Standing out in a crowded job market

Job hunting isn’t always an easy road. It can be hard to be noticed if you’re an immigrant or a mum returning to work, if you’re looking for your first job, making a career change, or many other situations that make your search more of a challenge.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of success. By learning how to stand out in a crowded market, you can build more meaningful relationships and get noticed.

Here are some tips.

1) Build great relationships with recruiters

You often have to impress a recruiter before you get noticed by a potential employer. Try to build positive relationships with recruiters so they put you forward for great jobs.

Recruiters are busy people and may take some time to get back to you. Don’t be afraid to follow up, but take care not to irritate them; be friendly and polite whether communicating via phone, email, or in person.

2) Apply for jobs that match your skills

When you’re keen to get noticed, it can be tempting to send out hundreds of CVs every month and apply for every job in your industry but this approach can overwhelm recruiters and be a waste of your and their time.

Instead, be selective. Apply for jobs where your skills and strengths can shine. You’re more likely to stand out if you’re a good fit for the role advertised.

3) Reflect and improve

Take a fresh look at your CV, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Make sure these documents have evolved with your job search and experience.

For more tips on improving your CV, check out my article ‘What does your CV say about you?’

4) Be specific about what you want

Figure out what type of job you want and tell everyone in your network: “I’m looking for X position with X type of company”. The more specific you are, the easier people will find it to help you (including recruiters).

5) Leverage your LinkedIn profile

Are you using your LinkedIn profile to your full advantage? Review your profile to ensure it gives just enough information to pique interest without being overwhelming.

You can also use LinkedIn to share blog posts and articles, interact with former colleagues, and grow your network.

Many employers post jobs on LinkedIn – just make sure you follow their instructions if you want to apply. Never comment with “check my profile” and leave it at that; it’s likely that the recruiter or employer is much too busy to check out individual profiles. It’s much better if you make contact in the way they’ve asked, or submit a tailored application.

For more advice for upping your LinkedIn game, check out my post “Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your awesomeness?”

6) Take care of your best asset: you!

It’s demoralising when you get rejected or don’t even hear back from employers. Persevere, but also take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you’re building resilience and that you’ve done hard things before and you can do them again. And when you’re feeling blue, check in with someone who will be your champion and keep you clear-headed and motivated.

7) Seek career advice

People come to me for career advice when a traditional job search isn’t working for them, when they don’t quite “fit”. My clients include new immigrants, mothers returning to work, people changing career direction, and graduates looking for their first role. They all say how tough it is to be rejected or ignored over and over again.

I’m inspired by how they keep trying, how they adapt and work at it, and how they don’t give up hope. And then there’s the moment when they tell me how they have an offer – that someone has finally seen their value and wants to hire them. It’s the best. Remember the Fresh Prince and how Carlton does the happy dance? That’s how I feel when one of my clients gets a nice role!

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Carlton doing the happy dance 🙂

How and why to publish articles on LinkedIn

posts

About 18 months ago, I published my first article on LinkedIn. It’s called ‘Something is better than anything’. Since that day I’ve published 17 LinkedIn articles. Some have generated a great response, others have only reached a handful of people. But that’s not what matters – what matters is that I pushed Publish each one of those times.

Every time I click Publish, I put myself out there and share my thoughts and perspective. And I think you could benefit from doing the same.

Blogging helps you develop your ‘voice’ – who you are, what you stand for, what you’re interested in. It helps people get to know your viewpoint. It’s a perfect platform for introverts – we can do plenty of research, write at home in peace and quiet, and press Publish when we’re ready.

I want you to post on LinkedIn because I want to hear what you have to say. I want to get to know your ‘voice’, and I want a diverse array of content to read.

Blogging is such an easy way to communicate your ideas, and if you’re on LinkedIn, it’s available to you right now!

“But…”

I hear people say they want to blog but… English is their second language. But they can’t write. But they have nothing to say. But maybe no one will like it.

None of these reasons should be good enough to stop you. Every blogger I read has improved over time. We all have to start somewhere.

So let’s get started.

Choose a topic

Draw on your own experience in the workplace to pick an interesting topic. You don’t need to be an expert. Think about the things you can’t help but talk about with your colleagues, the things you get excited about. Or you could describe something you’ve tried at work – a new technique, something you’ve done differently.

People learn a lot from other people’s experiments, successes, and failures. In fact, hearing about other people’s challenges is often the best way to get the courage to try something for ourselves. Your journey could have a profound impact on someone’s life, but you will never know unless you share.

