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Network With a Purpose

By Giana / November 23, 2016

A strong professional network doesn’t usually form by accident. Network building takes work, time, patience, and empathy. As you step into the job search marketplace and share your plans with your family and friends, you’ll probably receive a deluge of advice on the subject of “networking.” Everyone around you, happily employed or not, will eagerly tell you that success lies in social connections, not experience and skills, and of course “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know!” In many ways, this is true; social connections are certainly valuable during your job search. But it’s not exactly advice. There’s a difference between knowing what should be done and knowing how to do it. Yes, you’ll need to know people. You’ll go far if you can rely on a huge population of close professional friends and avid supporters who will happily work behind the scenes on your behalf. But where are you supposed to find all these fans and contacts? Surrounding yourself with a powerful “network” isn’t a simple act of will. Network building takes time, patience, and strategic goal setting. As you hit the job search trail, ask yourself a few questions: 1) “What do I need from my network?” 2) “How can I meet and connect with more people in my industry?” and 3) “What clear and specific steps should I take next?” As you answer these questions, keep a few considerations in mind.

Create a list of people you already know.

Any person can become a valuable career connection, and any random conversation with a stranger (or an existing friend) can reveal a link between something you want and a person who can help you get it. Potential career contacts are all around you, whether you know it or not. But since you can’t do anything (just yet) about the connections you can’t see, start by making a list of the ones that you can. List every person in your industry who might be able to help you land a job. This list might include your former boss, your former coworkers, your college advisor, a favorite professor, your friend’s parents, your parents friends, or a mentor. For now, don’t focus on HOW they might help you; just write down their names.

Set a goal.

Establish a timeline, and then set a networking goal that you would like to meet within that time frame. For example, “meet and chat with at least five new people who work in this industry”, or “Schedule at least three informational interviews by the end of the month.” You can also keep your goals very specific, for example, “Reach out to Jamie’s friend by email and ask her for help and advice”, or “Attend at least three industry networking events by November 12th.” For some job seekers, it helps to set one large goal (“Double my contacts list by the fall”) and then break that goal down into a set of smaller milestones.

Attend events.

Job fairs, seminars, industry gatherings, conventions, and even parties can all provide excellent opportunities to establish social connections. Search for these events and schedule as many as you can while you’re on the hunt for work.

When you have contacts, hold onto them.

Keep in touch with your existing connections, and when you make a new friend or establish a new relationship, put some effort into maintaining it. This doesn’t always have to involve work or shop talk. Sometimes just clicking “like” on someone’s Facebook photo or sending them a holiday card can remind them that you exist. The most effective way to maintain contact and stay in touch is simple: identify ways to help others reach their own goals, and follow through. If you can provide information, support, advice, or material help, do so. Don’t expect anything in return, but recognize that karma is real and what goes around comes around. For more guidelines that can help you build a maintain a strong professional network during the course of your career, turn to the resources available at LiveCareer.
African American man working on a laptop computer.

How to Write an Excellent Project Manager Resume

By Giana / December 19, 2016

You need a project manager resume that sets you apart from the crowd. Here are a few tips that can help you land the job you’re looking for. As a project manager in search of a full-time or contract based job, you’ll need a resume that sells your skills, education, and experience, just like an applicant for almost any profession or industry. But your resume will also need some details that are specific to your project-management goals. For example, you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to clarify and rein in a sprawling mission, a.k.a. “project-creep”. You’ll need to showcase your leadership skills, even at the entry level. And you’ll need to explain how your specific skill sets can support your employer’s specific enterprise. Here are a few moves that can help you accomplish these goals.

First, focus on your summary.

You may be searching for work in a wide range of fields that require expert project managers. So in the summary section of your resume, clarify exactly how your experience lines up with the needs of your target audience. To assess those needs, do some research or make your best guess based on the information available to you. By the time they’ve read your summary, your reviewers should know-- for sure—that this open position falls into your area of interest and expertise.

