Ok, so... January is almost over and you are struggling with continuing to get in shape and pay off the holiday credit. (You're in good company! I'm right there with you!) Have you taken a few moments to figure out how to make yourself a better candidate for a new job opportunity in 2014?

Whether or not you are currently employed, take a moment to think about self improvement. What did you do in 2013 in order to make yourself more valuable to the company you work for, your manager, or your future employer?

Many people expect that they have the right to be promoted/hired while doing nothing out of the ordinary. Those individuals getting promoted are doing quite a bit out of the ordinary of their everyday job. Some ideas may be:

-Take a class in your field. Better, enroll towards a higher level degree than what you currently have! In my years of recruiting, I have never heard someone being passed over on a promotion for having too much education. It's never too late, and there are many online courses to assist older students with families and careers in completing collegiate degrees.

-Start a blog. Get intricately familiar with your subject of choice! Your writing and communication skills are sure to improve! Talk to them. Maybe even help them too! You can start a local networking event if you know enough people from various industries.

-Get involved in your community. Becoming a more well-rounded person makes you a better employee.

-Most importantly, make sure your attendance is impeccable! Nobody likes a pilot who cancels at 3 am before a flight! Stay until the job gets done. Put in 100%, consistently, every day.

Let's set the bar higher for 2014! No more mediocrity. Let's show the world how it's done and all get promoted!!!
I have posed a question on my Facebook page, as well as on a professional group on LinkedIn, where I am very active: What is the most prevalent area of discrimination in hiring today?

The overwhelming answer across the board is age, and you want to know something? That pisses me off!!! Let me explain.

For starters, discrimination is unacceptable. I don't care if you are green with no arms, 3 legs, and like your dog in a very questionable way. (If that is the case, please do not come near Sulley, our mascot!) If there is something about you that has not been a choice (aka: race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc.), this should have absolutely zero indication of your previous performance or future ability to perform a job. So long as you are capable of performing your role with reasonable accommodation, you should be considered for the role and interviewed. From there, if you fit in with the corporate culture and demonstrate the best skill set (and attitude), you should be hired. Plain and simple.

But in today's hiring culture, things are not so cut and dry. Older people are being told they are "overqualified". What the hell does that even mean? If they are capable of, and interested in, doing a job, will accept competitive pay, utilize the knowledge they own. 

Are managers afraid that someone will retire? One of their employees can get hit by a bus or approached by a recruiter tomorrow. Stop being ridiculous! Give experienced people a change. Many of these candidates have excellent, stable work histories, a wealth of knowledge, the capability to train, lead, and encourage younger employees, and what they lack may be a sick, young child at home, needing a lot of days off. (Don't get me started on how many days schools are closed!) 

Companies are afraid of paying higher health care costs? Young employees get seriously ill sometimes too. Many people in their 50's want to work 15+ years before retirement. Let's give them a chance. If we are lucky, we will be there someday too!
Your Top 5 Reasons to Wear a Suit to an Interview Are:

1. If you don't, your competition will! Do you want to be known as a second choice because you didn't make a good first impression?

2. No matter what level of position for which you are interviewing, a well pressed, well fitting suit always looks professsional.

3. You want to be considered for the highest job for which you are capable! Most C-level executives don't go into business meetings casually. (I know there are a few companies that tout a very casual atmosphere. Do your research.)

4. Even in a casual environment, a suit draws attention to you, not your clothing.

5. Wearing a suit ensures you are not showing too much skin. (Make sure a skirt suit hits just above the knee or lower.)

Even in the heat in South Florida in August, it's best to err on the side of more professional! As Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother" says: Suit up!!!

Yes, my friends, this is a "Master of the Obvious" post that too many people are missing. I hope it can help, and as always, I'm going to be a little blunt. If you are a CFO and applying to an Accounts Payable position, I am not going to call you for my next CFO position. Why? Because you are not proving to me that you are able to read.

You are not what I am looking for in this role. Recruiter translation: thanks for wasting my time, but I would like to find someone pretty close to the job I posted. If you are interested in contacting your recruiter, call, send an email, text, even smoke signal. But look at what the job description is! Being overqualified is just as inappropriate as under qualified. You are going to be bored. You won't be challenged. And short of a nonexistent candidate pool, you are not going to be hired for the position for which you applied.

What can you do? Take the time to apply to jobs appropriate for your skill set. Network! (Yes, I am sure you heard that from me once or twice.) And most importantly, read, really read the job description!

Just because you want a job or you think you can do a job does not mean that you are the right fit for a company or the specific position for which they are hiring. If a job requires a year of experience and you are a new graduate, the manager is not waiting for you to graduate, get licensed/certified, to hire and train you. There is a reason they are looking for an experienced person. Perhaps the position will be a mentor for others. Maybe they don't have time/resources to train. To apply will be both disappointing to you and a waste of time to the employer, who is looking for a targeted type of person.