Do some research

If you’re thinking about writing, you probably enjoy reading blogs. Look at a few blogs that you like and see what stands out about their structure, tone, and content. Do you enjoy a list of tips, a personal story, a set of learnings, or something else? Perhaps you could use the same “framework”.

Here’s a simple framework you could follow:

  1. Intro – describe why you’re writing about your chosen topic.
  2. Detail – give some context for your story.
  3. Learnings – provide three takeaway tips for your readers (bullet points work well).
  4. Conclusion – refer to your introduction and summarise your key points.

When in doubt, just write

There are hundreds and thousands of articles online with tips on how to be a better writer, but if you’re starting out the best thing you can do is just write. No matter how many articles you read, you’re only going to learn once you start to write.

Set aside some time in a quiet space and write what comes to mind. Remember, a first draft is just that – a first draft. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; it just has to be a beginning. It’s also a good idea to set a time limit for your first draft (maybe a couple of hours), then leave it for a day and read it with fresh eyes. Don’t spend too long reviewing and editing before you hit publish. Some bloggers I know publish as soon as they hit their time limit, no matter what they’ve written. They say this gives them a sense of urgency and they’ve found that that there are no major consequences if what they’ve written isn’t ‘perfect’.

Practical steps to writing on LinkedIn Pulse

Now that you know why blogging is important, here’s the nuts and bolts for publishing on LinkedIn.

  1. Click the ‘Write an Article’ link (under your profile details on the homepage).
  2. Write your article (I usually leave the headline until the end – see below).
  3. Use the pre-set formatting to break up your story. You can insert images, links, and videos, and also embed podcasts, tweets, and other media.
  4. Choose a short and specific title that will set the tone for your article. People who follow you and your connections will only see the title in their notifications so try for someting clear and catchy.
  5. Upload an image at the top of the post (700 x 400 pixels). You can create free images on sites like Canva or Pexels. Remember to only use images you’re entitled to.
  6. Do a final read through to check spelling, grammar, and flow.
  7. Click the Publish button. LinkedIn asks you to enter some hashtags to help with searching. Hit Publish again. Once this is done, your post will be live and available to read. This is usually the point I realise I missed a spelling mistake or want to change something! From the homepage click ‘Write an Article’, then top right click ‘More > Articles’. Select Edit, make changes, and click Publish again.

You’ll get LinkedIn notifications each time someone responds to your post. To view stats and interactions, follow these two simple steps:

  1. Go to your profile page by clicking on your photo/name on the LinkedIn homepage.
  2. Scroll down to the Posts section. Click View Stats. Clicking on each post shows you the number of views, likes, comments, and shares for that post. Comments are shown at the end of the post and you might need to click ‘Show More’ to see all of them. Here, you can like, reply to, flag, and hide comments.

And that’s it!

Now all you need to do is write your first post. Let me know when it’s published so I can read it 🙂

 

 

 

How to deal with FOMO

all the thingsYou’ve got what feels like 50 tabs open in your browser. 23 unread notifications demand your attention on Twitter. Another ‘must-watch’ video pops up in your news feed. Do you watch it now, save it for later or risk missing out? Your list of articles to read is growing longer by the day, and you feel as though you can’t keep up.

Does this sound familiar?

You might be experiencing information overload.

I love social media, but last year I started getting too much of a good thing. My phone was constantly buzzing with notifications from emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Not only was this distracting, but it made me feel as though I was constantly behind. No matter how often I checked, there was still more to read, more to watch.

It soon got to the point where social media felt like a chore, something else on my to-do list, until I had a wave of realisation: Wait, I told myself, I don’t need to read everything!

It was a simple yet profound realisation. In my scramble to ‘keep up’, I had forgotten that I could be selective about what I chose to give my time and attention to. Social media has this way of making it seem like everything is important – news, comments, blogs, updates, politics, television, big and small events … all are treated with the same urgency. I knew I had to draw the line. So I decided to make a change.

Slowly, I implemented a few strategies to take back control over what I read, watch and listen to each day. Below are the things that helped me manage the constant flow of content. Maybe they will help you too?

Be selective
What I said to myself was true: you really don’t need to read everything. You don’t even need to read as much as you think. Choose to limit the content you regularly consume and restrict it to that which adds the most value – whether that value relates to your current role, your career, or your life in general. All the other content can wait or even be completely ignored.

