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How to Promote Volunteerism on Your Executive Resume

How to Promote Volunteerism on Your Executive Resume

Updated May 27, 2018

I received an interesting question that actually mirrors a question I get from my private clients quite a lot: Can I use volunteer work on a resume? This individual wanted to know whether hiring managers like what she has done, or will they consider it fluff? Her story is much like those of many who have experienced a gap in their career histories, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. This person has all the hallmarks of a top hire: She’s a college graduate, super smart, well-read, is a true knowledge seeker and seeker of truth, and has led major organizations with multiple reporting layers. Unsurprisingly, she sounds like many of the executives with whom I have worked over the years.  How can she promote her career history on her resume, even though the majority of her work has been in volunteer roles?

many hands raised on colorful background

How will you promote your volunteerism on your executive resume?

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize as an article of faith that work is work, even if it’s unpaid. Never lose sight of the fact that what you do every day has relevance for your job search strategy, because you’re doing something important and valuable.  And exploring what you like about the various volunteer roles you have had can help you narrow down your career target as well.

Examples of this type of volunteer work from which your resume can benefit can include:

  • Sitting on the board of a non-profit institution.
  • Volunteering at a church or synagogue.
  • Leading programs as part of your child’s PTA.
  • Organizing an event, such as a food drive or fun run.
  • Serving as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout guide.
  • Coaching a sports team.

There are, of course, many other types of volunteerism that can bolster your job application process. The crucial thing to remember is that you must couch your leadership contributions and your accomplishments in the same way that you account for them with your regular paid positions. Remember, work is work, even if it’s unpaid.

Let’s look at a few possibilities in which volunteerism can amplify your executive resume and your executive job search strategy overall.

Volunteerism that Supports Your Return to the Workforce

The first possibility is that you have been out of the workforce for a while, whether for family obligations, layoff, sabbatical, travel, or any other reason you’ve chosen to take yourself away from your career for some extended period of time. Now that it’s time to go back to paid work, you need to capture and organize your volunteer work to showcase its value.

To execute on this well, you should include volunteer roles as actual in-line work experience, and you’re not obligated to reveal the exact amount you were paid or not paid to do the work. The process of describing what you did every day and the successes you created are just as valuable – if you can prove that your expertise parallels the knowledge and experience that your career target requires.

Write down all of your volunteer work and the ways in which you improved or added to the organization. The categories of expertise can be leadership and management, financial responsibility, operational expertise, sales of ideas / services / goods, marketing, and more. These are exactly the types of knowledge and proven ability that your future audience needs to know you have, and they are subject to the challenge-action-result strategy that you’ve heard me talk about before in many other podcasts on this show. I’m not going to go in to the CAR strategy here, but rest assured that you can use the challenge-action-result method even when the work you have done is unpaid.

Each of these volunteer roles, and the promotions to leadership you might have experienced as well, become “jobs” in your resume, and they should be listed exactly the same way as your paid work is detailed. You make absolutely no distinction between your former paid work and your volunteer work, because they both are strongly reflective of the expertise your future hiring executive needs you to have to be successful in the role to which you’re applying.

Volunteerism that Supplements Your Ongoing Paid Work

A second flavor of using volunteerism on your resume is useful when you have had a largely intact career timeline but want to add to your career history some skills and expertise that your paid work doesn’t demonstrate.

Including volunteer work on a professional resume can be a critical way of ensuring that a hiring manager understands the full flavor of your experience. For example, your professional career might be a greased rail to success, but it might lack a specific dimension that you need to promote. By highlighting your volunteer experience, you can show that you have many types of expertise, not just the kind that you get paid for day to day.

Let’s say that you are a senior vice president of finance, and you want to demonstrate your expertise in operations and team leadership, so that you can move into a broader role, perhaps a chief financial officer position. You might offer up your recent work as the chair of a committee for a local nonprofit, a role you’ve held for several years. You then describe the scope and value of that work, for example, how you fulfilled the mission of the organization through the role, how many people you guided to that goal, and how you overcame multiple challenges along the way.

Volunteer Work as the Basis for Your References

Last, your volunteer roles can serve as a source of references for you. If you had any type of reporting relationship with leaders of a volunteer organization, it’s a good idea to ask them to write you a letter of recommendation on the organization’s letterhead commenting on your contributions. These people can also become excellent sources of references when you need to give names and numbers to interviewers of people who can vouch for your excellent work ethic, ability to organize projects and teams, and so on. These leaders likely will know you well and be able to describe your success and contributions to their organizations, and, because you have done an incredible job, they are going to be willing to share a few words with your future hiring executive as well.

Examples of the types of individuals who might serve as excellent references from your volunteer work include:

  • The executive team of the group to which you donated your time and expertise.
  • Event leaders, when you directed a portion of the event.
  • Co-organizers, who can comment on your excellent team spirit and ability to motivate the group.
  • Your direct report team.
  • A beneficiary of a nonprofit event.

To conclude, your professional paid work history is not the only type of work that belongs on your resume. By putting your volunteer work on a resume, you can expand on and elaborate on what makes you special and what makes you unique and the only one who can do what you do in the way that you do it. In short, volunteer work on your professional resume enhances your brand.

