Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reach an Employer Through Social Media

Today's job seeker has more opportunities to connect with employers than ever before.  Social media allows you to find out about hidden jobs and make direct contact before you even submit your application.  Here are some tips that will help you use this tool to its greatest advantage: 

Follow Companies.  To keep up to date on a particular company, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn and like them on Facebook.  In addition to posting available jobs, they may post company news and updates that will help you identify future opportunities. 

Reach Out.  Since social media is a tool that facilitates connections, it is not inappropriate for you to reach out to a manager at your target company.  You can ask about future opportunities or let them know that you've applied to a specific position.  The key is to be respectful and to recognize that the person may or may not be receptive to you. 

Do a Search.  Identify the keywords for your target position and pair them with the words 'jobs' or 'hiring' when you conduct your search.  On Twitter, you can search hashtags to find job leads.  If you search in a few different ways, you will eventually hit on something that gets you results. 

Update Regularly.  It is important that you keep your profile current, particularly about career information.  Also, when you post at least once a day, you  build a following that can help you in your networking efforts.  If your profiles are stale, nobody will have any interest in them.   

Job Boards.  Some companies are so serious about their social media presence that they don't post their open positions anywhere else.  Make it a habit to regularly check job boards to see if there are any positions that interest you.  An added advantage is that you can see if any of your contacts are currently working for the company. 

Social media is not just a way to share pictures with your friends.  When used effectively, it is an important networking tool that can allow you to connect to potential employers.  If you are strategic and consistent with it, you just might tweet your way into a job!

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: JS Creationzs/

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Promote Yourself Without Sounding Arrogant

One of the toughest parts about interviews is that you have to sell yourself.  The employer doesn't know you so you need to show them how amazing you are.  If you're not a person who likes to brag, this can be difficult.  Here are some tips that will help you promote yourself without sounding like a jerk:

Don't Downplay Your Accomplishments.  When you're at a job interview, the expectation is that you are trying to sell yourself.  The other candidates will be promoting themselves, so if you're not telling the interviewer about your accomplishments, they may assume that you don't have any.  Never make your achievements seem smaller than they are and unless you were working on a team, use the pronoun "I" instead of "we".   

Give Them the Facts.  Instead of saying "I'm an amazing salesperson!" give them enough information to come to their own conclusion.  Present quantitative accomplishments, such as "I increased sales in my department by 25% over a period of six months."  When you give the employer the facts, you can communicate that you are great at what you do without actually saying it. 

Tell Stories.  If you feel awkward selling your skills and accomplishments, storytelling is a great alternative.  Tell the interviewer about a problem that you encountered and the steps that you took to solve it.  Give them details on the outcome of the situation.  When you provide examples, the employer gets a glimpse into what kind of employee you would be if they decided to hire you. 

Create a Portfolio.  Sometimes it's nice to have something tangible that you can show the employer.  Depending on your line of work, a portfolio can showcase your talents in a variety of ways.  You can include examples of  your work, articles you have written, articles that were written about you, letters of reference, and anything else you think might interest the employer. 

Don't Put Anyone Else Down.  When it comes right down to it, the employer is expecting you to promote yourself at a job interview.  As long as you don't put other people down in the process, nobody will think less of you for it.  Instead of comparing yourself to others, let your accomplishments speak for themselves. 

From a very young age, we were taught not to brag.  Now you have to learn to do it well in order to get a job.  If you are feeling uncomfortable about it, the best approach is to hold your head high and stick to the facts.  Once the employer sees what you have to offer, they are in a strong position to determine if it would be a good fit.    

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Friday, July 18, 2014

Do's and Don'ts For Calling in Sick

We all get an allotment of sick days, but the decision of when to use them is not always easy.  How many times have you found yourself sitting on your bed, phone in hand, trying to get up the nerve to make that call.  Here are some tips that will help you use your sick days in a way that won't get you into trouble:

Do call early.  Always make the call at least fifteen minutes before your shift starts.  The earlier in the morning you call, the more time your manager has to cover your absence.   

Do provide a clear reason for calling in sick.  Don't be wishy-washy when calling in sick.  Instead of saying ,"I don't think I'm feeling well enough to work today.", say "I've been vomiting all morning and I won't be coming in." Be firm and don't give them room to argue with you. 

Do phone your supervisor.  Don't email your manager or have someone else give them the message.  When you phone your manager directly, they are less likely to think that you're lying.  It also allows them to address any concerns or ask any questions. 

Don't go to work sick.  Nobody wants your germs.  If you come in and someone else gets sick, they will blame you. 

Don't call in sick to attend a job interview.  If you get caught, you could lose your job.  Use a vacation day instead. 

If you only use your sick days when you're legitimately sick, your manager shouldn't give you any grief about it.  Be direct with your employer, don't play games, and go get some rest so that you'll be ready for work tomorrow. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Michal Marcol/

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Secrets that Employers Don't Want You to Know

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be on the other side of the desk?  It seems like the employer is completely at ease as they sit there watching everyone else sweat.  You might be surprised to learn that the interviewer is also under a lot of pressure.  If they don't make the right hiring decision, it could have negative implications on their job.  Here are some other little tidbits that you might not be aware of:

They want you to be the perfect fit.  During a job interview, it is not uncommon to feel like the interviewer is trying to trip you up.  However, the reality is that the interviewer needs to ensure that you actually possess the skills and experience that you've listed on your resume.  The employer would like nothing more than to declare that you are the best fit for the job so that they can conclude the hiring process.  However, you need to prove yourself first.     