It’s better to follow one or two fantastic blogs than 10 mediocre ones. Don’t be afraid to cull things that are average or unhelpful or time wasters. If you don’t ever get to that article you saved back in 2009 then so what? Stop feeling bad every time you see it waiting for you. Delete it. If you aren’t sure where the good content is ask people you admire for their top recommendations.

Limit your notifications
I’ve written previously about a simple technique that truly changed my life. I changed the settings on my smartphone so that the only notifications I receive are phone calls and text messages. Everything else – email, social media and other apps – needs to wait until I have time to give them attention. Limiting notifications means I’m not constantly being interrupted, and I can focus on tasks that are important to me. I know the updates will all be waiting for me when I log in – there’s no need to have notifications popping up on my phone every 5 minutes.

JOMO is the new FOMO
Next time you suffer from a ‘fear of missing out’, flip this concept on its head and look for the ‘joy of missing out’ instead. For example, you might miss out on watching the 6pm news so you can go for a walk with your family. Or miss out on reading everything that’s filled up your Twitter feed since you last checked, and instead read your favourite blog. Choose to miss out on things that leave you feeling bored, drained, uninspired, aimless. Use your time and energy on the activities that make you feel connected, educated, inspired.  

So, remember:

  1. You really don’t have to read, watch or catch up with everything.
  2. You get to choose what things can interrupt you.
  3. Celebrate being able to miss out on some things. No more FOMO!

I’m interested to hear from you. What you do to manage the volume of content you’d like to get to? Do you have any tips for limiting interruptions? What will you choose to miss out on and what exciting things are you going to do instead?

What does your LinkedIn profile say about you?

Image - LinkedIn superheroYour LinkedIn profile is more than just a copy of your CV. Your LinkedIn profile is a networking and marketing tool. It can help you get a new job or emphasise an aspect of your skills or improve your work image.

  • It allows you to keep contact with past and current colleagues.
  • It lets you connect and keep in touch with other people in your industry.
  • It’s a way for employers to find you, or to research more about you.
  • It can help to improve your profile within your industry and within your company.

There are many articles online with suggestions on creating a good LinkedIn profile. Here’s one by entrepreneur Aaron Clayton-Dunn, and here’s another with excellent tips from the marvellous Liz Ryan.

The mistakes I see:

  1. Not supplying contact details.
    • If you’re looking for work or thinking of changing jobs then make it easy for people to contact you.
  2. Too many words.
    • Keep things short and punchy. You want the key details to stand out.
  3. A bad summary.
    • Write the summary in ‘CV style’ (brief, with bullet points) and be clear about your value and what you are looking for.
  4. An unprofessional photo (or no photo).
    • You don’t need a professional photographer, but you do need to choose a photo that looks professional.
    • If you’re not sure if your photo sets the right tone, ask yourself what impression it would give the CEO at your dream company.
  5. No recommendations, or too many.
    • There doesn’t seem to be consensus on a suitable number of recommendations but I’d say around 3 recommendations in total is a good number.
    • I don’t think colleague recommendations are especially useful. Try to get ones from people you reported to or from seniors at your company or on your project.
    • If you don’t have any recommendations, ask people, but help them by specifying the kinds of things you’d like to emphasise when describing their experience of working with you.
  6. If you are going to send someone a LinkedIn request, don’t use the generic message. Tailor it. The only generic requests that I accept are from people I already know.

Suggestions

Aside from the content on your own profile, there are other useful ways to use LinkedIn.

  1. Read Pulse articles (Pulse is LinkedIn’s ‘blog’ platform) and give people feedback by commenting on their Pulse articles, but always be thoughtful and respectful, especially if you disagree.
  2. Post links to work-related articles and/or add your comments to the post.
  3. Write posts on Pulse. This is an excellent way to put your thoughts out there so people can get an idea of what you care about.
  4. Did you know you can follow someone on LinkedIn? You don’t need to connect if all you really want to do is read their posts or see their LinkedIn activity.

Next Steps

  1. Set aside some time to assess your LinkedIn profile. [30-minute activity]
    • Look at the profiles of people with your role, or the one you’re hoping to get. Compare your profile to theirs. What do you like/dislike about their profile? And yours?
  2. Make changes to your profile. [30-minute activity]
    • If you don’t want people (such as your current employer) to know you’re making changes then set “Notify your network” to No. You’ll find that setting on the bottom right of the profile editing page.
  3. Find a Pulse article you like. Comment on it. [10-minute activity]
  4. Write a Pulse article. Search online for tips on how to write a blog or LinkedIn post. [2-hour activity]

I hope these tips have helped you create a LinkedIn profile that you are proud of and that accurately reflects your awesomeness!