Person on Hamster Wheel

The 80/20 Rule and Your Executive Job Search

The 80/20 Rule and Your Executive Job Search

You might know the “80/20 rule” as the “Pareto principle,” and you might have heard that, in most cases, 80% of your effort producing 20% of your results. You can apply this to your job search as well. So, if you think about your job search as having a beginning and an end, and it takes some amount of time to complete it, you can spend 80% of your time doing all the thinking upfront and 20% of your time doing the strategizing, or you can spend 20% strategizing and 80% spinning your wheels. So, which would you rather do? How would you rather spend your time?

Efficient Networking for Your Job Search

Let’s start with looking at the things that you can do to maximize your job search and put the most amount of strategy into it so that your only executing on the 20% and being really, really efficient. So, the first thing you should do is think about your network, and how you’re going to increase it effectively in person, on the phone, or on LinkedIn.

But what you want to do is start amassing some advocacy within organizations so that your first approach is not to the hiring manager. So what does this mean in practice? So what you need to do is think about the companies first of all that you want to apply to. This is really important. So start researching the organization and come up with a top 10 list of your favorite companies that you think would be perfect. You don’t have to commit to these companies right now, but you have to think about, are these the right organizations?

Make that list, do a little bit of research, and see if those companies are right for you. Now, within those, start looking at the people who work there. And these don’t have to be in your area of expertise. Rather, they should be people that you think are approachable and people you wouldn’t mind spending time with, but they don’t have to be in your area of expertise, and, by far, they shouldn’t be the hiring executive potentially looking for roles. And the really interesting thing about this is they shouldn’t be able to hire you anyway. So whether you have target positions in those companies in mind or not shouldn’t matter right now you’re just looking at the industry, looking at the job function and seeing if this organization is the right place.

Person on Hamster Wheel

Get off the Job Search Hamster Wheel with the 80/20 Rule

Now take a hard look at who you want to talk to within those organizations. Make a top 5 or 10 list of people that might be interesting new contacts, and start making inquiries. And recognize that not everybody is going to respond to you, but those who do – because you’re curious and interesting and you think they’re interesting –  are going to be happy to set up some time to chat with you. And so you go through this conversation and you ask them about why they’re there and what makes their organization interesting or what makes their day-to-day a fascinating ride.

At the end of your chats with each of these people, always remember to add a key question: “Who else should I be talking to?” And they may give you a name or two, or refer you to the right person, who is now even more valuable as you get closer and closer and closer to the person making hiring decisions.

So, as you’re doing this you’re asking everybody you talk to who else can I talk to, and pretty soon your list is going to grow and you’re going to have a lot of people – some who won’t respond to you at all and won’t be interested, but you’re going to have a lot of people who will be interested, and you’re going to turn those LinkedIn connections and warm leads and cold calls and whatever else it might be into actual conversations.

Efficiency in Learning about Ideal Executive Roles

What else can you do with this 80% of your time? You can start looking at job postings. And again, they may not be jobs that your top 10 list, but what you want to do is figure out are the commonalities across those positions. What are you really targeting? What is the critical mass of stuff you need to talk about as you have these conversations and ultimately get to the point of the interview? What kinds of things are they going to want to know about you? And, furthermore, what kind of requirements are outliers, meaning they’re only specific to individual opportunities? The more you know about your audience’s expectations, the better armed you are as you determine the strategy you’ll use in your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and the rest of your career portfolio.

What Not to Do with Your Time

Don’t Write Your Resume

So that’s a good sense of what you can do with that 80%. Notice that none of these include writing your resume or your LinkedIn profile, although you probably need both of those things. At this point in your search you can’t write your resume or LinkedIn profile, because you don’t know what to say until you learn what hiring executives’ needs are. So once you get to the point of having a really good understanding, not to mention a really good group of advocates within these organizations, then write your resume and career portfolio and make sure that the things that you have learned appear in multiple ways in each of these documents and you’re showing that you’re speaking directly to that audience.

Don’t Find and/or Pitch to Hiring Executives

The absolute wrong conversation to have starts with “Do you have a job for me?” or “Will you hire me?”. Both of those questions are binary, they’re yes/no questions, not to mention the fastest way to shut down a conversation. There is the chance that you walk in the person’s door and they immediately say, “Your’re hired!”, but that’s highly unlikely. The most likely answer is that the person responds, “No, I don’t have a job” and the conversation is over. In fact, there’s nothing else for either of you to say because you’ve both agreed that the transactional approach has yielded nothing on either side. So make sure that the conversations you’re having are not transactional–that they continue to be conversational and mutually beneficial. No doubt, you might talk about jobs that are available in the organization, but because that person you’ve chosen to speak to on a strategic level is not doing the hiring, you have to use that opportunity to get additional introductions to people who might be beneficial to your search. Eventually, you’ll triangulate on the right company, right networking contact (who might become your hiring executive), and the right job.

Don’t Send Out Hundreds of Resumes to Online Postings

Simply stated, you’re not right for hundreds of jobs, and no hundred jobs are right for you. I’ve explored why you should apply for only 6 jobs in your executive job search deeply, but the gist is this: Focusing your job search will yield much better results than a scattershot approach. Put another way, get off that hamster wheel and start doing the real work of executive job search.

Benefits of the 80/20 Rule in Your Executive Job Search

The benefit of doing 80% of thinking up front and using only 20% of your effort to engage in activities directly related to your job acquisition is that you get off the hamster wheel, on which you continually are working very hard and working up a sweat but getting nowhere. In other words, do not equate effort with output–rather, equate strategy with output.