Other people may be weighing in on who to hire.  In many companies, there are a variety of people involved in hiring decisions.  You may be interviewed by a representative from each department, a selection of staff members, or even the president of the company.  Even if you do an amazing interview and completely win over the hiring manager, there is no guarantee that you will be offered the job.  Do your best to make a positive impression on the interviewer, but keep in mind that it might be out of their hands. 

They are expecting you to be a little nervous.  Do you get nervous when you're going for a job interview?  So does everyone else.  You don't want to be so nervous that it inhibits your ability to answer the questions, but by showing a little nervousness, you demonstrate that you care about getting the job. 

It's not a bad sign if the interviewer is a little tough on you.  When the interviewer asks you a lot of pointed questions, it is natural to come to the conclusion that they aren't impressed with you.  However, that assumption may be completely inaccurate.  If they are investing a lot of time in asking you questions and getting you to expand on your answers, they may be seriously considering offering you a job.

The next time you attend a job interview, instead of focusing on yourself, take a step back and consider employer's perspective.  When you make yourself more aware of the employer's needs, you are better able to position yourself as the best person to meet them. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Friday, July 11, 2014

When You're Referred By a Friend

Great news!  There is a job opening at the company where your friend works.  They are willing to refer you, but you aren't exactly sure how to go about it.  Here are some tips that will help:

Ask Your Friend for Guidance.   What is the best way for you to apply to the job?  Who should you talk to?  Should you mention your friend's name in your cover letter?  As an insider, your friend is in the best position to guide you through these nuances.

Behave Professionally.  Never forget that your behaviour reflects on your friend.  If you are unprofessional or disrespectful, it could negatively impact your friend's job.  Don't make your friend regret referring you.   

Stand on Your Own Feet.  Your friend can't get the job for you.  By referring you, they have already given you a significant advantage.  Now you have to do the heavy lifting.  Research the company, study the job advertisement, and identify your relevant skills and experience.  It is up to you to persuade the employer that you are the perfect fit for the job. 

Don't Expect Special Consideration.  Getting a referral is amazing, but it is not a guarantee that you will get the job.  Do your best to impress the employer but also continue with your job search.  Even if you're not offered a job, let your friend know that you appreciate their support. 

When you are looking for a job, you need all the help you can get.  Since most employers prefer to hire through their network, if you can get a referral, you are almost halfway there.  Just remember to return the favour when you are happily employed and your friend is looking for work.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Explain a Career Change

Making a career change is not easy and one of the toughest parts about it is explaining your decision to potential employers.  Many employers become suspicious when they see someone changing careers.  Here are some tips that will help put the interviewer at ease about your background: 

Outline Your Long Term Goals.  Often our destination remains the same, but we change the path that we take to get there.  There are a variety of reasons that may lead you to switch jobs.  If you can show the employer that each decision that you made was deliberate and contributed to your long term career goal, they will see your career change as a strategic move and not an indication that you are unfocused. 

Sell Your Transferable Skills.  There may be a strong link between your previous job and the one that you are seeking, but if it's not right in front of them, the employer probably won't see it.  It's your job to show them the connection.  Once the employer is aware of your transferable skills, they may realize that it's not as much of a change as they thought it was.   

Be Positive.  Communicate your passion and excitement for the position.  If the employer perceives that you are not particularly excited about making this move, they may come to the conclusion that you are changing careers out of desperation.  Make it clear that this is something you chose.   

Be honest.  Human resources professionals are skilled at reading between the lines and figuring out what you're not saying.  If you are withholding the reason that you are changing jobs, most interviewers will detect that you are hiding something.  Be as honest as you can be about why you are changing careers, but never forget that you're talking to an employer and not a priest. 

Employers are naturally suspicious when interviewing potential employees and when you're coming from a different field, they may trust you even less.  The key is to be open and honest and show the employer that everything that you have done has made you the perfect fit for this job. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Worry About Unemployment

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the high unemployment rate.  As a job seeker, this number can be downright scary.  However, the reality is that labour market conditions may not be as bad as they initially appear.  Here are some reasons why you shouldn't let the unemployment rate get you down:     

Worrying About it Doesn't Help. 

Unfortunately, there is very little that you can do to improve the unemployment rate.  You have to work within the current labour market conditions.  Obsessing about the unemployment rate doesn't help you find a job.  It only stresses you out and distracts you from tasks that are actually productive. 

The Unemployment Rate Varies by Industry and Location. 

When looking at labour market information, it is important that you read the fine print.  Even if the national unemployment rate is high, there may still be a lot of jobs available in your region, or in your industry.  Before you jump to any conclusions, look at the demand for your target job within your city. 

There are Always Some Jobs Available.

Even when the unemployment rate is painfully high, there are still jobs available.  Reports still need to be written, shipments still need to be delivered, buildings still need to be built, and the world moves on.  People go on vacations, have babies, retire, and change jobs.  All of this action means that there are always some openings available, even if it's just a few.  The key is to customize your resume to show the employer that you are the perfect fit. 

There's More to the Story.

Whether the unemployment rate is 5% or 25%, it does not tell the whole story.  It may include people who don't want a job and people who aren't looking effectively.  The number of people who are actively looking for work may actually be a lot smaller.  Don't waste time worrying about the unemployment rate.  Instead, stay focused on your own job search. 

You shouldn't stress yourself out about the unemployment rate, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be doing labour market research.  Do your homework and determine how much demand there is for your target job.  If you find that there are not a lot of jobs available, it may be a good idea to shift your focus.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Graur Razvan Ionet/