Move experience above education.

Your education section will be very important, but for most project management positions, reviewers like to assess your experience first. Again, they want to know that the projects you’ve worked on in the past reflect similar challenges to the ones you’ll face on this job. Focus on the client problems you’ve solved, the budgeting restraints you’ve dealt with, and the ways in which you—and your past projects—have exceeded expectations. After briefly listing and describing your past positions and your proudest home runs, you can share your education, training, and certifications.

Highlight skills that grab attention.

After your education and experience sections, you’ll create a resume subheading focused on your special skills. Keep in mind that a long list of marginal and forgettable skills (like proficiency with the Microsoft office suite) will easily slip out of your reader’s memory after they close your file. But a shorter list of rare, highly valuable, and very specific skills will stay at the forefront of your reader’s thoughts. Cull and curate your “skills” list carefully. Don’t include every single one of your software skills—only the most relevant. And don’t list bland, broad categories like “communication” and “leadership”. Instead, be specific. Cross out “communication” and replace it with “public speaking”, “grant writing”, or “PR management”.

Show results.

Your experience section will highlight what you’ve done. Your education section will highlight what you’ve learned and what you know. Your skills section will demonstrate what you can do. But for all three sections, emphasize the end results. Did you earn cum laude status? Did you successfully advance your employer’s interests by expanding market share or raising revenue? Describe the specific problems you’ve solved, honors you’ve earned, or changes that have come about due to your own personal actions. Use numbers to make your point. For more on how to tighten each essential section of your project management resume, turn to the resume creation tools available on LiveCareer.
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Communication Counts: 83% of Recruiters Consider it Key to Sizing Up Cultural Fit

By Giana / December 14, 2016

To impress your interviewer and land your dream job, you’ll need to communicate clearly and well…but what exactly does this mean? It’s no surprise that most employers and hiring managers cite “good communication skills” as a positive trait when evaluating candidates for open positions. But “good” or “strong” communication can mean different things to different people. In fact, a recent Jobvite survey that polled 1600 recruiters and HR professionals found that 83% consider communication style the most important element when evaluating candidates for cultural fit. This means that if your method of speech and message-shaping matches that of your employer, you’re in. If not, you’re more likely to slip through the cracks. So as you search for work, make sure that you’re communicating well, in the universal sense. While you’re at it, make an effort to understand the unique culture and style of your interviewer and your target employer. Here are a few moves that can help.

Be clear.

Clarity means delivering your message using impeccable grammar, proper spelling, complete sentences, and a logical link between each written or spoken thought and the next. This may sound like a no brainer, but far too many candidates assume that text speak, abbreviations, and broken phrases are acceptable when speaking to a recruiter by text, email, or voicemail. They aren’t. Edit your messages, even the simplest and shortest.

Be mindful of nuance.

Grammar matters, and so does tone. There’s a difference between: “Thanks for your message! We’ll talk soon!” and: “Thank you for your message. We will talk on Monday.” Both are grammatically correct, but they convey a different voice and tone. Word choice and punctuation contribute to your conversation and help readers gain a complete picture of who you are as a person. Stay in control of that picture.

Listen first.

If you’d like to present yourself as an adaptable person with a flexible personality who can get along with almost everyone, that’s great. It’s an excellent way to open a dialogue with an unknown person or company. But once the dialogue is open, stay tuned in to the culture of the company and the personality of the person on the other end of the line. Don’t keep cracking jokes if your audience isn’t responsive to your sense of humor. And if your audience seems relaxed and forthcoming, smile and take it easy. Demonstrate your ability to receive social cues and respond appropriately.

Remember details.

Write down the details and facts your interviewer or recruiter shares with you. No matter what information comes your way, the more you retain, the better. Make note of names, numbers, the company’s history, the needs of the open position, and the details of your own background that you have and have not already shared.

Keep records.

As you search for work, you may create long email or text chains with various employers and contacts. Keep these records straight and accessible. They can and will come in handy as your conversation develops.

