“I have a background and don’t want it to get in the way of my new job.”
“I never completed my degree and many opportunities in my field expect it.”
“I have gaps in my employment history”.

All of these are real scenarios. If there are significant criminal issues in your background (and sometimes credit when you are working in the financial/banking areas), it is best to disclose the nature of what occurred and have a forthright conversation with your potential employer regarding the severity of the issue. I have seen companies hire candidates with felonies and misdemeanors because it has been a while since the crime, because they felt the person was a good fit, or because the person explained the situation in a compelling way. (Note: “I didn’t do it” is not an explanation that a company wants to hear or will respect.

Additionally, corporations get tax breaks for hiring previously convicted felons. Conduct a web search on which companies have more flexible background policies. But, be realistic! If you were convicted of embezzlement, I do not think anyone will hire you as CFO. If you have a sex offense in your background, don’t apply to be a camp counselor! Be realistic about your limitations. Don’t get into more trouble.

Also, in disclosing the information, do not say: “I’m an ex-con”. Perhaps a softer approach would be to share that “there are some issues in my background, and I was wondering if this will affect my ability to be hired.”

If you have not completed a degree, be honest! Mind you, it may be a great time to complete the education that has been lingering over your head. Whatever you do, do not lie on your resume or application! I had to terminate someone from a pending temp to hire job who was perfect because she lied about having a Bachelor degree. It broke my heart, because the company loved her and thought she was a perfect fit. Unfortunately, they did not even require a degree for the position!!!

Be aware of gaps in your employment history and be ready to proactively and positively explain them in a phone screen or interview. If there is a long gap, be aware that it will come up and be prepared as to your response. In fact, a cover letter may be a great place to account for the gaps in a proactive, professional manner.

People are getting hired every day! Be honest and you will too!

 
 
"I haven't filled out the application."
"I don't have time to go interview right now"
"Unemployment pays more than a job will."
"No one is hiring."
"I can't get a job without furthering my education."
"I have to pick up my kids."
"Daycare is expensive."
"Gas is expensive."

Life is expensive! It's less expensive when you have a consistent income. Call someone today where you may want to work. Go to a community or networking event. Apply online or in person. Get hired because you did something for yourself today!
 
 
If you do not reach a deadline, get tangled up in a great deal of minutia, or simply dropped the ball in an area, man (or woman) up! Let the boss know what happened in a humble and professional manner, and take the initiative to resolve the issue via a proactive approach. Come up with solution prior to meeting with your supervisor and offer it in a confident and friendly manner. Nobody is perfect, and nobody expects you to be. However, being a responsible employee involves accountability for areas you may fall short.

I am not saying if you are a pilot and land the plane nose-down that there will not be more drastic consequences! (For my pilot friends who regularly read the blog). However, in the normal course of a non life-threatening day, take accountability in areas and ask for help when you need it. That is why teamwork exists: to assist, to delegate, to offer help to a colleague.

Conversely, when up for a promotion, identify areas where you succeeded. Highlight to your boss the big wins within the organization, and discuss the bottom line results (financial profitability, savings, new customers, long term customer retention, etc.) These are great areas to showcase when you are in an interview as well. Be aware of and proud of what you contribute to the organization. 

 

 
 
Recently, I was conducting a speaking engagement at a job fair and asked the group who would take me seriously if I were presenting in jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops. Not one person raised a hand. I then advised them that I often used to recruit high level accounting executives wearing that (or pajamas) while in my house. Even though I am a subject matter expert, I would not have been taken seriously wearing less than a business suit! So, I wondered: why are people in my audience dressed casually when they are looking for work?

Living in South Florida probably does not bode well for the traditional business suit. I should know: I only own 2 of them. Yes, I go on multiple speaking engagements in one of 2 beige business suits. Crazy, right? I interview in one of 2 suits, again, both beige. And if I have a THIRD interview with a company, I am going to need to go out and purchase a business suit in a different color. (I probably should the next time I see a sale!) Here’s the thing: I only wear suits  a few times a year, usually for quarterly business meetings and for speaking engagements. And on interviews. ALWAYS on interviews!

Even if you have casual Fridays at the job for which you are interviewing, you want to be seen as the consummate professional! Today, you may be interviewing at an entry level, but if you want to be viewed as someone who grows with an organization, dress for the position you eventually want!

 
 
I can’t tell you how many employees come to me unprepared. They have old resumes, forgot their resume, dog ate the resume, dog peed on the resume. And my first thought is: will this person be more prepared for a presentation?
 
Today, I was meeting a student for a scheduled appointment to review his resume. I rushed my lunch in order to meet with him on time. He “thought I emailed the resume to myself, but I guess I didn’t.” I thought you’d potentially be a good candidate, but I guess you aren’t? What’s the deal? Why are you unemployed? Let me count the reasons...

Be ready for an interview, job fair, or networking event. It isn’t as though it fell out of the sky. I am sure you knew it was coming! Take time to run your interview answers off a friend, think about what you are going to wear, how you are going to present, and what you are going to bring in your portfolio to make you look like a superstar. Otherwise, all you are doing is cutting into my lunch hour or my productive time that I could be spending with someone else, and I don’t like that!

 
 
I understand that many of you are not reading my blog with pockets of disposable income. Many of you are reading it in the hopes of getting ahead with your career, or getting out of an unemployment or underemployment type of situation. Regardless, one thing that is critically important to know in developing a business, brand, or career path is that it takes money to make money!