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard about Job Search Strategy

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard about Job Search Strategy

Searching for a job can be grueling and stagnant, especially if you prescribe to every piece of advice you hear. Like most rumors you read on the internet, not every piece of information is right for each situation. This article will explore some of the guidance you might receive from others with additional information explaining why it should be taken with a grain of salt.

You Don’t Need a Cover Letter.

There are people who will tell you cover letters are obsolete. This person could be a hiring manager, your parent, or even your best friend however, this is false information. When you apply for a position, especially if it is through an online format, a cover letter is required material. Cover letters give you the opportunity to expand upon points made in your resume. It is best to keep your cover letter to a maximum of one page and attempt to obtain the hiring manager’s information to address it directly to them. This will show that you took the time to write it for them and express your enthusiasm for the position or company. A cover letter alone won’t land an interview for you, but it will help make a case for your candidacy for the position applied.

Lose the bad job search advice!

Lose the bad job search advice!

Everything Happens Online (or In-person) – Taking Job Applications to Either Extreme.

With the turnover in technology, online applications are the largest net for your job search. However, networking doesn’t always happen online, or face-to-face. Using too much effort on either realm of your job search limits opportunities that the other might provide. Online research can open the door for you, but to create a memorable connection you should attempt to identify individuals to meet in person. Taking the time to meet someone from the company, through an informational interview situation or otherwise, could result in a referral for the position. Referrals show that you went above the company’s expectations. However, a referral does not guarantee an interview or job offer.

Personal Interaction Is the Only Way in.

While following up with your application is encouraged by most companies, being overzealous might hurt your chances instead of helping you. There is such a thing as too much interaction with the hiring manager so, be sure you are respecting normal personal space bubbles. Don’t become akin to the ex-girl/boyfriend who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Continuous calling or emailing could be construed as aggressive or desperate. Neither attribute will make you more attractive as a candidate for the position. Your best course of action, after applying and if possible, would be to contact the employer, hiring manager, or recruiter once to follow up on your application and show your interest in the position/company.

Persevere – You’ll Only Get a Job if You Keep at it.

Apply, apply, apply. Apply to everything, despite the required qualifications. The more jobs you have applied to, the greater the chance that you’ll land one, right? Not necessarily. You should apply to positions you are qualified for, not just anything. Tailor your resume to best display how your skills and experience make you the ideal candidate for the job(s) for which you would be an excellent fit. Strategic applications increase your odds at a much greater interval than applying to anything and everything. By applying to everything, you are wasting time and energy you that should be put toward finding the right position for you.

Just Be Yourself – or the Complete Opposite.

Some people will tell you to be yourself during an interview, on your resume, and through the online applications and questionnaires. Others will tell you to be who you think the company wants for the job. You really need to land somewhere in the middle. Portray your experience and personality authentically, but steer it in a way that shows the hiring manager you are the candidate they want. Be aware of your language, attire, and behavior. You should also not confuse authenticity with professionalism. Being authentic means that you should not behave, speak, or dress outside of what is true to you, but cater to your audience. Think about it this way: if you wouldn’t say or do it in front of your grandparents, you definitely don’t want to do that with a hiring manager as witness

Not all job search advice will harm your chances, but there is a balance to everything. Extra effort is attractive, however you must always consider what the hiring manager would think is appropriate. The advice you end up following should be your own. What has or hasn’t worked for you in the past? Expand on your own experiences and, with practice, your instincts will guide you. If that isn’t enough to help you gain your dream job, the FiveStrengths experts can provide additional support.

Image by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor
Man on telephone is ready for career change.

Executive Career Change: Are You Ready?

Executive Career Change: Are You Ready?

Take this career change quiz…

Chances are you are reading an article such as this because your career isn’t fulfilling to you anymore. Maybe you have not been in a position where you have felt you were able to risk making a career move until now. Maybe you are finally feeling that it is time to make a career change.

Man on telephone.

Ready for a career change?

It could be that your present job isn’t tapping into your true potential. How do you know when it is the right time to make a move, take a risk, and possibly advance in your career? This quiz was will help you evaluate what is behind your drive to succeed and whether or not you need to make changes. It will also help you determine how prepared you are for such a move. Take some time and think about each question and summary thoroughly this will serve as a helpful tool in deciding if it may be time to re-route your course.

1) Does the work that you do on a day to day basis make you feel happy, content and fulfilled? Yes/No

*If what you are doing repetitively, on a daily basis doesn’t interest or fulfill you, and you are constantly looking at the clock, it may be time to re-evaluate.

2) Do you honestly hate your job? Yes/No

If yes, are you thinking about a new job in the same field? Yes/No

*If you can’t even remember why you choose your current field in the first place, and your field doesn’t provide opportunities to explore new directions and grow, it may be time to do some future planning.

3) Are there many jobs available in your field?

You need to be very realistic about this. Put in some time researching proven statistics. When you think about your 5 year or long-term life plan, does your current career path match up with where you want to go?

4) If after thinking hard over a length of time you decide you want to stay in the same career, will you need to enhance or modernize your skills? Do you need or want to earn more than is possible if you stay in this career field?

