. Some weren’t sure if it was really for them (only people who are desperate need a coach, right?). Others weren’t certain that they would feel comfortable discussing their dreams and fears with a coach. Still others had trouble admitting that they were feeling stuck (I can pull through this on my own!).

It’s true that not everyone needs a career coach. If you’re perfectly happy in your occupation, have a solid 5 year plan, and have your retirement plans all figured out, then you’re probably fine. The majority of us, however, aren’t quite so lucky.

Whether you’re struggling with something specific (a particular project, a troublesome co-worker, or an overbearing or inattentive boss) or a bigger-picture issue (figuring out your career path, working toward a raise or promotion, transitioning into a new career), it’s a good idea to enlist some help.

That’s where a career coach comes in.  Kathy Caprino is a career coach and author of “Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose.” She says, “You know you need outside help from a career coach when you’re stuck in any phase of the pipeline of bettering your career or changing it.” Exactly. When you’re feeling caught and don’t know how to proceed, it’s best not to slog forward and hope for the best. Have the courage to reach out and contact a professional.

Another piece of great advice comes from career coach Nancy Collamer. She suggests that it’s best to hire a coach before a “kind of bad” situation turns into an all-out tsunami. She says, “I believe that the best time to begin using a career coach is before you need one. I realize that’s not always possible (you could get blindsided by a layoff), but most career issues brew for a long time before boiling over. So it’s best not to wait until you are in full crisis mode before seeking help.”

A good coach resembles a mentor. There are several areas a capable career coach can help with:

  • Defining goals and creating an action plan to achieve them.
  • Job search, résumé, and interview prep
  • Working through significant career transitions
  • Developing confidence, competence, and promotion-worthy skills
  • Building leadership attributes
  • Planning for the next phase of your career (or retirement)
  • Creating a personalized plan for success

If you’re wondering if a career coach is right for you, let’s talk. You might be amazed by what a little guidance can do for your career.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Have you ever considered sending your resume to a company that wasn’t hiring? Or applying for a position that didn’t have any current openings? It may sound crazy, or even like a waste of time, but applying for your dream position—whether it exists or not—shows courage that other job-seekers don’t have. When taking the initiative to send an unsolicited resume, you convey the message that you’re not just looking for a job and a paycheck, but rather a career with a company that excites and interests you. If you take this plunge, here are a few things to know…

Use the Element of Surprise to Your Advantage

Your email to the company’s HR department or recruiter should explain why you’re contacting them, what you know about the company, and how you would fit into their current operation. Research the company and learn about their strengths and potential challenges they face. Show them how your skills and experience could remedy, or even prevent, future issues. For those reviewing resumes, seeing something like this can be a refreshing and welcomed surprise, and that can create a lasting impression.

Don’t Hold Your Breath, But Do Cross Your Fingers

When you invest your time and energy into submitting an unsolicited resume, know that you may not receive a response right away, if at all. Don’t take it personally. If the company has current job openings that you aren’t applying for, recruiters or hiring committees must fill those positions first. Follow up a few weeks later, but don’t be too discouraged if nothing comes of it.

When you submit your resume, send it to a real person, not just the generic catch-all email for the company. Don’t be afraid to drop off or mail a copy of your resume, too. Call their office to follow up. Since it’s so easy to email your resume without much thought, you can distinguish yourself by putting your face or voice to the name they see.

Think of This as an Investment in Your Future

When a job opening does occur, that recruiter may have a spark of recognition when they see your name among the other applicants. Better yet, he or she may contact you to let you know that a position is opening up. Perhaps you may be considered to take on some freelance work or they may contact you down the line for a job your talents are more aligned with.

In the end, putting your name out there and trying to make new connections is not going to hurt.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Selling your wow factor

The other day I ran into a former colleague of mine who recently made a pretty big career transition. When I asked her what the main contributing factor to her success was, she told me it was her ability to put herself out there and sell her strengths to potential employers. Here was someone who had no experience in her newly chosen field, but was able to easily snag a job.

I know, selling yourself sounds intimidating, right? But in today’s workplace, you have to be able to peddle what you preach. As Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, says, “You’re going to sell yourself over and over during your career, and you’re going to sell your ideas, too. You sell yourself every day on the job — not just when you’re job-hunting. Your boss and the rest of the people you work with don’t form an initial opinion of you and leave it at that. You sell yourself in every interaction.”

This may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you successfully sell your “wow” factor:

Be a Storyteller:

Think up 3 stories that showcase your key strengths and make them authentic to you. Who knows the topic of you better than YOU? For example, let’s say your strengths are in collaboration, communication and creativity. These can be pretty broad statements alone, so weave some intimate stories that prove you have these skills. And don’t shy away from personal as well as professional accomplishments. Training for and completing a marathon can be just as important as implementing a new process at the office in showcasing your talents.

Practice Your Stories:

Get out there and meet people! This is a great way to practice telling your personal story. The more you do this the more confident you will be and the easier it will be to stand out from the competition.

Be a Good Listener Too:

When you are selling your brand, make sure you keep the audience in mind. Remember that you are trying to fill a need. “Good selling requires listening and aligning yourself with another person’s needs,” says Ryan.

You don’t have to be afraid to market yourself with poise. Being genuine will go a long way with any interaction. With a little self-reflection and practice, you can have your “wow” factor and sell it too.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Don't just hibernate in your career

It’s winter. This is the time of year when many of us wish we could morph into a bear and hibernate for a few months. Instead, I propose we use this time to reflect on the past year and consider any changes we might like to make in the future. What is one of the most common desires? A career change.

This move can seem daunting and risky, but the risk can be worth it. Being stuck in a career that doesn’t let you shine is more detrimental to your personal well being than trying something new. It can dim your light and leave you feeling more like that sleepy bear. It doesn’t have to be a complete career overhaul; it can be small steps such as taking on a new project more aligned with your interests.

How to get started? By finding your niche, that “wow” factor that allows you to shine brightly.

Listen to your heart; what did you love to do as a child, when the world seemed full of endless possibilities? Discovering your true self is where you should focus your attention first. Do a personal inventory of your passions and skills and see if you can turn any of those into a rewarding career.

To truly move forward in your endeavors, take note of anything holding you back. Are you anxious about finding people who can help you on your journey? Are you nervous about your lack of experience? Start a journal to get these fears out of your head. To create balance, make a list of the positives, such as more satisfying work, better health or less stress.

Once you have weighed the pros and cons, take action! Researching career possibilities is important, but you will learn more by putting yourself out there. Try to enjoy the process and reach outside of your comfort zone. This will open up more opportunities to ignite your niche.

Don’t hibernate your true passions. Being your authentic self will help you stand out above the rest and lead to a successful career and life!

Check out my blog post next week to learn how to market your niche.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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