Things you will need to budget for your job search include:
-A business suit or 2 if you have extra interviews (yep, I am a broken record about that damn suit!)
-Polished and professional business shoes
-Hosiery (women) or nice new socks (men)
-A few classic ties and dress shirts in neutral colors (men)
-Printer ink
-Nice paper for your resume
-A leatherette portfolio in which to present your resume
-Gas/transportation costs, may include overnight if you are open to relocation
-Relocation expenses if the company does not reimburse the full amount

Please make sure you have enough to get in front of the employer. Show the hiring manager how professional you can look and be. Dress for success, and success will follow with the right attitude!

 
 
The difference between Disney World being the “Happiest Place on Earth” vs. just another day relates to whether the person spending time there is spending money or making money. (Granted, I wish every company would learn how to provide the level of customer service which Disney offers, but that is another article for another time.)

Every job, whether it is your dream job or something you do until you can find a better job has at least one great thing about it. Each job, as well, has negative aspects too! If it was the most fun you could have, they would not be paying to you to be doing a job; you would be paying admission. In knowing that, you want to identify in the interview and selection process exactly what the environment is like, from corporate culture to quirks and nuances. You want to make sure you are able to live with the worst aspects of the job, because if you can tolerate those, every other part seems fine.

It’s always easy to find the upside to an employment situation (ie: I can feed my family. No foreclosure this month, etc.) As my friend shared with me, and as we all experience regularly, the upside is not what we live on a day to day basis.

A great question to ask an employer is: “I am thinking about working here. Talk me out of it.” Another great idea is to ask the employer what they like most and least about working for the company. You may get a cheesy and canned answer, or someone may be upfront and honest about the challenges. Also, you may want to ask why the last person left as well as what the largest challenges are in the role for which the employer is interviewing you.

Find out the good, the bad, and the ugly! That way you can decide best if the company and role are suitable for your needs, and will allow you to make the right choice.

 
 
A friend of mine was laid off due to a downturn in business last year. (Sounds familiar?) She was depressed, angry, and frustrated having never been out of a job in her life. (Still familiar, right?) And it took her quite a while to identify what she wanted to do next. She had a great run of success in business to business sales, and unfortunately, very few organizations were hiring. So she did what anyone who (thankfully) has a savings account did, and took a little time off to refocus, regroup, and decide what her plan of attack would be.

During that time, she took a temporary job, but knew this would not be her long term goal. Once focused, it took her SIX WEEKS (that’s it, 6 weeks!) to successfully land a sales job!!! Her resume highlighted both her STABILITY and ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Moreover, she is one of the most likeable people I know, and clicked immediately with her boss! In less than a year afterwards, she has been promoted once and is looking at a second one shortly. She has established credibility, ethics, and trust with her boss. She explained that the key was presenting his information in a way that her boss would value. She wore the shoes of the person in the interviewer’s chair, and told me that to this day, she and her boss see eye to eye on many important key points and values related to the daily operations and upcoming plans. And of course, the boss likes her. It really is a simple formula:

1.     Add value. Document the value you have added to prior companies.
2.     Be likeable. And honest!
3.     When you are working, be the best you can be.
4.     If you and a company work well together, stay there. Have a stable professional background.
5.     Know the next step in your career path. Have a flexible but defined idea of the strategy.

There are millions of people getting new and better jobs each day! Don’t give up!!!

 
 
What separates me as a blogger, author, and subject matter expert in career counseling from you as a job seeker? Knowing the expectation of the interviewer on the other side of the table. Or the purchaser of the sale you are trying to make. Or the person with whom I am networking.

From my years of experience, I am able to truly understand what the other person is looking for. That involves reading my audience, as well as presenting myself not only as an individual, but as a brand! Every time I am interested in doing business with a client or candidate, I am distinguishing myself as a brand.

My personal brand is multifaceted. Some of the areas I intend to highlight without saying such include:

-Excellent communication skills and interpersonal relational development
-Knowledge of market trends and salaries
-A solid understanding of the hiring process including things many people are unaware of
-The ability to succinctly highlight skills on a resume in a way appealing to a hiring manager

Think about a handful of areas for which you want to be known. Develop a mini-marketing campaign including a 30-second, 1 minute, and 5 minute overview of you. What are your strengths? What successes have you demonstrated at work, in school, or at volunteer roles? Think accurately and positively, and put pen to paper. Knowing how to set yourself apart can help, whether you are asking for a promotion, selling something, or navigating a high volume job fair!

 
 
“It’s not in my job description!”

Yes it is, my friend! And it should be in your career plan too. That little line that states “Other duties as required” or “Other duties as requested” shows that whatever the boss-man or boss-lady asks is within your scope. (By the way, please do not add this line to your resume, as it adds no value at all.)

But, there should be a bigger and more exciting reason for you to want to embrace special projects, and that is to boost your resume and your knowledge!

Your resume and interview are not just about your job description, but also should encompass the many positive contributions you have made to your employer. Some of those would be the above and beyond type projects which allow you the opportunity to utilize additional knowledge of other areas of a company. For instance, if you are in information technology, but assisted on an implementation to increase marketing visibility, the project broadens your scope of knowledge, thereby making you a more appealing candidate to a hiring organization.

Think about it: do you really want to pass on the “other duties” that an employer will like? That includes your own employer, who may promote you when the project succeeds!