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!!!
How does someone doing their job turn into a hero? Does something of pure evil have to occur in order to make an everyday job into a heroic situation?

I am convinced that 9/11/2011 started out as a normal day for the NYPD and NYFD employees who kissed their spouses goodbye and went off to work. Nobody could have foreseen what that day would bring! These were not people preparing to be heroes, just people headed to a day on the job! Many did not know they would not return home. 

There are heroes everywhere. The teacher who helps an underachieving student work up to grade level. The therapist who reaches out a hand to a troubled teen and prevents a potential suicide. The founder of a no-kill animal shelter who gives a dog or cat a new lease on life. The friend who is there to listen.

Look for the heroes. Thank someone. Be a hero to someone who needs you. The best way to remember is through action. Let those who landed the plane in the field in Arlington and hijacked the vehicle from the hijackers inspire you to do something good for others. In that way, we can spread love and hope, and keep the evil at bay!

No, my loyal readers, this is not a pornographic post! Your cover letter should be no more than 3 paragraphs. 3 short paragraphs! You really don't want to lose your audience before he/she opens your resume.

And speaking of resumes, there is various discussion of whether a resume should span 1 or 2 pages. Based on your level of experience, I am fine with a resume spanning 2 pages, going back no longer than 10 years. Please, any longer than that, and you are not going to captivate your audience in the 20 seconds or less it takes to scan said resume. A full CV is not required for most positions, but is helpful to have on your hard drive to discuss talking points which may be over 10 years old but remain relevant. 

When to follow up after an interview? More than a day is too long! A brief thank you email, including an opening to have the interviewer contact you with questions should be in his/her inbox no later than the morning after you interviewed. Too much time goes by, and your follow up skills may be questioned, especially if a competing candidate emailed sooner! 

Good luck and happy hunting!

Why are you waiting to update your resume? Are you thinking you are stable at your job? That can only update your resume right before you send it out? Are you waiting to practice interviewing until you have an interview time on your calendar?

If so, you are too late!

Let me explain...

If you wait until you are laid off or actively seeking a job, you are selling yourself short in a variety of ways. First, you are not adding valuable information to your resume in real time, thereby forgetting important details, such as the topic you presented, the old and new software you worked with, and the training you completed. You are missing portions of valuable work experience which set you apart from other employees. A company knows what your general job description looks like. Yet, they have no idea how you have made the position yours, by adding the personal touches only you provide to personalize your role. Secondly, you are not tapping into the hidden job market, networking, thereby passing up what could be your dream job. Everyone is always in the market, unless you own your own company. Even then, there could be enough of an offer to potentially interest you. You cannot explore opportunities if you are not refreshing on paper, thereby reinforcing, your strengths to yourself. Think about it.

Like anything else, interview practice takes time. It takes a lot of effort, rehearsal, and practice. You won't get the luxury of time, if you are scrambling to meet with a job coach the day before your interview. You are already going to be nervous, and are not going to be focused enough to absorb all the information about the company, the position, and how to most effectively answer questions.

I have seen people from entry level to C-level make the same mistake, time and time again.

The last minute is too late! If you wait until the car is empty to fill up with gas, you're going to be pushing it to the nearest gas station. And where I'm sitting, in South Florida in July, that just doesn't seem pleasant. Refuel. Give yourself a little bit of time. Stop scrambling. You will make a better impression!

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.

“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!