(Check out this blog for CV tips).

What does your CV say about you?

Does your CV reflect your awesomeness?Image - interview

During my time working in the tech industry I see hundreds of CV’s and many of them do not accurately reflect the person they are describing.

It’s disappointing to discover during an interview that someone who looked great ‘on paper’ doesn’t actually have the skills they promised on their CV. But the opposite is even worse – knowing that there are people who will not get an interview because their CV doesn’t describe their value. 

The purpose of your CV is to land an interview. It’s not to get a job … the interview is for that. The entire reason for a CV is so that the person reading it will be interested enough to want to know more.

Your CV is a marketing tool.

It should reflect who you are in a work context, and who you want to be.

  • It needs to cover the basics – contact details, profile, employment history, relevant skills and experience. There are millions of sites that give helpful advice. Here’s just one example – it says how to approach writing your CV.
  • It should be professional and positive. This article has good tips on what to avoid.
  • The layout and content should not make it hard for busy people to find the key details. There are many examples and templates here and here of simple, clear CV’s.

The mistakes I see:

  1. Way too many words.
    • Pretend you’re sending each sentence as a text message or a Tweet. You’re not writing an article, you’re writing bullet points and summary details.
    • Decide what you really want to emphasise and delete the rest. Your CV is not a full and complete story of everything you’ve ever done! Focus on the highlights.
  2. CV’s are too long or too “busy”.
    • Related to the point above, but the way you format a CV can result in lots of pages. It’s also not always a good idea to have lots of tables and borders and fancy formatting. When I’m reading your CV, I care most about the content, not the colour of section headings.
  3. People talk in generic terms (“I’m passionate about learning / Tech / testing” or “I have excellent communication skills”) but don’t show their actual achievements and strengths. Your CV needs to emphasise why you are valuable and useful.
    • Think of awards you’ve got at work, or things people consistently compliment you on, or times you’ve exceeded expectations.
    • What business ‘pain’ do you solve?
    • What are you most proud of? What makes you stand out?
    • Why would a company benefit from hiring you? What have you demonstrated you’re really good at?
  4. Not being clear about what you’re looking for. Read my blog “Something is better than anything” for ideas on how to be clear about what you want.
  5. Not matching your strengths/skills to the role.
    • Make sure to highlight where your skills match the role or job ad. (But don’t fall into the trap of feeling you have to tick every item on their list before you apply. You don’t need to have everything.)
    • Adjust the words you use so they mirror the terms that the company uses.
  6. General tips for people wanting to work in New Zealand
    • In NZ, we use the term CV rather than Resumé.
    • We generally don’t capitalise words other than proper nouns (and acronyms/initialisms/standard terms, like .NET).
    • I’d suggest using ‘and’ instead of & in a sentence.
    • Always aim to provide short and meaningful context for your reader. This is especially important when describing the company or project you’ve worked on outside of NZ.

Next steps

  1. Assess your CV. Does it show your value for the kind of roles you’re hoping to get? What do you like about it? What don’t you like? [10-minutes]
  2. Do you know how you are valuable? What business ‘pain’ can you solve? [15-minutes]
    • Write a list of 5 ways you are useful to a company, your top 5 achievements, and 5 ways you stand out.
    • Does your CV highlight these things?
  3. Look at the articles I linked to above. Does your CV contain any of the mistakes those articles refer to? [20-minute activity]
  4. Is your CV too long or is the format too busy? [20-minute activity]
    • Look at the sample templates linked to above, or search online for others. Find one that looks clean and simple and transfer across your details, deleting excess words and descriptions as you go.
  5. Look critically at your CV and find things to delete so that your main points stand out. [15-minute activity]
  6. If you’re applying for a specific role then does your CV show the ways your skills, talents and experience match that role? Are you using terms in your CV that are used in the job ad or the company website? [10-minute activity]
  7. Get someone else to review your CV – ask for honest feedback about language, spelling, meaning, and formatting. Is the language appropriate for your target audience? Will the words you use be suitable for automated systems that search CV’s for keywords? Change what you need to. [15-minute activity]
  8. Have a final read-through – out loud – to make sure you’re happy. Name your CV sensibly (e.g. “MarySmith_CV”, not “June2015”). [10-minute activity]
  9. Pat yourself on the back for taking the time to do this all-important career task! [1-minute activity 🙂 ]

I hope these tips will help you create a CV that you are proud of, and one that potential employers will find interesting and relevant enough to want to meet with you. (Look out for a future article on preparing for a successful interview).