Looking at the future, do you see technology or another future development changing your position dramatically or even rendering it obsolete? Do you know in your heart that you truly need to change to a new field, but you resist change due to fear or even lack of the proper experience? Don’t get in your way or sell yourself short. You may be more capable than you are letting yourself believe..

5) Does your current position allow you to make the most of your skills, training,
talents and abilities?

Do you often feel frustrated or that the work you are doing is unnatural to you? You must feel utilized properly or you are always floating, never locked in. Education is expensive and time consuming; it should be put to good use and properly compensated for. Don’t settle for less than that.

6) Do you get excited about new projects or work to be performed?

Do you still find yourself interested in what jobs are being performed in your office? What about company planning and strategies? It is intriguing and challenging? Do you want it to be? Don’t hightail it out of there to quickly if you are satisfied in this area. If there are still things are work that you feel excited about, that’s a good sign. Maybe you just need a minor change, not a complete make-over. Possibly some different responsibilities or added projects would do the trick. Have you asked for what you really, truly want? Think it over…

7) How is the level of stress at your job?

Is it more likely to keep you invigorated or are you pulling your hair out and getting a stomach ache on the way to work? Life is short and we all know that stress takes a horrible toll on us. Make sure that your job isn’t detrimental to your health.

8) Is your current career a good fit for your lifestyle now as well as the changes that will come in your life with family, etc.?

This requires you to take a serious look at your position in the long term. Does it work well for you now, but when you have kids or a family it will have to be changed anyway? Think about the future that you want for yourself and make sure you are not only thinking about the “NOW”.

9) Do you have a plan as discussed in the question above? Do you have set plans and goals or are you just coasting through life?

You may not even be sure what your next move would be, or where to begin. Let’s be honest, change can be very difficult. Don’t forget, however, it can also be extremely empowering. Taking control of your life feels amazing! Just make sure that you truly think through each step, don’t do anything spontaneously, as exciting as that may seem! Be prepared with contacts, leads, plans and savings. You will need them.

10) Is your restlessness due to your dreams of pursuing a lifelong passion?

At times we all get caught up in thinking about what really matters, what is the most important to us and what really should be the most important to us. Such as: the purpose of life, if you will. Ask yourself, if I didn’t need the money could I walk away from this profession and never look back? If the answer is yes and if you have been feeling lost, give these feelings the attention they deserve. No one wants to look back at their life with regrets. But as you ponder life, be realistic.

The grass is not always greener.. but it could be.. only you can decide.

By Five Strengths Contributor Brandy Higginson
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Corporate culture can determine whether the company is the right fit for your next career move.

Corporate Culture Fit vs. Personal Values

Corporate Culture Fit vs. Personal Values

Workplace culture is not just about one aspect of the job but also encompasses the environment, the dress, the attitude, goals, and communication of the business. This culture extends beyond the physical building of the business and reaches out to the customers as well as the employees. What if the job is great, but the culture is damaging? The dynamic cultural aspects that can form in the workplace can either be uplifting or damaging. Culture can make or break a job on a personal level. While the job might be perfect for you, you have to consider the culture of the place when making decisions.

Importance of Corporate Culture

Culture strength determines the performance of the organization. As an employee, culture can either drive you to work harder and with more confidence or not. The surrounding environment should be engaging and make you want to come to work every day. From an employer standpoint, a strong, positive culture attracts applicants that are the right fit for the environment. Clearly defined goals, policies, and strong communication all create a workplace that employees want to be involved with.

Corporate culture can determine whether the company is the right fit for your next career move.

Corporate culture can determine whether the company is the right fit for your next career move.

Aspects of Corporate Culture

In short, everything about a place creates the culture. From leadership to communication, every detail matters. If the establishment lacks leadership, has a poor management system, or workplace practices don’t match workplace policies then you might be in a damaging workplace culture situation. Consider the following:

  • Leadership reflects employee performance. The way leaders communicate and interact, what they emphasize, vision, recognition, expectations, decisions, trust, and perception amount to their ability to lead. Making the mission, values, and vision clear shows the signs of an inspiring leader.
  • Management – how the organization is managed – shows how the leadership empowers employees in their decision making and interactions. Great management is consistent. Whether the workplace is tightly managed or allows for flexibility, understanding the management team and fitting in with that structure is essential to blending with the culture.
  • Recruiting, compensation, benefits, recognition, training, etc. that contribute to workplace practices also form the culture. Employees react to proper training and recognition when appropriate to the situation and, hopefully, it is a positive reaction.
  • Established policies such as a dress code, conduct, and internal processes create boundaries and expectations for both employer and employee.
  • A diverse population of both managers and employees allows for many opportunities of communication and collaboration. The culture of the establishment should be instilled in employees as soon as they walk in the door for the first time. They should be able to recognize a well-established management system, strong leadership, and opportunities for improvement from the culture they are welcomed into.
  • The physical environment of the office sets the first impression for employees and clients. Furniture, wall decorations, allocation of space, color, and common area use all display what kind of culture has been established and how it feels.

Reflection of Corporate Culture

What culture exists in your place of work? Not every workplace will have a perfect culture – it is a fluid and evolving entity of every establishment. You need to understand that whether you have the perfect job, you may be in an environment that isn’t perfect for you. Every company tries to have a great, positive, and welcoming culture, but it isn’t always possible. There are methods of “getting things done” that don’t create a healthy culture – threats, insults, and leveraging are all unhealthy ways managers or other employees influence others to complete projects. As an individual employee, you have to determine what kind of culture is acceptable for you to complete work. Do your personal values fall in line with the culture and morals of the company?