If you are getting a bunch of fast rejection letters or emails, take a look at the jobs to which you are applying. Objectively think about it from the hiring side. If you were paying for someone to take the job, would you hire your background on paper? If not, apply to more jobs within your scope. Get experience through volunteer work.

Understand that the company is not waiting for you. They are looking for the person who will best fill the role for that job!
Student: Nobody seems to be hiring.
Me: How many applications have you sent out since I saw you a few months ago?
Student: 2

(I will withhold commentary!)

Student: I haven’t received leads recently.
Me: Where do you look for jobs?
Student: www.indeed.com, where you showed me to look.
Me: Wow! Me too! So why would I find something you aren’t able to find for yourself?


Now for the commentary: Would you like me to send out your resume, write a targeted cover letter, interview for you, get the job, work for you, and just send you a paycheck???
The projects I hated most in middle school and high school involved "current events". We had to cut out an article and research in detail what was going on in that area. I did this often, and never understood at the time why this was important.

Fast forward a number of years: I read the paper regularly and am advised of national, local, and state news. I read many articles/blogs/books about my industry. I have been quoted as a subject matter expert because of my vast knowledge of the employment arena, both on a national and local level. I am aware of employment and unemployment trends, fair market value for salaries, and have extensive resources on how to rapidly find information.

Moments ago, I spoke with a student who graduated in Healthcare Management. She had no understanding of last week's healthcare reform bill that the Supreme Court had passed. She had not heard of Occupy Wall Street. I advised her that in order to be a good manager and employee, she needs to be aware of what is going on in the local market.

I am now grateful for those current events projects, because they taught me the importance of gaining knowledge of what is going on around you. Be a subject matter expert. Add value to your employer or potential employer!
You keep getting passed over for opportunities. Your resume reads: "Over 20 years (or 30 years) of experience" but the jobs you are looking for say 5 or 10. People tell you that you are overqualified. Sound familiar? Keep reading!

1. Get the "over 20 years" off the top of your resume. Highlight the last 10 years of employment, and only list more on your resume if you were at the same company for longer than 10. For instance, 1997-2011 is fine. Do not truncate to 2001-2011 just to identify 10 years. However, anything further back can be summarized in an accomplishment based cover letter.

2. Do not tell an employer "I'll take anything!" Would you date someone who just wanted a date, or are you looking for a mate who is attracted to YOU? Highlight why you are a good fit for the position. Desperation is unappealing!

3. Do not considerably undersell yourself to a position. I had controllers who needed cash and wanted to temp as accounts receivable reps. If it has been years since you have done receivables, the employer knows that. Take a more general accounting based position (ie: senior accountant/accounting manager).

4. If you are told that you are overqualified for a position, ask the hiring manager why that is perceived as negative. Find out what the concerns are (since you are not being hired for the position anyway, you have nothing to lose!

5. If the manager justifies him/herself as to why you are overqualified, ask if there are any other positions open that would be a better fit for someone with your caliber of expertise! You may be pleasantly surprised as to what you find out!
"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!
Land the plane!!! After a while, I am not listening. You have exhausted me and I am bored. 

This is what I want you to think about when speaking with a potential employer, recruiter, resume writer, or other individual with whom you are networking. There are so many things I need to get done in a day that listening to you yammer on about nothing is not impressing me. Get to the &$*!^! point! Please!!!

I get calls at least weekly asking how I am doing, what’s going on, etc. Meanwhile, you have not identified your name nor the purpose of the call. How am I supposed to have a conversation with you when I don’t know who the hell you are? Really!!!

I was getting a pedicure today. Sadly, the customer who called and talked to my nail tech (they don't have a receptionist) spent a good 5 minutes asking her all kinds of questions and finished by telling her a life story. Thanks for not letting me get her full attention. Have courtesy that the world is not revolving around you every moment of each day!

And this is rampant! At a booth for a local fair with Get Hired and Beyond this weekend, many other vendors stood in front of me to sell me their products, and took time and room away from people who were interested in mine. That’s not good policy. I have consideration for fellow small business owners and sales associates, and would expect that you would respect my time as well. The Golden Rule is called that for a reason.

The same is true when you are working with colleagues! I have colleagues who start a story and 3 days later, they are still telling it. While I would love to hear the moment by moment play by play of your weekend, I am being paid to work. Come to think of it, so are you!

Treat others with the consideration you would want. Not everyone needs to hear your life story. And if you can’t read body language, then you are not going to do well working with people! Be aware when someone looks away, starts writing a list or (gasp!) turns and walks away from you! That is a good indicator that your story was way too long!!!