Sunday, April 26, 2009

When it comes to career reinvention - First, Know Yourself


When it comes to career reinvention, too many people make a fundamental mistake: They don't know themselves.

So when I talk to people about making a career change, I always suggest first doing a few self-assessment exercises. Career self-assessment is the process of getting acquainted with what you like -- and don't like -- in a work environment.

You can do this by simply making a list of your skills and interests, and asking yourself questions such as "What type of work would make me sit in traffic for hours just for the privilege of showing up?" and "What energizes me at work?" Increasingly, though, career changers are drawing guidance from more sophisticated tests.
Entrepreneurial Bent

After getting laid off from an investment bank in New York, 25-year-old Alan Katz worked with career counselor Claudine Vainrub, principal of EduPlan, an education and career consulting company, to determine his next steps. He completed a 360-degree survey, in which he collected feedback about himself from friends, co-workers, and family, as well as assessments about his work behaviors and career interests.

"The assessments helped me understand my skills, specific roles I play effectively and career interests," says Mr. Katz, who paid a total of $2,500 for the tests and professional consulting over a six-week period. "The results prompted me to investigate entrepreneurship, and I'm now developing a start-up company in manufacturing."

Many experts agree that assessments are best used in conjunction with an experienced career counselor who can hand-select tests for you -- and help you interpret the results. Ms. Vainraub, who is based in Miami, chose the 360-degree questionnaire for Mr. Katz to better define his work priorities. "We found that his personal vision of leading an enterprise forward was, in fact, quite different from his current career in finance," she says.

People described Mr. Katz as enjoying managing and motivating others, and driven when involved in a project. "Those are very much the qualities of an entrepreneur," Ms. Vainraub says.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

How to get a job - here's what's working now

It's brutal out there. But the people getting hired aren't necessarily the most connected - they're the most creative. From food diarists to Twitter stalkers to candidates tapping the "hidden" job market, here's what's working now.

Rob Sparno recently did something that 12.5 million Americans would kill to do. He did something that has never been attempted by this many people at once in the 60 years the government has been keeping records. He did something that's getting only more difficult with every day.

He got a job. A really good job. A 'pay the mortgage and still be able to pay your kid's private college tuition' kind of job.

When Sparno, 55, a longtime salesman, lost his position at Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500), he knew the search wasn't going to be easy. He had friends who were out of work and struggling to find jobs. He knew that getting back in the game would require every skill he'd spent his career honing. Methodical by nature, Sparno made a trip to Staples, where he bought a black hardcover lined notebook. He vowed to record every day what he did, whom he talked to, how he felt, how many miles he ran. He even wrote down what he ate.

To keep his spirits up (another must if you're in the persuasion business), he organized a group of seven other executives - including a former COO and CFO - who also lived in his community of Princeton, N.J. They got together every few weeks on Saturday morning in the back corner of a local diner and shared tips, like what to do in a second-round interview and how to gather job leads. And by 9 a.m. each morning Sparno and another jobless friend would call each other and check: Okay, what are we going to do with this day?

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reaching Out to Recruiters in a Down Economy


The economic crisis has left millions of people in the U.S. and abroad in a period of intense transition, as the recently unemployed struggle to face significant losses of the financial security and personal identity they have derived from their profession. This is equally true for executives who otherwise have excelled throughout their careers and are ending up on the market unexpectedly.

It is natural to turn to executive recruiters under these circumstances. Executive recruiters have deep connections at the world's leading organizations and are in a unique position to present people with compelling career opportunities. However, having a realistic perspective about how search consultants work is essential if you hope to establish relationships that will ultimately lead to a new role.

It is important to recognize that recruiters at the leading retained search firms work for their clients – the hiring organizations – and not the candidates. This distinguishes them from outplacement firms that do work for candidates. Against this backdrop, if you are seeking to connect with a search consultant for the first time, you will stand the best chance if your background and skills directly match an opportunity that the recruiter is actively working on.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Online job-search toolbox includes a polished résumé

Do you know where your résumé is?

Nobody’s trying to be pessimistic here, just prepared. Given the recent economic unpleasantness, it’s not a bad idea to give the old CV a once-over, just in case it becomes necessary. But updating its content is only half the battle — how you wield it determines how effective it can be. Below are some ways to make sure you’re well positioned in case the bell tolls for thee.

Keep your résumé at the ready: Ideally, you should keep an electronic version of your CV fully updated and accessible from any computer, ready to be sent out at a moment’s notice. E-mailing a version to yourself is a simple way to do this (saving it to a dedicated inbox folder ensures you can find it when needed) and minimizes the risk of missed opportunities that can occur if people are kept waiting while you’re stuck finding, revising or — worst of all — piecing together a new version from memory.

Don’t waste your formatting: Your up-to-date and available résumé should also be saved as a PDF document. This way, your format remains intact regardless of whether someone uses an older version of Microsoft Word, or a different document software altogether. And since PDF documents are read-only, you also eliminate the possibility of accidental changes that can happen when a file is opened and forwarded by multiple people. You also come across as having more technical expertise, which is nice.

Make an initial public offering: If you’re not content to wait for a request, you can make your work experience public via professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo and Xing. While you can’t upload your résumé directly, the benefit to using these sites’ online formats — which require you to create an individual listing for each job — is that they find and suggest as contacts other members whose education, work or even club and organization affiliations overlap your own. Once you’re connected to former colleagues or others, you share their address book and they yours, exponentially increasing your exposure (in theory, at least).

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hired! Working for Uncle Sam

After serving his country as an electronics technician, Jon Leitzinger was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration.

For those concluding their service in the Armed Forces this year, facing a bleak job market can be a tough assignment.

But the U.S. government offers many opportunities for both civilians and military veterans - and it's still hiring.

The government is the nation's largest employer, employing about 2% of the nation's work force. Even during the downturn, government hiring has stayed steady. Over the past 12 months, the government has added 97,000 jobs, according to the Labor Department.

Jon Leitzinger managed to snag a job with Uncle Sam. Leitzinger, 29, served over seven years in the Navy as an electronics technician, in charge of maintaining and repairing communications systems, before his enlistment ended in February, just as the unemployment rate hit a 25-year high.

"I was nervous about starting a civilian career during a downturn in the economy." Leitzinger said. "I hadn't looked for a job in eight years."

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