Culture can affect you in ways you would never think about until you experience it. The perfect job doesn’t make the perfect environment and everyone reacts to every situation differently. Consider every aspect of the environment before making a commitment to a company and what it would mean to your career to stay if the environment is damaging. A positive environment could give you the opportunity to advance your career and find the position you are passionate about.

By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor

How Do You Know It’s Time to Leave Your Job?

How Do You Know It’s Time to Leave Your Job? When Should You Stay?

The majority of us spend more valuable waking hours at work than anywhere else. However, we have all had those times during work when we start to wonder if we are pursuing the correct path. But, if those weeks of doubt turn into months with no light at the end of the tunnel, it may be time to start to think reasons to leave your job for a better one.

Now, we all know that to leave your job is easier said than done! Change it scary! Even if your current employment is less than desirable at least it is comfortable and you know what to expect, right? No! Not good enough! Occasional dissatisfaction is one thing, but months of unhappiness in the work place are another. How do you know when it is time to get out? When do we dare to take that leap? How do you leave your job gracefully?

Here are several points to ponder:

  1. You dread going to work…EVERY DAY.

Sunday night… or Monday Eve as we have all called it. How do you feel about the upcoming week? Prior to making such a life changing decision, it is imperative to tune into your feelings and determine how you are truly feeling and why? While it is normal to have a sense of apprehension about a new week getting under way and handling all that is expected of us, we should not have a horrific sense of dread. We know the difference. Think about it.

  1. You suffer from boredom and monotony.

Routine can be a great thing; in fact, most of us thrive on it. However, if “routine” becomes “boredom”, there is a problem and chances are it is not going to get better. We like to feel safe and know what to plan on… to a point. We also need some spontaneity and excitement in our daily lives. Finding that balance in the workplace is not an easy task. If you find yourself not doing anything more productive than watching the minutes of your life tick by on a slow moving clock, than it may be time for a change. We all have to decide what quality of life we want to have. Where is your passion for the work? Don’t we all deserve some happiness, not just a paycheck?

Image courtesy of aechan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of aechan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Your personal life is suffering.

Work can be a great place to meet people with similar interests, make friends and expand your social circle. While your number of work relationships is not important to everyone, the quality of the relationships that can be found on the job should be. Let’s face it; we spend a lot of time with these people. If you have nothing in common with any of your fellow employees and would turn down the wrong isle in the grocery store just to avoid any one of them, you are missing out on an opportunity to enjoy work more fully, by enjoying the people around you!

  1. There’s no room for advancement and you don’t want your boss’s job.

If you have been in the same position for a significant amount of time and there is no talk of advancement, raises, promotions, or even learning opportunities, you may truly be in a dead-end job. If you don’t feel challenged and think that you have learned all there is to learn about your position, it may be time to make a move in a more positive direction.

Comfort doesn’t equal happiness, not for the majority of us. Make sure that you are not confusing the two. Every job should increase your skills and add to your value. You should be able to see the path and know that there is a road ahead that will secure a meaningful future. Don’t simply get stuck.

  1. Your company is shrinking.

Have you seen others with their head on the chopping block only to think, “thank goodness it’s not me?” Well, if there is a lot of downsizing going on, don’t get over-confident in thinking that it could never happen to you, because it could. If your company seems to be heading in a bad direction and you are not seeing future plans and growth, you need to be weighing your options and looking elsewhere. Don’t be caught waiting around for the ax to fall.

  1. You want to leave your job because you have a direction in mind.

Now, if you are reading this article and feeling inspired, don’t get ahead of yourself and empty your desk today! Know the risks. Make a plan. Bring your resume and your network current. Have jobs leads, renew contacts and business relationships. Invest in your own professional development. Changing is a process and it takes planning to handle it properly. Be sure to talk to a spouse or family if it will affect them as well. They may also be a good guide to be sure your motives are just.

If possible, have another job lined up. Don’t just assume that you will be able to “get by” for a while. In today’s economy this move will be tougher than you think unless you have a substantial savings account that you are willing to dip into.

  1. Don’t leave your job on a negative note.

No matter the circumstances of your departure, it will do you a dis-service to exit in any other way than a professional manner. Remember, you may need references in the future, don’t burn bridges. Word also travels quickly, especially in some industries. The business world can be smaller than you think. You don’t want to get the reputation for being some one that can’t land or be counted on. You don’t want a legacy as a “quitter.” Wrap up loose ends, complete assignments and tasks and even assist in finding a replacement where possible. Leave in a friendly and polite manner. This will ensure that fellow employees have no room to speak ill of you.

Once you have departed, do not speak negatively of your past employer or company. It will serve no purpose and my even damage your prospects with future employers.

Image courtesy of 89studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are you ready to leave your job? These 10 tips can help you decide whether now is the right time to leave your job. Image courtesy of 89studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Leave your job, but don’t stand in your own way.