You have skills and talents to offer! Make sure your CV reflects that.

[See this blog for advice on your LinkedIn profile.]

If you’d prefer one-on-one help with your CV, get in touch with me via shirley@elementum.co.nz. I’ve worked with many people to create CV’s and LinkedIn profiles that reflect their value.

Shirley Tricker is founder of Elementum, a company dedicated to helping people in Tech to be their best at work. Elementum offers career advice, coaching and online training, specialising in the soft/social skills and techniques that make a difference in the workplace. 

Sign up for Elementum’s monthly newsletter for more articles and information, or follow Shirley on LinkedIn

Can recruiters find you, and will they like what they find?

I recently attended an IT recruitment conference that had speakers from many successful and fast-growing companies. The event was about how to attract, recruit and retain IT professionals.

Companies operating in the IT/tech/digitech space are well aware of how hard it is to find good people to fill their vacancies. Presenters at the conference spoke about new methods they’re using to help them with this task.

How companies and recruiters find candidates.

The most common ways for recruiters (in-house or at agencies) to find candidates are:

  • Place an ad on an online job board or on a company’s career page
  • Look at their existing database of previous candidates
  • If they’re in-house recruiters they’ll likely look at their pool of existing staff
  • Ask for referrals
  • Approach people directly

Aside from the channels above there are is now a trend towards looking for people online, via various social media and other channels. Or, maybe they have someone’s name but they want to find out more before they proceed.

The cost of not filling a role or of hiring the wrong person or high so it’s reasonable that companies and recruiters will try to find out as much as they can, and in places you might not expect.

Here are some places they might look.

In most cases below, people can search for a name or more generic terms (e.g. developers in Sydney). Once if they find someone they’ll usually expand out the search to see that person’s contact, followers etc and get even more names of potential candidates.

1. Twitter.   This is a great starting place to see who you follow or interact with, what types of things you post and how you communicate. Use this to your advantage – follow or interact with companies you like or ‘influencers’, post relevant content. Also remember that companies often post vacancies on Twitter so it’s a great place to see what roles they offer and how they deal with candidates.

2. LinkedIn.   Recruiters are likely to have a look at your LinkedIn profile, but they also search more generically for people with certain skills or in specific locations. This means you should keep your profile up -to-date (but remember to disable notifications if you don’t want your current employer to suspect you’re thinking of moving). Do you have a title showing what you currently do or what you’re looking for? Do you have a few, specific recommendations from people about how you work? (See my other blog about creating a good Linkedin profile and CV.)

3. Facebook.   Depending on your privacy settings there could be a wealth of information on Facebook that you don’t realise is public. Check what your profile looks like to people who aren’t friends and edit posts/photos that you want to remain private.

4. Instagram.   As with all social media, employers can tell a lot about you from what you post or respond to.

5. GitHub.   I’ve heard many times that if you’re a developer you need to have a GitHub profile.

6. Meetup.   If I was looking for someone with, for example, testing automation experience, one of the first places I’d look would be the local meetups. I’d get the list of members and then cross-reference them with other places (Twitter, LinkedIn etc). If you belong to meetups, make sure your profile – for each group you belong to – is up-to-date.

7. Google.   A plain, old Google search might yield lots of information about you or people like you. Google+ is used in some countries but not in others. For example, if you work in India (or if you want to be found by an Indian company), you need a Google+ profile. A reverse image lookup (drag an image and drop into the search bar) might take searchers to other places online where your details can be found.

8. Online.   Searchers might look at sites where tech people can offer their services or display their portfolios. You might be found on one of these – Bēhance, Elance, Upwork, peopleperhour, Fiverr, dribble, etc. What about if you leave a review with you name on TripAdvisor, AirBnB, eating out sites etc? People can get a sense of your tone, your attitude and what you do in your spare time.

What will they find out about you?

It’s not only about how you might be found, but also what information people might uncover when they find you.

  • If you use your name in any of these sites or applications then make sure you have content that won’t discourage potential employers.
  • Keep in mind the image you are portraying online. Does your online presence give the impression that you’d be a suitable employee for the kind of company you want to work for?
  • You don’t need to sign up to all the sites listed above. Only do so if it makes sense (e.g. if you’re a developer then GitHub is a good place to start).

candidateSo, be aware of your presence online, but possibly even more importantly be honest, professional and hard-working … these are the things that will ultimately create your reputation.