Learn to brag appropriately.

Almost every job search comes with a universal conundrum: The need to brag about your abilities and while being self-aware and socially well-adjusted. Finding balance between the two is an art. But you can pull off this tricky maneuver if you place yourself in your listener’s shoes and think carefully about your messages before you send them. It may also help to review some successful cover letters and/or watch videos of successful interviews (you can find both on LiveCareer!) For more information on how to ace your interviews and establish meaningful connections with recruiters and employers, explore LiveCareer’s job search and resume creation tools.
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The Office Holiday Party: A Survival Guide

By Giana / December 12, 2016

Every year in mid-December, employers like to show their appreciation, largesse, and respect for holiday traditions with a soiree as grand as the company budget allows. There’s no better way to celebrate corporate bounty and bring employees together than a fun, relaxed gathering with plenty of free-flowing booze. Sounds like a great time, right? There’s just one catch: As experienced employees know, the holiday party is not all about fun, it’s not the time guzzle drinks, and it’s certainly not time to let your hair down the way you might at a friend’s party. If you’re concerned about the growth of your career, don’t cut loose. You should treat this party as an opportunity, and consider it just another day (or night) at the office, even though you might be off-site. Here’s how to have a great time at this year’s holiday party while ensuring your boss and coworkers still respect you in the morning.

Commit

Don’t waffle. Just go. Clear your schedule and show up. Don’t wait until the last minute to RSVP, don’t respond with a “maybe,” and don’t plan to make it a quick stop and then head for the door. Make a night of it. This event is management’s gift to their employees and should be handled with respect. If you can’t make the party, respond promptly with your apologies.

Bring your best self

Eat food with substance (like almonds or a cheese sandwich) before the party so that you’re armed with energy and steady blood sugar. You don’t want to have to depend on champagne and canapés for sustenance. Approach clients and colleagues you don’t already know and mingle like it’s your job…because it is. Instead of thinking about the fun you’re going to have (or the misery you’re going to endure), focus on making sure others have a good time. To do this, you’ll need to put on your game face and bring a genuine positive attitude.

Stop at two drinks

Fill your glass at the beginning of the event, drain it slowly, then move onto a few rounds of water or soda. In an hour or two, you’ll be ready for your second drink. A few hours later, and you’ll be ready to leave. Pacing is everything. If you’re losing track of the drinks you’ve had, you’ve had too many and it’s time to cut yourself off. Remember: This isn’t really a party. It’s work, and drinking at work is usually not a good idea.

Be yourself

During the regular workday, you may not feel comfortable talking about your family life, your friends, your hobbies or your personal past. It’s wise to follow that instinct, for the most part. But the holiday party gives you an opportunity to share some of your real personality while staying within the bounds of professionalism. While you’re at it, ask others about themselves and employ your listening skills when they answer. This is a great time to connect with those you rarely get to interact with during the workday.

Don’t make it all business

If you really want a deadline extension, a raise, a promotion, a more flexible project budget, or a certain plumb assignment, lay the groundwork by schmoozing with those who can help you, but don’t ask directly at the holiday party. There’s a time and a place, and if you engage in non-work-related banter now, you can follow up and get what you need later, during regular business hours.

Avoid oversharing

The holiday party may seem like a great time to tell people what you really think — about a client, about a political event, or about an annoying colleague — but it isn’t. Always think before you speak, party or no party, especially if you have been drinking.

Take in the spectacle

When will you have another chance to sit with your boss and nerd out over your favorite movie franchise? When will you get to see Doris from accounting drunk and tearing it up on the dance floor? Or to flirt with your office crush without raising an eyebrow? Never again! At least not until next year. So enjoy the side of your coworkers that you rarely get to see. Just make sure you’re part of the audience, not the show. For more on how to keep your career on an even keel as you navigate the drama of the holiday season, turn to the experts at LiveCareer.