When you are ready, you will know. Don’t continue to promise yourself that you will quit day after day. Be brave, be bold and make the change. If you are not working to your full potential, if you are unhappy, stressed and underappreciated or simply not living your best life, what do you truly have to lose? Focus on the fact that you have everything to gain! Making the decision to leave can be gut-wrenching but with proper planning and hard work, it can be the best move you ever make. Don’t become paralyzed in your current reality, believe in yourself and work for the happiness you deserve.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Really Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

Really Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

Will you really ever be asked them?

You have received the phone call. Your prospective employer would like to meet with you for an interview. Nice work! But then, before you are even done with the happy dance you were doing around your living room, the fear sets in… an INTERVIEW! Your mind starts swirling through all of the variables. What should you wear? Are they friendly? And most importantly, what kinds of different questions will they ask you? How can you nail this interview, even the really tough questions? Read on, and I assure you, you will be well prepared!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Preparation is the Key for Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

I know, you have heard this phrase so many times. But, I would like to remind you that any situation that we face becomes easier if we are prepared. It is those moments (or questions) that catch us completely unaware that cause us to falter. We are valuable, we are assets to the company and are worthy of the time they are taking out of their busy schedules to meet with us. Now, all we have to do is convince them of that. Review possible questions. You should focus on appearing prepared but not seeming to be rehearsed. Study the company. Talk to other employees where possible. If you are given the name of the Interviewer, see what you can find out about them. Don’t assume that just because they are doing the interview they are good at interviewing. Be prepared to own the conversation and keep it focused in your direction, shining on your accomplishments. Be confident and do the work necessary to gain the reward you seek.

Below are some of the tough questions you are likely to be asked along with some advice on how to answer them.

Tell me about yourself.

Here is the often heard, sometimes dreaded, opening question…It’s tricky, open ended and an easy question to handle incorrectly. They are looking for a quick, two or three-minute summary about you, your history and why you would be a good match for the position. Don’t go any further than that! Save it for the remainder of the interview. The famous “Tell me about yourself” question isn’t an invitation to tell your life story… just tell them what makes you the best candidate.

What do you know about our company and why do you want to be a part of it?

This is where they are checking you out to ensure that you have done your homework. Make sure you have! Have as much information as possible about the company and position that you are applying for. Demonstrate your knowledge and use what you have learned to show the amount of respect for and interest in their company you truly have. This is a great place to show how well your experience will add to and blend in with their needs.

What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

These are such unfair questions! Who likes to revel or even discuss their weaknesses—or brag about their strengths? It may play well to come up with a somewhat clever answer for these questions, such as,” I can’t think of any reasons not to hire me, but I have many reasons why you should!”
Give them those reasons! As far as addressing the weakness aspect, be honest. Maybe let them know about an area that you have been working on and improving in, perhaps something that you turned into a strength.

Don’t present the often advised trick of turning a strength into a weakness, such as working too much. This is a tired response; they have heard it countless times before. It also misses the point of the question.

Talk about a time you failed. What happened? What would you do differently?

We tend to make this question harder than it really is. You know where you have been and what you have experienced. As long as you have an event in your mind that you have reviewed, thought through, and are prepared to discuss in your interview, you will be fine. Think of a situation that went differently than planned, that is all it really is. It needn’t be a catastrophe. People make mistakes, everyone knows that so don’t pretend that you never have. Own it, discuss the solutions and lessons learned and move on. It shows experience and demonstrates that you would not make the same mistake in the future.

 Why we should choose you over the other applicants that we have interviewed?

Don’t let this be your undoing. This is a very common question. Re-visit your strengths with added enthusiasm. Show them that you are professional yet personable and friendly. They want to know that you are dependable and competent.

They will undoubtedly ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Of course you do! They are not the only one trying to determine if this position is a good fit for you. You need to be doing the same. These questions should be important to you. There are things that you really need to know, such as:

  • What type of candidate are you looking for?
  • Why did this position become available?
  • How would you define success for this person who receives this position?
  • What are the most important skills needed to be successful in this position?
  • What would my first several months be like if I were offered this position?
  • Is there opportunity for growth and advancement in this company?
  • Are you aware of any major changes coming that I may need to be informed of?
  • How do you see this company growing, changing, etc. in the next five years?

    Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Negotiating Compensation

Before the interview be sure to do your research into possible, realistic compensation for the position. You won’t know ahead of time if you will reach this level of discussion, but in case you do, be ready. Be aware of your “walk-away number.” You may not realize it, but the income of top executive’s is often public information. Try checking Salary.com or Glassdoor.com.

What NOT to do…

There are, of course, some guaranteed ways to make a negative impression on these important decision makers. Let’s be sure to avoid the following mistakes:

  • Don’t be arrogant. Acting as if you are better than any lower level candidates, assistants, receptionists, etc. will be certain to leave a negative impression. Instead, impress them as well, with your kindness and genuine interest in them.
  • Don’t “dress down;” be dressed and groomed appropriately for the position.
  • Don’t be negative in general but especially about the economy, the company, or even the competition. A positive attitude will always leave a better impression.
  • Don’t exaggerate or over-sell your skills, work history or abilities. Be honest.
  • Be direct and decisive. Don’t give long, rambling answers to questions. Every minute counts.
  • Let them know that you are genuinely interested in the job. Playing hard to get doesn’t usually pay off in the end.

Final Thoughts about Hard C-Suite Interview Questions

The only guaranteed way to make an interview harder is to not be prepared. Interview questions are not hard if you have anticipated what they may be asking and prepared sincere answers. Know detailed information about the company, the position and most of all yourself! Be relaxed and articulate. Even though there are really no wrong or right answers, there are definitely memorable answers that leave a positive impression.  Demonstrate you vision, your drive and your complete confidence in your abilities. They are sure to be impressed!

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Think about your bridge job as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

A Bridge Job Can Help You Get to the Next Level

A Bridge Job Can Help You Get to the Next Level       

A bridge job can be taken while building your own business or working on goals to attain your ideal position.  A bridge job is an interim job that pays for the necessities while you prepare for a better position or work on building your dream business.A Bridge Job Can Help You Get to the Next Level 1

What Should I Look for in a Bridge Job?

Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur or are working your way up the career ladder, a bridge job will help you build skills and take care of your financial obligations as the future you have planned becomes viable.

Some musts for a bridge job include the following:

  • A bridge job must provide you with stable and consistent hours.

You must be able to clock in and clock out – so to speak.  There should be consistency in scheduling so that you can plan around the job and use your remaining time wisely.  You must be free to focus on and expand your more important areas of expertise.  You will need the ability to plan easily for conferences, networking activities, and other strategies that will enable your experience and business to grow as quickly as possible.

  • A bridge job must provide a dependable paycheck.

To allow you the peace of mind to be able to concentrate on progressing toward your future goals, your bridge job must cover the necessities of life each month therefore freeing your mind from the financial stresses of everyday life.

  • A bridge job must not take more than it gives.

You want a job that you walk away from at the end of the day.  There should be no residual baggage.  That is to say, you do not want a position that requires more energy or effort from you after you have “clocked out.”  There should be no after-hours work such as phone calls, finding new clients, homework, etc.  You should not work more than regular weekly hours at a bridge job so that you are able to have the necessary time to devote to your goals and personal business building.

  • A bridge job provides structure.

Most of us function most effectively with structure. Have you ever heard the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person?”  This statement is so true of human nature.  For some crazy reason, many of us tend to work harder when we are up against a deadline.  Is this true for you?  We seem to crave routine and structure innately and we can use that as a weapon to keep our creativity and productiveness running at maximum efficiency.

  • A bridge job provides on-the-job learning.

Whether you are trying to move up the corporate ladder or gain the confidence to go out on your own with a new business, getting paid to learn might be the best perk of all in terms of a bridge job. How you approach this in-between time of your life, the attitude that you bring to the table will have a lot to do with how successful you are. We increase our abilities constantly when we strive to better ourselves. The possibilities are endless.  We can learn something valuable from almost everyone around us if we allow ourselves to do so. 

Some Points to Ponder…

  • One of the biggest obstacles that hold many people back from starting their own business is the fear of not being able to make enough money.
  • A bridge job often pays less than what you make in an actual career position.
  • Even if you have substantial savings, even a year’s worth saved to cover expenses, you still need a bridge job. Working while enduring ongoing or daily financial stress isn’t going to be effective.

And the Biggest Point…

Think about your bridge job as an opportunity, not an obstacle.Getting out there into the work force, even in a less-than-ideal job, will . . . get you out there. You’ll be in a work environment; you’ll be meeting new people; you’ll be learning new things. In other words, you won’t be alone, and you won’t be stuck on your couch wondering about how you can contribute. Take advantage of all of these new opportunities a fresh approach to working can provide. You never know who you’re going to meet and how you might help one another.

There are so many different ways to achieve success. We must all find the path that will provide the ending that we are working so hard for.  A bridge job just might be the missing link that will help you reach your destination.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor

Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net / Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Man holding sign reading "unemployed."

How to Proceed after a Layoff: 5 Practical Strategies

How to Proceed after a Layoff: 5 Practical Strategies

Companies have ups and downs with the changes in the economy, and your employment status depends on the company’s stability. Being laid off is not the end of your career, as the layoff is not for cause—the job simply ceases to exist. Consider the following strategies to help you after a “separation,” an umbrella term for the various reasons you and your company part ways:

Take care of you.

Whatever the reason for the separation, it is never a pleasant experience. Allow time to heal; don’t waste your time being angry at your previous employer. Think about where you might have the ambition to work next, and prepare for your future rather than dwell on your past. You will find another job in your career field, provided it may take time. The best course of action, in the meantime, would be to work on yourself. This means you can allow yourself to grieve the loss of your former role while focusing on your future.

Reconnect with or build your network.

Man holding sign reading "unemployed."

Unemployment isn’t the end of your career. Start rebuilding with these 5 practical strategies for recovering after a layoff.

When you are ready to return to your career field, you will want that network to build on and rely on for opportunities. Branch out with contacts via LinkedIn or other business social media, and turn those online connections into phone calls and meetings to support your new job search.

Building your network:

  • Enhances skills you can bring to a business
  • Supports fresh ideas for your current or new organization
  • Develops an improved understanding of the business environment

—all helping you become a stronger leader and finer follower. It takes time to build a successful network, especially if you have not used this strategy before, yet it will be worth the effort.

One caveat: Don’t assume they understand your immediate needs or ask those contacts for a job. This is a binary, dead-end question that only can be answered “yes” or “no.” Instead of asking this closed question, use your networking opportunities to generate deeper, broader insights into your contact’s experience and expertise.

Volunteer in your career field or in your community.

Volunteer work adds skills to your personal knowledge bank and meat to your resume. It can also provide you with an activity to fill your time while you are in job limbo. Volunteering supports your current passions or demonstrates work you aren’t fit for. There are plenty of reasons to volunteer: to benefit others, to make a difference, to develop additional skills, to feel better about yourself, to explore other areas of interest, and numerous others. And, this volunteer experience can become a line item on your resume, which explains fruitfully what you have been doing since the time you separated from your company.

Learn a new skill.

Don’t just pass time — build on your abilities and enhance your skills. Maybe there is a computer program you’ve always longed to learn or a communication skill you recognize you need to improve on. Consider this time now available to build new skills and complete that course or certification you have been thinking about. Work on that new skill and add it to your knowledge bank.

Prepare your resume.

A resume is not just for earning your next job. It allows you to highlight your accomplishments and the skills you earned from those accomplishments. You can either use the time to reflect on your career and the skills you have and prepare a sparkling resume yourself or, as recommended, you can hire a professional resume writer to give your resume that extra polished feel.

Remember, a layoff reflects no fault of your own. The majority of layoffs involve mass groups of the company’s employees, not just one, not just you. Employers take the time to consider each individual they layoff, your being on the list is chalked up to crummy luck. Who is laid off has little to do with work ethic and competence and more to do with the budget or politics of the company’s situation. Dust yourself off and strive toward getting back out in your field.

By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor

Image by winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Dreaded Informational Interview: What It Is, What It Is Not, How to Do It

The Dreaded Informational Interview: What It Is, What It Is Not, How to Do It

People hire people, not resumes. So you need to be a person before you’re a resume–to engage with individuals who can support your candidacy. You need to do informational interviews. Even if you’re a senior executive with 20+ years’ experience in your field and industry, you need to set up, strategize for, and do informational interviews. Your job search might fail without this critical job search strategy.

Informational Interviews: Not Your Grandfather’s Job Search

If you’re frustrated with your job search, I’d be willing to bet that your strategy included at least one of the following:Dreaded Informational Interview

  • Reading job boards, tailoring your resume to each position, and sending it out.
  • Skimming companies’ career web sites, and uploading your resume.
  • Generating a list of companies, and sending it out to “Dear Sir or Madam.”

There is a better way, and you can do it: The informational interview.

This Is Not an Informational Interview

“Hi, thanks for speaking with me today/having me here today. I’d like to tell you about my experience, assets, and abilities, because I’m looking for a job. Do you have a job for me? If not, do you know who is hiring? And furthermore, if you look at my resume [hands over resume], where do you think I fit in your company?”

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Tone: Desperate.

Content: Me-centered.

Only possible outcome: “Sorry, I am not hiring now.”

Subtext: I’m looking for a job.

This Is an Informational Interview

“Hi, thanks for speaking with me today/having me here today. I have heard so much about your company/product/service, and I’m truly curious about the processes and people that go into producing it. How did you get into the role you currently have?”

Tone: Curious and interested.

Content: Outwardly focused.

Only possible outcome: “Sure, let me tell you how I was hired here” / “I originally went to school for X, but I wound up doing Y” / “I’ve been in this company 15 years…”

Subtext: I’m looking for a job.

That’s a good start to an informational interview. It focuses on what the audience can offer about his or her experience and asks open-ended questions, none of which are “Will you hire me?” Of course, the subtext in any informational interview is that the candidate is in a job search, but that’s not really the focus of the discussion; it hovers in the background, but it’s not at the center of the discussion. The center of the discussion, then, is the person with whom you’re speaking. Give them the platform, be authentically curious, and learn from them.

How to Engage in an Effective Informational Interview

Overall, Informational interviews are not actually interviews. They are not about you, the candidate. Informational interviews are opportunities for you to ask questions and learn. Informational interviews are not only for new college grads; they can be useful for senior executives as well. They might be formal in-office conversations, or they might be brief phone calls. Either way, any way, they are targeted discussions about the individual with whom you’re speaking and the company.

Get ready for your informational interviews:

Prepare: Learn as much as you can about a handful of individuals with whom you wish to speak.

Secure meetings: Ask for 10 minutes on their calendars; follow up in a week if you do not receive a response. Move on from those clearly unwilling or unable to fit you into their busy schedules.

Ask open-ended questions: How do these people interest you? What do they know that you don’t? What drives them to go to work every day?

Capitalize on the connection: Who do they know that you might benefit from knowing (and vice versa)? Are they willing to make an introduction?

Follow up: Thank the individual at the end of the call or meeting. Send a follow-up thank you, expressing gratitude and referring to the action steps the person agreed to take on your behalf, if any.

Reach out to recommended connections: Start the process over; fairly soon, you’ll have added dozens of people to your personal informational interview pipeline.

Service Orientation for Your Informational Interviews

Remember, informational interviews are two-way streets. Be service-focused, and give as much as you take (or ask for). Be a helpful resource in any way you can for the individual with whom you’re speaking.

Feeling Overwhelmed in Your Job Search?

Still daunted by the prospect of developing and executing a strategy for executive job search? Not sure why informational interviews will help your specific executive job search? No idea what you can offer in return for someone’s assistance in your job search? Reach out to me; I will help you construct your executive job search plan and coach you/teach you to execute it.